September's Featured Poet
David Rhodes


‘Bucking Bally'
by David Rhodes

©Copyright David Rhodes, 1997

I got married the first of January, Eighteen Hundred and Sixty-One. And was scheduled to make The seventy-five-mile Rush Valley run.

Naturally, I wanted a short furlough, The rules said one substitute was enough. I talked a rider into taking my place, And he felt the distance was pretty rough.

I warned him about the horse he would get On his return trip from ‘Rush'. "If you're not careful you will end up Lying on your back in the brush."

"Cause when you jump on this horse, He will either ‘back' or fall over backwards, And will not mind where you land, Or what's back there, buckets, wagons or cow herds."

"Oh!", said he, "I am used to that kind of business, Let me ride this untamed nag, I'll get the spurs a going and show who's boss And this ride will be in the bag."

"But", said I, "‘Bucking Bally' is a whole team and a horse to let, And a little dog under the wagon, Be careful or your ride will be a walk without a horse, And you'll come in a draggin'."

He took a little of the advice I gave, As a precaution after he tightened the saddle good, Led the horse a quarter mile from the station, Then jumped on ‘Bucking Bally' as fast as he could.

Well, the horse, true to his habit, Got busy and did his backward thing but fast. The next thing the rider knew He was in a predicament he hoped wouldn't last.

He was hanging by the back of his overcoat From the high stake of a stake and rider fence, His boots dangling five feet from the ground, How and why he was there didn't make much sense.

He could not reach behind him to un-hitch, He could not unbutton his coat so as to crawl out, So he reached in his pocket for his knife To cut the buttons off, that would work, no doubt.

As each button popped and hit the ground He would drop a bit with a humiliating jolt. At last he got off the fence, and was ready to try again, That's when ‘Bucking Bally' decided to bolt.

The worse situation for an express rider Was a search in the dark night for a horse. But he finally found him and made the trip, Getting a ‘black eye' for loss of time, of course.

He said to the boys, when he got back, "The day I ride for Egan again you will never see, And there's something wrong with the horses he rides, I tell you it's no more ‘Bucking Bally' for me."




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The Indian "No Legs"
by David Rhodes

©Copyright David Rhodes, 1997

Heading out through the Utah desert along the pony express trail. Driving two mules and a mud-wagon, (I'd much rather be running the mail.)

On my way to Fish Springs heavy with supplies for the station. I stopped the night at Simpson for a roof and a good dinner ration.

It's where I first heard of the Indian, " No Legs", who'd left Simpson Springs the morning before. The boys said he's headed for Dug Way Mountains and didn't think he'd make it a day or more.

Well, we started out after my restful night, me, the mules, and the load. ‘Bout mid-day we came upon "No Legs" moving slowly up the road.

I stopped to see where he was going. He said to a camp over the mountain a ways. "How long would it take?" I asked. "One day and one half day", he says.

Then he asked me if I had some water, since all he had was a swallow or so. I inquired what he had to eat . . . just a piece of bread, and all that way to go.

"I would give you a ride if I could figure how to get you up." "Me go alright", he said and pulled himself on top.

How he did it I do not know, but he was behind the seat sitting there proud as can be, like a child expecting a treat.

He watched the road and brush go by as fast as it did when he used to walk. Then he kinda opened up a little, and he and I had a good talk.

He told me how his legs got frozen in a blizzard fifteen years ago. To save his life a doctor took them, it was the only way to go.

And how he'd move from camp to camp to beg for enough food just to live. Sometimes it was mice or chipmunks if nobody was inclined to give.

I guess I was touched and started feeling bad about all that'd happened to him. "Don't you get tired a lot", I asked. "Indian always tired", he said with a grin.

It was a foolish thing to ask, but my friend seemed to understand. And I think he read my mind, (being thankful that I could run and stand.)

We made about ten miles together and came to where we needed to part. I would have taken him all the way but the country was too rough to start.

Before I could get to help him off he'd swung himself to the ground. It was really something to see how strong he was, and how he got around.

He was proud and happy for having a ride as he got his things ready to go. Talking just as fast as he could, and I'm telling you it wasn't slow.

Well, I gave him my dinner, his willow jug full of water, my big red cotton handkerchief, a fist full of matches, and some starter.

He wore a raw-hide sack arrangement tied up just above the hips. The bottom part was double thick to stand his endless cross-desert trips.

He used a heavy stick held by both hands to give himself a little boost, and would just do a hop and twist each time, moving only a foot at most.

I watched him head out across the desert and stood there for quite a while, thinking of how long it would take for him to travel just a mile.

But imagine going thirty miles, how hard and humbling it would be. I couldn't take that kinda' life, no thank you, not for me!

