Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Blevins Brothers

In the eighteen-eighties
in the state of Arizona,
the Blevins brothers
earned their fifteen minutes of fame.
They were ranchers, yet rustlers,
horse-thieves, and hired-guns,
who, with cousins an' in-laws
did earn all their shame.
They lived lives of spite,
their actions were petty,
but crimes an' status increased
The ranchers with cattle
hated ranchers with sheep,
so they took ta' name callin',
an' flat out actin' rude.
But names didn't phase 'um,
an' rude acts were shunned,
so they up an' took stock,
an' began ta' shoot guns.
The death toll was mountin'
since both sides had dug in,
an' the townfolk were frettin',
the merchants had the runs.
It was truly unpleasant
in Pleasant Valley those days,
when hogs, sheep, an' cows
weren't the only things slaughtered.
The feud was nourished
with hate an' with malice,
an' the land quenched its thirst;
with blood it was watered.
Now Andy an' John,
Hampton an' Charles,
were heavily involved,
unlike little brother Sam.
But the deeds they were doin'
came with costs ta' be paid,
an' Hampton paid first
durin' a lead-belly jam.
The shootout took place
on the Middleton ranch,
it was August the tenth,
eighteen-eighty an' seven.
Yet the sins were a mountin',
the collector would call,
in less than two months
there'd be little left of clan Blevins.
But first came a crime
so heinous in nature,
it is hard ta' believe
it was humans, not dogs.
When Andy led the raid,
killin' John Tewksbury an' Bill Jacobs,
he then kept Tewk's wife at bay,
an' fed the bodies ta' the hogs.
Two days later
Sheriff Perry Owens came callin'
at the Blevins ranch near Holbrook,
with a posse an' a warrant fer' Andy.
Owens was known
fer' unwavering honesty;
a crackerjack shot:
with both rifle an' six-gun he's handy.
He rode up ta' the house,
found Andy on the porch,
an' told him ta' give up,
he was under arrest.
Andy ran fer' the door,
an' fired a shot,
then Owens cut loose,
an' tore a hole in Andy's chest.
Andy reeled from the shot,
pitched backward an' then
lay dead in the arms
of his fear-sticken mother.
Owens leapt from the porch,
just as John fired a round,
so Owens fired again;
down went another Blevins brother.
Then quick as a wink
Owens turned an' flung lead,
right into Mose Roberts,
one shot ta' the head.
It made such a mess,
it splattered his brains;
this brother-in-law
was the second one dead.
A split-second more,
comin' out thru the door,
little Sam Houston,
But Owens cut loose,
four fer' four was his count,
as he sent the teen boy
to a spirit-filled land.
In a matter of seconds
three dead an' one wounded:
John was the only one
lucky enough ta' keep livin'.
Cuz' his last brother Charles,
bit the dust three weeks later,
who was better at givin'.
John learned from the lesson,
the close call he had,
he cleaned up his life
an' put on a star.
that lived as he had;
provin' some men do change,
an' become better by far.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

William "Old Bill" Miner: the high life brought him low

William Miner from Jackson, Kentucky
got himself a taste of the high life.
An' from that point on nothin' else would do,
even when getting it caused him nothin' but strife.
While still in his teens he went west ta' California,
ta' be an Army messenger durin' the Apache Indian War.
But there was profits ta' be made,
as long as ya' thru ethics, morals, an' integrity out the door.
Like goin' ta' the folks in wartorn San Diego
an' deliverin' their mail at $25 bucks a letter.
But the war would end, an' he squandered his money,
an' sought another way ta' get back ta' livin' better.
In eighteen-sixty an' nine he held-up the Sonora Stage,
but all he got was two-hundred for the trouble.
But the posse got him quick, an' he stood trial,
an' they gave him fifteen-years; which popped his dream bubble.
He only did a dime of the time they did give him,
an' out he came with a bigger thirst than before.
An' legit wouldn't do, cuz' legit wouldn't pay,
he took up crime again an' sought another score.
Miner partnered with Bill LeRoy up in Colorado:
One night the posse cornered them; Miner shot his way free,
he left three deputies in the dust, too bloody ta' hold the reins.
But LeRoy was nabbed, the posse was mad,
an' the law made sure he did hang.
Then Miner skedaddled, ta' Europe he went,
he became part of a slave trading gang.
The trade was a boomin', but it weren't his thing,
so he soon tried gunrunnin' fer' size.
But within a year he was back in the states,
he still sought the high life, with his eye on the prize.
He went back ta' the beginning, the Sonora Stage he took;
but this time three-thousand was the purse.
Then a bank in Illinois, another stage in Colorado,
his quest fer' the high life was officially his curse.
Now once more ta' California,
the Sonora Stage again;
but they caught him like the first time,
to San Quentin he did go.
He was suppose ta' do a quarter,
but they let him out in twenty,
believin' he was just too old an' slow.
He was now in his fifties, an' tried ta' go straight,
but two years of it was all that he could take.
So he robbed a train in Oregon,
then another north of the border,
in British Columbia he got himself ten grand.
It helped him pass as wealthy,
a retired rancher he would say,
but in just two years all that money left his hand.
So he robbed another train,
still up north in Canada,
but the Mounties pursued an' took him down.
He was sentenced ta' life in prison,
but only served a year before
he escaped by tunneling underground.
With Mounties an' Pinkertons after him now,
he found himself hunted on both sides of the border.
They figured Old Bill an' his addiction ta' high life
was tarnishing the rep of law an' order.
He stayed on the run fer' several years,
it helped ta' take a bank fer' twelve grand.
But two years later while robbin' a train, they claim
 he could barely hold the six-gun steady in his hand.
Yep, that was the last, they ran him ta' ground,
they found him camped out in the hills.
He was sixty-two at his last arrest;
there would be no more high life an' thrills.
"I'm really getting too old for this sort of thing,"
Miner told a lawman at the pinch.
Old Bill robbed like a rascal,
an' spent like a king,
but don't be fooled into thinkin' it's a cinch.
He spent over half of his life behind bars,
an' at sixty-six he died in the pen.
Instead of the high life, a good life is best,
with no obligation ta' answer fer' sin.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Davy Crockett's Almanack of Mystery, Adventure and The Wild West: A Fistful of Legends - Special Pre-Pub Offer!#links

