Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What They Really Wanted

Recently someone on a reenacting board posted the above photo dating from World War Two of a Kachin tribesman with an Indian Pattern Brown Bess Musket. It reminded me of a story I had come across some years back.

I was put in mind of some OSS types working with tribesmen in the CBI. They requested headquarters to sent them shotguns to equip the tribesmen rather sub machine guns. Their reasoning being sub machine guns were more complex than the tribesmen were comfortable with, but they were quite at home with the shotgun the OSS types had with them.

The shipment was delayed so the "experts" at headquarters (who had never been closer to a jungle than the Central Park Zoo and/or Tarzan movies) could confirm they really wanted shotguns. Their 'research' showed sub machine guns were much better suited to jungle warfare.

After the screaming fit the OSS types sent back a message saying “What we really wanted was muzzle loading muskets. The tribesmen could scrounge powder from enemy ammunition and they could load river pebbles and nuts and bolts from wreaks they encountered in the jungle for shot. But we didn't think you would send us muskets so we settled for shotguns."

Three guesses what was airdropped to them about a month later. Evidently there where tons of Civil War Muskets in warehouses around Washington. The OSS types screamed themselves horse when they saw the muskets.

But, you know what - the tribesmen loved them! They could scrounge powder from enemy ammo and they could shoot river pebbles and nuts and bolts from wreaks they encountered in the jungle. After cutting the barrels down to a more convenient length they were their preferred weapons to the end of the war.

I love a happy ending.

Monday, August 23, 2010

In their own Words

I had two different folks tell me about a poster the Texas Bankers Association put up in banks about the Dead Bank Robbers Reward Program. I found this 1933 version on line, they had several over the years. I thought you folks might enjoy seing it in their own words. It sent chills up my spine.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Them Bank Robbers is Worth Money!

I have recently been working on a writing project and had to do some research. I had heard a story sometime back about a law passed in the depression paying people to kill bank robbers in the State of Texas. This was something I could work with.

For a couple of months I had been trying to chase down details. Was this an urban myth or real? Who offered the reward, and when? What were the details? I kept striking out. Finally someone in the writers group suggested I write the Library of Congress and ask. I hit pay dirt!

To start with I was trying to be too fancy with my wording. I was asking about 'Bounties' paid on Texas bank robbers, or rewards offered for bank robbers in the State of Texas. No, the Texas Bankers Association (TBA) was much more basic. They called it THE DEAD BANK ROBBERS REWARD PROGRAM.

Texas country folks had been having hard times long before Black Thursday in October of 1929 when the rest of the country caught up. Bank robbery had become very popular, to the tune of two or three a day state wide. In 1926 a reward of $500.00 was offered for any bank robber killed in the act. In 1927 the reward was raised to $5,000.00 dollars.

Does this sound fantastic? It gets better. To clear up any misunderstanding the statement went on to say the TBA would not pay a penny for bank robbers captured or wounded. Bank Robbers were worth $5,000.00 dead - each!

Of course, Texans being enterprising folk, were not always content to sit around waiting for someone to rob a bank. There are always a couple of good ol' boys, not real bright but greedy. Combine them with the town thugs, equally greedy and ruthless, and you get the idea. When the good ol' boys come out of the bank with the money, their friends that were suppose to cover their getaway shoot them down like dogs.

Bloodthirsty? Oh Yeah! In the end there was only one side of the story told. Pretty good return, considering some of these robberies would have netted way less than $1,000.00 dollars. Beside that there was the practical side to consider. You didn't want to go taking pot shots at Dillinger or Bonnie and Clyde. Those crazy bastards would kill you.

This became extremely wide spread, to the point that the Texas Rangers sent no less than Frank Hamer, later of Bonnie and Clyde fame, to investigate. When he reported that a large number of the people being slaughtered in these robberies were set up, the TBA was unmoved. They argued anyone who could be talked into taking part in a bank robbery should be killed.

There was so much bad press on the subject that the TBA did reword their statement to read they would pay the reward only on 'Legal Kills'. The shootings started being investigated seriously. Bank Robbery became a Federal Crime in the mid 1930's and the FBI got involved. At that point collecting on the Dead Bank Robbers Reward Program just got to be too much like work. So, did the reward go away? Yes - in 1964!

At this point, I could use some help. As you might guess City Fathers don't put this sort of thing on their city web pages. I know this happened, a lot. If I know where, I can work backwards and get details. So, if any of you know of a Texas town where such a Bank Robbery Scam took place I would be grateful if you left a comment or emailed me at

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Constant Companion

The worst part is I asked Helene to take this photo. I wish she had at least told me to close my mouth.

At the moment, here at HomePlace, we are harvesting and processing pears. We have everything close to the ground. I'm going for those higher. But the point of the photo is my little friend - the 1911. In the eleven years we have been here, either this handgun or something similar has been my constant companion.

Does that sound melodramatic? We are very much alone out here. There are two towns within ten miles of HomePlace, and neither have jurisdiction to respond to a 911 call out here. If a problem requiring a firearm shows up, I need it now. We aren't talking a big back yard, HomePlace is thirty five acres. I don't have time to run back to the house for a gun.

