On Your First Night at the Owl Bar

As crazy as it may sound,
on your first night at the Owl Bar,
the same one that Butch and Sundance
bellied up to more than a hundred years ago,
a woman you’ve never met
will turn to you after her second iced tea
and begin to tell you the story of her life,
though not the chapter by chapter,
day by day, my life dealt me raw
kind of story you’d expect in a place like this,
not the version you’ve steeled yourself for,
but the straight, no salt or guilt story
of a childhood etched with golf and travel,
a rambling college career descending into
real estate and her own business in Florida
with more work than she could handle,
will tell you all of it, adding always
how she’s alone, never a steady boyfriend
or partner, just work and work
and this thing for horses,
for the pure joy of riding wisping inside her
like a wind she can’t quiet or shut out,
until suddenly after her last break-up,
she up and leaves everything,
heads to Montana, driving straight
into the Tetons, drifting from one town
to the next, scared each night
until she comes across a ranch halfway
from nowhere and joins a cattle-drive,
actually joins it, riding a horse each day
from start to finish. And suddenly you’ll think
maybe it’s your beer or the altitude,
but this woman will seem more interesting
than you could have imagined,
more interesting than the history of the place
or the bullet hole above the mirror,
and sensing your interest, she will lean closer
to tell you honestly that nothing,
absolutely nothing, regardless of your status,
is so humbling as a day spent on a horse
chasing a cow. It’s so much better,
she’ll say, than chasing money.