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By John I. Blair

Bred in the South Canadian breaks,
Ralph had a friendly, leathery face;
And though he was Scots-Irish to the bone
He looked so much an Indian
I liked to say he was actually
An Arapaho incognito.

With no place of his own to name
Ralph lived by tending othersí farms,
Harvesting crops, feeding cows,
Tilling the fields, minding the seasons;
And his gnarled, brown, wrinkled hands
Knew how to do, to make, to mend.

Sometimes Ralph would tell me tales
About the wild Canadianís flow,
Quicksands that swallowed herds and crews
Who tried to cross on the cattle trails,
Raging floods that could cartwheel a tree
And knock out the bridge on the MKT.

He could show me prairie dog towns
Or lone coyotes loping down draws,
Drove his truck for miles on rutted roads
Just to talk about redtails perched on poles
Or walk an old hunting camp high on a mound
Where broken arrowheads littered the ground.

I believe in his ninety years Ralph became
One with these hills he loved so well,
One with the soil, the white gypsum, red clay,
One with the rocks, immutable,
One with the river, wide and grand,
One with the beautiful, boundless land.

©2003 John I. Blair

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Reader Comments

Name: John I. Blair Email:
Comment: I just want to add to this poem (written about my Uncle Ralph Wing) that, before I knew him, he did have a farm of his own, and also ran a Conoco station and an auto repair facility. My memories of him are as an older, semi-retired man, infinitely kind, much loved by children, dogs and cats, and all his relatives and Camargo, Oklahoma, townsfolk. A lifetime in Dewey County gave him such intimate knowledge of its landscape, wildlife, people and history that he was a living encyclopedia of local lore, truly "one with the land."



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