November 18, 2018

 A few weeks ago my maternal uncle, Milton Tupper, passed away. He was a major figure in my life and patiently shared his deep knowledge of family history and livestock and his unique business practices. In reconsidering Milton’s life and the obstacles he overcame, I couldn’t help but remember his father, my grandfather Bryan Jay Tupper, who was a force of nature, both mentally and physically. Clover, A Literary Rag (Bellingham, WA) recently published That Angry Old Man, a poem I wrote after Bryan Tupper died.


Eyes fiery under age-roaned brows

kicked stiff-kneed at the piled white sheet

like his saddled sorrel mare

forgotten in the excitement

fighting thirsty heel flies in the dusty barn

That angry old man yelled

yelled right on past a rigid wife

waiting silently in her second-best dress

yelled at them, the nurses, the doctors

yelled at the ponderous mud-slugged irrigation pipe

that rode him down in the July sun

yelled at all the dim-witted laggards

who hadn’t known, hadn’t been there

hadn’t anticipated his new need for help

yelled for a pill, a magic pill

a pill for the pain in his rigid chest

a pill he’d paid for several times

a pill no rule-bound nurse would give him

for pity nor love nor money

And when no one would stick

a deaf head in his roaring room

he turned his purpled face

on the quailing bystander

gripped the soft white hand

with calluses born barring post holes

into an alkali-baked Wyoming homestead

Tell the boys not to sell the wheat

he urged, eyes searching for obedience

Tell them to get more water over west

if they’re man enough to carry pipe

Tell them that bull up north has the pink eye

he’s got it bad, he needs treating, he won’t wait

That angry old man let his head sink

against the stark, germ-free pillow

feet kicking stiff-kneed against the rumpled sheet

grumbled past a rigid wife, twisting

a damp embroidered handkerchief,

to an empty afternoon hallway

whispered at the long-suffering fools

who always failed to do his bidding

as the soft hand slipped from under his weakening calluses,

fled silently toward the fresh outside air,

new commands filling the space behind

as the old ones fell wasted

on the gleaming floor

Bonus Chapter: North of the Platte, South of the Niobrara

FINE LINES, (Omaha, NE) published Killing Time in Valentine in the Winter, 2018 issue.