Sunday, March 16, 2008

Around town: The Democrat Wagon

From the La Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California

“You’ve got to go,” I hissed.

We were sitting in a booth at Conrad’s.

“Why?” replied my companion.

It was she. The Anonymous Source. An attractive lady in her 40s who provides me with information.

“Church services are almost over,” I explained.

Reluctantly, as sources must, the Anonymous Source handed me a frayed folder, zipped up her leather jacket and left.

Just in time. Within minutes, a group of Presbyterians arrived in the adjacent booth.

I began putting the maps away. And the old photos.

Just then, a tattered newspaper clipping fell from the folder.

The print was faded. The type was small. It was a story from our flagship, the Los Angeles Times, dated April 14, 1874.

Wow, I thought. Good vintage.

“On the 14th of April, 1874, Charles H. Miles, superintendent of the Los Angeles Water Works, accompanied by a friend named Osborne, after a visit of inspection to the reservoir, was returning to Los Angeles in a two-horse Democrat wagon.”

What, I wondered, was a Democrat wagon?

“They had arrived at a point where the road curbed downward through a little cluster of liveoaks when ”

They were accosted by Tiburcio Vasquez!

“Hand me your watch and your money, quick!”

Charles Miles thought it was a prank. He said, “That’s pretty well done. I hope your gun isn’t loaded?”

“Yes it’s loaded,” was the quick response, “and I am in earnest. Yonder comes the sheriff after me and my party now — don’t you see them?”

Sure enough, the posse was coming.

“Miles handed over his $480 gold watch and chain and what few dollars he happened to have in his pocket. Mr. Osborne, also obeying the law of necessity, gave up his silver watch and his pocket money, and, with a saucy ‘adios!’ the highwayman and his fellow cut-throats put spurs to their mustangs and dashed away to the north.”

Impressive writing. Florid language. Lots of commas. And the lost art of hyphenation, honed to perfection in the old Los Angeles Times.

There was more: The bandits dashed away to the north. Devil’s Gate. The old trails

I looked around for a map when the man in the adjacent booth caught my eye.

“Is she real?” he asked.

“I beg your pardon?” I replied.

“Is she real? Is there really an Anonymous Source? Do you really meet her here, at Conrad’s, on Sunday mornings?”

I picked up the file from the table.

“Of course, she’s real.”


I smiled and said, “She just left.”

No comments: