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He Was Accidentally Shot on the Banks of the Pacus River

"During the years 1865 until 1875 every man who drove on the famous Chisholm, Goodnight and Loving Trails was in danger of losing his cattle and having his 'hair lifted' besides. Nevertheless, they drove, some recklessly, others cautiously, and month by month the trails broadened and deepened.

All along the Goodnight and Loving Trail were graves, now in forgotten places and holding forgotten men. W. H. Boyd, veteran of the drive of 1867, recalls many fresh mounds, that 'had never been rained upon.' Astraddle of one near Fort Phantom Hill was a brand new cowboy's saddle, both shelter and marker for the owner who slept beneath.

Sometimes the trail hands erected stones and scratched inscriptions thereon, hardly literary but often unique. In 1854, the San Diego Herald bore witness to the death of a young man on the trail, perhaps a cowboy driving a herd to the gold fields, and the epitaph was copied in Texas:

Here lies the body of Jeems Hambrick
who was accidentally shot
on the banks of the pacus river
by a young man
he was accidentally shot with one of the large
colt's revolver with no stopper for the cock to rest on
it was one of the old fashion kind
brass mounted and of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Years afterward, a trail outfit engaged in a battle with Indians near the present site of Roswell, so the story still runs, in which another cowboy was killed. He was buried beside the Goodnight Trail, and the cow-camp poet, deficient in Biblical allusion, arranged a couplet to be carved in sandstone so that all who passed might read that:

He was young, and brave, and fair
But the Indians raised his hair. 

There is tragedy and yet something bravely and buoyantly significant in the fact that rather than their names and deaths, tradition commemorates their levity."

Source:
Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman, by J. Evetts Haley, 1949, University of Oklahoma Press, accessed 7 November 2011


for
Bill West's 3rd Annual Great Genealogy Poetry Challenge at West in New England.

Comments

Bill West said…
Western poems, even epitaphs, were so
distinctive in their humor from those written in the East! Thanks for taking part in the Challenge, Judith!
Yes, Bill, they are so very different. Sometimes when I am reading the poems and songs of the New England states or even of the area around the Great Lakes, I find that they feel so foreign to me. I wonder how that could be!

I enjoyed the Challenge. Thank you for hosting it every year.

Judy

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