The Hopkins Hoax
Article published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, Sunday, March 28th 1926
Call of the Wild Subway
Lures Hero of Novels Here
Buffalo Bill Rider Who Saw Woolly
Days on the Frontier
Bosses Broad Street Gang
Out in the great open spaces of North Broad street, where Nature is at her worst and the roving winds sigh through not a single treetop; where subways are subways and the law has a representative at every corner, there is hidden a man who, no matter where he works, will never be a willing prisoner of the city.
Born in Wyoming, in the cattle country, he is now a foreman on a subway construction job. Son of "Lonesome Charles Hopkins," famous scout of pioneer days, and a Sioux mother; ex-horse-wrangler roper, rider, member of Buffalo Bill's traveling troupe - and now at work beneath tons of city masonry.
Only successful rider of "Dynamite," the famous bucking bad horse of the rodeos; guide of many an expedition into the western wilds - and going to work every day like a thousand others in the city.
Such is the present situation of Frank Hopkins, the "Buffalo Frank" of other days. A tall, spare man, with wonderful breadth of shoulder and the long legs of the true horseman, he can speak fluently in six or seven dialects and be silent in many more.
"It's the memories that does it," he said apologetically. "I don't talk more than two words for days; and then some one gets me going on about hawsses or ropin' or the plains, and it seems like I never will stop. It was my real life, out there. I live it over again and again."
A lean brown face with heavy square jaw and spreading eyebrows tell of Hopkin's long life under western suns, which have tanned and seamed and weathered him, yet, somehow, not aged him. He would have to tell of his nearly sixty years of varied life, for they are not apparent in line or sinew.
Hero of Zane Grey Novels
The man is not unknown to fame in his way, either, for he has figured as hero of several novels of Zane Grey, and incidents of his life have furnished material for a moving picture of William S. Hart's. In the summer of 1907, when Grey was gathering material for a novel to be called "The Last of the Plainsmen," Hopkins was acting as guide for a party consisting of Richard Wallace, who was a Government naturalist; Zane Grey and other men from the East. the party wished to scale the north rim wall of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and had been making slow progress with their guides. Hopkins took them in hand and made a success of the expedition.
As a boy on the Wyoming ranch of his father, Hopkins was as familiar with Indians as with white men. At the age of 12 he performed an exploit of which he is as proud as of anything he ever did. News of the location of the Crow Indians' reservation, which had just been allotted, had to be carried from the scouting party back to the tribe. not an adult member of the party could be spared. The 12-year-old got the job, and from the Prior Mountains, in Montana, to the Shoshone Valley he rode a distance of 180 miles through the wildest country imaginable to the village of the Crow leader. At an all-night council he talked with the Indians as man to man, defining and describing the territory with the detail and knowledge of a man.
Growing up with horses as he did, his skill in managing and training them led to his first real employment, the job with Buffalo Bill
Makes Hit with Colonel Cody
"I was kind of prominent on Frontier Day in Wyoming that year and riding all over the lot. Colonel Cody somehow took a notion to me and invited me to join his outfit. I did and stayed with them for years. We traveled all over the country and went to Europe, too. I used to manage his animals in winter quarters, and in the shows I did fancy roping and riding. And my son Frank rode Searchlight for a first prize in Tex Austin's rodeo in New York, too. But I was the only man who ever rode that old devil Dynamite to a fare-you-well."
Hopkins married when he was young, a Canadian girl with whom he had fallen in love while a boy. He has eight husky sons and two daughters and a home in Bergen County, across the Hudson from New York. The oldest son, Joe, stands six feet seven and three-quarter inches in his stockings, and has become a forest ranger in the Yellowstone. The others have taken up various occupations, but as their father says, they "followed the sun as soon as they got out of school" and set out for the ranch which their father still maintains in Wyoming.
Zane Grey Hero Here
"They sure do run to height," says the father. "Even the youngest stands six feet one at fourteen years. And they are all good boys at that. They don't even smoke. I don't smoke myself, and in all my sixty years I have never known the taste of liquor. No sir, the stuff has never bothered me a bit. I hold a man needs all the faculties he's got and has no business mixing his senses up with alcohol. I don't play cards any more, and haven't for years. There was one time when I quit cold and quit for good."
Little Game in Jackson's Hole
There was a little game on in Jackson's Hole, Wyoming, when it was a lawless, quick-shooting town, populated with men quick to take offense and lightning on the trigger. Hopkins was one player, and among the other three was a stranger. Hopkins had been winning heavily. The air was laden with menace. Finally, the stranger pushed back his chair.
"I quit," he said heavily. "I quit and I'm broke. I got nothing left." Hopkins looked at him with a steady eye. "Stranger," he said smoothly, "I ain't going to let you go away broke when I'm winning." And separating two ten-dollar bills from his winnings, he gave them to the man.
The stranger looked at him warily. "Well," he said slowly, "you must be real white. That's the squarest deal I ever had. Never yet did a winner give me any of his money." And he stretched out his left hand for the bills.
Hopkins handed them to him and suddenly the stranger pulled his gun with his right hand and fired a shot over the table top. Hopkins reached like lightning for his gun, grabbed the muzzle and forced it down. The bullet tore through his left hand, leaving a scar that is still visible.
"He couldn't stand me winning, you see, he thought he could get away with anything in Jackson's Hole in those days." Hopkins went on, "I twisted the gun away from him, wounded as I was, and hit him on the head with the butt of it. He faded right down to the floor. 'Boys,' I said, 'I don't know whether I have killed a skunk or not.' But he came round when we put water on his face.
'Stranger, you called me a square-deal man,' I said. 'I'm going to prove your words. They tell me you got a horse out here. You get on that horse and you make him move.' Then I broke his gun and took the cartridges out of it. 'These fit my gun,' I told him, 'and you know what for. Take your gun, stranger, and ride. And man, don't you turn around!' Well, he lit out, and I turned to the boys there and got them to tie up my wing. And since that night I have never played another card game.
"However, that was a long time ago, it seems to me now," reflects this son of the plains.
It was in 1906 that he left the Buffalo Bill show for good. He had been to Europe on several trips and his wife suggested it was time to stay with his family awhile.
"She was dead right," he conceded. "I had to make a living some way, and I took up construction. Ever since then I have been at it and I have worked on the Philadelphia subway a year and a half now. It isn't quite the same, being in the city, though," and the light of other days faded from his smile.
So that is the man who bosses a section of subway construction far below the daylight, in the all-obliterating city. And when the excavating machinery rattles and roars in his ears, he sometimes dreams it is the thunder of a thousand hoofs across the plains.