As I sat at my table stacked with books at the Artisans Fall Roundup in Parkfield, California, a man approached and asked me some questions about my writing. He was very nice and genuinely interested and curious about my poetry books. We talked about them for a few minutes before he decided to buy my chapbook which contains several poems and a few (very) short stories. He said his wife was a bit of a cowgirl at heart, and he wanted to get it for her. He said maybe they would read it over lunch.
Later in the day, when it was almost time to close up shop, the man and his wife came by my table again. He said, “’I’d Say…’ is the one.”
Not quite understanding, I must have looked blank as I was trying to think of a response. He said, “Our daughter has died of breast cancer. We both thought ‘I’d Say…’ had a meaning for us.”
His wife’s eyes filled with tears. She seemed too emotional to speak. Compassion hit my heart like a hammer as we made eye contact. I said simply, “I am so sorry.” She tried to share a weak smile as they turned and left.
I didn’t really understand how they came to the conclusion they did about my little story, so I picked up my own book and reread “I’d Say…” Other than it being about a new day dawning, I do not know how it was that it touched them so, but I am happy to know it brought them a bit of comfort.
Here’s the story.
I’d say … the work day begins in the soft light of morning. Maybe even before the stars fade away on the eastern horizon. The horses need to be fed … and the cowboys, too. For a lot of folks, it is the best time of day. Somehow even bad things don’t seem so bad and sadness can be soothed a bit by the early morning dark. And it is a new day … another chance at getting things right.
A little hot-coffee-sippin’ and maybe a smoke is good for easing even the orneriest old soul into a new day. That and maybe a plate of biscuits and milk gravy.
For me … well, I’d say … the best part of the morning might be the sounds. When you get out there closer to the horse corrals and hear them milling around, a little sneezin’ and snufflin’ going on … some hoof stompin’ when someone gets reprimanded for the audacity of space invasion. Good horse sounds. And after they’re fed and chewing up those big mouths-full of sweet smelling hay, I’d say … that’s the best time of day for those guys. You bet. Breakfast and a long drink of water …
And there is nothing like the sounds and smells of a good tack room … boot heels on a plank floor … the ring of buckles and bridle chains … The slap of leather or the soft sound of latigo being let down. The smell of good, oiled leather and horse sweat on yesterday’s saddle blankets can surely flare one’s nostrils. Not much better to look at in the mornings than a row of good using saddles. Even in the mid-light they can shine smooth and slick as summer horsehide where the wear spots are.
I’d say … it’s not a big time for a lot of conversation. Still too early … the cowboys all got their minds on the job at hand, and are maybe thinking about what’s in store for the day. Or maybe some are thinking about last night.
Once they get the last bit of business taken care of, they’ll lead their horses out a ways and and then set that cinch just right and step on. I’d say … there’s not a single one of them boys wouldn’t get a kick out of seeing somebody’s horse humpin’ up some going out the gate. A couple of “whoops” and a good-natured laugh gets the juices flowin’.
Somebody will probably whistle up the dogs, but those wily critters wouldn’t miss the ride out for the world anyway. I don’t believe any man looks forward to his job as much as those cowdogs do. Well, I’d say … except maybe a good cowboy.