Written by Terry McGahey
A few mornings later, while having a cup of coffee at the Old Miners Café, two young brothers who had come to Tombstone from Los Angeles, California, and whom I had become acquainted with slightly asked if they could join me.
Both of them were true city boys, and knew nothing about the western way of life, but they were pretty nice guys, so I didn't mind. They both liked playing practical jokes on people, and had played a few on me in the past, but I liked them anyway. I told them that I had to go over to Sierra Vista to pick up a few groceries, and they asked if they could ride along with me because they needed to pick up a few things themselves.
While on the way I decided to get back at them for a few of their jokes, so every time I would come to a cattle guard, I would pull over to the side of the road next to the cattle guard sign, get out of the truck, place my hand over my eyes to block the sun, and just look around at the open desert.
After the second stop, the oldest brother asked, "What are you doing?"
I told them that I was looking for the cattle guard. I told them that the fellows who had the jobs were real lazy, and everyone was sick to death of them just hiding out under the mesquite trees and not doing their jobs.
I said that I had heard that two of the cattle guards had been fired, and I was just trying to figure out which two it was. I let it go at that until we had finished our grocery shopping and was on the road home.
I told them that the cattle guard job paid about sixteen dollars an hour, and I couldn't believe that anyone who had such a job would be so lazy as to get themselves fired from it. Again, I let it go, and didn't say another word until we were just about to pull into Tombstone.
As we drove over the last cattle guard before entering Tombstone, I told them that they should go over to city hall and apply for the cattle guard positions, not only for the pay but also for the benefits because it was an Arizona state job, and since we didn't have a state office in Tombstone, the city hall had the applications.
When I parked in front of the Legends Saloon, the two of them couldn't get the door open fast enough so they could go to city hall and apply for the jobs.
I walked into the Legends Saloon, and told everyone what was going on, and we all had a good laugh over it and waited for the two to arrive. When the two brothers walked in the door of the saloon, everyone broke into laughter, and both of them turned red in the face and also laughed.
They said that when they asked the city clerk about the cattle guard positions, the clerk laughed so hard that tears had run down his face and they knew then that they’d been had. I have to admit, that was one of my better practical jokes. One thing good did come of it though; those two never did pull another joke on me because, like I told them, you should never pull a practical joke on someone when that person is in his own environment because you cannot win.
A week or so later my mother and father, along with my grandfather, had come to visit me.
On the evening of their second day, we were playing cards at the kitchen table around eleven o’clock, I heard Jack outside hollering. I went to the front door and Jack was sitting on his horse, and explained that he had gone for a quiet evening ride since there was a partial moon, and when he returned he noticed that the ranch gate was open and my horses were running loose in the open desert.
I pulled my boots on, and ran down to my corrals calling for my best horse to come to me. Before I could even get the door unlocked to the tack shed, she walked up and stood next to me while I grabbed my gear and saddled her up.
As Jack and I rode up to the main ranch gate, I told Jack to just set on his horse above the gate while I gathered up the horses and pushed them back through. Jack was a pretty good rider, but he had no idea on how to gather horses or cows on horseback, so I didn't want him to get in the way and maybe hurt.
With only enough moonlight for a pleasure ride on a known surface, it was very hard to see the horses. With one of them being a black and white paint horse, I was able to spot them because the white part of him shone in the dim light.
The three horses were pretty spooked, so I had to ride hard and fast in the semi darkness while hoping my horse didn't step into a hole and maybe injure or kill the both of us, I had no choice because the open desert led directly into Tombstone and out onto the highways where Lord only knows if they might be hit by a vehicle.
Luckily the other two horses had been following the paint, so when I shoved them in through the gate all three had traveled through together, then I shut the gate while Jack pushed the horses down toward the pens.
By the time I had reached the pens and tack shed, my dad and my granddad was waiting for me with flashlights in hand. After I unsaddled my horse and put my gear away, they both shone their lights on the pens to where someone had once again torn my corrals down, but this time they had also opened the ranch gate and ran the horses out into open country.
With each attack the situation was worsening. We just let the horses run loose that night and let them calm down while figuring that we would fix the pens in the morning.
