Disaster Comes When Men Go To the Wrong House
January 26, 2011

pinkerton_eye

Pinkerton Logo Coined the Term "Private Eye"

On This Date in History: A few years ago, Snow White and I were walking from Papa Johns Stadium and some event,,,probably a football game. We were walking back to the car and crossed the railroad tracks. Well, we were supposed to do that but I decided it would be faster walking the tracks. I started walking down the tracks and Snow White stopped, telling me to come back that it was against the law. Out of the darkness came a figure. It was a Pinkerton Man! Pinkerton Security provides the security for the railroad and he wrote me up. Snow White was right again.

Jesse and Frank James

Jesse and Frank James

Well, on this date in 1875 the Pinkertons got it wrong. The Pinkerton Detective Agency had been on the trail of Frank and Jesse James when it was hired by the railroads to catch the train and bank robbers. It was not an easy task. See, the James gang also had members of the Younger family and both the James’ and the Youngers had lots of friends and family in Missouri. Many of their relatives and friends had been partial to the Confederacy during the Civil War and considered the big railroads to be nothing but a bunch of Yankees. They thought the same of the Pinkerton Agency.

Allen Pinkerton Provided Security For Abraham Lincoln

Allen Pinkerton (left) Provided Security For Abraham Lincoln

Now, the men of the Pinkerton Agency were not too fond of the James Gang. Seems that one of their men, John W. Witcher, was found with a bullet hole in his stomach and much of his face eaten off by hogs. They thought for sure the culprits were members of the James Gang. The Pinkerton Agency must have let their animosity for the James’ get to them because, even though they weren’t entirely positive that it was the James Gang who killed Witcher, they went after them anyway. They had heard that Jesse and Frank often returned to their family farm. So, the Pinkertons waited until the sun went down and surrounded the James home. They threw some smoke bombs or flares into the home. To there surprise, there was a huge explosion. Jesse and Frank’s young half-brother was killed and their mother had her arm blown off. When the smoke had cleared, the Pinkertons found that Jesse and Frank were never there. Guess they should have knocked first.

Jesse's Mom Missing an Arm

Jesse's Mom Missing an Arm

After their keystone cops episode, the Pinkertons backed off a bit but they kept up the pursuit. They never got Frank and Jesse. Instead, Jesse was shot in the back of the head in 1882 by one of his own men, Bob Ford, who collected the reward money. Frank turned himself in shortly thereafter but no jury would ever convict him. He remained a law-abiding citizen until his death in 1915. As for his mother…she had quite the cottage business. Tourists could come by her house and for a small fee, they could hear of how the nasty railroad men and their disgusting Pinkertons persecuted her poor, innocent boys. Bet that performance was worth the price of admission.

Is This Floodwater?

Is This Floodwater?

On This Date in History:

On This Date in 1962, Jeffery Gordon Riley came into the world. Since that time he has come to be known as Flood Water, F-Water, Floods, F-Ditch, F-Dip, effrey and just plain F. Jeff Riley is a lot of things…and one of those things is a good friend to all who are fortunate enough to be able to call him a friend. Happy Birthday F.

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When Traveling the Oregon Trail Once (or Twice) is Not Enough
October 9, 2010

Ezra Meeker Never Got To Use His Ford Model A Covered Wagon to Once Again Travel the Oregon Trail

John Jacob Astor

John Jacob Astor

On This Date in History: I’m sure many people have heard of the Oregon Trail but probably aren’t familiar with where it is except Oregon. In the early 19th Century, Lewis and Clark gained the blessings and financial support (Probably Not Constitutional) of President Jefferson. That paved the way for commerce with John Jacob Astor leading the way in the American fur trade. Again, it was Thomas Jefferson who encouraged Astor, who formed the Pacific Fur Company. Astor sent a man named Wilson Price Hunt to establish a base of operations and in 1811, Hunt followed the trail of Lewis and Clark to the Dakotas and then cut over land through Jackson Hole and eventually to the mouth of the Columbia River. They called the place Fort Astor or Fort Astoria.

The War of 1812 broke out and the Crown sent a warship to seize the fort. The guys in the fort figured out that they were in trouble so, being good businessmen, they sold the town to their British competitors. The North West Company purchased the fort, renamed it Fort George and the British gained control without firing a shot and presumably John Jacob Astor got some money for his trouble.

Did Ogden Have a Neck?

Just before the Brits took over the fort, a group of men led by Robert Stuart left Fort Astor for St. Louis. That party in 1812 was the first follow the Oregon Trail, though they did it in reverse. About 10 years later, the Northwest Fur Company merged with the Hudson Bay Company and a hellion with the Company named Peter Skene Ogden was used as a inspector of operations in the far west. He got the position probably to keep him out of the offices because in the past, he had tried to incinerate a campanion for fun, nearly beat a company officer to death and led an entire outpost in a mutiny. Ogden ended up knowing more about the west than anyone except for mountain man Jedediah Smith. Ogden’s explorations made its way to cartographers who made maps that paved the way for settlers to emigrate west over the Oregon Trail. I suppose that Ogden Utah got its name from this rough and nasty man of the west.

Ezra Meeker 1906

So, a bunch of people went west following the Oregon Trail. One was Ezra Meeker who took his family along the trail in 1852 and moved into the Washington Territory. What makes Meeker stand out was in an attempt to keep the history of the trail alive, honor the men who blazed it and work toward improving roads out west.   Ezra Meeker got an ox and wagon and took the trail again, stopping often to give speeches and promote its importance in history. Meeker at the time was 75 years old. It was a tough trip and the ox died, but not Meeker. So enthused with his efforts, he did it again in 1910.

