A couple of weeks ago I got a message from a friend asking me to call her, which I did. Come to find out she is on the board of the Black Hills Stock Show and she asked me if I would read my poem “The Storm Atlas” at the opening of the BHSS Ranch Rodeo Finals. Apparently, several people had requested asking me. I was surprised and completely honored!
I began writing poems when I was quite young. I’ve always had the ability to do it…..just get a thought in my head, scribble down a few words and within minutes have a complete poem written out. I’m not patting myself on the back…..or saying that I’m well-known for my poetry. I’m not……..well, not yet anyway…..have to think positive, right?!
I became a published poet at 12 years old. I’ve always written with a lot of emotion attached to my words. The poem I had published at this young age was about a horse my grandpa had given me. Our neighbor ran into him and several other horses of ours on Christmas Eve…..it was awful…..they all died or had to be put down. It was my first knowledge of drinking and driving and it has stuck with me all of these years. Shortly after this occurred, my grandpa passed away suddenly. In just a short few weeks, death had touched me….deeply. I wasn’t the type to cry a lot, but words would pour out of me like tears for some. I wrote this poem almost a year after it happened. After that, I wrote a lot of “dark” poems when I went through adolescence. It was my escape and I’m glad I had it. I stopped writing poems after I graduated from high school. I think that the ability and need to write has just been laying dormant in me for all of these years. It took a major emotional episode to make it come out again. Nowadays I have more tears….maybe because I’m a mother now. I swear that motherhood brought an entire bag of emotions that I never dealt with a lot before Stone was born…..not that I’m complaining. 🙂
Fast forward to October 2013. A normal October for most of us……with the threat of a winter storm. We’ve had those before….and never thought much about them. We still had our calves on the cows….as did most people this time of year. We normally ship around the middle of October (send our calves off to market). Our spring had been tough on us as we were still reeling from losing 50 head of baby calves to an awful storm in April earlier that spring. So, here comes the storm of the century for us……we paced…..we prayed…..we were without power for 5 days….we had power poles knocked down in the pasture in front of our house and as far as we could see….poles everywhere! I nagged at Shane about putting our horses over in the calving barn….he was resistant, but I wouldn’t let up. Call it woman’s intuition or whatever, but I will forever be thankful that I listened to my inner self and demanded that those horses be put in. I helped him……it was just quite a chore because the snow and wind were horrific….and those horses weren’t thrilled about being taken into it in the mile trek over to the shed. It’s hard to think back about how awful the weather was……and how horrific the findings would be in just a few short days.
We had a generator to get us through the 5 days without power and when it came back on the images flooding Facebook and the news were absolutely horrific. That’s when the emotions hit me……I was sobbing…..I remember because the original sheet that I wrote the poem on had wet tear stains on it. That’s how emotional I was……and how emotional this poem is to me. We ended up not losing any cattle….this time around, but it struck a nerve in me that all ranchers can identify with. My tears weren’t for me or my family……they were for everyone/everything that the storm touched….people who suffered loss, the animals who lost their lives, the suffering that was endured, the harshness of Mother Nature….all of it. My tears were from the heart…..as were the words that became “The Storm Atlas”.
My poem was published in countless newspapers and magazines around the country. I was so touched that people could identify with it. I just had to get my feelings down on paper. It’s funny….even writing about it now makes my eyes well up with tears and I get a tingly feeling all over. I told my friend that I may cry while reading it in front of everyone……she said that was okay because most of the people in the audience will be crying too.
Here is my poem if you’d like to read it:
Well, wish me luck tomorrow night…..it’s the first time I’ve ever read a poem out loud in front of an audience. Break a leg, right?! 🙂 ~Cheyenne