Me and Hal and Walter McClure

by Carmen Ruggero


It was one cold winter night
when three of us, me and Hal, and Walter McClure
went walking under a moonless sky.

Fun and girls and spirits had been plenty
for some of us; me and Hal for sure,
but not Walter, not Walter McClure.

He was in a mood and deaf to my calling,
kept on walking, looking weird
as if he’d seen a night monster near.

Three others started raising Cain.
It didn’t seem right and I yelled for him to stop:
“Hey, Walt! What’s got into your brain?”

But Walt had turned a deaf ear.
He picked up a stick
and a-rack-a-tack-tack was all we could hear.

He raised that stick and briefly looked back
“Walter McClure!” I called. But he kept on
and all we could hear was a-rack-a-tack-tack

It was a-rack-a-tack-tack times many more
for Charley Comb’s fences to fall,
and the night air smelled deadly, oh yeah...

And I wanted to help him, kept calling him back,
but John Barleycorn was having its way
though I wanted to help him, but oh my... was I drunk!

I kept gazing at the absent stars
as I walked under the moonless sky
I could’ve said a prayer, but I forgot.

And soon I heard nothing but the rack-a-tack-tack,
though it would be the last one I’d hear that night,
’cause Charlie Comb’s fence came tumbling down.

A faint stream of yellow came out of Charley’s window,
as he pointed his rifle into the night.
“Let him go, Charley,” I yelled. “He’s having a night in limbo!”

But the rack-a-tack-tack stopped that night
without moon or stars when Walter McClure
took his last breath and I was oh... so... drunk...


The event took place in my hometown of Crawfordsville, Indiana, in January of 1881. The poem is based on Karen Zack’s article “Leave ’em Alone, Charley” and my own research. (Karen Zack is the editor of the feature section “Montgomery Memories” in The Paper of Montgomery County.)

Copyright © 2011 by Carmen Ruggero

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