The Case of the Bungling Robbers

Some people just aren’t cut out for a life of crime.

An example of this is the case of two cowboys named Grant Wheeler and Joe George. In 1895, they decided to try their hand at robbing the Southern Pacific Railroad.  The real loot was carried by rail, so why waste time robbing stages?

After carefully working out a plan, George and Wheeler purchased a box of dynamite and boarded the train.  Five miles out of Willcox, Arizona, the desperadoes got the engineer to stop the train with the help of a .45 revolver.  Piece of cake.

One of the outlaws uncoupled the express car from the rest of the train and ordered the engineer to pull forward.  Wheeler and George then broke into the express car.  The safe had eighty-four thousand dollars in cash and their hands were itching to get hold of it.

They must have been ecstatic to discover that the Wells Fargo agent guarding the loot had escaped. In addition to the unguarded safe, they also found bags of silver pesos used as ballast on the floor.  Oh, heavenly days!

Working quickly, they placed sticks of dynamite around the safe and ducked outside to escape the blast.  Unfortunately, the safe remained intact.

They decided to try again with extra dynamite but got the same results.  The stubborn safe refused to give up its treasure.

If at First…

Not willing to give up, the bungling robbers decided to try yet a third time.  This time, they used too much dynamite and blew the entire express car to smithereens.  Pieces of lumber and thousands of silver pesos filled the air. Acting like shrapnel, some of the coins were embedded in telegraph poles.  It’s a miracle the two men survived.

When the smoke cleared, they found that the safe door had been blown off, but only a few dollars had escaped the blast. The real booty was the Mexican pesos, but the silver coins were scattered all over the countryside.

Meanwhile, the train has rolled into town and sounded the alarm. The sheriff tried putting together a posse with no luck. Folks were too busy racing out to the scene of the crime to hunt for silver pesos.

…Try, Try, Again!

After licking their wounds, Wheeler and George decided to give train robbery another shot.  No sense letting their harrowing experience go to waste.

A week later, they showed up to rob the same train and felt confident they knew what they were doing.  This time they would make careful use of the dynamite.

The fourth times a charm—or is it?

Wheeler and George ordered the crew to separate the express car from the engine and passenger cars.

Everything went according to plan.  You can almost imagine the two giving each other a high-five as they entered the express car. They were, however, in for a rude awakening.  For the hapless duo soon discovered that the crew had reversed the order of the rail cars.  Instead of the express car, Wheeler and George were left with the mail car. They had been duped!

Disgusted, they rode off empty-handed—again!

Coming in September

He stopped her wedding once by mistake;

Dare he stop it a second time–for real?




Margaret Brownley
Margaret has published more than 46 books and is a N.Y. Times Bestselling author and two-time Romance Writers of America Rita Finalist. She writes historical novels set--where else?--in the Old West! She has written for a day time soap and is currently working on a new series. Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English. Just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.
Updated: June 21, 2018 — 8:19 am


  1. And here is their sign… And with both their brains, not a sense among them. As I was once told, two half wits do not add up to a whole wit. Sad. But, FUNNY!

  2. Great blog, those 2 were destined for trouble and not enough brains to keep themselves out of it.

    1. Thank you, Tonya! When I first read about these two,I kept thinking of Laurel and Hardy.

  3. Wonderful piece of history. I guess they were not cutout for a life of crime.

    1. You got that right, Debra! LOL

  4. Haha! Wonder if they gave up or moved on to other things? Great post. Cowboy Charm School sounds like a great book! Love the cover!

    1. Hi Sally, the two actually died with their boots on. So I guess we can assume they never gave up the life of crime.

      I love the cover, too!

  5. Oh good grief! Sounds like those two were a sandwich short of a picnic!

    1. Or a few cards short of a deck!

  6. Funny! Thanks for sharing!!

    1. You’re welcome. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. These days they might have made the tv show about the country’s dumbest criminals (if the show was still on).

    1. Did they actually have a TV show like that? Shoot, I missed it!

      1. I don’t remember if it was an actual show or part of another show. But I remember always laughing at the stupid stuff they did.

  8. What a fun story, Margaret. You turn up the greatest research tidbits. 🙂 So funny!

    1. Thanks, Karen. It made me laugh, too!

  9. This is hilarious! I have a similar short story in my Gunsmoke and Lace short story collection. Two cowboys try to rob a bank in Hard Luck, Texas. I LOVE the cover of your upcoming book! And that title! I can only imagine the humor that lies within the pages. You’re the queen of humor! Good luck and God bless.

    1. I’ve got to read your story in Gunsmoke and Lace! It sounds like a blast and who can resist Hard Luck, Texas?

      I’m kind of fond of my new cover, too! It was a fun book to write. Take care!

  10. Thanks for the laugh.

  11. Thank you for the smile.
    COWBOY CHARM SCHOOL looks interesting. Nice cover.

    1. Hi Patricia, thank you! Take care.

  12. Thank you for sharing your great post, Margaret. I always enjoy what you have to offer us.

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