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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write in the HISTORICAL genre (05/03/07)

TITLE: The Ballad of George Smiley
By Beth LaBuff
05/07/07


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George Smiley, railroad section hand,
When wrath had turned to rage,
Shot McSweeney in the back
Over a loss of wage.

It once was Horsehead Crossing,
Now Holbrook was the name --
“A town too tough for churches
And women” -- was its claim.

The year was eighteen ninety-nine--
A century has gone by.
In Arizona territ’ry,
Smiley was doomed to die.

REFRAIN
The sun sets o’er the mesa.
The sagebrush shadows plead
For ill-fated George Smiley.
His ending was decreed.

In Arizona Territ’ry
The law necessitates
An invitation be sent out
To lawmen in the state --

When it’s ordained a man must hang.
At his execution
State officials may attend and
Witness retribution.

Frank Wattron, sheriff of the town,
In witticism sent,
An invitation resembling
A wedding announcement.

A white card and white envelope
Cordially requesting
That the bearer come and view
This strangulation setting.

“Into eternity will be swung
At two o‘clock, his soul.
‘Twill be a cheerful ambiance.”
That was his stated goal.

REFRAIN
The breeze wafts o’er the mesa,
And sighs her death knell slow.
George Smiley was condemned to hang.
This debt now, he did owe.

An Albuquerque newsman
Wired Associated Press.
Then, ‘twas in the London Times and
Across the whole U.S. --

‘Bout the Arizona hanging
With invitations sent,
And brutality of gov’ners,
For this ghastly event.

The Gov’nor of Arizona
Offered this solution.
He granted George a thirty day
Stay of execution.

REFRAIN
A cloud weeps o’er the mesa
And dampens arid air.
For light haired, blue eyed Smiley,
The desert says her prayer.

Sheriff Frank, this second time,
In mock solemness sent,
An invitation edged in black
With sarcastic intent.

“With profound sorrow and regret,
You’re invited to attend
A humane execution
And witness Smiley’s end.”

“With respect, you should deport yourself,”
The invitation stated,
“Unseemly language on your part
Will not be tolerated.”

“Conduct bord’ring on ribaldry,
Marring the occasion
Is an action not allowed,”
Read the invitation.


The eighth of January,
On the county courthouse lawn,
The execution did take place.
His time on earth was gone.

REFRAIN
A dove mourns on the mesa.
A tumbleweed drifts on.
The sagebrush grows on Smiley’s grave.
And dusk gives way to dawn.


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This article has been read 1371 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Christine Dunn05/10/07
A well written poem. I like the rhythm and meter.
Kaylee Blake 05/10/07
Hmmm...very interesting. The rhyme and meter was very catching. Is this a true story?

I rather enjoyed this piece. It kind of grows on you. The more you read it, the better it gets.
Betty Castleberry05/10/07
I can almost hear the twang of a steel guitar in the background. Very entertaining, and well done.
Alfreda Byars05/11/07
What an excellent piece! I felt sorry for old Simely. This is very good writing.
Alfreda Byars05/11/07
Sorry I mispelled his name. Still, this is good.
Sharlyn Guthrie05/13/07
An interesting tale and unique in its setting and flavor. I expecially lilke the refrains.
Bonnie Way05/14/07
Great poem! I can hear this as a country ballad... nicely done!
Elizabeth Baize 05/14/07
I really like the flow of your poem and your word choice that captured the western setting. What a great way to record the event from the early history of Holbrook, AZ!
Jacquelyn Horne03/02/08
I really enjoyed this poem. Quite different from the norm, but a fun read.