It's funny how every once in a while we cross paths with someone unique, who has a profound effect on us and makes us stop and think

about how much we've been blessed, and how lucky we seem to be. At least I'm here to tell you folks that's exactly what happened to me.

So, when the shoe flies or the tongue breaks, the pony spooks, or the stampede is on. When the weather's bad, and winter's here, the trails covered up, and the blizzard's long.

When I get throwed off and break my pride, or the pony dies, leaving me a forty mile jaunt. When I get the shakes and hope I'm dying, or the food has turned, or there's none o' what you want.

When things get bad and life's not fair, and I get cheated and feel like a curse, or when those I love treat me bad, or someone dies, or even worse!

If I'm attacked while on a run, and get shot down, lying there to rot. I can take all this and more, and be thankful for what I got

My problems seem pretty small, and the worries are not much to shout, when I see what's been dealt to the one I'm thinking about.

I know he's out there in the hot desert sun, making just a foot at a time in the dust and pain. Working hard just to stay alive, not giving up or even complain.

Not having a home or a place to sleep, eating what he can catch, or what he begs. A man with misery enough for all, He's the Indian, " No Legs".


Howard Egan's Indian Doctor

by David Rhodes

©Copyright David Rhodes, 1997

Major Howard Egan ran the Pony Express From Great Salt Lake City to Robert's Creek, He was out in the West Country checking the line And had been gone from home about a week.

It was early spring with the ground still white, There was a brisk wind and a bright glaring sun. That is when the snow blindness got him, And he could not see his hand his foot or gun.

Laid up in bed at one of the stations He was trying the dead tea leaves cure. The damp leaves on his eyes did not work, It was a long bed rest for him, for sure.

After a couple days of misery two Indians came by To see what was wrong with the white man chief. Egan asked them if they knew a fix for the "snow eyes." An offer of a cure was accepted in the hope of relief.

In an instant one of the Indians jumped up on the bed, Caught Major Egan's head in both hands tight, Without hesitation placed his mouth over one eye, And set to sucking the eyeball with all his might!

Egan was squirming like a fish out of water, Trying to push him off and turning blue, He was afraid the Indian would never stop Until he sucked the eye out and brains too!

When Major Egan had enough of this torture He put a choke hold on the brave and tightened it more, Then the ‘doctor' jumps off, steps back a few feet, And spits out a mouth full of blood on the floor.

After a little rest and things got settled down Egan said, "I believe the pain is starting to ease." The Indian asked, "Me fix more on other eye?" "You can fix", Egan said, "But fix little, please!"

But when he got fastened to the second eye He worked even harder than the one before. Again, Egan could not push or pull him off, He was after the blood, committed to the chore.

It seemed like an hour before he finally quit, As poor Major Howard Egan comes up for air, The Indian spits out another tablespoon of blood, And Egan feels for his eye to see if it's still there.

The Indian doctor looked at his patient real proud, "Big Chief see all right in two days", He boldly said, Egan lies there with his hands in the air, and feebly begs, "Please, don't let him start again, I'd rather be dead."

It was exactly two days after the operation When Egan joined the pack train to Salt Lake City. He was completely cured of the snow blindness, And was back to his old self, allowing no pity.

Although, as time passed on the trip he started to embellish About his ailment, and the Indian with a cure prepared. He would, "recommend it to anyone in the same situation." But then, his face got real serious, and he humbly declared:

"I will gladly take this cure over the sickness without question, But, I did have one worry with my eyeball floating in his mouth, I feared he'd get an itch in his nose and have to let it blow, And the sneeze would go north and the eye would go south!"


About David Rhodes

Although born in Pocatello, Idaho, I was raised, and have spent most of my life, in Cache Valley, Utah. This is where I gained a love for the mountains, horses and the history of the West. I have lived in Cincinnati, Phoenix and Dallas, but it is the rural western town for me. I intend to stay put unless things get too crowded.

I am the first to admit an obsession with anything related to the Pony Express. More than once I have been accused of bragging about my ancestor's involvement with the mail line in Utah and Nevada. My great grandfather, Howard Ransom Egan, was a Pony Express rider. His father, Major Howard Egan was the superintendent of the section of the line between Salt Lake City and Robert's Creek, Nevada. Most of my poetry is based on true stories recorded by them and others. The poetry is a way to keep alive a short, but great, chapter of the American West history.

Every year I participate in the Pony express re-ride with my brother Jack. It is a chance to grasp a little of the feelings of those who rode the express in 1860 and 1861. We had the opportunity to carry the Olympic torch last year as the National Pony Express Association was responsible for over 500 miles of the route to Atlanta.

My other avocation is western landscape painting. I studied painting at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio back in the 70's, and have never strayed from western subject matter. I guess I am stuck on the West.

Your comments to David Rhodes are welcome at der@cc.usu.edu


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