Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gunfighter Clay Allison

Now here's a longwinded tale ya' might recall
                    'bout a mean ol' son of a gun.
Though it's rare ta' recollect his right moniker,
          that bein' Robert A.,
                    since most tales record it as Clay:
          folks, that's Clay Allison.
Born in 1840, beneath the sod in eighty-seven.
          Yet, if'n ya' believe in the hereafter,
                    don't go lookin' fer' him in heaven.
Had himself a mean streak runnin' to his marrow.
He seethed with anger that never seemed to abate.
Though havin' a clubfoot,
                    an' bein' diagnosed as "epileptic"
          might've contributed to this quick tempered state.
He worked his parents farm near Waynesboro, Tennessee
                    til' the age of twenty-one.
Then went off ta' fight the Civil War
                    as soon as it begun.
He wore the grey of the Johnny Reb,
          an' his foot didn't hamper him much.
He performed with vigor on the battlefield,
                    in fact in several battles,
          discovering he had the blood 'n' guts touch.
Yet in March of sixty-two
                    he was sent home ta' recuperate,
          from his own Confederate sawbones.
The doctor claimed it was less the physical, more the mental,
          "partly epileptic and partly maniacal,"
                    man, that boy can hate.
Reportedly, he even threatened ta' gun down superiors
          fer' optin' not ta' persue an' execute fleein' yankees.
As if the killin' were more important
                    than the color coat he wore,
          or his sides professed beliefs.
Thus home again an' hatin' it;
          couldn't get passed the feelin' of bein' betrayed.
His anger needed a release.
It came in the form of a Union trooper;
          a two-striper from the Third Illinois Cavalry;
                    who rode to the farm
          with the intent of robber's harm,
                    yet what he got was "Rest in Peace."
The fool must've thought "easy pickin's"
          as he approached Clay's mother on the ol' homestead.
He learned too late
          a bullet was his fate,
                    Allison shot him dead.
Now when the South surrendered
          Clay an' some kin headed out ta' Texas,
                    an' found a bit of trouble on the way.
Zachery Colbert attempted ta' double his fee
          for ferryin' the family
                    across the Red River.
But gettin' whooped by Clay
                    was his only pay,
          an' he was left unconscious ta' boot.
With Clay's family takin' the ferry
          an' crossin' the river for free
                    they did scoot.
Arrivin' in Texas Clay forsook the sod,
          choosin' ta' remain in the saddle
                    as a cowhand.
Beneath some noted barons he quickly learned the trade,
          even one of the band who helped ta' blaze
                    the Goodnight - Loving Trail in 1866.
Up ta' Colorado,
          but first through New Mexico,
                    after startin' right there in Texas.
He later left Oliver Loving an' Charles Goodnight,
          took ta' roost with M.L. Dalton an' Isaac Lacy,
                    apparently seein' an' opportunity.
He drove a large herd up New Mexico way
                    along about eighteen-seventy.
Then demanded as pay three-hundred head
          of cattle ta' start his own spread
                    right near in Cimarron.
Now his ranch, it prospered right from the start,
          but it didn't bring no warmth to his ice cold heart.
In fact, his savagery... well,
          it really began to emerge
                    in a way that'd make ya' downright sick.
Come the seventh of October,
          after drinkin' his thoughts
                    over in Elizabethtown,
          he decided to enjoy a vigilante kick.
Aimed at a feller' named Charles Kennedy,
          jus' recently convicted of murder,
          an' coolin' his heels jus' across the way
                    in the town's grey bar motel.
So Clay incited a mob
          intent on doin' the job
                    of lynchin' the poor bastard,
          an' sendin' him straight ta' Hell.
The mob crossed the street
                    then caved in the door,
          an' knocked the scared deputies senseless.
Then they charged down the hall,
          goin' pell-mell,
                    straight to the cell,
          not worried at all,
          since most of the mob could only stand tall
          when they knew their victim was defenseless.
So the hoosegow lost its border.
They drug him kickin' an' screamin'
          over to the slaughterhouse.
Lynched him quick.
Then commenced ta' mutilatin'
                    usin' huge ol' knives
          employed for cattle butcherin':
          doin' some things to a man
          ya' shouldn't do to a rabid mouse.
Then Allison cut the body down,
          used an ax ta' decapitate the corpse,
                    an' jammed the head on a pole.
He then took ta' ridin' with his gruesome trophy
          all the way ta' Henry Lambert's saloon
                    in Cimarron
          where he displayed the head for show.
An time moved on.
Now it's been said Clay's friends were "fiercely loyal."