Ezra Meeker and Friend 1910

In 1915 he traveled the route by automobile. And on this date in 1924, Ezra Meeker once again followed the trail that he first set out on 72 years earlier. This time he was 93 years old and this time he made the 1300 mile journey like a bird. He traveled by airplane. At age 98, he attempted to travel the trail by car again with the support of Henry Ford, but he died on December 3, 1928.

Recognize This View From Kindergarten Cop?

Fort Astor is today known as Astoria, Oregon and was the setting for the movie Kindergarten Cop. Meeker had his last oxen team slaughtered and mounted by a taxidermist and can be found today on display, still hooked to the wagon, at the Washington State Historical Society Museum in Tacoma. A commemorative coin was struck in the 1920’s and 30’s to commemorate Meeker and the trail. In the 1980’s, a computer game company put out “The Oregon Trail” game and had a default feature that listed Ezra Meeker in 5th place on the all-time scorer list with a score of 2052. Why they picked that score is a mystery to me.

I’ll tell you what…in the dictionary under “obsession” should be a picture of Ezra Meeker.

Weather Bottom Line:  Our conditions are similar to what you might find in the desert.  The air is so dry that when you add in somes sunshine, even at the lower angle of fall, it heats up rapidly and when you take away the heat source (the sun going down) it cools off pretty rapidly.  So, Saturday and Sunday we will be in the upper 80’s to near 90 in the afternoons but cool off to the low to mid 50’s.  Really, the warm afternoons won’t be that uncomfortable and its likely that you can just keep the windows open and air conditioners off each day.  The same will hold true for Monday though it may be a little more humid as a cold front advances and we get a slight return flow of some moisture.  But, it won’t be sufficient to bring any rain to speak of with the frontal passage on Monday night.  Temperatures will back off though closer to seasonal levels, though maybe still a bit warmer than average, for the balance of the week.  I’ll be on Fox 41 on Sunday night.

When a Sitting US Supreme Court Justice Was Charged With Murder
August 14, 2010

US Supreme Court Justice Had Troubles

US Supreme Court Justice Had Troubles

Sara Althea Hill

Sara Althea Hill

On This Date In History:

 US Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field was arrested for murder on this date in 1889 making him the only member of that body ever arrested for such a crime. The story goes back to a divorce case in which Justice Field ruled that the early 1880’s marriage between Sarah Althea Hill and wealthy mine owner and  US Senator William Sharon was invalid and she therefore was not entitled to any portion of his wealth of his estate following his death in 1885.  The court decision also declared the her new husband, David Terry, was also not entitled to the estate. David Terry was, like Justice Field, a former California Supreme Court justice. The courtroom erupted into a brawl with Terry at one point brandishing a Bowie knife.  Field ordered the couple jailed for contempt. The pair publically announced revenge on the Justice.

About a year later, Field and his bodyguard, US Marshal David Neagle, were riding on a train to San Francisco. Also on the train were Sarah and David Terry.  At a stop in Stockton, California the Terrys spotted Field in the station dining room. David approached Field while Sarah went back to the train. Dave slapped the Justice and Neagle identified himself as an officer, pulled his revolver and told Dave to stop . David Terry started fumbling with his jacket. Neagle fatally shot David Terry as his wife came running up with a satchel holding a loaded gun.  Neagle and Field were arrested on a murder charge.

Ironic End for David Terry

Ironic End for David Terry

Now, I’ve wondered why Field and Neagle would go for their guns so quickly over a slap. I mean, most men would’ve punch him out like John Wayne.  It’s because  Terry had a history of violent behaviour and this was not the first time that Terry had pulled a gun on a public official in the past and fatally used it.   Prior to the Terry pulling a Bowie knife in the 1888 courtroom incident, back in 1856 Judge Terry stabbed a city of San Francisco official (again using a Bowie knife) and then, in 1859,  Terry was arrested for  killing a United States Senator.  Terry had been the Chief Justice of the California Supreme court but  was ousted from the bench following an election loss.  Senator David C Broderick was a colleague of Terry’s in the Democratic party. But, David Terry was a Southerner by birth and was pro-slavery while Broderick was against that institution. Terry had some unkind things to say about the faction in the Democratic party whom he felt had kept him to win election as Chief Justice of the CA Supreme Court. Broderick responded by saying unkind things and the pair ended up in a duel, which the sitting US Senator being gunned down by the former state supreme court justice. Terry was arrested but later released.

Like Terry years before, California’s Governor ordered Field  released from jail but Field’s story proved more interesting. That’s because the case against Neagle ended up…in the US Supreme Court that ruled in a landmark decision that since Neagle was acting under federal authority, he could not be subject to California law. I suppose that is why no one ever asked the Texas justice system to charge the ATF agents with anything in the Waco/ Branch Davidian case several years ago. Field recused himself from the case but the court ruled 6-2 in his favor and it may be the only case in which a sitting Supreme Court Justice was actively involved in a situation that set a legal precedent.

Weather Bottom Line: I think that we may be seeing the first slight hint of the change in season approaching..but don’t shut down your air-conditioner just yet.  First,  a cold front that I expected to come through Saturday night will not do so for about 24 hours but a line of storms ahead of the front should come rumbling through here Saturday evening  or night and there may be some strong storms going on.  I believe that the SPC has us in a slight risk for Severe Thunderstorms on Saturday.  The drier, cooler air lags behind that line though so Sunday will again be hot and there will be scattered storms as the front itself comes through.  On Monday its far enough south that the rain chances abate and we knock about 10 degrees or so off the high and low temperatures.  Here’s where the hint of a season change comes…there is a secondary boundary that looks intersted in coming down our way behind the initial front.  We see that often in the winter time with a front followed closely by an arctic push. This ain’t arctic but it is drier and cooler air.

