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   Chapter 6 No.6

Peck's Bad Boy with the Cowboys By George W. Peck Characters: 11034

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03

Pa Plays Surgeon and Earns the Good Will of the Bandits-They Give Him a Course Dinner-Speeches Follow the Banquet-Pa is Made Honorary Member of the Band-Pa and the Bad Boy Allowed to Go Free Without Ransom.

We had the worst and the best two weeks of our lives while prisoners of the train robbers at the Hole-in-the-Wall, because we had plenty to eat, and good company, with hunting for game in the foothills by day, and cinch at night, but the sleeping on the rocks of the cave, with buffalo robes for beds, was the greatest of all. Pa got younger every day, but he yearned to be released and would look for hours down the dinosaurus valley, hoping to see soldiers or circus men who might hear of our capture, charging down the opposite hills and up the valley to our rescue, but nobody ever came, and Pa felt like Robinson Crusoe on the island.

Some times for a couple of days the robbers would go away to rob a train or a stage coach, and leave us with a few guards, who acted as though they wanted us to try to escape, so they could shoot us in the back, but we stayed, and fried bacon and elk meat and sighed for rescue.

One day the robbers came back from a raid with piles of greenbacks as big as a bale of hay, and it was evident they had robbed a train and been resisted, because one man had a bullet in his thigh, and Pa had to use his knowledge of surgery to dig out the shot, and he made a big bluff at being a surgeon, and succeeded in getting the balls out and healing up the sores, so the bandits thought Pa was great. When he insisted that the leader let him know how much it would be to ransom us, so we could send to the circus for money, the leader told Pa he had been such a decent prisoner, and had been such good company, and had been such a help in digging the bullets out of the wounded, that the gang was going to let us go free, without taking a cent from us, but was going to consider us honorary members of the gang and divide the money they had secured in the last hold-up with us.

{Illustration: One Day the Robbers Came Back from a Raid with Piles of Greenbacks.}

Pa said he wanted his liberty, thanked the leader for his kind words, but he said there was a strong feeling in the east against truly good people like himself taking tainted money, and while he would not want to make a comparison between the methods men adopt to secure tainted money, in business or highway robbery, he hoped the gang to which he had been elected an honorary member would not insist on his carrying away any of the tainted money.

"You are all right in theory, old man," said the leader of the gang, "but this money which might have been tainted when it was chipped by express from Wall street to the far west, has been purified by passing through our hands, where it has been carried over mountain ranges on pack horses, in blizzards, till every tainted germ has been blown away. Now, we propose to give you a banquet to-morrow night, at which we shall all make speeches, and then you will be provided with horses, supplies and money, and guided away from here blindfolded, and within 48 hours you will be free as the birds, and all we ask is that you will never give us and our hiding place away to Billy Pinkerton. Is it a go?"

Pa said it was a go all right except taking the tainted money, but he would think it over, and dream over it, and maybe take his share of the swag, but he wanted to be allowed to return it if, after calling a meeting of his board of directors, they should refuse to receive the tainted money. Pa added that the board of directors of a circus might not be as particular as a church or college, and he thought he could assure the gang that the money would not come back to bother them.

The leader of the gang said that would be all right, and for pa and I and the boys to begin to pack up and get ready to return to civilization and all its wickedness. We worked all day and played cinch for hundred dollar bills all the evening, and the next day arranged for the banquet.

When night came, and the pine knots were lit in the cave, about 15 bandits and Pa and I sat down to a course banquet on the floor of the cave, and ate and drank for an hour. We had few dishes, except tin cups and tin plates, but it was a banquet all right. The first course was soup, served in cans, each man having a can of soup with a hole in the top, made by driving a nail through the tin, and we sucked the soup through the hole. The next course was fish, each man having a can of sardines, and we ate them with hard tack. Then we had a game course, consisting of fried elk, and then a salad of canned baked beans, and coffee with condensed milk, and a spoonful or two of condensed milk for ice cream. When the banquet was over the leader of the bandits rapped on the stone floor of the cave with the butt of his revolver for attention, and taking a canteen of whisky for a loving cup, he drank to the health of their distinguished guest, and passed it around, so all might drink, and then he spoke as follows:

