Uncle Jake and the Wildcat Banks:a short-short Western Story
This is a short story in a series of stories centered around the imaginary town of Carbons Creek.It is not necessary to read the other stories as they are all able to stand alone.
Sarah’s Uncle Jake came here ‘fore the war a bit after I did. He struck me as a city dude ‘cause’ his store bought clothes. Not fancy duds, mind you. Jes’ you could tell they weren’t homespun. Meant he either had money or didna’ have no wife to look out for him or both. We didna’ have a barber then so he had to take care of that moustache and thick hair his own self.
Jake might have looked like a dandy but he was tough and up to anything that had to be done. He come from up Chicago way. Guess he taught school for awhile and worked for a newspaper. Decided he wanted to write the way he wanted, not the way some boss wanted. So he ended up here to start a weekly. He called it the Carbons Creek Sentinel. Weren’t long ‘fore he was raisin’ a ruckus.
The Sentinel came out Thursdays each week. Jake was most particular about that. He been here ‘bout a year, I recalls when he printed an editorial against Wildcat banks in the county Back then the banks was chartered under state law. I think it might have varied even from county to county. Mind ye not all bankers were crooks. But the wildcatters lots of times didn’t have no security like gold to back them up. The wildcatters could issue notes with not much to back them up, maybe some mortgages and such but not gold or anything substantial They ofen’ operated in backwoods areas where it was hard for the law to keep track of ‘em. Guess back then, area round Carbons Creek fit the bill.
Jake suspisioned the banker was cozy with the law in the county. ‘Course nobody going to rob the bank’ cause nothin’ thar was worth stealin’. There was good banks, of course, but the wildcat ones were cheating lots of folks an’ Jake was on their tails.
He figgered the county officials was in on some of the cover up along with maybe the sheriff. Even back then you couldn’t say jes’ anything in the papers. He was after getting’ proof. His editorial started bringing in folks who had been cheated by the bankers. Pretty soon he was runnin’ stories ‘bout all these folks what trusted the banks an’ lost their money.
Both me an’ Jake ended up in the Northern Army. I got duty as a wrangler. Jake went as a correspondent for a Chicago paper. I seen gunfights and folks kilt afore but nothin’ like what happens on the battlefield. Lots of them boys went full of hopes ‘a glory, but iffen they din’ git kilt or crippled they come out sadder than afore. I don’ never want to see nothin’ like it again. When I think on why I went in, I reckon I was agin slavery. Nobody should be owned by someone else.
Them that survived was lots of times crippled. The doctors tried to help but they weren’t much they could do. Jes hope we dasn’t have another one like it. Now Jake, he was a guy with strong feelings and had a hard time putting all he saw to rest. If he was one fighting to put stuff right before, he was really driven now.
Durin’ the war he found a little mongrel dog what been abandoned or its owners had died. He called the dog Buddy, and they stuck together after that. Buddy wasn’t a big dog but he was spirited and loyal. He had kind of a long white coat, the kind what needs lots of combing. He also had the most soulful brown eyes you ever did see..
When I got out of the Army I managed to save a bit of money and bought a small ranch to raise horses and when Jake got back he found the Carbons Creek Sentinel in dismal shape. The man he put in charge while he was gone tried to stand up to the sheriff and the bankers but lost his nerve when they threatened him. After that the paper didn’t amount to much.
As far as the politicians and the wildcat banks was concerned things hadn’t changed much. Soon as Jake got set up he started fightin’ the old fight. He musta got them on the run ‘cause little things started happening agin, like a brick thrown through his window. Again folks came to Jake with their stories of buyin’ bad notes from some of the banks in the county and how the sheriff ignored the complaints. He published news stories and editorials and they got hotter and hotter. So did the attacks on his property.
Then one Wednesday night he was in his shop getting’ the paper to bed, and the newspaper building went up in flames. I was part of the bucket brigade what tried to stop the fire, but I don’t know how much good we did. Jake must ‘a been overcome by smoke. That brave little mutt of his tried to save him, pulling him out of the building, but Jake died after a few hours.
A few days later his niece Sarah come from Chicago where she worked for a publisher. But that’s another story, which I reckon she can tell fer herself.
Sarahs Story about Uncle Jake
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