Dealing with Footpads

I came across this a number of years ago and found it amusing because you see the same discussions today with keyboard self-defense experts describing how they would dismantle hypothetical attackers with their favorite techniques.

This piece was originally printed in the April 28, 1900 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle (p.14). I added the emphasis (boldface) at the end because I like the way it underscores the reality that adrenaline is a factor in any confrontation.


It is surprising how much hindsight people have when it comes to dealing with a footpad, said John J. Dean yesterday. He met the mysterious lone highwayman Monday night, and promptly gave up $3.50 at the solicitation of the stranger. Since my experience became public, continued Mr. Deane, I have received enough advice to stock a bureau of information. Every man I meet tells me how he would have handled the bandit without coughing up any money. It is simply marvelous to learn how many ways I might have done up that footpad if I had only been provided with the information that arrived so long overdue. I will tell you some of the brilliant methods for dealing with a footpad, as suggested by my friends. Here is the list:

Hit him on the jaw.

Suddenly throw up his pistol hand with your left and give him your right in the bean basket.

While he is reaching out and is balancing on one foot give him a swift kick, overbalance him, follow it with a hard right, and he is yours.

As he reaches for the cash grab his hand and jerk him towards you, and then grab the pistol.

Trip him up.

Throw up your hands as if you were obeying him, and bring them down heavy on his hat. That smashes it over his eyes, and he is blind until he gets it off.

Why not refuse to do anything and just stand there like a stumbling-block? He will not dare to shoot, and pretty soon he will get frightened and run. Then you can keep him in sight and land him.

Always keep your right hand in your overcoat pocket, with the cocked revolver in your hand. When he jumps out and brings his gun to bear, just shoot through your pocket without moving a muscle.

Josh him, and take plenty of time, pretending not to be scared. If he thinks you are joking he will ease up, and then you can suddenly grab the gun and turn it on him.

The great thing is to keep cool and carefully note the man’s appearance. Give him what he asks for, and then never let him get out of sight. He is bound to get scared after he gets the plunder. All you have to do is to watch him, and pretty soon you will have the whole town to help you run him to earth. Then you will get your stuff back, and be none the worse for the experience.

There, concluded Mr. Deane. Just see how I could have handled that little footpad if I had only tried! I confess that while I was looking down the repulsive throat of his gun I did not know how easy it was to get out of the scrape.

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