Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cyrus Skinner: He lived cruel, he died a coward

Have ya' heard tell of Cyrus Skinner?
He was a loser,
not a winner,
though he did have his way a time or two.
With swinging double-doors,
an' sawdust on the floors,
whiskey flowing freely,
an' fantan tables too,
Skinner was a proprietor
of a couple unlucky saloons:
unlucky for patrons that is.
For most customers
the whiskey was watered,
the fantan was rigged,
an' the poker decks were marked.
The saloon girls were dirty,
the barkeep was squirrely,
an' they all looked for purses ta' pinch.
They'd take paper money,
they'd crave silver coins,
they'd sweep up the gold dust,
an' palming nuggets was a cinch.
Skinner's business sense was fair,
though in practice
not fair at all.
His tarnished rep began ta' grow
an' a certain someone came ta' call.
Sheriff Henry Plummer,
whose star was just as tarnished
as Skinner's reputation,
said, "Come out ta' Bannack,
a town in Montana,
where you will serve more than libation."
He'd serve ta' spy
on the drunk an' the high,
the miners who had information.
With whispers or shouts
they'd give up the routes,
as long as the alcohol flowed.
When there were shipments in wagons,
or stagecoach strong-boxes,
the Plummer's gang always showed.
Plummer mocked the law
by wearing a star,
an' he called his gang Innocents.
Skinner was cut from the very same cloth,
he cared not a hoot nor a holler.
He would never repent
or give recompense,
his only care was to steal his next dollar.
Skinner rarely rode with the outlaw band,
cuz' he was the inside man.
The info was key
so he had ta' stay free,
but sometimes the word came too late.
One day came the call
for a really big haul,
an' Skinner took it as fate.
He enlisted Bob Zachery,
another bad hombre,
the two of them held-up the stage.
They came down with gold fever,
they murdered the driver,
an' the townfolk heated with rage.
Two-hundred an' fifty-thousand in gold!
Neither had seen so much loot.
They were tempted ta' hide it,
an' tempted ta' run,
but they chose not ta' feel Plummer's boot.
The gang did divide it,
then kept stealin' more,
they felt unstoppable
with the "law" on their side.
Their acts became bolder,
their attitudes meaner,
killin' with sick twisted pride.
Skinner was there when a Bannack was killed,
his pal took him down in cold blood.
Then Skinner skinned the scalp off the redman
ta' place within his bar.
He didn't even clean off the crude.
But the Plummer gang had run its course,
their cruelty fueled a fire.
Vigilantes ran them down:
justice was their desire.
Plummer was caught,
then he was lynched
on the tenth of January,
in eighteen and sixty-four.
The gang tried ta' run,
but was caught one-by-one,
an' the citizens swore
this was the end.
Skinner believed there was no evidence
that linked him to the Innocents,
so he brazenly stayed at the bar.
But when men are about
ta' have their necks stretched
they'd even sell out their mothers.
Skinner's name
was attached ta' much blame,
thanks ta' his outlaw "brothers."
He was given a gift
on the twenty-fifth,
a necktie made out of hemp.
He broke free an' did run,
he begged, "Please shoot me with yer' gun."
He cringed in fear of the noose.
His captors said, "No.
You chose this show.
Your cruelty cooked yer' own goose."

Friday, June 22, 2012

Belle Siddon: Gambler, Pal Gal, Madame

Belle Siddon,
aka Madame Vestal,
aka Lurline Monte Verde,
was at first dealt a good hand
from well-to-do stock,
an' she was highly educated in Missouri.
But times, they do change,
Civil War took the reins,
an' many a plan became blurry.
From Southern lass
to Confederate spy,
Belle parlayed her status
for information with lies.
But wars go away
an' loyalties change,
an' Belle later married
a U.S. Army sawbones:
stationed down Texas way.
Stayed as true as she could
til his last breath did pass,
then found she must fend fer' herself.
No trophy wives then
like there is today,
Pride had some sway
an' Belle filled her own shelf.
She had a knack fer' gambling,
an' ran a few casinos
in Wichita, Denver, and Deadwood.
Supply and demand
always goes hand-in-hand:
clean cards,
dirty women,
straight whiskey.
And if she was cheatin... she was good.
Lawmen an' badmen,
both gunmen fer' hire,
sought Lady Luck in Belle's place.
They'd gamble an' cuss,
drink sour mash an' fuss,
pinch bottoms
an' get a slap 'cross the face.
If Lady Luck's a no show,
they'd bed them a "ho,"
or belly on up ta' the bar.
They'd swear off of gamblin',
but always return,
even if the trip was quite far.
Once a Southern Belle
not always a Southern Belle,
she knew all her needs
an' did fill 'um.
But she still was a woman,
a romantic at heart,
an' fell hard when Cupid came callin'.
Yet her choice of men
in her new life an' trade
would even cause whores ta' start bawlin'.
Archie McLaughlin,
notorious robber,
he craved the strong-box from the stage.
Yet robbing ain't easy
with love in the mix
cuz' Archie would tell Belle his plans:
after all, she'd been a spy.
But Belle's tongue had loosened
since the days of the war.
With too much ta' drink,
or in a rage,
Belle would speak out of turn.
Her slip of the tongue
sent vigilantes on the run,
an' they caught up with Archie
still ridin' the stage.
They brought the noose.
Arch brought the neck.
They had themselves a "necktie party."
Out in the boonies,
swingin' from a tree,
that was the end of "poor" Archie.
Belle took it hard,
he was dead cuz' of her,
an' how could she love a dead lover?
She wept out of grief,
she needed relief,
she wanted to hide undercover.
Deadwood's a place
where you pick yer' poison...
an' Belle, she soon was addicted.
She tried ta' forget
her disgrace an' lost love.
She traded her memories fer' opium.
Then off ta' the coast,
San Francisco was calling,
time ta' begin again.
Belle thought she knew what she wanted,
but she was still haunted:
Pain had hitched a ride.
For lack of her lover
she puffed on the pipe.
They found her sprawled out
in the opium den...
on the night that she died.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jim and John Reynolds: Good men to Bad men

