Where the Ponies Come to Drink





Up in Northern Arizona
there’s a Ranger trail that passes
Through a mesa, like a faëry lake
with pines upon its brink,
And across the trail a stream runs
all but hidden in the grasses,
Till it finds an emerald hollow
where the ponies come to drink.

Out they fling across the mesa,
wind-blown manes and forelocks dancing,
Blacks and sorrels, bays and pintos,
wild as eagles, eyes agleam;
From their hoofs the silver flashes,
burning beads and arrows glancing
Through the bunch-grass and the grama
as they cross the little stream.

Down they swing as if pretending,
in their orderly disorder,
That they stopped to hold a powwow,
just to rally for the charge
That will take them, close to sunset,
twenty miles across the border;
Then the leader sniffs and drinks
with fore feet planted on the marge.

One by one each head is lowered,
till some yearling nips another,
And the playful interruption
starts an eddy in the band:
Snorting, squealing, plunging, wheeling,
round they circle in a smother
Of the muddy spray, nor pause
until they find the firmer land.

My old cowhorse he runs with ‘em:
turned him loose for good last season;
Eighteen years; hard work, his record,
and he’s earned his little rest;
And he’s taking it by playing,
acting proud, and with good reason;
Though he’s starched a little forward,
he can fan it with the best.

Once I called him – almost caught him,
when he heard my spur chains jingle;
Then he eyed me some reproachful,
as if making up his mind:
Seemed to say, “Well, if I have to
but you know I’m living single…”
So I laughed, In just a minute
he was pretty hard to find.

Some folks wouldn’t understand it,
writing lines about a pony,
For a cowhorse is a cowhorse,
nothing else, most people think,
But for eighteen years your partner,
wise and faithful, such a crony
Seems worth watching for a spell,
down where the ponies come to drink.

Thia poem originally appeared in his book, Songs of the Outlands: Ballads of the Hoboes and Other Verse (1914)