July 1, 2011

Soapy Smith steals another man's wife?

(Click image to enlarge)


The following great story below comes from the book, Gold, Men and Dogs, by A. A. “Scotty” Allan (New York, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1931). It is one of many that did not make the pages of my book. It's a fun one so enjoy...

He [Soapy Smith] had a whole flock of decoys dressed up in whiskers, and dummy packs, the packs usually being stuffed with hay.

As soon as the shell game started, one after another of the decoys would come puffing up the hill toward Soapy’s stand swearing at the condition of the trail. Spotting a fellow with empty pack straps he would ask him how the going was ahead, meanwhile showing surprised interest in the shell game that he pretended he had just discovered. He’d take a whirl at it and win. The fellow to whom he was talking would get warmed up and soon dip down into his money beltand lose.

One night a woman came crying into our tent. “My man has lost every cent he has!” she wailed. As she was a decent sort, though homely, we felt sorry for her.

We soon learned that her husband had fallen in with Soapy Smith. As there were very few women on the trail, fewer still who were respectable wives, our blood began to boil.

“Sure we’ll help her, Scotty!” burst out an excitable young friend of mine. “Wait until I get my lash rope,” i.e., the rope he bound his load with.

He walked out of the tent yelling, “Come on, boys, me and Scotty are going down and make Soapy’s gang blow back with seven hundred and sixty dollars he took from this woman’s old man.”

We reached Soapy’s stand fifty or sixty strong, armed with anything from a rope to a shotgun. I think the ropes did the job, though my pal, wanting me to tell what we’d come for, yelled, “Shoot, Scotty” which was taken by Soapy’s followers to mean “Open fire!” though it was only an order to go ahead and talk.

I’m jiggered if the whole crowd didn’t throw up their hands. Just shows what a guilty conscience will do.

“We’ve come after the seven hundred and sixty dollars you took away from a lady’s husband last night,” I said.

Three men dropped their hands and started dishing out the money. In plain sight of them all I gave it back to the woman. But the trouble did not end there.

Imagine to my surprise when the same wife showed up at my tent next morning sobbing her heart out again.

“For heaven’s sake! Has that scoundrel been at your husband again? I asked her.

“No. It’sit’sme this time. II” She certainly was in a terrible state. Finally she got out that she had “played the gamejust a little bit, sir, I won thirteen hundred in a hurry, and then things went bad against me.” She was not nearly so much ashamed as she was sorry for herself.

I felt like saying, “They usually do go bad against Soapy Smith’s customers.”

Would you believe it; she wanted me to go down and take the fellow’s winnings away from the proprietor of the shell game again!

While we were talking who should come along but Soapy himself. There was a moment of coolness when he saw who we were. But Soapy was a man of the world. Very quickly he regained his poise. I told him frankly what the lady was after. He nearly laughed his head off. Unlike most crooks, he had a real sense of humor.

The lady was so angry at his uncalled-for mirth that she forgot her tears long enough to turn around and give him a good piece of her mind. Whereupon Soapy, to my dumbfoundedment, yanked out his roll and peeled off one thousand dollars and handed it over to the female he had both insulted and robbed.

To make the story short, I must add that at this the lady was so overcome she asked us both up to her tent for coffee and doughnuts. The grub was par excellence. And a little later I met the husband wandering around alone.

“Wife ill?” I asked him.

“No,” said he. “Gone. Soapy Smith took her!”

So the scoundrel had won after all.


The story is a great one but there is one major problem. The author apparently spent no time in Skagway. In fact, he claims the above incident happened in Nome, Alaska. Nome wasn’t founded until well after Soapy had cashed in his chips in Skagway.


Normally I put the "warning" (see below) at the top of the page. I thought that the story was such a fun one that I did not want to ruin the reading experience knowing right out of the gate that the story was fiction. 






1877: Soapy’s mother, Emily Dawson Edmondson, dies.


Jeff Smith









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