I’m a little slow getting this one posted. The View From the Side  prompt #32 didn’t excite me when I first saw it. What can be more boring than “cardboard.” Only a couple of themes came to mind, and I figured they would be overrepresented. Finally, it dawned on me that corrugated cardboard wasn’t the only kind of cardboard. Playing cards were made out of cardboard too.

Using iambic trimeter wasn’t a good idea, but I let it stand. The theme was a little too complex for trimeter.

by Mike Patrick

Photo of Wild Bill Hickok, Flicker Image by Deadwood, South Dakota

A handsome man got off the stage,
in Deadwood–it broke down.
He pushed his hat brim up
and slowly looked around.

Eighteen seventy-six,
and not a lot to do.
South Dakota badlands:
a place most pass on through.

Once a place to avoid,
the gold rush changed all that.
Madam Johnson* walked by;
the stranger tipped his hat.

He walked across the street
into a new saloon
and to a poker game
where someone made some room.

He loved the fresh-deck smell,
the cardboard fresh and new.
The men around were sheep,
he knew what he could do.

The shuffle stacked the deck,
an ace slipped up his sleeve,
he dealt a crooked hand
so perfect to deceive.

The man across the felt
rose slowly to his feet.
They both drew so swiftly . . .
the stranger lost the heat.

He never told his name
for his plot in Boot Hill,
but the man who shot him
was called, by all, Wild Bill**.

*Madam Mollie Johnson ran the second most successful brothel in Deadwood.

This fictional shooting probably would have occurred in the Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon No. 10.

**Wild Bill Hickok was arguably the first person to use the “quick draw” in a gunfight. Although getting old and having vision problems in 1876, he was no man to trifle with. On August 2, 1876, while playing poker in Nuttal & Mann’s, with his back to the door because no other chair was available, he was shot in the back of the head and killed. He allegedly was holding a hand of aces and eights: known forever after as “the dead man’s hand.”

This entry was posted in Death, Gambling, Iambic, Old Times, Poetry, Rhyming, Trimeter, View From the Side and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to THE CARDBOARD KING

  1. TheMsLvh says:

    Your choice of words made this work! Using iambic trimeter moved the story quickly and a really fun read. I am always excited when my email sings and I see a new post from you. Loved this one!
    Been to DeadWood. A girlfriend was living in the old post office/store/saloon there. You painted the Badlands and the event very well.

    • Mike Patrick says:

      Thank you. My goal was to write on something different involving cardboard. I never read the other prompt posts until I finish my write. I just need a few of your fresh phrases to dress it up.

  2. nrhatch says:

    Good take on the theme. Plus it brought back fond memories. I’ve been to Deadwood, toured the cemetary, and the saloon. 😀

  3. One of your best! The trimeter suits the story-telling style, and the whole thing is exciting, with a good feeling on reaching the end. A definite 5 star job.

    • Mike Patrick says:

      Trimeter may have suited the style, but I couldn’t make some of the lines fit. Tetrameter probably would have been better, but I’ve been doing so much of it, I wanted to do something different.

  4. adeeyoyo says:

    Great idea and well executed, Mike. 🙂

  5. Oh wow… whatever you did or didn’t do.. it’s a fabulous piece of writing, and wonderful back story to it, too.
    Lovely job, Mike.

  6. siggiofmaine says:

    Ah, thinking outside the box ! I was at a loss for “cardboard” til I read your post.
    Mental pause…a great topic now that the muse has been stirred up and let out
    into the light of day.
    ☮ Siggi in Downeast Maine

    • Mike Patrick says:

      That was my problem too. I googled ‘cardboard’ to see if there were some less common uses. Playing cards was one. There is also business card stock and some of the heavy paper stock used for posters and things like that. The business card angle had possibilities, but I enjoy playing cards.

  7. Love how you made lemonade out of what seemed like a “lemon” prompt, Mike. The historical aspects only add to it… and who ran the MOST successful brothel? Just wondering, ha ha.

    I knew about “the dead man’s hand” from the age of about 5, because I’d sit and watch the older folks play poker (matchsticks only). By the time I was 7, even the grown-ups would deal me in! My computer sits on the table we all played around, and I would never re-varnish it… I’d lose the cigarette burns on the edges!! Thanks again, Amy

    • Mike Patrick says:

      Dora DuFran was ran the most successful brothel, but I thought her name sounded made up. I should have used it though. Dora had a wagon-load of cats delivered to her establishment–probably to battle a mouse/rat problem–and resulted in her business being the first called a cat house. History is where one finds it.

      The description of your table brought back memories. When I was in my teens, I used to frequent the only pool hall in my home town. All the pool tables had those burn marks ringing their outer edge. It gave the place character, maybe not good character, but character. I haven’t been in a pool hall since those days. I don’t suppose smoking is even allowed in them now. Here I am, waxing nostalgic for cigarette burns, and I never smoked. Funny what makes an impression.

  8. Tilly Bud says:

    Funny how some prompts inspire immediately but others have to fester a while.

    I like the story and the facts you shared. Good poem, Mike.

  9. SidevieW says:

    sometimes it does take time to find one’s own place in a theme, this one was definitely worth a little wait

    it’s a form of cardboard i forgot, despite being a bridge player

    a wonderful view of the wild west culture from the past and now i know why that’s a dead man’s hand

  10. earlybird says:

    Good story, Mike, and well told. It fairly romps along. I enjoyed all the additional details too.

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