In the mid 50’s durring the hugh cowboy boom on television Walt Disney’s studio’s were searching for something to cash in on. the Davy Crockett series had about ran it’s course, so they came up with a couple of storys loosely based on individuals from the old west. One of the people was Elfego “El Gato” Baca (only in the Disney series have I seen him called “El Gato”, supposedly because of his nine lives due to his harrowing experence’s).
Mexican gunslingers are a rare occourance in the diary of the old west. While a gringo gunman might languish around for some time with out too mush attention, due to the extreem predjuices of the day a mexican would draw a great deal of unwanted attention. However there was the exception, and Elfigo was one.
Elfigo’s mother loved to play baseball (it is claimed) so it was to no one supprise when she stopped playing to deliver Elfigo one evening in 1865, in Sorcorro, New Mexico. His father Fancisco,had a reputation as a hard case, moved the family to Topeka, Kansas while Elfigo was still a toddler. Here Elfigo recieved a education in the public school system. In Kansas the prejudice did not exist that he would have felt in New Mexico at the time. By the time he returned to New mexico at the age of 16 he spoke better English than Spanish.
His father sold the family business in Topeka and returned to the small town of Belen upriver from Socorro becoming the cith marshal. One afternoon the older Baca shot and killed two cowboys who were hurrauing the town, The court decreed he had exceded his athourity and ordered him jailed and to stand trial. Elfigo cut a hole in the roof of the jail in Los Lunas, and pulled his father to saftey. Francisco fled and hid in some of the setelements near El Paso.
Young Baca continued to live in the new Mexico community of Socorro, untill 1884 slowly building a reputation as a gunhand. He purchased a mail order badge and pretended to have some sort of athourity. Finally a opportunity came for him to show his stuff, a deputy sheriff from Frisco, New Mexico told some stories of how the cowpunchers were terrorizing the villiage.
Elfigo grabbed his badge and pinned it on his shirt and conducted his own investigation. He discovered that the trouble was being caused by hands from the near by Slaughter ranch. A certian cowboy named McCarty habatutially rode up and down the street shooting at signs and anything that drew his attention.. Elfigo looked up the alcalde and demanded he swear out a warrant for McCarty’s arrest. The alcalde supposed rebuffed Baca’s demands, and told him to return to Socorro where he belonged.
Unfazed baca headed to the business district to confront the trouble makers. He found McCarty and a few friends standing in the street making noise and in general making a nusanse of themselves. Baca marched up and collared McCarty by his shirt and screwed his pistol into his ear and told him to march to the jail, declaring that tomorrow he would be taken to Socorro to stand trial.
Later that afternoon Baca was acosted in the street by the Slaughter foreman and a group of cowboys who demanded he release McCarty. Baca refused to negoatate, instead he told them to get out of town. He drew his pistol and told them on the count of three he would start to shoot. He began his count and did not dawdle in the cadence. On three he began to shoot, penetrating one cowyboys pants and nicking his leg. The cowboys did not return fire, as their horses were pitching and rearing. The foremans horse reared and fell over backwards breacking the riders neck. The rest of the group gathered him up and fled town.
The next morning another justice of the peace agreed to try Mccartey and fined him $5 for disturbing the peace.
When it was over a large group of cowboys began milling in the street. Baca realised he was in deep trouble and when someone fired two shot’s he sprinted down the street and through a alley. He sought shelter in a jacal (shack) occoupied by a woman and baby. Baca instructed her to get out and hunkered down. quickly the jacal was surrounded by a angry group of cowboys, who began to blaze away at it. It seemed a poor place of shelter as its construction was made up of flimsy poles stuck upright in the ground dabbed with mud. If this had been Baca’s only shelter he would indeed have been in poor straights. However as was the custom of the area the floor had been dug down eighteen inches to conserve on building materials.
For the next thirtysix hours the cowboys kept him pinned down in what has become one of the most incretable one man stands in western history. Rancher Jim Herne rushed the building early in the seige banshing a rifle and was struck twice by Elfigo. Herne staggered back and died later. More than eighty cowboys surrounded the shack at one time or the other. They poured hundreds maybe even thousands of bullets into the structure. Over four hundred bullet holes were counted in the door, a broom handel had eight.
The cowboys tried to tourch the place but the dirt covered roof failed to catch. Even dynimite was tossed colapsing part of one cornor. No one knew if Baca had survived or not,.
Next morning their question was answered, as smoke curled out of the chimmey remains, Baca was cooking breakfast.
The second day dragged by with only sporatic firing, with many cowboys returning to their ranches and duties. Late that afternood a deputy arrived that Baca trusted. He agreed to surrender to him and return to Scorro ,if he could keep his guns. And that is how it ended.
He spent four months in jail finally being tried twice in Albuquerque and being aquitted both times.
While in jail he decited to study law and get married. He eventually became a lawyer and peace officer at various times in his life. A son and five daughters were eventually born to him.
Several knife wounds and a stab from a icepick were several of the hazards he suffered in his career.
He represented several of the Mexican revolutionaries in a internation capacity. On one occasiion he shot it out with a disgrunted Mexican general recieving a wound to the groin and shooting the generak twice in the heart. he stood trial and was aquitted in this instance also.
On a last note durring the the period when gambling institutoins were being held up all over Juarez on a regular basis he was hired to be the bouncer of the Tivoli, a estableshment of note. During his tenture as bouncer no attempt was ever made, he might have stayed on indefinately except he bounced the son of the cheif of police of Juarez one time to many.
He was and is controversial, he talked too much, drank to much, he had a weakness for wild women. He was often arrogant and he showed no compulshion about killing people. He returned to the pratice of law showing no intent of retiring and no use for a rocking chair. He remained a local fixture an ancachronsism of another time. He truly was the last of the old shooters. A few monhts after the first detonation of the Atomic bomb in New Mexico, Elfigo Baca quitely died at the age of eighty.
So ends this chapter on gnslingers.