The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised

The Saga of the Dark Hollow Tarzans

Edward and Roy Harris, on the lam. For photos and an update, see the Mail Tribune story.

Edward Harris, 14, and Brother, 10, Elusive--
Away from Home Ten Days and Defy Capture
    Edward Harris, 14, and his brother Roy, 10, Dark Hollow district youths who for the past ten days have been enacting a juvenile Tarzan role, would be back in school by next Monday, the sheriff's office predicted last night.
    The lads left their home Wednesday, April 7, and have been away since. Sheriff Syd. I. Brown suspects they are receiving food and shelter from "sympathetic neighbors."
    Deputy Sheriff Herb Moore made the prediction, and based it upon the belief that the lads "have had enough of the Tarzan stuff."
    State police said they had been officially notified of the adventures of the brothers, but had taken no action.
    Deputy Moore has made several efforts to round up the two boys.
    The two youths have also defied efforts of their stepfather, Joseph Schmelzer, and two older brothers to induce them to return home.
    The authorities attribute "unsatisfactory home conditions and a dislike for school," as the cause of the boys' actions.
    Sheriff Brown said that "it would take a hundred possemen to catch the boys," owing to the brushy nature of the country and their knowledge of it. The area borders on a farm area abounding in dairies, hen coops and orchards.
    Sheriff Syd I. Brown said no effort would be made to return the lads to home and studies.
    "We will just bide our time and sneak up on them when they are not looking," the sheriff said.
    The two boys "run like deer" at the approach of any person. They live with their mother, a stepfather and two brothers, in a humble shack beyond the Gammill and Powell orchards in the Dark Hollow section. Deputy Herb Moore said the roof of the house was leaking when he called the first of last week.
    Sheriff Brown said the expense of organizing a posse to return the boys was not justified, and further stated that members of the family did not seem particularly concerned over their absence.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 18, 1937, page 1

Sheriff and State Police Find Cabin Used by Dark Hollow Boys--
Older Lad Is Armed with Rifle

    Edward Harris, 14, and his brother Roy, 10, Dark Hollow district "Tarzan truants," who left their humble mountain home April 7, and have since roamed the manzanita brush of the area, were still at large today.
    Sheriff Syd I. Brown and two state policemen sought last night to capture the boys asleep, but their search from midnight to dawn proved fruitless.
    "We searched every cabin and barn and woke up everybody in the neighborhood," Sheriff Brown said, "but all we found was the woodcutter's shack where the boys had cooked and slept and the legs of a rooster stolen from Otto
Wicklein, a resident of the district." Wicklein is employed by Fluhrer's Bakery.
    The woodcutter's shack has been the rendezvous of the youths, the sheriff said.
Ashes Warm
    Last night the three-man posse went to the shack and approached it cautiously. "We tore though the door," the sheriff reported. "The ashes in the stove and the grease in the frying pan were warm, but no boys. We then made a systematic search of the district."
    Sheriff Brown said he had offered a $10 reward for anybody who would capture the pair and notify the authorities.
    County School Superintendent C. R. Bowman conferred with the sheriff this morning, and truancy and delinquency charges will probably be filed against the lads.
    The older boy has a .22-calibre rifle, a man by the name of Moore informed the authorities. Edward Harris had told him he "would never be taken alive," Moore said.
Steal Chickens
    The sheriff said investigation revealed the Harris youths had raided the Wicklein hen house and stolen a rooster and two setting hens. Two dozen chickens have been reported missing since the youths left home.
    It has also been learned by the sheriff that the Harrises on their first two nights away from home had stayed at the home of Moore, who then ordered them to return to their parents.
    Joseph Schmelzer, the stepfather, has tried to catch the lads but told the sheriff he was "too busy with my chores to run them down."
    The mother requested the sheriff to enlist the CCC to assist in the pursuit and is anxious for the return of her sons.
    Sheriff Brown said the boys "were in no particular danger, but their flight and depredations are becoming bothersome, and they will have to be taken in hand."
Medford Mail Tribune, April 19, 1937, page 3

    Edward Harris, 14, and his brother Roy, 10, "Tarzan" truants of the Dark Hollow district who for thirteen days roamed the brush to evade school attendance, were captured Monday night about 10 o'clock by Timothy White as they sat beside a campfire on a mountainside.
    White, detailed to locate the lads, sighted the gleaming fire from his home, and investigation revealed the juvenile fugitives. They are held in the juvenile department of the county jail and will appear in juvenile court tomorrow.
    District Attorney Frank J. Newman said the youths would probably be sent to some institution. The official said the boys were of exceptional mental keenness.
    The Harris boys told Sheriff Syd I. Brown they left home because they would rather be out in the open than in school. They slept in isolated cabins when it rained and around campfires on clear nights. They experienced no difficulty in finding food in cabins and by an occasional visit to a henhouse. When brought to the county jail last night they declined the sheriff's offer of food.
    The boys had a roll of blankets, a small-calibre rifle, a frying pan, coffee pot and tin cups as their roving equipment.
    The sheriff said outside of "being slightly dirty," the youths were in good condition. New clothing was provided by the Red Cross. The older boy informed the sheriff, "We intended to stay out until snow came next winter."
    A complaint charging Mrs. G. V. Smelcer, mother of the boys, with failure to send children of school age to school, was sworn to by the county school superintendent yesterday.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 20, 1937, page 7

Dark Hollow "Tarzans"
Going Back to School;
Boys Reveal Ambitions

    Robert Edward Harris, 14, and his brother, David Leroy Harris, 10, Dark Hollow boys who for 13 days played "Tarzan" and hide-and-seek with the sheriff, will return home this afternoon and finish the present term of school, it was decided yesterday by county authorities following a conference with Mr. and Mrs. G. V. Smelzer, parents of the youths.
    This morning the lads were given tests by the county school superintendent's office covering schoolwork they missed during their adventure. They also were outfitted by the Red Cross.
    Lillian Roberts, of the Red Cross, investigated the efforts for the boys and expressed the view the Tarzan episode would result in "adjustment of their home life." She said the elder boy made the suggestion to return to school and impressed her with his sincerity.
    The boys declared they were actuated by a desire to "get away from home, and not away from school."
    The older boy also said he wanted to be with his father, W. F. Harris of Oregon City, and was assured if conditions permitted they would be given a chance to spend the summer with him.
    County authorities were adverse to committing the boys to a state institution.
    The Harris boys are typical country boys, healthy, neat, polite and with plenty of self-reliance. During their stay in the county jail they have spent most of the time on the courthouse roof, reading and playing. They don't like jail but speedily adapted themselves to the routine. The jailer said they had filed no complaint.
    Robert Edward leans toward being serious-minded while David LeRoy has a carefree nature and speaks with a pleasing lisp. They are good-natured no end.
    By way of conversation, the older boy was asked yesterday:
    "What are you going to be when you grow up?"
    "I'm going to be an aviator, and a good one!"
    "What are you going to be, David?"
    "I thought I wanted to be a doctor, but I don't know for sure!"
    "He won't be a doctor because he's too chicken-hearted," interjected Edward.
    "Yes! I'm chicken-hearted," agreed the younger boy. "But I'm going to be something!"
    "What do you think of Lindbergh?" an inquirer asked Robert Edward.
    "I don't think much of Lindbergh. He couldn't have flown across the ocean if the Wright brothers hadn't invented the airplane. They did more!"
    "When you kids were out in the brush, did you get scared at night?"
    "What was there to get scared of?" replied the boys together.
    The interviewer mentioned bears and coyotes.
    "There is not a bear in that country, and coyotes won't hurt you," assured Robert Edward.
    "What did you have to eat?" was asked.
    "We ate a pig, chickens, lots of eggs and a pigeon, and Mr. Wicklein's rooster," the older boy answered. "We wouldn't have shot Mr. Wicklein's hens if we had known they were special. We are sorry we did it. I killed the little pig and butchered it. It was good and lasted two days. We gathered the eggs in the afternoon. If we had waited till dark they would have been gathered."
    "I never told Mr. Moore I wouldn't be taken alive," Robert declared. "We never saw anybody, but people say they saw us. We fooled around all day and slept at night."
    "What will the girls at school think about the way you acted?" was asked.
    "They can think anything they want to. I don't care about girls!" both boys agreed.
    "Do you think you are a Huckleberry Finn?" the older boy was asked.
    "Huck was okay, but I like Tom Sawyer best. My favorite 'big book' is 'Lorna Doone.' (People who have read 'Lorna Doone' say it is the size of 'Anthony Adverse' and a man-sized job to read.) I like to read, and have read a lot of books. I don't care what it is, just so it's reading."
    "It was quite a stunt you boys pulled, staying out the way you did," was remarked.
    This caused the younger lad to giggle, and the older boy said: "O pfooey!" the favorite phrase of both.
    "Have you anything to tell the public?" they were asked.
    "Tell 'em we are going to be good boys and go to school, and not to worry," replied Edward.
    It is agreed about the courthouse that if the lads are given an even break the public won't have to worry about them.
Medford Mail Tribune, April 23, 1937, page 1

