Ex-urban Legend - a Ballad
Sing to the tune of any cowboy ballad. I always use Redheaded Stranger from Bluerock Montana, to make sure something works as a song
I saw an old cowboy who led a tired horse
alongside a rough sandhill track.
The horse had a stilted gait, just lightly lame
ewe-necked, a little sway-backed.
I pulled my truck 'long side, the window rolled down
and called out 'Hey friend! Need a ride?
'You can let the horse graze here. This pasture is mine.'
He smiled up, but didn't break stride.
'Oh, I'm doin' fine. But I thank you, I do.
I really can't leave her alone.
She's ornery and headstrong, and if I should go
when I come back, that mare'ud be gone.'
'Tie her reins to the stake side, and you just get in
There's no need you walk. I'll drive slow.
Now, now don't you argue. I need the company.
And we don't have that far now to go.'
'My stock shed is empty, but there's still some hay
I think there's some grain left as well.
I might have some fence work, if you're not engaged,
a day or two - more. Who can tell?'
You don't see old cowboys much these days - the kind
who wander - don't stay in one place.
I'd not seen a saddle tramp - how many years?
And he had an int'resting face.
Now real cowboys smile - not like Eastwood on screen
who squints fiercely baring his teeth.
The old cowboy's face was mahogany brown
When he smiled wide, that leather skin creased.
'Well if I could help out, you know, I'm happy to.
As it happens I'm lookin' for work.
I ain't too proud, ever, for dirt on my hands
I admit though - ain't much of a clerk.'
'I've broke horses, branded stock, stretched lots of wire
fixed windmills, tossed mountains of hay.
I've wintered in Wyoming line shacks, high plains
and brought the stock back roundup day.'
He laughed, 'Oh it's alright. I'm not on the run
just in between jobs. You get old
and some young buck's ramrod, and it's time to move on
after while, you don't need to be told.'
We poked along slow, though the old mare still groaned
and sighed, shook her head and complained.
And he talked about roundups and coyotes and bulls
and blizzards, and dust storms and wind.
And five miles of driving took more than an hour.
We arrived to the sun going down
I pulled up, glanced down, set the truck's parking break
looked up. And the cowboy was gone.
No reins on the stock sides, no horse tied behind.
the door hadn't opened or closed.
And maybe I'd chewed jimsun weed by mistake
or maybe I'd talked to a ghost.
And maybe old cowboys don't leave when they die
just stay on the range. Who can tell
But if I'd met a ghost - well, I just want to know
Was this heaven? Or was this his hell?
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