On THIS DATE IN HISTORY in 1875, the legend of “Black Bart” the Verse Slinging Bandit began. Old ‘Black Bart’ aka Charles E. Bowles spent years robbing Wells Fargo Stage coaches. The story is, one night in 1874 at an open-mike saloon in San Francisco, Charlie was slinging mad verbage at all the cool cats and everyone was having a jive old time finger-snapping to his word-smithing and railing against the man, when a mob of Wells Fargo employees walked in and started heckling him. It got so bad that he rhymed cordunkilus with horticulture and the hot little number that he’d lined up for the evening’s entertainment gave him the stink-eye and left with one of the Wells Fargo boys. That night Old Charlie Bowles swore eternal vengeance against all things Well Fargoian.
On July 26th, 1875, a Wells Fargo stage found a loan gunman waiting for it at top of Funk Hill in Northern California. The gun-man dressed all in black, from his hat to his soiled duster and waited with his shot-gun drawn. He wore a sack over his face that had holes cut out for the eyes and he ordered the stage driver to “Please throw down the box” which he did. The robber then took the money and left behind a poem that read,
“This is my gun,
That is your head,
Give me your money,
Or I’ll fill you full of lead!”
And it was signed, Love, Black Bart. Black Bart’s robbing and prose continued for the next eight years. Another favorite was,
“The morning’s bright,
The air is clear,
You’re being robbed
You old pioneer!”
As his robberies increased, his poeming became labored, as evident by this next one in 1880.
“Roses are red,
Blood is too,
Money is nice
And so is my gun, give me the money.”
In 1882, he discovered haikus.
“Hear the chirping birds.
The white clouds stand motionless.
Give me the money!”
Haikus were not as big a hit at the time with his friends and the press, so he tried something a little different 1883.
“There was once a man named Bob’d,
Who drove a stagecoach as a job’d.
He did agree,
For all to see,
It’s better to give up the money when you’re robbed!”
While better received by the common man, the literary critics were sorely disappointed with Bob’d and job’d. Black Bart became angry and claimed if it was so easy to rob stagecoaches and write poetry at the same time, then everyone would be doing it.
Also in 1883 during his very last robbery, this was the poem he dropped and left behind,
“G is for Give me the money!
I is for I said, Give me the money!!
V is for Varmint! I said, Give me the money!!!
And E is for the width of my boot that I’ll be sticking up your behind if you don’t give me the money!”
Everyone agreed that it was a good thing that he was caught, as his creativity for rhyme and the poetic arts had suffered from over-work. After Charles Bowles, “Black Bart” had been caught, tried, and sentence, he was sent to San Quentin for six years where he wrote his last poem, titled, “Kill Whitey, Kill him Dead!”