One armed painter went on the warpath
Courtesy of the Madera County Historical Society
Sheriff Jasper Lewis, shown here with his wife, had has hands full with a renegade, one-armed painter on the Arkelian ranch.
Alonzo Wood, an old painter with one arm was arrested last evening about 8 o’clock by Sheriff J.F. Lewis and Deputies Andy Clark and Clarence Osborn on a charge of threatening the lives of several workmen on the Arkelian ranch southwest of town. Ira Patterson, the foreman of the ranch, had the most harrowing and exciting experience with Wood of anyone, however, and only escaped the bullets from his gun by a hair.
Patterson told his story to the district attorney this morning as follows: He said that Wood, who has been in the community for the past few months, has been doing some painting out at the Arkelian place. Wood has a long, drooping mustache, and when he first struck town, he was mistaken by Sheriff Lewis for a fugitive from Modesto. He proved that he was the wrong man by his stub arm.
Last Saturday, he went to Fresno and returned Sunday loaded inside and out with booze. He appeared at the cook house where there are several girls employed and demanded that they drink with him. He failed to get them to indulge, and after frightening them out of a year’s growth, he hunted up the men on the ranch and began telling them what a bad man he was and how clever he was with a gun. Wood was in possession of a .38 caliber gun, which he flourished around promiscuously.
He then decided that one of the men had robbed him of $15 and stated that he intended to get him that night. He said he would lie on his bunk watching for the alleged thief and would shoot him as soon as he entered the bunkhouse. Mr. Patterson was told of the circumstances and that evening proceeded to the bunkhouse himself. He saw Wood lying on his bunk, apparently asleep. His gun was in handy reach. Patterson watched him a moment and saw one eye open slightly, and as soon as Wood saw it was Patterson, he immediately got up and remarked, “So it’s you, is it?”
At the same time he made his remark, he pulled his gun and informed Patterson what he intended to do to the fellow who robbed him.
Patterson was unarmed and was at the mercy of the old painter. With the muzzle of the gun headed in his direction, he argued with Wood and endeavored to get him to put the gun away. Finally Wood sided with him and asked him to take a drink. Patterson said he did not care for whiskey. Then Wood got a jug of wine and a couple of glasses. Setting the wine and the glasses down close to Patterson, he stepped back and drawing his gun, again demanded him to drink. Patterson did as he was told or at least faked a drink or two. Then Wood flew into a rage, and as Patterson walked by him struck him in the side of the neck. At the same time he pointed his gun, but Patterson threw his arm up. Two balls were sent into the air.
The gun then snapped several times and pulling away, Wood broke his gun over his stub arm and held it while he threw in some fresh loads. Patterson saw that he was outclassed, so he resorted to strategy again and endeavored to argue with Wood and get him back into a good humor. As it turned out, he merely succeeded in saving his bacon while Wood ordered him around. He compelled Patterson to get his (Wood’s) blankets, roll them and then carry them to another house where he intended to stop that night.
He ordered Patterson to bring him a stove and something to eat, and after considerable arguing, Patterson finally got away and made his way to the house about a quarter of a mile distant. Word was sent to the Sheriff’s office for help. A few minutes later Patterson heard several shots, and one of the bullets struck the barn not far away.
Sheriff Lewis went out expecting to have a battle on his hands, but when he arrived at the bunkhouse, the officers sneaked in and throwing a flash light on Wood, who was in his bunk, ordered him to get ready to come to town. At first he refused to put on his coat, but later did as he was commanded and was brought to the local jail. A complaint will be filed against him, charging him with assault with intent to commit murder.