Sarasota Skank Sex and the Senile Senior Soft-Shoe Shuffle

imagesA double dip in the drink today.  All sweaty and crappy from a long bike ride, once back on this sandbar I sprang from my bike and dove head first into the briny brine, sharks, ‘cudas, rays, and stinging jellyfish be darned.  

Crazy Old Cuss—After his wife kicked the bucket, some 80-year-old loon befriended several skanky Sarasota street-walker sorts and these lovelies decided to simply open up branch offices in the man’s home.  Now, this sleazy addition to his household may have added some spice to the old fool’s dead dull life, but it was just hell on neighborly relations.  Pretty damn quick the homeowners on the block realized that something highly irregular was occurring over at Ebenezer’s place, a house that had formerly been a model of modern mature stability and boredom.  The hoarse, hysterical laughter at midnight . . . the screams and shrieks at early dark thirty . . . the empty syringes and the full pecker ponchos at dawn. . . . Hmmmmmm.

“He said they were turning tricks in the ‘Monkey Room,’” one neighbor told a reporter.

Coming and going, day, night, dawn, dusk, 24/7 the slutty scab-pickers and their equally loathsome “clients” carried on the carnal carnival with about as much indifference and disregard as log-floggers at the nearby log-flogging beaches exhibit while jerkin’ their gherkins.

“How’s the prostitution business?” yelled an exasperated neighbor one morning to the lusty geezer.

“Great!” spit back the crazy old coon who seemed protective of his prostitutional property.

Sarasota seems a bit unsure how to handle this issue.  For my money, let the crazed old creep be.  In a week or less he will wind up frozen in the freezer after bitching out and badgering his drug-crazed guests for the umpteenth time. Then the cops can move in and hose the place out.

Problem solved.

Harvest Time–When it comes to hunting, we increasingly hear the term “harvested.”   Such a nice, neat, sweet, and typically bloodless human way of putting a bright blue blow on something “slaughtered,” something “killed,” something “destroyed.”  More and more, hunters, game wardens and others with masculinity issues are using the Orwellian term “harvested” when it comes to slaughtering deer, elk, pheasants, and any other animal they hunt and kill.  Makes it sound much more like they are performing some rather important and needed duty, I suppose.  I guess “harvested” sounds like a crop some autumnal yeoman is bringing in, like bringing in the sheaves rather than some very unsportsmanlike “sportsman” shooting something dead at a hundred yards with a high powered scope, something that was just trying to get along and raise its kids and survive in a cruel environment that the weak and flabby hunter could have never survived in for one week. 

Also, “harvesting” smells a lot like the military jargon we hear more and more often, created by the dissembling media and the Pentagon war-mongers to euphemistically hide the truth, i.e., “collateral damage” in lieu or headless kids and “enhanced interrogation” rather than smashed testicles. 

Hey, where ya headed, Fred?

Oh, hi there, Bill.  Just thought I’d take Old Betsy out and harvest a few deer.

Well, good luck . . . and hey, Fred, thanks for all you and our brave military men are doing to keep this country free!

No problem, Bill.  Whether it’s harvesting humans or deer, it’s what we heroes do.

Easy Street–Mickey Lee Hauri, 51, was wobbling along the other night over at Port Charlotte, drunk as a skunk in a trunk full of junk.  As anyone familiar with Florida knows, Mick and his ilk are not only part of the problem; they are also part of the solution.  Part of the solution in that since so many booze bags have had their driver’s licenses jerked our roads are now a bit safer; part of the problem in that these sots are now crowding the streets on bicycles.  Not a week passes unless some local biking drunk is involved in some vehicular mishap.  After all, although the automobile has been plucked from their murderous grip, the bad judgment of such idiots remain.

As for Mickey, he was out on aptly named Easy Street on the night in question doin’ whatever dumb drunks do or don’t do after dark . . . and he weren’t feelin’ no pain doin’ whatever he was doin’ or not doin’, neither.   Why Hauri pulled right out in front of a van driven by some ancient old rudder who knows, who cares, don’t matter, don’t dare.  The impact blasted the drunken dope across the highway and over into another zip code, of course, but the blast was not nearly hard enough to terminate the sot’s existence.  Naturally, had Mick been a normal, sober, upright, and uptight cob-up-his-ass humanoid we would now be discussing Mickey in the past tense, but . . . . I have yet to hear of a drunk cyclist anywhere being killed by anything.

“Hauri was charged with DUI-Bicycle, failure to yield, and no light at night on the bicycle,” reported the reporter.  And, although she didn’t need waste any more of her ink or anymore of our time on the matter, the reporter did anyway when she stated the obvious and noted that old Mick was not wearing a helmet.

Stupid reporter. Dim dame.  Of course Mick wasn’t wearing a helmet.  Mick didn’t need a helmet . . . he was drunk!.  Mickey could have been hit and run over by not one but two fully full cement trucks and still staggered away from the scene looking for another saloon and another drink.

Ahora en español!

Hellstorm--SpanishMillones asesinados. . . Millones violadas. . . Millones torturados. . . Millones esclavizados. . . . No importa lo que haya usted leído sobre la Segunda Guerra Mundial; no importa lo que le hayan dicho al respecto, no importa lo que usted cree que ocurrió en la llamada “buena guerra”. . . ¡Olvídelo! Ahora, por primera vez en más de 70 años, entérese de lo que la guerra y la “paz” fueron para los perdedores. Entérese de lo que le hicieron a Alemania y a su pueblo en nombre de la libertad, la democracia, la liberación y otros términos altisonantes. En sus propias palabras, en detalle gráfico, esta es su historia. . . .

***

Millions murdered . . . Millions raped . . . Millions tortured . . . Millions enslaved. . . . No matter what you have read about the Second World War, no matter what you have been told about it, no matter what you believe happened during the so-called “Good War” . . . forget it!   Now, for the first time in over 70 years, learn what the war and “peace” looked like to those who lost. Discover what was done to Germany and her people. In their own words, in graphic detail, this is their story…
(order on amazon.com or amazon.es)

Massacre

63_2_quantrill-raid

Long before the guns at Ft. Sumter ignited the American Civil War in 1861, another war was waged on the distant border of Kansas and Missouri. There, in 1854, the fight between pro-slavery Missourians and antislavery Kansans began. The anger and hatred of the two parties soon escalated from a war of words to a war of violence in which Americans finally got down to the bloody business of killing one another over this question: “Will slavery continue in the United States or will it not?” By the time the entire nation, North and South, finally joined in the fratricidal blood-letting in 1861, Kansans and Missourians had already been engaged in the hate and slaughter for seven years.

Soon, and little noticed by the nation at large due to the bloody contest at its own doorstep, the war in the west quickly descended into one of savagery; of arson, theft, torture, mutilation, murder, and massacre as “Jayhawkers” from Kansas raided Missouri and “Bushwhackers” from Missouri raided Kansas.

By the summer of 1863, the hatred along the Kansas-Missouri border had reached a flash point. Convinced that the federal occupation authorities had declared war on their women when five were killed in a prison collapse in Kansas City, the Missouri guerrillas lead by William Quantrill decided the time had come for a bloody revenge.

Since the onset of the troubles in 1854, Lawrence, Kansas, had been the epicenter of anti-slavery agitation and violence on the western frontier. It was here, along the banks of the Kansas, or Kaw, River, that many Jayhawking forays into Missouri had originated and it was here where much of the stolen loot had returned with the Unionist guerrillas known as Red Legs. Unlike the devastated Missouri border, the area around Lawrence, beyond the reach of rebel raiders, had hardly been touched by war. Thus, although it seemed suicidal, the 450 Missouri irregulars who rode west with Quantrill were determined to strike a blow at what they viewed as the heart of the problem.

At dawn of August 21, 1863, after a grueling all-night ride of fifty miles in which he had “dodged and baffled” his Yankee pursuers, Quantrill finally halted his force on a ridge just east of Lawrence.

(To recognize the 153rd anniversary of this event, the following is from my first book, Bloody Dawn—The Story of the Lawrence Massacre)  

***

The day came clear and calm on Friday, August 21, 1863. Not a cloud in the pale morning sky, nor was there a trace of wind. Looking down from Mount Oread a few threads of white smoke were visible, curling straight up as early risers began preparing their breakfasts. Reaching to the heights came the faraway low of milk cows and the tiny, strained efforts of dueling roosters. Black, impassive, the Kaw turned the bend and silently slid east.

Although the land was yet dark, from the summit several figures could nevertheless be seen stirring in the twilight. There were the local hounds trotting their morning circuit, scouting leftovers from the evening past. But there was also Sallie Young, the Eldridge House seamstress, taking her customary ride from town. Two beaux were with her, and at the moment the showoffs were racing their horses south down the Fort Scott Road. Directly below, on Massachusetts Street, the boy recruits were just beginning to rise and dress. Charles Pease was close by, coming down the street from his slaughterhouse with a carcass of beef in the back of the wagon. His dog tripped along beside. Arthur Spicer had begun sweeping out the first of the day’s dust from his beer hall, and in the streets George Sargent was making the rounds, tinkling his bell, delivering milk door to door.

At the Eldridge all was silent save for the kitchen sounds of colored help beginning breakfast. Across the misty river, parked in the cottonwood grove, two teams loaded with salt for R & B’s waited on the ferry to start service for the day.  And winding his way up the face of Mount Oread was Charles Robinson. Leaving his wife at home by the riverside, the troubled former governor was taking advantage of the splendid new day.  Above the slumbering town he approached the stone barn where his first house had stood. Here he would hitch a carriage and take a jaunt over the countryside while the air was yet cool and fresh and where one could remain undisturbed and lost in thought. By his watch, it was five o’clock.

Songbirds began their morning ritual, and gradually, as it grew lighter, several more people emerged to stretch upon porches or visit a back building. In all, it was a tranquil scene—the dawn of a typical summer day in Lawrence.

The more he watched, however, the more George Bell realized there would be nothing typical about this day. He was the first to see them. From his home on Mount Oread the county clerk’s attention had for some time been focused toward the Wakarusa where he spied a huge column of riders slowly materializing from the murky valley.

Bell had naturally assumed they were Union troops. But then there had been the alarms and the “great scare” of three weeks past, and the longer he watched and the more he thought, the greater his suspicion grew. As the horsemen neared, there were mysterious starts and stops and then, when they halted on the rise and two men rode into town and back and two more split off to Sam Snyder’s farm, Bell became certain that this was not the federal cavalry. They didn’t even have a flag.

Grabbing his musket and cartridge box, the clerk ran for the door. His wife and children tried to stop him; if it were true, they begged, there was little one person could do, for the town was asleep. The man brushed their pleading aside. “If they take Lawrence,” he announced, “they must do it over my dead body.” Rushing down the slope, George Bell headed for the armory.

Sallie Young was next. Someone with her said that the column to the east was a Kansas outfit. But no one had mentioned anything about their arrival yesterday. They watched for a bit, but their curiosity was up and soon the friends rode back toward town. As it grew lighter, a few people in the south also saw them and turned to watch.

***

Finally, Quantrill paused for the last time. The young guide was passed to the rear. A number of men quickly jumped down and loose saddle girths were hurriedly cinched. Blue jackets were stripped off, red sleeves rolled up. Revolvers were drawn, percussion caps checked. Some of the best stuck leather reins in their mouth and bit down hard, leaving both hands free. One final time Quantrill turned and reminded the Missourians why they had come. They knew. Then, at five past five, Quantrill’s horse broke away at a gallop. Behind, a wild, explosive shout went up and the entire command lunged forward at a run. A few shots rang out but most held their fire.

As the roar came nearer—an unearthly scream some thought, unlike anything ever heard in Lawrence—people in the south of town jumped startled from their beds and ran to windows, then to one another.

Those men . . . they have no flag!

There’s a regiment of them!

The rebels have come!

The bushwhackers are here!

Quantrill’s band as sure as you live!

Quantrill is here!

QUANTR1LL!

At his barn Governor Robinson turned sharply to the east. He saw a number of tiny flashes followed by as many puffs of gray smoke and these in turn followed by the faint rattle of small arms fire. Unfamiliar as he was with actual warfare, Robinson nevertheless under stood. As he inched his way back into the barn the governor saw below a long, dark mass moving rapidly through the south of town striking for the center.

In East Lawrence, blacks were already pouring from their huts and dashing for the river. “The secesh have come,” they screamed. “The secesh have come.”

Across the ravine in West Lawrence, those who were awakened by the gunfire thought first of Independence Day and firecrackers . . . then the marshal’s dog killers . . . then the recruits acting up. But the Fourth of July was long past and most of the stray dogs had been killed. As for the recruits, they had no weapons. US Senator, James Lane, rose on an elbow and cocked an ear to the south window.

In the quiet surrounding his farm one mile west of Lawrence, Levi Gates also heard the strange sound. Without a second thought he reached for his long-range hunting rifle, and like George Bell and a good many others, Gates rushed straight for town.

At the south edge of Lawrence, Sallie and her friends stopped by the yard of the Reverend Snyder. The group could just make out the distant rumble in town, and here was Mrs. Snyder leaning over her husband Sam, sobbing uncontrollably. A milk pail was turned over, the cow was gone, and the front of the reverend’s shirt was covered with blood. But the woman wouldn’t say what had happened. The noise drew the riders further into town.

***

Charging across open lots, the raiders soon began to separate. With waves and nods, scores of men, mostly farmers and young recruits, split off to picket Mount Oread and the roads leading from town. A little further on, the main body itself broke into three columns, with Quantrill leading the larger to Massachusetts Street while two smaller groups turned down New Hampshire and Vermont. The shooting became more regular.

Ahead, as the roar approached, the boys in the recruit camp came falling from tents, struggling to get into their clothes. Across the street the black camp was already deserted.

When the main column spotted the tents and blue uniforms a moment later, it never slowed, but with shouts–Osceola! Kansas City! Remember the girls!–it rode right on through. As it did, there came a deafening explosion as hundreds of shots were fired up and down the ranks. In a few seconds, when they had passed, all that remained was settling dust, blood-spattered canvas, and a pile of twisted bodies, hands still clutching jackets and trousers. Seeing this, Charles Pease leaped from his meat wagon and flattened himself on the ground. Hard beside him, his dog shivered from paw to haunch.

Eldridge4516Hotel_t460With the cry “On to the hotel,” the main column stormed into the business district. Thundering down broad Massachusetts Street five and six abreast, shots were fired randomly at storefronts while on the adjoining streets others fired into the back doors. At last, in a huge cloud of dust, the three columns converged and washed against the Eldridge House (left). Here they pulled up. A few shots rang out, but soon all became still, and as the shouts and swearing died away only the horses, rearing and plunging, were heard. With hundreds of guns moving from window to window the guerrillas watched and waited. A cannon was parked across the street at the courthouse, but no one was there to use it.

Inside the hotel, there was no panic. Most guests were still in bed, for it had been too sudden. After looking out, some men thought fast enough to slip their money to women. An employee quickly tossed his life savings of $100 in gold through a trap door onto the roof, and someone shouted that “half-wit” Jo, the hotel owner’s brother, had been shot while scaling the courtyard fence. But most were simply too groggy to be frightened. Eastern guests were outraged at being roused at such an hour.

One look and Alexander Banks knew it was hopeless. From his third-floor window the state provost marshal gazed down on a sea of upturned faces, fantastic faces—unshaven, deeply tanned, distorted faces, streaked with sweat, dust, and powder, burning with red-rimmed eyes, and framed in long, greasy hair. There were probably no more than a dozen weapons, including his own, in the entire hotel, so Banks made a quick decision. Yanking a sheet from his bed, he hung it out the window.

Below, there was a thunderous cheer at the symbol, and when all had quieted the provost marshal asked for the leader to come forward. As soon as Quantrill appeared, Banks wisely began bargaining for the safety of the occupants; the hotel would be surrendered without a fight, but first, he insisted, the well-being of the guests must be guaranteed. Quantrill was about to answer when a loud clanging echoed throughout the hotel. Startled, the mass of riders whirled and sprang back, ready to open fire. Quickly Banks yelled out, begging the rebels not to shoot; it was a mistake—only the excited night clerk raising the guests with the dinner gong. For a moment, everything was “breathlessly still.” Shortly, Quantrill again spoke with Banks and soon agreed to the terms, much relieved that the hotel had not become a fortress as feared.

With wild shouts and cheers for Quantrill, many guerrillas then left for the stables and other parts of town while another group dismounted and, with brass spurs jingling, tramped into the plush hotel. Upstairs, fine ladies and gentlemen, scantily clad, had their rooms burst into by dirty, cursing men who with a splash of tobacco juice and wave of a pistol ordered them out and down to the lobby. Trunks and carpet sacks were ripped open, and jewelry, currency, and ladies’ apparel were crammed into pockets. The looting went from room to room as the stupefied boarders—a travelling bishop and priests included—fled down the staircase. Banks and his assurance of safety did little to calm nerves as the celebration above grew in fury. Downstairs, the trembling night clerk was forced to open the safe while other rebels passed quietly about the crowded lobby, tapping men on the shoulder and asking, “your money, if you please!” much as a railroad conductor might pause for tickets, thought one man. With some remaining humor another captive asked if he might keep just fifty cents for a drink or two. The bushwhacker stared at him for a deadly moment or two, gave a slow smile, and then handed back eighty.

Down Massachusetts Street, store doors were kicked in and food and liquor were located. Miniature US flags were also discovered, then with a laugh fastened to the rumps of horses. The offices of the Republican and State Journal were quickly put to the torch. Near the river, the rope on the liberty pole was cut and, amid loud cheers, the huge red, white, and blue banner came fluttering down.

Among the twelve soldiers across the Kaw there was no longer any doubt. First came the mad flight of blacks furiously paddling boats and logs or simply swimming the swollen river. Then the flag fell. Then the cheers. Taking aim, the troops opened fire. On the opposite shore, several raiders trying to cut the ferry cable went spinning up the bank again. When a horseman was spotted, more slugs whizzed up Massachusetts Street and between homes near the river.

***

Sallie Young and her two companions came into Lawrence quite some distance before they realized their mistake.  Warning her friends to stay calm, the three quietly turned and rode slowly from town. When the outskirts were reached and a rebel picket sighted them, the two boys set spurs and were off south. Sallie rode back into town.

***

Soon, Quantrill entered the hotel. Stepping into the packed lobby he met a number of old faces, whereupon he shook hands and spoke briefly. He assured them of their safety. The guerrilla chief then climbed a flight of stairs and strode to the landing where he looked over the crowd and watched while his men went about their work. Everyone below seemed stunned. Terrified, most expected the leader to be the essence of his men; wild, vulgar, and snarling. On this score, however, they were gratefully surprised. Although he gripped a big pistol, with another in his belt, there was a pleasant, calm, even benign look spread over his boyish face and clear blue eyes. His gray hunting shirt was open at the chest and he wore a low-crowned Spanish hat with gold neck cord and little tassels dangling around the brim.

