The Mercy of Nah-Né.
Sharlot M. Hall. Out West Magazine, 1905.
KNOX, the gambler—Felix Knox—
Trickster, short-card man, if you will;
“Rustler,” brand-wrangler, all of that—
But Knox, the man and the hero still!
For life at best is a hard-set game,
The cards come stacked from the Dealer’s hand.
And a man swings free of the weights just once—
When he faces Death in the last grim stand.
Knox had been drummer in Crook’s command;
A devil of daring lived in his drum;
With his heart in the call and his hand on the sticks.
The dead from their sand-filled graves might come.
Crippled for life he drummed his last,
Shot through the knees in the Delche fight;
But he crawled to a rock and drummed, “Advance,”
Till the Tonto renegades broke in flight.
That was the man who shamed Nah-Né.
Two miles out on the Clifton road.
Beyond York’s ranch, the ambush lay,
Till a near, swift-moving dust-whirl showed
Where the buckboard came. Nah-Né crouched low
And gripped his rifle and grimly smiled,
As he counted his prey with hawk-like eyes—
The men, the woman, the little child.
They halted, full in the teeth of the trap.
Knox saw, too late. He weighed the chance
And thrust the whip in the driver’s hand
And wheeled the mules: “Back! Back to the ranch!”
He cried as he jumped: “I’ll hold them off;
Whip for your life!” The bullets sung
Like swarming bees through the shallow pass,
And whirred and hummed and struck and stung.
But he turned just once—to wave his hand
To wife and child; then straight ahead,
With yell for yell and shot for shot.
Till the rocks of the pass were spattered red
And seven bodies be-painted and grim
Sprawled in the cactus and sand below,
And seven souls of the Devil’s kin
Went with him the road that dead men know.
Ay! That was Knox! When the cowboys came
On the day-old trail of the renegade.
Nah-Né the butcher, the merciless,
This was the tribute the chief had paid
To the fearless dead—No scarring fire,
No mangling knife; but across the face
His own rich blanket drawn smooth and straight,
Stoned and weighted to hold its place.