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Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Prose Works. 1892.

I. Specimen Days

180. On to Denver—A Frontier Incident

THE JAUNT of five or six hundred miles from Topeka to Denver took me through a variety of country, but all unmistakably prolific, western, American, and on the largest scale. For a long distance we follow the line of the Kansas river, (I like better the old name, Kaw,) a stretch of very rich, dark soil, famed for its wheat, and call’d the Golden Belt—then plains and plains, hour after hour—Ellsworth county, the centre of the State—where I must stop a moment to tell a characteristic story of early days—scene the very spot where I am passing—time 1868. In a scrimmage at some public gathering in the town, A. had shot B. quite badly, but had not kill’d him. The sober men of Ellsworth conferr’d with one another and decided that A. deserv’d punishment. As they wished to set a good example and establish their reputation the reverse of a Lynching town, they open an informal court and bring both men before them for deliberate trial. Soon as this trial begins the wounded man is led forward to give his testimony. Seeing his enemy in durance and unarm’d, B. walks suddenly up in a fury and shoots A. through the head—shoots him dead. The court is instantly adjourn’d, and its unanimous members, without a word of debate, walk the murderer B. out, wounded as he is, and hang him.

In due time we reach Denver, which city I fall in love with from the first, and have that feeling confirm’d, the longer I stay there. One of my pleasantest days was a jaunt, via Platte cañon, to Leadville.