Benjamin Bickerstaff: bad to the bone

 

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Benjamin F. Bickerstaff,

better known as “Ben,”

got his start in Sulphur Springs in the Lone Star State.

When the Civil War commenced,

Ben’s kind were incensed

ta’ find out killin’ was their fate.

With well-trained guerrillas

Ben killed the blue-coat fella’s,

an’ found he didn’t mind at all.

So come the end of the war,

with a chance ta’ be poor,

he chose instead ta’ be an outlaw.

He went back ta’ Sulphur Springs

ta’ do his dirty things,

cuz’ he reckoned local folk would protect him.

They were rebel sympathizers,

blue-belly despisers,

an’ would never back a Yankee on a whim.

When Ben met a freed slave

he sent him ta’ the grave,

an’ cared not a bit who knew the fact.

He rounded up near twenty men

ta’ raid supply depots of the Union:

no wish ta’ defend… he chose ta’ attack.

In fair weather or muck an’ mud

they’d steal the wares an’ spill the blood:

they were an itch the Yankees couldn’t scratch.

Losses put the Yanks out of sorts,

so they built-up several forts,

with three full companies ta’ help with the catch.

The local folk stayed mum,

or simply acted dumb,

many were convinced Ben was a hero.

They thought he fought a cause,

an’ gave him their applause,

until they found out Ben was just a zero.

When Yankee pickin’s got harder

he considered himself smarter,

an’ took his gang ta’ the town of Alvarado.

He figured that the bounty

taken from a different county

would not cause local favoritism ta’ go.

He didn’t take into account

when they charged in on their mounts

that the folks in Alvarado had a say.

The citizens were warned,

an’ they came out fully armed,

an’ several rebels bit the dust that day.

He had conned the local folk,

since his “cause” was just a joke,

he had always been in it strictly for the money.

But the locals came out smilin’

when Bickerstaff’s riff-raff were dyin’:

somethin’ they were told sounded funny.

Ben’s criminal prank

was met point-blank,

the blast nearly took off his head.

Double-ought buck ta’ the face

ended Ben’s life in disgrace,

an’ the locals were glad he was dead.

 

© JW Thomas

 

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Kate Bender and her felonious family: America’s first serial killers

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The “Bloody Benders” were a hell of a family

They spent part of their lives on a killing spree

Sister Kate the attraction

With victims a distraction

A cold-blooded flirting; but their death not a fantasy

 

Pa “Bill” was the head of this fiendish clan

By all accounts he was a mountain of a man

Fathered John, a dumb son

Yet both killed for fun

And a means to prosper in their adopted new land

 

Eleven travelers at their Kansas inn waylaid

Hammer to skulls and slit throats was how the corpses were made

Then stripped and robbed in the cellar

By accomplice kin of the killer

And buried in Ma’s garden where they finally stayed

 

A percentage who care for this sort of bloody history

Prefer to keep the Bender’s fates shrouded in mystery

Cuz’ justice wasn’t served by the courts

All we have are three reports

Of vigilante justice by the vengeful hands of a posse

 

Colonel York was the brother of the Bender’s last kill

He swore that he would see all Bender’s sent to hell

A much deserved fate

They even burned Kate

So say posse members who threw their bodies down a well

 

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Jack Helm: a lawless lawman

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Jack Helm was a racist S.O.B.

Who wore the grey and favored slavery.

He even did wrong

Over a Yankee song

That a black man whistled with bravery.

 

And when there was no Civil War,

You could find him with a star that he bore

In the great state of Texas

Where he hated the Mex’s,

And everyone else that’s for sure.

 

Helm got caught-up in the Sutton-Taylor feud;

The type of duty that befit his evil mood.

A prime instigator,

He was head regulator,

And the days he didn’t kill he’d sulk and brood.

 

His body count raised his reputation.

The Governor even gave him a new station.

But when deeds come to light

Causing citizen’s fright,

He’s sent back to DeWitt for the duration.

 

John Wesley Hardin was one of Helm’s foes:

A kin to the Taylor’s, or so the story goes.

Several times they met,

Their back-ups vented and wet,

Yet Hardin and Helm escaped the death throes.

 

But in eighteen-seventy-three, in the month of July,

The two evil rivals would have one more try.

Helm came from the rear,

Hardin turned with a sneer,

To blast Helm with buckshot: his day to die.

 

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Outlaw Dick Fellows has no horse sense

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They say “there’s no accountin’ fer’ taste.”

Perhaps it’s the same fer’ brains.

Like choosin’ a horse bearin’ criminal path

while unable ta’ control the reigns.

Dick Fellows was just such a fool,

though others would claim he was wiley.

Yet the mistakes he had made were of such a low grade

he would admit them quite rare, an’ then only shyly.

Assault an’ a robbery had bought him some time,

an’ the place he was sent was San Quentin.

