In a chill November twilight
As the day begins to lag
I sit on stump by a deer-run
With my thirty-forty Krag.
And the sun slides down off the hill
And the wind begins to blow
To murmur the message that mornings light
May see a tracking snow
I peer through the dying daylight
Deep through the thicket’s gloom
And I muse on my nations future
With a sense of impending doom.
And I pat the old gun on my lap
A relic of times long past.
When products made in this country
Were products made to last.
With its funny, sidebox magazine
Its lines so stark and plain
The basic infantry weapon
When we fought the war with Spain
And I think of the gifts we shall purchase
As the Christmas Season nears
How many of them will working
After seventy years.
I think of our plastic culture
So slick and devoid of taste
With its throw away false prosperity
Afloat on a flood of waste.
I think of what we have done to our land
And it brings a twinge of pain
They have taken the fields of my boyhood
And I can’t go back again.
To that gaggle of cracker — box houses
And that mindless sigh that prates
Of – ” gracious country living ”
In Red Fox Hollow Estates.
And I wonder what I can leave my kin
That will do them any good.
For one takes the vows of poverty
When he dons the scholars hood.
There are fifty-three stony acres
(And I hope — few unpaid bills)
But there is one thing I must leave my kids,
By God–they must have these hills!
Not with the scars of progress
With the topsoil scraped and piled
And not as a sterile wilderness
To remain “forever wild.”
And not as an artists colony
Where the pseudo-rustics play.
But I want them to have these Catskills
About as they are today.
With the short and explosive springtime
Where the green peeks through the white
And the trillium nods on the forest floor
And the geese honk through the night.
As the straggling V’s head northward
And cross before the moon
Heading back to the nestling grounds
Means summer’s coming soon.
Summer with warm and hazy days
With children all at play
And the fresh, clean odor that wafts aloft
O’er fields of fresh — cut hay.
And the black on white of the Holsteins
Where they graze by the tough hardback.
Where the meadow crowds to the woodland
And the forest nudges back.
The blaze of autumn foliage–
No prettier sight in the world
And then of a sudden the leaves all drop
Brown and sere and curled.
In the last warm Indian summer day
When the last grasshoppers buzz
On the rough –stacked rock rectangles
That tell where a hill farm was.
Then the white. Clean mantle of winter
Where the tracks stand out so clear
To tell the tale of the passing
Of rabbit and fox and deer.
This is the wealth that I treasure.
These are the things that one day
Must be left for you children to savor
When I have gone my way.
And perhaps the children will wander.
As youngsters are wont to do.
To see this planet’s vastness
As I would want them to do.
The hills must remain for those who would stay
And for those who will turn to the track
That leads to the hills of their childhood
As they come drifting back.
One of the boys may come back again
In a bright, clear autumn dawn,
Back to the hills of his rearing
When I have long since gone.
He’ll come to the dusty, unused den,
See the old gun on the wall.
And soft from the shadows of boyhood
Will hear the ancient call.
That beckons to take it down again
Once more to know the thrill
Of sneaking away through the dying day
To drag one off the hill.
And some chill November twilight
As the day begins to lag
He’ll sit on a stump by a deer run
with my 30-40 Krag.
Written by W. L. Butts Deer Season 1974
The author of this poem and his sons are all Krag collectors