stogie, "and I want to tell you that we've got the finest town marshal
west of the Rockies. Bill Rainer he took in five pickpockets out of
the crowd when Red Nose Thompson laid the cornerstone of his new
saloon. Topaz City don't allow - "
"Have another Rhine wine and seltzer," suggested the New Yorker. "I've
never been West, as I said; but there can't be any place out there to
compare with New York. As to the claims of Chicago I - "
"One man," said the Topazite - "one man only has been murdered and
robbed in Topaz City in the last three - "
"Oh, I know what Chicago is," interposed the New Yorker. "Have you
been up Fifth Avenue to see the magnificent residences of our mil - "
"Seen 'em all. You ought to know Reub Stegall, the assessor of Topaz.
When old man Tilbury, that owns the only two-story house in town,
tried to swear his taxes from $6,000 down to $450.75, Reub buckled on
his forty-five and went down to see - "
"Yes, yes, but speaking of our great city - one of its greatest
features is our superb police department. There is no body of men in
the world that can equal it for - "
"That waiter gets around like a Langley flying machine," remarked the
man from Topaz City, thirstily. "We've got men in our town, too, worth
$400,000. There's old Bill Withers and Colonel Metcalf and - "
"Have you seen Broadway at night?" asked the New Yorker, courteously.
"There are few streets in the world that can compare with it. When the
electrics are shining and the pavements are alive with two hurrying
streams of elegantly clothed men and beautiful women attired in
the costliest costumes that wind in and out in a close maze of
expensively - "
"Never knew but one case in Topaz City," said the man from the West.
"Jim Bailey, our mayor, had his watch and chain and $235 in cash taken
from his pocket while - "
"That's another matter," said the New Yorker. "While you are in
our city you should avail yourself of every opportunity to see its
wonders. Our rapid transit system - "
"If you was out in Topaz," broke in the man from there, "I could show
you a whole cemetery full of people that got killed accidentally.
Talking about mangling folks up! why, when Berry Rogers turned loose
that old double-barrelled shot-gun of his loaded with slugs at
anybody - "
"Here, waiter!" called the New Yorker. "Two more of the same. It
is acknowledged by every one that our city is the centre of art,
and literature, and learning. Take, for instance, our after-dinner
speakers. Where else in the country would you find such wit and
eloquence as emanate from Depew and Ford, and - "
"If you take the papers," interrupted the Westerner, "you must have
read of Pete Webster's daughter. The Websters live two blocks north of
the court-house in Topaz City. Miss Tillie Webster, she slept forty
days and nights without waking up. The doctors said that - "
"Pass the matches, please," said the New Yorker. "Have you observed
the expedition with which new buildings are being run up in New York?
Improved inventions in steel framework and - "
"I noticed," said the Nevadian, "that the statistics of Topaz City
showed only one carpenter crushed by falling timbers last year and he
was caught in a cyclone."
"They abuse our sky line," continued the New Yorker, "and it is likely
that we are not yet artistic in the construction of our buildings. But
I can safely assert that we lead in pictorial and decorative art. In
some of our houses can be found masterpieces in the way of paintings
and sculpture. One who has the entree to our best galleries will
find - "
"Back up," exclaimed the man from Topaz City. "There was a game last
month in our town in which $90,000 changed hands on a pair of - "
"Ta-romt-tara!" went the orchestra. The stage curtain, blushing pink
at the name "Asbestos" inscribed upon it, came down with a slow
midsummer movement. The audience trickled leisurely down the elevator
On the sidewalk below, the New Yorker and the man from Topaz City
shook hands with alcoholic gravity. The elevated crashed raucously,
surface cars hummed and clanged, cabmen swore, newsboys shrieked,
wheels clattered ear-piercingly. The New Yorker conceived a happy
thought, with which he aspired to clinch the pre-eminence of his city.
"You must admit," said he, "that in the way of noise New York is far
ahead of any other - "
"Back to the everglades!" said the man from Topaz City. "In 1900, when
Sousa's band and the repeating candidate were in our town you
couldn't - "
The rattle of an express wagon drowned the rest of the words.
