Guest Spotlight: Palo Duro Canyon From the West Rim

Posted On March 14, 2017

A recent guest at Doves Rest, Fred Shannon a retired judge and historian on the Plains Indians and the Palo Duro Canyon wrote out his thoughts in a poem during his stay at ChairLift Cabin. Thank you, Fred.

Palo Duro Canyon
From the West Rim

 

Tracks in the snow
Last night’s visitors
Fox, rabbit, coyote
Afternoon visitors
Bobwhites, whitetail buck,
And coyote

 

Sunset on Fortress Cliff
Across the Canyon
Yellow, gold and red
Dappled with shine of snow
Powerful, magnificent
With full moon rising

 

Warm fire
Wine and spirits
Sustenance at table
Stories and laughter
Good cheer
Wind singing outside

 

Morning cloud
Reflecting daylight
Down behind
The eastern horizon
Prelude to the fiery
Explosion of sunrise

 

Burst of light
Over the far edge
Making golden
The purple sky
Showing again
The wonders around us

 

Our horseless carriage
Rolling through history
Roadside markers
For battles
In the war of conquest
And for cowboy dugouts

 

Between ridges and cliff sides
Of ochre, umber and red
Sliced through
With white gypsum
And gray Spanish Skirts
Changing color as the world turned

 

Afoot down the canyon
Red monochrome pictographs
Paleo rock shelters
Burned rock middens
Of people living here
Long before the horse

 

Tepee rings of
Comanche & Kiowa
In their winter haven
Spread in the fine grass
Along and either side
Of the Prairie Dog Fork

 

From Cathedral Rock
One might see
Warriors, wives and children
Their colorful homes and horses
Making ready for winter
On their last evening of peace

 

For their shaman had promised
They would not be found
In the great canyon
Under the icy blasts of winter
And the horizon
Of their pursuers

 

Next morning,
Perhaps from Cathedral Rock
Red Warbonnet, of the Kiowa’s,
In the dim light of pre-dawn
Fired the rifle shot warning of
The horror sneaking down the canyon walls

 

He dropped dead
By the shot of
A McKenzie marksman
Before he could witness
The destruction of his way of life
By firestorm

McKenzie’s skilled troopers
Stampeded the horses
Leaving warriors afoot
Who sought to make
The canyon walls
Their barricade

 

Instead they only could watch
With sadness and despair,
As their homes
Their winter stores
And other necessaries
Were put to the torch

 

As their wives and children
And their horses
Were made captive
Their only hope was to
Be up the canyon walls
And out on the plains

 

But within months
Their deprivation
In the cold winter
Caused them to surrender
Back on the reservation
Even the legendary Quanah

 

To walk through
This beautiful place
And ponder on the ending
Of the free way of life of
The Comanche’s
Made me wonder
Whether we have served
Mother earth as well
By dividing the free land
With barbed wire
Substituting cattle
For the buffalo

 

And destroying the ability
Of her native prairies
To support the many more people,
Structures and contraptions
Without pumping her water
From deep within her soul

 

Being there created a deep longing
To see and not just imagine
The flora and fauna, woods and waters
Of this canyon
As the Comanche found them
In 1873

 

And gave cause for lament
That what is left of open space
And clear running water
May be lost forever for future generations
As it was for the Comanche’s
And for the same reason

 

The ever-increasing number of people
Competing for the
Productive and regenerative
Capacities of our earth –
Like the settlers
And the Comanche’s

 

Still, out on the west rim
We are inspired
By magnificent sunrises
Glorious sunsets
And views of parts of the earth
Yet unspoiled by man’s need to live

 

Fred Shannon
Doves Rest – January 14, 2017