Bill Tinker relates how he acquired lots of wives in late 19th century Texas.
I was telling y’all about moving close to Austin an’ getting another wife but I wuzn’t gonna tell you no more unless you told me how y’all liked my story so far. Well, enough of you said you did that I decided to tell you a bit more. The other wife comes later in my story so I better not get ahead of myself.
The ranch we bought belonged to a widder that wanted to move to Tarrant County where her son now lived. She already sold off the livestock an’ everything else so there wuzn’t much left except the buildings, a corral an’ fences. Of the buildings there wuz the ranch house, a barn and a bunk house where the hired help stayed. There wuzn’t no hired help left an’ that wuz fine with me. I intended to use that building as sleeping quarters for the children while we gradually built on the main house.
Buyin’ the ranch took a lot of the fortune left to me by Missus Magillicuddy. Also, nine wives an’ twice as many children eat a lot of food an’ that’s just in one day. I had to find a way to make some money so we wouldn’t slip into lean times. I was making a fair livin’ horse breedin’ before movin’ to Austin. Well, around Austin there seemed to be horse breeders galore. I had to find somethin’ different.
First things first though. I bought a dairy cow, some egg layin’ hens and a rooster. We also planted a vegtable garden. Most important though was my trusty slingshot. There wuz plenty of rabbits an’ other critters around that a man could feed his family with so we would never starve. Rex was still a good huntin’ dog but he was getting kind of old and slowin’ down so I figured it was about time to retire him. Hope was way ahead of me there. She bought a bitch for Rex to breed with and a couple of puppies.
I decided that each child should be taught how to handle a slingshot. That included the girls. In fact, the first one I taught was my oldest child Charity. She took right to it and helped teach her younger brothers and sisters how to hunt with the slingshot when they got old enough. Not all of them became expert shots but even the least of them did a good job of keepin’ critters at bay that wanted to make a meal out of the chickens or the garden. It was good self protection too as I can testify to.
As far as the children wuz concerned they each had nine mommas and as far as the women wuz concerned they each had 18 children. They loved each one the same way with no favorites. That kept everythin’ simple. It was too hard tryin’ to figure out and explain who was your real momma or who could call Florry or Hannah Grandma an’ who couldn’t, who might be an aunt or a cousin or some such. Even when they wuz babies, one mother’s teat was as good as another’s as long as there wuz milk to be had. Of course, the wives knew which of the babies squirted out from between their legs, but like I said, it was a lot easier if everyone didn’t play no favorites.
Anyway, things got to be running pretty smooth so I could concentrate on earnin’ a livin’. That didn’t last long. When we wuz livin’ out in the middle of nowhere nobody much come by to stick their noses in my business. Since we moved close to the big city there wuz a lot more people around an’ they all seemed curious about us. I guess it’s to be expected when they start seein’ a passel of women an’ children around with only one man.
It started innocent enough. My nearest neighbor came by an’ introduced his self. I could tell he was mighty curious by what he saw but I didn’t offer no explanation and he was too polite to pry. He must have told others though cuz the next thing I knew there was a whole parade of people “just happenin’ by” to introduce themselves to the new neighbors. Jerusha! I didn’t realize I had so many neighbors.
“We could sell tickets for the viewin’,” said Polly.
“I ain’t interested in makin’ money that way,” I replied. “I’d much prefer they stayed away.” Some of the people wuz just wanted to gawk but some of them, I could tell, wuz up to no good. Men who wuz just plain galoots wuz stoppin’ askin’ for work even when it wuz plain I didn’t have no use for them. They wuz shore eyein’ the women though an’ like I said before I knew they wuz up to no good. I had a bad feelin’ I wuz gonna regret moving here. I decided to call a meeting of the wives to discuss security.
“I think we are going to have trouble here before long with all the saddle tramps comin’ by and eyein’ you women. Somebody’s liable to get hurt if we don’t do some plannin’ before trouble starts.”
“We wuz thinkin’ the same thing,” said Beth. “That’s why we drew up these plans. You can look them over an’ tell us if we missed anything.” She handed me a map of the ranch an’ surrounding terrain with defensive positions an’ hidin’ places for the children.
“It looks okay to me,” I said. I shoulda known Beth would already be thinking this out. I wuz right proud of her.
“I’m glad you think so.”
“I see everybody’s name on here except mine.”
“That’s cuz we figured if there’s gonna be trouble the galoots would wait until you wuz away.”
“That makes sense but what if I’m here?”
“Then you should get out of the way as soon as possible.”
“What are you talking about? I ain’t no coward. If there’s goin’ to be trouble then I’m goin’ to be in the thick of it to protect my wives an’ children.”
“I knew he wouldn’t agree,” said Philomena. “He’s so stubborn. Just like a man.”
“Well, I just happen to be a man,” I replied. “Perhaps you should explain your reasonin’ on how I should go hide while you women fight.”
“It’s perfectly logical,” said Polly. “Men aren’t afraid of women. They’re afraid of other men. If a gang of galoots rides in meanin’ to do us harm, it won’t be to kill the women but they might kill the man in order to get to us. The galoots will think we’re defenseless but that will be their mistake.”
“That makes a lot of sense,” I allowed, “but it still seems cowardly.”
“General Lee didn’t really lead his troops into battle where he might have been hurt or killed,” Polly replied. “He was in a safe area where he could observe the battle and direct his troops.”
“So now I should think of myself as General Lee?”
“Yes, in a matter of speakin’,” said Beth. “Better yet, just think of yourself as the most important person in this family and we’d all be lost without you.” There was agreement heard all around the table and I felt right embarrassed. General Lee was probably glad he never had to fight a woman’s logic. He woulda lost every time. Everyone said they wuz willin’ to kill to protect what was precious to us which was each other.
Florry handed me a list of things to buy includin’ more weapons an’ ammunition as well as a list of suppliers where I would get the best prices. Her experience from runnin’ a store wuz comin’ in handy. It was more money goin’ out but it is wuz necessary.
“I gotta get some money comin’ in soon,” I said. They all started jabberin’ at once with suggestions.
“One at a time,” I exclaimed.
“Philomena and I can go bounty huntin’,” said Beth.
“I ain’t gonna let you two go bounty huntin’.”
“Why not? It’s not like we ain’t collected bounties before. There’s good money in it and it sure has come in handy.”
“We didn’t go huntin’ for no bounties,” I replied. “Those galoots come to us.”
