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AFTER THE RANDOM TORNADO / Walter McDonald Harvest won't save our barn from twisters on plains flat as the moon. A keg of nails can't make old rafters safe for owls and heifers mild as saints. The last tornado smashed the church a mUe away Uke match sticks, sinners saved by grace. Lucky for cows, the twister froze, veered off and left their calves alone. Our barn's a maze of tin and spUnters, nothing to do but tear it down and raise one better for bumper crops. But watch the gate for signs—buzzards circling the gate, angels prowling in the shape of funnels, beggars needing to be fed. The Missouri Review · 67 FARMS AT AUCTION / Walter McDonald Bidders from out of state drop by and stare. They kick our neighbor's clods and wade mirages Uke walking on water. My barn a mUe away appears to burn. My neighbor's barbed wires shimmer, his cattle blur, about to disappear. Three years haUed out, he's quitting, enough debt to break his chUdren, enough sUage in his sUo to feed one winter cow. The auctioneer caUs gimme, gimme, everything gone twice and sold, even the dirt, the oaks his father planted. I remember summer clouds a mUe away, bubbles a dozen churches prayed for. I envied his rain, the downpour I wanted, nothing but thunder for my parched stalks. I didn't see the haU, too busy cursing rain to count my blessings. Sheered off, his stubble rots. His beds are gone, his trunks and keepsakes, hauled off to town in a trailer returned to the farm for auction. The man with wide suspenders kisses a bullhorn, a sideshow barker. And loaded with luck we gather close and watch some bidder poke our neighbor's plows and tractor, his wife's best tablecloths Uke touching her robes and dresses to satisfy himself they're silk. 68 · The Missouri Review SCANNING THE RANGE FOR STRAYS / Walter McDonald Granddaddy roamed these fields in a pickup, scanning the range for strays lost in arroyos. If a steer was aUve, he'd find it. Roped, it balked but followed that smoking truck uphUl, waUeyed and frothing. They don't make trucks that coarse anymore, no radio, a bench of steel coUs covered by quilts. There it rusts, stranded on blocks where we hauled it. I remember Granddaddy's white mustache, the scar where a roped buU hooked him. I remember the boulder he straddled driving out of the canyon. StaUed, he must have bounced on the bumper untU his heart stopped. We found him face down in the dust, the steer snugged to the truck and foaming, no longer jerking, the rope so tight we had to cut it loose. The Missouri Review · 69 BUT IT WAS WATER/ Walter McDonald Riding dry fields, men carry canteens wherever they go, the only water hole the mud they can dig in creeks of cahche, the only shade their Stetsons, the only rain clouds rumors. Years ago, training to survive a war no one I cared for wanted, we dug in a western desert, caught a rattler coUed beside brown water. Gosheff faked the rattler with his fist and the snake hissed back and fell, splashing as if it meant to die there, not up on the dirt where we wanted. It churned our pool to venom. With sticks we dipped it out and kUled it. We found a rusted pot and boUed it, muddy, but it was water, so we dipped and drank it all. Now, on fields I share with goats and rattlers, after the rain and jungles of Saigon, I ride alone and wonder how much poison we swaUowed, how many mUes to the cabin, how many times a good horse stumbles over stones. 70 - The Missouri Review UNCLE CARL AND THE ART OF TAXIDERMY / Walter McDonald His cabin was a mansion of games, pool tables and decks of soUtaire. That shack balanced on a mountain of boulders, buried by snow in the San Juan. Big man with a beard and eye patch, he stuffed Ulegal bucks and wolves for tourists he despised. When they left, he slammed the door behind him...


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