HOLDING UP A TRAIN
Note. The man who told me these things was for several years
an outlaw in the Southwest and a follower of the pursuit he
so frankly describes. His description of the _modus operandi_
should prove interesting, his counsel of value to the
potential passenger in some future "hold-up," while his
estimate of the pleasures of train robbing will hardly induce
any one to adopt it as a profession. I give the story in
almost exactly his own words.
Most people would say, if their opinion was asked for, that holding
up a train would be a hard job. Well, it isn't; it's easy. I have
contributed some to the uneasiness of railroads and the insomnia of
express companies, and the most trouble I ever had about a hold-up was
in being swindled by unscrupulous people while spending the money I
got. The danger wasn't anything to speak of, and we didn't mind the
One man has come pretty near robbing a train by himself; two have
succeeded a few times; three can do it if they are hustlers, but five
is about the right number. The time to do it and the place depend upon
The first "stick-up" I was ever in happened in 1890. Maybe the way I
got into it will explain how most train robbers start in the business.
Five out of six Western outlaws are just cowboys out of a job and gone
wrong. The sixth is a tough from the East who dresses up like a bad
man and plays some low-down trick that gives the boys a bad name. Wire
fences and "nesters" made five of them; a bad heart made the sixth.
Jim S - - and I were working on the 101 Ranch in Colorado. The nesters
had the cowman on the go. They had taken up the land and elected
officers who were hard to get along with. Jim and I rode into La Junta
one day, going south from a round-up. We were having a little fun
without malice toward anybody when a farmer administration cut in
and tried to harvest us. Jim shot a deputy marshal, and I kind of
corroborated his side of the argument. We skirmished up and down the
main street, the boomers having bad luck all the time. After a while
we leaned forward and shoved for the ranch down on the Ceriso. We were
riding a couple of horses that couldn't fly, but they could catch
A few days after that, a gang of the La Junta boomers came to the
ranch and wanted us to go back with them. Naturally, we declined. We
had the house on them, and before we were done refusing, that old
'dobe was plumb full of lead. When dark came we fagged 'em a batch of
bullets and shoved out the back door for the rocks. They sure smoked
us as we went. We had to drift, which we did, and rounded up down in
Well, there wasn't anything we could get there, and, being mighty
hard up, we decided to transact a little business with the railroads.
Jim and I joined forces with Tom and Ike Moore - two brothers who had
plenty of sand they were willing to convert into dust. I can call
their names, for both of them are dead. Tom was shot while robbing a
bank in Arkansas; Ike was killed during the more dangerous pastime of
attending a dance in the Creek Nation.
We selected a place on the Santa FÃ© where there was a bridge across a
deep creek surrounded by heavy timber. All passenger trains took water
at the tank close to one end of the bridge. It was a quiet place, the
nearest house being five miles away. The day before it happened, we
rested our horses and "made medicine" as to how we should get about
it. Our plans were not at all elaborate, as none of us had ever
engaged in a hold-up before.
The Santa FÃ© flyer was due at the tank at 11.15 P. M. At eleven, Tom
and I lay down on one side of the track, and Jim and Ike took the
other. As the train rolled up, the headlight flashing far down the
track and the steam hissing from the engine, I turned weak all over.
I would have worked a whole year on the ranch for nothing to have
been out of that affair right then. Some of the nerviest men in the
business have told me that they felt the same way the first time.
The engine had hardly stopped when I jumped on the running-board on
one side, while Jim mounted the other. As soon as the engineer and
fireman saw our guns they threw up their hands without being told, and
begged us not to shoot, saying they would do anything we wanted them
"Hit the ground," I ordered, and they both jumped off. We drove them
before us down the side of the train. While this was happening, Tom
and Ike had been blazing away, one on each side of the train, yelling
like Apaches, so as to keep the passengers herded in the cars. Some
fellow stuck a little twenty-two calibre out one of the coach windows
and fired it straight up in the air. I let drive and smashed the glass
just over his head. That settled everything like resistance from that
By this time all my nervousness was gone. I felt a kind of pleasant
excitement as if I were at a dance or a frolic of some sort. The
lights were all out in the coaches, and, as Tom and Ike gradually quit
firing and yelling, it got to be almost as still as a graveyard. I
remember hearing a little bird chirping in a bush at the side of the
track, as if it were complaining at being waked up.
