October 26, 2010

Inside the bunco brain

Friends member, Rich asked the following question,

Friend Jeff...welcome back! I hope you had an enjoyable and successful trip.

I find it fitting that the previous 'entree'' was the amazing drawing of the 'Bunco Brain'. [love it]

Since you asked...I would like to know more specifics about the thinking and the 'lenghts' that JRS II and his men went to...to acheieve their goals.
The whole psychological aspect of all the well thought out deception is compelling and extremely interesting.
I can't help thinking of the movie.."The Sting".

One example that I read about, that blew me away was: During the stampede through "White Pass", several members of the gang actually left Skaguay, and went on a 'fake stampede' with cotton stuffed backpacks and sleds carrying lightweight fake cargo with axe handles etc. sticking out.

They presented themselves as regular...and 'very benevolent and helpful regular folks seeking the same ultimate goal of gold....when in fact their only interest was fleeceing those along the beginning of the trail with their bunco games and other schemes.

Talk about 'survival of the fittest'! lol

Friend Rich, Thank you for the warm welcome and continued support. There are numerous hints and explanations spread throughout my book, but perhaps my favorite appears on pages 492-494.

... So Seattle was addressed. Next came San Francisco. Its papers delighted in stories about Jeff, the more sinister the better, and one of his severest critics was the San Francisco Examiner. The opportunity to alter that criticism came when that paper sent Edward F. Cahill to investigate and report on conditions in Dyea and Skaguay. Learning he was on the way, Jeff prepared a VIP tour. When Cahill went home, charmed by Jeff, he gave Skaguay and its notorious citizen a clean bill of health. His article was titled “What I Saw Of Real Life & Death at Skaguay And Dyea” and began, “When hell freezes over it will be like Skaguay. … That is what I was told. What I found was different. I found a community in which there is order without law….”
Cahill’s accounts of Skaguay’s and Dyea’s trails, merchants, and residents were so positive they glowed. Additionally, Cahill discredited stories of rampant lawlessness and disease. It seems highly probable that Jeff altered Cahill’s view of the “sure thing man” because in depicting him and his helpers on the trail, the newsman repeated Jeff’s long-held business philosophy. Cahill ventured onto the trail, probably with helpful direction at the least, and at the most, he was guided there by Jeff himself. In realistic detail, Cahill described how in the icy climate the con man
is found blowing his nimble fingers and running his little shell game seated on the snow by the slippery trail, while his cappers stand around habited like “farmers” to beguile the unwary Klondiker, sweating like a beast of burden, to drag his heavy sled up the hill. The sure-thing man’s code of morality is the most extraordinary and perhaps unexpected thing about him. He resents with bitter anger and scorn the name of thief or vagrant, and, in fact, he will not rob you except by rule. If you do not cross his lines you are perfectly safe, and he holds that if you are fool enough to go up against his game he has a perfect right to take every advantage that his skill permits. In fact, he insists loudly that he is a law-abiding citizen and when heedless people in Skaguay talked about a vigilance committee the confidence man, exulting in his numbers and his might, stood up in line to keep peace with an ugly gun, and the peace was kept. … I met one of the tribe of an evening at a road-builder’s camp at the head of the White Pass. He shall be nameless here because outside of his calling he seemed a decent sort of fellow and rather shame-faced about his “business,” as he called it, although he made no secret of his methods…. It is not all profit in the shell game, which, old-fashioned as it is, was yet the favorite and most lucrative means of polite swindling. The retinue of cappers and steerers is expensive and they are paid about twice as much as, let us say, a locomotive engineer or other skilled mechanic.
“No, it isn’t all profit by any means,” he explained. “I have to clear $100 before I make a white quarter for myself. I have to pay the men wages, their board, and their whisky. After I clear the $100 it begins to mount up pretty quick.” He admitted that he had taken in something like $250 on that day.
“You are operating among the packers?” was asked.
“No, I don’t do business with packers. They have not much money, and I don’t want their little $15 or so. What I’m after is the men that’s going into Dawson. It makes me sorry sometimes to have to separate them from their little wad, but—well, it’s them or me.”
“You are not doing any work in Skaguay now?” one asked.
“Naw,” in a tone of contempt. “There’s nothin’ in Skaguay—nothin’ but stranglers.”
“Yes, vigilantes.”
Cahill then focused on Jeff Smith.
It is possible that … some injustice has been done to Mr. Smith which should be corrected, if only out of regard for the distinguished family to which he belongs, for the sun never sets on the Smiths. “Soapy” Smith is not a dangerous man, and not a desperado. He will fight to very good purpose if he must, but he is not in the least quarrelsome. Cool in the presence of danger, absolutely fearless, honorable in the discharge of those obligations which he recognizes, generous with his money, and ever ready with a helping hand for a man or woman in distress, he bitterly resents the imputation that he is a thief or vagrant. It is true that if you go up against his game you will certainly lose your money, but it is a process of painless extraction. I may as well acknowledge an imperfect sympathy for those who let themselves be swindled in the persuasion that they have themselves a sure thing. … You may lend “Soapy” Smith $100 or more at any time and be certain to get your money back with interest sooner or later, all without a scratch of the pen. …
Not the least amusing trait of “Soapy” Smith’s character is the eager interest which he takes in the preservation of law and order. The interest is, of course, not purely unselfish, for he realizes that crimes of violence create a sort of public opinion likely to be unhealthy for his own peaceful, if peculiar, industry. He feels that there are times when fine distinctions get confused, and therefore he is always foremost for law and order coupled with life, liberty and the pursuit of a sure thing.
Jeff showed the highly positive article to a limited few. Although it put Jeff and Skaguay in a favorable light, residents might not take kindly to an unbeatable gambler who had a hand in civic matters and who had a military company under his command.


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