The Appaloosa

He rode into Laramie just before dawn
while the streets were still quiet and bare
Just a vague silhouette on the grey eastern sky
Wore a tall cowboy hat and long hair

He cared for his mount first as he always did
At the livery he rented a stall
Then he walked up the street to the Kuster Hotel
When dismounted he didn’t look tall

After breakfast and coffee it was back to the stall
His four legged friend calmly waited
As he groomed the fine stud he looked all around
Saw a fat horse that looked quite stiff gaited

He spotted some ponies just in from the range
They were not too bad looking it seemed
Saw a fine thoroughbred with a banker astride
His black coat surely glistened and gleamed

All day long he took stock of the horseflesh in town
And at sunset walked out in the street
Up Front Street a ways sat likely saloon
There was someone he wanted to meet

He spotted the banker at a table in back
And he bought him a cold beer or two
After a while the talk turned to horses
As westerners’ talk seems to do

“Quite a mount you got there Sir”, he said with a smile
“I saw you bout noontime today
Looks like he’s a good one, at least for these parts
Would you like one more beer by the way?”

As the banker took stock of the young saddle tramp
Who seemed a bit full of himself
“How bout a small wager Son, just for a laugh?’
And he took his hat down from the shelf

A few ears then perked up when a wager was mentioned
And a hush fell down over the crowd
“Well I don’t know, Boss” stammered the youngun
“Aww come on now boy”, yelled a fella quite loud

“Mr. Baxter’s big black can run like the wind
You been runnin your mouth all night long”
And now when it comes time to show what you got
Seems you’re singin a whole brand new song”

Well I don’t know Boys” said the young buckaroo
All I got is these nuggets to bet
Don’t know what they’re worth, probly not much”
And the Banker said, “Now son don’t fret”

“I reckon I might could allow you about...
Oh, a hundred dollars or so”
And he smiled like a cat who had just found a mouse
As he gazed at the nuggets’ soft glow

The cowboy looked nervous but he wouldn’t back down
As he laid his small bag on the table
“That a boy” said the banker and put down his cash
“We’ll race now if you think you are able”

“Well I reckon that’s fine” said the cowboy quite slowly
And they all left the friendly saloon
The cowboy walked back down the street to the livery
In the light of the Laramie moon

Mr. Baxter climbed up in the saddle (with help)
And awaited the drover’s return
“This won’t be no race Boss” said the onlookers laughing
“That poor cowpoke won’t make the first turn”

But their laughter soon faded as they gazed up the street
As the thunder of hoof beats drew near
Then into the lamplight rode the young long haired stranger
And the Banker’s eyes might have shown fear

He was mounted up proud on a 15 hand stud
The horse stood there calmly and proud
He was light grey up front and spotted behind
“Appaloosa!”, murmured some in the crowd

He sat tall with no saddle, just a blanket of red
No big stirrups, no fine silver bit
Had a light hand-made bridle that didn’t look new
Just a few glass beads woven in it

His long hair tied back and a smile on his face
The youngster said “Let’s run this race”
And the banker harrumphed and blustered a bit
You could see beads of sweat on his face

They lined up in the street and a pistol was cocked
And the moonlit contest was begun
Both horses took flight up Front street to the west
As if they were fired from a gun

Three blocks they raced and then turned to the north
Dead even, when they made the next turn
Then the cowboy looked over and showed a slight grin
But his dark eyes  somehow seemed to burn

With a word to his mount and a flick of his quirt
A gap opened between the two men
Appaloosas have wings when they see the north star
And they feel the caress of the wind

The young man in the saddle gave a shout high and shrill
Like he did when he was just a boy
And he rode the fast ponies in his grandfathers herd
The Nez Perce tribe’s strong pride and joy

Bred for the battle and for speed and for strength
The App knew no equal it seems
From the plains of old Persia to the streets of Cadiz
To the Northwest’s cold mountains and streams

As they made the last turn and hit Front Street again
The banker was nowhere in sight
And in Laramie, sometimes the talk will return
To the race that was run on that night

The young man took his winnings and rode out of town
As he spoke there was pride on his face
“My name is Joseph, it’s my grandfather’s name
The Snake River’s my ancestor’s place”

“Appaloosa’s the king of all horses that live
He’s the spirit that you can not kill
And when all of my tribe has at last turned to dust
Appaloosa remembers us still”

Just outside town he slid off his horse
And built a small fire by the trail
And he burned the greenbacks that the banker’d laid down
In the distance the coyotes wailed

Then he road out of sight as his words softly faded
No one saw him or that horse again
But up by the Snake River, they say he still rides
You can still hear his words on the wind

© 2009
Robert De Groff

Photo by Tex Jones aka Jerry Maravegias