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Great Grandma’s Barn
A Lady Relates a Family Legend on the Train through Illinois

I’m redneck, born en bred in Illinois.

Illinois is a place where history passes through sometimes.

You know, great people might be born and laid to rest here and might come and go, but not a lot of note has happened in Illinois since they drove the Indians out way back when.

My Great Grandma told me that one day Jesse James and his men showed up, the whole lot of them, Cole Younger, Frank James and the rest. They came to the door and asked her mother politely if they could water their horses and sleep in her barn overnight. They were gentlemen, she said, introduced themselves by name, understanding that a lady might not want such men under her roof.

My Great Great Grandma told them that they were welcome and her and my Great Grandma, a little girl at the time, fetched those men some food out to the barn.

There was no noise or drunkenness or roughhousing in that barn as one would expect of outlaws and when my Great Grandma ran her little self out to the barn to peek in on those men at dawn, they were already gone.

Sometime later, I believe it was the same year, but I can’t remember the times of year, my Great Grandma went out to the barn to tend to the animals and in it were hung up two fresh killed and dressed dear. It was a certainty in her mind and the mind of her mother that the James Gang had been there and left the gift, especially seeing as there was not a man at the house to bring in table meat.

So, that’s why my family always raised us believing that Jesse James and his men were good, straight-dealing men.


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