Friday, November 25, 2011

two orange wheelbarrows

two orange wheelbarrows
a pair of old wagon wheels
maple leaves turning

The garden has been put to bed. Maple leaves, turning orange, are falling to the ground around twin wheelbarrows propped against the fence, their labor of hauling seedlings, mulch and harvest finished for the season. 
          A pair of antique wagon wheels lean against the trunk of the maple tree. Perhaps they once turned under a mid-nineteenth-century Prairie Schooner as part of a wagon train bringing pioneers west. Also known as a Conestoga wagon, the covered wagon was designed like a boat, to help it cross rivers and streams, with a white cover that resembled a sail as the wagon moved through waves of tall grass. 
          A yellow Caution sign on the shed next door warns: MINIMUM MAINTENANCE TRAVEL AT YOUR OWN RISK. Certainly the emigrants traveled at their own risk as they followed the deeply rutted Santa Fe Trail from the Missouri River across the plains. The covered wagons, used for transporting household goods, farm equipment and food stores, had no suspension, so most people walked. The pioneers were challenged by lack of food and water, lack of shelter during lightning storms that might spook the livestock, wagons that leaked during river crossings or got stuck in the mud, fatal rattlesnake bites, and raids by Comanches and Apaches in their territories. 
          Now this pair of old wagon wheels, no longer turning along the trail, are slowly turning to rust, while the upturned wheelbarrows rest their black rubber tires for a long winter's break.

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