Hooded Highwaymen and Boneheaded Baddiesby John Scott on Oct. 31, 2013, under Uncategorized
In doing these old west gunfight shows, we find ourselves at events where comedy sketches are needed. Typically, we have a number of bumbling outlaws who don’t make up a full brain. The audience chortles. They may even guffaw. Last week I heard an audience member say between titters, “nobody’s that dumb.” Well…I decided to look into it.
On August 10, 1883, a Globe-bound stagecoach carrying $3,000 was held up 35 miles outside of Florence. The hooded highwaymen shot and killed the guard, then broke into the strongbox to steal the dough. One of them, “Red” Jack Almer, was a plant. His job was to ride in the stagecoach and alert the waiting bandits that the coast was clear by singing. Reports say he disguised himself by dressing as a woman. Now, I’m not sure this was needed, as the gang was going to rob the stagecoach no matter what. Perhaps it was just an excuse for old Red Jack to put on a dress and sing. I guess we’ll never know.
At this point these never-do-wells turn into clodhoppers. First of all, they left over $600 in the box, which in the Victorian era was a ton of money. Second, someone forgot to take their saddlebags which held the gang’s surplus of ammunition. Third, they galloped through the town of Dudleyville with guns drawn (attracting a lot of attention). All of these errors led lawdogs right to their hideout in the Galiuro mountains. Two of the four bandits were apprehended with the empty mail bag and the recently fired shotgun used to kill the guard. When interrogated, they gave up the other members of the gang. Red Jack Almer and the fourth outlaw, Charles Hensley, were killed in a shootout with Sheriff Bob Paul’s posse near Wilcox on October 4th. It is unclear whether or not Almer was wearing a dress at the time. The money was never recovered, and remains one of Arizona’s lost treasures.
Although none of these single acts of stupidity are uproariously comical, they do make for an entertaining look at outlawry. History has many smart marauders…typically the famous ones. Jesse & Frank James, Butch & Sundance, you get the idea. But I think we enjoy the Tim Conway/Don Knotts ones just as much.
The annual Old West events are kicking into high gear. Last weekend we performed at the annual Wild Western Festival at Glendale’s Sahuaro Ranch. Judging from the attendance, the shebang seemed a rousing success. I got to meet Dan Haggerty, a.k.a. Grizzly Adams. Although he didn’t bring a bear with him, it was still a pleasure. Next weekend the Empire Ranch will host its Roundup with family activities and education about the cowboy lifestyle. This fundraiser has been steadily growing and is sure to be fun. Old Tucson is open and ready for business with a bunch of events coming up this season. If you’re traveling around the state by car, keep your eyes peeled for Old West celebrations!