Thomas Doty – Storyteller

Coyote & Friends


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They Lie Here, Obedient To Their Orders
by Robert Casebeer

The sunbrown town lies lizard length
Below the laureled hills
Along grey baked rocks
That simmer in the sun.
Today, a stray Greyhound noses past
The banks of rocks
That marked the place
Where log lengths
Bridged the Rogue's narrow waist.
Where rocking coaches crossed the Dardenelles,
Today, the rolling coaches of Southern Pacific
Embrace the valley's waist.

Gold ... the second raid upon the land ...
The first was soil itself --
Drew change itself unto itself --
Those flecks of yellow crannied in the cracks
Wrought the change
That turned homestead into town.
The change that drove "the people of the river"
To teach the generals that Indians,
Untouched by classic training at Sandhurst or West Point,
Could match the tactics taught
And twist those tricks anew
Into a lesson Custer did not learn.
The Takelma taught the classes,
Wrought the bloody theory --
Two decades later
The Nez Perce and the Yakima would learn
Some generals studied well.

The military road, built hurriedly by Sheridan
To link Oregon's two peopled halves
Circles calmly through the laureled hills,
Paved with tarmac and suburbanites.
Horses carry blond daughters down this road.
Station wagons haul great-great grandsons
To Little League encounters.
The hills are sprouting rooftops
And the deer retreat logistically
Into the higher hills.
Logistically they must retreat --
And that was the lesson learned;
To triumph use the surplus
Of food and men and bullets.

Today, that war still rages --
Over unmarked graves, forgotten dreams --
Within the sunbrowned town.
Change weapons:
     Money for food
     Planned unit developments for bullets
     And cool technicians for the sweaty cavalry.
The result is one Takelmas would understand:
Treaties steal a way of life --
Those who hold the land will lose it ...
And join that long parade
That trudges, dusty footed,
Down the flower trail,
Past laureled hills,
And grey baked rocks
Beyond the Dardenelles.