Posts Tagged ‘Old West’

BILLY, THE KID: conclusion

May 22, 2008

BILLY, THE KID: continued

      Well, I started this saga out with verses of the ballad of Billy, the Kid.  Unfortunatly I ran out of verses before I ran out of story.  The last verse was  premature:


And it’s still premature – we’ve still a bit of a ways to go before Billy’s sad end.

     The last installment ended with the burning of McSween’s house and Billy’s escape, and the aftermath resulting the end of the Lincoln County range war. 

     The President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, had been recieving reports of the goings on and was not pleased with what he had been hearing.  He removed the governor of the New Mexico Territory, Samuel Axtell, who had connections to “The House of Murphy”, and replaced him with Civil War General Lew Wallace.  Wallace was uncertian who to hold responsible for the lawlessness, so he issued a general amnesty proclamation to all except nonresidents.  This left The Kids status very vague.

     The opposing fractions in Lincoln County tried to strike an accord.  One of the most dangerous gunmen of The House of Murphy “Jessie Evans” and The Kid met.  After reaching a workable agreement, they stepped out into the street ready to go celebrate the accord.  There they met Huston Chapman, a one armed lawyer in the employ of Mrs McSween, retained to prosecute Colonel Dudley and Sheriff Pippin, on the charges of arson and murder.  Harsh words were exchanged and a shot rang out — and Chapman fell dead.  Though Billy was present, it was known that he did not do the shooting.  Someone then drenched  Chapman’s body with Whiskey and set it on fire.  The body lay in the street for twenty-four hours.

     A few days later The Kid wrote Governor Wallace a letter stating his innocence and offered to testify against those guilty.  A midnight meeting was arranged  in the office of a Lincoln County Justice of Peace’s office.  On March 17, 1879, at midnight there was a knock on the door of the office and when the door was opened there stood Billy The Kid with a rifle in one hand and his pistol in the other.  The meeting was conducted and Billy agreed to tell all in open court, and the govoernor agreed to exempt Billy from prosecution and grant him a executive pardon.

     Through prearrangement with the goveror, Billy submitted to a false arrest and prepared to spend a short time in jail.  As agreed, he gave his evidence against the Lincoln county killers.  His testimony helped to indict one of the proprietors of The House of Murphy,  John Dolan, for complicity in one Lincoln County murder.

     The district attorny defied the governor’s orders.  He pointed out there were  various indictments outstanding against The Kid,  refused to squash them and remanded The Kid to jail.  Billy simply slipped his hands out of the handcuffs (something he could do with ease since his hands were small and his wrist big), and took his leave.  Billy had asked for reasurance from Wallace and never recieved a reply.

     No details are avaliable to me but Billy reportedly killed a Joe Grant in a Fort summner saloon brawl on Janurary 10, 1880. (more…)


Billy, The Kid: cont.

May 10, 2008


     After the killing of Tunstall, Billy joined the forces of the Tunstall fraction in seeking revenge.  His first attempt resulted in embarrassment, which only served to fuel his hatred.  He joined a policeman in the effort to serve a warrant on members of Mortons posse – as a result Billy was jailed for three days and suffered the humiliation of having his rifle confiscated by Sheriff Brady.

    After Brady released The Kid he joined Tunstall’s foreman, Dick Brewer, and a posse  which called themselves “The Regulators” in a search for his former employers’ killers.  Somewhere near Rio Penasaco, they flushed William Morton and another deputy Frank Baker out.  After a five mile running gun battle, Morton and Baker agreed to surrender after being promised by Brewer a safe return and a fair trial.  Along the way Morton was premitted to pen a letter to a relitave in Virginia in which he wrote “There was one man who wanted to  kill me after I had surrendered and was restrained with the greatest difficulity by the others.”   On the third day of the journey  to Lincoln, while the party was strung out, The Kid and one other killed both men, and apparently one of the posse who had tried to stop them.

      Three weeks later on April’s Fools Day, 1878, Billy and at least five others ambushed Sheriff Brady, Deputies George Hindman and three others, as they strolled down the main street of Linclon.   Brady was killed instantly and Hindman lay bleeding in the dust while the other deputies escaped.  Billy broke cover and scurried to pick up Brady’s rifle – the very one he had taken from the kid.  Billy Mathews, one of the fleeing deputies, fired with his rifle, inflicting a painful flesh wound to the inside of one of Billy thighs.  He might have easily fled town, but with his new found bravado he hid instead.     One presistant story is he hid inside an empty barrel while a Mexican woman made tortillias on the top as her house was searched.

