Robbers, Liver-Eaters, Bigfoot and More from Gene W. Baade
The introduction to Gene W. Baade's latest catalogue.
By Michael Stillman
Gene W. Baade's latest catalogue (number 306) of Books on the West follows his tradition of offering unusual western items, and at prices any budget can afford. Most are collectible, some are for reading, but his "reading" copies are generally of books you might actually like to read. The West is full of adventures, and Baade gives you a chance to learn about a few you might have missed. Here are some samples from his catalogue.
William Miner was a notorious robber during the era of Jesse James and beyond, and though now mostly forgotten, once achieved the same type of "popularity" for his crimes. Miner, however, was a kinder soul than James, noted for being polite to his victims, and never killing anyone, rarely ever using his gun. Most of his robberies turned out to be disappointingly small, he spent much of his life in jail, and he never learned any lessons from his experiences. He simply did not find the workaday life appealing, and chose crime whenever he ran short on money. Miner's early days were spent robbing stagecoaches, an easier target than trains. His first conviction netted him 4 years in San Quentin in 1866, his second, eight more years in 1872. Upon release, he moved on to Colorado for a few successful hold ups, but made the mistake of returning to California, where he was again captured for robbing a stage, and this time was sent away for 19 years. By the time he was released in 1902, there were no more stagecoaches, so he had to tackle the more difficult art of robbing trains. Miner moved north to Canada, and with a new alias and new accomplices, pulled off the first train robberies in Canada. This time he managed to avoid the law for four years, but was again convicted in 1906, and at the age of 63, sentenced to life. No matter. The following year he dug a hole under the fence and said goodbye to Canada. The next few years he bounced around Oregon and Pennsylvania, robbing a train in Oregon, actually working a job in Pennsylvania, and even visited Europe. By 1911, he was back to his old tricks. Now almost 70 years of age, he held up a train in Georgia. Once more he was captured and sentenced to 20 years. Twice he would escape the Georgia prison, but each time was recaptured, finally dying in jail in 1914. His amazing story is retold in item 3, Bill Miner Train Robber by Frank W. Anderson. Priced at just $7.50.
Here is a biography of another tough man: Indian Killer. The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson, by Raymond Thorp and Robert Bunker. Of course, anyone who can stand to eat liver must be tough. However, mountain-man John Johnson was tougher than the average liver gourmand. The Crow had killed his Indian wife in 1847, and he went on a two-decade long spree of revenge. He killed countless Crow Indians at the time, and was said to carve out his victims' livers and eat them raw. Johnson would later say this happened only once, the liver stuck to his knife by accident, and he only joked about eating it. Whatever the truth was, the incident earned him his distinctive moniker. Johnson would eventually make peace with the Crow, serve in the military, and become an occasional lawman. Later in life, broke and in poor health, Johnson was forced to move from his Montana home to the National Soldiers' Home in California. He died there and was buried in Los Angeles in 1900. However, 74 years later his remains were removed to and reburied in Wyoming. One of his pallbearers was Robert Redford, who portrayed "Jeremiah Johnson" in the movie of the same name, a character based roughly on Liver-Eating Johnson. Item 160. $125.
Robbers, Liver-Eaters, Bigfoot and More from Gene W. Baade
Liver-Eating Johnson may not have consumed as much of the delicacy as is now imagined.
What was Robert E. Lee doing in the days leading up to the Civil War? Lee was not intimately involved in the controversy brewing in his homeland. Rather, he was out in Texas fighting Indians. His exploits in this period are little known, but the history of this period in Lee's life was put together by Carl Rister, Robert E. Lee in Texas. Lee was recalled to Washington by General Winfield Scott to lead Union forces on the brink of the Civil War, but he declined the offer to join the Confederates instead. Item 143. $42.50
Here is an obscure collection of western stories: Wild Cow Tales, by Ben K. Green. That's "tales," not "tails." This 1969 first edition has a tipped in leaf saying it was published for Sami S. Svendsen, whose many occupations included being a counselor "in Animal Casings and Glands." A noble profession. Item 68. $50.
Item 129 asks the question we have all been wanting to know: Do Abominable Snowmen of America Exist? I could have answered this question with a single word, but somehow author Roger Patterson manages to fill 169 pages of speculation. Baade describes this book as "almost as elusive as the creature." It was published in 1966, but Patterson did not rise to his celebrity status in Bigfoot lore until the following year, when he and a friend filmed a sighting of the creature near Bluff Creek, California. It is either the best film ever made of Bigfoot, or one of the worst filmings of a man in a monkey suit. Some believe the movements of the creature, seen from a distance in Patterson's film, could not have been replicated by a man in a suit. Others believe the man who made the suits for the movie "Planet of the Apes" was in on a hoax. Patterson died a few years later, so he can't be asked about possible inconsistencies, though his partner still denies it was a fabrication, but indicates that perhaps he was duped by Patterson. It should be noted that Bluff Creek coincidentally was also the place where Bigfoot prints had been found a decade earlier, footprints later admitted to have been created as a hoax. $75.
Gene W. Baade Books On The West may be reached at 425-271-6481 or email@example.com.