But Jack Slade was not quite dead. Some stories have it that he looked up at Jules Beni and gasped, “I’ll live long enough to hang your ears from my watch chain!” The two stage drivers carried him into the station and laid him in a bunk. Almost before the smoke had cleared, a westbound stage pulled into Julesburg, carrying Slade’s immediate boss, the operations superintendent on his own tour of inspection. Accounts differ on what happened to Jules Beni upon being arrested by the outraged operations superintendent. Without provocation, Jules Beni had gunned down an unarmed man in front of witnesses. Anyway it was sliced on the frontier; it came out as cold-blooded murder. Although Jack Slade was still breathing, everyone seemed fairly certain he wouldn’t continue to do so for long. Beni was hung from an improvised gallows and half-strangled; either the rope broke and he managed a daring getaway, or the superintendent ordered him let down and extracted a promise that he would depart immediately and at speed, and stay the hell away from the division. The Pony Express had a real-time test, as one of the newly-hired riders was sent galloping hell for leather to the Army post at Fort Laramie two hundred miles away – the nearest place to find a doctor.
Historical Diversion: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Slade
“In due time we rattled up to a stage-station, and sat down to breakfast with a half-savage, half-civilized company of armed and bearded mountaineers, ranchmen and station employees. The most gentlemanly- appearing, quiet and affable officer we had yet found along the road in the Overland Company’s service was the person who sat at the head of the table, at my elbow. Never youth stared and shivered as I did when I heard them call him SLADE! … Here, right by my side, was the actual ogre who, in fights and brawls and various ways, had taken the lives of twenty-six human beings, or all men lied about him! … He was so friendly and so gentle-spoken that I warmed to him in spite of his awful history. It was hardly possible to realize that this pleasant person was the pitiless scourge of the outlaws, the raw-head-and-bloody- bones the nursing mothers of the mountains terrified their children with.” That was what Mark Twain wrote, years afterwards in an account of a stagecoach journey to California, in 1861, upon encountering Joseph ‘Jack’ Alfred Slade, a divisional superintendent for the Central Overland, and a man who combined a horrific reputation with a perfectly soft-spoken and gentlemanly demeanor … and who in the space of four years, went from being a hard-working, responsible and respected corporate man (as these things were counted in the 19th century wild west) to being hanged by the Virginia City, Montana, Committee of Vigilance.