Though the time that he got was cut rather short

on account of the faith he was hintin’.

He acted quiet pious, an’ bowed ta’ his knees,

then quoted a verse here an’ there.

A jailhouse conversion of the first magnitude,

with a personal testimony ta’ share.

Well, Governor Booth got wind of the change,

“let’s cut that poor Fellows some slack.”

So they unlocked the shackles an’ set Fellows free,

but the guards, they knew he’d be back.

He weren’t much of a worker, but wished ta’ be rich,

so to crime once more he did turn.

Yet ta’ rob a stagecoach he needed a horse,

but horses caused his innards ta’ churn.

Fellows went ta’ the livery ta’ rent a cayuse,

then sought a Wells Fargo stage he did fancy.

But on the way ta’ the hold-up, the ridden got wind of the rider,

an’ the spirited horse became antsy.

It bucked an’ it reared an’ threw Fellows down,

then ran off back ta’ the livery.

The timing now off, the first got away,

he switched targets fer’ the second delivery.

The Bakersfield stage he got ta’ hold-up,

then realized he forgot vital tools.

He could not break the locks so he carried the box.

How foolish ta’ forget all the rules.

The second horse then took off like the first,

leavin’ Fellows ta’ hump his own load.

But he’d gone this far, so carry he would,

just hopin’ he’d got him some gold.

So he shouldered the box, an’ walked in the dark,

then took a near twenty foot fall.

Down the number five tunnel of the Southern Pacific,

where he broke his leg an’ wanted ta’ bawl.

He drug himself ta’ a Chinaman’s tent,

an’ he found an axe ta’ steal.

Made himself a crutch, then chopped open the box,

“Eighteen-hundred, my God, what a deal!”

He then limped along ta’ the Fountain Ranch,

where he stole himself a new horse.

Then made his way ta’ an abandoned shack,

where he was arrested by detectives, of course.

Fer’ the crime he committed the verdict came down,

eight long years he must do.

Though the very next day Fellows could not be found,

a tunnel in the floor he went thru.

He stole one more horse, but had similar luck,

the law caught him before he could run.

Shipped him straight ta’ San Quentin, the guards had been right,

he was back there under the gun.

He was freed in five years, instead of the eight,

but quickly forewent honest means.

So he held-up a stage an’ got clean away,

but with only ten dollars in his jeans.

Well, he tried it again, but it was worse than before,

the cash box contained a mere letter.

Then the third attempt, after waitin’ some time,

had a similar outcome, not better.

Less than a year from the time of his release

back behind bars he did go.

He was sentenced ta’ life, at Folsom this time,

yet he escaped once more, don’t ya’ know:

though he hadn’t learned nothin’ in all his attempts,

as he mounted an’ grabbed up the reigns.

The horse bucked him off, the lawmen did scoff,

cuz’ once more the horse showed all the brains.

© JW Thomas

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Alferd Packer the cannibal tracker

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Alferd Packer, aka Alfred,

alias John Schwartze,

earned his claim ta’ infamy

as a mountain guide ta’ greenhorns.

Born in Colorado,

with only a smidge of education,

he grew up rude an’ crude,

an’ all humanity he did scorn.

At first he tried prospectin’,

he survived by eatin’ game,

but skills fer’ findin’ precious metal

had never lived within his brain.

He was good at drinkin’ courage,

he could talk down tenderfeet,

but when push came ta’ shove

he would crack under the strain.

In the early eighteen-seventies,

a miner struck it rich,

which brought a heap a’ dreamers

ta’ the mountains of Utah.

Yet most who came ta’ prospect

were as poor as Packer at it,

they all dreamed of bein’ Big Chiefs,

but they labored like a squaw.

In the Fall of seventy-three

Packer changed his way of thinkin’,

instead of scratchin’ dirt

he would snatch from those who would.

He conned nineteen Eastern lillies

into acceptin’ him as guide,

an’ they set out in a Winter,

at a time when no one should.

It was record breakin’ cold,

an’ the game it went ta’ ground,

so all these would-be miners had

was carried on their backs.

The days turned into weeks,

an’ the weeks they took their toll,

an’ Packer could not perform

like the lies he told in shacks.

When the food ran out the party barked,

an’ Packer acted squirrely;

he was lost, an’ he knew it,

but he wanted his commission.

A stroke of luck while trekking long,

to a friendly tribe they came;

so with a full belly Packer thought

he’d go back ta’ his ambition.

Chief Ouray, with wisdom wrought

from survivin’ many winters,

told the men ta’ turn back now,

or you’ll not survive til Spring.

The prospectin’ party had a parlay,

an’ ten did see the wisdom;

what good is silver, or of gold,

if ta’ life they couldn’t cling?

A loud-mouthed braggert, Packer was,

he mocked the ten fer’ quittin’,

but all he really cared about

was the money he would lose.

