Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ione shooting spree leaves one dead, six injured

A notorious ex-convict with a penchant for troublemaking went on a drunken shooting spree July 2, 1909, in the tiny town of Ione, Oregon. By the time Theodore G. “Charlie” Earhart ran out of ammunition, six men were injured and a Portland man was dead.

Earhart was well-known for his bad character, and had been pardoned just six months prior after serving two years in the Oregon penitentiary for assault with a deadly weapon. He had pulled a gun on Deputy Sheriff Walter Cason of Ione in 1907, threatening to kill him if he did not secure Earhart’s release on gambling charges.

Earhart decided to start celebrating the 1909 Fourth of July holiday early and, after filling up on whiskey, went looking for trouble in downtown Ione. He first met Ione resident Charles Clark and insulted him by throwing a lighted match in his face. A scuffle ensued, Earhart pulled a knife, Clark pulled a gun to defend himself and fired five shots at his assailant, none of which found their target.

Earhart continued down Ione’s main street and broke into the Walker hardware store through the front plate glass window, arming himself with a double-barrel shotgun and two boxes of No. 1 shot shells. He then returned to Main Street and began to defy a crowd of townspeople that had started to gather. He forced a friend in the crowd, Henry Reed, to come forward and act as a human shield when Marshal Tom Carle arrived. Soon after, a posse headed by Deputy Sheriff Cason arrived and a shootout began. Earhart was slightly wounded in the back by one shot and fled, hiding under a nearby wheat warehouse.

From his refuge under the warehouse Earhart began firing back at the mob of 50 men, wounding William Clark, the brother of the man he first insulted. Four other men were shot in the feet and legs, and Joe Beasley was wounded in the face as well. Deputy Sheriff Cason received a charge of shot in the back. All of the wounds were minor ones.

A Portland man, William H. Escue, was accidentally shot by a member of the posse while he was crawling up a ravine to escape the gunfire. He did not survive his injuries.

Earhart finally ran out of ammunition and surrendered himself to Morrow County Sheriff E.M. Shutt, who arrived from Heppner approximately an hour after the altercation began. Earhart was lodged in the Morrow County Jail, and from there sentenced to five years in the penitentiary.

Earhart swore he would have his revenge against Deputy Sheriff Cason and, in September 1914, after being released from prison, he made the attempt. Coming across Cason in front of Heppner’s Palace Hotel, Earhart pulled a gun and fired one shot at the lawman, but missed. Cason shot back and killed Earhart, then turned himself and the two guns over to the Heppner city marshal. A coroner’s inquest and preliminary hearing into the shooting concluded that Cason had fired in self-defense, and he was set free.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pendleton wowed by ‘blind’ driver

A Texan claiming to be able to see with his fingers wowed Pendleton audiences in December 1935 when he donned an elaborate blindfold and drove a brand-new Studebaker through city streets.

Herbert Cade, a self-proclaimed “par-optic wizard,” became world-famous for his stunts performed while blindfolded. Cade explained that he developed his remarkable powers after a head injury robbed him of his sight completely. A brain surgeon told him that, instead of the usual three layers of skin, he had only two, and he was thus able to “see” through his hyper-sensitive fingertips. His vision eventually was restored to him, but he discovered that by fasting for 24 to 36 hours he could “observe” the world without his eyes any time he chose.

After several days of anticipation of Cade’s daring feats, Pendleton residents lined Main Street to watch a demonstration of his powers. Onlookers were invited to inspect the special blindfold, made from 14 layers of black silk, that was then wrapped around his head from hairline to chin and secured tightly above and below his nose with tight rubber bands. He then maneuvered out of a parking space and traveled down Main Street with his fingertips plastered to the windshield, thrilling the crowd by almost — but not quite — hitting another car head-on, and then proceeded to make several turns and weave between double-parked cars.

He made several stops around town, picking himself out a bottle of milk from a local dairy truck, pouring himself coffee at a diner, discerning different colors with only his fingertips and giving a talk on par-optic vision. He also talked up local businesses at every stop, serving as a mobile advertisement for chiropractic medicine (which helped restore his eyesight), Foster Motor Company (who supplied the Studebaker for his demonstration), Doherty Auto Service (where he demonstrated their brake testing equipment) and Troy Laundry (where he demonstrated laundry machines). He then retired to the Hotel Pendleton for a well-earned rest. Pendletonians were amazed at his abilities.

More than likely, Herbert Cade was an accomplished magician. A search for par-optic vision on the Internet found several claims of similar feats in the 1920s by Cade and others. The first Western reports of par-optic vision were from the 1700s, but scientists didn’t get interested in studying the alleged phenomenon until the 20th century. “Eyeless vision” has long been used by magicians and circus entertainers in their acts, using either trickery or cheating (peeking down the nose), but no scientific studies have been able to prove that par-optic vision is a paranormal phenomenon.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Famous bucking bull bested by ‘Let’er Buck’ author

Let’er Buck!

The famous slogan of the Pendleton Round-Up is also the name of a book authored by Charles Wellington Furlong, an explorer, writer, artist, photographer and lecturer who visited the Round-Up in its early years. A world traveler, Furlong turned his attention to the American West in 1913 in part to regain his health, which was suffering after many years living abroad in Africa and South America.

Furlong arrived in Pendleton for the Round-Up in 1913 and was convinced that, to really understand his subject, he needed to participate in Round-Up activities. He agreed, and was put upon Henry Vogt, a notorious bucking bull that was fast making a name for himself. Furlong lasted three and a half seconds before he hit the dirt.

