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Charles "Black Bart" Bowles // Howcheng via Wikimedia Commons
Charles "Black Bart" Bowles // Howcheng via Wikimedia Commons

5 Habits of Highly Effective Outlaws

Charles "Black Bart" Bowles // Howcheng via Wikimedia Commons
Charles "Black Bart" Bowles // Howcheng via Wikimedia Commons

By David Norris

Guns? Check. Masks? Check. Poetry book? If you're going to rob a stagecoach, here's how to do it with flair. 

1. IF YOU'RE A POET, SHOW IT.

Even if you’re a no-good, law-flouting bandit, it pays to mind your manners—and your meter. In California, between 1875 and 1883, Charles E. “Black Bart” Boles held up more than two dozen Wells Fargo stagecoaches. Even though he seemed to have an intense private grudge against the bank, he was always polite to its employees, asking stage drivers to “please” throw down the money. Stranger still, Boles often left poetry at his crime scenes. This poem was his most well-known:

I’ve labored long
and hard for bread,
For honor and for riches,
But on my corns
too long you’ve tread,
You fine-haired sons of bitches.

In 1883, Boles was wounded during a holdup and accidentally left a handkerchief at the crime scene. When Wells Fargo detectives traced it back to him, he was arrested and imprisoned, and although Boles’s career as a robber was over, his literary influence was just beginning. During his imprisonment, several copycat stagecoach robbers left truly dreadful bits of poetry at the scenes of their crimes.

2. SPIN THE MEDIA.

Jesse James spent as much time honing his public image as he did robbing people. In fact, James frequently wrote letters to newspapers, stressing that his gang never attacked innocent farmers, only corrupt banks and railroad companies. He also claimed lawmen hounded James and his brothers because they had been Confederate soldiers, which won the gang sympathy in the South. His letters were widely reprinted, even in The New York Times, helping turn the Missouri bandits into national legends.

One night in 1875, Pinkerton detectives threw a flare into the James family home. The agents were trying to light up the dark house so they could shoot at the outlaws, but the flare exploded in the fireplace, killing Jesse’s young half-brother and maiming his mother, who lost her right forearm. James made the incident seem even worse than it was in his letters to the press, falsely claiming the detectives had tossed a 32-pound military shell into his mother’s home. The public was horrified, and after the explosion, Pinkerton agents received little help from Jesse’s neighbors, who were often happy to provide the James gang with food, information, and hiding places.

3. ROB SMARTER, NOT HARDER.

In the early 1900s, automobiles were starting to replace stagecoaches, which meant that stagecoach robbers were a dying breed. One of the last havens for the bandits was Yellowstone National Park, because the park didn’t allow motor vehicles. On the lonely, isolated trails, robbers could loot stagecoaches with remarkable efficiency. On July 29, 1914, an ex-con named Ed Trafton chose a spot about eight miles from the Old Faithful geyser, where there was only one route for stagecoaches. With the aid of an armed accomplice who kept his victims from turning around to get help, Trafton held up 15 coaches, one by one, as though he were operating a drive-through bank.

4. GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR FEMININE SIDE.

During the 17th century, English highwayman Tom Rowland menaced coach travelers with a string of holdups that lasted for 18 years, and the entire time, he was dressed like a lady. Rowland worked hard to keep up the charade, even riding sidesaddle when getting away from crime scenes. Caught and convicted in 1699, Rowland was hanged at Tyburn Hill, the historic place of execution for London-area criminals. 

5. WAIT FOR THE OTHER SHOE TO DROP.

Arizona stagecoach robber Bill Brazelton threw lawmen off his trail with a cunning horseshoe trick. Before committing a crime, he would place shoes on his horse normally, then once he’d stolen the goods, he’d quickly turn the shoes around. After he rode off, it would look as though there were two sets of tracks leading to the crime scene, but no tracks leading away.

Brazelton’s scheme worked until one day in 1878, when one horseshoe fell off his steed after a robbery. The horse left behind a bizarre set of tracks, with three shod hooves running in one direction and one bare hoof running in the other. A suspicious tracker traced the odd hoofprints to a corral near Tucson, where a posse laid an ambush for Brazelton, and he was killed in the attack. That thing about horseshoes being lucky? Not so much.