I made the fireman get a lantern, and then I went to the express car
and yelled to the messenger to open up or get perforated. He slid the
door back and stood in it with his hands up. "Jump overboard, son," I
said, and he hit the dirt like a lump of lead. There were two safes
in the car - a big one and a little one. By the way, I first located
the messenger's arsenal - a double-barrelled shot-gun with buckshot
cartridges and a thirty-eight in a drawer. I drew the cartridges from
the shot-gun, pocketed the pistol, and called the messenger inside. I
shoved my gun against his nose and put him to work. He couldn't open
the big safe, but he did the little one. There was only nine hundred
dollars in it. That was mighty small winnings for our trouble, so we
decided to go through the passengers. We took our prisoners to the
smoking-car, and from there sent the engineer through the train to
light up the coaches. Beginning with the first one, we placed a man at
each door and ordered the passengers to stand between the seats with
their hands up.
If you want to find out what cowards the majority of men are, all you
have to do is rob a passenger train. I don't mean because they don't
resist - I'll tell you later on why they can't do that - but it makes
a man feel sorry for them the way they lose their heads. Big, burly
drummers and farmers and ex-soldiers and high-collared dudes and
sports that, a few moments before, were filling the car with noise and
bragging, get so scared that their ears flop.
There were very few people in the day coaches at that time of night,
so we made a slim haul until we got to the sleeper. The Pullman
conductor met me at one door while Jim was going round to the other
one. He very politely informed me that I could not go into that car,
as it did not belong to the railroad company, and, besides, the
passengers had already been greatly disturbed by the shouting and
firing. Never in all my life have I met with a finer instance of
official dignity and reliance upon the power of Mr. Pullman's great
name. I jabbed my six-shooter so hard against Mr. Conductor's front
that I afterward found one of his vest buttons so firmly wedged in the
end of the barrel that I had to shoot it out. He just shut up like a
weak-springed knife and rolled down the car steps.
I opened the door of the sleeper and stepped inside. A big, fat
old man came wabbling up to me, puffing and blowing. He had one
coat-sleeve on and was trying to put his vest on over that. I don't
know who he thought I was.
"Young man, young man," says he, "you must keep cool and not get
excited. Above everything, keep cool."
"I can't," says I. "Excitement's just eating me up." And then I let
out a yell and turned loose my forty-five through the skylight.
That old man tried to dive into one of the lower berths, but a screech
came out of it and a bare foot that took him in the bread-basket and
landed him on the floor. I saw Jim coming in the other door, and I
hollered for everybody to climb out and line up.
They commenced to scramble down, and for a while we had a three-ringed
circus. The men looked as frightened and tame as a lot of rabbits in
a deep snow. They had on, on an average, about a quarter of a suit of
clothes and one shoe apiece. One chap was sitting on the floor of the
aisle, looking as if he were working a hard sum in arithmetic. He was
trying, very solemn, to pull a lady's number two shoe on his number
The ladies didn't stop to dress. They were so curious to see a real,
live train robber, bless 'em, that they just wrapped blankets and
sheets around themselves and came out, squeaky and fidgety looking.
They always show more curiosity and sand than the men do.
We got them all lined up and pretty quiet, and I went through the
bunch. I found very little on them - I mean in the way of valuables.
One man in the line was a sight. He was one of those big, overgrown,
solemn snoozers that sit on the platform at lectures and look wise.
Before crawling out he had managed to put on his long, frock-tailed
coat and his high silk hat. The rest of him was nothing but pajamas
and bunions. When I dug into that Prince Albert, I expected to drag
out at least a block of gold mine stock or an armful of Government
bonds, but all I found was a little boy's French harp about four
inches long. What it was there for, I don't know. I felt a little mad
because he had fooled me so. I stuck the harp up against his mouth.
"If you can't pay - play," I says.
"I can't play," says he.
"Then learn right off quick," says I, letting him smell the end of my
He caught hold of the harp, turned red as a beet, and commenced to
blow. He blew a dinky little tune I remembered hearing when I was a
Prettiest little gal in the country - oh!
