Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Last Gun Fight -- The Death of Ordinance Number 9 (Chapter Eight)

Written by Terry McGahey

Chapter Eight: Injustice

The following morning, I fed the horses and fired up my truck to head into town. I figured that the cat was let out of the bag anyway, so I might as well go get my mail and see for myself what the attitudes and temperaments in Tombstone were.

I was just about to drive away when Jack hollered from his shop, "Hey Terry! Are you going to town?"

I told him that I was going to pick up my mail, and asked if he wanted me to pick his up also. He replied "Nope, I’ll be right behind you in just a few minutes."

I tipped my hat, and just before I drove off, Jack hollered once more, "I hope you’re armed?"

Once again, I tipped my hat and nodded, "yes."

From that time forward, I quit carrying my .45 single action revolver and started carrying my .45 Colt automatic pistol with seven in the magazine, one in the chamber and cocked and locked. Hammer cocked with the safety on.

I also started carrying my .45-70 Marlin lever action rifle in my truck, also fully loaded. If these people, whoever they were, were going to play serious, then so be it. I would not get caught with my pants down again.

I was carrying my .45 auto concealed under my vest, which was illegal, but I figured that I would rather be caught with it than without it should there be another tight scrape in my future.

When I reached Tombstone, I parked on Fifth Street near the Old Miners Cafe which is no longer there, walked around the corner of Allen Street to the post office in mid block, also no longer there.

While doing so I met several folks who wanted to shake my hand, a few others who had grumbled something as I walked by, and one of the Wild Bunch members who angrily stated that I had bitten off more than I could chew, to which I promptly replied "Go to hell" as I just kept walking.

As I left the post office, Jack pulled up in his truck, and asked me if I would join him at the Legends Saloon for a cup of coffee after he got his mail.

While sitting at the bar in the Legends Saloon, several other people congratulated us on the lawsuit. It felt pretty good to be among friendly faces, even though they weren't going to be of any help. Jack told everyone what had happened the previous night at our place, but I don't think all of them believed us, nor did I care.

As we walked back to our trucks, I couldn't believe my eyes, my truck had been sandwiched in again and there was no way for me to get it out. Again, with Jacks help, we went from bar to bar and even to the Longhorn Restaurant, asking who owned the vehicles, but we had no luck.

There was no sense in reporting it to the marshal or his deputies, because I already knew what the response would be from them. I decided to just ride home with Jack, and once more about eight o’clock that evening we came back to town and my truck was free.

Several weeks had gone by, and other than a few words with some of the town's folks, things had been fairly quiet.

One morning about seven o’clock the phone rang. It was Ed, he asked me if I would pick up Jack and drive out to his house because he had something done to his property that he wanted us to take a look at it.

While driving over, Jack and I speculated on what may have been done. We thought maybe someone had vandalized his place. Ed lived in Holliday Estates, just a short distance past the Gleason turnoff on the left hand side of the road, which was on the opposite end of Tombstone from us, but still not very far away.

When we pulled into Ed’s driveway we couldn't believe what we were seeing. It looked as though a bomb had gone off!

The corner of his garage was smashed up. His pickup truck had heavy left front damage and was sitting almost completely sideways in his driveway, and his front porch was completely destroyed.

Ed had heard us as we pulled up, and was exiting through what was left of his front porch. Just as Jack and I stepped out of my pickup truck, Jack said, "What in the hell happened!" while I was surveying all of the damage in disbelief.

I looked at Ed, and asked, "Who did this?"

Ed invited us into his home, and began to tell us the story.

He and his wife were in bed, when shortly after midnight they were awakened by a loud crash which shook the home to its foundation.

Ed grabbed his robe and his .45 caliber colt revolver, and hurried to his front door. When he opened it he could not believe his eyes.

A young man sitting in a damaged pickup truck, which was high centered on the dirt divider which divided his property from the empty property next door, and he was trying to rock his truck back and forth with the engine screaming, the tires spinning and dirt flying, trying to get away.

Ed hurried over to the young man's pickup, yanked the door open, and stuck the gun in the young fellows face while telling him to shut off the engine, and said, "Don't move a muscle unless you want me to pull the damn trigger, and believe me asshole, I’m mad enough to do it!"

He then turned to his wife, who was now at the front door, and hollered, "Call the police!"

As I stated earlier, Ed lived in Holliday Estates, but his property was still within the city limits of Tombstone which meant that the Tombstone marshal’s office would handle the call.

When the Tombstone marshal’s deputy arrived, he questioned Ed and naturally the young man who was driving the pickup truck, who was one of the home-town boys, whose family being long time residents and business owners were considered part of the good old boy system in Tombstone.

The young man stated that he had swerved to miss a deer, even though Ed said that he was so drunk that he couldn't have hit his ass with both hands if his life had depended upon it.

The Tombstone deputy allowed the young man to call for a ride, and leave the scene without even administering a breathalyzer test. Ed was absolutely furious, and who could blame him?

Because of the inaction by the Tombstone marshal’s deputy, Ed had to have his own insurance company pay for the damage and it ended up costing him several thousand dollars out of his own pocked before it was over with.

Several days passed, and one morning while walking out to feed my horses, I noticed that they were running loose in the wash. I figured that they had broken down the gate or one section of the fence, but when I reached the pens I could see that the whole back side of the corrals near the wash had been torn down.

This damage could not have been done by the horses, only the two legged types of animal could have caused that type of damage.

