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The Song of Jed Smith For Sigurd’s Wife Maxine I The valley was beginning to forget1 The dead June day, but southward clearly yet The peaks remembered. Trappers by their gear, With four trail-weary horses grazing near, Two men2 were sitting, leaning on their packs. Still as the shadows purpling at their backs, They gazed upon the smoke that rose between, Thin-fingered. From the canyon of the Green,3 Low-toned but mighty in the solitude, A never-never moaning voiced the mood Some reminiscent waking dream had cast Upon them. Henry’s Fork that hurried past Ran full of distant voices, muffled mirths.4 A meadowlark, in gratitude for Earth’s Lush shielding, with a mounting bar that broke, Enriched the quiet. And the elder5 spoke, Stirring the embers into sudden fire:6 “Well, that’s a queer one! Was I nodding, Squire?7 I swear I saw it!” Lifted in surprise, With thick, black beard belying8 boyish eyes, A flame-bright face regarded him. “What’s queer? I wasn’t looking, Art; just sitting here And seeing things myself.” The failing flare, Across the elder’s grizzling beard and hair, Revealed the mien9 of one whom many snows Would leave green-hearted. “No, I didn’t doze,” He said, “and I was thinking nothing more Than what to do about that saddle sore The old mare’s got; and it was only now, All still and empty. Suddenly, somehow, I tell you, it was eighteen twenty-five!10 This valley came alive with fires, alive With men and horses! Rings on glowing rings Of old-time faces sang as liquor sings After a drouth; and laughter shook the night Where someone, full of meat and getting tight, Spun lies the way Black Harris11 used to do. Then it was now again, and only you Were sitting yonder.” “Art, you make me dry,” The other said, “you make me want to cry Into my whiskers. Thirteen years away! That’s better than a million miles, I’d say, Without a horse, and all the country strange!” Now while they mused there came an eerie change Upon the world. From where the day lay dead The ghost thereof in streamered12 glory fled Across the sky, transfiguring13 the scene. Amazed amidst the other-worldly green That glowed along the flat, as though a shout 210 the song of jed smith Had startled them, they stood and stared about, Searching the muted landscape of a dream. There was a cry. The bluffs along the stream Awoke to mock it. On a low rise there To westward, vivid in the radiant air, They saw a horseman coming at a jog, A pack-mule plodding after, and a dog That rushed ahead now, halted, muzzle high, And howled. The light-blown bubble of the sky, As with a final strain of splendor, broke. The peaks forgot; and like a purple smoke Night settled in the valley. Looming dim, The rider neared the shadows greeting him Beside the embers, while the outer gloam14 Neighed welcome. “Hitch and make yourself at home,” One bantered: “Hang your hat upon a star, The house is yours. Whatever else you are, It’s not a horsethief by the nag you’ve got!” The stranger laughed. “If supper’s in the pot, The nag has served me well enough,” he said, Dismounting. To the growling dog, “Down, Jed,15 Old-timer! They’ve invited us to eat.” Now hand found hand. “Except for beaver meat, And jerked16 at that, you’ll find the cupboard bare,” One said, “and, short of Taos, we’ll have to share Our drinking yonder with the bird and beast.”17 211 The Song of Jed Smith “I never make this valley but to feast, And water won’t keep ghosts away,” replied The stranger, fumbling at the horse’s side And stripping off the saddle. “Anyhow, The hump and haunches of a yearling cow Have fagged the old mule here. If that won’t do To make a good old-fashioned rendezvous, I’ve come from Taos18 —the jug’s full!” Bluffs to heights Hurrahed with glee, and in the outer night’s Star-bearing silence troubled for a space The somber summits. “Come and show your face!” The elder cried. “I’ll swear, if I don’t know That voice—though he went wolfing19 years ago— My name’s not Black!”20 He seized the other’s hand And drew him...


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