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Little Rock's big newspapers carried big news this week 100 years ago, but the little news is better fun.

This was a week in which a fresh Allied offensive discombobulated the Germans near Amiens, France, and Americans were heroic.

But the daily list of dead, wounded and missing soldiers had grown so enormous that sending it to all U.S. newspapers overwhelmed telegraph lines. So the War Department and Post Office decided to try something different.

More about that something below. First, let's read about the magic snake man.

Anybody Want a Live Five-Foot Rattler?

The Arkansas Gazette reported Aug. 21, 1918, that Elmer Wheatley had caught a 4 1/2-foot rattler with 10 rattles. L.L. Walker of Higginson, merchant, had it for sale at Searcy.

It was a piker compared to the 6-footer -- 19 rattles -- Wheatley found a mile away the week before. He killed it. But he didn't plan to kill this one, because:

He says he has the power to cure snake bites without the standard remedy, and says he would lose that power were he to kill the snake. The power, he says, was handed down to him by his ancestors.

Probably She Will Be a Globe Trotter Some Day

At 322 Rock St., some of Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Arnetts' boarders gave their 3-year-old pennies to buy candy at a store across the street. Little May went straight out the door, barefoot.

Five minutes later, parents and boarders rushed after her.

Meanwhile, Rock Island train No. 41 pulled away from the station, headed west.

While May was watching the telephone poles glide by through a railroad coach car Sunday night, her parents and the entire police force were busy canvassing the city.

Hours later, here came a telegram from 140 miles along the line, at Booneville, about a child who couldn't say who she was. The stationmaster was returning her to Little Rock on the next train.

When No. 44 arrived at the station, Mr. and Mrs. Arnett stood at the iron gate and watched the detraining passengers. After watching some time their hopes almost faded away and then they spied their baby in the arms of the conductor. May was having the time of her young life. Smiling and jabbering away to the conductor, she did not see her parents until Mrs. Arnett called to her.

A note pinned to her dress by a woman from Shawnee, Okla., read: "I took good care of this little girl, the best I knew how. I sincerely hope that she reaches her parents safely. If so, please write and let me know."

Attention Men! Big Doings in Municipal Court Today

"I ain't a bit sorry for what I done, 'cause I don't think I done anything wrong," said Hazel Lee, a little white woman, last night through the bars at police headquarters, as she again pulled her trousers up.

Yes, sir! Trousers, readers.

According to the report in the Aug. 23 Gazette (genuine headline above), Hazel was arrested at Seventh and Arch streets early the night before by Patrolman Hooter and Driver Barnett. They responded to complaints about a woman in men's clothing.

From this report and the one in that afternoon's Arkansas Democrat, it appears that Lee's brother had teased her for not being able to get a job because she was just a girl. She told him the shop where he worked would hire her if she wore boy clothes.

Which she did. She couldn't find a belt for his pants, though, and she had to wear her own girlish shoes. She hid her necklace under his boring blue shirt.

So she walks to his shop and teases him. Then she bets him all the money in his pockets that she will be arrested before she can get home. (Why? Was she trying to guilt him into giving her a ride home?)

He took the bet. She won his 15 cents.

Ordered to appear in Judge William Woodruff's court the next day, she promised the press she would wear trousers to court. Hence the headline. Also hence the turnout. Men packed the side of the courtroom reserved for white people, as well as the overflow bench at the back. No women came.

Not even Hazel Lee. She forfeited a $25 bond and, so far as I can tell from this remove in time, vanished off the face of the earth. Or anyway from the pages of Little Rock newspapers.

Where, oh where, is that cheerfully indecent young woman of yesteryear?


Back to the big headlines. Instead of telegraphing the daily casualty lists to every newspaper in the land, the War Department and Post Office decided to send it to press associations in Washington, Chicago and San Francisco. Those bureaus would mail the list out. Each list would bear an embargo date so it would appear in print everywhere on the same day.

In other big news, Congress debated lowering the draft age from 21 to 18; and another 4,488 Arkansas draftees were called up. Bolsheviks executed a pile of former generals in Moscow.

And to conserve coal, the federal Fuel Administration ordered street railway companies to begin skipping stops.

Another big story was local.

A Polk County mountain man named Ben Caughron was to die in the electric chair Aug. 23. He had pleaded guilty to killing Deputy Sheriff Charles Kirkland of Hatton's Gap during a gunfight with a posse. Gazette reports portrayed a thoughtful, chastened and stoic young man led astray by his ill-informed family's "Socialism."

In 1911, his father, Andrew Jackson Caughron (1849-1916) had been sentenced to die for killing a sheriff, but Gov. George Washington Donaghey pardoned him. No such luck for Ben Caughron.

The Gazette published his final statement. He praised the mountain "outlaws" as moral people -- Christians, ministers of the gospel and gray-bearded, irreproachable characters, loved and respected by all who knew them.

They are simply mistaken, as are the people who think a few executions will strike terror in their hearts.

They are working for what they believe to be right! They believe the draft law to be unconstitutional and the war merely a rich man's game. Such men must be changed by love and good treatment, by reason, not by force. What will they say when I am executed? "There is a man who told the truth, begged for mercy and offered to serve them, and they have executed him. We will spill our blood at home."

The reporter watched his execution. After thanking him for his fairness and shaking hands, Caughron said goodbye to friends and "stepped down the short corridor which leads to the death chamber and the great beyond."

Thank goodness for the little headlines.

Know what became of Hazel Lee or little May? Please share:

Ben Caughron (1890-1918) killed a deputy during a shootout between draft resisters and possemen in Polk County.
Light, fast British tanks nicknamed “Whippets” caught the public fancy after the decisive Allied victory in the Battle of Amiens, France, in August 1918.

ActiveStyle on 08/20/2018

Print Headline: Little news more entertaining than big

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