The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

Court Hall Remembers . . .

Grey Cap vs. Red Light

Court Hall Remembers---
(Recollections of Jackson County Sporting Events by Veteran Sportsman.)

    One of the funniest horse races I ever saw occurred in Central Point in the early nineties. It was a case of a horse double crossing the double crossers. In those days, the county fairgrounds was located three-fourths miles west of Central Point among mixed oak and pine trees that made the fairgrounds look beautiful. The soil on the one-mile track was almost perfect. Good horses were shipped in from the West Coast and as far east as Montana and Wyoming. We used to have some pretty lively meetings. At these meetings gathered the toughest bunch of humanity I ever saw. Loose women and gamblers came from all the coast cities, many of which were confirmed dope fiends.
    In this particular case a fellow named McKnight brought several trotters and runners in from California. McKnight was well along in years, but a very shrewd and tricky sportsman, and usually appeared with his horses several weeks before the opening of the fair. At that time there was a friend of Mrs. Marie Charley Rippey living in Central Point who owned a race horse named Grey Cap, whose best running distance was six hundred and sixty yards, and it took a real race horse to beat him at that distance. I had taken a lease on Grey Cap but was too busy to attend personally to his exercises every morning.
    About that time two young fellows named Rodgers and Smelling came in from the Willamette Valley with a bunch of stock horses. By the way, this is the same Smelling who has been bringing in race horses from Lake County to the present fairgrounds for the past several years. McKnight secured Rodgers to do the exercising for his running horse Red Light, and I secured Smelling in the same capacity to handle Grey Cap. I did not go to the track every morning, and naturally McKnight and these two boys had every opportunity to pull off something crooked.
    McKnight's horse Red Light was very fast for three hundred yards. The boys had brushed them down the same stretch, and Red Light moved right away from Grey Cap, of which knowledge of same I did not possess. McKnight's brain got busy, and he challenged me for a match race for a five-hundred-dollar side bet. I didn't have any five hundred dollars, but after several days' hard work managed to raise the required amount by asking numerous friends to put up a certain amount. McKnight wanted the distance to be one-fourth mile. I insisted on three-eighths; after considerable haggling I carried my point and the match was on. I immediately let Smelling go and engaged Bill Webb to train and ride Grey Cap. Bill Webb had just come in from Klamath County, where he had been engaged in the famous Shook feud case. I knew no one would knock any chips off of Bill's shoulders and also felt confident he would give me a square deal. By this time I knew McKnight, and the two boys had given the two horses a tryout together. What could I do, the money was up, and the race had to be run. On the day of the races McKnight was offering all kinds of money at odds of two to one. A few outsiders took some of the bets. But I and my bunch had all we wanted; we felt that we were beaten. The horses got away to an even break, and had not run more than one hundred and fifty yards when Red Light had opened up a gap of three lengths. Our bunch saw their money go glimmering. The next one hundred and fifty yards Grey Cap held his own. I looked again. Grey Cap seemed to be gaining on Red Light; on and on came old Grey Cap with that great powerful driving power of his. At the four-hundred-yard mark, Red Light blew up and Grey Cap passed him like he was standing still, and won by five open lengths.
    McKnight, Rodgers and Smelling had failed to test out the horses the required distance to test the horses' speed at which distance the race was made. Red Light could run away from Grey Cap for three hundred yards, but did not have a chance at six hundred and sixty yards.
    It is needless to say there was much rejoicing over the result on our side. To this day, every time I see Charlie Smelling I kid him about this case.
    Rodgers is a prosperous farmer in the Willamette Valley. McKnight I have never heard of since.
Medford Mail Tribune, February 9, 1930, page 6

Somebody's Darlings from Yamhill.
    Two gentlemen who have been moving in the first circles of the sporting fraternity of this county for some weeks past were known to fame hereaway as Lewis brothers of Lake County. They turn out to have been accomplished dissemblers of rare ability, despite their tender years, neither having as yet attained his majority. They brought in an alleged race horse from the eastern ranges along with some dozen or more other animals some weeks ago, representing him to be one of the Lake County phenomena one reads about. Succeeding in getting up the match race between Grey Cap and their horse, they negotiated a sale with a leading citizen of the lower valley for their flyer, provided the animal could make certain time for a quarter of a mile on the day preceding the race. The horse made the stipulated time all right enough, but it has since transpired that the quarter pole at the track mysteriously moved up a hundred yards or so the night before the trial, materially assisting the willing animal in breaking his record. On Saturday, the day of the race, the two Lewis brothers were recognized by a Yamhill gentleman, Albert T. Yocum, as being Chas. Snelling and Ed. Rogers, who jumped a $500 bail bond each while waiting the sitting of the grand jury of Yamhill County last fall, having been held to answer to the charge of stealing cattle and selling them in the Portland market. Sheriff Warren of Yamhill County last November furnished Sheriff Birdsey with a detailed description of the two rogues, and photographs of both, having heard that they were located on Trail Creek in this section. Mr. Yocum knew that both had been indicted, and after seeing them wrote Sheriff Warren to know if they were still wanted and also notified Sheriff Birdsey of their identity. Warren telegraphed to have them taken and held, and they were captured at Ashland yesterday by Deputy Sheriff Taylor by wired instructions from Sheriff Birdsey, who found they had left Central Point, when he went down to take them. The boys were driving a spotted team which was part of the consideration they obtained from their racehorse, and were easily spotted at the granite city. They are tony, blooded young rascals, and the extent of their operations can only be conjectured.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, August 28, 1891, page 3

    An ovation was tendered the Lewis brothers last Sunday evening when they arrived at this place in the care of the sheriff of Yamhill County. Bouquets and bonbons, letters and tokens of affection were lavished upon them by those who rejoiced to form the acquaintance of young men who could give tyros at working the races so many points as they were capable of teaching.
"Central Point Pointers," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, September 4, 1891, page 2

    Sheriff Warrin of Yamhill County arrived last Saturday, as expected, and took the boys, yclept Lewis brothers, back to their old home to answer to the indictment hanging over them for cattle stealing. It is thought that relatives of the young rascals will deposit bail for them and turn them out again, with the stipulation that they leave the state for good.
"Here and There," Democratic Times, Jacksonville, September 4, 1891, page 3

Got Off Easily.
    The young men who passed for the "Lewis Bros." at Central Point, and who made a national reputation by shortening the quarter-mile record 22 steps, pleaded guilty to the charges of cattle stealing against them in the circuit court of Yamhill County, and were each sentenced to pay for the stock stolen, the costs of the prosecution and a fine of $300 each, under a recent statute enacted to give young malefactors a chance for reform without the ignominy of looking through prison bars. It is hoped the young rascals will heed the lesson, and abandon the ways of wickedness before they come to grief again. They will not get off so easily next time.
Democratic Times, Jacksonville, October 23, 1891, page 3

Last revised December 6, 2009