      Three days later, The Kid, riding with Dick Brewer and The Regulators tangled with Andrew “Buckshot” Roberts at a spot called “Blazer’s Mill”, southwest of Ruidoso, in  one of the old west’s classic shootouts.  The outcome left Brewer dead and Roberts dying of his wounds. (more…)


April 29, 2008






      Well we need to hold our horses here, this verse is getting kinda ahead of the tale — plus it is filled with misconceptions.

     After fleeing the jail at Camp Grant where he was awaiting his fate for the killing of “Windy”  Cahill, Billy next appears at the Jones Ranch.  The Ranch of Heiskell Jones was located in the Pecos Valley, of New Mexico.  Apaches had stolen his horse and supplies, while Billy had stopped for water, leaving The Kid stranded with out supplies and miles from anywhere.  When Billy (by now he was going by the name of William Bonney, or simply “The Kid”)  arrived at the Jones Ranch, he was in sad shape.  Bootless, his feet were bloody and swollen, near a state of exaustion, The Jones family took him in and cared for him.  Mrs. Jones treated his ailment and wounds, and nursed the youth back to good health.  The Kid helped around the ranch forming a strong, lasting attachment to the family – and they to him.  Eventually they lent him a horse, and he left to look for work a few weeks later. 

Billy, The Kid rode into the Linclon County War.

And here the ledgend of Billy “The Kid” began

     Billy soon found work on the ranch of John Tunstall, a wealthy English emigrant twenty-four years of age.  (Now here I leave the story to enter into one of my rambles.)  John tunstall has always been potrayed as an older gentelman dressed in English Tweed Who employs young  youths who are wandering astray, whom he takes under his wing and tries to rehabilate and educate them.  He often is shown trying to teach young Billy how to read.  As we have already seen Bill, was already literate from earlier schooling.  In truth John Tunstall was a scheming, coniving individual who over matched himself.

     Also involved was John Chisim (who did not resembel John Wayne, as in the movie “Chisim”) , who had more cattle than he could count, and a range so vast it took days to ride across.  When the war started he had the good sense to stay on his ranch and out of the conflict. 

   Then there was the lawyer Alexander McSween, a seemingly pious and God fearing man, who was in reality in search of riches and fame.  There was his redheaded wife who dominated her pious husband, and would have won the war by herself if she had been a man.. (more…)

Henry McCarty aka William H. Bonney aka “Billy the Kid”

April 6, 2008






       As I sit here prepared to start this new chapter of the old west, I’m surounded by at least six books.  All have business cards, post-it notes and grocery reciepts stuck throughout them marking pages.  While the main story remains basically the same through them, the details vary greatly.  These books are serious works of individuals who researched their stories as best they could, none are the dime and penny stories of his day. 

     Even “The Kids” origin differs from book to book.  Some say without doubt that Henry Antrim and his older brother Joe were both born in New York to Catherine McCarty, Billy around 1860.  Some claim his father was named either Patrick McCarty, or William Bonney.  In another book it is stated that historians have largley dismissed this theroy and feel he was born in Illiniois, Indiana or Kansas.  And one it is stated that Billy told an 1880 census taker that he was born in Missouri.

     What is known is that by 1870 Mrs. McCarty was in Wichita, Kansas where she became acquanted with a William H. Antrim.  Antrim was a discharged private with the Indiana Volunteer Infantry.  Antrim was a part time carpenter, farmer and bartender.  Catherine filed on a quarter section of land and purchased a lot in town where she operated a hand laundry.

      After a lengthly courtship the couple marrried in Santa Fe.  Antrim is often potrayed as a shiftless scoundrel, but he seems to have done his best to provide for his family.  Catherine suffered terribly from tuberculosis and soon after the marriage the family moved to Silver City, New Mexico.  Probably in the hopes that The dry climate would prove benificial for her health. 

