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Whiskey River Ranger

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Captain Frank Jones, a famed nineteenth-century Texas Ranger, said of his company-s top sergeant, Baz Outlaw (1854-1894), "A man of unusual courage and coolness and in a close place is worth two or three ordinary men." Another old-time Texas Ranger declared that Baz Outlaw "was one of the worst and most dangerous" because "he never knew what fear was." But not all thought so highly of him. In Whiskey River Ranger, Bob Alexander tells for the first time the full story of this troubled Texas Ranger and his losing battle with alcoholism. In his career Baz Outlaw wore a badge as a Texas Ranger and also as a Deputy U.S. Marshal. He could be a fearless and crackerjack lawman, as well as an unmanageable manic. Although Baz Outlaw's badge-wearing career was sometimes heroically creditable, at other times his self-induced nightmarish imbroglios teased and tested Texas Ranger management's resoluteness. Baz Outlaw's true-life story is jam-packed with fellows owning well-known names, including Texas Rangers, city marshals, sheriffs, and steely-eyed mean-spirited miscreants. Baz Outlaw's tale is complete with horseback chases, explosive train robberies, vigilante justice (or injustice), nighttime ambushes and bushwhacking, and episodes of scorching six-shooter finality. Baz met his end in a brothel brawl at the hands of John Selman, the same gunfighter who killed John Wesley Hardin.

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1. A Magnetic Lone Star

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LEE COUNTY, DUE NORTH OF ALBANY, GEORGIA, was pleasantly sited in the southeastern section of what in due time would be nicknamed the Peach State. It was a part of the Old Plantation South. There the Alabama-born Meshack Napoleon Bonaparte Outlaw, subsequent to his 1847 graduation from the Medical College of New York City, upheld his medical practice as a country physician.1 And although now it might seem insignificant in the overall story, such will not prove to be true: Meshack's older brother by four years, Young Pinckney “Y.P.” Outlaw, a veteran of the Florida Indian Wars and former Dooly County deputy sheriff, chose to forego his position as an industrious and heavy-hitter Georgia cotton broker in Bibb County, near Macon. The ever adventurous Y.P. had opted to try his hand at something new. Migrating to the Lone Star State, settling at pretty Seguin, Guadalupe County, just a touch northeast of the Alamo City, Y.P. Outlaw took up the cattleman's life, becoming a “stock raiser.”2

 

2. Great Prudence and Good Judgment

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CANDIDLY THE PHRASEGONE TO TEXAS was applicable to an earlier time, but Baz Outlaw went: Straight to Guadalupe County.1 Honestly it may be reported there is—as of yet—no particular document placing Baz as a temporary resident in or near his uncle Y.P. Outlaw's home, but the supposition is buttressed by a primary source. Baz Outlaw would a short time later declare that he hailed from Seguin, the county seat of Guadalupe County.2 Whether Baz was running from the law or simply relocated in order to scratch that burning itch for adventure will likely never be authenticated. Supposing that Dr. Meshack Outlaw instructed Baz to make contact with his older brother in the Lone Star State is not hollow foolishness—not after factoring in common sense and logic.

There are not any grounds to suspect that Y.P. Outlaw would, whatever the reason, turn his back and a blind eye on his Georgia-born nephew—even though they may have never even met until Baz made his show in Texas. At any rate, Y.P. Outlaw was a standup guy, hard-working and loyal to family and friends. He, too, was a warrior when need be and as previously mentioned a veteran of the Seminole Indian campaign in Florida as well as the Civil War, and that's discounting that timeframe he served as a local deputy sheriff in Georgia's Dooly County. Yes, Y.P. Outlaw was a fighting man. When the tough nut cracked open, he could eat the meat. For a youthful dreamer like Baz Outlaw, one breaking the shackles of tedium and prospects of a life-long lackluster future, having a mentoring man to look up to like uncle Y.P. was good—and as would be probable, somewhat fulfilling for a young man on the make.