    The two Dark Hollow youths, Robert and David Harris, who held the spotlight a week ago while living in the mountains rather than return home and go to school, will finish the school term, and then will go to Oregon City to visit their father, according to arrangements made by the boys and county officials.
    A decidedly unsatisfactory home life was the real cause of the boys going into the mountains, county officials finally decided, more than a distaste for school. The boys also flatly denied having made any such statements as that they "wouldn't be taken alive."
    After the boys got some clean clothes, and got cleaned up from top to bottom, they felt much more like returning to school. Assurance by the Red Cross that they would get to go to their father in Oregon City this summer also helped to send the boys back home happy.
    "The boys are bright, and they'll get along if they have half a chance," Sheriff Brown said.
Medford News, April 30, 1937, page 1

    Robert Edward Harris, 14, and his brother David LeRoy, 10, Dark Hollow lads who recently played Tarzan for 13 days before being rounded up and returned to school last Monday, have agreed to pull weeds to pay for the chickens and eggs they stole and to pick pears next summer as recompense for the pig they shot and feasted upon during their wanderings in the brush.
    Otto A. Wicklein [is] owner of a red rooster and two prize hens taken by the brothers, valued at $4. He said today the brothers wanted to repay him and "I'll have to find some weeds for them to pull." Wicklein's henhouse was also raided for eggs. He said, "I don't care anything about the eggs but I did hate to lose my two best hens."
    The slain pig is valued by its owner at $7, and the Harris brothers will make amends by picking pears on the Timothy White orchard.
    The county school superintendent reports the two brothers have attended school all week, "and are doing fine and keeping their promises."
Medford Mail Tribune, April 30, 1937, page 6


    Robert Edward Harris, 14, and his brother, David LeRoy Harris, ten, Tarzan truants of the Dark Hollow district, after ten days of school forgot their promises "to stay home, and be good boys" Tuesday morning and again roam the hills in the bright sunshine, the state police reported today.
    Three cabins in the Sterling Divide district have been entered since the second disappearance of the lads, and a knife found near a henhouse, and identified by their schoolteacher as belonging to the boys, circumstantially point to the Harris brothers as the offender.
    From a group of cabins at the Mankin and Bell mine, two rifles, a pound of tobacco, a quart of wine, and several cans of condensed milk were taken, according to reports to the state police. At one of the homes, half of a pie was eaten.
    Red Cross workers, who have been keeping a watchful eye over the boys, blamed youthful wanderlust for their present truancy, and a "desire to be roaming again."
    State police said no concerted effort was being made to catch the boys, but a watch is being kept for them.
    A month ago the junior Tarzans left their home, and for 14 days evaded capture by the sheriff and neighbors. They took chickens and eggs, the food supply of cabins, and killed a young pig during their first dash into the brush. A campfire on a mountainside led a watcher to the lads, and for five days they were kept in the county jail. They denied nothing, talked freely of their adventures, and impressed county aides by their boyish frankness and mental alertness. They promised to "work and pay for what we took."
    Reluctant to send the brothers to an institution, Jackson County authorities exacted promises to go to school until the end of the term, and the Red Cross furnished new clothing outfits. Tuesday morning they started for school, and never arrived.
    Dissatisfaction with home environment is held by welfare workers to be a contributing reason for both trips. The brothers live with their mother and stepfather, J. V. Smelzer. Their father is J. W. Harris of Oregon City. They were tentatively promised a vacation trip to visit him if they were "good boys."
    The brothers on their first jaunt demonstrated amply their ability to take care of themselves in the open, and a knowledge of woodcraft. The older boy is a good shot, and resourceful. The area in which they are now believed to be roaming is rough, with many cabins.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 6, 1937, page 1

    The Dark Hollow Tarzans are on the loose again, according to a report at the state police station, and this time they will be sought with more seriousness for questioning in connection with the pilfering of cabins in the neighborhood.
    The two boys, Ray Harris, 10, and Robert Harris, 14, started to school again last Tuesday morning, but didn't get there. They have been attending school diligently since [being] released two weeks ago after their initial adventure of 10 days alone in the mountains.
    Wednesday state police were called to investigate the robbery of cabins on the John W. Moore place and the Mankins-Bell mine.
    Two rifles, of large calibre, were taken from the Moore cabin, and a bone-handled knife was found near the Moore chicken house. Officers asked youngsters at the school about the knife, and schoolmates of the Harris boys said the Harris boys had had an identical knife.
    Then at the Mankins-Bell cabin on the Sterling Mine Road a gold ring, some tobacco, some coffee, milk and wine were reported missing.
    Except for finding the knife, officers have no reason to suspect the Harris boys, but they would like to find them to question them about the cabin pilfering.
Medford News, May 7, 1937, page 1B

Last revised August 16, 2009