Old Friends — A Prairie Pastoral

One sunny spring morning
on a grassy slope
near a meandering prairie stream
a tentative green bud
pushed up through the last
melting snow

The nearby stream paid no attention at first
He had seen it before
The bud would be gone next year
they never lasted
So he continued his timeless wandering
and the tree grew into a magnificent oak

They became friends
this young tree and the wandering stream
over time they became old friends
Tree giving shade when the water became too warm
and Stream giving drink when leaves began to shrivel
always careful not to wander too close
for fear of weakening Tree’s grip on the land

They watched clouds come and go
storms blow by
chevrons of birds migrating
and herds of deer and buffalo
come to drink
as summers changed to winters
and to summers again
and again

Late each night when the air was still
they talked, gurgling and whispering
of the day’s happenings
and of the day before
and the year before
of the bird’s return
of the herd’s growing numbers
and of the spring migration upstream
towards the mountains beyond the plain

Later people came
to water their ponies
to pitch their tipis
and ford their wagons
to build sod huts
and then a village
around the oak tree that grew
along the bank of the stream

The village became a town
a park built round the tree
where people could sit in the shade
on a hot summer day
to read
or snuggle
or connive
They hung a man once
from Tree’s thick lower branch

On a warm Saturday night under the tree
after the first football game of the season
baby Donald W. Williams was conceived
As a lad he swung the branches
and gamboled in the Autumn leaves
A young man, he proposed to Annie
on a bench beneath the tree
and the following Spring
under the tree
along the stream
a wedding

Summers turned to Autumns
seasons to years
and each night they talked
these old friends
gurgling and whispering
of the events of the day
and of the day before
of long ago remembrances
and of what might come

After a first hard frost one Autumn
Tree confided to his old friend
that he was growing tired of winter winds
that blew colder every year
that he was growing old
his core weakening
with each passing season
and that too many branches were
breaking and falling to the ground
during the dark and icy times

One day men came to put up a notice
saying that Tree was dangerous
warning people away
signed by Mayor Donald W. Williams
later they cut Tree down
leaving only the bench
on the grassy slope
near the water’s edge

Stream, gone quiet
wandered away
The town drifted into disrepair
like the collapsed bench
near the old tree
Nearly abandoned
No longer buoyed by midnight
gurgles and whispers
it could not thrive

So Stream silently meandered once again
over ancient lonely prairies
remembering his old friend
listening
and looking hopefully
for new green shoots
on grassy slopes
along the banks

Then one Spring day…

 Marv Himmel                                                                                                              October 1, 2011 ©

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