by Joe White- Fresno Bee, Sunday March 15, 1953


Pilfering Cowboy Dies to Give Name for Early Mining Camp

From one end of the Mother Lode to the other the rollicking '49ers left the brand of their humor on the hillsides, the bars, gulches and ravines where they dug their gold.
They named their camps as the mood struck them, for the manner of discovery, the homes they once had known, the fleas which plagued them by day or the bedbugs which made the nights miserable.  SOmetimes, just to be contrary, they would give the name of Drytown to a diggins with 30 saloons, or Piety Hill to a settlement which never had known a pious miner.  Usually, however, the boys of '49 called 'en as they saw 'em., as in the case of Murderer's Bar, Liars' Flat, Drunken Gulch or Bootjack.
Now Bootjack, a few miles east and a little to the south of Mariposa was just a collection of tents, brush shacks and log huts when Texas Pete Conners showed up not long after the first gold was found.  The County of Mariposa was not yet organized, the town of that name was called Logtown, and Agua Fria and Mormon Bar were the big camps.
Pete had ridden the Texas ranges for several years and still was in the saddle when he departed from the Lone Star State just ahead of an inquisitive sheriff.  Two days after he reached  the sanctuary of the Mariposa country he lost his horse in a poker game and was afoot for the first time in his adult life.  Knowing he was broke, the boys began to wonder, inasmuch as pete showed no inclination to stake and work a claim, where he got the god dust to pay for his pork and beans in John Hammer's store and whisky he drank in Tim Regan's canvas saloon.
They found out when a prospector surprised him in a tent where he didn't belong and Pete headed for the high mountains in a hurry. Now, Pete was no hand at walking, much less running.  His fancy high heeled boots had been made for saddle stirrups and not for footraces with irate miners.  The boys caught up with him two miles later sitting on a rock nursing his bruised and blistered feet.
They took him back to camp, called court, tried and convicted him with dispatch and escorted him, limping, to a tree. Pete made the usual farewell speech and asked them not to hang him with his boots on.  That was a reasonable enough request.  Futhermore they were neat and expensive boots and more than one miner was wondering whether they would fit him.
Pete pulled and tugged, but his feet were so swollen he couldn't get them off. Some of the boys lent a hand, but nothing happened.  For awhile it looked like an impasse.  A promise was a promise, which meant Pete had to be either a barefoot corpse or none.  And it would never do to ruin the boots by cutting them off.
Then the camp handyman, whose name unfortunately has been lost to history, stepped up with a contraption he had hurriedly put together. It was a think plank, raised and notched deeply on  one end.  He motioned for Pete to put one heel in the notch.  Pete did so.  He pulled, a couple of the boys yanked, and off came the boot.  The other followed quickly.
Pete didn't hang with his boots on, but the result was the same.
The curious miners looked the boot remover over carefully and asked what it was. "Why, you dern fools, that is a boojack," they were informed.
And that according to the story which still is told , is how the camp in the Mariposa pines was named.
Joe White published many articles or  "tales" of the Sierra and San Joaquin- but somewhere in each "tale" is an element of truth entwinded!