Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday Meanderings - 6.26.2017

Okay, the Bigfoot thing is just getting weirder and weirder. This may be Fake News, or an Alternative Fact, but there was a report this week that the FBI contacted the Williamson County Sheriff's Office (the jurisdiction Round Rock is in) and said they had added Bigfoot to the 10 most-wanted list, and there was a $500,000 reward for his capture!

Now I would normally say that neither the FBI nor the WCSO were prone to put out untrue, spurious statements, but this is a new era, truth-wise, so I just don't know. What I do know is that I'm staying out of the Round Rock Parks for the time being. Personally, I don't think I'm that hairy, but someone keen on collecting a half-million dollar reward is likely to be overly enthusiastic, and Texas is a right-to-carry state. I'll keep you posted.

The only other news around here is that it's been hawt! Too hot to be out and about, so you'll just have to amuse yourself with kitten videos on the Internet. That's what I've been doing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bramlett & 0' Bannon: One bullet two dead men, Part II - Stories from the Tree

Last week I introduced you to a member of the Bramblett clan, Larkin Bramlett, who, in an alcohol-induced rage, killed his neighbor and fellow mill operator Benjamin F. O'Bannon in Cherokee County, Alabama back in 1854. Larkin was arrested,  broke out of jail, was re-arrested, was tried by a jury in Jacksonville, Alabama and was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. His appeal was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, and all that is left to tell of his story is the administration of justice. and the moral, if there is one.

I am indebted to Jacksonville journalist Eric Wayne Key, who pieced together Larkin's story from the archives of the Jacksonville Republican newspaper and from court records, and published the story in the November 5, 2013 edition of the Jacksonville News. Key writes:

Thursday before the hanging, the wagons and carriages started rolling into town. Carroll County, Ga., was represented by at least 15 wagons each loaded with 8 or 10 people. People came from all corners of the map. Barefooted boys and girls, old men and women, large slaves with little ones following behind them, small boys on mules – sometimes as many as three on one mule. Grown men on switch tail ponies with the women walking behind them. Oxcarts, horse-drawn wagons, buggies, carryalls and carriages - every imaginable type of person and form of transportation were exhibited this week.

The day of the hanging, confusion filled the streets. The tavern on the Square ran dry. People were drunk and fighting. Every split-rail fence around the Square was broken down. The National Guard was summoned to control the chaos. Nothing like this had ever happened in Jacksonville before. At 10:30 a.m., March 5th 1858, some 50 National guardsmen with muskets and bayonets, commanded by Captain D. P. Forney. worked their way through the crowd. Upon their arrival, the noise rose to a deafening roar as the people exclaimed, 'There he is! He's coming out!" Constable Fleming drove a four-horse drawn hearse with a coffin in the bed up to the front door of the jail. Every face of every man, woman and child up across the hill was now turned to the jail and every eye on the jail door.

After some delay, Sheriff Farmer emerged with 33-year-old Larkin Bramlett in chains. He was pale and thin but seemed unusually calm. His hair was long, his face, sharp with features with thin lips and a narrow nose. He seemed quite surprised at the vast throng of spectators there to witness his execution. Walking and conversing quietly next to Bramlett was the Rev. A. E. Vandervere, who, on the journey to the gallows, would try to get a confession out of Bramlett, but would fail. Also walking with them was attending physician. Dr. M. W. Francis who was in charge of tending to Bramlett up to his final moments alive. At times, Bramlett could be seen laughing and then abruptly losing his smile. The men helped Bramlett board the hearse.

When Fleming cracked the whip and the horse set forth, Bramlett was positioned, seated and chained on top of the very coffin which would forever hold his body. The hearse departed from the jail and drove up the hill, rounded the Square and headed south on what is now Church Street for about a mile and a half near Rabbit Town Road where the gallows had been constructed in a gorge of the mountain. Some 10,000 spectators followed the hearse to the gallows. There assembled, the throng measured almost a mile deep.

When Bramlett reached his final destination he was assisted in putting on a shroud and a pair of white gloves. His shoes were removed and replaced by a pair of socks. He then walked up the scaffold stairs to the gallows, assisted by Sheriff Farmer and a deputy. After a brief sermon by Rev. Vandervere the sheriff set about placing the noose around the prisoner's neck, and at 25 minutes after 1 p.m., Larkin Bramlett. enveloped in his white shroud, wearing his white gloves, left this world and a story that would be lost for 150 years.

