The Ballad of Knee-High Jones


I see you’re not from ‘round here,
But I’ll grant you fair discourse,
If you’ll lend, to me an ear,
For a story standing coarse
A tale that folks now mutter
In most softly spoken tones,
A yarn that makes men shudder:
The Ballad of “Knee-High” Jones
You’ll likely get cold shoulder
If his name you do repeat,
For deaths of wrong still smolder,
Sparked when Knee-High stood eight feet
He’d haunt saloons at midnight
Pouring whiskey in his maw,
He wasn’t hard to ig-nite
And he had the quickest draw
The first to call him “Knee-High”
Gave such moniker in tease,
So Jones, with but one re-ply
Cut his legs off at the knees
A drinker with a temper
If ever a snake there was,
He shot down Davy Demper
For no reason, save, “Because!”
He burned the Brothers Bunsen
Hanged “El Hábil” from a tree
He shot “The Slinger” Samson
And he strangled Steven Slee
He butchered Bobby Baker
And he mangled Mark McGrew
He swamped the undertaker
Til’ his caskets ran too few
The town was filled with widows
And the choice of dress was black,
Men hung their heads like willows
Fearing Knee-High would attack
The sheriff, he was craven
And would frighten at a sneeze
His prison was his haven
Where he hid with shaking knees
When Knee-High came a callin’
For The Sheriff in the night
The Lawman kept him stallin
For the jail was locked up tight
Then when Knee-High broke the door
In laughter he was reelin’,
Sheriff wasn’t anymore,
He hung down from the ceilin’
Knee-High stepped down from the jail
Throughout town his words could reach
His voice a horrible gale,
He gave a sinister speech
“A lily-livered dandy
For a lawman in disguise!
His guts were made of candy,
He’s already drawing flies!
“I am the Devil’s minion
And I’ll see you down in hell!
This corpse in God’s dominion,
Before death, began to smell!”
Off into the sands of white
On a horse as black as coal
Knee-High rode into the night
As the town prayed for its soul
The Sheriff’s body ended
In a shallow, nameless plot
A proper grave rescinded
For he didn’t fire a shot
The mayor called a meeting
For the men and women left
With far too ample seating
For the frightened and bereft
His speech was strained and stuttered
As he mopped sweat from his face
No hopeful words were uttered
As they played their final ace
He’d telegrammed a bounty
For The Demon’s weight in gold
It went to every county
In the state, come young or old
The town knew retribution
On their heads would soon befall,
Were there no swift solution,
If no hero answered call
A week it seemed eternal
As the slayings failed to end
Then came a stoic colonel
Said he sought to wrongs amend
His eyes were grey as pistols
Teeth of pearl set in his mouth
His voice was clear as crystals
Spoke no name, nor North nor South
The sheriff temporary,
A nervous youth of twenty
Asked of the vigilante
Just how he’d catch his bounty
The Colonel poured two whiskey
And as both drank to long lives
He laid a plan most risky
Said, “The town, or He, survives.
“The way to catch a devil,
A devil one must become
We lure him to the bethel
Then we hope the day is won.”
Drunk, the sheriff left that night
The last chance, he to agree
Hopefully, he’d make it right,
This stranger to take no knee
On the next day The Colonel
Locked the townsfolk in the Church
His trap it seemed infernal,
Took the belfry as his perch
The morning passed forever
As the sun rose to high noon
The town prayed this endeavor
Turned out right, and turned out soon
The Colonel sat like marble
Every sense on high alert,
Saw only sand, chaparral,
An endless sun-soaked desert
Suddenly came a clatter
That could be heard ‘top the church
The building was catching fire
Knee-High Jones had thrown a torch!
Leather gloves grasped the bell rope,
The Colonel slid to the sand,
He ran onto the church stoep
With his pistol in his hand
Despite the stolid vigil
Knee-High had gotten the drop
Time had begun to dwindle
As smoke belched from the rooftop
The Colonel’s gun exploded
As he shot at Knee-High’s form
Six bullets quick unloaded
Missed with five, one caught his arm
Knee-High howled in frenzied ire,
His hands each produced a gun,
The Colonel, as if on fire,
Dove for cover in a run
A bullet grazed his shoulder
He had new holes in his suit
He dashed behind a boulder,
Struck a match upon his boot
The Colonel rose from cover,
He’d heard Jones’ pistols click,
He had dried his revolver
All he had now was a stick
Knee-High threw his pistols down
From his belt he drew a knife
Slowly plodding through the town
Eager to take one more life
“Sorry to say it soldier,
It looks like you’ve met your match!
In hell I’ll see you smolder!”
The Colonel replied with, “catch!”
Knee-High caught The Colonel’s stick
But too late he saw the fuse
His face stopped a’smilin’ quick,
Jones was blown to bloody ooze
There was no time for beaming
For The Colonel, caked in gore
From the church smoke was streaming
He had to unlock the door
He grabbed the key, with a grin,  
Unlocked the chains on the door
All the town spilled from within
As the roof caved to the floor
Old Man Meyers fainted quick,
The youngin’s were all cryin’,
Many folks were still smoke-sick
But no one was a-dyin’
One thing caught The Colonel’s eye
Amongst all the cheers and hoots
All that remained of Knee-High,
Was two knees sticking from boots
The Colonel left in two days
After all the red-eye dried
He left to tears and high praise,
Not a single soul had died
Knee-High’s remains were thrown down
A wide hole dug eight feet steep
Ask about the grave in town
They’ll say he’s buried knee deep
I ‘preciate it stranger,
For a’listenin’ to my tale
And if you see The Colonel
Let him know I wish him well.

Author's Note:
Thank you for reading! I started writing this when I was 20. Seven years later I just want to be rid of this damn poem! When I first started, I realized after writing a few stanzas that I had accidentally written each line to be exactly seven syllables apiece with each quatrain adhering to a strict alternate rhyme scheme. I figured it would be fun to write out the rest of the poem as such, assembling it as one would a puzzle. I turned out to be gravely mistaken. It wasn't exactly carefully placing puzzle pieces together as much as it was more akin to assembling a newly invented piece of furniture that nobody has ever seen before, and the directions are all in some bizarre language previously unknown to mankind and the illustrations make you queasy to look at for some unknown, occult reason, and the pieces needed to assemble the furniture are on fire and when you weren't looking someone replaced your trusty bag of tools with a flimsy Ziploc bag filled with scorpions. Needless to say, I don't think I'll write anything with such strict syllabic rules for a bit and if I die it will be too soon. I hope you enjoy this western inspired tall tale!