This article originally appeared in mental_floss magazine. Get a risk-free issue!

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5 Subtle Cues That Can Tell You About Your Date's Financial Personality
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Being financially compatible with your partner is important, especially as a relationship grows. Fortunately, there are ways you can learn about your partner’s financial personality in a relationship’s early stages without seeing their bank statement or sitting them down for “the money talk.”

Are they a spender or a saver? Are they cautious with money? These habits can be learned through basic observations or casual questions that don’t feel intrusive. Here are some subtle things that can tell you about your date’s financial personality.

1. HOW THEY ANSWER BASIC MONEY QUESTIONS.

Casual conversations about finance-related topics can be very revealing. Does your date know if their employer matches their 401(k) plan contributions? Do you find their answers to any financial questions a bit vague—even the straightforward ones like “What are the rewards like on your credit card?” This could mean that your partner is a little fuzzy on some of the details of their financial situation.

As your connection grows, money talks are only natural. If your date expresses uncertainty about their monthly budget, it may be an indicator that they are still working on the best way to manage their finances or don’t keep close tabs on their spending habits.

2. WHAT THEY’RE WATCHING AND READING.

If you notice your partner is always watching business news channels, thumbing through newspapers, or checking share prices on their phone, they are clearly keeping abreast of what’s going on in the financial world. Ideally, this would lead to a well-informed financial personality that gives way to smart investments and overall monetary responsibility.

If you see that your date has an interest in national and global finances, ask them questions about what they’ve learned. The answers will tell you what type of financial mindset to expect from you partner moving forward. You might also learn something new about the world of finance and business!

3. WHERE THEY GET THEIR FOOD.

You may be able to learn a lot about someone’s financial personality just by asking what they usually do for dinner. If your date dines out a lot, it could be an indication that they are willing to spend money on experiences. On the other hand, if they’re eating most of their meals at home or prepping meals for the entire week to cut their food budget, they might be more of a saver.

4. WHETHER THEY’RE VOICING MONEY CONCERNS.

Money is a source of stress for most people, so it’s important to observe if financial anxiety plays a prominent role in your date’s day-to-day life. There are a number of common financial worries we all share—rising insurance rates, unexpected car repairs, rent increases—but there are also more specific and individualized concerns. Listen to how your date talks about money and pick up on whether their stress is grounded in worries we all have or if they have a more specific reason for concern.

In both instances, it’s important to be supportive and helpful where you can. If your partner is feeling nervous about money, they’ll likely be much more cautious about what they’re spending, which can be a good thing. But it can also stop them from making necessary purchases or looking into investments that might actually benefit them in the future. As a partner, you can help out by minimizing their expenses for things like nights out and gifts in favor of less expensive outings or homemade gifts to leave more of their budget available for necessities.

5. HOW THEY HANDLE THE BILL.

Does your date actually look at how much they’re spending before handing their credit card to the waiter or bartender at the end of the night? It’s a subtle sign, but someone who looks over a bill is likely much more observant about what they spend than someone who just blindly hands cards or cash over once they get the tab.

Knowing what you spend every month—even on smaller purchases like drinks or dinner—is key when you’re staying on a budget. It’s that awareness that allows people to adjust their monthly budget and calculate what their new balance will be once the waiter hands over the check. Someone who knows exactly what they’re spending on the small purchases is probably keeping a close eye on the bigger picture as well.

REMEMBER THERE’S NO SUBSTITUTE FOR TALKING.

While these subtle cues can be helpful signposts when you’re trying to get an idea of your date’s financial personality, none are perfect indicators that will be accurate every time. Our financial personalities are rarely cut and dry—most of us probably display some behaviors that would paint us as savers while also showing habits that exclaim “spender!” By relying too heavily on any one indicator, we might not get an accurate impression of our date.

Instead, as you get to know a new partner, the best way to learn about their financial personality is by having a straightforward and honest talk with them. You’ll learn more by listening and asking questions than you ever could by observing small behaviors.

Whatever your financial personality is, it pays to keep an eye on your credit score. Discover offers a Free Credit Scorecard, and checking it won't impact your score. It's totally free, even if you aren't a Discover customer. Check yours in seconds. Terms apply. Visit Discover to learn more.

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Animals
Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?
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Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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