Monday, November 9, 2009

Cullen Baker: the Arkansas brigand

This here's the tale of Cullen Baker,
from Weakley County
in the state of Tennessee.
He was born the son of a dirt-poor sod-buster
who up an' moved his family ta' Texas,
with hopes of escapin' their misery.
Skin an' bones was Baker's lot,
an' his homespun pants an' shoeless feet
made him the brunt of many a jokes.
He took it fer' awhile,
but only as a child,
til his mean-streak struck an' he beat back the pokes.
He acquired a hog-leg
at the young age of twelve,
an' practiced daily ta' become a crack shot.
He then got a saddle-gun
an' repeated the routine,
an' he grew a rep backin' down adults more often than not.
He was more mean tempered
than a skunk on its way to a perfume soiree,
an' bullyin' folks just made him frisky.
The rebel in him really kicked up
at the age of fifteen,
when his evil trait partnered with whiskey.
He would drink an' he'd brag
of many deeds that he'd done,
though not one of them deeds were true.
An' when no one tried ta' stop him,
it just urged him on,
until he bullied most folks that he knew.
Baker went way beyond mean,
he was downright sadistic,
like thinkin' it's funny ta' chase an old man out of town.
Then at the age of nineteen,
after startin' kids in a mock battle,
he was conked on his noggin' an' nearly put six-feet down.
Laid up fer' weeks
on account of the blow,
most folks prayed it knocked in some sense.
He said he'd reformed
an' got himself hitched,
but the calm wouldn't last cuz' he was too dense.
He forced other teens
ta' carry his weight,
jabbed them with knives, or pistol-whipped them instead.
He'd tell them one thing,
then change his mind,
yet still bully them fer' not doin' what he said.
Stallcup, an orphan,
was lashed with a whip,
so bad that his guardian took Baker ta' court.
Where a witness named Bailey
testified fer' the youth,
but he shouldn't have stayed, he should've rode fer' the Fort.
Cuz' Baker weren't sent-up
he was given a fine,
then went fer' his horse with one place ta' go.
There had ta' be payback,
an' it had ta' be quick,
though his rep was intact, his ego said, "No."
So he rode like the wind,
than dismounted his steed,
an' called Bailey out; time ta' settle the score.
Bailey's kin said, "Stay here."
But he grabbed a gun an' stepped out,
only ta' be hit with two shots an' sent back thru the door.
Baker jumped in the saddle
an' off he did run,
just ta' play hide'n'seek with the law.
He left Cass County,
went ta' seek relatives,
way over the border in ol' Arkansas.
But mean is as mean does
an' Baker could not stop the doin',
he stabbed a feller' ta' death over some horses.
Yep, one thing's fer' certain
back in the old west
they never heard of anger management courses.
So he hightailed it to Cass,
figuring two years was plenty,
they'd forget all about his earlier sin.
But to his shocked dismay
he still was quite wanted,
in fact, many folk wanted ta' see him brought in.
So he turned on his heels
an' he ran like a sissy,
right back ta' Perry County ta' keep on a hidin'.
Just a drinkin' an' brawlin',
with his relatives supportin',
an' old west deadbeat with his time he was bidin'.
Now after four years
Baker finally decided
ta' go get his little girl an' his wife.
But this new arrangement
 lasted less than two years,
the misses passed away an' he left his child fer' life.
Now the slow movin' law in Perry
finally decided ta' charge Baker
fer' the stabbin' death a few years before.
Yet word reached him again
before they could clap him in irons,
an' he fled back ta' Cass County once more.
Now the officials in Cass
fell flat on their ass,
they dropped the Bailey murder charge, which is downright silly.
An' Baker repeated the claim
that he'd reformed once again,
then married himself his second young filly.
But soon he was conscripted
into the gray coat Confederates,
an' sent ta' serve with a company in Little Rock.
But Baker was a spoiled brat
in an' adult body,
so army discipline gave him a shock.
He oft times went AWOL,
til he never went back,
he got him some acres an' started a farm.
Growin' corn fer' the confederacy,
or so he would claim,
but it was really the rules that caused him such alarm.
Ironically, the area he chose
was under Union occupation
in the Spring of sixty-four; most of which were black.
Baker's hatred was universal,
he'd hurt anyone an' cared not a wit,
but his bias fer' coloreds was at the head of the pack.
One day, three black soldiers
an' their sergeant did appear
in the Spanish Bluffs bar where Baker stood drinkin'.
They saw his "Johnny Reb" hat
an' started towards him;
it was four-to-one, so they didn't do much thinkin'.
The Sarge said, "Gimmee yer' papers,
let's see who ya' are."
So Baker drew steel, pulls the trigger an' shoots.
The sergeant went down,
an' then the three others,
all four hit the floor, an' died in their boots.
He was now a man without a country,
sought by both sides,
as deserter by the gray, an' killer by the blue.
So he fled ta' Little Rock
an' hid in plain sight;
he figured if blacks could be Yankees, he could too.
But this plan that he thought
was truly fool proof,
