and order came slowly in the West, because it required decent citizens,
fed up with crime and carousing, to finally stand up and put up
the money to hire a sheriff or marshal to maintain law and order.
If crime became rampant, those same citizens might form a vigilante
committee and make their own law. If handled right, with good men
in charge, the problem was solved. If handled wrong, with the wrong
men in charge, the group could become a greater problem than the
tells of a time in early Donley
County, Texas, when the rustlers and ne'er-do-wells became so
numerous, they threatened the outcome of a trial of one of their
Goodnight, tired of suffering cattle losses to the thieves,
heard of the threat. He rode into Clarendon
with a tough-looking bunch of cowboys wearing sidearms and carrying
rifles across their saddles. They took up positions around the courthouse
during the night.
The next day's trial went off without a hitch, with the thief convicted
and sent to prison. One citizen observer commented later as how
"the population of Donley
County 'dropped considerably' thereafter in a short period of
big-time feud between competing free-range ranchers in South
Texas once threatened a small community. A plea for help was
sent to the Texas Ranger camp located about 100 miles distant. Help
came as fast as a horse could travel as one scrawny, big-hatted
Ranger rode in and placed his jaded mount in the livery stable.
The community groaned as the skinny runt sat down on the courthouse
veranda, believing their plea would be in vain.
The next morning, the toughest of the feuding ranchers rode into
town at the head of his tough cowboys, threatened the Ranger with
his gun, yelling what he was going to do. The Ranger merely drew
his pistol, shot the rancher between the eyes and stood ready to
continue the argument. The feud was over in that instant.
The employees tied their boss' carcass across his saddle and left
town spreading word to the others involved.
problems have simple answers.
Down in Concho County,
Texas, law and order came with several tough cattle thieves
being caught and sent to prison in Huntsville,
Texas. At that time, the state had little money in its coffers
and the prison raised thousands of acres of cotton
in order to pay for its operations. The convicts planted, chopped
and picked cotton in the hot
sun, instead of busting rocks for punishment.
Two of the former cattle thieves served their time and moved on
to Colorado, where they began robbing stagecoaches and trains. After
killing a time or two, they were caught, convicted and were sentenced
to be hung.
They were asked why, after being in prison down in Texas
for cattle stealing, they had came to Colorado to rob trains. They
explained, "If caught stealing cattle in Texas,
you went to prison, where you had to chop and pick cotton.
In Colorado, when you are caught, you are hung."
Somehow, in their mind at least, being hung was much better than
having to pick cotton.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" March
3, 2010 Column