I was comin’ through South Dakota ‘n hooked up with a couple guys I never seen b’fore. They weren’t streamliners er nothin’, so I figgered they was alright. We found ourselves a spot to jungle fer the night, ‘n started unpackin’ our gear ‘n makin’ camp. The sun was dippin’ way low in the sky, getting’ ready to go down, ‘n I’d found me a nice level spot fer my bedroll. I was pickin’ the rocks outta the dirt where I was gonna sleep, smoothin’ it down a bit, ‘n one of ‘em sez, “What’cha say we chip in ‘n git ourselves somethin’ to eat.” We put our money together, ‘n I told ‘em I’d make the run if they hunted up some wood ‘n got a fire goin’.
I left my gear fer ‘em to watch ‘n made the hike to the store. Bought some bread, beans, ‘n bacon. Had the food in this brown paper grocery sack. The store was good piece from where we was jungled, but I kinda hurried, on account a I left my gear with them guys. I wasn’t gone but half an hour. It was still daylight when I come back. I got almost to the jungle, ‘n here’s one a the guy’s walkin’ ‘long the tracks with his bedroll slung over his shoulder like he’s gonna catch out. I had the paper bag full a groceries in my arms, ‘n I sez, “Hey, were you goin’? Ain’t we gonna cook up?” He sez, “I was jus’ comin’ to look fer ya.” He sez, “The city police come down here ‘n told us to scram. We gotta git out.” “Ok,” I said, “I’ll go back to the jungle ‘n git my pack, ‘n be right with ya.” The he sez, “No, no, you wait here. I’ll go git it fer ya. I wanna check on my partner anyways.” He left his bedroll with me, ‘n I set down by the tracks ‘n waited. Few minutes later he come back all by himself, carryin’ my pack ‘n water jug. I sez, “What about yer partner, ain’t he comin’ ‘long?” “Naw,” he sez, “He’s stayin’. Said he was gonna turn in.” I asked ‘im, “What about the food, shouldn’t we give ‘im some? He chipped in, same as us.” “Naw,” he sez, “He sez we c’n keep it.” He was in a big hurry; set my stuff down, ‘n picked up his bedroll ‘n started walkin’ ‘long the tracks, quick like. I figgered he was jus’ scared on account a them city cops runnin’ ‘im out.
We waited on a soutbound ‘n caught out on a grain car. Once we got ourselves settled into the ride, we dug into the food. We was gonna have to let the bacon go till we stopped ‘n found a place to cook up. We opened the beans ‘n got out the bread ‘n set down to eat on the end a the car. The train was movin’ at a good clip, mebbe forty mile ‘n hour er so, ‘n I got up to drain the water outta the beans. ‘N I was standing’ there, leanin’ over the side, holdin’ the can upside down with the lid on, lettin’ the juice drip out on the track bed. I was watchin’ the wind take the juice, ‘n I felt these two hands push against my back. B’fore I had a chance to do anything, I was fallin’ forward. There was nothin’ but air in front of me, nothin’ to grab onto. I hit the ground, ‘n that’s all I remember. Out cold.
The next day I come to. I was layin’ ‘longside the tracks, ‘n a bunch a kids was standin’ ‘round me. When I raised my head ‘n looked up at ‘em, one of ‘em sez, “Hey mister, we thought you was dead.” I musta looked dead, all cut up ‘n all this dried blood caked on my face ‘n neck. But I was alright, jus’ banged up is all. I was sittin’ up, gittin’ my bearin’s, ‘n these city cops come along. One a the kids’d called ‘em ‘n told how there was a tramp layin’ dead along the tracks. I told ‘em my story ‘bout how I was pushed off the train, ‘n they said they was gonna have to take me to the station fer questionin’. I figgered they was gonna ask me questions ‘bout the guy that pushed me, ‘n mebbe hunt ‘im down. I went along ‘n got cleaned up at the jail. Then one a the cops asked me if I wasn’t with the two other guys up in Edgemont. I sez, “Yeah, one a them’s the one that pushed me off the train.” He sez, “What about the other one, where’s he?” ‘N I told ‘him ‘bout how the other guy stayed up in Edgemont, ‘n me ‘n this guy that pushed me caught out together. The cop sez, “He stayed alright. He’s dead. Died from a blow to the head.” A rail found ‘im that mornin’ in the jungle up there. A couple a them rails’d seen the three of us together, so the cops was lookin’ fer me ‘n the other guy.
I told ‘em ever’thing, jus’ the way it happened. Didn’t even know either a them guy’s names. All I know is the guy that pushed me had a tattoo of Betty Grable on his forearm. They said they was gonna have to hold me on suspicion a murder. I tol ‘em the last time I saw that guy, he was alive, ‘n I didn’t have no reason to kill ‘im. But they said they was gonna have to hold me till a witness turns up or they find the other guy with the tattoo. I was took back to Edgemont to the jail, ‘n waited fer the trial. While I was there they did some checkin’ up on me. I give ‘em the names a two ranchers I’d worked fer, ‘n they checked up with ‘em. Got back good reports too. One a the ranches was in Arizona, ‘n I’d worked there a good while, so them people got to know me good. They told ‘bout how I was a good worker ‘n wasn’t no kinda killer, ‘n could be trusted, ‘n like that. But I didn’t have a dime to my name fer bail, so there wasn’t nothin’ I could do but sit in jail ‘n wait.
Nine months I waited. Spent nine months in that jail. Got to know some a them cops purty good, ‘n I ‘spect one er two of ‘em b’lieved I was innocent, ‘cause some newspaper guy come to see me, ‘n wrote a story ‘bout what happened ‘n how I claimed they had the wrong man in their jail. After the story come out in the paper, a woman called the courthouse, ‘n said she’d witnessed the killin’. She lived in a house ‘cross from where we was jungled that day.
They put me in a lineup, ‘n she picked me out right off. She said, “He was with those other two, but he wasn’t there when it happened.” She sez, “He’s the one who was carryin’ the paper sack.” Man, I could a jumped up ‘n hugged her. She went on ‘n told the whole story ‘bout how those two guys started fightin’, ‘n one of ‘em picked up a rock ‘n cracked the other one in the head with it. Her kitchen winda overlooked the spot we was junglin’, ‘n she saw the whole thing. The cop asked her why she didn’t come forward sooner, ‘n she said she was scared a one of us comin’ back ‘n gittin’ some kinda revenge er somethin’. She lived there with her sister. It was jus’ the two of ‘em, ‘n she read how I was in jail ‘n claimed to be innocent. Said she had to see fer herself if they had the right one. I tell ya, I kissed the ground when I walked outta there.