Outlaw Burt Alvord’s Hidden Treasure
By Elizabeth Akin Stelling
It was all out in the open.
Clear as high noon in outlaw country.
More than his bare bones for all to see.
Burt should’ve read the fine print.
In order to become deputized,
he’d signed his remains over to science.
A quick minute, in 1906,
everything he owned was adrift,
sinking on a horse in sea of sand in Arr-yi-zona.
Wounded by sheriff’s men, thirty and
undercover, off a back railway office
as the 3:10 rolled into town.
Next crucial minute, blood spilt.
Like cold milk hit by unaware elbows.
As he rode swift out’a town
brushing past white ponies
they’d all been painted dead.
He, and Three Finger Jack, played
about as good as two lazy lawmen
up in Cochise.
Ever plead for your life
with a squinty eyed
dusty and dirt riddled snake charming
low down tin star blinding crook?
Greed plays a better hand of poker.
He had lots to be remembering, like
them last steps out, off clear vistas.
And, his last breathe on a cold sunrise.
Images mirrored those jagged tooth ranges,
any could take a bite out’a any
rode rough parcel.
When men like him was bent
leaning heavy and exhausted,
those last miles, hell stretched way beyond,
before southwest desert cacti
could tear him up further,
he smiled. They ain’t got me yet.
His horse kept going. Shoe after shoe,
pressing on deep
sand plopping up behind, behinds jawing.
The wind whipped up devils,
not playing so hard to get gone, the goners
trying to take them both down
where men like he deserved.
Burt thought he had it,
that last laugh, out loud, so everyone
would hear til eternity grabbed hold.
But, the buzzards ate their fill,
every piece of his flesh, including
dried up cotton and boot leather
swallowed up and digested.
However, it wasn’t the end of his road,
rough or not.
Some fool, a soul fetcher fella felt sorry
for his crooked ass. Shouting scripture,
dragged his every bone,
dead bones bleached by heat
its hate for even being, scraped raw by rock
dragged down into every harsh element.
The weight of Burt’s purse sealed the deal.
Enough to make any ferry man rich in rags.
The discoverer, unnamed, wanting
no credit for the bullets still clinging
to fame and thread, let some of the gold pay out
for the bronzing of an anonymous doctor’s
office hanged legend display.
Burt’s dying wish to be famous,
not infamous, played out one last hand,
chains and all.
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