“A fine-looking man,” mused a captive.

Some in the crowd attempted to humor and flatter, grinning sheepishly, reminding him of old times in the territory and congratulating him on his brilliant success in capturing Lawrence. Unmoved, Quantrill received the tribute with “marked complacency,” simply adding that yes, it was by far his greatest exploit. Another ventured to ask why he hadn’t come during the full moon as he had threatened.

“You were expecting me then,” he smiled.

Then, after once more vouching for their safety, Quantrill asked if Governor Carney was in town. He was not, someone answered.

Again, he queried if anyone knew where Senator Lane lived? Arthur Spicer “volunteered.” After ordering the captives across the street and assigning several men to guard them, Quantrill detailed a squad to follow Spicer to Lane’s house: if he misled them, the saloonkeeper was to be shot on the spot; otherwise Spicer was to be returned alive as there was an old score yet to settle.

9764039820aee137b79a732761bcb370As they were being herded across the street, a number of bushwhackers cast crude remarks and curses at the captives. Already some raiders were glutted with liquor. One angry guerrilla, clamoring to murder the hostages, rode up, called a man a Red Leg, then aimed and fired. Although the shot missed, a guard threatened to kill the drunk should he fire again. This was seconded by Quantrill (right), who came out after hearing the disturbance. Quickly, he ordered the prisoners to the City Hotel near the river where they would remain safe. At this, the terror-stricken men and women sprang headlong for the refuge, Quantrill escorting a short distance behind.

Reaching the hotel, the rebel warmly greeted Nathan Stone and his beautiful daughter, Lydia, and shouted to the raiders nearby that the Stones were his friends and that neither they, the hostages, nor the building was to be touched. He then turned to leave. Before he left, however, Quantrill once more reminded the captives that Stone’s hotel was their haven: “Stay in it. . . . Don’t attempt to go into the streets.”

***

Although no Red Legs were there this morning, the rebels didn’t know it, and thus the three-story Johnson House was quickly surrounded by a large band. Unlike the Eldridge, however, the score of people inside refused to come out. Consequently, the bushwhackers began sniping at the windows, mixing the gunfire with calls to surrender.  “All we want is for the men to give themselves up,” they yelled, “and we will spare them and burn the house.”

Two doors down, in a home of screaming children, Getta Dix was doing everything in her power to get her husband to move. Earlier, while Ralph was still in bed, Getta had looked up the street and watched in disbelief while “half-wit” Jo was shot off the Eldridge fence; now with more shooting at the Johnson House the street was full of men. Again she pleaded—the raiders were too busy at the hotel—there was still a chance. But Ralph, his brother Steve, and several employees seemed frozen, uncertain, feebly reassuring one another that it was only a matter of time before help arrived.

Again the woman begged. But nothing. Putting her children in the arms of the men, she then ran down the flight of stairs to the side of the house and struggled a heavy ladder up to a window. As she was coming back, however, Getta looked over toward the Johnson House, and there to her horror she saw several men leaping from windows only to be shot upon landing. Running back into the home, the woman barred the doors and told her husband what she had seen, warning the rest to stay inside. This and the fear of fire jolted the men. Together, despite his wife’s pleas, Dix and the others decided that their only hope now rested behind the stone walls of the Johnson House. Thus after climbing out a window and crawling over the roof of the adjoining barber shop, every man did eventually reach the hotel.

After seeing Ralph safely on the other side, and after taking her children to a coal shed out back, Getta desperately searched for her black nurse. The woman was finally discovered locked in a closet, refusing to come out. Grabbing a meat cleaver from the kitchen, the frantic mother hacked open the door and ordered the frightened nurse toward the shed to mind the children while she herself went to the Johnson House.

No sooner had Getta left than she saw her brother-in-law tumble down the steps at the rear of the hotel. Running to his side, she settled his head into her lap and sought to comfort him. But Steve was dead, and when Getta tried to move, his brain fell into her hands.

Then, as the blood-smeared woman staggered to the front, she could see that the hotel had surrendered. And there, standing among the rest, Getta saw through a rush of pain and tears her husband.

“Oh my God, Ralph,” she screamed. “Why did you do it? I know they will kill you.”

Another prisoner nearby had just handed a pistol to his captor. As soon as the weapon was given up a gun exploded behind the man, blowing out his stomach. Horrified, Dix and the other seven captives screamed for mercy.

“I have killed seven Red Legs,” laughed the head of the gang, “and I’ll kill eight more.”

Wildly pleading that it was a mistake, that they weren’t Red Legs, the white-eyed, sobbing men knelt and crawled on the ground, reaching up to the guerrillas for life. Although she too was pleading for his life, Dix begged his wife to try even harder. At length, the prisoners were kicked and punched to their feet and driven by three guards across the street toward the Methodist Church. With Getta clinging to Ralph’s arm, she begged the men at every step not to harm him. Two of the rebels bent, then broke, making her a promise. But the leader was firm.

“No, I won’t let you take your husband away,” he said. “I’m going to kill every damn one of them.”

Hanging desperately to Ralph, striking at the raider’s horse as it tried to nudge her away, the woman walked sideways, never taking her eyes from the leader. Up from the church, in the alley, Getta stumbled over a pile of rocks, breaking her hold, and before she could rise again the guns went off. Somewhere in the swirling blue smoke she saw Ralph go down. As in a dream, she stood while all around her the others fell away.  Racing down the alley, another group of riders spotted the pile of bodies; without slowing they trampled and mashed them into the ground.

Getta wandered along Massachusetts Street for some time—to a store where looting guerrillas chased her away, to a figure that was still breathing. But nothing, it seemed, could hold her attention. She continued to drift aimlessly until at last she found herself again in the alley. Noticing a straw hat laying nearby, Getta picked it up, quietly placed it over her husband’s face, then calmly walked back to her burning home.

***

bloodybillAlthough a number of raiders roamed Massachusetts Street, exploring one store after the other, most broke into squads and covered the town. Many, like the guerrilla leaders, George Todd and Bill Anderson (left), rode over the bridges spanning the ravine and paid a visit to affluent West Lawrence. From out of shirt pockets came the lists with the long row of names, and the firing that opened the morning so terrifically now settled into short, methodical bursts from every corner of town. The Missourians had finally gotten among those they hated most, and no power on earth could stop them now.

***

Panic gripped Mayor George Collamore. Springing from window to window, he, his wife Julia, and their Irish servant saw on all sides only nightmarish guerrillas, angry and shouting. There was no way out. Suddenly the desperate man thought of his well and quickly ran for the rear. There, in a wing of the house the tiny mayor dove down the dark hole followed closely by his servant.

At the front door the gang entered, met by Julia and her frightened children. Cursing and yelling, they demanded her husband. Receiving no reply from the terror-stricken wife, the men crashed through the home, up and down, from one room to the next, madly hunting their prey. Failing in this, it was decided simply to smoke the victim out. Setting the house on fire, the raiders fell back into the street to watch and wait for the mayor’s appearance.

Refusing to leave, Julia slipped to the well, and as the flames spread throughout the home, she spoke down to her husband.

***

By the time George Bell reached the center of town, Lawrence was surrounded. There had been no resistance. Nowhere could Bell hear the distinct crack of a militia rifle, and as far as he could see he was the only citizen shouldering a weapon. His courage dissolved. Bell looked for a way to escape, returning to home and family his sole desire. At last he ducked into the ravine. There, to his surprise, he met many others, just as confused and frightened as he.

“Where shall we meet?” he whispered. Aghast at such a notion, those nearby warned that it was pointless to think about a stand any longer; fighting would only get them all killed. A friend urged Bell to throw down his musket and perhaps draw less malice should he be taken. The sounds of gunfire and pounding hooves were more than enough to convince Bell of the wisdom in this. Dropping the rifle and cartridge box, the county clerk inched his way up the ravine toward home.

***

When Levi Gates reached West Lawrence from his farm he realized that it was too late. Across the ravine he could plainly see rebels in the center of town and more to the south, and it was obvious there was little he could do. All of Gates’ friends and neighbors who had come on the run had turned back home in dismay. He was about to do the same. But Levi Gates took pride in the fact that he was an excellent shot, and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to try his hand on a human target and bag a rebel proved irresistible.

Dismounting, the farmer steadied his hunting rifle on a fence, sighted his mark, then squeezed the trigger. Although it was a long shot, a guerrilla in the distance jumped in his saddle. Tempted further, Gates once more loaded and fired, then raced for the wooded ravine. He failed to notice the rider closing on his right, however, and after he was brought down and the rebel had finished with him, Levi Gates lay sprawled in the dust, his head flat and mashed “to a jelly.”

***

The first Jim Lane knew of anything was when a “flying Negro” passed his home and yelled that the bushwhackers were in town. Instantly the mansion became a bedlam, and while the wife and children flashed about in their night clothes trying to locate two guns stored somewhere, the senator peered out the window watching for the approach of the raiders. The guns could not be found. Grabbing a ceremonial sword as his only recourse, Lane quickly dropped it as the horsemen led by Arthur Spicer drew up at the front gate. Bolting through the house, the Jayhawker flew out the back window and ran for a small gully, bobbing and weaving, pausing just long enough to look for Rebel pickets. In a few moments Lane emerged from the gully and went streaking west through his cornfield, nightshirt flapping in the breeze.

Meeting them at the door, Mary Lane politely informed the guerrillas that the senator was not at home. Foiled at not coming face to face with the most famous Jayhawker in Kansas, the rebels settled for next best and proceeded to dismantle his home. Pianos, furniture, china—much of it ironically, stolen in Missouri—were broken up and strewn about, as were the senator’s private papers. The rings worn by Mary and her daughter were snatched from their fingers. Having finally located one of the shotguns, James, Ir., was warned to give it up. He refused. When a blast smashed into the wall nearby he at last did as he was told. The home was then set ablaze. But the mother and children hurried and put it out. Again a fire was lit in a different spot and again the family rushed and extinguished it. Finally the flames caught and spread in a third area and the frantic attempts to save the finest home in Lawrence at last ceased.

At that, the gang mounted and rode away. With them not only did they take Lane’s “magnificent banner” presented to his Indiana regiment for duty in the Mexican War, but the senator’s shining sword as well.

By now Lane himself was almost a mile away, crossing over the California Road, still running.

***

One block east of Lane’s, another group surrounded the stately home of Jerome Griswold. The swoop completely stunned the four families inside. With loud, ugly shouts the men were ordered to come out. Looking down from the second-floor bedrooms at the terrifying array below, Dr. Griswold, Jo Trask, Harlow Baker, Simeon Thorp, along with their wives turned and spoke excitedly about what they should do. Again the men were demanded; again there was no response. A moment or two passed and then, anxiously, someone in the house called out and asked why the men were wanted.

“The damned sons of bitches must come out of there,” yelled an impatient guerrilla. He was echoed by his companions. No one in the home moved at this awful demand.

Soon, another raider, wiser than the first, urged the Kansans to come out, that he would guarantee their safety once they did. No one would be harmed, he insisted, adding that they came only to rob Lawrence, and “if the citizens quietly surrender . . . it might save the town.” This last approach softened the four men in the home. And besides, there was nothing else they could do.

“If it will help to save the town,” Trask advised, “let us go.”

The men—balding State Senator Thorp, handsome newspaper­man Trask, and dark-bearded, husky Griswold—filed down the staircase and reluctantly walked out the door. While Baker was getting into his clothes, the bushwhackers quickly encircled the others. The captives were asked their names and occupations, then robbed, and when Baker at last came down, the raiders formed the four men into a line. As the wives watched, the husbands were ordered to march toward town, and with Baker in the lead and a guerrilla riding at the side of each, they walked off.

Just as they cleared the yard one of the rebels cursed the men for going too slowly. This caused the prisoners to quickly pick up the pace. Something exploded behind him, ripping through his neck, and before Baker hit the ground another shot shattered his wrist. The rest of the guns went off. Thorp fell down near Baker while Trask managed to run only a short distance before he too went down. Wounded several times, big Jerome Griswold stayed on his feet. He made it all the way back to the yard and was on the verge of escape, but just as he was scrambling over some cordwood a well-aimed ball tore the life from him once and for all.

As the women stood shrieking in horror the Missourians paused to scan their work. One man was dead outright, whereas the other three were still breathing. Screaming hysterically, the wives raced down the stairs and through the door toward the dying men. Before they could reach them, however, the raiders, cussing and shouting, drove them back again. Jo Trask, rolling and kicking in terrible pain, pleaded with a rebel to let his wife come to him. The guerrilla listened for a moment, thought the matter over, then agreed. Cocking his pistol, he aimed down and sent a chunk of lead whizzing through Trask’s heart.

“He’s dead,” shouted the killer to the wife. “You can come now.”

It was decided to leave the two yet alive to lay and suffer as they were, and while the gang moved down the street a mounted guard was stationed a little beyond. After the others had left, the women again tried to reach their husbands but were once more frightened back when the rebel rode down on them at a charge. There was nothing they could do. The mayor’s house was burning and others were starting to smoke, and there were the men lying all alone.

In great agony from a stomach wound, Senator Thorp writhed in the blood and dust. His friend Baker lay a few paces off, bleeding from the neck and hand. Harlow Baker had come close to drowning once in a swirling black river of his native Maine, so he understood death a little better than most. Although they were painful, the grocer knew that his wounds were not mortal. He remained still nonetheless. Beyond, no sound or movement came from Griswold or Trask.

***

Around the burning home of George Collamore all the guerrillas had gone. They left fully satisfied that Collamore had either escaped earlier or burned to death in the fire. But to them the most certain thing in the world was that the mayor of Lawrence could not be in the house and still alive. Even Julia, who had remained by the well talking down to her husband until the very last, was forced out by the murderous heat.

Standing back, she watched. The fire engulfed the house and spread to the wing, and then the orange flames crackled and licked over the mouth of the well.

***

Old Joseph Savage wasn’t in that great of a rush to leave town–at least not until he had hitched his buggy and safely loaded everything of value into the back, including his brand-new silver baritone, which he was eager to show off at the next band concert. But finally, he and his wife and a German friend did pull away from their home just south of Lawrence and drove up Cemetery Road. “Mine pipe, mine pipe,” cried the German, who wanted to go back and get it. But Savage wasn’t turning around just for a pipe, and the German and his smoke would simply have to wait.

After a short ride the group came to the home of Otis Longley; here they stopped. To their surprise they saw Otis suddenly bolt out his back door and run to the front, “making a frightened noise, unlike any other sound I ever heard,” thought Savage. Close behind came two men cursing him to halt. Otis kept going, however, and just as he was about to reach the fence along the road, a shot rang out. Otis went down. As the stunned people watched on, the moaning man struggled to climb the fence. But another explosion sounded behind him and another bullet blew open his jaw, knocking him back to the ground. When the two rebels walked up—one greedily chomping slices of cantaloupe—Otis was on his hands and knees, coughing streams of blood. Again he tried to rise. A loud blast at close range dropped him for good. The men then crossed the fence.

Joseph Savage, “some times crawling, and some times running and rolling,” had already made a break for cover. But trembling and pale, the German sat beside Mrs. Savage stiff with fear. The woman’s pleading and the sight of the horrified German was just too much, however, and the wagon was allowed to pass.

The two guerrillas strolled back to the house, the one still eating melon and the other merrily tooting his new silver horn.

***

“Now is your time to make your escape,” whispered one of the raiders behind Lemuel Fillmore. Earlier, Fillmore had taken his valuable horse to the ravine for safekeeping. Instead of staying there, however, he returned to his house for a pistol. That’s when they caught and disarmed him, and that’s why he was now being marched toward Massachusetts Street.

“Now is your time to run,” the captor whispered as they neared the ravine. At this, Fillmore decided to make his move. He got only a few paces, however, before he was shot in the back and killed.

In West Lawrence an old man stood by a fence, idly spectating. A rebel rode up. Water was demanded. The old man ambled off and soon returned. Taking the cup with his left hand, the bushwhacker shot the man dead with his right.

Like these victims, most common people were at first impervious to the peril around them. Many were still under the impression that as with Olathe, Shawnee, and the others, this raid was for plunder alone, where only “marked” men would suffer. Otis Longley had seen rebels on Mount Oread earlier, but he went right on with his chores. When finished, Otis drew buckets of water and sat patiently waiting, just in case his home was set on fire. The attorney, Sam Riggs, despite the warnings of his wife, Kate, continued to help neighbors along his street by removing furniture and dousing flames. Many others reacted similarly.

Looking down from his stone barn, however, Charles Robinson harbored no such illusions about this raid. Below, he watched the drama unfold. He saw the home of Mayor Collamore ablaze, as well as that of Ralph Dix. He saw Lane’s house burning. As the sun rose, Robinson also saw through the smoke the machine movements of the guerrillas, their door-to-door calls, the citizens breaking from their homes at a run, the pursuit by men on horseback. The governor also heard the muted pistol fire, the shrieks of wives, the shouts and laughter of killers.

Charles Robinson had founded Lawrence barely nine years before, and a kind fate had allowed him to be absent during the first sack in 1856. Now, to his utter misery and grief, he had a front-row seat to the second, but this, unlike the other, was a much more thorough, much more tragic affair.

***

Larkin Skaggs was accustomed to having things just his way. He had already laid claim to one of the finest horses taken in the Lawrence stables, a magnificent white, and few were the men to contest it. Skaggs was big and burly and strong, and his long hair and beard were grizzled because he was quite a bit older than the rest. But Larkin Skaggs was also exceedingly cruel. When drunk, the bushwhacker was even crueler than usual, and thus when Lydia Stone’s sparkling diamond ring caught his eye, it was wrenched from her finger in the same brutal way Skaggs took whatever else he wanted in life.

When Quantrill entered the hotel the attractive young woman made a tearful appeal. Still in the building, Skaggs was located terrorizing the Eldridge captives; after a few words from the leader, he was “obliged” to return the ring. On his way out, Skaggs paused just long enough to glare down at Lydia Stone.

“Miss,” he growled, “I’ll make you rue this.”

***

sallie2BeFunky_68_2_young_quantrill.jpgNot long after she arrived back in town, Sallie Young (left) was taken prisoner and robbed of her pony. But shortly afterward she was put back in the saddle and ordered to go with a squad of rebels to identify men and point out which homes were which. But Sallie wasn’t very helpful. Every other house it seemed was that of a brother, a cousin, or an uncle, and with tears rolling down her pretty cheeks she begged the raiders to spare the home and occupants. They did and they did and they did, but after this the girl was allowed to leave whenever she chose. Although she might have left at any time, Sallie tagged along instead and followed the squad wherever it went. Some of the people who caught a glimpse of her were confused: how odd she looked in her natty riding habit, they thought, alongside the rough and ugly men.

