On September 7, 1876, an outlaw gang of Missouri bandits including Jesse James, Frank James and Cole Younger attempted to rob the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota, with disastrous consequences.
In a unique, compelling approach, Boggs shifts perspectives from one first-person account to another, allowing participants -- both outlaws and Minnesotans -- describe the bloody robbery, as well as the events leading to it and its aftermath.
Full of suspense, drama, crisp dialogue and details unearthed by meticulous research, Northfield is a literary tour de force from one of the most authentic voices of the American frontier, a novel that Publishers Weekly calls "a vibrant retelling of the Old West's most notorious and deadly bank robbery flop.”
An Excerpt from Northfield
Seven minutes ... seems like seven lifetimes.
“For God’s sake, boys, hurry up! They’re shooting us all to pieces!”
The words still ring in my head, over the deafening roar of musketry. Over the bullets singing past our heads. Over the hoofs of our horses. Over all of Northfield.
Those words came from my mouth only minutes earlier. Long minutes, though. Think about it: Seven minutes ain’t nothing. Time it takes a train to cover a little better than two miles. Time it takes me to deal an interesting hand of stud. But those seven minutes that just passed ....
Biting back pain, I still picture myself banging on the door of the First National Bank, snapping off shots with my .44 Russian at city folk we figured would have no gumption to stick with a fight.
“For God’s sake, come out! It’s getting too hot for us!”
By then, I figured it was too late. Knowed it was too late for poor Clell Miller and Bill Chadwell, or whatever his name was, dead on the streets, their souls meeting up with Saint Peter. Knowed it was too late for me. And my brothers. That’s what I was regretting then, what I still regret now. Bob and Jim have always looked up to me, most times, anyway.
What strikes me, what shames me, what terrifies me ain’t the thought of dying, but I see Brother Dick, shaking his head, more than disappointed. Behind him, I can just make out Pa’s face. And Ma’s. Both of ’em crying. The image humbles this old soul.
I ain’t the oldest of us Jackson County Youngers. Brother Dick, he was the good one, the best of us all, the first son of fourteen children, him entering this world six years before me. Three girls come before him, and two after him and before me. Had God been merciful, things might have turned out different for my family. Dick got a gut ailment, though, pained his side something fierce - quick it was, though, so there’s some blessing - calling him to Glory when I was but fifteen. Dick’s death killed Pa, really. Or would have. But the war come, bringing with it every freebooter who spit on a Missouri man’s rights, and I followed my heart, same, me thinks, as Dick would have. Then them murdering sons-of-bitches put three slugs in my daddy in June of ’62, tossed his body in a ditch like trash.
The war, that killed Mama, only there was no blessing to that. Pa and Dick, they didn’t suffer none, but Ma, she just wore out, and with cutthroats chasing me because of my loyalties during the war, and all the torment, she just give up. We had moved her to Texas, but I reckon she knowed she was dying, maybe she wanted to die, so she asked for us to take her back to Jackson County, to be near our pa. She joined Pa, been six years now, and how I miss her. I see her crying. I feel shamed, for all the misery I caused her on earth, and now up on those streets of gold.
“Thomas ‘Bud’ Coleman Younger is a killer,” they say. A bushwhacker. A murderer. A robber and black-heart. A soulless guerilla. A man who ain’t fit to breathe. Well, let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Yankees made me an outlaw, a bushwhacker, but I’m just a simple farmer fighting for my family, my home, my honor, my brothers.
I should have looked after ’em.
Thoughts like that haunt me as I ride. My brother’s arm tightens across my stomach, then slips.
“Hold on, Bob!” I cry.
“For God’s ... sake ... don’t ... leave me.” His words come out as chokes, coughs. He’s bad hurt, but he ain’t dead ... yet.
“I ain’t leaving you, Bob!” My horse stumbles. No Missouri horse, but I sure can’t fault his spirit. Horse has gotten us this far. Bob, riding behind me, almost lets go. He’s whimpering now, like he was on the streets back yonder. I ain’t got no reins. Ain’t got a horn left on the saddle to hold on to. Got nothing but Missouri mettle, and a strong desire to get my brother out of here alive. Somehow.
“For God’s ... sake ... don’t ... leave me!”
Seven minutes ... and everything had gone to hell.
“Which way?” Charlie Pitts screams.
“Just ride, damn it!” Dingus shouts back. “Ride or get buried!”
We ride. Six men on five horses. I don’t know how long we can hold out.
Now, I’ve made some mistakes in my thirty-two years. Always owned up to ’em, most of ’em, anyway. What happened at Lawrence back in ’63 never should have happened, though nobody - not rebel, not yankee, not redleg or jayhawker, not Quaker nor freethinker - can ever say I did anything during that raid that should cause me to hang my head. Not in my book, by grab. I wisht it never happened, but the Lord can’t damn me for anything I did on that horrible day all them years ago.
That was Kansas, though, and this ain’t, not by a damn’ sight.
We never should have come to Yankeedom. Not now, no matter how bad things kept getting in Missouri. Certainly never should have tried to steal that carpet-bagging son-of-a-bitch “Silver Spoons” Butler’s money.
Biggest mistake of my life, coming here. Northfield, Minnesota. Our trail’s end, could be, and there ain’t nobody to blame but me. I should have known better. Only reason I come along is because of brother Bob. Stubborn, he is, wouldn’t listen to men. Wouldn’t hear nothing Jim said, either.
Should have made Bob listen, only he thinks Dingus is cut from the same cloth as Pa, or Captain Quantrill. Should have pounded sense into Bob’s head, or just pounded him. He never could whip me. And, Buck, my old pal, I don’t know what he was thinking.
That damned Dingus.
He’s the one who should have been left dead on the street in Northfield. Not Chadwell. Especially not Clell, as true a friend as they come.
If Dingus wasn’t Buck’s brother, maybe I would have killed him.
Still, I don’t reckon I can fault him. Dingus and me may have our differences, but, like I said, it’s me to blame. It’s a cross I’ll carry to my grave. I’m just praying I ain’t buried in a land of yankees.
Copyright 2007 by Johnny D. Boggs