July 02, 2008

The Legend of the Yellowstone Stage

This poem describes a place that we have come to love over the years, it is about 75 miles south-east of our place in Island Park – Hidden Corral -on the north slope of the Tetons in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness Area. Though legend has it that this natural enclosure served as an outlaw hideout, there is no documentary evidence to substantiate that claim. There were numerous hold-ups of passenger stagecoaches in Yellowstone Park between 1886 and 1912. These robberies were kept hushed up by the government so as not to scare off tourists to the Park. They are described in Holdups of the Yellowstone Stage. One of the most daring getaways brought the bandits southward out of the Park, but not all the way to Hidden (or Outlaw) Corral. Other than the actual place and the fact the there were numerous hold ups of Yellowstone stagecoaches, the rest of this poem is pure fiction. Or is it?

The Legend of the Yellowstone Stage
by Paul Kern

There is a place a few of us know,
Six months a year it’s free from snow,
Closed in around by a mountain wall,
Outlaw Corral this place we call.

One way in with no back and forth,
Avoid the south as well as the north,
To the south rises dead horse pass,
The northern ridge is a rocky mass.

Once you’re there it’s best to stay,
Where horses graze on wild grass hay.
This valley, a corral has ever been called,
Many an outlaw over the cliffs has crawled.

To guard the gap that guards the val,
Of the hideout called Outlaw Corral,
From a mounted posse riding the sage,
To catch the thieves of the Yellowstone Stage.

A stagecoach was held up just west of the Park,
By outlaws whose bite was worse than their bark,
They stole everything and then turned to run,
On fast horses of color, pinto and dunn.

Riding south each on a swift mounted beast,
At Fall River and beyond they all headed east.
Hard through the river bottoms and shoal,
Toward the rendezvous camp of Pierre’s Hole.

Down in the valley at the county seat,
The sheriff’s posse was called up to meet;
Eight men at least twenty years of age,
To catch the thieves of the Yellowstone Stage.

The sheriff’s posse knew too well,
That for these renegade robbers to jail,
They had to track them through thick and thin,
From dawn till dusk before the mist set in.

Along the river and north up the draw,
Through lodge pole pines rode the men of the law,
Into the thickets and through the sage,
To catch the thieves of the Yellowstone Stage.

As far as we know for the story they tell,
Of the posse, one rider fell dead near Sawtell,
The rest rode on toward the high granite walls,
Of Outlaw Corral where the coyote calls.

The robbers had prepared for the worst,
From a valley wide and flat at first,
Eight miles of trail that came to narrow,
Testing man and horse; nerve and marrow.

The trail grows narrow, wet, steep and dark,
Over slabs of granite iron horseshoes spark,
Then through the mud and over the snow,
Slick from the spray of the torrent below.

And from the cliffs towering above,
A gun sight and trigger under an outlaw glove,
Could easily be trained on a approaching rider,
No matter the size of the fight in the fighter.

The deputies seven didn’t stand a chance,
Of getting the robbers who’d taken this stance,
Not enough paycheck in a posse man’s wage,
To bring in the thieves of the Yellowstone Stage.

The posse was cornered; they’d run out of cover,
An angel of death above them did hover,
Or was it the devil, hell bent on revenge,
For the good that they’d done for family and friends?

Each one in his turn fell slumped to the brown,
Or they panicked; turned tail and headed on down,
The narrow pass at breakneck speed.
For a narrow escape on a wild-eyed steed.

And so they went free those bandits of yore,
With a handful of shots from a lever action bore.
The booty they buried somewhere down in the sage,
The booty from the hold-up of the Yellowstone Stage.

And now there were five in search of the sixth,
Who’d taken a bullet somewhere up in the sticks,
Just north of Sawtell and south of the lake,
Where forever he haunts for his eternal fate.

Fifty years to the day since he fell to the ground,
A man with old clothes and worn hat was found,
By a young elk hunter just coming of age;
Said he hunted the thieves of the Yellowstone Stage.

The five who fell on that fateful trail,
Will never hear their story to tell,
Or find their partner who’d fallen before,
When they went knocking on heavens door.

When sand cranes rise in sudden flight,
When the mountains thunder on a moonless night,
There rides a ghost posse from a bygone age,
Tracking the thieves of the Yellowstone Stage.

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1 comment:

  1. bys! im doing a school project on this and yall were a big help!!!!!!!