One night a lean and wizened soul
scuffed down the old mill road,
while moonlight cast upon the knoll
a mounted figure showed.

The Horseman sat perfectly still,
face shrouded in the mist.
His hooded form withstood the chill,
a scythe gripped in his fist.

The old man stopped beside the road,
the Horseman slowly spoke;
“Old soul you bear a heavy load;
Now horror I must stoke?”

“Not in the least, in years bygone
my days have seen much strife,
though I may never see the dawn
if you should stem my life.”

“It’s strange you are alone,” said he,
“your friends I’ve met before.
Disease and Famine sought for me
amid life’s godless war.”

The Horseman did not make a move,
but gave a hollow smile.
“I think,” said he, “that this may prove
to be your final mile.”

The man’s eyes twinkled in the dark
as he replied, “a duel?”
The Horseman’s only staid remark:
“You take me for a fool?”

“Certainly not,” the man replied,
“respect I have for you,
but hardly ever have I cried—
I know I’ll get what’s due.”

“What is your game,” the Horseman asked,
“you give me not a clue
nor any reason deftly masked
why I should challenge you?”

“Make sport of it before I die
at least a fair coin toss.
The stake for me is very high;
you can afford the loss.”

“A toss it is,” the Horseman laughed
“I’ll give you one more year,
and though I think I must be daft
I have no cause to fear.”

The old man tossed a coin aloft,
the Horseman growled a “Tails.”
The old man smiled, his breathing soft;
the Horseman knew he failed.

The spinning coin fell to the ground,
And there a head did show.
The old man sighed and turned around,
he guessed he’d better go.

“You have one year,” the Horseman cried,
“I shan’t be tricked again.”
“More than one year,” the old man lied,
“I would not want to win.”

And thus a lean and wizened soul
walked down the old mill road.



Phil S. Rogers is a sixth generation Vermonter, age 72, now retired, and living in Texas. He served in the United States Air Force and had a career in real estate and banking.  He previously published Everlasting Glory, a historical work that tells the story of each of the men from Vermont that was awarded the Congressional Medal Of Honor during the Civil War. 

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4 Responses

  1. Margaret Coats

    Good dialogue makes a good tale, yet leaves intriguing unanswered questions about the lean and wizened soul. Not answering them leaves the reader important things to ponder. An excellent way to delight and instruct!

  2. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Phil, you swept me up in the magic of your poetic story – the sort of stuff read with bonfire smoke rising under a gibbous moon and a mug of mulled wine in mittened hands. Thank you!


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