NOTES: This song is based on a short story by the American writer, Louis L'Amour (1908-1988), called The Gift of Cochise.

Louis L'Amour wrote mostly in the Western genre, and was one of the few writer's to depict the American Indian as more than a barbarous savage.

At least 30 of his novels have been turned into movies including Hondo (1953), Kilkenny (1954), Guns of the Timberland (1955), The Burning Hills (1956), and How the West Was Won (1963).

The Gift
© 2000, Jim Lesses. All Rights Reserved.

She stood inside the doorway, a rifle in her hand,
Two Indians lay bleeding, alone she made a stand.
Cochise, astride his pony; his hand, a sign of peace,
Had come to talk and parlay; this woman and the chief.

‘Where is your man?’ he asked her, eyes like blackened fire,
‘He’s gone to town,’ she told him, they would not call her liar.
‘When did he go?’ he asked her. ‘It’s been two months she said,’
And Cochise, knowing it were so, replied, ‘He must be dead.’

‘Why don’t you leave?’ he asked her. His voice no gentle thing,
‘This is my home,’ the woman said, ‘this house; the land, and spring.’
‘This land was mine,’ Cochise replied, ‘my people walked it first,
You take the water from the earth – my people die of thirst.’

‘I have no wish to fight,’ she said, ‘or see your people die,
There’s water here enough for all,’ and that was her reply.
Cochise, astride his pony. The woman strong and sure.
He turned his horse toward the hills, ‘We trouble you no more.’

* * *

In the town of Crystal Waters, they knew the story well,
A stranger killed in a bar-room fight, lived long enough to tell
About a wife who waited, in a cabin in the north,
But only one man there that day, was ready to go forth.

This man was in that bar-room, on the day it flashed with knife,
The fight was his alone that day, when the stranger saved his life.
And now this man would travel, across Apache land,
And he would find that woman there, or die upon the sand.

For weeks he crossed the country, each day he looked for signs,
For tracks along the canyons, or smoke above the pines.
He fought with fear and hunger, with loneliness as well,
He fought with heat and rattlesnakes, and cursed his living hell.

And when Apaches caught him, he knew the end had come,
Cochise again was leading; his men would have their fun.
‘Give me a knife, and I will fight,’ he roared at every man,
And if I win I will go free, for that is how we stand.’

They cut the ropes that held him, the strongest of them stood,
They held their knives before them, as only hard men would.
The fight was long and bloody, the wounds were deep and red,
And when at last it ended, Cochise’s man lay dead.

* * *

Again they bound his body, three days they crossed the sand,
Until again they rested, in front of sheltered land.
Cochise, astride his pony, a brightness in his eyes,
A woman in her doorway, her face showed her surprise.

‘You woman, strong and healthy,’ Cochise he said at last,
‘But woman need a white man, and it has come to pass.’
Of course, she would accept him – if not, the man would die,
And so she gave agreement, but still she wondered why.

And that is how he found her, and though both tired and pale,
He brought the news she needed, and gently told the tale.
And later when he’d rested, and risen from his bed,
Alone and in her sadness, ‘You’re free to go,’ she said.

The evening shadows lengthened; the sky was red and clear,
A night bird broke the silence; he said, ‘I like it here.’
And Cochise, astride his pony, rode laughing through the wood,
Cochise had brought a gift to her, and he knew it was good.

Yes, the red men on the mountain, rode laughing through the wood,
Cochise had brought a gift to her, and they knew it was good.


JIM LESSES: Sometimes I Wake Up Naked

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JIM LESSES: American Dream

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