I'm feeling much better today even though I'm having a hard time sleeping. Probably to much excitement and coffee at night. I finally was able get up and walk this morning, even though I had to force myself to take the first few steps. The logical application won out, as I know I always feel better having started the day with some exercise. And Baby loves the walks as she gets to see her llama friends, chase a deer now and then, and run wild and free.
Last night, I played up at the Hell's Backbone Grill and had a great time. In the center of the room, (as someone told me) were the main players of the Utah Democratic Party. Amongst them was Bruce Babbitt, former Secretary of Interior and politician who wore many hats in the Arizona political scene. I tried to keep the music 'cowboyed' up, and played lots of classic country as well. Mr. Babbitt came and asked me questions about Boulder. He is a very friendly, open, and interesting man. He has that 'thing' that many politicians and preachers have, the ability to totally focus on what you are saying and make you feel like what you are saying is part of the solution to world peace. I'm not mocking, I always find it an appealing quality in a person, unless it feels uncomfortable or fake. If you are not familiar with the Babbitt Family, they are like The Kennedys of Arizona. I love to play in the Grill, Jen and Blake always make me feel welcome, and live music always makes for a more festive dinner, I think, of course, there are always a few people who resist. But mostly, I have great experiences playing in there, I think Jen and Blake run a first class operation. I think in a place like Boulder, it is especially complimentary because people have to travel to get here, and both the lodge and the restaurant do an amazing job at getting a full house every night I've been there this year. As an artist with some ambition, I understand the drive it takes to create something like this restaurant, so I'm always appreciative and thankful that I can play there. There was also a man who had just picked up his son from a rehab ranch, and both the son and the man were a wonderful audience, and we had easy conversation as he opened up to me about his life. Sometimes, (like a politician) when you play music, it does open people up. Music become a source of rumination for many people, and in a setting like Boulder, it feels genuine and heartfelt.
Yesterday was also the volunteer day to set up The Smithsonian Exhibit on 'roots' music, one of the four places in Utah the exhibit is stopping. There were lots of crates, (like you would see at a large rock concert) and inside them are the booths and panels that are put together to display the history and anecdotal information on different types of music. Country, Blues, and Gospel were just three, I was in charge of the Country panels, but found that I was a complete idiot in putting them together. It's like a giant puzzle, with many parts that go together in a particular way, (very mechanical). Enter Steve and Cheryl who worked together to put things together without much hesitation—Steve's scientific mind was in full engagement, so we were able to get them put together. Tuesday night is the grand opening of the exhibit, and many of the local musicians have been asked to set up equipment inside of the museum and perform some 'roots' music of our own. I'm looking forward to that, tonight in Salt Gulch we have a rehearsal where we will put together our line up. After Tuesday, I will have gotten to play music for five nights in a row, which makes me happy. I find that playing like that really tightens up your learning curve, last night for example, I was playing in style I haven't played before. It's like that question. "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice…" Boulder is a great place to have the time and inspiration to play lots of music. Last night, after I got home, I got on my computer and started going through songs I've written over the years, especially the story songs. I have one song, 'Jack DeRay's in Hell', which is ten pages long. It's still rough in places, but I'll post it so you can see what goes into a story song. It’s a little like cowboy poetry, but with a little different rhythm.
I still have not heard from Sean the producer about Austin, so for now, I will start to focus on things here, and may even try to get bookings on my Bohemian Cowboy show. I have an idea of how to cut it, so that I can perform it with just a table, two chairs and a stool. The show as it is now is an hour and a half, I'll try to cut it down to an hour.