The problems in the past have been dog digging into the chicken pens. If I chase them off, they just come back later, then there is a pen full of dead birds. Talking to the owners accomplishes nothing.

Other times it's been a Copperhead or other type of snake. If I find them out in the woods where God intended, I leave them be, even the poisonous ones. But they love baby rabbits, chicken and eggs. Few thrills compare with discovering a snake in a nest you're collecting eggs from. They also lurk in bushes near paths where dog, cats, wife and grandchildren play. I don't need anyone accidently stepping on one. If they are around the house, they're toast.

From time to time I have an unfamiliar vehicle show up. I am friendly, I never make reference to the weapon, but it is always noticed. Sometimes it's just someone wanting directions. Sometimes it's not. Either way word gets around that there are easier pickings elsewhere.

Evidently sometimes that's not enough. Bear has been barking a lot lately at night. Sometimes it's the cat's bugging him. Sometimes it's stray dogs. At least twice in the last week it's been a car making the circle that didn't stop. As a matter of fact, took off when the porch light came on.

A couple of nights ago I lit them up with a Q-beam from the M-37. They almost hit a tree on the way out. We haven't seen them since.

Still, they may be back. My little friend and I may need to arrange a surprise.

Of course by little friend, I mean the 1911. Fluffum isn't much for outdoor heroics.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What Idiot Called it a "Funny Bone"

I need to make two apologies today. First, I would apologize to the folks who have been following this blog. I will not make excuses for my absents - I was angry and feeling sorry for my self. Perhaps I can accomplish something positivy with this.

My second apology is for anyone who has ever suffered nerve damage. I mean nerve damage, that's where you have a numbness in extremities like fingers - maybe some tingling - right? Some of you are going to know that's a real stupid question. Trust me folks, since April I've gotten a lot smarter on the subject.

One afternoon I was working on the computer, elbows resting on the chair arms when it felt like someone hit the right elbow with a board and a flash-bang went off behind my eyes. My right arm of course, no sense doing anything halfway. Over the next hour I discovered this was serious.

Tingling? The two fingers on my right hand, the little finger and that nameless finger next to it, were numb. Movement was clumsy and awkward. I discovered I had no strength in my right hand. My grip strenght between thumb and fore finger was extremely weak. How weak? I could not use my right hand to unlock my vehicle door. My penmenship, never great, actually got worse. Fine work that required dexterity was out the window.

This was with our Cops and Robbers event looming on the horizon. Tip for folks who practice unusual cirmcumstances when shooting, off hand with a handgun is good. Teach yourself to load magazines with the off hand. It's something I had never thought about, and is harder than you might think.

My biggest fear was that I could not handle handguns . I discovered I could handle handguns safely. One of the few benifits of the injury was a dandy excuse for bad shooting. So I did what I could and had my range assistances take over a lot of the demos. That program I littery could not have done without them.

The pain has been constant and nagging. One part that bothered me most was that I could no longer sleep with one arm over my wife. I had to be on my right side to get any sleep at all. What sleep I got was fitful bits and snaches.

The pain ran along the bottom of the arm from my little finger to the elbow and up into the shoulders and neck. I remember "rolling my neck" and feeling like some big angry dude was jerking a cable that ran from the little finger up. Not plesant.

There was really no comfortable position to hold the arm in. I gave up on a sling after only a few minutes. Driving was all kinds of fun. I have a small pillow in the truck to rest my arm on, but not the elbow. I rest the elbow on nothing. Before I even got to the doctor I was taking so much over the counter pain medication we wife was concerned.

Over the next six weeks there were several visits to Dr. Sterling - in my personal openion better than Bones from Star Trek even without the fancy gaggets. X-rays and my first MRI later he explained that a nerve was probably pinched, most likely in the elbow.

Dr. Sterling explained about nerve induction test. This would answer all manner of questions. He described the test as shoving a knitting needle into the nerve and hooking it up to a battery charger. He also explained the surgery that would correct the situation - maybe. And them he advised me to wait on both and explained this sort of thing will sometimes correct it's self. That was hard, but he made a good argument. He ended the session by prescribing medication with all manner of scarie side effects.

Most of the time the pain in my arm was between the elbow and the little finger. Other times it would run all the way up to my neck. A pillow to rest the arm on became my constant companion.

So "the arm" and I took off to work the 2010 Census. Driving all over Robinson County, Texas chasing down addresses was actually fun. Finding an unnumbered house, on an unmarked road, based on a map a five year old would be embarassed to claim, gives one a real sence of accomplishment.

There were good and bad days. The day our son, Matt, and I crawled under the truck to change the fuel tank almost killed me. Other days I don't think about "the arm". The pain is constant, just different levels. Thing is, when you get busy you don't think about the pain. You take it one day at a time and try not to dwell on the problems.

Then one day last week I realized I had unlocked the pickup with my right hand. I have been able to do so everyday since. There is no more tingling or numbness. The pain at the moment is in my hand and wrist, but it's managable. It isn't over yet, but I can see improvement.

So I'm back folks. Please forgive my absents, it won't happen again.