Mama's Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Outlaws–Jesse James is in Jail Today

There is a certain romance about outlaws that our society loves to flirt with –as long as the law broken doesn’t seem too heinous nor the victims too sympathetic.  Yesterday, though, a Jesse James Perry first threatened some other folk here in Southern Humboldt and then ended up stabbing a local deputy, Chad Zeck. A press release tells the story.

Upon arrival in the area, Deputies spotted the suspect who immediately ran from
the scene. The Deputies went in foot pursuit west bound on Sprowel Creek Road.
During the foot pursuit the suspect stopped on two separate occasions to throw
rocks at the Deputies.

The involved Deputies eventually caught up to the suspect and a physical
altercation ensued. As the Deputies struggled with the suspect, the suspect
produced a knife and was able to stab Deputy Chad Zeck one time in the abdomen
below his bullet resistant vest. With the assistance of a member of the public,
the suspect was eventually taken into custody. Deputy Zeck was transported to
Redwood memorial Hospital where he received treatment for his injuries.

The suspect was identified at the scene as Jesse James Petty age 20. Petty was
transported to the Humboldt County Correctional Facility where he was charged
with 664/187 PC, attempted murder of a peace officer.

Any witnesses who were not contacted at the scene are encouraged to contact the
Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office at (707) 445-7251.

In posts at the Times Standard and Eric Kirk’s blog, no one is expressing sympathy with the young stabber.  His crime seems obviously an outrage against society.

What explains our collective repudiation of the modern Jesse and our society’s romanticizing of who he was named for.  I wonder if his parents dreamed that he would be a glorious romantic figure struggling against authority. I wonder if today they are wishing they named him Bill or George anything but Jesse. My own husband is named after Kevin Barry, a celebrated young Irish hero who was executed for refusing to inform on his comrades and for his part in the death of three British soldiers. The original Kevin Barry became a symbol to the Irish of resistance against the British interlopers. The original Jesse James became revered in spite of his robbing banks and murdering bank tellers and bystanders because he was perceived  to be a “symbol of Confederate defiance of Reconstruction.” The more ordinary people sympathize with the crime committed  and the perceived reasons the criminal has for breaking the law, the more romantic the law-breaker is.

Living where I do, writing often about marijuana farmers, I can’t help apply this to them.  As much as the government’s laws against cannabis are seen as oppressive then so too will growers be perceived as romantic figures.  But they are neither shining romantic heroes nor tawdry killers for the most part.  They are just folks caught in the crush between law, the ancient human need for mind altering substances, and economics.

For now there is a certain romance about outlaws and there is a certain romance about living like one, or naming your son after one. But the romance comes only at the expense of society.  Until our laws are just, until one group of us doesn’t feel oppressed, there will always be outlaws who seem like heroes to the rest of us .  And we are going to have kids who can’t tell the difference.    And the modern day Jesse’s will rise up to stab society again and again while groping blindly to live up to the romance we paste onto the past.

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29 comments

  • A canadian explains it like this. the western expansion of the US was done by outlaws and adventurers and as towns built up they brought in lawmen. In Canada the Mounties went west and established Communities, with laws and the settlers followed.

  • Fiance here:

    Kym, I read, on a daily basis what the kids in SoHum are doing and about how they think. While many struggle to do well in school, stay in school and try hard to pursue other interest that will do much to help them break out of the “outlaw” lifestyle that their parents imposed on them there are still way too many that glamorize the outlaw way of life and feel like they are somehow entitled and bulletproof. I read about local law enforcement catching underage kids with alcohol and drugs and letting the kids go, only taking their drugs and alcohol.

    They are not held accountable for their actions at a young age so therefore they don’t feel like they will when they get older. They are taught to disrespect the law and law enforcement officers from an early age. How can anyone expect them to be anything but outlaws under these circumstances.

    Too many parents ignore their childrens drinking and drug abuse. They let them run wild and laugh about thier childhood misconduct. Many of these kids (one whom we both know well) watch as local officials, be it the sheriffs office, cps and the courts allow their parents to get away with way too much…why, because they grow and have lots of money. The wrong signals are being sent to these children and I fear for many of them. Especially the one we both know and love.

  • Fiance here:

    Kym, I read, on a daily basis what the kids in SoHum are doing and about how they think. While many struggle to do well in school, stay in school and try hard to pursue other interest that will do much to help them break out of the “outlaw” lifestyle that their parents imposed on them there are still way too many that glamorize the outlaw way of life and feel like they are somehow entitled and bulletproof. I read about local law enforcement catching underage kids with alcohol and drugs and letting the kids go, only taking their drugs and alcohol.

