Was he his brother’s keeper?

September 26, 2020

Madera County Historical Society
Sheriff Westfall had his hands full trying to find out what really happened in the shooting at the Pines in 1912.

In 1912, the Pines was the place to party. It was located on what was then known as Crane Valley but is now known as Bass Lake.


People came from as far away as San Francisco to have a good time at the Pines; that’s why Leo Abdo, his brother, John Abdo, and D.W. Beardsley were up there on July 31.


After a good round of boozing, the trio decided to go home about 9:30. They got into a boat and somehow got across the lake to where they had tied a mule and buckboard. Leo took the reins, and Beardsley climbed up beside him. Drunken John Abdo sat down on a box in the back.


They had no more got started than Beardsley lit up a cigarette, and the moment he did, a shot rang out from the nearby bushes and hit Leo in the chest not far from his heart. It was a dangerous wound, leaving a ghastly hole from which he was bleeding profusely. He began to holler that he had been shot.


With that, John hopped up and struck another match to examine the wound, and immediately another shot rang out from the bushes. No one was hit, but the mule went wild and began to run, carrying the men out of range.


Somehow they got the injured man to the hospital where it was determined that he would survive his wound. No one could explain the ambush. Leo claimed he had no enemies and couldn’t imagine what would motivate someone to shoot him.


When morning came, the shooting was reported to Sheriff Westfall. He made a brief visit to Leo Abdo and then came back and to get Constable Hollister. He wasn’t satisfied with the story Abdo had given him. When the sheriff examined Abdo’s shirt it had powder burns on it; that cast doubt on the story that he was shot from the woods. Westfall and Hollister decided to take a ride up to the hills to see Beardsley. There they got the real story.


Beardsley came right out and admitted that the story about being shot at from the bushes was a lie. John Abdo had fired the shot that wounded his brother. Beardsley said the two brothers concocted the story about being shot from the bushes to prevent the public from knowing the truth. The sheriff took Beardsley and John Abdo to jail where they could be further interrogated. When District Attorney Larew took over the investigation, the true, if not the whole story, came out.


Beardsley said when they got across the lake and into the buckboard, they were still in a celebratory mood, especially John Abdo. He said there was a lot of talking, shouting, and singing, as one might expect from three drunks.


It just so happened that John had a 38-caliber automatic revolver, and to add a little noise to the celebration he began to fire his pistol indiscriminately. This frightened the mule and it began to “squeal and run.” The sudden movement of the rig caused John’s hand to waver, and one shot hit his brother in the back below the ribs on the right side and came out the front shoulder.


With this Abdo shouted out that he was hit, but in the excitement of the mule running away no one paid attention to him until the buckboard turned over and everybody was thrown out.


John fired two more shots in the air and then noticed the blood spurting from his brother’s wound. That got everyone’s attention, and they threw the gun in the bushes.


At that point things turned bizarre. Leo thought he was mortally wounded and was soon to die. He managed to get to his feet and turning to Beardsley said, “Goodbye, Dick. I’m shot. I am going to die. I am satisfied to die, but I do not want anyone to know that I was shot by my brother.” At that point they made up the story about being shot from the bushes.


No charges were filed against any of the men, but it was noted by District Attorney Larew that Leo Abdo held to the original, fictitious story from his hospital bed.


As a footnote, it had been rumored for a while that there was bad blood between the Abdos over money, but it remained that — just rumors.


This writer is sure of one thing, however. Whichever story is correct; it is certainly a scene he would have loved to have witnessed.

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