Rennie's Outlaw

Poem By David Welch

I.
Rennie Hauser gazed out of the window
as the stage slowly trundled down the road,
the sun beat hard on the towering peaks
that ran across northern Colorado.

She was on the way to see her father
in the small town locals called Tanager,
she was not that fond of her dear, old dad,
but there weren't many options left to her.

Her fiancé had left her in New York
for some young trollop from across the sea,
and her mother had passed two months later,
leaving Ren with large amounts of money.

But she did not get it until twenty-three,
so said her mom's will, it could not be changed,
forcing her to live with her lying father,
from whom she and mom had long been estranged.

She heard that he was running several mines,
and the biggest was in the town ahead,
it must be working out, since she could see
workers putting down a new railroad bed.

She waved and then and rode past for a bit
when a new sight filled Rennie's soul with fear:
Five rough-looking men were blocking the road,
from out of nowhere they had just appeared.

They sat atop horses, pistols in hand,
grim faces weather by a life outdoors.
a handsome one rode out from the fell bunch,
said, "Take half of their purses, nothing more."

With that the men ushered them from the stage,
and one watched Rennie with a lustful eye,
a squat fellow with a stubbly beard,
who advanced until he was by her side.

His gaze ran up and down her slim form,
then he grabbed Rennie firmly the wrist,
said, "I think there is time for us to have fun."
She tried to pull free, he wouldn't desist.

"Henry, take your hands off of that woman, "
said the leader from a few feet away.
Henry ignored him, ripped her blouse open,
then pushed her down to the ground for his ‘play.'

As he leaned over her, leering wolfishly,
a shot rang out, exploding Henry's head.
He seemed to stand there, for a brief moment,
then just pitched over, already stone dead.

She lay stunned and saw, standing behind him,
the bandit leader, smoke rose from his gun,
farther back the other three thugs looked shocked,
the leader growled, "Such things won't be done."

Rennie managed to get back to her feet,
with one hand tried to keep her torn dress closed,
watched uneasily as the man turned away,
she cried, "I'm not gonna thank you, you know!

"My father's the richest man in these parts,
he'll send bounty hunters to run you down! "
But all the bravado vanished quickly
when she saw the grave man turn back around.

II.
"Do you mean to say Arthur Hauser's your dad? "
he asked he with a steely countenance.
She somehow managed to bluster a "Yes,
and you'll run from here if you have any sense! "

The man just smirked, and said, "Why should I run?
This land is my very own ranch, after all.
At least before your dad murdered my woman,
and set me up so I would take the fall."

Amidst all her fear the words struck a chord,
since father had a very rotten soul,
he'd been run out of towns more times than once,
and was ruthless about achieving goals.

The man continued, "Do you really think
that I wanted to live the outlaw life?
A year ago I was just a rancher
and had asked a sweet girl to be my wife.

"But Arthur wanted to build a new spur,
and bring all the trains right up to the mine.
I refused to sell, so he decided
to steal my watch, as evidence to find.

"They discovered it besides Ella's body,
and all concluded I had done the deed.
I had been out with the cows all that night,
so no alibi could come vouch for me.

"And given Arthur is ‘friends' with the judge,
and ‘wins' his cases more often than not,
I fled town before they gave me the noose,
went to the mountains to struggle and rot.

"I do not rob coaches out of desire,
I need to survive, not inspire fear."
He turned to his men and scowled at them,
"I though I made this abundantly clear."

The men huddled back, meekly gathered the coin,
said Rennie, "What makes you think I'd believe you? "
The man said, "Ask your dad about Joe Fields,
his face alone will tell you the real truth."

And with that he took half of her money,
no passenger did he leave high and dry,
then he and his men jumped up on their mounts,
and away into the trees they did fly.

The stage got in late, with a body in tow,
though the sheriff would give them no reward.
Rennie's father was nowhere to be seen,
dragging her luggage to his house was a chore.

At least he had built a respectable place,
two stories tall with real windows and glass,
he had done very well running his mines,
could afford all the illusions of class.

When he finally showed up after midnight,
he gave a gruff, "So I see you got here."
She said, "We were held up by a Joe Fields."
On his face Rennie saw very real fear.

It only lasted a second or two,
then he said, "Excuse me, I have to step out.
There's a room upstairs I guess you can use."
Then he left, and she was shrouded in doubts…

III.
She settled into life the best she could,
wanted for nothing, but found her life boring.
Thankfully her pa wasn't much around,
when he wasn't at work, he was whoring.

Not many folks spoke kindly about him,
but he had money, and worse, he had guns.
The men also knew he'd sack anybody,
turn out folks with their wives and little ones.

And when she asked into the man Joe Fields,
she got little more than cold, frightened looks.
Most would not even speak of the bandit,
those that did just called him ‘killer, ' and ‘crook.'

She finally heard words from a drunk cowboy
who confirmed all that the bandit had claimed,
whispered, "Joe was just a hard-working type,
but he was stubborn, and so he got framed! "

One night when Arthur actually stayed in
she approached him, quite cautiously and slow,
then asked, "Father, what happened with Joe Fields?
If I'm to stay here I think I should know."

She wasn't quite sure what she should expect,
Rennie knew he wasn't a gentle man,
but she didn't think he'd stare at his daughter
while tapping his pistol with his right hand.