Mammy and Daddy told me so.
I made him keep on playing it all the time we were in the car. Now and
then he'd get weak and off the key, and I'd turn my gun on him and
ask what was the matter with that little gal, and whether he had any
intention of going back on her, which would make him start up again
like sixty. I think that old boy standing there in his silk hat and
bare feet, playing his little French harp, was the funniest sight I
ever saw. One little red-headed woman in the line broke out laughing
at him. You could have heard her in the next car.
Then Jim held them steady while I searched the berths. I grappled
around in those beds and filled a pillow-case with the strangest
assortment of stuff you ever saw. Now and then I'd come across a
little pop-gun pistol, just about right for plugging teeth with,
which I'd throw out the window. When I finished with the collection,
I dumped the pillow-case load in the middle of the aisle. There
were a good many watches, bracelets, rings, and pocket-books, with
a sprinkling of false teeth, whiskey flasks, face-powder boxes,
chocolate caramels, and heads of hair of various colours and lengths.
There were also about a dozen ladies' stockings into which jewellery,
watches, and rolls of bills had been stuffed and then wadded up tight
and stuck under the mattresses. I offered to return what I called the
"scalps," saying that we were not Indians on the war-path, but none of
the ladies seemed to know to whom the hair belonged.
One of the women - and a good-looker she was - wrapped in a striped
blanket, saw me pick up one of the stockings that was pretty chunky
and heavy about the toe, and she snapped out:
"That's mine, sir. You're not in the business of robbing women, are
Now, as this was our first hold-up, we hadn't agreed upon any code
of ethics, so I hardly knew what to answer. But, anyway, I replied:
"Well, not as a specialty. If this contains your personal property you
can have it back."
"It just does," she declared eagerly, and reached out her hand for it.
"You'll excuse my taking a look at the contents," I said, holding the
stocking up by the toe. Out dumped a big gent's gold watch, worth
two hundred, a gent's leather pocket-book that we afterward found
to contain six hundred dollars, a 32-calibre revolver; and the only
thing of the lot that could have been a lady's personal property was
a silver bracelet worth about fifty cents.
I said: "Madame, here's your property," and handed her the bracelet.
"Now," I went on, "how can you expect us to act square with you when
you try to deceive us in this manner? I'm surprised at such conduct."
The young woman flushed up as if she had been caught doing something
dishonest. Some other woman down the line called out: "The mean
thing!" I never knew whether she meant the other lady or me.
When we finished our job we ordered everybody back to bed, told 'em
good night very politely at the door, and left. We rode forty miles
before daylight and then divided the stuff. Each one of us got
$1,752.85 in money. We lumped the jewellery around. Then we scattered,
each man for himself.
That was my first train robbery, and it was about as easily done as
any of the ones that followed. But that was the last and only time
I ever went through the passengers. I don't like that part of the
business. Afterward I stuck strictly to the express car. During the
next eight years I handled a good deal of money.
The best haul I made was just seven years after the first one. We
found out about a train that was going to bring out a lot of money
to pay off the soldiers at a Government post. We stuck that train up
in broad daylight. Five of us lay in the sand hills near a little
station. Ten soldiers were guarding the money on the train, but they
might just as well have been at home on a furlough. We didn't even
allow them to stick their heads out the windows to see the fun. We
had no trouble at all in getting the money, which was all in gold. Of
course, a big howl was raised at the time about the robbery. It was
Government stuff, and the Government got sarcastic and wanted to know
what the convoy of soldiers went along for. The only excuse given was
that nobody was expecting an attack among those bare sand hills in
daytime. I don't know what the Government thought about the excuse,
but I know that it was a good one. The surprise - that is the keynote
of the train-robbing business. The papers published all kinds of
stories about the loss, finally agreeing that it was between nine
thousand and ten thousand dollars. The Government sawed wood. Here are
the correct figures, printed for the first time - forty-eight thousand
dollars. If anybody will take the trouble to look over Uncle Sam's
private accounts for that little debit to profit and loss, he will
find that I am right to a cent.
