Jon Horton
Jackson Hole Mysteries
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A Season in Jackson Hole


They're from upstate New York somewhere
and theyhey call their place
Elk Crossing Ranch
It sits on Elk Crossing Lane
Green enameled sign
In the best of taste
Eight bed home
Tennis court
Horse blood at a hundred bucks a drop

It straddles the old migration trail
Fifty thousand years old
That ends at their elk-proof fence
Around the pasture where
Dainty horses amble the ancient rut
To the river ford
To sip their dainty daily drinks

After dropping a child at daycare
Fresh from aerobics in town
Glances at her drafting table
(New MADD ad)
Switches on the Macintosh
(New weekly column)
Breaks out the Cuisinart
(New book—local history)
Smiles at the Tetons
Through her kitchen picture window

Pa parks his Porsche
Wedges the stock portfolio into the Wagoneer
Waves goodbye
Blows a kiss at Ma
Picks up the cellular phone
Off to the old grind
Eleven o'clock in the morning and already so much done

Life's a bitch at Elk Crossing Lane

In town
At the American Trailer Court
Sonny and Sunny sit with their sons
Eating backstrap and biscuits
Scratching their heads
Talking of California
He says:
There's work there
She says:
There's work here - summers
He says:
Look how we live with the mill gone
She says:
My family's here
He says:
There's jobs to pick from in Cal
She says:
My family's been in these mountains
Going on two hundred years
He says:
What will we do this winter?
She asks:
Can your family help?

They say

And their silent sons sit
Ears to the enormous family void
That comes with the unemployment check

The environmentalist fuckers
He says and stands
I think I'll go hunting
We're gonna need the meat for sure

She nods her head and looks out the window
At the trailer across the way
You boys get ready for church
She says

Life's a real bitch at American Trailers


Ma and the kids
Pa bringing up the rear
Crosscountry ski
Up from the river
From watching the elk herd across their fence
They stack their skis at the door
Enter the house
Cheeks abloom
Blood warm with the fun
What a little family

Pa turns on the gas in the fireplace
Fire just like that

Ma goes to the kitchen
Grates imported chocolate
Scalds milk
To make cocoa for the kids
Peppermint sticks for stirrers
The perfect touch

Nintendo and cocolat Noelle for the children
Courvoisier and Backgammon for
Ma and Pa

What a family
What a show

Plug in the tree
Says Pa
Do it yourself
Sneers his son
What a kid
Chuckles Pa
And plugs that sucker in!

For Xmas
Twelve foot tree
Twelve yards of lights
Some real silver foil icicles
Victorian porcelain dolls here
An antique angel to top it all off
A truckload of gifts to bottom it out

A real nouveau- fashioned affair

Christmas Eve on Elk Crossing Lane

Back in town it's dark
At the American Trailer Court

Sunny is crying
Sonny is a crying drunk
The door is open to the cold
The tree lies dying in the yard
Busted bulbs all over the snow

He screams:
Why have a tree if there's nothin under it?
She whispers:
Sonny it's Christmas
He says:
Well fuck Christmas
And falls on the couch
Arm over his face with the shame of it all
Soon asleep

At the back of the trailer
Their silent sons lie like little logs
In the dark
Tears in their ears
Tears in their hearts that will never heal

There may be no money but
Christmas comes just the same
For the working man

Memories to go around
Memories for everybody

Christmas Eve
At American Trailers


Pa is at the athletic club
When he hears the horrible news
Oil people have come to town
They're at the Forest Service office
Getting in bed with someone
No doubt
From his exercycle
He phones Muffy at home

Ma tears up her column
Sends up a flare
Fires up the Mac
Signals Earth First!
Puts on her bear suit
Phones the Sierra Club
Calls The High Country News
Notifies Metzenbaum's good offices
Faxes off the secret sign to Greenpeace
Puts on a CD of Native American songs
Invokes the angry spirit of Ed Abby
Rubs her necklace crystal hard
Clicks on Microsoft Word
Scrolls down Save As
Begins her mantra
And sallies forth
Grim as cholera beneath the plush

