You may find it surprising, maybe off-putting
when I tell you a favorite childhood recollection--
riding the gut sledge to the dump
a mile or so from the home ranch.
Hooked with a chain to a John Deere tractor,
the wooden sledge was piled with entrails,
stomachs, a mound of intestines,
and a six-year old child in coveralls
on the back of the sledge, dragging a stick in the dust,
my black and white rat terrier trotting behind.
It might seem odd that I remember with fondness
watching the butchering of a beef for the ranch larder,
the way the hanging carcass seemed like a cave,
the blue, white, silver cavity cleaned with cold water,
The concentration of the hired hand,
the sound of his knife on the whetstone,
Now I know what a privilege to be a participatant,
even by watching, and to remember the blessing
at my grandparents’ table: “Bless this food to our use,
that it may nourish and strengthen our bodies.”
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 .