Davy Crockett's Almanack of Mystery, Adventure and The Wild West: A Fistful of Legends - Special Pre-Pub Offer!#links

     The above link is for a rare follower of this new blog of mine. Evan is a fellow writer, and a good one from all of the work that I have seen of his so far. He has a new story in the above listed anthology; a rare anthology of original western fare. So if you enjoy the western genre as much as I do, head on over there to check out the pre-release special offer.

Clelland Miller: Misplaced Hero Worship

Missouri born Clelland Miller
was raised in the vicinity
of the notable homestead of Jesse James.
An' like most folks in that territory
he nurtured a hero-worship
for the brothers with the famous names.
He knew of their deeds within the war,
an' revelled in their doings thereafter;
he could pert near quote them chapter an' verse.
But like all who worship the infamous,
an' try their best ta' follow suit,
there's only one outcome when ya' bed the curse.
It took awhile ta' get noticed,
ta' get the nod from Jesse James,
an' become a member of his crew.
He studied the trade,
an' practiced his skills,
an' learned ta' draw fast when he drew.
It's reckoned he went
along with the James boys
ta' a house where a Pinkerton stayed.
The agent was gone,
but the owner emerged,
an' three shots cut him down like a blade.
Mrs. Daniel Askew
alighted the house,
then gazed at the sight, horrified.
She went ta' her hubby,
she tried what she could,
then watched in vain as he died.
When asked who had done it,
she called out three names,
"It was Frank, and Jesse, and Clell."
But they said there was not
enough evidence,
"It was dark, so how could you tell?"
Yet Miller's outlaw days were numbered,
his luck was running out,
though he didn't know it til it actually came.
It occurred September seventh,
eighteen-seventy an' six,
an' Northfield was the name.
Two James boys,
three Younger brothers,
plus Miller, Pitts, an' Chadwell,
all entered the town,
went straight ta' the bank,
until their plan went all ta' hell.
There were three in the bank,
two guarding the door,
an' three at the end of the street.
One teller did con them,
they bought it, then killed him,
when all hell broke loose an' they beat a retreat.
Miller took the next hit,
a shotgun blast ta' the face,
so he blindly fired an' killed an unarmed man.
Then a medical student
repeatedly fired,
ending Miller's days with the outlaw clan.
He died in the dirt,
a broken bloody pulp,
never knowin' the outcome of the raid.
Both Chadwell an' Pitts
would join him in hell,
on account of mistakes that were made.
shot up, but survived,
were sent ta' the pen fer' life.
Only the James boys
escaped without wounds,
though their futures were now endless strife.
If ya' could ask
 Clell Miller today,
would ya' still worship Jesse the same?
He'd probably contend
a two-party blend,
both Jesse an' he were ta' blame.
So learn from his life,
an' don't pay the price,
the toll on that road is not cheap.
You'll think ya' can win,
but you'll lose in the end,
when the Reaper is called out ta' reap. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

John McCall: little coward, big mouth

John McCall never accomplished much
he couldn't even hunt buffalo alone;
his worth was less than a shattered gem.
Ever wonder where a coward came from?
Well, this one came from Kentucky,
though Kentucky probably wishes it could disown him.
The only thing he's known for
is one of the most despicable acts of the old west:
the cowardly backshootin' of Wild Bill Hickok,
puttin' Hickok's seatin' fears ta' the test.
He then ran like a rabbit chased by the fox,
they found him cringing in the barber shop.
They clapped him in irons an' took him ta' jail,
but Deadwood justice turned out ta' be a flop.
McCall piled lie upon lie, an' judge an' jury bought it,
not one smart enough ta' investigate.
On the day Hickok was buried McCall was acquitted,
not one lie did he have ta' corroborate.
Scared fer' his life, fearin' Hickok's friends,
McCall hopped in the saddle an' fled.
Off ta' Cheyenne an' Laramie, ta' bask in his freedom,
an' drink away the guilt, fear, an' dread.
But men with little deeds need ta' talk big,
an' whiskey helps loosen the lips.
Then a deputy marshall overheard the boast,
an' clamped the "little-big man" in irons again.
An' the Deadwood verdict was dismissed,
cuz' justice was waitin' fer' him in Yankton.
McCall had talked himself right out of his lies,
he left himself without a defense.
Which made it easy fer' this jury ta' see
it was McCall who initiated the offense.
"Guilty you were, an' guilty you are,
an' guilty you always will be."
Then McCall appealed ta' President Grant,
"Please pardon an' set me free."
The President said, "I will not intervene...
You made yer' bed...
It's time you laid in it an' slept."
So with the appeal denied, an' hanging date set,
McCall uncontrollably wept.
Eighteen-seventy an' seven, the day was March 1st,
McCall to the gallows did go.
He cried an' he quaked, trembled an' begged,
he showed all his cowardly soul.
He then shouted, "Oh, God!" as the trap was released,
an' before God he would surely then stand.
Where he'd try once more ta' lie his way free,
it's the mark of his cowardly brand.
But God is not mocked, McCall is then shocked,
eternity is the price of the bill.
His cowardly act of killing Hickok
bought him his ticket ta' hell.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