Today is Memorial Day, so as is custom in Utah, the cemeteries will be full of people placing flowers on graves, remembering the dead, and visiting with relatives and friends they haven't seen in awhile. I'll probably miss the cemetery today, as I like to go to the Boulder cemetery on my own. In my mind, it’s a wonderful cemetery, set back amongst the pinon pines, with sage brush growing abundantly on the out skirts. This is where I will find my final resting place. I once took a date to this very cemetery. You might imagine a very morbid date at a cemetery, and although I wouldn't recommend it, it turned out to be a wonderful date. I have so many relatives in that cemetery that it brought up stories and anecdotes that I could readily tell, a cemetery is a great place for stories. Hope you have a great Memorial Day, time to seize the day…
I'll post this as a Memorial day song story, with typos, grammatical errors and all!
I made a critical decision today. I've decided to have a memorial headstone made for my father to be placed in the Boulder cemetery. It doesn't look like I'm going to resolve this conflict with my sisters because of their failure to communicate, except for insults from a far through relatives. I challenge either one of you to a real conversation concerning our father. In the meantime, Gary and I will do a Boulder memorial for him, and you can do the Escalante side, it seems the most appropriate solution. Of course, you can't do it by phone, you'll actually have to come here…
Jack Deray’s in Hell By Raymond King Shurtz
Mattie was a renegade
from growin’ up to fast,
tryin’ hard to reconcile
the future with the past
Sometimes them ole’ bridges,
refuse to burn and die,
Mattie found himself alone,
ridin’ for the sky.
He grew up in Colorado,
a bedroll for his head,
wilder than a bobcat
is what the townsfolk said.
Even with those rugged looks,
he was not the kind to be
blessed with all the promises
that keeps a young man free.
Mattie rode a chestnut stallion
with coal black hair and mane
it once was said in days gone by
their tempers were the same
Mattie liked the driftin’ life
to feel the cold wind blow
it blew him to Durango,
for what he didn’t know.
He walked inside a tavern
to down some whiskey and rye
when a lady on a barstool,
caught and claimed his eye.
Now the beauty of this woman
was as untamed as the sea,
Mattie thought at last he’d found
A word he heard called destiny.
Mattie told the barkeep
if he was lookin’ for sumpthin’ ta do
ta’ pour one for the lady,
and he’d take a double too.
The barkeep stopped and eyed the crowd,
then looked at him and said,
“I wouldn’t buy the lady a drink, son
less your lookin’ ta end up dead.”
Mattie grabbed him by the shirt, said,
“I think you herd me friend, pour it quick
without a word, I don’t want to ask again.”
The barkeep did his duty,
lookin’ down the bar,
he poured one for the dark young stranger,
and one for the lady, Starr.
Now, Starr was more than pretty,
it wasn’t just her face,
her eyes were tellin’ stories,
she moved with God’s own grace
He saddled up to the stool beside her
covered her with charm,
a silver tongue of compliments,
her laughter was long and warm,
Said she grew up dirty poor,
down Kansas City way,
her father was a drunkard,
her Mother’d run away.
Her Pa sold her into marriage,
for two hundred in some gold,
to a trapper from Montana
who was lookin’ for sumpthin’ ta hold.
When the second drink was in her hand,
she smiled and tipped her glass,
to the young and handsome cowboy,
whose heart was beatin’ fast.
Somethin’ in that face he thought,
pinin’ long ago,
Maybe his red haired Mother,
he’d barely got to know.
He talked to her of cattle drives,
and the mountains that he’d climbed,
she told him all her early dreams,
her eyes turned from hard to kind.
Suddenly, he reached for her
grabbed her by the hand,
He looked into those big brown eyes,
ignored the little gold band.
He kissed her once so tenderly
That the moon forgot her name,
He kissed away her heartaches
He kissed away her pain.
The place was full of Saturday night,
But right there in between,
Love struck like a gold rush,
Like a Shakespearean scene.
The piano stopped quite suddenly,
The crowd went hushed as well,
The cook turned down the fire,
As the midnight hour fell.
Now Jack Deray was sittin’
at the table by the door,
his poker luck was finished
his backside gettin’ sore.
He heard the quiet and looked around
Stood up to see the eyes,
All trained on him and full of mischief,
It was then he heard the sighs.
