Saturday, October 29, 2011


Ankle deep
Puffs up in
As each
Hot dry
Along the sun

Long strands
Of Horse’s
Snap and
Whip away
Black flies
As they
Seek out
Salt and

Winds lift
Grey beaten
Dust into whirling
Ghostly columns
Swaying, twirling,
Around the travelers
As they weave
Summer brittled

Ken Goree

Years ago, when my son was a young boy, I went with him to a scout camp in Eastern Oregon.  Camp Baldwin was, and still is near the rolling foothills around the base of Mount Hood.  Besides all of the opportunities that one finds at any scout camp, Camp Baldwin specialized in horsemanship.  One of the highlights for me was a father/son overnight horse ride.  The daytime temperatures hovered around 100 degrees, and had for several weeks.  The landscape was dry and coated in a fine grey cloak of East Cascade dust. 

We headed out, bandanas wrapped to cover our faces out of necessity, not some adult male childish instinct to play out the fantasy of old west pioneers or bandits.  The flies dove at the eyes, mouths, and nostrils of both horses and riders in an attempt scavenge the moisture they needed to survive. 

The more aggressive horses bit at the haunches of the other horses and legs of riders in their frustration at being forced to carry their passengers, and the competitive desire to lead instead of being led. 

After hours of plodding along trails that serpentined up the side of a mountain, we reached our camp, the place where we would spend the night, wrapped in sleeping bags or bedrolls with only the stars and black night sky above us.  Each of withdrew from out saddled bags, odd packages that were dumped into a large cast iron pot, which was suspended from a teepee of branches over the cook fire.  After a dinner of surprisingly good stew and dry biscuits, we settled down for an evening of local history, story-telling and Old West cowboy poetry. 

As bed time approached our guides reminded us of the bear that had been roaming the area.  We knew the bear to be fact, as it trudged along the edges of our own campsite earlier that morning.  He was a medium-sized, cinnamon-colored and mangy looking black bear.  They then invited all fathers and sons to dispose of any hidden morsels that had been stashed away as midnight snacks.  Most of the group approached the fire and offered the snacks up the low flames and coals that remained within the campfire’s stony ring. 

An old friend and I stayed awake deep into the night talking, guarding over our treasured young sons

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