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More News of the Odd

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
The 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 Cameron, 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.”

Death delayed…

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…

Denton, 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 [1892] – …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 consciousness….”

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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