It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Rick Sikes original story and this one always touched me. Of course he writes in parables, but I see the comparisons clearly. Enjoy!
A STORY OF LOVE AND TIME BY RICK SIKES
I can’t tell you why men write and I have been thinking pretty hard on it these past few hours. It could be a man finds something inside of him so damn beautiful that he wants to get it down on paper before it slips away. I guess it could be that a man stumbles onto a thought so damned earth-shaking he figures just about everybody should get a chance to hear it. Who knows? Not me. I ain’t no writer. I’m a cowboy…
But, here I am writing!
It all started last night. You see, when the whistling West Texas wind drives chariots of tumbleweed across this God-forsaken plain, a man finds his body creeping closer to the fire as surely as he finds his mind seeking the warmer memories of his past… and last night was black ice, raw and bitter… and as surely as my fire drew me to its warmth, one of my memories drew my soul… until… like a Roman Candle exploding in huge darkness, I saw that memory in a new light… and I was wanting to write it down… so I could share it… earth-shaking or not…
So, here I am, sitting on my saddle, with a pencil in my ol’ paw and an empty stomach, doing two things I ain’t never done before…
Missing breakfast and writing a story!
But, sometimes a thought can feed what a meal can’t. Depends on a man’s hunger I reckon.
I know the thoughts in the Good Book used to feed my mama, and I can remember a teacher I had once, years ago. They fed me so much poetry that my heart was filled to bursting because I couldn’t let it out for fear that my pals would laugh me to shame.
Funny, ain’t it… how one thought leads on to another? And that brings me to the memory I discovered last night.
I grew into manhood on a rocky Texas ranch. Pa died early. Ma still lives on the place. The soil ain’t good for nothing but cactus and windstorms on that place and it weren’t no different when I was growing up. But, we had some times on the old place worth remembering, and I find it’s true the older I get, a few things happened there a boy had to grow into understanding. My story’s about one of those things.
There was an old billy goat on our place. He was wild and wicked, crafty and cantankerous and smelly and scrawny. He was also lonely. His smell would gag a buzzard and he was so scraggly looking that the horned-toads paraded their ugliness past him like it was finery. Pa used to say, when we’d catch a glimpse of that ol’ goat, he was so poorly looking that he’d force a train to take a dirt road. I always smiled and nodded.
Pa died in the winter of my fourteenth year. Later the same year, April I think it was, I came up on a sight which I didn’t give much thought to ‘til last night. I was with our hired hand and his boy, Junior Bascomb.
Junior was my best and only friend growing up. He was two years older than me and I always thought of him as a kind of god. I guess he must’ve known the answer to every growing-up question I ever wanted to ask.
Anyway, we rode up on one of the prettiest roses a man could ever want to see. Right next to that rose, laid out and dry, was the bones of that ol’ billy goat. I can remember Junior Bascomb saying, “Well, now, ain’t that the purdy’est rose you ever seen?” And his Pa answering, “It surely is.” I can remember how we all noticed the skeleton of that ol’ goat and sort of laughed when Junior’s Pa said the old billy would’ve eaten it sure.
Junior wanted to pick the rose for a little gal he was seeing in town, but his Pa told him to leave it where it grew. When Junior asked why, his Pa said, “Well, son, I think it’s kinda nice for old Billy, onery cuss he was, to have such a purdy flower growing there by his grave…”
And we rode on…
And I’ve been riding on ever since.
I’ll be fifty come June.
But, somewhere between then and now, I’ve come to look on that long ago day with a different view… and I guess my story is a little more than the story of an old billy goat and his rose. Just as a man sees things a tad different than a boy… because in my man’s soul I can almost see that old, lonely billy goat wandering through his empty days. That lonely little rose was solitary but splendid; nourished by a tiny stream and hemmed in by a few weeds.
I can see the old billy goat coming up to that little rose, and I can see him wanting to eat it, but he didn’t because he felt something just in looking at it that he hadn’t felt in years.
He felt younger, richer and less lonely.
So, he grazed all around the area and he fell in love with the awesome intensity only an old creature can feel. The sight of the rose made him spry and the scent of the rose put him in a romantic mood. One day, he became so jealous of the weeds growing around his rose that he tore them from the ground and gobbled them down in a frenzy that he hadn’t felt in years. They tasted terrible in his mouth, but seeing them gone made him feel pure in his soul. He had never been so happy. At night, the warm breeze blew the fragrance of his rose softly into his nostrils and he slept well.
The summer passed well. Every day began with the sight of his lovely, dew-kissed rose, and every day ended with perfume and dreams.
But as summer ended and the rose began to fade, the old goat began to eat less and less and worry more and more. When the frost came, chilling and killing his love, it killed something in the old goat too. One by one, the petals dropped from the rose into the dust and the old goat followed soon after.
Every year, around spring the rose returned to bloom beautifully, beside the bleached bones of the old billy goat. Eventually, the sands shifted, covering both Billy and his rose…
But what is covered is not always forgotten,
And what truly matters finds a way to bloom again.
Even in the heart of an old cowboy.
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