Blazing campfire, blistering hot sun, blasting shotgun, blaring six-shooter.
Brown and battered leather saddles chasing down stampeding cattle.
Thunder claps, brown stained chaps, neckerchief flaps
And shooting craps at tables in saloons,
And barroom spittoons and girls in pantaloons in upper rooms. Broncobusters in long gray dusters
Or the dead dog soldiers of Custer’s.
Whiskey neat, blood in the street, mesquite and tumbleweed.
Branding irons and shooting irons, muddy boots, old chuck wagon coots.
Wagon wheels busted by prairie stones among the bison bones.
High plains weather.
An angry Indian feather unsettling settlers.
Showboat gamblers, prospector mules and gold mining fools
And the hard-biscuit batter.
The camp-following slattern at the garrison.
Pony express horses in a lather.
The cardsharp hustle, schoolmarm in a bustle, the songs of Tom Russell.
Sheriff stars and hangman noose,
Elk and bear and wolf and moose,
The Indian maid and her papoose, teepee and wigwam and wampum and Geronomo.
Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane, the flowing wild mustang’s mane. Cash box on a stage, John Wesley Hardin’s rage, Purple Riders of the Sage.
Mountain passes in the Rockies; the Danner party eating flesh on crockery.
Barbwire fences along the livestock route, vigilantes with a shout burning The farmers out and Tom Horn, hero-turned-villain, hung for juvenile killin’ In the pay of the ranches.
The branches of the river, the dry desert shimmer, the cold winter shiver.
Range war in Wyoming, oil gushers in Texas, old Corrals in Kansas, Banditos in New Mexico, snow in Montana, rodeo in Colorado,
Dry gulches in Idaho, boot hills in Arizona, prairie grass in Nebraska
And the plains of Iowa. And everything’s okay in Oklahoma.
And all the rest of my childhood myth of the old Wild West.