A shudder and a murmur ran through the crowd. The excitement was long gone. There was a deep sorrowfulness in the air. The crowd turned and slowly made their way back to town. The liquor was gone but no one cared, for it was the drink which had started this mess in the first place. Mothers would use this parable to scare their husbands and sons for years to come. Rev. Vandervere later revealed that Larkin Bramlett confessed that his trouble started in 1845 when he "took up the habit of intoxication."

Rev. Vandervere never got his confession of guilt from Bramlett. He commented six days after the hanging on the matter: "...Were it not for so many hard sayings in his confession, censuring men of high respectability, I could, from what he said and seemed to feel, have indulged at least a hope that he was saved; but such gross inconsistency leaves me in wonder and astonishment. I visited the poor fellow often before his unhappy end; and from what I could learn, he appeared anxious to be saved, and in fact seemed to believe that God would save him; but Mr. Editor, those condemned justly, should not plead justification before God. as a ground of acceptation, but plead guilty and his mercy for Christ's sake, if they expect to be saved. I wish and pray that all may take warning by the awful end of Larkin Bramlett."

Monday, June 19, 2017

Monday Meanderings - 6.19.2017

As if this part of Texas wasn't weird enough, we are now having Bigfoot sightings. Sort of. Round Rock Parks and Rec folks are finding large footprints and clumps of hair in several of the parks in their jurisdiction.
Half-again larger than a normal footprint, three images were captured at Freeman Park, Old Settlers Park and Brushy Creek Trail between June 8 and June 10. Mike Parker, editor of the Pflugerville Pflag and Round Rock Leader community newspapers, thinks the creature may be the “Hairy Man,” a local legend which dates back to Round Rock’s pioneer days and which has inspired a local 5K and Hairy Man contest.

They are not saying it’s definitely Bigfoot, because as one Facebook commenter said, if there are cameras at the parks to capture these images, then why aren’t their photos of the Sasquatch himself? But they do suggest that if you’re hiking in any Round Rock parks this summer, you should probably keep an eye out for something large and hairy. In fact, to reinforce that message Parks and Rec employees were putting up warning signs this past week.


But the "Hairy Man" is not the only critter making news. Or getting some signage. There's also the Killer Grackles. The UT campus is home to one of the largest gatherings of grackles anywhere, and during nesting season they apparently act like mama bears if you come near their babies. So much so, UT has begun posting warning signs about "Aggressive Grackles." And I thought you only needed to avoid standing directly under them.

Oh, great! Now we have to break in a new wait-person at Chuy's. Kathy, our server for the last 4 or 5 years, texted in her goodbyes last week, just when we were thinking about adopting her. I mean, who wouldn't want to have a close relative working at Chuy's? Think of the perks. Kathy worked with us through our 18 or so months of the Diet, so she knew automatically to bring the taco salad in a regular bowl, or to hold the cheese and avocado on the grilled chicken salad. Now we have to remember all that stuff. Either that or just always go with the ChuyChanga with queso sauce.

Apparently her leaving was a big surprise to everybody.  Marty, one of the managers, came to our table to find out if we were somehow responsible for her sudden departure! We assured him we had nothing to do with it. But when you have a relationship with a restaurant that has gone on for almost 30 years, we often say - sometimes out loud - "We were here long before you came. We'll be here long after you're gone."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Bramlett & 0' Bannon: One bullet two dead men - Stories from the Tree

It was another little scrap of information about a distant relative that caught my eye: "According to the Jacksonville Republican newspaper, 11-Mar-1858, Larkin Bramblett, before his hanging, told a reporter that he was married  at 15 to a girl  who was 13."

Wait! What? Not the part about being married at age 15, though that is unusual. The part that really jumped out, of course, was "before his hanging!"  Of course this sent me digging, and I came up with another remarkable story from the Tree.

A journalist named Eric Wayne Key pieced together the following story from the archives of the Jacksonville Republican newspaper and from court records. Mr Key published the story in the November 5, 2013 issue of the Jacksonville News under the title "Bramlett & 0' Bannon:  One bullet two dead men." I have borrowed both the title and the story. With some minor editing, here's Key's account.

