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WADE PORTER
Austin, Texas
About Wade Porter

 

 

Wyatt Earp dies in Los Angeles, 1929

Lying here
so close to death
remembering the lying here
in each dark flicker of celluloid
and each sharp
rat-a-tat
of the Remington
which changes
and rearranges
the most public of lives
before the body is still.

Doctors and nurses
hover and consult,
debate and lament
that which can not be done
by the genius
of this century's science.
And yet, long ago,
I saw men walk away from a table
after the probe of a bullet by
tubercular, drunken dentist
with a half cleaned knife.

I think of the cool hillside
of Columa
where I shall rest.
So far from the gritty boot,
where Morgan was laid
with a bullet in his head.
Between the thieves and rustlers
in dusty Tombstone.
His life marked only
by a rough wooden cross.

And of Virgil,
my elder, my better,
who could tame a town
with but one arm
and yet died to soon
to emerge from the desert,
as I emerged from his shadow
to become the legend
of the land
of the Dime Novel.

The three of us
and more
who spent what youth was given us
"meting out justice to a savage race"
and impressing upon
a cruel and violent society
a life which raised barns,
built churches,
founded schools
and ,at last, strung fences
so that the animal
with the Buntline
and the Bowie Knife
could wither into inconsequence.

All of this we did
and more
to gentle the nature
and close the frontier
of a wild and wayward continent.
Until at last even the demon rum was swept away
by the tide we had begun.

But as I breathe my last
the Clantons of Chicago
with no cattle left to rustle
fight pitched battles
at some new O.K. Corral
at the corner of State and Adams
to control the flow
of gin and beer
to a schizophrenic nation cut off from its frontier
and left only with its native fury
to spend in new directions
at the same, sad innocents.

2003, W. Wade Porter
This poem may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

 

We asked Wade how he came to write this poem and he told us: This poem has its roots in three different disciplines. It is an homage to John Ford's classic film My Darling Clementine, Tennyson's poem "Idylls of the King" and Turner's classic essay on the closing of the American frontier. 

In the poem I wanted to portray Wyatt Earp as a Ulysses-type character looking back over his life and commenting on the fact that it was really his move to Los Angeles and subsequent befriending of film industry leaders that made him the historic figure that he became, despite the fact that his brother Virgil was undoubtedly a more worthy contemporary. 

However, I did want to show his justifiable pride in helping "civilize" the west, much as Ford's film portrays the coming of law and (in the case of that movie) the coming of women to the west as key stabilizing forces on the frontier. Finally, I wanted to show that the success of the closing of the west and the dissipation of the outlaw figures there left certain pent up energies in Americans that manifested themselves in other negative ways. 

At the time of Prohibition we see the example of the bootlegger gangs. The idea here is that the frontier actually acted as a safety valve to relieve the pressure of a society which will always have violence. With the closing of the frontier, that pent up violence is more likely to show itself in urban areas (as we see in our present drug/gang problems).


 

About Wade Porter:

Wade Porter is a sixth generation Texan who practices commercial and construction litigation for the Austin, Texas law firm of Allensworth and
Porter. He has been married to Rayda for thirty years and they have one daughter, Stacey.

Although born in the big city of Houston and grown into a rather lumpy fifty year old, Wade still sees himself as a white-hatted Roy Rogers, roaring
across the plain on his golden stallion Trigger. When not practicing law, Wade can be found overanalyzing old John Ford westerns.

 

 

 

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