Just exactly who invented the first automobile is widely argued with various claimants disputing the event. What history has not recorded is that in a western town, in 1878, this drama unfolded. It looked like a big wagon with high iron wheels and something that looked like a huge iron wash boiler and was issuing forth great clouds of smoke. Around one side, puffs of steam were jetting forth and a red lantern was bouncing on the rear. Jodie’s young ears were assaulted by a cacophony of noises emanating from this strange beast, clanking, grinding, squealing, and clunking down the alley away from him. It was then he recalled the rumors of strange doings in Mr. Greenlee’s barn on the south side of town. Mr. Greenlee was a recluse and very odd. He had a great old barn that he always kept locked and he spent a lot of time in there at night, strange hammerings and whirrings could be heard there almost any night and he often emerged in the mornings with his white hair wildly awry. Some brave souls had asked what he was building in there and his standard reply was; “You’ll see, you’ll all see when I have it ready!” This then, must be the explanation for the monster Jodie had seen! But why were there two bright lights on the front in the middle of the day? Why indeed, and why the red lantern on the rear? Jodie recalled hearing a large object skid across the dirt and come to rest behind him and he turned around to see what it was. What it was, was Nevada Bob, the notorious gunman that had bedeviled the silver mining camps of the Comstock. Nevada Bob wasn’t moving and appeared to be much the worse for wear. He was dressed in black and still had two guns slung low and tied down, but right now he looked pretty harmless. Apparently that confounded contraption had mowed him down like a scythe through wheat and now he lay unmoving and crumpled in the dust with blood leaking out here and there. Jodie cautiously approached but before he touched Bob, a cold voice said……… “Leave him be Jodie, I’ll look after Nevada Bob” said Marshall Ben Moore. “Bob came to town looking for trouble and it looks to me like he found it. Jodie, I want you to remember this well, Fate is the Great Leveler. Those who live by the sword die by the sword, or in this case, Mr. Greenlee’s steam wagon. I shall have to speak to Mr. Greenlee about his new steam wagon. He mustn’t bring it into town again. It wouldn’t be right to frighten horses and women with that contraption. Well now Jodie, You run along home. I’m sure your ma will be needing you to do chores. “Well Sir, what you have done is killed a desperado, a killer, Sir. I’m pretty sure the Marshall doesn’t care too much either, but I know he intends to speak to you about it and I don’t think he is going to let you turn that monster loose in town again.” “Now Jody, that thing is not a monster, it is a perfectly wonderful machine “ said Mr. Greenlee, “it’s a great contrivance for moving people and goods from one place to another with great efficiency. Jody, the problem wasn’t the machine, it was the driver! It was me! You see, I’m also working on another invention, I think I’ll call it a ‘Talky-phone’, I was using it to try to call my assistant, George, and I wasn’t paying attention to my driving; that’s why I ran over that poor man. Jody, you stay here; I’d best go see the Marshall and confess my misdeed”. The Marshall had seen to the removal of Nevada Bob’s remains by the Undertaker, and was dispersing the crowd. He and Mr. Greenlee then walked to the Marshall’s office together and Jody realized this was his best chance to leave undetected. “Wait ‘til Ma hears this!” he thought, as he pushed himself down the alley toward home. The next week Jody saw a dispirited Mr. Greenlee outside his barn and eventually pushed himself there. Mr. Greenlee seemed happy to see him and said, “Hello there young Jody! I’ve been meaning to come by and see you, but you came to me; Jody, do you recall last week after that unfortunate incident, I went to see the Marshall? Well, he gave me a very severe talking-too, said I must never bring my machine into town again because it frightens Women and Horses, not to mention killing gunslingers. He was very firm, he never, never wants to see it even near town again and I had such high hopes! Not only that, he told me that I must atone for my sin of murdering that poor fellow by doing something good, like building a wheeled chair that you could move about on. Then he wants me to build wooden ramps all over town so the wheeled chair can get up on the boardwalks. So I’m glad you are here, I need to measure you up so I can build something practical for a change!” The new family in the Old Wilson house were causing quite a stir in town because they look different and dress differently from everyone else and seem to have some very strange habits. They wear black. The men and boys