To Be a Man
The summer blizzard, blowing horizontal, seems to blast the stranger right into our tent.
He gathers himself in close by the wood stove, drops running off his stained Stetson. The red hot stovepipe casts a rose color on his goblin face, the scar from a wolf's mauling running from cheek to chin.
"It's Mike," he says, reaching out a calloused hand for a shake and then for the bottle of rye. Mike tells us that he's 78 and used to be a bull rider. "An I jus had prostit surgery, plumin weren't wurkin, now it wurks one way but not t'other." His wide grin contains a big space where his front teeth used to be.
"How is it to be out of the lovin' business?" someone ventures.
"Jus like steppin off a bucking bull, peaceful like an damn sure glad to still be walkin."
The storm rages all the next day, blows in three more hunters. We hunch in close by the stove, each in turn mounting the bull---a grizzly encounter, a horse stepping off a cliff, an angry moose that thrashed down a tree before he was shot . . . a pal drowned in a swollen river.
I have my stories too but don't tell them. What makes for this reluctance—this distance I feel from these men's men?
Is it because I'm not a hunter? Never rodeoed? Never been to war? Never even worked the land with hands and back?
the burn of raw whiskey
Published in Simply Haiku