Art Sheely

This is another story from the book, “Waif Of Times”, written by my Great Uncle, Lee Wallace. He was either the presiding judge or defense attorney in this case. He was know for his oratorical skills and was a self-styled poet, so I favor him being the defense attorney.

Art Sheely was prosecuted on a charge of goat theft. The main witnesses for the State, two trappers running their lines on a cold morning at sunrise, from a high cliff, swore they saw Sheely catch and kill the goat with his knife far down in the canyon below them. That about this time Sheely discovered the witnesses and ran away without the goat and that they immediately reported the matter to the sheriff, who went to the scene, found the dead goat and nearby a bloody open knife. They testified they had seen Sheely a short time before the theft with just such a knife.

At the trial, these two witnesses on cross examination admitted they had lost money as trappers, that they knew there was a standing $500.00 reward offered by the Goat Raisers Association for evidence ‘sufficient and convicting’ anyone guilty of goat theft, that they knew Sheely lived three miles away, that he was a shiftless, lazy non-working kind of fellow.

Defense council placed Moss, Sheely’s nearest neighbor, on the stand who testified that on the day previous to the alleged theft, the weather being cold, he killed his hogs and as a neighborly act the same afternoon carried Sheely a flour sack full of spareribs and backbones; proved by merchants from every town in the county that the knife found near the dead goat was a standard brand and hundreds of customers bought them– that the sheriff himself owned one of the same brand then in his possession bought long before the goat was killed.

Sheely denied any knowledge of the theft, claimed he was home asleep at the time charged. In this connection Counsel for Sheely urged that with Sheely’s aversion for work, and the supply of meat then on hand, there was no occasion for him to steal the goat, especially at that time of day and so far away and in the freezing weather, and that the whole case was a frame-up by the trappers to secure the reward.

Counsel for the defense composed and in closing his argument to the jury recited the following:

The trappers stood on the mountain top,
The shades of night had fled,
They saw the goats beneath the drop,
And this is what they said:

“The skunk and coon no more we’ll trap,
The revenue’s to slow,
For the goatmen we’ll give Art Sheely the “rap”
And then we’ll grab the dough.”

“So we’ll cut the throat of that nanny goat,
And then away we’ll speed
And tell the law Art Sheely we saw
Commit the awful deed.”

“He’s one of the down and out,
He’s got no show to win,
And when we take a swear at him, no doubt,
We’ll land him in the pen.”

Sheely was acquitted!