Chugwater Chili Store

The white lines passed ever’ 1 point 4
Ford pick-up rollin’ ‘bout 90 and more
That’s where ol’ Dan first saw the store
Rollin’ north t’wards the Montana line

Our pockets were empty ‘cept entry fee
Entered up in Red Lodge, Dan ‘n me
When just off the roadside, he did see
The big Chugwater Chili sign

Well, one thing sure to get Dan’s attention
Is a beefy-beany-gastro-invention
It’s his sure-fire cure for road rage tension
‘Specially when it’s purt’near free

Only two-ninety-five, the sign did say
Made fresh here in Chugwater ever’ day
It fit just right on bronc stomper pay
We’d be spurrin’ up in Red Lodge by 3

The pumps at the store, we could not pass
“Empty” on the gauge said we needed gas
Wipe down the windows and dump the trash
At the Chugwater Chili Store

The locals like to call it a gentle breeze
Comin’ ‘bout 90 through the cottonwood trees
I bailed from the truck hollerin’, “Lord, please!”
‘Cause my hat sat my head no more

A Resistol scootin’ out ‘cross the ground
In Northern Montana it’d likely be found
Or maybe a Canadian border town
In a store sellin’ well-traveled gear

Well, that sucker rolled plum out o’ sight
Out into that black Wyomin’ night
And out from under that gas pump light
I lit out like a bat out o’ here!

That lid brushed the sage ever’ quarter-mile
N’ in between, it took an airborne style
Leavin’ me twice in a dusty pile
On my Wyomin’ solo hat chase

“Solo, ya’ say’, now why was that?
There in yer pick-up, yer ol’ pard sat
In this chase here, now where’s he at?
I reckon shovelin’ in the chili place!”

“You dang right, he’s stuffin’ it in
While another gust flips my lid again
How I’ll fix him’s gonna be a sin
When my midnight hat wranglin’s done”

Well, the bitter end come up quick fer sure
Boots hittin’ ground ‘til there weren’t no more
Elevator droppin’ with no ground floor
To a place never touched by the sun

I hit the floor o’ that draw real hard
Cussin’ all the while, my chili-eatin’ pard
Greasin’ it up like a tub o’ lard
Back yonder with his face in that bowl

From my bottom back teeth, I picked the grit
That settled in there from my face-first hit
Cussin’ n’ swearin’ to the top o’ that pit
As I climbed over the rim o’ that hole

With remnants o’ my Tom Mix upon my head
Preachin’ to the moon I’d kill Dan dead
N’ paint the prairie with his blood, red
If I got back n’ that chili was gone

Bad enough he hadn’t come to my need
As my brim rolled away like tumbleweed
Leavin’ me out there fer coyote feed
To fight n’ fend fer myself all alone

I entered the store n’ heard an awful sound
N’ noticed my pard was nowhere to be found
I saw the cook grinnin’ as I looked around
He was pointin’ t’wards the door that said “MEN”

Behind that door, there raged quite a battle
Sounded like a chute full o’ ol’ rank cattle
The knob on the door done started to rattle
When we heard that big flushin’ sound….again!

Well, that storekeep’ fixed me a big ol’ bowl
As the storm in the back just rocked and rolled
So, I bellied up, but that cookie, I told
I ain’t ‘bout to swaller no poisoned feed

“Aw, ease yer ol’ mind there, my Cowboy pard
I didn’t brew yers up to be so hard
Though I did help Dan get his gizzard charred
When I saw the way he left ya’ in need”

“Now I ain’t sayin’ that I did things right
But pard, I wish ya’ could o’ seen that sight
That bowel noose wuz gettin’ mighty tight
As ol’ Dan gripped the rim o’ that throne”

“I’d say the habaneras did the trick
N’ changed the frame o’ mind there on ol’ slick
When I took the flame and I lit the wick
Ol’ Dan quit this stool and he was gone”

Well, that’s the story ol’ cookie told me
‘Bout how justice was quick n’ the cost wuz free
When Dan should’ve been out there helpin’ me
Cook’ lit the fire o’ remembrance in his soul

Then cookie said, “I’ll lay ya’ a bet, my friend
Next time ya’ pass by and ya’ do drop in
N’ yer mule kick leaves on the Wyo wind
Ol’ Dan ‘ll give chase….n’ you, the first bowl!”

Jim Hawkins
May, 2007


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