John Hance

john-hance-blogIn the old days they used to say that anyone who visited the Grand Canyon and didn’t meet the great yarnspinner, Captain John Hance had missed an experience nearly as colorful at the canyon itself. Nobody knows why they called him captain; it just seemed to fit.

For some twenty years He provided lyin’ and lodgin’ for the tourists. The dudes never knew just how much of Captain Hance’s stories to believe for he always led them down the paths of plausibility and they had to figure out when to get off.

He came to the canyon in the 1880 to look for gold but found far more success as a windjammer and trail guide.

The legend began one day when he was pointing out the various landmarks at the South Rim. “Why Captain Hance, how did you lose the tip of your finger?

He’d lost part of his finger in a roping accident a few years earlier but he paused and stared at the missing part as if noticing it for the first time then replied, “Why ma’am, I reckon I plumb wore off the end of that thing pointing at all the scenery out here for the past thirty years.”

The audience loved it and from that day his reputation grew, just like his tall tales. Like the time he was riding his horse, Darby, along the South Rim when he saw a band of angry Ute warriors approaching from the west. Looking over his shoulder several hundred Apache were fast-approaching. Over to the east a dozen or so Navajo were riding hard in his direction. His only chance of escape was to jump the Grand Canyon. Was Ol’ Darby up to the challenge?

That horse got a runnin’ start and gave it a mighty leap. Up and over the canyon they soared. They would have made it to the North Rim some ten miles away had Darby not lost his concentration while gazing at all the wondrous wonders. They began to fall like an elevator gone berserk. Cap’n Hance knew the only way they’d survive was to pull up on ol’ Darby. Ya see Darby was a cuttin’ horse. He could turn on a nickel and give ya some change.

He took a firm grip on the reins and hollered “Whoa Darby.” That horse put on the skids and pulled up short just two feet from the canyon floor. They glided safely down the rest of the way.

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