John "Liver-Eating" Johnson: Crow-Killer

After the trek from Missouri ta' Montana,
John Johnson made a name fer' himself
He took ta' the hills an' set his traps;
beaver, deer, bear, an' buffalo,
all sayin' "Catch me if ya' can."
He loved the life,
even took an injun' wife,
who bore him a healthy child.
But while Johnson was away from home
a band of Crow came callin',
an' did things that would make him riled.
They didn't just take what they wanted,
they killed what was left in the end.
So when Johnson came back,
an' saw the aftermath of the attack,
he emotionally went over the bend.
He stayed there alone,
warmed by the hate
that countered the cold of his heart.
His private war had begun,
an' many would fall,
the Crow would pay dearly for their part.
Whenever a Crow came into his sight
it was like steppin' into a killin' zone.
Whether man-ta'-man,
or even outnumbered,
Johnson's skill fer' killin' had been honed.
With rifle or knife,
hatchet or rock,
anything at all could be used.
He would never see a human
when he looked at a Crow,
on account of how his wife had been abused.
He saw only animals,
an' animals were his trade;
ta' be caught, ta' be killed, ta' be eaten.
He even acquired the strange moniker
after a witness saw him kill 'um, cut 'um,
an' then sink his teeth in.
Score upon score of Crow bit the dust,
for ten years his hate found its foe.
Then down from the mountain
ta' carry a star,
Johnson did finally go.
He put on the badge in Coulson, Montana,
an' he ruled with a rifle an' fist.
He never did carry a six-gun,
an' never started a "Dead Man's" list.
With his mountain exploits
an' peculiar peacekeeping,
even Buffalo Bill tried ta' hire him fer' shows.
But Johnson had tired of civilized life,
an' took off ta' where nobody knows.
He had no need fer' fame,
but his legend still grew,
even faster after he up an' disappeared.
"What a crock," he must think,
 of his legend nowadays,
it would be funny if he suddenly appeared.
His name has been changed,
an' facts rearranged,
all fer' the sake of a film.
Just remember what he ate,
after he began ta' hate,
an' he stuck in his knife ta' the helm.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Another Sheriff vs. Deputy Dispute

Down in Arizona lived a man named Peter Gabriel,
who chose one day ta' accept the wearin' of a star.
It was back in the eighteen-eighties,
in a place called Pima County.
Though some were against it, others were not,
an' thought the badge might take him quite far.
But as it turned out some things were askew,
involving one of his deputies, Joe Phy.
His conduct was unbecoming an' his record rather poor,
an' his guilt was such a burden he couldn't look ya' in the eye.
Then fer' bein' drunk an' disorderly
Gabriel gave Phy the boot.
An' followed that by arrestin' the ex-deputy
in Casa Grande fer' assault: he was bein' a brute.
Yet with the townsfolk torn between loyalties
they simply added fuel ta' the fire.
So Phy was cut loose, then made a bid fer' election;
ta' take Gabriel's star was his only desire.
Five years of feudin' an' Phy failed again,
it seemed Lady Luck bid adieu.
So Phy figured he'd make his own luck now,
an' guarantee that Gabriel was thru.
It started with drinkin' ta' get up the nerve,
then he sought his arch enemy out.
In the town of Florence, the day was May 3rd,
he found him at a bar an' gave out a shout.
"Come face me now, if ya' got the nerve.
Yer' day of comeuppance is here."
Inside the saloon the sheriff stayed calm
as he gulped down the rest of his beer.
He then stepped thru the door, an' into the street,
an' the two commenced ta' throw lead.
Eleven shots fired between the two,
but only one ended up dead.
Gabriel took one ta' the chest an' one ta' the groin,
quite painful, but still he did live.
Yet he put several shots into Phy
who died like a bloody sieve.
When Gabriel recovered they put him on trial,
an' found it was pure self-defense.
Phy pushed fer' the play, he sought only revenge,
but was given his own death sentence.
No tears were shed fer' the ex-deputy,
he died like he lived, just a fool.
On the other hand though, Gabriel carried on many years
with the badge and the gun as his tools.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Frazer - Miller Feud: star vs. star

