Thursday, February 28, 1878 <> Allen, Texas

There is lots of reasons cowpokes remember a town. Some of 'em is good, and some ain't so good.

Reasons that make a feller think kindly of a town is friendly folks, a saloon that don't water its liquor, and a decent cathouse . . . stuff like that there. Some of the bad things about towns that make cowpokes take the long way around might be a sheriff whose nose gets all out of joint when cowboys let off a little steam or womenfolk who look down their noses at a feller who earns his livin' in a saddle. Worst of all is a one-horse town that's just plain dead from the butt both up-ways and down.

Sad to say, that last reason fits Allen, Texas like a pair of Kansas boots. I say that's sad cuz it appears I'm gonna be in Allen for a time. Ya see, I'm a Texas Ranger and our company has spent the last few weeks chasin' a gang that stuck up a train in Allen.

Yup, I said they stuck up a train. Now, that's been done other places, but nobody ever done it in Texas before. Them fellers made history that day, but not no good kinda  history.

The robber gang was a pretty slick outfit and we didn't have no luck trackin' them robbers down right off, so the boss of our outfit, Lieutenant Peak, figured we'd do better if we split up. He planted me and a couple other boys in the Allen area thinkin' them robbers might show up here again.

So that's why I'm coolin' my heels in Allen, Texas and keepin' my eyes open for one Mister Sam Bass and his boys. That feller, Bass, was identified as the leader of the robbers. Bass had three other fellers with him, Frank Jackson, Tom Spotswood, and a local hand who goes by the handle Seaborn Barnes. Yeah, Seaborn. All told, the Bass gang rode away with about one-thousand-three-hundred dollars.

Now, if that weren't enough to keep us busy, we had a bunch of Pinkerton boys out there a-messin' up Bass's trail. Six months before the Allen train robbery, a Union Pacific train from the San Francisco mint was stuck up in a place just across the Nebraska border called Big Springs. This one was a big deal cuz them robbers made off with sixty-thousand-dollars.

Not taking kindly to losin' that kind of money, the railroad brought in the Pinkertons to get it back. So when the Allen train was robbed, the Pinkerton boys figured it was the same bunch that pulled the Nebraska job.

Anyways, I've been hangin' out here in Allen with my Ranger badge pinned inside my jacket and lookin' for Sam Bass. I even have a picture of Bass and his sidekicks from a wanted poster, but that don't make 'em any easier to find. I didn't much feel like I was earnin' my thirty dollars per month.

I gotta admit, though, duty in Allen wasn't too awful. That's cuz I made the acquaintance of a sweet little gal name of Emma Parker and we started keepin' company in our spare time. Emma, or Em as I call her, is a workin' woman.

Naw, not that kind of workin' woman you jackass. She's a schoolmarm at the Allen Academy—a private school for the youngins of rich folks in northeast, Texas. Schoolmarm or not, Em is just pretty as a picture, but why a beautiful and educated woman like her would cotton to a no account feller like me is a mystery.

Emma woulda made a good Ranger, though. She has a way of thinkin' that makes sense out of things that downright puzzle me. Like why local folks, 'specially the farmers, seem to have the idea Sam Bass was a right feller. Here he is robbin' trains and stagecoaches, and nobody aside from me is anxious to see him locked up in the calaboose.

But Emma, she knowed exactly why that was. She said it this way, "Walter, farmers and ranchers despise the railroad because they are at its mercy when it comes to shipping their produce and stock."

Getting' the picture, I said, "That's because there's only one railroad in these parts, right?"

"That is exactly right. The Union Pacific is the only railroad serving this part of the country so they can charge whatever they want to haul produce and stock to market. When Mister Bass robs a train, folks see that as striking back at the railroad."

Emma smiled at me and said, "There might even be more to it than that. Elderly train passengers see Sam Bass as a friend because he is always polite to them and does not take their money. One woman on a train he robbed said Mister Bass told her, "That's all right, mother. You keep your purse. I can see you surely worked hard for your money."

I could see what Emma was a getting' at. "Ain't that somethin'? I even heard he sometimes gives poor folks a helpin' hand by tossin' 'em a few coins for food. I guess he's sorta like that feller who stole from rich folks and gave their money to the poor. You know who I mean?"

She smiled a smile at me that would charm a sidewinder. "That was Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest."

"Yeah, that's the feller. Say, where is that Sherwood Forest? I never heared of no place called that in Texas."

"That is because Sherwood Forest is clear across the Atlantic Ocean in England."

"Dang, you're smart! Oh, pardon my language, Em."

Em just gave me another one of them sweet smiles and hooked her arm through mine as I walked her home to the Austin House hotel on Allen Street where it crosses McDermott. Walkin' her home earned me another smile and a shake of her hand. I was always careful not to squeeze her tiny hand too hard.

Friday, March 8, 1878 <> Allen, Texas

Then, about a week later, I got word that Sam and his boys stepped things up a trifle. I'd just et my breakfast at the Allen House and was takin' a walk through town to see what I could see when the kid who runs messages for the telegraph office came runnin' up Deshon Street a-hollerin' my name and wavin' a piece of paper.

"Mister McCadden . . . Mister McCadden . . . telegram for you!"

"Okay, son. Ya found me."

The boy handed me the paper and I tossed him a nickel. He thanked me and I read the telegram. It was from Lieutenant Peak and it went like this:


Now, that was a right interestin' piece of news. McKinney, Texas is only about ten miles up the track from Allen. That means Sam Bass and his boys is right close and if I get to it, I might just find 'em. I trotted on up to the livery and told the feller who runs the place to saddle my horse, which he did pronto. After that, I made me some tracks up the McKinney road.

