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America's Robin Hood!


Daphne says
Do you remember the story of Robin Hood? Back in merry old England, a few people with a lot of money kept a lot of people with not very much money under their control. The rich people, who usually had ties to the very rich king, made poor people live on their land and farm it for them. The poor people did all the work, growing crops and raising animals, but only got just enough money to live on -- never enough to buy land of their own.

Until one day a man named Robin Hood -- with his band of Merry Men -- took matters into his own hands and started robbing the rich to feed the poor. The outlaws even stole the king's deer from Sherwood Forest! To this day Robin Hood is a hero to people around the world.

Well it just so happens that we in America have our own Robin Hood tale, only not too many people know about it.

It all starts back in 1839 on 2 million acres of land -- 2 million!! -- owned by a Stephen van Rensselaer III. Not only does Mr. Rensselaer have a castle with beautiful gardens and stables for his prize-winning horses, but he makes 300,000 poor farmers do all the farm work and pay him taxes. Sounds like a job for Robin Hood!

He was so rich a town was named after him!
Actually our man's name is Doctor Smith Boughton and he charges a quarter to pull a tooth and a dollar to set a broken leg! It makes Doc Boughton hopping mad to see poor farmers kept down by greedy landlords, and he starts making speeches and firing people up. "Big Thunder" they call him!

This is where farmers used to gather and make plans
Doc Boughton gets the farmers to think for themselves and take matters into their own hands. Why should they let someone keep them from owning their own land? The farmers start to dress up as Indians and band together to protect their farms.

One day, a sheriff's deputy comes around to collect the "rent" from Moses Earle. Now the farmers don't have any money, so rent is usually paid in grain or livestock. On this day, the deputy comes for Moses Earle's cow and pigs.

The deputy rides his horse up the lane toward Moses Earle's farm. In the bushes on the side of the road, he thinks he sees an Indian staring at him through the leaves. Nah, can't be.

Then he hears a horn in the distance.

All of a sudden, lots of horns go off! But the deputy has a job to do, and, scared as he might be, rides up to the front porch of Moses Earle's house, where poor Moses Earle sits with his poor wife and nine poor children. The deputy gets down off his horse and walks behind the house to the old barn. He sees the cow, and starts to put a rope around her neck to take her away.

"Oh no you won't," says a deep voice from out of the wood. The deputy stops in his tracks and turns to see an Indian holding a musket with a tin horn around his neck.

"You're not going anywhere with this man's cow," the man dressed as an Indian says. "You had better make yourself scarce."

The deputy can't back down. And he's pretty sure he can fire his gun faster than the Indian. He grips his pistol...

So we remember Doc Boughton
More pretend Indians pop out of the bushes! Suddenly a shot rings out -- and then another! When the smoke clears the deputy is lying dead with his hand tightly holding the rope to the cow...

He was one of the unlucky ones. Other deputies, sheriffs and rent collectors come back naked -- or tarred and feathered. Some get killed, which is sad, but these farmers want their own land so badly that they have to do something drastic.

The farmers and Big Thunder won -- after 30 years of fighting. Finally, the rich landowners got tired and sold most of their land to the farmers.


Please email me at: teddy@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Daphne - Know-Nothings without a clue
Kevin - Heck no! We won't go for a 16 hour work day!