Tag Archives: Fort Sumner

On The Road To Las Cruces ~Nine~

by Pat Nolan

new badge hd 32

“Let’s begin the proceedings. How does the defendant plead?”

Billy Brazil stared blankly at the magistrate. Then, as if startled, answered, “What’s that?”

His lawyer, Abe Falk, leaned over and whispered into his client’s ear.

“How does the defendant plead?” the judge repeated.

“Not guilty, your Honor,” Brazil replied quietly.

“Very well, Mr. Prosecutor, call your witness.

“I call Mr. Adams to the stand.”

courtroomAdams, his green bowler clutched to his chest, took his seat in the chair next to the magistrate’s table.

“Do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?”

“I do.”

“State your full name for the record.”

“Charles Adams.”

“To the best of your recollection, what took place on the road to Las Cruces?”

“I stopped the buggy to urinate, and while I was standing there, I heard the old man say ‘Well, damn you, if I don’t get you off one way, I will another,’ or something like that.”

“Where were these people in relation to you?”

“The old man was in the buggy and Brazil was on his horse. They were at my back.”

“So you did not see the deceased standing upright at all?”

“I think when I seen him, the first shot had been fired and he was staggering.”

“Did he fall to the side, to the front, or to the rear of the buggy?”

“About two feet to the side.”

“Where was the defendant at the time?”

“He was on horseback, about even with the buggy. He had a six-shooter in his hand.”

“Who fired the second shot?”

“My horse bolted and I had to grab the lines and wrap them around the hub of the wheel to stop him from running. Then I went over to where the old man lay.”

“What about the defendant?”

“He was still on his horse and about in the same place.”

“Did the deceased speak?”

“When I got to him he was just stretching out. He did groan a little, and he might have said something. It sounded Mexican.”

“And what was that?”

“I can’t be sure.”

“Could you venture a guess?”

“It sounded like he might have said quien es?”

“What about the defendant, what did he say after all this had transpired?”

“He did not say much. He said, ‘This is hell.’ and he handed me his six-shooter.”

“Your Honor, I have no further questions.”

“Very well, Mr. Adams, you may step down. Mr. Prosecutor, call your next witness.”

“I call the Dona Ana County medical examiner, Doctor Fields, to the stand.”

A large man with a wide intelligent brow and graying muttonchops removed himself from the chair behind the prosecuting attorney’s table and strode to the witness stand.

“Do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?”

“I do.”

“State your full name for the record.”

“Walter Charles Fields.”

“You are the medical examiner for the County, is that correct?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Can you describe what you found when you arrived at the scene of the crime?”

“I found the deceased in a six-inch sand drift about four miles from town on the road to Las Cruces in an area known as Alameda Arroyo.”

“And what was the disposition of the body?”

“The deceased had been shot twice, once in the head and once in the body. He was lying flat on his back, one knee was drawn up. His trousers were unbuttoned and his male organ was visible which would indicate that he had been urinating at the time he was killed.”

“Was there a weapon at the scene?”

“Yes, there was. A shotgun identified as belonging to the deceased lay parallel to his body about three feet away. It lay on top of the ground without any sand kicked around it.”

“And what were the findings of your autopsy?”

“The deceased had been shot twice, one shot hitting him in the back of the head and emerging just over the right eye. The second shot was fired when the deceased was on the ground, the bullet striking the region of the stomach and ranging upward.”

“Thank you, Doctor Fields.”

“When a man is shot in the back of the head, he does one of two things with what he has in his hand. Either he clutches it convulsively tight or he throws it wide. There were no signs in the sand that the gun had been violently thrown. I would therefore conclude that this could not possibly be a case of self-defense as claimed by the defendant, but murder in the first degree.”

Abe Falk leaped to his feet. “I object! The witness offered conclusions that go beyond the scope of the original question!”

“Mr. Falk, this is not a trial, merely a hearing to determine the circumstances. . . .”

