The challenges and circumstances confronting the women who went with their cowboy husbands into the west before the turn of the 20th century demanded a quality of human being worthy of respect then and now. This poem is based on words from an old timer at the Rawlings, Wyoming Gathering.
She had tended the fire but now it burned low
As the oil lamp in the window reflected the snow.
Six times now she had sat there ’til late in the night
And each morning she had awakened with first light.
He said he would return seven days now gone by
and with each passing hour she struggled not to cry.
The snows were early and so much was to be done,
Her help so little she being so big with their first one.
She’d begged him not to go, what with the dark skies, the sprinkles of snow,
but he’d said they needed the meat so he’d kissed her, said “… stay warm and sweet”.
An elk or two was needed to get them through and he rode off after piling up extra firewood
and doing all he could to be sure she would be O. K.
Sleeping in the chair as the seventh dawn came,
waking when she thought he’d called her name,
She threw the door open onto a bright sunny day.
There under the shed roof stood his old bay,
reins dragging, saddle empty, all covered with snow.
Her heart broke as her vision dropped to below,
seeing the boot, spur snagged tight in the cack,
she knew then that he would never be coming back.
How would she survive?
How could she keep herself and her baby alive?
What would she do?
Her body told her soon she’d be fending for two.
She looked up into the Big Horns and on into the sky
and knew, that in God’s Grace, she must get by.
She persevered, not one day did she ever quit,
She hung on and kept on and stuck to it,
Battered by life and circumstances til she was worn,
never giving up as her lonely journey started the day my Grandpa was born.
© 2000 D.Hayes/All Rights Reserved/Assigned to Alberta Cowboy Poets Association for publication in ACPA Poetry Anthology II to be published by Hancock Publishing.