The Legend of Long-Bow and Short-Staff made its debut appearance in Tavern Tales (Fiction River Issue #21 Edited by Kerrie Hughes) I do not usually write poetry, but my enjoyment of Robert W Services’s poetry compelled me to write this homage. I hope you enjoy reading it.
THE LEGEND OF LONG-BOW AND SHORT-STAFF
By: Brenda Carre
The Old Lodgepole in Hangover Hole
Is an Inn known far and wide.
Cold Alberta air and sightings of bear
Brings tourists in a tide.
A snappin’ blaze and Rocky Mountain haze
Is a Euro-pee-an’s dream.
Where time gets lost in the smell of frost
And the bite of a glacial stream.
The old Lodgepole is a game hunter’s goal
And a lure for a cross-country ski.
You can nurse a beer or slaughter a deer,
Or pan for gold for free.
But the best by far is the Hangover Bar
Where their stories are wild as can be.
Their hot pan fry and their Saskatoon pie
Got them rated on HGTV.
Old Long-Bow Chee is the maître d’.
Young Short-Staff Bill is cook.
Together with reason in their free off-season,
They range for Elk and Chinook.
Long Bow’s ‘bows’ are almost kow-tows
And Bill ain’t ‘short-staffed’, ya see?
But it ain’t Chee’s bows or Bill’s cooking know-hows
That makes their place worth a spree.
It’s skills and thrills and wood crafting chills
Worth putting into a book.
Tales of meetings with demons and bears, oh my
With nothing but bows and a hook.
None knew these two better than ‘Mad’ Chaz Hetter
The Brit owned the shack ‘next door.’
Where a faulty mis-step on a mountain path
Meant a thousand-foot tumble or more.
Hett reckoned their stories was made-up glories,
For he’d never seen hide nor hoof
Of monster or ghostie or beestial roastie
Save mebbe beneath his own roof.
Ol’ Hett was a smoker and an everyday roaster
Of his own kind of mushrooms and roots.
You could bet yer last dollar, though he weren’t no koala,
He was the kind who eats, leaves, and shoots.
He’d friended both fellers with his moonshine peelings,
But his plannings were all to the degree
That he’d find the snookery to Short-Staff’s cookery
Then go on a murdering spree.
He planned be careful and flush something scare-full
Maybe get the two royally juiced,
Because Long Bow was canny. He’d shot in the fanny
A robber who’d snuck in their roost.
Hett planned and he plotted and kept his mind thoughted
He gobbled their vittles with glee.
Asked to grab a quick look at Bill’s recipe book,
To be in on the Inn’s industree.
Yet Hett knew he was wrong when they met over song
At his shack playing banjo and fiddle.
“No book,” Bill said, “it’s all in my gong,
Not in some book bound in the middle.”
“Ya mean, this bean?” Hett held up the green,
“Came outta yer brain? What gammon!”
Hett scowled from his puncheon while hungrily munchin’
A bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen.
“Hah, that’s funny, ya goof,” laughed Bill the Neuf,
“I don’t have beans in me head.
It’s idears I got and caution me not,
I’m a shaman with maple and salmon.”
“So,” Hett thought,“It looks like I’m caught
In a problem at which I am starin’
I can’t snaffle Bill’s book, but I could take a look
At trappin’ him up on the barren.
If I snatch him away from old Long Bow one day
Take Bill for a trek up the mountain.
A trap is the ticket; when he’s caught in a thicket,
I’ll force them idears right out him.”
“Say, Bill?” sez old Hett all calm, in fine fetter,
With a swig of his moon-shiney barley.
“If it’s beans ya’ want and the sight of a haunt,
There’s this meadow that leads to this valley.
‘Tis not far from here, and it’s loaded with deer
Sports a monster to make your hair curly.
I seen it last fall and that thing has a call
Makes ya think the world’s end has come early.”
“Can’t do ‘er,” sez Short-Staff, and he lets go a short laugh,
“We’ve a Lodge load and guestings tomorrow.
The season’s a-starting and I can’t go a-farting
After some haunt. Aye and that’s to me sorrow.
I’ve resumees to read and bread dough to kneed,
An early spring garden for planting.
It’s the end of carowsin’ and the morning’s a rowsin,’
So don’t get me het-up with rantin’.
Hett snorts, “Tell ya what! I’ll go take that shot
To bring down that monster me own self.
Will be me gets the proof that I’m not some goof
With a ghoulie’s head up on me own shelf.
Thump your bread, bake the same—will be me bags the game,”
Crowed Hett. He knew bragging would get Bill.
“I might just let you buy it, if you say you stayed quiet,
And you tell them was me made the full kill.”
Hett saw Bill’s eyes sparking at these thoughts of lost larking.
Glory hunting some marvelous beastie.
Of Hett bagging their thunder as they polished ‘down under’
And Bill’s fingers got nuthing but yeasty.
Didn’t matter this ghoul was a made-up tool
If Bill was the fool up the mountain.
If Bill didn’t return, would be Chee got the burn
Would be Chee getting short staffed and counting.
“Whatcha thinking then, Chee?” Hett said with a smirk
As old Long-Bow nodded his sleek head.
Chee’s interest told Hett he was nosing the bait,
Would he take it, or spurn it instead?
“I’d accompany you, were it just up to me,”
Said Chee. “I allow, I am tempted.
But now that Spring’s coming, our rooms will be humming.
I’ve got bookings that can’t be pre-empted.”
At the meaningful glance that the two ‘pals’ shared,
Hett’s murderous hopes took a big leap
When he heard Chee say, “Bill you go haunting today,
It’s a chance for us doesn’t come cheap.
“I’ll thaw tonight’s feast; you come back with the beast
And bag us a trophy to follow.
