Saturday, June 16, 2012

No Man's Land and Slapout

As I mentioned earlier, paddling is a great vehicle for discovering nature, and while moving from one body of water to another, I find it fascinating to discover who has paddled, camped, and trod these lands and waters before me. Some of this stuff seems just too incredible, but it’s so strange that it can’t be anything but true. I’ve mentioned No Man’s Land and the town of Slapout, so it’s time to shed some light on both.
The moon setting over No Man's Land.

What would become No Man’s Land was originally part of the lands guaranteed to the Cherokee. The federal government later told the Cherokee that they were not making adequate use of the land, so took it back so it could later be opened to Boomers, who advocated taking the Indian lands by whatever means so they could settle on it themselves. If you vaguely remember the mention of the Missouri Compromise in your grade school history, No Man’s Land is the only piece of the country created by the Missouri Compromise to set the boundaries of Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Congress called this 34 mile wide by 167 mile long strip of land No Man’s Land, because it was outside the jurisdiction of any form of government. People often bemoan the influence of government, but the absence of its stabilizing influence here led to an area overrun with horse and cattle thieves, robbers and any other outlaws, fugitives, squatters, claim-jumpers, etc. They could run amuck and do pretty much as they pleased until enough locals got tired of the foolishness and formed a “local vigilance committee.” Their aim was to insure that the offender’s anti-social behavior could be resolved with a finding of “dead or fled.” They didn’t much care which. There were no inquests, bails, drawn-out trials, or paroles. Justice was as quick as the trigger of a Winchester.

When established law did begin to take a hold, it was in the form of men like Marshall Chris Madsen. The traveling district judge was holding a hearing in a room over the saloon in Beaver City. The noise from the saloon was disrupting the dignity of the court upstairs, and the judge asked Madsen to do something to restore some quiet. Madsen went downstairs, identified three revelers, shot one and pistol whipped the other two, and quiet was restored.

In No Man’s Land, if more than two buildings happened to occur in the same place, it was called a town. One such was the town of Slapout. Tom Lemmons bought a land claim, and when a road was being put through next to his property, he moved his chicken coop out next to the road and created a store inside. With that done, he figured a store would be a good hub around which to build a town, and he would call it Nye. It was hard to get supplies for the store, so it was not uncommon for a customer to be told by Tom’s sister that she was “slapout” of whatever they were looking for. It happened so often that folks began to call the area slapout, and if there was going to be a town, that should be its name. Lemmons protested until a tornado came through and removed the Nye town sign.  Lemmons decided that was divine intervention, and gave in to the name of Slapout for his town. He even added another building to house his rock collection. In its heyday, a census listed the town’s population as ten. It is now reported to have a population of three, but the convenience store and gas pumps still stand as the town of Slapout, and that is where you turn to go to Lake Evans Chambers.

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