got the best of him inspite of his lies.
Cuz' they gave him a blue coat,
then put him in charge
of an entire company of those colored guys.
Thus up he did flee,
he deserted again,
back down ta' Texas to his uncle, Tom Young.
Well Texas was chalk full
of freebootin' deserters
with their paths leadin' toward a place ta' be hung.
Course, Baker fit right in
with a group of these bandits,
an' as mean as he was he soon took the lead.
They stole from the farmers,
then looted the ranchers,
took anything of value, from stock ta' the feed.
Mrs. Drew, a ranch owner,
once even paid Baker
ta' return the herd his own bandit crew took.
Unaware as she counted
the cash ta' his hand,
that he was the low-down rustlin' crook.
Now when the war ended
Baker hightailed it again,
afraid that the law might focus more on him then.
So he ran the Line Ferry,
returned ta' his second wife,
an' acted as if he would now fit right in.
Wife number two died
while under his care,
an' some say his reality went further astray.
He made a lifelike effigy of her,
adorned with her clothes,
an' put it on the porch til townfolk urged it be taken away.
But if he was so much in love
why did he then
propose ta' her sixteen-year old sister?
Though she spurned his advance,
an' went fer' the school teacher,
which irritated Baker like a big pus-filled blister.
Thomas Orr had a bum arm,
an' he was a bookworm not a fighter,
but it didn't stop Baker from crackin' his head with a stick.
An' when he recovered
an' back ta' school went ta' teach,
Baker bullied him there in front of the kids: how sick.
Baker was so insecure
that it wounded his pride,
that any girl would choose a cripple over him.
It's amazin' Orr survived
a year's worth of bullyin'
without the church choir singin' his last hymn.
Then Baker took off,
he returned ta' Cass County,
where he began, once more, his evil ways.
He robbed the Rowden store,
then later killed Rowden,
cuz' the shopkeeper told him ta' pay.
But just as before
the law moved too slow,
it took days ta' mount a posse ta' ride.
 So Baker sent word back ta' town,
he threatened death ta' all comers,
cuz' this time he chose not ta' hide.
Sadly, the townfolk gave in,
said let the soldier boys do it,
so a patrol of troops was sent out ta' look.
Two bluecoats came upon Baker
while he was at Pett's Ferry,
an' he lied about his name but they saw thru the crook.
Though it did them no good,
Baker shot the sergeant on his horse,
with four shots in him he was dead in the saddle.
So the private lost heart,
whipped at his horse,
he figured it was best ta' skedaddle.
Baker fled ta' Bowie County,
where he was surrounded by troops,
but he hollered "Charge them, boys!" A straightout bluff.
But the soldiers fell fer' it,
they all ran off in a panic,
until their superiors growled in a huff.
Then Baker killed another trooper,
an' awhile after that
he put the driver of a supply wagon in his grave.
His rep was a risin',
despised by most all,
a thousand dollar reward was put up fer' this misbehaved.
He was tracked down again,
til Baker did the Captain in,
an' fled off once more durin' the confusion.
He formed another bandit crew,
took ta' stealin' an' robbin' once more,
then killed two government men durin' an unlucky intrusion.
Then when tracked by a swarm
he stole an officer's uniform,
cuz' he knew what ta' do with the disguise.
He'd ride ta' the ranches,
an' ride ta' the farms,
in order ta' ask an' receive a heap of supplies.
With lawmen an' troopers
all after his hide
he foolishly went back ta' the girl who snubbed his advance.
She was married ta' Orr now,
which made Baker madder,
he got ta' the point he was near in a trance.
He told his ex-father-in-law
ta' send out the cripple,
an' the callous old-fool did it.
"We won't hurt him none,
jus' send him on out,"
then they fixed up a noose an' stuck his neck in it.
Hung from a tree,
but somehow he survived,
it was the costliest mistake Baker had done.
That mild-mannered teacher
grew a backbone of iron,
recovered from the injury, then strapped on a gun.
It was January sixth
eighteen-sixty an' nine,
when Baker an' a pal were found by three others an' Orr.
Trailed them back to a hideout
in southeastern Arkansas,
an' they looked all around ta' see if there were anymore.
The two were alone
an' as they squat by the fire
Orr an' his men came in blastin' lead.
No words ta' alert,
no stoppin' til done,
they kept on shootin' til both bandits lay dead.
On closer inspection
they'd made the right choice,
cuz' Baker alone was a walkin' arsenal.
Four six-guns, three palm-guns,
an' a half-dozen knives,
an' a double-barrelled scatter-gun showed Orr made the right call.
So the man Baker tormented
an' claimed he could do anythin' to,
was the man who finally tracked him down an' done him in.
The man with the ego
tryin' ta' be the legend,
lay dead with newsclippings calling himself "the Arkansas brigand."
It makes ya' think once,
perhaps even twice,
about what really gives a person his worth.
But at least in this case,
though, sadly, not always
the meek did inherit the Earth.

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