He was used to reading the natures and movements of spirited, wounded, violent animals. He had seen them all in the open Colorado prairie before cities came. Horses, cattle, quail, rabbits, mountain lions, antelope, snakes, vermin. He would watch their eyes, never turning away for even a single breath.
He knew about predators. He could predict and interpret the likely behavior of a coyote or a rat. In the olden days of cattle herds, he was an inspector of cattle brands with an eye for detail. He had, no doubt, confronted hundreds of ruthless scoundrels in his time. Nose to nose.
Gunless. Fearless. He could kill a rattler with his whip without leaving the saddle. Escape raging flash floods with lightning as illumination.
He believed in a sacred Creation and the sanctity of Mother Nature. And he studied the wild eyes of creatures like we read books. He spoke so little, I can scarcely remember his voice, but his enigmatic, stoic nature hid a man torn by powerful emotions. A quiet man persecuted for his Native American ethnicity who knew about bulls and bullying.
He held his ground. He knew how to fight raging, wind-blown prairie fires and how to survive 1930s Colorado winters in a canvas tent.
Only the slightest glimpse did I see of this protector in his older years, guarding his remaining keep: grandma’s brilliant colored cosmos.
He patrolled his yard like a cowboy on evening watch. If a cat violated the revered garden, he was already armed with a fistful of angry stones, firing buckshot at the hapless beast as it sped through the garden and over a wooden fence. Every stone bullet made its mark.
In a voice like a cowboy soothing midnight doggies to rest, mumbled low, “and that is how I take care of Grandma’s garden pests.”