Arthur Spicer was also with a group of rebels. Unlike Sallie, however, the saloonkeeper was religiously pointing out men, homes, and businesses. And unlike the girl, Spicer couldn’t just pick up and leave anytime he wanted; and to have had so many relatives would have been his end. It was coming soon enough, he thought, when he was handed back to Quantrill.

***

The man with the salty little grin wasn’t grinning today; he was praying. As he lay on his back in the dark cellar, squeezed up between a dirt ledge and the kitchen floor, he knew it was only a matter of time before they came.

Like his old boss Jim Lane, Hugh Fisher entertained no rosy notions about tomorrow should he fall into rebel hands today. That morning at Sibley had proven how important he was to George Todd and the Missouri bushwhackers. Nor was he as ill as previously thought. At the initial shout, the Jayhawker jumped from his sickbed and “bounded” out the door. First, he turned his horses loose from the barn, and then with his two young sons, Willie and Charlie, he ran for Mount Oread. The illness had sapped the preacher, however, and the sight of rebel pickets on the crest made him think twice. Sending the boys on alone, Fisher fled back to his South Park home. Elizabeth, with a baby in her arms and a tot by her side, thought her husband was insane to return and said as much, but as he slipped into the tiny cellar the woman made up her mind to do everything she could to save her man.

His wait was not long and Fisher soon heard the sounds—horses to the gate, spurs on the porch, knocks at the door, boots on the kitchen floor.

“Is your husband about the house?”

He was not, lied Elizabeth.

“I know a damned sight better,” snapped the guerrilla. “He’s in the cellar; where is it?”

Startled, yet composed, taking the four men to the door, the woman pointed with a straight face: “The cellar is open; if you think he is there, go look for yourselves.”

Staring down into the black, a light was demanded. While the mother went upstairs to fetch a lamp, still keeping a grip on herself, the baby was placed in a bushwhacker’s arms. Waiting, the man made faces and cooed to keep the infant from crying.

Below, Fisher could hear everything. When he heard his wife returning with the lamp and the cocking of revolvers, his left foot began to tremble uncontrollably. He placed his right foot over it to keep it still. Then as the light entered the cellar and boots came slowly down the steps, Hugh Fisher’s heart and lungs slowed, then stopped, and his whole life flashed across his mind in an instant.

And Elizabeth, holding her baby tight to one ear and pressing her hand hard to the other, went quickly into the front room.

As the rebels reached the bottom, they were forced to stoop under the low ceiling. The man holding the lamp came to where the reverend was laying and stopped. In the glow of the lamp Fisher squinted upon the guerrilla’s face, less than two feet from his own. Because of the low ceiling the lamp too was held low; thus the preacher’s face remained in the shadow cast by the ledge he lay on. The men looked a bit longer but soon walked back up the stairs.

“The woman told the truth. The rascal has escaped.”

There was no time to listen to the echo in her ears. Elizabeth Fisher reached deep down, drew up every ounce of self-control she possessed, then let the words roll.

“You will believe me now, I hope. I told you my husband had gone.”

The rebels lingered awhile, robbed the house, torched it, then left one of their men behind to see that the fire spread. But it wasn’t in him to stop the woman as she raced from the well to the blaze and back again, and so the reluctant guard just left. When the last of the flames were doused, Elizabeth came to the cellar door and spoke softly to her husband.

“Pa,” she said, “Pray and trust in the Lord, and I’ll do all I can.”

***

After leaving their father, the two Fisher boys became separated somewhere in the hazel and sumac up the hill, and twelve-year-old Willie fell in with Robert Martin, a lad a little older and bigger than himself. Young Martin wore a blue shirt made from his father’s old uniform, and he also carried a musket with a cartridge box slung from his shoulder. So when a picket spotted them, he gave chase.

The two boys raced over the hill, side by side, as in a game where home base and blue sky are always just ahead and everything somehow ends as it should. But a blast sounded behind them, and as Robert tripped, Willie felt something wet and warm spray his face. Robert didn’t get up to finish the race because half his head was gone. And when Willie wiped his face he found his hand dripping blood, bone, and bits of brain.

Little Charlie Fisher also joined with another boy and together they hid in the cemetery. But a child’s superstition forced them to a nearby cotton patch instead.

***

As he crept along the ravine toward home, George Bell soon came to realize the futility of it all. He was cut off. Peering between the weeds and limbs, he could see no hope of reaching his family on the hill. In the streets, in the alleys, around burning homes and barns, only guerrillas were about. To climb the barren slopes of Mount Oread would be suicide. But his nerves cracked. Bell panicked.

Convinced it was just a matter of time before the raiders swarmed in and murdered them all, the county clerk and another man ran into the street. Once in the open and alone, the two abruptly returned to reality. But then, as fortune would have it, they spied a familiar sight—a partially completed brick home. The men dashed in, climbed to the second story, then crawled up among the joists. They could only keep quiet, count the seconds, and pray they hadn’t been seen.

But they had.

***

When a gang came to the home on South New Hampshire Street looking for Louis Carpenter, they didn’t have far to look. He was right there.

Absorbed with the more important things in life, the good judge had never given much thought to fear; and so, being unfamiliar with it, he could not fully express it. Thus when hate and the big black guns stood around him he didn’t react as most men might. He certainly didn’t run because running never entered his head. His hands didn’t tremble. His bodily functions didn’t betray him. His voice didn’t waver, and when lethal questions were posed the New Yorker replied straightly and honestly in a clear upstate accent. There was also a strange, kindly quality about him. Some rebels could not resist the temptation and stole a few items from the house, but no one was in a mood any longer to burn it. And certainly no one could bring himself to harm the judge. When the guerrillas left the yard, Carpenter was still standing there while behind him, his bride, Mary, and her sister, Abigail, began to breathe once more.

It was no act—the judge was always like that. A little later, another mob came and, seeing the pretty home, decided to burn it. But once again and as calm as ever, Carpenter met the raiders and sent them away disarmed. The pressure on the women, however, was almost unbearable.

***

It was a miracle! The bushwhacker had just started shooting at the men clinging to the beams when George Bell yelled out. The firing stopped, and everything became still.

It was true. The rebel was actually Bell’s old friend. In happier times the two had often broken bread together at the Kansan’s table, and each had greatly enjoyed one another’s company. Bell and his companion were told to come down, for from that moment on both men were home free. The old friend would talk to the Missourians and straighten things out. The county clerk jumped down followed by the other man, and together the three walked outside. That’s where the miracle ended. The crowd of guerrillas standing around them, wild and bitter, didn’t care a dime about old acquaintances.

“Shoot him! Shoot him!” was their cry, and not a word was uttered by the old friend. A religious man, Bell asked for a moment to pray. Granted. Finished, the clerk said amen, and in a burst of fire his companion fell down and George Bell dropped dead.

From there the gang scaled Mount Oread to complete the job. At home, Mrs. Bell met the raiders and recognized the former guest.

“We have killed your husband,” he blandly informed her, “and we have come to burn his house.”

***

When a group of bushwhackers broke into the home of Edward Fitch and shouted for him to come from hiding, he did. While Sarah and the three terrified children watched, the Massachusetts native walked down the stairs and into the circle of waiting men. As soon as Fitch hit the foot of the stairs he was dead. But just to make certain, the rebel who shot him grabbed another revolver and continued to pump slugs into the corpse until that gun too was emptied. The guerrillas then moved on to rob and torch the home.

As the smoke began to drift about, Sarah pleaded and tried three separate times to remove her husband’s body. But three separate times the murderer forbade it. She then ran to retrieve a small painting of Edward, but once more was denied. Finally the woman ceased all efforts and just wandered from room to room watching as her home was destroyed. At last, when the place was engulfed in flames, and with sparks and debris showering about her, a guerrilla forced her to leave.

Sarah walked with her screaming children across the road, sat on the grass, and watched while the home and everything she owned crackled and roared over the body of her husband. Above, on an adjoining shed, a small Union flag hung limp. The children, playing soldier a day or two before, had planted it high so that everyone in town could see they were loyal and proud to be Yankees.

***

Escape was the thing, escape by any means. Politicians, doctors, and merchants bellied toward safety side by side with local lay-abouts and town drunks, crawling in underclothes through flowerbeds and cabbage rows, along weedy lots and ditches until they finally reached what to them seemed a God-sent sanctuary—a cottonwood chicken coop or a tiny, stinking outhouse. Others simply hurled headlong into wells or shimmied beneath wooden walkways. An outdoor cellar in the center of town with a hidden entrance was a haven where many fled. But more found refuge in the ravine, along the tangled banks of the river, or in Jim Lane’s vast cornfield. Often chasing a victim right to the edge of these places, guerrillas always slammed to a halt and galloped away as if expecting a volley of shots to ring out. In the cornfield, scores of thirsty citizens were hidden. Several times the raiders rode along the perimeter, some were for going in. Uncertainty, however, always held them back. A woman living on the hem of the field who had carried water to the fugitives was asked by a group of rebels, who themselves had stopped for water, what was in the corn.

“Go in and see,” she replied, in a tone that left no doubts.

Had they gone in they wouldn’t have found Jim Lane; nor would they have found him anywhere near the field. Instead he was among the bluffs far to the southwest of Lawrence, “on his belly under some bushes.”

Escape was the thing; there were other ways. After somehow avoiding the slaughter, the lieutenant of the recruits eluded his pursuers and ran naked into an abandoned shanty. There he found clothes and quickly dressed. In a moment or two he left the hut and walked into the street unnoticed . . . wearing a dress and bonnet.

Another man burst into a home occupied by three women and begged for help. Soon a noisy gang stomped through the door. Searching the rooms without success, the guerrillas loudly entered the parlor. At this the indignant ladies scolded the rebels to please be quiet and more considerate, since “poor Aunt Betsie” was neither well nor accustomed to such excitement. Sitting in an invalid’s chair, “Aunt Betsie” was eyed suspiciously–an old woman’s cap, a shawl across her lap, medicine bottles and cups nearby, a “niece” fanning her. Finally, the raiders left and the grateful “Aunt Betsie” and three resourceful women breathed easily once again.

Some men without recourse simply put on the dirtiest, most ragged set of clothes they had and mixed with the Missourians. One dentist went even further. Besides finding money for the guerrillas and guiding them to the best stock of liquor in town, he also joined in and set several homes on fire.

When raiders knocked on their doors, women too employed almost any device in an attempt to save their homes—and very often the men hiding just above or just below.

Where in hell is Fred Read?

Gone east for goods.

Peter Ridenour?

Gone east to buy goods.

What are your politics?

Sound on the goose.

Has your old man ever stolen any niggers in Missouri?

Never been in Missouri.

But as often as not, no amount of pleading or lying would suffice, and a home was put to the torch anyhow. And as soon as the bushwhackers had done their work and moved on, behind them women and children rushed with quilts and slopping buckets of water in an attempt to smother the flames. But as was commonly the case, after gamely battling and subduing a blaze, the soot-smeared ladies looked up only to find another squad approaching with the same intent.

“Put that out if you can!” said an exasperated guerrilla to a woman who had just stopped one fire. When he had gone, she did just that.

***

Those at the home of John Thornton were more persistent. When the straw bed they ignited was put out, the rebels returned and started it again, but this time Nancy Thornton was forced to leave. In a short while, when the husband too appeared and raced out the back, the guerrillas were ready and waiting. A chunk of hot lead burned into Thornton’s hip. He didn’t go down, however, but turned and fled back into the house. Again the heat became unbearable, and when he reappeared another shot was fired, this time blowing his knee apart. Once more, and followed by his horrified wife, Thornton limped back into his blazing home.

Blinded by smoke, the wounded man soon came out again, leaning on Nancy for support. One of the raiders rode up, took aim, but just before he could jerk the trigger the Kansan lunged for his leg. Thornton was unable to reach the weapon, however, and a slug at point-blank smashed into his eye and exploded out the cheek. Another gun went off and a ball entered his back, ripped down the spine, and tore into a buttock. But still Thornton clung to his attacker. Frustrated and out of ammunition, the bushwhacker tried again.

“I can kill you,” he growled as he used the heavy revolver like a hammer to bash the head of the struggling man. At last John Thornton lost his grip and released the leg. But he wasn’t dead.

“Stand back and let me try,” yelled an impatient guerrilla nearby. “He is the hardest man to kill I ever saw.” With that, the enraged attacker let fly every ball in his weapon, striking the target one, two, three times. Thornton stumbled a few steps, then collapsed in a heap. Still doubtful, one of the rebels reared his horse back to stomp the body, then leveled his pistol to fire again.

“For God’s sake,” shrieked the hysterical wife as she grabbed the horse’s bridle, “let him alone, he’s killed now.”   Satisfied, though amazed at the time and energy needed to do it, the bushwhackers finally moved on.

To preserve it for burial, Nancy managed to drag the body away from the fire to an open space across the street. There, she saw that her dead husband had a wound for almost any given place and was literally soaked in blood from head to toe. Looking closer, however, the woman saw something else—John Thornton was still alive!

***

“Fred, one of them damned nigger-thieving abolitionists ain’t dead yet . . . go and kill him.” Neither Harlow Baker nor Simeon Thorp could be sure which of them had moved, but it was certain that one would soon find out.

Since being shot, the two had lain in the street feigning death as the guerrillas rode nearby. When it was clear, they had whispered back and forth to one another describing where they were hit. Baker still had the strength to get up, but dared not. Senator Thorp, hurt much the worse, could not.

The horse stopped beside them and they heard the rebel dismount. When he was kicked over onto his face, Baker knew he was the one. He heard the explosion, felt a sharp sting, and in a rush all the air left his right lung. He grew dizzy and almost fainted, but through the pain Baker was still around to hear “Fred” congratulate himself as he rode back to his pal.

***

GeorgeToddThis time George Todd (right) came in person. Only a twist of fate had kept him from meeting the preacher that morning near Sibley, and Todd today wanted no stone left unturned.

Despite this, Elizabeth Fisher, as unflappable as ever, insisted that her husband was not at home; that he had gone over the hill long ago and was by now probably well on his way to Topeka. And again the woman boldly invited the doubting rebels to search the house. To his great relief though, Hugh Fisher did not hear the cellar door open, nor did he hear the thud of boots down the steps. He did hear, however, the breaking of chairs and shutters for kindling and a guerrilla swearing to kill his wife if she tried to extinguish the fire.

Ignoring the threat, Elizabeth slammed the door in the raider’s face and raced to the well to fill buckets, pans, and tubs. This took time, however, and meanwhile more fires were being set. By the time she returned with the water, her two-story home was hopelessly ablaze. Running back to the front of the house, the desperate woman turned her energies toward saving the one-story kitchen and trying to keep her husband from being broiled alive. Climbing on the cook stove she doused the ceiling first. Then lugging two tables outside—setting one atop the other—Elizabeth scrambled up to the roof and threw more water on. But just as these flames were quenched much of the burning roof on the house crashed across the kitchen.

Dipping up more water the woman drenched her clothing, then once again waded into the flames. But it was hopeless. At length, as the rebels stood around the home watching her futile efforts, Elizabeth ran for more water and began flooding the kitchen floor under which her husband lay. A neighbor woman, as mystified as the bushwhackers, asked her why she was trying to save a piece of floor when her entire world was burning.

“A memento,” she yelled back above the roar.

But as the fire and debris fell into the kitchen even Elizabeth saw that it was only a matter of time. Slipping into the smoke-filled cellar, the frantic woman spoke to where her husband lay.

“You must come out of there or burn alive; I can’t keep the fire back any longer.”

“Almost roasted,” the preacher decided it was his last chance. As he crept out the cellar door Elizabeth quickly threw a dress over him. Then as she lifted a heavy carpet the husband ducked under and, crawling as low and as close to the woman as possible, the two went out of the burning home. While the guerrillas watched on, the carpet was slowly lugged across the yard until the weary wife at last dropped it down beside a small weeping willow. Running back to the house she grabbed chairs, bedding, and other items and stacked them over the rug. And finally, like candles on a cake, the mother sat her two children on top of the heap. After this, she could only wait and watch and pray the rebels didn’t suspect.

With guns in their grip, the bushwhackers glanced from the house to the pile and back again. They always looked from a distance, however, and much to the woman’s relief, none of them approached.

Sitting quietly by the baby, Elizabeth’s little boy was startled when he heard from far below a hoarse voice whisper for water.

“Pa is here somewhere; I heard him speak,” he said, looking up to his exhausted mother.

The child was quickly hushed and the father ordered from here on out to keep still.

***

Battle_of_LawrenceNot every raider had the stomach for it. Caught up in the pathetic efforts of a crying woman struggling to remove a divan, desk, or piano from her burning home, some could not hold back and soon found themselves wrestling over a piece of furniture just as frantically as the woman. And after setting a fire, not a few who imagined their hearts stone beyond hope caved in to tearful appeals and joined to save what they had intended to destroy.

After fleeing her home one woman returned to find it ablaze, yet curiously, neatly laid under a tree was a box containing her family photographs. Other Missourians stared like children at the beautiful parlors they entered, and many simply could not bring themselves to destroy the pretty cups, saucers, and heirlooms. Had it been left to them, some would have spared even “marked” homes. But harder sorts were always just around the corner.

“No, God damn the abolitionists,” shouted an angry guerrilla. “Why should this house be saved?”

And most were not cold killers. Rummaging through homes, searching for plunder, many obvious hiding places were avoided, and often a raider either winked or turned his back while a man escaped. But others were quick to remind that these same Kansans were the ones who had been in Missouri “killing our people.” Most were not cold killers—but enough were.

You have killed my husband; let me keep his ring. . . .

 No matter!

The Germans fared the worst. Their antislavery views were well known and, unlike other men, they couldn’t escape by lying; their tongues were judge and jury.

“Nicht versteh,” said one when the rebels popped him a question.

“God damn you, we will make you versteh!” they shouted as they shot him dead.

For some time the town’s German blacksmith had remained hidden with his little child amid a patch of corn in the Central Park. Later the baby grew restless in the heat and began to cry, prompting several passing guerrillas to venture in. When they left, the father was dead with the child still crying in his once-powerful arms.

At a German home, the people were ordered out while the Missourians sacked the contents and torched the place. Among the occupants, a man on his sickbed had to be carried from the house and placed upon a mattress in the yard. When the gang finished indoors they walked over to the invalid and pulled out their pistols. With guns staring down, the German strained on weakened arms to rise but was instantly blasted back upon his cot.

