The big nosed train robber

I am indebted to the Carbon County Museum in Rawlins, Wyo. for this column. The recipe is from an old friend in Bandera, Texas. Carson was a cowpoke for more than 50 years, "until my danged legs give out." When I asked him for a western recipe, he said "Tell 'um about my Round-Up Chili." We'll start with the strange tale of Big Nose George Parrot.

Parrot drifted into Wyoming Territory in the 1870s. He earned his living rustling cattle and robbing stage coaches. He was famous, or infamous, for not wearing a mask. Big Nose George figured, why bother when you had the biggest honker in the territory. Nobody could fail to recognize that nose. Wyoming is the 10th largest state in the union. His proboscis covered a lot of territory.

Robbing stages and stealing cattle was small potatoes. The real money was carried by the Union Pacific railroad. Big Nose George recruited a few friends to derail and rob the Union Pacific on Aug. 16, 1878. They loosened some rails, which would topple the next train, then waited in ambush. Their plot was foiled when a workman on a handcar passed. He noticed the weakened rails and notified the sheriff. In the ensuing gunfight two members of the posse were killed. Big Nose George escaped but was arrested two years later. He was tried and sentenced to be hanged on April 2, 1881.

Big Nose did not go quietly. On March 22 he overpowered Deputy Rankin, leaving the popular guard with a fractured skull. Parrot was at the door when Mrs. Rankin showed up with her husband's dinner. She whipped out a pistol and locked Big Nose up, again. The residents of Rawlins had enough of law and order. They hanged Big Nose George Parrot from a telegraph pole.

So far, this is a pretty standard western story. It now turns bizarre. No one claimed the body. So Dr. John E. Osborne (sometimes Osborn) asked for it. He wanted to study the brain to see if the brain of a habitual criminal was different from that of law-abiding citizens. He preserved the corpse in a whiskey barrel. He found no conclusive proof of his theory. When no one claimed the body, Osborne buried Big Nose behind his house with the whiskey barrel as his casket. His excuse was that George's nose would not fit in a coffin. But first Dr. Osborne removed the skin from his chest and sent it to Denver to have it made into a pair of shoes.

Despite his questionable taste in footwear, Dr. Osborne had a successful medical and political career. In 1890, Wyoming joined the union as the 44th state. They chose as their motto, "The Equality State." In 1869 the Territorial Legislature had given women the right to vote, a national first. Osborne was the first Democrat elected governor of Wyoming. He wore those special shoes to his Inaugural Ball. Later, he served as assistant secretary of state in President Wilson's Cabinet.

Big Nose George was forgotten for roughly 70 years until the Osborne house in Rawlins was torn down. Workers found his whiskey-barrel coffin while digging the foundation for a new building. Today, you can see his skull and death mask, and those infamous shoes, in the county museum.

Carson's Round-Up Chili: Build a small fire and let it burn down to a bed of coals while you roll out your bedroll. Open a can of "store bought chili" but keep the lid attached "'cause ya gonna need a handle. Heat the chili and eat it, right outta the can. (Urinate) on the fire and go to bed."

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