AM I A COWBOY?? HECK NO JUST A WANNABE

     Well am I a gowboy?  Heck no just a wannabe.  Lord knows I’ve played at it all my life, I can sit a saddle, but not too well.  Yeah I have a saddle in my bedroom sitting on top of my artillery limber ( the ammo chest on a casson, mine is 3/4 scale) however it is a 1918 McCllean, I also have a 1903 horsehair chinch strap.  I just missed out on the bit and briddle at a street fair antique show in Techemucla.  I purchased a tin rope case in a antique store that had four coiled rodeo ropes inside it.  I have so many article laying around I have picked up around diffrent places, I cannot keep track of all of them.  I have spurs purchased and ones I made myself, both cowboy and calvary.   I have hobbles, quirts, wrist guards and what not.  I won’t even get into the Native american articles laying piled all over the place.  My daughter and I have one trate in common be both are pack rats among other things.  As you know I have a large library on western and civil war books.

     But as I am beginning to write about the shootest of the old west I suppose most of you are more interested in my shooting collection.  From my Mountain Man days I have two muzzle loading rifles, .45 and .50 cal., I also have a short barrled double barrel muzzle loading shot gun.  I have two flintlock pistols and two           percussion pistols, .45 and .50 cal.s.  Add to that the tommyhawks and large knives, I could fill one wall.  Next on to the civil War, a .577 cal 1836 Springfield muzzle loading rifled musket.    As to pistols a  .44 cal. 1860 Colt Army, .44 cal. Remington 1858 New Army, and a 1858     .44 Colt Sheriff’s new model all presucion’s.

    As for the cowboy action shooting I use a Ruger Vacaro .45, 7 1/2 in barrell foor my primary pistol.  the backup is a Uberti Thunder, a 3 1/2 inch in .45 cal. .  My rifle is a Winchester saddle ring carbine in .45 cal. with a twenty inch barrel.  For my scattergun I use a twenty inch double in .12 gauge.  As I mentioned in my last chapter I carry the big Ruger in a right hand cross draw over my left hip bone.  the little brother rides high up on my right hip in a standard stubby little conventinal belt holster.  I have never been one for a lot of flash and glitter.  My holsters are both made by myself.      As the characture I potray, (called a alias, in action shooting) is based on a ancestor of mine, is not a cowboy, but a former farmer turned a vingance hunter after the Civil War. ( He and two brothers tracked down and killed 11 of 13 killers of another brother, after the war).  I expanded his charcature to becoming a scout and wander.  My big holster is a deep brown trimmed with twisted buckskin fringe, and the smaller is rough out leather with a single loop,  decorated with two small silver buttons.  I deleberatly made them mismatched to reflect aqusistion at diffrent times.  Rather than using leather bullet loops I use a canvas millitary cartrage belt to carry spare shells when needed.  Also carry extras in a small canvas bag in my plunder, including a large oold brass compass and a pair of Civil War bionoculars.  I could sit and bore you all day with this crap but now will launch into another fellow of intrest from to olden days.

BLACK JACK KETCHUM

       Black Jack was not a person anyone could look to with admeration.  He seemed to have all the qualities that people admired in a person like Bill Hickok, he was physicaly strong , tall with dark skin, pericing eyes and the usuall handelbar moustache.   However he was smart in a cunning way and deadly in the sense of callousness and brutality.  There is no question he had nerve.  He just fell short of the stuff of ledgends.  His burst into the stage of the herioc robber legends came too late in the game.  Citizens were coming to view the “Robin Hood” robbers for what they were hoods.  Also Black Jack lacked the one thing that made so many before him great, he had no style.

     Black Jack was kinda hapless in his pursuit of a criminal career, in the end he could not even die right.  It is the gruesome nature of his death that elevates him into histories rememberence.

    Born in San Sab, Texas around Oc.31, 1863.  After a short career of petty crimes he and a few fellows shot and killed John N. “Jap” Powers, a rancher living near Knickerbocker, Texas.  Powers wife helped in the murder and went to jail.  Tom (Jack’s real name) and his friends fled to New Mexico.

     A bandit named Will Christian known as “Black Jack” Christian, operated along the Arazonia-New Mexico border.  In a twist of fate Christian and Ketchem became confused by the law officers pursuing them and many of Ketchems crimes were atributed to Christian.  Upon being shot and killed by authorities in Grahm County, Arazonia Christian was identified as Tom Ketchem.  From then on Tom Ketchem became Black Jack Ketchem.  A title he never asked for but never refuted either.

      In 1896 the Ketchem gang rode into Liberty, New Mexico and robbied the  United States Post Office of the princley sum of $44.69 and fled town.  Postmaster Levi Herzstein organised a posse and pressed pursuit, supprising to everyone involved, the posse came upon the gang and gunfire insued.  Herzstein and another man was killed.