George "Bud" Frazer was born in eighteen-sixty an' four.
He grew up in Texas as the son of a judge.
He learned many lessons from his pa,
an' where he stood on the law he wouldn't budge.
At the age of sixteen he already knew his path,
so he joined the elite Texas Rangers.
He was strong-willed, an' wirey, an' skilled fer' the trade.
Plus fearless enough fer' the dangers.
He caught rustlers, an' bandits, an' horse thieves, and such.
Even some murderers too.
But after ten years of trackin' down scum
he told the top dogs he was thru.
In eighteen an' ninety, down in Reeves County,
he got himself duly elected.
As keeper of peace, with a sheriff's tin star,
makin' criminals feel mighty rejected.
Yet what a shock fer' the rest of the town
when he locked up his own deputy.
His name was Jim Miller, he stole an' he killed,
but the townsfolk let him go free.
It wasn't the first, nor would be the last,
that Miller had scrapes with the law.
Though most folks were honest, there are others who ain't,
an' the system still had its flaw.
Miller bid fer' the star in the next election
but Frazer won out once again.
So Miller popped over ta' Pecos
where they were happy ta' let him wear tin.
The two kept the feud goin' on account of positions,
the law would just have ta' fight law.
Especially when one was a "gun-for-hire" killer,
to Frazer that was the last straw.
The next time they met bullets went flying
an' Frazer emptied his gun.
Pert near every shot hit Miller's body,
so, of course, Frazer thought it was done.
But Miller was wearin' a breast plate of steel,
so four of the bullets bounced clear.
An' of his own shots, only one hit,
an innocent victim standing near.
They both lost their stars during the time of this feud,
although fer' different reasons.
But the feud it kept goin' fer' no other cause
than hate can transcend all seasons.
The next shootin' match, eight months from the first,
turned out pert near the same.
Two bullets in Miller, Frazer unscathed,
but Frazer, this time, caught the blame.
They put him in jail, an' gave him a trial,
then acquitted him of every deed.
Yet when Miller recovered he swore out revenge,
especially once Frazer was freed.
Miller had lost both face-ta'-face duels,
he vowed he would not lose a third.
He'd catch Frazer off guard, like a cow on the range
peacefully strollin' with the herd.
He watched an' waited til the time was right,
then found Frazer at the poker table.
Where one shotgun blast ta' Frazer's face
put an end ta' this feuding fable.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dick Fellows: Robber with no Horse-sense

They say "there's no accountin' fer' taste."
Perhaps it's the same fer' brains.
Like choosin' a horse bearin' criminal path
while unable ta' control the reigns.
Dick Fellows was just such a fool,
though others would claim he was wiley.
Yet the mistakes he had made were of such a low grade
he would admit them quite rare, an' then only shyly.
Assault an' a robbery had bought him some time,
an' the place he was sent was San Quentin.
Though the time that he got was cut rather short
on account of the faith he was hintin'.
He acted quiet pious, an' bowed ta' his knees,
then quoted a verse here an' there.
A jailhouse conversion of the first magnitude,
with a personal testimony ta' share.
Well, Governor Booth got wind of the change,
"let's cut that poor Fellows some slack."
So they unlocked the shackles an' set Fellows free,
but the guards, they knew he'd be back.
He weren't much of a worker, but wished ta' be rich,
so to crime once more he did turn.
Yet ta' rob a stagecoach he needed a horse,
but horses caused his innards ta' churn.
Fellows went ta' the livery ta' rent a cayuse,
then sought a Wells Fargo stage he did fancy.
But on the way ta' the hold-up, the ridden got wind of the rider,
an' the spirited horse became antsy.
It bucked an' it reared an' thru Fellows down,
then ran off back ta' the livery.
The timing now off, the first got away,
he switched targets fer' the second delivery.
The Bakersfield stage he got ta' hold-up,
then realized he forgot vital tools.
He could not break the locks so he carried the box.
How foolish ta' forget all the rules.
The second horse then took off like the first,
leavin' Fellows ta' hump his own load.
But he'd gone this far, so carry he would,
just hopin' he'd got him some gold.
So he shouldered the box, an' walked in the dark,
then took a near twenty foot fall.
Down the number five tunnel of the Southern Pacific,
where he broke his leg an' wanted ta' bawl.
He drug himself ta' a Chinaman's tent,
an' he found an axe ta' steal.
Made himself a crutch, then chopped open the box,
"Eighteen-hundred, my God, what a deal!"
He then limped along ta' the Fountain Ranch,
where he stole himself a new horse.
Then made his way ta' an abandoned shack,
where he was arrested by detectives, of course.
Fer' the crime he committed the verdict came down,
eight long years he must do.
Though the very next day Fellows could not be found,
a tunnel in the floor he went thru.
He stole one more horse, but had similar luck,
the law caught him before he could run.
Shipped him straight ta' San Quentin, the guards had been right,
he was back there under the gun.
He was freed in five years, instead of the eight,
but quickly forewent honest means.
So he held-up a stage an' got clean away,
but with only ten dollars in his jeans.
Well, he tried it again, but it was worse than before,
the cash box contained a mere letter.
Then the third attempt, after waitin' some time,
had a similar outcome, not better.
Less then a year from the time of his release
back behind bars he did go.
He was sentenced ta' life, at Folsom this time,
yet he escaped once more, don't ya' know.
Though he hadn't learned nothin' in all his attempts,
as he mounted an' grabbed up the reigns.
The horse bucked him off, the lawmen did scoff,
cuz' once more the horse showed all the brains.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

George Arrington: made for the star

George Arrington was Alabama born,
beginning his days in Greensboro
in eighteen-forty an' four.
He grew up hard, with no fear of work,
then off he went as duty called
ta' that bloody Civil War.
In Mosby's Raiders he wore the grey,
an' as a Johnny Reb
his skills continually grew.
So much so, in fact,
he chose ta' fight on
even after the war was thru.
With other greycoats
he headed south,
Mexico was still in a war.
But he signed on the side
of Emperor Maximillian,
with the outcome the same as before.
After two losses he gave it a rest,
though he soon learned
he missed the thrill of the chase.
He crossed the border ta' Texas
an' pinned on a star,
as a ranger he set a blistering pace.
He rose up thru the ranks
like a bat outta' hell,
as Captain he soon took the lead.
The entire Panhandle
was his to control,
with twenty men, guns, an' their steeds.
Whether injuns' on the warpath,
or outlaws on the run,
he'd saddle-up an' hunt them down.
An' he'd clamp on the irons,
an' bring 'um all back,
or leave them dead on the ground.
It could take a month,
perhaps even more,
ta' make a full curcuit round his domain.
Yet he an' his men
could easily track down
two score in that little time frame.
He racked up the numbers,
arrests an' convictions,
that set him apart from most all.
He took ta' the life,
an' earned the respect
from those on both sides of the law.
Even after promotions,
an' takin' the lead,
he'd never sit idle an' wait.
He'd go with his men,
or go it alone,
ta' take out the bandits before it's too late.
He did it fer' duty,
fer' honor an' pride,
dealin' justice was not just fer' show.
Even when tired
he never gave up,
he'd track them wherever they'd go.
One time a rich rustler
ran up ta' New England,
thinkin' the law would turn back.
But Arrington caught him,
an' even took care
ta' outwit the lawyer's attack.
After a decade
of huntin' down villains
he decided ta' ranger no more.
But he still wore a star
down in Wheeler County
protectin' the law as before.
This would last fer' eight years,
as he built up his spread,
then retired ta' the Rocking Chair Ranch.
But in just a few years
he was back with the law;
same star, same county, same branch.
They needed him once,
they needed him then,
but time eventually does change.
Soon came the day
the star went away,
an' he lived out his days on the range.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Johnny Ringo: Nothing like the legend