Salt Lake City was not an option,

Packer knew he could not go back;

back there his debts were high an’ wide,

an’ this grubstake was all he could use.

So off they tredged within the storm,

ta’ find within a few weeks,

the very same dire consequence

that had made them desparate before.

Then bickerin’ became the norm,

the party it split again,

to the Los Pinos Indian Agency:

the number ta’ go would be four.

The weather was bad,

the directions not good,

only two men ended up where they should:

an’ that’s after days in the blizzard.

They were gaunt, they were stringy,

they looked like Death come a walkin’,

an’ both were so hungry

 they’d be happy ta’ eat a lizzard.

Though as bad as it was

it coulda’ been worse,

they coulda’ remained with Packer,

like Swan, Humphreys, Noon, Miller, an’ Bell.

Off in the frozen beyond,

in an’ abandoned trapper’s cabin,

they ate their last meal

an’ laid down ta’ fight the chill.

From nineteen men ta’ five,

Packer saw his profit dwindlin’,

so he swore it was the end,

an’ took action ta’ see it thru.

Single-shots ta’ the heads

of all but Miller,

who awoke from the sounds

an’ arose fer’ a fight.

But alas, he was weak

an’ disoriented,

an’ Packer caved in his skull:

a ghastly sight.

Then thru the pockets

an’ packs he did go,

no food did they have,

just thousands in cash.

Yet that wouldn’t do,

he quickly surmised,

an’ the obvious

came in a flash.

With knife in hand

he cut an’ he sliced,

an’ filled his pack

with meat from the men.

A matter of taste,

man breast was his liking;

he judged it quite good,

as he swallowed his sin.

Though at civilization’s door

he would toss the remainder away,

an’ play the last survivor role

fer’ at least a country minute.

He then spent freely

from what he stole,

an’ the wise began ta’ wonder,

an’ Packer knew he stuck his foot in it.

But the biggest ‘damn’ was yet ta’ come,

indians found them on the way in:

the human jerky he tossed away

this time came ta’ bite him.

The jig was up,

his lies unfold,

he would show the law

where the story turned grim.

Yet even then he tried ta’ lie,

ta’ claim it was self-defense;

but with four in bed, with shots ta’ head,

it easily broke that spell.

We’ll take ya’ back an’ do it right

the law dogs quoted sternly,

but these five souls will never rest

til yer’ shit deep in hell.

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© JW Thomas

Hang the Archer Gang

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The Archer Gang was a set of four brothers,

Who took after the Reno’s and a slew of others.

Their reign of crime

Spanned decades of time

And they share the blame with moral-less fathers and mothers.

 

The Archers robbed stagecoaches, travelers, and trains.

Then they hid among kin like wheat among grains.

The Dalton’s and James,

The Fords and other lames,

Had similar families with outlaw-like brains.

 

They played the “good neighbor” until money ran low,

Then they grabbed pistols and shotguns and got up to go.

They roamed far and wide

To fleece others then hide,

But their years of success just darkened each soul.

 

After years on the run a mad posse came callin’.

And when their women-folk heard they all started bawlin’.

Tom, John, and Mort,

Vigilantes did abort

With nooses ’round necks that sparked caterwaulin’.

 

The youngest brother Sam made it to trial,

And was quickly convicted and lost his smug smile.

A noose was soon fetched

And Sam’s neck was stretched,

And the townsfolk commenced to party awhile.

 

History shows the Archer Gang had one of the longest crime waves.

But the end was the same: it sent them to their graves,

Where the outlaw soul

Has one place to go,

To Hell’s deepest hole with the volcanic caves.

 

© JW Thomas

Abilene: wild beginnings

 

In the early days of Abilene

A wide open town in Kansas it would seem

They had a few who served the law

Those quick on the draw

But for the most part it was wicked and mean

 

You would see a gunfight pert near every day

Many came to the town honest then started to stray

Life was an oddity

And death was a commodity

For residents in Abilene in its heyday

 

Many a souls there quaked and quivered

Hoping by day-break they’d be delivered

The drunks had stopped drinkin’

By morning they’re stinkin’

And shoot ‘um ups slowed cuz’ gun hands shivered

 

But mornings turned to noon and then to night

And hangovers gave way to the call of dance hall delight

Between dealings quite shady

They’d court a scarlet lady

And just for kicks they’d cause someone fright

 

Cowboys and floozies danced cheek-to-cheek

Then turned and switched partners for a whole new treat

Cowboys chose pokin’

Or opium smokin’

Yes, every known sin was on an Abilene street

 

Don’t turn down a drink or you’ll be called out

Don’t be caught with a hole-card or you’ll feel a clout

Keep your horse off the pool table

And your paws off Aunt Mable

And you might live to see what Abilene’s all about

 

 

© JW Thomas