     While life in a mining camp could hardly be described as a wonderful experience, Henry’s could not be called unpleasant either.  He seemed to have done well in school, and was described as an eager learner and very helpful in the classroom.  He acquired the ability to express himself, as later revealed in letters he wrote to the governor.





      Not true!  Catherine McCarty died on Sepetember 16,1874, and the family began to disolve.  Antrim could not exert much influnce over the boys.  Joe would roam the west and die in Denver, Colorado at the age of seventy-six on November 25, 1930.  His body went unclaimed and was donated to the Colorado Medical School.  He has never been quoted as saying anything about his infamous brother to my knowledge.

     It did not take Henry long to have his first brush with the law.  According to the Grant County Herald  of September 26,1875 “Henry McCarty was arrested and commited to jail to await the action of the grand jury on charges of stealing clothes from Charlie Sun and Sam Chung.  It is believed that Henry was simply the tool of Sombrero Jack who did the actual stealing while Henry did the hiding.  Jack has skipped out.” (more…)


March 29, 2008


     In my last post I stated that the dress of the “Shootest”, as they preferred to be called, was not as the entertainment media would have us believe.  These dangerous gunmen did not walk the streets or ride from town to town, gun-fight to gun-fight, dressed in sleek black clothing with silver trimmed low-slung holsters advertising their profession.  Nor have I found an instance where one sought another to prove that he was faster on the draw. 

     That all being said, we will now visit probably the most flamboyant character in the old west, other than Bill Cody and a few showmen like him.

     Due to the fact that he never had a good press agent, King Fisher never gained the fame, interest or notoriety he probably deserved.  He was flamboyant, good looking and possessed a flair for style. Fisher was deadly and had extremely cool courage.  Though he never received wide ranging fame, Fisher was known as the “King of The Hill” in the Nuecus Strip.  It is said that even today men a in bar rooms and and around camp fires argue the balance of his good against his evil.

      King Fisher was about six foot tall and close to 186 pounds, he had a good set of strong white teeth, flashing eyes, with black hair and mustache.  His eyes eyebrows were thick and in his photograph appears very handsome. (I have to admit that if you were to darken the hair and shave the goatee and thicken the mustache, my oldest son would resemble King very much).

     One contemporary of Fisher described him thus  “Fisher was the most perfect specimen of a frontier dandy and desperado that I ever met.  He was tall, beautifully proportioned and exceedingly handsome.  He wore the finest clothing procurable, the picturesque, border, dime novel kind.  His broad-brimmed white Mexican sombrero was profusely ornamented with gold and silver lace.  His fine buck-skin Mexican short jacket was heavily embroidered with gold.  His shirt was the finest and thinnest linen and open at the throat, with a silk handkerchief  knotted loosely about the wide collar.  A brilliant crimson shah wound about his waist, and his legs were hidden by a wonderful pair of Chaparejos or chaps as the cowboys called them– leather britches to protect the legs while riding through the brush.”

      As you can see the old boys had a flair for words back when.  I would like to interject here the the chaps mentioned were made out of a tiger skin.  This is from a second book, and I remember reading some 45 years ago that he acquired the hide when they way-laid a small traveling circus.  King Fisher was intrigued by the caged tiger and shot it and had it skinned and a pair of chaps made for  him from the hide.

     Well, as stated before several times this was not his ordinary work out-fit, but his every-day clothes were of good quality in any event.  An example: his boots were black patent leather with fancy trimming.  His six-gun that hung from his belt was .45 Colt with a gutt-perka handle (black hard rubber).  The barrel and frame was blue-bronze steel and was a gift from Pofirio Diez, who would ultimately become president of Mexico.

     Now a fellow dressed in such a manner would ordinarily become the laughing stock and butt of jokes.  But nobody ever laughed at John King Fisher.  His enemy and detractor’s might have hated and despised him, but they never lost their respect  or fear of  him.  John King was able to wear his clothing with impressive manner that did not appear to be a showoff or dandy, a feat few other men could have accomplished.

      He was born John King Fisher in 1854, and had a strong dislike for his step-mother.  It is reported that she used to hang him up by his suspenders in a doorway while she did here chores.

     At sixteen he was sentenced to prison for horse theft, shortly after his family moved to Goliad.  His two year term was was reduced to four months by the governor.

