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Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Survivor
Part II

But getting down into the earth level soil of the times in the early 80s, where people actually live, and where I have always claimed that this neo-conservative period we are currently living through is the jumping off point from the post WWII prosperity, Social Democratic State of Capitalism period. (In which overly idealized time many people still live delusional, maybe especially many NDPers).

As the real nature of what was happening in the late 70s to early 80s hit us and many, many others in what still is, this ongoing transitional time in the new "Lean and Mean Capitalism", though Mrs. Coyote and I  managed to hold it all more or less together until 1982, when it all unravelled. Then in our early 40s, the Mrs and I, "BOOM!", found ourselves suddenly farming on the historic Douglas Lake Ranch for then owner Chunky Woodward.  (There were those down in the mud, the blood and the beer events that led to there, of course, but that's another story... not for here.)
For myself though, I was in a state of... How to describe it?  ...It was much like what being in a state of shell shock must be like for battle scarred soldiers. That intertwined with a scarcely controlled rage over the loss of our own place, that presumably only I was aware of, ever threatened to break out into violence. I was not pleased with the people and events  that led to our finding ourselves financially broke, there on an extremely isolated part of the Douglas Lake Ranch known as Norfolk.  It was a time of great trial for both the Mrs and I. We struggled to adjust, no longer young, our energies sapped, in strange circumstances, working for a Big City capitalist who used the Ranch's 200,000 hectares as a kind of feudal estate, it seemed to us serfs, into which he could periodically fly in, in his private corporate jet, like royalty, to play cowboy with real cowboys. I don't know how it is on Douglas Lake now, but then in 1982, the Ranch had many serf-folks like us, basically "hiding out" like ourselves, from the bailiff and others.

(Chunky, the Lord of Douglas Lake, many of you will know, now deceased, was the owner of then Woodward's Stores. Which too eventually became a victim of "The Recession" and the collapse of retail consumption that was part of it, as the Recession went on and on. Then, as now, "Recovery" just around the next corner.)

I remember well, like it was yesterday, the Mrs and I sitting in the living room of the old frame house that came with the job there on Norfolk, an old cookhouse from the "old days" of big farming crews, pre-big time agricultural mechanization. It was our first winter there. Both of us sat there looking out at the unbelievable world of snow and leafless ash grey trees, with snow that was to the window sills that winter, all white, cold and rather the end of the earth looking. At least that was how it looked in our then state of mind.

Suddenly we both looked at each other, neither of us saying aloud, but each of us hearing the other thinking, "What the fuck just happened? How did we get out here in the middle of this strange nowhere... that is not ours.?!"

Norfolk Winter Scene

Crystal cold the world,
Of ice and new snow,
With a billowy frosty breath unfurled,
From hungry cattle moving thick and slow;
Saddened, torpid beasts,
Frozen in stern time,
Soup-line derelicts to a chilly feast,
There against winter’s tapestry sublime.

A whining tractor,
Startles into view,
Bearing gifts from the Great Benefactor;
Timothy, Canary and Red Fescue.
As His serf passes,
A Sprite’s wand is waved,
And the mass stage left, noses to asses,
Heel-kick, soft-shoe shuffling off to be saved.

From the frosty silence
of the treeline,
Coyote stares out across
that milk white field,
At now clamouring cattle
as they dine.
He narrows his eyes
into thoughts concealed,
Curls his lips into a wry
sceptic smile,
And thus genuflects thereby
to man’s style.

December 1983

Which poem I wrote the second winter after arriving at Douglas Lake. But, I think, gives a feel for the place.

western clipart coyote howling  Around this same time, at the height of my, lets call, Time of Great Pain, which at times was really quite extreme, early one morning I'm coming out of Norfolk, headed to another part of the ranch,  Minnie Lake or some such, to be part of the haying crew working there. I turn the company pickup right at the main road to head in the direction of Home Ranch.  Immediately there before me, right in the middle of the road, is this coyote. I slam on the brakes.

