A Ballad of the Brazos
 
[Willie Nelson's 'Redheaded Stranger' has a good ballad tune, which would fit this, or really, you can improvise a waltz-time tune for it very easily]


They snuck through a gully, a sandy arroyo.
They crept through the badlands concealed
well-screened by the poplars and green stream-bank willow
their route used the brush for a shield.

Then up from the gulch they emerged with cold steel
bold hijack - Winchester withdrawal.
The guard pulled his Greener. It didnít seem real.
The boy shot and he watched the guard fall.

A potterís field grave without marker, Iíll die so.
Unable to say my true name.
Iíll fall incognito. I know I must lie so.
I canít leave my mother such shame.


His horse jumped and panicked, the lunge broke the headstall.
Reins dropped, the horse bolted the scene.
While Sam braced the driver, and took down the payroll
as cold as a snake and as mean.

Theyíd planned it so neat, oh so quick and so clean
nobody gets hurt, no one dies.
Theyíd make it to Mexico, faces unseen
live in luxury spending their prize.

A potterís field grave without marker, Iíll lie so.
Unable to tell my true name.
Iíll stay incognito. I know I must die so.
I canít leave my family in shame.


Then Sam galloped up with despair in his eyes
threw a lariat on the boy's horse
ďDamn fool! Well I do hope that you realize
now theyíll hunt us and hang us or worse.Ē

ďThe town will all weep as they follow his hearse
and theyíll cry for our blood, for revenge.Ē
Sam spit on the mud and his eyes shot a curse.
The boy almost cried as he cringed.

Now potterís field grave without marker, Iíll die so.
Unable to speak my true name.
Iíll go incognito. I know I must lie so.
I canít leave my mother such shame.


Sam dropped the locked strongbox, and shot off each hinge
and dismounted, divided the loot.
ďWeíre quits now!Ē he said. ďIf I see you again
then I wonít say hello. Iíll just shoot!Ē

Sam mounted and kicked with the spur on his boot
and was gone in a gallop of hooves.
The boy stood alone, and he watched Sam leave, mute
stood there stunned still unable to move.

A potterís field grave! Then I saw it. Iíd lie so.
No marker to show my true name.
Iíll hang incognito. I knew I must die so.
I wonít leave my mother such shame.


A fugitive flight now, to ramble and rove
through the brush bound for Old Mexico
to avoid every house, every trail, every road
hide his face every place he might go.

With a posse behind him and tracking, he knows
that he canít light a fire. Heíll sleep cold.
Thereís a weight on his shoulders, his horse travels slow
over-burdened with guilt and with gold.

A potterís field grave! I could see I would die so.
No marker, no trace of my name.
Iíll rot incognito. I know I must lie so.
A grave of disgrace and of shame.


And he thinks he may never reach twenty years old
and heíll canít face his mother again.
HeĎs cursed with the murder, the gold that he stole
and he canít hide the stark mark of Cain.

He hides and he rides in the dusk and the rain
so borne down by the terrible weight
of the gold and Cainís mark on his soul, the guilt-stain
and he knows that he's made his own fate.

A potterís field grave! I deserve now to die so.
And Iíll never tell them my name.
Iíll hang incognito. I know I must lie so.
My mother must not learn my shame.


On the third day the horse had a hitch in his gait
one foot lame. The boy let the horse go
and continued on southward, at slow plodding rate
fifty miles still from old Mexico.

In the evening a blue norther started to blow
crystal flakes eddied out of the wind.
The first time in his life that the boy had seen snow
and he huddled and watched it descend.

So cold in the grave, and alone, I will lie so.
No marker to blazon my shame.
Iíll hang when they find me. I know I will die so.
They're forfeit, my life and my name.


They followed the trail through light snow, to its end
on the banks of the wide Rio Grande.
At a turn of the river, a thicketed bend
they boy lay, stolen gold close at hand.

The guard with the Greener rode first, in the van
with a bandage wrapped white round his head
and his hands tied together, in back rode Old Sam
when the guard said, ďToo bad, this oneís dead.Ē

So cold in the grave, are my bones, they will lie so.
Forever, no stone bears my name.
Alone by the river, and cold, and he died so.

But his mother did not learn my shame.

By tony parsons

© 2003 tony parsons (All rights reserved)

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