Elegy for Charlie Sykes

Charlie has gone up the mountain

to scout elk and set up the camp.

He hauled up the water and bedding

and fuel for the stove and lamps.

“Boys, there’s elk on the ridges. 

Seen twenty, with one real good bull. 

The mulies, they came out to water

between the long ridge and Goat Hill.”

“When you head up, bring more coffee,

T.P., biscuits and beans.

Somethin’s got into the pantry,

and picked the cabin clean.”

“Whatever you drink, better bring it.

For me, just water and Jack.

We’ve plenty of mantles for lanterns,

but not one gol-dog-durn match.”

I sure hope I can get there.

Snow’s blowin’ up on the pass.

Got tire chains if I need ‘em,

stopp’d b’low La Veta for gas.

(I’ll get there by midnight for certain,

but I probably won’t be the last.)

Wake at 5 in the A.M.

Burned biscuit with butter and jam.

Flush sleep away with strong coffee.

Fill pockets and make our plans.

One will go over that saddle.

I’ll hike up through this draw.

We meet on the ridge in the middle,

tell of sign that we saw.

Charlie has gone up the mountain

following tracks of a bull.

He drags into to camp, dog tired.

“Boys, the elk have gone higher still.”

Charlie’s gone on.  Climbed his mountain.

Good hunting, friend, on the far side.

We’re here reliving old glories

in ashes, antlers, and hide.

I’m going back up the mountain

to visit my old friend.

Touch his work, walk his mountain,

smell the night air, feel the man.

Good luck Charlie. Get that big bull.

-— Mike Stringfield


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