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VII beecher’s island Summer turned.1 Where blackbirds chattered and the scrub oaks burned In meadows of the Milk and Musselshell,2 The fatter bison sniffed the winter-smell Beneath the whetted stars, and drifted south. Across the Yellowstone, lean-ribbed with drouth, The living rivers bellowed, morn to morn. The Powder and the Rosebud and the Horn Flowed backward freshets,3 roaring to their heads. Now up across the Cheyenne watersheds The manless cattle wrangled day and night. Along the Niobrara and the White Uncounted thirsts were slaked. The peace that broods Aloof among the sandhill4 solitudes Fled from the bawling bulls and lowing cows. Along the triple Loup5 they paused to browse And left the lush sloughs bare. Along the Platte The troubled myriads pawed the sandy flat And snorted at the evil men had done. For there, from morning sun to evening sun, A strange trail cleft the ancient bison world, And many-footed monsters whirred and whirled Upon it;6 many-eyed they blinked, and screamed; Tempestuous with speed, the long mane streamed Behind them; and the breath of them was loud— A rainless cloud with lightning in the cloud And alien thunder. Thus the driving breed, The bold earth-takers, toiled to make the deed Audacious7 as the dream. One season saw The steel trail crawl away from Omaha As far as ox-rigs waddled in a day— An inchworm bound for San Francisco Bay! The next beheld a brawling, sweating host Of men and mules build on to Kearney Post8 While spring greens mellowed into winter browns, And prairie dogs were giving up their towns To roaring cities. Where the Platte divides, The metal serpent sped, with league-long strides, Between two winters. North Platte City sprang From sage brush where the prairie sirens9 sang Of magic bargains in the marts10 of lust; A younger Julesburg sprouted from the dust To howl a season at the panting trains; Cheyenne, begotten of the ravished plains, All-hailed the planet as the steel clanged by. And now in frosty vacancies of sky The rail-head waited spring on Sherman Hill,11 And, brooding further prodigies of will,12 Blinked off at China. So the man-stream flowed Full flood beyond the Powder River road13 — A cow path, hardly worth the fighting for. Then let grass grow upon the trails of war, Bad hearts be good and all suspicion cease! 386 the song of the indian wars Beside the Laramie the pipe of peace Awaited; let the chieftains come and smoke! ’Twas summer when the Great White Father spoke. A thousand miles of dying summer heard;14 And nights were frosty when the crane-winged word Found Red Cloud on the Powder loath to yield.15 The crop from that rich seeding of the field Along the Piney flourished greenly still. The wail of many women on a hill Was louder that the word. And once again He saw that blizzard of his fighting men Avail as snow against the August heat. “Go tell them I am making winter meat; No time for talk,” he said; and that was all. The Northwind snuffed the torches of the fall, And drearily the frozen moons dragged past. Then when the pasque-flower dared to bloom at last And resurrected waters hailed the geese, It happened that the flying word of peace Came north again. The music that it made Was sweet to Spotted Tail, and Man Afraid Gave ear, bewitched. One Horn16 and Little Chief17 Believed; and Two Bears18 ventured on belief, And others who were powers in the land. For here was something plain to understand: As long as grass should grow and water flow, Between Missouri River and the snow That never melts upon the Big Horn heights, The country would be closed to all the Whites. So ran the song that lured the mighty south. 387 Beecher’s Island It left a bitter taste in Red Cloud’s mouth, No music in his ears. “Go back and say That they can take their soldier-towns away From Piney Fork and Crazy Woman’s Creek And Greasy Grass. Then maybe I will speak. Great Spirit gave me all this country here. They have no land to give.” The hills went sere19 Along the Powder; and the summer grew. June knew not what the white men meant to do; Nor did July. The end of August came. Bullberries quickened into jets of flame Where smoky bushes smouldered...


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