Friday, 1 November 2013

Barry Scobee - Auto-biography in Campfire – Adventure, November 8, 1926

Barry Scobee
Barry Scobee (Photo courtesy Archives of the Big Bend, Bryan Wildenthal Memorial
Library, Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas)

AT OUR last meeting we inaugurated the new custom of having the biography of one of our writers at the end of each “Camp-Fire,” so that all readers may come to know personally our old writers as well as those who join us as we go along. This time it’s Barry Scobee.
MR. SCOBEE is an old-timer on Adventure. He is also a down-trodden, luckless man; we have his word for it. He says nothing ever happens to him. When he first wrote for us, back in 1919, he was particularly plaintive about his luck. Here’s what he said then:

“Here’s my luck. I was an attendant in a Keely Cure institute once. No, I wasn’t working my way through. Staying in a room one night to watch a dopey, I was awakened from profound sleep by him standing over me brandishing a razor and a revolver and calling me the man who had run away with his wife. But nothing happened. He forgot me and went to shout out of the window at some woman he insanely took for his wife. I and another man drove an old tin car through the guard into a besieged town once, that being the only available way of getting in. We were taken before the general, who threatened to shoot us. But nothing happened. In an hour we were sipping cognac with the American Consul. I was taking a man to military prison once in the Philippines, on a small steamer, and lost my gun. But nothing happened. The prisoner found it and returned it to me. I have been deer hunting and bob-cat hunting in exceedingly wild country. But nothing happened. The other men got the game. I helped to go to the source of the greatest lost gold-mine story that ever tempted the Southwest. Nothing happened. There wasn’t any mine.”
“Now all that isn’t any laughable matter, believe me. It means that when I concoct a piece of fiction I’ve got to slave like a printer’s devil to work up a climax!”

Mr. Scobee gets locale, settings and fact material for his stories from his own experience. He has “lived around” in the Southwest most of his life, in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, and six years in the Puget Sound region of Washington gave him material for his Northwestern stories. He soldiered in Texas and the Philippines in the regular army, Company H, 9th U.S. Infantry, from November 22, 1907, to November 21, 1910.
So much for the authenticity of his story material. It might be added that some of the stories which he has built around the material and which have appeared in these pages have been mentioned before. His story, “The Wind,” included in O’Brien’s Best Short Stories for 1921, first appeared in Adventure.
AS TO the rest of his dull and uneventful life, here’s Mr. Scobee’s sad story:
He was born May 2, 1885, on his father’s farm near Pollock, Mo., in the northern part of the State. He was educated at the local school, and attended the normal school at Kirksville, Mo., but left before he obtained his degree. Sometime during his early years he learned the printer’s trade at Unionville, Mo.
After school he went to the army for a commission but changed his mind when he got in, though he says he had “no particular kick” against the service. He was post printer in the army, at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, for a year or two, and after his army service ended in November, 1910, spent a year knocking about Missouri.
He took a newspaper job on a daily paper at Pittsburg, Kansas, October 3, 1911, and continued there about three years, with the exception of three months when he worked on a paper at Muskogee, Okla.
He spent winter of 1914 at Corpus Christi, Texas, and lived in San Antonio from January 28, 1915, to February 28, 1917. He has been on the Mexican border, and across in Mexico a little, as a newspaper man on the San Antonio Express, and working for other papers; and was military writer on the Express for some time, being on General Funston’s headquarters when Pershing was in Mexico. He lived in Fort Davis, Texas, March 1, 1917, to August 31, 1918, and in Bellingham, Wash., from June 7, 1919, to September 10, 1925, when he returned to Fort Davis, Texas, from which place he writes us now.
The winter of 1918-19 he spent at and near San Antonio.
He was married at Kansas City, November 24, 1911.
He ran both a country newspaper and a hotel here at Fort Davis in 1917-18, but afterward gave them up.
“RECREATIONS,” says Mr. Scobee, “are hiking up a high mountain now and then, and down again.
“Or riding in cattle round-ups with reglar cowboys, watching how they do, or branding and burning my fingers.
“Studying Indians from their numerous old paintings on the rocks of the Southwest, or their shelters, etc. (Quite amateurish at this.)
“Studying birds and classifying them, and acquiring knowledge of their habits. (Quite an amateur ornithologist, quite amateurish that is.)
“Studying the Mexicans, who are my nearest neighbors, and studying their language and acquiring one new word annually if I’m industrious. Can say manana and “hot tamale” and “a bowl of chili” already, and buenos dias—or something about like that.
“Saw a bank cashier offer a cowboy a chair today. The cowboy kinda blushed and said: ‘By gosh, that’s the first time anybody ever brought me a chair in my life. Reckon I’ll set down in it and try how it goes.’ Nobody ever asked me for my memoirs before until Adventure done so, but unlike the cowboy I can’t enjoy it.
“P.S.—How I happened to be in the bank where the cashier and cowboy got so polite and friendly, was, I went in to fill my fountain pen that I found, as the saying is.”—

Barry Scobee
Barry Scobee (Photo courtesy Archives of the Big Bend, Bryan Wildenthal Memorial
Library, Sul Ross State University, Alpine, Texas)


  1. Some more biographical information about Barry Scobee can be found at:

    Terence Hanley's Tellers of Weird Tales blog

    A long newspaper article about him posted on a genealogy mailing list

  2. My grandparents and especially my father were very close friends of Mr. Scobee. Love his stories of the the Big Bend region and Fort Davis.

    1. If you have any stories about him, please share them.