A Father's Day Poem
I hear the scratch of the curry comb
against the horse’s hide.
When my father combs the mane and tail,
I hear a different sound.
After brushing the horse’s back,
he reaches beneath the belly,
gently says, “Easy now.”
He cautions me not to brush
the tender wedge of the withers.
The horse might kick.
I learn by watching him.
He throws on a saddle blanket,
releasing a whiff of horse sweat,
smoothes the folds,
places a fancier blanket on top.
I watch as he heaves the saddle onto the horse,
the right stirrup hooked over the saddlehorn.
When he lets loose of the stirrup and cinch,
the horse does a little jump.
He wraps the latigo strap around the cinch ring,
gives it a firm tug.
Dad unties the horse and hands me the halter rope.
I lead the horse out of the barn into the sunshine.
He takes the bridle and, with his left hand,
guides the bit into the horse's’ mouth,
places the earpiece over the horse’s ear.
I hear the bit rattle as the horse
rolls its tongue over the cricket.
Dad knots the reins, smiles, and hands them to me.
I remember sliding onto the saddle
from the top rail of the corral fence.
Suddenly I am on my own!
I know my father watched me with love
as I ride out of the yard
into a sky blue Nevada morning.
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 .