What could I really know of the breaks
in the land
huge canyons bleeding red cut by the wind
with the snow swirling around our tires
and fallen to a tumble like icebergs
windshield riming over with a crust of ice
we scrape madly inside
trying to keep cold out
slowing to a crawl
always on the lookout
outside line appearing and gone,
no worries about
cattle led inside to safety to be watered and fed
but what of us?
Will we be trapped clutching a candle
wanting a chocolate bar,
waiting for a tractor?
and all the flat seeming land seems to have ditches
and roof pitches and rushing trees, and a swirl
of slumbering snow
to lumber down in drifts and piles
no fire would ever warm us
until finally we see it shining in the dark
a lantern at a farm
a fleet of snow mobiles to greet us
scurry is off
before our ears turn blue,
would they fall off?
Luckily, not tonight, not in this blizzard,
we have home.
I stand at the window and watch the snow fall
It's been two hours since Billy left
The wind has built, a blizzard set in
And I can't put my mind at rest.
The snow has drifted blocking the road he took
But he knows his job, the cattle must be watered and fed
And hay for the baby calves to bed.
"I'll be all right," he said.
There is no school it is Christmas vacation
The radio predicted conditions to worsen.
With his family save and warm
He then sets about caring for those out in the storm.
TV and presents keep the children entertained
While I my hair do pull.
Dinner is ready and still Billys not home
And with questions like "When's daddy coming home?
And "Can I go out and play in the snow?"
It is hard for them to understand
It isn't just a snow fall, the danger is far to grave
Wander to far and they could be lost
And in turn perhaps lose their lives.
Two o'clock, three o'clock, four o'clock came
Finally Billy comes through the door
Wet, exhausted and frozen to the bone
He removed his outer garments and collapsed on the chair.
As he ate the children came
Excited to have daddy home
Satisfied he was safe and sound
They went back to their TV and games.
Chore time came and the blizzard ruled
I offered to do my share
He smiled and said, "Everything's fine.
Just the cow to milk and the pigs to feed
And I'll be right back inside. "
I put on my coat took shovel in hand
And worked at clearing the path.
In an hour it would be covered again
But I needed to have some fresh air.
All were in bed, the Christmas tree bright
The Nativity set caught my eye
Tenderly I picked up the manger, bow my head and say
"Thank You Baby Jesus and Happy Birthday."
If I knew how to paint
I think I’d know how a painter feels in front of an empty canvass.
Fluffing the bristles and imagining what is about to happen.
My empty canvass is a field,
freshly blanketed with 11 inches of spring snow
so wet you could wring it out like a wash cloth.
I know its 11 inches. I measured
I know it’s soggy. I shoveled.
I know how the artist must feel.
A sculptor uncovers what’s hidden in stone.
A painter fills empty space with cobalt blue
and burnt-umber beauty.
My kids and I will turn this blank canvass
into a snow fort, a snowman family
and a half dozen snow angels.
Then it will be time for cocoa
with marshmallows, like tiny snowballs, melting too soon.
It’s a snow day and oh, the possibilities.
Jeff Hildebrandt © 2005
Guess it was ‘bout mid-December
And a winter storm was howlin’—
Was roundin’ up strays I remember
And my belly start to growlin’.
I come upon an ol’ ghost town
I’d rode through many times now past—
There were some ol’ buildin’s left round—
I reckon most things jest don’t last.
Yet there in whirlin’ snow and haze
Stood the remnants of an ol’ church,
That had once seen much better days—
Its cockeyed cross carved out of birch.
A coat of snow made it all clean,
Made it full of hope for mankind—
The whiteness gave it a new sheen
Now at the end of its long line.
No one remembered the town’s name
Or the people that once lived here—
Its history had been reclaimed
By time and heavy snows each year.
As I straightened up that ol’ cross
And thought of folks singin’ inside—
I remembered all that we’ve lost:
Those that lived and loved and then died.
If there’s a moral to this town
And this snowy church all alone—
It’s be content with what we’ve found
At the place we humbly call home.
Sly had him no love for Christmas,
It was just another day—
When the devout celebrated
And weak-willed cowpokes did pray.
Old Sly, he weren’t all that bad—
No, by gosh, he sure was not—
He never did shoot him a man
That he didn’t think need shot.
Sly Stern was just an old drover
Who outlived his friends and time—
That was headed nowhere that day
Without a care or a dime.
So it was Christmas that morning
As he crossed the Mummy Range—
Heading higher and still higher,
When he felt a little strange.
He’d crossed these old mountains before,
But never on Christmas day—
Yet now he felt a bit confused
And he couldn’t find his way.
The wind and the cold grew fiercer—
Snow hit his face with hard slaps,
Sly knew he needed some shelter
As one hand froze to his chaps.
But all he could find was a ledge,
A wind break with icy sage.
He unsaddled his horse gently—
For the first time felt his age.
Quickly, Sly gathered up damp wood—
Built a fire to heat his soul—
Christ seemed nothing in a blizzard
As the snow soon took its toll.
Hours passed and so did the fire
As white snow whirled and then screamed—
For a moment he saw a face
Or so that old drover dreamed.
The blizzard grew stronger that day,
The worst in thirty odd years—
Covering the whole Mummy Range:
A Christmas with joy and tears.
With numb hands and ice-cased whiskers,
Sly took bullets from his belt,
Gently arranged them in the snow
To spell out just how he felt.
For in those final dear moments,
One face appeared in the snow—
The face of the Lord of this earth,
A face that he would now know.
Two months later his friend found it,
Next to his rock-frozen hoss—
The old drover’s bullets laid out
In the rough shape of the cross.
Though his saddle and gun remained,
There was no trace of old Sly—
It was as if he’d been taken
Away, far up, in the sky.
We slowly ride this sacred night,
Look back on home below.
The earth is in a swaddling white—
Moon shadows on the snow.
This chosen time now seems just right
In lone star’s afterglow.
It guides our lives on this birth night
And flickers as we go.
We’ll follow trails on that new day—
All blessings we shall know
Of inward peace and silent sleigh—
Moon shadows on the snow.
About the year '72
I mean nineteen hundred and '72
It's a year we'll not forget
The snow began October 1st
Day after day there was more and to make it worse
The winds were fierce, The snow did move
Covering up any and everything in it way
Billy would plow us out
As I'd take the kids to school,
Wait for me and plow me back in was the rule.
He'd then be free to begin his feeding chores
He had a cleat tractor, (I called it a cat)
Which he used to dig out the hay stacks and feed with
He’d cable the stack onto the hay sled
And head for the pastures where the cattle were fed
He’d put it in low gear and climb aboard the stack of hay
And pitch it to the eager critters along the way
Pasture after pasture, herd after herd
Until a stack and a half had been fed.
He’d park the rig.
In his pickup were the tools to break the ice in the tanks
Usually an axe and the pitch fork it’d take
He’d chop up the ice and pitch it out of the tank
Giving the cattle fresh water to drink
Twice and sometime three a day
To make sure the water would help wash down the hay
This accomplished he’s scatter mineral cubes
To ensure the health of his herd.
Then and only then would he come into dinner
And a chance to get warm before he went out again
The remainder of the day was spent
Digging out hay for the next days feed.
Which usually had to be dug out again the next morn.
Chopping more ice to clear the water supply.
When time came to get the kids he’d drop all
And plow me out and plow us back in
When we were home safe he’d be off to the shop
To work on equipment that was in need of repair
To be ready to go to work the next day