of the Odd
by Mike Cox
day may come when the internet forces newspapers to give up paper
distribution, but the human appetite for offbeat news is as robust
as ever, no matter the medium.
Herewith some “cuttings” (as clippings used to be called) and a couple
of rewrites from various 19th century Texas or Southwestern newspapers:
An idea that never quits…
“PERPETUAL MOTION. – The Red Land (Texas) Herald, of the 11th inst.
[Nov. 11, 1851], says that perpetual motion has been discovered by
three young men of San Augustine county, and adds:
“They are now in Washington City applying for a patent and they write
back that there is no doubt of success. The principle upon which the
machinery is propelled is the pressure of atmosphere air upon a succession
of vacuums. They have been offered in Washington $50,000 for the patent
right for the State of New York.”
Guess the governor had to walk to work…
“Stolen. $25 Reward.
“A carriage horse, about 16 hands high and compactly built, light
bay color, with white face. Has brand B L on right shoulder, and is
about seven years old. This horse was stolen from the Governor’s stable,
on Monday night, the 17th inst. The above reward will be given for
recovery of the animal.”
– Austin Daily State Journal, May 12, 1873
She couldn’t have been talking on her cell phone…
One fall evening in 1892, a Milam County woman headed home in her
buggy after a visit to her son’s farm. “As was her habit,” an area
newspaper later reported, “she pushed her buggy animal, a gray mare
that she has driven for several years, into a lope.”
As her buggy topped a hill on the unpaved road between Rockdale and
two men in a mule-drawn light spring wagon politely pulled over to
let the woman pass.
Continuing to roll along at a sprightly pace, the right front wheel
of the woman’s buggy hit the hub of one of the spring wagon’s wheels.
This is how the newspaper described what happened next:
“The woman…was pitched foremost and fell with her head between the
left fore wheel of the buggy and shafts…Her hair was wound around
the buggy hub and spindle and she was held there until some young
man, met the buggy…more than a half-mile this side of where the accident
occurred. She was dead when found as her neck was broken.”
In 1892, two Hunt County men sustained bites from a rabid dog. One
of the men soon died of what doctors then called “hydrophobia,” long
since known as rabies. But the other men did not develop the disease.
Seven years later, a cat bit the dog-bite survivor. Six weeks after
that, as a newspaper reported, the man “came from work and told his
wife he was sick. His condition continued to grow worse.” Soon, the
article continued, “he lost his mind and attacked his wife. Neighbors
were notified and came in and overpowered the unfortunate victim and
physicians pronounced the malady hydrophobia.”
Riding ole Widow Maker…
Dec. 27 – [Victim’s name] was fatally hurt yesterday in an attempt
to ride a vicious horse for a purse, being thrown and injured internally.
[The departed]… [was] one of the best bronco busters in this part
of the state and was the 10th man to make an unsuccessful attempt
to ride the horse.”
The story did not say what became of the horse, bringing to mind the
old joke about the man who showed up at the hospital after suffering
a horse wreck.
“My dead horse threw me,” he told a nurse.
“How could a dead horse throw you?” she asked.
“He’s gonna be dead when I get back to the ranch.”
Getting your raccoons up one tree…
“New Boston, Dec.
12  – …A farmer living 4 miles west of this place met with a
fatal accident…Saturday night. He and a group of friends were out
coon hunting and in felling a tree, [the victim] ran around to see
the coon jump out, when the tree veered and one of the limbs struck
him, fracturing his skull. He died Sunday without having regained
Order in the court…
“An exchange says a judge of the old school is said to have once summed
up a very complicated case in the following language: ‘Gentlemen of
the jury – You have all heard the evidence, [if] you have also heard
what the learned counsel for the plaintiff has told you, your verdict
will be for the plaintiff; but if, on the other hand, you believe
what the defendant’s counsel has told you, then you will give a verdict
for the defendant. But if you are like me, and don’t believe what
either of them has said, then I don’t know what you will do.’”
- Reprinted in Tombstone (AZ) Epitaph, Nov. 28, 1899
© Mike Cox - "Texas Tales"
December 13, 2007 column
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