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A "Trifling Incident"--Billy Ryus Runs Risks With Government Property.

Six months after my visit to the camp of Satanta a trifling incident comes to my mind. Crossing Red river which was considerably swollen due to the heavy thaws--the river at this point was only about nine feet across and about two and a half feet deep--but it was a treacherous place because it was so mirey. It stuck many freight wagons--I was in a quandary just how I would cross it. After climbing down off of the coach, looking around for an escape (?), a happy idea possessed me. I was carrying four sacks of patent office books which would weigh about 240 pounds a sack, the sacks were eighteen inches square by four and a half feet long, so I concluded to use these books to make an impromptu bridge. I cut the ice open for twenty inches, wide enough to fit the tracks of the coach for the wheels to run on, then placed four of these sacks of books in the water and drove my mules across Red River. I was fully aware that the books were government property, but from past experience I knew they would never be put to use.

People all along the route were mad because the stage company charged $200 for a passage from Kansas City to Santa Fe and knowing that we were compelled to haul the government mail, heavy or light, in the way or out of it, and desiring to "put us to it," kept ordering these books sent them. They never took one of them from the post office, hence the accumulation in the post office grew until there was room for little else. These books were surveys and agricultural reports. Unreadable to say the least, but heavy in the extreme. The post office at Santa Fe was a little bit of a concern, and the postmaster said there was no room for the books there. Earlier in the year I had carried one of these sacks to the post office and had attempted to get the postmaster to accept them as mail. I told him that it was mail and that I had no other place to deposit it. Nevertheless he said he would not have them left at the post office and told me do anything I wanted to with them, saying at the time that people all around there had a mania for ordering those books, but never intended to take them when they ordered them. I took the books around to the stage station and discovered four wagon loads of the "government stuff."

At the time I placed the books in Red river I knew that the postmaster would not let them be left there and I knew they might serve the government better in a "bridge" than otherwise. Knowing this I felt that I had a remedy at law and grounds for defense.

The four passengers with me "jawed" me quite enough to "extract" the patience of an ancient Job for having treated government property to a watery burial in Red river. Two of the passengers were Mexicans and two other men from New York. However, the two Mexicans soon disgusted the other two passengers, who took sides with me. The Mexicans said they would report me to the government, and I had no doubt they would.

As soon as I got to Santa Fe I went to see General Harney, ex-governor of New Mexico. I told him what I had done and why I did it. General Harney told me he was glad I had notified him right away and said he would explain this transportation of the patent office books to the fourth assistant postmaster. I gave him a detailed account of my conversation regarding the disposition of the books to the postmaster the trip before, which conversation he put in the form of an affidavit and took it to the postmaster to verify. The postmaster refused to sign the document, saying that he was no such a fool as that. General Harney reported to the government who ordered the postmaster to rent a room in which to store the government books now in possession of the stage company. I knew that the postmaster was going to get these orders, so I told Mr. Parker, proprietor of the hotel (called in those days the "Fonda") that he could rent the room to the postmaster for $15 per month. He would draw $45 per quarter and net the stage company $30. We conductors made the drivers haul all the books over to the post office, and when we had put all inside that we could get in there, obstructing the light from the one solitary window, we put several thousand up on top of the post office. Everybody was looking at us and everybody else was laughing.

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In a squealy little old voice the postmaster came out and told us to take them to "Parker's Fonda," that he had rented the room for the storage of such trash. Thus it came that the books were placed back in the same room in which they were formerly stored, but they were now paying the stage company rent for "their berths" and continued three years to net the stage company $10 per month.

This transaction caused the government to quit printing these books. The governor sent directions to the Santa Fe Stage Company at Kansas City that should more such books accumulate they might be delivered by freight. There were no more sent.