It’s Doc Mehl’s weekly feature: TUESDAYS WITH GARTH! By now you already know, I gave Garth Brooks permission to perform a few of my poems on stage… and, turns out… he’s a natural! These photos show Garth and me both performing “Bandito.” It’s a long poem, but Garth nailed every line! Perfection! Nice, Garth.
Copyright 9-2013 Al “Doc” Mehl
“Eh, bandito,” said the barkeep. Two eyes turned at him to look,
Moustache whiskers wet with whiskey, nose half-buried in a book.
“Si, amigo?” said the patron, rising from his calm repose,
Slowly drawing back his shoulders, drawing from that book his nose.
“You’ve been reading there all afternoon,” the barkeep’s voice began;
“Tell the management your purpose, does this day portend a plan?
You’re allowed, of course, once whiskey’s bought, to occupy a chair,
But then what’s the book, if I may ask, that you’ve been reading there?”
“I’m a student,” said the patron; “From my text, you’re free to see
That my field of interest come this spring is entomology.”
“You’re a Bandit,” said the barkeep; “Reputation, sir, precedes you;
You’ve a taste for others’ money, and your town has grown to need you.”
“I’ve been known to raid the well-to-do; this fault I will admit.
With the people of my village, yes, I’m known to share a bit.
But my studies here? All innocent. Just me; I’ve brought no thugs.
I am simply taking time to study all my favorite bugs.”
That dark stranger turned his gaze, once more, to read page 309;
“Western Red Tent Caterpillar” was the bolded title line.
As he read the lofty words, he slow deciphered what they meant,
Words of nourishment from aspen leaves, and weaving of a tent.
For he’d heard about this caterpillar, tales from years gone by,
When the bugs would newly form in swarms, and greatly multiply,
’Til the aspen were devoured, leaves defenseless from attacks,
And a billion bugs would crawl across, perhaps… the railroad tracks.
Bugs would crawl until they covered every inch of smooth steel rail,
And a train would crush the buggers in those years, so went the tale,
Such that every powered wheel would now be slipping on that slime.
And an uphill grade in aspen? Stops the train there, every time.
If the engineer and fireman shoveled sand upon the track,
Swept the creepy crawlers from the rails until the steel was back,
Then that train might get some traction, be eventually restarted.
But a train that’s stopped… its passengers from riches might be parted.
One smart Bandit… nay, a group of bandits, waiting in the trees,
Might then quick emerge from hiding, board the helpless train with ease,
Rob the passengers, each car in turn, express car as finale,
Make escape into the woods, and later divvy up the tally.
So that guest in that saloon, he tried to calculate the motion
Of the population cycle and the progeny explosion.
And it seemed, from old reports, from autumn’s moths seen on the wing,
That this caterpillar’s numbers would be blossoming come spring.
Still some questions left to answer, things a planner’d like to know,
Like what altitude and climate lets these caterpillars grow?
Just which grove of aspen might be best to stall a climbing train?
And which week will all the caterpillars storm the tracks again?
So Bandito came each day. He poured through academic papers,
Referenced texts and science journals, as he planned his covert capers,
Mastered reproductive cycles, mapped out new geography,
Studied aspen horticulture, even climatology.
Studied well, this topic mastered over months of focused reading,
’Til the call went out for men, ’bout half a dozen he’d be needing.
D.M. Harvick, Billy Steiner, Charlie Earl, and Orrin Nay,
Tony Quince and Frankie Hawley. All were ready, come what may.
Then Bandito led that party, and they camped out in the woods
In the hills outside of Chama, destined soon to steal the goods.
As predicted, bugs emerged in legions, second week of June,
And the Cumbres Toltec train was stopped by slime at half past noon.
Well-planned robbery soon followed, guns were drawn but never fired,
With the passengers unharmed, the bandits quietly retired,
Mounted up and rode away, then stashed in hiding prizes won,
And the posse headed out to camp again near Silverton.
There they robbed the locomotive of the Denver Rio Grande,
When the caterpillars wandered down the trees and onto land
One week later (due to climate, elevation, winter’s snow).
With that robbery completed, rode to where more aspen grow.
Rode to Chester, Colorado, robbed the Denver Southern line
When the climbing train was halted by the bug compression slime.
Journeyed north through rising latitude, as if to chase the sun,
As each caterpillar hatch was born, another prize was won.
Rode northwest into Wyoming, robbed the Overland Express
Once the caterpillars covered up the tracks and made a mess.
Robbed the Northern and Pacific as it crossed the Bitterroots;
Filled their pockets up with riches, rode with slime upon their boots.
Robbed a train of the Great Northern outside Sandhill, Idaho,
When the caterpillar population sensed its week to grow;
The Canadian Pacific was the last train on their list,
Seems that by the month of August, not an aspen grove was missed.
Then the Bandit and his men, they soon collected all the goods
And the money and the gold that they’d been hiding in the woods.
And they rode away to Mexico; each rider kept a share
When they parted in November, left the lone Bandito there.
And he rode into his cheering village, offered up his prizes,
And the mayor offered food and drink and other fine surprises.
That’s the story… not of evil, not of spite, or hateful killers;
Just one Bandit, one poor village… and one billion caterpillars.
(Find Doc Mehl at www.Facebook.com/DocMehl , and also at www.docmehl.com .)