Sunday, January 23, 2011

Train wreck: What is worst thing that can happen?


“And there is the headlight, shining far down the track, glinting off the steel rails that, like all parallel lines, will meet in infinity, which is after all, where this train is going.” __ Bruce Catton

It is a characteristic of speech to call almost the worst thing that can happen “a train wreck.” Maybe that is why, when I’m feeling pessimistic, I wonder about them.

Driving to work every day I look at the window. In the distance, I might see a train off to the left, and it offers a sort of comfort. In fact, one day last week, I saw three trains at once, each going about its business, or waiting on a siding while the other passed. There is something about a train traveling down the tracks in its own direction, on its own schedule, that provides its own sort of reassurance.

But when things go wrong, they go horribly wrong.

A few miles from where I live, in a long-ago time, the worst thing that can happen, did.

“A frightful collision occurred on the Denver and Rio Grande one and one-half miles below Palmer Lake yesterday afternoon about two o’clock, between two extra engines, in which Engineer Hart and Fireman C.F. Fogle lost their lives. The accident was said to have been caused by the carelessness of the two men named and their lives paid the penalty,” according to the Thursday, August 21, 1890, Rocky Mountain News.

“Engine 581, with a pile driver and a caboose attached, left Husted, nine miles below Palmer Lake, about 1:30 o’clock with orders to run through Palmer Lake. At the same time, Engine 258, in charge of Engineer Hart and Fireman Fogle, was given orders to run extra from Palmer Lake to Husted and protect against Engine 581. By the word protect it was meant that they should watch out for the northbound engine and in case where could not see ahead, the fireman was to go ahead with a flag until a clear stretch of track was reached. The track between Palmer Lake and Monument is very tortuous and winding with frequent cuts and great caution has always been observed, especially work engines and trains running as those were yesterday. Engineer Hart, and his fireman, it is presumed, believed that they could reach Monument in time to meet Engine 581, or that they would meet it on the clear track just north of that point. In this supposition they were mistaken and as a result the collision occurred.”

According to reports, the engineer and fireman from the northbound train were able to leap to safety but Hart and Fogle, headed south, were caught in the cab and crushed to death, as well as being badly scalded.

“Poor Fogle was standing between the cab and the tender, just ready to jump for his life, but was caught and horribly crushed, his leg and arm being broken.” He died before his wife could be summoned from Husted by telegraph.

The report noted “Hart, the dead engineer, has been on the road for some time and was a very efficient man. His first and last mistake occurred yesterday.”

But unfortunately, that was not the last mistake made in that area.

Just five years later, in July of 1895, a Santa Fe freight train went through the bridge at Monument and killed four.

“An appalling wreck occurred on the Santa Fe road near Monument at 11 o’clock this morning,” according to the New York Times. “A freight train consisting twenty cars plunged through a bridge near that place, burying beneath the debris the train crew, a number of tramps and several bridge carpenters who were repairing the bridge. Wrecking crews were quickly dispatched from Denver and Pueblo a special train from Colorado Springs with physicians. These with the citizens of Monument, worked heroically rescuing the dead and injured. One hundred and fifty feet of trestle went down with the train. The scene under the bridge was described as most shocking, freight cars, bridge timbers, and railroad iron being a horrible wreck. The plunge was 50 feet to the rocks below.”

But amazingly sometimes, you could experience a big wreck with no fatal injuries, as happened in Mancos, Colo. in May of 1920.

“Twelve persons were injured, some seriously late yesterday when Train No. 5 on the Rio Grande Southern derailed at Mancos, Colo. … The train was en route from Vance Junction to Durango. All coaches turned over. The train was carrying the private car of Superintendent C.B. Carpenter. The wreck was due to a water-soaked roadbed, according to railroad officials,” reported the Albuquerque Journal then.

In December of 1897, near Castle Rock, Colo., 33 men were injured when a southbound freight engine slammed into a runaway chair car.

“The car was not part a passenger train, but contained about 50 of the men who have been employed in the vicinity laying rails on the Rio Grande. In its two-mile dash it had acquired great headway and when it collided with the engine of the southbound train, the engine forced itself halfway through the car and the seats. Only a few are seriously injured,” according to the Colorado Springs Weekly Gazette.

“The fireman and the engineer of the colliding engine escaped injury by jumping. The men on the runaway car did not try to set the brakes on their car, because they did not know it was running away. They thought their train was being drawn by their engine. Most of the injuries were flesh wounds and bruises.”

