Old Man Wright rides into exile

Posted by | May 14, 2012

Sunday Magazine–St. Louis Post Dispatch–May 9, 1926

OLD MAN WRIGHT RIDES INTO EXILE
So as to Git Away From Trouble, This Settler of the Hills–Fighter and Killer–Sits Astride His Mare and Goes Slowly Down to the Valleys.
By HARRY R. BURKE
Of the Post-Dispatch Staff

Pikeville, KY—Old Man Lige Wright packed his traps in the saddlebags and gingerly pulled himself across the back of his good bay mare. He rode out then through Osborn Gap and into Virginia slowly. For Old Man Lige Wright was doing the hardest thing he had ever done. He was running away from trouble.

Back of him was a lifetime of warfare. And ELIJAH WRIGHT was essentially a man of peace. He feared no one. He told no lies. And he paid his debts. There were notches on his gun–speaking figuratively–but that was Lige Wright’s misfortune. The luckiest unlucky man that ever lived! Twice he had been condemned to spend his life in the penitentiary.

Once he had been sentenced to hang by the neck until he was dead. And in Virginia–whither now he was going–Elijah Wright had served to the full a life sentence for murder. For in the Commonwealth of Virginia, eighteen years in prison is, constructively, a life term. His debt to the Commonwealth had been paid in full.

Old Man Lige WrightFour years ago at the door of the penitentiary, the Commonwealth of Virginia had given Elijah Wright a suit of clothes and a bill and sent him out to face life’s battle. And he had gone back to his native Kentucky hills to begin once again. There trouble had come upon him–trouble that was not of his own seeking, though the moon¬shine liquor that brought it on had been.

And now he was going into voluntary exile. It was not that he was afraid. In the old man’s face you could read the fearlessness of an eagle. There was no man lived who could say that Old Man Lige Wright was afraid. He had leaped too often to meet death face to face.

His right hand, which gingerly held the reins as the bay mare ambled through the gap, was still stiff from a deep cut between forefinger and the stub of what at one time had been his thumb. This cut was a mark left by the butcher knife when he seized it as his enemy lunged that night last March.

And as he rode into exile Old Man Lige Wright thanked God that those enemies from behind had knocked him senseless with his own gun–taken while he wasn’t look¬ing from his saddlebags, wounding him so sorely that he rode even now in a dizzy haze and sometimes saw double as images danced before his eyes. He thanked God that the blow had prevented him from seizing that murderous knife and turning it against the wielder.

Read the full story here

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