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Turning Point

Leather-Bound Friendships
April 19, 2022
Teachin’ Without Words
May 3, 2022

Turning Point

During that ugly War Between The States
Growin' up without a father as I did,
Seein's Pa was off shootin’ brothers,
I'd just run loose; a wild, angry kid

Ma did all what she could but
She had five of us to raise up right
Tryin' to teach us manners and to not cuss
Lord but we gave her a fright

Sonny Bridger was two years older
He'd conjured himself up some bluster
And proud-swaggered some on bein' tough
Makin' me dream of bein' more'n a sodbuster

One day he come ‘round to noticin' me
Shapin' me up to feel important too
The more time I spent with him
The more status I was startin’ to accrue

The Yankees had whupped us down bad
Pa finally came home home grave defeated
He was a changed, brooding man for sure
All five of us and Ma got poorly mistreated

Somewhere long 'bout that time
Struttin’ Sonny turned nineteen
Showed up one day with a six-shooter
That he could slick out real clean

Peach fuzz sproutin' on my lip and chin
Bad yearnin' a deeper voice and man-up test
I stole our family's only ridin' horse
To follow Sonny when he went west

We first found trouble in Kansas
And got ourselves tossed in jail
Spent thirty hard days behind those bars
Seein's as to no-way could we make bail

That's where we first met big Malo
He was a good ten years older
And had been up the river a bunch
Proud showin' a gunshot scar on his shoulder

He bragged of fetchin’ adventure-stories
And how he'd run from all the law
In so many risky, exciting exploits
Speakin’ of a gold stash, leavin’ me in awe

He was planning a big bank job
For an easy mark in the next county
But he needed a couple of slick hands
To share in the rush and all the bounty

He treated me with real respect
Talked to me like an equal man
Said he could see I had me some grit
Swearin' I'd get rich if with him I ran

When we hit that bank in Cherry Creek
It didn't go nuthin' like he'd said
Rather than handin' over the cash
That teller gut-shot Sonny instead

Malo and I lit us a shuck
Leavin' Sonny to fend alone
I felt a guilty, no-good coward for
Abandoning him in’a bloody moan

We raced across the dry Prairie
Bein’ chased by lead was not in the plan
Malo was firin’ back over his shoulder
My Colt was out but I'd never shot at a man

Somehow we gave ‘em the slip
Findin’ a cave to hide the night
Malo cocky-talkin', big-man proud
While I was worryin' my desperate plight

Here I was a runnin' desperado
Hidin' in a cold, hungry, damp cave
Future lookin' nothin' but bleak
Admittin' I weren't even close to man-brave

I took the sad, sorry stock of myself
Havin' nothin' but a stolen saddle and horse
A blowhard companion without any scruples
And an old hand-me-down hogleg of course

In the morning I'd face the music
I'd go back to that town and fess-up
See if Sonny had made it alive
And take what was comin' in my cup

Figured I'd face some rated jail time
Maybe even pull a stretch in the pen
But I was not even eighteen yet
When I got out, I'd start over then

I'd get a real job, workin' at whatever I could
"Whatever it takes", I prayed, "God, make me whole
So's I can send Ma the first money I'd make"
More'n she'd need to replace the horse I stole

My young heart was shown a turning point
I'd blindly pursued life as a worthless bum
I'd made a lot of mistakes in my story
But turnin' straight wouldn't be one of 'em

 by Rik Goodell

© 2022. All rights reserved

 I am grateful to David Graham once again, for his allowing me to post his beautiful western art alongside mine. If you do a search here on my website for "The Fencin' Crew" and "The Cowboy Way" or "Handles and Horse Thieves", among others, you'll see other paintings of his that have inspired my poetry.

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


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