The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Disappearing Indians

By Jack Lowe © 1995

Issue: Winter, 1995

Editor's Note: And now in the "Tall Tales" department, you're sure to get a kick out of this one.

My father was the world's greatest magician (that's what he claimed).

He played the theaters in New York and Boston during the winter and he started his tour of the larger cities in the states on the first day of April.

In addition to being a magician, he was a ventriloquist, and hypnotist.

I was born July 31, 1833 and was 18 years old at the time of this incident.

My mother and I helped him on the stage with his tricks. Besides my mother and I, he had a man to help us and to drive one of the covered wagons when we went on the road.

The man's name was Johnny Burns. Johnny didn't have but one eye. He said that when he was a young man, he was splitting stove wood, when a piece flew up and hit him in his left eye, making him blind in that eye. Later he had to have the eye removed and that's when he got a glass eye to match his other one.

Johnny liked his whiskey. Every three or four months when he had saved up a little grub stake, he would get on a bender and stay drunk for a solid week, until his money ran out.

We had already played St. Louis and was on our way further west to meet our other engagements. My father was leading our three wagons and I was driving the second one. Johnny was bringing up the rear.

We were traveling the wilderness road at a steady pace, when all of a sudden, a band of Indians came out of a patch of woods on our left.

They were riding hell-bent for leather straight toward us and we had an idea that they were going to rob us and burn our wagons.

My father stopped and jumped off the wagon and I noticed that he had the wooden dummy in his hand that he used in his show.

He held his right arm straight up, with the palm facing outward, when they stopped before us. That's when my Dad started making the dummy talk and this amused the Indians enough that they did not attack us. After about fifteen minutes the Indians began to get restless. That's when Johnny jumped out of his wagon and came up beside my father. After standing there about two minutes, he reached up and pulled his toupee or wig off and held it in his outstretched hand toward the Indians. He then reached up and removed his upper and lower plates from his mouth and placed them in the same hand. He then proceeded to pluck his glass eye out of its socket and placed it in his hand.

That bunch of Indians turned their horses and took off like the devil was chasing them.

Needless to say, we didn't see anymore wild Indians on the rest of our tour.