Harley’s Calf

by William Dixon
Tin Roof Alley Poets
Highly Commended, May 2010
Judged by Fiona Sampson

You see, I was just busy, not belated.
The day was packed with this and full with that,
Like calming little Amy Johnson’s worries
By climbing up a tree to get her cat.

No sooner down than Jess comes riding up
To ask if I could come and help him break
Some wild range mustangs needed for the roundup.
I didn’t reckon how long that would take.

About the time we smoothed those mustangs’ wrinkles,
Comes Harley Hapgood looking for his calf.
I’m thinking, “No,” but Harley’s a fine fella
Who’s always good for sharing beers and laughs.

So, Mutt, my dog, and me, we take the rim side,
While Harley rode the foothills trail. My hound
Caught wind of Harley’s calf before I saw it,
And took off baying. That calf heard the sound.

Stampeded by his fear of tooth and claw,
Wild-eyed, he headed straight for Tom Fool’s Leap
Where Sweet Sue Barclay likes to hang her wash out.
(Just why’s another story that will keep.)

Well, Mutt and I, on Chuckles, (that’s my horse,)
We ran that half-crazed calf down fast enough.
I got in range and tossed my rope and snagged it.
About that time is when things got real rough.

The calf, he scooted round Sue’s swivel clothes pole,
And caught Sue off her guard The clothes pole swung
With Sweet Sue hanging on for dear life, soaring
Above the gulch below her. There she hung.

As fast as thinking, but not really thinking,
I lept from Chuckles, grabbed the rim side pole
And swinging hard swung Sweet Sue back to rim side
Then swung some more until I could let go

And land on solid ground right there beside her.
You’d think she’d sigh and say, “My hero!” No…
Instead she growled and slapped me silly, cussing
At calves and cowboys. All this goes to show

Why I let slip that that day was your birthday,
And why I went and spent an hour or more
Just sitting on a barstool quaffing rootbeer
While pondering life’s mysteries, before

It struck me that I ought to call and wish you
A “Happy Birthday!” but you weren’t awake.
To make it up, I thought I’d send this picture
As proof that I ain’t lying. What a break

That right there at that moment was a fella
Who knew it was a shot he had to take.
The name of that photographer don’t matter,
But just in case you’re wondering, it’s just Jake.

A jolly appropriation of western songs and ballad form – its turn to sadness perhaps not dark enough and its diction a tiny bit cosy. --Fiona Sampson