az fun facts
AND ZANY OUTLAWS
BY MARSHALL TRI MBLE OFFICIAL A~ /0\A STAT HISTORIAN
During the late 1880s, pulp-fiction dime novels created larger-than-life
myths and legends of Old West figures like Wild Bill Hickok, Belle Starr,
Calamity jane, and jesse james. 1hesewerefollowed by Hollywood shooting
stars like john Wayne and Clint Eastwood. 1his raises a question: Were
there any Old Westerners who might be called intelligence challenged?
The Old West wasn't a place for the meek.
Lawmen had to be as tough and cunning as
the culprits they had to deal with. Keeping
the peace was a grim and deadly business,
but a few did provide peace officers some
comic rel ief. Take, for example, AlJennings
of Oklahoma. During his long and colorful
life, Al was a cowboy, a la\¥)'er, a gunslinger,
a train robber, a jailbird, a preacher, a politician,
an author, and a movie star. In his autobiography,
he claimed to have robbed fifteen
or twenty trains, but that was another exaggeration.
His career as a bandit only lasted
109 days before he was captured and sent
to prison. He once claimed to have outshot
Jesse James in a shooting match, but his math
must have been skewed because Jesse had
been dead for several years at the time the
match supposedly took place.
ifl can hold out that long."
Al finished third in the primary.
After that, he became
an evangelist who claimed
that passing the collection
plate in church was no different
from robbing passengers
on a train.
Al's first attempted train robbery was
almost his last. Unwittingly, he stood in
the middle of the tracks pointing his pistol
at the approaching locomotive. The train
didn't stop, and Al jumped off the tracks
AI decided to write his
autobiography, Beating Back,
which embellished his days
as a notorious train robber.
Hollywood soon came
calling. The movie moguls
wanted to make a film and
asked Alto star as himself
He went off to Tinsel Town,
where he was heralded as a
"real Old Wes t Outlaw."
Soon, Al was a celebrity. I le
starred in, consulted for, and
wrote the screen plays for
more than a hundred films.
Fortunately, by following his
THE BLACK PRINCESS.
just in time. In his second
attempt, AI used too much
dynamite and accidentally
blew up the express car while
trying to open the safe. He
did manage to salvage a jug
of whiskey and an arm load
ofbananas. The third time
was the charm, and the robbery
netted him S27. He was
captured and given a life sentence
in the pen, but in 1904,
he received a presidential
:;:>ardon. AI then went into politics and ran
for governor of Oklahoma. His campaign
slogan was "I promise to be honest for a year
scr ipts, Al's
train robberies fared much
better than the ones he lived.
Al stood only five foot one
with his boots on. One might
say the only thing tall about
him were his tales. He married
a woman a foot taller than he
and always called her "the little
In later years, he retired to
his little ranch in San Fernando
Valley and raised chickens.
One evening in 1945, while listening to the
Lone Ranger show on his radio, Al \vas outraged
toheartheMaskedMan shoot the gun
out of outlaw AI Jennings's hand. "Nobody
could ever shoot the gun out of AI Jennings'
hand!" he bellowed and promptly sued the
The judge and jury were thoroughly entertained
by his tall tales but ruled against
him, and the lawsu it was thrown out of
Sitting on his front porch one night, AI
heard a noise in the henhouse. H e crept into
the coop and took a shot, only to find that he
didn't shoot a burglar on the prowl for money
but his prize rooster prowling for something
else. That, as far as we know, was Al's last
DeCEMBER 2010 ,At\UARY 2011 NORTH VALLEY 35
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