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Chapter 1. “A Hamlet among outlaws”

David Johnson University Of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER

1

“A Hamlet among outlaws”

IN THE YEARS FOLLOWING HIS DEATH, John Ringo has fascinated readers. Ringo’s legend “began to slowly sprout and take root” only four days after his death.1 The seeds of that legend were sown in Texas’ bitter Hoo Doo War. At the time he was no different from dozens of other men engaged in the conflict, each with his own story. Yet unlike most of them, Ringo was destined to become a legend.

Walter Noble Burns can be credited with almost single-handedly popularizing John Ringo. From his pen emerged a tarnished knight errant who rode out of nowhere and died mysteriously. In 1927 Burns wrote, “John Ringo stalks through the stories of old Tombstone days like a Hamlet among outlaws, an introspective, tragic figure darkly handsome, splendidly brave, a man born for better things, who, having thrown his life recklessly away, drowned his memories in cards and drink and drifted without definite purpose or destination.”2 With that single, emotional sentence, Burns set the stage for the romantic myth of John Ringo.

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Chapter 25. “Many friends will mourn him”

David Johnson University Of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER

25

“Many friends will mourn him”

BEHAN DID NOT FAIL TO SECURE APACHE because the military favored the Earps. In January 1882 messengers from Juh and Nachez were sent to chief Loco on the San Carlos reservation. “During the intervening weeks there were indications that Apaches were moving north to contact the Warm Springs Indians at San Carlos.”1 The army was on the alert, and scouts were kept busy on government business and unavailable as scouts for Behan, thus facilitating the escape of the fugitives.

The Earps raced northeast to avoid “a possible confrontation at Deming with a sure-enough man-killin’ deputy, Dan Tucker” arriving in Silver City with aliases as they ignominiously fled Arizona. “They were all mounted and armed to the teeth. One of the men when asked his name, answered John Smith, and another Bill Snooks.”2 The outlaws found refuge in Colorado. “While the Earps blackened the reputation of the marshalcy in southern Arizona, other deputy marshals earned the regard of the citizenry.”3

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Chapter 22. “Ringo . . . the cowboy leader”

David Johnson University Of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER

22

“Ringo . . . the cowboy leader”

TOMBSTONE LAPSED INTO A PERIOD OF CALM as Christmas passed. The Earps now used Virgil’s federal authority as deputy US marshal to arm their cohorts for protection. Virgil was never reinstated as town marshal. Armed as they were, as days passed without violence, they began to relax their vigilance. These were not men like Scott Cooley, raised in a climate of violence and feud culture. Their backgrounds had not prepared them for what was to come.

Shortly before midnight on December 28, Virgil Earp was walking from the Oriental Saloon to the Cosmopolitan Hotel. As he passed the Eagle Brewery, shotgun fire blossomed from the darkness. The blasts struck his left arm and back. The Epitaph reported five shots were fired in quick succession “by unknown men” hidden in the Palace Saloon then being rebuilt. The Epitaph speculated three men were involved: “it has been learned that immediately after the shooting three men ran past the ice house on Tough Nut street, and sung out to the man in attendance, who had his door open at the time, ‘Lock your door.’ The same three men were seen by a miner a few moments later making down into a gulch below the Vizina hoisting works.” The paper concluded “there is a band of assassins in our midst, who, having threatened the lives of Judge Spicer, Mayor Clum, Mr. Williams, the Earp brothers and Holliday, have attempted on two occasions to carry their threats into execution, first upon Mayor Clum and second upon Virgil Earp.”1

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Chapter 15. “as well known as Satan himself”

David Johnson University Of North Texas Press ePub

CHAPTER

15

“as well known as Satan himself”

THE YEAR 1880 CLOSED in a cloud of political scandal. Those who would influence John Ringo’s life had all arrived in what became Cochise County. Few would escape the heated controversy surrounding the history of the region. It is now that John Ringo emerges, at least in folklore, as a “crime lord.”1 This transformation is central to the controversy surrounding Wyatt Earp.

Writers dealing with this period (roughly from 1880 through 1882) generally oversimplify the situation, dividing the factions along party lines, Republicans versus Democrats. Despite the abundant contemporary accounts of Mexican bandits and Apache depredations, the so-called “Cowboy Curse” still dominates Tombstone and has all but obliterated those harsh realities from the historical record. Earp sympathizers cite the Republican Epitaph and a series of documents in the National Archives known as Record Group 60 as proof that the Cowboy Curse was real. More than one author has cited the journal of George W. Parsons, an early Tombstone diarist, John Clum, controversial editor of the Epitaph, Acting Governor John J. Gosper, and Clara Spalding Brown as unbiased witnesses while defaming, even criminalizing, those opposed to the Earps. Many contemporary writers suggest the existence of a gang of Cowboys (Anglo outlaws) ranging from 180 to 300 men.

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