The Steelie King Comes To Town

With eyes of ice-steel blue he comes

The Steelie King comes to town

You'll only see him smile one time

That's when your head's hung down


Most every day when the bell said 'play', we'd head for the open field;

Where the scrubby weeds from last year's seeds kept the gopher holes concealed.

With a leather pouch and a stealthy crouch, we'd play the game of 'chase';

'Til a sharp cr-ack! increased one sack, and left two kinds of face.


Aggies and purees, boulders and peewees, with a cateye here and there;

And my favorite mate was a cloudy agate with some bubbles in the air.

So when my soul burned hotter than coal, that aggie I'd lay on the line;

No way we would lose, 'twas just a cruise --- 'cause me and my 'gate was fine.


"Hey, I'm the King" my thumb would sing, as the agate spun away;

That gyroscope meant no more hope, and the crack!  left nothin' to say.

Oh, life was fun --- I was number-one of the boys who rolled for gold;

They all stood around and kicked the ground as I won back marbs I'd sold.


But word came down, from a distant town, of a legend headed south;

Who was vise-grip wise, with steel-blue eyes, and a steel toothpick in his mouth.

The tales they told!  Of a kid so cold he'd win your lunch-sack too;

And eat right there with a dreadful stare from eyes of ice-steel blue.




At dawn one day, I was on my way to see some friends across town;

Up against a tree , near school, all three were leaned with their heads hung down.

The Steelie King!  --- he'd done his thing! --- my eyes swept over the field;

And standing there was a look of dare whose folded arms said:  yield.


He wore old jeans with busted seams, stood in shoes with no more days;

His tattered shirt was scruffed with dirt, and oh--- what a frightful gaze.

On out I strolled, tryin' to look bold, tho' my mind had gone sublime;

"Hey, I'm the King" my thumb might sing --- but I wondered if --- in time?


For minutes, slow, it was shoot-and-go, as we tested dew-damp earth;

I finally turned and said  "I've learned a cold soul ain't got no worth."

"My pearly 'gate's your certain fate --- your devil's soul dies here;

And when it's dead I doubt I'll shed a single steel-drop tear."


Unflinchingly, he looked at me, said  "I see, kid, you don't understand";

His eyes had the feel of ice-cold steel --- and that's what he held in his hand.

A marble of steel!  --- frightfully real! --- so that's how he'd gotten his name! 

It wasn't his eyes --- what a bad surprise --- that shimmering steel was his fame!




The chase was on as the mists of dawn rose to greet the sun at the hill;

It was stone-of-feel against flashing steel, and we each pressed on for the kill.

Then a mustard weed, in a chance good deed, up'n stopped that steel head-on;

And I spun my soul on a golden roll to my fame four feet beyond.


But a pebble said Hi, and kicked it by, up and over a gopher mound;

Then a "Bombsie" call, and raised steel ball, made my heart begin to pound.

Well, this was it --- he would either hit, or that steelie would be mine;

'Cause a bombsie drop can't roll, just plop --- his crown was down on the line.


He glared real mean, 'til he knew I'd seen all the coldness in his heart;

Then with fierce aplomb he launched that bomb --- and smashed my agate apart.




A thousand screams tore at my seams, but I kept 'em locked inside;

And faked it so he'd never know a part of me had died.


My head held high in the morning sky, I turned away for a while;

Then a low soft sound brought me around --- to face the Steelie King smile.

But what'd I see?  --- there, on one knee ---teardrops were falling on dew;

Cascading down beneath that frown from the eyes of ice-steel blue.


He kneeled and cried, and though I tried, his wound I couldn't see;

He just stared down at the silent ground --- then finally spoke to me.

"I know my looks ain't from picture books, 'cause people shy away;

An'  I'm measured by my silent eyes --- I ain't got much to say."


"I got no home, just an endless roam of watchin' good-time ends;

I've had to find my piece of mind with nature, not with friends."

"I cry because that aggie was the finest I ever seen;

An' I'd hoped your eyes would see that I is a lonely kid --- not mean."


The word had begun that I had won; my friends ran out with cheers;

I helped him rise, saw beyond his eyes, and my own were filled with tears.

Then with great surprise did I realize, as the crowd came like a tide

'Twas I with the feel of ice-cold steel ,  and worse --- mine had been inside.


Well, it didn't take long to change his song --- our foursome soon became five;

And no one in town noticed his frown,  'cause his smile had come alive.

So that was the way, and that the day, I bid blind youth adieu;

When I learned to see --- others, and me --- through those eyes of ice-steel blue.


With eyes of ice-steel blue he came

The Steelie King came to town

I turned to see him smile one time

That's when his head hung down





Copyright 1974, 2002, Ron Alan Pierce


 Writing the ballad of the Steelie King  Origins of the Steelie King   Steelie King -- the Path Not Taken 


 NOTE: many have said this story would make an excellent illustrated children's book with an accompanying audio tape.  If you are an illustrator or publisher or musician, and such a project interests you, please send an email to


This ballad has a musical accompaniment (the chorus is sung; the poem is read to the background music. There is an abbreviated version (a 2.3mb mp3 file) of the music (chorus through "...folded arms said yield"); click here to download the mp3 file:  Steelie King Music. ). 


Here are some images showing the association of the musical melody and the words.  I'm not a trained musician; I put the melody to a score (and created the mp3 file)  using Harmony Assistant (from Myriad Software, France)


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