You can add “Taste of Myth” as a meat-pie dish.
It will prove that our stories aren’t hollow.”
“I’ll do ‘er!” cries Bill, and his round face caught fire.
There’ll be nothing we can not embellish.
And I sure needn’t worry over Blackberry Curry
With a monster to put in me relish!
“Me and old Hett, we might get our feet wet,
But we’ll stay down wind of our quarry.
Dontcha woory, friend Chee, we’ll be done before tea.
And we’ll have that beast skinned by tomorree.”
Next morning was kissed by a breath of white mist
A skin of thin ice rimmed the wash pail,
When old Chee departed to stump home alone
And the two hunters hiked up the sharp shale.
Was the kind of a worrisome, wintry day
Where demons might lurk in the trees,
Leaving their prints o’er the frost-heaved way
Thorned branches that clawed at their knees.
Was a day that could shiver a sane feller’s voice
And dissolve a mad one’s to flinders.
By the time they’d found Hett’s scary valley o’ choice,
Hett’s wits had turned into wet cinders.
The ‘rowl and the raking of the snow-pack a-quaking
Got Hett re-thinkin’ his quest.
Half-frozen and shaking his mind was awaking
To un-reasoning fright in his chest.
He imagined a badger the size of a bear,
Stealing hungry behind them the while.
Or Big Foot rampageous and covered with hair,
With a horror-full, snaggle-tooth smile.
“Say, Bill,” queries Hett with a worrisome face,
“I don’t mean to git ya all hurried,
I reckon we’ve come to the fell feller’s place,
Though me wits in this mist is all blurried.”
Beyond was a pitfall Hett’s memory told him
Right now should be hid under snow.
Of strange cliffs or odd stairs Hett didn’t know aught.
He’d push Bill in a cold pit and go.
After letting Bill hope he’d come back with a rope
And getting his recipes out him,
He’d go down to old Long Bow and stage an evasion
Not even Long-Bow would doubt him.
“I donno,” sez Bill, as just over the hill
Through the glim comes a curdling scream.
Bill was good with a bow but took zilch brains to know
He was spit out of luck without no team.
He’d spent all his days in a chef’s golden haze
Whiles bagging some grouse and some pheasant.
Bill was a-counting on no monster on this mountain
And now what he faced weren’t pleasant.
Trees bent and rocks rang with the beast’s scare-some cries,
It could hide in plain sight and no braggin.’
There really was magic in every strange-wise
O’er the snow slid a barb-tailed dragon.
It was squirm-long and snakey, enuff to turn yer bones shakey,
Was a beast to set elder tongues waggin.
Hett screamed like a girl. Bill said ‘bye to the world.
That beast swept their trail like a snow plow.
Be they sane or a-screaming, they’d leave their guts steaming
If they couldn’t git out of this well.
Was it bear they were facing, they could lie there erasing
All signs they were frightened as hell.
Old Bill had his doubts, after all of Hett’s shouts
No dragon could be so forgiving.
It looked like the end for young Bill, once Chee’s friend,
Save that Long-Bow’d de-cided to follow.
His sharp wits were thinking that something was stinking
Hett’s brain like a hog in a wallow.
Even Chee’s mind went faulty when that dragon went salty,
With a cross bolt aimed at his eye.
Chee just couldn’t shoot, as he closed for the kill,
As the poor beastie started to cry.
“Not fair!” wept the dragon a-clasping his claws,
I nivver did nuthing to you.
I been follering careful the backwoods’ laws
‘Till these hoodlums come outta the blue.
“I sleeps fall-to-spring. I covers me tracks,
I ree-cycles whativver I can,
On me mum’s bones I’m swearin,’
I just meant to scare ‘em. I’ve nivver et woman nor man!”
Big tears rolled down from the dragon’s eye,
They sizzled the snow where they fell.
“Mole’s me name and it’s dull livin’ alone,
‘Cause the long, friendless nights is hell.
“Been away from old Ireland for ivver unspoken
With no kindred souls to dwell.
I’ve seen that mad idjit smokin’ and the lots of ya’s jokin’
In that scruffty old shack in the dell.”
Though Chee was Canajan, his ancestors was Asian.
He’d seen lotsa dragons like this.
All carved on the walls of imperial halls,
Their charms were all hid by their hiss.
So, Chee uncocked his bow, but was careful, you know,
‘Till he’s certain there’s no big alarm.
“Then come with us yes, without making a fuss,
Be our resident spirit, old wyrm.
We could pay you in grub, learn the Inn’s-trade with us,
If you promise to do no one harm.”
Oh joy!” cries the dragon, “and I can’t say I’m bragging
I’ll light all your fires and all!
And if you’re out hunting, without any grunting
I’ll send big game to your call.
I’ll stay at your beck, I’ll risk my slim neck
If you feed me on cookies and nog.
I’ll hoover your crumbs, I’ll bounce any bums
I’ll be more of a help than a dog.”
Then Chee turns to Hett, “I seem to forget
What brought you first up to this hill?”
“You said it was Fall when you heard the beast’s call
Yet he must have been sleeping still?”
“Well, it’s bollocks,” sez Mole. “His miserable goal
Was to get the best of poor Bill.”
“Is this true, Buckaroo?” sez Bill with a stare.
“Now I’m not sure I trust you, ya know?
If you say it’s so, I might use this bow
to part what’s left of yer hair.”
“He’s murderous coot, and greedy to boot”
Sez Mole. “Can I eat him now, do you care?”
I could say old Mole broke his diet that day
By eating the mad old Brit.
I could tell you Hett died in a terrible slide,
When he busted a gut at Mole’s wit.
I do say they planted Hett there ‘neath the stars
Where a passle of banshees wail,
And they now raise a toast to mad Hett in the bar
When they start each tavern tale.