- Right in the Eye, ch 12by Wayne Fowler
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Where did the 'good man' go?
Right in the Eye
: Right in the Eye, ch 12 by Wayne Fowler

In the last part Slim and Mary decided to investigate in order to discover Ben’s God. They found his Creede gravestone and learn much of Creede’s history. They look up the local historian, Livvy’s granddaughter.


“Yes, my grandmother was Livvy Ferlonson. She knew Ben Persons. She told me that she would have married him. I remember when we buried her husband up on the hill, William Ferlonson. We were walking past the gravestone of a man that I noticed Grandma looked at. I asked her about the A Good Man inscription. That was when she told me the story – about Ben not being under the stone.”

We waited for her to tell us the story.

I let out a sigh that you could call a groan when she said there wasn’t anyone under that stone.

“He was a good man!” Mary exclaimed.

Sylvia nodded her head.

I was cryin’. Not sobbin’, but tears were flowin’ pretty good. I couldn’t talk.

Finally, Sylvia asked, “Were you related to Ben Persons? Do you know of him?”

“Slim knew him,” Mary said for me.

Sylvia just looked at us like we were crazy. “He would … Oh, my!”

We didn’t tell her that I was an old man, Ol’ Timer, when I knew him.

“California was all Grandma would say about his whereabouts. The day was about Grandpa, so we never talked anymore about the Good Man.”

We thanked her and promised to let her know if we learned anything that might help her with her Creede history project.


It was a powerful long drive, but we done it. We went to the Sacramento Archives building where they kept old records. The information desk was a big help. That was after we checked in to a motel. It was gettin’ easier to check in to a room and be with Mary instead of LouAnne. I think it was the old timiness of that hotel that triggered LouAnne.

Don’t know why we didn’t start with birth certificates. Maybe ‘cause we knew Ben was born in Arkansas. One of the things Ben said as he rambled along to me.

Goin’ by the oldest Ben Person recordings, we found his conviction of murder, and nearly died ourselves. It couldn’t be. Next was his retrial and acquittal. More like it. With nothing else official, we went to micro-fish copies of a newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, of the dates before and after the arrests and trial. We found his name associated with a series of meetings by D.L. Moody and Billy Sunday. We also read an article about him escaping prison before executed, or exonerated. Whooie. Poor Ben, God loving, God-fearing Ben.

“What do we do, Mary? Ben was in trouble, and workin’ his ministry all at the same time.”

“Well, it was all in San Francisco. I suppose we go there. The article said Henry Halleck was his lawyer. And the San Francisco phone book has a Halleck Law Firm.”

So we went there, but not until a night of my sweet, sweet Mary consoling me. It jist about killed me that Ben almost hanged. I had gotten myself good ‘n attached to a hunnerd year old memory.


“Sir, Ma’am, that would be in archives, filed away in boxes in another building. I’m sorry.”

It was a receptionist who just answered phones and steered customers in various directions.

Mary took over. “We’ll see your boss. You do have a supervisor, dear.” I’ll swar if it didn’t sound like LouAnne tellin’ a drunk miner to get his hands off her.

The gal hit a buzzer and directly appeared a man in a suit better even than Inspector Albion, that Colorado investigator wore. Soon’s we got into his office, Mary pulled out one of our gold nuggets, the big one that was mixed with quartz. It wasn’t as valuable as some of the others, but shore was purty. She set it on his desk in front of him, Mr. Franks.

Picking it up and gawking at it as he turned it over and over, he asked what he could do for us. Mary told him.

“Ben Persons, you say? 1880s? You come back here tomorrow, say after the lunch hour. And bring this with you. Might have something for you.” He handed the nugget back.

We would be there. We shore would.


We left the well-dressed lawyer admiring his rock as we left with a thick folder of copies. Copies. Can you imagine that?

“Listen to this,” Mary said. She was doin’ all the readin’. She was teachin’ me ta read better. I mean, I could, but not much.

“It says here in what’s called attorney notes that the judge wouldn’t let Ben’s character witnesses testify. Then he lists about thirty people and what they would say.” She put that whole set down and started on another. “Well lookie here. The policemen recanted.”

“Re-canted? Like a horse?”

Mary smiled. “Sort of. They backed up all right. They changed their testimony to seeing Ben attacked first and just struggling to get free of two men, the Chicago gangsters.”

“Chicago? Wha’d Ben have to do with Chicago?”

“Oh my. Here, Slim. Hold this one. See what you can make out.”

I looked at it a minute. “Lotta STOPs.”  I struggled a bit. “It’s a tough one fer me.”

It says that God’s call is taking them to Alaska. I guess someone is with him.”


“Whar were they?”

“Fortuna. The way it reads, the sheriff there didn’t know that Ben had been cleared. So they were going to Alaska.
“Oh dear.”

“Somethin’ wrong?” I asked.

“It’s just that a lot of men on the run went to Alaska. There was a gold rush about that time, too.”

“That sounds like something Ben would go to, where there was a buncha men that needed preachin’ to.”

“How far’s Alaska?” I asked.

“Too far. Our 49th state.”

“49? Why I did miss a lot. We only had 38.”

“Well now there’s 50. All the ones from coast to coast, and then Alaska and Hawaii. Hawaii’s a group of islands 2,000 miles into the Pacific Ocean.”

“You don’t say?”

“Up to Alaska is even farther.”

I just looked her in her right eye with mine. “Whadda we gonna do?”

“You mean after we see that Golden Gate Bridge I’ve heard about all my life?”

I smiled with both sides of my face.

“Then we go get some more juice outta that rock.”

Sounded good to me. Seeing the Golden Gate, we were close to the Presidio, so we had the taxi run us through there. It was mighty nice. I imagined Ben bein’ there. We coulda drove, but after we started to, Mary parked, declaring she wasn’t doin’ no driving on those crazy streets.

“Mrs. Diddleknopper…”

We were back at the Halleck Law Offices. Mary didn’t mind my last name. She coulda kept her maiden name, the one she took back after divorcin’ the truck driver. But she thought Diddleknopper was cute. And dared anybody make fun of it. Hah! My kind of woman, just like her great grandma. Anyway, the lawyer who would squeeze juice outta that nugget was offerin’ ta help.

“… Let’s make a phone call.” The fancy-dressed San Francisco lawyer picked up the phone and called Sacramento. After a few minutes he put his hand over the phone and told us that there were no death certificates for Ben Persons. The only Persons at all was Elizabeth up in Santa Rosa.

He started talking again. Then after listening a bit, he said, “You don’t say. Thank you, Miss…? Miss, Throgmorten. I’ll be sure to put in a word for you to the governor.” He hung up, staring at us like we were ‘posed to guess. Up in the San Juans I’da banged him on his ear with a pickax.

“Your lucky day, folks. Benjamin Paul Persons was born in Santa Rosa, fifty miles or so north of here in 1890. Would make him 81. And we know he’s still alive because there were no death certificates for anyone but Elizabeth, who would have been his mother.

We stood up, thanking Fancy Pants.

After a proper celebration that night in our hotel room, we were drivin’ to Santa Rosa, drove right across that big ol’ bridge. That was sumpin’.

Author Notes
Ben P. Persons: 81-year-old son of Ben Persons
Sylvia Adams: grand-daughter of Livvy and William Ferlonson
Martha Crawley: Livvy's daughter, Sylvia's mother
Slim Goldman (Herschell Diddleknopper): miner who Ben (senior) rescued in 1886
Mary Diddleknopper: Slim's wife, great-granddaughter of LouAnne (Slim's girlfriend from the1870s)

Does anyone know why the font appears more gray than black?


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