The Aspen Grove
By Jon Ferry
If I ever got to rewind my checkered life,
it would be back to when I was 20,
herding horses on the Teton Mountains,
high above the old White Grass Ranch
in Wyoming’s jaw-dropping Jackson Hole.
My daily routine as a ranch wrangler
was to roll out of bed in the morning twilight,
grab a waiting pony from the barn corral
and ride out to round up the other ranch horses
overnighting far away in some alpine meadow.
My mount was a slick black steed called Shilling,
and we were soon zigzagging up the sagebrush trails,
our ears pricked for the bells of grazing horses
drinking in their last moments of freedom
before we wrangled them back down home.
The granite peaks soared thousands of feet
without foothills to interrupt the view.
The mist rose from the valley floor where
the Snake River twinkled, the moose wallowed
and the pronghorn antelope still roamed.
It was early fall and the elk were starting to bugle,
the trees were turning from green to gold.
We halted by a grove of aspens, balanced between two worlds:
above, the wild world with sheer crags thrusting skyward,
underneath, the warm one, inviting and mellow.
I was a young man with everything to look forward to —
a university degree, a rosy-looking career
and a young woman who could overlook
my awkward stance and adolescent angst.
She didn’t seem to care if I ever hit the mother lode.
But even then I knew I’d never be richer
or sit taller than in that saddle, surveying
the waking earth steaming in the sunlight below.
Nor would I ever feel freer than among those aspens.
I was master of the universe and at peace with the globe.