I mount the mule,

settle into my chaps,

pull up my bandanna.

The cowboy cloth, I thought

only an accessory, until

the wind and the mules’ hooves

swirled the Grand Canyon’s

dust into choking clouds.


My father, the gentleman rancher,

finagled the cherished ride,

his friends at the

Canyon’s stable,

pushing us up on the

queue of world travelers

scheduling their voyages of



On the trail,

inches separated me

and the mule, whose name

I have forgotten, from catapulting

into the wondrous crater,


Attempting to allay our fears,

the guides recounted

the mules’ year-long probation,

packing steaks and potatoes down

to Phantom Ranch on the Colorado.

Carcasses of doomed mules

were eaten quickly.

We, they assured us,

were on the backs of survivors.


Fear is a funny thing.

The descent

was akin to my first plane ride.

I took a deep breath.

Any fears of living as

an invalid

were invalidated

by the certainty

of death alongside

bones of failed mules.


Fear is a funny thing.

A close-by rider,

a door gunner in ‘Nam,

then a deputy sheriff

who raided drug gangs,

was all white-knuckle on his mule,

tough guy

professing his terror.


Savoring every switchback,

meditating at each magnificent


I fathomed the lives of the

Pueblo Peoples,

the work of trail builders,

hearts of the path runners,

nights of mountain lions,

mule deer, snake.


Our smallness

rendered moot all prior tensions

between me and Dad,

the trip a privileged peace offering,

grace and gratitude.


I wondered.

What could be better than this?

Then the rafters on the Colorado

Rio del Bueno Guia,

River of the Good Guide,

rushed into the gallery.



At Phantom Ranch, rangers

boasted of equitability.

Sylvester Stallone, they said,

hiked down, then asked for a helicopter.

Wind patterns were

risky for pilots, they told him.

If he could escape

Southeast Asia, knife in mouth,

he could surely

climb out of the Canyon.


Candice Bergen hiked down without

reserving a room.

They gave her a sleeping bag.


Favors, I guess, were extended only

to gentleman ranchers and their sons,

seeking peace




2 thoughts on “Canyon

  • May 5, 2022 at 9:10 AM

    Good one! I especially liked the part about Stallone.

  • May 5, 2022 at 8:46 AM

    Beautiful,Len. As usual.

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