Press Democrat editor Ernest Finley loved drunks, and if the tippler was also a hobo, so much the better.
Finley could write prose worthy of Mark Twain when the spirit moved him, and could sketch a memorable little portrait from just a routine court appearance (while likely inventing all the dialog in the scene). But Finley’s favorite muse was “Tennessee Bill,” a hobo with a window-rattling yell who also had a penchant for tearing off his clothes and setting fire to them. More of Finley’s poetics over the skunk-drunk can be found in the 1906 papers.
WAS WELL OFF BUT FORGOT
“Look here, Judge,” You let me go this time and I promise you I will not take a single drink. If I do and am brought before you again, you just give me the limit, six months, and I will not blame anybody but myself.”
So said Joe Fenton, an old offender to Judge Bagley on Tuesday morning shortly after his release from jail, where he had been doing time for over indulgence in liquor, when he was again presented before the magistrate.
“Very well,” said the magistrate. “Now, remember, you have made a bargain.”
Wednesday morning Fenton was picked up again, drunk and incapable. He was hauled before the police judge again, having been brought to court in the patrol wagon. Asked to explain the why and the wherefore, he said:
“Judge, I just took one drink.”
“That’s one more than you said you would. You told me to give you the limit. But sixty days.”
“All right sir.”
And Joe was taken over once more.– Press Democrat, September 5, 1907
OLD JOKE THAT DID NOT WORK
“Tennessee Bill” Jailed in a Northern Calaboose, Burns His Clothes–Widely Known Specimen of Genus Hobo
William Cornelius Tennessee Goforth, familiarly known to all the officers of California from San Diego to Siskiyou and from the Sierras to the sea as “Tennessee Bill,” will probably drop into town in a day or two.
This noted specie of the genus hobo has been spending a few days of enforced retirement in the jail at Ukiah. The other day the people of that quiet Mendocino town were terrified by a series of most ungodly yells, and when the town marshal and the available police force investigated they found that the possessor of the powerful lung blast was none other than “Tennessee Bill.”
Bill was quickly gathered in and when taken before the magistrate was given a term in jail. It was necessary to prescribe a bath for Bill at Bastille soon after his arrival there. Then he tried on the same old joke he worked when he was last a guest at the county jail on Third street in this city. He watched an opportunity while the bath was being prepared and shoved all the old clothes he was wearing through the [illegible microfilm] as the flames preyed upon them. He reckoned without a realization that two can play a joke. Consequently instead of being passed out a brand new suit of overalls he was ordered at the conclusion of his ablutions to proceed to his cell and remain there wrapped in the folds of a blanket. Bill had to submit with all the grace he could commit under the circumstances in the long run, however he will win only when he is liberated he will get the clothes all right.– Press Democrat, September 7, 1907
BUSY DAY IN THE POLICE CIRCLES
Hop Pickers Indulge Too Freely– “Tennessee Bill” Once More an Inhabitant of County Jail
There was something doing in police circles yesterday afternoon and Fourth street was kept alive with the jingle of the bell of the patrol wagon.
Half a dozen men, from the hop yards, celebrating the fact that they had been paid off, took a little too much hop brew aboard, and were overcome. Three of them required the assistance of the patrol wagon to reach a cool spot in the police station. Three of them were walked there. Police Officer Lindley was the arresting officer in each case.
Some time during the afternoon there was a lusty use of lung power and in response Constable Sam Gilliam hurried to Third street. Some how or other, the shouts seemed sort of familiar to the officer. It was none other than William Cornelius Tennessee Goforth, more familiarly known as “Tennessee Bill.” Bill went over to the county jail for fifteen days and thanked Justice Atchinson for the rest given. Bill finds the jails throughout the state the best homes he knows. He has been there often enough.– Press Democrat, September 21, 1907