Tarbeaux's Monte Script

By Andi Gladwin - Friday, July 12, 2019


As I have already shared in part one and part two of this series, Frank Tarbeaux was quite the piece of work. His Monte scam involved him dressing and acting as a country bumpkin and working with at least one accomplice to antagonise the mark. I’ll share this script below. It’s a little long, but for historical purposes, it’s worth sharing:


When I got the signal from a pal I arose from my inconspicuous seat and approached him and the sucker. Said I:

"Any of yo' ole Yankees got a chaw of terbacker?"

My partner looked up, as if annoyed, and sharply replied "No!"

"Yo' ole Yankees are mighty stingy," I'd say.

"Down wha' Ah live when Ah asks a feller f'r a chaw of terbacker he gives me one."

"Where do you live?" my partner asked.

"Ah come f'om Kaintucky. Tha's wha' Ah was bawn, bred an' raised—wha' we got the prettiest gals, the fastest hawses and the best cawn liquoh in the whole worl'—Sir, by God, sir, yo' ole Yankees ain't got nuthin' up here—nuthin'!"

You see the idea at the opening was to make the sucker so mad by my attacks on Yankees that he would be glad to trim me, and all through I was putting across my stupidity.

"You don't seem to like the Yankees very much," my partner said.

"Naw," I rejoined. "We don't like the ole Yankees. We fit agin' the ole Yankees in the wa'. My brother Zeke, he fit in the wa’an' so did Dad."

Here, my partner whispered to the sucker: "Let's string this fellow along a bit; he's apparently a character."

To me he would say, with sudden cordiality: "Sit down, Kaintucky. Sit down. What are you doing up here?"

"Ah been up to Chycawga town," I'd say, sitting down in the opposite seat. "Dad allus sent my brother Bill up with the hawses to sell 'em, but Bill took sick with the rheumaticks an' he couldn't come. Dad said to Mom: 'We'll send Bud up with the hawses this time—' Bud, that's my name; Ah'm Bud Alexander. That's me. Dad says: 'They cain't slick Bud.'

"Becuz down wha' Ah live everybody says Ah'm as keen as a brier. Ah was stoppin' at that Paycific Tavern (Grand Pacific Hotel). That's the highest hotel in the whole worl'. Well, it oughter be. That Chycawga town is the biggest town in the whole worl'.

"They got histin' machines there. Just put yore finger on a button and sh'll shoot yo' up wha' yo' live.

One of the ##### that worked that histin' machine —he looked like one of ouah ##### we call Eph. Ah used to ride up an' down with him and talk to him.

He was like our old Eph at home, an' he tol' me he'd show me aroun' the town.

"He took me up one place—a gal house (I chuckled here)—and the gals didn't have dresses furder down than this (pointing to above the knees and chuckling again) an' they axed five dollars for a bottle of pop.

They don't get but five cents for pop down wha' Ah live, but it don't taste the same. But Ah didn't care.

Ah got plenty money. Ah sold the hawses." (And I showed a big roll I was carrying in my inside coat pocket.)

"Young man," my partner then said, "you shouldn't be showing big sums of money like that around in public. Some one is likely to take it away from you. Put it up."

"No ole Yankee is smaht enough to take money away from Bud Alexander," I replied. (My hot Southern blood was boiling). "Eph took me into one place and the' were a feller there. He had some cyards slickin' 'em aroun' on top o' that glass snake box.

"One of the cyards had an ole man on it; another had a' ole woman on it, and the other had a little boy with a hoop. And he could sneak 'em around so fast you couldn't tell. You had to find the little boy with the hoop.

"He tole me Ah couldn't find it, an' Ah thought Ah could tell wha' it were. Then we just got bettin'. He axed me if Ah would bet three hundred dollars Ah could find it. Ah said Ah would, and Ah jus' pulled the cyard right out and put it up. But when Ah went to pick it up it weren't there; it were another cyard.

"An' then he slicked 'em over again, an' Ah bet him three hundred dollars more, and gosh durned if Ah could tell it. Ah lost six hundred dollars, but Ah didn't keer. Ah tole him if he'd show me how to do it Ah'd give him three hundred dollars for the cyards, cuz ev'ry Satidy afternoon down at Davis's log-rollin' groun's we have pony racin' and hawse-shoe pitchin' and chicken fightin' (a regular hell of a time, you see). Luke Hawkins—he comes to see my sister, Sal.

My sister Sal used to be a schoolma'am. He rides a purty rackin' (colloquial for pacing) hawse, Luke does, an' Ah'm goin' to slick him with this game out of thet there rackin' hawse, an' make Luke walk home when he comes to see Sister Sal. Ah been practisin' it. Ah c'n do it so fast Ah can't tell wha' it is mahself.

Ah got the ole cyards right here. Ah just bringed 'em along."

My partner said:

"Let's see them."

"Oh, naw," I said. "Ah won't show 'em to yo'—yo’ ole Yankees—you'd steal 'em."

"We wouldn't steal them," my partner said. "Come on, Bud, let's see them."

"Ah'll show yo' ef yo' ole Yankees won't steal 'em. Ah'll show yo'." (And I show the three cards customarily used in Three-Card Monte—the woman, the man, and the boy with the hoop.)

"Show us here," my partner said, spreading a duster over his knees. I threw the cards around clumsily face down, and said:

"Now, yo' all got to find the boy with the hoop."

"I'll bet you five dollars I can pick him out," my partner said.

"Ah'll bet yo'," I said. "Put up yore money. Ah wouldn't trust no ole Yankee for no money, nohow.

Put it up in yore old uncle's ban'." (The sucker always was called "uncle" or "brother.")

We each put up five dollars, and my partner won.

I clumsily dropped a card, and while I stooped down to retrieve it, my partner reached over and turned up a corner on the little boy with the hoop, and showed it to the sucker, and whispered: "We'll have some fun with this fellow."

Then he said to me:

"I'll bet you a hundred dollars I can pick it up this time."

I said to him:

"Ah'll go yo'."

When my partner won again, I said:

"Say, Ah reckon as how yo've seen this hyer afore.

Yo' all are too smaht fo' me Ah reckon. Yo' all beat me two times." And I started to pick up the cards.

"My uncle will make you a bet," my partner said.

"All right," I said. "Ah'll try him onct."

The sucker hopped right to it, and pulled out his money, which we had been waiting for.

"Ah won't play for no more chicken feed," I said.

"Yo' ole Yankee cowards. In the wa' you was cowards. Ah'll bet yo' all yo' got. That's what Ah'll do. Put her right up there in yore kin's hands."

The sucker put up his roll, and picked the wrong card.

"Thet ain't the little boy with the hoop," I said.

"Yo' done lost."

I collected the bets, and added:

"Ah'm goin' back to the bed cyar and go to sleep. Ah' slick 'em aroun' for yo' all in the mawnin,' an' bet yo' all yo' want." (I acted as if I didn't know the sucker had lost all he had, or would lose.) Then I went, perhaps back to another car, where my second partner had another sucker, or perhaps I changed my make-up and stepped off the train at a wayside station, and went back to town to wait for my pals to join me there.

One of my pals told me that a conductor said to him:

"I understand all about that game, that the fellow who is acting the rube is supposed to look like a damned fool, but that one (pointing at me) really is a damned fool. Isn't he?" And that tickled me pink, because I was proud of my make-up, and proud of my acting in the Three Card Monte Gyp.


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