Remembering Widen

___________________________________________________________________ Russell Butcher worked and lived in Widen for many years. Although he has long since gone from there, he has remembered the town in several works of poetry. This poem closely complements the story of Widen and Dille published elsewhere on these pages. That story was written by Mr. Butcher's aunt Lola Butcher Given.


"Remembering Widen"
Russell Butcher
Langmont, Colorado
July  1998

My senses return with a clear recall
like I'd just awoke from my dreaming
to the click of balls in the old pool hall
and the three o'clock whistle screaming.

The acrid small of creosote
when the sun baked the railroad timbers
the tickle of coal dust in my throat
f'rom the steam engines belching cinders.

A town Christmas tree which lit-up the sky
with the season fast advancing 
the slick greased pole on the Fourth of July 
and the platform built for dancing.

The lurch of the coal cars sings in my ear
each filled with the deep-vein riches
the parting wave of the engineer
and the men who controlled the switches.

A miners face as black as a pit 
with the whites of his eyeballs showing
his hard-shell hat and his dinner kit
and his carbide lantern glowing.

The huge gob dump with its guts ablaze,
the sulfur smoke of its embers 
and the host it played in so many ways
Ah, how clearly one remembers.

The loose-plank bridge where the traffic crossed
with a roaring clap of thunder 
the cavalcade of items tossed 
in the black-water creek down under.

I remember the taste that the water had,
and the smell like an egg gone rotten
so may things which may sound bad 
were too good to be forgotten.

The company store with no added toll 
for things which were bought on credit,
unique scrip coins  with a star-shaped hole
such is gone but I can't forget it.

The tragic times when a miner died 
by the perils of his vocation
And the cold of grief by which all were tied
in this kindred population.

My mind walks the path by the tipple site 
where the steam was always rising
and the sudden burst from a venting pipe
never fails to be surprising.

The big bath house for the miner's use
with their clothing hung from the ceiling
the clinking chains when they let them loose
and the spinning pulleys squealing.

The Bird Gang crew and the red dog piles,
and the unpaved streets and alleys
the song of the trains which was heard for miles
cross the "black-gold" hills and valleys.

I can nearly count each narrow stair
which led to the old theater
it was eighteen-cents for the children's fare
and the adults paid a few cents greater.

The boarding house, the"Y" and the grill
miner's belts with the shiny buckles 
that winter drive on the Widen Hill 
which could whiten the bravest knuckles.

A charcoal film on the day old snow
when wintertime came calling
the soot-free trees and their fresh green glow 
with the rains of summer falling.

While I'm forty-years gone from all these things,
my mind is engraved with the setting
like words of a song one repeatedly sings
leaving little chance of forgetting.

Whether you were there or you share a link 
to those days of Her blooming glory
what your heart may hold or your mind may think 
might be told as a different story.

But of thoughts I hold and visions I see
that She's gone seems the only pity
and I wouldn't trade one memory
to have spent those days in the city.