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Risk and Reward

Respect and Reward
June 14, 2023
“Pipes”, A Picker
July 16, 2023

Risk and Reward

I was still a good hour away
Heading home from a two-month drive
When I heard a distant gunshot
From over west, towards the Rafter 5

There'd been some talk of trouble
Of bandits maraudin' from over east
I wondered if folks might need some help
I should probably check it out at least

But perhaps someone just shot dinner
Was my second thought come to mind
Gettin' home to Mom and Dad
Was actually how I was more inclined

Just as I was turnin’ homeward
There came gunshots like rollin' thunder
Well that weren't no dinner hunt
Something was clearly bein' torn asunder

I wheeled my gelding west
Gallopin' hard off towards the fray
Heart poundin', questionin' wisdom
God help me and my friends I pray

There are moments in life it seems,
Seemingly fractional flashes of fate,
When a choice we make alters the future
Makin' us vulnerable to what might await

My thoughts were seasoned by fear and duty
As I galloped off through the night
Towards who-knows-what destiny
Anxious but committed to whatever plight

I could see muzzle flashes
Blastin' gunfire from south and north
My attention was distracted
As from my left a body burst forth

He knocked me clean outta’ my saddle
Landin' me hard on the rocky ground
Moonlight showin' on his young face and mine
We stopped strugglin’, not makin' a sound

It was the Peabody lad on top of me
He quickly recognized me too
I whispered, "What's goin' on?"
"They're kidnappin' my sister, Sue!"

That made my heart leap wild
I had big plans for me and Sue
Weren't no one takin' her away
S'long as there was anything I could do

I asked him how many there were
He wasn't sure, three, maybe four
"How many on our side then?"
"Just me, Pa and you, no more"

"I'll sneak around behind
Seein's they don't know I'm here
Maybe I can fetch Sue away
And get her in the clear"

I found Sue tied to a saddle horn
On a horse that was picketed to a tree
I slashed that lead rope with my blade
Then cut Sue's wrist-ropes free

She leapt to my arms from that horse
Nearly knocking me to the ground
I hugged her back sayin', "Go, go, go!"
As behind me I heard a sound

I heard her gallopin' away
As I spun to face the noise
Two Winchesters were belly-proddin' me
I raised my hands sayin', "Whoa, easy boys!"

I weren't no gunhand, not fast on the draw
With two gapin’ barrels pokin’ at me
I was wrackin’ for what I could do
When two Peabody's stepped out from a tree

They barrel-whacked them 'no-goods'
Sendin' ‘em both to the ground
I turned in the direction Sue had gone
As I heard a horse comin'-near sound

She flew at me from her horse
Nearly knockin' me over again
"Mr. Peabody I want to marry Sue
May I count on your blessing then?"

Two days later when we hitched up
The parson said, "Kiss your bride and rejoice"
I smiled at my fateful, join-the-fray action
Boy Howdy, it had sure been the right choice!

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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