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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Spring (as in the season) (11/28/05)

TITLE: Nathan's prayer
By dub W


A cold wind whistled through the valley where Nathan Dillard sat watching his small cattle herd. He pulled his collar up to cover his neck and the same time shifted slightly in his saddle. His mare sensed his movement and moved a step on the rocky trail. When she moved her hoof struck a rock and slid causing her to take several steps for balance.

“Whoa girl, it’s just me.”

Only the wind answered his admonition. The spring skies were cluttered with the morning stars; but, on the high plain there was little else to still the wind. Somewhere in the distance a lonely coyote spoke to the falling moon and a new calf bawled at her mother as the herd generally started a casual movement.

Nathan’s voice started low, a soothing tone that the cattle recognized. The melody harmonized the whistling wind.

“Oh hear that lonesome doggy cry
His voice sings in the air
Don’t ya wish that he might die
Along the trail tonight.

And should the springtime floods arrive
Before the earth is light
Then wash away my sins and sighs
Along the trail tonight.

Oh hear that lonesome doggy cry
His voice sings in the air
Don’t wish that he might die
Along the trail tonight.

We’re comin’ home for Jesus name
There’s dust upon the trail
We’re leaven’ behind all the shame
Along the trail tonight.

Oh hear that lonesome doggy cry
His voice sings in the air
Don’t ya wish that he might die
Along the trail tonight.

He repeated the song at least a dozen times till even his mare seemed to fall asleep. The first light soon began to peek over the Eastern sky alerting Nathan. He knew that the light would soon enter the chaparral which he had the evening before chosen to station the herd. Water was his primary interest and there was plenty, but the warmth of the sunshine would make the animals restless and since he was riding alone he wanted to insure peace throughout the heard.

“Girl, we better get ol’ bossy to move her calf further into the canyon, if we can get that done before breakfast, the rest of the critters will stay in one place.”

His horse raised her head in acknowledgement and immediately stepped along the trail. Nathan and his mare were of one sense and he rarely had to spur or tightly rein her. They rode quietly around the herd and gently separated out the aforementioned cow and calf. Just as he predicted, the entire herd followed as they moved slowly into a box canyon. Two hours later the sun lit the valley floor and the earth seemed to come alive.

Nathan dismounted and pulled the saddle off of the mare. For a few minutes they could rest and eat before the chore of driving the cattle down to the ranch. His work was almost over, but he knew that he couldn’t rest long.

He thought about giving up the trail life, but had told many a young lady that he couldn’t be cooped up in a cabin.

“Just us out here ol’ girl. God to watch over us. These critters to keep us company.” He stroked the back and mane of his horse. She in turn nuzzled his neck. He continued by stroking her ears. “This spring there’s gonna be a lot of them little calves. God done give us a gift. Guess maybe that’s what springtime is all about, huh, girl? New life.”

The mare shook her head as if in agreement; and then playfully snorted.

“We got a lot of work ahead of us today, you up to it?”

He led her to the stream and while she drank he chewed on a piece of hard bread. Finally, the sun was in full glow.

“Let’s you and I thank the Lord this morning.” The horse laid her head against his shoulder as Nathan pulled off his hat, faced the morning sunshine, and raised his hands.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Phyllis Inniss12/05/05
I like the feeling of comfort emanating from this entry. You seem to have a good knowledge of ranch life and the way of the west. Very interesting article with a song to give it something entra.
Jan Ackerson 12/05/05
Very atmospheric--I felt as if I were there. And the poem / song is an added bonus, and testament to your writing prowess. (By the way, if you mean a motherless calf, the spelling is dogie. Otherwise you're talking about Fido.)
Jan Ackerson 12/05/05
I meant to add that I absolutely loved your last paragraph.
Donnah Cole12/08/05
I agree...this was a very atmospheric piece. I, too, felt as though I was there. Good job!
Julianne Jones12/08/05
Well done on transporting the reader into your story and setting. I assumed the song was a ranch-song - good work if it's your own. Liked the way you refered to his single state: "told many a young lady that he couldn’t be cooped up in a cabin." God Bless.

Amy Michelle Wiley 12/10/05
I enjoyed this! I liked getting a little bit of a different style than the usuall challenge entry. :-)
Cassie Memmer12/10/05
I liked this peaceful, gentle story. The doggy in the song I thought was about the coyote, which would be a threat to the calves perhaps. Good writing, kept my interest all the way through. Thanks!
Beth Muehlhausen12/10/05
Enjoyed the relaxed flow and easy pace of this - and the awesome description! Not to mention the relationship between the man and his horse....very special. :-)

Linda Watson Owen12/11/05
After having two very wearisome days this week-end, I've had the sheer joy of reading your entry, dub. So soothing to the soul, it's a beautiful gem that sparkles quietly but oh, so, brilliantly!