wasn't too long ago (several years) that we were picnicking on the
Courthouse lawn in Seguin in the shade of the World's Largest
Pecan, hoping that it wouldn't fall and crush us. A newspaper
blew in from the northwest and the page was open to a column by
the author of this book. We forget the piece, but we remembered
we liked the style. Sometime later we found "Tales of Badmen…etc."
on the shelf of the Bastrop library. We immediately made the connection,
not that our memory is good, but because it's printed right on the
back of the book that the author wrote a column for the Seguin
When you look at the table of contents, you'll immediately notice
a few familiar names. Judge Roy Bean, Bonnie and Clyde,
John Wesley Hardin and Sam Bass. You might think the
characters are familiar to you, but think again. It's not just Judge
Roy Bean, but "The man who became Judge Roy Bean." It's not
just Bonnie and Clyde, it's "The Real Story of Bonnie and Clyde."
While some of the names are familiar, the "take" on them isn't.
Eckhardt's style has a familiar tone. It's a tone with an opinionated
edge that we enjoy. He sounds a little like your uncle, or maybe
your father telling a story. There's the celebrated Cisco Santa
Claus Bank Robbery and the San Antonio shooting of Austin
City Marshall Ben Thompson. In this way the book makes a
good primer to 19th and early 20th century crime in Texas.
On the other hand, there are all the stories that aren't familiar
like "The Murderous Yocums of the Big Thicket," "A
Lake Called "Haunted," and "The Badman Nobody Knows."
In fact, fully one half of the stories were new to us. The author's
interjection of personal experiences (interviews with participants
for example) lends the ring of truth to the detail-rich stories.
The haunted lake is as eerie as anything in Pennsylvania and the
Judge Roy story introduces you to the Brothers Bean when
they were in California (and referred to as "Los Frijoles").
Knowing his background answers your questions about how he could
pull off being the "Law West of the Pecos" when he didn't
know a tort from a torta.
When writing about Waco's William Cowper Brann, Eckhardt
included details we've found only in books devoted entirely to the
subject. Here the historical tidbits are so plentiful they'll drip
out of the book and form a pile on the floor (kind of like Pistachio
shells). Mr. Eckhardt is also the author of Texas Tales Your
Teacher Never Told You, published by Republic of Texas Press.
That title also applies to this volume (x2).
Eckhardt's generosity of word might irritate other historians who
want to stretch stories to book length, but this is what makes the
book such a bargain. Don't think that you'll find this volume at
your library's book sale in the future. It's the kind of book that
people hold onto to read again. If it's going to be sold "used"
in the future, it will be as Texana in book shows and will probably
cost a hell of a lot more than what they're asking now.
We called Mr. Eckhardt to make sure our information was correct
and to maybe get a few questions answered about Seguin. We got our
questions answered, we had a good conversation and we also got an
invitation to visit Seguin for a tour. We were told to call him
Charley (with an e-y because " I ain't no damn perfume").
It is our sincere hope that the Seguin school system realizes that
they have C.F. Eckhardt living there and if nothing else, they contact
him to inspire whoever they have teaching history now. This goes
for any small town in Texas that has historians in their midst.
Tap into this under-used resource. - Editor
© John Troesser
Eckhardt' Texas" Columns
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