This month we present cowboy poetry by Ron Soodalter...Garrett
We was never the friends all the stories made out,
Though I'd stand him a drink now and then.
But I guess when you come to shoot a man dead -
Or a boy who carried a price on his head -
It just ain't enough for some men.
So the stories get told of the Kid, brave and bold,
And the mean-hearted way that he fell.
But just give me a chance to put it a-right,
And I'll tell you what happened in Sumner that night,
When I sent Billy's spirit to Hell.
Now, Billy had already killed two of mine,
Gave 'em no chance at all for a play.
He pistoled Jim Bell, comin' back from the loo,
Then he shotgunned Bob Olinger, cut him in two,
And he laughed as he cantered away.
I'd already captured the Kid once before,
Took the trouble to take him alive.
But I knew as I packed for the hunt once again,
And I swabbed out my guns and selected my men,
That this time he wouldn't survive.
We was three of us rode into Sumner that night,
And I knew where to look for the Kid.
He was sweet on Paulita, with her long raven hair,
Pete Maxwell's kid sister, both comely and fair,
It was soft in her bed that he hid.
We tied up our horses and walked to Pete's house -
There was Poe and McKinney and me.
I ordered them both to keep watch from the stair;
And went into Pete's bedroom, and sat on a chair,
So dark I barely could see.
As I woke up Old Pete, I heard a voice bark,
"Quien es? Who the devil are you?"
"We're just cattle-buyers," I heard Poe reply.
I recall that his voice sounded shaky and high,
As the Kid backed away from the two.
He backed down the porch till he stood in Pete's door,
With a long carving knife in his hand,
No shirt was he wearing, no shoes on his feet,
"Quien es?" his voice trembled. "Who are
those boys, Pete?"
And 'twas then that I made my stand.
I fired a round at his skinny white chest,
Then I fired again at the Kid,
And as he was falling, I ran for the door,
Fair blinded and deaf from my own forty-four,
Only guessing the damage I did.
"I got him!" I shouted, "I just shot the Kid!"
And folks started gathering 'round,
As deep in my belly I bent to a cramp,
While McKinney and Poe lit a kerosene lamp,
And there was the Kid on the ground.
My first shot had taken him flush in the chest,
Christ knows where the second one ran.
He'd died fairly quick, just a groan and no more,
Lyin' flat on his back on Old Pete's bedroom floor,
Lookin' more like a boy than a man.
I was sick to my stomach, and shook like a leaf,
With the shock of the deed that I did.
My ears were still ringing, as distant and dim,
McKinney was shouting, "Are you sure it was him?"
But I knew that I'd ended the Kid.
I recall that I thought, as we rode out of town,
Things were finally going all right.
But I never did reckon that people would say
How I murdered my friend in a cowardly way,
Shot him down like a dog in the night.
So sing your sad ballads of Billy the Kid,
And grieve at his early demise.
But know that the bastard was no Robin Hood,
And that he did a crapload more evil than good,
And everything else is just lies.
Ron Soodalter, Author of The Slave Next Door
and Hanging Captain Gordonronsoo@mindspring.com