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It started with a phone call on that cold October night. The deputy from Dibbly, Billy Joe - was on the line.
Told me he was callin’ out the local “rescue squad” to help with finding someone who was trapped inside a mine!
Billy said the office had received a call from someone claimin’ he’d been messin’ ‘round at “Thunder Mountain Coal.”
The guy had used his cell phone to explain there’d been a cave-in - and would I help by calling Marty Mace and Jimmy Dole.
Half an hour later we were gathered at the entry. Closed for failed inspections, with a ton of “Keep Out” signs,
I, for one, was well aware of what the dangers are in tryin’ to save the lives of brainless people trapped in mines!
Just before we ventured in the fella trapped inside called again to tell us that his light had just gone out!
Seconds later Marshal Buck - responding to his message - called to ask young Billy what the frenzy was about.
Slappin’ closed his cell phone, Billy Joe said, “That was Abner. Says he’s up at Grizzly Lake, but, somewhere close to dawn,
He’ll make it back to help us with the search. Damn, wouldn’t ya’ know… somethin’ really bad comes up an’, sure enough…he’s gone!”
Havin’ taken calls from both the stranded man and Abner - back to back - I swear to you, he turned and told me, “Mike…
Wish you could o’ heard the last two calls I got. It’s weird…never heard two different people sound so much alike!”
“If everybody’s ready, guess we’d better head on in. Don’t forget these radios will only work so far,
But keep them on no matter what ‘cause, if and when you find him, hopefully they’ll do the trick to tell us where you are.”
The mine, like many others, had, with time, become a maze, comprised of narrow alleyways and full of dark dead-ends,
But havin’ actually worked there for a year, I’d learned the tricks of memorizing subtle things - like - ceiling shapes…and bends.
Starting out together as an eager group of nine, fifteen - twenty minutes in, we split to groups of three. Billy Joe picked Carl and Marty. Ed took Dale and Carson. Jim and Rudy ended up assigned to go with me.
Just before we parted ways - wondering if he knew him - Billy said, “Perhaps my phone’s ID will show his name.”
That’s when he discovered - as he scrolled through “calls received” - that, to his great dismay, the last two numbers were - the same!
“Well, wha’d’ya’ make o’ that?” he quipped. “According to my phone, the last two calls I got before we headed on inside -
Came - if this thing’s workin’ like it should - from Abner’s cell! What’s that sucker up to, boys? It looks as though he’s lied!”
Well, half the town was privy to the goin’-ons ‘tween Abner (who was twice her age), and Rudy Baker’s wife.
Still…it’s unbelievable he’d sacrifice us all - just to free that woman up - by takin’ Rudy’s life!
Rudy ain’t no dummy, and he quickly volunteered, "Looks like Abner’s tryin’ to make me pay for what I said;
‘Only way you’ll get my wife,’ I told that sleazy fool, ‘is if I let her go - which I will not...or if I’m dead!’"
Being so preoccupied with saving someone’s life, no one had figured out the calls for help - for which we fell -
Couldn’t have come from deep inside the mine because, you see…mines (and caves), are places where - you can not use a cell!
“Ain’t no use in tryin’ to use our phones to call for help,” Billy said…“a cell won’t work this far inside a mine.
Guess I wasn’t thinkin’, but I simply can’t believe…just to steal some fella’s wife, he’d take the lives of nine?”
That was when the blast went off. The blast we’d been expecting. Stoking eerie memories of the type I’d heard so often,
It was clear that, now alone, and actually meant to die, more than likely - where we were - was going to be our coffin!
Racing for the exit, we were well aware that Abner - aimed at taking all our lives – was lurking just outside,
Poised to tell the others that - ‘while searching for a victim - something must have caused a cave in…trapping them inside!’
Using, as an alibi, that he was up on Grizzly, fishing, when it happened, is a pretty foolproof claim,
And if this note I’m writing’s never found…which tells the truth…I can guarantee you, he will never get the blame.
Even Rudy’s woman, Pearl, will likely never know the evil that he perpetrated - just to set her free!
Well, I’m runnin' out o' paper, so, “Goodbye,” from everyone...and as for who’s responsible for this, we all agree…
If we die -- without a doubt -- it’s Abner Buck that killed us.
We’re hoping you’ll convict him with this letter that I wrote,
And pray that -- when you find us -- dead -- he’s not the first one in…
‘cause if he is, I guarantee…you’ll never see this note!
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