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Bringin’ In Bert

Velvet, Sugar n’ Spice
January 20, 2023
Sendin’ Cooper Home
February 8, 2023

Early in my law enforcement career, as a rookie deputy sheriff, I was required to put in some time working ‘custody’ in the county jail.  Ironically, I have a fear of imprisonment (Google says this phobia actually has a name, “carceraphobia”, so I must not be the only one). Therefore you might imagine my amazement in learning that there actually was a segment of the incarcerated population that truly wanted to be there. Those inmates genuinely saw the jail as their sanctuary, their home. When they were released at the end of their sentence, some just did whatever it took to be sent back “home”. Jail provided meals and shelter, medical care and a familiar warm place, often even including some best friends. I got quite the eye-opening education in that institution, stumbling my way towards awareness in my twenties.

Bringin’ In Bert

Bert Willard was a familiar legend
Known throughout the entire west
But not the common good-guy type
He was wanted in six states for arrest

Nope, Bert was a notorious outlaw
Of the elusive, slipperiest kind
He'd been hunted more'n two decades
For the crafty crimes he had designed

Lawmen from Montana to Texas
And from Kansas and Arizona too
Had worn out many a good horse
Tryin' to bring in Bert for his due

Not only was he a bank robber
But a horse thievin' scoundrel as well
They caught him once and locked him up
But there were loose bars on that cell

There was a rumor he'd gone to Alaska
But I didn''t buy that silly ruse
I’d studied all I could on him
Too far north for ol’ Bert to choose

I was an appointed U.S. Marshal
I felt like I knew him pretty well
Been chasin’ after him a long time
I’d studied his habits and knew of his tell

Before he'd rob a bank in any town
He'd always first open an account
Was his way of gettin’ the lay of things
Takin’ in the scene - gettin’ a head count

One habit was using an alias that
Was ‘bout like a dangling carrot
He’d use a known lawman's name
Often none other than Pat Garrett

Over in the cattle town of Miles City
Where a small Montana bank was hit
It had the earmarks of Willard for sure
All of the pieces sure seemed to fit

He had a weakness for the ladies
And a soft spot for fine horse flesh too
Bert'd been ridin’ an appalosa
Who, when last seen, had thrown a shoe

The First National Bank in Cheyenne
Was robbed one Friday as banking was through
The robber was seen galloping away
On a leopard appy missin' a shoe

Sure enough an account had been opened
By a stranger just the week before
No surprise, under the name of Masterson
These were clues I could not ignore

He was lucky the appy didn’t go lame
Ridin' all those miles missin’ a shoe
Strange knowin’ he loved his horse so much
Not shoein' him but leavin' me a clue

He'd given me the slip so much
It was too easy when I caught him
He didn't put up much of a fight
Bert was played-out, his way goin’ dim

Sippin’ black coffee round a campfire
On our long way back to county jail
He confessed he'd left that shoe off
So's to leave me an obvious trail

Bert confided he was old and tired
And after one helluva long run
He needed a regular bed and meal
His outlawin' days were all done

Then Bert up and tells me plain
As I was heatin' up his cup
He was hopin to get caught by me
It's how he wanted it all to end up

He said he'd been sought by many starpackers
During his days a'runnin’ free
But none had made him use his wits so
Bert claimed it was fun bein’ pursued by me

by Rik Goodell
© 2023 All rights reserved

This excellent, story-telling painting is by Jack Sorenson. I am grateful for his permission to post his provocative art here alongside my poem.

To see more of his work, go to his website:

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