The Shallows Of The Ford Poem by Henry Herbert Knibbs

The Shallows Of The Ford

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Did you ever wait for daylight
when the stars along the river
Floated thick and white as snowflakes
in the water deep and strange,
Till a whisper through the aspens
made the current break and shiver
As the frosty edge of morning
seemed to melt and spread and change?
Once I waited, almost wishing
that the dawn would never find me;
Saw the sun roll up the ranges
like the glory of the Lord;
Was about to wake my partner
who was sleeping close behind me,
When I saw the man we wanted
spur his pony to the ford.
Saw the ripples of the shallows
and the muddy streaks that followed.
As the pony stumbled toward me
in the narrows of the bend;
Saw the face I used to welcome,
wild and watchful, lined and hollowed;
And God knows I wished to warn him,
for I once had called him friend.
But an oath had come between us--
I was paid by law and Order;
He was outlaw, rustler, killer--
so the border whisper ran;
Left his word in Caliente
that he'd cross the Rio border...
Call me coward? But I hailed him...
'Riding close to daylight, Dan!'
Just a hair and he'd have got me,
but my voice, and not the warning,
Caught his hand and help him steady;
then he nodded, spoke my name,
Reined his pony round and fanned it
in the bright and silent morning,
Back across the sunlit Rio
up the trail on which he came.
He had passed his word to cross it--
and I had passed my word to get him--
We broke even and we knew it;
'twas a case of give-and-take
For old times. I could have killed him
from the brush, instead, I let him
Ride his trail...I partner
flung his arm and stretched wake;
Saw me standing in the open;
pulled his gun and came beside me;
Asked a question with his shoulder
as his left hand pointed toward
Muddy streaks that thinned and vanished...
not a word, but hard he eyed me
As the water cleared and sparkled
in the shallows of the ford.

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