Here I am, working on my Western novel, and we find The Rifleman as he rides into a town as a young man
I arrived in Dillardtown on a fine evening
having crossed a stony river
lined by cottonwoods
and provided with a sturdy bridge.
I came into the town downstream of a recent flood
for the main street gave evidence of the uppity nature
of the river which had left its banks and poured through the town
leaving great runnels and gouges drying into what should have been a thoroughfare
and instead was a mess.
Horses and wagons clunked and sucked through the street
one had lost his boot to the powers of the mud
and further on was his stocking.
The collection of financial establishments
was compressed into five blocks on either side of the mud.
Money changed hands between them at a furious pace.
Countless rough men struggled back and forth through the riverbottom
so that the mud covered every flooring in the town.
Here were assayer’s office, bank, saloons aplenty,
whorehouses fancy and plain, hotel, restaurants and chophouses;
there was the smell of mud, horses, food, shit, laundry steam,
piss, perfume if you paid for the parlor ladies,
and if a fellow saved enough after that grand round
he’d have himself shaved, might dip into a tin bath,
resupply at the drygoods and grocers his pans and shovels and vittles and ammunition,
pick up his horse or mule from the livery
and go stick it once again into the earth
who heaved her rocks and stones and broke his back if he was unlucky
or let him into her inner gleamings which he stole with both hands as fast as he could
and came to talk about it loudly in the town.
© Kathleen Dunbar
Here’s a poem set to music, another western-with-a-twist, on my CD The Storm in Our Head. It’s called “Snake Charmer.” Find it on Bandcamp or on my website, www.kathleendunbarmusic.com
Photo by Kathleen Dunbar