The Royal Hare never knew what hit him. It was feeding on the tender shoots of new spring grass, 50 feet upwind of the hunter and never noticed the threat approaching. Boom, the shotgun belched out a cloud of foul smelling smoke, blowing it right back on Shaw Wallace and as it cleared, he saw the hare flopping on the ground.
Hunting on his Father’s land in County Derry, Ireland, it never occurred to Shaw that the large rabbit would be anything but a fine dinner for his family. His Father, Jesse, was a well to do farmer and head of Clan Wallace in Ireland, a post Shaw would one day hold.
What Shaw did know, but paid little attention to, was that he had just committed a crime against the Crown. He was only 19 years old and enjoying an afternoon hunt, but in 1842, the King of England owned all of the wild game in Ireland and it was a crime, punishable by death, to kill a Royal Hare!
Shaw’s family, the Wallace’s, were originally Orangemen who came over from Scotland in 1608 to conquer and repopulate England’s Plantation, Ireland. The battle had been going on for over 200 years and a practical stalemate had emerged, with the Protestants dominating Ulster, a northern Province, and the Catholics the southern three. The British Government’s first attempt at apartheid was well underway!
Shaw hefted the hare over his shoulder, loosely carrying the shotgun in his other hand, and began his walk back home. The next thing he knew was, “Hold it right there, you poacher, you’re under arrest. You red headed scum, you think you can kill the King’s game and get away with it”, the Royal Game Warden barked at him. Startled, Shaw backed up, but the Warden said, “I’m taking you in and within a week you’ll get a taste of the King’s justice, a noose around that thick neck of yours.”
Shaw knew he was in trouble and without thinking, dropped the hare, distracting the Warden, raised the shotgun to hip level, cocked the left barrel and in one motion, fired, Boom, knocking the Warden back and down. The smoke cleared and the warden was dead! Not reloading the gun, he picked up the hare and started running home.
His mother, Margaret’s sobs and wailing almost drowned out his father’s calm analysis of the situation. “Boy, you’ll surely hang if we don’t get you out of the country fast” and before Shaw could reply, his father continued, “Up quick, kiss your mother and brothers and sisters goodbye. We’re saddling the horses and heading to Lee Wallace’s warehouse in Derry to try and get you out of Ireland.”
Lee, Shaw’s Uncle, had an import export business in Derry and was familiar with swift British justice. He recommended putting Shaw in a barrel, marked pickles, and “shipping” him to the United States. He had a Captain friend that was sailing for New Orleans in 2 days and Shaw could get “comfortable” in his barrel until then.
Shaw knew he would likely not ever see his father, uncle or family again. With teary eyes he hugged each man, told them goodbye and prepared for, what he knew would be a long ordeal.
Two days later, Uncle Lee, with a straight face, paid his friend for shipping the pickles to New Orleans. The hoist groaned lifting the heavy pickle barrel and it was stowed in the forward hold and Shaw was on his way to the “New World”.
The ship left on the afternoon tide and by the following afternoon the headlands at Ballygorman were behind them and Shaw could tell from the roll and pitch of the schooner, they were on the open sea and that turning around and handing him over to the authorities was out of the question.
The First Mate found him making his escape from his barrel and roughly grabbed him hissing, “A stowaway! I’m a good mind to pitch you over the side.” The man’s strange accent, obviously from the United States, startled him, but Shaw gathered up his courage and said in as strong a voice as he could muster, “Take me to the Captain!”
The Captain, Captain Allen, proved to be another rough customer with a strange accent, and barked at him, “Pickles? You smell like horse droppings! Lee Wallace paid for a barrel of pickles to New Orleans, and what do I get, but a thick necked, red headed, kid.” He added, “You must have killed somebody for them to go to all this trouble sneaking you out?” Shaw answered, “Yes Sir, Captain Sir, I killed an English Game Warden. It was him or the gallows for me!” Shaw continued, “Uncle Lee paid for shipping pickles, but I’m strong and could work my way across.” “Very well”, Captain Allen closed the discussion, telling the First Mate, “Get him cleaned up and set him to scrubbing the decks.
Turning back, Captain Allen asked, “Boy what’s your name and what will you do in my country?” Shaw stood up straight and said, “Sir, my name is Shaw Wallace, and Uncle Lee said that I should get to The Republic of Texas as soon as I could!” Hiding his smile, the Captain turned and walked away.
So, in 1842, Shaw Wallace, one of my great grandfathers, found his way to Texas!