COWBOY POETRY: The Chess Player

Bryce Angell is a cowboy poet. Angell was raised on a farm/ranch in the St. Anthony, Idaho area with approximately 75 head of horses. Horses remain an important part of Angell's life. Angell shares his poetry with Cache Valley Daily every Friday.

The old man scooted up his chair.  Each night we played the game. Chess was more his specialty, and Johnson was his name.

Johnson didn’t have a place where he could call his home.  So, he lived out in our bunkhouse, didn’t mind to be alone.

The old man always had a game of chess set out to play.  He moved his pawn ahead one square, and then he looked my way.

You never really knew if we were eyeing face to face.  ‘Cuz Johnson’s eyes were both askew and dang sure out of place.

His left eye tilted out a bit.  You’d say a might cockeyed. The right eye never made a move.  Some said, “Looked like it died.”

I moved my knight out from a pawn.  I’d planned no strategy. And then I quizzed him ‘bout his eyes.  This time they stared through me.

Old Johnson hesitated, then he moved his knight out front.  He said when he was younger, he had tried a stupid stunt.

He didn’t bother telling me just what the heck he did.  So, I moved my pawn and figured Johnson kept things under lid.

But it didn’t take old Johnson long to warm up to a boy, who listened to his stories, trying never to annoy.

And every night past supper I would listen to each tale, how he’d waited for the enemy and fought ‘em tooth and nail.

He showed me how to play the game of chess and every rule.  But most of all I learned from him, “You ain’t nobody’s fool.”

He taught me, “Always show respect.  Be true to all your kin.” He told me how my folks were kind to take an old man in.

One morning I woke early.  Thought I’d check the bunkhouse out.  And there lay old man Johnson. He was dead.  I had no doubt.

Most young boys sure would be afraid to find death all alone.   But me, I stood there thinking. “Johnson’s found his way back home.”

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