If Allen, Texas is a one-horse town, then McKinney is almost a two-horse town. Let's call it a one-horse, one-mule town. The railroad track runs north to south on the east side of town, but there wasn't nary a train in sight at the station.

By asking a few questions I got about all of what there was to know about the train robbery. The train didn't have much worth stealin' on it, so the gang didn't get much to show for their effort. The most helpful detail was the Bass gang made their escape along the tracks to the south.

That didn't make a whole lot of sense to me because it meant they rode right through McKinney to wherever they was headed. Seems Sam was so cocksure of himself he wasn't even worried about anyone seein' which way he went. As a rule robbers who get to thinkin' they can't be caught is the next ones to get caught.

I set out along the tracks back toward Allen. A short way from the depot, the tracks entered a forest so thick and dark it felt like I was ridin' in a cave. That slowed me down some. If Sam and his boys were holed up somewheres along the track, they'd hear me comin' and I'd be right on top of 'em before I knew they was there.

At the rate I was makin' my way back to Allen, it was pure dark by the time I got there. I left my horse with the fellow at the livery stable and set out toward the Allen House for some grub. My path took me by the Bissell Hotel where Emma lives.

I happened to glance up to her window, which I just naturally did most every time I passed the hotel. This time, though, I saw something mighty peculiar. I saw a man in her room. He was standing with his back to the window, so I couldn't see who he was.

Now, a man bein' in Emma's room might be none of my blamed business. I don't have no brand on her or nothin', but knowin' how puritan Em is, I thought it might be a good idea to look in on her and make sure there wasn't nothin' bad goin' on up there.

Em's room is at the end of the second floor hall and I heared voices when I got to the door. Emma was talkin' with the man I seen in the window. "Sam, you must be more careful. Coming to see me here could . . . ."

I didn't hear all of what she said, but what I heared was enough. The whole durn sichiation was suddenly clear as day. Em was in cahoots with Bass and she was hangin' around with me to find out what us Rangers was up to so she could tell him.

Feelin' like an addle-headed tinhorn for lettin' Em fool me, I drawed my Colt Frontier and banged the door so hard rattled on its hinges. "Ranger! Open up in thar!"

I surprised 'em. Everything got real quiet on the other side of the door, and then I heared a window slide open. Backing up a step or two, I kicked the danged door right above the door knob. The doorframe splintered all to hell and the door swung open.

Two things caught my eye right off. A man's leg was goin' out the window and Em was sittin' on the bed half out of her dress. Seein' her like that musta distracted me just long enough so Bass was already clear of the window when I fired off the big Colt in my hand.

I runned to the window and looked for Bass. He was just dropping off the roof of the first-floor porch. I couldn't hit him from there and I knowed he'd be long gone by the time I could get down to the street.

Turnin' to Em, I said, "Well, you sure enough played me for a fool, didn't ya, Missy?"

She just sat there lookin' away and not sayin' nothin'. I said, "All right, Emma get yourself decent. We're goin' to pay a visit over to the Sheriff's office."

By this time there was several fellers standin' outside the in the hall. One of 'em took a step forward and said, "Hey, who you think you are treatin' this sweet little gal that a-way?

I held my jacket open to show him my Ranger Badge and said, "I think I'm a Texas Ranger and you'd do well to keep your distance. This here 'sweet little gal' is a-goin' to the hoosegow."

Well, sir, Emma Parker, iff'n that was even her real name, spent the next few days in custody of the Collin County Sheriff until a Ranger showed up to collect her back to headquarters in Austin. My report went there with her, but I took no pride in what them papers said. It was downright embarrassin' to get took in by a pretty little gal like that, and I knowed I was in for a razzin' next time I showed my face in Austin.

Iff'n you is wonderin' what ever come of Sam Bass, he and his boys headed down south to a place called Round Rock, but this time we knowed where he was. That's cuz Jim Murphy, a member of Bass's gang worked a deal with the State of Texas to rat on Bass in exchange for what they call clemency. That means the state promised not to arrest Murphy with the gang iff'n he helped catch Bass.

So Bass and his boys come into Round Rock to scout out the bank they was aimin' to rob and they was spotted. Well, ever-body started in to shootin' and Bass got hit in the gut. He got on his horse, but his gang left him behind just outside of town cuz he couldn't stay in the saddle. The Rangers caught him, but two days later, he ups and dies. Turns out Sam's life ended on his twenty-seventh birthday.

Them sixty-thousand gold coins Bass took off the first train he robbed—the one up in Nebraska—ain't never been found, so there's all kinda rumors 'bout where he mighta hid them coins. Most folks think he hid the coins in a cave up near Allen, but everyone knows where that cave is and ain't nobody ever walked out of it with the coins, at least they didn't say nothin' about it iff'n they did.

That's pretty much the story of Sam Bass as I know it. The last I heared about Emma Parker was a judge in Austin cut her loose cuz, with Sam dead, puttin' such a pretty little gal through a trial didn't make a whole lot sense. Besides that, holdin' a trial for Sam Bass's gal friend wouldn't set too good with folks in these parts, especially them what think Sam was a hero like that Robbin' Hood feller.

Sometimes I get to wonderin' if maybe Sam told Emma where them gold coins from his first train stick-up was hid. With that much money, Em could put a lot of distance twixt her and Texas. Bein' a Ranger and all, I guess I shouldn't be sayin' this, but I kinda hope that's what happened to that pretty little gal.


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This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, locations, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.