    They are not held accountable for their actions at a young age so therefore they don’t feel like they will when they get older. They are taught to disrespect the law and law enforcement officers from an early age. How can anyone expect them to be anything but outlaws under these circumstances.

    Too many parents ignore their childrens drinking and drug abuse. They let them run wild and laugh about thier childhood misconduct. Many of these kids (one whom we both know well) watch as local officials, be it the sheriffs office, cps and the courts allow their parents to get away with way too much…why, because they grow and have lots of money. The wrong signals are being sent to these children and I fear for many of them. Especially the one we both know and love.

  • A thought-provoking post Kym.

    I like the way you tie history in with the present. Skillfully done.

  • A thought-provoking post Kym.

    I like the way you tie history in with the present. Skillfully done.

  • “A canadian explains it like this. the western expansion of the US was done by outlaws and adventurers and as towns built up they brought in lawmen. In Canada the Mounties went west and established Communities, with laws and the settlers followed.”

    Tom.
    Sadly, apples aren’t oranges, and the U.S. isn’t Canada. The United states planed to do exactly that, station army troops to keep the peace. What they didn’t plan on was people finding gold in California, causing great masses of people to move here. The second thing that they didn’t plan on was the civil war breaking out and pulling the pony soldiers back east, instead of staying in California and keeping the peace.

    You see, I’m used to people telling us what we did wrong. The only thing that I would tell you is to try to learn a little of our history before you tell us your version of our history.

  • “A canadian explains it like this. the western expansion of the US was done by outlaws and adventurers and as towns built up they brought in lawmen. In Canada the Mounties went west and established Communities, with laws and the settlers followed.”

    Tom.
    Sadly, apples aren’t oranges, and the U.S. isn’t Canada. The United states planed to do exactly that, station army troops to keep the peace. What they didn’t plan on was people finding gold in California, causing great masses of people to move here. The second thing that they didn’t plan on was the civil war breaking out and pulling the pony soldiers back east, instead of staying in California and keeping the peace.

    You see, I’m used to people telling us what we did wrong. The only thing that I would tell you is to try to learn a little of our history before you tell us your version of our history.

  • P.S. Good post Kym.

    Signed: The Descendant of Outlaws, and one that follows his own code.
    Ernie

  • P.S. Good post Kym.

    Signed: The Descendant of Outlaws, and one that follows his own code.
    Ernie

  • Good thoughts, Kym. The saddest part for me is when romantic rebels lose themselves in mindless cultural conformity (‘outlaws’ becoming rich materialists for example). We hope our rebels stand for something besides themselves. Many of them don’t for long. Many (like bloodthirsty psychopath Jesse James) never did.

    Ernie, what you say is true. On the other hand, consider what the Canadian Mounties did to Americans (mostly from California) during the Klondike gold rush: They stopped them at the Alaskan border and arrested those who didn’t portage *two tons* of supplies with them up to Bonanza Creek. Tom’s quote is true: in Canada order preceded settlement. In America order was often built upon mob violence (most famously the San Francisco vigilante governments of the 1850s), or not really at all. Violence was some landowners’ best friend well after the settlement slaughters.

    Canada had nothing like the savage land-hunger of America, which as you know drenched many settlers in the blood of the vanquished. Settlers had killed more of the dispossessed than soldiers all through the three centuries that we took America from them. Not so up North. The scariest stuff going in the 19th century Canadian wilderness, by contrast, were rumors and threats of American invasion.

  • Good thoughts, Kym. The saddest part for me is when romantic rebels lose themselves in mindless cultural conformity (‘outlaws’ becoming rich materialists for example). We hope our rebels stand for something besides themselves. Many of them don’t for long. Many (like bloodthirsty psychopath Jesse James) never did.

    Ernie, what you say is true. On the other hand, consider what the Canadian Mounties did to Americans (mostly from California) during the Klondike gold rush: They stopped them at the Alaskan border and arrested those who didn’t portage *two tons* of supplies with them up to Bonanza Creek. Tom’s quote is true: in Canada order preceded settlement. In America order was often built upon mob violence (most famously the San Francisco vigilante governments of the 1850s), or not really at all. Violence was some landowners’ best friend well after the settlement slaughters.

    Canada had nothing like the savage land-hunger of America, which as you know drenched many settlers in the blood of the vanquished. Settlers had killed more of the dispossessed than soldiers all through the three centuries that we took America from them. Not so up North. The scariest stuff going in the 19th century Canadian wilderness, by contrast, were rumors and threats of American invasion.