We buy fiction over fact,
not just the American way, but a human trait.
Do we think all tales are benign
an' less interesting if we tell them straight?
the name befits the legend told.
Chosen instead of his real name,
he was known to his kin as John Ringgold.
So many have claimed
he was the fastest gun of them all.
But when compared ta' facts
none of the claims ever stand tall.
It's assumed he was born in Missouri,
since it's known that's where he attended school.
He could read, write, an' do figures,
which is far more than most gunmen could do.
He even loved ta' quote Shakespeare,
which is quite rare as outlaws go.
So ignorance was not ta' blame
fer' how his life sank so low.
Yet somehow he never learned honor,
he would play both sides of the law.
While wearin' a star, he'd still rustle cattle.
Can anyone claim that's not a flaw?
But his tin time was brief,
it obviously cramped his style.
Cuz' outlaws are the same everywhere,
they lack what it takes ta' go the extra mile.
They want easy pickin's, they don't want ta' work,
an' they'd rather get drunk an' get rowdy.
Pert' near every shot that Ringo did fire
came after his brain was quite cloudy.
Like the bloke with the joke
at the expense of a filly passin' by,
who Ringo pistol-whipped,
than shot in the neck, an' left him ta' die.
We also know of his time with the Clanton's an' McLowery's
durin' the time he was in Tombstone.
Though even then when he used his guns
he rarely acted alone.
It's believed he was one of four men who
bushwacked Virgil Earp, an' perhaps Morgan, his brother.
An' why the famed Wyatt Earp
sought revenge on Ringo, fer' one or the other.
Though history's not clear on the actual demise
of the not-so-infamous Johnny Ringo,
cuz' two others lay claim to what Earp professed,
bringin' down the outlaw with no soul.
Ringo's body was found in Turkey Creek Canyon
in eighteen-eighty an' two.
His scalp was removed, but not by an injun'
which adds ta' the mystery too.
One bit of truth, when Ringo still lived,
that proves he was less of a man,
was the day of his arrest with John Wesley Hardin,
when shock an' fear kept a gun from his hand.
One gimpy ol' Ranger, "McNelly's Bulldog,"
John Armstrong's the title he bore,
held back deputies as he went ahead
ta' take down the outlaw he swore.
The prize was Hardin, but he wasn't alone,
four others around him did sit.
Mannen Clements, Bill Taylor, Jim Mann, an' then Ringo,
all were suppose ta' have grit.
Yet when the proceedings commenced
Hardin jumped first, followed quickly by young Jim Mann.
But Hardin was cold-cocked, an' Mann was shot dead,
while Ringo an' the others just sat on their cans.
Yes, Ringo did nothin', fearstruck it would seem,
he never made a move ta' draw steel.
Yep, this is the true man of legend,
how strange is the American ideal.
Take away the dark nights, an' the backshot advantage,
then pour out the whiskey he drank.
All you'd have left is a boy with a toy,
with no whiskey nerve his quick draw's a blank.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thomas Hodges (aka Tom Bell): Sawbones to thief