 

3. A Fighting Business—Robbing a Train

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PROBABLY LITTLE DID HE KNOW IT THEN, but Private Baz Outlaw had been transferred into one of the more celebrated and active Frontier Battalion units, Company D. At the time he transitioned into his new headquarters the company was commanded by Captain Frank Jones, an utterly fearless Ranger who had come from the bottom tier, through the ranks from private, climbing steps on the noncom's ladder, to junior commissioned officer, and finally promoted to company captain. Frank Jones was, now, a career lawman wholly committed to service and looking after the well-being of his subordinate Rangers. Likewise, Company D Texas Rangers, rank and file, adored him.1 Frank Jones was a man's man, a Ranger's Ranger. He was legit.

Exactly when Private Outlaw managed his initial appearance and gained an audience with Captain Jones is not precise, the Monthly Return for April 1887 in that regard simply reflecting: “B.L. Outlaw transferred from Co. ‘E’ by Capt. L.P. Sieker, QM.”2 Where he reported to is not indistinct, Camp Ross, Barksdale, Edwards County, on the Nueces River northwest of Uvalde. Though in due time Rocksprings would gain status as the county seat, when Private Outlaw made his show that honor went to Leakey, a spot now—after madcap political tinkering—in southeastern Real County. There's little doubt, a few of Company D Rangers’ unhappy prisoners were turned over to Edwards County Sheriff W.J. “Jeff” Sansom, who in turn ensconced them in “an iron cage in the center of a wooden building.”3

 

4. Making the Shoe Pinch too Close

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THE WHEELS HAD COME OFF in Wharton County. Situated not too far southwest of Houston, Wharton County was/is perfectly suited for its deserved agribusiness productivity and heritage. Bisected by the Colorado River, bestowed with a lengthy growing season, blessed with abundant rainfall, and positioned but one county removed from the Texas Gulf Coast, Matagorda, Wharton County was rich with rice production and the rewards from cotton, sorghum, soybeans, and multicolored fruit orchards were bountiful. Insect-resistant cattle with upturned pointed horns and humps on their backs grazed the lush grasslands not otherwise given over to crop production. Dating its founding to pre-Civil War days of 1846, the county and its like-named county seat, somewhat shared a bond with its immediate neighbor to the east, Fort Bend County. They were irrefutable economic holdouts of the Old South—Plantation Country. At the time, and undeniably so, this section of near seaside Texas real-estate shared a Code of the Duello legacy with her former Confederate States’ neighbors to the east, say like Georgia the birthplace of Texas Ranger Baz Outlaw. For this geographical stretch, as elsewhere, not everyone during the days of Reconstruction had been reconstructed.

 

5. One of the Worst and Most Dangerous

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BY CHRISTMAS OF 1888 THE COMPANY D CAMP alongside the Leona River, six miles from alluring Uvalde, had been reactivated.1 Private Baz Outlaw wasn't allowed an overabundance of time for sitting around at Camp Leona stuffing himself with scrumptiously roasted wild turkey or wandering into Uvalde to sample any other delicious pleasures or whiffs of perfume the town might afford young men. Three days after the holiday Private Outlaw and two others, riding under command of Corporal Durbin, were in the saddle headed for the broken and rocky Devils River Country west of Uvalde, hunting hard for a herd of stolen cattle and the yahoos pushing them for the border.2 The search—although unproductive—would consume eleven grueling horseback days, covering an estimated 400 miles.”3 Of this slice of Texas geography and of the jaunt back toward Company D's camp, Corporal Durbin remarked: “wee filled canteens and set out east across the devide for neauces which wee struch next Day and started down by Kickepooh Springs & aney one who read this that has come down the Neauces will Say no other Place in Tex with so much Rock as this Route.”4 Despite melodrama masquerading as truth, sometimes the Mounties don't always get their man—and neither do legendary Texas Rangers. Due to inclement weather most of the remaining month of January was spent gathering wood, huddling around the campfires, and trying to stay warm and dry in deteriorating wall tents that often leaked like sieves.5 Real camp life isn't always idyllic. Biting cold winds can blow romanticism to the next county in a jiffy.

