Sunday afternoon dust devils chase my horse down a trail
Lined with cattle carcasses and sun-bleached bones.
Rattlers and scorpions cross beneath my mustang’s hooves.
I’m four, riding my trike from the black barn
To the faded-white Nebraska ranch house
For chocolate ice cream. My mom serves up a cone.
Ice cream in my left hand, a silver plastic revolver
In my right, I head out to chase down
A Wild West outlaw. Before I reach my hoss,
A brown, devil-horned billy goat steps into my path.
My dad had roped and drug it off a neighbor’s place
Because it liked to knock the man’s kids down.
In a well-calculated leap, the goat steals my ice cream,
Scrapes a hoof down the length of my nose,
And makes a break for one of the corrals.
I run to the house, crying, blood running
Off the torn skin hanging from my nose.
Mom tries to comfort me with another cone,
But my dad won’t stand for it.
He tells me, Settle-up with that goat first.
The goat, back against corral boards,
Is enjoying my ice cream.
Goddamned goat! I yell through tears and blood,
Shout every cuss word a four-year-old shouldn’t.
I start the shittin’ bastard with a hard right
To his black-black snout, then strap
A latigo around his belly. I throw myself,
Cussing, onto his bony back,
Spur his ears with real bronc hooks.
The goat trots in circles, tries to slick me off,
But he can’t shake me. I only let up
When blood runs free from its spur-torn ears.
—from Rattle #30, Winter 2008
Tribute to Cowboy & Western Poetry