If there should ever be a monument to the Second Amendment, it should be erected in Northfield, Minnesota. In this little college town in 1876, Jesse James and Cole Younger, with six other members of their gang, tried to rob the First National Bank, only to get shot up by an aroused citizenry. I just finished reading a new book on the subject, Mark Lee Gardner’s Shot All to Hell: Jesse James, the Northfield Raid, and the Wild West’s Greatest Escape.
I knew about the Northfield raid and when I spoke at St. Olaf College a few years ago, my hosts took me to see the bank and the marks of the bullets that still adorn the downtown buildings. But I did not know the details, nor did I know about the equally thrilling aftermath. Gardner’s book, while being sober history, reads like an action thriller, but what I most took away from the book was a glimpse of something we don’t see all that much anymore; namely, a genuine community, whose members look out for each other, protect each other, and pull together for the common good. [Read more…]