It’s Doc Mehl’s new weekly feature: TUESDAYS WITH GARTH! When Garth Brooks asked permission to recite some of my poems on stage… I was happy to oblige. These photos show Garth and me both performing… “The Bearded Buffalo.” Well done, Garth.
The Bearded Buffalo
Copyright 8-2007 Al “Doc” Mehl
Ol’ Buff’lo Bill, he was businessman, knowed how to wheel and deal,
And seemed to know just when a cowboy might be desp’rate for a meal.
You see, I’d spent the year with Smitty Krebs; we drove Chisholm Trail.
We’d started out with ’bout two thousand head… and found a way to fail.
We lost some cattle to the locoweed, some to the desert sun,
We lost some cattle when the river swelled once crossing had begun,
And we lost cattle to Comanche raids when passin’ through their lands,
And lost some cattle in a stampede… when we lost a couple hands.
But now some man named “William Cody” traded whiskey for our ear,
And then he tried to tell us why we ought to sign up for a year.
He’d heard that Smit could shoot a rifle ball right through a two-inch hoop
Or tag a tin can tossed into the air; and I could throw a loop;
He’d maybe heard that racin’ bareback was a trick that I could do,
And Bill had prob’bly heard the both of us were now without a crew.
(It seems that Anderson done broke his leg, and Ace had taken ill,
And turns out Paco’d run off with a girl, and Lefty’d had his fill.)
“Well, sir, why not?” says I to Smitty, and his eyes met up with mine;
Before you knowed it, seems the both of us had signed the dotted line.
We’d always figured punchin’ cattle was the only job we’d know,
But now we’d signed to be performers in the travelin’ “Wild West” show.
We packed a bag, and caught a train, and met up with the troupe in time;
We stowed our gear, and shook some hands, and stepped into the chorus line.
Two hungry men, we couldn’t b’lieve our newfound serendipity;
We’d gone from bein’ unemployed… to learnin’ “choreography.”
And ev’ry mornin’, Bill would tell the troupe to wash up and to groom,
And we would spend each night in feather beds, just two men to a room!
And Bill provided dang good horses, and supplied the finest rope,
And he had all of us learn manners, and he made us all use soap.
If our two cups weren’t overflowin’, well they sure enough were full;
We rode alongside Annie Oakley, and performed with Sittin’ Bull.
With our rehearsals soon behind us, we prepared for openin’ night,
And when the curtain rose, ol’ “Buffalo” stepped out into the light.
He wore a silver-studded hatband on a hat that said, “Take note!”
He dressed in palomino trousers and a matching leather coat
With twelve inch fringe! You see, his jacket and his face both wore a beard,
And we could tell he’d made his entrance when the audience all cheered.
Then we’d parade around th’arena with a dozen longhorn cattle,
And we’d show off all our tricks, and reenact a famous battle.
Sittin’ Bull and seven braves would then appear in full headdress.
(Turns out, Bill treated all those Indians better than we did out West.)
And then, before the final curtain, as we played the Grande Finale,
Buff’lo Bill’d be packin’ up, and he’d be countin’ up the tally.
I remember ev’ry paycheck would be in my hand on time;
And I remember Bill’s accounting, ’cause ’twas never short a dime;
And I remember ev’ry closing, as we packed our things to go,
Ol’ Bill would shake the hand of ev’ry man… and tell each one, “Good show!”
We traveled up and down the coast, for all the Easterners to see;
We played for Southern debutantes, and Northern aristocracy.
Bill took that show to London Towne (and there I saw a “ballet” dance…);
And we all got to meet an emperor (…outside of Paris, France).
Turns out, ol’ Smitty seemed to like that life, he stayed on by and by,
But I was longin’ for the comfort of a million acre sky.
See, I was longin’ for the fantasy that times would never change,
And I was pining for the romance of the West, and open range;
And so I rolled back to Laredo, to the only life I knew.
And then, in time, got me a little spread, and got me my own crew.
Now when they’re out there workin’ cattle, well, their lives are on the line,
And of the boss man, all they ask is that the paycheck comes on time.
It’s just a paycheck and a partnership, that’s all they’re looking for,
But after working for ol’ Bill, I try to give ’em somethin’ more.
I always do my best at plannin’, so’s we don’t depend on luck,
And for the end of day, I always pack some whiskey in the chuck.
I’ve learnt that horse and men need restin’, for the work extracts its toll,
I’ve learnt to ’ppreciate the red man’s plight, and speak in Espanol.
I’ll always add to the remuda when a good horse is for sale,
I’ve learnt t’allow a second chance, or maybe help a man make bail.
And I’ll admit to every wrangler all the things that I don’t know,
And at the end of day, I shake their hands, and tell each one, “Good show.”
I once was asked, “Why does the talent always want to work for you?
What’s in your little bag of secrets? Where’d you learn to run a crew?”
Well, I don’t try to be deceptive, but I s’ppose they’ll never know,
Because I tell ’em that I learned it… from the Bearded Buffalo!
(Find Doc Mehl at www.Facebook.com/DocMehl , and also at www.docmehl.com .)