“Well, we wouldna known about the bounties on those galoots without first seein’ their wanted posters. Why don’t you let me at least me go collect a batch of those posters? You never know, some of those galoots comin’ around here might have bounties on them. We can arrest ‘em or shoot ‘em when they ride in to stare at us.” That got giggles from the rest of the women an’ I tried to change the subject.
“Any other suggestions?” The subject of cattle ranchin’ came up but I wasn’t interested. My pa tried it an’ he went broke pretty quick. Heck! Some of the experienced ranchers wuz havin’ a rough time of it what with the price of cattle goin’ down. The cost of raisin’ cattle never seemed to go down.
There wuz some other suggestions but they wuz things I didn’t want to get involved in because of time, talent or risk. I said I would consider everythin’ an’ then ended the meetin’.
I knew I wuzn’t goin’ to hear the last of Beth’s bounty huntin’ idea. I wuz right. She had Philomena’s support an’ she had a way of gettin’ the other wives on her side too. They just plain wore down my resistance. After listenin’ to them harp for a while, I told Beth I’d let her go ahead an’ get those wanted posters but there was no way I wuz goin’ to allow her to chase galoots for reward money.
So the next time I had to go into town for supplies, I told Beth she could come with me and we’d pick up wanted posters at the sheriff’s office. About half way in, we heard shooting an’ saw two galoots firing at another who had taken cover behind some rocks. A dead horse wuz layin’ nearby. One of the pair took notice of us and fired a shot our way. He wasn’t a very good shot or maybe he wuz just warnin’ us off, but Beth an’ I jumped off the buckboard an’ hid behind some rocks just as a precaution.
I should mention my sister/wife did not neglect to grab her Winchester Model 94 as we took cover. I’d given it to her for her last birthday and I had a feelin’ that galoot wuz gonna regret firin’ on us. I wuz right. Beth seldom missed what she wuz aimin’ at an’ wuz a dead shot at that range. That’s exactly what the galoot wuz on Beth’s first shot. He wuz dead. His pardner looked surprised an’ then confused. He fired our way, but he wuz dead a moment later from Beth’s second shot.
The other galoot wuz the smart one. He put down his weapon an’ raised his hands. He started walkin’ toward us.
“He’s wearin’ a badge,” said Beth. She lowered her rifle an’ we relaxed though we didn’t lose our cover just to be safe. The law man didn’t lower his hands. Like I said. He wuz smart. He got close enough to shout.
“I’m a United States Marshal,” he called.
“You can put your hands down,” I replied an’ stepped out to meet him.
“That wuz some mighty fine shootin’, Mister. You saved my life an’ I’m grateful. Is your missus all right?”
“My sister wuz the marksman,” I replied. He gasped in surprise an’ then Beth stepped out into view. He remembered his manners an’ removed his hat.
“I’m grateful, Ma’am.”
“Did those galoots have a bounty on ‘em? If so, I’m claimin’ it,” Beth replied.
“I’m not sure, but let’s go take a look. You’re certainly welcome to any reward money there might be. You earned it.”
It turned out only one of the galoots had a bounty on him. It wuzn’t much. He was after the Marshal ‘cuz his brother wuz hanged for murder an’ Marshal Law was the one that captured him. I helped the Marshal tie the bodies to their mounts an’ collect his saddle from his dead mount. On the way into town, I could tell the Marshal was quite taken with Beth an’ he asked her directly if he might call on her.
“I have a husband, Marshal. I have two children besides.”
“Your husband is a mighty lucky man, Ma’am.”
“I like to think so,” Beth replied. “Course, I feel purdy lucky myself.” I could feel my face blushin’ with pride when I heard that.
The Marshal said he would get the reward money to Beth as soon as possible. He didn’t even charge us for the galoots’ burials.
“I’m going to pay for that. It’s the least I can do for you savin’ my life.” Beth told him why we were goin’ into town an’ he loaded her down with a big stack of wanted posters. It turned out he had heard of Beth from the Sheriff in Hand Springs.
“I sure wish I could hire you,” he said. “You’d be worth your weight in gold.”
“Don’t encourage her,” I urged. I knew Beth didn’t need no encouragement. I also knew what to expect as we made our way home. Violence seemed to have strange effect on her. Specially if she wuz the one doin’ the violence. She had just killed two men an’ her lust wuz up. She wanted to fuck somethin’ fierce. She asked me to pull off behind some trees an’ I knew it wuzn’t so she could piss. We jumped off the buckboard an’ Beth pulled up her dress an’ braced herself against a rock so I could mount her. We didn’t exchange words. We didn’t have to. We wuz no better than a couple of animals but we liked it that way. The other wives wuz the same way.
When we got back home, Beth told one an’ all about our adventure an’ how she claimed another bounty. Everyone was shocked an’ excited by her story an’ I could tell Philomena wuz wishin’ she had been with us.
“I can’t think of a better way to make a livin’ than huntin’ down galoots that have bounties on their heads,” said Beth.
“It’s too dangerous,” I replied. “The answer is no.”
“You keep sayin’ that, but I ain’t got a scratch on me yet.” I seemed to be repeatin’ myself.
“I can’t imagine you’d like chasin’ galoots all around Texas on your own.”
“She won’t be alone,” said Philomena. “I’ll ride with her.”
“Well, just remember you two won’t have no husband around to take care of your womanly needs from time to time. An’ I’m certain you both will miss your children somethin’ awful. They will surely miss you.” I could tell I wuz finely getting’ through to my two would-be bounty hunters. They hadn’t thought of that.
“I’m sure there are plenty of galoots in an’ around Austin,” said Polly. “You could chase after them durin’ the day an’ be home at night.”
“That’s a great idea,” said Beth. “Thanks!” I just glared at Polly. Well, I wuzn’t done yet.
“If you track down too many galoots around here, some of them will turn around an’ track you down.”
“That’s true, but I just thought of a way it might work.”
“What is it?”
“Never you mind. I still have to work it out in my head.” I just shook my head an’ walked out to get some chores done.
Philomena an’ Beth took some trips to Austin when I wuz not able to go along, but I wuzn’t much worried about them. If any galoot had thoughts of interferin’ with either of them, he would soon get his mind changed or he would wind up dead on the side of the road. They kept secret the reason for the trips but I knew they would tell me when they wuz ready. Well, anyways, I couldn’t follow them around all day to keep them out of trouble. I had other things to do.
