Recollections of a Western Deputy - (1871 -1897)
May 14, 1882 Sunday
The Day That Pigs Flew and How I Accidentally Skunked the Town
It has been over a month since we had the Carnie Raider Massacre, as we locals call it. It seems silver was discovered by the Carnie raiders thar' in the hills of the pass and that the discovery of that sparked interest in many of the locals and brought in outsider lookies over at Rustler's Pass. So far, more than 500 men and families have moved to the outskirts of town on rented lots in old Wilbert Myers now all but abandoned cropland, and in lands across the road that were taken up by the same bank that was blown to pieces by the Carnie Raiders during their raid into town, and divided up into rented lots of 10 by 10 rods (that's 100 feet by 100 feet) apiece for those folks. Almost 1085 folks were surveyed as having Moses'd on in, and that in just under a month, and set up spread out camps in wagons and pitched tents, sleeping there by night, and by day prospecting for silver. Yes sirree Robert E. Lee, I guess thar' must be some 77 mines they is diggin' over thar' pulling out just enough silver to buy supplies and make my cosuin Beth the richest General Merchant Store in this here part of the country, with 3 to 5 wagons a day loaded with goods a day comin' in, and the empties going out, so that I spend the late morning and early afternoon giving escort to those wagons as well as to the Wells Fargo stage and any horses or ta' other they wish to transport, and any folk that want ride along just behind in order to get through Rustler's Pass and Tombstone Canyon without a ruckus it theys a headin' out thataway.
The day after the Massacre of the Carnie Raiders, I was later told, the Town Council had expanded the town limits right up to the pass itself, and now on top of cleaning the stalls, combing down and feeding the horses, backing up Sheriff Bond or making arrests of local jackasses who can't live peaceable like, now I spend morning and near sunset over thar' at the prospecting camps which stretch out more than a mile into the fields on both sides of the road. Some one or two of them have so settled in that night after night they return with loads of gravel for their own path, making a new road into the fields here and thar' as they come home after each day.
Some of the townsfolk are a gettin' jealous, and there is talk by some of the gossipin' women of how the town ought to fine and seize the gravel. One of them, an old maid of 62 and an always stirring up trouble and good for nuthin', couldn't shut up. So one day whilst she was by the cow stall and makin' the same ruckus like a wet hen, I rode up and gave her a shovel and told her to go dig for it herself. And if she couldn't stop, the 3 foot piles of cow droppings were right over thar' and to shovel her gossipin' out with the cow droppings, as folks wouldn't recognize the difference between one or ta' other. I thought the wife was going to lay me out with an iron skillet when I got home, like when she laid me out for smiling at the new school marm Miss Svenson, and then accidental like saying I was only thinking of her when I was a smilin' at Miss Svenson's frontal curves. I never knew what hit me, and I was laid out for 4 days. It was 3 weeks before I was able to get back on the job after that, and even Beth lays out an iron skillet with a loud thump on the counter if Miss Svenson and I are ever in the store at the same time. She gives be 30 seconds to scedattle out of thar' from the time she lays it out with a thump. And believe me, I jump with a usual excuse of "Excuse me, ladies, I forgot thars some rustlers the Sheriff wants me to go catch."
About a wild turkey trot, that's about one and a half miles to folks round here, about that distance west of the the main road that squirts through Rustler's Pass is Duck Lake. Now Duck Lake should have been named Goose Lake as (at least before the lookies came) there were almost always hundreds of geese thar', and not that many ducks, except two weeks out of the year if ya'll put them all in a lump of time together; and that during the migrations north in spring and south in the fall.
Well, after I lost my horse to the Carnie Raiders last month, I got me a fine 3 year old Palomino Horse, for which I had to make an extra 23 arrests of drunken cowhands (who bring their cattle to market at the corral south of town) to pay for it, and another 11 arrests to buy a new .45 because one of the 14 I slugged to sleep like from behind bent my pistol barrel when I missed the first time as he ducked under an iron rail after he tried to stab me in the face with a broken whiskey bottle when all I did is tell him and his pals to settle down and pay for their drinks first, as there was no credit when it comes to drinkin'.
