Mr. Greenlee’s Steam Wagon And Other Events Of Interest

Discussion in 'Tall Tales & Fabrications' started by Ted Richards, Oct 9, 2017.

  1. Ted Richards

    Ted Richards Well-Known Member
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    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?
     
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  2. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    Great post. True or false, it's a worthy post.
     
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  3. Ted Richards

    Ted Richards Well-Known Member
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    Oh, this one is purely a figment of my imagination.
     
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  4. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Veteran Member
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    A good imagination it is.
     
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  5. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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    Good story! I love a good mystery. Please continue.
     
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  6. Ted Richards

    Ted Richards Well-Known Member
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    Mr. Greenlee’s Steam Wagon And Other Events Of Interest
    Continued
    Mrs. Bentley’s inquiries revealed nothing about these strange folk that had moved into the Wilson House. The days passed and rumors began to circulate throughout the town about who these people could be.

    Jody’s mother had sent him on a mission to the General Store to pick up some needed baking supplies. Just as he maneuvered his wheeled chair so that he could stretch out his left arm to open the door, Jody heard Mr. And Mr. Bentley talking with Marshall Moore. He stopped where he was and listened to the three respected town members talking.

    Mrs. Bentley was very concerned about not knowing the history of these people and while she explained her worries to the Marshall, he stood there and shook his head. He had already tried to convince her not to worry, that all people were entitled to their seclusion. This was not an answer the snoopy woman wanted to hear.

    Jody waited for a few seconds more and purposely bumped his chair into the wooden door. The unexpected noise called an end to the adults’ conversation and they turned to help the boy through the doorway.

    After a few minutes, Mr. Bentley was able to gather the goods that Jody’s mother had requested and sent the boy on his way. Once outside, Jody passed the Barber Shop and caught wind of another conversation about the strange people dressed in black.

    Mr. Jones, the Barber and Willy, a Cattle drover who had just returned from the plains, were talking about the events of the last two months. Mr. Jones seemed disinterested in the subject and listened while Willy told tall tales about the strange lights he had seen in the sky while he was on the cattle drive. Willy claimed to even see one of these lights land on the ground and that he saw men come out of it!

    Jody’s wild imagination ran away with him and he remembered both of his school marms, Miss Beacham and Miss Ambrose, talking about the cosmos and outer space and that there could be other people like themselves out there in the dark. What did she call them? Aliens?

    While Jody was exploring the idea that the people in the old Wilson House were aliens, he heard Mr. Jones tell Willy to lay off the hard stuff while traveling. Didn't he know how dangerous the wide-open plains were for men on a cattle drive? Jody sighed.

    Mr. Jones was right and he felt foolish for thinking about something so far fetched. He moved his chair towards one of the ramps and began to wheel himself home.

    Daylight turned to evening shadows and then turned into darkened night. It was a New Moon on this All Hallows Eve and the town was cast into an unusual blackness. Having the folk in black living just down the street put most of the townsfolk into restlessness. For those that kept to the straight and narrow, they locked up their doors and closed their windows to keep anything lurking in the shadows in place. For the less disturbed, life was bustling at the saloon.

    ...............................................................................................................................................................
    Hello! My name is Sammy Bai and I’m from the 21st century. You may be wondering what’s going on here so I’ll try to explain it. I know because I work for these guys in black and they really aren’t as bad as they might seem and they pay me very well as a consultant and curator.

    You see, these guys are aliens, like from-another-world-aliens and they have been scouting around our solar system for some time trying to figure us out and have come to the conclusion that we are extremely dangerous, to ourselves and to others. They don’t feel that we have much of a future, a kind of endangered species, so they have decided to collect a few specimens here and there, for posterity and public entertainment. They are particularly interested in this place and time because it was so colorful and they want to preserve it for all of the Seven Galaxies creatures to see.

    It’s tough to explain it, I know they had a time explaining The Project to me and even then it gave me the willies, but they kept waving big wads of money under my nose, so I eventually understood the concept and how it would be good for my race in the long run. The best way I know to explain it is to use an example; think of the best big-game park you have ever visited, this company I work for, Xanadu Enterprises, is setting up a series of theme parks on ThemeWorld, an entertainment planet at galactic crossroads. Anyway, this series of theme parks they have in mind will feature Earth cultures at different times and places. This particular exhibit is one of several in their Old West Park. What they have done is recreate every detail of this particular town and the surrounding area; then one night, they moved every living creature from the real town to this recreated town. That was a big job! We pulled it off though and apparently everyone in town was fooled because we haven’t heard any grumbling from the locals. Oh, uh, remember I said we moved every living thing? Well, it was a bit more than that, we also moved all the inhabitants of boot hill too.


    There is no altruism here, just self-interest; so this park has to make money, therefore everyone and everything in the town is on display all the time to paying customers from everywhere in the Seven Galaxies. Just as in any big game park, the tourists are not allowed to interfere with or disturb the animals. In this case, these folks will never realize they are on display; even the soundproofing is quite good, they will never hear the shrieks of laughter from their visitors. The greatest problem I have is this bunch of kids they call technicians that live in the old Wilson house! Do you know that not one of those whippersnappers is a centenarian! You know how kids are, they think they know everything and won’t listen to my advice to try and fit in the community and now the whole town is upset because they are so different from everyone else. That issue looks like it’s coming to a head now, so we will see how those squirts get out of being lynched!
     
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  7. Ina I. Wonder

    Ina I. Wonder Very Well-Known Member
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    Reminds me of The Twilight Zone, and AlFred Hitchcock. They scared me sleepless when I was a kid. :eek: :eek: :eek:
     
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  8. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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    So the townspeople are prisoners of the aliens. Now what?
     
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  9. Ted Richards

    Ted Richards Well-Known Member
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    Mr. Greenlee’s Steam Wagon And Other Events Of Interest
    Continued

    In the beginning, Mr. Greenlee had been placed in the town as an anthropologist to study these people to see what makes them tick, so that when the time came to move them to The Exhibit, all would go smoothly. Little was known about this species or this particular time period so Mr. Greenlee naturally appeared to be a little eccentric and strange, an illusion he strove to enhance as his character evolved into an apparently crackpot inventor. It was a perfect cover to use in observing the locals, as they seemed to consider him a harmless crank to be avoided.

    The problem was, Mr. Greenlee was stuck in a little western town on Earth with poor communications while his colleagues at home had the ear of The Director, and the politics of the situation were not in Dr. Greenlee’s favor. They listened to his good advice for a while, but later began to forward their own agendas. One of their bright ideas was to place a group of staff in town at the old Wilson house, to also study human behavior, and their profound ignorance of the customs of the time and Willy’s wild stories almost resulted in their lynching. Obviously the thing to do was to extract the technicians from the town as soon as possible and the whole furor would soon die down.


    NEXT


    Sammy Bai here, remember me? I work for these guys, that is, Xanadu Enterprises, I haven’t the foggiest idea what’s going on here, but I’ll provide a calculated guess. This has been one of our hottest attractions, fantastic gate receipts! Everyone in the Seven Galaxies wants to see this exhibit, so when Dr. Greenlee started meddling with the success formula, I think the administrator stepped in and moved everyone back to square one. Dr. Greenlee is an anthropologist, not a set director, not security, and he certainly should not be introducing out-of-period technology to this thing. I have a feeling that he will be reprimanded for interfering; still, he is a likable old guy and does provide some valuable insights.

    Dr Greenlee was right about extracting the technicians and we did but we will leave him in place for a while to study this group.
     
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