I let the neighborin’ rancher’s cattle graze on my land in exchange for some beef later on. He had a plague of rabbits on his land so he paid Charity an’ Billy a small bounty for each pair of ears they brought him plus we had that much more rabbit for the stew pot.
I wuz workin’ in the barn one day when I heard the children screamin’ like banshees from hell. That wuzn’t so unusual, children bein’ children, but there’s a scream and then there’s a scream that makes a body drop what he’s doin’ an’ come runnin’. The wives wuz doin’ the same.
The first thing I saw wuz a covered wagon drawn by a four horse team out by the road that ran past the ranch gate. A man wuz on the ground an’ Billy an’ Charity had their slingshots ready to shoot. Wally wuz holdin’ a knife to the galoot’s throat.
“Step away, children,” said Hannah. Florry an’ her wuz both carryin’ shotguns an’ had them aimed at the galoot’s head.
“What’s goin’ on,” I said.
“He tried to grab Molly,” said Charity.
“That’s a lie,” cried the galoot.
“It’s the truth!”
“You ain’t gonna take a little nigger’s word over mine, are ya? They’re the ones that attacked me!” Well, of course I wuz gonna take Charity’s word over the galoot’s but I didn’t say so out loud. I wuz tryin’ to decide what I wuz gonna do about this fool. He wuz harmless right then so it didn’t seem right to just kill him. I could turn him over to the law, but the law tended to believe a white man’s word over a colored child’s or even if the child wuz white. Molly looked looked scared but unharmed so I decided to let him go with a warnin’ not to let me see his face aroun’ these parts ever again.
“Get off there you hellion,” the galoot demanded. Billy had climbed up on the wagon an’ was peerin’ inside.
“Take a look, Pa.”
“You don’t have no right to go in there.” I ignored the galoot an’ climbed up beside my son. I looked to where he wuz pointin’. There wuz two young girls bound and gagged lyin’ on the floor of the wagon. They wuz raggedy an’ dirty.
“Cut ‘em loose,” I told Billy.
“Those two are my daughters. They wuz misbehavin’ an’ I have the right to discipline them as I see fit,” he yelled. “I’ll have the law on you if don’t let me go right away.”
I shook my head in disgust. That was no way to treat children no matter how bad they wuz behavin’. We watched as Billy helped the two girls down. The older one looked at the galoot with pure hatred in her eyes. She couldn’t be more than ten years old. The other one looked about seven.
“I heard what he wuz sayin’,” the older one said. “It’s all lies. He kilt our Pa an’ he did dirty things to us.” Her eyes wuz fillin’ with tears.
“The girl’s the one that’s lyin’ and she’s crazy as a loon,” the galoot retorted. “I’m gonna whip your butt good when I get you home.”
“Well, it looks like the Sheriff is gonna have to figger out who’s tellin’ the truth here,” I replied.
“Let’s be reasonable now,” said the galoot. He started to take off his hat.
“Don’t let him do that,” the girl warned. “He’s got a little gun in there.”
“Just flinch one mo’ time an’ you is a dead man, Mister,” said Hannah. The galoot froze an’ I grabbed his hat. There was a double-barreled derringer rigged up in the crown.
“He’s got a pistol in his boot, too,” the girl said. She reached into the galoot’s boot an’ brought it out. The two glared at each other an’ then a shot rang out. The galoot fell back an’ twitched some, then he wuz still. The little girl had shot the galoot dead. There wuz a bloody hole in his chest.
As soon as we recovered from our shock, we acted quickly. The girl let me have the gun without resistance. I then dragged the galoot’s body behind some brush and told Wally an’ Billy to lead the rig into the barn. The wives gathered up the children an’ hurried into the house.
The older girl’s name was Daisy and her sister’s name was Maisy. They wuz 13 an’ ten years old but they was so under fed an’ scrawny that they looked a lot younger. The wives burned their old clothes an’ gave ‘em a bath then dressed ‘em in some old dresses. They got fed next but they couldn’t eat much cuz their bellies wuz so shrunk.
This is the story I got from Daisy. Their ma wuz long dead an’ their pa wuz a worthless drunk. She didn’t know how her pa met up with the galoot but he offered to find a home for the girls since their pa couldn’t take care of ‘em an’ pay him for his trouble. The deal wuz made at their shack an’ the two celebrated with a couple of bottles of whiskey. But their pa’s whiskey was poisoned. Soon after he started drinking, he was passed out an’ then dead. The girls wuz then tied up. Daisy didn’t give me no details about what “dirty things” the galoot did to them. That wuz fine with me. I didn’t want to know.
“I suppose I’ll have to go to jail,” said Daisy.
“Why do you suppose that,” I asked.
“I kilt that man.”
“I don’t rightly recall you killin’ anyone,” I replied. “I wuz just talkin’ to him plain an’ simple like an’ the next thing I know he fell dead. I think his heart gave out. He musta been sickly. Anyone else know any different?” Everyone just shook their heads and I said, “You musta been mistaken.” Daisy wuz a smart girl an’ she nodded her head in understandin’.
“Are you gonna send us to an orphanage?”
“Is that what you want?”
“Oh no! I don’t want that at all. Me an’ Maisy will work for ya for free if’n we can stay here.”
“I got plenty of help around here,” I replied. “Sorry.”
I do have openin’s for a couple of daughters though, if you an’ Maisy are interested.”
“I’d be your new father an’ these women, they’d be your new mothers. You two would have a bunch of new brothers an’ sisters too. Of course, you an’ Maisy would have your share of the chores. What do you say?” Daisy answered me by rushin’ into my arms an’ huggin’ me. Everyone started whooping an’ hollerin’ an’ huggin’ each other. Maisy was busy huggin’ Billy who she saw as her hero. Daisy wuzn’t much younger than me but I wuzn’t interested in her that way. I thought she had to have a chance bein’ a child.
Along about this time Philomena an’ Beth returned from a day in Austin an’ I had to explain everythin’ to ‘em. They wuz plenty upset, of course, but after they calmed down they wanted to go take a look at the body to see if they recognized him from the wanted posters they’d been studyin’. I took ‘em to where I hid the body but they didn’t recognize him.
