Each spring I bring a string
of Tibetan prayer flags to Tuscarora.
At winter’s end, they are faded and frayed,
which tells you something
about the power of wind.
I wish my hopes could ride the wind skyward.
Although I know the custom makes no sense,
If I did believe, this would be my plea:
Don’t turn my deepest needs to tumbleweeds
blown nowhere but against a barbed wire fence.
High country springtime
Muddy trucks on rutted roads
Daffodils in snow.
Dirt road rooster dust
One who loves you is in sight
Buckaroo love note.
Ranch gals at Wal-Mart
Crew cab with groceries and kids
Saturday in town.
Men lean against trucks
The cowdog seems to listen
The sun warms their backs.
Labor Day weekend
Pickups headed to Elko
The haying is done.
High country autumn
Deer lying in pickup beds
Covered in white cloth.
“A pack of wolves has killed at least three calves since Thursday night in eastern Baker County… seven others were either injured or missing…” Baker City Herald
The rancher parks his truck,
reaches for his rifle,
hears a mother cow bawl,
walks toward the bloody mess,
and kicks the gnawed remains
of a calf’s foreleg.
He guesses what happened--
six maybe eight gray wolves
stalked his herd of cow calf pairs,
retreated up Sheep Mountain.
He imagines an alpha wolf
watching from an outcrop, gloating.
After snowmelt, the earth percolates
shards of glass, flattened, lidless cans,
or, protruding from mud,
the torso of a porcelain doll.
Once in a while, the sharpest among us
spots a Chinese coin or a chert arrowhead.
This spring, I was delighted to find
a rusted sardine can with the key rolled in place.
I spend too much time watching where I walk,
searching for detritus of dead people’s lives.
These bits and pieces end up collecting dust
on a shelf, in a box, on a window sill.
I should be looking skyward,
paying attention to the way
morning light moves across the valley
and gives relief to the mountains.
I should be noticing blue flax tinting the hillsides,
listening for meadowlarks, catching the scent of wild rose.
Nancy Harris McLelland taught creative writing, composition, and literature for over twenty years and Conducted writing workshops for the Western Folklife Center, Great Basin College , and the Great Basin Writing Project . An Elko County native with a background in ranching. McLelland has presented her "Poems from Tuscarora" Both at daytime and evening events at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. Her essay, "Border Lands: Cowboy Poetry and the Literary Canon" is in the anthology Cowboy Poetry Matters .