Personal ads rarely move me,
but this one did, a country boy
(self-proclaimed, but the genuine article,
not one of the wannabes who use the term
as if in quotation marks),
twenty-three, I think he said,
rail-thin but beam-strong
in his appropriate plaid shirt and jeans
and broad-brimmed hat shading his face.
You wouldn’t call him handsome or cute,
but you’d find it hard to turn him down.
He doesn’t want to chat or date
or find a buddy to get him off;
interested only in relationship material,
desperate for a redneck (again, his term)
of similar age to settle down with.
And when he says settle, you know he means it;
I can picture them at breakfast when they’re eighty,
drinking strong drip coffee, not eating much.
Lord knows I hope he finds his man
and they settle into mutual contentment
and build a life on that ranch
out in the middle of wherever it is,
raising cattle, coming to town
only on Saturdays, for supplies
and maybe a steakhouse or barbecue,
otherwise happy in their own company,
working hard outdoors all day,
cooling off with a dip in the creek,
once in a while sharing a drop
of whiskey from a flask on the fence
in the moonlight before heading in
to shed shirts and jeans and boots
(“Keep your hat on, Babe; you know
it makes me wild for a midnight ride”)
and exhaust themselves to sleep,
tangled like a mess of rope
uncoiled on the floor of a barn.
And if our young cowboy’s dream comes true,
I’ll be happy for him but still
a little envious, I think,
not only that he’s satisfied,
but that he wanted what I couldn’t.
T. Allen Culpepper