“I can’t understand why he thought he could grab my Molly with all the other children around,” said Beth. I explained that the children wuz playin’ hide an’ seek an’ Molly wuz the seeker so the galoot likely didn’t see the other children when he happened by. That seemed to satisfy Beth. She spat on the galoot’s face before walkin’ away. Philomena did the same thing so I added my own spittle before lootin’ the body. I found a money belt an’ more weapons as well as a packet of papers. After dark, we tied the body to the back of a horse. I hauled it out to a lonely place an’ dumped it where none but the coyotes an’ buzzards wuz likely to find it.
“What did you find in the wagon,” Beth asked the next mornin’.
“Nothin’ much other than the children,” I replied.
“Take a look at those tracks the galoot’s wagon made.”
I took a look and said, “So?”
“They’re mighty deep ruts for a near empty wagon. And why did he need a four horse team when two woulda done it?”
“You tell me.”
“There’s somethin’ heavy in that wagon an’ we ain’t found it yet.” She talked to Daisy an’ asked her if she knew where the galoot wuz bound. Daisy wuz under the impression he wuz comin’ back from Mexico but she didn’t know where he wuz bound. I got some tools an’ I pried off the boards from the wagon bed. What I found took my breath away; the bottom ‘neath the false bottom wuz lined with gold bullion. We wuz rich beyond our wildest dreams. The refinery marks showed the gold come from Mexico.
“I’m mighty curious to know how that galoot come by so much gold,” said Beth.
“I figgered you would be,” I replied.
“He musta stole it or sold somethin’ purdy valuable.”
“Let me know when you find out. I gotta find a hidin’ place for this gold.” I buried it under a stall in the barn.
The papers the galoot had on him showed he wuz a former soldier. Beth an’ Philomena looked through old newspapers an’ discovered that an Army arms depot had been raided an’ a huge load of weapons an’ ammunition wuz taken. The Army tracked down the galoots, all former soldiers, but the stuff had already been sold to a Mexican bandido who fancied his self as the next boss of Mexico. It had been traded for gold bullion. The galoots would not tell the Army where the gold wuz hid so after they wuz tried they wuz shot by a firin’ squad.
The galoot that Daisy kilt must have been involved in the raid cuz he had been stationed at the Army depot too, but he got away. That satisfied me that the gold wuz ill gotten gains so finders keepers. Of course, the Army had first claim on it...if they could find it. Now I had to find a way to sell the gold without attractin’ attention. The wives an’ children knew to keep their mouths shut so I wuzn’t worried there.
“It looks like you two won’t have to go bounty huntin’ after all,” I told Philomena an’ Beth.
“But we’re havin’ so much fun,” Beth protested.
“What do you mean by that?” Beth got all red in the face an’ fessed up to what she an’ Philomena had been doin’ in Austin. They went an’ talked to Marshal Law an’ offered to hunt for wanted men in an’ around Austin. If they found someone, he would be reported to the Marshal. The Marshal would make the arrest an’ the wives would get the reward without gettin’ involved in the arrest.
Marshal Law gave them a room to use an’ they would change into men’s clothes. They would spend their time outside the saloons pretendin’ to be idlers, but always on the lookout. So far, they had three arrests an’ $150 to their credit.
“So you see it doesn’t put Philomena an’ me in danger at all. The hardest thing we had to do was learn how to spit an’ whittle.”
“I can see that,” I replied. “But it ain’t necessary no more an’ I don’t want y’all doin’ it.”
“Oh, we wuz only gonna do it until we got enough money to open our own detective agency just like the one Mister Sherlock Holmes of London, England has. Now we won’t have to wait.”
“You ain’t gonna open no detectin’ agency. You two are gonna stay home an’ be wives...my wives.”
“It’s somethin’ we have always wanted to do an’ we are gonna do it.”
“I forbid it.”
“Fine! But see if I get into your bed ever again.”
“I feel the same way,” said Philomena.
“Go ahead an’ cut off your noses,” I replied. “Y’all forget I have seven other wives to take care of my carnal desires. Any one of them will gladly take your turns in my bed.”
“We will see about that, Mister Bill Stinker.”
Well, that very evening the rest of the wives suddenly had “female problems” and couldn’t come to my bed. I knew it was a danged conspiracy an’ an attack on my male authority, but I could play the same game. I wasn’t gonna allow any one of them into my bed until each one once more pledged to love, honor an’ obey me; even if they begged me to use them first. It had been years since I had slept alone in my bed but I could get used to it again. A week later I wuz staring at a sign in a sign painter’s shop that read “Tinkerton Detective Agency.”
“They got the name wrong,” I said. “The name’s Tinker, not Tinkerton.”
“We know that,” said Philomena, “but Tinkerton Detective Agency has a nice ring to it. It’ll be good for business.”
“I don’t see how, ‘specially when they find out you two are women. Whoever heard of a woman detective?”
“Oh, you’re the official detective, not us. We’re just your helpers.”
“What are you talkin’ about? I ain’t no detective.” They assured me I wuzn’t gonna do no detectin’. Whenever a client (their word for a customer) come in, they would tell him I wuz out doin’ detectin’. They would get the information they needed, then go out an’ investigate. When they solved the case, I would get the credit an’ nobody would be the wiser. It sounded a bit too complicated to me for it to work, but that’s the way they wanted it. I wuz just glad I didn’t have to sleep alone no more.
I thought we wuz through for the day an’ about to head home when I saw Beth get that special look in her eyes; sorta like when a she wolf sees supper walkin’ her way. I looked where she wuz lookin’ an’ saw a group of men walkin’ into a bank. I turned back to ask Beth what she saw the wives wuz hurryin’ toward the weapons they kept stored in the buckboard.
“What’s goin’ on,” I demanded.
“I recognized those galoots from their wanted posters,” said Beth. “They’re probably robbin’ the bank right this very minute. We intend to stop ‘em when they come out. Where the hell is your pistol?”
“I forgot it.” Actually, I just got tired of carryin’ around the danged thing cuz I never used it.
“Take cover then an’ don’t come out until the shootin’ is over.” Philomena an’ Beth took cover behind the buckboard.
Well, I wuzn’t going into hidin’ when my wives wuz getting’ ready for a gunfight. I still carried my slingshot an’ plenty of lead shot. I saw a ladder leadin’ to the roof of a buildin’ down a ways. I figgered it would make good cover an’ I’d be able to see what wuz goin’ on.