Though secretly they probably just feared ta' go against him.
But his enemies vowed ta' kill him whenever a chance arose.
Such was the case fer' gunman Chunk Colbert,
          who steamed fer' nine years
                    over the beatin' Clay gave his Uncle Zachery.
Chunk thought he would dispose
         of this villain Allison,
                    but first challenged him to a race.
It were a dead heat with the horses,
          so they chose to eat dinner an' rest
                    at the Clifton House.
Where Chunk tried some trickery,
          but Clay was still quicker ya' see,
                    an' shot him dead, right in the face.
An' after they buried Colbert behind the inn
          someone asked Clay Allison,
          why would ya' even sit down with such a one?
A known assassin out ta' get ya' with a gun?
"Cuz' I didn't want ta' send a man ta' Hell
          on an empty stomach," claimed Clay.
Though it appears that two lives were fated that day,
          cuz' in the inn was Charles Cooper,
                    a friend of the newly demised,
          who shoulda' wised - up at what he saw,
                    but the incident jus' stuck in his craw.
Then Cooper began statin' publicly
          how he'd do Allison a world of hurt.
Then came the nineteenth of January of seventy-four,
          after Cooper had been spotted on the way ta' town,
          he was never seen, nor heard from again.
And it's said he was waylaid by Allison,
          an' now lays under prairie dirt.
Though nothin' was ever proven,
          even at Clay's trial,
                    which came some two years late.
But with no body an' no evidence
          there weren't much of a case,
          an' Clay walked out with a clean slate.
As time ticked on, Clay's reputation grew:
          the crazy gunfighter without his wits collected.
He feared no one an' could always be counted on
                    ta' do the unexpected.
Like steppin' from a saloon in Canadian, Texas
          wearin' nothin' but his guns, boots, an' a hat.
Marchin' up an' down the main street
          challenging one an' all.
And he got no takers... imagine that.
Then reportedly, at another saloon,
          where lots of whiskey did flow,
          Clay an' Mason T. Bowman stripped to their longjohns,
                    shouted an' wildly danced,
          while shootin' up the floor at each other's feet,
                    with onlookers all in a trance,
          cuz' neither of them bloodied a toe.
Now on October 30th, of seventy-five,
          the right time of year fer' another nightmare,
                    Allison took part in another lynchin'.
He helped ta' hang Cruz Vega,
          prior to his day in court,
                    thus increasin' his rep's dimensions.
As Vega was dragged ta' the telegraph pole
                    by Allison an' the others,
          he shouted his innocence out ta' all,
                    all sisters an' brothers.
Vega even professed, in fact, ta' know
                    who the real killer was,
          a man named Manuel Cardenas.
But no innocent plea can ever dissuade
          callous humans under the spell of bloodlust.
So up he was strung, began ta' strangle real slow,
          so Clay put a bullet in his back.
"To put the poor Mex out of his misery,"
                    said the man that no one could trust.
When they cut the body down,
          Clay drug it around the town,
                    behind his horse, of course.
Then he rode out of town,
                    over rocks an' heavy brush
          with the body now absent a face.
Out ta' the desert , with no "X" ta' mark the spot,
          he left Vega's body ta' rot,
                    addin' ta' his disgrace.
Two days later Francisco Pancho Griego,
          Vega's employer showed up in Cimarron.
Along with Luis Vega, the victim's teenage son,
          and Griego's partner, Florencio Donahue,
                    with their minds set on Clay Allison.
Never one fer' hidin' --- never one fer' fear,
          Clay boldly confronted the trio outside the St. James
          an' said, "Come on in fer' a drink."
They each had a few, playin' it cool,
                    appearin' ta' mull things about.
Til Griego motioned to a corner of the bar,
          an' the action, like treachery, givin' out a stink.
But Clay smelled it comin', with Griego fannin' his sombrero
          on one of the coldest nights fer' a spell.
An' prepared with his own little trick,
          a small pistol he'd already palmed.
Then right on cue, off went the lights,
                    thanks to an Allison friend,
          an' Clay sent another ta' Hell.
The bullet found Griego's heart,
          who now spread dead on the floor,
                    an' when the lamp was relit
          Allison was nowhere around.
Now the citizens of Colfax County had a fit,
          an' they started themselves a campaign
          ta' rid themselves of a man-killer who did abound
                    in dealin' out death an' pain.
Ironically, one of those dogooders
          irritatin' Clay like a pus-filled blister
                   was none other than Lewis Coleman,
          husband of Mary, Clay's own sister.