Trouble is, it’s still summer so the second push really won’t get too far through our area.  The first front will get caught up in the influence of what’s left over from Tropical Depression 5 which went in around New Orleans and will do a loop to the east then south and then along the Gulf Coast before showing up in NW Louisiana and interact with the frontal boundary.  It should help to toss up a bunch of moisture too that will over run the front.  The second push will approach our area and get hung up.  The old boundary and the remnant of TD 5 will move north and the two will merge as a stationary boundary.  What all of this means is that most of the week ahead looks like a week of highs in the upper 80s with a decent chance for scattered showers and t’storms after Monday.  At least we won’t be talking about 100 though…and  my sunflowers need the rain.

Did Billy The Kid Die in 1881 or 1950? Another Folklore Mystery!
July 14, 2010

Billy the Kid: Note the left hand on the rifle

Famous Billy The Kid Photo with Rifle in Right Hand

Famous Billy The Kid Photo

On This Date In History:  Though it was not Friday the 13th, the 14th of July was not too lucky for  William Henry McCarty .  He is thought to have been born around 1860 in New York. It is unknown who is father was. His mother, Catherine McCarty moved to Indiana in the 1860’s and to Wichita Kansas in 1870 where she was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. She moved to the warmer and drier climate of Santa Fe where she married William Antrim. Since there were two people named Billy in the house, she called her son Henry. His mother died in 1874 and his step-father wanted nothing to do with him so he sent him to a foster home where he had to earn his own keep. He wasn’t too keen on washing dishes, so he turned to the dark side.   McCarty  fell in with horse thieves and such and eventually got into a fight with Frank “Windy” Cahill, whom he shot dead. Rather than face murder charges he fled. He teamed up with a man named Jesse Evans and went to Lincoln County, New Mexico and took up with forces pitted against John Henry Tunstall. He changed his name to William H. Bonney and, in an odd turn, Tunstall ended up taking in “the kid” as he thought he was just the product of a troubled life.  Perhaps he gained his most famous moniker from a combination of his first name and an early nickname, “Kid Antrim.”  Billy the Kid ended up killing  Lincoln County, NM Sheriff William Brady and Deputy George Hindman  and became a notorious outlaw.  Some histories say that he killed 21 men during his 21 year life, but no one really knows for certain.   Pat Garrett became sheriff of Lincoln County and at one time was friends with Billy the Kid.  It is known “the kid” was shot in the dark on this date in 1881 by Pat Garrett.    But,  it is said he was shot in the back by Garrett, whom by then I suppose was a former friend. That event didn’t prove too lucky for Garrett either.

The Dapper Pat Garrett

The Dapper Pat Garrett

Garrett wrote a semi-successful book on his nabbing the notorious young outlaw but then failed at just about everything else he did. The public didn’t really embrace his celebrity too much as it was accepted he had shot “the kid” in the back. He ran for office several times for the Senate and various places for sheriff but lost every time. He had become friends with Teddy Roosevelt and in 1901 the President appointed Garrett as customs collector in El Paso. Roosevelt found out that Garrett had associated with some unsavory fellows and did not re-appoint him. Garrett became financially destitute and while working on a real estate deal of sorts, was shot to death…in the back of the head.   The investigation into the death of Pat Garrett has become one of interest to historians because the confessed murderer was not convicted by a jury!

Tracing of Brushy Bill's Features When Compared to the Kid Lend Credence to Bill's Claim

Billy the Kid continues to fascinate not just the American public but also the world.  Numerous movies have been made about him and none seem to be the same.  That’s partly artistic license from Hollywood and also because no one knows the true story.   In most of the movies, they say the kid was “a left hander.”  If you look at the photo on the top left, he has his right hand on the rifle.  Yet,   if you notice the photo of the kid at the top, he has the rifle in his right hand. Most photos have it in reverse which led people to believe that he was left handed.  But, some scholars now say that the more popular photo of him with the gun in his left hand was the negative and that he really was right handed. 

Somehow This Man is Known as Ollie P "Bill" Roberts; Regardless, He Was Known as Brushy Bill

Then there is the conspiracy theory that says the kid wasn’t really killed in 1881; that Pat Garrett, who was known to stretch a tale for self promotion, shot someone else.  The folklore is that a guy named Brushy Bill was really Billy the Kid.  He went by the name of William Henry Roberts and he died in Hico, TX in 1950, though this account of the Billy the Kid conspiracy theory says Brushy Bill went by Ollie P. “Bill” Roberts even though the grave marker says William Henry Roberts.   At least one person has gone to the trouble of doing a careful facial analysis of both Billy the Kid and Brushy Bill and he concludes that the similarities are so great that Brushy Bill’s claim could indeed be true.   So prevalent was the rumor that efforts were made to exhume the body of Brushy Bill to do a DNA test.  In 2007, the exhumation of Brushy Bill  was cancelled with the newspaper folks refering to Brushy Bill as Ollie Roberts.  So, now no one knows a thing for certain except its not wise to follow in the footsteps of Pat Garrett: add avoiding shooting an outlaw in the dark (especially not in the back)  to your list of things to avoid for the day.

Weather Bottom Line:  As we’ve been talking about, a cold front was approaching our area.  I had mentioned that Monday’s big rain chances were off the board and I meant to imply that it was greater for Tuesday…though in looking at the verbiage I fell short.  Anyway, we did get a shortwave wandering through the first part of Tuesday with a relatively small corridor of 1-2 inch rain stretching into northern Jefferson County (KY) which just happened to be over my house and so the sunflowers are happy.  The front may have even moved through a bit as we have a lovely afternoon.   Regardless of whether it did or we simply got the subsidence behind the short for Tuesday afternoon, it ain’t gonna last.  The front goes on the retreat and we will be pretty warm and humid on Wednesday; probably fog in the morning in places that got a goodly amount of rain.  The Thursday gets down right hot and humid in advance of another front.  Between the southerly flow ahead of the front and compressional warming we’ll probably be in the upper 90’s.  That sets the stage for a return to rain chances Friday and Saturday and possibly Sunday, depending on if the front is still in the region.

