on the corner of first and prairie

The prairie dog knows The Mint Bar is west of Two Dot.  Outside the bar, a blue heeler  paces, panting in the dry heat.  He isn’t there to be petted.  He’s looking for something to eat.

Same with the prairie dog, except petting is never involved. He’s busy with a cheeto puff caught in the weeds by the tiny, red fire hydrant.

If he had opposable thumbs he could father a new universe. The way he dispatches the cheeto with full economy, licking every bit of orange, cheesy coating off the puffed curl of uh, what? He discards the nuded curl and scurries back to the prairie, filled with gopher holes. The black and white cattle dog ambles over to eat the cheeto crust.


Trudy, the bartender, steps outside to ask Hewhoknowshowtomakeanoose for help. She’s too small to lift the trap door to the basement of the bar, which is where she’ll find some rope. Behind the bar is a rubber chicken she intends to hang. It squeaks, wears a purple bikini, and has bold green letters inked across its back:  Because I love you Doug.


The chicken will dangle above the reward poster she’s taped to the mirrored wall:

Lost: One orange fishing pole with fish attached. Reward is for the fish.

She’d like to see the fish that was strong enough to take off with a pole weighted with a ten-pound anchor. Fishing talk ensues.

The Bair is stocked with rainbow, Martinsdale is giving up big browns. But if you want the Kokanee, you drive over to Deadman’s Pond.

The Kokanee, explains the noose-maker, are salmon without the taste of ocean in their meat. They are salmon who never made it to the ocean, who never will make it to the coast. You can hear a hint of wistfulness in the way he talks; years ago he traded Oregon for this semi-arid life.


Six other people sit at the bar. None of us know each other but we’ve each taken a break from fishing to watch the Little League World Series on the only TV available in a one-hundred mile radius. For the first time ever, Montana has fielded a team that has made it as far as the semi-championship. ABC TV tells us the entire State of Montana has 29 Major Little League teams. The State of California has 827.

On the wall lining the far side of the bar are mounted heads of large bucks. Engraved on small, brass plates beneath each deer’s face: Vinnie Sockapoulgi, 1944; Walter Leendan, 1943.

Frankie’s buck, 1927, is missing its right eye. The six-year old grandson of the fisherman who drove in from the Whitetail campgrounds stops playing with a cue stick from the pool table. He scoots a chair across the chipped linoleum floor until it is beneath the eighty-eight year old trophy. He climbs up on the chair to stare up into the buck’s wide, black snout — nostrils still captured in mid-flight, full flare.


About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website: https://toomuchaugust.wordpress.com

13 responses to “on the corner of first and prairie

  1. Wonderful.

    I just learned the term “blue heeler” on Sunday, dog-sitting a mutt who might have some Australian cattle dog in him!

    A wise and gentle dog. A very good dog. Slept on the floor with him for a while. He was missing his regular people.

    • redmitten

      when my own blue heeler pup came into my life, i learned how smart these dogs are. and i learned that the australian cattle dog is breed just a bit differently than what we call the blue heeler in the states. (something to do with and without dingo blood).

      so cool you slept on the floor with him!

  2. I travel here to be somewhere else. Montana, of course, is not California but it becomes so completely Montana in your hands, each fleck of Cheeto dust, each action that would likely happen in no other place. They advise us as writers to show, not tell. How well you achieve that goal.

    • redmitten

      marylinn- so good to hear that this takes you out of where you are. that’s why i like to “travel” and when i write, i try to remember that what is normal here may be new elsewhere, so in the end being here provides a sense of travel to me as well.

      thank you!

  3. Rose Hunter

    Blue heelers are great dogs Kathleen!
    Aha! Re cheetos. And rubber chicken. And noose-maker….
    Had to wikipedia “gophers” to find out the difference between prairie dogs and gophers. Found this, pocket gophers:


    Is that a gopher in your pocket, etc. Hehe.

    All I knew about Kokanee really is that it’s a brand of beer!

    Great post as usual. 🙂

    • redmitten

      rose! a pocket gopher! and a noose maker and a burro…they walk into a bar together. see a snowy owl….

      • Rose Hunter

        YIKES! The pocket gopher would be the odd man out in this scenario. He may be able to cope though…. It’s easy to underestimate a pocket gopher.

  4. Laurie Kolp

    I like I was right there… you have captured the moment beautifully.

  5. I’m really frustrated because the first image is SO like the sort of painting I have seen by someone whose name I cannot retrieve from the depths of my memory. But I also very much enjoyed the slow motion filmic quality of this.

    • redmitten

      sandra, oh i relate to those stirred depths of memory. if you recall the someone, please come back and let me know. i am glad you liked the way this piece unreeled…

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