THE LOST FLANNINS
by Bruce Kiskaddon (1878-1950)
Old greasy John Blair had a shootin’ affair
Way back in the year ninety three
I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ll tell it to you
Just the same as John told it to me.
Said Greasy, as he tipped back his chair,
“That story shore puts me in mind
Of a suit of red flannins I got down to Shannon’s,
And some trouble I had with O’Brien.
You see I rode line with this Jimmy O’Brien,
That winter I shore do recall
We got, as you knows, our tobacker and clothes,
When we went out of town in the fall.
We was both plenty tough, but the weather was rough,
And it made us go prowl our war sacks.
All the clothes we could find, either his’n or mine,
We put ’em right onto our backs.
The red flannins of mine was most sartinly fine,
I didn’t begrudge what they cost.
But a turrible thing happened long toward spring,
My suit of red flannins got lost.
There was jest I and Jim so I blamed it on him,
And Jim, right away he got tough.
He was never right mild, and when once he riled,
I am present to state he talked rough.
Well a’most every day we’d get started some way,
About where them red flannins had gone.
And the more that I thought, the plum shorer I got,
That my old pardner Jim had ’em on.
We had et a big bait and was startin’ out late;
The weather was perishin’ cold.
I walked up to him and sez, look a here Jim,
I want them red flannins you stoled.
Jim’s eyes they got mean, and he sez, we’ll come clean.
I been hearin’ this talk quite a spell.
And I caint onderstand how a reasonable man,
Would be wantin’ red flannins in Hell.
It wasn’t no fun, fer he took to his gun,
And we shot till the cabin was fogged.
The chinckin’ shore flew where the bullets cut through,
While some others plowed into the logs.
When the smoke cleared away, there my old pardner lay,
And I sez to him, Mister O’Brien,
Since at last you have got to a place where it’s hot,
I’ll be takin’ them flannins of mine.
I onbuttoned his clothes and what do you suppose?
He didn’t have any onderwear.
I searched all around and they couldn’t be found.
Them red flannins wasn’t no where.
‘Bout the time the grass rose I began sheddin’ clothes.
My onderwear started to stick.
It clogged up my sweat when I got overhet,
So I took me a swim in the crick.
When I dove in at fust I washed off some loose dust,
And then quite a coating of muck.
I finally come to a layer of tough gum,
But I still was as dry as a duck.
Well I suwm around some till I soaked through the gum,
And the water got into my pores.
It shore made me shiver, chilled plum to the liver.
I waded out onto the shore.
I stood in the sun; I’m a son of a gun;
I thought in my soul I’d a died.
I had them clothes on that I figgered was gone,
They’d been plastered down next to my hide.
I know Jim O’Brien that old pardner of mine;
He’s a settin’ down there on the coals.
And I reckon he’ll wait right up close to the gate
And be ready to bull dog my soul.
It drives me to drink every time that I think
Of Jim fixin’ it up with Old Satan.
I know all these years he’s been backin’ his ears,
And jest itchin’ and watchin’ and waitin’.
I might make a try for a home in the sky,
But that wouldn’t be treatin’ Jim fair.
I made the mistake so I’ll give him a break,
And we’ll settle the matter down there.
…by Bruce Kiskaddon
One of Kiskaddon’s few “windies,” this poem appeared in his 1947 book, Rhymes of the Ranges and Other Poems, in a section called “Yarns and Legends.”
Terry Nash recites “The Lost Flannins” on his new CD, A Good Ride. The late, much-missed Trey Allen was also known for his rendition, which is recorded on his Cowpoke album.
Kiskaddon worked for ten years as a cowboy, starting in 1898, working in southeastern Colorado’s Picketwire area. He wrote many poems still read and recited today.
Find much more about Kiskaddon: many of his poems; a feature about Bill Siems’ monumental “Open Range” that collects nearly 500 of Kiskaddon’s poems; Siems’ collection of Kiskaddon’s short stories, “Shorty’s Yarns”; and more at CowboyPoetry.com.
This 1938 photo by John Vachon (1914-1975) is titled, “Farmer and old cowboy in North Platte, Nebraska, saloon.” See more about it here.
Minnesotan Vachon became interested in photography while working for the Farm Security Administration as a young man. He worked with some of the top photographers of the times. As described in the FSA collection description, “The hallmark of this style of photography is the portrayal of people and places encountered on the street, unembellished by the beautifying contrivances used by calendar and public relations photographers.” )
Find an interesting video and more about the FSA collection at The Library of Congress “Documenting America, 1935-1943: The Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Photo Collection.”