It was a train wreck, of course, but not as bad as some. On occasion, there is a glimmer of optimism, despite the worst thing that could possibly happen.

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Please click on titles below to read related posts:

• Waved to his wife and headed for a train wreck.

• Swinging lanterns, headless baggage, other wrecks.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Joe Arridy's pardon came 72 years too late



“The correction of silence is what kills; when you know you have transgressed, and your friend says nothing and avoids your eye.” ___ Robert Louis Stevenson, 1882

“No man can justly censure or condemn another, because indeed no man truly knows another.” __ Sir Thomas Browne, 1642

But condemn, we did, all those years ago.
“Just before he was executed and Colorado State Penitentiary in 1939, 23-year-old Joe Arridy was playing with a toy train and had a smile on his face,” wrote Peter Marcus in a recent Denver Daily News article. “His last three meal requests: ice cream, ice cream and more ice cream. It has been documented that when Arridy stepped into the gas chamber, he was still grinning like a little boy.”
Last week, in one of his last official acts, Gov. Bill Ritter pardoned Joe Arridy, 72 years after the state killed the man with an I.Q. of only 46.
“Granting a posthumous pardon is an extraordinary remedy,” according to a statement by the Governor’s office. “But the tragic conviction of Mr. Arridy and his subsequent execution on Jan. 6, 1939, merit such relief based on great likelihood that Mr. Arridy was, in fact, innocent of the crime for which he was executed, and his severe mental disability at the time of the trail and execution. Pardoning Mr. Arridy cannot undo this tragic event in Colorado history. It is in the interests of justice and simple decency, however, to restore his good name.”
Someone entered the Pueblo home of the Drain family in 1936 and attacked 15-year-old Dorothy and 12-year-old Barbara Drain with a hatchet. Dorothy was killed but her sister Barbara survived.
Several days later, investigators arrested 35-year old Frank Aguilar for the terrible crime.
The Drain girl’s father Riley Drain, had fired Aguilar from a Works Progress Administration job. They found a large hatchet with nicks that matched the injured girl's wounds.
At the same time however, railroad detectives picked up Joe Arridy as he wandered around the Cheyenne rail yard. Laramie County Sheriff George Carroll found out that man was missing from the Colorado State Home for Mental Defectives at Grand Junction and also knew of the homicide in Pueblo.
According to Robert Perske, a former minister who wrote the 1995 book “Deadly Innocence?” about the case, “Carroll claimed Joe confessed to beating Dorothy with a club … He said he admitted to killing and raping the girl, so the sheriff called the news people and the chief of police in Pueblo.”
Perske recently told AOLnews reporter David Lohr that “Carroll felt he was not worth anything,” and “(Carroll) wanted claim to fame, and this was his chance.”
Other things pointed to Arridy’s innocence according to Governor Bill Ritter.
“False and coerced confessions, the likelihood that Arridy was not in Pueblo at the time of the killing, and admission of guilt by someone else,” just to name a few.
Aguilar, when tried in December of 1936 admitted to killing Dorothy Drain and told his attorney that Arridy had nothing to do with it, according to Perske’s research. Aguilar was later executed for the crime.
Arridy’s trial went on anyway in April 1937 and using his alleged confession to Carroll and testimony from the Sheriff, Arridy was found guilty and sentenced to death.
Arridy was awarded nine stays of execution and became the fast friend of the Warden Roy Best at the Colorado State Penitentiary before his “luck” ran out.
“The chaplain had to give him the last rights of a child,” according to Perske account. “They recited the Lord’s prayer two words at a time, all the way through. Afterward, as they were walking up Woodpecker Hill, where the chamber was, Joe was talking to the warden about how he was going to be playing a harp now. He was smiling all the way up. It was kind of like he was going on a hike or something.”
“When they put him in the chair, he was still smiling… When they started to put the black hood over Joe’s face, he stopped smiling, so the warden patted him on the arm a couple of times. The priest stayed with him for a bit and then walked out with the warden. Both had tears in their eyes. Then the door closed, and he was executed.”
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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Paperboy faces changelings, delivers the news























1974 is now nothing but a memory.
A memory of conversations with a horse,
of a woman and terrible armies,
of change and books of dreams
— the battle lost, but experience gained
to carry on the fight.

Please click on the following to view:

• Tales of the future, straight from the horse's mouth.

• Smooth and comfortable on the right side of gate.

• Pooka, Patty, Photos, Papers and let's ride.

