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14. The Sixteenth of August

Jeffrey Burton University of North Texas Press PDF

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THE SIXTEENTH OF AUGUST

Sam Ketchum would have little information for the law, despite the pressing efforts of his official invigilators. Although much weakened by pain and the loss of blood, he “rested easily” the following afternoon, complaining only that his swollen arm “seemed to weigh about three hundred pounds.” At one point he told

Foraker that he was sure that “Bill McGinnis” was dead, “as his wound was dangerous and only his pluck kept him from dropping.”1 It is unlikely that Sam believed

Lay’s wounds to be mortal; his object may have been less to inform than to mislead.

In the cell next to is was an old acquaintance and fellow bandit, William Walters, commonly called “Bronco Bill,” who had recovered from a severe wound suffered in the fight that ended with his capture and the death of his partner, Bill Johnson. Now, almost a year later, he still awaited trial. In a legal sense, their two cases were analogous: both Ketchum and Walters had committed train robbery, and both had been in battles in which pursuing possemen were killed.2 In the medical sense, their cases were drastically different. Sam’s wound, in itself, was less serious than Bronco Bill’s: given prompt attention, he would have recuperated quite quickly. But gangrene had set in before he was captured. By the time he reached Santa Fe his condition was critical.

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3. Vagrant Years

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VAGRANT YEARS

Among the pertinacious but unsubstantiated stories about Tom

Ketchum is the one in which he is said to have gone to Arizona and gambled away an inheritance of $1500. One form of this yarn would have it that Ketchum hailed from

New Jersey and came into the money upon the death of a relative there.1 Since this is palpably absurd the rest of the tale scarcely commands heed. What may have happened with the Ketchums is that Sam and Tom arrived at some sort of a settlement with Berry. But this is no better than a reasoned conjecture, and it would be vain to attempt to fit it into a chronological framework. All we know is that the definitive break between Berry and Tom occurred in 1889, four years after their departure from

San Saba County.

Probably, too, Sam and Tom spent most of that period in and around Tom Green

County, with one or two sorties into New Mexico and possibly as far afield as Arizona and Colorado. But the tale that they operated a so-called “ranch”—in reality, a thieves’ holdout—in Snake Valley, a tract of desert forty miles west of Milford, in southwestern Utah, during the late 1880s, can now be seen as a canard. A Sam

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13. Bullets in Turkey Creek Canyon

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BULLETS IN TURKEY

CREEK CANYON

Posses led by Sheriff Saturnino Pinard and Special

Officer Reno were in the saddle by mid-afternoon on the 12th. From the spot along the railroad right-of-way where the robbers had tethered their four horses, the posses followed the gang’s westerly line of retreat. For a while the trail was blotted out because “there had been sheep all over the country,” but when it reappeared it was still pointing “pretty due west.” The posses had followed it for more than fifteen miles when, at 6 p.m., a driving rain extinguished all sign and forced them to seek shelter.

Reno and the men with him passed the night in a ranch house.

There, or nearby, they learned that on Monday evening the gang had set up camp at Daugherty Spring. In the morning the officers inspected the campsite; then, having found “nothing of consequence,” they moved on towards Johnson Mesa, a further ten miles west.

The downpour that had washed out the robbers’ original trail now ensured that the softened ground would preserve the tracks they made on the morning after the rainfall. Farr and two other Colorado men—probably Reno and Titsworth—ran onto the tracks and were approaching Stockbridge’s camp when the trail vanished under a chaos of XL hoofmarks.

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4. Will, Laura, and Ben; The Course of True Love?

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WILL, LAURA, AND BEN; THE

COURSE OF TRUE LOVE?

Tom Green and the counties surrounding it were big range country in the 1890s. The 23-acre section (13,720 acre) pasture, with nearly two thousand cattle which the Ellis Brothers of Schleicher County sold to Godfrey Miller for $20,000, was a pocket-handkerchief size compared with some of the other spreads. John Loomis, whose ranch headquarters were eight miles west of Paint Rock,

Concho County, could offer to rent out “130,000 acres in a body,” and men like

Charles B. Metcalfe, of the XQZ, with enough of a home range near San Angelo to support several thousand head, could take up the lease. Loomis could also lease out the “pecan privilege”—the right to collect the product of every pecan tree in a twenty-seven mile belt alongside the Concho River.1

West of Loomis’s headquarters were the holdings of J. Willis Johnson. With his

Crows’ Nest and Door Key ranches, located respectively to the east and south of San

Angelo and embracing between them well over 100,000 acres, and with a variety of interests elsewhere, Johnson would become the county’s leading landowner before the end of the decade. Unlike some of his neighbors, he had come to Tom Green

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18. An Anniversary for George Scarborough

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AN ANNIVERSARY FOR

GEORGE SCARBOROUGH

Assistant Superintendent Frank Murray, of the

Denver office of Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, came to Alma to investigate reports that currency obtained in the Wilcox robbery was being passed in the locality. Some of the stolen bills had been placed on deposit at the bank in Silver City by the storekeeper at Alma.1

Murray began his search for information on the Wilcox robbers by looking for cowboy friends of theirs who had changed traceable bills on their behalf or would admit to having spent stolen money. Foremost among these undetected collaborators was Jim Lowe, bartender of the saloon annexe to the Coats and Rowe store. Lowe and

Red Weaver were just back from Solomonville, which they had visited “about the time the races were being run.” Murray became quite friendly with Lowe while he pursued his inquiries. Charles A. Siringo, the “cowboy detective” who followed

Murray to Alma more than a year later, believed that the assistant superintendent never suspected Lowe of being Cassidy.2

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