There are strange things wrought within this pot,
That sets astride the fire,
And a story to tell of heaven and hell,
And how it brought God's ire.
These mountains and vales have heard wild tales,
But the wildest, and I'm sure I'm right,
Is the story I've heard, and now every word,
I'll tell to you tonight.

There's many a drink made by men that think,
That water's no good til it's brewed,
And while creating it God was off at a nod,
Or maybe that day he was stewed.
But the worst of them all that I can recall,
And my memory is as stout as a tree,
(I'm sure 'twas made by the infernal brigade),
That drink is cowboy coffee.

Now hark to my tale and though you may pale,
I swear the whole story is true.
As true as God's grace, or the nose on my face,
Or the flag of the red, white, and blue.
I tell it in rhyme because in my time,
And I'm sure that all will agree,
The stories you curse were all told in verse,
(Just think of the one of McGee).

Wild Bill was his name, cowboy was his game,
And he rode with style did he,
So tough he could ride any beast with a hide,
That lived in the West country.
The white Bronc he rode was battered and old,
But the two were ne'er apart,
Their friendship accorded to the streams they had forded,
As if they were one from the start.

Yes his name was Bill and it gave a thrill,
To many far and wide,
For in that name was a heap of fame,
And a source of Western pride.
For he was great in the ways that rate,
In the mind of the Western land:
He was fast on the draw, he honored the law,
And he knew how to take a stand.

In the West everyone knew his speed with a gun,
The outlaws, they did hide.
For his aim and skill, and the game he'd kill,
He was known through the countryside.
Have you heard of the shot, and the bear he got?
I heard it from my 'pards.
It was running fast, the light was past, It was more than a hun'r'd yards.

He took his aim at the bear's chestframe,
(He was going for the heart),
The brush was thick but his shot was quick,
And he nailed him in that part.
As the tale is told, the dead bear rolled,
Quite far on down that hill,
And came to rest (I'm sure you guessed),
Right at the feet of Bill.

Have you heard the tale down in Ronnie's Swale,
Of how he got the boar?
Bill cornered him and the fight got grim
As the beast charged with a roar.
When his gun did jam, Wild Bill said "Damn!"
And he knew 'twas a fight for life.
But he worried none, just dropped his gun,
And drew his Kabar knife.

The fur it flew I'm telling you,
As they fought there cheek to jowl.
The boar would slash and his tusks would gnash,
And he bellowed a frightful howl.
Then Bill would too give a wild "Yahoo!"
For his heart was in this fight.
The boar fought his best, but was laid to rest,
And we had roast boar that night.

Though Bill stood tall as a legend and all,
In fact he was a mortal man.
When our time comes nigh we all must die,
As writ in the Godhead's plan.
And so one morn we stood forlorn,
His chips Bill cashed them in.
The ladies cried on the day he died,
And the preacher said "Amen."

Large bets were made on the day they laid,
Ol' Bill six feet in the ground,
As to where he was headed, to the place that is dreaded,
Or the clouds were angels are found.
For while Bill was as good, as a cowboy should,
Or at least as good as could be,
The blotch on his soul that was black as a coal,
Was the way he brewed his coffee.

As he stood before God, he looked mighty odd,
With a cigarette perched on his lip.
An inch-thick mat of dust on his hat,
His Colt slung low on his hip.
His khaki shirt was glazed with dirt,
He had blood all over his pants.

Then God looked at him, and his voice was grim,
"Wild Bill, you've had your chance."
"You swore and you cussed, you spit in the dust,
You smoked that wretched weed.
You were mighty frisky with the demon whiskey,
And the laws that I decreed.
But I want you to know before you go,
What really got my ire,
Was the infernal rot you put in the pot,
And set beside the fire."

"I might have stood it," was the way that He put it,
"If you just took it off in time.
But the beans were perked 'til the coffee was jerked.
You know what you did was a crime.
If the pot it would spill, what it hit it would kill,
The taste was demon strong,
My gift was the bean, but your brew was too mean,
You know what you did was wrong."

