Every day I would race

the rolling prairie after chores

skipping through alfalfa stands

fresh-cut clover in my lungs

and Swab at my side -

a mongrel without malice

somnolent to the bone

until the magic hour of five.

A word from me and he

would burn across the barnyard

through the pasture gate

for the daily run

to fetch the cattle home

with a beeline for the hollow

where they fortified their shanks

deep in Cochran's creek

catching early evening breeze

before the long trek back.

Swab would bark their skins awake

and the caravan would resurrect

almost imperceptibly in motion -

Old Duke in the lead

and the heifers in his wake

always single-file, raising incense

from the path that marked their

crossing to the fields of heaven.

Jerome L. McElroy


*Accepted in Southern Indiana Review 9(1)(April 2002).