"Fellow Highway Robbers: We have with us to-night one who comes from the outside world, with all its wickedness, this old man, simple as a child, and yet foxy as the world goes, this easy mark who is told that the dinosaurus still exists, and believes it, and comes to this valley to find it. If some one told him that Adam and Eve were still alive, and running a stock ranch up in the Big Horn basin, he would believe it, and if it came to him as a secret t

hat Solomon in all his glory was placer mining in a distant valley over the mountains, he would rush off to engage Solomon to drive a chariot next year in his show. Such an ability to absorb things that are not so, in a world where all men are suspicious of each other, should be encouraged. This old man comes to our quiet valley, where all is peace, and where we are honest, fresh from the wicked world, where grafting is a science respected by many, and where the bank robber who gets above a million is seldom convicted and always respected, while we, who only occasionally meet a train with a red light and pass the plate, and take up a slight collection, are looked upon as men who would commit a crime. Why, gentlemen, our profession is more respectable than that of the man who is appointed administrator of the estate of his dead friend, and who blows in the money and lets the widow and orphan go to the poorhouse, or the officer of a savings bank who borrows the money of the poor and when they hear that he is flying high demand their money, and he closes the bank, and eventually pays seven cents on the dollar, and is looked upon as a great financier. It has been a pleasure to us to have this kindly old man visit us, and by his example of the Golden Rule, to do to others as you would be done by, make us contented with our lot. We are not the kind of business men who try to ruin the business of competitors by poisoning their wells, or freezing them out of business. If any other train robbers want to do business in our territory, they have the same rights that we have, and the world is big enough for all to ply their trade. Now I am going to call upon our friend, Buckskin Bill, my associate in crime, who was wounded by a misdirected load of buckshot in our latest raid, which buckshot were so ably removed from his person by our distinguished friend who is so soon to leave us, and the leader again passed the loving cup and gave way to Buckskin Bill, who said:

{Illustration: Dad among the cowboys.}

"Pals-I do not know if you have ever suspected that before I joined this bunch I was steeped in crime, but I must confess to you that I was a Chicago alderman for one term, during the passage of the gas franchise and the traction deal, but I trust I have reformed, because I have led a different life all these years, I like this free life of the mountains, where what you get in a hold-up is yours, and you do not have to divide with politicians, and if you refuse to divide they squeal on you, and you see the guide board pointing to Joliet. I would not go back to the wicked life of an alderman, to make a dishonest living by holding up bills until the agent came around and gave me an envelope, but I do want to hear from my old pals in the common council, and I would ask our corpulent friend, who so ably picked the buckshot out of my remains, when he passes through Chicago to go to the council chamber and give my benediction to my colleagues, and ask them to repent before it is too late, and come west and go into legitimate robbery, far away from the sleuths who are constantly on their trails. While the lamp continues to burn the vilest alderman may buy a ticket to the free and healthy west, and we will give him a welcome. Old man, shake," and Buckskin Bill shook pa's hand and sat down on his knees, because his wounds were not healed.

The leader of the gang then called upon Pa for a few remarks, and Pa said: "Gentlemen, you have done me great honor to make me an honorary member of your organization, and I shall go away from here with a feeling that you are the highest type of robbers, men that it is a pleasure to know, and that you are not to be mentioned in the same category of the wicked men who rob the poor right and left, in what we consider civilization in the east. You only take toll from the great corporations who have plenty, and your robberies do not bring sorrow and sadness to the poor and hungry. No matter what inducements may be held out to me in the future, to join the life insurance robbers, the political robbers, the great corporations that wring the last dollar from their victims, I shall always remember, in declining such overtures, that I am an honorary member of this organization of honest, straightforward, conscientious hold-up men, who would rob only the rich and divide with the poor, and I hope some day, if our country goes to the dogs, so a respectable man cannot hold office, or do business on the square, to come back here and become one of you in fact, and work the game to the limit. If you find you cannot make it pay out here, come east and I will give you the three-card monte and the shell game concession with our show next summer, where you can make a good living out of the jays that patronize us, and always have a little money left when we get through with them, which it is a shame for them to be allowed to carry home after the evening performance. I thank you, gentlemen."

{Illustration: The Robbers Guided Us In the Dark Through the Valley.}

Then the loving cup was passed, we saddled our horses and the robbers guided us in the dark through the valley, and out towards the railroad, pa's saddlebags filled with the tainted money. At daylight the next morning, when the guides left us, Pa took a big roll of bills out of his saddlebags and opened it and, by gosh, if it wasn't a lot of old confederate money that wasn't worth a cent. Pa used some words that made me sick, and then I cried. So did pa.

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