Expectation Valley

As you rein in your bronc on the high ridge

overlooking Hadleyville or Pobrecito or Wrangler

it is coming on dusk or it's already early night

and your eyes squint shrewdly as you take in the scene;

it's been a long ride from Wherever and you wonder briefly

what this miserable apology for a cow-town holds

for a weary suntanned reader who figgers that down there

in a saloon called Last Chance or Lucky Strike

another dance-hall gal is being brutally manhandled

by some drunken ranch-hand or deputy sheriff

and as you ride in slowly you ease your six-gun-smooth

sensibility in its hog-legged holster thinking to yourself

Just once I'd like to get to page 15 without any of these


doggone heroics and the smell of bar-room powder-smoke

but you guess that ain't on the cards so instead of riding

right on you push through those bat-wing doors

and the saloon goes awful quiet all of a sudden

(as it generally does when Fate, that pernickety little lady,

plays her hand) and your one consolation is knowing

that while Boot Hill is about to be a mite busier for a while

and the town preacher will be exhuming a few old clichés

at least there'll be a persecuted small-rancher's daughter

nestling in your arms by page 186...

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