It seems that in 1854, on the banks of an undisclosed pond in Cedar Bluff, Cherokee County, Alabama, there were two mills owned by a Colonel Hendrix. The gristmill, run by Larkin Bramlett, and a saw mill operated by Benjamin F. 0'Bannon. Bramlett and O'Bannon were friends and frequently drank and conversed after the mills had closed down for the day. On one particularly drunken night they got into a heated argument. Before things got bad, O'Bannon left and Bramlett went home to his wife and kids.

He seethed throughout the night, and upon waking the next morning, he visited his neighbor and asked to borrow a gun. The neighbor asked him if he was going squirrel hunting and Larkin replied, "Yeah, and I'll kill a damn big one before I get back." He made his way to the mill and yelled for O'Bannon to show his face. He screamed out, "Say your prayers. O'Bannon!" Seeing the gun, O'Bannon seized the opportunity to lunge towards his aggressor. The gun went off, hitting O'Bannon's leg, severing the femoral artery which resulted in death in a very short time.

Bramlett was apprehended and jailed in short order, but before the next turn of the court he managed to escape from the Cherokee County jail. He traveled to Murray County Georgia, then up to South Carolina, back to Chattooga County, and eventually went on to Louisville, Kentucky. From there he fled to Canada.

After two years and eight months he returned to Chattooga County Georgia, where he was recognized and subsequently arrested and extradited back to Cherokee County Alabama. But due to the notoriety of the case in Cherokee County, Bramlett's counsel requested a change of venue, and before the Fall term of 1857 he was transferred to the jailhouse on West Ladiga Street in Jacksonville, then the County Seat of Benton County, Alabama.

Not surprisingly, the jury disbelieved Bramlett's claim of innocence and returned a guilty verdict. "We the jury find the defendant guilty of the murder of Benjamin F. O'Bannon in the first degree and that he must suffer death. " The Honorable W. M. Brooks sentenced Bramlett to hang for the murder of O'Bannon.

Bramlett's counsel, the Honorable Alexander White, appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court in hopes of over-turning the verdict by Judge Brooks. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal stating, "The judgment of the circuit court is affirmed, and the sentence of the law must be executed."

Sheriff J. B. Farmer proceeded to make the necessary arrangements for the execution by building a gallows and summoning the different officers and physicians as required by law together with a sufficient guard. In the two weeks preceding the hanging, Jacksonville was abuzz with activity. Men and boys traveled to the southern edge of town to see the gallows. Soldier-like young men paraded the streets with muskets and bayonets. Here and there men would debate the likelihood of Bramlett's eminent escape and what he would do next.

There were rumors of what Bramlett was saying to the ministers and to the sheriff and deputies. Had he made a confession? What would he do once the rope was around his neck? How many men had he murdered? Bramlett's brothers were rumored to be here in town [there were 5 of them] and would surely attempt a rescue. With each rumor the security doubled and tripled. Rumors of Jacksonville being burned to the ground by the Bramlett brothers ran rampant.

At this point, I would like to point out that Larkin Bramlett is not actually a blood relative of mine. Unlike Pretty Boy Floyd, he's not even a 5th cousin once removed. He was just a member of the Bramblett clan that spread over the South, starting with the Immigrant John Bramblett in 1630. Larkin even spelled his name differently. But that's one of the reasons it's so hard to track Bramblett ancestors. They may be Bramletts, or Bramlets, or Bramblets or Brambletts, or in the case of one census, Branlets. And often these differences show up in the same family!

But he is out there on one of the spindly branches - apprehended, tried, and convicted. Next week - The Hanging.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday Meanderings - 6.12.2017

So the other day, while putting gas in the car, I noticed the little messages printed on the pump handle. They were the usual safety notices, such as "In case of fire, do not remove nozzle" and "No smoking/extinguish all flames" and "Do not top off." But one of the messages said, "Licensed drivers only." Huh? So passengers can't pump gas? Or you have to pass a test before you can legally pump gas? I never knew that. Good thing I am a licensed driver, or we would have been stranded by the side of the road.

Those are not the only messages that have caught my attention lately. Every time our health insurance company sends us any correspondence for any reason whatsoever, they include a printed page that begins with the message "English. ATTENTION: If you do not speak English, language assistance services are available to you." Which is sort of a strange message in and of itself.

But there follows a similar phrase written in 16 different languages. For example, the next sentence is: "Español (Spanish) ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición..." (if you do speak Spanish...) and then there messages in Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog - Filipino, Russian, French Creole, French, Polish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Japanese, Farsi, Navajo and Arabic. No wonder insurance is so expensive.