     In another account his family claimed that John King had been returning home from a stay at a school when he camped for the night and woke the next morning and discovered his horse had wandered off during the night.  He supposedly caught a nearby horse and saddled it up with the intention of finding his own, when the owner caught him and had him arrested.  Then allowed him to escape on the way to the jail by passing him a pen knife allowing him to cut his bindings. (more…)


March 23, 2008


      Apparently not!  Lets take a quick look back down that winding, twisting trail I have led you on through the previous chapters.  I cannot think of one of the desperate characters mentioned who used a fancy tooled low-slung rig.  Remember John Westley Hardin, captured when his pistol’s hammer hung up on his suspenders when he tried to draw it from his waist band?  Another fellow named Con Gibson had the same thing happen to him in a gunfight in New Mexico, in 1894 with the same disastrous results.

     A review of historical records reveal few gun-fights that involved holsters.  Referring back to John Westley Hardin, he used a cord around his neck, his waistband and leather lined pockets.

     Then there was Dallas Stoudenmier, from the long rambling El Paso chapters,  He also carried his pistols in leather lined pockets of his coat.  His long gun for distance and the one with the shortened barrel for close work.

    Bill Hitchcock favored tucking his guns into a long sash wrapped around his waist.  Then many times when two people decided to shoot it out one had to wait while the other ran to get his gun from his room or where ever he kept it.  Many of the people in the old west just did not go around  “heeled” as depicted on TV and the movies.  Also remember there were ordinances in effect in most town that forbade the practice of carrying guns.  Recall Ike Clanton was not armed at the gunfight at the OK Corral and fled the fight.


      Through out these recorded gunfights shooting and saftey skills was one thing that seemed to be universally lacking.   Killing Jim Miller and Sheriff Frasier from a few steps back are a prime example.  Frasier shot Miller from close range on two occasions from basically ambush and failed to kill him.  Well the fact that Miller wore the steel plate under his coat helped.  But he did wound him in other places with little effect.   Miller enlisted the help of others in his attempt at revenge.

      One of the Miller Hench-men Mannie Clements managed to shoot himself in June of 1895, Clements loaded all six cylinders of his pistol and tossed it on the bed, the gun discharged and hit him in the hip.  In less than three days a second Hench-man Mart Hardin, (brother to John Westley Hardin), hopped out of a buggy and his pistol fell from his pocket and discharged.  Entering under the right shoulder blade and lodging in the muscles of his neck.  He also had loaded all six chambers of his pistol.  A practice that was always advised against.  and one that all shooting clubs in The USA forbid in competition shooting.

     Also on one occasion it was recorded that Wyatt Earp allowed a pistol to fall out of a pocket and narrowly missed shooting himself.  Wyatt also is quoted as saying “I never used any fancy rigs or tricks.  I just tried to pull my pistol out and make sure I hit what I was shooting at.”     I have buried somewhere in my books that there are only six shooting incidents recorded involving Wyatt Earp.  This encompasses Dodge City as well as Tombstone.

      In all my books these people who I have written about so far where photos exist are shown wearing suits with coats and vests and some sort of tie.  I know that this does not fit the image portrayed in the wild west movies and maybe did not reflect every day living dress, but remember these fellows were by large city dwelling folk and for the most part practiced the trade of gambling.  I know Wes Harding, Print Olive and some of the others worked the trail drives and plied the rustling racket and did not dress like a city dude while on the trail.  But there is no mention of how they carried their weapons either.


       I know I have covered this in the past way back down the trail, so will be brief.  Early holsters for the most part were military holsters.  Until after the Civil War it was not common practice for people to carry pistols, until the opening of the west began.  With the rise of the outlaw gangs after the war it became more common.  Hand-guns were large things and heavy.   Believe me I can attest to that, strap on a double gun rig add a large knife and thirty rounds of ammunition and you probably have near to fifteen pounds of extra weight ridding on your hips.  By the end of a shooting day you will willingly shed it at the first opportunity.  As I started to say, military holsters were largely the first.  They came with flaps to protect the pistol from the elements and dirt.  At some time fellows started to tuck the flap back or cut it off to facilitate a quicker response to dragging it out.

      Then cane the Californian Slim Jim, a snug fitting holster that had a high side over the cylinder and snugly gripped the trigger guard to keep the weapon from falling out.  Later the side was lowered somewhat for quicker release.  The Mexican Buscallaro came along and this is the gun-rig you see in the movies today.  It is unpractical for sitting, riding and would be in the way of a working cowboy.  But this has all been covered again so is redundant here. Shoulder holsters were in use and evident.  And Jessie James was reported to utilize a double rig at times.  The only thing about a set of shoulder holsters with a set of big pistols is the damn things get in the way of your arm movement, think about it..

      Yes, I do have numerous pictures of holstered pistols and ammo belts.  Mostly on far ranging lawmen like the Texas and Arizona Rangers.  Some with double belts of ammo, one for the pistol with the holstered weapon and usually a belt of rifle Ammo wrapped around the belly above.  These are men who look like they mean business, and I will soon give attention to them.  I simply want to give you the reason they existed first.  Almost to a man these men wear their guns high in a cross draw holster, for the reasons I have given above.

     Well this rambling mess was a prelude to the next chapter.  A fellow who was a little more flamboyant.

Once again thanks for listening to a old duffer ramble.



March 20, 2008


       I am drawing from two books on this one and the author of my favorite states, Print Olive, Just plain mean as hell.  His name was Isom Prentice Olive,  known to most as “Print”.  Print rode with the Texas Volunteers in the civil War.  After the hostilities ended he returned to Williamson County, Texas and took up ranching on his father’s spread.

     This was the time when the range was filled with the wild Longhorn Cattle that bred and roamed free.  Until a maverick was branded it was fair game to anyone who could drive, drag  or wrestle it out of the heavy brush and rope and brand it.    All this was open range but the man who controlled the watering spots either by ownership or dominance was in effect in control of the surrounding area.  A person caught branding or slaughtering a steer in that area was considered a rustler,  and the Olives had no tolerance for rustlers.

      An unfortunate individual named Ron Murry was Print Olive’s first rustler.  Print in effect shot Murray out of the saddle and then took him home, patched him up and hired him as a hand.

     The next encounter turned out a little different for Print.  He discovered one Dave Fream in a running gun battle on horse back. Fream was killed but wounded Print badly.  Olive was indicted for murder but the jury scoffed  at the charge and Print was freed.

    Still on the mend from his wounds Print started on a trail drive to Kansas.  Homesteaders felt these drives should pay a fee for crossing their lands or using their watering holes.  Often they would charge a sum that the drovers considered highway robbery.   Most trail bosses would settle on a more reasonable fee, but some pushed on with bluff or bullied their way through.

     (Now I know that this word is sensitive to many and is one that I do not use.  But it was in use at the time and is recorded in the book.  I will use it only once as printed, and apologize to any I offend.)  Print had a big black cowboy and somewhat of a gun-hand.  He would have gained greater notoriety had his skin been white.  His name was James Kelly, most commonly known as “Nigger Jim”  or “Print’s Bad Nigger”.  As a gun-hand he had few peers, and was devoted to Print Olive.

    Print would send Jim  Kelly out to negotiate with these homesteaders, most of whom had never seen a Negro in their life and never one who wore his guns in so fearsome a manner.

     One cowboy recorded:  “That big black boy with his gun would sure tell them punkin’ rollers where to head in at.  He’d roll his eyes like a duck in a thunderstorm and grit his teeth–Lord he could play a tune with his teeth.  Most of the settlers were poor northern folks that never seen any colored people and was scared of them anyway.  When they saw Kelly, they would come down quickly enough from $25 to $5 as the price for watering the herd.”

     In Ellsworth, Kansas, according to a reprinted newspaper article in a second book, an account is given as to the shooting of Print — the article is too lengthily to reprint here but it gives this account.

     “Our fair city was once again rocked with another shooting in the saloon district.  Print Olive and a local known cardsharp named Jim Kennedy had a disagreement over a hand of cards.  Mr. Kennedy stood up from the table and Mr. Olive made charges as to how Mr. Kennedy had dealt the last hand of cards.  Mr. Kennedy drew a concealed gun and before Mr. Olive could move from the table, fired striking Mr. Olive in his upraised hand.  Firing twice more Mr. Olive received serious wounds to his groin and thigh. Someone standing  on the porch fire through the window striking Mr. Kennedy in the hip.  Mr. Olive was removed to a back room for treatment by local Doctors.  Mr. Kennedy was taken into custody and treated at undisclosed location.  He later escaped though a unlocked window.”