  • Longwind
    The Mounties diligence is duly noted, their acts were commendable. Maybe I was too harsh with Tom, but I get sick to death of the California pioneers having to be the bad guy all the time. They were left to the own resources, and to their own devises. There was no law, other than survival of the fittest, kill or be killed, and they survived, I’m am the product of their survival.

    The Canadian Mounties had the benefit of 60 years of experience over the California Gold Rush, and they didn’t have a civil war happening on their east coast. I feel that those two factors made a big difference. Hindsight is brilliant.

  • Longwind
    The Mounties diligence is duly noted, their acts were commendable. Maybe I was too harsh with Tom, but I get sick to death of the California pioneers having to be the bad guy all the time. They were left to the own resources, and to their own devises. There was no law, other than survival of the fittest, kill or be killed, and they survived, I’m am the product of their survival.

    The Canadian Mounties had the benefit of 60 years of experience over the California Gold Rush, and they didn’t have a civil war happening on their east coast. I feel that those two factors made a big difference. Hindsight is brilliant.

  • Longwind
    It’s funny that you would mention the Chilkoot pass and the two ton of provision requirement.

    According to family legend, the true lost to history, my very own great great grandfather Ed Branscomb left Laytonville to seek his fortune in the “safe” Canadian wilderness. They thought it was safe because they didn’t have the Indian problem, and the Mounties were there to keep law and order. Grandpa was caught up in a claim dispute, he shot and killed two men. (In self defense, but of course)

    Grandpa figured out that the Mounties really couldn’t keep it safe, and they were having The same problems that his father Benjamin Branscomb had left the gold field of California for. He came home, and decided the Laytonville was a lot safer. He did alright for himself and died fairly wealthy by Laytonville standards.

    He left his “two ton of provisions” behind as a lesson well learned. I still have the 41caliber Colt lightning pistol that he had as part of his provisions that the mounties required. I imagine that he was glad that he had it.

  • Longwind
    It’s funny that you would mention the Chilkoot pass and the two ton of provision requirement.

    According to family legend, the true lost to history, my very own great great grandfather Ed Branscomb left Laytonville to seek his fortune in the “safe” Canadian wilderness. They thought it was safe because they didn’t have the Indian problem, and the Mounties were there to keep law and order. Grandpa was caught up in a claim dispute, he shot and killed two men. (In self defense, but of course)

    Grandpa figured out that the Mounties really couldn’t keep it safe, and they were having The same problems that his father Benjamin Branscomb had left the gold field of California for. He came home, and decided the Laytonville was a lot safer. He did alright for himself and died fairly wealthy by Laytonville standards.

    He left his “two ton of provisions” behind as a lesson well learned. I still have the 41caliber Colt lightning pistol that he had as part of his provisions that the mounties required. I imagine that he was glad that he had it.

  • Awesome story, Ernie, thank you! The odds are pretty good that Ed shot a couple of Californians up there–we did everything we could to teach the Canadians a thing or two about disorder. But they’re slow.

    I think the huge advantage Canada had was being so cold and wet and useless for anything but trap lines. Nobody but Mounties followed the voyageurs into the wilderness up there, while down here our mountain men (if they survived) retired into real work as trail and tour guides.

    Britain gave up Oregon and Washington, which they had claims as strong as ours to, because they knew they couldn’t stem our tide of land-starved young men with long rifles, some of whom could reload and shoot backwards while running from Indians.

    Our frontiersmen boggled the civilized brains of the Brits at the Battle of New Orleans by cutting down seven thousand men with small-arms fire. We were one scary-ass multitude, and I love your proofs of it.

  • Awesome story, Ernie, thank you! The odds are pretty good that Ed shot a couple of Californians up there–we did everything we could to teach the Canadians a thing or two about disorder. But they’re slow.

    I think the huge advantage Canada had was being so cold and wet and useless for anything but trap lines. Nobody but Mounties followed the voyageurs into the wilderness up there, while down here our mountain men (if they survived) retired into real work as trail and tour guides.

    Britain gave up Oregon and Washington, which they had claims as strong as ours to, because they knew they couldn’t stem our tide of land-starved young men with long rifles, some of whom could reload and shoot backwards while running from Indians.

    Our frontiersmen boggled the civilized brains of the Brits at the Battle of New Orleans by cutting down seven thousand men with small-arms fire. We were one scary-ass multitude, and I love your proofs of it.