The galoots started shooting inside the bank an’ continued as they run outside. I wuz on the roof an’ in position just in time. Men, women an’ children started runnin’ for cover. A lot of people wuz runnin’ toward the wives’ position an’ getting’ in their line of fire so I knew they wuzn’t gonna take a chance of hittin’ an innocent bystander. But if the galoots wuz able to get on their mounts, they might have a chance to get away. There looked to be seven galoots an’ I had ten lead shots. I had to make my shots count.
One of the galoots wuz carryin’ a saddlebag which I surmised contained the loot. My first shot hit him in the arm likely breaking it. He dropped the bag an’ fell down screamin’ in pain. The other galoots looked mighty puzzled becuz it wuz obvious he wuzn’t shot from a gun. Another galoot grabbed for the saddlebag an’ got shot in his backside. They now realized they wuz under attack, but they didn’t know where I wuz. Two more galoots wuz up on their mounts by now but they got shot off almost right away by rifle fire so I knew the wives’ line of fire wuz clear by now. That made me feel a lot better.
The galoots now directed their fire toward the wives but that just gave me an opportunity to fire another round. This one hit the galoot right in the crown of his hat. He fell down an’ lay still. They wuz in a perfect crossfire an’ it wuz purdy hopeless for them, but they wuz determined to leave with the loot or not at all. By the time the wives an’ me wuz through with ‘em, five of them galoots wuz dead. Two that I shot still lived, but that wouldn’t be for long. Texas justice is swift justice.
Well, purdy soon after the shooting stopped, people started peekin’ out from their hidin’ places an’ crowdin’ around. Someone from the bank crept out, grabbed the saddlebag an’ scooted back inside. The law finely showed up, but they wuz too late to help. The bodies wuz gathered up an’ the two still alive wuz hauled off to jail. A bank guard also died in the shoot-out.
It turned out the galoots wuz the Frank an’ Jesse Jones gang (the Texas Terrors) an’ they had a $10,000 reward on them. The local newspaper come out an’ asked us questions. Philomena an’ Beth made sure they knew about the Tinkerton Detective Agency. The newspaper story called me Slingshot Bill (which wuz how I got my moniker) an’ they called Philomena an’ Beth a couple of deadly Annie Oakleys. They also said I wuz personally trained by Mister Sherlock Holmes, but that wuz a plain falsehood. I never told ‘em that. Fact is, I never even met Mister Sherlock Holmes much less be personally trained by him.
Marshal Law told us we should be gettin’ an extra reward from the bank, but the bank ignored that suggestion. So he told some men he wuz friends with. Some powerful ranchers threatened to take their money elsewhere an’ even the Mayor of Austin an’ the Governor of Texas made similar threats so the bank changed their tune right quick an’ I got a nice reward from them too. I wound up givin’ that money to the bank guard’s widder. She now had two young children to raise by herself.
You’d think from bein’ local heroes, the detective agency would do well. It never even got a chance. A day after the newspaper article appeared, a representative of the Pinkerton Detective Agency showed up an’ served me with a cease an’ desist order. That means I had stop detectin’ as the Tinkerton Detective Agency right away. We talked to a lawyer that Marshal Law sent us to an’ he said Pinkerton wuz right suspicious of anything that sounded like Pinkerton like for instance, Tinkerton, an’ assumed we wuz tryin’ to steal business from them. He also said he’d heard the Pinkerton detectives wuz a mite upset with us since they had been chasin’ the Jones gang for months an’ now wuzn’t gonna get no reward money at all.
“You can probably still do business as Tinker Detective Agency since that is your real name,” the lawyer said. Philomena an’ Beth had been talkin’ it over an’ they decided that detectin’ could never be as excitin’ as bounty huntin’ so they changed their mind about bein’ in the detectin’ business. I wuz afraid they wuz gonna go back to bounty huntin’, but they said they’d take a break from that for a while too. I wuz hopin’ the break would be permanent like. We now had more money than a body could count so why not relax? One of the benefits of the publicity we got wuz that the galoots stopped comin’ around. I imagine they wuz afraid of the dangerous Tinker sisters.
We started makin’ plans to expand the main house an’ we decided it wuz time for the older children to start school. Daisy an’ Maisy never had no schoolin’ so Florry an’ Polly wuz tryin’ to teach ‘em their letters an’ numbers. Hannah warned me about tryin’ to get Wally an’ Charity into a “white man’s school” but I didn’t think it would be a problem. Wally an’ Charity wuz just children an’ besides that, we wuz local heroes.
Well, I’m afraid Hannah wuz right an’ I wuz wrong. The school authorities wuz awful nice about sayin’ no, but they still said no; that it was written into Texas law that white an’ colored children could not be educated together. They assured me that there wuz a perfectly good school for colored children in a part of town where all the other colored folk lived an’ I could take ‘em there. Billy an’ Molly wuz welcome to attend the local school since they wuz white. They said they wuz awful sorry but I know when I’m bein’ lied to even when the liar is all sweetness when they are lyin’. I wuz sad an’ then I wuz mad. If my children couldn’t attend the same school together, then they wuz not goin’ to school at all.
The wives all told me I wuz bein’ stubborn an’ it wouldn’t be fair to the children to deny them a good education. That’s they way things wuz in Texas, they said, an’ probably everywhere else too. I knew they wuz right, but it didn’t seem right. My guess wuz that we wuz gonna have to adjust to reality an’ send my colored children to a different school.
Well, Florry come to me an’ told me about this notice she saw in the newspaper. This college-educated lady wanted to be a tutor. I figgered we had a lot of money so it wouldn’t hurt to talk to her an’ see if we could set up a school on the ranch. Florry wrote to her an’ invited her to meet with us. The lady wrote back an’ suggested meeting at a restront for tea. Well, I never drank tea before an’ I wuzn’t sure I wanted to start. Florry said I could drink coffee if I wanted. That wuz a load off my mind. It would be me, Florry an’ Polly an’ it wuz agreed that Florry would do most of the talkin’.
Alicia Parkway Calabasas wuz her name. I know that’s a mouthful. Miss Parkway looked to be the typical school marm type. She wuz tall, kind of scrawny an’ wore a pair of thick spectacles on the end of her nose. The lady wuz a spinster who looked to be in her 20’s. She showed us her diploma an’ her certificates givin’ her the right to teach all the grades up to those for takin’ the exams for college admission. Florry asked her about her prior experience an’ Miss Parkway said she taught for a year in Houston.