Pioneer Makes Son’s Corpse Focus of Teachable Moment
May 25, 2010

William Keil

Like Yogi, Keil was Not Your Average Bear

On This Date in History:  William Keil  was an immigrant from Germany and worked as a tailor and a medical practioner.  He had been a Methodist but turned to mysticism.  So, like Yogi, he was not your average bear.  He possessed a very strong personality and fully expressed his religious convictions such that people readily followed his words and actions.  He seems like a pretty educated man, but he was considered something of but a shade north of literate.  Nevertheless, he established a colony at Bethel, Missouri in 1844 and took the reigns as the community’s leader. 

According to this book, Not Everyone Was Happy in the Bethel Colony

The Bethel Colony  was about 45 miles west of Hannibal, MO and mainly consisted of German immigrants and was intended to be a utopian type society.  However, unlike other such experiements such as the one in New Harmony, Indiana, the Bethel Colony was reasonably successful.  Apparently, it was not successful enough to meet Keil’s liking as he felt ever crowded by secular society that continued to flow in from the East.  I suppose he knew how the American Indians must have felt.  So, he sent scouts west almost as far as he could.  The scouts staked out a claim in the Washington Territory and Keil decided that he would lead a part of the colony to a new location. 

Keil as a Young Man. Kinda Scary lookin'?

William Keil promised his son, Willie, that he could have the honor of leading the wagon train.  But, shortly before their departure, the 19-year-old Willie fell victim to malaria.  Willie’s death delayed the planned early May 1855 departure date but it did not derail the entire mission nor did it cause William Keil to break his promise.   Instead,  Keil led the first wagon from the Bethel Colony which included the preserved corpse of his son.  He did not do as a sentimentalist but instead he used his misfortune as what we might refer to as a “teachable moment.”  Keil carried the preserved corpse across the continent to illustrate to his followers the strength of the bond of a man’s word.  He promised Willie that he could lead the wagon train and I suppose that meant dead or alive. 

Marker Near Willie's Grave

 So, on this date in 1855, the bearded, somewhat rotund, Keil let loose a blast from his trumpet to signal the departure from the Bethel Colony with Willie’s coffin in the lead.  But, it was no ordinary coffin.  It was a lead-lined version and was filled with whiskey so as to preserve the body.  Colonists followed and sung funeral hymns.  If they sang all the way to Washington, it must have been the longest funeral cortege in history.  Apparently, they did so for some length of time because the Indians whom they passed along the way left them alone out of respect,  fear or awe, or in a combination of all three.

Band Behind Pioneer Hotel ca. 1877 in Aurora, Oregon

In October 1855, the colonists reached their destination.  But, Keil wasn’t too happy with the location staked out in the Willapa Valley.  He thought that it was totally unsuitable for settlement.    Nevertheless, after a five month journey, Willie finally found his resting place as the long overdue funeral ceremony took place.  Keil was almost out of money but not energy and he led the group into the Oregon Territory.  There they founded the colony of Aurora.  He acheived his objective of establishing a new colony and he kept his promise to his son.   Today, Aurora, Oregon is about 20 miles from Portland and has about 700 residents.

Not Much to Investigate with Invest 90

Invest 90 Spaghetti Model Track Shows Media's Folly

Weather Bottom Line:  To begin with, lets get the Non-Tropical Low off the SE Coast out of the way.  As I said yesterday, all of the hype in the media is way over board and if this were three months from now no one would be covering it or even really making mention.  The Weather Channel has a crew down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina and they talk about 3-5 foot waves and very little beach erosion.  The guy said something about “out bands” of rain, which is nonsense because it’s not a tropical system.  The National Hurricane Center has gone down to just a 10% chance of it developing into a subtropical cyclone, let alone a tropical system.  If you look at the spaghetti models you see that none of them take the system on land anywhere except one that wants to carry it to Europe.  Almost all of them take it east, away from the US.  It’s drifting North Northwest but is expected to turn Northeast and then at least East Northeast.  It’s a non-story except for those who want to drive ratings or to alerty people that the hurricane season is near.  I’ll post the various hurricane forecasts on Thursday.

Friday 8 AM

As for our region…same old thing.  Upper 80’s and a very small chance of isolated afternoon t’storms.  My guess is as we go into the week deeper, there will be a cap developing and that will most likely  diminish the already low prospect of isolated activity.  When you see on TV a 20% chance, that’s the old CYA forecast, just in case.  I do not think that the conditions warrant that high of a percentage.  But, when we get to Friday, a frontal boundary should be here and that will help lift this humid mess and provide a chance for rain and t’storms.  Perhaps elevating chances ahead of it on Thursday night and then carrying into Friday as I suspect this guy will be moving rather slowly by the time it gets here.   Then, for the weekend, it should be closer to seasonal temperatures.

Death Alley Is A Dead End For All But One
March 8, 2010

These Guys Were in For the Big Sleep In Kansas

These Guys Were in For the Big Sleep In Kansas

Youthful Emmet

Youthful Emmet

On This Date in History:

Reformed Emmet

Reformed Emmet

In 1871, Emmet Dalton entered the world in the Oklahoma Territory. I’ve seen his name spelled with two “t’s” in some sources. He had two older brothers. In 1889, brothers Bob and Grat went to California to seek their fortune. The determined the best line of work that they could find was to rob trains. Emmet wanted to come along but they said he was too young. So, while the brothers ran around California looking for trains to rob, Emmet met a girl named Julia Johnson and fell in love. The older brothers returned a few years later and decided Emmet had the maturity to ride with them. Emmet left his girl behind, thinking he had nothing to offer her. He also delivered the tough guy line that sounds like something Pee Wee Herman once said, ” I rode away, an outlaw has no business having a girl, no business thinking about marriage.”