Thomas Hodges was Alabama-born,
though raised in Rome, Tennessee.
His family was rather affluent,
so he was given an' education most folks would envy.
He even mastered medicine,
an' became a surgical Doc,
who went off ta' war ta' do his skillful chore
inspite of the shock.
He had the smarts an' he had the means
ta' take on this challenging career.
But he also had a since of duty,
that's why he joined the Tennessee Volunteers.
He served under Colonel Cheatham,
in the Mexican-American War.
He had ta' hear, an' see, an' do
what you an' I would surely deplore.
Perhaps he heard, an' saw, an' did too much
in that place where death increases ten-fold.
Cuz' upon his discharge he put away his scalpel,
tried ta' make it in California mining fer' gold.
But he was a doctor not a miner,
an' the gold was not his ta' be had.
Sadly, an' empty wallet an' belly
can often turn men bad.
He had the smarts but not the heart
at the start of his criminal charade.
So he quickly got caught an' sent ta' Angel Island
where he learned a lot more of the trade.
Alcatraz, part of Angel Island,
was run by the military back then.
An' when Bell served out his year
he became acquainted with several nefarious men.
These men would help him find others
after their scheduled release.
They would join as a band of outlaws
seekin' valuables ripe ta' be fleeced.
There was English Bob an' Monte Jack,
an' Juan Fernandez, the Mexican killer-thief.
Plus Bill Gristy, Ned Connor, an' of course Jim Smith,
who tattooed his body ta' get relief.
They began their criminal enterprise
in the same locale that Joaquin Murieta had rode.
But they kept ta' the stages an' wagons
since both were easy ta' catch an' unload.
Though unlike Murieta,
who seemed ta' take pleasure in dealin' out pain.
Bein' a "gentleman bandit"
would be Bell's criminal claim ta' fame.
He'd toss victims some coins
ta' get them a drink,
or leave some loosely tied-up
so they could get free in a wink.
A person might argue
Bell wanted ta' be caught.
Stop him from doin' the deeds
which he knew he really should not.
Why else would an educated man
do somethin' so obviously unwise
as to commit dozens of crimes
without even a simple disguise?
He was always identified as a man
with a flat nose an' over six feet,
with blue eyes an' sand hair,
a mustache, an' goatee.
His crew even unwittingly helped the law
by braggin' Tom Bell is our boss.
So give us yer' cash an' all that has worth,
ya' see, our gain is yer' loss.
Bell bribed a few squealers
ta' find out when pickin's were good.
Including his gal pal,
hotel owner, Elizabeth Hood.
The information was legit,
which meant the more cash they did count.
But with bigger rewards
the risks likewise did mount.
An' Bell had held off any bloodshed
as long as he could.
He even convinced a Wells Fargo guard
from ending up in a box of pine wood.
Though the bandits were rich
they were hunted like game.
"Let's take one last big haul
than forego all this fame."
They heard of a chance
fer' six-figures in gold.
It just required the right timing,
an' hearts that were bold.
Rideout, the owner,
would ride point ta' protect his loot.
Bell wanted the element of surprise
so they would not have ta' shoot.
They even had one
of their own men on the stage;
disguised as a miner,
as they rode through the sage.
It was at the California House
that this mole exited the rig
ta' signal Bell an' the others
that the gold was on board, so do the gig.
Back out on the trip
along the wild country road,
the gang rode up ta' the stage,
intent on stealin' the load.
But the driver John Greer
didn't stop, he went faster.
An' the "lesser of evils"
soon became a disaster.
Bill Dobson rode shotgun,
an' he used one quite well.
He killed Juan Fernandez,
then wounded Tom Bell.
No gold was lost an' they made it ta' town,
but the townfolk were soon in a rage.
Cuz' two men were wounded,
an' the barber's wife died on that stage.
When the posse came back empty,
Bell's ego got the best of the man.
Instead of leavin' like they should,
he mocked the law, sayin' "Catch me if you can."
So rewards were quickly posted
 an' they were caught one by one.
The first would squeal on the next,
there was no real honor among these sons of a gun.
It was Gristy who ratted out Bell,
he's at Firebaugh Ferry near the San Joaquin.
An' it was thereabouts they got him,
caught on the trail by a posse he hadn't seen.
The posse that got Bell
was in fact led by a judge.
But when it came ta' the law
this judge was willin' ta' fudge.
The possemen veered off
the upstandin' an' honorable road.
They became vigilantees
an' were willin' ta' bear the guilt load.
Yet Bell did not quiver,
nor shiver, or shake.
It had all been his choice,
so the punishment he'd take.
The posse admired Bell's grit
an' granted him a bit more time
ta' write "Good-bye" ta' his ma,
an' Mrs. Hood, who had helped him in crime.
They even offered Bell a last shot of whiskey,
an' he thanked them like friends.
Then they let him pray,
ta' make personal amends.
Then over the head
the rope he did take.
The horse was slapped once,
Bell fell, an' his neck it did break.
The heroic war doctor who had become a thief
could forget all his sins an' now rest in peace.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Beckwith Brothers: wearing tarnished tin

When yer' star doesn't shine
very few will pay you any mind.
Just ask John an' Robert Beckwith,
real brothers, an' brothers in law... the tarnished kind.
Ya' see, they were part of the Murphy-Dolan crowd,
who battled the McSween Regulators in the Lincoln County War.
In fact, both brothers took part in stoppin' an' killin' John Tunstall,
an action any reasonable person would abhor.
That was the action that kicked off the war
an' the bloodbath that followed.
Though there was equal callousness on both sides:
the souls of the combatants had hollowed.
John barely made it passed six months
from that infamous day
before he too felt the sting of hot lead.
Though not from the war,
he surprised John Jones rustlin' his herd,
an' when they both drew, Jones shot him dead.
Yet brother Bob had even gone quicker,
just shy of turning twenty.
The day Billy the Kid an' his crew were hold up in McSween's store
as the bullets were flyin' a' plenty.
In a foolish show of bravado Bob stood in clear sight,
walked ta' the store an' tried ta' arrest them alone.
He died in a hail of gunfire with a shot ta' the eye,
as the Bonney crew charged forth
over his corpse that lay prone.
Though McSween bit the dust
on that very spot as well.
Kind of makes ya' wonder
if they carried on in the after-life,
since they were both shot ta' hell.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cullen Baker: the Arkansas brigand

