The Double-Slip


Wally Barrieau, Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps, returned from his third tour in Afghanistan a different man. He knew it, and so did everyone else, and that is why he felt it necessary to exit the service.

His sudden personality change happened after he became separated from his squad and ended up wandering around the desert, lost. During this time, April five through July 15, 2006, something so incredible happened to the Sergeant that he could not bring himself to speak of it.

It began with a massive dust-devil in the early morning hours. Once cleared, Barrieau found himself surrounded by wood-framed buildings, the kind he had only seen in old Western movies.

As he was assessing his situation, he heard a woman scream. Before he could react, he watched a man race from the nearby building.

Then he heard a door at the back of the building open and close.

“Where in the hell did you come from?” a voice asked from deep in a shadow of the building.

Barrieau paused, “You American?”

“Yeah?” the voice returned. “What else would I be.”

Barrieau had no time to answer as a man stepped out of the shadow and struck the confused Marine on the side of the head. Barieau dropped to his knees as a second blow fell.

Without thinking, Barrieau drew his service pistol and fired four times point-blank into the man’s body. The gunshots fell him instantly.

Bloodied and bruised, he was arrested while lying in the street outside the building with the man he’d shot on top of him. He was taken to jail to escape a quickly forming lynch mob.

That morning, Barrieau was presented before a judge, and a jury was hastily gathered.

“Why are you dressed so oddly?” the Judge asked.

“I’m a Marine and we’re at war,” Barrieau answered.

“What war is that?” the Judge asked, adding, “Not the Phillipines again?”

“Shut your mouth,” said Patrick McCarran, his defense attorney.

“Where am I?” Barrieau asked.

“Tonopah, Nevada,” McCarran responded. “Now shut up.”

The young man argued that his client had acted in self-defense against an attacker trying to avenge his mistress and not a lawman who was working in the line of duty.

Questions arose after Nye County Sheriff Tom Logan, a family man with eight children, was found dead clad only in a blue nightshirt. Logan had been spending the night with his mistress and brothel madam, May Biggs, not the heroic fight to stop a “pistol duel” between two “gamblers.”

Biggs claimed that Barrieau had been asleep in her parlor when she tried to rouse him and send him on his way.

“He elbowed me, and I yelled for him to ‘get out,'” she added.

“I was never inside any house,” Barrieau shouted before being ordered to remain quiet or be removed from the courtroom.

“At my scream, Tom burst from our bedroom and began beating him,” she said.

Seeing Logan had a gun and not knowing he was the county sheriff, Barrieau fired four shots, each striking Logan. The jury found Walter Barrieau innocent on July 13, 1906, and he became mostly lost to history.

Afghan sheepherders found Barrieau half-dead and informed a nearby Army patrol of his location. Barrieau laid in his hospital bed in Germany, not only suffering from a severe concussion and dehydration but unable to get the hallucination off his mind.

Eleven years later, Walter Barrieau saw the historical article in a newspaper column. And while his name was misspelled and the facts incorrect, he realized why he had disappeared from the pages of history.

“It’s one hell of a story and no one to tell,” he chuckled as he folded the paper up. “Besides who would believe me.”

As he left the casino’s restaurant, he walked to a corner store to buy a bottle of whiskey. Barieau would treat himself to a solid drunk because not only had he experienced a one-hundred-year-old time slip, he had also slipped the noose.

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