owe this story to my long-time companion in mischief though not crime, John L.
Tolleson of San Antonio. Like me,
John is a collector of tales, but unfortunately he seldom writes them. It seems
he had The Wicked Witch of the West for a high-school English teacher, and she
told him he would never be able to write.
According to John, this happened
in the early 1960s, when the family was living on a ranch near the community of
Sisterdale. He was
enrolled at the University of Texas, as was I at the time, though we didn't meet
until many years later.
It was a Friday night, and John had a hot date in Sisterdale
for Saturday, so he wasn't letting any grass grow under the wheels of his car.
He blew through Blanco
headed for Johnson City
like the Devil was chasing him. The date happened to be October 31, but that wasn't
registering on John. What was registering on him was the fact that it was nearing
midnight and he wanted to get home and get some sleep.
and Johnson City there
are some conical hills. The largest of these is called, predictably, Sugarloaf.
They once had another name. Bernardo de Miranda y Flores, Teniente-general in
the Mexican army (Teniente is the operative title here-Lieutenant. The 'general'
merely implies that he had authority anywhere in the province of Tejas, rather
than being restricted to a single area) mentions them in what is known as 'The
Miranda Report,' the first known expedition searching for a silver mine in the
granite hills. In 1756-and apparently for some time before that-they were known
as 'Los Pilones (Sugarloafs) de Seguin.'
As John approached the hills
he noticed, standing on the west side of the road, an apparent hitchhiker. The
milk of human kindness not having been curdled by time and experience, John slowed,
preparing to stop and pick the unfortunate fellow up. He noticed that the man
was an Anglo, that he was unkempt in appearance, and he was wearing a light-blue
shirt and tan or light brown trousers. As he approached more closely, he noticed
a large stain on the side of the man's shirt and an apparent cut on his neck.
"This guy's hurt," he said to himself, and was all the more determined to give
the poor fellow a ride-until he noticed something else. In his right hand the
man had a knife with a blade about a foot long.
That did it! John put
his foot in the carburetor and left the would-be hitchhiker in a cloud of asphalt
and burning rubber. He got home, but didn't mention the knife-wielding hitchhiker
to his parents.
About a year and a half later John was in the old Jailhouse
Barber Shop in Blanco,
and he mentioned seeing the guy with the knife alongside 281. "Oh," somebody said,
"you saw Lackey's ghost." Thereby, as the old saying goes, hangs a tale.
quite sure when it happened, and those who were there when it happened didn't
talk about it much. A man from Johnson
City, whose name might have been Lackey or Lakey, and whose first name has
been lost, took a large knife and started carving up his relatives. Apparently
he carved up several of them before he was caught. He was captured and taken to
the then County Seat, Blanco,
where he was put in the jail.
Lackey may not have been fond of his relatives,
but apparently some folks in Johnson
City were. They got tired of waiting for the wheels of justice to turn. One
night something on the order of a dozen or so of them, equipped with a wagon,
masks for their faces, and a large supply of cartridge-loading ordnance, visited
the county jail. They invited the jailer to give them the keys to Lackey's cell.
The jailer, with a pistol barrel in each ear and another up his nose, while a
fourth touched the nape of his neck, graciously complied. They took Lackey out,
bound him hand and foot, and put him in the bed of the wagon. Then they left Blanco,
So the story goes, at a point about halfway between Blanco
and Johnson City on
the wagon road that wound through the hills about 200 yards west of present US
281, the deed was done. They stood Lackey up on the tailgate of the wagon, put
the noose around his neck, and asked him if he had any last words. Apparently,
what he said was something on the order of "If you'll turn me loose and give me
a knife, I'll go back to Johnson
City and finish what I started, and after that I don't care what you do to
That was enough. They drove the wagon out from under Lackey.
There are a couple of problems with impromptu hangings. Usually the guest
of honor at the necktie party isn't dropped far enough to break his neck, so he
strangles to death-usually flopping around on the end of the rope quite a bit
before he does. Then again, a real hangman's rope is at least 1" in diameter,
sometimes 1½ ". Big ropes like that may strangle a hanged man if his neck's not
broken by the drop, but that's all they do. Unfortunately, Lackey wasn't hanged
with a big rope, he was hanged with a lariat. Lariats are seldom bigger than ½"
As Lackey flopped and struggled at the end of the rope,
the rope cut into his neck and he bled-a lot-onto his shirt. That's the condition
he was found in, the next morning when the sheriff came to the jail, got the jailer
out of the cell Lackey had occupied-to keep him from spoiling the party-and followed
the trail left by the wagon. The body was cut down but apparently none of Lackey's
relatives were anxious to claim it, so it was buried in a pauper's grave somewhere
in Blanco. These days,
nobody seems to know where.
it turned out, John wasn't the only person who'd seen Lackey trying to hitch a
ride north toward Johnson
City. A lot of people were aware of him. Truckers don't like to drive that
stretch on fall nights.
Now, it is admitted that 'Lackeys' ghost' is
a well-known story in Blanco,
and that-from time to time-certain students at Blanco High have dressed in light-blue
shirts and tan to light brown pants, poured ketchup on their shirts, and stood
alongside 281 near Sugarloaf, holding a knife. However, all of Lackey's appearances
can't be laid to high-school pranks, because he's turned up on the highway when
Blanco High had a football game out of town, with most of the town's highschoolers
either playing on the team, acting as managers for the team, marching with the
band, or rooting for the team in the stands.
C. F. Eckhardt
Eckhardt's Texas" >
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