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Patagonia Bookshelf

Taming Virgin Land — Compañía Explotadora del Baker (1905-1908)
told by William Norris: Triumph and Tragedy

Anecdote of William Norris
This web-page records the story that John Harold Norris (JHN) heard from his father William Norris (WN) about the visit of bandits to the Baker District in 1907.

The following is an anecdote which took place during the years in the "Baker" period, 1905 to 1908 — the Butch Cassidy Bros. and Co. were looting and robbing at banks, estancias etc, in the towns and camps of Patagonia.

In the Autumn of 1907, 2 men of this gang ("names I -JHN- do not remember") /Footnote/ arrived in the Baker Co. Administration at Puerto Pisagua, Chile.

token This gang, having heard that the Baker Co. was working with several hundred men, large herds of cattle, sheep and horses, delegated two of their members to investigate and rob the till, thinking naturally that there must be plenty of cash; not knowing until they arrived that there was none, only "chips" which were honoured in Valparaiso, P. Arenas and P. Montt.

However they looked for the "boss" who was WN in his office, and with guns demanded the "till" or "dow". But WN told them that there was none and as they did not believe it, threatened to shoot him; to this the answer was it would be useless as the work force "mostly Indian" would soon put an end to them as he was their only contact to the outside world, and depended on [him for] their feeding and getting back to their homes.

After a few days' stay (in the interim it had snowed up in the mountains, closing the pass over to Argentina) they were told by WN that they either had to get out or work, as there was no room for hangers-on. And enquired what they could do, their answer being that [they] could "post and rails" (i.e. making fences of posts and rails of wood).

So WN took them up to the Camp, an 8 days' trip up river, rowing part and boat-carrying over or round the rapids. During one of the crossings — a lake — two duck took flight: WN took out his 6 shooter, a 38 Colt Long, and brought one down. The two gangsters were very surprised and respected WN after that. Father told us that it was pure luck, despite being a fair shot himself.

One day during the spring these two blokes took off over the mountains, the pass being open, taking 4 of the best horses.

WN said that once they settled down to work the fences, they proved very good and did a great deal of work. It also proved that they were familiar with this type of work, probably when back in Texas or Mexico.

/Footnote/ The names of the bandits were probably Robert Evans (aka Hood) and Richard Knight Perkins. In 1907, having explored unsuccessfully for minerals in the area of Lago Buenos Aires, this pair entered the Baker district in search of provisions — here they were obliged to work as means of payment. [Ref. Marcelo Gavirati, private communication, VII-2011]