wear black pants and black socks and black shoes and black hats and the men wear black coats with black ties. This isn’t so unusual but they wear black shirts too and it was rumored that they wear black long johns underneath! It certainly isn’t their best color as they all have pasty white skin and all that black gives them a slight green tinge! The ladies and girls dress in black too, no pretty print dresses on the little girls, just black! The whole town speculates that the family might have suffered an unimaginable tragedy recently and be in mourning. That would explain the black clothing and the never-smiling, never-cheerful faces. The children go to school, the women shop in town, and the men? What exactly the men do isn’t clear, they don’t work for anyone or run a business, in fact, they are seldom seen outside the home except for occasional forays to the mercantile for heavy supplies. They keep six black horses in their barn and graze them on old Ned’s pasture for a small lease fee. When they come to the mercantile, two of the black horses are harnessed to a black spring-wagon with black wheels. On one memorable trip, they purchased sixteen gallons of black paint! Old Mrs. Bentley, the wife of Eli Bentley that owns Bentley’s Merchandise Emporium and Agriculture, Mining, and Ranching Equipment Sales Co., works the front counter in the store ostensively to help Mr. Bentley, but, in fact, to be a listening post and conveyor of all that is worth knowing in our town and environs. Mrs. Bentley is a keen observer and a good listener and dutifully reports all that she sees and observes about the newcomers and this adds fuel to the fires of speculation. She has reported that everyone in the family has peculiar green, almost glowing green eyes that were large, slightly protrubent, and slanted. That started a bit of grumbling about “dirty foreigners’ but Mrs. Bentley reports that all of them speak “American” with no trace of accent but in a very flat monotone. After visiting with our young schoolteacher, Miss Emily Ambrose, Mrs. Bentley further reports that the children did excellent work in school, were obedient, did not make friends but seemed to have no enemies either, and that some of the children felt them to be “creepy”. On one occasion on the playground during a dodge-ball game; Miss Emily was certain that she saw one of the boy’s leg bend backward at the knee but the boy did not appear to be injured in any way so she concluded that it had been her imagination. One thing cannot be established; no one knows where this strange bunch came from or how they arrived. Mrs. Bentley is an expert at solving puzzles but this one has eluded her. Of course she checked with the Wilson heirs and with the attorney that drew up the sale papers. This should have been confidential information between lawyer and clients, but old J.T. Harrigan, our town’s only lawyer, liked a good story as well as anyone in town, so Mrs. Bentley easily beguiled him in her quest for information. Her favorite technique is to tell a prospect like this everything she knows about the subject in hopes that the person she is interviewing can top it with new information, that, and a little bottle of brandy she kept in her purse was enough to ascertain that Mr. Harrigan truly did not know. Next, she talked to several of her informants at the stage station and the train depot. No one saw the family arrive on either the train or the stage. Next she wondered if they arrived by wagon pulled by the six black horses and if so, where was the wagon? No one had seen a wagon and no one knew where the horses came from. “Aha, she exclaimed! All I have to do is find out what brand the horses are wearing and I’ll know.” Every man and boy in the West checks the brands on any strange horse in town but these horses wore no brand at all! Thoroughly frustrated, Mrs. Bentley next decided to try and ascertain where the money came from. To do that, she first refilled her brandy bottle and set out to see Mr. Harrigan again. This time she learned that the property was paid for with 20 dollar gold eagles carried into his office in two black satchels carried by the men in black. When Mr. Harrigan had finished his story and finished off her bottle of brandy, Mrs. Bentley crossed the street to speak to the town banker, Mr. Arnold T. Pilgrim. She specifically wanted to know if the gold coins of the transaction were genuine or if they could possibly be suspect. He laughed uproariously and exclaimed; “My dear Mrs. Bentley, I’ve been in the banking business for 45 years and I do know money! I know the mintmarks, the weight and feel of gold coins; those were genuine Baltimore Mint gold coins, make no mistake about it! They were all brand new too, no wear marks to speak of, as they would have if they had been in circulation very long.” So, the mystery remains, who are these people?