The Ballad of "Little Petey" and "Bummer Bill"

This little ditty I've written (a ballad of sorts) tells the tale of a couple of erstwhile mining pards I once had. (Note: I made a last minute title change because I thought it made more sense.)

The Ballad of "Little Petey" and "Bummer Bill"

Of all the greenhorns who ever entered my fold,
Only "Little Petey" had a nose for the gold.
Short of stature he was and a bit scrawny too,
But he never failed to give a shovel its due.

Fond of liquor and poker halls he'd readily admit,
Though most often he'd make a pure mess of it.
Out in the field he'd seldom complain,
Just heft that pick and try 'er again.

Now "Bummer Bill" was "Petey's" nemesis true,
And their dislike for each other was nothing new.
Squabbles and spats they had each night,
Whether splitting the take or starting a fight.

My hands were full with "Petey" and "Bill,"
And their antics 30 years on I remember still.
But where "Bill" was silent most of the time,
"Petey" never failed to put a good joke to rhyme.

Now neither of these pards was a miner real,
They were in it for gold and not the whole deal.
But good help was hard to find on the river back then,
And I blame only myself for taking them in.

Let it be said it was to "Bill's" great loss,
That he was always searching for gold in moss.
But "Petey" could sniff out the yellow a mile away,
And with no real experience or true mining play.

How this came to be I really can't say,
Maybe the fates just made it that way.
Where "Bill" couldn't find a speck or a flake,
"Petey" always added something good to the take.

But as a veteran miner tried and true,
I was always caught between these two.
Like children they were in their arguing brays,
And short of patience, I was tried in too many ways.

That season the big fires around us drew close,
And it was "Bill" who became scared the most.
But "Petey" was not deterred in the least,
Even when the flames became a ravening beast.

One day in the ravine "Bill" wanted to turn and run,
But "Petey" chided him saying, "It's all good fun."
To town for supplies later that day I went,
Flames licking the highway but just about spent.

That night around the campfire we sat,
The fading glow of the fires sharing our chat.
"Petey" was gulping from another bottle in hand,
As "Bill" was packing his gear to go on the lam.

The next morn "Bill" declared "I've had enough of this shit!,"
While "Petey" laughed and said "Then get on with it."
Well "Bill" threatened "Petey" with fists balled up,
As I stepped in spilling my coffee cup.

"Godammit!" I cried, anger bulging my veins,
"You two are by far my biggest ass pains."
"I'll go it alone from here on out,"
And deadly serious I was without a doubt.

So "Bill" departed and headed for home,
While "Petey" remained as my little gold gnome.
"You better check your shit," was my advice,
And "Petey" responded, "No worries there. I'll be nice."

So back to the river's gold we went,
And another month of living in tents.
"Petey's" nose turned up some nuggets back then,
As we worked our way to real bedrock again.

In later years I heard that "Bill" married above,
And things were just dandy when push came to shove.
As for "Petey" the news was not so good,
Gambling and liquor had tainted his blood.

Now it's true decent pards are hard to find,
And you want good ones if you're working the mines.
But no one is perfect and that's a plain fact,
As "Petey" and "Bill" showed in their gold act.

Yes, I'm a broken-down old timer now,
My best days behind me if you'll allow.
But I wish "Bill" and "Petey" all of the gold,
And I'm glad that their story I have finally told.

(c) Jim Rocha 2019

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. JR, That was great! Very, very good job!
    As you know, I'm a huge Robert Service fan, this reminded me of some of his works. Very impressed!

    1. Thank you Gary. Much appreciated my friend.

    2. Also, I made a last minute title change...thought it worked better.

  2. I missed any mention of a "tune" - a great story, an excellent job, just needs the music to make it complete. Thanks for your continued contribution to lore


    1. Thank you Ric...makes it worthwhile for me.


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