When we woke waiting for the coffee to brew,

they were already there, forty or more,

sitting in the first snow of the year


The bull had more points on its rack

than any we had yet seen so far

Two calves nursed under cows

while the bull stood at arms

lording over the rest of his harem

It might have been a perfect shot

for a hunter with a legal tag

in hunting season


I shoot with a camera, even so,

the elk jumped slightly as I aimed

standing in my slippers on the deck,

rambled out of the meadow

with his herd following slowly,

lifting over the horse fence

in the hazy October morning


There was a call that year

to thin the herds

to save the feed they were devouring

from the hay slides in the fields

so the cattle would not be shorted

late in the longer winter forecast


I think about the hardships on both sides

of the fences we string up

each time I look at that photograph

in the album of our mountain days