Bill Carlisle was one of the last great train robbers of the American Old West, a career he took up on something of a whim. He’d been an orphan most of his life and spent his teenage years riding trains, working in the circus, and performing other odd jobs. In February 1916, he found himself in Wyoming with no prospects and only a nickel to his name. What he did have, however, was a gun. At that moment, he decided robbing a train was his best chance at making it through the spring.
Carlisle’s first holdup played out like a movie scene. He sneaked onto the train and fired a warning shot into the roof to prove it was a legitimate robbery (there were some doubters). With a white bandana covering his face, he swiftly gathered the loot, tossed a few coins to the porter to make up for lost tips, and gave a man a further silver dollar to pay for his breakfast. He made his exit by sidestepping a woman who tried to grab his gun, giving her a bow before leaping from the train. He was nearly tangled up under the train’s moving wheels, yet he survived the jump unscathed and $52 richer.
The “White Masked Bandit,” as he was then known, didn’t stop with that one heist. He robbed Union Pacific Railroad several more times until they eventually offered a $6,500 reward for his capture, dead or alive. Motivated by the large reward money, a posse caught him in May 1916, and Carlisle was sentenced to life in prison. He later escaped, was recaptured, and then was paroled in 1936 for good behavior.
Like other gentleman thieves, Carlisle had a moral code. He never hurt anyone and never stole from women, children, or servicemen. In one of his capers, he was attempting to rob a train when he realized it was full of soldiers returning from World War I. He let the men keep their money and claimed that he would have fought alongside them had he not been in prison at the time.
Seems to be sorta young for a bandit, don't you think? Still, I don't reckon that age was a factor back then.
Coffee out on the patio today. The temperature is cooler than usual and that's a good thing.