Kit Carson’s Ride
by Joaquin Miller
Room! room to turn round in, to breathe and be free.
To grow to be giant, to sail as at sea
With the speed of the wind on a steed with his mane
To the wind, without pathway or route or a rein.
Room! room to be free where the white border’d sea
Blows a kiss to a brother as boundless as he;
Where the buffalo come like a cloud on the plain.
Pouring on like the tide of a storm-driven main,
And the lodge of the hunter to friend or to foe
Offers rest; and unquestion’d you come or you go—
My plains of America! Seas of wild lands!
From a land in the seas in a raiment of foam.
That has reached to a stranger the welcome of home,
I turn to you, lean to you, lift you my hands.
Run? Run? See this flank, sir, and I do love him so!
But he’s blind, badger blind. Whoa, Pache, boy, whoa.
No, you wouldn’t believe it to look at his eyes.
But he’s blind, badger blind, and it happen’d this wise:
“We lay in the grass and the sunburnt clover
That spread on the ground like a great brown cover
Northward and southward, and west and away
To the Brazos, where our lodges lay,
One broad and unbroken level of brown.
We were waiting the curtains of night to come down
To cover us trio and conceal our flight
With my brown bride, yon from an Indian town
That lay in the rear the full ride of a night.
“We lounged in the grass—her eyes were in mine,
And her hands on my knee, and her hair was as wine
In its wealth and its flood, pouring on and all over
Her bosom wine red, and press’d never by one.
Her touch was as warm as the tinge of the clover
Burnt brown as it reach’d to the kiss of the sun.
Her words they were low as the lute-throated dove.
And as laden with love as the heart when it beats
In its hot, eager answer to earliest love.
Or the bee hurried home by its burthen of sweets.
“We lay low in the grass on the broad plain levels,
Old Revels and I, and my stolen brown bride;
“Forty full miles if a foot to ride !
Forty full miles if a foot, and the devils
Of red Comanches are hot on the track
When once they strike it. Let the sun go down
Soon, very soon,” muttered bearded old Revels
As he peer’d at the sun, lying low on his back.
Holding fast to his lasso. Then he jerk’d at his steed
And he sprang to his feet, and glanced swiftly around.
And then dropp’d, as if shot, with an ear to the ground;
Then again to his feet, and to me, to my bride.
While his eyes were like flame, his face like a shroud.
His form like a king, and his beard like a cloud,
And his voice loud and shrill, as both trumpet and reed,—
“Pull, pull in your lassoes, and bridle to steed,
And speed you if ever for life you would speed.
Aye, ride for your lives, for your lives you must ride!
For the plain is aflame, the prairie on fire.
And the feet of wild horses hard flying before
I heard like a sea breaking high on the shore,
While the buffalo come like a surge of the sea.
Driven far by the flame, driving fast on us three
As a hurricane comes, crushing palms in his ire.”
“We drew in the lassoes, seized saddle and rein.
Threw them on, cinched them on, cinched them over again.
And again drew the girth; and spring we to horse.
With head to the Brazos, with a sound in the air
Like the surge of a sea, with a flash in the eye,
From that red wall of flame reaching up to the sky;
A red wall of flame and a black rolling sea
Rushing fast upon us, as the wind sweeping free
And afar from the desert blown hollow and hoarse.
“Not a word, not a wail from a lip was left fall.
We broke not a whisper, we breathed not a prayer,
There was work to be done, there was death in the air.
And the chance was as one to a thousand for all.
Twenty miles ! . . . thirty miles ! . . . a dim distant speck . . .
Then a long reaching line, and the Brazos in sight!
And I rose in my seat with a shout of delight.
I stood in my stirrup, and look’d to my right—
But Revels was gone ; I glanced by my shoulder
And saw his horse stagger; I saw his head drooping
Hard down on his breast, and his naked breast stooping
Low down to the mane, as so swifter and bolder
Ran reaching out for us the red-footed fire.
He rode neck to neck with a buffalo bull.
That made the earth shake where he came in his course.
The monarch of millions, with shaggy mane full
Of smoke and of dust, and it shook with desire
Of battle, with rage and with bellowings hoarse.
His keen, crooked horns, through the storm of his mane.
Like black lances lifted and lifted again;
And I looked but this once, for the fire licked through.
And Revels was gone, as we rode two and two.
“I look’d to my left then—and nose, neck, and shoulder
Sank slowly, sank surely, till back to my thighs,
And up through the black blowing veil of her hair
Did beam full in mine her two marvelous eyes,
With a longing and love yet a look of despair
And of pity for me, as she felt the smoke fold her.
And flames leaping far for her glorious hair.
Her sinking horse falter’d, plunged, fell and was gone
As I reach’d through the flame and I bore her still on.
On! into the Brazos, she, Pache and I—
Poor, burnt, blinded Pache. I love him . . .That’s why.