Bob and Grat Don't Look So Good

Bob and Grat Don't Look So Good

So, the three brothers proceeded to wander around Oklahoma and Kansas with some other thugs and they became known as the Dalton Gang. But, their reign of terror really didn’t last too long. On October 5, 1892 the gang got a little greedy and perhaps a little cocky. One bank wasn’t enough. No…they tried to rob two banks at once in the middle of the day in Coffeyville, Kansas. But, like the James Gang in Northfield, Minnesota the Daltons didn’t count on the folks of Coffeyville getting word of the daring raid. They were ready. When Bob and Emmet were gathering $21,000 in booty from one bank in their grain sacks, the people of Coffeyville surrounded the building. When the pair emerged, they found a hail of bullets. They escaped out the back door…so much for being surrounded…and they hooked up with Grat and the others, who had similarly been ambused at the other bank.

Coffeyville The End For Dalton Gang

Coffeyville The End For Dalton Gang

The gang ended up getting herded into what the citizens of the town came to call “death alley.” With no where to go, the desperados were easy targets as the lead was flying. Emmet had gotten on his horse and reached down to try and rescue the wounded Bob. But, Emmet got hit by a shot to the hip and then buckshot to the back. Four of the gangmembers, including Bob and Gath, died but Emmet survived. He was later tried and convicted and was given a life sentence on this date in 1893. But, in the penal system, life does not necessarily mean life. Emmet served 14 years and was released on pardon as a reformed man!

Em Dalton with Tom Mix 1935

Em Dalton with Tom Mix 1935

He got out of prison, married Julia Johnson, whom I figure must not have been much of a catch or her love for Emmet was true because she waited all of that time. I guess robbing banks must be a qualification for business on a resume because Emmet became successful as a real estate agent. Los Angeles was booming in the early part of the 20th century so he and Julia moved there. He picked up extra money as a consultant for Hollywood movies, much like Wyatt Earp had done. Emmet Dalton died in Los Angeles in 1937 at the age of 66.

Pardoned Murderer Receives Justice
February 16, 2010

Famous Photo of John Wesley Hardin

On this date in History:  These days, there are many who are upset with the criminal justice system in that violent offenders get released early or paroled for heinous crimes.  One young man was known to have killed several people.  He had a couple of arrests warrants for murder following him around as he went from state to state before he was apprehended.  However, he escaped from jail.  On his 21st birthday, he got into an altercation with another man who fired a shot at him.  The gunman missed but the birthday boy did not as he shot the man dead.  Afraid of being arrested again, the man fled.  A few years later, the fugitive was finally caught in Florida and brought to trial.  In this case, there was an argument for self defense so when he was sentenced he only received a life term instead of the death penalty.  15 years later, the man was given a pardon.  But, this is not a tale from the 21st Century or even the 20th Century.  No, the criminal justice system has had it’s flaws for a long time because the suspected multiple killer was pardoned on this date in 1894! 

"Gentleman" wanted for killing at least 40 men

John Wesley Hardin has been described by many as the “meanest man in the west.”   It is also said that Hardin was the “archetype of the shootist.” It all began when he was just 15 years old in 1868.  He killed a former slave and became a fugitive from the law.   A couple of years later, he was in Waco Texas when he was arrested for murder.  But, in this case, Hardin didn’t do the deed.  But, he didn’t like his chances with the jury so he escaped.  Of all places, he fled to Abilene, Kansas which was under the charge of the famous lawman Wild Bill Hickok.  As it turns out, Hickok was rather taken in by Hardin so he left him alone.  But, in one of the more famous incidents of the old west, Hardin became so agitated with snoring coming from the hotel room adjacent to his that he fired two shots through the wall.  Yup…he killed a man for snoring.  Well, old John Wesley knew that friendship only went so far and he figured that Wild Bill couldn’t stand for that so he fled before Hickok had a chance to confront him. 

Don't Mess with the Texas Rangers

It was on May 26, 1874 that Hardin celebrated his 21st birthday in Comanche, Texas and shot the man in self defense.  But, it wasn’t just any man.  It was the Brown County deputy sherrif.  And it wasn’t just some flatfoot who tracked him down in Florida.  It was the Texas Rangers who caught him in Pensacola in 1877.  During his 3 year flight, it is thought that Hardin was responsible for the death of 5 other men.  In a very ironic twist, after John Wesley Hardin received his pardon, he turned to the law instead  of running from it.  He became a lawyer.  Perhaps he finally grew up by the age of 41 and decided to follow the lead of his father, who had been a Methodist minister and an attorney.  But a man who is suspected of killing at least 40 men no doubt has a long list of enemies.  Someone finally caught old John Wesley Hardin when he was shot in the back and killed, most likely as revenge for someone he had killed in his short but eventful life.  This account claims that he was shot in the back of the head by a constable who’s son had gotten into an argument with Hardin over a game of dice.

John Wesley Hardin's Life Ended Like His 40 Victims

The tale of John Wesley Hardin now lives in the annals of history but he is not remembered for how he died.  Instead, he is known for those he killed.  It’s not a tall tale but a confusing one.  The outline of the story that I’ve provided is true but the order may be wrong.  This story says that he killed the man for snoring in El Paso, not Abilene, and has other different stories.   This one has many discrepencies though it tells of his killing the former slave but says he was a policeman, Hardin was 18 at the time and that his peace with Hickok was after he drew down on the fast draw marshal.   There are many other stories about Hardin but all of them are the narrative of a serial killer and at the end he gets legally released  from prison.  Perhaps the illustration of John Wesley Hardin is not his list of victims, but instead paints a picture of a criminal justice system that has been flawed for a very long time.

