S’pose, in thinkin’ and decidin’,
I refuse to do my part;—
Just sit down and let my mem’ry
Finish breaking up my heart—
S’pose I give up like a coward,
Let the world say I ain’t game,
‘Cause by leavin’ I should forfeit
My poor eighty-acre claim.
I ain’t ’fraid to do my duty
If I’m clear what it’s about,
But this scrape is so peculiar
That my mind’s smoked up with doubt.
I believe that Nancy loves me,
And it may be she’ll stay true;
But I wonder why the blazes
That durn Johnson’s gone off too.
Blamed if I don’t get my hosses,
Saddle Zeb and lead old Si,
And we’ll search the wind-swept prairie
Till we find that girl, or die!
Who’d a thought a man’s whole future
Could get twisted up like this?
All his plans burn up like tinder
In the fire of one sweet kiss!
“Zeb, come here, and good old Simon—
Listen while I talk to you;
Put your noses on my shoulder
While I tell you what we’ll do.
Your fool master’s deep in trouble,
Can’t explain to you just how,
But until we find my Nancy,
You shall never pull a plow.”
In the West, where twilight glories
Paint with blood each sky-line cloud,
While the virgin rolling prairie
Slowly dons her evening shroud;
While the killdeer plover settles
From its quick and noisy flight;
While the prairie cock is blowing
Warning of the coming night—
There against the fiery background
Where the day and night have met,
Move three disappearing figures,
Outlined sharp in silhouette.
Zeb and Si and Bill, the lover,
Chafing under each delay,
Pass below the red horizon,
Toward the river trail away.
Far across the upland prairie
To the valley-land below,
Where the tall and tangled joint-grass
Makes the horses pant and blow,
There the silent Solomon River
Reaching westward to its source,
With its fringe of sombre timber
Guides the lover on his course.
All the night he keeps his saddle,
Urging Zeb and Simon on,
Till the trail clears up before him
In the gray of early dawn.
Where it turns in towards the river,
Arched above with vine-growth rank,
He, dismounting, ties the horses
Near the steep and treacherous bank.
More than light and shade and landscape
Meet the plainsman’s searching look,
For the paths that lie before him
Are the pages of his book.
Stooping down and reading slowly,
Noting every trace around,
Of the travel gone before him,
Every mark upon the ground,
Down the winding, deep-cut roadway
Furrowed out by grinding tire,
Where the ruts lead to the water,
In the half-dried plastic mire,
He beholds the telltale marking
Of an odd-shaped band of steel,
Welded to secure the fellies
Of old MacIntyre’s wheel.