I wish I was lucky like the Sheriff, as he confiscated a fine black mustang off a corpse who was bushwhacked out at the camps. Nobody knew who he was, but he did tell folks here abouts he had no kin, as they was all dead from either the war and then the remaining female relation from both dysentery and cholera in Baltimore from bad city water there.
Morning and afternoon I'm out there in and through the camps and Rustler's Pass escorting Beth's wagons and Wells Fargo and folks, and then checking in on the camps on both sides, and all I git from them folks are their high stinks (even when i am upwind of them) and the pukes. You think being near to 4 mile creek they would have more than enough water to wash their dresses and shirts and britches, if nothing else, as it runs 4 foot and more deep all year long before going out to the cattle hole watering hole south of town and then back underground somewhere. Twice a day, I tell them they need to dig a hole, go, and cover it up. But no, some of them were doing it right in the middle of the road for my horse to trollop on, and after 4 times scraping that high smellin' skunk off my new horse. The bunch of drunks that were our Town Council refused to pass a city ordinance now that it was town jurisdiction, and Sheriff Bond kept saying, leave it alone. But when my wife and kids sounded and then looked to getting sick from the stink they was having when the wind blew from the pass over the town as we tried to sleep with the windows open on a still to warm night, I had me enough.
At first light, just before dawn on May 5th, I got my double-barreled single shot, saddled up my new Palomino, and sunk spur. And there they was, 10 or maybe 11 of em, as if all together a squattin' at the side of and in the middle of the road. I rode in a a high gallop, gave a rebel yell, and birdshot at the 6 of them in the middle of the road with their britches down (but only got two of 'em good). A third one I shot, I don't count. The one that don't count I shot and missed was that one road squatter who I got in the foot as my new Palomino jerked and slipped in the road to the right a bit, as I shot to the 11 o'clock left. And good thang that no good cotton-pickin' road squatter jumped, because he spun round facing me as he got up, and if he hadn't of jumped he would have been missing certain essentials as the second blast went between his knees with a slug shot that I accidental like placed in a barrel on a quickie reload instead of the pocket with the shells with only the bird shot. That shotgun slug shot blew an 8 inch downward top section of a dead tree stump that was behind that varmit. I reckon by the time I shot at him, the camp was a lookin' to where we was, and saw the wood of that stump go a flyin' 15 or 18 feet up through the air and realized that one of their fellow road squatters was almost castrated. That varmit who I shot in the foot with birdshot then hopped out into the fields like a crazy jack rabbit in a one legged frenzy and without his britches and shoes, as naked below as the day he was born. The whole camp on both sides of the road saw this, and you should have seen how many holes were being dug and how fast they was a diggin' them. A couple folks in the fields was a even paddlin' the dirt like dogs to cover up their smelly cast outs. Within two hours most of the stink was gone, and folks who kept lookin' at me lookin' at them even went about tearin' down their wagons to make for thesselves outhouses.
After that, not only were folks stoppin' from a gettin' sick so much, but whenever theys saw me a comin', they cleared the road long before I got thar'. My cousin Beth, known as the widow Bennett, who owned the largest General Store round about these parts, had a fire sale on iron skillets and anything made of iron of any noteable size. Soon after that, my jaw dropped so hard I thought it hit the horn of my saddle the first time I returned to the Pass, and saw that any of the men within shotgun range of me in the road or in the Pass would pull these iron skillets out of thin air and nowhere, and all of a sudden, a coverin' their privates with one hand and with the other hand and body jitters holding their hats over their chest. I hadn't the heart to tell the Sheriff why the miracle of everyone all of a sudden doing so much being suddenly peaceful like and quiet in the Pass and in the Camp and in the Town when I was around after that morning, and bless him, he never asked. And thinkin' back, I think that fear is why the town never tried to either run me and mine out after what was to happen next.
