Tuesday, September 06, 2005


(Run originally 3/14/04 on our old site)

Many, many moons ago, the legendary A. P. Strother put together a book called “The Searcy Centennial 1837-1937.” In it, he compiled stories from a number of sources.

The Searcy Public Library is fortunate enough to have a copy of that book and, thanks to Susie Hoffman Boyett, we have a story from it.

The original ran in the long-defunct Searcy Record. A gentleman named Howell Bradley was the typesetter, which’ll explain the salutation to the piece, which was written by a Judge Fielding.

Another word of explanation: when the DK&S (Doniphan, Kensett & Searcy) first came into town, running down what is now Park Street, it ran on WOODEN rails, with the passenger cars pulled by mules. Carry that it mind, as we present this little slice of an earlier time, verbatim.

Colonel Howell:

If you have nothing better to set up, let me tell you a tale of what happened the other night on the Through Express train of our branch railroad from Searcy to Kensett. Whether my story is a tragedy or a comedy, you can say for yourself when you have read it.

The energetic Yarnells, as you are aware, have already gone to work and ironed two miles of the track, commencing at Kensett; the other half of it the Searcy end is not yet constructed. Over these two miles of old wooden track the cars still jolt as of old, but when they strike the iron rails they glide along as smoothly as if they’d “struck ‘ile’” and run away with themselves if not watched.

On the night of my story they were running two trains. One consisting of a small skeleton car and the other of the old heavy passenger car with a flat car attached; the former being drawn by the old reliable sorrel engine, Sal, and the latter by a new, vicious bay engine named Beck. The little skeleton car with Ed Faucett conductor and Dick Sherman fireman and engineer pulled out first from the station at Searcy, followed at a distance of about two hundred yards by the passenger train with Aaron Yarnell conductor, fireman and engineer. There was one passenger with Aaron – an English sailor, lately G. B. Greer’s gardener.

All went well until they struck the iron rails and a down grade, when the law of gravitation got hold of the car and commenced running it upon Beck and bumping against her heels, whereas she began to kick. Presently both she and car, being of the same mind, joined forces and ran away together and down the road they rushed like an Alpine avalanche. On the rear of the foremost car sat Conductor Faucett, peacefully dreaming of passengers and half dollars. Hearing the noise behind him, he started up, cast one frightened glance that way and fetched a shrill scream of fear and warning; whereupon Dick turned too, saw the “earthquake” coming and seizing the steering pole, and with one might blow he lifted the astonished Sal out of her tracks and when she lit, she lit running, and off they went down the grade – at the rate of “ninety-five miles” an hour.

Now it was a race for life or death, for if the heavy rear car struck foremost it would be smashed into egg-shells; and on account of its great momentum was rapidly gaining ground.

Luckily the mules were hitched with long traces. Fright lent them wings – they had to fly to keep ahead of the cars. Dick’s flail was like a thrashing machine. Aaron was holding on for dear life to the lines, trying to hold Beck on the track, for he was afraid she would switch the car off into the woods. On they sped like a hurricane behind time: Ed’s cap flew off in Aaron’s face, they were going so fast. The rear car was rapidly closing up. Ed seemed to be doomed. He could feel the hot breath of Beck behind him but he could not get out of her way, and she could not stop. Presently, whether out of pure devilment or because she was crazed with fear, she bit him. Black Hawk never raised such a yell as did Ed – it fairly lifted the owls off their roost. He knew it was destruction to be overcome and soon got busy holding on to the car, kicking back at the mule and exhorting Dick to drive faster. “Git Dick, Hip bay, that mule’s eating me up – the lord have mercy on our souls.”

The sailor in the rear car now awoke and after taking an observation and determining the longitude, shifted his quid, and roared out to Aaron, “Port your helm, you lubber, port your helm.” With that he seized the tiller, jammed the helm hard a-port and. like a flash. over went the mule into the ditch, cutting asunder the trace chains as she went. The sailor then thrust a marlin spike into the capstan, turned down the brakes and steered the craft safely into port at Kensett, where they all landed, officers and crew, devoutly returning thanks for their miraculous escape.

Robert Owen says that they afterward held a meeting and passed a resolution condemning Bob Ingersoll’s religious theory asserting that they knew there was a Hell and that mules were proof of it.


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