The Pike County Ballads.
Jim Bludso, of the Prairie Belle.
Wall, no! I can’t tell whar he lives,
Becase he don’t live, you see;
Leastways, he’s got out of the habit
Of livin’ like you and me.
Whar have you been for the last three year
That you haven’t heard folks tell
How Jimmy Bludso passed in his checks
The night of the Prairie Belle?
He weren’t no saint,—them engineers
Is all pretty much alike,
One wife in Natchez-under-the-Hill
And another one here, in Pike;
A keerless man in his talk was Jim,
And an awkward hand in a row,
But he never flunked, and he never lied,—
I reckon he never knowed how.
And this was all the religion he had,—
To treat his engine well;
Never be passed on the river
To mind the pilot’s bell;
And if ever the Prairie Belle took fire,—
A thousand times he swore,
He’d hold her nozzle agin the bank
Till the last soul got ashore.
All boats has their day on the Mississip,
And her day come at last,
The Movastar was a better boat,
But the Belle she would n’t be passed.
And so she come tearin’ along that night—
The oldest craft on the line—
With a nigger squat on her safety-valve,
And her furnace crammed, rosin and pine.
The fire bust out as she clared the bar,
And burnt a hole in the night,
And quick as a flash she turned, and made
For that willer-bank on the right.
There was runnin’ and cursin’, but Jim yelled out,
Over all the infernal roar,
“I’ll hold her nozzle agin the bank
Till the last galoot’s ashore.”
Through the hot, black breath of the burnin’
Jim Bludso’s voice was heard,
And they all had trust in his cussedness,
And knowed he would keep his word.
And, sure’s you’re born, they all got off
Afore the smokestacks fell,—
And Bludso’s ghost went up alone
In the smoke of the Prairie Belle.
He weren’t no saint,—but at jedgment
I’d run my chance with Jim,
’Longside of some pious gentlemen
That wouldn’t shook hands with him.
He seen his duty, a dead-sure thing,—
And went for it thar and then;
And Christ ain’t a going to be too hard
On a man that died for men.
I don’t go much on religion,
I never ain’t had no show;
But I’ve got a middlin’ tight grip, sir,
On the handful o’ things I know.
I don’t pan out on the prophets
And free-will, and that sort of thing,—
But I b’lieve in God and the angels,
Ever sence one night last spring.
I come into town with some turnips,
And my little Gabe come along,—
No four-year-old in the county
Could beat him for pretty and strong,
Peart and chipper and sassy,
Always ready to swear and fight,—
And I’d larnt him to chaw terbacker
Jest to keep his milk-teeth white.