The Badass of the Week.

Larcena Pennington

I couldn't find any images of her, so I used this generic pioneer family picture instead.

Back in the day, the pioneer west was a horrible bitch goddess who feasted on the broken dreams of wayward travelers and drank the blood of anyone foolhardy enough to cross her.  Disease and famine were rampant, and in the more-common-than-not occasion that you contracted Malaria or Diphtheria of some other god-awful Oregon Trail-style disease, you were about ten times more likely to be stuck in the chest with an Apache arrow than stuck in the arm with any sort of medicinal syringe.  There were great amounts of land and riches to be had on the American frontier, but if you wanted to survive out there you had to be tough, resilient and badass.  And Larcena Pennington was all of those things.

In 1857 Larcena's family moved out to Arizona to make a new life on the frontier.  She was married two years later and moved out to Madera Canyon to live in a small camp with her husband, John Page, his homeboy William Randall and 11 year-old Mercedes Quiroz.  Things were going pretty well until one day when Page and Randall were out hunting and Larcena's camp was raided by Apache Indians.  Larcena, being the hardcore motherfucker she was, ran to get her revolver, but the Apaches managed to subdue her before she could turn the weapon against them.  They captured Larcena and Mercedes, and informed them that the men of the camp had already been killed by the Apaches.

Over the next several hours, the Apaches forced Larcena and Mercedes march through the treacherous Arizona desert.  Larcena and Mercedes briefly attempted to tear off small pieces of their clothing and leave a trail for John and William to find, but the Indians caught on to this and forced them to stop under penalty of angry spear poking.  After roughly sixteen miles through the wilderness Larcena, who had been recovering from illness, finally started to lose her strength.  She fell behind, and when it became obvious that she would be unable to keep up the Apaches decided she was of no further use to them.  They took her to the edge of a mountain bluff, stripped her down to her petticoat, stabbed her repeatedly with their spears, shot her a couple times and then finally chucked her off the cliff.  She fell sixteen feet to the snow-covered ground below.  As she lay there motionless, some of the Indians threw rocks down on her (just to be dicks).

Now for most of us this is pretty much where the story would end;  getting totally fucking pwned by 1337 Ap@ch3z and dying alone and pantsless in the middle of fucking nowhere.  Shit, Bill S. Preston and Ted Theodore Logan died when the Evil Robot Dudes threw them off a cliff without shooting OR stabbing them.  Well Larcena wasn't about to give up that easily.  She was far too badass to let something like a couple of gaping flesh wounds and broken bones keep her down.  She passed in and out of consciousness, awaking once to hear the voice of her husband and his search party.  She feebly attempted to call out to him, but he didn't hear it.  Once he passed, she knew it was up to her to get shit done.

Larcena Pennington fell unconscious for three days, finally awakening and deciding that it was time to get the fuck out of Dodge.  For ten days she walked, crawled and clawed her way back to her camp, eating whatever she could find and drinking snow water.  When she needed to sleep, she dug a hole in the ground with her bare hands and crawled into it to keep warm.  The wounds on her back were so grievous that she was forced to sleep curled up on all fours.  She suffered numerous blisters, severe sunburn, exposure, hypothermia, and the possibility of infection in her wounds.

After ten days crawling through the grueling wilderness, Larcena finally reached an abandoned camp not far from her home.  She pulled a stick out of the campfire and carried this makeshift torch back to her home, using it to light the campfire there.  She made some food, got some rest, and the next day was discovered by passing frontiersmen.  Her harrowing ordeal had left her emaciated and badly hurt, but she was nursed back to health and was eventually reunited with her husband.  She also learned that Mercedes had been released by the Apache as part of a prisoner exchange with the US Army.

Larcena would go on to deal with even more hardship in her life.  Her husband would die the following year, and over the course of three years she would lose her father and four of her eleven siblings.  Finally, her family decided they were sick of being killed by Indians and disease and moved back East, but Larcena stayed in Tucson.  She wasn't going to let the frontier get the best of her, and she war hardcore enough to survive anything that fate could throw at her.  She remarried, had two kids, survived smallpox and lived to the ripe old age of 76.

Larcena Pennington was a tough old broad.  She faced an ordeal that would have killed lesser men and women several times over and managed to survive by sheer force of will alone.  No matter how fucked up things got and how stacked the odds were against her at any point in her life, she persevered and pushed her body to the limit, doing everything in her power merely to survive.  She was a fucking badass.

You can read more detailed (and probably accurate) accounts of Larcena's adventures either at her Wikipedia entry or by clicking this link and reading a PDF file of an article originally posted in the Arizona Highway Magazine.


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