***

Again a squad came to the home of Judge Carpenter bent on burning and killing. But just as the others did before, the men left quieter than they came.

***

When they had finished with him, Arthur Spicer was brought back to Quantrill at the City Hotel. Despite his earlier threat, however, the guerrilla leader now seemed totally unconcerned at Spicer’s return, and after entering the building the saloonkeeper passed discreetly to the rear.

***

Activity picked up on Massachusetts Street as many of the raiders drifted back. Stores gone over lightly before were now cleaned out. Some merchants and clerks were compelled to wait on bushwhackers as if they were regular customers while liquor and food was served and boots, shirts, and hats were tried on. In the apartments above terrified families were forced out, but not until they had filed past the rebels and been robbed.

I’ll take that watch!

Give me those earrings!

Fork over them greenbacks!

Shell out, God damn it . . . and be quick about it!

As fewer rebels moved through the lesser streets some people came out and made their escape. With his wife, little daughter, and a friend, the Reverend Richard Cordley left his home and splendid library and quietly threaded his way through the streets. After some “exciting moments” the four entered the brush and walked to the riverbank. There, in a marvelous stroke of luck, an alert friend on the opposite shore recognized the Cordleys and, risking his own life, rowed a boat across and ferried the group to safety. One man and his wife stuffed a change of clothes into a pillow slip, sat their children in a play wagon, and simply walked away.

If one could muster the courage, getting through the streets and beyond the first line of pickets was to escape, for those patrolling further out—farmers and boys mostly—showed little inclination to stop or harm the refugees. Most citizens, though, remained fast in the same places they had throughout the morning–whether indoors or out.

One man holding an umbrella sat in the open undisturbed, shading his wife and child. Another, after being chased and shot at, fell and was immediately covered by his wife. Long after the assailants had left the woman continued to wail and shriek. Afraid she would draw even more attention his way, the husband at last whispered, “For God’s sake, wife, don’t take on so. I don’t know if I’m even hit.”

After helping the bushwhackers load pack horses, the two young clerks at R & B’s, still barefoot and half-clad, eased off to the bushes and raced to the river. The frightened New Yorker saw no point in stopping there, however, and after swimming the Kaw he sprinted up the Leavenworth Road.

At last, the Eldridge House, thus far spared though picked clean from “cellar to garret,” was put to the torch. As some raiders were busy spreading the fire on the ground floor, a woman ran up screaming that a black baby, left by its mother and forgotten in the excitement, still remained inside. After listening for a moment, the men went on with their work.

“Burn the God damn little brat,” was the grim reply.

The fires caught, then climbed rapidly to the fourth floor. In a very short time “the finest building in Kansas”—plush carpets, chandeliers, music, dancing, laughter, all—was enveloped in flames.

On the adjacent corner the courthouse went up. Across the street from that, Danver’s Ice Cream Saloon burned, and so on down the street until both sides were completely ablaze. And while the fires were set the rebels celebrated; walking or riding through the street in fancy new clothes and shiny black boots, wearing rings on their fingers and gold chains and crosses from their necks; gulping down canned lobster, oysters, and figs; smoking black cigars; guzzling beer, brandy, and French champagne; waving hats in the air as the huge liberty flag was dragged past them in the dust. From time to time there were small explosions as stocks of powder and sealed canisters heated, and the acrid smell of tar and oil mingled with the sweet scent of burning tea and molasses.

***

At the end of the business district, a large gang of drunks spotted Dan Palmer and a friend standing in the door of Palmer’s gun shop. Before they could duck back in both were shot and wounded.

While some of the bushwhackers set the building on fire, others stood the two men up and bound them together with rope. Then, when the flames caught and began to roar, the startled captives were pitched inside. Wild with fright, Palmer and his friend regained their footing and struggled out the door, pleading with the rebels for mercy. But amid hellish laughter and waving pistols the men were again hurled into the furnace. At last the rope broke, but there was nowhere to run. By this time only Palmer was able to rise. Standing in the flames, arms reaching for heaven, he screamed above the roar, “O God, save us!” This brought a new round of applause and laughter. Soon, the cries inside ceased and the drunken gang moved on.

***

Except for a number of pickets, by 9 AM most of the raiders had drifted back to the South Park and much of the residential area was left deserted. That’s when Mary, Abigail, and Louis Carpenter “began to breathe again.” But then there was another violent pound on the door. As they had done all morning, the family kept its composure, and while Mary went to the door the judge came down the stairs to deal with these rebels as he had the rest.

The door was opened. Stepping partway in, a stone-faced guerrilla stared at the judge, then asked him where he was from.

“New York,” came the even reply.

“It is you New York fellows that are doing the mischief in Missouri,” was the cold comment. The rebel raised his pistol and fired.

Breaking from the door, the wounded man bounded up the stairs and into a bedroom. Pushing Mary aside, the guerrilla gave chase. As his pursuer was searching the rooms above Carpenter slipped by and ran to the basement. But a rebel below saw this, and when his friend came down, the two found windows leading into the basement and opened fire. The judge was hit immediately. And because the room was unfinished there was nowhere to hide. Helplessly, Carpenter could only flatten himself against the walls and try to dodge the bullets. As the raiders paused to reload, the blood gathered in pools at the victim’s feet. Finally, with no other hope, Carpenter broke for the stairs leading outside. Once in the yard, however, he stumbled and fell and was unable to rise.

As the guerrillas approached, Mary ran screaming to her husband’s side and covered his head with her arms. Walking around them several paces, a bushwhacker at last bent down, jerked up one of Mary’s arms, jammed in his pistol, then fired. Within inches of her own, the judge’s head shuddered for an instant, then splashed apart.

***

A lone rebel walked to where Harlow Baker was lying and stopped. Partially turned on its side, he looked down at the dusty body for a moment, at the blood, black and caked on the hand, neck, and back.

“Poor devil,” he muttered.

Pulling out a sharp knife the bushwhacker knelt down and ripped open a pocket. Finding nothing he rolled the body over and slashed the other. Again nothing. Spotting Baker’s hat, the man mumbled that at least here was something, and a good one at that. Taking his prize, the man walked back into town.

***

At last the pickets rode in and the entire force of guerrillas converged on the South Park and began forming. Pack horses high with plunder were brought up, as was an ambulance. A large, fat ox was selected, killed, skinned, quartered, then quickly stored for travel. Amid the movement and general excitement, Quantrill found the young guide, and handing him a new suit of clothes and the reins to a fresh pony, the boy was pointed toward home. The rebel leader then said goodbye to his friend Nathan Stone, his wife and son and daughter Lydia, and hoped that someday, some place they might meet during happier times.

“The ladies of Lawrence were brave and plucky,” he confided to someone before he left, “but the men . . . were a pack of cowards.”

Quantrill then joined his command. And, at a little past nine, with the smoke from Massachusetts Street rolling up like the walls of some towering black canyon, the raiders moved south and the long, uncertain retreat to Missouri began.

Several minutes passed. Only the sounds of the inferno were heard in the deserted streets. Across the river, the squad of soldiers watched intently. Finally, with a few citizens they boarded the ferry and inched toward the town.

But one man was not quite finished. Although he had bragged about the streets that eleven Kansans had been sent to hell by his gun, for Larkin Skaggs this was still not enough. Skulking around until Quantrill left, Skaggs galloped back and pulled up beside the City Hotel.

“All you God damned sons of bitches come in front!” he shouted. “Come right out here!”

Foolishly, many did step out the door. But others, including Lydia Stone, either remained inside or, like her brother, dove out the back. As they filed down the steps, men and women were ordered into separate lines, and while waiting for the rest to appear, Skaggs, terribly drunk and teetering in his saddle, asked one of the captives where he was from.

“Central Ohio,” answered the man. He was instantly shot.

“That is worse than Kansas,” growled the bushwhacker.

Another round was fired into the hotel itself which brought an immediate plea from the owner, Nathan Stone. Without a word Skaggs turned and fired again, striking the innkeeper flush in the abdomen. While the screaming people fled the front of the hotel, more jumped out the back. Spying a boat, two men quickly pushed off from shore. In their haste, however, they failed to attach one oar properly and the two furiously paddled around and around in circles as the current carried them down the river.

Hearing the gunfire and seeing the renewed exodus, the men crossing on the ferry quickly returned to the north shore.

Growing impatient, Skaggs finally wheeled and rode back through town. After killing a man along the way and chasing another, the burly bushwhacker trotted leisurely from Lawrence down the California Road, confident that Quantrill had left the way he had come. He soon realized the mistake, however, when he saw farmers coming in his direction. Spurring cross-country toward Eudora, the drunken man weaved and wobbled in the saddle as the big white horse raced through fields leaping fences and ditches. But more men were riding from that way, and cornered, Skaggs was finally captured and taken toward Lawrence.

When the party reached the outskirts and learned what had taken place, the prisoner without further ado was slain on the spot.

***

Slowly, slowly the people began to come out—peering cautiously from the brushy ravine, parting carefully the stalks in the cornfield. The ferry started inching over again. Governor Robinson stepped out of his stone barn. The county sheriff crept up from under his floor. A man who had feigned death even though he lay near a building on fire rose with the clothes burned from his back. And Harlow Baker, too, on painfully weak legs pulled himself up and staggered to the house. Others emerged from the hidden cellar in the center of town, popped up from tomato patches, or, dripping wet, gazed over the mouth of a well. What they saw when they came out was overwhelming.

Everywhere one turned, the enormity of the raid attacked the senses. Those cut off, those who thought their experience an isolated case, were numbed to learn that similar acts had been going on all around the city. Like a twister it had come so swiftly, so tremendously, so utterly—yet like a twister it too had gone so quietly and completely that many were confused and still had no conception of time. And the bodies . . . no one had expected this.

“One saw the dead everywhere,” said the Reverend Cordley as he moved through the town, “on the sidewalks, in the streets, among the weeds in the gardens.”

And the day was actually darker than it had begun. Burning homes and barns sent spires of smoke upward until they converged to form a huge pall over the city, blotting out the sun and sky. Massachusetts Street was a raging wall of flame and churning black clouds. Crunching timber and toppling bricks fed the roar, and the heat was so intense that none dared enter the street. Even the sidewalks were burning. And everywhere was the suffocating dark fog. Women, some carrying babies in their arms, ran through the streets shielding their faces from the fire, crying and screaming for husbands and sons. Some, like Charles and Sara Robinson, found one another.

Then, down a side street, flaying the hide of a plow horse and shouting at the top of his lungs came Jim Lane trailed by several farmers. “Follow them boys,” cried the senator as he passed, “let us follow them.” Some did respond, and together they galloped south. But even had more felt the inclination, there simply were no horses left in town.

***

5BMBF00ZBy  noon a goodly number of citizens had straggled back to town as had curiosity-seekers from the countryside. And by this time even Hugh Fisher, sweltering all morning under the rug and furniture, felt safe enough to crawl from his torrid hiding place to get a drink of water.

Later, as the fires subsided, several men began the grisly task of trying to retrieve the dead and wounded. One of those thus engaged was George Deitzler. At first glance the victims nearest the fires were thought to be blacks. Coming closer, however, the old general was shocked to discover that the corpses were not Negroes, but white men “completely roasted. The bodies . . . crisped and nearly black.” Reluctantly, Deitzler bent down to pull a man up, but to his horror as he yanked he merely came away with two chunks of steaming dark flesh. Reeling backward, the general retched and had to leave. Most others, try as they may, could fare no better and turned away “crying like children.”

One corpse lay on a sidewalk near a fire. The body was normal in every respect except that the skin of the head had been burned away, leaving only a grinning skull. Another man was half body, half skeleton. Others had rendered down into a “shapeless mass.” And without a trace of wind the stench of cooked flesh weighed like a blanket in the hot fog. Relegated to stronger sorts, recovery did go on.

After the pews were moved out, many of the dead and wounded were taken to the Methodist Church. While two physicians probed an ugly hole in a man’s face, searching for a lodged ball, another, lacking both medicine and instruments, performed delicate surgery using only a sharp penknife. Lying in a corner, “half-wit” Jo Eldridge, also shot in the face, raved deliriously. Crying women, themselves on the verge of collapse, tried to help those waiting by bringing water, cleaning wounds, and fighting off the swarms of blowflies. The mangled bodies of Ralph and Steve Dix were brought in and laid out; Ben Johnson, some Germans, and others not recognizable were also carried up the steps. In his rush to get the wounded indoors, one minister keeled over from exhaustion. Elsewhere it was much the same as people waited for the few available doctors.

A young woman, just as confused and frightened as she had been all morning long, ran into the Griswold home for comfort. In the back parlor she first saw Mrs. Baker fanning her husband who lay on the bed, his clothes bathed in blood. Fleeing into the dining room, the girl suddenly froze at the sight of Doctor Griswold and Josiah Trask stiff, white, and stretched side by side on the dinner table. In the front parlor she glanced in to see Senator Thorp, twisted and rolling in terrible agony, his clothes black with blood and dust. He was struggling to speak to his wife but couldn’t. Bearing no more, the sickened young woman fled the house entirely.

Just up the street, surrounded by the smoldering ruins of her home, Julia Collamore could get no response from either her husband or the servant as she shouted into the well. When a close friend arrived, he volunteered to go down. Tying a cord around himself, and with the aid of two men to lower him, the friend entered the hole. About halfway down those above felt a sharp yank and frantically began to pull the man up. The strain was too great, however, and the cord snapped. But to the surprise of everyone above, there was no cry for help from below.

Despite everything, some paused a moment to behold the phenomenon. Flocks of killdeer, attracted for some reason, flew about carefree from yard to yard, calling their sprightly refrain.

***

Throughout the afternoon and into the evening the people continued to trickle back. Some returned wearing the same nightshirt they had awakened in, while not a few husbands came back in the dresses that had enabled their escape. Strong men, finding a dear friend whom they had presumed dead, fell into one another’s arms and wept. The devout knelt in circles and prayed.

Those who had fled Shantytown that morning also began appearing, coming across the river or out of the woods. One black, atop a white horse, rode bareback down Massachusetts Street singing with all his might “John Brown’s Body.”  Behind, with a rope around its neck, he dragged the naked corpse of Larkin Skaggs. With other former slaves, the rider hauled the body to the Central Park and tried to burn it.

As the fires cooled and gardens and weedy lots were combed, more dead were discovered. The floor of the Methodist Church filled until there was no room. Forty identification tags had already been provided, but for others only a number distinguished each from the next disfigured form. Robert Martin, killed by the side of young Willie Fisher, was found and carried down from Mount Oread in the arms of his crying father. Charlie and Willie Fisher also returned, and the grateful parents sped to heaven their thanks and bowed to pray. But both Elizabeth and Hugh couldn’t help noticing that there was something different about Willie; he was not the same Willie who had left that morning.

It wasn’t so easy for editor John Speer. Of his three sons, the youngest was alive and with his mother. Another son, Junior, was dead. Someone said he was murdered while running along a street, shot by a mounted rebel dragging the Union flag. But the other son, seventeen-year-old Robbie, was still missing. Speer refused to believe that Robbie too was gone. And so, covered with soot and ash, the father kept up his search, calling out as the night descended.

I want you to help me find my boy. They have killed one, and the other I cannot find.

***

“The fires were still glowing in the cellars,” noted the Reverend Cordley as he moved through the darkened streets. “The brick and stone walls were . . . standing bare and blackened. The cellars between looked like great caverns with furnaces glowing in the depths. . . . Here and there among the embers could be seen the bones of those who had perished.”

John Speer and others seeking a son, a brother, a husband were praying that the bones they saw down among the cinder and fire were not those of the loved ones they sought.

That night the dogs howled without ceasing, and for miles around a vast angry glow was seen throbbing in the skies over Lawrence.

***

Saturday, August 22, 1863. Hardly had glint of dawn reached Lawrence when the weary people, straining to gain a few minutes of sleep, were jolted by a long, piercing scream heard throughout the town. Followed to its source, a woman was discovered in a gutted building sitting among the rubble. Her husband, she feared, had been shot and burned there the day before, and after searching the wife had found his remains at last—a blackened skull that she hugged to her breast.

This chilling scene “added much to the . . . sadness and horror which filled every heart,” said a viewer, and stamped an accent on what was already becoming known as “Black Friday.”

There was no awakening from the nightmare. Massachusetts Street, normally a hive of activity on Saturday, was black and idle now, only a jagged gash through piles of ash and debris. Red coals still glowed in the basements. At the south end of the street, two stores remained standing, to the north, by the river, several more stood, including the armory with weapons intact. In between, all else was ruin. Vermont and New Hampshire streets were much the same—a barn, the ice house, the City Hotel, a home in which George Todd had taken breakfast and left his voucher of safety.

In the residential area the condition was somewhat better. Although close to one hundred homes were destroyed, many of these the beautiful structures of West Lawrence, anyone could see how much worse it might have been. Dozens of houses were torched and torched again only to be saved by the women. And for those not doused, the absence of wind prevented the flames from leaping to a neighboring home. Most brick and stone dwellings stood untouched, and because of the soldiers, all the houses along the river, including the Robinson mansion, went unscathed. Except for a Negro church, every other still stood. The county land records were somehow preserved. But all this in itself, as the citizens viewed things, was small cause for thanksgiving. The bushwhackers had been meticulous. The town was devastated.

“Lawrence,” wrote one, “is as much destroyed as though an earth quake had buried it in ruins.”

And even had there been anything left to buy, there simply was nothing left to buy it with, for very little money remained. Of the three banks in town, two were robbed of every cent and the third spared only because a stubborn vault could not be blown. Practically all the cash and merchandise in the stores and offices was stolen or burned, and among the citizenry as a whole, the gold, silver, jewels, notes, and watches that were not stolen outright were generally lost or destroyed in the confusion. Much of the furniture, clothing, shoes, and linen were also gone. Most people, young and old, wore the same grimy apparel in which they had come away twenty-four hours before. In addition, there was virtually no food in the town.

Although the suffering and privation were extreme, the material loss paled beside that of the human. At first glance even the most sanguinary estimate placed the toll of dead at no more than sixty, a staggering number considering that nearly all were unarmed civilians. But even this grim figure was soon surpassed as more victims were discovered hourly.

When workers finally entered the Collamore well they brought up three dripping bodies–the mayor, his servant, and the would-be rescuer, all dead. After filling the Griswold home with hideous screams and groans, Simeon Thorp, in terrible agony, at last succumbed. As for the photographer, William Laurie, his flight was ended. Kansas City . . . Shawnee . . . the war had overtaken him once and for all in faraway Lawrence. The charred bones of other victims were raked in from the embers or found sprawled among the weeds and gardens. The dead seemed to crowd the living as the toll grew to one hundred and  climbed.

