Isabella Valancy Crawford

Here you will find the Long Poem Old Spookses' Pass of poet Isabella Valancy Crawford

Old Spookses' Pass

 WE'D camped that night on Yaller Bull Flat,--
 Thar was Possum Billy, an' Tom, an' me.
 Right smart at throwin' a lariat
 Was them two fellers, as ever I see;
 An' for ridin' a broncho, or argyin' squar
 With the devil roll'd up in the hide of a mule,
 Them two fellers that camp'd with me thar
 Would hev made an' or'nary feller a fool.
 Fur argyfyin' in any way,
 Thet hed to be argy'd with sinew an' bone,
 I never see'd fellers could argy like them;
 But just right har I will hev to own
 Thet whar brains come in in the game of life,
 They held the poorest keerds in the lot;
 An' when hands was shown, some other chap
 Rak'd in the hull of the blamed old pot!
 We was short of hands, the herd was large,
 An' watch an' watch we divided the night;
 We could hear the coyotes howl an' whine,
 But the darned critters kept out of sight
 Of the camp-fire blazin'; an' now an' then
 Thar cum a rustle an' sort of rush--
 A rattle a-sneakin' away from the blaze,
 Thro' the rattlin', cracklin' grey sage bush.
 We'd chanc'd that night on a pootyish lot,
 With a tol'ble show of tall, sweet grass--
 We was takin' Speredo's drove across
 The Rockies, by way of "Old Spookses' Pass"--
 An' a mite of a creek went crinklin' down,
 Like a "pocket" bust in the rocks overhead,
 Consid'able shrunk, by the summer drought,
 To a silver streak in its gravelly bed.
 'Twas a fairish spot fur to camp a' night;
 An' chipper I felt, tho' sort of skeer'd
 That them two cowboys with only me,
 Couldn't boss three thousand head of a herd.
 I took the fust of the watch myself;
 An' as the red sun down the mountains sprang,
 I roll'd a fresh quid, an' got on the back
 Of my peart leetle chunk of a tough mustang.
 An' Possum Billy was sleepin' sound
 Es only a cowboy knows how to sleep;
 An' Tommy's snores would hev made a old
 Buffalo bull feel kind o' cheap.
 Wal, pard, I reckin' thar's no sech time
 For dwind'lin' a chap in his own conceit,
 Es when them mountains an' awful stars,
 Jest hark to the tramp of his mustang's feet.
 It 'pears to me that them solemn hills
 Beckin' them stars so big an' calm,
 An' whisper, "Make tracks this way, my friends,
 We've ringed in here a specimen man;
 He's here alone, so we'll take a look
 Thro' his ganzy an' vest, an' his blood an' bone,
 An post ourselves as to whether his heart
 Is flesh, or a rotten, made-up stone."
 An' it's often seemed, on a midnight watch,
 When the mountains blacken'd the dry, brown sod,
 That a chap, if he shut his eyes, might grip
 The great kind hand of his Father-God.
 I rode round the herd at a sort of walk--
 The shadders come stealin' thick an' black;
 I'd jest got to leave tew thet thar chunk
 Of a mustang tew keep in the proper track.
 Ever see'd a herd ring'd in at night?
 Wal, it's sort of cur'us,-- the watchin' sky,
 The howl of coyotes a great black mass,
 With thar an' thar the gleam of a eye
 An' the white of a horn an', now an' then,
 An' old bull liftin' his shaggy head,
 With a beller like a broke-up thunder growl--
 An' the summer lightnin', quick an' red,
 Twistin' an' turnin' amid the stars,
 Silent as snakes at play in the grass,
 An' plungin' thar fangs in the bare old skulls
 Of the mountains, frownin' above the Pass.
 An' all so still, that the leetle crick,
 Twinklin' an' crinklin' frum stone to stone,
 Grows louder an' louder, an' fills the air
 With a cur'us sort of a singin' tone.
 It ain't no matter wharever ye be,
 (I'll 'low it's a cur'us sort of case)
 Whar thar's runnin' water, it's sure to speak
 Of folks tew home an' the old home place;
 An' yer bound tew listen an' hear it talk,
 Es yer mustang crunches the dry, bald sod;
 Fur I reckin' the hills, an' stars, an' creek
 Are all of 'em preachers sent by God.
 An' them mountains talk tew a chap this way:
 "Climb, if ye can, ye degenerate cuss!"
 An' the stars smile down on a man, an say,
 "Come higher, poor critter, come up tew us!"
 An' I reckin', pard, thar is One above
 The highest old star that a chap can see,
 An' He says, in a solid, etarnal way,
 "Ye never can stop till ye get to ME!"
 Good fur Him, tew! fur I calculate
 HE ain't the One to dodge an' tew shirk,
 Or waste a mite of the things He's made,
 Or knock off till He's finished His great day's work!
 We've got to labor an' strain an' snort
 Along thet road thet He's planned an' made;
 Don't matter a mite He's cut His line
 Tew run over a 'tarnal tough up-grade;
 An' if some poor sinner ain't built tew hold
 Es big a head of steam es the next,
 An' keeps slippin' an' slidin' 'way down hill,
 Why, He don't make out