Western Poetry posted March 20, 2009

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The Prospector

by The Cowboy Poet

                       The Prospector

They stood at the bar, tall drinks in their hands,
   Those rowdies you meet every day.
Talking and laughing, both vulgar and loud,
   Three cowboys just blowing their pay.

The barroom had filled, and late was the night;
   The drinking and gambling was on.
It wasn't too hard to find a good fight
   If a man was looking for one.

The ne'er-do-wells that were mentioned before
   Had soon tired of drinking and jokes
And were looking about over the room
   For likelier game to provoke.

At the end of the bar, boot propped on a rail,
   A grizzled old prospector stood;
Fresh from the gold camps with an empty sack,
   Lady Luck had whipped him but good.

His clothes were all tattered and soiled clean through;
   His hat was all beaten and tore.
But if one looked close, his blue eyes were clear,
   And he packed two old forty-fours.

Pinned on his chest was a dull piece of tin
   That had been a badge at one time;
But it was quite clear that he wasn't the law
   Unless vaguely in his own mind.

"Old man," said one of the three standing by,
   "Those Colts are too much gun for you.
Let's make a swap; this belonged to my wife."
   A derringer he pulled from his shoe.

Well, knee slapping and guffaws quickly arose,
   And, urged on by others it grew
'Til all had soon gathered there at the bar
   To see what the old man might do.

"This here piece of tin, in shape of a star,
   You seem proud to wear on your chest.
'Rangers' it says. Well, now ain't you the one!"
   He turned round to laugh with the rest.

The harried old man had said not a word,
   But there smoldered a fire in his eyes;
And if you looked close, a blush burned his cheek
   That his white beard could never disguise.

"Maybe it's Wyatt Earp," said one loutish fool.
   "He's come from Dodge City, I bet;
Let's polish his badge and give it some shine;
  He'll clean up this town for us yet."

The first cowboy moved to reach for the star,
   But met with resistance instead.
The old man swept aside the fumbling hand;
   It was then that he lifted his head.

"No one takes my badge," he said eyes ablaze.
   "Better men have tried that before."
The cowboy stepped back, too shocked by the change
   In the look the old man now wore.

The room had grown quiet as death in the time
   It took for the exchange to occur;
The cowpoke by instinct reached down for his gun,
   And what happened then was a blur.

Like magic, the gun that the prospector wore
   Suddenly appeared in his hand,
From the muzzle's bore, three bullets fast sped;
   And deadly each one could have been.

The first spun the hat from the stunned cowboy's head;
   The second split the gun on his hip.
The third hit the hat still spinning in air,
   And a fist landed flush on his lips.

The quiet was deafening; the old man turned round,
   And then slowly he walked away.
The white horse he mounted wasn't a mule;
   "Hi yo, Silver," they heard him say.

"Who was that old man?" asked those standing round
   To the barkeep who seemed unsurprised.
"A man's worth," he said, "ain't based on his looks,
   But by the fire that burns in his eyes."

"He's much older now, but back in his prime,
   There weren't nobody quite near as fast;
He was called the Lone Ranger back years ago,
   But these days he don't wear the mask."


I loved those old B westerns years ago when I went to the movies on Saturday. Who doesn't know the Lone Ranger? Rhymeman, the cowboy poet.
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