parallax background

Mellowed By Time

Cowboys and Wimmenfolk
December 14, 2022
Cowboy Poultry
December 24, 2022

Each of us grows a story as we live, thriving in the summits, weathering the inevitable storms, while generally pressing on. If it weren't impolite to stare, I believe we could read, interpret maybe, a hefty chunk of a stranger's story by studying his or her face. A face, especially one with some significant miles on it, has eyes set in paragraphs of lines, projecting the underlying trials it has endured and lessons it has earned. It should come as no surprise then that I don't write much about twenty year olds. They rarely have much yet to say.

Mellowed By Time

Just how old he actually was
He couldn't remember sure anymore
He calculated somewhere around seventy
His bones were tired and his heart was sore

They were calling it the Civil War
After that bloody waste of lives
How strange to call it a "civil" war 
Considerin' the bloodshed and widowed wives

After returning to his home in ruins
He headed west outta' Tennessee
He had endured so much pain and horror
His heart demanded to just go be free

His given name'd been Matthew O'Neil
His family came over in forty-eight
A direct result of the potato famine
Driftin' farther west now seemed his fate

Hoping to start his blighted life anew
And to avoid the Irish aversion
He quickly dropped the Irish "O'Neil"
Becoming Matt West in his conversion

In hindsight it might sound courageous
Leaving all of his world behind
But the actual truth of the matter is
Returning home, nothing'd been left to find

Matthew drifted along through Kansas
Moppin’ floors and carpenterin’ there
He was an angry man lashing out
Convinced his life was anything but fair

Eighteen sixty-seven found him in Texas
Arriving with his new sidekick, Shaugn
They'd worked hard to erase Irish accents
But he continued  morose and withdrawn

They began to work with vaqueros
Learnin’ cowboy skills ridin’ and ropin'
Matt and Shaughn were gathering wild strays
To build their own herd too they were hopin'

They signed with an outfit to push cattle
North to the far rails in Abilene
Adding their own sixty head to the herd
Learnin' to live off beans and caffeine

That was the first of many drives
In '74 they pushed two thousand head
All the way north to Montana 
He'd lost Shaughnie crossing the Red

He married Maria in '76
A Mexican beauty from San Antone
They had five children altogether
Two now remembered by a gravestone

Their ranch of thousands of acres
Spread out across the Big Bend
They'd fought drought, renegades and disasters
Amongst encounters they'd come to contend

He'd grown old with tragedies
Along with a passle of wins sprinkled in
He preferred not reflectin' too much
On his past, the places where he'd been

He was ever happiest on the trail
It's where his enduring sadness got lost
He'd built himself a fine small empire
But at a pain-wracked, sometimes too-high cost

Mr. West, as some now called him,
Mellowed over the years through reasons
His short-fuse anger long replaced now
By contented understandin' of seasons

Matthew had always known Jesus
Prayer and faith were how he’d survived
Pain and kindness sighin' from his pale blue eyes
He’d grown in wisdom; at peace he'd arrived

Matthew knew the trails and the way
He could still buckaroo with best
He'd come to be an authentic man
It's what happened to him on his way west

by Rik Goodell
© 2022. All rights reserved

Thank you Gregory Mayse for permission to post another of your excellent, painted stories here alongside the poem it inspired.

To see more of Mr. Mayse's work, visit his website:

error: Alert: Content is protected !!