BOBBY L. RICHARDSON
About Bobby L. Richardson
Last Man Standing
My name is Danny Murphy and I'm gonna die,
The judge set the hanging for the fourteenth of July.
Don't know if I'll live that long 'cause from the winder of my cell,
I can hear a lot of townies talkin' ugly in the alley behind the jail.
Oh, I know I done wrong since I left Kansas, lookin' for a stake,
I tried my hand at punchin' cows, small wages did I make.
I drifted down to Texas, winter, a year ago,
And took a job a ridin' line for Old John Desario.
That's when I met the Batesell boys, big Ted and little Billy,
And Jimmy Clark, Angus Deets, and rowdy Lucas Tilly.
They all showed up together on a spring day afternoon,
And talked me into a poker game at the White Elephant Saloon.
Warn't long before I'd busted; got up and said, "I'm done."
But old Angus loaned me six bits and I finally got on a run.
Now I wished I'd kept on walkin' and never played a hand,
And I'd not be in the Grayson jail waitin' on the hangin' man.
I quit my job a wranglin' and found another source of loot,
Stealin' chickens seemed a romp and cheatin' drunks, a hoot.
Then afore long we stole some cows and robbed a store or two,
But the money never lasted long enough, the dollars way too few.
Somebody figured the bank at Sherman would net a hefty haul,
Old Angus hurrawed us younguns that we didn't have the gall.
We didn't have what it took to rob a man while standin' eye to eye,
So all us boys hollered him down, callin' such talk a hellacious lie.
After arguin' for hours, we finally got a plan we thought would do,
We'd take the bank at closing time, on Friday, April 7th, 1882.
Now we wuz outlaws, not steady Christians, and we didn't give a damn,
If that day we picked was Good Friday and the day God gave his Lamb.
Jimmy stayed outside with the horses tho I'm sure it hurt his pride,
While the rest of us pulled up our masks and forced our way inside.
We'd caught 'em all flat-footed and would have done o.k.,
But Angus got wire-edged stupid and got us blown away.
The old man was supposed to watch our backs,
And cover everybody whilst we filled the sacks.
But he got so careless lookin' for a place to spit his chaw,
He didn't see the guard heft his shotgun or the teller draw.
The first shot the young teller fired took Rowdy Lucas Tilly in the head,
And what had been a cool April morning became a blazing hell instead.
Old Angus went down hard and Billy was dead before he hit the floor,
Then the guard shotgunned the other Batesell boy, runnin' for the door.
With a bullet in my left elbow and none in either gun,
I backed out the double doors hopin' to make a run.
Movin' fast and yellin', I ran out into the street,
Hoping Jim had the horses ready to beat a fast retreat.
Then I saw the kid, down on his knees and spitting blood,
Before a kill shot put him face down in the crimson mud.
I quit. I threw down the guns and raised my one good hand,
The last man standin' from a ill-fated, ragtag, outlaw band.
The mob surrounded me, yellin' and cussin', voices hard and hostile,
The memory of their white-hot eyes stayed with me, even through my trial.
Ever' night since, I dream a screamin' mob comes burstin' into my cell,
And drags me out to a big oak tree to send my sorry soul to hell.
They never let me say a word, to plead or apologize,
And ever' minute I'm wake, I see those terrible eyes.
So I've decided when it's time to die, I'm gonna have my say,
To tell ever'body what got me here and where I went astray.
When my judgement morn did come, dawning cool and clear,
It came as a rush that the dreaded day was really, finally, here.
The deputies led me out, all shackled, chained, and bound,
I climbed, unaided, the thirteen steps, and calmly turned around.
As I face certain death, in my mind's eye, I see,
My sainted mother's face smiling back at me.
"Tell the truth, my son," she says. "Face eternity without wrath,
Your words may help another wayward boy take the proper path.
"In my pocket you'll find a little book, leather-bound,"
I told the lawdog, "Please hold it high and show it all around."
Then in my strongest voice I said to the gathered throng,
"Mama bade me read the Bible, said I'd never do no wrong."
"But I didn't listen," I said, tears streaming from my eyes,
"And now I stand convicted, I'll never see the prize.
And all you young men, take heed and hear my plea.
Follow God, listen to your mama; avoid bad company.
Now I go to answer to my maker, my time here on earth is o'er,
But there is one last request before I pass through the mortal door.
Let me clasp my New Testament to my breast as I meet my destiny,
No hard feelings." The last man standing falls. Hello, eternity.
© 2002, Bobby L. Richardson
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.
Bobby told us a bit about this poem: The "Last Man Standing" piece is based on a true story involving a bunch of young toughs who tried to rob a yankee land buyer after the War Between the States. This happened in far North Texas near Sherman in Grayson County. They were captured by vigilantes and taken to the wooded bottoms near Kentuckytown and hanged, one by one. The last one standing actually gave that speech to the posse before they drove the wagon out from under him. I changed the locale to Sherman...
About Bobby L. Richardson:
My name is Bobby Lynn Richardson and I was born in Nobility, Texas in Fannin County. I grew up on a tenant farm in the Four Corners Area of North Texas, almost dead center of where the Lee-Peacock feud (1866-1871) took place. After a four-year stint in the USAF, I finished college and became a teacher and coach in 1968. I retired in 1994 as an administrator and started writing, collecting nostalgic memorabilia, and trying new things. After trying my hand as a sportswriter and later a university Sports Information Director, I discovered eBay. This fall, I'm returning to the education business as a girls' high school basketball coach. Pray for me (and the kids). I have a lovely wife and six great kids. Five have families of their own and the sixth, a beautiful young lady, will be a junior in high school next year. The Lord has blessed me.
Bobby also told us: In addition to a pot full of poems, mostly written for myself, I have also written numerous short stories and a novel (historical fiction) entitled "Justice In A Dead Hand," on the Lee-Peacock feud in the Four Corners Area of North Texas.
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