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Poppy and the Zoo

___in memory of Ernest Leroy Ferrin___
Those forty acres are called The Zoo;
the name threw me as a child:
I expected caged animals when my grand-dad took me along,
but the Zoo was just Kansas bottomland
with Mule Creek running under cottonwoods
'round the edge of a field at the base of some bluffs,
the highest point of ground around.

Pop is buried now up on that hill,
Grandma Nellie beside him,
where the dead of Wilmore are gathered.
But, spring and summer, when I was young,
Poppy circled the Zoo on his Farmall tractor,
pulling earth-polished plowshares
as earth crested in three waves,
then fell in furrows behind us.

I'd ride along and hop off for arrowheads he'd spot,
bits of flint that once flew
and were then lost and forgotten.

"Indians camped here", he explained,
"They came for the bottomland,
the crick and the bluffs, same as us".

And we'd ride home on the curving dirt road,
rolling and rattling over the hills near Wilmore,
his battered Jeep pickup barely faster than a mule.

Some nights he'd spread his arrowheads
out all at once and show me
the big, long ones for animals,
the tiny ones for birds,
the iron trade arrowheads
from when the white men came,
the heavy lead slugs from buffalo guns...

Then he'd put the artifacts back in a cigar box
and lean back in his chair to twist the radio dial,
searching through whine and static for music and voices

while, outside, tree frogs croaked a ragged chorus,
and catalpa leaves rustled high overhead.
__by Jerry D. Ferrin
March 28, 2001 / John & Susan Howell / howell@kotn.org

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