Wednesday, July 25, 2012


photoart: ralph murre

by John Flynn

Inspired by an oil painting,
“Waiting for a Chinook: the last of 5000.”
by C.M. Russell, known as The Kid

The old cowhand swayed serene
around the potholes. Every sinew
slack in the backseat of his
youngest son’s new Chevrolet.
His elbow high and out the window,
he watched the miles peel away
on the county’s arrow
straight red scoria road.

From a distance the red and
white big touring car kicked up 
cyclones and looked to be
on fire or re-entry from a
junket into inner space.   

From out the side he
assayed his time’s retreat.
Up front the windshield
framed a vanguard
trail of slag waiting to be
churned back into dust.

They lived here by
the thousands then,
in ones and twos,
on farms, in little towns.
Contrails lining up above.
Echoes seeping out from
missile silos underground.

Few folks remain. And
soon these few will
view the remnant herds
of settlers like the
buffalo used to do.      

Emigrants scrape something           
off the top, he thought,           
but not much more. Eventually
the plains reclaim what's theirs,
and plow black ash back
into white boned earth.                         

Charley Kid got it right. He painted it
a hundred years ago and more:
“Waiting…The last of 5000.”

Long shadows slick down the buttes
nearing home. The old man smiled
to himself alone: some say
I don’t recall but know,
I didn’t break down
or tumble off my horse.

Through the cranked down window I
catch the cooling scent of sage and
youth and recollect that
all I ever thought
to be I am.

I make no play
on maybes.
I do still what
I say I will.
I crippled
no one
up but me,
not the country, 
nor the spirits
camped out here.

Those things
I do recall,
and don't regret.                       

~ first published by the Gilcrease Museum of Western Art