My Grandfather’s Farm

rodeo!!

 

 

 

He did not homestead
As his grandfather had,
During Bloody Kansas, but
He was born in a sod house,
& his father, an immigrant at nine
Learned carpentry &
Built a wooden house on another farm
Around 1884 & he, a second generation
Norwegian, with an English mother
Who had insisted on Anglicizing the name Nygaard, to Thompson
He, the second son, took to Cowboy as soon as he could,
Worked for a Texas Ranger named Crump,
Went on one cattle drive from Texas to Abilene
& an expedition against small farmers, which were putting
Up barb wire & all this after as a lad, he’d seen prairie chickens
Fly up in such great numbers as to block out the sun
& he’d seen the Dalton Brother’s
Rob a bank —wilding with six
Guns drawn & a getaway, &
He’d tried to fight in the
Spanish war but was sent
Back from Florida when
He was discovered too young, &
After returning, he was breaking
A horse & was thrown
& in the dust & picking himself up
He heard an old timer at the edge of the corral laugh,
“Remember the Mane!”
That year he was thrown from a horse again,
& compound fractured his leg below the knee,
& crawled three miles back to the ranch house
Where they put him in a buck board wagon
& drove him ten miles to a doctor,
& he showed me those scars, & I heard a conversation
He had with an old timer who lived up on the South fork
Of Little Butte Creek in a cabin here in Oregon, & how in 1901
They, unbeknownst to each other,
Had both been at a rodeo at the 101 Ranch in Oklahoma
& where he saw a young Will Rogers, & a
Federal guard had Geronimo in a cage,
& let him out & made the fierce old man shoot a buffalo
Tied to a stake, & they & many of the cowboys thought
That a disgusting spectacle, but they ate of the Buffalo
Two years later, he courted my grandmother, daughter of third generation
German-American family from Ohio,
That had 500 acres of bottom land,
& sons either unwilling, or unable to farm, &
In September of 1903 he was feeding hogs for the old man from a wagon &
His father-in-law to be, was sitting on the fence
Twenty feet from him, when a lightning bolt
Struck the old man, & turned him to charcoal
& knocked my Grandfather out of the wagon
& he & Grandmother married in October
& pretty much the day of the lightning strike they inherited their farm
& he was successful for almost thirty years, most of his children living
& graduating from High School, & stories of family life & scores of farm hands
He employed, all thinking well of him as a fair man,
& neighbors & stock bought & sold, & wheat crops & corn crops
& hogs, & cattle, & early machines of mechanized agriculture,
Like a corn chopper that took his middle finger,
& the time he threw the Klan off his property when they tried to recruit him,
& neighbors, & the time the tornado took off the barn door,
When he was trying to get the horses out,
& broke his back, laying him up for a time
In the hospital, & then Depression came &
He & my Grandmother & my mother, their youngest, had to drive
Away in a buckboard wagon, pulled by a team of horses
From their property and prosperity, this lightening
Came in the form of a squall of bloody Kansas bankers,
After wheat & hog, & corn crops that mortgaged the farm became worthless,
While down in Texas, Lyndon Johnson changed all that, &
Saved Texas farmers from far off Washington & knowing this,
Years later, my Grandfather was happy to vote for LBJ,
While the rest of my family, who though they revered the oil painting
Of the stone farm house they’d grown up in,
Voted Goldwater, complaining that
The government was too large.

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