Initially I'm not even sure what manner of beast it is. It's just a large blur of fur. It is however a coyote. But no ordinary coyote. This one has been severely damaged, that is immediately apparent. I immediately jump to the conclusion that it has either been shot in its hind quarters and rendered paraplegic, or hit by a vehicle, because its hind legs are completely useless. He, or she, has his legs splayed out  behind itself, pulling its entire hind quarters along with its front legs only. (Keep in mind, we are in a slow-mo time warp here, where a few seconds is stretched out into only this endless moment.)

After us initially looking at each other full in the eyes... I mean our eyes actually locked, so that I could see the full fright of fear in his eyes and he, he had to, have seen the shock in mine. ... he/she, which gender I could not know, smack on my side of the road, suddenly wheels about, using only his front legs and takes off down the dirt road. I mean, just pulling himself along with his front legs, dragging his/her useless hind end, at a clip that a fully sound animal would have moved at the lope.

My first red-neck reaction was, weirdly, that I should kill it and put its out of its misery. Which notion I, happily today, quickly discarded. (Again in this same weird slow-mo state, of what was only surely seconds.) After which I immediately decide that I should nonetheless catch it and get it to some vet help. Though even by then, I'm starting to realize, that whatever happened to this animal, it is now fully healed, and this is the condition of its life. It's moving just too much like it knows exactly what it is doing, is not really in pain, just panic mode to get the hell away from me.

It comes to a log rail fence in tall grass at the side of the road, and runs along it in panic mode for a bit. I get out of my pickup and walk towards it... to do what, I didn't really have formulated. I just feel like I should do something. Though I've at some point put my leather gloves on, as some kind of protection presumably, from being bitten. Duh!

Anyway, it looks back at me again and sees me coming, and immediately slithers like a snake between the rails in the fence onto the other side.  I run to the fence then, thinking it may have hung itself up, but when I get there, and look over the fence, this critter is nowhere to be seen.  It is totally and completely gone.

Even after climbing over the fence and combing through the grass for what must have been a half hour, seriously looking for this coyote, I'm forced to conclude it is history... like it was never there. Or if it's hiding, it's where and at a distance I'm not going to find it. I listen intently for the sound of rustling grass. Nothing.

Which, over the course of that long work day and after, as and whenever I revisit this critter, and his brief, seconds long appearance into my life, is where I find the moral that saw me through this period. It ain't over 'til its over. Never give up. No matter how bad things may seem, and I have seen this attribute in coyotes many times since... never give up. It's amazing what critters, and we humans can endure and overcome, if we have the will.

Now that coyote had really grim circumstances to overcome. Worse than mine. Whether it would have made it through the next winter or not... It would have been tough. But then, maybe it had already survived one or more winters. In any case, none of us is getting out of here alive. But until the Grim Reaper actually reaches down and snatches you into the Void of No Return... NEVER GIVE UP.
A Farm Tractor - Royalty Free Clipart Picture                                             

                                        My Brother, The Coyote

My angry tractor roars across
the field,
The giant vacuum cleaner behind
Exposing that which the crop
had concealed,
Another link in the chain
of the fit.
Wily Bob Coyote slinks out
of harms way,
Having observed Power follows
a path,
Though sometimes toward him
it will ill stray,
To finish his days as
cattle feed chaff.

His goal,
Is but a mole
Caught out of its wee hole,
A mouse,
Far from its house,
As a petite hors d’oeuvre.

I lie weary upon my bed this night,
With my sleeping wife’s soft warmth
at my side,
Grateful to be removed from sound and sight,
Of a maelstrom world
that has briefly died.
When suddenly my brother the Coyote,
Sets his sorry cousin Dog
to pleading
As he cries from the depth of ancient rote,
An arousing poignant
hand out greeting,
Into the still heart of the cold, cold dark.

Answers a joyous
Choral clarity,
Rending through the black,
Reaching for needed



VivianLea said...

My friend(or at least I hope I can call you that), I very much needed this reminder today. Of all days. Thank you.

Coyote said...


You damn right we are friends. I have not ever thought otherwise, good woman.

You are a good and honest, and intelligent person. I know that. :-)