True stories of old Houston and Houstonians: historical and personal sketches / by S. O. Young. Page: 144
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144 TRUE STORIES OF OLD
years ago. As I have already said, I have never met but one,
but he was a good one all right, and all the old-timers will recall
him with pleasure. I refer to Captain Charles Bickley. He was
a comparatively young man when he first appeared on the scene
in Houston. Of all the devil-may-care, heedless and care-free
fellows on earth he was the greatest. He lived, not for the day,
but for the immediate present and gave no thought to the hour
that was sixty minutes ahead. He was a brilliant writer, drunk
or sober; a fine talker, and, what may sound strange, a highly
He wrote poetry and drank whiskey, wrote plays, short stories
and drank more whiskey. He could always get a job when sober
and he could hold it as long as he could manage to hold his
pencil, for he gave rather more than value received, for his
writings were first class and editors were glad to have him with
them. He would hold a job for a time in Houston, get drunk, get
fired and move on to Galveston or San Antonio, go through the
same performance there and then show up in Houston again.
He got passes over the railroads whenever and wherever he
wanted them and trusted to luck for drinks on the way. His
title of captain was genuine, for he had actually been a captain
in the Confederate army. When the war ended he took a trip
abroad, though he did it without money and simply on cheek.
He came to Houston about 1867 and secured a position on the
Telegraph. He at once became the best known man in town
and was popular with everybody. He was stage struck, of
course, for one never finds a true Bohemian who is not, and he
wrote several plays which were produced by amateurs and professionals.
One of his plays made quite a hit, locally. It was
somewhat on the order of the "Chanticleer" and was written at
the time the old market house was being pulled down. The place
was overrun by big rats who had possession of the building for
generations of rats. The captain had these rats as his characters
and made them review the history of the old building
and of all the doings of the early Houetonians who had passed
It was a historical review of Houston from a rat's point of
view. The captain took a leading part and acquitted himself so
well that he would have gone off with the first strolling company
that passed through Houston and become a professional,
if any of the managers would have taken him.
The captain revolved between the desks of the local papers
and those of other Texas cities for several years and then disappeared
and no one knew what had become of him until an
announcement of his sudden death appeared in one of the New
In those days there were no managing editors to blue-pencil
things, but the local editor, as he was called, wrote what he
choose to write and stood all the consequences. When an objectionable,
article appeared the aggrieved one never thought of
going after the editor of the paper, but went direct after the
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Young, Samuel Oliver. True stories of old Houston and Houstonians: historical and personal sketches / by S. O. Young., book, 1913; Galveston, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth24646/m1/144/: accessed April 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; .