Courage at Twilight: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid


Whenever Dad says, “That reminds me of something,” I know a story is coming—a story I have heard many times before—a story as good on its fifth telling as on its first.  Some of my favorites are of his maternal Grandpa Greene.  William T. Greene, an immigrant from England, lived in Utah’s Great Basin in the first decade of the 20th Century, on a ranch on the Ute Indian Reservation, near the town of Vernal.  He was a sheriff there, and his philosophy toward outlaws was to make peace or make arrest.  If the outlaws would agree not to cause trouble in his jurisdiction, he would leave them alone.  If they made trouble, they went to jail.  Grandpa Greene knew Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but he never arrested them because they never caused him any trouble, and were even friendly to him.  In his old age, Grandpa Greene lived in the Salt Lake valley, in a two-room shack with no plumbing and no electricity and a wood stove for cooking and for heat.  Dad loved his grandpa.  As young boys, Dad and his brother Bill would ride their one bicycle, with Nelson pedaling, from 1700 South to 5900 South on 900 East—more than 40 city blocks—to see their Grandpa Greene.  He was their friend, and treated them as equals.  Dad had heard his sheriff-grandpa was good with a six-shooter pistol, and asked him about it.  Grandpa Greene answered, “You bet I was good.  When I was younger, I could shoot a silver dollar right out of the air.”  Dad’s uncle Forrest was an eye witness: Grandpa Greene would have someone flip a silver dollar high into the air, and he would draw and shoot a hole through it.  A true story.  Grandpa Greene taught Dad how to catch trout with his bare hands from the stream meandering through the meadow near the shack.  The technique involved wading quietly upstream, gently feeling under the bank for the tails of the trout.  Pointed upstream, the fish did not spook at the touch of Dad’s fingers.  He slowly moved both hands into position under the trout, and suddenly lifted it up against the bank’s underside, slipped his fingers into the gills, and brought the fish out, tossing it flopping onto the grass.  Dad grew so good at this technique that he once caught two trout at the same time, one in each hand.  His brother Bill was there, and affirmed the story.   A game warden stopped by one day and barked at Dad and Bill about what they were doing, and threatened to haul them off to jail for poaching.  It turns out he was a friend of Grandpa Greene, who had told the warden to give Dad and Bill a good scare as a practical joke.  One day, Dad caught an enormous fat native Brook trout, and ran proudly to show it to his grandpa.  Grandpa Greene exclaimed, “Hey!  Now that’s a trout!  Let’s cook it up for our breakfast!”  And he started a wood fire and fried the fish in butter and salt in his iron skillet.  That every child had a Grandpa Greene.


(Photo courtesy of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.  Used pursuant to the Fair Use doctrine.)

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