He stretched and cracked his knuckles
then turned toward the bar,
That’s when he saw young Mattie,
In a lover's embrace with Starr
Now Jack Deray was ugly anyway,
He’d been drinkin’ hard all day,
The rage began to fill the room,
His face turned black some say,
He staggered to the bar’s end
grabbed a bottle of rye,
he pulled the leather off the hammer
of a colt he called ole’ Sly.
Jack he stood at six feet seven
and solid as an oak,
Some ud’ say he drank a fifth of whiskey
a fore he had awoke.
His beard was full and stained with juice,
he had a yaller toothy grin,
Up yonder in West Montana,
they said he’s killed ten men.
Mattie saw the bottle comin’
Like a bullet flyin’ straight,
he jumped jest like a cougar
It missed and hit ole’ Nate.
Thank God for a scream
And the speed of youth,
The courage love can bring,
Mattie sprung into action
Just like a coiled spring.
Mattie caught ole’ Jack a jimmy
before his six gun cleared,
his head against Jack’s belly
as they broke the barkeep’s mirror
A huntin’ knife flashed silver,
ripped through Mattie’s side,
the only thing that saved him,
was the blade that cut just wide
He grabbed ahold of Jack’s big arm
held it like a vice,
the knife was finally wrenched away
when Mattie hit him twice.
They crashed and broke a table
Jack’s jaw crushed as well
from the blood that began to cover them
it was really hard to tell
Then it happened who could know
how fast a fight could end,
lightning doesn’t flash as quick
and thunder’s not as loud my friend
Jack had finally cleared his gun
it roared as people dove,
two bullets hit the wooden floor
one went through the stove.
then a sound of CLICK, CLICK, CLICK,
as the firing pin was dead,
Ole’ Jack he took to pistol whippin’
Mattie on the head,
Arms were cussin’ to stop the blows,
as they did the cowboy fell,
then Mattie pulled his forty-five
and sent Ole Jack to hell!
Six shots from that Navy colt,
as fast as stars can fall,
the miner from Montana,
had heard his final call.
four ripped through his body,
one went in his eye,
the last one broke the pistol grip,
of the colt Ole Jack named Sly,
Three full seconds later,
Jack stood there like a post,
and then a deafening timber fall
as he finally gave up his ghost.
Mattie stood up in silence
smoke driftin’ from the gun,
the Lady Starr was screamin’ now
at what first sight love had done.
The sheriff heard the shootin’
makin’ rounds outside the door,
he opened up those panels,
just as Jack was hittin’ the floor.
The smell of blood and powder,
Lay heavy in the air.
The Sheriff he pulled leather,
As Mattie headed for the stairs.
“Stop or meet the devil son,
put your hands above your head,
throw down that piece of iron,
or they’ll be two in here that’s dead."
Mattie was arrested,
found his bed in jail,
waitin’ to be sentenced
for sendin’ Jack ta hell.
Not that Jack was any prize
He’d bullied more than one,
But the law is plain on shootin’ men,
With a cannon or a gun.
Now a cowboys life is lonely,
A driftin’ one is worse,
And one that ends up hanging,
Is the far end of that curse.
Morning came with the circuit judge,
Hungover and feelin’ mean,
Even with forty witnesses
Who testified what they had seen,
The facts were plain, the court stood fast,
On men and them’s that’s married,
Law is law and love is lost,
And justice must be carried.
The gavel fell and guilty spoke,
To the packed and silent room,
The gallows began construction
On that very afternoon.
Some said that Jack Deray
Deserved the lead he got,
Others said you just can't kiss,
A married woman even bought.
Seven days, and twenty meals,
Prepared by Ole Miss Dale,
Two priests, a chief, one widow
The visitors at the jail.
The widow was the Lady Starr,
Who's love for him was certain,
She covered him with words and tears
He the window she the curtain.
