on finding your animal

The ceiling is low, the concrete walls are thick and painted white. We’re standing in the former lock-down portion of our county jail, now a museum featuring art from Montana elementary students.

Paint your favorite farm animal. The teacher hands out 8 x 10 card stock. A rush toward the pots of chestnut-tail and roan-haunch paint ensues. Thick paintbrushes soon murk the jars of clear water. Rolled sleeves, splattered paint, stacks of paper towels. Tongues held between milk-white teeth. Someone sneezes. God Bless comes the whisper. Water spills. Someone in the last row giggles.


He told me once he kept a separate herd of corrientes because he liked their spirit.  This was years ago. I was still a dam-dweller, more focused on the sound of earth and running water than on any one animal, but a cowboy tuned to spirit was something I didn’t forget. And then mountain-climbing came to him and poetry happened to me. The more I wrote, the more I avoided the writing herds. Came the thought to head uphill: to the timberline: the quiet, the space, the wide-open.

Came this poet to the county-jail-turned-museum. The walls were hung with Eastern Montana art: horse, horse, Angus Beef. A sculpted rabbit, two pink pigs. And then, surprise: the corriente, the cattle from the late 15th century Spain. Painted by a student from a small town in the center of what we call nowhere.

And so I thought of him, the cowboy, and wrote to his last known address. Tell me about the corriente. Weeks later came his talk about corrientes generally going everywhere at a trot, wanting to head uphill. And how so much time has passed he sold the last of his heifers and steers this last autumn. All but one old, long-horn cow. Seems  he kind of liked her:  She was very level headed and if you got her in the lead of those corrientes, she would calm them down and lead them right where I wanted them to go, she knew the ropes.

The ropes included dealing with the yearlings that would squirt by her in their tendency to trot—then panic would set in—and there would be a little melee until she got them back in line. And what were her last ropes, this final corriente keeping his horses company before he moved them to winter pasture? Becoming donated meat to a widow in the valley; rawhide braided into reins; caped head and wide horn span mounted on a wall; innards hauled up to the ridge. Even the coyotes shared in her.

In which corriente can mean “common” and in which it can mean “stream.”

Names of artists: unknown. Name of cowboy: not revealed unless he says ok.


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 finding your animal

  1. I’m glad to see these animals, and read about these human animals.

  2. So very very touching, Sherry. I got choked up. About a cow! And a cowboy! And your tender soul.

  3. a mystical convergence of art and life, this. what strange ways in which people weave in and out of our lives…..to think a childhood drawing would draw(!) someone back into yours. in the most loving way i notice there is a theme of recycling here, of old souls coming back in our lives and the corriente herd being given back to the stream of life.

    all the best to you and yours sherry, in 2012.

    • redmitten

      amanda, what i couldn’t figure out your post clarified. yes- that stream of life and the way in which everything recycles and comes through us and back out. if only we can be tuned, stay open, and feel the blessing of how everything gives back. super to hear from you and all the best to you and yours as well, amanda.

  4. “on finding your animal” makes me feel ok about feeling sad tonight.
    i have a new blog: 57andthensome.wordpress.com – fanciful drawings, spinster seeks man, come visit me!

    • redmitten

      it is ok to feel sad. it’s life, deepened. and mary, your new site is wonderful! i didn’t know you could draw and your posts make me want to celebrate the situation we are both in. thank you for that!

  5. Rose Hunter

    Lovely post. Really wonderful what you’re doing here. I love the corrientes. The current also, and the tide, and opinions…. I think I am heading to my timberline for a while. You just reminded me that’s ok. 🙂

  6. Kerry

    ‘corriente’ sounds like the name of a winding river or a song…”the ballad of corriente”…such beautiful images…I can see the lone longhorn eeking out her living as the round up gal!
    p.s…yes, I think you would like “The Sisters Brothers”…Beautifully written. One brother speaks very sentimental about the horses he’s not supposed to become attatched to.

    • redmitten

      lately i’ve been saying “corriente” for all sorts of situations. the sound and the feel of it is pleasing. makes me feel as though i am particiating more in my life. and yes, i plan to track down that book!

  7. Pingback: before the show begins « too much august not enough snow

and then you said:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 51 other followers

%d bloggers like this: