Monday, December 13, 2004

Massacres at Palisades

Remember that old TV show, F Troop? It had a couple of seasons in the 1960s. The idea was that an army garrison out west didn't want to fight the Indians, and an Indian tribe out west didn't want to fight the army garrison, so they pretended like they were fighting just to impress the army leaders back in Washington. The garrison benefited because they didn't have to do any real work, and the Indians benefited because there wasn't a real garrison there killing them. Check your Nick at Nite listings; I'm sure you'll find it.

A couple of years ago, I found out that this show was based on a real event. The place was Palisades, Nevada—a little whistlestop in the middle of nowhere. Trains would pass through, maybe only to take on water or sand; not much was going on there. The citizens of Palisades figured they could make their town into something a bit more profitable if they could just get the trains to stop. But how?

Eventually the locals hit on the idea that all those Indian raids that were so thoroughly described in dime novels would be something that people would love to see. So they had a group of Indians "attack" incoming trains. Not real Indians, though; just locals dressed up. Then not-real cavalry would ride in and drive off the Indians. Whenever the passenger trains would approach Palisades, the raids would start.

These were no small pageants, either. People got killed—sort of. Soldiers and Indians alike would fall in battle daily, splattered with fake blood. Then they'd do laundry and wait for the next train.

After a while, the railroad started routing passenger trains through Palisades, since this was so popular. After all, you got all that excitement, and no passengers were ever hurt or even wounded. What's not to love? Trains would stop in Palisades for an hour or two. While passengers seldom dared to step off the train and into this dangerous spot, locals would approach the trains and sell sandwiches and things through the windows.

Eventually, word of all this reached the Army, and they were pretty embarrassed that such a rough, violent spot like Palisades was raging the way it was. When the Army arrived, the people of Palisades had some explaining to do, and with that explanation they lost their tourist attraction.

I don't know if Palisades still exists. My map doesn't say anything about it. I've never even been to Nevada, but I swear this is all true.


At Tuesday, December 14, 2004 at 12:24:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i read about this in the Big Book of Hoax's. Tehre's a song about it too. Good stuff.


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