  • And I love how reading your stories makes the outlaw life seem romantic all over again. I love to escape from the reality of our local Jesse James to the past.

  • And I love how reading your stories makes the outlaw life seem romantic all over again. I love to escape from the reality of our local Jesse James to the past.

  • K at the bookstore

    I know young Jesse, though I didn’t know his middle or last name until I saw the police report (and I certainly hope Officer Zeck, one of my favorites on the force, is recovering well; he has been a model of courage and restraint). Our Jesse was known to be troubled. Over on Eric’s site Eric has mentioned mental health services (and how we need more of those) and I think Ernie mentioned the number of 5150 cases (danger to self or others) . I saw Jesse a few days before this event and felt he was cycling out of control. But the question is always–what do you do? How do you do it? When I saw him he was simply walking past me on the street, his face tight, his walk quick. I just said “how you doin’?” He didn’t reply.
    With things like…well, I’m no doc, but with mental health issues…it’s so hard for a layperson to know the right response. The right words. The healing.

  • K at the bookstore

    I know young Jesse, though I didn’t know his middle or last name until I saw the police report (and I certainly hope Officer Zeck, one of my favorites on the force, is recovering well; he has been a model of courage and restraint). Our Jesse was known to be troubled. Over on Eric’s site Eric has mentioned mental health services (and how we need more of those) and I think Ernie mentioned the number of 5150 cases (danger to self or others) . I saw Jesse a few days before this event and felt he was cycling out of control. But the question is always–what do you do? How do you do it? When I saw him he was simply walking past me on the street, his face tight, his walk quick. I just said “how you doin’?” He didn’t reply.
    With things like…well, I’m no doc, but with mental health issues…it’s so hard for a layperson to know the right response. The right words. The healing.

  • Fiance here:

    Outlaws raising children = Outlaws raising Outlaws.

    I you have to worry about getting busted for whatever it is your doing then you are an oulaw!

  • Fiance here:

    Outlaws raising children = Outlaws raising Outlaws.

    I you have to worry about getting busted for whatever it is your doing then you are an oulaw!

  • Phew!
    While I miss my old Humboldt, I’m glad I landed when I did. Old Timer’s stories used to scare the B-Jeesus out of me, though stories of the Native People’s never had that effect, except when they were being hunted down and murdered, of course. It is definitely one experience to sit at computer and send off “history” with a click of the button, and quite another to live it. It is sad that the modern Jesse is at such loose ends, and lucky that more mayhem didn’t happen. Sad that jail is the closest many get to “help.”
    Once again, Kym, you’ve given us a coherent something to consider. Thanks.

  • Phew!
    While I miss my old Humboldt, I’m glad I landed when I did. Old Timer’s stories used to scare the B-Jeesus out of me, though stories of the Native People’s never had that effect, except when they were being hunted down and murdered, of course. It is definitely one experience to sit at computer and send off “history” with a click of the button, and quite another to live it. It is sad that the modern Jesse is at such loose ends, and lucky that more mayhem didn’t happen. Sad that jail is the closest many get to “help.”
    Once again, Kym, you’ve given us a coherent something to consider. Thanks.

  • To all of you thinking that my son was named after an outlaw should get your story straight before you gossip! My son his first name was after king davids son in the bible his middle name happens to be after host great grandfather I do not romantasize about an outlaw my sob even though he is mentally I’ll is very spiritual and a good kid who’s had a hard life so I will pray for all of you who gossip and do not know what is correct and assume the worst my prayers are with officer zeck may he have a quick recovery and I will pray for all of the readers and posters on this blog

  • To all of you thinking that my son was named after an outlaw should get your story straight before you gossip! My son his first name was after king davids son in the bible his middle name happens to be after host great grandfather I do not romantasize about an outlaw my sob even though he is mentally I’ll is very spiritual and a good kid who’s had a hard life so I will pray for all of you who gossip and do not know what is correct and assume the worst my prayers are with officer zeck may he have a quick recovery and I will pray for all of the readers and posters on this blog

  • Heidi,

    I’m sorry I made an assumption that turned out to be untrue. And I’m sorry for your pain. Thank you for taking the time to set me straight and to say kind words to Officer Zeck. The families of the mentally ill and those who break society’s rules suffer the most. For anything I did that made your pain worse, I apologize.

  • Heidi,

    I’m sorry I made an assumption that turned out to be untrue. And I’m sorry for your pain. Thank you for taking the time to set me straight and to say kind words to Officer Zeck. The families of the mentally ill and those who break society’s rules suffer the most. For anything I did that made your pain worse, I apologize.

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