Monday, September 8, 2014

The Outcasts Of Poker Flat by Bret Harte

The Outcasts Of Poker Flat by Bret Harte

The story takes place in a California community known as Poker Flat. The town has lost thousands of dollars and morals seem to be going down as well. In an effort to save what is left of the town and reestablish it as a virtuous place, a secret society is created to decide who to exile and who to kill. The story begins on November 23, 1850 with four immoral people exiled from Poker Flat. First of these immoral people is a professional poker player named John Oakhurst. Oakhurst is among those sent away because of his great success in winning in Poker Flat. On his way out of town, he is joined by The Duchess, a saloon girl, Mother Shipton, a madam and Uncle Billy who is the town drunk and a suspected robber.  The four set out for a camp which is a day's journey away, but halfway to their goal the party decides to stop for a rest at noon.  While on the rest stop, the group is met by a pair of runaway lovers on their way to Poker Flat to get married. Piney Woods is a fifteen-year-old girl and  her lover is Tom Simson, who is known as The Innocent. A decision was made to stay the night together and Tom leads the group to a cabin he discovered where they spend the night. It is known that Uncle Billy is missing with their mules and horses. The group is forced to wait out a storm with provisions that would only last another ten days.  After a week in the cabin, Mother Shipton dies. She had secretly and altruistically starved herself to save her food for young Piney. Oakhurst advises Simson that he will have to go for help. The law arrives at the cabin only to find the dead Duchess and Piney, embraced in a peaceful repose. Then Oakhurst is found having committed suicide. He is found dead beneath a tree with his Derringer's bullet in his heart. 

Printing History
Written by Francis Bret Harte (1836-1902)

Overland Monthly
January 1869

The Films
1919 with Harry Carey

1937 with Preston Foster

1952 with Dale Robertson

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