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King of Kings

For Kit, a loyal companion whose personality lives on today.

In the early freshness of morning
He lounges in his dirt nest,
A curve in the ground that he’d dug
Under the tree or by the
office yard gate post,
Peering out like a spring chicken,
Except with clouded eyes and big puffy paws
With no spring left in his body.
You can tell just by the way
he lays heavily upon the ground.

He lays just looking, hypnotized
By morning life in the pasture
Beyond the front gate in the predawn
When everything is moving, coming alive.
The way he looks lost, it seems as
If he’s remembering all those years
when at this time of day,
He’d be trotting out with
The horsemen, to work cattle
in the pastures for the day.

But now,
When I drive into the ranch yard,
And step out of my truck,
At this age,
He can only lift his old head a bit
And yowl at you.

It means, come on over.
Would love to visit.

His dad’s name was Diego,
Born of a long line of border collies
From south Texas,
Tall and lean, with short hair
Like Kit.
We remember mostly
How, when Diego got out of control and was told, “Go home!”
He’d go way wide to the right
Out of sight, and around to the lead.

His mother was Mollie, who died from heat stroke
Because she wouldn’t stop.

Early on, he moved from our home on the hill, to
The saddle house, where the horses
Left each morning, not to be left behind.
His bed was an old saddle blanket
Most times in the back room.

In the pasture while waiting for us to
Finish sorting or branding,
He’d entertain himself by picking off
Thorny cholla stems, chew them,
Gagging, making horrible noises,
The cactus stuck to the rood of his mouth.
At first we would help pull it out, but he
Would just do it again. So
Then we would just watch in wonder and disbelief.

So we honor him every morning,
by walking over
To kneel at his side and listen to his
Old squeals telling us of his
unbound happiness
To see us yet one more time.

Our scratches through his stiff, dusty hair
Make him curl deeper into his lair
We wonder, each of us, about
The number of days he might have left,
And those of us that rode with him,
Remember his love for traveling at
Our side, no matter where we went,
And how he’d work in front of anyone
Just to be in the cattle.

One morning just the other day,
He was gone. He’d just left.
Nowhere could we find him.
Knowing him, though, it did not surprise us
That he’d returned on his own
To the prairie kingdom
Where he spent his life
As a King of Kings, living
Exactly the way he chose.

Duke Phillips
September 13, 2014


Fencing on the Medano

Fencing on the Medano, the pendulum swings. Most days, the rhythm of fencing makes for peaceful days of fixing and moving on.


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