My gravestone reads:
Freda Bullion Lincoln
The Thorny Rose
1876 – 1961
The Thorny Rose. My nickname in the Wild Bunch Gang.
A few of us gals rode with the gang. Yup, we gals. The good, good old days, as they say. The boys were so damn pretty. Most women sweated when they saw Butch an’ the boys ridin’ into town. An’ we gals were nothin’ to sneeze at either. We were so pretty we’d be in the movies today. That’s how pretty we were. I were Kin Novak, fer sure. As far as the boys were concerned I particularly liked The Tall Texan. We were romantically entwined, an’ in other ways. He sure were a tall Texan.
The Tall Texan ain’t my first beau. My first great love… Well, not that great. What were I to know? I was fifteen at the time. His name were William “News” Carver”. News were a friend of my poppa. Af’er his wife up an’ died he took up Josie Bassett, the sister of Ann Bassett, Butch’s honeybunch an’ midnight squeeze. We danced the bedroom tango fer a couple of years ’til I met The Tall Texan.
Sure I were a prostitute. It were the ol’ West an’ a gal had to do what a girl had to do. ‘Gan working the houses when I were sixteen years old. You get to tell a lot ’bout a man that way. It were more than his manhood that is exposed when with a workin’ girl. But it weren’t easy bein’ a prostitute. Calamity Jane were right ‘bout men an’ bulls. Never heard of a bull beatin’ up a bullwhacker.
Anyhow, it were through News Carver I ‘came involved with the Wild Bunch, led by Butch Cassidy and Elzy Lay. News first rode with Black Jack ‘fore joinin’ up with the Wild Bunch.
I wanted to be involved in the gang, but at first News don’t allow it. He were kinda old fashioned that way. It is a man’s job to rob trains an’ banks. It were the woman’s job to tend the bed. He were happy enough to see me ‘tween robberies but that warn’t enough fer me. I had to have more than workin’ on my back all day long. When I stared up at the ceilin’ I knew I had a better callin’. When the other boys rode with their gals he finally capitulated. The other boys were teasin’ him.
“Hey, News, it’s a new world out there. Get with it.”
Butch didn’t mind much us gals ridin’ with the boys. There were already several gals ridin’ with the Wild Bunch. The Wild Bunch were an equal opportunity employer.
In the Wild Bunch I were known as the Rose of the Wild Bunch. But that were after I took up with The Tall Texan. The Tall Texan an’ I rode an’ rode and rode, an’ we rode hard.
I were involved wit the Great Northern Train Robbery. Robbin’ trains weren’t’ too much fer me. I think I had a knack fer it. One helluv a job, though, an’ one nasty mess. Sent me up the river fer three years. But I would never regret the years I had with the Wild Bunch an’ The Tall Texan. He showed me my true callin’ in this world of ours. But I never saw The Tall Texan fer eleven years after that. I missed all the ridin’ we did together. But after eleven years it were not the same. We just didn’t connect like we used to. I guess the big house does that to a person.
Anyhow, I moved on. There weren’t no goin’ back with the Wild Bunch dispersed ‘tween Bolivia and Hell. Some even gave up outlawin’. I even heard Butch and Sundance gave up outlawin’. Rumor had it, Butch were up in Seattle or somethin’, an’ Sundance and Etta ranchin’ in New Mexico.
The times were a-changin’ fer all of us. A new breed of outlaw were rising to the top like cream in a churcn. Our star were bein’ eclipsed. Soon the world were singin’ the praises of Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson an’ John Dillinger. Fine boys all. We all get together on Friday nights for cards. You gotta watch that Dillinger. A real cheat.
So, I gave up outlawin’ like everyone else. Started a new life with a new name. I found myself in Memphis in 1918 after workin’ here an’ there, with what they called in those days, women’s work; householder, seamstress and drapery maker. I ‘came so good at drapery makin’ I ‘came a very popular interior decorator in Memphis. Who would’ve guessed. In Memphis I ‘gan usin’ the name Freda Lincoln. I claimed to be the war widow of Maurice Lincoln.
An’ that’s why my gravestone says:
Freda Bullion Lincoln
Sometime later someone added:
The Thorny Rose
1876 – 1961
Who the hell knew I were The Thorny Rose beats me, but I sure were happy somebody carved who I were into my headstone. I were damn proud of my days with the Wild Bunch. Sad though I were the last to go. I guess that were better than puttin’ a bullet in my own head like Kid Curry.
Grant Guy is a Winnipeg, Canada, poet, writer and playwright. He was the artistic director of Adhere + Deny for 16 years. His poems and writings have been published in Canada, the United States and England. He has three books published; Open Fragments, On the Bright Side of Down and Bus Stop Bus Stop. He was the 2004 recipient of the Manitoba Arts Council’s 2004 Award of Distinction and the 2017 recipient of the Winnipeg Arts Council’s Making A Difference Award.
BUS STOP BUS STOP is a rolling confessional of prose poems and written portraits of human compassion and human intolerance seen through the eyes of a singular transcontinental bus passenger.
A blend of fiction and poetry–On The Bright Side of Down by Grant Guy. He takes us on a road trip across the changing landscapes of time, styles and form.
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