When we “retired”, and left our Cypress Hills ranch for the coast, we took little but my turquoise chair, stepmother Mrs Gibberflat, my husband Garnet’s Stock Saddle, the braided bridle that “Walter the farting trail horse” wore, (and still hangs in our living room), and a well worn stack of Ian Tyson albums…a beloved Canadian icon, I wondered when I found this story, if he may be the wise chap, who gave a lift to Godfrey….
I fancied fields of creativity, not bound by boundary, fence, or walls or desk. I told my self I was “Stronger Than Coffee”, heading out alone for my first trip out west. I sought the high lonesome, to sort my bunched up words into rhyme, bid farewell to friends on the coast, they put up with my vagabond tales, and odd ways…oft, when alone they’d put an old record on, like those old “four strong winds”, when the two danced, they disappeared into the sage…
I wished to be a cowboy poet, but oh that wild wind blew my notebook away, twas on the last page. I met the true cowboy poet,” he was stronger than coffee, eyes amber as whiskey, laughing as he skidded his dusty truck, to a stop where I hitched on the highway”. He cleared bottles, books, and bits of harness from the seat at his side. Grateful I was for the ride.
” I came west as a poet, said I, seeking the myth and the lore. ” He drove very fast, through the hills we passed, I knew I’d seen this chaps lined face, seen him somewhere before.” He showed me about,” said for the love of horses, I still keep a few on the place, get down the road when I can, when my grand- daughters barrel race”.
“There are houses now, where in old days ran mustangs, manes tangled and blown by the “four strong winds” of that song”. He recalled their many colors, moving cautious down to water- a cowboy poet, he wrote how the short-grass prairie grew them up, big and strong”.
Said I, “I lost my notebook, got covered in burrs, said I felt myself ready, was”stronger than coffee”. “I bet”- reckoned with a laugh, the true cowboy poet. “He said, “Well, I started out wobbly as a colt born in a coulee, but soon I could run with the herds”. “Stick it out, young vagabond, in those four strong winds you will find your lost words”.
That was long ago, and in years since, when out west have oft taken time out to look. Scattered to the four winds, or wedged aging in a rock crack, washed away in a flash flood, someplace out there is my notebook”.” And back on the coast, when I visit my friends, when they play that old record, and dance when eve ends…it’s a classic song, in perfect harmony, and I thank the poet cowboy who wrote it- for he shared his wisdom with me.”