At the Forest Service office it's all business
The Permit Agent suggests:
If not lunch then dinner at the Mangy Moose
The forester asks:
Can I bring the wife?
Says the agent:
Sure you can
The forester asks:
Can I bring my office staff?
Sure you can
Can I bring my girlfriend?
Sure you can
(Lotsa laughs here)
Eight O' clock?
The forester asks
The Permit man smiles
Eight O' clock and bring your appetites
What's your favorite wine?
(I wonder if he does toot?)
The man knows his job

Any old Cabernet'll do
The forester chuckles

The oil man laughs out loud
He loves his job

Life's a ball when the oil money shows

There's work in town
The word gets 'round
And Sonny picks it off the wind

Helicopters flying
Out of the Triangle Bar Ranch
Permit man at the Forest Service
Office trailer at Shady Lane Court
Trucks gassing up at the Standard
Hippies in every bar
Every sporting goods store
Every store for that matter
Renting through the summer
(a real good sign)
Hundred dollar bills on the wind
Just when the unemployment insurance
is running out

It's springtime
The long winter's over

Sonny finds a job


Sonny is "stomping phones" and loving it

Helicopter ride as the sun comes up
Backpacking all day
Getting healthy
Good work
Helicopter ride as the sun goes down
The checks don't bounce
His sons in L.A. Gear
(keeping up with the ricos)
Maybe a season ski pass too
If the overtime holds out

Sunny is at her mom's
Putting up preserves
For the decorator boutique
Real Mormon Family Preserves
The label reads
(That family stuff really sells anymore)

Sunny says:
Sonny's not talkin of California anymore
Mom says:
California is crazy

Sunny says:
The drugs just scare me to death
Mom says:
It's all that sex that scares me

That from a mother of ten

Ma and Pa are at a meeting
Of the Jackson Hole Alliance
For Keeping It As It Was When I Got Here
(An alliance made in heaven
And in its tenth year already)
Ma says:
We have to run them out
They're not wanted here
(That shoots the eybrows up the bunch)
Pa says:
They're a bunch of Communist hippies!
Fairhaired Phil says:
They're allied with the local fascists!
(An alliance made in hell:
Raffish Hippy CommieFascists)
Phil goes on:
Red white and blue gunlovers –
Red necked White trash in Blue collars!
Working for the only people
With more money than us!
Oil companies!
Oil trash! And in our mountains!
And brings the house down
(Nothing like opening on the right note)
Ma stands
Raises her hands
Tilts back the head on her suit
Breaks out her sable tarbrush
And begins to underline her report:
Senator Metzenbaum's office has assured me...

At the Forest Service Office
The forester is laying down the law:
No variance
Hunting in Wyoming is sacrosanct
We don't want any more political winds
We don't want any potential shootdowns
We're taking too much heat
(and tar)
Be done by September one

The Permit man frowns
Denver ain't gonna like it
He gnaws a Tum out of a roll
And walks to the map on the wall
(He's had 'em shitting hundred dollar turds
For six months
It's time to call some of them in)

He says:
I see where your season
Starts in September on the Snake
But what about over there?
It says October 10

If we shoot on this side
Of the hydrographic divide
Til September One
Then leapfrog the line
Over this here range
Lay out on the fly
And shoot there til the season's over here
We could be back and beat the weather
In the high country...
It's clearly inside the stips and regs
And you guys made the rules

He gets his variance
And a raise


It's been a year

The Permit Man is history

Soon Sonny's going to follow the
Shooting season south and send the money home

Sunny's gonna stay here with the kids
Who are going back to school
(With lift tickets)

Ma and Pa are going to regroup and rest
Clip oil company coupons from their portfolio
To pay for the fight
To run oil companies out of Teton County

The forester is going back to hamburger

The mountains are going back to sleep
To rest up
For another season in Jackson Hole

Sunny is a maid
Sonny finds a job as barbecuer at minimum wage
She helps him dress:
Throws away Cat cap, tucks pants in boots
He says
I look like a clown
She says
You look fine
(Maybe I should learn to sing)

Ma and Pa at barbecue w/ visitors
"Look, there's a real cowboy"
Splats beans on plate
Pass on down the line

And the country left to the rich

Back to Poetry

Jon Horton

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