Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE
PART TWENTY-ONE: I’ll return to my look at the 1910-1917 and 1919-1929 version of the Fool Killer next time around. For this segment I’ll conclude the new Fool Killer Letter received here at Balladeer’s Blog from THE actual, supernatural entity himself. (SEE HERE ) This second part of that letter clarifies some of the Fool Killer’s hibernation periods AND details a heretofore UNKNOWN 1899 escapade of the supernatural vigilante.
(cont’d) Anyway, Mr Wozniak or Eddie or Balladeer or whatever you prefer to go by, that was how I came to be. And like I said, you’re no Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans or James Larkin Pearson but I’ve been a mighty long time without a confidant so you’ll do.
As you guessed, my ability to hibernate for years in my hidden cavern home, then emerge dressed in up to date men’s fashions is another unearthly characteristic I inherited from my Daddy, whatever he may really have been, damn him. While I sleep it’s like the changes in the world come to me as dreams, so I’m always aware of the alterations in the zeitgeist.
You probably noticed I never need to eat and the only thing I ever drink is alcohol. I don’t NEED to drink, but maybe my Mama’s heritage shines through with that, because one thing I truly love to slam down is good old American liquor. Preferably bourbon.
I had to smile at your feeble speculations regarding when exactly I returned to my cave to hibernate over the decades. Since you’re so all-fired obsessed with whens and wheres and hows, I’ll throw you a few crumbs here.
After I drove my Daddy out of the Tennessee Hills I spent the rest of the 1830s and the early 1840s killing off any fools who tried mining or stealing the hidden gold of the Melungeons. During that same period the fools in Washington, DC started sending men into the mountains of Tennsessee, Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina to stop the Melungeons from minting their own gold coins, so I took to exterminating those federal agents, too. “Counterfeiting” my ass!
But times changed, and the feds persevered in claiming the government in Washington were the only ones who could mint coins. I saw I’d only be bringing a war down on the heads of my Mama’s people the Melungeons if I kept killing federales so I let up on that.
By the late 1840s I had decided to make a home out of the remote, now-abandoned cave where my Daddy used to ply his blacksmithing and other mystic trades. I moved in and settled down for my very first period of hibernation. I woke up just a bit short of 1850 and befriended Mr Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans at the Milton Chronicle in North Carolina.
After corresponding with him about my fool-killing vocation for over a decade I took my second nap in the summer of 1861 after telling Evans that I damned the fools of both the North and the South for bringing on that Civil War. As you know from the surviving letters I sent to Mr Evans I emerged from that hibernation in the late 1860s.
For several years I kept busy slaying, among others, Ku Klux Klan fools AND the Carpetbaggers from the North during Reconstruction. My walking stick – forged in my Daddy’s eldritch smithy and with its grinning skull headpiece made of fine Melungeon gold – killed plenty and my set of Bowie Knives drank the blood of many a fool as well.
Anyway, you don’t need every damn detail, boy. Suffice it to say that around 1880 or ’81 I hibernated again, then pursued my new mission among the Melungeons, this time adding guns and rifles to my arsenal. After several years of that I slept again, then upon awakening I was drawn westward.
One day I’ll tell you all about the many fools I snuffed out in the old west. It’s a wonder I didn’t depopulate the entire region. For right now, however, I’ll recount an adventure that happened right before my next period of slumber.
In late December of 1899 I was traveling through west Texas, riding along in that wagon I had taken to using during my 1880s activities back among the Melungeons. In the summer of ’99 I had taken a brief return trip to the East and on my way back out west I had that run-in with the sinister, Infernal fair along the Old Pike Road in Alabama. The tale that George Ade wrote about.
My destination was Folly, Texas. You can’t find it or what’s left of it now but back then it was southwest of Lubbock and almost right at the border of Texas and New Mexico. Texans of the time said nothing thrived in that part of the Lone Star State except cacti.
Folly sat there, like a big brown-wood pimple on the desert’s ass. It was only upon drawing closer that you could tell it was a town. There were no outlying farms or ranches, since the kind of people drawn to Folly were far too crooked or lazy for the kind of work required of such a lifestyle. I rode on in, a man on a mission.
The town was chock-full of saloons, hotels, gambling hells and a smattering of other businesses that catered to transients. Or I should say quasi-transients. Nomadic the population of Folly might have been before setting foot inside that damned town but once there they settled in, willingly or unwillingly.
Old-timers there explained to me that some of the newer arrivals made noises about leaving town as soon as they made that one last killing at the card table, or at the roulette wheel, or big score from a robbery or other crime, the list of excuses went on and on. After awhile the excuses stopped and the once-hopeful resigned themselves to just being part of the kill or be killed, eat or be eaten eco-system of the town.
