Cowboy Troubadour: An Excerpt

Shootin’ the Flume

Drawing by Corrie Francis Parks

Drawing by Corrie Francis Parks

When folks come to the Rockies, it’s a pleasure sweet and rare.
The forests and the rivers and the sweet cool mountain air.
The valleys lie like emerald jewels, with fields of waving hay.
But few have any knowledge how they came to be that way.

You see ranching in the mountains is much different from the plains.
The ups and downs and canyon walls can give the rancher pains.
You might have a sagebrush flat that could grow some lovely hay,
But if you can’t get the water there, it will just stay that way.

If you can plan a device to overcome the test,
The reward is mountain hay that ranks among the very best.
In all the land for livestock feed there is no better grub,
It’s just getting water to the field; therein lies the rub.

My uncle Frank had such a ranch, the meadows lush and green.
But his irrigation scheme was a challenge in extreme.
The water came from the Williams Fork of the Colorado Grand
Through a ditch which traveled several miles through rough and varied land.

In one place it crossed a gorge; you ask how can this be done?
The water traveled through a flume, a most ingenious one.
You see the flume is a mountain child, born of mother greed
Spawned by the miners’ lust to meet their water needs.

They would build a wooden bridge, the chasm o’er to span,
To hold their iron half-pipes, through which the water ran.
My uncle had just such a flume, above the canyon high,
And it was off limits to my cousin Ed and I.

They said we’d fall and kill ourselves, it was no place to play,
And we had not ventured there until one fateful day.
My cousin Ed and I were only ten years old.
Two naked jaybirds in the ditch—boy, was that water cold!

We’d climb out and warm a bit, then the playing we would resume.
We finally wandered along the ditch to the beginning of the flume.
The water was rushing through the trough, foaming as it sped
Like a liquid roller coaster—I think I said to Ed….

“I’ll bet that it would sure be fun to shoot down through that trough.”
I swung out on the cross member, let go, and I was off!
In my enthusiastic state, I overlooked some facts,
Concerning rust, and nails, and what felt like carpet tacks…

All along the flume bottom, which I realized much later
It was just like sliding down my ma’s potato grater
My joyful thoughts of thrills and fun changed on this occasion
The ride gave new meaning to the term “dermabrasion.”

I made a grab for a passing brace and swung up onto one,
And hollered back to Ed, “Boy, that sure was fun!”
So Ed let go, slid into the foam—his eyes they opened wide,
He shot by me, yelling “Ow!” as the flume removed his hide.

I took off running up the ditch, as fast as I could go,
‘Cause by now Ed had clambered out, looking for rocks to throw.
When supper time came ‘round, and we finally went home,
Ed’s parents asked where we’d been, and how far we had roamed.

But we just stood and hemmed and hawed, looking at our feet,
And I’m sure that they were mystified when we stood up to eat.

From Cowboy Troubadour by Richard McQueary
Copyright © 2014 by Richard McQueary
Drawing by Corrie Francis Parks