COWBOY POETRY: Maria

226

Source: CVDaily Feed
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In March of 1917, Elmer asked me for my hand. We said, “I do,” and headed for his homestead, now our land.

Five hundred twenty acres, mostly sagebrush and some pine, would pasture forty head of cows if the weather stayed in line.

We grubbed the sagebrush every day until we had no light. And we built a fine log cabin to keep us warm from winter’s bite.

Our first child was a daughter, then a son in just a year. They had their father’s temperament. I swear, they had no fear.

That time was tough for everyone; we couldn’t make ends meet. So Elmer took a job as cook to get us on our feet.

The job was at the Cliff Lake mine, back in, two miles away. But he’d be gone all summer long. At home, I’d have to stay.

I’d keep the cattle in the pasture, feed and milk the jersey cow, feed the dog and mules and chickens, and slop the old black sow.

I planted us a garden, though folks said it wouldn’t grow. But those vegetables were coming up, all neatly in a row.

Elmer knew that I would get things done; still, all of us were sad because our little ones were growing up and really missed their dad.

So twice a week I’d saddle up and ride up to the mine. I’d take some milk and vegetables picked fresh, right off the vine.

I packed it all in panniers hung on both sides of one mule and tucked the children in on top. No fussing was the rule.

Sunshine was sure-footed; I could trust him with that load. I firmly held his halter rope, while the other mule I rode.

The miners liked to see the kids; Elmer loved to see us all. We’d make it through the summer and be together in the fall.

Soon fall arrived and there was Elmer walking through the door. He said, “I’m home, Maria, I won’t leave you anymore.”

Elmer made a hundred bucks from cooking at the mine. We stocked up for the winter. Now we knew we’d all be fine.

He bought some hard tack candy, almost filled a flour sack, and still had money left to buy tobacco off the rack.

We put up hay, enough, we hoped, to last all winter through. A harsh one was predicted. That, to us, was nothing new.

We hurried to get ready. Snow always came too soon. Then we hunkered down, safe in our home. Winters there could last till June.