 

6. Worth Two or Three Ordinary Men

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THE ATTRACTIONS OF WORK OR DEARTH OF WORK in Mexico had lost their luster for John R. Hughes. Some time on that first day of December 1889 and somewhere in Uvalde County he raised his hand swearing an oath to the State of Texas and was once more a Ranger, a private in Company D.1 Little did he realize it then but he had walked into a brewing administrative firestorm, divergent opinions about the rights and wrongs of cross-deputation. Though John Hughes and Baz Outlaw, at the time, would have had no comprehension about how such high-level disgruntlement would impinge on their lives—ultimately it would.

Paul Fricke, United States Marshal for the Western District of Texas, following the precedent of his predecessor, had continued the sagacious policy of deputizing particular Rangers. In this instance the controversy was swirling around his appointment of Sergeant Charley Fusselman. Captain Frank Jones—reading his interpretation of the law—thought the practice inappropriate. He asked that Charley Fusselman tender his resignation as a Deputy U.S. Marshal if, indeed, he wished to remain drawing pay from the Lone Star State:

 

7. Couldn't Leave Liquor Alone

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CORPORAL JOHN R. HUGHES seemed to have had the state of affairs along the Rio Grande pegged tight—and right—noting there had been “so much lawlessness at & near Presidio” that he thought it best to maintain a camp there for at least a month's duration. Past that timeframe, well, he was decidedly sure that it wasn't such a good idea “to stay long in one place, especially in Presidio as the mexicans [sic] can watch us pass out & in the town.”1 Particularly Corporal Hughes updated his war-chiefs, Sergeant Outlaw and Captain Jones, regarding real time reality: The presence of his detachment at Presidio had driven “six or eight” fugitives across the river into Ojinaga, where they were giving local lawmen the slip. For near a month, employing his best law-enforcing efforts Corporal Hughes and his men had been trying to “decoy” the wanted men into crossing the river and capturing them in the Lone Star State, rather than effecting a midnight extradition—kidnapping—in the State of Chihuahua. Thus far the corporal had been unsuccessful, but hope springs eternal for Rangers, too.2

 

8. Insulted in the Presence of Ladies

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DURING WEE MORNING HOURS of September 2, 1891, at about four o’clock, the engineer on the westbound Galveston, Harrisburg & San Antonio (Southern Pacific) Railroad's No. 20 noticed something unfamiliar and out of the ordinary—debris had been piled onto the railroad tracks. Quite successfully—and luckily—he applied the locomotive's air brakes, bringing the train to a safe stop roughly a mile from what was then known as Samuels Siding (now Pumpville) at Horseshoe Bend just inside Val Verde County's western and just outside Pecos County's then eastern boundary line.1 It was by any standard lonesome country. However, the train's crew had bad-mannered company: Four masked and menacing fellows carrying Winchesters. With threatening words and carbine muzzles poked into their ribs, the engineer and his fireman were marched back to the Express Car.2

Outside, the train robbers demanded entry. Inside, J. Ernest Smith, Wells, Fargo & Company's express messenger “barred his doors” and made ready for war; he'd undergone holdups before. And, in fact, during one such crime gone awry near El Paso four years earlier he had killed would-be bad men Jack Smith and Dick Myers when they tested his resolve.3 This time, it was different, the robbers had an Ace—a bundle of red-wrapped sticks with a fuse. J. Ernest Smith offered commentary: “My idea was to watch and get a dead shot at them, but they were no novices and remained down under the side of my car, and I'm glad now I did not get a shot for there was a regular army of them. Only six showed up, but others could be heard talking in the bushes. I was ordered to come out, but refused and heard the captain of the gang give orders to shoot into my car, and immediately they proceeded to pump lead in to my apartments. I started across the car to get behind my safe. The captain called to me: ‘Open up and come out of there or I will blow the blamed car up.’” Boastfully and quite truthfully it seems, one of the outlaws hollered that “they had a whole jackass load of dynamite” and by damn, entry they would own. Bravely, J. Ernest Smith stood pat—for a little while.4

 