• Humor, sadness and the angry bear in a trap.

Humor, sadness and the angry bear in a trap



From what I have seen, there is a certain humor to losing you mind. True, it is that awkward, nervous, uncomfortable kind of laugh. But beneath that is a sadness … a catch-your-breath, can't-let-you-see-me-cry sadness, that puts a tremble in your voice to talk about it. Even deeper, there is a sense of betrayal. You can’t trust anyone. Not even yourself. It makes you angry — violent, strike-out, inflict-some-pain angry. There is no peace to the descent into madness. Life is crazy when you are losing your mind.
Back in 1974, Don Wallace was slowly dying, but he wasn’t going peacefully. I guess that kind of thing can make you crazy.
It seems to me, he felt the betrayal, the anger, the uncontrollable, uneasy feeling that makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time.
And when you are dying , I guess you think about legacy. What will you leave here on earth? How will they remember you?
That goes directly to the idea of memory. After all, when you leave, the only thing you are likely to take with you is your memories.
In the end, that is alternately the only thing remaining here — the memory of you.
To Don, though he hadn’t thought of it much before the cancer-imposed deadline, he was thinking about it a lot in the summer of 1974.
Patty Hearst, the Pooka, changes in world affected him greatly. And life on a time limit made him angry as a bear in trap.
My dad told me a story once about a bear that he and his older brother trapped on the ranch where they grew up in north western Colorado. Even back then there was a very strict prescription from Game & Fish regulating how to trap a bear.
But the bear was running off horses and raising heck with the rest of the livestock.
My grandfather had recently bought a sorrel mare from up around Baggs, Wyoming, (40 or 50 miles away) and my dad’s two older brothers spent almost a week tracking it from farm to farm all the way back there, when it ran off because it was frightened by the bear that was knocking around their place on Morapos Creek.
As result, shortly afterwards, they decided to try to get rid of the bear, and in adherence to the conventions of Game & Fish at the time, established a trap set up on the lower 40. Not long afterward, alerted by a terrible racket in early hours of the morning, and after waiting for daylight, soon found that a bear had indeed sprung the trap and took off down the creek, dragging the big log attached over the berms, and gravel bars, through the willows, and out into a grassy meadow downstream.
The bear however, tired from the dragging experience, had laid down somewhere out their in the tall grass and couldn’t be immediately located when my dad and his older brother Bill went to search for it. And they were pretty leery about running out into the tall grass after a wounded bear.
Eventually, the bear did rise up in the grass, as my dad told the story, and my uncle Bill shot it in the head a couple of times (from a distance) with a .30-06 to no avail. The bear once again took off down the creek dragging the trap and log. My dad and his brother returned to the house, told my Granddad what happened, and he, recognizing that they were a bit out of their league, sent the hired hand and his daughter (both of which had more experience with such things) to chase the bear. They were able to bring the bear carcass back later that afternoon and the hide nailed to the barn wall measured just over 11 feet from tip-to-tip according to the story.
That anger, and steadfast determination, was also characteristic of Don Wallace’s fight with cancer. Some afternoons he would be roaring about the injustice involved. Other times, he would lie quietly in the grass, trying to muster strength to rise up and take on his attackers head on.
In the meantime, he was also concerned about what kind of legacy he might leave.
To that end, as I delivered his paper to him one day out on his back porch, he gave me a small, leather-bound volume of poems that would fit in a pocket. He called it "a book about dreams." I kept the book and tried to figure it out, but at that age, I am afraid I wasn’t up to it. The book went in a drawer; with other things I meant to keep … and in time was lost. I remember only a fragment:

“You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.”
__ Edgar Allen Poe

Not long after that, Don Wallace’s presence on his back porch, waiting for news of the latest escapades of Patty Hearst, Richard Nixon, and the return of Florida Skunk Ape, tapered off. By late fall, I rarely would see him and I was busy myself, trying to figure out how to play junior high football. I would wonder about him each time I dropped a paper but there was no sign. By the time I was struggling with basketball, I had not seen him in months. I’d always think maybe I should have someone check to see if he was okay, but I never did.
One afternoon before practice, my friend Lynn (who delivered papers upriver at the same time I deliver them downriver from our houses) told me Ed Gould had found Don dead in his house. Apparently he had shot himself with that .22 pistol that once had rested there on table.
I don’t know what I thought about it at the time, or even now. Since then, however, at times I still think about the Pooka and Patty Hearst, dreams that can be carried around in little books, and the crazed anger of bear caught in a trap.
For me there is a certain humor to it, but it is that awkward, nervous kind of laugh, with sadness underneath that puts a tremble in your voice.
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Please click below see related posts:


• Tales of the future, straight from the horse's mouth.

