Birth of a legend

They say men won the west, they may have but women kept the heart beat alive!

Kokum teaches us that the man is the head but no head lives long without a heart.

A lady of the west she was! Unknown to most, but to us she was magical!

She Who Rides Alone was always brave. Her courage honoured her family.

Side saddle breaking colts! Can you imagine it son? Never saw her astride.

Her wagons always held such good food for her people. A spirit of sharing.

Bucked the pins outta her hair they say, but she didn’t lose her seat! No sir.

She was tall and straight, like a young pine. Her smile like later winter sun.

Jumped fences on that mule! Drove a painted team. Drove field draft too.

Our People kept her ways clear. The Kainai thought us unwise, cowardly.

No drover could meet her courage hauling her wagon loads home.

The Kainai stopped her one day, wanted to take her food. Her horses.

Where’s Nell? Gone to town. Alone? Nah she has the horses with her.

They tell of her grey eyes, like first frost of fall, and then the fire spoke.

It was a befuddlement to them all why she never had no trouble. Ha!

Her skirts they thought hid treasure to take. A woman weak. No warrior.

Like Annie Oakely! Calamity Jane! True grit she showed them injuns.

She did not stop or slow her wagon. Her horses walked like the great ice.

Where she got that gun, Albert he never said to me. He just smiled so sly.

Her voice was soft but strong. A wide willow branch. One word. NO.

They tell it, them who heard it later, that she kept on driving through ’em.

And in her hand the fire spoke, the men’s gun alive in a woman’s hand.

They never seen something like that. That gal Nell held her own for sure.

One shot. One word. She went on. No man fell. No horse fell. Their spirits fell.

We heard the shot, who didn’t? By the time we came a running it was long done.

Their insides became weak like tea water. They never came back here again.

She didn’t say much. Just that she runned ’em off with Jesus and Samuel Colt.



Brian has us playing with story telling and tall tales. This one is the same story told by two tellers to two audiences. One a cowboy relating the tale around the chuck fire and the other by an Elder of the Cree nation to their young people.  The awe of a young white man met by the respect of a Cree elder. The woman, and the story, are mostly true. Embellished a bit from stories told to me about the mother of my Great Grandmother who came to Canada in a covered wagon and farmed, broke horses and tended her family with grace, courage and love. She was a tall Scots woman, grey eyed and likely to outward appearances quite stern. But she rode horses with abandon, and faced life head on with courage so I suspect there was a spirit there that had a wry sense of humor as well.  The Cree and Kainai (Blackfoot) fought often along their borderlands, with their last great battle being a rout on the home turf of the Blackfood by the raiding Cree. The Canadian West has some rich history, no?


Check out the rest of the poets at dVerse!




  1. brian miller said,

    January 25, 2014 at 12:09 am

    wow shanyn, that this is based on a true story…that just kinda floored me a bit…so cool…i like how you blended the two voices to get ther full picture….ha and jesus and colt will def do the job…lol….

  2. January 25, 2014 at 4:29 am

    WOW, what a tale, and so cool that it is true and is one of your ancestors….I love the grey eyes like first frost of fall, and the smile like late winter sun. Yup – we Canucks have some strong-assed wimmin!!!!!! I really enjoyed this!

    • shanyns said,

      January 30, 2014 at 2:55 am

      The stories I heard of her, and what I knew of her daughter-in-law and the other women amaze and inspire me. Thanks for coming over Sherry!

  3. claudia said,

    January 25, 2014 at 8:40 am

    courage and humor…that is a wonderful combo… cool storytelling shanyn and even more that it is based on a true story…very cool

    • shanyns said,

      January 30, 2014 at 2:55 am

      Thanks Claudia, and yes she was an amazing woman.

  4. January 25, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    This is real story telling… should be told in front of a fireplace.. A real woman that could say NO… that’s heroism

  5. Doug French said,

    January 26, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    That may well be the best one you ever penned!

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