    The person who fired through the window and there-by saved Prints life was James Kelly.

     When Print recover enough he returned to Texas to recuperate.      Farmers and cowboys were now roping and branding mavericks that the Olive’s had claim to.  Print had signs made and posted that read “All cattle and horse thieves pay attention, anyone caught ridding a Olive horse or driving a Olive cow will be shot on sight.” (more…)


March 11, 2008



     Outlaw John Larn John Larn is a little known killer from Shackelford County, Texas (this is near Abilene).  He is not a subject that they care to discuss.  Little remains of his history in the local area,  as efforts were made to erase his memory from the printed records.

At one time he was in a important   position of trust.  He was many things to different people: efficient, cruel, kind, pleasantJohn Larn, Image via and barbaric.  Other accounts show him to be a  evil gun-slinging genius, who would eventually was killed in a hate filled hail of gun-smoke while locked in his own jail by his own relatives.

John Larn drifted out of Mobile, Alabama into Colorado where he   was accused of the murder of a cattleman who thought Larn was doing wrong by inappropriately borrowed one of his horses with asking.  A few months later he shot the sheriff who tried to arrest him.

 Moving on seemed to be the best course of action so he drifted to Fort Griffin, Texas, and hired on with a trail drive to New Mexico.  along the Pecos River he killed three men and “feed the Catfish” with their bodies.

Upon the return to Fort Griffin, he and the trail boss had a falling out.  Leading several disgruntled drovers in his wake they went on a rampage through the trail camp resulting in the death of two men and seven wounded.  It was commonly known that all were engaged in the trade of rustling no charges were ever filed.

Larn went to work for a local rancher named Joe Matthews a leading figure in the area.  Just like the old western movies John stayed true to the script and married the ranchers daughter.He was a devoted husband and reportedly faithful.  In his consideration of her he did not smoke, swear or drink in her presence.  Oh yes he never did any of his killings in her presence either to his credit.

Larn started his own ranch along the Clear fork of the Brazos River.  He established a relationship with John Selman.  John SelmanSelman was crude compared to Larn’s polished manners.  However Selman proved to be the wiser of the two.  Selman moved on to El Paso (and if you remember from one of the earlier chapters a controversial showdowns.)  Larn stayed behind to eventually die.

In Schakelford County the eternal struggle between the big cowman and the smaller Ranchers and Granger’s continued to exist.  the big boys claimed the smaller ones were rustling their cattle (sometimes true) and fencing in the range (completely true).

In February of 1876, when Larn was around the age of twenty-five, and unknowing had only two years to live, he ran for the office of sheriff.  Elected he set out to lean up the county.  On April 2 he caught a horse thief named Joe Watson, most of his gang and  Watson’s wife Sally, who supplemented their income by prostitution.  Sending Sally on home and telling her Joe would soon join her.  Felling it was time to send a message to all wrong doer’s he hung Watson, “Redd”, “Larapie Dan” and “Doc” McBride.  Pinning a note to the clothes of the latter that read “He said his name was McBride, but he was a liar as well as a thief.”

Larn persused the other two thiefs to Dodge City, with a warrant in his pocket.  Catching up with them he brought them back to fort Griffin and placed them in jail.  Vigilantes removed the poorly guarded prisoners from the lock-up and strung them up to nearby trees.  By December of that year eleven other rustlers or accused rustlers were sent on their way to the promised land by rope.  The valley of Clear forks took on the semblance of a peaceful community for a welcome change.

Things might have stayed that way but Larn and Selman started to supplement their herds by selective rustling of their own.  Occasionally they even cut expenses by shooting their hired help. (more…)


March 5, 2008


     Killin Jim Miller, a true “Bushwacker” if ever lived one.  A well known historian and folklorist said of Jim Miller he was superior to most other badmen in one respect–“He had the best manners.”

