Western Short Story
The Old House
John Duncklee


Western Short Story

Nestled in the shade of tall eucalyptus
territorial roof and porch
the ranch house
old when I first saw it the year of Pearl Harbor

Headquarters for Canada del Oro ranch
George Pusch’s, there’s a ridge named for his father
branded Z bar K
I remember because I helped a time or two

We gathered country that is full of houses now
invading the foothills that should be left alone
for the mountain sheep or just left alone
Just cause it’s there doesn’t mean it has to be built on

I was in the old house a few times for coffee
or a noontime meal during gathers
Beautiful spacious living room but cozy
a real home

It was just south of the old Steam Pump Ranch
and the Butterfield Stage station
a bit before you crossed the Canada del Oro
there was just a dip in the road back then

Now there’s a bridge and cemented arroyo sides
tract houses waiting on the flood plain
road scars going nowhere
just bladed in and making the foothills bleed

Been watching the old house all through the years
the country around it changed
but the old house just stayed on
sleeping under the tall eucalyptus that kept growing

The mountain is east of the front porch
used to be an unobstructed view
but now there’s houses on the foothills
newcomers playing king of the mountain. Obscene.

Driving to town the other day I glanced over
as I always did to see the old house
It’s part of my life. Part of the history
Not many like it left these days of so-called progress

The bulldozers had ripped up the tall eucalyptus
all prone on the ground surrounding the old house
On the trip back they were gone and the old house stood
bare, weeping, awaiting its awful fate

Another trip to town a week later.
Only the mailbox by the highway kept watch
as the graders made the space ready for “progress”?
The old house had stood there for more than a hundred years.


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