“Why did you leave that position,” Florry asked. Miss Parkway got all embarrassed an’ said she wuz engaged to be married but the engagement wuz broke off an’ didn’t want to stay around where her former intended still lived an’ needed the money tutorin’ would bring in until she found another position. She didn’t give details but she said she had given up on men. She eyed me to see if I’d taken offense but I didn’t. I know how some men can be. The woman changed the subject by asking about the child she’d be tutorin’.
“Children,” said Florry. “There’s more than one. First of all, we’ve taken in two girls; one is ten and the other is 13 years old. They have never been to school. My daughter is teaching them their letters and numbers but they need more professional attention. There are four younger children who are ready to start school. You will be instructing them also.”
“They will be going to the public school, won’t they?”
“They won’t because two of them are colored,” Florry replied. “Mister Tinker doesn’t believe the children should be taught separately just because of skin color. If that is a problem for you, then I’m afraid we’ve wasted everyone’s time.”
“That is not a problem for me, Miss Parkway replied, “however it might be a problem for my landlady. You see, I intend to tutor from my landlady’s parlor.”
“Then I suggest you give your landlady her notice and board with us. We are constructing an addition to the ranch house so we will have plenty of room. It will be more convenient in any event.”
“That’s quite impossible,” said Miss Parkway. “I need to make myself available for a fulltime position.”
“We will pay you a fulltime wage and include room and board.”
“You can afford that?”
“Money is not a problem. You may have heard about Mister Tinker in the newspapers. He and his sisters brought down the notorious Frank and Jesse Jones gang. The reward was substantial.”
“You’re Slingshot Bill?”
“That’s what they’re callin’ me now,” I replied.
“Excuse me for being forward, but you seem very young, Mister Tinker. From the newspaper deion, I fancied you were a much older man.”
“Sometimes I feel older than my years.”
“You must have married very young. How many children do you have?”
“Twenty so far,” I said.
“They’re not all from the same mother, of course,” said Florry, “and a couple of them are adopted.” Florry seemed flustered now an’ Miss Parkway looked disbelieving. Well, she kind of turned cool toward us after that. She probably didn’t approve of the way I lived or didn’t believe us or some such thing. Well, I couldn’t help that. I wuz the way I wuz. The meetin’ ended an’ Florry told her if she had any more questions, she should write us, but we didn’t expect to hear from her no more.
“That didn’t go very good,” I said as we made our way home.
“I was hopin’ for a better result,” said Florry as we made our way home. “Miss Parkway would have been good for the children.”
“I shouldna opened my blamed mouth.”
“She would have to know anyway, but I hoped to take it slow; getting her used to us.”
“I don’t think I should be around when you talk to the next one.”
Well, there wuzn’t no next one cuz three days later we got a letter from Miss Parkway asking if she could visit us at the ranch for more talk an’ to meet the children. Of course we said yes.
On the day she arrived, Miss Parkway wuz introduced to everyone. She knew everyone’s name after that without having to ask again. The children took to her right away an’ the wives seemed to like her too. I tried to keep my mouth shut this time.
Miss Parkway admitted she wondered if we wuz playin’ a joke on her, but she asked some people she trusted about me an’ found out I wuz the real Slingshot Bill an’ wuz not likely foolin’ cuz I really did have a passel of children at home. She wuz not shocked about how we lived because she studied about how people lived from all over the world when she wuz in college.
She then told us she had some ideas about educatin’ children that would never be approved of or paid for by Texas politicians. She would teach what the education authorities wanted an’ add her own ideas. Florry told her it was okay with us an’ we would pay for everything Miss Parkway needed includin’ building a schoolhouse if that’s what she wanted. Also, Polly would help her cuz she wanted to be a teacher too.
“This is like a dream come true,” said Miss Parkway.
We talked about the need for the children to learn the three R’s: readin’, ‘ritin’ an’ ‘rithmetic. But Miss Parkway wanted to start teachin’ ‘em French, Latin an’ Greek right away too. I knew folks over in Louisiana spoke some French but I didn’t know where folks spoke those other languages. She explained those languages wuz important for college an’ children learned languages best at a young age. I knew that much. Alma always spoke Spanish to the children. They not only understood what she said, but they answered her in Spanish too. I wuzn’t too sure about the children even wantin’ to go to college.
“Anyone with a college education will have the advantage as they grow up in this new century we are entering, Mr. Tinker,” she said. I wuzn’t convinced she wuz right, but the wives wuz. It didn’t matter to me none so I just nodded my head an’ went along with whatever they wanted.
So that’s what happened. Miss Parkway came to live with us an’ started instructin’ Daisy, Maisy, Charity, Billy, Molly an’ Wally. Polly wuz her assistant. We even built her a schoolhouse with desks, books an’ everythin’ she could want. She told the children to call her Miss Alicia an’ so the wives an’ me did too. Some of the younger children called her Momma by mistake, but Miss Alicia didn’t seem bothered by it though she blushed a bit.
Whenever things went purdy smooth around the ranch, that wuz bound to be the time for things to go all to hell. Well, not right away. The wives (not all of ‘em at one time) started organizin’ shoppin’ trips to Austin, buyin’ clothes for themselves an’ the children an’ orderin’ things from the Sears Roebuck catalogue. Then they would go to lunch at a restront. The only bad thing wuz that the restronts wouldn’t serve Hannah, Faith or Hope and sometimes even Alma. They said they didn’t mind though. They got to know some of the other colored women who lived in Austin an’ ate with them. They wuz mostly maids or some such. They would meet the other wives later on an’ come home together.
Well, this one time, Faith wuz the only one of the colored wives that went shoppin’, but she didn’t meet the others when she wuz supposed to. They all waited for her but then they got worried when she still didn’t come. I didn’t hear about it until most of ‘em come home an’ I wuz already saddlin’ up less than half a minute later.
“Ah’m comin wit’ you,” said Hope.
“No you’re not,” I replied.
“Me an’ Rex’ll find her easy, Bill. Let us help.” Well, I didn’t even think of ol’ Rex. Hope wuz already out thinkin’ me. I said all right an’ Hannah come too. I didn’t even argue with her since we wuz talkin’ about her daughter. We got into Austin an’ met up with Philomena an’ Beth. They wuz dressed as men an’ had already been huntin’ for Faith.
“Any luck?” Beth shook her head.
“We talked to a friend of hers an’ she said Hope wuz fine when she left.”
“Rex’ll find her,” said Hope. She gave Rex the scent of a kerchief that belonged to Faith, but the dog just wagged his tail an’ didn’t respond.
