When Kicking Horse Came to Play

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Extended video version

Standard video version

We was down Mexico way, just north of the Rio Grande,
I’d been riding cattle night and day hired on as a cowboy hand;
A dollar a day was my pay for driving with the TJ brand,
But now we could only stand and pray as the storm hit this barren land.

The sky had been crystal clear, not a cloud to shield the sun,
Burning hot across the parched frontier – a dozen miles the steers had run.
When the sun went down we saw the dust appear, as a distant cloud it had begun,
But then mere wonder turned to fear – such a storm couldn’t be outrun.

The sand blew up in a little gust that flew amongst the herd
But then it grew in rivers of dust until visibility became all blurred;
Cow hands covered in a sandy crust, mounts too scared when angrily spurred,
Ignoring the urgent whip and thrust…..that’s probably when the stampede occurred.

Then came the rain in a howling gale, drenching us like a biblical flood,
Soaking the gullies, flooding the trail, turning the dust into a sea of mud.
As the lightning flashed the steers did wail; a struck tree fell with a mighty thud.
A young boy ran – but to no avail – dead, his head awash with blood.

Across the gullies, and through the scrub, the fleeing herd in a mad rampage
Crashing through the rocks and scattered shrub – gripped by fear and a frightened rage!
A wagon lost with a smashed wheel hub; the driver killed – a lad named Page –
Supplies lost –  a week of grub – that night seemed to last an age.

Hiccup Hank was dead – he’d died unseen  when his horse tripped in a varmint hole;
Another trampled gun had a busted spleen…. the storm had exacted a terrible toll.
So by dawn’s red light we buried our dead; rounded up the wandering stock.
Fearful of the long trail ahead, shattered men all in a state of shock.

Cook heated up some beans and grits, strong coffee to start the day,
The preferred food of all outfits that trail the Great Western way.
Mounted up, I rode a pacing bay, and got the herd to move;
Men rode in silence – not a lot to say – surely our luck could only improve!

We drove the herd under a blazing sun, heading for the water hole;
Twenty miles we’d need to run before we’d reach that goal.
Our herd through-up a cloud of dust that choked within your mouth;
Spit just dried as you cussed and cussed. But, of water, there wasn’t enough.

As the day wore on we heard the word: “The spring’s not far ahead”
Then the steers suddenly all stirred – they’d smelt the water-bed!
Picked up some speed as they rushed to drink, but then the Captain swore:
“That water’s got a fearsome stink – the cattle mustn’t drink any more”.

A rotting corpse lay in the water hole – no way you could drink it now;
Seemed like some poor travelling soul had been scalped (by the look of his bloody brow).
We moved the herd to safer ground while the Captain made his choice
“Nearest water is westbound”. He spoke with a weary voice.

So we drove that herd as the sun went down in the cool of the desert night;
Steers complaining, tongues hanging down, as they walked in the dusty moonlight.
Our tired crew was out on their feet; some slept while on their mounts.
Every man tired, hungry, deadbeat – some ready to give up by all accounts.

It was nearly dawn when we found that spring in The Narrows by a rocky bluff;
It wasn’t much – just a little thing – but of water, there was more than enough.
We watered the herd as best we could and settled to get some rest;
Some shuteye would do us good…. we was all feeling mighty stressed.

When morning came, we checked our mounts; no stones or thorns in their shoes;
Counted the steers to keep accounts; cut ‘baccy plugs for our daily chews.
Then the Captain spoke to rally the crew: ‘Let’s not dwell on this bad luck
We’ll press on when we’ve had a brew…’ but that’s when the Commanche struck!

Men screamed as arrows flew, scalps taken as Indians counted coup
Nine killed – it left just we two. Destined for the torture pole –  beaten black and blue,

The Commanche chief was Kicking Horse, a warrior of great renown
Vicious, mean, a man of force – he’d just torched a Texan town.
I saw now that the poisoned water hole had been a Commanche trick
Take our water- take control – steal our horses when tired and sick.

With two days walk we reached a canyon deep; tied us both to a mesquite tree,
We collapsed and fell, too tired to sleep; ‘water, water’ was our only plea.
Our tracker had been old Billy Crow, a plainsman since a kid,
About Indians there was nothing he didn’t know. Told me, quiet and slow, what Kicking Horse usually did.

He spoke of tortures long and cruel. But to the Commanche life is’nt dear –
Our dread of death they ridicule; it’s a spirit thing – passing on is not to fear.
But we weren’t Commanche and we was scared. Frightened to our very core
Knowing there was no way we’d be spared – Billy and me prayed like never before.

Then they strung Billy upside down, lit a small fire beneath his head;
Gentle heat to melt him down…. and by sundown he was dead.
They beat me hard under the fading moon; at dawn, they’d set my spirit free.
I’d dance to a different tune – but the end was plain to see.

As the sun rose up a brave came for me, though I screamed and turned away
Made my desperate final plea! The knife was raised –  I began to pray.
Suddenly his brains were splattered over me as his head was blown away
A buffalo gun I couldn’t see had killed my Commanche!

A bluecoat soldier cut me free; a few Indians were shot and slain
But Kicking Horse escaped to flee – to disappear into the desert plain.

Me, I was through with the cowpoke’s life. I was alive, but in a lot of pain,
Thought I find me a wife, settle down, become a deputy in Abelaine.
So my rocking chair’s by the raised walkway, I’m whittling wood to pass time away,
But my hands tremble when I think of the day when Kicking Horse came to play.