At the end of last summer's wildfire season,
when I finally could ride into town,
I stopped in at Shorty's for somethin' cool,
and a rancher friend says, "Set down."We jawed for a while, like old men do,
then m'friend, named Jim, starts t'cry.
Well, I was no small amount taken aback,
      so of course I had t'ask why.""I'm wore out," he says, "from just havin' spent
the last two weeks in the saddle.
The boys and me have been searchin' m'ranch,
and shootin' what's left of my cattle."You see," says Jim, "when the wildfires hit,
they burned up most of my herd.
What was left of the rest was burned so bad,
that we shot ever one that stirred."Puttin' them down was our only choice,
they were in such terrible pain.
And all of this mess could've been prevented
if only we'd had some rain.After all that I've lost, there's no way I can meet
my mortgage-holders' demands,
so, I'm givin' the whole spread back to the bank,
as soon as I pay off my hands."There ain't one among us will ever forget 
the effects of those wildfires' heat,
especially the coyotes that we had t'shoot,
'cause the flames had burnt off their feet."Jim says, "Us humans ain't much better off,
for most of us this is the end.
Then he stands and says, "But talkin' helps some,
so thank you for listenin' m'friend."

--0--

Hal Swift

This poem was inspired by an on the scene report by John Tyson, a long time newsman in the Reno area.  The events took place during the range fires of 2007.  Current drought conditions are much the same as they were then.  We just haven't had the fires yet.

Although Shorty's Place, and the characters in the poem are fictitious, the rancher's experiences described in the poem are factual.