The Ruined Virginia

Texas Jack Omohundro and Captain Jack Crawford never shared a stage. Crawford, who joined Buffalo Bill's troupe after Cody and Omohundro dissolved their theatrical partnership, did often write to his cowboy friend, and at least one of their letters is in the collection of the Denver Public Library. Texas Jack would later occasionally perform Crawford's play Fonda, including in Denver in early 1880, his last stop before arriving in Leadville, Colorado.


This 1878 poem, about the Virginia City, Nevada, fire of two years earlier, was written by Crawford, "The Poet Scout" to his friend Texas Jack.



THE RUINED VIRGINIA.

by Capt. Jack Crawford TO MY PARD, J. B. O'MAHUNDRO (TEXAS JACK).


Captain Jack Crawford, the "Poet Scout."

Virginia City, Nevada, almost totally destroyed by fire, October, 1876.


Did I hear the news from Virginny—

The news of that terrible fire?

Yes ; but I couldn't believe it —

I thought the bearer a liar;

But when I found it square, pard,

I weakened, you bet, right here,

And I didn't care a tinker's

Who saw me drop a tear.


Just reason the thing for a minute—

There's two thousand miners right there,

It's cold up there in the mountains,

And some's got no breeches to wear.

And that ain't the worst; for instance,

There's two of my old pards hurt,

And a dozen that wore plugs on Sunday

Ain't got the first stitch but their shirt.


Now, Jack, ain't that rough on Virginny?

Well, there ain't no saints out there;

And I 'spec' it's a second Chicago,

And this is a kind of a scare.

But dog my cats if I see it

Exactly in that thar way,

For most of them hardy miners

Are honest, by Joe, as the day.


But maybe it's all for the better—

That's what the good people say;

But I don't want any in mine, pard,

If the Lord will but keep it away.

I don't read much in the Scripture,

But I've heard the good parson talk

About sinners bein' punished by brimstone

When against the commandments they balk.


Now, I don't jist understand it,

Though I tumble to what they say;

Nor I don't see why the Almighty

Should treat a poor man in that way.

While the fellers who's got the lucre,

And the worst to connive and swear,

Always give us poor devils the euchre—

The deal ain't exactly square


And if, as the parson tells us,

There's a place after this called hell,

With fire and red-hot brimstone—

With a nasty kind of smell

I'll be dogged if some fine snoozer

(That'd have a reason to know)

Won't find it a scorchin' old corner

In that furnace way down below.


Now, there was old Kit McGregor,

He was rough and ready, but smart,

He could whip any man in the diggin's—

And there wasn't a flaw in his heart.

But when old Parson Plum, one evening,

Done dirt—didn't act on the square—

He sent daylight clear through him,

And laid- the old sinner out there.


Now, is Kit goin' to hell for that, Jack?

Not much! the Lord bid him shoot,

And he killed a worm of the devil—

A hypocrite, rogue and galoot.

Besides, the gal was his darter,

And she panned out a woman most fair,

And was loved by all in the diggin's—

But Kit had revenge right there.


And if some of them Eastern preachers,

Who's Tiltin' around the courts,

Would do as old Kit McGregor,

And stop these long-winded reports,

There wouldn't be so much sinnin',

Nor wimmin degraded so low,

But they go in for the lucre—

Revenge has a d—d poor show.


So, Jack, while we look at Virginny,

We'll just take a bead on New York,

And see where the sinners are greatest—

Back there or out on the fork.

We won't say a word about Brooklyn,

For who but the saints can tell

Whether it will be turned to religion,

Or still be a fortress of hell?


That is, after Moody and Sankey

Have done with their preachin' and sich;

I hope that the gods will assist them

In awakin' the guilt-covered rich.

And yet it matters but little

To us in the diggin's, I'm sure,

But this is my candid opinion:

The Lord won't go back on the poor.


Custer City, Dakota Territory, December, 1878.



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