Before breakfast on the following morning my granddad and I walked to the corrals and looked the situation over. He then noticed some tennis shoe prints, and they looked to be the same ones that I had seen before in Jack’s corral and in the wash on the night someone had taken a pot shot at Jack and me.
We followed the prints up to the main gate and just outside of the gate were some fresh tire tracks where someone had parked a vehicle. This time I did not call the sheriff because, once again, there would be nothing that could be done, and I would only waste the sheriff’s deputy’s time. I figured that if I called them too much, then should something really bad take place, the sheriff’s department would not be in any hurry to help. The old cry wolf complex.
My family left for home on the following day, and Jack came over to my place so we could discuss what our next course of action should be. Jack suggested that we extend his corral and put my horses in with his and put my tack in his shed, because everything would be closer to the houses, and we could react much faster should we need to. I agreed that this would probably be best, and we spent the entire day working on the corral and loading my gear into his shed.
That evening as Jack and I were setting on his front porch, I told him that it seemed to me that every time something had happened it was during the time before the full moon when a person could still see, but yet it was dark enough to not be noticed. Jack agreed with me, and we decided to be more aware during that time period.
The following morning, I walked over to feed my horses and Jack was just coming out of his front door. We both couldn't believe it. Someone had come back late that night, and had pried opened Jack’s tack shed and had strewn our gear all around the area, and because Jack and I were both pretty tired from working on the corral that day, we both had slept pretty hard and hadn't heard a thing.
As I walked up to feed my horses, my mare had dropped her head to take a bite of hay, and I noticed her forehead had been cut horizontally with a very sharp instrument like a razor-blade.
At that point I had made up my mind to catch those no good bastards no matter what it would take, even if I had to set a trap for them in the wash and camp out every night during the first phase of the full moon to get it done.
I called the veterinarian to come out and stitch up my horse because I wanted a second opinion on the cause of the cut, and I also wanted it on record. He told me that there was no doubt that she had been sliced with a razor-blade of some sort, and in his opinion it was probably a box cutter.
A week or two had gone by when Jack had come home from town one day and told me that Charles Murphy, a news anchor from Texas, was in town and he wanted to interview us.
An hour or so later Mr. Murphy had showed up with his camera crew and we told him the whole story about our fight with Tombstone and the illegal ordinance. When we finished our interview, and after Mr. Murphy and his crew left, I couldn't help but think by some of his questions that he wanted to be able to show us as some kind of gun nuts or something.
Maybe I was totally wrong, but that was my gut feeling. Personally, I have never seen the interview on television, so I have no idea how it turned out or in what manner it was presented.
Several weeks went by, when a fellow I knew by the name of Pete, not the same Pete I mentioned earlier, had called and asked if I would be able to ride up to Durango, Colorado, with him and help bring back a couple of Belgian horses that another fellow had bought and would pay us to go get them.
With the full moon cycle behind us, and knowing that nothing would take place during that time period, I agreed to do so.
I met this fellow we were going to pick up the horses for, and I have to admit that I didn't much care for him. He was just another gunsel who had moved to Tombstone, and wanted to play cowboy by owning a stagecoach with the Belgians pulling it.
A "gunsel" is someone who knows nothing about the cowboy life, but who wants to play the game.
I asked this idiot if he had ever driven a stagecoach before and he replied, "No, but how much could there be to it."
Pete and I just looked at each other and laughed. As we walked away Pete said, "I don’t care if this idiot kills himself, but I’ll take his money because his money is just as good as anyone else’s. I swear, if these idiots aren't already in Tombstone, they are on their way!"
Rather than go into a long winded story, and bore you with the details of that trip, I will just insert the poem I wrote about it. I call it “Trip to Durango”
This fellow we met bought two Belgian horses up
Colorado way, he paid us to go get em’ so we left
the very next day.
We loaded our gear, then hit the road with a sixteen
foot trailer in tow, about seven hundred miles up from
Tombstone Arizona, too just the other side of Durango.
We pulled up late to the ranch where they were and this
young fellow was watching the place. He invited us in
and offered a beer, if only we could keep up his pace.
