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Faces In the Fire

On those cool summer evenings when coyotes haunt the night And the campfire is dying—burning low, then flaring bright, A cowboy plays harmonica while others sing and hum While down by the chuck wagon a lonely guitar does strum. A few pokes like Lon Stonecipher stare silent at the fire, Imagining old friends and folks in times both dear and dire. Lon sees and talks to faces that flicker in gold flames— He asks them of the weather—remembers all their names. “There’s Delton and Rosella, old Burlin and Rob Alcorn, There’s that sweet Renata Robins that kissed me one June morn. There’s Cal Shirlo and Spud Scanlon, that both died in the war, And Addie Belle from Abilene that said she’d love no more.” Cowpokes yawned and nodded—on this wild words did not dwell— They knew the man he used to be, but this was just his shell. The faces in the fire gave him comfort and offered hope, They were his last salvation—without them he could not cope. Lon stared into the fire for many hours before sleep— His rest was fitful, frenzied—never calm, peaceful or deep. And often he’d awake and gaze mournfully once again Into those glowing embers in search of friend or kin. “I can see my last saddle pal, young Mathew Leatherwood And a Dodge City gambler that I shot right where he stood. I see my dear grandmother and my sister Anna Lee— My grandpa and brother Jim, who died at the age of three.” The fire burned low and so did Lon out on that prairie bow, But this was as it always was, at least until just now. “I see you, ma—I see you, pa—your faces smile at me,” So said old Lon one last time, drifting upon a prairie sea. They buried Lon Stonecipher right out on that cold, dark land— And right beside him built a blaze as hot as they could stand. Then they watched the flames dance, and stared long into that pyre, And to this day some still swear, Lon’s face was smiling in that fire.

Copyright © | Year Posted 2005

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