“One-eyed Charlie was a staunch supporter of the Republican party and wholeheartedly participated when a political argument ended in a fistfight, because he loved a brawl as much as politics, and though he was not one of the biggest men, he was wiry and his punch was dynamite,” the bus driver started, and all of us hung on his lips, expecting another great story.
There are only some who can tell a good story and a few out of them who are extraordinary at it, our bus-driver belonged in the last category.
He did not use his hands to emphasis his story, good god, he better keep his hands on the steering wheel, or use his voice mimicking. He did not have to do any of this because his stories were interesting and entertaining enough and his subdued delivery added to it.
We were on our way from the south of western Canada to lake Tahoe by tour-bus, having arranged to have the story teller as our driver who carried on with his story
“About Charlie's early life is little more known than that he was orphaned at an early age and as a youngster, together with hundreds of others, ventured west in search of excitement and fortune.
He loved being with horses and sought them out for company whenever he could. He slept with them in the barn as well as under the stars.”
“His affection for horses never diminished, and when later in life he owned a team of spirited horses with which he drove a stagecoach, he kept the practice of sleeping with them even though he by then had the resources to sleep in a hotel at night. He did not shy away from from his compatriots and was liked at at most bars in several states for his companionship and known for his debating skills. And for his hard fistfights.”
“He was a staunch supporter of the Republican party and wholeheartedly participated when an argument about a political issue ended in a fistfight, because he loved a brawl as much as politics, and though he was not one of the biggest men, he was wiry and his punch was like dynamite.”
“He just loved his horses and when one of them stumbled and got lame he was heartbroken, tearfully he shot it between the eyes. The horse fell but his foreleg spasmodically kicked the light out of Charlie's eye. He covered it with a black patch and was since known as On-eyed Charlie.”
“In spite of thus being handicapped he was still a good shot and always drove with two loaded guns. When one day he was delivering a payroll to a mining camp, a four men bandit-gang confronted him. One-eyed Charlie whipped his horses into a gallop and drove right into them with both his guns blazing. Three of the bandits went down and the fourth took off as if his life depended on it, which in fact it did.”
“Age, sleeping under the skies and in drafty barns took its toll, more and more he felt the nagging pains of rheumatism. He then decided with regret to end the life that gave him so much excitement and enjoyment and sadly said farewell to his horses, freeing them from of their harnesses and shooed them off into the wilderness to roam as they wished.”
“He settled down near Sacramento, where he spend the rest of his life with friends. He was found peacefully dead by one of them. When they prepared him for burial, they found to their horror that Charlie was a woman.
Charles Parkhurst, known as One-eye Charlie proved to be Charlotta Parkhurst and under that name she was buried.”
“Charlotte, orphaned at an early age, was likely born in the early eighteen hundreds and as a young woman had little choice of having a bright future – she did not have the education to become a teacher, she didn't want to get married, to hire herself out as a maid abhorred her, as did a life of prostitution.
Her chances of success were much better as a man, and therefore she took the identity of a man, dressed like one, behaved like one and changed her name to Charlie. Not one ever questioned her gender, neither did anyone find out until she was dead.”
“Hundred years after her death someone erected a monument to memorialise the story of this incredible woman, Charlotta Parkhurst in the San Francisco Valley in the 1970's. It states on there among other things that Charlotte was the first woman in the state to vote, in fact she voted fifty-two years before women were given the right to vote!”
Our storyteller driver drove us through the San Francisco Valley were we paused momentarily at the memento to that remarkable woman with her incredible story.