A Garden at The Willows

Settlers in the Sandhills of Nebraska found an ideal environment for ranching. Others, such as Mabel in the following poem, failed to appreciate the unique environment. Rich prairie vegetation stabilizes the fragile dunes, a place where buffalo roamed and cattle thrive on native grasses. The Sandhills are a virtual dune field which occupies about a fourth of the State. Details of its origin and history may be found in a Great Plains Research Article issued by the University of Nebraska.

Mabel’s garden at The Willows,
not much for one to see,
untended now for twenty years
since Mabel left with Lee.

As a bride she came to this place,
she thought to an estate
with a grand home and servants here.
She learned the truth too late.

The house, just a two room sod shack,
a husband on the roam,
a hundred miles to anywhere
far from their western home.

She hated life back in the hills,
the heat of summer days,
the icy blast of winter winds,
the rustic western ways.

At first the garden kept her sane
but sun-scorched summer days,
eternal winds that dried the soil,
turned her from gard’ning ways.

The hands were just rustic cowboys
’til Lee was hired on.
He was a different cowboy,
who’d soon be ridin’ on.

She didn’t love Lee, not at all,
but he was her way out,
a footloose cowboy workin’ there,
a low paid roustabout.

Oh, he was friendly and funny,
he made her laugh a lot,
remindin’ her of youthful times,
the things too oft forgot.

But her trust in Lee was fatal,
he led her far astray,
and she ain’t been heard of a-tall
since leavin’ that Fall day.

Now the garden at The Willows,
a barren spot of land,
beside an abandoned soddy,
amongst these hills of sand.