"That awful drink that to this brink,
Has brought your immortal soul,
Of the bean was a waste, with an awful taste,
And a color as black as a hole.
I can forgive most sin," He said with a grin,
"Most sinners, they can be saved,
But to leave such grime on the pot is a crime
And the result was most depraved."

"Although, to your credit," was the way that God said it,
And Wild Bill got up his hope.
"You were fast with a gun, and there was no one,
Who did have more skill with rope.
You took care of your folks, and of broke cowpokes,
And your Grandma' who needed tendin',
The cabin you fixed, you ditched all the cricks,
And the fence that needed some mendin'."

But his hopes went dead when God, He said,
"But I can't forgive that brew,
It was too damn strong, and just damn wrong,
And 'damned' is the course for you,
Your fate, Wild Bill, now you've time to kill,
Is to rustle up some grub,
And take a pot of your damned rot,
To King Beelzebub."

"Since you're brew's hell sent and you're hell bent,
Let the punishment fit the crime:
For Heavenly mirth, you're back to earth,
You'll have just one more time,
To brew a cup of your poison up,
The way you do so well,
And serve it to him, of sulphur and brim,
To the lord of the legions of hell."

So the soul of Bill cleaned the grounds with a swill,
And he threw them out under a tree.
He was thinkin' fast, "If this pot would last,
Then I might have some time free.
One more deer I might shoot, or a pig to boot,
Then I'll pay the devil his due.
In the places I'll go, surely God wouldn't know."
So did think our dead buckaroo.

So he put in the grounds, 'bout 3 or 4 pounds,
Then put on an all-night log.
"If it's to hell that I'm headed, then there's naught to be dreaded,
If I'm caught with a deer or a hog.
What more can He do, for my soul is now through,
I will hunt and have me a time."
So the hillside he worked as the coffee it perked
And the pot it grew thicker in grime.

Wild Bill had such fun on this very last run,
That the days they passed quickly by.
Since his body was dead he had no need for bread,
And he kept huntin' 'round on the sly.
It never occurred that when God said His word,
These words they should be obeyed.
So when God bellowed out a divinely loud shout,
Even Bill himself was dismayed.

Back to camp he shot and he grabbed the pot,
And he headed straight down to hell,
Filled a cup for him to the top o' the brim,
And the devil he sniffed a smell.
But when he took one taste of the bean's disgrace,
His face was torn in pain.
He screamed a shout and the smoke poured out,
Of his ears like a old steam train.

"What retch is this?" he exclaimed with a hiss.
"There is something dead in here.
There's nothing in hell to compare with this smell,
Hell's no place for this, I fear.
Get your wretched pot and your retch'd rot,
Get the hell out of my Abyss.
I've tasted what drains from railroad trains
That wasn't half as bad as this."

So then Bill had no proper place to go,
For he sure couldn't stay in hell.
And God had said it straight that he couldn't wait,
In the land where angels dwell.
So he went back West where his body did rest,
To the mountains he'd hunted so long,
And when I'm drawing a bead on a deer out to feed,
I am sure that I have him along.


There are strange things wrought within this pot,
That sets astride the fire,
And a story to tell of heaven and hell,
And how it brought God's ire.
These mountains and vales have heard wild tales,
But the wildest, and I'm sure I'm right,
Is the story I've heard, and now every word,
I've told to you tonight.

    David Nelson
with apologies to
Robert W. Service, the author of
The Cremation of Sam McGee

(I devote my life to poems and such
In words I don't just dabble.
But it is hard as hell to get it right
With the accent on the right syllable!)


A bit of explanation: This poem is in honor of my brother Bill, who brews real Cowboy Coffee, a mean drink with all the hair on: he puts cheap grounds into a percolator, fills it up with spring water, and sets it on the edge of the campfire for five hours. He refuses to let me clean the pot, says it might affect the flavor, so the coffee is black and strong, the pot is blacker and stronger yet, but the taste is something divine! So I don't ever wash the pot.


And I presume you know about The Cremation of Sam McGee, written in 1904 by Robert W. Service. See the link, above and right, to read about him.