By that time we were expert enough to know what to do. We rode due
west twenty miles, making a trail that a Broadway policeman could have
followed, and then we doubled back, hiding our tracks. On the second
night after the hold-up, while posses were scouring the country in
every direction, Jim and I were eating supper in the second story of
a friend's house in the town where the alarm started from. Our friend
pointed out to us, in an office across the street, a printing press at
work striking off handbills offering a reward for our capture.
I have been asked what we do with the money we get. Well, I never
could account for a tenth part of it after it was spent. It goes
fast and freely. An outlaw has to have a good many friends. A highly
respected citizen may, and often does, get along with very few, but a
man on the dodge has got to have "sidekickers." With angry posses and
reward-hungry officers cutting out a hot trail for him, he must have
a few places scattered about the country where he can stop and feed
himself and his horse and get a few hours' sleep without having to
keep both eyes open. When he makes a haul he feels like dropping some
of the coin with these friends, and he does it liberally. Sometimes I
have, at the end of a hasty visit at one of these havens of refuge,
flung a handful of gold and bills into the laps of the kids playing
on the floor, without knowing whether my contribution was a hundred
dollars or a thousand.
When old-timers make a big haul they generally go far away to one of
the big cities to spend their money. Green hands, however successful a
hold-up they make, nearly always give themselves away by showing too
much money near the place where they got it.
I was in a job in '94 where we got twenty thousand dollars. We
followed our favourite plan for a get-away - that is, doubled on our
trail - and laid low for a time near the scene of the train's bad luck.
One morning I picked up a newspaper and read an article with big
headlines stating that the marshal, with eight deputies and a posse of
thirty armed citizens, had the train robbers surrounded in a mesquite
thicket on the Cimarron, and that it was a question of only a few
hours when they would be dead men or prisoners. While I was reading
that article I was sitting at breakfast in one of the most elegant
private residences in Washington City, with a flunky in knee pants
standing behind my chair. Jim was sitting across the table talking to
his half-uncle, a retired naval officer, whose name you have often
seen in the accounts of doings in the capital. We had gone there and
bought rattling outfits of good clothes, and were resting from our
labours among the nabobs. We must have been killed in that mesquite
thicket, for I can make an affidavit that we didn't surrender.
Now I propose to tell why it is easy to hold up a train, and, then,
why no one should ever do it.
In the first place, the attacking party has all the advantage. That
is, of course, supposing that they are old-timers with the necessary
experience and courage. They have the outside and are protected by
the darkness, while the others are in the light, hemmed into a small
space, and exposed, the moment they show a head at a window or door,
to the aim of a man who is a dead shot and who won't hesitate to
But, in my opinion, the main condition that makes train robbing easy
is the element of surprise in connection with the imagination of the
passengers. If you have ever seen a horse that has eaten loco weed you
will understand what I mean when I say that the passengers get locoed.
That horse gets the awfullest imagination on him in the world. You
can't coax him to cross a little branch stream two feet wide. It looks
as big to him as the Mississippi River. That's just the way with the
passenger. He thinks there are a hundred men yelling and shooting
outside, when maybe there are only two or three. And the muzzle of a
forty-five looks like the entrance to a tunnel. The passenger is all
right, although he may do mean little tricks, like hiding a wad of
money in his shoe and forgetting to dig-up until you jostle his ribs
some with the end of your six-shooter; but there's no harm in him.
As to the train crew, we never had any more trouble with them than
if they had been so many sheep. I don't mean that they are cowards;
I mean that they have got sense. They know they're not up against a
bluff. It's the same way with the officers. I've seen secret service
men, marshals, and railroad detectives fork over their change as meek
as Moses. I saw one of the bravest marshals I ever knew hide his gun
under his seat and dig up along with the rest while I was taking toll.
He wasn't afraid; he simply knew that we had the drop on the whole
outfit. Besides, many of those officers have families and they feel
that they oughtn't to take chances; whereas death has no terrors for
the man who holds up a train. He expects to get killed some day,
and he generally does. My advice to you, if you should ever be in a
hold-up, is to line up with the cowards and save your bravery for an
occasion when it may be of some benefit to you. Another reason why