While researching old West ghost towns I came across a story that was different from all the other's I had read. This poem sprang from that true story.
The West is littered with remains of towns who’s only worth
was the gold and silver wrestled from the unforgiving earth?
But a town Southwest of Denver had a different tale to tell.
And this is just what happened when its miners went through hell.
In October, 1861,
to a camp called “Buckskin Joe”
came a mutton puncher with a herd
from down in Mexico.
But he brought more than sheep it’s said,
to the folks at Buckskin Joe.
He brought a case of smallpox
and he was first to go.
An epidemic gripped the town;
folks dropping left and right.
The women all packed up and left,
‘cept one who stayed to fight.
She nursed the sick and dying
and laid the dead to rest
in a graveyard midst the aspens
down below the mountain crest.
They say she was a dancehall gal
and no one knew her name.
Though she was shunned by decent folks,
she helped them just the same.
Folks said she’d won the favor
of a silver miner there
who made her shoes with silver heels
that she would always wear.
And the last thing many miners saw
when their life on earth was done
was a smiling face and silver heels
ah-glistening in the sun.
When the worst of it was over
the survivors in the town
came to show their gratitude,
but, she could not be found.
Some say she’d caught the virus
and it scared her lovely face
and rather than be ridiculed,
she up and left the place.
Years later someone spied a woman
veiled and darkly dressed,
who wandered through the graveyard,
there below the mountain crest.
Folks say it was that dancehall gal,
amidst those Aspen trees
who paused and touched each marker,
then vanished like the breeze.
They immortalized her sacrifice,
so we would always know
of the tarnished mercy angel
in the camp called Buckskin Joe.
They didn’t build a statue
or hang up any sign.
Instead, they picked the grandest
thing around that they could find.
Nearly 14 thousand feet, it soars,
this Rocky Mountain high
that’s known now as “Mount Silverheels”
and she’s the reason why.
Well, the mining camp called Buckskin Joe
is just a memory;
a ghost town full of broken dreams
is all that’s left to see.
Unless, of course you look beyond
the mere fact this occurred
and see it as a parable like
those which fill God’s Word.
The message of Mount Silverheels
reminds us here today
how the least becomes the greatest
in God’s own mysterious way.
The stone, at first rejected,
was the one that saved the wall
like the man the world rejected
who is Savior of us all.
Jeff Hildebrandt copyright 2002