     Afew months later the gang stopped the Texas Flyer and blew the safe open when the express crew could not open it.  The gang excaped with $2,000.   Chased back to New Mexico by a large force of Texas Rangers the gang lay low for a few months.  Then thay again hit the Texas Flyer when simular attemps to open the safe failed they placed fourteen stick of dynamite under the safe and lay a quarter side of beef over it to contain the explosion.  They demolished the express car and opened the safe.   they once again excaped with $3,000 of mostly mangled  money.

    Laying low untill Dec. of 1896 they struck the Sothern Pacific at Stein”s  Pass, New Mexico.  The railroad had anticipated a robbery and had the express car packed with Wells Fargo agents.  When the train stopped the cars doors eploded with shotgun fire.  the battle raged for about half of a hour with either side doing little damage.   Then a outlaw named Ed Cullen leaned out to grab a dropped cartrage and exposed his head,  “boys I’m’, dead ”  he screamed as he fell.  the gang then lost their nerve and fled.

     The Stien’s Pass afair was the end of the gang.  Sam Ketchem , Tom’s Brother and Will Carver and Elza Lay struck out on their own in July they robbed another train and made a get away.  A few days later law officers caught up with them.  One was killed, Sam was wounded in the sholder and eventually lost his arm and died a little later.  The third was eventually captured and served a long prison term.

     Black Jack was a prime suspect in the so-called Yavapai County Massacre, two men were killed senselessly..  He denied it but evidence  indicated otherwise  

     On the night of August 16, Ketchem acting alone stopped the  Folsom, New Mexico train.  He forced the crew back toward the baggage car and called for the doors to open.  A mail clerk a few cars away not knowing what was going on stuck his head out a window and was shot through the jaw. 

     Condutor Frank Harrington, armed with a shotgun crep as close as he dared.  Stepping into the open he and Ketchem fired at the same time.  Ketchem’s slug grazed Harrington,  while Harrington’s  shotgun blast peppered Ketchems right arm.  Ketchem fell to the ground, rolled under the train and crawled away.

     The train left and about seven the next morning Black Jack flaged the next train down by waving his hat in the air on the end of his rifle.  He surrendered and was taken to the next town, Trinidad , Colorado where he was turned over to the authorties.  Transfered to Territoral prison in Santa Fe,  New Mexico,  his mangled right arm was amputated.

     In Sepetember of 1901 Jaack was pronounced fit for trial.  The territory charged him with felonious assult on a train.  Jack did not deny guilt,  in fact he wanted to plead guilty.  His plea as denied because a court conviction carried a automatic death penalty.  The trial had it’s high and low points, includinf humor and boredom.  Jack testified candidly about his exploits accepting blame for the robberies..  At its conclusion the Judge pronounced the death sentense with ,  “Between now and the day of your said execution, you prepare yourself by repentance for your past evil deeds to meet your God, and may god have mercy on your soul”

   Appeals were filed and denied.  As the territorys best know prisinor he gave numerious interviews, most of them on the subject of death and the here after.  He fully expected to go to hell, remorse and repentance were not part of his nature.  He bitterly said, I never killed anybody, and all that I spared testified against me with ill will.    He wrote a short paragraph on the morning of his hanging.

     “My advise to the boys of the country is not to steal horses or sheep.  But either to rob a train or a bank when you have got to be a outlaw.  And everyman who comes your way, kill him;  spare him no mercy for he will show you none.  This is the way I feel,  and I think I feel right about it. 

        On the day of his exicution he bounded up the thirteen steps with vigor.  His hair was cut and his moustashe trimmed and wore  a new black suit.  He viewed the crowd of on lookers, offical witness, editors, and photographers.  He posed for a final potograph with his left arm manacled to his side.  When asked if he had any final words he said  “Let her rip”.

    To trip the trap door it was necessary for the sheriff to cut a rope with a axe.  the sheriff was drunk and missed the rope and buried the axe into the wood of the gallows.  It took a few minutes to free the axe, and Ketchem cursed them while he waited.  Finally the sheriff managed to cut the rope and Black Jack fell through the door and kept on going.  While langushing in jail he had ate often and well and had put on a lot of extra weight, also the unblance of the missing right arm caused the body to twist.  Jacks head had been ripped off.  A enterprising photographer  quickly snapped a photo of the headless body lying under the gallows and sold them for $1.00 apeice.

     Even in death Black Jack Ketchem could not die with style.

Well I’m through hanging around for the day. pun fully intended.

ramblingbob

One Response to “AM I A COWBOY?? HECK NO JUST A WANNABE”

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