He said, "Rennie, I think you've heard tall talk,
you need not trouble yourself with that mess.
Besides, it's never a good idea for
a woman to ask about a man's business."

Rennie didn't leave the house for two days,
the blatant threat was more than she could take.
Her dad was cruel…but to threaten his own?
It was enough to make any soul quake.

When she finally did emerge from there
she mounted a horse with a painted hide,
a neighbor asked where she might be going,
she laughed, "Oh, I'm just taking hm for a ride."

This continued, and people though it odd,
a woman riding off almost every morn,
but the whole town knew of her father's ways,
and thought she did it to escape his scorn.

For most of a year it went on like this,
except in winter when she stayed inside,
outside the townsfolk hunted for Joe Fields,
but kept failing, no matter how hard they tried.

When the year was up, and Rennie got her cash,
she quickly moved out of her father's place,
stayed in a boarding house while a new home
was built outside town at a rapid pace.

She was now richer than even her dad,
folks marveled that her home had three whole floors,
all the local men vied for Ronnie's hand,
but their attention she roundly deplored.

Though rumors soon spread, a shadow was seen
slipping up to her back door on some nights,
she would laugh and say, "You are seeing ghosts,
Do tell me, have you been feeling all right? "

IV.
But the jokes all stopped cold six months later
when her belly swelled up, big, full, and round.
It was a scandal, her dad was enraged,
a rash of whispered words ran through the town.

Rennie didn't care about the rumors,
her money insulated her from such,
but she did worry what her pa might do,
until she was blessed with a tragic luck.

While leading his men down a brand new shaft,
the dark earth rumbled, and crushed Arthur flat,
three other people died in the cave-in,
it was the town's darkest day, that's a fact.

And though Rennie mourned as good people did,
she also felt a real sense of relief,
with her father gone she had naught to fear,
all the worries she felt quickly ceased.

When her baby came the people still talked,
but Rennie would not pay them any mind,
her dad left no will, she inherited all,
and most of the town worked deep in her mines.

Nor did she care when it happened again,
and her stomach once more swelled with child,
folks whispered ‘bastard' and wondered what sort
of woman let herself be so ‘defiled.'

But they kept their words low, she was a good boss,
had increased the pay of all her workers,
gave them Sundays off for family and church,
such an arrangement they would not disturb.

For years it continued, ten children in all,
reports of dark men sneaking to the house,
it became a game to guess who they were,
some fools even claimed the honor out loud.

Though those that did quickly found themselves jobless,
soon few were brave enough to make such claims,
the town tolerated their ‘rich harlot'
since she kept opening up brand new veins.

But then one day in 1917
she was seen bawling out on her front porch,
most figured it was because her youngest
had been drafted to fight in the Great War.

But the fates were kind, and young Kent came home,
a little shell-shocked, but no worse for wear,
still Rennie seemed like she had lost a step,
was always half-mired with real despair.

Nobody would notice until years later
that no men crept to her house in darkness,
but Rennie was well into her sixties,
so nobody would have been surprised by this.

In 1923 she died in her sleep,
all her children knew what was in her will,
they rode out on horses with the town priest,
into the mountains' brisk, October chill.

They rode with her body through rocky clefts,
through wilderness paths that no other knew,
then came to a remote box canyon where
the stunned preached stopped, and took in this view:

V.
Besides a rushing stream he saw a stone hut,
framed by aspens clinging to a rough slope,
the chimney was stained from long years of use,
But who lived out here? He just didn't' know.

Until his eyes happened upon two graves,
one had weathered, the other was fresh cut.
Who could they know who was buried out here?
Curious, he dismounted and walked up.

The older gave said: ‘Here lies Joseph Fields,
1851 to 1912,
Father, and Husband to his dear Rennie.'
The priest stumbled back. "Wha-what does this mean? "

The oldest daughter, who was named Isabel,
said, "She knew the townsfolk would not understand.
That's why she used to ride back in her youth,
she combed the mountains, seeking out this man.

"She knew our grandpa had done the man wrong,
that a normal life he never would live.
She brought him money so he'd stop thieving,
and it return, his whole heart he did give.

"When our grandpa died they both realized
that without hm none could prove pa was framed,
they both dreamed of reopening his case,
but knew that doing so would be in vain.

"He visited us at night, when he was able,
and we rode out here to his backwoods hut.
We're not bastards, Father Cobb married them,
you can at least tell the people that much.

"Six years ago, when our father passed on,
she came out here to give her man a grave.
She made it clear to us, when her time came,
we were to ride out here and do the same.

"We could not speak of this when she still lived,
to do so would have been their undoing,
a millionaire heiress weds an outlaw…
You understand this this would have brought ruin.

"But now their troubles are finally done,
and they can be here, at each other's sides.
I hope you can spare a few prayers for them,
forced to be apart for so much of their lives."

The priest was amazed, but slowly nodded,
said, "We thought worse of her than she deserved.
I ask forgiveness, I thought so myself."
Then he knelt low and whispered holy words.

Later than night, when their mom was at rest,
they all rode away as the sun went low,
past a grave that read: ‘Here lies Rennie Fields,
Forever besides her beloved Joe.'

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