The dawn of the century, a boy born deep in the mountains, resettled to the central plains. Lonesome, distant in youth, knowing the cost of connection.
Orphaned at 15, homeless the same year, unnoticed and pitiless. Tattered jeans and worn boots, sheering sheep and milking cows, pennies enough to eat.
Yet, with focus and vigor the boy grew, reading as he walked along the avenue. Undeterred by long odds, smiling kindly while shivering at night.
Strange, how the boy, wanting to set a path to follow, chose to take up the rifle. Marksmen beyond peer, with eagle eyes. Pride in the uniform, despite his size.
A new family, no longer alone, learning to become a man, while protecting his home. While many complained and ranted, he remained unwavering in his commitment.
Some disliked his life of servitude, claiming he was unfit because they knew. Amid it all, he stood firm. Even when his legs they burned.
War came, as it always does, and the boy had to fight thrice. First to go, then to remain, before firing a shot against the enemy ranks.
With excellence he did his duty, bullets striking where he aimed. Left alone, in the snow, he held the rear, against commandos.
Companies fell to his hand, dispatched like rabbits and lambs, cat and mouse they played their game. At the end, near a thousand he had slain.
His brothers were unscathed, shielded by his deadly aim. Cheers and laughs of disbelief, when he trudged back to the camp for sleep. Mud, blood and weeks of grime.
Such a mess he was hardly recognized. The Captain came and shook his hand, whispering his apologies then. Coffee from the old Sergeant and firm nod of approval.
Finally accepted for what his talents could do.
Three weeks later while on patrol, a mine in the snow, ended his war. Left leg severed, right leg broken, he crawled a mile before collapsing from exhaustion.
Found in a ditch, clutching his handgun. The medics raced and carried him back. Desperate to save his life.
When he awoke he was home. Pain and morphine flowed through his mind. Confined to a bed, for nearly six months, he counted the cracks, on the ceiling to sleep.
A dozen doctors with the same opinion, walking would come, but a while later. Each day working, to regain the skill, he cried at night, when he was alone. Nurses often listen in.
The General came and gave him medals, thanking him while posing for photos. A small comfort for his life upturned, as he lied through his teeth, to keep up morale.
The brave face he learned long ago, wearing thin after such peril. Not seeing visitors that day on, he kept to himself to sort out his thoughts.
Only a few were permitted, to see to it that he was attended.
And when he could walk again, he went and saw the President. Speaking frankly and without pause, he denounced the evils of their laws.
The war had broken his resolve, no longer smiling in spite of life's flaws. Laughing as demons, when confronted, the shoved him aside as though he were nothing.
Eyes darkened for the first time ever, he felt his blood turn to fire, when he took his leave.
Calling is brothers he begged for them to listen. His pleas found sympathetic ears. In the still night their plan unfurled, a coup d'etat to strike them down.
With anger and outrage he executed, the leadership of his nation. Ignoring the warnings and consequences, he carried through with his plan.
In the end, he was successful, as he had been in his youth.
The enemy came, and conquered his nation, he no longer cared to resist their intentions. Begging for the well being of his people, he surrendered his beloved rifle.
The gift from his love, became a trophy. They paraded him through the streets, letting everyone know. Kept from the public, unless watched closely.
When the new government came to be, they declared him a traitor to their regime. Thrown in prison and tortured daily, the boy refused to renounce his principles.
The put him on trial all the same, expecting a confession for lenient sentencing. Taking his chance he decried his critics, claiming that he was the true patriot.
In the end, it was all for nothing, for though many hearts were moved, the jury was approved by the party, and they believed him guilty, and so he was.
Marched to the gallows the next day, he was given one honor, assuaging his shame, to die in dress uniform, though it was faded and stained.
The crowd looked on, not a dry eye around, as rope pulled tight and the boy fell limp. And from where I stood, I could see, the small smile on the corner of his lips.
For even when facing his demise, he could see the world as it was. He wasn't afraid, he was filled with love, for at the end, he knew what he caused.
Now a hero, after decades of struggle. He was the first to throw off the shackles. Equality for all, and love for his neighbors, he taught us that even broken men could do great things.
The children sing a somber song, of the inmate who sparked a revolution. And on winter days, when there's snow on the ground, I recall his face, when I first found him.
Through the years, his name has faded, only his number remains in the common collective, regardless I still knew him best. For I was the man, he fell in love with.