The Twelve Days of Guy Town Christmas, Day Seven

December 19, 2016 § Leave a comment

On the seventh day of Christmas (1878): seven strips of bacon, sharp 6 o’clock Sunday morning, $5 fine with costs, four cut-up caballeros, three maudlin lines of poetry, two fighting drunks … and a pungent suit hanging from the police station clothes tree.”

 

Ben Thompson as a Man of Peace — He Appeals to the Courts –He is a Reformer — He Would Correct Bacon’s Philosophy.

 Ben Thompson was Austin’s most notorious gambler and gunslinger in the years after the Civil War. Although feared as a killer, Ben shot out far more streetlights in Guy Town than he did men. He was elected City Marshal in 1880 and died in a San Antonio gunfight in 1884.

Bulldozing, pistol whipping and the occasional bullet weren’t his only weapons. He used  libel, at least once, as the Daily Statesman described on December 19.

 He isn’t a hog, but they call him John C. Bacon, and Ben Thompson is after the swine and he is most unwilling to come to Austin. But Ben says he will fetch him, and come he must and will.

 This Baconian philosopher was sick in this city and cared for by the printers. They supplied him medicines, paid his doctor’s and board bills, and he went away, never once recognizing by word or deed the generosity of the toiling typos. Not only this, but the hapless wretch wrote a letter from Austin that was printed in San Antonio in which Bacon grew hot and sputtered, and grease spots were made upon the character of Austin, its mayor and State Fair, and upon the fame of Ben Thompson.

 Thompson was pronounced a murderer of the Bass-Longley sort and assassin who amuses himself when drunk by shooting out the lights of the theater and by other like innocent little feats calculated to render life cheerful in the capital. No sooner did Ben Thompson get a copy of the San Antonio sheet containing this diatribe upon his virtues than he concluded to go after John C.’s bacon. Ben sued for libel.

 It is funny of Ben Thompson to invoke the law to protect his fame, but he is a pious, good citizen now and says he will nevermore strike till stricken, and he intends to make an example of Bacon. Ben’s first writ sent over to San Antonio failed to stick. There was no seal appended and Bacon greased a lawyer who got him off by habeas corpus.

 But Ben never gives up the ship and the oleagenous Bacon is not sleek enough to slip through Ben’s nimble fingers. Another writ for Bacon’s arrest will be apt to fetch him and then we are to have a rousing trail even here in Austin.

 The San Antonio Courier, the special defender and organ of its correspondent, Bacon, pronounces the prosecution malicious, but the end is not yet, and Bacon is not in Austin, simply because the magistrate that sent for him did not know how to prepare the papers.

 Ben wants Bacon. He is hungry for him. Ben loves Bacon. He is going to chaw Bacon, and Bacon must grease the lawyers while Ben gets even. Bacon talks about suing his captors in San Antonio for false imprisonment. Ben Thompson, as a Quaker, is the individual Bacon has to deal with, and not with the petty constables of San Antonio.

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