Dreams Can Become a Gusher, But Don’t Call This Plummer
January 9, 2010

Spindletop Viewing Her Gusher

On This Date In History: One man prospered on another man’s given up dream. In Southeast Texas, near the present city of Beaumont, there was a large rise in the otherwise flat landscape. It was known to the locals as Big Hill. It was known for its natural gas that seeped from it. People would have fun striking matches and igniting small, brief infernos. When it rained the puddles would bubble. In 1888, Captain George Washington O’Brien bought up much of the land surrounding and including the hill because he thought there was oil there.

Lucas's Patience Paid Off

Beaumont resident Patillo Higgins went to Pennsylvania to study the oil business there and became convinced that there was oil under the hill, then designated as Spindletop Hill. Higgins was looking for ways to fuel his brick factory and knew that in Pennsylvania that brickmakers used oil. George Washington Carroll believed in Higgins and the two formed a partnership. Higgins and Carroll bought the remaining land around Spindletop and eventually partnered up with O’Brien and JF Lanier to form the Gladys City Oil Company and had dreams of Gladys City becoming a booming industrial town.

By 1903, Spindletop Hill Disappeared

To make a long story short, Gladys Oil didn’t find oil and they gave up, signing a lease-sell agreement with Anthony F. Lucas. After two years of failure, on this date in 1901, Spindletop blew. After spewing all of the drillpipe and mud skyward, a 6 inch wide stream of oil flowed 200 feet in the air. There had never been a gusher like that before and it took them 9 days to cap it. The 800,000 barrels of oil formed a lake of oil…I don’t remember how many acres wide it was or how many feet deep. And remember, a barrel of oil is 30 some-odd gallons. Beaumont tripled its population in 3 months and the modern oil business took off. Exxon, Texaco, Chevron and Mobil all have their roots in Spindletop. On that date America’s annual oil output was 64 million barrels a day. By 1909, because of Spindletop, it was near 200 million per day.  Today, some call Spindletop the Boom the Shook the World.

Lucas died in 1921, but his legacy lives on.  The Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal was established in 1936 “to recognize distinguished achievements in improving the technique and practice of finding and producing petroleum.”   Not only is Lucas credited by some as being most responsible for changing civilization, he also invented many tools and methods that are still used in petroleum exploration and recovery today.

O’Brien, Carrol, Higgins and the rest gave up on their dream. Don’t you make the same mistake.

These Guys Caught the Plummer!

These Guys Caught the Plummer!

Don’t Hang with this Plummer: Cyrus Skinner was released from San Quentin Prison in California for the first time on August 18, 1853. Skinner isn’t a well known desperado from the old west but he certainly was notorious.

Plummer Had More Hair on his Chin than I have on my head

Plummer Had More Hair on his Chin than I have on my head

He grew up in Ohio and began robbing people at an early age. He moved to California with the Gold Rush in 1850 where he continued his robbing ways. He was caught and went to San Quentin. After he got out on this date in 1853, he started robbing again and got caught and sent back again. This time he escaped, started robbing and was caught again and sentenced to 15 years in San Quentin. This time, he met up with a guy named Henry Plummer. Plummer was released and Skinner escaped again in 1860 and this time went to Idaho to meet up with Plummer.

Bannack 1881

Bannack 1881

Now, Plummer had actually been a sheriff in Nevada City, CA. But, he was having an affair with a miner’s wife and when confronted by the miner, Plummer shot him dead in a duel. Plummer was sent to prison where he met Skinner. Plummer got out due to tuberculosis or due to people asking for a pardon, depending on the source you believe. Anyway, when Plummer got out, he

Plummer's Gallows Today, Rebuilt Following Vandalism...maybe it was Plummer's Ghost!

Plummer's Gallows Today, Rebuilt Following Vandalism...maybe it was Plummer's Ghost!

turned to the other side of the law and he formed a road gang that robbed and murdered about 100 people in Idaho and Montana. When Plummer arrived in Bannack, Montana he killed the one man in town that was aware of his hoodlum past. Henry must have been quite the smooth talker because, not only was he acquitted of the murder, the town went and elected him Sherrif. By day he enforced the law and by night, he and his gang robbed and killed people at will. The gang became known as the Innocents because their not so secret password was “I am innocent.” Skinner was part of that group and was said to have been one of the worst offenders, killing people for no reason. The town folk got tired of it all and formed a vigilante group that one by one, rounded up the bad guys, held street trials and hung them. During this process, one of the bad guys ratted out Plummer.

The evidence mounted and the town vigilantes went after their two-timing sherrif and they eventually captured Plummer and two of his henchmen. With the winds howling on a bitter cold winter day, on this date in 1864, Plummer got hung on a gallows. The builder of the gallows that brought an end to Henry Plummer was none other than Henry Plummer himself. When confronted, Skinner tried to avoid the noose by running away, hoping to get shot….but the vigilante’s wouldn’t oblige. Nope, they caught him alive and then they hung him. It’s good for a rampaging vigilante mob to have principals. I suppose the lesson here is to not follow in the footsteps of a Plummer! Certainly not this one, whom you can read more about here.

