Friday, July 15, 2016


(C) by Mary Nida Smith

Cowboy Jo
once an orphan child
came to Sawtooth City,
then Bonanza City in 1879.
There she stayed
the first woman
to enter Yankee Fork
mining district.

Men of Sawtooth City
hadn’t laid eyes
on a woman in months
the day Cowboy Jo
rode into town
with a pack train.

The men came running
to see if she was real
this woman of pretty
auburn hair and stood tall.
She wanted their respect
but, it wasn’t to be
from the men of
Yankee Fork

Respect for a lone woman
in a mining town of men
was only a passing goal.
For Cowboy Jo laughed
and drank with the best of them.
She never raised her voice
or laughed, allowing only
a weak smile on her face.

In months that followed
Cowboy Jo was regarded
 as an Angel of Mercy.
She’d pack her saddlebags
with food and medicine,
no matter how far
over rough, high mountains
she rode to nurse
a miner back to health.

Years passed, Bonanza City grew
more women came of different class.
These women treated Cowboy Jo
kindly, enjoying her visit
when sober and bathed.

She was a restless person
a confirmed alcoholic   
quickly aged in her mid-thirties
traveling from camp to camp.
Then a man named John Bee
took a fancy to Cowboy Jo
called her, his woman

One night John Bee
in a drunken poker game
thought he was a winner.
No money to raise his bet
he promised Cowboy Jo
as his wager for he was sure,
he held the winning hand.
But no, he did not.
He lost the love of his life
in a drunken poker game.

Cowboy Jo waited
half asleep and not sober
at a near-by table.
As the poker winner
came to claim his prize,
he yelled at the barkeep.
Bring me a quart of whiskey.
then he picked her limp body
shouldered her, and walked out
to greet the sunrise.

John Bee watched
the prospector’s place
from his near-by cabin.

One day the gambling man
who claim his woman
left his cabin alone.
John Bee took a wheelbarrow
found Cowboy Jo inside
drunk and out cold.
He dragged her to the wheelbarrow
quickly headed back to his cabin.

Later, he walked to the spring
to get a bucket of water.
On the return trip
he spotted the prospector
as he jumped behind a boulder.
Cowboy Jo’s new man
shot at John Bee as he
continued to shoot between
loading Cowboy Jo
into the wheelbarrow
and headed back to his cabin
with his wheelbarrow and poker prize.

Cowboy Jo lived her life
between drunk and out cold.
Being claim by one man
after another until her slow death.
Died without the respect she craved.
Died alone this orphan child
who craved love in the Sawtooth
Mountains of Idaho
in the Land of Yankee Fork.

© by Mary Nida Smith

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