If ya' push men far enough,
they just might break.
Arrest good men on false charges,
they just might take.
Jim and John Reynolds
from down Texas way,
traveled North ta' Colorado,
near Bayou Salado,
'bout eighteen-sixty an' three.
They were a dandy pair,
had money ta' spare,
yet no visible means of support.
Of course, that's what the townsfolk say.
There weren't a speck of evidence
ta' prove the claim, "they're highwaymen."
But they did -- apparently --
commit the crime of coming from Texas.
Lone Star boys
with Confederate noise
found themselves interred
in this Northern Territory.
Shipped away ta' Denver
as Southern sympathizers,
their money taken by the town collaborators,
or "justified" legalizers.
The brothers hated lock-up,
so bust out they did...
and skedaddled.
Back home ta' the Lone Star.
They weren't Confederate,
but now they are:
signed on as irregulars.
The Colorado Yankees
with their legal hanky-panky
had no notion
that they're about ta' get the spurs.
Like burrs beneath a saddle,
or snakes that slither and rattle,
the Reynolds Brothers recruited a gang.
Well, back North they did ride.
They did plan ta' hit and hide.
Their first hit took down
forty-thousand in gold.
The brother's claimed it for Jeff Davis:
the South needed the loot.
But a dozen members of the gang
chose dollars over loyalty:
took a share and did scoot.
Legend has it,
the brother's buried the rest.
And they would add
a lot more to the cache.
Hatred hollowed out their hearts
over the way they were mistreated.
A string of robberies followed,
it eased their pain a pinch...
like another pinch of gold dust --
ten thousand dollars worth.
But like any other gamble
luck would run its course,
and cards were dealt
that turned a losing hand.
In the Spring of sixty-four
one member was no more:
sent before his Maker with hot lead.
Jake Stowe and Brother John
still free ta' mosey on.
Yet Brother Jim
and four more men
were caught,
and sentenced ta' life.
Some Yankees felt justice was ill-served.
They felt that Johnny Rebs
should rate a rope.
Colonel John Chivington,
of the 3rd Colorado Cavalry,
stepped in
an' gave Southern haters hope.
He convened a second (secret) trial
that lasted just a little while
an' off ta' Ft. Leavenworth he sent the five.
The chosen troops
or guardians
came right back in a few days...
on a trip that should have lasted weeks.
Captain Cree and his troops
said the Rebs did try escaping.
They shot them down when they were on the run.
But their story had some holes,
some rather gaping,
the famous scout Dick Wooten
found the prisoners were killed for fun.
The cons were lashed ta' trees,
near a ghost town,
The bodies were shot ta' hell,
laden down with lead.
The order came from Chivington,
but the people had their doubts.
A fine upstanding officer,
even a Methodist minister.
"No," they said,
"He's not a man ta' fear."
But three months later
Chivington was responsible
for the infamous Sand Creek Massacre --
which changed the minds of many
over the earlier affair.
nothing was done.
Brother John stayed away
for seven long years.
He came back North
for the cash that he did stash.
But he tried ta' make another killing,
a few more robberies ta' be filling
his coffers up as high as they would go.
Til bullets finally found him,
he went like Brother Jim:
down ta' Hell ta' be reunited.
But they say as John lay dying
he told a drunk a secret:
he told him where ta' seek to an' fro.
But the piss-poor outlaw,
a fellow named Brown,
drank away his memory.
He never found the cache,
an' the legend was bound ta' grow.
So if ya' crave an' adventure,
an' ya' want ta' find some gold,
cruise up ta' Handcart Gulch an' Spanish Peaks.
There's a hefty treasure waiting,
though it might cost ya' yer' soul --
like it cost the Reynolds Gang,
an' those damned Yankees, don't ya' know.