Poetic robberies

There were plenty of deadly stagecoach holdups in the Old West, but the famous stagecoach robber, Black Bart, had a very different modus operandi: politeness and poetry.

Guns were involved, of course — he used a double-barreled shotgun in all his robberies — but he never fired a shot. His robberies were always very well planned; rather than rob passengers, he exclusively hit Wells Fargo stagecoaches carrying bank boxes. He was invariably polite, and often handed a poem of his own composition to the driver after the driver handed down the box.

This is his only surviving work, which he left after a robbery in 1877:

Here I lay me down to sleep
To wait the coming morrow.
Perhaps success perhaps defeat
And everlasting sorrow.
I’ve labored long and hard for bread,
For honor and for riches,
But on my toes too long you’ve trod,
You fine-haired sons of bitches.
Let come what will, I’ll try it on.
My condition can’t be worse,
And if there’s money in that box
‘Tis money in my purse.

Black Bart
the po8

Black Bart — Charles Boles, a.k.a. Charles E. Bolton, CE Bolton, and TZ Spalding, of San Francisco — robbed 28 stages and became something of a celebrity criminal before being caught (through sheer bad luck and some good detective work). After serving six years in San Quentin for his final robbery, he happily chatted with reporters who showed up to interview him…and retreated into obscurity, never to commit another crime.


Sources:

  • Chapel, Charles Edward. Guns of the Old West. Coward-McCann, New York, 1961. 281-282.
  • Wikipedia: Black Bart (outlaw)

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