Sunday, April 11, 2010

Old West Banking, Maybe

Yesterday we had to make a trip to a financial institution for the purpose of depositing our pitifully small tax refund so we could pay  a couple of bills. Why am I telling you this? Because I just wondered what it was like having a bank account in old Phoenix or Tucson in about 1875 or '80 or even Tombstone.

"Howdy, ma'am! I'd like to put this two dollars into my account."

"Yes, sir, Mr. James. Your first name is Jesse, isn't it? I got so many accounts under James it'll take me a minute to find it. Dum-da-dum, humm-mm. Ah, yes, here it is, no it isn't. Are you sure you have an account with us, Mr. James? I can't find any Jesse. You do live here in Tombstone, don't you?"

"Yup. Me and Frank been here for two or three days now, 'n Frank said he opened a joint account yesterday. He said he put about thirty-two dollars in it, 'n I just want to add a couple more."

"Oh, I remember a Frank James. I'll just look under his name. Say, you fellers are pretty famous aren't you? I just read last month's Las Cruces Voice and you both were mentioned in there for robbing the bank in Mesilla. This isn't some of that money, is it?"

"No, ma'am. This is hard-earned money from workin' in that silver mine we're going to rob next. Darn, I wasn't supposed to tell anyone. Well, it's just a little joke anyway. We're always talking about something like that. Hain't you found my papers yet? By the way, that wasn't us that robbed that bank. We ain't never been to Mesilla. Some darn fools used our names. You see, we lost our identification papers when somebody stole 'em, and that gang's been posing as us to rob banks all over. If we ever catch up with them, they're dead meat. You can put a little wager on that."

  "Ah, here's Frank's account, but it says it's empty and it's got a notation on it that says don't take any more deposits or give any money out. This account is closed. I'm sorry, Mr. James, but I can't take your two dollars."

"There ain't no money in that account?"

"No, sir."

"Why them dirty, low-down rascals! They stole our money! Don't the bank have a guaranteed minimum for cases like this, where you have to cover losses? Don't you photograph all of us coming in here so's they can be identified if something like this happens?"

"Not that I know of, Mr. James. But that might be a good idea."

"Wait 'til Frank hears about this, he'll go mad, and I'd hate to be in that gang's shoes when we catch up with 'em! Thanks, anyway, ma'am."


  1. Good one, Oscar. An amusing take on history. Maybe identity theft isn't as new as I thought it was.

  2. Thanks. ID theft wasn't as popular in those days, I guess, due to population density, maybe.