Wednesday, December 27, 2006


A hundred n sixty head to move southward. Up over the first hill, to get the water. Move fast, now. Stay steady. Trammel on to beat the weather. Toque pulled on top the ears, two scarves twined in to keep out this wind, picking up. A hundred n sixty head to get across this tract, to the pond and in for drinking time. G’wan faster, now. ...damn creatures take all night. The roast will be a boot when I get back. All cobbled soul and chewing. There she goes, always first up to the trough and first to find the drinkingholes we cut yesterday. Only quick steps she takes- in the barn, on the fields, or on this big old slough - to get first dibs and dig her mug in deep. Off you get. Haw! All of you, cross over, now. Drink hard, we’re done till morning.
Dark at four-thirty now, my stomach thinks it’s dinnertime well past.
Steady girls... what.
What’s she spooking for, ‘sat thunder?
Train tracks too far. Some fella’s rig jack on highway two?

(quiver small the sawed off stocks that trim the waterline.
white ground shudders, wheat stubs tremor.

pond heaves half awake.
half the width a half frozen lake.
a hundred n sixty head get shorter. a little dip, a little sinking warning rests them low.
one sec.
minus twenty with the wind chill but the water wears a warm coat of freshly fallen snow,
falling steady since the holes were dug last night.
now grips the herd, a new deathstrong fright.
easy as bleeding it cracks.
quick as a stroke it attacks.

a hundred n sixty head in a breath taken under.
kick at the thickening air leak terror and wonder.
a hundred n sixty head take up icewater and freeze.
screeching lowing furious death and a man on his knees.
a hundred n sixty head now gone, bubbles burst steam and die.
searing cold steals the night, a man’s chapped mouth mouths “why”?

thoughts fire around a work scorched brain.
ballcap white and tan brow creasing, unblinking confusion…)

A hundred n sixty head.
Gone, as quick as said.
Not cried in forty years
Won’t start now, no point in tears.
Not cried since I was eight.
Time Dad come in so late.
Mom smelled of hidden bottles.
Talking? Fighting? … just a squabble.

A hundred n sixty head.
This farm is frozen. Dead.

My feet are cold.
These boots are old.

(photo by Bruce Edwards, the Edmonton Journal Dec. 27, 2006.