     Jim Miller did not seem to fit the popular mold of a old west gunman.  He was often known as “Deacon Jim”   for his regular church attendance and his pursuit of the Bible.  But to others he was known as “Killin Jim”. A cold blooded, seemingly almost inhuman killing machine.  He raised the art of bushwhacking and ambush to a exact science.  His tool of choice was a shotgun and sometimes a rifle.  In his own estimation he claimed to have killed over fifty men, although this claim cannot be substantiated today.  It is stated elsewhere in another source that eight documented cases of murder for hire and at least six more killings in drunken encounters and brawls are attributed to him.  What is known his trigger finger  was for hire and there were enough purchasers around to give it exercise.

     Miller was born in Van Buren, Arkansas on October 25, 1861 (his birth date is one day before mine, different year of course, which has nothing to do with the story. except we are both sneaky Scorpions with a stinger in our tail.  who knows how I would have turned out in those wild days?).   He was born with large, egg-shaped knots behind his rather prominent ears. 

    As a youth he lived with his brother-in-law, a relationship he ended with a shotgun blast when he reached 21 years old.  He was imprisoned but the case was overturned on appeal.

     Miller drifted to Pecos, Texas in 1891, there he became a deputy sheriff.  the sheriff bud Frazer was uncertain about this this fellow who had killed his own relative.  He had also heard some uncertain stories about other crimes linked to Miller but had no substantial proof, and deputy’s were hard to find.

     the towns people took a liking to this young man who was polite and never smoked, drank, kept out of the saloons.  He spoke politely to the women and did not use tobacco or snuff, and rarely swore.  Miller attended Church every Sunday and sang all the hymns and was in the Amen corner when the revivals came to town.  His idiosyncrasy of wearing a long black frock coat even in the summer was over looked, although it did look strange buttoned up in July.

    Miller entered the cattle business after marrying Sallie Clements.  Miss Clements family were a hard working, honest folk who were reputed to be fast with guns.  People did wonder where Miller got the money to go into business, and some suspected rustling.  but a investigation by Sheriff found no evidence of wrong doing on millers part.  some were still not convinced, and the town split down the middle on the subject.

    The relationship between Frasier and Miller began to deteriorate.  Frasier left town on business and Miller allowed the criminal element to flourish, Frasier received stories that Miller intended to kill him on his return.  Frasier thwarted the plan by stopping in El Paso and asking Texas Ranger   John Hughes to accompany him home.  No body in Pecos wanted to tanglewith Hughes, as he was known as a hard case with a reputation.  After arriving town the two lawmen had Miller in jail on charges of plotting to commit murder.  A trial found Miller not guilty and he was released.

     Miller returned to Pecos in 1894 and he bought a hotel and announced he was going to lead a quite life.  the churches welcomed him back enthusiastically.  However Frasier had his doubts.  On April the two tangled in a affair in which Miller should have been killed.

     Frasier approached Miller from behind and when Miller turned to see who was there Frasier fired his gun.  Amazingly the bullet bounced off the black coat.  Unfazed the sheriff fired repeatedly disabled Millers right arm.  Miller now had his own pistol out of his coat pocket and shooting with his left hand, not his forte.  He hit a Innocent bystander.  Frasier in frustration lowered his aim and shot Miller in his lower diaphragm, ending the gunfight.  Frasier left and Miller was carried into his hotel where on removing the coat it was discovered why bullets bounced of his chest.  Inside the coat was sewn a heavy iron plate.  (believed to be the inspiration for the iron plate in Clint Eastwood’s, character in Fist Full Of dollars).

      Bud Frasier lost his bid for reelection and left town.  Miller in his recuperation boasted he had run Frasier out of town and would kill him someday.

     Six months later Frasier returned to town on business and the two met on the street and gunfire erupted again.  Frasier shot Miller in the arm and leg and rushed in for a killing shot.  Unfortunately he did not know of the iron plate when the bullet failed to kill Miller he ran away and left the Town to Miller.

     Miller swore out a murder complaint against Frasier.  In Pecos the trial resulted in a hung jury.  In Colorado city, they figured miller got what he deserved and set Frasier free.

     Things simmered until September 13, 1896 when Miller laid a shotgun across the bat-wing doors of a saloon in Toyah, Texas and blasted Frasier at a gambling table, sending him to the promised land.

