Friday, January 2, 2015
A Chance Encounter With James Bowie
By Paisley Kirkpatrick In 1858 Xavier Eyma published a short story about encountering James Bowie while traveling the United States. Since the hero in my first published story, Night Angel, also carried this same knife, I found the encounter very interesting. One day while traveling the U.S. Eyma found himself in a carriage with three people: a lady, her husband, and a third individual who was wrapped in a cloak and apparently sound asleep. Suddenly an enormous Kentuckian got into the coach. He was smoking a cigar and he cast a glance around him that seemed to say: "I am half hoss and half alligator, a true son of Kentucky, flower of the forests." Then he puffed out thick clouds of smoke, without any regard for his fellow travelers, and especially for the young lady whom the smoke very evidently made sick. Thus the husband courteously asked the Kentuckian to stop smoking. The latter replied: "I have paid for my seat. I shall smoke as much as I please, and nobody in the world shall stop me." After saying this, he rolled his eyes fiercely and looked around him with a provocative air as if daring anyone to counter reply. Eyma hesitated a moment, wondering whether he should intervene, but realized he would have little chance against such an athletic adversary, and thought of the impotence of the law which offered no recourse against him. It was then the traveler, who had been asleep, calmly unwrapped his cloak and sat up straight. He was a man of medium size, rather frail looking, buttoned from top to bottom. He fixed two piercing gray eyes on the Kentuckian and before pronouncing a single word, reached behind his neck and drew out a long knife, sharp as a razor. "Sir," he said to the Kentuckian, "my name is Colonel James Bowie well known, I believe, in Arkansas and Louisiana. If, within one minute you do not throw your cigar out of the window, I shall stick this knife into your belly just as true as I am going to die someday." The strange expression in Colonel Bowie's glance was something magnetic and fascinating. The Kentuckian bore it for a few seconds and then he lowered his eyes, took the cigar from his mouth and threw it out of the window. Colonel Bowie then restored his knife to its peculiar sheath between his shoulders, wrapped himself in his cloak, closed his eyes, went to sleep, and did not say another word during the whole trip. Since that time, Colonel Bowie's weapon has acquired a sinister celebrity, and its use has become too frequent in the U.S. If on one occasion, that terrible knife performed the good deed of teaching manners to a coarse Kentuckian, it has since then created many mayors, aldermen, and judges. It has become the last argument in many elections in the U.S.A. Written by Robert E. Pike, found in the May-June, 1955, True West magazine.