On the dawn hours of Tuesday May 9, the Sheriff had me go to the jail and meet the two new deputies he hired on as directed to by the town council, and put me on "the case of the missing suspenders." Starting 4 or 5 nights prior like, over 183 suspenders were stolen from various townsfolk, (the mayor, fat and rich as he was, losin' 52 of them). Every once and a while, some young un' would get a hold of one and use these for the sling of a sling shot because of the rubber. The ones Beth sold shrunk to as small as a foot and stretched out as many as 7 feet and hooked on to buttons because the hook and eyes often broke, not havin' enough sewin' or somethin' to that effect. The town was a gettin' suspicious the thief who was doing all the suspenders stealin' was part of the prospectin' camp. So I started thar.
I got to the far side of the western camp, and in the distance, from the final slope of the hill that makes itself out like a tombstone with a sheer drop at the pass, from the western slope, I flying up and out like a bird, twice the height of the tree line something flying, and then came down just before Duck Lake. When I got to Duck Lake, about 4 rods from the east bank of it, I found it was a 10 lb. dead pig. Just then, the geese made a ruckus and another pig, over 20 lbs, flew over my head and dang if that oinker didn't land about 5 rods into the middle of duck lake. I got the rope off my saddle and lassoed that dinner for the wife and kids in. After cutting it up and burying the waste parts, I took dinner home.
Sheriff Bond had gone over with some prisoners to the next county on extre- dition and the two new deputies, I had no idea where thy was at. Marshall Jackson was still laid up and finishing a month long drunk after the loss of his niece, and was only just sobering up, but still house and chair ridden, hobbling from thar to here and here to thar', waving his walking stick at anyone and everyone that was full grown and a cussin' black clouds except for when children about Sarah June's age and younger came into view or when his kid sister and her kin came to visit. Then, when these were present, for the first few minutes, he sat and slumped and made this wretched pained face, his body a heavin' in his chair and cried without tears as if he had cried them all out. After that he was came and peaceable like, and very polite, as if nothing happened. It was if he put his bad side in a room somewhere, and locked the doors while his good self came out to visitin'. he gave me instructions of how he wanted me to blast out 14 tree stumps for him, and that I would need to use 14 charges of 4 sticks of dynamite apiece, and would I do this for him. I told him I would, and then went over to Beth's store and let her know. She had to order in extra dynamite, and it would be two or three weeks yet. I then let Marshall Jackson know and then went home, only to find the house empty. The wife and kids were probably over either one of her sisters or her mother's place.
So, no one being abouts, I went down to Maywood's saloon, and had me a wide beer. Maywood offered 3 beer sizes, short for 3 cents, tall for 5 cents, and wide for 15 cents. The wide was like a short glass pitcher, and held over a quart of beer with a 3 inch head of foam that flowed over the side. Thar' I spoke to a few of the boys who I served with during the war, and told them about the flying pig. Theys all laughed. And the more I told it, the more it became like Saturday Night with a bunch of rowdy teenage cowhands tryin' to play grownup. I got so rattled I called Tombstone Hill as Tombstone Mountain. "It's a hill." they uns laughed. "I knows it. Same thang." I replied.
On Saturday night, May 13, I again went to Maywood's for the second time that week, and got me another wide beer. This time, after the boys laughed and had their fun, and insisted I would take them out to Duck Lake at dawn, near the time I saw those first and only two pigs fly...ha,ha. So the next morning, on the morning of this May 14th, as folks were waking up to milk the cows at 3:30 am., I woke their sorry backsides out of their drunk, and bent another gun barrel over that chowder-headed ex-corporal, and at gun point, rode the 4 of them out to Duck Lake before the dawn came up. And sure enough, it wasn't even 5 o'clock and light out, when flying out from the trees to the east, an 18lb pig flying and tumbling head over hoof landed on a goose about 11 rods in the middle of Duck Lake, and he and the goose went to the muddy bottom and never came up again. About 5 minutes later, another pig came over the tree tops and almost landed on ex-Sergeant O'Malley. When the third oinker flew wide and south of the lake by about a stone's throw, ex-Sergeant O'Malley yelled "yellow tavern" and the boys sunk spur and rode into the woods knowing exactly what to do. Less than 10 minutes later, we reached the starting point.
