Who Loves Ya, Jesse James?

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Estimated reading time: 3 minutes


Bill Penn
Bill Penn, proprietor of the Historic Midway Museum Store, sports a new tee-shirt I gave him.

I’ve begun to wonder. Who loves ya, Jesse James?

At book signings of Jesse James Soul Liberty, more women buy my book than men. This was confirmed again last Sunday, as I signed books for the Historic Midway Museum Store at the Midway Fall Festival. My book was purchased only by women. This was the first time, too, that the new JJSL tee-shirt was introduced. And who were the tee-shirt buyers? Women, not men.

A couple of women did say they were buying the book for their husband. Curiously, though, two other women did not buy the book for their husbands after I pointed out that the book is about the Jesse James family principally, and about Jesse James only indirectly through his family.

During the course of the day with hundreds of people walking by my booth, four young men popped out from the crowd on separate occasions to ask, “Did Jesse James really die?” My reply to their question all began with, “That’s the mythology, not the fact.” All of them abruptly walked away. Not one engaged in further discussion, picked up the book, look inside it, or buy it.

I’ve come to view young men like these as the core demographic that the history and biography reality shows target as their viewers. Their productions all are based on the mythology surrounding Jesse James, and rarely upon facts. As a result, young men like these learn nothing about factual history or about Jesse James. They walk on in a cloud of mythology. They read little, and know even less.

By contrast, women attracted to Jesse James engage in discussion about my book first. They pick up the book, leaf through it, and ask questions about what they see. I don’t have to sell the book to women at all. I only have to point out that the book is about Jesse James’ family, and the information comes from primary family sources never published before. When women buy, it is clear they are curious to know more, but they want what they learn to be authentic and true.

One young school girl, who ran over to my table, surprised and delighted me. “Are you related to Jesse James,” she asked. I replied, “That’s what I write about.” She ran back to her parents, shouting, “That’s so cool!” She was not the first girl to ask.

It’s a scientific fact that within the female DNA resides some gene which is attracted to the genes of the bad boy. But I don’t think that’s what attracts women to buy my book. I believe they’re attracted by the idea of finding the factual history of the bad boy inside the context of family. Family is their emotional connection with my book. After they read my book, some have informed me the book did not disappoint them. They were enlightened.

So, who loves ya, Jesse James?

My survey says, young men, ages 18-45, mostly loners lacking connections with a family of their own, who watch way too much TV, and only absorb the mythology dispensed to them in that medium as fact. In short, guys who aren’t too smart.

But intelligent women absolutely adore Jesse and his family.

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Tuesday October 19th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

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Tuesday October 19th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

☞Today in Old-West History — On today’s date 119 years ago, Sunday, October 19, 1902, notorious Old-West outlaw & fiddle player James Hardin “Uncle Jim” Younger (1848-1902) met his earthly demise at the age of 54 when he committed suicide by gunshot whilst on parole at Saint Paul, Minnesota.

☞Requiéscant In Pace, Jim Younger.

☞Jim Younger was one of the central figures of a band of the most desperate outlaws the Old West ever knew — the infamous James-Younger Gang, which was formed by Jim’s brother Cole Younger along with Frank & Jesse James.

☞Jim Younger joined the Confederate Army during the War Between the States (1861-1865) & served with Quantrill’s Raiders. In 1864, he was captured by Union troops & was imprisoned until the end of the War.

☞After the War, Younger worked on various ranches until he joined the James-Younger Gang in 1873. When his brother John was killed at Roscoe, Missouri in 1874, Jim left the gang & went out west where he worked on a ranch in San Luis Obispo, California.

☞In 1876, Jim returned to the gang, & on September 7 he participated in a bank robbery that became known as the Great Northfield Minnesota Raid. During that robbery he was shot & captured. The James brothers escaped, but Cole, Jim, & Bob Younger were shot up by a posse, arrested, & sentenced to long terms in the state penitentiary at Stillwater, Minnesota, where they were afforded celebrity status.

☞Jim Younger’s fiddle was one of the few possessions that he was allowed to have with him in prison, & he played it often. As time passed, Jim noticed that a little bird would appear most every day in the window of his jail cell. It seemed as though the bird came to listen whenever Jim played his fiddle. Jim was lonely & he befriended the bird which he named “Swipsy.” The bird would fly into the prison cell & Jim would always try to have crumbs to feed Swipsy. One day, a fellow prisoner killed the little bird just for spite. Jim then painted a picture of Swipsy on the back of his violin to remember his little feathered friend.

☞In 1898, the prison warden allowed the prisoners to throw a Christmas party at his own home, with Cole Younger portraying Santa Claus & Jim Younger playing his fiddle.

☞Paroled in 1901, Jim became engaged to his long-time lover Alix Mueller; however, because of the terms of his parole he couldn’t marry her.

☞On October 19, 1902, after a failed attempt to sell tombstones & then insurance, Jim Younger locked himself in his room, wrote a suicide note to Alix, picked up his revolver, & blew his brains out.

☞In 2013, Jim Younger’s fiddle, which was played by him at the famous 1898 Christmas party at Stillwater Prison, was sold at a Dallas, Texas auction for over $11,000.

☞The left-hand photograph depicts the image of Swipsy the Bird that Jim Younger painted on the back of his fiddle. The right-hand photograph depicts an undated studio portrait of Jim Younger.
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Tuesday October 5th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

For Drury Woodson James, founder of Paso Robles, CA., and all his descendants, PASO ROBLES FOUNDERS’ DAY 2021. See MoreSee Less