Daddy heard the
following story from an Army scout who was actually a member of the
In the early 1890s in the West (perhaps Wyoming), a small
detachment of soldiers were doing some scouting around, apart from
the rest of the company. The friend of Daddys was a civilian
scout on duty in the Army.
This party of soldiers apparently caught a horse thief red-handed.
The standard frontier penalty for a horse thief was to string
him up on the spot, but since the men were soldiers they had
to act legally.
They convened a court among themselves, tried the horse thief, convicted
him and sentenced him to be hanged. Then came a knotty
problem. Who was going to put the noose around his neck? After a lengthy
discussion, they decided that they would all hold the noose as they
slipped it around his neck; then they stood him up on the buckboard.
But there was another problem: who was going to drive the buckboard
out from under the horse thief? They discussed this for quite a while
and the soldiers finally asked the scout to do the job, but he demurred.
Finally, they arrived at an ingenious scheme: they would string up
the poor fellow with just enough slack for him to stand on the buckboard.
The horses pulling the buckboard would be allowed free-rein, so that
as they grazed they would move away from the hanging tree, and the
deed would be done automatically with no involvement on the part of
the soldiers. This scheme was so good, they lost no time in carrying
As it turns out, the horse thief had quite a way with horses. When
the team started to move, he would gently yell whoa. On
one or two occasions he would say back up, and the team
The soldiers waited around, but by late afternoon the situation was
getting embarrassing. It would soon be time to rendezvous with the
rest of their company. Indeed, they saw the cavalry approaching on
the horizon. With time running out, the soldiers got together to make
a proposition to their victim: they would let him go scot-free if
he would agree to leave the territory and never return. He readily
agreed. They cut him down, and the last that they saw of him, in the
distance, he was still running. Apparently he did leave the territory
because they never saw him again.