My first concern was the horses themselves. I wanted to make sure that they had no injuries, which they didn't, so I just let them run loose on the property until I fixed the damage. The ranch gate next to the cattle guard was closed, so they weren't going anywhere.

For anyone who doesn't know, a cattle guard is a steel rectangular steel box with steel rails on the top which have spaces between them. They are buried in the ground so only the steel rails show. The animals won’t cross them because they are unsure of the stability, and they can’t see past the rails into solid ground. Cattle guards are placed across driveways, or across the roads in open range country where one mans property might meet another’s.

Afterwards I went to Jack’s house, and told him what had taken place, so we called the sheriff’s office once again and reported the incident. Once again we waited, but this time it was about four hours before the deputy showed up.

Because this wasn't an emergency, there was no hurry for the deputy to get there. During this wait, Jack and I decided to look over the situation a little closer, so we walked out to my corrals, and as we approached the tack shed, I noticed that the door was ajar.

As I opened the door, it looked as though a tornado had blown through the shed. My saddle, the blankets, the headstalls, and some of the medicines for the horses, were strewn all over the floor, the saddle racks were torn from the walls and the shelves were also torn down. What a mess!

Once the sheriff’s deputy arrived, he looked over the situation and wrote a report on what he had seen, but there was nothing else he could have done.

Afterwards, Jack helped me straighten out the tack shed, and helped me re-mount the saddle racks and shelves, and put a heavy lock on the door. Then we fixed the corral, and gathered up the horses and put them back inside of it. Finally, the end to a long frustrating day had come.

A few days or so later, Dave called me wanting to know if I would be interested in working with him for a day, gathering up an old bull for one of the local ranchers who wanted to take it to the sale barn when he returned from Phoenix.

Everything had been quiet at our place during the daylight hours, so I agreed to help him. The following morning, I saddled up and rode to the other side of Tombstone and met Dave near the high school on Sixth Street. Then we rode together out to the ranch.

I was wearing my .45 auto under my vest, so as I passed the Tombstone Marshal on Allen Street, he didn't bother me because he couldn't see it. He gave me a pretty nasty stare, but that was all.

While riding to the ranch, Dave explained that the place was in bad need of repair and the cattle were almost wild because they weren't worked very often, maybe only once a year, and no one ever rode through the herd to check on them so they were real spooky. I couldn't understand why any rancher would operate this way, but it wasn't any of my business, I was just being paid to do the particular job.

When we arrived, even though Dave had warned me about the place, I couldn't believe what I was seeing.

The working pens were falling down, and in several places the cross fencing between pastures was down, and as soon as the cattle spotted us they scattered in all different directions. They had disappeared into the washes and thick brush so quickly that it was as though they were ghosts.

This ranch was about twenty thousand acres in size, and with the cross fencing down the job turned into a lot more work than necessary.

We finally located the old bull, and pushed him back to the working pens, but since they were in such terrible shape, we had to put him in the horse pens instead. I later wrote this poem about that day and I call it “Ghost herd”.

An outfit hired Dave and me to bring an old bull in for the sale,
the owner didn't have any steady hands and the shape of
the place told the tale.

The owner lived and stayed in town and didn't seem much
to care, the pens were shabby, the fences were down and
his cows were scattered everywhere.

It had been a long time since those cows had been worked,
they were used to being wild and free, some were unbranded,
some were long- eared, it sure made no sense to me.

He only had about two hundred head; I believe that to be most,
and when they saw a horse and rider coming, they’d all turn
into ghosts.

They’d hide in the washes and down in the brush, they sure
weren't easy to see, this one old cow had jumped a small wash
right into a mesquite tree.

Well we found that old bull and brought him on back without hardly
speaking a word, we were both pretty tired from riding all day
and chasing that damned ghost herd.

While riding home that afternoon, we rounded a small hill and we couldn't believe our eyes. A group of tourists had set up a campsite right in the middle of a large wash, so we rode up and warned them of the danger they had placed themselves in, telling them that they had better move to the high ground above the wash in case a strong monsoon rain would hit, then pointed to the dark clouds which were already dropping rain on the surrounding mountains.

They introduced themselves to us, and said that they were from Chicago, and thought the wash to be an old dry river bed. We then explained what a flash flood could do, excused ourselves, and rode off for town.

When we reached Tombstone, we tied our horses to the hitching post next to the tree on Fifth Street near the Crystal Palace Saloons side door, tied our slickers, our rain gear, over our saddles, and went in for a beer because we could see that the fast moving ominous clouds of the monsoon was headed our way.

Normally these storms only last about thirty minutes or so, so we decided that we would just wait out the storm in side the Crystal Palace.

About twenty minutes or so had passed by, when those tourists from Chicago came in. Looking like drowned rats, they walked directly over to Dave and me and shook our hands while thanking us for warning them about the wash.

They then said, that a wall of water came through about three feet deep or so, and it must have been traveling forty miles an hour, and they felt as though we had saved their lives. We then explained to them that the mountains around the area had been receiving the rain earlier than the flats, and this is how the flash flood had occurred.

They bought us a beer, and as soon as the rain stopped Dave and I headed for home.

 Once home, I took care of my horse, put my gear away and headed for the shower.

-- end of Chapter Eight 

For Chapter 9 of one man's fight against the City of Tombstone and the historic Tombstone City Ordinance Number 9 -- America's most famous gun-control law, please click on the link below:

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