NAM 00Z Tue Relative Vorticity

US Snow Depth Jan 9 2010

Weather Bottom Line:  It’s Saturday and light snow continues to fall.  I was amazed that after the sun went down we still had persistent flurry activity with intermittent light snowfall on Friday night.  Now, the clouds are hanging tough….but, I”m tellin’ ya..if the clouds break in time late Saturday night, then we fall to near zero.  Most models do not show this and have us in the low teens.  But, the GFS now suddenly takes us to the low single digits prior to sunrise on Sunday.  That would be a result of that particular model showing the clouds breaking.  We’ll see.  Now, the longwave pattern is going to change and we will come out of the deep freeze.  But, there will be one final assault.  Not big, but still interesting.  Rolling down the eastern flank of the ridge will be a shortwave.  That will approach us on Monday afternoon into Monday night.  It will bring another round of snow.  The GFS isn’t so bullish on snow amounts but does have several hours of duration of light snow or flurries.  The NAM wants to toss out something like 3/4″ of an inch.  This feature will also hold off the warm up.  I’ve seen some public forecasts of highs above freezing on Monday with the idea being that there will be a surge of warmer air ahead of the approaching shortwave trof.  I don’t buy it.  Maybe Tuesday afternoon in the wake of the vorticity maxima we get above freezing. If not, it will be Wednesday.    We get back to closer to seasonal averages for the rest of the week and then next Sunday, there is a potential interesting scenario unfolding, but the solutions are in flux so at this  point nothing concrete can be determined. 

On January 9, 2010, 62.7 percent of the lower 48 is covered by snow with an average depth of 6.3 inches (National Snow Depth).  The analytical output claims there is a maximum of over 900 inch snow depth some place, but I cannot locate that spot.  I question the veracity of the claim.

Gun Control Advocates Snubbed Forever as US Government Arms the Nation
January 4, 2010

Nuns with Guns Ready to Defend Nation...Imagine What They Could do With Handguns

Nuns with Guns Ready to Defend Nation...Imagine What They Could do With Handguns

Colt Worth $15 million in 1862 at death at age 47

Colt Worth $15 million in 1862 at death at age 47

On This Date In History: On this date in 1847, the Federal Government more or less began the arming of America with handguns. Not directly or on purpose, mind you, but it had the same affect. Samuel Colt had invented his revolver in 1836, but he had no money. Except for dueling, handguns

Colt 1847 Dragoon Revolver

Colt 1847 Dragoon Revolver

were not that practical up to that time due to inaccuracy and also the fact you had to reload everytime you shot. Most pioneers preferred big knives like the Bowie Knife for close in action. Colt’s revolver solved that problem. They had a rifled barrel for accuracy and the repeating percussion caps provided for several shots with cartridges making it simple to reload quickly. But, Colt had no money and his guns were very expensive….too expensive for most Americans. But on January 4, 1847 Sam got a contract from the US Army for 1000 revolvers. That gave him cash. The army liked it so much that they ordered more..that gave him more cash. He then teamed up with Eli Whitney to more efficiently mass produce the weapons and suddenly the prices fell and everyone could afford them. Naturally his business grew and between 1850 and 1860, Colt sold nearly 270,000 weapons of various types. There was a saying after the Civil War that went something like this: “Abe Lincoln may have freed all men but Sam Colt made them equal.”

Chuck Heston Knew How to Handle His Gun

Today, gun control advocates point to the millions of handguns in America as reason for controlling their sale.   Others say that people need them for self defense and many states even have right to carry laws.   Some say the proliferation of guns as the cause of an increase in violent crime whereas others point to data that suggests handguns in the population has actually resulted in a decrease in crime.  It’s not a new debate as communities attempted to control handguns back in the late 19th century in the western United States when visitors in a city limits had to surrender their 6 killers to the sheriff until they left town.  That is a little different than preventing ownership or confiscating their guns.  But, it was a form of gun control.  Not sure how Chuck Heston would have liked that rule.  

Jeremiah Johnson Would Be Tough For Any Invading Foe

Jeremiah Johnson Would Be Tough For Any Invading Foe

I won’t deal with that debate, but I will say that a college friend of mine once opined this…that is that the United States could never be conquered by an outside foe because it is the only country in history that has a generally armed population. I think he has a point there. Now, whether or not an outside invasion is ever likely or will ever be an issue is another topic, though one might say that it would never be an issue or be likely because everyone is armed. I mean, can you imagine any invading army trying to get to the boys in the mountains of Tennessee or West Virginia? How about the Cajuns in South Louisiana? The mountain men in the Rockies would be no easy task and I can tell you, the state of Texas would be the largest armed camp known to man. Nevertheless, it is what it is and on this date in 1847, the US Government was largely responsible for the proliferation of handguns across America….whether Uncle Sam knew it or not.

GFS Bullish for Snow Thursday

Weather Bottom Line:  Here’s the bottom line with the weather.  It’s going to be cold for the forseeable future. I doubt that we get above freezing for another two weeks.  I see on tv that a certain cable channel is claiming a high of 34 for Wednesday but I don’t quite get it.  Well, I do know what they are up to in that we have a very strong bowling ball of an upper low tumbling down from the northwest and what they want to do is move the temperatures up just above freezing advance.  Yes, temperatures will rise but I doubt if it will get above 30 0r 31.  But so what?  If we do get above freezing it will be for about an hour or two because when this guy comes through, it will bring us our best chance for snow of the year for Thursday  and  Thursday night….maybe some leftover flurries or snow showers on Friday….then we go back into the deep freeze. 

The GFS that I have posted above is claiming about 4 inches for the 12 hours ending at about 10pm on Thursday night.  That is not unreasonbable to expect, though at this point the GFS seems the most bullish.  But, the ECMWF and the Canadian models both have a fair amount of moisture right over the top of us and we certainly have plenty of cold air. That’s why I say its the best chance for snow this season.  Now, we do have a slight chance of a little somethin-somethin Monday night into Tuesday but the far better opportunity is later in the week.  The real story is that the cold will continue…no global warming around here for a few weeks at least.  Good thing that global natural gas prices are about 1/3 what they were about 18 months ago.  Now I just hope that my heater doesn’t fail like it did last year when it was below zero.

