We buy fiction over fact,
not just the American way, but a human trait.
Do we think all tales are benign
an’ less interesting if we tell them straight?
the name befits the legend told.
Chosen instead of his real name,
he was known to his kin as John Ringgold.
So many have claimed
he was the fastest gun of them all.
But when compared ta’ facts
none of the claims ever stand tall.
It’s assumed he was born in Missouri,
since it’s known that’s where he attended school.
He could read, write, an’ do figures,
which is far more than most gunmen could do.
He even loved ta’ quote Shakespeare,
which is quite rare as outlaws go.
So ignorance was not ta’ blame
fer’ how his life sank so low.
Yet somehow he never learned honor,
he would play both sides of the law.
While wearin’ a star, he’d still rustle cattle.
Can anyone claim that’s not a flaw?
But his tin time was brief,
it obviously cramped his style.
Cuz’ outlaws are the same everywhere,
they lack what it takes ta’ go the extra mile.
They want easy pickin’s, they don’t want ta’ work,
an’ they’d rather get drunk an’ get rowdy.
Pert’ near every shot that Ringo did fire
came after his brain was quite cloudy.
Like the bloke with the joke
at the expense of a filly passin’ by,
who Ringo pistol-whipped,
then shot in the neck, an’ left him ta’ die.
We also know of his time with the Clanton’s an’ McLowery’s
durin’ the time he was in Tombstone.
Though even then when he used his guns
he rarely acted alone.
It’s believed he was one of four men who
bushwhacked Virgil Earp, an’ perhaps Morgan, his brother.
An’ why the famed Wyatt Earp
sought revenge on Ringo, fer’ one or the other.
Though history’s not clear on the actual demise
of the not-so-infamous Johnny Ringo,
cuz’ two others lay claim to what Earp professed,
bringin’ down the outlaw with no soul.
Ringo’s body was found in Turkey Creek Canyon
in eighteen-eighty an’ two.
His scalp was removed, but not by an injun’
which adds ta’ the mystery too.
One bit of truth, when Ringo still lived,
that proves he was less of a man,
was the day of his arrest with John Wesley Hardin,
when shock an’ fear kept a gun from his hand.
One gimpy ol’ Ranger, “McNelly’s Bulldog,”
John Armstrong’s the title he bore,
held back deputies as he went ahead
ta’ take down the outlaw he swore.
The prize was Hardin, but he wasn’t alone,
four others around him did sit.
Mannen Clements, Bill Taylor, Jim Mann, an’ then Ringo,
all were suppose ta’ have grit.
Yet when the proceedings commenced
Hardin jumped first, followed quickly by young Jim Mann.
But Hardin was cold-cocked, an’ Mann was shot dead,
while Ringo an’ the others just sat on their cans.
Yes, Ringo did nothin’, fearstruck it would seem,
he never made a move ta’ draw steel.
Yep, this is the true man of legend,
how strange is the American ideal.
Take away the dark nights, an’ the back-shot advantage,
then pour out the whiskey he drank.
All you’d have left is a boy with a toy,
with no whiskey nerve his quick draw’s a blank.
© JW Thomas