I’d pulled into Folly just after midnight turned into the small hours of December 31st, 1899. A new century would be welcomed in that night, unless you believe the pickier math fools, who claimed that the 20th Century wouldn’t really begin until January 1st of 1901. Cacti and rattlesnakes don’t care anything about the calculations of such folks. And neither did Folly.
(NOTE FROM BALLADEER: The Fool Killer rambled on and on like this for awhile, so we’ll skip over much of his “purple prose meets the purple sage” narrative and rejoin him after further stage-setting.)
… Anyway, Folly was like a late Christmas present to yours truly. Like the town’s name implied, the entire population were fools. No families, no children, just the kind of people I’d been leaving in a lifeless heap in my wake ever since the 1830s.
Back east carrion crows often gathered behind me to feast on the carcasses with which I inevitably litter the landscape. In my years out west it was mostly black vultures that became my figurative camp followers. They had a New Year’s Eve banquet coming to them.
I got started on my fumigation of Folly by making rounds of the many saloons. I’d enter into card games with assorted fools and after my way of reading people convinced them I must be cheating the inevitable gunplay broke out. In towns where the officials at least made a pretense of civilization I’d usually need to leave in a hurry or sit in a jail cell for a day or two.
In Folly nobody cared. Dead bodies would be tossed outside the town proper and the men wearing badges – all of them crooked or cowardly lawmen who disgraced the profession – would pretend that they intended to investigate. Then they’d go back to extorting protection money or to gambling or – most often – whoring. The New Orleans brothels had nothing on even the meanest cathouses in Folly, by the way. And in Folly they’d found uses for livestock – the only cattle I’d see all day – that would have shocked the crowds in Havana.
Anyway, by daybreak I had bludgeoned, stabbed and shot to death more men in those saloons than there are cards in a deck. With the sun beating down and making every square foot of the town inside and out feel like a big skillet I tore myself away from the drinking establishments and their truly excellent bourbon.
That entire day I never had to wait long for some fool or fools to make themselves obnoxious and I began whittling down the population good and proper. Bandits, killers for hire, Mexican slavers, rapists, Indian Agents bragging about how they snookered the tribes in their care, even those female zealots taking axes to saloons fell to me that final day of 1899.
After the sun had passed its zenith I strode on into the town’s one lone church to find its mad preacher addressing pews empty of anyone but a few drunks sleeping it off or a few cruel types who apparently gathered to shout taunts at the preacher during his three-times-daily “masses.”
When all of those hecklers had become acquainted with my arsenal of weapons I finally wound up stoving in the head of the preacher himself after he took to reminiscing about how thoroughly he missed a congregation which included children. He wouldn’t shut up about exactly how much he missed children and why so that’s why I grew disgusted and brought his nostalgic interlude to an end.
The buzzards were chewing the flesh off the growing mounds of corpses with astonishing swiftness and the bones were carried off to be tossed around, or used for shooting practice or played with in other mad ways.
New arrivals kept hitting town throughout the day and even my more than human strength and stamina gave way. Toward nightfall I wandered back into one of the saloons, called Fool’s End. I selected it for the name alone.
I passed the night away playing cards, gunning down the occassional fool who called me a cheater or – in the case of the saloon girls – tried robbing me. The high-quality whiskey helped me while away the time as I took in everyone … every crooked, crazed and corrupt one of them.
As the Midnight hour drew near I excused myself and rounded up some supplies from my wagon. As Folly welcomed in January 1st, 1900 I tossed around or knocked over every lantern I came across, and soon that infernal town was being consumed by the biggest New Year’s Eve bonfire you could imagine.
It was no bonfire of the vanities, like that white-coated fellow had written about. This was a bonfire of the follies and even I was taken aback at the sight of the dead and dying and the sound of their horrific screams as they burned alive or smothered from the smoke.
I was sitting in the back of my wagon, watching it all play out, and as some of the fools tried fleeing the town’s destruction I kicked down the hatch and mowed them all down with the gatling gun I had gotten loaded and ready.
Once the sun had risen for another blistering hot day I wandered the ashes and ruins of Folly to make sure there were no survivors. There were none. They had all embodied the worst and most vile foolishness of the departed Nineteenth Century and I’d sent them on their way along with it in one last paroxysm of violence.
To my surprise a sudden rain started to fall, as if washing away any sign that the town of Folly had ever existed. I felt overcome with the fatigue and disgust that always signaled the onset of one of my periods of hibernation.
I lay down under my wagon to get out of the rain and drifted off. I knew from past hibernations that as always, once I was asleep, my body and belongings would somehow materialize back in my hidden cavern in the East. I would rest and dream and wake up who knew when dressed in who knew what type of clothing, ready to renew my mission.
FOR PART TWENTY-TWO BACK IN 1920, CLICK HERE
I WILL EXAMINE MORE FOOL KILLER LORE SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY LOOK AT JOE MAGARAC, THE STEEL MILL VERSION OF JOHN HENRY AND PAUL BUNYAN, CLICK HERE
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