    Miller was tried for murder in Eastland, Texas the jury could not agree on a verdict.  While awaiting a second trial Miller conducted a prayer meeting and the preacher went to court and testified that the prisoner “Deacon Jim” was as “exemplary as that of a minister of the Gospel”.  Miller was acquitted. (more…)


March 4, 2008


      Now if you have seen the movie “Tombstone” with Kurt Russel and Val Kilmer you will remember the characters Johnnie Ringo.  He did exist and was present in tombstone at the time of the Earp’s and Holiday.  The movie would have you believe that Doc Holiday and John Ringo dueled and Doc killed Ringo.   However history seems to state otherwise.

     Ringo was     believed to have been born in Missouri sometime in the 1850’s.  He was a kind of ladies man and exhibited a raw courage and fearlessness, however there is little evidence that he killed a lot of people.

     John Ringo appealed on the scene of Texas during the 1870’s.  there he was involved in what was known as the Sutton-Taylor feud.  Landing jail on several occasions he then wandered to Shakespeare, New Mexico, then on to Tombstone, Arizona.  He appeared to have received a well founded education,, and quoted freely by memory  the bards of yesterday.

      It is said that if he kept poetry in his soul, he kept rot whiskey in his gut by the gallon.  He war-ed within between drunkenness and depression.  He often rode off in solitary solitude for days on end.

     His violent trigger temper kept him in constant trouble.  One such occasion happened when in a saloon a drunk made harsh remarks about one of the ladies plying her trade.  John smashed his head in and as he fell to the floor shot him through the throat.  the unfortunate fellow was buried the next day at Row 8 in boot Hill.

     Ringo was a ardent supporter of the Clantons in their feud with the Earp’s.  He hated Doc Holliday with all his heart, and Doc returned the same in like.  On several occasions only the intervention of various allies kept the hatred from erupting in gun fire.

     Ringo was absent when the fight at the O K corral happened.  It only fueled his hatred toward the Earp’s and Holliday.  It is almost certain that he was one of the ambushers that crippled Virgil Earp for life on the night of December 28, 1881.

     It was only about six months later that Ringo was found dead under one of the most puzzling circumstances in western history.  Ringo, Buckskin Frank Leslie and Billy Clayborne all notorious gunmen rode out of tombstone after a drunken spree.  The following day they split up going their separate ways.  the following day on July 14 a man came into town with a story of a body found sitting under a tree in Turkey Creek Canyon in the San Simon Valley.

      Ringo was found there with a pistol in one hand, with a single shot fired.  His newly purchased boots tied to his saddle, too small for his feet.  His swollen feet were bound with torn strips of his undershirt; otherwise he was fully clothed.  A wound large enough to insert two fingers was between his right eye and ear.  found in his pockets was $2.60 in change, a pocket comb, a watch and several other sundry items.  Such is the wealth of a petty crook and gunman.

    the inquest agreed that John ringo had committed suicide, biased on the fact the gun was found in his right hand, and the fact that Ringo had often talked of suicide.  However unexplained and probably not even investigated was the fact that his cartridge belt was on upside down and the appearance that someone had tried to scalp him.


     In a strange twist of fate, I had planned to write of Jack Slade yesterday.  On the Encore channel on cable I watch the western channel when they have something I haven’t seen a hundred time before (which my wife cannot understand).  Yesterday afternoon they had the old black-and white 1953 movie “Jack Slade” which I have seen, not quite a hundred times.  The movie does have most of the known facts of Slade’s story recounted with Hollywood interpretations.

     Slade was a strange gunman similar to John Ringo.  He grew up in Carlye, Illinois and served in the Mexican War, which apparent whetted his taste for blood and thunder.  He hired as a trouble-shooter for the Overland Stage.  Slade is described as a short. roll-poly, often schizophrenic fellow.  Slade also married one of the prettiest girls in the area, named Virginia who weighed about 160# (why this seems important I have no Idea).

     Slade was a hard working fool, a fighting fool and a drinking fool (so the book says) and he would do any of the three with great vigor.  the company dispatched hi to Juelsburg as division manager, all he had to do was clean up the mess there.

     A Frenchman named Jules Beni had stolen many of the company’s horses.  and according to local rumor had killed and disposed of several emigrants.  Jules proved to be no push over for Slade. (more…)