9. Simply cannot Control Himself

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ASSUREDLY THE GRIM REAPER HAD NOT BEEN ASLEEP during that first month of eighteen-hundred and ninety-two: Not in the Big Bend Country, Company D's territory. Subsequent to slick undercover work, Diamond Dick St. Leon, the former-Ranger, had infiltrated and ingratiated himself with a nasty gang of Mexican ore thieves at Shafter. Surreptitiously, after talking with Diamond Dick, Corporal John Hughes and Private Lon Oden knew where to take a tactically advantageous position on that twelfth night of January. St. Leon would be acting as the rear guard for the gang's pack-train of stolen ore, treasure being shipped under the cover of darkness from Shafter to the Rio Grande—and across. Unbeknownst to Matilde Carrasco, José Villeto, and Quinlino Chaves they would never see or feel the warmth of Big Bend Country sunshine again. The ambush—law enforcement interdiction—had been blueprinted with buckshot perfectly. Whether or not the challenge to throw up hands and surrender was hurled before or after the Rangers’ shotgun blasts is somewhat irrelevant now, certainly not of any concern for Villeto and Chaves—they were sledgehammer dead. During the initial gunfire Carrasco had been wounded and might have survived had he not opted to fight a little longer. Apparently it had not even dawned on the cleverly duped Matilde that Diamond Dick was really not his friend. So, almost effortlessly when Carrasco repositioned himself to pop a few caps at the two suitably concealed Texas Rangers: “St. Leon rose up and shot him between the eyes.”1

 

10. Undaunted Courage and Fine Generalship

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SPRINGTIME OF 1893 HAD CLOSED finding U.S. Deputy Marshal/Special Ranger Baz Outlaw sitting in a reasonably good position career-wise. Certainly, despite the intermittent drunken and messy imbroglios of the past, maybe his word about foregoing taking a drink would stand good. Unquestionably, several Big Bend Country folks thought he was yet the man to turn to in a crisis. John Humphries, the storeowner previously advancing Baz cash in lieu of Captain Frank Jones forwarding Outlaw's quarterly pay vouchers, apparently had forgotten and/or forgiven—or it never had amounted to too much in the first place. Subsequent to some intricate consultations of a serious nature, John Humphries carried the message. Civilian Humphries wrote to Baz Outlaw enjoining him to exercise his authority as a federal officer: Proclaiming to the deputy marshal that the “Mescal business” at the Chispa Coal Mines must be stopped. The novice would-be lawmen had concocted what they believed was an ingenious plan. As it was spelled out to the Deputy U.S. Marshal, they would furnish him—loan him—a Winchester, horse, and saddle for the job.1 Then he could

 

11. In Arrest when he Died

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THE PREVIOUS YEAR MAY HAVE BEEN PUT TO BED, but 1894 El Paso was wide awake, one of those emblematic towns of the popularized Wild West era that never slept. And if she did need to nap for a minute or two—or readjust unmentionables—well, Ciudad Juárez was across the river. Though there were many nice folks residing there, industriously earning wholesome livelihoods and occasionally attending performances at the opera house or variety theaters, or churchy socials, or even lacing up roller-skates at one of several rinks, other amusements were tolerable. Far and wide throughout the nineteenth-century Southwest—the lively city was not necessarily known by her proper name, but as already cited, Hell Paso, the Monte Carlo of the West. One scribe said the place was wide-open, “tough as an old boot, mean as a sore-headed bear.”1

Aside from laying down a bet, were one so inclined laying down a whore was effortless, too. A business transaction—nothing more, nothing less—it was. Good for the patron, the prostitute, and the madam and the city who was taking her cut by winking and turning her head, all the time collecting fines—de facto licensing fees—from the daughters of joy.2 Even the city's attorney would lament that the practice was “radically wrong in principle and right has been sacrificed to profit.”3 And one of those ladies of the night with a plunging neckline and plunging her indomitable spirit into America's dreamscape model of capitalism was Mathilde Weiler, aka Miss Tillie Howard, a Wisconsin native—maybe—who had scrimped and saved, investing her $2,200 in cash for a fancily appointed parlor house at 307 South Utah Street, in the very heart of El Paso's Tenderloin District—or the Reservation—as whore house row had then been euphemistically christened.4

 

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