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Syndic Literary Journal



by Baltimore County Writer/Poet  Richard B. Cook

“I met her in ol’ Mexico
She was livin’ sad and young
A smokey room where no one could see
Her favorite poets all agree
Spanish is a lovin’ tongue
But she never spoke Spanish to me”


About 15 years ago I was having dinner with some friends in Mexico City. Young woman arrived a little late. I didn’t know her. Alta, morena, pelo largo, bien formada, una hemra real. Know what I mean?

Half standing, I said, Hola, buenas tardes! Sientate, aquí!

In English, she told me her name was Faith. 

We ordered dinner. Faith’s Spanish was top drawer.

Well Faith, I said, we’re here in Mexico so I thought we would speak Spanish.

Looking at me a little bit too long, Faith said, “I bet you know that old Texas Tornados song, ‘She never spoke Spanish to me.’ ”

Well, yeah, I said.

Faith said: “You’re living that song right now.”

I tried to smile and said, no problem, where you from?

Faith told me she was from Idaho, in el De Fe teaching English in a private school to rich Mexican kids. Said she was Mormon. Lapsed but Morman. 

Immediately I said, well let me express my condolences for your loss.

“What are you talking about?”

For the death of Joseph Smith. My apologies. Cousin of mine did it. Colonel Williams. Levi Williams. 1844. Nauvoo Illinois, I’m sure you know the story.

“Levi Williams got away with murder.” She said, “They all got away with murder.”

Yes, it was a travesty, what happened.

Faith said, “Your cousin was a drunkard before he was a killer. We learned this in Sunday School.”

Levi Williams was a Baptist preacher, I said, and a regimental officer in the Illinois guard. Marched off to fight the Blackfeet Indians, as did Abraham Lincoln. 

Yes, rumors implicated Levi and members of Williams’ regiment in the mob who broke into the jail where Joseph Smith and his brother were being held. Under a very light guard. I admit that. They shot and killed the Smith boys. There was a trial and acquittals all around.

“The trial of Levi Williams in Carthage was a joke,” my newest Morman friend said. “On the day of the trial, after the jury had been selected, another mob at the courthouse insisted that the jury be dismissed because there were Mormons on the jury. 

“Judge went along. Picked new jurors from the mob. Course they acquitted.”

Faith, I already said, Hyrum and Joseph Smith should not have been killed. But my cousin said later – to Bill Hickman himself actually – Levi said later, back in his home in Green Plains, told Bill Hickman himself, “the Mormons ruled the county, voted in a block, elected whom they pleased. The old settlers had no chance.”

Faith almost spilled her drink: “Bill Hickman said that? You can’t take his word for anything! Bill was a killer! Bill used up lots of people. That was the expression they had for murder. Using people up.

That was a quality Mormon Sunday School you went to, I said. Yes, Bill Hickman was a killer. But, did they tell you Bill Hickman was a contract killer for Brigham Young in Utah and Idaho? 

Faith said, “I’ve done my research. Bill’s specialty was “using up” the ‘gentiles’ as Mormons called the non-Mormons, Gentiles, former Mormons and Indians. Those were the folks Bill Hickman used up. 

Bill was caught, I said, arrested, interned in a fort, Fort Bridger, I believe it was, but never charged or tried.

“Not Fort Bridger,” Faith put in. “Bill was interned at Camp Floyd. Bill was never tried because he told people he had evidence against Brigham Young, proving that Brigham hired Bill to do murder. But since the only murder anybody knew for sure Bill committed was the beheading of Chief Big Elk, everybody forgot about it and Bill left Camp Floyd a free man.”

Well, I said, it’s hard to try someone for murder if there’s no body. Probably the easiest thing about a desert murder is burying the corpse.

Finishing my drink, I said, altogether, Bill had 10 wives. 

Faith said. “Plural marriage was the only Morman doctrine Bill faithfully followed.”

Faith, what’s your take on plural marriage?

“For the man, it was at the heart of the Mormon appeal. Get a new, younger woman every few years.

“For a 19th century woman, you couldn’t own property or vote or have any status in the community apart from a man. Plural marriage was a chance to live with other women. They’d all help you with chores, with childcare, not having a man on top of you for the rest your life. 

“And don’t forget. There was a hierarchy, all men of course, but rules and regs and alcohol was forbidden! That might have been the biggest thing, living with a supervised, sober man with other women making a home with you.”

Faith stared at me. “Why you asking me about plural marriage?”

Oh, good, here’s our dinner.



Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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