The human loss was as unfathomable as the material loss was seemingly irreparable. There was little talk of rebuilding. Fear of a similar occurrence ran so high that it seemed foolish to do so, and some raiders had even warned that Lawrence must be entirely abandoned or they would return. The herculean task of trying to reconstruct their world also caused many to despair. But perhaps most disappointing and unbearable of all was the lack of anything tangible to strike at; the inability to reach out and smash the authors of so much misery and woe. For some, at least, this simple, savage act could not but help ease the pain and frustration.

Throughout the morning, travelers, emigrants, teamsters, and curiosity-seekers, jammed on the main roads for twenty-four hours, began to stream into town. One unsuspecting arrival quickly found himself surrounded by an angry mob. Identified as a proslavery man and active during the territorial struggle, he was led away to the barn by the river. There, despite pleas to the contrary, he was accused of being a spy for Quantrill, and being thus charged he was promptly convicted. A noose was thrown around his neck, and in a few moments the stunned man was drawn up and left kicking in the air. There was no hard evidence, as most admitted, but the victim was a Missourian, and that was close enough.

The body was then cut down and given to a black on horseback, who galloped through the streets followed by a snarling crowd. As the corpse was dragged along, the clothes tore away and the mob pelted it with rocks, sticks, and anything else available, each person dealing their share on the lonely trophy. Four other men blundered into town and were collared under the same pretext. Fortunately for them—and for consciences later on—they were only held, not hanged.

Sallie Young was next. Hooted and jeered viciously wherever she went, the young woman was arrested, accused of collaborating with the raiders, then confined to await transfer to Fort Leavenworth. The fury temporarily vented, Lawrence turned to more pressing matters.

As the morning wore on and the temperature rose, the stench from the corpses became insufferable. Already, many bodies had swollen so great that the clothing had burst, revealing grotesque wounds “full of flies & worms.” Frantically, the work began to identify the victims and get them under ground as rapidly as possible. There was little wood left and certainly no coffins. Many of the carpenters were either dead or wounded and nearly all the tools of the trade destroyed. Nevertheless, the citizens began. Oak and walnut logs were sawn and fashioned into rough boards. Most nails had melted in the kegs, but enough good ones were found and the planks were soon joined to form crude boxes. The dead were quickly deposited and the covers hammered down. For many, “it sounded rather harsh . . . to have the lid nailed over the bodies of their loved ones.” But there simply was no time for anything more elaborate, especially since the threat of epidemic increased with every hour.

When the Methodist Church was full, bodies were taken to other churches. Not all victims remained in town. After identification, three corpses, including that of the Irishman, Jim O’Neill, were loaded onto a wagon and returned to Lecompton for burial. Coming from the opposite direction, farmers brought fruit and vegetables and gave freely. And from Leavenworth the first real relief came when several wagons loaded with food, clothing, medical supplies, and caskets arrived.

Throughout the day and into the night the tempo increased and the sounds of the terrible work continued. At the cemetery atop Mount Oread, a ghostlike gathering moved in an arc of lamp­light, and some of the boxes were at last lowered down. Slowly the recovery began.

***

50235698_133263993699When he wasn’t helping out around town, Peter Ridenour (left) was at the bedside of his friend. “Well, Mr. Ridenour, I am gone up,” Harlow Baker had whispered when his partner rushed into the room on Friday. But though he wasn’t given much hope by others and could barely breathe, Baker surprised everyone, including himself, by continuing to hang on.

And so the old friend stayed by his side, waiting for the end­-fetching ice, tending the wounds, chatting.  Jokingly, Ridenour admitted that the only reason he was sitting around this moment was because of a few potato plants and a garden bed he’d hugged so dearly that a leaf might have covered him. His home was gone, he added, even though he had naively taken the precaution of locking the door. But the two young clerks had made it. After running so long and hard that his feet bled, the athletic New Yorker hadn’t stopped until he had reached Leavenworth. There, he went straight to a family friend, Governor Tom Carney, and borrowed money enough for clothes and a one-way ticket east. But after some rest and reflection he had hesitated. The boy had come back today on the Leavenworth stage. Although admittedly he had never been so scared in his life, not even at Gettysburg, the youth discovered that indeed he had survived the battlefield and now, although his feet were very tired and sore, he had survived Black Friday as well.

Ridenour didn’t mention to his partner that the business was wiped out. Five years of savings had vanished in a blink when the banks were looted. The store’s huge inventory was also gone and although their insurance covered most everything, including fire, a clause excluded “invading enemies.” There were also many out­standing debts and no way to meet them. Although he didn’t burden his friend with business matters, Peter Ridenour had already taken the first faint look down the long road back. He was yet young and strong and energetic and his name was respected by all. And if he lived long enough, every creditor would get his due. The store’s safe with the books and a modest sum of cash had somehow weathered the storm, and if one put stock in such things, there was a benign omen of sorts—the salt wagons from Leavenworth had arrived and were now parked outside the gutted store.

But while he sat and waited and watched his old friend suffer, the thought uppermost on Mr. Ridenour’s mind was not salt or creditors or even the store, but whether the partnership, the friendship would continue as always or if the “B” would yet be stricken from R & B.

***

Early Sunday morning at the usual time, work was set aside while a few citizens gathered to worship. They were women and children mostly at the Reverend Cordley’s church, dirty and disheveled and dressed in men’s work clothes. No one said much. For some, the press of the past two days had been a sore test of faith, and a moment’s respite to collect their thoughts and drift in meditation was a welcome balm. There were whispers and silent prayers and then a passage from Psalms, verse 79:

O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance. They have laid Jerusalem in heaps. The dead bodies of thy servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven and the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of earth. Their blood have shed they like water round about Jerusalem, and there was none to bury them.

After a moment more of silence, work was resumed.

Again, as the heat of the day approached, workers were made aware of their dilemma. The coffin building was not keeping pace with the decay of the bodies. The caskets that came from Leavenworth helped, but there simply weren’t enough coffins there, nor in all Kansas to meet the needs. And more victims were being found. At last, in desperation, it was decided to dispense with formalities altogether and inter the more advanced cases with as much haste as possible. Into a long, deep trench gouged from the cemetery ground, forty-seven black and bloating bodies were finally lowered down. Similar burials, like that of Judge Carpenter and Edward Fitch, took place in backyards. With this, some of the terrible trauma and urgency began mercifully to wear off.

More help came from the countryside and another large wagon train of food, clothing, and supplies arrived from Leavenworth. Visitors continued to enter the city, some to aid and some simply to gawk and assess the destruction. Early estimates placed the damage in the millions of dollars, with over $250,000 stolen in currency alone. Almost every businessman and merchant was totally cleaned out. Still, there were increasing murmurs of rebuilding and renewed investments.  Flagging spirits began to revive somewhat as a few took heart.

Included among the strangers in town were a number of correspondents and illustrators from large Eastern newspapers who began sketching scenes and taking down eyewitness accounts. A few unabashed individuals came forward with their stories. One black related that when the raiders had entered Lawrence on Friday morning, he had dashed over the meadows south of town and hid in a tree above the Wakarusa, out-legging his imagined pursuers and establishing some kind of record for the three-mile course. When asked about the feat, his simple reply: “The prairie just came to me.” Another man, a dentist, described his escape and return to Lawrence and his utter amazement to find that, though everything else was gone, the rebels had entirely overlooked his inventory of  gold and silver plate.

Others had similar tales to tell, though not always so jocose. They told of a morning replete with hairbreadth escapes and terror, of miracles, irony, and death. But as the journalists scribbled away, always from each new tale there surfaced the same consistent theme—the steely defiance and grit of the women. Almost all their acts, although carried out under fantastic duress, were marked by an uncanny degree of calmness and courage. Instances of their heroism, their “sand,” ran on. There was Lydia Stone: When the Eldridge prisoners became frightened of retaliation, the young woman, risking her own life, raced down the riverbank in the teeth of the soldiers’ bullets waving a hanky for them to stop. There was Kate Riggs: By grabbing the horse’s bridle and hanging on until she had been dragged around the house and over a woodpile, the tenacious woman succeeded in saving her husband Sam from the monster Skaggs. There were Elizabeth Fisher, Eliza Turner, and a score of other equally doughty heroines.

And never had female ingenuity been better displayed, from the “nieces” of “Aunt Betsie” to the woman who saved not only a feather bed to sleep on but a neighbor man as well whom she rolled up inside and carried to safety. Another woman fooled the rebels by burning oily rags in kettles, thereby making it appear that her home was engulfed in flames.

And even after their bravery and resourcefulness saved many a man and home, the women’s work had but begun. When the initial shock had passed, many, like the “ministering angel” Lydia Stone, carried on, moving with quiet grace among the crowds of victims, “attending to their wants and speaking words of comfort and cheer.”

As Sunday wore on, the women, arms scorched, hair singed, continued their labors with an air of increasing confidence. Some optimistically saw in their great trial a hidden treasure. Although they left little else in Lawrence, the guerrillas overlooked something very precious nonetheless, something that could not be burned with a torch or strapped on a pack horse: Courage . . . the only thing in life that really mattered. When all else was taken, this at least remained and gleamed more brilliantly than ever before. Then others took note and drew inspiration from a familiar sight at the river’s edge. Amid the ruin and devastation the old liberty pole stood straight and tall, defiantly holding its ground. Even the tortuous hot spell was at an end. Late in the day a refreshing north wind kicked up, clearing and cooling the air. If the truth be known, for many of these women, as well as the surviving men, there was within them the dawning of that warm and golden glow that shines only in the hearts of those who have faced off with the worst in life and come away victorious. For Lawrence, the worst had come. The trial had passed. There was nothing more from life to fear.

***

As the work progressed into the evening, a lookout on Mount Oread, watching the activity below, happened to glance south toward the Wakarusa. There to his horror he saw rising from the valley floor an all-too-familiar sight—smoke and flame. Without a second thought the rider flew down the hill and galloped into town, screaming with all the power in his lungs, “They are coming again, they are coming again! Run for your lives, run for your lives!”

With these startling words reserves cracked, then crumbled, and suddenly there was nothing left. In a moment, as if from one mind, panic seized all, and like a cannon shot the race from Lawrence instantly became a mad stampede. Someone rang the armory bell but no one was fool enough to rally. Men who had naively held to their homes at the onset of the first raid and who thus experienced the most terrifying hours of their lives didn’t wait around for the second, but broke from town at a run, hair streaming in the wind. Women, whose courage hadn’t wavered during the Friday attack and whose poise had been a comfort to all, now caved in completely and became “utterly unstrung.” Men, women, children—all raced blindly, filling the streets with a bedlam of sobs, shrieks, and shouts, expecting the slaughter to overtake them with every bound.

Run for your life . . . Quantrill is coming back and will kill all of us! 

Run to the country, Quantrill is coming!

Take your children and run . . . Quantrill is coming!

After a few short minutes the dust finally settled. The town was deserted. Except for a few wounded, not a soul, black or white, resident or visitor, was left in Lawrence. As time passed, men on the opposite shore anxiously watched for the attack to begin. But mysteriously, there was only silence. Shortly, one hundred citizens recovered sufficiently to cross back and pass out weapons from the armory. Their plans for a stand were for naught, however, for they soon learned the cause of the lookout’s alarm—imprudently, a farmer had chosen this moment to burn off a field of straw.

Knowledge of the error came too late to reach the majority of people, however. Some were far away and still running while others were even further along and had no intention of ever stopping, like the clerk at R & B’s, who this time would not pull up until he reached New York and absolute safety. But for the rest, many carrying footsore children, there was no run left, and they simply alit in fields and thickets fringing the town.

That night proved to be one of the coldest, cruelest summer nights in border memory. The temperature plunged, the rain and hail came in sheets, the lightning cracked, the thunder roared, and the wind blew with all the fury of a cyclone. But still—soaked, frozen, and huddled as they were—few ventured back, for the wind and cold and rain were far preferable to Lawrence, where it was firmly believed Quantrill was adding the final touches to the bloody work begun on Friday.

One of these miserable refugees, seeking an answer to it all, later questioned his aged father. “Why have we been so terribly punished? Why so infinitely worse than any other place in all the history of this war? Why beyond comparison and precedent?” After brief reflection on the territorial days of the fifties, the war on the border and the sagging fortunes of the South in the sixties, of the bloody days of rampage when Lane, Jennison, and their Jayhawkers had turned western Missouri inside out, the son found the answer to his own question.

“lt has come,” he finally admitted, “and they have had their revenge.”

But another, angrier than the first, and speaking for a great many more than the first, considered the scales once more uneven.

“Oh! God!” he implored heaven, “Who shall avenge?”

First Man Standing

okeefe-logo-2015If the Last White Man Standing of the 20th Century was Adolf Hitler, then Ken O’Okeefe is my candidate for the First White Man Standing of the 21st-Century. I stand with Ken O’Keefe.

Ken is one charismatic warrior. He is extremely intelligent, he is eloquent, he is forceful, he is powerful, he is rock-ready and rock-steady, but most importantly, Ken is ferocious, fearless and not a man to fuck with. Nothing, and I mean nothing, stands between Ken and the truth. Like a comet drawn by gravity to the sun with increasing velocity, Ken allows nothing to get between him and his goal. My friends, strength, real unshakable strength, is like a mighty magnet; it attracts those less strong, like myself, and it increases their strength as it does. Ken is my mighty magnet.

In case you have been snoozing these past years and have not heard of Ken, this dynamic hero has been fighting hate and lies, both in person, and on numerous podiums, for some time now . . . and very, very effectively. In fact, the forces of darkness scatter and scurry when Ken steps up. The simple, yet powerful, weapons that this amazing man uses? Honesty, truth and the faith of his convictions. When I listen to Ken, I am impressed by a myriad of things, but mostly it is the intensity of his gaze, the passion in his voice, the sincerity in his words, but above all, when watching Ken I am struck first and foremost by his anger. No, not the rabid, foam-flecked kind of mad dog anger, but a controlled anger, a simmering, sizzling rage. It is this rage within that powers his drive and determination like steam powers a locomotive.

I have studied the eyes of many people in my lifetime. It’s a hobby. I truly do believe that old adage about the eyes being the “windows to a man’s soul.” I’ve looked into Ken’s eyes many times. Beyond, within, through his “windows”, I see a moral, honest, and ethical soul; but these noble qualities are tempest tossed; they roil in a stormy soul totally fed up with the crime, corruption, hypocrisy, and evil that threatens to consume us.

I’m sure there are the doubters, the groaners, the jealous, the envious, those whispering critics who try to chop Ken down and marginalize him. We have also among us, alas, the paralyzed paranoiacs and the demented conspiracists, those who believe everything is a conspiracy–including the “round” earth conspiracy–and that anyone who comet-like rises in the sky, including Ken, is an agent of disinformation and misdirection. Equally, I am also sure that there are the big talkers/small doers among us who are terrified by Ken. In Ken they see a no nonsense man-of-action who easily passes from theory to practice. And this a very scary thing for those who have hid behind computers and made a living ranting and raving about “what needs to be done” but who have never lifted a finger to do it.

Ken is not perfect. His pronouncement that “I believe every person on earth is my brother and sister” is certainly not my credo. Sorry, Ken, but those who would love to see me and my comrades boiled in oil or slowly tortured to death are not, and will never be, my “brothers” or “sisters”, Jesus or no Jesus. Also, I am not a big fan of anyone who debases their body with ink graffiti. But these are tiny details, mere fine points of taste. In no way does such hair-splitting deflect from my admiration for this Great White Warrior. I’m sure that during the American Revolution those cowards who didn’t want to risk their skins or jobs also disagreed with the minute details of the struggle and found all manner of reasons not to join in.

Like an oak, Ken O’Keefe stands—he bows to no man. He will not stop and he will not back down. I stand with my brother, Ken O’Keefe, yesterday, today and tomorrow. I will stand with Ken anywhere he may be. I will stand with him on a stage where there is not a friendly face in the crowd. I will stand with Ken in front of glaring lights and hostile cameras, stand with him on a street-corner, stand even in the midst of a hate-filled mob. And, if such be fate, I would even stand with Ken in front of a firing squad or die with him in a bloody ditch. By his example, Ken O’Keefe is creating many more Ken O’Keefes. Let us all stand firm like Ken, let us all be examples.

Me Poor Victim, You Big Sucker

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Feeling down? Feeling blue? Feeling unwanted? Feeling like goo? Feeling about as important and noteworthy as a noodle? Well, listen up! There’s hope ahead. New American Indian tribes are springing up almost every day in a city near you. Yes, just like a baseball or hockey franchise, some enterprising hucksters are creating new Indian tribes out of thin air. How? Well, let’s use my old home state, Kansas, as an example.

First, some unsavory scoundrel fresh out of prison invents himself a fancy Indian-sounding name (in this case, the “Kaweah Indian Nation”). Next, said con dubs himself something that sounds grand, dramatic and Indian (in this case, sounds also like a fast car, “Grand Chief Thunderbird IV”). Then, our new chief gets himself a bunch of willing tribes men, tribes women, and tribes kids (in this case, illegal Mexicans). And there you have it. Simply that simple. Wham-O!  Our ex-con is now right up there with Sitting Bull, Geronimo, and Tonto.

Why would someone do something like this, you might ask? Come now! Who wouldn’t want to have their own Indian tribe to lead around? There’s a ton of perks involved. All that victimitude is pretty swell, too. Soon, quicker than you can say “Runnin’ Bear loves little White Do. . .” many pale faces—many more than already are out there––will be braiding their hair and claiming with quiet pride and solemn dignity that they too are a quarter of whatever you are, in the Kansas case, “I am a quarter Kaweah.” Best part, of course: You can start your own casino and, in a year or two, you can move out when the mafia moves in.

Seems many others around this great land of opportunity, many others like Grand Chief Thunderbird IV, are selling certificates of Indianhood to any “migrant” who can fish up five bucks. In the Kansas case, GCT-IV set up two recruiting offices in the state and signed up at least 10,000 Mexicans . . . er, I mean “Native Americans.” That, dear reader, makes the Kaweah Tribe one of the larger in North America. Suddenly, these illegals were not only instant US citizens but they were now privileged, honored, revered, deeply religious, and profoundly philosophical citizens to boot (odd, but the Kaweah language sounds very similar to modern Mexican).

As far as the Kansas scam, the feds finally did something right and put the hammer down on this little operation by arresting GCT-IV (aka Malcolm Webber) and closing up his recruiting stations. Turns out that the sweet red T-bird in the photo above has more Indian blood than Webber.  With the scheme uncovered, however, an illegal alien advocacy group shifted to damage control by justifying its criminal members’ criminal actions.

