Boot Hill

Go softly, you whose careless feet
Would crush the sage brush, pungent, sweet,
And brush the rabbit weed aside
From burrows where the ground squirrels hide,
And prairie dog his watch-tower keeps
Among the ragged gravel heaps.
Year long the wind blows up and down
Each lessening mound, and drifts the brown
Dried " wander-weed " there at their feet —
Who no more wander, slow or fleet.
Sun-bleached, rain-warped, the head-boards hold
One story, all too quickly told:
That here some wild heart takes its rest
From spent desire and fruitless quest.

Here in the grease-wood's scanty shade
How many a daring soul was laid!
Boots on — full-garbed as when he died —
The pistol belted at his side;
The worn sombrero on his breast —
To prove another man the best.
Arrow or knife, or quick-drawn gun —
The glad, mad, fearless game was done.
A life for stakes — play slow or fast —
Win — lose — yet Death held trumps at last.

Some went where bar room tinsel flared,
Or painted dance hall wantons stared; —
Some, where the lone, brown ranges bared
Their parched length to a parching sky;
And God, alone, might hear the cry
Of thirst-dried lips that, stiff and cold,
Seemed still to babble: " Gold, gold, gold! "
Woman or wine or greed or Chance; —
A comrade's shot — an Indian lance;
By camp or canon, trail or street —
Here all games end — here all trails meet.

The ground squirrels chatter in the sun;
The dry, gray sage leaves, one by one,
Drift down, close-curled, in odorous heaps.
Above, wide-winged, a wild hawk sweeps;
And on the worn board at the head
Of one whose name was fear and dread,
A little, solemn ground owl sits.
Ah, here the Man and Life are Quits!
Go softly, nor with careless feet —
Here all games end — here all trails meet.
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