It 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 Gazette-Enterprise.
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.
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).
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.
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