“All the same, your Honor, I respectfully request that the last comment by the witness be struck from the record.”

“Very well. Objection sustained. Doctor Fields please restrict your answers to questions asked by the prosecutor. Mr. Prosecutor, you may continue.”

“No further questions, your Honor.”

new badge hd 33

“Quien es?”

“That’s all he said?”

“Near as I can recollect, yes.”

“Could you see his expression?”

“No, he was pretty much just a shadow.”

“So you couldn’t tell if he saw you.”

“No, I don’t think he saw me.”

“Then why did he ask, ‘Who is it?’”

“He was asking Pete who the boys on the front porch were.”

MaxwellHouseCimarron-500“And Pete was in his bed.”

“That’s right, and I was crouched down in the dark next to him.”

“How did you know it was him?”

“Pete said, ‘That’s him!’”

“Then what happened?”

“I shot him.”

“How many shots were fired?”

“Two.”

“He fired back then.”

“No, both shots were mine.”

“What did you do after you shot him?”

“I got the hell out of there. I didn’t know if I’d killed him or just wounded him.”

“He was armed, though.”

“I couldn’t tell at the time that I shot him. Later, after I was sure that he was dead, I saw that he had a butcher knife in his hand.”

“I find it hard to believe that a desperado of his reputation would be walking about without a firearm.”

“He did favor that self-cocking revolver.”

“He didn’t have it on him?”

“I didn’t see it if he did.”

“Did you look for it?”

“No, once he was dead, I figured that no amount of pistols were going to make him any more dangerous.”

“Pat, I’d hate to think that you shot an unarmed man.”

“I had no way of knowing if he was armed or not, Ash. I wasn’t going to take the chance that he was and ask him.”

new badge hd 34

“You had a chance to see how cool and calculating he could be, when you were operating Beaver Smith’s saloon over in Fort Sumner, didn’t you?”

“He had come in with some of his compadres. That lot had been in there a few times before. They generally behaved, hoisted a few and played cards like most of the regulars.”

“I’ll wager he did like to belly up to the bar.”

“Can’t say that I ever saw him take a drink of liquor. He was partial to the paste boards, though.”

“Yes sir, he was adept at cards from a very early age. I should know, I boarded at his mother’s establishment in Silver City. He was quite a handful even in those days.”

“As I was saying, I was engaged in a game of chance at a nearby table and I had a good view of the goings-on.”

“Some hold that poker is more of a game of skill than chance, Pat.”

“Ash, you know as well as I do that when I play poker, it’s a game of chance. . .there’s always a chance I might win!”

poker party“Sir, your wit is like prairie lightning, bright and dry. Allow me to top your glass off with another jolt. But, please, please, continue. . .I apologize for my interjections.”

“One of their bunch, an hombre with the go-by of Grant looked to be getting pretty damn drunk pretty damn fast. He yanked a six-shooter out from an old saddle tramp’s scabbard at the bar. He waved it around, keeping it away from the old man, teasing him. He was an accident waiting to happen.”

“Certainly, that gun could have easily gone off and pelted somebody with a lead plum.”

“The boy came over to Grant, laid his hand on the pistol, said a few quiet words to him, and got Grant to let go of it.”

“That should have been the end of it.”

“Well yes, but no sooner had he gone back to his game, Grant snatched up the revolver again, walked be-hind the bar, and began breaking bottles and smashing glasses. I’d about had it with him by then.”

“I’ll say. He’d made himself pretty unwelcome.”

“But before I could get to him, little Jimmy Chisum collared Grant and was about to do my job for me.”

“Jimmy Chisum, now there’s a rooster.”

“Grant turned on him like a snake caught by the tail. He threw down on him with that old tramp’s six-shooter and cocked the hammer back.”

“That sounds like a mighty close situation.”

“Things got very quiet right about then. But as I said, the boy was a cool customer. He walked right over to Grant and said to him ‘why don’t he put that gun down and get the hell out of here before someone gets hurt.’”