Tryin' ta' drum up publicity
                    to oust the notorious badman,
          they allied the editor of the Cimarron News & Press.
Then they casually stood by when Clay came ta' town,
          destroyed the offices,
                    an' put the paper out of business.
Well, Allison's Cimarron neighbors were nervous,
          but most times they still could function,
          yet the towns he trailed herds to
                    were plum mortified
          at his rep, antics, an' callous compunction.
Las Animas townfolk in Colorado
          have a tale to tell of two Allison's,
                    Clay an' his brother John.
The year was eighteen an' seventy-six,
          the night of December, twenty plus one.
Fresh off the trail, an' sellin' their herd,
                    they fancied some fun an' sportin'.
They barged into a dance,
                    began steppin' on toes,
          in more ways than one, if ya' get my meanin'.
Cuz' the women they grabbed
          fer' their five-minute courtin'
                    were the wives of merchants,
          who stood stewin' an' steamin'.
Now the town constable, Deputy Charles Faber,
          tried ta' relieve those two boys of their hardware.
First he tried reason, but they weren't reasonable.
Then he tried on fer' size,
                    two men deputized,
          an' a scatter-gun, with hope of oustin' the pair.
Now when "Look out" was yelled,
                    John Allison turned,
          appearin' ta' go fer' the draw.
So Faber let loose one of the barrels,
          an' buckshot sent blood on the wall.
Then Clay, at the bar,
          with his back ta' the scene,
          whirled 'round with two-guns in hand.
He let four bullets fly toward the foolish deputy,
          who took one to the chest,
                    that sent him to the Promised Land.
But as Faber went down the shotgun went off,
          an' Brother John took another load.
This time to the leg,
          the first was to the chest an' arm.
No one present would've been so bold
          as to bet a buck or two
          that John would recover from all that harm.
After gunnin' down Faber,
          an' runnin' the other feller's off,
          Clay came to his fallen kin in a hurry.
Then grabbed the dead deputy,
          yanked his bloody corpse closer an' said,
          "Look here, this man is dead, John, not to worry,
          vengeance is ours!... Not to worry."
Of course John recovered,
          an' Clay walked on account of self-defense,
                    an' the legends about him grew.
With his name appearin' in police gazettes
          an' the penny dreadfuls back East,
                    with less an' less of the print bein' true.
Well, as time did go
          Clay left New Mexico
He went back ta' Texas, ta' Hemphill County,
          where he started a spread an' took up a wife.
He actually appeared ta' temper a bit,
          avoidin' gunfighters an' causin' less strife.
Now with his forutnes on the rise
          up to Lincoln, N.M. he did row       
          where several events were attributed to him
          though most were all talk an' no show.
It is said while on a trail drive ta' Wyoming
          Allison stopped in Ol' Cheyenne
          ta' get some work done on a howlin' tooth.
But the dentist's brains turned ta' jello
                    on account of he was yellow
          an' scared ta' death that Clay was in his booth.
So with his knees a knockin'
                    clickity-clack, an' his mind all blank,
          he took ta' workin' on one of Clay's good teeth.
Which cost him a tooth of his own,
          an' pert near all of them if help hadn't arrived.
Though one thing's fer' certain,
                    it could've been worse.
          He could be laid out beneath a wreath.
Though another story about Clay,
          a tale quite similar ta' John Wesley Hardin,
          with even less ta' back the claim,
          allegedly occurred when he was forced ta' share a room.
The other feller', a gunman by the way,
          supposedly snored louder than a thunder boom.
Now as the tale goes
                    Clay wanted some repose
          but couldn't sleep a wink fer' all the noise.
So up he did sit
          about ta' pitch a fit
          but instead just plugged him with one of his toys.
Now Allison's death came in the summer of eighty-seven,
          it was on the first of July,
          with many a folk ponderin' the when, where, an' why?
It came not with a rope,
          an' not with a knife,
                   nor even a gun shootin' lead.
He was bringin' home supplies
                    while all liquored up,
          fell beneath the wagon
                    an' the wheel crushed his head.
Such a mediocre way ta' die
          fer' this legend ta' be in upcoming generations.
So much so, that it caused the press of his day
                    confusion an' consternation.
So their digits took ta' writin'
                    as the rags began fightin'
          to see who could build the biggest myth overnight.
But I'm not gonna tell 'um,
          cuz' that's not my way,
                    I prefer what's supported ta' tell.
And the fact remains,
          after a life of dealin' out pains... to others,
                    it was his own damn fault
          tippin' the bottle,
                    that sent himself straight ta' Hell.

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