doesn't like hearing about a clever scam pulled by some con artist?
The answer is no one except the victim, a gullible sort known to grifters
as pigeons or suckers.
Of course, most of us are quick to denounce unscrupulous people, but
the truth is, deep down we sort of admire someone smart enough to
benefit himself at the expense of others.
A self-published collection of late 19th century and early 20th century
rural Texas stories preserves a story attributed to one W.S. Lawrence,
Texas old-timer. The teller offered no specifics as to when it
happened or who was involved, but that does not detract much from
the tale itself.
One day, the story goes, a couple and their children rolled into town
- presumably Comanche
- in their wagon. The first thing that caught the eyes of the locals
was that they were strangers. The second thing people noticed was
how the man holding the reins seemed to be something of a doofus.
For one thing, the newcomer ingeniously told everyone his business.
No sooner than he'd meet someone, he'd tell them that he'd recently
sold their old homeplace for quite a lot of money. Now, he would continue,
he was looking for some good farmland in Comanche
County. Once he had that explained, the man asked out of curiosity
if anyone in town ever did any horseracing.
Before long, the goofy granger learned that two local men had joint
interest in a horse that could gallop faster than any steed in that
part of Texas. And they were happy to bet on that.
"You figure it could beat that horse?" the man asked as he pointed
to one of the horses hitched to his wagon. The critter looked like
a glue factory runaway, not an animal that would win anyone any money.
No one who saw the horse figured it had a chance against the well-known
local thoroughbred and someone proposed a race with a hefty purse
for the winner.
That's when the farmer's wife broke into tears.
"Don't bet our money on that old horse," she sobbed to her husband.
"We came here to buy a farm. If you wager on that horse, we'll be
leaving flat broke."
Ignoring her pleading, the reckless farmer said he'd be willing to
put his entire stake on his horse. Locals couldn't believe their good
fortune. Easy money was to be made. Bets that the local horse could
easily outdistance the farmer's nag mounted quickly.
When race day came, the farmer showed up with his poorly looking horse,
its collar and harness replaced with saddle and bridle. More and more
money went down on the local favorite.
Turned out the farmer's worried wife had been right. The race was
a financial catastrophe - for those who had bet against the farmer's
horse. To the astonishment, then horror, of the local bettors, the
sorry looking steed easily carried the day. And no sooner had the
farmer collected his money that he made it known that he hadn't been
able to find just the right piece of land in Comanche
County and would be moving on.
Somehow, he got out of town alive with his money.
con, though with far less at stake financially, involved chickens.
Two young men, itinerant cotton pickers, had camped near a farmer's
house while hiring out in the area. Cotton picking is hard work that
left a hand mighty hungry at the end of the day.
Noting that the farmer had a plentitude of frying size yard birds,
the cotton pickers came up with a plan to avail themselves of some
finger-licking good chicken. All they need was a little red yarn,
something inexpensively available at the local general store.
Having made their modest purchase, that night the pair snuck up on
the chicken roost and managed to get inside without causing a ruckus
with the feathery occupants. Quickly they tied a length of the red
yarn to the legs of a couple of the birds.
The next morning the farmer was up with the chickens, collecting eggs.
That's when the two cotton pickers showed up to ask him if by chance,
he might have seen any chicken's with red strings tied to their legs.
As a matter of fact, the farmer said, he had. Two had shown up that
morning in his chicken coop. He had wondered whose birds they were
and cheerfully allowed the pair to reclaim their lost property.
Shoot, the farmer declared, he had more chickens than he needed anyhow.