“Now Grant was not a greenhorn desperado, was he?”

“That’s right, and he was on the prod!”

“But the kid was cool as the shade.”

“He didn’t take his eyes off Grant. And Grant, who had the look of a man gone too long to the bottle, was suddenly as sober as a country Baptist. What’s more, he had the drop on him. Then he said something like ‘now, you little bucktoothed sonofabitch, I got you!’ and he pulled the trigger.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing. The gun misfired.”

“You don’t say.”

“And they weren’t any further apart than you and me.”

“What did he do?”

“He blew the man’s head off. I was finding bits of brain behind the bar for weeks!”

new badge hd 35

“Last week you talked about how you couldn’t scare up a posse to go out after him and his gang. How did you manage to secure the assistance of the Canadian River boys?”

“The Panhandle Cattlemen’s Association had charged them with locating and bringing back stock that had supposedly been rustled by the men we were after.”

“So just who were those Canadian River boys?”

“Damn it, you know as well as I do who they were, Ash!”

“Refresh my memory, Pat. For the purposes of our narrative and the eventual readers of this book, it’s important that we get the details right.”

“Let’s see. Frank Stewart, of course, Lee Halls, Jim East, Lon Chambers, a character they called ‘The Animal,’ Poker Tom, and Tenderfoot Bob. Charlie Siringo was among that bunch, but he and a couple of others declined to take up the manhunt. I didn’t blame them, they were mostly cowhands. That was not what they had hired on to do.”

“Stewart must have understood that if you captured those boys, the stock depredations would most likely stop.”

“I had developed information that the men we were after had been seen in the vicinity of Fort Sumner.”

“Yes, you might say that Sumner had a fatal attraction for him, like a moth for a flame.”

“Once there, I had the men lie low and keep their presence concealed. I took a turn around the Plaza. There I ran into old man Wilcox’s son-in-law, Juan. I had suspicions that he might have information I was after. I was right. He had been sent to town by the gang with instructions to return and report on the lay of the land.”

“All right. Hold up while I get all this down. This was in December of ’80, am I correct?”

“That’s right. The weather had been particularly bad. A blizzard had blown through just the day before. There was a foot of snow on the ground if there was an inch. ”

“Good, good, weather conditions are important. They set the scene for the events about to transpire.”

“Juan confirmed that the men I wanted were at his father-in-law’s place. I knew Wilcox was a law-abiding citizen, but had he betrayed them, they would have killed him without second thoughts.”

“They were nothing if not cold blooded and ruth-less.”

“It seems that they had planned to come into town the following day with a load of beef. They learned that I was on my way to Sumner and so Juan had been sent in to size up the number of my force.

“I asked Juan if he would work with me to set a trap. He agreed immediately. I hunted up someone I knew to be sympathetic to these men and forced him to write a note saying that my party and I had left for Roswell and there was no danger. I also wrote a note to Wilcox stating that I was in Fort Sumner with my men, that I was on the trail of the gang, and that I would not let up until I got them. I gave the two notes to Juan. I warned him not to mix them up as his father-in-law’s safety depended on it.”

“You were confident that if those boys took the bait that they would ride for Fort Sumner that night.”

“That is so. I also knew he would be leading his gang. . .”

“Consisting of. . .”

DaveRudabaugh-500“Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, Billy Wilson. . .”

“A wanted murderer and a counterfeiter.”

“Tom Pickett, Tom Folliard, and Charlie Bowdre.”

“Guilty by association.”

“The old military hospital building was on the east side of the Plaza, the direction I expected them to come in from. Bowdre’s wife also occupied a room in that building. I figured that they would pay her a visit first. I took my posse there, placed a guard about the house, and awaited the game.”

new badge hd 36

“The boys got the cards out and engaged in a little prairie pastime while we waited. It was getting on dark and we had secured a room in another part of the old hospital to keep out of the cold. Snow was lying on the ground increasing the light from the full moon outside.

