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- Peck's Bad Boy With the Cowboys - 6/18 -


"And how is my old friend Teddy, the rough rider?" asked one of the gang, who claimed he had gone up to San Juan hill with the president.

"The president is in fine shape," said pa, "and he is making friends every day, fighting the trusts, and trying to save the people from ruin."

"Gee, but what a train robber Teddy would have made, if he had turned his talents in that direction, instead of wasting his strenuousness in politics," said the leader of the gang. "I would give a thousand dollars to see him draw a bead on the engineer of a fast mail, and make him get down and do the dynamite act, and then load up the saddle bags and pull out for the Hole-in-the- Wall. That man has wasted his opportunities, and instead of being at the head of a gang of robbers, with all the world at his feet, ready to hold up their hands at the slightest hint, living a life of freedom in the mountains, there he is doing political stunts, and wearing boiled clothes, and eating with a fork." And the bandit sighed for Teddy.

"Well, he will make himself just as famous," said pa, "if he succeeds in landing the holdup men of Wall street, and compelling them to disgorge their stealings. But say," said pa, looking the leader of the bandit gang square in the eyes, "why don't you give up this bad habit of robbing people with guns, and go back east and enter some respectable business and make your mark? You are a born financier, I can see by the way you divide up the increment when you rob a train. You would shine in the business world. Come on, go back east with me, and I will use my influence to get you in among the men who own automobiles and yachts, and drive four- in-hands. What do you say?"

"No, it is too late," said the leader of the Hole-in-the-Wall gang of train robbers, with a sigh. "I should be out-classed if I went into Wall street now. I have got many of the elements in my make up of the successful financier, and the oil octopus, and if I had not become a train robber I might have been a successful insurance president, but I have always been handicapped by a conscience. I could not rob widows and orphans if I tried. It would give me a pain that medicine would not cure to know that women and children were crying for bread because I had robbed them and was living high on their money. If it wasn't for my conscience I could take the presidency of a life insurance company, and rob right and left, equal to any of the crowned heads who are now in the business. But if I was driving in my automobile and should run over a poor woman who might be a policy holder, I could not act as would be expected of me, and look around disdainfully at her mangled body in the road, and sneer at her rapidly-cooling remains, and put on steam and skip out with my mask on. I would want to choke off the snorting, bad-smelling juggernaut and get out and pick up the dear old soul and try to restore her to consciousness, which act would cause me to be boycotted by the automobile murderers' union and I would be a marked man.

"As president of a life insurance company I could not vote myself a hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year salary, and take it from fatherless children and widows and retain my self respect. Out here in the mountains I can occasionally take my boys, when our funds get low, and ride away to a railroad, and hold up the choo-choo cars, and take toll, but not of the poor passengers. Who do we rob? Why the railroads are owned by Standard Oil, and if we take a few thousand dollars, all Mr. Rockefeller has to do is to raise the price of kerosene for a day or two and he comes out even. The express car stuff is all owned by Wall street, and when we take the contents of a safe, ten thousand or twenty thousand dollars, the directors of the express company sell stock short in Wall street and make a million or so to cover the loss by the bandits of the far west, and pocket the balance. So you see we are doing them a favor to rob a train, and my conscience is clear. I am always sorry when an engineer or expressman is killed, and when such a thing occurs I find out the family and send money to take care of them, but of late years we never kill anybody, because the train hands don't resist any more, for they do not care to die to save Wall street money. Now when I say to an engineer: 'Charley, turn her off and stop here in the gulch and take a dynamite stick and go wake up the express fellow by blowing off the door of his car,' the engineer wipes his hands on his overalls and says: 'All right, Bill, but don't point that gun at my head, 'cause it makes me nervous.' He blows up the express car as a matter of accommodation to me, and the expressman comes to the door, rubbing his sleepy eyes open and says: 'It's a wonder you wouldn't let a man get a little rest. That dinky little safe in the corner hasn't got anything in it to speak of.' And then we blow up the little safe first, and maybe find all we want, and we hurry up, so the boys can go on about their business as quietly as possible. It is all reduced to a system, now, like running a railroad or pipe lines, and I am contented with my lot, and there is no strain on my conscience, as there would be if I was robbing poor instead of the rich. Of course, there are some things that I would like to have the government do, like building us a house and furnishing us steam heat, because these caves are cold and in time will make us rheumatic, but I can wait another year, when we shall send a delegate to congress from this district who will look out for our interests. The Mormons are represented in congress, and I don't see why we shouldn't be."

[Illustration: I Say to the Engineer--"Charley, Turn Her Off and Stop Her!"]

"Well, you have got gall, all right," said Pa to the bandit. "You mean to tell me you had rather pursue your course as a train robber, away out here in the mountains with no doctor within a hundred miles of you, and no way to spend your money after you get it, sleeping nights on the rocks and eating canned stuff you pack in here after robbing a grocery, than to enter the realms of high finance and be respected by the people, and be one of the people, with no price on your head, one of the great body of eighty million men who rule a country that is the pride of the earth? You must be daffy," said pa, just as disgusted as he could be.

"Sure, Mike," said the robber. "Everybody here respects me, and who respects the Wall street high finance and life insurance robber? Not even their valets. Me one of the people? Ye gods, but you watch these same people for a few years. You say they run the government! They and their government are run by Wall street, which owns the United States senate, body and soul. The people are pawns on a chess board, moved by the players, and they only talk, while the Wall street owners act. Let me tell you a story. I once had a dog trained so that he would lay down and roll over for a cracker, and would hold a piece of meat on his nose until his mouth would water and his eyes sparkle, but he would wait for me to snap my fingers before he would toss the meat in the air with his nose and snatch it in his mouth, and swallow it whole for fear I would get it away from him. He would stand on his hind legs and speak and beg for a bone to be thrown to him so he could catch it. Do you know, the people of this country remind me of that dog. If they do not assert themselves and take monopoly, high finance, insurance robbery, grafting and millionaire and billionaire ownership of everything that pays by the throat and strangle them all, and do business themselves instead of having business done for them by the money power, they will never get noticed except when they do their tricks like my old dog. When the time comes that the people wear collars and are led by chains, and they have to stand on their hind legs and speak to their rich and arrogant masters for bones, and hold meat on their noses until Wall street snaps its fingers, you will want to come out here in the mountains and live the free life of a train robber with a conscience. What do you think about it, bub?" said the robber to me.

"Well," says I to him, "you talk like a socialist, or a Democrat, but you talk all right. If I am one of the people I will do as the rest do, but I'll be darned if I will get down and roll over for anybody."

CHAPTER VI.

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.


Peck's Bad Boy With the Cowboys - 6/18

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