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Source: Garfield County Democrat
Source type: newspaper
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Oklahoma Fish Story”
Author(s): Shollenbarger, Benton
City of publication: Enid, Oklahoma Territory
Date of publication: 18 June 1903
Volume number: 6
Issue number: 28
Pagination: [4]

Shollenbarger, Benton. “Oklahoma Fish Story.” Garfield County Democrat 18 June 1903 v6n28: p. [4].
full text
assassins (fictionalization); Leon Czolgosz (fictionalization).
Named persons
John Wilkes Booth; William Jennings Bryan; Leon Czolgosz; Richard Garrett; Charles J. Guiteau [misspelled twice below]; David Herold [misspelled below]; Frank James; Jesse James; William Kidd; Abraham Lincoln; Michel Ney; Franklin Roby [identified as Ruddy below]; Cole Younger.
“Benton Shollenbarger of Selling” (p. [4]).


Oklahoma Fish Story

     As it has been published and proven to the satisfaction of the publishers of Oklahoma that J. Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Lincoln, died in Enid some time since, it is not out of place for the writer, who is an Oklahoma newspaper man, to add a chunk of his testimony to this interesting subject.
     “Last summer the writer spent a week on the banks of the North Canadian river near Fort Supply, in that glorious pastime that candidates for the Presidency are noted for, as well as common people, and that is fishing, and one day going up stream a little from our camp, we espied three gentlemen, one apart from the other two, and, as the single one was nearest us, we sauntered up with that important journalistic air that only an Oklahoma quill-driver can assume, when about to tackle a free lunch. After presenting the gentleman with my card, he bowed and wrote upon it, “J. Wilkes Booth,” and handed it back. I looked at it and was astonished, but lifted my Panama with as much Chesterfieldian grace as possible but said nothing. He said: ‘Let me introduce you to my friends.’ I slightly inclined my head as an acceptance, and we went where they were, and Mr. Booth said: ‘This is Mr. Charles J. Guiteau and here is Leon Czolgosz, both gentlemen you have heard of.’
     “This almost paralyzed me, but then I looked at the three men and I will admit that they had the appearances of being the men as represented. Of course, Booth and Giteau were a little older but Czolgosz could readily be recognized. While I was not particularly afraid to be in an unfrequented spot with men with reputations for using the deringer [sic] with fatal effect, yet I admit that it took my breath away, and thinking that I was in a dream or nightmare, I hit and then pinched and stuck a pin into myself, and found that I was wide awake and in my senses. Then it occurred to me that they might be ghosts or spirits of some kind. I had the presence of mind to pull out a quart bottle of the kind of stuff that the state of Kansas prohibits to be manufactured, and having respect for age, I held it towards Booth, who took it, and planting his feet about three feet apart, he twisted his neck, coughed, cleared his throat, and like a rooster about to crow, he raised himself three times on his toes and then holding the bottle aloft in one hand and the cork in the other, he brought it down gracefully to his mouth, and the neck was glued between his lips, and there he held it until two-thirds of a pint was gone. Guiteau at this juncture put in with, ‘Stop Wilkes,’ when the first named let up, and handed the bottle back to the writer, with a smile that would do credit to William Jennings Bryan when accepting a Presidential nomination on a 16 to 1 silver platter platform. After rubbing the neck of the flask with a silk bandana I handed it over to Giuteau, who took it with a nervous twinge, as we said: ‘Hit it generously, Julius!’ but he took what is known as a ‘politician’s drink.’ There was considerable sputtering, tears came to his eyes, and expression of his face was something like a Kansas democrat eating a dish of crow, and handing it back, said: ‘Gosh, but that warms a fellow,’ when we politely said: ‘Here Leon, finish it.’ However, there was about two-fifths of the liquor remaining, as Guiteau was not as steady at the business as Booth, but Czolgosz raised it to his lips, took a slight nip and handed it back, leaving a pretty good swig. Of course, being an Oklahoman, and finding out that our new companions were not hob-goblins, we were careful to drain the reminder [sic]. Booth, at this juncture, said, ‘sit down,’ and we all sat, and looking at them I remarked that I thought I would find them in a warmer climate. I looked Booth square in the eye, who answered: ‘Well, as for myself, I will say, (hic) them soldiers who claim to have done me up in old Garrett’s farm were never nearer than a half mile of me.
     “‘They killed Ruddy, a stranger, and took Harold prisoner and while the officers knew it was not me, they insisted that it was to get promotions and rewards. As to these other gentlemen, they can speak for themselves, but you will find out that it isn’t such a hard thing to fool the public. Here Julius, tell the gentleman how you razzle-dazzled the public.’ At these words Guiteau got up and said: ‘Well, after the biggest fool trial that ever was, and after I was sentenced to be hung, just before the execution, a crazy man, who had been run in a station a few days before, and who happened to be my size, and resembled me a little, was got drunk and my friends purchased those in authority and they just dressed him up in my clothes and swung him off for me and I just slipped out of jail after night and was given the address of Mr. Booth and went to Pecas and found him.’ ‘Well, Leon,’ spoke up Booth, ‘it is now your time.’ The assassin yawned, and looking about him, laughed and said: ‘Well, you see, they wanted to be awful particular with me and kept the public away as much as possible, but I soon seen that if I kept my mouth shut, that I had a few friends yet. A sort of jumping-jack as an automatum man, resembling me in appearance, was made, and I was told that if I would put this man up against the cell door, the two guards whose duty it would be to lead me to the electric chair, would take it there, as they understood their business, and that all I would have to do would be to lie covered up in bed until dark. This I did, and when darkness came, I was told to go, the doors were opened and I went. I was also given the address of Booth and here I have been since. What the government intends to do with us I do not know.’
     “Then Booth added: ‘Instead of being food for worms, I have have [sic] been permitted to live and if I have not done much good to the public, I have at least killed my share of whiskey, having absorbed several barrels since I was considered dead.’ Here Guiteau said: ‘Say hogsheads, Booth.’ ‘Well then, hogsheads,’ replied Wilkes. We know there has been stories about Jesse James, Captain Kidd and the Flying Dutchman escaping miraculously and even Marshal Ney was supposed to have escaped to North Carolina and there dwelt in obscurity, and why not the three men who slew our three good presidents? They may have been ghosts, but ghosts, spectres and hobgoblins don’t drink whiskey, unless it is the variety that comes from Kansas. We are living now in an age of progress, when queer things are done when men become millionaires by a twist of a financial screwdriver that can’t be seen, and the public wonders at such financial legerdemain, and why not a tincture of jugglery in our criminal matters? It was not but a generation or two ago, but what such men as Frank James and Cole Younger would have been beaten upon the wheel, beheaded or hanged, but, instead of that, we see that they are posing before the public as showmen and are doing some good for themselves as well as others. The world is indeed moving at an automobile canter, especially where an imaginative Oklahoma newspaper man is allowed to head the procession.”



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