“She ain’t nowhere close,” said Hannah. “Let’s go find her.”
“It’s already gettin’ dark,” I said. “I don’t wanna lose any of you too.”
“I’ll walk with ‘em,” said Beth. “Anyone’ll die if he just looks crosseyed at us. We’ll just walk the main street an’ if Rex picks up a scent, we’ll come back for you. Philomena knows where we already looked so you go with her.”
We walked about for near an hour askin’ questions but nobody could offer any clue to where we could find Faith. We wuz walkin’ back to our meetin’ place with Beth an’ the others when a galoot come stumblin’ out a saloon door an’ fell down at our feet.
“Excuse me, gentlemen,” he said to our boots. He looked up at us.
“Hello, George,” he said. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”
“Hello, Homer,” said Philomena. “Haven’t been around in a while. Caught tryin’ to steal another galoot’s drink...again?”
“It wuz an honest mistake,” he replied. “Where’s Charlie?”
“Out an’ about.”
“Oh, good. I wuz worried. You look like you just lost your best friend.”
“I am lookin’ for a very good friend; a colored lady. She seems to have disappeared.”
“Is she real purdy?”
“She is that,” said Philomena. “Have you seen her?”
“No, but I overheard some buck niggers talkin’ about some other nigger grabbin’ a gal he took a fancy to.” Philomena’s eyes looked as deadly as I ever saw them.
“Did you hear a name mentioned?”
“And where do I find this Rufus?”
“They say he lit out for Houston. That’s where he lives. Houston. He’ll use her for a while then put her in a house or on the street to earn money for him. Sorry.”
“It’s Rufus who will be sorry if he’s harmed her in any way.”
“They say he’s real mean. Not even afraid of a white man.”
“Thanks for the information, Homer.”
“Is it worth the price of a drink?”
“Go in there an’ buy Homer a bottle of the best whiskey you can find, will ya Bill?” I hurried in there an’ did exactly that. He had to be talkin’ about Faith. He had to be. I guessed I wuz leavin’ for Houston on the next train.
“I will make Homer a rich man if his information leads us to Faith,” I said.
“Don’t bother,” said Philomena. “He’ll just lose it or someone will hurt or kill him for it. Beth and I will keep him in whiskey if his information is good. That’s what he wants.”
“He seems like an educated man.”
“He was a university professor until the students drove him to drink. That’s the story I heard.” I was shocked to hear that. I didn’t know educatin’ could be so dangerous. I wondered if Miss Alicia has a drinkin’ problem.
We met up with the others an’ shared the information we got. I told ‘em of my plans to leave for Houston. They all wanted to come with me, but I told ‘em it wuz too dangerous.
“Colored folks won’t tell a white man nothin’,” said Hannah. “You be wastin’ yo’ time there. Now a colored woman might tell another colored woman some gossip an’ that means me an’ Hope.” I knew they wuz right. I needed Beth an’ Philomena to stay home an’ help protect everyone at the ranch. They wuz unhappy about not comin’ along but realized I wuz right for a change.
We left on the Houston bound train the next mornin’. Hannah an’ Hope had to ride in a coloreds only car an’ I couldn’t be with ‘em so I fretted all the way to Houston. At least they let Rex ride with ‘em.
Miss Parkway told me about a Houston hotel that allowed colored folk to stay in rooms with the colored staff as long as they had room so that’s the hotel where I got my room. When I met up with the wives, they told me about talkin’ with the hotel maids. In plain words, they wuz too scared to talk.
“Ah’m sho’ they knows ‘bout Rufus,” said Hannah. “They just won’t say nothin’.”
“Maybe if you offer them money.”
“I offered them plenty of money, but they is too afraid anyway. I figger we’ll run into the same problem out on the street.”
“What do we do now?”
“We go out an’ find Hope anyways we can.” That made sense to me. We went an’ gave Rex the scent an’ wandered around Houston. Jerusha! Houston wuz bigger than Austin an’ the city seemed a lot hotter too. There wuz a lot more colored people livin’ in Houston too. I wuz feelin’ discouraged after about two hours of huntin’ an’ we wuz about to break for lunch when Rex caught a scent an’ started strainin’ at his leash. I started runnin’ with Rex with the wives tryin’ to catch up. He led me straight to a colored lady I’d never seen before an’ he barked at her like crazy.
“Get that nasty dog away from me,” screamed the frightened lady.
“I-I’m sorry, ma’am,” I stuttered. “I don’t know what got into him.” I pulled Rex away an’ the woman glared at me some before stalkin’ away.
“I guess Rex’s nose ain’t what it used to be,” I told the wives when they caught up with me.
“There ain’t nothin’ wrong with Rex’s nose,” said Hope, “but ah’m beginnin’ to wonder about yo eyes.”
“What do ya mean?”
“That’s the same dress Faith wuz wearin’ the last time we saw her,” said Hannah.
We followed the woman but she didn’t go far. In fact, she wuz sorta walkin’ back an’ forth in the same area.
“She’s sellin’ her body,” said Hannah. We watched her talk to a tall skinny white man. He give her some money an’ then followed her into an alley.
“Ah’m goin’ in when the galoot comes out,” said Hannah.
“She might lead us straight to Rufus if we wait an’ follow her,” I said.
“Who knows what’s happenin’ to Faith while we’re standin’ around here. I ain’t waitin’.” I shivered when I thought about what Faith might be goin through an’ I nodded my head.
It didn’t take long. Less than ten minutes after enterin’ the alley, the galoot sidled out an’ went on his way. Hannah an’ Hope sidled in an’ I covered the alley with Rex. The woman was wipin’ down her private parts when she saw Hannah an’ Hope.
“What’re you two doin’ here? This here is mah territory.”
“Ah don’t much care what you think is yo’ territory.”
“You would if you knew who I work fo’.”
“And just who do you work fo’?”
“An’ just where do I find this Rufus?” The woman looked kind of surprised that the wives wuzn’t terror-stricken when she mentioned the galoot’s name.
“Y’all must be new to Houston. Y’all don’t find Rufus. He finds you.” Hannah pulled her knife an’ held it to the woman’s throat.
“Ah ain’t got the time to wait fo’ that galoot to find me. Why don’t you tell me where to find him befo’ ah start carvin’ mah initials on yo’ face? Uh uh uh. Don’t go reachin’ for yo hatpin if you don’t want you to lose yo’ hand right at the wrist.”
