Terror on the Trail

(Ron) Kansas is sometimes called “Tornado Alley,” along with Oklahoma and Texas. And those were the very same states where the great cattle drives happened in the post Civil War era when the legend of the cowboy came to life. Imagine being on the trail drives in those days without weather radio, weather radar and all the modern communications we have. This is a serious poem that I wrote. It’s titled, “Terror on the Trail.” It was cloudy and dry that hot day in July, as we drove cattle up the trail. We were needing rest in our dogged quest to drive ’em to the Kansas rail. But in the western skies, where we turned our eyes, a cloud bank started to build. Then the clouds turned dark, we saw lightening spark as the black clouds grew and filled. The air was muggy, Hoss’ eyes went buggy, the cattle were restless and flighty. As the clouds drew near, the boss made it clear this storm is gonna be mighty. Then the sky turned green like nothin’ we’d seen, the air was so still it was eerie. With nary a bicker, we pulled on our slickers even though we were bone tired and weary. Rain started a fallin’, the cattle were bawlin’ and the clouds started whirling around. We hear a distant roar, then the noise seemed to soar, til it filled our ears with the sound. To our terrified stare, from the devilish air, a black rope dropped from the skies. With a roar like a train, it plowed cross the plain, tossing men, dirt and cattle like flies. It’s a cyclone boys, the boss yelled though the noise. Now it’s every man for hisself. My horse spooked despite my rebuke as I rode him off a side hill shelf. The cattle stampeded, and ran unheeded as brave men rode for their lives. Critters ran pell-mell in the face of this hell, in a desperate race to survive. Then the roar started fading, and the sounds started trading some rain drops for the cyclones roar. The rain came in torrents to the riders abhorrence, like an ocean tide pounding the shore. Then we saw the rain stop, with a few stray raindrops, all of a sudden the sky was clear blue. But the path of the storm and the death it performed came fully into our view. Dead cattle and a horse, along the storms course gave the killer storm mute testimony. Two cow hands were dead and 21 head of long horns plus one cow pony. We grieved for our pards and though it was hard, we buried them there on the plain. Then I mounted my stead and resumed the deed, of gathering the herd that remained. Now we made Abilene, but the sights that I’ve seen will stay in my nightmares without fail. For I saw bodies fly that hellish day in July, when a cyclone hit out on the trail.

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