Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dog Murderers and Hangin' Judges - OK to ARK

Greetings from the road...

It was a long stretch of Interstate today from El Reno Oklahoma to our stop in Memphis, Tenn. And while we are trying to keep the miles flyin’ by, Peter and I have a hard time passing up a good landmark. We like to visit with people along the way too. Then we realize that we've got hundreds of miles to go and we’re behind schedule again. Sometimes we change the schedule.

This morning was clear in Oklahoma. We packed the truck and visited with a couple from Germany who were touring America. Wolf liked my truck and showed me pictures of his restored MG. They were following the old Route 66 from Chicago to LA. He asked me what I thought of Obama. I said that I like him a lot. He asked if anyone had a problem with his color. I said that some people did but I didn’t. Big smiles. He and his wife both indicated that they were pleased with our new president.

We rolled onto Interstate 40 East from El Reno, through Oklahoma City and into the green rolling hills of eastern Oklahoma. More trees more water and more dead armadillos. We’re never more than a few seconds away from a long haul trucker going eastbound and we talked to a driver from St. Louis at a truck stop this morning. I asked him if he had work. He said it’s been steady. He said he’d been on the road for over a month and he was heading home for two weeks with his family. “That’s the hard work” he said. I said that it seemed to me that things we’re terrible on the news with swine flu and the economy and all. He said, “Yeah, that’s why I don’t watch it any more.” Out here on the road people are just doing the best they can to keep going like they always do.

Then there was the surreal visit of the day with a guy who waved us down in the Wendy’s parking lot just outside of Ft. Smith. He wanted to tell us all about a dog murdering dog catcher in town. He told a grisly tale of dog death and how nobody could get the guy who went around killing dogs. We expressed proper concern. He also mentioned he was a veteran of the first Gulf War and that he had to take “anger pills”. I hoped he had remembered to take them and that they were working.

We rolled across the Arkansas River under heavy skies and made our way into old Forth Smith, Arkansas.

Ft Smith had been a frontier army post established in 1817 to help keep the peace between Indian tribes who were being relocated from the east. Basically it was the military base at the end of the "Trail of Tears". It was there to enforce the government policy of Indian relocation to western lands. During the Civil War it was abandoned by Federal forces and used by Confederate troops in the Trans-Mississippi.

In 1871 the borders of Indian country had been pushed farther west. The Army moved out and Fort Smith Became the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas. The Court had jurisdiction over Indian Territory. Federal Marshals were sent into Indian country to apprehend outlaws. The accused were then brought to the Federal court for trial.

This is Federal Judge, Isaac C. Parker. He was known as the hangin' judge and his appointment was for life. He was the final authority on all legal matters in the territory and there was no court of appeal until the 1890's. If you were convicted of a capitol crime in Parker's court - you went to the gallows.

The accused waited for trial in holding cells underneath the court room. Up to 50 men held in each of two cells. Desperados from Indian territory were men of every description.

Judge Parker's court room.

After a "fair trial" the guilty were hung from the neck until dead. As you'll note this gallows allowed for multiple counts of "justice" to be done. Spectators needed tickets to watch the proceedings. Because of Judge Parker's authority - only the President of the United States could issue a pardon.

Double click on the photo to

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