Sunday Morning at Teter Rock

Teeter Rock (photo by Brett Klingenberg)

She says it reminds her of a child's impatience for Christmas,
My anticipation of the annual college friends' reunion.
And like Christmas, once here it flies by
Bringing Sunday, our last day, with its usual bittersweet mood.

Our pattern over twelve years of gatherings in the Flint Hills
Is well established by now.
The four of us dispense with our watches and succeed in losing track
Of how men our age should behave.
For these few days we renew our friendships
And rediscover a time without three a.m. wake-up worries.

Yet we can't ignore the signs of our slow decay, so we enjoy debating Who snored the loudest last night Or who is the next candidate for a joint replacement Or who will strike the next tree/house/vehicle on the golf course. But mostly we celebrate the brotherhood forged at a small college forty years ago And remember how good it was . . . and is.

So Sunday, the home-going day, is an unwelcome reminder
That someday these gatherings must cease.

But this Sunday a new idea breaks into our routine.
Teter Rock, he tells us, is a place we should see on a morning like this.

So we're up before dawn-another sign of our aging-
To drive this vast prairie earth to find the rock.
It is enough to just enjoy these vistas of tallgrass pastures
Where some say the West begins or at least is preserved
By protective absent landowners and the few ranchers and townspeople
Struggling to make a living in Strong City and Cassoday.
More cows than people in these hills.

As Teter Rock suddenly juts out on a high hill,
We notice a few foundations along the rutted path,
The remnants of Teterville, a town of six hundred in its heyday.
The oil and town played out together, leaving a few pumps here and there barely moving.
But someone with a heart for earlier days,
The days when John Teter erected this limestone mass
To show settlers the way to the Cottonwood River,
Has brought wild Mustangs to this great expanse and found room for them to roam.

As we reach the rock, the horses are nearly still in their groupings,
And we marvel at their serenity and stateliness,
While turning at least briefly sociological, wondering who are the stallions who rule the groups
And when the few outcasts will grow bold enough to make their move.

We are quiet much of this morning, not subdued
But caught in the peacefulness below and in the unspoken love we experience
From the years of friendship.
Yet the wild horses have boundaries somewhere out there, and so have we,
Calling us back to our families and work.

This morning Teter Rock has brought another marker into our lives,
A glimpse of who we are,
Not in limestone but in relationships that shape us
And confirm our bearings for the journey home.