May 11, 2009

Do not rob this bank

  In 1984 Leroy held up the First National Bank in Northfield, Minnesota. As he fled the bank, townspeople chased him down, beat him up, then delivered him up to the sheriff. All the money was recovered and Leroy went to prison.
  You’d think the criminal element would learn by the mistakes of others, but they never do. Leroy’s robbery was in 1984. Turn back your calendars 108 years — that’s where the truth of this lesson was first revealed.
  It’s September 7, 1876. Seven members of an outlaw gang ride into Northfield on horseback and rob the Northfield, Minnesota Bank.
  As the outlaws leave the bank, the townspeople open fire on them. Two of the gang are killed outright and three others are wounded and later captured.
  The leaders get away. You’ll remember them as Frank and his younger brother, Jesse. The James boys out of Missouri.
  So infuriated is the bank president that he posts a $5,000 reward for each of the James boys. That was a lot of money back then when cowboys made $30 for a month’s work. Five grand was a small fortune. Still is.
  Six years later some dude spots Jesse living in Hannibal, Missouri, under the name of “Mr. Howard.”
  A former member of Jesse’s own gang, hoping to collect the reward, shoots Jesse in the back of the head. Since that day, the backshooter has been immortalized in a folk song:
The dirty little coward that shot Mr. Howard
and laid poor Jesse in his grave.
  Jesse’s confessed killer was none other than the outlaw, Bob Ford who told the local sheriff: “The ball struck Jesse just behind the ear and he fell like a log — dead.”
  But Bob Ford never got the $5,000 reward. I guess they figured he wasn’t entitled to it because he’d been part of the gang.
  In case you’re wondering — that Bob Ford was no kin of mine. He rode with the Missouri boys. My ancestors rode with the Philadelphia boys.

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