Golyer’s Ben by John Hay (1838-1905)

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Ef the way a man lights out of this world
Helps fix his heft for the other sp’ere,
I reckon my old friend Golyer’s Ben
Will lay over lots of likelier men
For one thing he done down here.

You didn’t know Ben? He driv a stage
On the line they called the Old Sou’-west;
He wa’n’t the best man that ever you seen,
And he wa’n’t so ungodly pizen mean,
No better nor worse than the rest.

He was hard on himself and rough on his friends;
And he didn’t have many, I’ll let you know;
He hated a dog and disgusted a cat,
But he’d run off his legs for a motherless brat,
And I guess there’s many jess so.

I’ve seed my sheer of the run of things,
I’ve hoofed it a many and many a miled,
But I never seed nothing that could or can
Jest git all the good from the heart of a man
Like the hands of a little child.

Well! this young one I started to tell you about,
His folks was all dead, I was fetchin’ him through,
He was just at the age that’s loudest for boys,
And he blowed such a horn with his sarchin’ small voice,
We called him “the Little Boy Blue.”

He ketched a sight of Ben on the box,
And you bet he bawled and kicked and howled,
For to git ‘long of Ben, and ride thar too;
I tried to tell him it wouldn’t do,
When suddingly Golyer growled,

“What’s the use of making the young one cry?
Say, what’s the use of being a fool?
Sling the little one up here whar he can see,
He won’t git the snuffles a-ridin’ with me,
The night ain’t any too cool.”

The child hushed cryin’ the minute he spoke;
“Come up here, Major! don’t let him slip.”
And jest as nice as a woman could do,
He wropped his blanket around them two,
And was off in the crack of a whip.

We rattled along an hour or so,
Till we heerd a yell on the still night air.
Did you ever hear an Apache yell?
Well, ye needn’t want to, this side of hell;
There’s nothing more devilish there.

Caught in the shower of lead and flint
We felt the old stage stagger and plunge;
Then we heerd the voice and the whip of Ben,
As he gethered his critters up again,
And tore away with a lunge.

The passengers laughed. “Old Ben’s all right,
He’s druv five year and never was struck.”
“Now if I ‘d been thar, as sure as you live,
They’d’a’ plugged me with holes as thick as a sieve;
It’s the reg’lar Golyer luck.”

Over hill and holler and ford and creek
Jest like the hosses had wings, we tore;
We got to Looney’s, and Ben come in
And laid down the baby and axed for his gin,
And dropped in a heap on the floor.

Said he, “When they fired, I kivered the kid,
Although I ain’t pretty, I’m middlin’ broad;
And look! he ain’t fazed by arrow nor ball,
Thank God! my own carcase stopped them all.”
Then we seen his eye glaze, and his lower jaw fall,
And he carried his thanks to God.


Painting by N.C. Wyeth, published/created 1912


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