Kenneth "Butcher's Boy" Beavers had constructed for hisself the world's largest sling-shot. All told, there was over 215 pairs of suspenders tied together like some kind of giant narrow fishing net between two maple oak trees with a hemp rope tail that wrapped around a giant birch some 90 feet or more away, which he pulled around as using leverage from so that he could both load and launch the pigs in that way. Me and the boys gathered up the evidence, and made young Kenneth run all the way back to town as if we was herdin' a stray young bull. The Sheriff, unkownst to me, came back in town the night before, and was back at his office. And of course the Sheriff being the Sheriff, loved sling-shots hisself since he was a boy. So what does he do? He takes us to the Johnson's place on the far west edge of town, and has us put up the now tangled up slingshot between two pear trees and wrap the tail around an apple tree at about the same distances apart as we saw in the woods, and pulls it tight so as to be ready to launch, gives me the rope, tells me to stand there like some kind of moron in the middle of the field holding a rope and to hang on with a firm grasp, and then goes off and uses a stick in the dirt guessin' at math about it.
By this time, it now being well past 6 in the morning, and most of the town woke up, Mrs. Beavers and two of the young uns, Kathy age 10 and John age 9, also were in tow. After dragging Kenneth east and out of the field to the other side of the road, with help from two of the boys, as a crowd of three or four hundred of the townsfolk (includin' children), gathers to watch the goings on right in the line of fire of the slingshot. Mrs. Beavers takes a horse whip to Kenneth while two of the boys hold him in a bent over position. Meanwhile Kathy and John step away and go over to a patch of bushes and found a white striped black cat, and put it in the center patch on the giant slingshot, a bit over arm's length away from me, and they uns run like they was being chased by a farmer chasing trespassers with a pitchfork. So I look down at the cat. Only its not a cat. It's an angry skunk looking up at me, making noises and baring its teeth. The Sheriff jumps up and yells for me to not let go of the rope, but that command only seems to make the skunk angrier. And as soon as that critter turned about to let loose his spray, I was already hittin' the dirt just as if a 16 lb fragmentary shell shot was a comin' down my way. I hit the ground so hard, I bounced over half a foot, and one of my .45's jumped its holster. As I settled into the dirt after I bounced, I could hear what sounded like the whole town screamin' behind me.
The skunk flew like a cannon shot, sprayed the entire crowd of townsfolk gathered on the east end of town, and sailed like a Chinese fire rocket all the way down Main Street, (a distance of almost half a mile), and planted itself halfway through the old town sign (that was donated when Maywood first put up his saloon); the skunk knocking out the cheap thin plank having the town's name, which was put at the top at the insistence of Mayor O'Riley and becoming little more than a sign with "Welcome" and a dead skunk draped over the top of it. It was at this point the new town minister, a Presbyterian turned Baptist minister, rode up in a wagon with his wife and remarked how "This town stinks to high heaven with sin! Martha, here's where we start saving souls, find our congregation and build our church!"
June 11, 1898: Note regarding this last part - To this day, several times a year, that same Pastor, who is now my Pastor, still uses this remembrance in his sermons, which he punctuates with the story of how the town almost renamed Main Street as "Skunk's Hollow" in my honor. I haven't had one time yet, where he gives his remembrance that most of the old timers of our congregation hasn't at that point in the sermon turned their heads all together at the same exact time, and stopped giving me their icy stares yet.