“They have nothing in Mexico, no life whatsoever in Mexico. . . ,” the spokesperson sobbed. “So they will hang onto anything here . . . blah, blah, blah, blah . . . even joining a fake Indian tribe . . . blah, blah, blah. . . .” Cry me a fuckin’ river.

Note #1—Certainly an estimated five to ten billion illegals running loose in this country is a bullish market waiting to be tapped. I‘m sure that in their struggle to achieve the American Dream of “crime without punishment” and “free shit forever” these illegals are open to just about any scam waiting to happen, including fake Indian tribes. And really, since many Caucasians already claim ancestry in this tribe or that tribe—“Me? I’m a quarter Cherokee”––why not plug into some of our own unemployed Americans, including the white swamp savages living in the woods down here in Florida, to form fake Indian tribes? The US would become one big casino where we could all play the victim card and sue ourselves every other year for past grievances. Splendid. Mexicans?  Don’t need no stinkin’ Mexicans!

Note #2—I once belonged to a historical group in Kansas and in that group was a middle-aged woman who showed up at a meeting or three wearing beads and buckskin and looking like some Indian princess from “F Troop.” I noted that she seemed fairly “normal”—sat quietly, feigned interest in whatever bore we had speaking that night––she was a school teacher, I think––but maybe just a bit flaky overall and clearly a mile or more “out there.” I also noticed that her hands trembled uncontrollably when I spoke with her. She told me-–and anyone else who would listen without laughing out loud-–that she was a “Native American” and then rolled right into the “sacred this, sacred that” religion shtick,  i.e., “We Indian people believe. . . .” One night I spoke to this same historical group about my book, Scalp Dance, a very graphic account of the savage fight on the plains between the red and the white man. At one point I pointed out the point that Indians not only raised torture to a high art form but they regularly engaged in some pretty nifty atrocities, as well. The lady in buckskin and beads arose and walked out in a huff. Now, so help me, this woman was the palest Indian the Great Spirit ever created. She would be considered an extremely fair blue-eyed blonde even in northern Norway. Truly, there are some very sad, sick and desperate genes out there swimming in our white gene pool—real Indians themselves laugh and call these suffering, searching identity-seekers “white wannabes.”

Indian-Warren-300x240Note #3–Elizabeth Warren (right), part-time US Senator from Massachusetts and full-time US presidential wannabe, also states—presumably with a straight face—that she is part Indian, 1/32nd, to be precise. Clearly, Liz is riding that animal for all it’s worth. No real surprise, I suppose, but Ms. Pocahontas looks amazingly like the nut ball school teacher I mentioned above.

Note #4—Another thought on the Indian princess above. Perhaps there is no better testament to how successful has been the Jewish war against we whites and their efforts to hammer home our unique guilt with their “Red Man All Good/White Man All Bad” hate fest, perhaps no better example is out there than the great number of American whites who claim with “quiet pride and great dignity” that they are part Indian. As noted above, “a quarter Cherokee” seems to be the going rate of exchange. With their long hair dyed jet black and parted down the middle (braiding is optional), with their fingers sporting chunks of turquoise that would make a Navajo jealous, with their spray tan necks adorned with colorful beads and feathers, these sick lizards will go to laughable lengths to cross the racial divide from loathsome white eco-rapist to noble red eco-saint. Clearly, by their silly cant and ridiculous actions, they prefer to identify with that imaginary drop of noble Indian blood circulating in their system rather than their very real gallons of European DNA; clearly they prefer to side with innocent victims rather than the vicious victimizers; clearly they prefer to be seen as peaceful, pastoral, philosophical, patient, deeply religious, and far-seeing visionaries, rather than blood-thirsty, grasping, cunning, and cruel anti-human monsters.  And, after watching a few anti-white Jewish movies on the subject, who can blame them?

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Police Shooting Criminals

dice men objects black background 2560x1600 wallpaper_www.wallpaperno.com_100If you want to know a little something of what cops go through every day, check out my “Recommended Sites” bar to the right and watch a segment or two of “Police Shooting Criminals.” If you want to know a lot of something of what cops go through every damned day, watch all thirty segments. By the time you finish this up close and personal look at the war being waged between the forces of civilization on the one hand and the forces of savagery on the other for control of the streets of America, I think you all will be utterly amazed that more, many more, blacks are not shot dead in their tracks than actually are. I think you will see that far more black criminals are alive today committing more crimes because cops showed extreme forbearance and actively worked far beyond all human capacity to avoid killing them. Of course, alas and shamefully, there are more than enough white and brown misfits and drugged-up zombies populating these segments to represent we Caucasians and mestizos all too well.

This look at crime from all corners of the US is not some self-serving puff piece produced to simply improve relations between the police and the public. No. This production comes from Russia. “Police Shooting Criminals” is neutral; it has no agenda; it is unambiguous; it is objective and savagely realistic; the camera lens does not lie. This stuff is raw, dirty, personal . . . and terrifying. It reminds me of actual combat footage where two sides are pitted against the other in a real war. On one side is the side that is trying to do its job and stay alive at the same time—the side whose duty it is to enforce the laws that civilization has decreed, viz., to keep the underworld under and away from our main streets and out of our living rooms. On the other side is the side that is largely indifferent to laws; the side that believes that cops should come roaring to the rescue when their fat asses are hanging out on a limb but who feel they have the right to break those very same laws when they get in the way of having a good time, of taking what is not theirs, of killing whoever upsets them.

In these videos, mistakes are made. Often the innocent suffer. We see some cops at their absolute worst. For the most part, however, we see cops trying their best to perform their jobs with as much care, concern and fairness as is humanly possible. Once you have seen this painfully grinding series, of people in blue trying to do their job, and often failing, please keep in mind that we who watch have the luxury of looking back and analyzing how it might have played out differently. Cops do not have that luxury. In that split second separating life from eternity, a cop whose heart is pounding at 500 RPM and whose blood is racing at the speed of light must make terrible decisions about innocence and guilt, about what is dangerous and what is not, about who will live and who will die. We ask, we insist, we demand, that these men and women who protect us be better than the rest of us. We demand that their instincts be sharper than ours, their common sense more sound than ours, their snap decisions be far superior to ours. We are outraged in retrospect that often they make the wrong choices.

I think the most heart-breaking moment for me in all the hours of these videos is when an officer in a standoff with a gun-wielding maniac has taken cover behind his patrol car door. Desperately, over and over, minute after minute, the cop tries to talk the man down, tries to cool him off, tries to get him to lower his rifle, tries, begs, bargains, pleads with the man to surrender and not make him kill him, and all this even while the weapon is aimed at the officer’s head. Well, this cop did not go home that night to his wife and kids. Clearly, his last mortal act in this world was to guess wrong. I wonder if this dead cop was a victim of simple bad judgment.  Or was he, and many other cops just like him, the victim of society’s demand that he give even the worst, most homicidal, most undeserving among us more chances, many more chances, than we ourselves would have ever given them.

The Human Shooting Gallery

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Kansas, August 21, 1863: During the Lawrence (Kansas) Massacre, when rebel raiders knocked on their doors, women employed almost any device to save their homes . . . and very often the men hiding in rooms just above or cellars just below. 

But as often as not, no amount of tears or lies would suffice, and a home was put to the torch anyhow. And, as soon as the bushwhackers had done their work and moved on, behind them women and children rushed with quilts and slopping buckets of water in an attempt to smother the flames. As was commonly the case, however, after gamely battling and subduing a blaze, the soot-smeared ladies looked up only to find another squad approaching with the same intent.

“Put that out if you can!” snapped an exasperated guerrilla to a woman who had just stopped one fire. When he had gone, she did just that.

Those at the home of John Thornton were more persistent. When the straw bed they ignited was doused, the rebels returned and started it again, but this time Nancy Thornton was forced to leave. In a short while, when the husband too appeared and raced out the back, the guerrillas were ready and waiting. A chunk of hot lead burned into Thornton’s hip. He turned and fled back into the house. Again the heat became unbearable, and when he reappeared another shot was fired, this time blowing his knee apart. Once more, and followed by his screaming wife, Thornton limped back into his blazing home.

Blinded by smoke, the wounded man soon came out again, leaning on Nancy for support. One of the raiders rode up, took aim, but just before he could jerk the trigger the Kansan lunged for his leg. Thornton was unable to reach the weapon, however, and a slug at pointblank smashed into his eye and exploded out the cheek. Another gun went off and a ball entered the victim’s back, ripped down the spine, then tore into a buttock. Still, Thornton clung to his attacker. Frustrated and out of ammunition, the bushwhacker tried again.

“I can kill you,” he growled as he used the heavy revolver like a hammer to bash again and again the head of the struggling man. At last John Thornton lost his grip and released the leg. But he wasn’t dead.

“Stand back and let me try,” yelled an impatient guerrilla nearby. “He is the hardest man to kill I ever saw.”

With that, the enraged bushwhacker let fly every ball in his weapon, striking the target one, two, three times. Thornton stumbled a few steps, then collapsed in a heap. Still doubtful, one of the rebels reared his horse to stomp the body.

“For God’s sake,” shrieked the hysterical wife as she grabbed the horse’s bridle, “let him alone, he’s killed now.”

Satisfied, though amazed at the time and energy needed to do it, the men finally moved on.

To preserve it for burial, Nancy managed to drag the body away from the fire to an open space across the street. There, she saw that her dead husband had a wound for almost any given spot and was literally soaked in blood from head to toe. Looking closer though, the woman saw something else–John Thornton was still alive!

Historical Postscript

Many of John and Nancy Thornton’s neighbors were not so lucky. Shot, stabbed, drowned, strangled, suffocated, incinerated–150 men did not escape the awful revenge of Missouri on that fateful “Black Friday.” And, in more ways than one, John and Nancy Thornton may have envied them. Terribly maimed and disfigured by his ordeal, Thornton spent the rest of his life as a pitiful freak, slithering along the sidewalks of Lawrence on his hands and knees like some crippled amphibian.

(The above is from my book, Bloody Dawn–The Story of the Lawrence Massacre)

More On Travel, Part Two

gene_miller_and_tomUnlike the day before, there was no relegation of duty on this, the first full day of work. Before Gene hardly had time to consider his late humiliation and his hike back to Sheridan, he found himself on a hay wagon. 

While the rotund and good-natured brother-in-law drove the tractor through the pasture, Mr. Carlson and I walked along on either side and “bucked” the bales from the ground up to the wagon. For the first two rows or so, we were able to place the bales on the wagon ourselves and stack them in a way that would interlock the load. After the second row, however, Gene was up. When a bale was thrown to him, he was expected to use his hay hook and drag it into place on the wagon. This, of course, took some getting used to and the struggle between the Barney Fife look-alike and the hay was hilarious. Most of the bales probably outweighed him. Beyond a doubt, this was the first real work Gene had encountered in his life. Pumping gas and picking cherries did not prepare him for it. Even tossing brush in Canada was nothing compared to hauling up a ninety pound bale of hay every ten seconds under a blazing sun while trying to maintain your balance on a moving wagon. But for most of the day, my buddy seemed determined to prove his manhood and escape his disgrace.

Late that afternoon, after we had already loaded and unloaded ten or more wagon loads and were working on our last haul of the day, Gene was obviously on the verge of total collapse. Although Mr. Carlson and myself had the truly hard jobs of tossing the dead weights five and six rows high, Gene was so exhausted by this time that he could barely get his hook into the hay to help pull it up. Long forgotten in his misery was the manly attempt to prove his mettle. Of course, Mr. Carlson and myself were thoroughly fatigued and quite miserable ourselves. With some of my last energy, I struggled to hoist up a bale that felt like solid lead.

Come On! Get it up here!” Gene snapped sourly.

Needless to say, that pissed me off. When I came to the next bale of hay laying on the ground, an aroused sense of strength came over me. Grabbing the bale by the twine, I hurled it up at Gene with all my might. The weight and force of the bail knocked him over and almost off his perch.

“You son-of-a-bitch,” he hissed.

“Well you deserved it!” shouted the ever-observant boss from the other side of the tractor.

By the time the wagon was unloaded, we were all too exhausted to be angry at anyone or anything. Curiously enough, roles were reversed at the supper table that evening; I was the one this night who ate like an animal and Gene was the diner who could barely hold his fork. Also that night, back at the trailer, there was no cussing tirade or mention of walking back to Sheridan. Both of us were asleep in five minutes.

For the next seven days, this was the routine. When we had cleared one pasture of “dead soldiers,” we’d move on to the next. Over the week we adjusted to the backbreaking work. Even though Gene was given the easier tasks such as stacking, no job on that ranch was easy and my friend more than carried his weight. Between slave labor and sleep, there wasn’t much time left for anything else. Although we saw the antelope and deer coming out of the hills each evening to drink from the creek as we were returning from the pastures, neither Gene or I had time to admire the beautiful Big Horns that towered to the west; nor did I have the requisite energy to slip over the fence and catch Brown trout from the nearby stream. We worked hard, we slept hard, and somehow, we managed to eat hard.

Neither before or since have I ever seen so much food as was spread on the Carlson table in that kitchen. In the morning, there were pancakes, biscuits, gravy, fried potatoes, eggs, ham, bacon, and sausage. For lunch and dinner, the table groaned with bowl upon bowl of mashed potatoes, vegetables, stuffing, relishes, pickles, and fresh rolls. Since they were a ranching folk, they were also a meat-eating folk. I recall that there was as much elk, antelope, and venison on the table at any given time as there was beef, pork and mutton. And now, since Gene felt he was earning his lawful right to eat like a horse, he ate like a horse. Despite this, I do not think he added one ounce of muscle to his thin frame

“What’s wrong with him? Why is he such a scrawny little runt?” Carlson nudged me one day as Gene walked across the lot to the trailer. “Is it the cigarettes…or does he just jack off too much?”

Since they were visiting and thus did far less work on the ranch, Mrs. Carlson’s sister and brother-in-law were much more lively and talkative at the table than the rest of us. Their home was in the California desert near Indio. Every autumn during dove hunting season, the actor, Clark Gable, and a few friends would come with sleeping bags and camp in the couple’s back yard.

“Oh, yeah,” said the brother, “he’s a heck of a guy…a man among men.”

The Carlson’s brother-in-law was a “heck of a guy” himself. He took a shine to both Gene and myself and was full of fun and life. He tried to pitch in and help us, but years of easy living and good food had made him soft. One day, as we were trying to repair a water pump down by the brook north of the house, the wrench the brother was turning with all his might suddenly slipped. Belly first, the little man flopped full into the water. In truth, the stomach was so big and the pool of water so small, that most of the latter splashed out. Though the brother cussed and fumed, neither Gene or I could hold back our laughter.

In her own domain, Mrs. Carlson probably worked harder than any person on the ranch. Her sister stepped in and helped, but the overloaded old lady was seemingly baking, cooking and cleaning up from dusk to dawn. From her chilly demeanor toward Gene and I, it was evident that she didn’t think either of us was worth the princely sum of $5 a day or the extra work she was forced to do on our behalf.

After lunch one day, Gene and I noticed that Mr. Carlson was standing with his favorite horse in the driveway. The golden stallion (above; Mrs. Carlson, Oscar Carlson, Gene, me) was a progeny of “Trigger,” Roy Rogers’ famous trick horse. As we walked by I could see that the animal’s rear legs were spread far apart.

“Oh boy, he really loves this,” laughed Carlson. He was energetically scratching the horse’s testicles.

“Did you see that?” said Gene after we got to the trailer. His eyes were wide with disbelief. “Did you see that sick son-of-a-bitch scratching the horse’s nuts? Man, that fucker’s crazy…crazy!” This was all the evidence Gene needed to convince himself that Carlson was not only despicable, but depraved.

On our last day at the ranch, when all the hay had been bucked and stacked, Mr. Carlson saddled a couple of pack horses, handed us the reins, then told us to ride wherever we would. Although he cautioned us not to run the animals, as soon as we were out of sight, that’s the first thing that we did. After years of watching TV Westerns, we couldn’t imagine a horse walking anywhere. By the time we rode back to the ranch later that day, our buttocks were so tender that we could hardly sit in the seats of the Corvair when we got ready to leave. After the brother-in-law took a few Polaroid snapshots, Gene and I bid everyone good-bye and struck off once more.

As we turned down the road toward Buffalo, I mentioned to Gene that the old man had asked me to come back that autumn; he needed help on the ranch as well as someone to drive broken down horses to the glue factory in North Platte, Nebraska.

“Did he say anything about me?” Gene looked over anxiously.

“No, he just said me.”

“That son-of-a-bitch,” sneered Gene. “Anybody that would scratch a horse’s nuts….”

 

More On Travel

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In keeping with the travel motif I seem to be stuck in, the following is a reminiscence of 1965.  After high school graduation, myself and a friend, Gene Miller, hit the road in my red Corvair, determined to see the world.   I was 17, the draft and Vietnam war would nip at my heels the following year and I was determined to live a little bit before a died a lot.  After a series of odd jobs–picking melons in the Mohave desert, picking cherries in Oregon, cutting timber in Canada–and after living on a diet of doughnuts and Dairy Queens, Gene and I one day bought a couple of cowboy hats and decided to become Wyoming cowboys.  But first, even he-man cowboys gotta eat.  As the folksinger, Joan Baez, sang so appropriately and raptly, “In the summer of ’65, when the hungry wuz just barely alive. . . . “

“Look at all those dead soldiers,” I said to Gene as we drove beside a pretty pasture wedged between the road and the hills. There were hundreds of hay bales just laying there.

“Alright! Let’s do it,” replied Gene.

We had reached a point about thirty miles southeast of Sheridan, Wyoming. Although the Bighorn Mountains still towered to the west, we were now surrounded by pure prairie near a “T” in the road called Ucross. Easing the Corvair off the highway and onto a gravel road, I entered the driveway and stopped outside an old, two-story home. With our dime store cowboy hats set low for business, Gene and I walked through the gate to the house. Before we could knock, we heard a “Can I help you?” shouted from off to our side. Walking over to the corral, we met a large man in coveralls. He had a massive head and his eyes bulged when he stared.

“What can I do for you two cowboys?” he asked

“Howdy,” I smiled in my best Marshal Dillon. “We saw all that hay out there. Do you need any help putting it up?”

The man looked at me for an instant, but by his quick response it was evident that he’d already given the matter due consideration.

“Well, yes I do, now that you mention it,” he stared. “How much do you work for?”

Happy just to have jobs, neither Gene or I could come up with any figure in the one second or less this man gave us to think.

“I’ll give you each five bucks a day,” he offered. “You can sleep in my hunting trailer back there behind that haystack…and you can eat at my table.”