• Smooth and comfortable on the right side of gate.

• Pooka, Patty, Photos, Papers and let's ride.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Wilson's hopes for League, health fail in Pueblo






























“Mr. Chairman and fellow countrymen: It is with a great deal of genuine pleasure that I find myself in Pueblo, and I feel it is a compliment in this beautiful hall. One of the advantages of this hall, as I look about, is that you are not too far away from me, because there is nothing so reassuring to men who are trying to express the public sentiment as getting into real personal contact with their fellow citizens.”

___ President Woodrow Wilson, opening statements or the Final address in Support of the League of Nations, delivered Sept. 25, 1919, in Memorial Hall, Pueblo, Colo.

At the end of WW I, President Woodrow Wilson traveled to Paris to help personally negotiate terms of the treaty with our Allies in the war. In Europe, he successfully put forth the idea of a League of Nations. Here at home however, conservative members of the Senate (“the irreconcilables”) blocked such provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. Wilson, still determined, decided to try to sell it directly to the American people. He embarked on a whistle-stop speaking tour.
“During the trip, Wilson complained of headaches and sleeplessness. He collapsed in Pueblo, Colorado. The trip was canceled and Wilson returned to the White House, where he suffered a stroke,” according the Health Media Lab.
“From that time on the president was incapable of carrying out his duties. Wilson’s inner circle, consisting of the First Lady, his personal physician, private secretary, and the Secretary of State, kept the president’s condition a secret. No one was allowed to see him. The Cabinet and the press were told that Wilson had suffered a nervous breakdown. Vice President Thomas Marshal was never informed. The American people never knew their President was an invalid. Wilson completed his second term in office in 1921. His health improved only slightly. He died in retirement on 3 February, 1924.”
Edith Bolt Galt Wilson, the president’s second wife (his first wife died earlier during his presidency and he and Edith were married in the White House), is labeled by some as the first woman to serve as president, because of her role when her husband was incapacitated.
“On the morning of October 2, Mrs. Wilson found her husband unconscious on the bathroom floor of their private White House quarters bleeding from a cut on his head.” According to Eye Witness to History account by Ike Hoover, the president’s Chief Usher.
“At exactly ten minutes before nine o’clock on this memorable day (I noted the time in writing the same day), my telephone the desk in the Usher’s Room at the White House rang and Mrs. Wilson’s voice said, ‘Please get Dr. Grayson, the president is very sick.’ The telephone used was a private one that did not go through the general telephone switchboard. Mrs. Wilson had come all the way out to the end of the upper hall to use this particular telephone instead of the regular one in their bedroom. I reasoned at the time that it was done to avoid publicity, for there had been talk about the operators of the switchboard listening in and distributing information they picked up. I immediately called Dr. Grayson at his home, repeated the message as Mrs. Wilson had given it to me, and ordered one of the White House automobiles to go for him with all haste. I then went upstairs to see if there was anything I could do,” Hoover said.
The Chief Usher waited for the Doctor, who when he arrived, attempted to walk directly in but was stopped by a locked door. The doctor knocked and was let in.
“In about ten minutes Doctor Grayson came out with raised arms and said, ‘My God, the President is paralyzed! Send for Doctor Stit and the nurse,’” according to Hoover’s account. Hoover was later allowed in to rearrange furniture.
“The President lay stretched out on the large Lincoln bed. He looked as if he were dead. There was not a sign of life. His face had a long cut about the temple from which signs of blood were still evident. His nose bore a long cut lengthwise. This too looked red and raw. There was no bandage.”
Hoover asked at the time how it happened.
“I was told — and I know it to be right — that he had gone to the bathroom upon arising in the morning and was sitting on the stool when the affliction overcame him; that he tumbled to the floor, striking his head on the sharp plumbing of the bathtub in his fall; that Mrs. Wilson, hearing groans from the bathroom, went in and found him in an unconscious condition. She dragged him to the bed in the room adjoining and came out into the hall to call over the telephone for the doctor, as I have related.”
Wilson did not attend a cabinet meeting until almost six months after his stroke. Dr. Cary T. Grayson never admitted publicly that Wilson suffered from a stroke and refused to declare him disabled.
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