The Rainmakers

Indian_ruins_in_an_Arizona_desert
Where the rattler coils in the yucca shade
And the lizard’s hue is bright
Where the riven sandstone holds the heat
Through the hours of the desert night

South, and south of the Hopi line
South of the Navajo
The shattered walls of a ruin stand
A village of long ago

A puncher seekin’ a water hole
That his thirsty horse might drink
Reined to the edge of the salt white glare
On the rim of a desert sink

Gazed at the ruins, banked with sand
As he topped a rounded rise
And a vision of ancient Hopi land
Grew clear in his steady eyes

The arrowhead, the painted shard
The ash of a vanished flame
Roofs long fallen that choked the rooms
A village without a name

He thought of the hopes and joys and fears
That this patient people knew
Lost in the vagrant sweep of years
Believing their Gods were true

They prayed for rain, the puncher said
And I reckon if I knew how
I’d rustle a little prayer myself
For we shore need rain right now

And here are the deer and turkey bones
Which shows that they liked their meat
And here are some busted grinding stones
For the corn they liked to eat.

Then he found a bead, a turquoise bead
Bright blue on the littered sand
And he pictured a dusky Hopi girl
A beauty of Hopi land

When the long dry canyon river bed
Was cool with the crystal flow
And she swayed to the brimming olla’s  weight
On the foot worn trail below

What if the puncher went to sleep
In the shade of the ruin wall
While his pony dozed in the noon-day sun
With the blue sky over all

What if he saw the Hopi folk
Do a primitive rain prayer dance
With symbol of turtle, snake and gourd
And the lightning’s broken lance

Then the far hills shouldered a thunderhead
The light grew dim and strange
A shaft of blue, went hurdling through
And echoed from range to range

The puncher, opened his sleepy eyes
And gazed at the distant plain
A storm black line on the desert rim
And the welcome tang of rain

He thought of his homestead down the creek
And the cracked and thirsty earth
He thought of his cattle, gaunt and weak
In the season’s drought and dearth

The withered truck in his garden patch
That fought with the summer heat
As he sniffed the rain, the saving rain
And it’s smell was cool and sweet

Snug in his shack, he built a fire
Had supper and rolled a smoke
Doorway open he viewed the storm
And visioned the Hopi folk

Searched his pockets to find a match
But found in his hand instead
The thin blue ring of a turquoise bead
……And a jet-black, arrowhead !

– Henry Herbert Knibbs (1874-1945)

Commentary

This is a  poem describing a cowpuncher chancing upon the remains of an Indian ruin that is several hundred years old. It has special appeal to me because I have lived the experience in ancient Indian camps many times. I have seen the burned rock from fires that burned 600 years ago, picked up pottery sherds from pots crafted by an Indian maiden in years before Columbus discovered America and have discovered flint artifacts carefully made by a warrior intent on utilizing them to provide for his family, but showing an artistic touch that gives one a thrill just to see and touch them.

henry_h_knibbs
Henry H. Knibbs 1874-1945
Biographical Information

Henry Knibbs was not a cowboy, as such, but was fascinated by the West and moved from his home in the eastern part of the U.S. to be a part of it.  His work is appreciated and treasured by cowboys and western folks today. Most of Knibb’s work was written 80 to 100 years ago.

Perry L. Williams, 2014

The Good Old Days
At Englefield