“Ah ain’t sho’.” She wuz plain scared now. I could tell that.
“You better make a good guess cuz if you is wrong, ah’m comin’ back here an’ slice yo’ throat open.”
“Ah think he be usin’ this new girl not too far from here.”
“Is this her dress?” The gal nodded her head. That wuz enough for me. I wuz ready to kill. I just hoped we wuzn’t too late.
Beulah wuz her name. She told us about this house that he liked to use for his new girls. She warned us that we would be dead before we even got close to Rufus an’ then told us about his bodyguards an’ where they wuz likely to be. It wuz more information than we asked for. I akchully think she wanted us to succeed.
“There be an old woman too; my granny. Please don’t hurt her.”
We tied her up an’ gagged her an’ left her in back of the alley so she couldn’t warn Rufus. We told her we’d be back to untie her. I don’t think she believed us.
The house wuz more like a shack in a neighborhood of shacks where colored folk lived. Little children played in the street an’ old folks sat in chairs in front of the shacks so there wuz plenty of witnesses but that couldn’t be helped. I stood out like a sore thumb because I wuz the only white man around but that couldn’t be helped either. There wuz two men in front an’ another in back of the shack. I got the man in back usin’ my slingshot. Hannah an’ Hope didn’t rouse no suspicion from the two men in front. They clubbed both on their heads when they got close enough. There wuz no back door so we burst through the front door with our guns drawn. It wuz a one room shack. A huge colored man wuz caught by surprise. He wuz butt naked on a bed an’ lyin’ neath him wuz my wife, Faith, also butt naked. I ordered him off my wife an’ onto the floor.
“Bill? Momma? Hope? Praise the lord!” She got up off the bed an’ hugged each of us. I finely noticed an old colored woman sittin’ in a rockin’ chair passively watchin’ us. She wuz smokin’ a pipe. I assumed she wuz Beulah’s granny.
“Ah tol’ you my husbin’ wuz gonna come get me. Now youse in trouble.” The colored man looked kind of surprised when she said I wuz her husband.
“Yo husbin is a dead man,” he said with a grim smile. He didn’t seem afraid even with three guns pointed at him.
“I aim to put a bullet right between your eyes before I leave here,” I replied, “so make all the threats you want. Find somethin’ to put on, Faith.”
“Please don’t shoot him, Bill,” said Faith. “Ah made this man a promise an’ ah aims to keep it.”
“What promise is that?”
“Never you mind. Just tie him up an’ put a gag in his mouth.” I thought about arguin’ with her cuz I wuz worried about the time an’ if some galoot saw us an’ wuz reportin’ us. But I went ahead an’ tied him up anyway an’ put a gag in his mouth. Faith whispered somethin’ to her momma an’ when she turned around, she wuz holdin’ a knife. She smiled sweetly at Rufus.
“Remember what ah promised to do wit’ you if’n you touched me?” For the first time, the galoot showed fear. He shook his head an’ started strugglin’ an’ yellin’ through the gag. Faith bent down next to the galoot an’ whispered in his ear. I almost thought she wuz gonna kiss him. Her beautiful nakedness didn’t seem to bother her.
I smelt shit an’ the galoot screamed in pain. It took me a moment to realize that my dear wife wuz slicin’ away Rufus’ manhood. I’m glad I hadn’t eaten much since Faith disappeared. I woulda lost it all right then. Rex just wagged his tail. The sight didn’t seem to bother any of the women in the room. Rufus fainted an’ Faith wiped her hands on an old rag. She grabbed an old ragged dress an’ we wuz ready to go.
Granny wuzn’t payin’ no attention to us but I noticed she wuz wearin’ a toothless grin while lookin’ at Rufus. I grabbed up Rufus’ pistols, jewelry an’ money belt. The weapons wuz a custom job with gold an’ silver inlay. The money belt contained enough cash that Missus Magillicuddy would have seemed poor by comparison. I grabbed a thick wad of it an’ gave it to Granny. She thanked me an’ I told her where to find Beulah. She told me not to worry about the neighbors reportin’ us cuz they all feared an’ hated Rufus. I later learned Rufus bled to death.
Homecoming wuz a sweet affair with everyone celebratin’. I took Faith to bed with me an’ fucked her all night. I wuz a little worried when she turned up pregnant. The baby come out dark an’ it wuz obvious the she wuzn’t from my seed. Faith cried but I told her I’d love the baby anyway cuz half of it wuz from her. She felt better after that.
A year passed without incident. One mornin’ Miss Alicia come to me an’ said she had to return to Houston where her parents lived. I asked if there wuz a problem. It turned out oil wuz discovered there an’ land her parents owned wuz of a sudden worth a lot of money to the oil companies just for drillin’ rights.
Now that they wuz rich, Miss Alicia now had a dowry an’ a lot of gentlemen wuz now comin’ around askin’ for permission to woo her. They wanted grandchildren an’ expected their obedient daughter to oblige.
“Well, we’ll sure hate to lose you,” I said. She blushed an’ said it wuzn’t that simple.
“I wrote and told them I wuz already engaged to be married.”
“Well, that ain’t no problem. Just say you’re willin’ an’ I’ll marry you just like I did with the others.”
“They want to witness the marriage...in front of preacher or a judge.”
Well, that presented a problem so I talked it over with the other wives. They all said that they didn’t mind if Miss Alicia wuz the one lawfully wedded wife in the harem. It didn’t make her better than the other wives. So with other wives’ consent, I traveled to Houston with Miss Alicia an’ met her parents.
They didn’t think much of me cuz I didn’t dress fancy an’ everyone assumed I wuz marryin’ Miss Alicia for her fortune. I wuz real close to tellin’ ‘em that they could take the dowry an’ their oil fortune an’ stick it where the sun don’t shine, but Miss Alicia calmed me down before there wuz any violence. We got married in front of a judge an’ returned to Austin. Relations wuz cool between Alicia an’ her parents at first, but all wuz forgiven when she presented them with twin grandsons nine months to the day from when we got married.
It seems like all the galoots in Austin picked up an’ lit out for Houston where all the oil money wuz so things got purdy calm an’ peaceful around Austin. If you don’t count the politicians, everyone wuz fairly honest. There wuz no more wives after Alicia so this is a good place to end my narrative. There ain’t no more I want to tell you except to say there wuzn’t a wife or child of mine that didn’t do me proud.