parallax background

A Starpacker’s Lot

Chuck Wagon Home
February 22, 2022
Grace Of The Draw
March 8, 2022


My wife is curious, observant, deductive and can be suspicious. These traits have served her well in her professional life and have sometimes helped my awareness of potential danger. Upon seeing a ratty car filled with punks, or hoods loitering on a corner, she is inclined to say, "There's trouble!". She'd have made a good detective.


Lt. Col. David Grossman is a retired U.S. Army Ranger who has written extensively on the psychological aspects of what I'll call, if I may, "Warriorism" (that's my made-up word not his). He describes three categories of people: wolves, sheep and sheepdogs. In my life experience, which includes more than ten years in uniform either in the military or law enforcement, I have found Lt. Col. Grossman's characterization to be spot on.


A good lawman, regardless of the era, must be a sheepdog. He instinctively "smells" the wolf and is inexorably pulled to its challenge. He is naturally drawn to monitor, defend and cover the sheep. He will run towards peril or high danger and is gut-check compelled to protect the herd or the individual. He shouldn't take any credit for this bent. This is not a heroic choice or a brave decision. His behavior is genetically scripted in his DNA by the God who created him for these tasks.

A Starpacker’s Lot

It was late afternoon by the time
Sheriff Seth rode back into town
He was watering his horse at the trough
When a familiar itch made him frown

His neck hairs were bristling
A sixth sense that served him well
He knew better than to ignore it
It was his personal trouble-tell

His cross-draw rig at the ready
Reins held calmly in his shooting hand
That was casually inching towards his gun
This salty law-dog had some sand

Shifting slowly to not draw attention
He raised his head to have a look-see
What was making his neck crawl
There it was; trouble times three

The horseback hombres were strangers
Seth knew most folks in his county
But these three he'd never seen
All had the look of packing a bounty

Their focused study on the bank
They weren’t even trying to hide
Each of them was on a mount
That was a better-than-average ride

The three continued west at a walk
Seth knew where they’d be en route
Dismounting, they swaggered to the saloon
One kicking open the bat-wings with his boot

Seth exhaled a weary sigh
He'd just ridden nearly thirty miles
He wanted a bath, a meal and sleep
Was he getting too old for these trials?

He had a couple hundred acres
With good water out west of town
Maybe he oughta' retire
Raise some cattle and settle down

True though that might be
He was still drawing county pay
So he knew he had it to do
Might's well get to it, come what may

Gus was tinkling on the ivories
Along with the raucous laughter
All sounded normal enough
Oblivious to what Seth was after

The trio was bellied to the bar
Hurrying down rye whiskey
Men were gambling their wages
The soiled doves being usual frisky

He approached the riders behind
And called out to the troublesome trio
Grey-coat swung 'round fast
Gripping the bottle for a deathblow

Seth didn't react consciously
But his nature and experience kicked-in
He dropped bottle-man where he stood
With a vicious boot to the shin

Before his boot made contact
He'd slicked-out his forty-four
The middle man was coming at him
But Seth barrel-whacked him to the floor

Number three stood frozen, drink-in-hand
Bug-eyed staring down Seth's barrel
This last hombre mighta' been the smartest
Wisely yielding to imminent peril

"Johnny, Abe, gather up their hog-legs
Get these no-accounts to a cell
With the finest accommodation
At our renowned Graybar Hotel"

At Homer's tonsorial parlor
Seth got his shave and bath
Then grabbed near six hours sleep
Lawin' just seemed to be his path

No way was he ready to retire
His swan song was yet to be sung
He got too way too much pleasure
Locking up worthless, human dung

Maybe he’d serve just one more year
Of putting the lawless away
Seth didn’t know when he’d retire
He just knew it wouldn’t be today

by Rik Goodell

© 2022. All rights reserved

I appreciate the generosity of the Price family
in agreeing to allow me to post a copy of
this painting alongside my work.

See more of this artist's work at


error: Alert: Content is protected !!