Page on page of poetry
She wrote between his lines,
She wanted to hold the story he told
Until the end of time,
But time is a persistent beast,
it walks without a rest
and seven days is but a drop
in a life that fails its test
The morning came with silent sun
A meal of lovers' bread,
Thirteen steps and a twisted rope
Last words were finally said,
"I'm a young man, not a youth,
I know what I have done,
I shot a man who's down in hell,
And may be the devil's son,
But, It doesn't pay to shoot or kill,
A man for love or hate
For when a man picks up a pistol
He intervenes with fate.
The lesson is as cruel and plain,
As this rope was put to weave,
And now its time for me to pay,
Its time for to take my leave.
I'll see you someday soon my love,
I'll wait upon boot hill,
I only wish that I could have loved you
As freely as I killed.
"I'll come to you, she spoke out,
you don't have to die alone,
you wait for me on yonder hill,
when the morning light has shone.
The preacher spoke the last few words,
Confusing all the more,
The oracles that death can bring
Between the act of love and war,
Now hell and heaven waits for us,
If one believes the choice,
Or it may you stand between,
If two are of one voice.
Jack Deray was the devil's own,
Why he's in hell today,
Where these two young lover's go,
Its not for me to say.
For love can strike most anyone,
At any time a day,
The question is What to do,
When it comes your way?
The crowd it stood on weakened knees,
As the rope moved around his neck,
Then the hangman pulled the lever
Mattie fell beneath the deck.
They buried Mattie late that day,
Right next to Jack DeRay
The ladies from the bible group
Came to mourn and pray.
All that day on fresh dug ground
The Lady Starr did stay
Until the preacher came and took her hand,
And made her walk away.
Some say that Starr left that night
On the chestnut stallion horse,
That Mattie had bequeathed to her,
But others say another course.
Some say that it was grief that took her,
That she jumped off Greeley ledge,
To join him in the afterlife
Some say they heard that pledge.
Others claim she took to wanderin'
In the mountains throughout the west
Singing songs and planting flowers
Mad as a gold miner's nest.
Then one morning and twenty years,
From the day the rope went straight,
Came the story most believe,
Even though the proof is late.
An old saddle tramp came riding through
said he saw a woman and man,
Standin' in the cemetery
Embraced in a lovers' stand.
"It was early in the morning light,
two horses at the gate,
like they was about to say goodbye
or goin' on a date…
I said, "Good day good folks, I'm Ezra,
Ain't it a beautiful morn?"
They turned around to look at me,
I saw her dress was torn.
The scar around his neck was plain,
For it glistened in the sun,
Then the blood, that covered her heart,
Made me want to run,
The book she had in her lily hand
Fluttered the pages worn,
His eyes looked like two pieces of coal,
That's when these thought were born
The hair on me stood up straight
Like a brand new cedar post
I knew that I was standin' there,
Lookin at two ghosts.
I found my bones just couldn't move
As they mounted up and rode,
Faded into the mountains there
She left the book for me to hold.
It’s a book of poems without no names
And seems to be the tale,
Of Mattie, Starr, and love forlorn,
And Jack Deray in hell.
Every Saturday, May the tenth,
Down at Mattie's grave,
The brave one's they all gather 'round,
To see if Starr can save
Her young and handsome cowboy
Who's love so easily fell
On the fateful night in Durango,
While Jack DeRay's in hell.
Goodnight Sweet Starr,
Goodnight Sweet Prince,
Where ever you ride tonight,
Mercy waits and love it takes
The courage to make a wrong a right.
That will end the story,
At least the tale it seems,
But if you go down to Durango,
You can sometimes hear a scream
Some say it is the Lady Starr
When the rope went straight,
Some say it plain its Mattie Barrow,
Tryin' to call back fate,
Some say it's from the courtroom
When the gavel fell,
But most will say its just ole Jack
Screamin' up from hell.
Copyright May, 2010 Raymond King Shurtz