This here's the tale of Cullen Baker,
from Weakley County
in the state of Tennessee.
He was born the son of a dirt-poor sod-buster
who up an' moved his family ta' Texas,
with hopes of escapin' their misery.
Skin an' bones was Baker's lot,
an' his homespun pants an' shoeless feet
made him the brunt of many a jokes.
He took it fer' awhile,
but only as a child,
til his mean-streak struck an' he beat back the pokes.
He acquired a hog-leg
at the young age of twelve,
an' practiced daily ta' become a crack shot.
He then got a saddle-gun
an' repeated the routine,
an' he grew a rep backin' down adults more often than not.
He was more mean tempered
than a skunk on its way to a perfume soiree,
an' bullyin' folks just made him frisky.
The rebel in him really kicked up
at the age of fifteen,
when his evil trait partnered with whiskey.
He would drink an' he'd brag
of many deeds that he'd done,
though not one of them deeds were true.
An' when no one tried ta' stop him,
it just urged him on,
until he bullied most folks that he knew.
Baker went way beyond mean,
he was downright sadistic,
like thinkin' it's funny ta' chase an old man out of town.
Then at the age of nineteen,
after startin' kids in a mock battle,
he was conked on his noggin' an' nearly put six-feet down.
Laid up fer' weeks
on account of the blow,
most folks prayed it knocked in some sense.
He said he'd reformed
an' got himself hitched,
but the calm wouldn't last cuz' he was too dense.
He forced other teens
ta' carry his weight,
jabbed them with knives, or pistol-whipped them instead.
He'd tell them one thing,
then change his mind,
yet still bully them fer' not doin' what he said.
Stallcup, an orphan,
was lashed with a whip,
so bad that his guardian took Baker ta' court.
Where a witness named Bailey
testified fer' the youth,
but he shouldn't have stayed, he should've rode fer' the Fort.
Cuz' Baker weren't sent-up
he was given a fine,
then went fer' his horse with one place ta' go.
There had ta' be payback,
an' it had ta' be quick,
though his rep was intact, his ego said, "No."
So he rode like the wind,
than dismounted his steed,
an' called Bailey out; time ta' settle the score.
Bailey's kin said, "Stay here."
But he grabbed a gun an' stepped out,
only ta' be hit with two shots an' sent back thru the door.
Baker jumped in the saddle
an' off he did run,
just ta' play hide'n'seek with the law.
He left Cass County,
went ta' seek relatives,
way over the border in ol' Arkansas.
But mean is as mean does
an' Baker could not stop the doin',
he stabbed a feller' ta' death over some horses.
Yep, one thing's fer' certain
back in the old west
they never heard of anger management courses.
So he hightailed it to Cass,
figuring two years was plenty,
they'd forget all about his earlier sin.
But to his shocked dismay
he still was quite wanted,
in fact, many folk wanted ta' see him brought in.
So he turned on his heels
an' he ran like a sissy,
right back ta' Perry County ta' keep on a hidin'.
Just a drinkin' an' brawlin',
with his relatives supportin',
an' old west deadbeat with his time he was bidin'.
Now after four years
Baker finally decided
ta' go get his little girl an' his wife.
But this new arrangement
 lasted less than two years,
the misses passed away an' he left his child fer' life.
Now the slow movin' law in Perry
finally decided ta' charge Baker
fer' the stabbin' death a few years before.
Yet word reached him again
before they could clap him in irons,
an' he fled back ta' Cass County once more.
Now the officials in Cass
fell flat on their ass,
they dropped the Bailey murder charge, which is downright silly.
An' Baker repeated the claim
that he'd reformed once again,
then married himself his second young filly.
But soon he was conscripted
into the gray coat Confederates,
an' sent ta' serve with a company in Little Rock.
But Baker was a spoiled brat
in an' adult body,
so army discipline gave him a shock.
He oft times went AWOL,
til he never went back,
he got him some acres an' started a farm.
Growin' corn fer' the confederacy,
or so he would claim,
but it was really the rules that caused him such alarm.
Ironically, the area he chose
was under Union occupation
in the Spring of sixty-four; most of which were black.
Baker's hatred was universal,
he'd hurt anyone an' cared not a wit,
but his bias fer' coloreds was at the head of the pack.
One day, three black soldiers
an' their sergeant did appear
in the Spanish Bluffs bar where Baker stood drinkin'.
They saw his "Johnny Reb" hat
an' started towards him;
it was four-to-one, so they didn't do much thinkin'.
The Sarge said, "Gimmee yer' papers,
let's see who ya' are."
So Baker drew steel, pulls the trigger an' shoots.
The sergeant went down,
an' then the three others,
all four hit the floor, an' died in their boots.
He was now a man without a country,
sought by both sides,
as deserter by the gray, an' killer by the blue.
So he fled ta' Little Rock
an' hid in plain sight;
he figured if blacks could be Yankees, he could too.
But this plan that he thought
was truly fool proof,
got the best of him inspite of his lies.
Cuz' they gave him a blue coat,
then put him in charge
of an entire company of those colored guys.
Thus up he did flee,
he deserted again,
back down ta' Texas to his uncle, Tom Young.
Well Texas was chalk full
of freebootin' deserters
with their paths leadin' toward a place ta' be hung.
Course, Baker fit right in
with a group of these bandits,
an' as mean as he was he soon took the lead.
They stole from the farmers,
then looted the ranchers,
took anything of value, from stock ta' the feed.
Mrs. Drew, a ranch owner,
once even paid Baker
ta' return the herd his own bandit crew took.
Unaware as she counted
the cash ta' his hand,
that he was the low-down rustlin' crook.
Now when the war ended
Baker hightailed it again,
afraid that the law might focus more on him then.
So he ran the Line Ferry,
returned ta' his second wife,
an' acted as if he would now fit right in.
Wife number two died
while under his care,
an' some say his reality went further astray.
He made a lifelike effigy of her,
adorned with her clothes,
an' put it on the porch til townfolk urged it be taken away.
But if he was so much in love
why did he then
propose ta' her sixteen-year old sister?
Though she spurned his advance,
an' went fer' the school teacher,
which irritated Baker like a big pus-filled blister.
Thomas Orr had a bum arm,
an' he was a bookworm not a fighter,
but it didn't stop Baker from crackin' his head with a stick.
An' when he recovered
an' back ta' school went ta' teach,
Baker bullied him there in front of the kids: how sick.
Baker was so insecure
that it wounded his pride,
that any girl would choose a cripple over him.
It's amazin' Orr survived
a year's worth of bullyin'
without the church choir singin' his last hymn.
Then Baker took off,
he returned ta' Cass County,
where he began, once more, his evil ways.
He robbed the Rowden store,
then later killed Rowden,
cuz' the shopkeeper told him ta' pay.
But just as before
the law moved too slow,
it took days ta' mount a posse ta' ride.
 So Baker sent word back ta' town,
he threatened death ta' all comers,
cuz' this time he chose not ta' hide.
Sadly, the townfolk gave in,
said let the soldier boys do it,
so a patrol of troops was sent out ta' look.
Two bluecoats came upon Baker
while he was at Pett's Ferry,
an' he lied about his name but they saw thru the crook.
Though it did them no good,
Baker shot the sergeant on his horse,
with four shots in him he was dead in the saddle.
So the private lost heart,
whipped at his horse,
he figured it was best ta' skedaddle.
Baker fled ta' Bowie County,
where he was surrounded by troops,
but he hollered "Charge them, boys!" A straightout bluff.
But the soldiers fell fer' it,
they all ran off in a panic,
until their superiors growled in a huff.
Then Baker killed another trooper,
an' awhile after that
he put the driver of a supply wagon in his grave.
His rep was a risin',
despised by most all,
a thousand dollar reward was put up fer' this misbehaved.
He was tracked down again,
til Baker did the Captain in,
an' fled off once more durin' the confusion.
He formed another bandit crew,
took ta' stealin' an' robbin' once more,
then killed two government men durin' an unlucky intrusion.
Then when tracked by a swarm
he stole an officer's uniform,
cuz' he knew what ta' do with the disguise.
He'd ride ta' the ranches,
an' ride ta' the farms,
in order ta' ask an' receive a heap of supplies.
With lawmen an' troopers
all after his hide
he foolishly went back ta' the girl who snubbed his advance.
She was married ta' Orr now,
which made Baker madder,
he got ta' the point he was near in a trance.
He told his ex-father-in-law
ta' send out the cripple,
an' the callous old-fool did it.
"We won't hurt him none,
jus' send him on out,"
then they fixed up a noose an' stuck his neck in it.
Hung from a tree,
but somehow he survived,
it was the costliest mistake Baker had done.
That mild-mannered teacher
grew a backbone of iron,
recovered from the injury, then strapped on a gun.
It was January sixth
eighteen-sixty an' nine,
when Baker an' a pal were found by three others an' Orr.
Trailed them back to a hideout
in southeastern Arkansas,
an' they looked all around ta' see if there were anymore.
The two were alone
an' as they squat by the fire
Orr an' his men came in blastin' lead.
No words ta' alert,
no stoppin' til done,
they kept on shootin' til both bandits lay dead.
On closer inspection
they'd made the right choice,
cuz' Baker alone was a walkin' arsenal.
Four six-guns, three palm-guns,
an' a half-dozen knives,
an' a double-barrelled scatter-gun showed Orr made the right call.
So the man Baker tormented
an' claimed he could do anythin' to,
was the man who finally tracked him down an' done him in.
The man with the ego
tryin' ta' be the legend,
lay dead with newsclippings calling himself "the Arkansas brigand."
It makes ya' think once,
perhaps even twice,
about what really gives a person his worth.
But at least in this case,
though, sadly, not always
the meek did inherit the Earth.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bascom Affair: the case of the wrong Apache

