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Robert William Service

(16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston)

The Duel

In Pat Mahoney's booze bazaar the fun was fast and free,
And Ragtime Billy spanked the baby grand;
While caroling a saucy song was Montreal Maree,
With sozzled sourdoughs giving her a hand.
When suddenly erupting in the gay and gilded hall,
A stranger draped himself upon the bar;
As in a voice like bedrock grit he hollered: "Drinks for all,"
And casually lit a long cigar.

He bore a battered stetson on the grizzle of his dome,
And a bunch of inky whiskers on his jaw;
The suddenly I knew the guy - 'twas Black Moran from Nome.
A guinney like greased lightening on the draw.
But no one got his number in that wild and wooly throng,
As they hailed his invitation with eclaw,
And they crowded round the stranger, but I knew something was wrong.
When in there stomped the Sheriff, Red McGraw.

Now Red McGraw from Arkansaw was noted for his spunk;
He had a dozen notches on his gun;
And whether he was sober or whether he was drunk,
He kept the lousy outlaws on the run.
So now he shouts: "Say, boys, there's been a hold-up Hunker Way,
And by this poke I'm throwin' on the bar,
I bet I'll get the bastard braced before another day,
Or send him where a dozen others are."

He banged the bag of gold-dust on the bar for all to see,
When in a lazy drawl the stranger spoke:
"As I'm the man you're lookin' for an feelin' mighty free,
I reckon, Sheriff, I'll jest take yer poke.
It's pleasant meetin' you like this, an' talkin' man to man,
For all the North had heard o' Ref McGraw.
I'm glad to make ye eat yer words, since I am Black Moran,
An' no man livin' beats me on the draw."

And as they boldly bellied, each man's hand was on his rod,
Yet at that dreaded name the Sheriff knew
A single fumbling movement and he'd go to meet his God,
The which he had no great desire to do.
So there they stood like carven wood and hushed was every breath,
We watched them glaring, staring eye to eye;
But neither drew, for either knew a second split meant death -
And so a minute . . . two . . . three three went by.

The sweat pricked on the Sheriff's brow as suddenly he broke
And limp and weak he wilted to the floor;
And then the stranger's hand shot out and grabbed the heavy poke
As jeeringly he backed up to the door.
"Say, folks," he cried, "I'm off downstream; no more of me you'll see,
But let me state the job was pretty raw. . . .
The guy that staged the robbery he thought to pin on me
Was your bastard Sheriff, Red McGraw."

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003
Edited: Friday, September 16, 2011

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