April 2024

Songs and Stories: Part II — The Old West

Les Marcott | Scene4 Magazine | www.scene4.com

Les Marcott



Well I drove those cattle hard

I was war weary and battle scarred

 I persevered on the trail for 40 days and 40 nights

But I still wasn’t feeling quite right going back to Cimarron


And no matter how hard I run

In the snow or the blistering sun

I’m still making tracks all the way back to Cimarron


Well I put my money down

On a horse faster than the speed of sound

But he got beat in the heat by half a length

There was wailing and gnashing of teeth all the way back to Cimarron


Fell in love with a dance hall girl

Prettiest thing in the whole wide world

But on our wedding day she was up and gone

Dance hall girls don’t last too long in Cimarron


I was at the St. James Hotel

Playing cards when it all went to hell

Those bandits came in and shot everything in sight

If I had wings, I would’ve taken flight out of Cimarron


And no matter how hard I run

In the snow or the blistering sun

I’m still making tracks all the way back to Cimarron

Should I stay or should I go?  I don’t know, but it would be a great alternative title for this song.  However, the Clash used that title for their 1976 song that contemplates a romantic breakup. In this case, we have a Civil War veteran and/or Indian War combatant coming back to his hometown of Cimarron, New Mexico to lead a cattle drive.  He then finds himself in one unfortunate situation after another – running to and from the place he knows best.  It’s a love-hate relationship only leading to doom and destruction in the end.  I know I’ve had a lifelong struggle with my hometown. At 18 I felt compelled to go to LA – no, not that LA, we’re talking lower Alabama.  Yes, I was strange that way.  But over a lifetime of travelling abroad or within the U.S. I kept making tracks back to the old homeplace for better or worse.  Some escape and do well, like the singer (Don Williams) in the great Bob McDill penned tune Good Ole Boys Like Me.  He hit the road at 18 as well, “learned to talk like the man on the six o’clock news”, while a childhood friend “burned himself up on bourbon and speed”.  But even with his success, those “soft southern winds” keep calling him home. And while Cimarron is about a specific time and place, it’s a song that transcends space and time.




Billy The Kid liked to Play croquet

At the end of a hard outlaw day

‘Cause every desperado’s got to blow off steam

Have a drink, have a dream and play croquet


Everything is fair in love and range wars

Paulita why don’t you hold me once more

Before the day fades away

How ‘bout a game of croquet


Down at that Tunstall ranch

Beneath that hanging tree branch

Those croquet balls would roll and roll

There’s a certain ebb and a certain flow to croquet

We saw it all there in black and white

Hanging on the wall was an old tintype

There was Billy with a mallet in his hand

Playing with his outlaw band…croquet


I wish we could all play a gentleman’s game

Nothing to lose and no one to blame

Just shake hands and walk away

But Pat Garrett never liked the game of croquet


He was an outlaw, that’s for sure and a cop killer. It is said he killed his first man after a “bullying” incident.  His physical appearance was unimpressive – a wiry 5’7”, 135 lb. frame.  He was overly fixated on guns in a culture where guns were commonplace.  He was a gang member.  He has been perceived as a hero and a villain at different points in American history. He was an Irishman who sided with an English cattle baron in the Lincoln County war.  He was an escape artist.  His last words were in Spanish, “Quien es?”  (Who is it?).  Historians never thought much of him.  The New Mexico Tourist Board reveres and promotes him.  That’s some of what we know.  Of course, we’re talking about Henry Antrim, aka William H. Bonney better known as Billy The Kid, the biggest, baddest, desperado of all time if you believe the hype.  That oft quoted line from the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance could very well have been said about Billy The Kid, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”.

Because of the gaps in the historical record, writers and film makers alike have used the semi-blank canvas of the Kid’s life to project their own psychoses, pathologies, ideologies, and whatever else malingers in their collective brains.  From the earliest silent films, King Vidor’s 1930 epic, Paul Newman’s turn as Billy in TheLeft Handed Gun, Sam Peckinpah’s vision in Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, to Gore Vidal’s 1989 take on the subject, you can see competing versions of characterizations of history and the man himself.  Even the creepy, bizarre Billy The Kid Versus Dracula doesn’t seem out of place.  You see, everything is possible in Billy World.

Everyone from dime store novelists to esteemed writers like Larry McMurtry has also added to the myth making down through the
years. Songwriters have been no exception. Woody Guthrie put his populist stamp on the outlaw.  Joe Ely played around with the myth in his insanely funny Me and Billy The Kid.  A photo of Billy playing croquet was authenticated in 2015 and set my imagination wild by yielding this song.


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Les Marcott | Scene4 Magazine | www.scene4.com

Les Marcott is a songwriter, musician, performer and a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.  For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2024 Les Marcott
©2024 Publication Scene4 Magazine




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