“Around eight o’clock, one of the guards called from the door, ‘Someone is coming!’  They were two hours earlier than I had expected them. ‘Get your guns, boys,’ I said, ‘None but the men we want are riding tonight!’

“Lon Chambers and I stepped out onto the verandah. The rest of the men went round the building to intercept them should they aim to pass on into the Plaza. The gang was in full sight approaching. Folliard and Pickett rode in front. I was close against the adobe wall hidden by the harnesses hanging there. Chambers was next to me. They rode up until Folliard’s horse poked its head under the porch. I called out ‘Halt!’

“Folliard reached for his pistol. Lon and I both fired. His horse wheeled and ran. I fired at Pickett but the muzzle flash from Lon’s rifle had blinded me and so I missed him.”

“I’ll bet he was taken aback.”

“You would have thought by the way he ran and yelped that he had a dozen balls in him.”

“What about Tom?”

O_Folliard-1-1“Folliard was crying and moaning. He had received his death. He managed to wheel his horse and ride back toward me. He called out, ‘Don’t shoot me, Garrett, I’m killed!’  One of my men ran out toward him, yelling, ‘Take your medicine, old boy, take your medicine.’  I warned him off. ‘He may be killed but he’s still heeled and liable to spit lead!’ I stuck to the shadows. ‘Throw up your hands, Tom, I’m not going to give you the chance to shoot me,’ I said. His horse stopped right in front of where I was standing.”

“Did he say something like ‘I’m dying, goddamn it’?”

“He moaned some. He was doubled up in the saddle.”

“I’ll wager he said something like, ‘I can’t even lift my head!’ and ‘It hurts, it hurts.’ And finally ‘help me down, let me die as easy as possible, boys.’”

“I don’t recall his exact words if he even spoke any. He was in a world of pain.”

“What happened to the rest of the gang? How did they fare under the onslaught?”

“During the encounter with Folliard and Pickett, the party on the other side had engaged the rest of the gang, had fired on them, and killed Rudabaugh’s horse. I learned later that it ran twelve miles under him, to Wilcox’s ranch, before it died. Soon as my men fired, the remaining outlaws ran off like a bunch of wild cattle. They were completely surprised and demoralized.”

“But Tom Folliard’s luck had run out.”

“That it had. We unhorsed him and disarmed him and laid him out on a blanket on the floor of the hospital. He begged me to end his misery. ‘Kill me,’ he said, ‘if you was ever a friend of mine, Garrett, you’ll kill me and end this torture.’

“‘I have no sympathy for you, Tom,’ I replied, ‘I called for you to halt and you went for your sidearm instead. I’m no friend of a man who would shoot me simply because I was doing my duty. Besides,’ I said, ‘I would never shoot a friend as bad as you have been shot.’

“Now when one of my men came up to where we were, he changed his tune. ‘Don’t shoot anymore, for God’s sake, I’m already killed.’”

“Who would that be?”

“It was Barney Mason who, along with Tip McKinney, was part of my original posse.”

“Married to Polly’s sister.”

“That’s correct.”

“And a notorious horse thief.”

“So some claim, but he proved invaluable in tracking down these desperados.”

“What did he say to Folliard?”

“Oh, he said something like ‘take your medicine like a man, you ain’t got much of a choice.’  And Tom answered, ‘It’s the best medicine I ever took, pard, but it hurts like Hell.’  He asked, ‘Could you have McKinney write my old grandma in Fort Worth and tell her that I died, can you do that, old chum?’ Barney answered him, ‘Hell, you’d kill your old grandma if she found out that you died with your boots on, Tom, it’s best that she didn’t know.’

“At one point he exclaimed, ‘Oh my God, is it possible that I must die?’  I said to him ‘Tom, your time is short.’ and he replied, ‘the sooner the better. I will be out of pain.’  He expired soon after that.”


Next Time: The Trail To Stinking Springs