With the contract set in stone, we all introduced ourselves. Oscar “Windy” Carlson was his name, a big, bursting Swede who laughed and raged equally, I reckoned, judging by his great bulging eyes. He ranched sheep and horses in the spring and summer and in the autumn and winter he led hunting expeditions into the Big Horns. Mrs. Carlson (“the old lady”) was in the house cleaning up after lunch, he said. Her sister and brother-in-law from California were visiting and would stay at least another week. Mr. Carlson wore a beat up cowboy hat.

“How do you like our hats?” Gene asked.

“Ha!” the big rancher laughed with a snort. “Those are dude hats. No real cowboy would be caught dead in them.”

Somewhat crestfallen by this comment, we asked if there were any extra work gloves around. These were in stock aplenty. Mr. Carlson also pulled out a very small pair of old cowboy boots. Who they came from we never did learn (perhaps a child), but they fit Gene almost perfectly and they were, as of that moment, officially his. Forget his idol, Frank Sinatra; with his new footwear adding inches to his height, my scrawny, Barney Fife buddy felt like Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey combined.

And now, without any further ado, we began the earning of our keep. Having already sized us up at a glance, our new boss selected the more muscular of the twosome to do the really hard work of stacking bales of hay; the punier of the litter seemed fit only for light construction and thus was given a hammer and nails and told to repair the corral. After taking my position atop an already high stack of bales, shortly Mr. Carlson returned driving a little Ford tractor. On the front was a fork with what seemed like a hundred bales of hay. After the load was dumped atop the stack, it was then my job to grab up each one and neatly stack it, much like a brick layer sets and interweaves a wall. From past experience, I estimated that these bales were some of the heaviest I had ever wrestled with and each must have weighed between eighty and ninety pounds. Hardly had I struggled one load into position, when I would look up and see the little gray tractor returning with another large installment. Had I not been fairly strong and experienced, I probably would have collapsed during the first hour under the broiling sun.

Meanwhile, at the corral, Gene was having a fine time. Through my grunts and groans, I could hear the tapping of his hammer occasionally, as well as his cheerful whistling. Every fifteen minutes, Gene’s addiction forced him to take a long cigarette break in which he would sit himself atop the fence like an old ranch hand. There, he would rest, reflect and admire the scenery. Once or twice an hour he would mosey over to the haystack in his authentic cowboy boots to chat and tell me how lucky we were to actually be working on a real Wyoming ranch.

“Man, this is great…just great,” he laughed. “Wait till we tell the chicks back home…they won’t believe it!”

Unfortunately, I was far too busy and exhausted to be of much company for Gene. Nor did I have the time or energy to ponder how lucky I was to be working and dying on a Wyoming ranch. Unperturbed, Gene would then saunter back to the corral with a carefree smile and begin his tapping and whistling again. Obviously, ranch work suited my friend to a tee.Unbeknownst to either of us, on his numerous trips back and forth from the pasture, our new boss took note of all this. Although there was a low rumble deep down below, for the time being Mr. Carlson kept his own counsel.

Around dusk, the old man brought in what seemed like the hundredth load of the day and dumped it on the stack.

“That’s it, Mike. Time to eat. Do this in the morning,” he boomed above the tractor.

As I eased my body down from the stack to the ground, every bone in my skeletal system seemed alive with pain and punishment. My hands were swollen and sore, my arms and shoulders were on fire, my legs felt like noodles, and my brain was thoroughly fried. Even the lucky parts of me that weren’t sore were harassed by sticking things that had fallen down my jeans. When I had finally washed the dirt and grime off and combed the hay from my hair, I joined everyone at the supper table. Gene was already there.

“What kept you?” he laughed. “We were going to start without you.”

Cheerful as always, fresh as a daisy, my friend was in high spirits as he joked and jested with the Carlson’s sister and brother-in-law. While Mrs. Carlson kept bringing out food, her husband sat at the head of the table, listening to the chatter, but perfectly silent.

As the various bowls and platters began moving around the table, I was unsure if I could even hold my head up long enough to eat. I tried to smile and act polite but I would have much preferred to simply crawl into bed. When the mashed potatoes came my way, I took a dab and passed the bowl to Gene. Still laughing and talking with the others, Gene took enough potatoes to make up for me, and then some. I didn’t bother with the gravy when it arrived but instead handed it on to Gene. My partner needed plenty of gravy for all his potatoes and poured it on thick. Mr. Carlson took note, but said nothing.

When the vegetables came, I took a little, Gene took a lot, and when the roast was passed, I simply handed it on to Gene. Perhaps it was the clean air and bright sunshine, or perhaps it was the great table conversation; whatever it was, Gene had worked up a cowboy-sized appetite and his eyes were already feasting on the meat.

“Man, that looks good!” he said with a big lip smack.

Grabbing a big chunk of roast, he flopped it down on his plate. At the head of the table, the boss’ eyes began to bulge.

There was hardly any room left on Gene’s heaping platter when the bread plate came around. I took a slice and passed it on. Gene grabbed two slices.

With eyes popping from his head, Mr. Carlson at last exploded.

“NOW WAIT JUST A GOD DAMN MINUTE!” he glared angrily at Gene. “NO MAN HAS EVER WALKED AWAY FROM MY TABLE HUNGRY. BUT NOBODY TAKES TWO SLICES OF BREAD!”

Everyone at the table was stunned by the sudden outburst. Gene, of course, was more startled than any. With disbelieving eyes, he stared at Mr. Carlson, a big grin still frozen on his lips.

“If a man works hard for me, he can eat all he wants at my table,” continued the red-faced boss loudly, “but YOU didn’t do a GOD DAMNED thing today!”

As can be imagined, by now I had forgotten my own misery and had straightened up in the chair. Poor Gene. I noticed that under Carlson’s bulging glare, he was slipping ever so slowly down in his chair, still wearing the ridiculous smile.

I do not remember who broke the icy silence following this rampage. Perhaps no one did. But I do recall that Gene meekly placed the two slices of bread back on the plate. And I do remember his reaction after we finished supper in silence and retreated to our little trailer behind the hay stack.

“GOD DAMN HIM!…THAT SON-OF-A-BITCH!!” yelled Gene. “He’s not going to get away with this. THAT DIRTY BASTARD!”

My friend was as hot and angry as I had ever seen him.

“I’m leaving….I’m leaving! THAT LOUSY SON-OF-A-BITCH! Take me back to Sheridan!” Gene demanded as he started snapping up his duds.

Had I not been so tired and sleepy I might have enjoyed a good laugh. The spectacle of that little squirt storming and raging about the trailer in his new hat and boots like some bantam cowboy was ludicrous, indeed.

“Gene,” I moaned, “I’m not going to drive you back to Sheridan. I’m dead. I got to get up in the morning and work.”

“TAKE ME BACK TO SHERIDAN. If you don’t take me back, I’m walking.”

“Man, you’re gonna have to, ‘cause I can’t make it,” I said while flopping down on the little bed.

After several minutes of thrashing about the trailer, searching for a sock, cursing Carlson with every breath, Gene stopped when he heard a loud rap. When I looked up, I saw that the door had opened and Mr. Carlson was stepping in. After a few words about how tiny the trailer was and other small talk, the big, smiling Swede sat down. I noticed that the grin had returned to Gene’s face as well.

“Now look, I’m sorry about that little blowup at the dinner table. I shouldn’t have went off like that. It was wrong,” said the boss patiently, all the terrible red in his face now drained and his eyes safely back in their sockets. “All I ask from any man who works for me is a day’s work. If a man gives me a day’s work, he can eat all the food at my table that he wants. Now Mike here, he worked his ass off today.”

Then, looking back at Gene once more, Carlson’s face started to flush.

“But YOU…,” pointed the old man, his eyes beginning to bulge. “Now you know God damn good and well you didn’t do a fuckin’ thing today! I’m sorry about tonight, but you deserved it.”

Gene’s smile suggested that he agreed.

“Now you two try to get some sleep. We’ve got a lot of work tomorrow,” concluded the boss as he rose to leave.

Hardly had Carlson closed the door behind him and left than Gene’s stiff grin dissolved into an ugly grimace.

“That son-of-a-bitch,” he hissed. “God dammit, I’m leaving! If you won’t take me back I’m walking.”

“Gene, you can’t walk back tonight. It’s thirty miles…and there’s wild animals out there,” I groaned while laying back down. “Let’s go to sleep. I’ll take you in the morning.”

Perhaps it was a combination of factors–not the least of which were “wild animals”–but after stalking about and cussing for an hour or more Gene did finally crawl into bed.

The following morning, after no mean amount of mighty persuasion, I coaxed Gene into the house and back to the dreaded dinner table. Surprisingly, everything went smoothly. Everyone acted as if nothing had happened at the last sitting and Mr. Carlson seemed in the best of spirits. Gene, of course, was noticeably less loquacious than on the previous eve and when the toast tray was passed around that morning, you better believe he took only ONE slice.

(continued tomorrow)

Καλαμάτα

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I seem to be posting nothing but travel-related blogs recently. I’m sure my inner-self is trying to tell my outer-self something. Please bear with my inner-self.  Right now, he’s a caged canary flapping to get out.

In about the middle of the above photo sits my old home near Kalamata in far southern Greece. If it looks like heaven that’s because mostly it was. Twice a day I would walk down the concrete steps from our place to the beach, wade a short distance to a large rock, stare down into twenty feet of the bluest water I had ever seen, then dive in. The warmth was like a bath tub. In the morning, the surface of the Mediterranean was like glass. When I bought snorkeling gear I would cruise the sandy sea bottom watching schools of fish graze in the grass.

In the evening, my wife and I would visit either our next door taverna or seek another along the coast road. There, we might dine on whatever was in season. Feta, Greek salads, and hard peasant bread was our regular fare. Always, ALWAYS, we drank our weight in retsina wine.  BTW–I have yet to set eyes on a so-called taverna in the U.S. that even comes close to the real thing.

Already long in love with the American Nineteenth-Century, when I first arrived in Greece I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Goats, donkeys, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, sheep, mules, even oxen–animals were every where. Roosters woke me every morning. Every day peasants rode by our place in horse drawn carts, going into Kalamata to buy bags of flour, salt and other staples. And the folks themselves . . . many were missing teeth. Others had facial warts, moles and scars. Some were cross-eyed. Lots more were crippled and walked with canes. This, I thought, must have been the way it was in an Old West frontier town, before corrective surgery.

The “warts” had another way of showing up. I had noticed that the Kalamata candle store was one of the larger business concerns in town. After a few months residency, I found out why. Although Kalamata was not the Third World, it was definitely not the First World either. Our electricity was seemingly off more than it was on. Many of our “romantic” nights by candle light were from necessity. Also, we were often without water. So pure was the spring water we received from the mountain behind us, that we had grains of sand in a cup of it. Getting this wonderful water was the problem. The pipes carrying it were always breaking and it took the locals days, even weeks, to fix them. Hence, many were the weeks I hauled a five-gallon demijohn of sea water up simply to flush the toilet. When an earthquake struck one day, we were without water and electricity for a month.

Although we generally got along with the Greeks and had some great friends, Americans, then or now, are not highly esteemed over there. The CIA and our wars for Greater Israel have soured Greece and the rest of the world. Still, when we met a Greek, who invariably knew almost no English, they would, with a grin, make a pistol with their fist and say “Dodge City,” or “Jesse James.” Like it or not, the Wild West is our American identity and that feature which 99% of the world associate with us.

I once asked a Finnish friend, who was also staying in Kalamata, and who spoke passable English, if he would like to visit the U.S.

“No,” he said.

“Why?” asked I.

“Because it is too wild. You have Indians and cowboys. And you have bears, bison and porkyscenes.”

I asked him what he meant by the last named beast. He said, “You know, that little animal with all those things that stick a person.”

Although I told him it was pronounced “pork-e-pine,” he insisted his version was correct. I dropped the subject.

One day soon after moving there, my wife and I were standing around the Kalamata bus plaza waiting to catch a ride back to our home which was four miles down the coastal highway. Of all the many policemen in this city of thirty-some-thousand, one in particular had already caught our attention. We called him “Barney,” which was short, of course, for Deputy Fife. We had noticed that not only did this fellow physically resemble his namesake, but he also had some similar mannerisms.

Barney loved the power he wielded as a cop; it was written all over his face. He stood around a lot, like the other policemen, striking noble poses, looking important, arms behind his back, very straight, mirror sun glasses, hairline mustache. Except for a ridiculously large hat that was twice the size of his pea head, he looked quite dapper in his gray uniform and polished shoes.  But as I said, Barney was totally aware of his lofty status and every move and step he took was the move and step of an important man. Even the drags on his cigarette were measured and dramatic.

Well, anyway, lofty and important as his position may have been, Barney’s paycheck was not commensurate and so he was forced to moonlight as a ticket-taker on the regional bus line. For some strange reason, every bus in Greece needs two men-–a captain, or driver, and a lieutenant, or ticket-taker. On the day in question, while my wife and I stood under the shade of a nearby kiosk munching sesame seed sticks, we noticed that there was a commotion at the rear of one of the buses. Some ragged country bumpkin, a short, stocky fellow whose elevator clearly didn’t go all the way to the top, was trying to get on the bus with a small bath tub. Other passengers carry sacks, packages-–even baskets of baby chicks-–on board, but nothing so large and cumbersome as a wash tub. Barney was blocking the rear bus door. Without a word he just looked at the tub and slowly shook his head. Regulations were regulations. With gestures, the tub bearer made motions toward the trunk of the bus; surely there was room? But again, with pursed lips, Barney just shook his head. Thereupon, a great theatrical display for mercy ensued.

You could see by the ragamuffin’s frantic actions that departure time was nigh. You could also clearly see the poor fellow’s mind grinding away as it turned over the options:

1) Get on the bus for home and leave the cherished tub sitting in the plaza, or

2) Stay with the tub and live forever in Kalamata a homeless, if scrubbed, vagabond.

Again the man implored with pleading arms. But no. Sensing the fool’s helplessness only made Barney more impervious to his pleas. He just stood there by the door in all his stiff majesty, smoking his cigarette, looking here, there, anywhere but at the contemptible buffoon before him. At this point, the tub man completely broke down.

Sobbing loudly one moment, walking wildly around his tub while pulling his hair the next, pausing for a moment to kneel and thrust his praying hands up to Barney for pity, the groveling hind went through the whole drill. But if possible, Barney seemed more remote than ever. Scanning the distant mountains, sniffing the air for some imagined fragrance, Barney then took a deep drag off his cigarette, casually looked at the butt, then flicked an ash. Again, he only shook his head.

Of course, with mouths agape, all the peasants were by now gathered around, savoring the free show. My lady and I were not a little amazed ourselves.  It seemed to me that after a few minutes, Barney might have found something more to do, like take tickets or put packages in the trunk. But not today. A crawling dog was at his mercy and the job could wait.

Finally, after five or six minutes of crying and praying, it occurred to the frantic tub man that something more might be done inside the station. So, off he dashed through the crowd. In a minute he returned. And with him came the station master. And just like that, and with a loud laugh and big smile for Barney, the fellow promptly got on the bus . . . with the tub!

The crowd, though mindful that Barney was a cop, could not contain its laughter. From where we stood, I didn’t see anything visible on Barney’s face but it was a safe bet that his stomach was churning. I’m also sure that at some point in time, Deputy Fife found a way to get even with this fool who went over his head and made a laughingstock of him.

(Below: Sunset over Messina Bay.  We never got tired of this sight.) 

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Stunning

images (4)No one likes to be shocked unto silence, stunned by a sight so startling that your very utter terminates in mid-syllable, but it happens.

Like everyone else, I’m sure, I do not like being stopped dead in my tracks by surprises. In fact, I hate it. I will do whatever I can to act “normal” in very abnormal situations. Three cases in point:

I once went into a post office in a small Spanish town to ask for directions. Very helpful, the clerk behind the counter raced out to show me which direction I needed to go. Imagine my horror when the good man pointed down my nose, not with a normal hand and fingers, but with an arm that looked exactly like an ostrich’s foot. The poor fellow had a deformed-from-birth two-fingered hand (actually two clubs is more accurate) that was just hideous to behold. Needless to say, I do not remember a thing that the helpful man said and I hardly remembered which way he was pointing, so stunned was I. Nevertheless I was profuse with my smiles and “gracias” as I assured him he was of the utmost help.

Another time, I was getting off a local bus in the seaside village of Nazarre, Portugal. One is always disoriented in a strange place and the traveler needs to think quickly and clearly to avoid grief. Suddenly from nowhere, up pops this shrunken old gypsy, jabbering and trying to get me to stay in her “hotel,” or whatever. Like other terrestrials, I’m sure, I do not like being bum-rushed at any time of day but this incident caused me to swallow my gum. The hideous hag was missing the tip of her nose; not just a tiny tip either, but an inch or more of it. She was awful to look upon; her nose was something like a hog’s snout. No, I did not stay in the woman’s place. As it turned out the gypsy may have had the only decent room in the village since I had to watch my back night and day where I did end up and actually ran down a thief I caught in my room.

Yet another time, I was walking through a park in Tangiers, Morocco. When siesta time hits in the Third World, the natives pick any place to sleep—on the grass, on sidewalks, even under parked buses and trucks whose drivers are also asleep on the seats. As I strolled along, I made the mistake of looking over at one individual spread out on a park bench. A swarm of flies was milling above the man’s head. Upon closer examination, I saw that the filthy things were also crawling inside the man’s mouth and nostrils. Either he was dead or he was a totally stoned drug addict. The fact that I still recall this scene indicates how startling the sight was on that otherwise beautiful afternoon in North Africa.

Pit Bulls in the News–Those fun-loving mutts of mayhem are at it again. Yes, two loose Pit Bulls (the only kind there are, apparently) are on doggie death row today after attempting to murder a Florida, woman. The troublesome twosome were out having some playful canine fun yesterday when they spotted the lady and decided to engage in some harmless sport by chewing on the woman’s legs for several minutes. Unfortunately for the fun-seeking duo, dog cops arrived and put an end to the mad-cap mischief. The culprits were hauled away while the owner was fined $500 for the attack, plus he was given a whopping $55 ticket for failure to secure his lovable pups.

“My dogs are the most sweet-natured pets you could have,” said the confused owner as he shook his head, then took another pull on his long-neck. “They are very gentle with the kids.  I don’t know what happened.”

Hmmmm.  “Don’t Know what happened?” Maybe the lady in the hospital whose leg they are trying to save could help this useless ass-wipe out a little and explain to him what happened.

The Freedom To Rant–Maybe because I am one of the few residents on this island still capable of catching and beating the bejeezus out of most teens, I do not have the least problem with our horde of spring breakers each year, like some seniors apparently did. The following is a letter to our local fish-wrap on what sounds like the end of Our American Way of Life, as we know it:

Editor:

There were some who yelled obscenities, some who screamed as they drove by, one who tried to spit on us, some who simply raised the radio volume to sonic boom level while others chose to throw something at us from the car. Were we walking through the ghetto of a Third World country? No!