If somethin' happens to ya'
don't let the situation fool ya'
an' make sure ya' get the facts straight from the start.
Too many times we've seen it happen,
when the tongue begins its flappin',
that the truth an' what is said turn out ta' be quite far apart.
There's an Arizona case
which became a big disgrace,
cuz' two men went about it both half-cocked.
Johnny Ward's adopted son
an' some cattle were on the run,
they were took right off his land an' left him shocked.
So he mixed up some facts
on which Apaches left the tracks,
an' he told this tale of falsehood to a Second Lieu:
George Bascom was the name
of the Second Looey who would gain "fame"
cuz' he didn't wait ta' find out what was true.
Ward said it was Cochise
that shattered his family's peace,
by absconding with his boy, an' his beef.
So Bascom had a message sent,
come sit an' talk within a tent,
yet it was only a trap ta' catch the chief.
But Cochise could not be grabbed,
yet six braves of his were nabbed,
so the chief set his tribe on the warpath.
First, Cochise tried an exchange,
Bascom refused... mighty strange,
since it sparked a twelve-year war: a real bloodbath.
In just one week fer' sayin' "no"
sixteen whites to death did go,
an' Bascom hung the six braves in reply.
From eighteen-sixty til seventy-two
this war would not be through,
an' a heap of lives were lost over a lie.
Major General Howard,
quite the opposite of coward,
came out ta' see if he can bring some peace.
So he met with the chief,
it was time ta' end this grief,
an' he bound the promise with the great Cochise.
The poor abducted boy
faced a life without joy,
he'd been taken by a different Apache band.
He resurfaced ten years late,
with a life he learned ta' hate,
he was the symbol of the tension in the land.
Felix Tellez had been his name,
it was changed ta' hide the shame,
the moniker he chose was "Mickey Free."
Though years beyond his return
the anger still did burn,
cuz' no one gave Cochise an apology.