Jeri Holcombe Ragan
Out in the bay the sun sequins the water
as pristine sails glide past on lazy journeys,
in white, unsullied beauty.
Idyllic vision as sunrays
illuminate jutting rocks where
the seals come seeking heat.
Until seal pup raises pain-filled eyes
to reveal the bloody necklace
he did not choose to wear.
Fisherman’s careless net flaying his throat
in agonizing chokehold of death
before he has ever learned to live.
The Run Aways
Before the days of huge tractors to till the soil, draft horses were seen on farms everywhere. All farmers that planted crops had a team of horses, sometimes two, to do the plowing, planting and hauling necessary to get the work done. There were always certain dangers that went along with owning and harboring horses. One such danger was that horses were often spooked by sudden noises. Serious injuries, and even death were not uncommon when a team of horses would panic and run off after hearing frightening sounds.
Billy and Sally, our team of beautiful black draft horses, were badly spooked and frightened one day by the loud backfire sound coming from a truck passing by our hill-country farm. They both instantly leaped into the air while still hitched to a wagon, and then immediately galloped off as fast as their legs would carry them. My father, standing there helplessly and unable to stop them, screamed as loud as he could to warn us boys, “GET BACK, GET BACK,” fearful that we’d be in harm’s way. He turned, made a bee-line run across a small swampy area toward our house, almost a quarter mile away. Our pickup truck was standing next to the cow barn there. We had no idea what he had in mind … by running in the opposite direction of the runaway team. What we did know was that he could have never kept up, much less stop that thundering mass of muscle and steel as the huge iron-wheeled wagon they were towing clattered behind them, heading toward the public road.
How clever of my father to instinctively have a plan to stop this out-of-control team with hardly any forethought at all. Finally, and probably totally out-of-breath upon approaching the pickup truck, he stopped for an instant, quickly turned and looked back. He saw the team heading westward after circling around a half-acre pond. He got into the cab, started the engine and waited for them to round the curve. He slowly eased onto the one-lane dirt road and also headed westward. As the team approached, he slowly stepped on the gas, fearful of what might come next. Soon they appeared, coming like a raging tornado right up behind him, and as they closed in, in the rearview mirror he saw the white lather foam bubbling from their mouths and nostrils. They caught up, tried to pass him on the left. He swerved sharply left. Then they tried on the right. “GOD DAMN IT,” he swore. He quickly jerked to the right. The deafening noise and clanking never stopped. He then heard the rhythmic snorting coming from both horses and little else. His entire thought process was too petrified to even picture what might end up as tragedy. Easing off the gas pedal, he started braking and a loud thump jolted the truck forward as the pole of the wagon hit the tailgate. He braked hard this next time. Now they were actually pushing the truck with their massive bodies. Finally, over the next 80 to 100 feet, he had forced them to a stop. The harsh thumping of the wagon’s pole onto the truck’s tailgate and the horrific snorting from their flared nostrils continued for several moments. Pulling on the emergency brake, cutting the engine, he put the truck into reverse gear. He dared not get out for a moment. Finally, easing out of the cab, he slowly walked up, extended an open hand to the mare on his right. The truck’s tailgate was completely covered with foamy, white lather, its green color almost completely obliterated.
For timeless moments he talked quietly to them. He pulled out his red handkerchief, wiped his brow and realized that he was crying – quietly sobbing – like a child. It seemed almost new to him; he hadn’t cried in years. It was over. He was safe. They were safe, and Thank God no other vehicles had come by. Without thinking he embraced Sally’s moist face with both hands, nuzzled her for a moment and reflected what might have been.
He turned the team around, left his truck standing there and slowly drove team and wagon home. A man, their master, my father, was now in total control and he was relieved that a serious tragedy had been averted.
Those were the days of good, hard physical farm work and sweat and even tears and, oh yes – adventure! Those were “The Good Old Days.” Were they really “the good old days”? Looking back, I often wonder!