These are only some of the disgusting events that happened during the last few months right here on Beach Road on Manasota Key. We are some of the hundreds of “less young” residents and visitors who frequent the sidewalks of this road daily in search of exercise. These are not isolated incidences, but frequent insults hurled randomly at walkers and joggers by some of our emotionally challenged teenagers.

There’s not much difference between losers, misfits or half-wits, maybe a point or two in IQ, but who’s counting when you’re dealing in double digits? These simpletons seem to get their jollies directing these acts toward some of the very ones who fought to give them the freedom to voice their opinion, even if it is unintelligible.

George C. Nile
Englewood, Florida

Belizing Is Believing

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Sometime back I was exploring southern North America, viz., Mexico, Honduras and Belize. A few comments on the latter nation. . . .

Back when I was a kid, I used to collect stamps from around the world. My favorites were the colonial stamps issued by France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Holland, and especially Great Britain. Portrayed in elegant, detailed etchings were the scenic beauty of the colony itself, the flora, the fauna, the historic buildings, and, of course, the subjects who lived in these exotic places. Typical of the English colonial stamps were those from British Honduras. The stamps were ornate and gorgeous and each gave me a snapshot of life in that country. I never thought I would ever get to a place like British Honduras . . . and I never did. But I did make Belize, which is what the tiny country was named after the Brits left in 1981.

Belize is a very poor country. Crime is rife. Nothing is doing. As I looked into the miserable huts and shops of the capital, Belize City, I wondered if Belizians don’t believe secretly that life was better in the bad old days when the British kept the economy running. Today, blacks congregate in the cities and the descendants of the Mayas seem to rule the countryside. Recently, I note that there are real estate come-ons here in the US trying to woo suckers to snap up cheap land in Belize and live the life of a god in “paradise.” Well, even hell is what you make of it, I suppose, but move to Belize only if you can live without the internet 20 hours of each 24-hour day and only if you feel like hauling flushing water to the toilet for days, even weeks, until someone finally wakes up long enough to fix the broken water main that seems to break several times a month.

Dreadful as the urban areas are, if one can get beyond the cities to the jungles and highlands they are in for a treat. Jaguars, tapirs, sloths, parrots, toucans, leaf-cutter ants—truly one has reached the tropics when they venture here.

images4r6Other than scuba diving and scratching fire-ant bites, one of the things to do in Belize is cave tubing (above). For over a mile I floated underground on a crystal clear river as it gently carried me through a system of enormous caves; since I have been in a lot of caves it was a very odd feeling to be riding on water past stalactites and stalagmites rather than walking.  At times, the only sounds were of the water dripping down from the cave ceiling.  Occasionally, the current would carry me into a clearing and my senses would be blasted by a bright blaze of greens, golds and blues.  Then I would reenter the cool darkness of the caves again.  It was wonderful.

My reverie ended quickly when I suddenly burst into another jungle clearing and my local guide pointed to a spot at the water’s edge and said he had sighted a 20’ python a few days before “right over there.” If a guide waits this long to tell me about huge snakes nearby, I thought to myself, why wouldn’t he wait just as long to tell me about piranhas in this very river where my butt is now so exposed in this tube? Plus, Belize is home to the deadly Fer de lance, the so-called “three-step snake”—three steps being about as far as you can go after one bites you.

All in all, Belize, with its mahogany, coconuts and monkeys is an exotic slice of the world but not a place I plan on relocating to any time too soon. 

Mutterings on Murder & Mob-Men

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Misery, as they say, loves company.  True . . . too true.

Fact is, everything loves company.  Happiness loves company.  Sadness loves company.  Ignorance loves company. Intelligence loves company.  Carnivores love company.  Vegetarians love company. Midgets love company.   Land whales love company.  Cripples love company.  Drunks love company. Smokers love company.  Pedophiles love company.  War mongers love company.  And so on.  Question is,  “Why does misery love company?” Answer, “Because it’s comforting to have someone even more miserable than yourself handy since it makes your own misery seem less miserable.”  One feels better.  Ignorance loves company for the same reasons.  To be surrounded by smart people must be a total bum fuck if you are a moron; one does not feel quite as ignorant stumbling through life when there is another stumbling even more.  Where am I going with this?  Don’t know.  Don’t care.  Don’t have a clue.  Don’t dare.  Maybe I’m just trying to understand another adage, i.e., “Birds of a feather flock together.”  It’s why cops put the screws on drug users to rat out drug dealers. It’s why stamp collectors form clubs.  It’s why football fans form parties.  Generally, when you find one of a certain ilk, you’ll find another.

The county where I live, Charlotte, is noteworthy for several things. 1) With all the “Snow-Birds” we receive and regret each winter we have one of the oldest, slowest and most cantankerous populations in America.  This in turn leads me to believe that we also have the highest number of auto accidents and cane beatings in the US. 2) We have one of the country’s highest concentration of sex offenders living here.  Nary a day passes that our local fish wrap does not detail some act of sexual disgustivity, and generally aimed at children. 3) Charlotte has more biking fatalities than any other Florida county and second in America.  My guess is that item #1 has much to do with item #3 since many of the folks behind the wheels here are not just old, but dirt old.  Judging by some I see unraveling from their gray four-door sedans at early-bird specials and medical complexes–after five minutes of slow struggle–many should probably not be driving even a tricycle to the mailbox, much less navigating two-tons of metal and momentum on these narrow roads filled with walkers and bikers.  But i digress. . . .

And serial killers flock together. . . .

Florida is a lot of good things: Golden days . . . blue nights . . . orange blossoms . . . rocket ships . . . star fish . . . sun . . . sand . . . sex.  But the Sunshine State must also be the Serial Capital of the World. Ted Bundy, Eileen Wournos, Danny Rolling; these killers, among scores more, quickly come to mind. When I first arrived in Florida seven years ago, I had expected to get into the tour business, something I had done previously with some success.  One such I had in mind was a “Murder One” tour. When I began exploring suitable candidates for this day tour I was surprised by the degree of difficulty; no, not the difficulty in finding enough capital cases within a fifty-mile radius, but the difficulty of picking which crimes were most outrageous. Fact is, I live fifteen minutes from the car wash in which eleven-year-old Carlie Brucia was kidnapped several years ago, on camera, and later found strangled a short distance away. The “Hog Trail Killer’s” wooded comfort zone is mere miles from where I now type. Hank Earl Carr’s cop- and child-killing rampage occurred just up I-75 from here. And more. Many more.  In fact, one could easily stage multiple Murder One tours and never touch the same kill zone twice.

And mob-minded men flock together. . . .

I mentioned in the past few blogs my true crime book, Toledo Blade.  It was a beastly crime. The community in which it occurred remains to this day stunned. The randomness of the act as well as the innocence of the victim leaves every one feeling vulnerable. And history proves that when normally sane people–or animals–feel at risk they become extremely dangerous. After reading one particular on-line report about the murderer, I decided to scan some of the reader comments that followed. Here is a sampling:

I have my tool box ready. Leave this guy alone with me for a spell. Anyone else to care to join me for a teaching lesson? Apparently this guy never learned that you just can’t do these kinds of things without serious repercussions. He needs to be schooled. After he’s “enlightened”, we need someone to drive him out to the Everglades. I have my kids this weekend, so I can’t do it. Any volunteers?
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Our hearts go out to [the victim] and her family, and may god give them the strenght to over come this sadness. [The murderer] is guilty as sin, and he needs to suffer a long drawn out painful punishment. A cruel and inhumane punishment and not on the tax payers wallet. No mercy for you [the murderer], just lots of pain and suffering.

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Cover him in female cow pheromones and let him loose in a pasture with a horny bull. Then roast him (alive of course) on a spit over hot coals. Sounds like an nice “southern” way to dispense justice. I’ll bring beer.
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I have the lawn chairs. If that beer is Corona, I’ll bring the limes, too.
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May he burn in hell. No, that’s to easy. May he be executed then his soul die after a long, tortuous death
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take that oxygen thief out to the parking lot & put 1 in his balls & 2 in his skull.

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As for [the murderer]……he should have done to him, what he did to [the victim]…..over and over and over. He should be made to feel everything she felt and then put to death in the most painful way possible.
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I simply can’t believe how some men resort to this kind of violence just to fulfill their sexual fantasy’s. It’s a good thing I’m not a cop b/c I think I’d cut off any mans balls who raped a woman and killed her like she was nothing in this world.
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I am so completely DISGUSTED by this COWARDLY NASTY HUMAN . . . and i believe his gonads should be knawed off by a scorpian.
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The crust of civility covering modern civilization is paper thin. Understandable as such reactions are, is the savagery expressed above any less vicious than that of those who screamed for blood in the Roman Collesium while lions and tigers tore apart people and other animals? Are those above any more civilized than those of the “Dark Ages” who cheered and laughed when people were publicly skinned alive or had their bowels pulled out slowly by some fiendish torture device? I must admit that when I hear of such hideous crimes committed against living things (and I draw not an ounce of distinction between we humanoidals and the animal world), visions of prolonged suffering and torture also dance through my head . . . for a moment. Then, I ask myself: “Could I administer this torture? Could I even squeeze the trigger that sends a bullet through the sick brain of anyone who commits such satanic acts?” The answer is always “No.” If the crime victim were some one or some thing I loved deeply, perhaps. But my long term answer for the murderous beasts among us is generally a swift death if convicted of Murder One, or a quick castration with many years on a rock pile if convicted of some savage sexual assault (for this latter category, the convicted would have neither the time or tools necessary to commit more crimes against women, children or animals).

Still, just as with the writing of history, one must remove themselves from the picture when writing about modern crime; one must swim up-current against their natural instincts and strive for as much objectivity as possible. After seeing the murderer’s mug shot, I too thought he looked like the “devil’s disciple,” as one snarling commentator offered. All he lacked was horns, I thought. But I would ask this person (and myself): “Have you ever seen a good mug shot? Jesus himself would look like a serial killer in such a photo.” The sad fact is, the individual I wrote about in Toledo Blade had no trouble at all moving freely on our streets, shopping at our malls, buying birthday gifts for his children, standing in line at the post office to send same, prior to the rape, torture and murder of his victim. No one noticed a thing, then. All this innate demon stuff is after-the-fact baloney. He looked “normal” prior to the act. Only after capture did we see in his face the monster that he truly was.  And that is what scares us so.

Guns

imagesrg67 (1)Many are we who own guns. Some of we even tote ’em. Why? Because, unlike those who do not own, much less carry, guns, me, myself and millions more have gained a glimpse of what is “out there.” 

At some point in my spin on this mortal coil I have seen the face of evil . . . raw, soulless evil . . . and it is a frightening face to behold, indeed. In my life alone I have looked into the dead, empty eyes of those who would kill you as quick as they would eat a potato chip. Remorseless, regretless, soulless . . . there is no conscience behind those eyes. The fact that these eyes belong to people who have committed no crime yet–or, at least, have not been caught yet–and who are running loose right now among us matters not; they are the eyes of cold-blooded murderers nonetheless. They have not committed the crime yet because the opportunity has not availed itself; but the capacity to do so is certainly there. These are the eyes that would break into your home some dark night–or sunny day, for that matter–truss you up like a pork roast, raid the fridge, hunt the house for your valuables as they chomp on a chicken leg, then, when finished, fire one or more hot bullets into your brain as their own way of saying “goodbye, and thanks for the memories.” I do not ever plan, awake or asleep, to allow the owners of these eyes to get the drop on me even once.

I am not one to react to anything. I proact. I don’t close a barn door after the horse has escaped. The door is always closed on my ranch, so to speak. Forewarned + forearmed = forbidding; that’s been my motto for decades now. I am a Kansan. I am a product of my environment. No Kansan with my carbon dating can ever forget November, 1959. That was the night two murderers-in-waiting passed from theory to practice. Hickok and Smith . . . Hickok and Smith . . . Hickok and Smith . . . those two names still have the power to raise the goose bumps right down every Kansan’s back, as do the words, I-n C-o-l-d B-l-o-o-d. It is a crime we Kansans can never forget. We have a state bird, state mammal, state song, etc., and if we Kansans had a state book, a state movie, or both, In Cold Blood would be ours. For me, the most horrible part of the incident was when the killers-to-be simply slipped through an unlocked door that night and entered Herbert Clutter’s bedroom. When they shined that flashlight into the rancher’s sleeping eyes, that was the end of any potential resistance. The wife and children in bed above were now totally at the mercy of these cold-blooded beasts. This is what I mean about being proactive: I made it my mission in life to never experience that flashlight in the eyes as Mr. Clutter experienced in those, his final moments before his throat was cut.

What brings on such morose words as the above? It comes with the territory. As mentioned yesterday, I once wrote a true crime book. To prep for that story I visited some scenes of the crime–the home where the young mother was kidnapped one bright day while giving her toddler his first haircut, the perpetrator’s home where he took his victim and raped her repeatedly on a Winnie the Pooh blanket, the palmetto jungle where the victim was murdered and buried in a sandy hole. Just like every other book I have written, after a short spell I begin to live the story; begin to know and identify with the characters; begin to care about them and experience something of what they experienced. Of course, it is too late to help the victim of my true crime book. But if I told the story well enough, in all its grim and graphic horror, then maybe a few things have happened as a result: Maybe there was a dramatic rise in the sale of small caliber pistols here in South Florida, the kind of handguns that fit nicely into a purse, fanny pack or a woman’s hand; maybe there was a rise in the number of “conceal/carry” permits issued; maybe there was a rise in the number of valuable lives saved. Equally, I dearly hope that the book was so terrifyingly personal that it resulted in the on-the-spot termination of many useless pieces of garbage who are bent on abduction, rape and murder, just as the monster in my book should have been terminated.

(below, Richard Hickok on death row)

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My Friend, The Murderer

morgansmith 001Morgan Smith is a lovely, intelligent, talented young woman who would stand out in any crowd.  She is kind, considerate, polite, warm, loving; she is interesting; she is sincere; she is all the things we hope for in a  friend, in a wife, in a mother, in a daughter.  Had things turned out differently, it was only a matter of time before Morgan’s talent and ability thrust her far above the human landscape. So what happened on her way to the park?  Why did Morgan pause one night at the crossroads of her life and instead of taking that wide, smooth path that opened into a sunny, flower-strewn future, why did she choose instead the opposite direction, a narrow, rocky ledge teetering above a precipice?  What drove Morgan to do what she did?

The subject matter of my first, and perhaps last, true crime book—Toledo Blade–was a murder; actually, the subject matter was an abduction, rape and murder.  That book was fairly clear, fairly cut and fairly dried.  There was very little gray middle ground in that book; no, it was black and white, good and bad, victim and victimizer, the innocent and the guilty, no ambiguity.

If I ever do another true crimer, it won’t be so easy.  There is nothing open and shut about this one. Under similar circumstances, any one of us might react in a similar way, i.e., we might take a shotgun and blow some hated person to their rightful station in life–Hell.  Also, had we done something like that we too, like the subject of this story, would certainly find ourselves spending the rest of our lives rotting in prison.

Morgan (above) is in her mid-thirties.  As a middle school student in metro New York, she was one word away from the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C.  The pretty teen was considered a “brain” in high school and was largely ostracized and tormented by her lessers because she refused to enter peerdom and conform to convention.  Then came a devastating change in family dynamics.  Drugs made their foul appearance and the downward spiral of yet another promising white child began.  

Morgan left home, became a pole dancer in several cities, including New Orleans, threw in with a slime-ball drug dealer (white) and soon became a heroin addict.  Somewhere in all this mess, she managed to be married twice, have two beautiful white daughters, kick the filthy heroin out of her life, pursue her self-taught education, and become an accomplished graphic artist. Unfortunately, Morgan maintained her fatal attraction for the father of one of her children, so much so that she actually became his registered slave.

Anyway, cutting to the chase, one day another woman slid in between Morgan and her “master” and because of repeated in-her-face taunting and harassment by the newcomer Morgan one night snapped.  Grabbing a shotgun purchased a few weeks earlier she tracked down the other woman one night outside a home where a party was breaking up and ambushed her.

Clearly, Morgan is not your typical murderer.  She is extremely intelligent, an expert on English grammar, a lover of Shakespeare and classic literature, a curious young woman who is full of warmth, wit and good cheer.  I like Morgan.  Over the months, we became friends.  It will be very hard wielding an unbiased pen when writing her story, if I ever do. Unlike anything else I have written, Morgan’s story will be nine parts biography, one part true crime.  A&E did something on her but is was bogus.

BTW—Drugs?  Morgan could have been just about anything she wanted to be and not doing life without parole if not for her easy access to drugs and a cesspool culture that encourages it.  Like Muslim countries, I favor the death penalty for drug importers, drug suppliers, drug dealers, and any other slimy sleaze who poison our kids.  Death for death. That sounds fair to me, for that is what occurs when our white youth get hooked on the poison.  Public beheading for the first offense also sounds just the ticket to me and a punishment to fit the crime.  If I sound pissed off, it’s because I am.

Bummer-Little did I realize when writing about my close encounter in Englewood the other day, that some poor rudder would be killed in an accident very similar.  Up at St. Pete (about two hours north of this sand bar), a cyclist was pedaling through a cross walk when a car ran over him and squashed him like a wild squirrel.  He was 58.  For all intents and purposes, we bikers are mostly merely absolutely and positively invisible to the motoring public, much like a darting squirrel.  Any biker who assumes the opposite is biking on borrowed time.

Meanwhile–Someone needs to take the batteries out of Sunshine State seniors’ golf carts.  Seems more Florida fossils die on golf courses than all other causes combined—lightning, alligators, pit bulls, more than post office parking lot accidents, more than bingo hall heart attacks, more than torture and beatings in nursing homes, more than really bad Elvis performances, more than all combined.  Up in the Florida Panhandle (we Southies call the area “Ohio”), an 86-year-old woman was tearing up the sidewalks at the local country club, doing at least 3 or 4 MPH in her high performance, fuel-injected golf cart.  No, this accident did not involve another golf cart, nor did the driver take a corner too fast. Nope, none of that.  What happened here was that a wheel slipped off the concrete causing the cart to roll over. For a normally healthy person such an accident would be a trifle, hardly worth commenting on back in the club house.  For someone barely able to move even on a good day and for someone with two feet already in the grave, being “ejected” at that great velocity is all it takes. Mercifully, no mention in the report if the woman was wearing a seat belt, football helmet, body armor, or any other such stuff.  Alas, the lady is now 86 and forever.