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The boneyard.

I touch only a sliver of a shank, some pointed splintery hint by way of legend but it is enough and tonight the bones gather

and rattle, bleached white, go hollow and light. The lightness tells the story - the hollowness like a dried gourd - of the warnings

the big wheels from Texas wouldn't listen to. Winter, the locals said, Winter. It should have been enough but the cigars and Cadillacs

with steer horns on their hoods, wouldn't hear. Couldn't be nothing like a blue norther, they chuckled, sneering at the locals' weak sister

fears. Nothing like the Panhandle in December. The locals nodded, took the lease money but said wait and see. The Texans trucked in

the fine longhorn herds in September, the weather blue and bonny, winking at the cheapness of wintering over in such lush fields and sweet

water. They left the steers to shift for themselves and drove their empty truck herds home. But October turned down the pilot

light, November brought the first installment of snow, and December drifted the map white. By January the steers were beyond saving.

With the spring thaw only bones and hides were found. Too polite to say I told you so, the locals did grin a little at how fast

the Texans' fat wallets went flat but remembered and honored the memory of the steers by calling that range The Boneyard for years.

Vern Rutsala's ninth and latest book, Little-Known Sports, was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 1994 and awarded the Juniper Prize. His Selected Poems, published by Story Line Press in 1991, won the Oregon Book Award. He teaches at Lewis and Clark College.
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Author:Rutsala, Vern
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:Sep 1, 1996
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