I’d asked him about the war.
He sat quietly sipping black coffee as his
eye’s took on a distant look.
He tilted his head sideways, squinted one eye
and said, “Of course I remember the war , how could a old man
forget all that and still be alive?”
His eye’s took on a new look.
I knew I’d asked the wrong thing.
“The blood in that beach sand looked
just as red as a setting sun.”
And then he went silent for
a long time.
Then he said as if to silence himself,
“But that’s just an old man memory.”
The other day he told me about the
troop trains. “I sat at the window and
as that black smoke moved by
the windows , those damned horses ran along
side the train for oh’ , two miles or so.
I cried just then like
a damned baby. ” And just then
his voice broke as
I looked down at
my boots. And then he continued,
“Ya know , I guess I wouldna’ changed
And he smiled a knowing smile.
“When I bought this ranch from old John Simms
he told me , “Son , you’ll go broke here but
you sure will die looking at some
damned fine scenery.”” And then he smiled
quietly as he watched me throw hay fletches
broken from a dry bale .
And the mustangs moved in to feed.
“Ya’ know”, he said ,” I don’t think I’da
done much differently .”
But then , it was his turn to look down
at his boots and he did it
for some time .
“Now, I live my whole life for these mustangs
I want to save them from all that man can
plan on doing to them. ” He bent down just then
and picked up on the horse’s front hoof.
I stood for a moment looking down at the river
a mile away , twisting along a silvery valley
reflecting the sun on
it’s silvery water .
“You know that river flows in all four
directions the Indians
around here tell me. ”
“This morning I looked out over the mists lying
low across the hay fields
as the mustangs graze peacefully.
And a revelation came to me .
That there are no finer things on this green earth
than the rumble of the mustangs hooves ,
or the soft whinnying of a young colt
and the silvery splash of wet
legs as they cross the river .
And Dayton said , “And just when you think that
life is quieting down a thunderstorm
comes visiting , starting over there in
the west usually passing
across the ridge there, ”
drawing his arm across his sky..
“A lot of cowboys become poets,” he said
and then he recited in a old man’s voice a poem as soft
as a child’s hug , more tender than a woman’s touch
and I realized just then,
That no one else was listening to this poem.
This gentle man’s voice.
No one but me and in just that moment
I knew, I just knew,
There aren’t many times in life
that I have felt true love
unpolluted by the hand
of a man or a machine.
And now, I too am haunted by
old Dayton’s dreams .
Dedicated to the dreams of Dayton Hyde
and the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary .