The old, rambling Wolf Creek road smiles in the post-dawn sunshine. How can a road smile? I’m not sure, but that’s the impression rose gold beams, peeking over pine buttes, lazily illuminating speargrass, sand dust prairie, flirting with, chasing, the last shadows of night imparts. If it were summer, regiments of sunflowers would salute the passerby, but it’s February, so we slosh through the mud of melted snowbanks. Leafless trees, hobbled, gnarled as elder bones, wave hello and goodbye, as we rattle every washboard rut toward home.
On a ridge, where atop a medicine man and his wife rest in graves beneath shale and yucca plant, you can see two houses in a field down a curve through the gate at the end of the lane. My grandpa used to play big band hits on his harmonica, in the parlor of the tattered, two story home, before we’d feed the cattle that ran on the land. Next door, in the age worn log cabin, my cousin Nick and I, taking break from action figures and frog catching, could count on grandma having treats for us, nestled in her basket between spindles of yarn. Many years have past since those days. Grandpa is now buried next to his mother and brothers, 5 miles to the east of this homestead, and grandma now lives in the Pine Ridge elderly community.
Yet the life of our clan still thrives on the creek. Cousin plays with her cats near the firewood stack. Uncle is preparing the sweat lodge for ceremony. I can’t see him, but see the smoke rising half a mile away. Another uncle rolls a cigarette in the room that used to be adorned with my grandma’s quilts. Aunt readies a stew atop the woodstove. Another cousin headshots zombies with a shotgun on his xbox game. My dad is working on his truck in the yard.
I am home. Life is as it should be.