The Cowboy

The morning dew had just burned off the newly grown grass of the meadow as the cowboy pulled down the old dirt road. He couldn’t remember the first time he came down this road, nor could he count the times he had traveled it. To him, the road was just a part of his life, whether he chose it or not, but today was one of those days that he chose to come back to the place that had given him so many memories in his youth. He wasn’t here to feed the cattle, nor was he here to count or tend to them either. He was here this time to do something for himself, a thing he rarely did, but a thing he so desperately needed to do, especially today. 

He parked the old white Ford pick-up in front of the rusting gate, one of many gates that were located on the land. The gates all lead to the vast land and were a way keeping the things inside of them in, and a reminder to the things on the outside to stay out. Man’s way of creating two separate worlds. He could have easily opened the gate and drove down to the tree, but this was his journey, not the machine’s, and so he parked the truck, got out the sack and the shovel that were riding in the bed, and started the mile walk across the land to the place where death had occurred, but life was waiting.

Is was spring and the field flowers were starting to bloom. The breeze was light and the smell of the new growth was all around him. As he continued to walk, he took notice of the blades of grass, gently rocking back and forth like a mother rocking her precious new born, calming him down. This was the time of year when Mother Nature brought back to life the colors of the world, and the birds brought back the music. In the distance he could see the rolling hills of the countryside where he learned to hunt and camp, and the ponds where he learned to fish. Memories flooded him, and he could have very easily closed his eyes and succumb to them, his body knowing the way to the tree by heart, but he remained here, in this time, not the past. He had come to know that the past was just that, the past, good or bad, and if he had any chance of any future, he had to forget about what was behind and work on what was in front. 

The cowboy liked to whistle while he walked. The wind would accompany him with his tune, and the birds would soon add their part to the piece. Man is not alone when he is in nature, the cowboy knew this, and he enjoyed all the company he had that morning as he took in all that was around him. The bag that was draped over his shoulder was starting to get heavy. The object inside was not big, but anything can start to weigh a man down if given two things: time and opportunity. So he continued his walk toward the tree, wondering to himself which was heavier that day, his heart or the sack. 

After a while, the cowboy stopped his dance with nature as he arrived to the tree, the lone object in the middle of the open field. It seemed so out of place, a single tree in the middle of nothing. The cowboy loved the tree from the first time he laid eyes on it, all those years ago when he would come to the fields with his grandfather, and then his father. He looked at the tree as if it were his brother, for the tree reminded him of himself, a single entity in the middle of nowhere, both fighting the place where nature had put them, but somehow accepting their fate too. When the boy felt alone, he would often ride his bike to the tree and just sit there for hours, watching the cattle graze in the distance, dreaming of places far away from the only place he knew. Little boys dream of far away lands full of danger and adventure, this little boy was no different. He  dreamt of the same things, but in a sad way, for he wasn’t sure if little cowboys are allowed to leave cattle for castles, he wasn’t sure if trucks could travel to the stars.

The big cowboy took his place under the old tree, just like the little cowboy did so many years ago. He sat in the bare spot and leaned against the trunk, still cool from the morning chill. He too stared out into the open field, looking at the cattle and still taking in the concert the birds were performing for him. He took a deep breathe and simply closed his eyes, not trying to fall asleep, just simply trying to not fall apart. He breathed in deeply and he breathed out effortlessly. Breathing was easier here, under the tree, and with each breathe he could feel the strain from the bag start to go away although the thought may never leave him. He sat there for a good five minutes, taking in the air from the field, as if the field was telling him something. Telling him him that it would all be okay, that like the cattle, just leave the sack here and nature would take care of the contents.

The tree was big, its broad reach was larger now that the boy was a man. And like the boy, the tree grew up tall and strong, and also like the boy, the tree changed with the seasons. The tree had beautiful colors in the fall and no leaves in the winter. But it was this time of the year that the cowboy loved the tree the most, the time of year when the green came back, when the life came back. The cowboy had climbed every limb as a child, and killed many a squirrel in its branches. He’d also cleaned countless fish  under its protective umbrella from the hot summer sun, and skinned many a deer in the cool autumn evenings there. That is why he loved the tree, the tree that gave him joy and food, shelter and shade, gave him peace when he so needed it the most.

The cowboy grabbed the shovel and began to dig. He didn’t have to work hard, the ground around the tree was soft and cooperative, almost as if the dirt knew what the cowboy was doing, and was offering up its own services. Within a few minutes, the cowboy had dug far enough down, the fresh brown dirt lay waiting for the gift the cowboy was about to give, and the ground was more than happy to receive it. The man turned and grabbed the bag, the one that weighed him down during his walk to the tree, the one that now seemed heavier than ever as he was about to lay it to rest. He brought the sack over to the freshly dug hole and knelt down. He took a few more deep breathes and opened the bag, being careful of the contents inside. The cowboy whispered something to the tree, something that only him, the tree and the Great Spirit could hear, and will ever know, and when both the cowboy and the tree are gone from this earth, the words of the whisper will only be remembered in the wind, soothing another soul as it brushes across their face, somewhere down the way.

The cowboy covered the hole after the contents were laid down. He took a minute to sit back against the tree and look back out into the world. He took one last long breathe and the small grin appeared on his face. The boyish grin. The grin the tree loved to see from the man, the grin that let the tree know that the cowboy would be alright.

As the cowboy stood up, he grabbed the shovel and the empty bag. He patted the tree one last time and told it he would be back sometime, another time when he had another bag, full of the things that needed to be buried

He never looks back during his walk back to the old pick up truck, the one that would carry him back to the real world and away from this one in the field with the tree. He came to do a job and the job was done. He was able to stand taller and walk faster without the contents of the bag holding him back, but he knew that perhaps he may be back again to visit the tree, with another bag, but perhaps with each walk, this would be the last one. He could only hope. 

He whistled his tune and the birds and the wind soon began to sing along agin, like they had before. But this time the cowboy added the words, a thing he never did before. On this day, the day he visited the green tree, the cowboy began to sing a song about another journey taken by another man, off to the green spot, in the middle of the meadow, to find the peace that only a special place like this can bring.