The next year, in 1914, Furlong returned to the Round-Up as a representative of Harper’s Weekly and was accosted by the Round-Up directors as soon as he stepped off the train. “Say, Furlong! Going to ride Sharkey this year?” A prize of $100 had been offered to anyone who could stay on the bull for 10 seconds using any means necessary — pulling leather, using reins, anything. The record ride on Sharkey to that point was less than six seconds.

Sharkey was a black Belgrade Angus bull weighing 1,925 pounds. The Round-Up bought the bull from “Happy Jack” Hawn of Fresno, Calif., for $500 in 1913 after he made a name for himself at the Los Angeles Rodeo for two years, throwing all comers. Sharkey was not part of the regular bucking stock, but was quite a draw as special entertainment during each day of the Round-Up.

Furlong approached his ride on Sharkey, according to his 1921 book “Let’er Buck: A Story of the Passing of the Old West,”  as follows: “... I concluded that one reason a rider lets go his hold on the bulls was because the tremendous force made him think his joints were coming apart at each buck and his teeth shaking out in between, but that they really weren’t — he only felt that way. ... The philosophy then of bull riding is simply — hang on — convince yourself you’re not coming apart, you only feel that way — just hang on.”

Furlong ended up in the dirt with a broken wrist, but also won the world roughriding championship of the year (and the $100 prize) by hanging on to Sharkey for 12 1/2 seconds. His feat was never bested.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Legendary cowboy, actor earned name accidentally

Yakima Canutt is a legend. But he got his famous moniker by mistake, according to a 1977 interview with the East Oregonian.

The four-time all-around winner at the Pendleton Round-Up (1917, 1919, 1920 and 1923) was born Enos Edward Canutt on Nov  29, 1896, in the Snake River Hills near Colfax, Wash. He rode his first bronc in 1912 at the age of 16, but only after he got his father’s permission. “If he bucks you off, your riding is through  — you’re finished,” his father told him. Canutt rode the bronc to a standstill, and his rodeo career was off like a rocket.

Canutt first attended the Pendleton Round-Up in 1914 with a group of cowboys from Yakima, Wash. The group was trying out bucking horses and Pendleton photographer Walter Bowman captured Canutt on one of his attempts. Not knowing the cowboy’s name, he asked around and was told, “Oh, that’s Canutt of Yakima.” When Bowman labeled the picture for a newspaper article, Yakima Canutt was re-christened — a name that stuck with him for the rest of his life.

Yak, as his friends called him, continued to compete in rodeos even while serving in the U.S. Navy. In 1918, while on a three-week furlough, he showed up at the Round-Up in his sailor’s uniform “that just didn’t seem to match his cowboy boots.” As the first successful competitor in bulldogging that year, Canutt wrestled a longhorn steer halfway around the arena before subduing it, though he ran over the two-minute time limit. He still received a standing ovation.

After winning his fourth all-around title in 1923, Canutt took his skills to Hollywood. He appeared in 48 silent movies, all westerns, but moved to stock and stunt work after “talkies” were introduced in 1928 (his voice had been damaged by the flu while in the Navy). And much of John Wayne’s on-screen persona, including the drawling, hesitant speech and the hip-rolling walk, was copied from Canutt after the two began working together in 1932. Canutt later became a director for action scenes, most notably the 20-minute chariot racing scene in the 1959 production of “Ben Hur.”

Yak earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the motion picture industry, and an honorary Academy Award in 1967 for his achievements as a stunt man and for developing safety devices to protect stunt men. He was inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame in 1959, and into the Round-Up and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame in 1969. And he played himself in the movie “Yak’s Best Ride” in 1985.

Yakima Canutt, “... the most famous person NOT from Yakima, Washington,” according to author Elizabeth Gibson, died May 24, 1986, at the age of 90 at his home in North Hollywood.

Yakima Canutt competes in the 1918 Pendleton Round-Up in his sailor whites (EO Howdyshell file photo)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Spirit of Umatilla joins the war effort

As Hitler and Hirohito expanded their empires in 1944, thousands of bombers rushed to the defense of Allied positions in the European and Pacific theaters during World War II. The citizens of Umatilla County rode into battle as well, at least in spirit, when a B17G Flying Fortress bomber joined the ranks bearing their name.

All over the U.S., Americans did their part to fund the war effort. Those who could worked in factories that provided the Allies equipment and supplies. Those who didn’t live in the factory boom towns did the next best thing: They bought war bonds to finance the conflict.

In February of 1944, Umatilla County residents received news from Guy Johnson, county war finance administrator, that a Boeing B17G Flying Fortress, the latest in high-altitude daylight precision bombers, had been put into service due to the success of local war bond sales. The “Spirit of Umatilla” had a wing span of approximately 104 feet, a top speed of more than 300 mph, carried 10 tons of bombs and could fly long missions at over 40,000 feet altitude.

Its mission was kept a secret, of course.

County war loan drive chairman George Mason also reported more discouraging news. The progress of the fourth war loan drive in Umatilla County was lagging behind previous efforts, with sales on Feb. 2 of only $49,758.75 — lowest sales for a business day since January 22. The county’s total sales for the drive had reached only $1,361,788.25, or 82 percent of the quota of $1.674 million, and sales of E bonds also were lagging. Mason encouraged all Umatilla County residents to buy as many war bonds as they could manage.

Over the course of the war, 85 million Americans purchased an estimated $185 billion in war bonds.

 EO file photo