The press warned of a repeat of the “Hillsville incident of 1917.” That, of course, sent me back to my sources to discover what had happened in Hillsville, a little town in Carroll County, Virginia, not far from Mt. Airy, North Carolina. It was, I learned, a eruption of violence that ended in a cross-county investigation and two deaths in the new-fangled electric chair. It held the country’s attention until the sinking of the Titanic one month later.
It’s Día de Muertos, and I’ve been thinking about ways to honor my ancestors. For my grandfather Gaston Means, I offer this calavera literaria which, unfortunately, in not in verse.
As I am sure you are aware, greatness of mind comes from a knowledge of the facts, and that knowledge can only be gained through correct thought processes. That old faggot will never get what he wants because his thoughts are always mingled with his emotions. He’s a bureaucrat by nature and has to live his life in a filing cabinet because he fears a man who can transcend the rules with his knowledge.
The thing that gets under my skin, that really bothers me, is the small-mindedness of Mr. J. Edgar Fucking Hoover. Here I sit in a ten-foot-by-ten-foot cell in Leavenworth, Kansas, and I can’t even have a fountain pen. Or paper. Fortunately, I have an exceptional memory. I will list for you a few of the anecdotes I plan to publish as installments under the headline, “Man of Mystery Tells His Secrets.”
- How the Germans Almost Took Texas, because the US government wouldn’t listen to my warnings about General Huerta.
- C.B. Ambrose, Consummate Liar, about how he single-handedly created a case for murder against me, and how I triumphed.
- The Real Story of Harding’s White House – but maybe not; I’ve already published a book about this.
- Hunting Communists in the Rockies, and how I managed to stay one step behind them on another man’s nickel.
- How to Smuggle Gold from Mexico, and the story of it weighing down my pants in the Carlsbad Caverns. That time made my boy laugh!
- How J. Edgar Hoover took the world’s greatest detective agency and turned it into a damned bunch of rat catchers and filing clerks.
He’s coming here tomorrow. He won’t be happy after that letter I wrote to the wife about the place in Maryland where we used to picnic. I know he reads all my mail. I made it sound like that old farm was some kind of secret, and since he has no imagination, he thought I was telling her where the money is. His divers spent a week pawing through the mud at the bottom of the Potomac
But I want to discuss my boy. I told Mr. God-damned J. Edgar that I wanted to see a Catholic priest, and he sent in a special agent in a dog collar, but it didn’t fool me. If I ask to see Billy, he’s sure to bring him out here. He’ll think I’ll tell my son where the money is. You can see who really is in control here.
What I want you to know is that when a man has a superior education and a superior mind, his task is to gather all the facts and to arrange them properly to reveal the truth. There are two great advantages to a term in prison. First, only in a penitentiary can one come into intimate contact with men of all kinds and degrees – day laborers, steel workers, farmers, bridge builders, gamblers, gunmen, soldiers and sailors, tradesmen, bell hops, doctors, lawyers, preachers, politicians, and sexual perverts – with the leisure to learn their true philosophy of life. Secondly, the quiet of a penitentiary cell enables one to escape the distraction of petty conversations and pursue the truth. So, you see, I really have nothing to complain about. Except the God-damned fountain pen. And paper.
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Just found this little video about my grandfather Gaston. It tells the standard version of his story, including a few errors that crept in along the way. Enjoy! America’s Greatest … Continue reading No Redeeming Quality?
I’ll be reading a short piece about Gaston’s first documented adventure. I’d love to see you there.
Is it a bad thing to take encouragement from the struggles of others?
This morning, I seem – just for a moment – to be bathing in the sun of future success rather than slogging through an endless swamp of detail. I’ve just stumbled across an excerpt describing Adam Sisman’s attempt to sort fact from fiction in his new book The Professor and the Parson, just out from Counterpoint Press.
Wondering about Psyche’s first task? Read about it here.