For our January / February 1991 column I returned to 1987, to continue the story of Valentine's Day. Later, I took both columns, combined them and expanded them, and threw them online for our February '99 issue.

For our next column I was delighted to be able to share another tale I'd received from correspondent Ben Keller, and it was extraordinary to have our folklore column blessed with a contribution from someone who'd known someone who had actually had indirect commerce of a sort with one of the most famous outlaws in Western lore . . .

Just as I was pondering what on earth to write about, I received the following as part of a letter from folklorist / customer Ben Keller (readers who have been with us a while will recall a ghost story of his that appeared some time ago in this column).

Anyway, this is another great first hand account, so take it away, Ben!

Jesse James


In the 40's, we lived in New Mexico, and I was a member of the New Mexico Folklore Society.

At one of the meetings, a little old lady was scheduled to tell a story. And as well as I can remember it, it went like this:

"My father was a banker in Kansas, and one day Mother gave him her precious watch to drop off at the jeweler's to have it cleaned. Arriving at the bank, he placed it on his desk and was attending to business, when Jesse James and his gang came in to rob the bank.

Among other things, they took my mother's watch. She was desolate.

About two weeks later, a small parcel was delivered to my mother, and inside were the watch and a note. The note said: 'Am sorry to have inconvenienced you, Mrs. [ ],

Jesse James'."

And the little old lady at the meeting, reaching into her purse, said: "And here's the watch."

The applause was loud and long.