In the rich, wild sunset, the deer
plunge across the belly- high grass of the prairie. The deer are
rainbow running, rocking like ships, through waves of vegetation,
through big bluestem and needle-and-pin, through sedge; they are
leaping, flowing, like waves themselves. They belong here.
On the refuge, the
wild tom turkeys challenge even a truck, and the pheasants cackle at
us like chickens. We hear the whir of their wings, twenty of them,
thirty, forty in the spent corn, in the grasses cured with the first
cold of October.
The sky spills over
them, over us.
A cottonwood erupts
out of the bottomland down near the marshes, down near the border
with Nebraska, down near the Sandhills, on roads where the mud is so
deep the hunters gave up.
All the sky is full
of the sound of pheasants, male and female, moving in the grass,
coming out on the road. There is a rainbow, a pillar of a rainbow, a
base of a rainbow fat as time in the East.
The deer belong here,
were born here, die here; the pheasants belong here.
The wild turkeys, the
owls, the herons, the wild geese, the minks that dart from one side
of the muddy road to the other belong here, the prairie dogs, their
sentinels popping up checking us out, whistling, belong here. They
have a call for rattlesnakes. Do they have a call for us?
The grass is waist
deep, and the wind is waist deep. The sky is deeper than dreams. The
deer buck over the prairie, lunge over it, fly over it, ten, twenty,
thirty of them, running to the edge of the world, to the fat pillar
In the tire tracks of
the hunters’ trucks there are reflected rainbows in the U-turns they
made when they gave up, hunters who were not born here, will not die
A hawk sees it all
before the sun sets, a Red-Tail, and he circles
and counts us one by one. How many of us are there? How many
predators? How many prey? How much rainbow light is there in the
On the refuge, there
are deer by the hundreds, pheasant by the hundreds, pelicans by the
hundreds. All safe tonight.
The rainbow light of
their beauty is in my eyes forever. I see them as they were a
thousand years ago. The wonder of it is like the pillar of rainbows,
like huge anvil clouds against the scarlet gold western sky.