"Hold! Throw out that treasure box!"
Oh Lordy, I'm familiar with that expression. There was just too much gold and sliver being shipped out of Placerville and down to Sacramento. I was reasonably successful because I learnt a few things from Black Bart, I didn't waylay the stagecoaches too often - and never on any schedule.
I worked alone. There's nothing worse than worrying about a hired gun getting twitchy and letting his horse act accordingly and then telegraphing our presence to oncoming riders and stagecoaches. No, I figured, with the element of surprise, my scattergun and my sidearm I could stop all but the most heavily armed stagecoaches.
Heck, there were more than a few robberies that all I had to do to was stand in the road. Some of the drivers were real scaredy-cats, just plain yellow, I'd say, "Boo" and without hesitation they gave me the strong box.
The worse robberies were when the stagecoach drivers had been drinking jug whisky. Those fools kept sippin' and gettin' braver as they headed down the mountain. By the time they were in the low foothills just before Sacramento, they were so damn potted they thought they could take on every bandit from here to Bakersfield!
Sometimes I let the drunk drivers go by, but often as not, my simple plan of jumping down of the top of the stagecoach from a tall oak tree was enough to get the drivers to pass out. The travelers could hear the noise on the roof and a few would jump out of the rolling stagecoach and a few even had the cheek to shoot at me through the roof. Pointing my shotgun at them was enough convincing that they tossed their guns out the window. I usually didn't rob the passengers but I took exception when they acted stupid with their guns. I got me some nice pocket watches, diamond studs and a selection of fine new hats from those ornery travelers.
John Law was always a problem; some of them were actually smart. I always tried to stop the stage, get the gold and be gone in less than five minutes because, often as not, a deputy or Pinkerton agent was following close to the stagecoach and if I saw a shiny badge acomin' I dropped everything, got on my horse and hightailed it out of there. There's always another stagecoach but a gunfight with the Law wasn't in my plans.
You ask, did I ever get caught? Well, that's a yes and no answer because no sheriff ever caught me but a passenger did. She was a tiny thing, dressed in a soft blue dress that buttoned up to her chin. She had disobeyed my instructions for passengers to remain inside the stagecoach and had quietly gotten out of the stagecoach to see what was happening. Which was, I was busy gettin' the strongbox from the drivers. Once I had the box those damn fools whipped their horses and they skedaddled faster than sheep after seeing a coyote.
So, there I was, heart-beating, guns at the ready, a box full of gold - and a stranded woman. I must say, she didn't act frightened nor did she cry, sob or do other girly stuff like faint or become a wildcat. She just stood there, hands on her hips and demanded I do something. "Do something?" Her nerve took me aback. I started to leave and she began barking at me that I couldn't leave her in the middle of no-where. That seemed reasonable so I pulled her onto the back of my horse and we went to my nearby temporary camp.
After a few more set-tos, we called a truce and heated up the coffee pot and a skillet of beans. Over the next few hours I found out she was a schoolteacher heading for a new school somewheres between Sacramento and Antioch in the Delta.
Love is the dangdest thing. I liked this woman and if I went with her to a different county there was no way I could remain a highwayman. Heck, even I have a few scruples; love and stagecoach robbing don't belong together. So, off we went - me, the school marm and a whole lot of gold. I even had a few ladie's gold rings in my stashed loot and I figure, in time, to give her one.
Yep, that’s me - Bad Billy