Man Marries a Cartoon, Groom Tweets From Alter, Physicists Make World’s Smallest Snowman-Are we Doomed?
December 5, 2009

Guess it was a slow day at the National Physical Laboratory in West London

Science has brought so many advancements to human life.  One would think that today’s researchers are working to solve problems of over-population, hunger, disease and even global warming; and they probably are.  But these physicists found time to create the world’s smallest snowman.  I’m not sure what they were trying to prove, what they were supposed to be doing or if they were just fooling around.  But, I’m sure those who are funding their work might like to know.

True Love Tweeter or Just A Twit

Was that stupid?  I dunno…they were probably working on some other project and the snowman building was showing what they could manipulate on a small scale.  But, I think that the story of the groom tweeting from the alter is pretty far out in left field.  The guy interrupted the minister so that he could take out his phone.  He kept himself out of the early doghouse by handing a second phone to his bride.  But still…tweeting and going on facebook when you are before the eyes of God making your devotional pledge?  How romantic.

SAL9000 Shows Off His Bride

Bride

Speaking of romance and technology…this guy in Japan married a computer generated character from a popular video game.  The groom was some guy who calls himself SAL9000 says he fell in love with Nintendo DS “Love Plus” character Nene Anegasaki after he apparently had failed flings with other computer generated characters.  The ceremony was broadcast live over the web.  Darn…I missed it.

Funny Elf

And finally, the kids could have stood to miss this.  Seems a man dressed up as an Elf told Santa that one of his bag of Christmas presents was filled with dynamite.  William C. Caldwell, III is a slight man of just about 5 feet tall and got in line to visit Santa at a shopping mall dressed up as an elf.   The 45-year-old Caldwell had a surprise for Santa, though I’m not sure if he sat on Santa’s lap to whisper it in his ear.  But, when he got to the front of the line, he twice told Santa that he had dynamite in his bag.  Turns out it was a hoax.  Funny guy.  He’s in jail.
wash-your-hands-of-it-mockup2

Jarbidge Victim Not So Lucky

Jarbidge Victim Not So Lucky

On This Date in History: Jarbidge, Nevada is in the northwest quandrant of Nevada in a pretty out-of-the way place along the Idaho border. It had a population of nearly 1200 in 1911 but mining operations ceased in the area by 1932. The town population has dwindled to around 20. While it has people and the post office is still open 5 days a week, it either is or has a ghost town…not sure if the ghosts are counted among the 20 or not. I”m also not certain if it was supposed to be JarbRidge but someone stole the “r”.

Anyway, on this date in 1916 it was a rather cold and brisk day in Jarbidge, which is not too surprising given its location and its reputation as a town that collects lots of snow. The postmaster grew concerned because the mail stage was 3 hours late. Remember, the automobile had not been around for very long and in difficult terrain, a horse was a much better mode of transportation. So, a search party went out and found the empty stagecoach at 11PM. They also found the driver with a fatal bullet wound. Nearby lay a bloodstained overcoat.

On The Case in 1916?

On The Case in 1916?

Kuhl Got Out of Jail Free

Kuhl Got Out of Jail Free

I’m not sure if the detective on the case was Columbo but they certainly seemed to solve the crime before the closing commercial because authorities went straight to Ben Kuhl who was known thereabouts as a drifter. People in the town knew that Kuhl had been seen in a similar overcoat. In Kuhl’s tent, they found a pistol. Another key piece of evidence was an envelope that was picked up near the coach. The envelope had a bloody palm print. Now, police work was starting to line up with science around that time (Remember Hec Ramsey?) and so they made an impression of Kuhl’s palm print and it was identical to the one found on the envelope. The sherrif also arrested 3 other men known to have run with Kuhl. It’s a long story (here’s a version) but they released one guy and another got off for agreeing to testify against the other two. One of the men was given a life sentence but he only served a little more than 6 years before being paroled. In Kuhl’s case, the jury took but two hours to determine a conviction of murder in the first degree. His sentence was death. He chose a firing squad over a hanging but neither was necessary. After numerous appeals, his sentence was commuted to life. But, he too was paroled, but his trek to freedom took longer as he got out in a little less than 28 years. Ben Kuhl died a year later of tuberculosis.

Ramsey Was CSI before CSI

Ramsey Was CSI before CSI

This marked the first time that a palm print was admitted as evidence in the case. It also marked the last time that a stage coach was ever robbed. The jury bought the latest in technology relating to crime-scene evidence and Kuhl was convicted. But, of the $3000 taken in the robbery, only $182 was recovered. Maybe the ghosts of Jarbidge spent the rest. Or maybe, the guy that they released spent it all. But the man responsible for putting Kuhl behind bars in the first place was also the man who set him free. See, the prosecutor at Kuhl’s trial was a man named Ted Carville….the very same Governor Carville who paroled Kuhl on April 16, 1943.

On a side note, in the trial of the man who only served 6 years, Carville asked the press not to report the trial, in fear that it would taint the jury in Kuhl’s trial. The press obliged. Think that would happen today? Do you think that two men who were convicted of being an accesory to murder would get paroled 6 years and 28 years later?

Weather Bottom Line:  Forecast remains on track….while GFS is backing off midweek snow stuff…others still insist on it.  The key factor will be whether or not the low tracks to our west or to the east.  Have to wait and see.  A few folks might see 40 on Saturday.  Sunday everyone gets to the low 40’s.  Plenty of sunshine each day.   Monday’s system could bring some insignificant snow but really nothing too exciting.  We’ll look at it closer through the weekend.  Main point is that its not warming up any time soon…probably below seasonal average 49 for at least the next week.