When I was but a wee lad, I had the opportunity to get to know and become, friends with the last train robber in the old west; and I guess that it shows how old I really am. As wild as it may seem, this is a true story.
His name was Bill Carlisle and when I knew him he was an old man. I was in Junior High School.
Bill had robbed trains in Wyoming belonging to the Union Pacific Railroad a number of times and escaped, but finally a posse caught up with him and he spent over 20 years in the State Pen. He had been kind of a Robin Hood figure at the time, as homesteaders and small ranchers hated the UPRR and some even hid and helped Bill in eluding the posses.
On his last robbery, he had slipped onto the train at a water stop. He hated rich people but never took anything from the poor, or at least that was his story. The last robbery took place during World War one and there were a number of soldiers on the train going home on leave for Christmas.
According to Bill, He ordered everyone but women and soldiers to "Shell it Out." He went along and collected everything that they held out. As he reached the end of the car, a soldier at the other end pulled a .22 pistol and shot him in the hand.
Bill jumped off the train and got his horse and took off for the wild country near Laramie peak. He knew the country and the people there were his friends.
Well, to make a long story short. A posse came after him and after several days they were closing in on him.
He was hungry, cold and in considerable pain from the wound in the hand. He had decided that he couldnt continue and if the posse caught up to him he would go out in a blaze of glory.
Well, many years later, after being captured, spending time in prison, he was released and returned to his old stomping grounds, Laramie Wyoming.
I dont know how he did it, but when I knew him he had a restaurant and motel and general tourist trap at the east side of Laramie and used his reputation as a gimmick to draw the tourist trade.
Over the years, he had become a good friend of my great uncle and they loved to play poker. My uncle won his motel etc from him a number of times in big games, but said he couldnt take the only honest thing Bill had ever done.
I was working at our ranch up at Medicine Bow one summer and Bill came up to visit one weekend. By now Bill was an old man. Sunday afternoon another car load of old-timers came to visit my uncle and aunt and they got to playing cards and visiting.
One of the new comers was a fellow named Eenie Peterson, he was in his 90's at the time. He sat across the table from Bill and as the afternoon wore on I noticed that Bill was really looking hard at Eenie.
Finally he asked Eenie, "Have we ever met before?" Eenie said, "No, Ive known about you all my life, but we never met."
They went back to the cards, but Bill was still looking. Finally he said very emphatically, "I know you from somewhere....... was you ever on a posse that was looking for me?"
Eenie said, "Yeah, I was on one, but we never got close to you, there was another bunch that finally caught up with you."
Bill said, "Was you on the one that rode up (I dont remember the name of the Crick) and at one point you all stopped and lit a fire and had coffee?" Eenie, now began to look at Bill with real interest and said "Yeah, Why?"
Bill said, Well, I was tuckered out and decided that when the posse got a little closer, I was gonna pop the first one, and die fighting. I was hid in some willows and was gonna bushwhack them when they came around the bend. But the posse stopped about 50 yards away and made a fire.
Well, Eenie was plumb interested now and you could hear the wheels turning.
Bill said, "One rider separated from the bunch and rode up the draw towards me and I figured he was my man. I pulled the gun out of my pocket and took a bead on the guy and was about ready to pop him, but he got off and took a crap and rode back to the bunch. They rode back the way they had come.
"I just couldnt shoot a man with his pants down."
Eenie was wide eyed by now and said quietly, "I rode up that draw and took a crap!"
Bill leaned back in his chair and said, "I know. I told you I had seen you before." "Ive looked at you over gun sights."