Bill Venero heard them say
In an Arizona town one day
That a band of Apache Indians
Were up on the trail that way
Heard them tell of murder done
Three men killed at Rocky Run
“They’re in danger at the cow-ranch”
Said Venero under his breath.
The cow-ranch, forty miles away
Was a little place that lay
In a deep and shady valley of the mighty wilderness;
Half a score of homes were there
And in one a maiden fair
Held the heart of Bill Venero: Bill Venero’s Little Bess.
So no wonder he grew pale
When he heard the settler’s tale
Of the men that he’d seen murdered yesterday at Rocky Run.
“Sure as there’s a God above
I will save the girl I love,
By my love for little Bessie I will see that something’s done.”
Not a moment he delayed
When his brave resolve was made
“Why, man,” his comrades told him when they heard of his daring plan,
“You are riding straight to death.”
But he answered, “Save your breath,
I may never reach the cow-ranch, but I’ll do the best I can.”
As he crossed the alkali
All his thoughts flew on ahead
To the little band at cow-ranch not of danger near;
With his quirt’s unceasing whirl
And the jingle of his spurs
Little brown Chapo bore the cowboy o’er the far-away frontier.
Lower and lower sank the sun;
He drew rein at Rocky Run.
“Here those men met death, my Chapo” — and he stroked his glossy mane.
“So will those we got to warn
Ere the coming of the morn
If we fail — God help my Bessie.” And he started on again.
Sharp and clear a rifle shot
Woke the echoes of the spot
“I am wounded,” cried Venero, as he swayed from side to side.
“While there’s life there’s always hope;
Slowly onward I will lope–
If I fail to reach the cow-ranch, Bessie Lee shall know I tried.”
“I will save her yet,” he cried.
“Bessie Lee shall know I tried.”
And for her sake then he halted in the shadow of the hill;
From his buckskin shirt he took
With weak hands a little book;
Tore a blank leaf from its pages saying, “This shall be my will.”
From a limb a pen he broke,
And he dipped his pen of oak
In the warm blood that was spurting from a wound above his heart.
:Rouse,” he wrote before too late.
“Apache warriors lie in wait.
Good-by, Bess, God bless you darling,” and he felt the cold tears start.
Then he made his message fast,
Love’s first message and its last;
To the saddle horn he tied it, and his lips were white with pain.
“Take this message, if not me,
Straight to little Bessie Lee.”
Then he leaned down in the saddle and clutched the sweaty mane.
Just at dusk a horse of brown
Wet with sweat came panting down
The little lane at cow-ranch, stopped in front of Bessie’s door;
But the cowboy was asleep
And his slumber was so deep
Little Bess could never wake him though she tried for evermore.
You have heard the story told
By the young and by the old
Away down yonder at the cow-ranch the night the Apaches came;
Of that sharp and bloody fight,
How the chief fell in the flight
Of the panic-stricken warriors when they heard Venero’s name.
In an awed and reverent way
As men utter, “Let us pray,”
As we speak the name of heroes thinking how they lived and died
So the heavens and earth between
Keep a little flower green
That little Bess had planted ere they laid her by his side.
Image by W.H. Ford