Poems, Stories and Personal Accounts

Mystery At Fort Peck Dam
By Londis Carpenter
copyright (c) 2002 all rights reserved
On the dusty slopes where there's still cowpokes, where there's yet more sky than land,

In the Big Sky State, back in thirty-eight, they were hiring at Fort Peck Dam.

In the open skies where I get my highs, past the spill-way and the fort,

A small town looms where there's more saloons than a feller like me could sport.

Came a Texan bloke who was almost broke (and I'll tell you right now, it was I).

I was looking for work, something of my sort, but I'd take any job to get by.

At a cowpoke's inn where I wet my chin, and while standing at the bar,

I watched a girl who could dance and whirl to the tunes of a wrangler's guitar.

Every eye in the bar watched her jiggle and jar, not a one who wouldn't make her his own.

But, in spite of her shaking, I could see she was taken by a gent who sat back all alone.

And I saw in his face that he felt disgrace, Saw the jealosy seethe in his eyes.

Though he sat in disdain, and he never complained, his displeasure was easily surmised.

In a place where legends and tales abound, where circumstance rules the day,

Shaping men's schemes and frustrating their dreams, Till their willpower has no sway.

Where fate may run contrary to plan, frustrating our deepest desire.

It has often been shown that the life of a man can be changed when his soul's set afire.

I can only tell what I know is true , what I saw with my very own eyes.

But the man, alone in the back of the room, had a murderous look in his eyes.

I left the bar and went up to my room; tomorrow I'd be working for sure.

And the music still played, but the blare and the din didn't keep me from sleeping till four.

The morning came fast, and now working, at last, (for they'd hired me to work on the dam).

I worked and I toiled and I know my blood boiled pouring concrete for old Uncle Sam.

I gave no thought at all of the evening before; soon the whistle blew, ending my day.

And a drink with the crew seemed the right thing to do. I still had a few bucks I could pay.

At a bar back in town where we all bought a round The gossips were whispering a tale.

It seems like the girl, who knew how to whirl, was being held down at the jail.

A body was found under two feet of ground in a newly dug patch of her lawn.

And no one was missed from the residents list but her husband, nowhere to be found.

The body was new, but was nothing to view. It was burned beyond recognition.

Folks came forward to tell of a marriage from hell, of suspicions and speculation.

They had argued and fought over things she had bought. Some said he had threatened to leave her.

And a weapon was found laying there on the ground. He'd been slain with her brand new meat cleaver.

It was open and shut, they'd arrested her butt. and there weren't any clues to redeem her.

The gossip was keen and vicious and mean. Every woman in town would demean her.

Then a telegram came and I got on a train to a Texas town on the divide.

Where my father, quite ill, was having a spell and I wanted to be by his side.

I was well out of town when I happened to hear a railroad detective named Sam

Tell a story, quite odd, of a hobo he thought was asleep, by the track near the dam.

He had gone off to chase the bum from his place and had tossed a road flare on his bed.

But he fell to surprize when the bum failed to rise; and approaching, he found him quite dead.

He left him to burn so the next one would learn that Old Sam was the king of this "road."

But when he went back there was nothing but track, not a sign of the bum or his load.

Then I had an idea, for it made me recall what I'd seen that last night at the inn.

In the look on the face of a fellow disgraced, who had now vanished into the wind.

Had he buried that bum and planted some clues, then departed on this same train?

Sent his wife off to jail and covered his trail-- to start his life over again?

©1/2002 by Arthur H. Buckley/Diane B. Pile