We all have a story pointing us towards our behaviors. Among the male half of the population that story is classically held pretty close to the chest. The sinews binding events in our lives are often painful or embarrassing. Women are much better at sharing their stories. Doing so is healthy. The stuff we keep bottled up can gnaw us into an early grave.
Just Another Cowboy
No one seemed to know for sure
When Del had come to the Circle O
His past remained a mystery
He never mentioned his long ago
From his first week on the ranch they say
He'd measured up a good hand
Stayed to himself, kind'a quiet
But when called for, he showed sand
He steady moved up in rank
As seasons came and went
Servin' as head wrangler for a time
Then, as segundo, some time was spent
They made him the top ramrod
His fourth time pushin' horns up the trail
Upon returning he found out
The whole dang ranch was up for sale
The new owner had just made Del forman
Seein's the last one had moved on
When a south-of-the-border drifter showed
A hard case by the name of Juan
"Hola Señor, I'm looking for a job
You'll find me a very good vaquero
You need another rider?
I sure could use the dinero"
But Del had refused him work
Maybe it was Juan's tied down Colt
That didn't set up just right
Anyway, somethin' gave Del a jolt
"Hombre, I can see you are short handed
But you won't give me a job?
Maybe you don't like me cuz I'm Mex eh?
Or hey, maybe you're afraid I would rob"
"Si, maybe I just take your money
Since you won't help me Señor
I think you should hire me right now or
I will be forced to give you what-for"
"You've had too much tequila Juan
Go on, sleep it off somewhere"
But Juan didn't spur his mount
He just challenged Del with a surly stare
Del wasn't packing a short gun but
His carbine was scabbard-ready nearby
Hanging with the saddle on his mare
If Juan slapped iron, he'd run to it and try
And slap iron Juan shore 'nuff did
While still mounted astride his horse
Which shied a bit in the commotion
Sending lead flyin' wildly off course
Del was dashing for his saddle
When a bullet took the heel off his boot
He lunged for the Winchester
Hoping to just snatch and speed-shoot
His steady paint stood her ground
With hot lead a'flyin' all around her
Del quick-slicked out his carbine
Whence he shot in an unbound blur
Del must'a been all prayed up that day
And God must'a been overtime on the job
That bullet caught Juan under his chin
And shucked him clean off that cob
Years later when Del was 'bout eighty
He and I were jawin' some 'round a fire
I mentioned how that fast-flyin' shot
Was still somethin' to recall and admire
A window in time opened briefly
Del's guard dropped into reminiscin'
He said he'd been a Texas Ranger once
He'd been given an unwarranted dismissin'
He'd just started to tell me why
When that window up'n slammed shut
His face showed a grimacin' memory
I withdrew, fearin' I'd kicked his gut
Seeing my guilty, regretting pull-back
Del faced me square and said,
"Oh you didn't poke me any Pard,
Some images just cain't be shed"
"None of us can reach a ripe old age
'Thout dodgin' some times that've been messed
Good news is the Lord forgives
Sendin' 'em back east, far outta the west"
by Rik Goodell
© 2022. All rights reserved
I am grateful to David Graham for his allowing me, one more time, to post his skilled, western art alongside mine. If you do a search here on my website for "The Fencin' Crew" and "Teachin' Without Words" or "Handles and Horse Thieves", among many others, you'll find more paintings of his that have inspired my poetry.
To see all of his work, go to his website: https://www.davidgrahamart.com/