Black Jack Ketchum

Black Jack Ketchum

By Elaine Fields Smith.

Blackjack Ketchum was born just plain mean
His mama said his soul was as dark as could be
He’d pull the wings off a butterfly
Just to laugh and watch it die
And even though he was young and green
He left home and hit the road at fourteen.

This kid became an outlaw who robbed trains and banks
With his brand of meanness he moved up through the ranks.
Shoot first ask questions later
Was the motto of this traitor
Victims left alive to their mighty God gave thanks
Sometimes, just to scare ‘em, Black Jack would fire blanks.

But then he crossed a sheriff who didn’t take kindly to ol’ Jack
A shootin’ up his town and lookin’ for safes to crack.
Truth was Sheriff Jake was holdin’ a grudge
And on his opinions he wouldn’t budge
So the writin’ was on the wall for the outlaw called Black Jack
Cause Sheriff Jake was next to none when it came to following track.

One day this sheriff caught a thief a stealin’ a lady’s purse
But what really did him in was him a spewin’ out a curse
He knew he’d gone too far
And should a’ stayed in the bar
For she was the parson’s wife, she read him chapter and verse
But in jail the thief had a thought to keep things from gettin’ worse.

Sheriff Jake was quite surprised at information the sneak thief had
And the deal made with the outlaw most folks thought was real bad
The thief would take ‘em to Black Jack’s camp
For a steak dinner and a pardon with a legal stamp.
A posse was raised and told to bring all the ammo they had
They came, one and all, right up to the oldest granddad.

Just as the sun went down, the thief led the posse out
And when they saw campfire smoke, there was not a doubt.
Sheriff Jake told the posse to stay put
He would go in alone on foot
Avoiding dry grass and branches scattered about
He quietly moved ahead just like an Indian scout.

Earlier that day, in the conversation over a juicy steak
An important bit of information was told to Sheriff Jake
I came to him as he looked down
And happened to see a wiggle of brown
There was somethin’ sure to give Black Jack the quakes
Because that rough and tough outlaw was terrified of snakes.

As quick as lightnin Jake grabbed the wedge shaped head
Of a scary critter most folks would rather see dead
Grasping the tail quieted down the rattle
Sheriff Jake gripped the snake, ready to battle.
He carefully moved forward through the brush
And over the whole darn area there came a hush.

Getting up real close, Jake let loose the rattler’s tail
In the firelight he could see the men’s faces go pale
Jake slung the snake toward Black Jack,
The posse moved in when it hit the outlaw’s back.
They musta thought it was the devil himself, the way those outlaws wailed
And in the chaos any attempt to escape completely and thoroughly failed.

The trial was short, the expected sentence was read
Black Jack Ketchum would be hanged until he was dead.
But the hangman miscalculated
And the outlaw was decapitated
Nobody’d quite believe what the photographer said
That the corpse lay on the ground – minus the head.

But Jack’s noggin was in the sack, severed at the stem
So it was in pieces they buried the man condemned.
The sheriff’s badge would be nothing but rust
And the hangman’s noose nothin’ but dust
Before the law’d dare to hang anybody again.
Such is the legacy of man known as the outlaw Black Jack Ketchum.


Elaine is a Native Texas, straight-but not narrow-non-tatooed ex-biker chick with a good sense of humor who can write, grow great tomatoes and grill a mean home-grown steak. She has two books in print, a children’s video project in process, and releasing a book of Cowboy Poetry in March. She’s an all around good gal who is easily amused, and gaining attention as a writer/publisher.

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