"Well, stranger, 'twas somewhere in 'sixty-nine
I wore runnin' the 'Frisco fast express;
An' from Murder Creek to Blasted Pine,
Were nigh onto eighteen mile, I guess.
The road were a down-grade all the way,
An' we pulled out of Murder a little late,
So I opened the throttle wide that day,
And a mile a minute was 'bout our gait.
"My fireman's name was Lariat Bill,
A quiet man with an easy way,
Who could rope a steer with a cow-boy's skill,
Which he'd learned in Texas, I've heard him say.
The coil were strong as tempered steel,
An' it went like a bolt from a cross-bow flung,
An' arter Bill changed from saddle to wheel,
Just over his head in the cab it hung.
"Well, as I were saying, we fairly flew,
As we struck the curve at Buffalo Spring,
An' I give her full steam an' put her through,
An' the engine rocked like a living thing;
When all of a sudden I got a scare—
For thar on the track were a little child!
An' right in the path of the engine there
She held out her little hands and smiled!
"I jerked the lever and whistled for brakes,
The wheels threw sparks like a shower of gold;
But I knew the trouble a down-grade makes,
An' I set my teeth an' my flesh grew cold.
Then Lariat Bill yanked his long lassoo,
An' out on the front of the engine crept—
He balanced a moment before he threw,
Then out in the air his lariat swept!"
He paused. There were tears in his honest eyes;
The stranger listened with bated breath.
"I know the rest of the tale," he cries;
"He snatched the child from the jaws of death!
'Twas the deed of a hero, from heroes bred,
Whose praises the very angels sing!"
The engineer shook his grizzled head,
And growled: "He didn't do no sich thing.
"He aimed at the stump of a big pine tree,
An' the lariat caught with a double hitch,
An' in less than a second the train an' we
Were yanked off the track an' inter the ditch!
'Twere an awful smash, an' it laid me out,
I ain't forgot it, and never shall;
Were the passengers hurt? Lemme see—about—
Yes, it killed about forty—but saved the gal!"