The Trail

The Trail


She was always young for her age, clinging to childhood like chalk on an old-fashioned school teacher's sleeve.


She did not want to know the facts of life or how bees buzzed or who drank nectar from a rose. She wanted nothing to stifle the world of her Western idyll. With her seven plastic cowboys she lived in a world of quarrels and bravery.


No, she did not want to stop playing. Even at 13.  She was sent on the school trip to Switzerland so as to connect with the outer world. She endured the trip with the resignation of a Buddhist.


Others were keen for parties and dancing while she longed for the prairie and her cowboys coming home to beans and cardboard bunkhouse and so she sighed over the snow of the Alpine village where her secret life could only be whispered through the lonely Mountain passes.


 If they had come too, she could have taken them over the Rockies in a snow-infested epic journey. Instead, she made up stories in her head and stared over the slopes in dismal contemplation like a Tamsin Donner without family or hope.


Even when exploring on her own, engrossed in a deep storyline, she fell into a snowdrift; she did not panic. A skier dug her out and told her off for wandering. He could not find one of her shoes so she had to bravely walk back to the chalet to face the wrath of her teacher. She recast them both in her head as a friendly Native American and the Fort Commander. It made her stay more bearable. She liked her ski boots better than the lost shoe.


On her return, she came home one day from school to find the bag of pioneers gone to a jumble sale, the fort sacked, the town over-run by tumble-weed.


Even now, seeing a version of Clem, in the History Centre, she longs to call her favourites home: Chris, Will, Bart, Don, Slim and Wes still galloping over the purple plains, diving in waterfalls and defending the Range.


Though in middle age, finding herself in a boring meeting, she hears a voice in her head read out the code of the west that she once pinned on her wall, and the swish of her long coat makes her walk like a female outrider.


Jude Brigley


Jude Brigley has been a teacher, a coach, an editor and a performance poet. She is now writing more for the page. Her chapbook, ‘Labours’ (Thynks Press) was published in 2015 and since then she has been published in various magazines. Her blog can be found at

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