At the mouth of a redrock canyon
Near the base of a sandstone cliff
She stands there, a skeleton sentinel
With branches arthritic and stiff.
And those upturned fingers appear to pray
For water, though now, it’s too late.
Not far from her roots lies a rusty stove lid,
And the remains of a barbed-wire gate.
Not much, you might think, of a legacy,
Not much to remember them by.
Yet this site speaks readable volumes
To the wise and experienced eye.
And the tree, though now dead, says something,
An echo from a waterless grave.
For it tells of the hope of a homesteader,
And of the sacrifice somebody gave.
She stands enshrined, a personification
Of dreams and desires and grit.
For that old cottonwood was the first thing planted
When the flame of faith was lit.
Thriving under a pan of daily dishwater,
Her leaves a light color of jade,
Barefoot children swung from her branches
And a mother snapped beans in her shade.
But drought sucked the life from the homesteader,
Who eventually had to move on.
And within a few years, the tree had also withered
When its daily washwater was gone.
So, today, she stands guard in the canyon
And each storm brings a new limb to the ground,
And every spring, during the desert roundup
Weary cowboys delight in the kindling they’ve found.