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Killing Time in Cheyenne


Rod Miller

While waiting to haul my scars to the afterlife
I remember Prince and Dan
a team of Percherons who could
haul anything anywhere over
any kind of country.

“Train a team of workhorses by
never hitching them to anything
they can’t pull. Put that in
their brain, that they can pull
anything.” My grandfather said.
He raised and trained Prince and Dan
worked the ranch with them, so did
my father, and me after. They
could pull a loaded hay sled across
a paved road, leaving a shower of sparks
from the steel runners
because they knew they could.
That, my friend, is real power.
Their harnesses hung on old oxbows
in a shadowed barn that smelled like
a hundred years of horseshit and work.
In the winter, you always warmed their
bits in your hand before you put them
in their mouths. It’s a simple kindness.
Dan was the lineback dun on the left.
Prince, a bay, pulled on the right and
stepped over the tongue confidently.
That is how they worked, Prince
on the right, Dan on the left and
that is how they went through life.
They were never hitched to
something they couldn’t pull.
Consequently, they pulled everything.
Even out of harness, that’s how they
lived. Walking to water, grazing in
knee-deep timothy and fescue,

Prince on the right
and Dan on the left.

Dan died first. Age is careless.
Prince stood to the right of the
carcass, not eating. He
did that for days, trampling the grass
around Dan. Not leaving. Missing
I guess, the work and the love.
I drove down to Prince in the meadow
in a pickup, a rifle beside me. The sun
hid its face behind clouds. My heart
remembered my grandfather, and his
words, “Never hitch them to something
that they can’t pull.”

Rod Miller worked in the Wyoming governor's office for a decade, shepherding wolf reintroduction to the Rockies. A former bookstore owner and Nature Conservancy representative, he ran against Liz Cheney for the Republican nomination for Wyoming's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Farewell Ride :: Beck

Horses : Rickie Lee Jones

Mother Country : John Stewart

(for the story in the second verse….)