Lynn W. Petty
Ballad Of Bodie - Poem by Lynn W. Petty
Great were my hopes when we set for Bodie,
Mary and Amy both sat beside me.
Spring of the year we all said our farewell,
Seeking our fortune, it all seemed so well.
Folks stood by crying, both waving goodbye,
Hoping to see us before they should die.
Home in the distance, we turned a last look,
Over the hill was a right turn we took.
Right turn to Bodie, was "Bodie or Bust"
High was my fever, my blood was gold dust.
Mary said nothing with tears in her eyes,
Clutching the baby she sobbed heavy sighs.
Yaaa! I cried out to our old faithful horse,
Satan, our guide, headed west as our course.
Days into weeks, into months time had turned,
Hardships endured for the gold that I yearned.
Asked a lone rider who came from Mono.
"Far to ol' Bodie? " "Just ten miles to go."
Last of the trip seemed the hardest of all,
Amy was sick and the season was fall.
There was ol' Bodie, a jewel on the hill
Luring me onward, new dreams to fulfill.
She like a siren kept calling my name.
That moment on it was never the same.
Noise and the clamor of man and machine,
Bar after bar in a row could be seen.
Asked of my Mary, "Now, what do you say? "
Reaching her bible she said, "Our doom's day."
Went to the livery, I asked for the way,
Place to bed down for the night and some hay.
Asked of the man how I stake my own claim.
Looked at me strange like, not asking my name.
Slept in the wagon, the night air was cold.
Fear had gripped Mary, I saw only gold.
Amy was coughing, she kept us awake,
"Help us, " prayed Mary, "for Amy's sweet sake."
Asked for a job and a cabin to stay.
Gave me a shack and a miner's poor pay.
Down the dark shaft everyday I would climb,
Dreaming of riches but earning a dime.
Out of the north screamed the winter's cold air.
Mary, my wife, then fell deep in despair.
Took to the drink and the barroom's delight,
Spending my wage in a brothel each night.
Hell is a place for the evil that die.
Bodie's that place under winter's cruel sky.
Temperature dropped down to forty below.
Freeze in your tracks by the wind's cutting blow.
Baby turned worse, our dear Amy did die.
Mary said nothing, not even to cry.
Hatred for Bodie was deep in her heart,
Farther and farther it drove us apart.
Climbed the low hill and put Amy to rest,
There in the graveyard on Bodie's southwest.
Church bells did ring for each year of her life,
Ringing three times, which then ended her strife.
Deep from her bosom, did Mary cry out.
"Damn you, your gold and this place, " she did shout.
Fell to my knees and I begged she forgive.
"How can I right what I've done or relive? "
In the small chair by the window she'd stare,
Out towards the graveyard through winter's cold glare.
Spring was upon us and still she was there.
Color was paler with gray in her hair.
"Blast it all, woman, " I cried in disgust.
"Amy is dead but our life is a must."
Rose from her chair her brown eyes were ablaze,
"Murdered by girl." I had turned from her gaze.
Fell to the floor, she was trembly and white.
Lifted her up and pulled down the lamplight.
Head in my arms she did say this to me,
"Curse you, God keep you, from leaving Bodie."
Into a pine box we placed my Mary.
Bell in the steeple then struck twenty-three.
Up in the graveyard now under the sod,
She is with Amy and both are with God.
Tried and I tried but I failed to leave town.
Once took a stage but was forced to step down.
Needed my job just to pay for my sin,
Needed my wage for my bottle of gin.
Hard were the years that that curse worked on me.
Ten by the count till I passed in ought three.
Victim of winter its cold frigid hand.
Froze in my bed, was too drunken to stand.
Came here with nothing and nothing to leave.
No one to care, not a person to grieve.
Death was to Bodie just part of life's way.
Who was to care with a killing each day?
Up to the graveyard the team drew my hearse.
"Hurry up, Preacher, say only one verse."
Driver was freezing and damning the snow.
"Bless him, Dear Jesus, forgive him. Let's go! "
Life is now over, it's done and it's spent.
Wooden gravemarker, is that all it meant?
Sorrows, my joys, and my tears are they lost?
Being forgotten is that what it cost?
Who's to remember that I was a man,
Lived and I loved just like everyone can?
All that is gone, now, the way of the night
All that is left is my nameless gravesite.
Once I felt cheated by death and my fate,
Doomed to be taken not quite thirty-eight.
What does it matter what life can demand?
What does it matter? I lie where you stand.
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