My head lolled as I rode through sun-baked land,
too parched to notice the vistas grand,
Southern Nevada had cursed me with thirst,
a kind that most people will never know.
It had been two days since I law saw a stream,
and it was a trickle, nothing that teemed,
but to try my luck in western gold fields
to fair California I had to go.
By an angry red ridge I saw a guy,
in the shade of a boulder he did lie,
with blistered, burned skin from wrist to elbow,
so ragged I thought him nearing death.
I myself did not feel too much better,
what man ever could in desert weather,
plus my canteen was only a third full,
my mouth so dry that it hurt to draw breath.
Dare I stop to help this ill-fated soul?
That I even asked this made me go cold,
what good person could do anything less?
So I rode my tired paint to his side.
He looked up with eyes blood-shot from the dust,
said, "Just keep going. I am all used up."
He had not the strength to stop me when next
I hoisted him right up so we could ride.
He was so worn that he could barely sit,
clung to the horse, I feared he'd fall from it,
a miracle he'd not already died,
another if we made it out of here.
I gave him water, but he barely drank,
from his cracked lips muttered a quiet, "Thanks."
I checked often to make sre he still lived,
it was a way to quiet my own fears.
But two men is a big strain on a horse,
he was sweating much more, blowing breath coarse,
and still the high Sierras were not near,
I did not know how we would get to them.
To my horse what water I had I gave,
without him, not one of us would be saved,
I drifted, half-sleeping through the cool night,
we were both desperate and dying men.
When I awoke I lay on desert rock,
from the sky it looked to be six o'clock,
and entire night had escaped me then,
I looked, franticac, but then I found my mount.
The man I rescued had my canteen,
my tired eyes saw him clearly drinking,
he filled it again from a tiny brook,
then brought it too me and set it right down.
Said, "I think this is where we have to part ways,
you'll make the Sierras in one more day."
Then he walked off across the arid ground,
an hour later I took to the trail.
And he had been right about those great hills,
plenty of streams, and I could drink my fill,
then found a small town and asked where I might
find the gold country, but to no avail.
They said the diggings had all been tapped out,
ain't no way a man could strike it rich now,
but there was work for men, hearty and hale,
had I ever thought of wearing a star?
It's not the sort of job I had ever done,
but I'd know where my next meal would come from,
so I took the post and walked the small town,
keeping order in the brothels and bars.
Five years had passed and word was going round,
the Bilmer Gang was targeting small towns,
they were hitting every bank, near and far,
three deputies had been sent to the grave.
Word came they were spotted near my small ville,
I knew stopping them meant having to kill,
so I put together a town posse,
sweetened the pot for them with extra pay.
And as sure as the sun, the bandits did strike,
but things didn't go exactly as they liked,
they found the townsfolk just wouldn't behave,
were raked by shot as we opened fire.
One-by-one they fell, in a blaze of lead,
until all but one of them did lay dead,
he locked himself up in the livery barn,
so I climbed up to the hayloft higher.
I leapt down and landed behind my foe,
our guns came up, and soon death one would know,
I did not forsee what would next transpire,
I stared at the same man from the desert.
The bandit looked just as shocked as I was,
we both stood with guns steady, and dropped jaws,
I could not believe fate had brought me here,
of all the men to face here on this Earth…
Angry shouts went up from around the place,
the man heard and knew there was no escape,
to them he was a villain of no worth,
but then he said, "I will not go to jail."
He looked to his gun, all ready to shoot,
so I squeezed my Colt, rendered it all moot,
the slug struck hard, and he fell to the ground,
and just lay there, didn't cry out or flail.
I looked over and I saw him smile,
it faded to death in a short while,
I them realized his gun-hand hadn't failed,
he'd just given me an excuse to act.
Rather then go out with gunfire rife,
he'd instead thanked me for saving his life
by making no move to rob me of mine,
his final moments a gracious payback.
The townsfolk sent up a thunderous cheer,
but I couldn't join in, it all felt weird…
That a brigand would show such awesome tact
was a thing that truly beggared belief.
That such a man would freely choose to die,
instead of making one last chance to fly,
I guess the old proverb is partially true,
there was some honor left within that thief.
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.I would like to translate this poem