I looked at Pete and he looked at me, then said, sure
son, we’ll have a brew, but when these are all gone
we’ll head into town and seriously drink us a few.
We went to this old famous hotel in town and there
we got us a table, the kid kept bragging and telling
us both how at drinking we was probably more able.
So, we ordered three beers, all whiskey backs and
seriously started to drink, but after a while the kids
eyes red and I really don’t believe he could think.
About three hours later I looked at Pete, then said, we
probably shouldn’t buy him no more, Pete looked on
over and then realized that the kid was clear down on
Well, we took him home and put him to bed, and the
next day he thought he had died, But we got him up
and drug him along, if he could drink with us he also
Well, we found the horses at the back of the pasture
and brought em’ on into the pen. Then jumped in the
truck and headed for town and did it all over again.
Next morning we ate then loaded our gear and hooked
up the trailer in tow. The kid shook our hands, then
dropped his head, and said I’m sure glad to see you boys go.
When we arrived back in Tombstone, we delivered the horses to this fellow’s place in Holliday Estates, he paid us off and I never had anything to do with him again. He had either bought or leased the building on the corner Sixth of Allen Streets by the name of the Silver Nugget, and he was busted for selling drugs, and as far as I know is probably still in prison.
Now we knew where he got all his money. Thank God for little favors, because if that fellow had driven his stage coach in town, there is no doubt in my mind that someone would have gotten hurt or even killed.
That evening, I went over to Jack’s house and asked if everything had been all right while I was gone, and he told me that everything had been fine except there was a new rumor floating around town that the Marshal’s office was going to begin harassing us over our horses should they get the chance.
I just laughed and told Jack that they may very well do so, but we were breaking no laws and should we have any problems the court would just throw out the case.
One thing the Tombstone hierarchy didn't realize was that my cousin Dena was a reporter for the Sierra Vista Herald newspaper, and because she was a cute little gal, the marshal and mayor would tell her more than they should have.
She couldn't believe how arrogant they had been, so from that time forward when they told her what they were going to do to us, she would let us know in advance. She became our ace in the hole!
One example of this information leak was when my cousin told me about the marshal telling her that he was going to pull us over on our horses and run us out of town by claiming that it was illegal to ride through town. Dena stated that he was just trying to show off to impress her, and she thought it was rather funny that the idiot had no idea who he was talking too and that the information would get right back to us.
With that information, Jack and I both began carrying copies of the Tombstone ordinance which applied to the riding of horses in town within our saddlebags.
Then one day it happened, the marshal pulled us over on First Street after Jack and I had been riding in the desert looking for artifacts and was on our way home.
He began to tell us that riding our horses in town was illegal, and that we should immediately depart the city limits. Both Jack and I reached into our saddlebags, and showed him the Tombstone ordinance, and we told him to either write us a ticket or to just go about his own business. Which he did, madder than a hornet and having no idea why we were ready for him with our ordinance copies.
We had beaten him at his own game this time, but we were sure he would have more in store for us down the road.
One other example of this was when the mayor tried to use a little known law which disallowed the carrying of handguns for special occasions.
Dena had called and explained the situation to me, so Jack and I acquired a copy of the law only to find out that the mayor could not legally use it in the manner which he wanted to for Tombstone. Once again the mayor and marshal were very unhappy when we showed them a copy of the law, and explained to them that we had also sent a copy to the NRA, so if they wanted to try this little underhanded trick to go right ahead.
With that they dropped the issue.
Still, they had no idea where we were getting our information from and why we were ready for their underhanded tricks. Maybe they just weren't smart enough to put two and two together. I think they were so busy trying to flirt with Dena that they couldn't see anything past the end of their “noses.”
By this stage of the game, Jack, Ed and I were wearing our guns even while in town, hoping that the marshal’s office would either confiscate our weapons or maybe even arrest us, because the NRA would have had them for lunch if they had done so, and this would have ended the lawsuit, but I give the mayor and marshal credit, they were smarter than that.
We found out later that the marshal had also told his deputies to leave us alone, so whenever one of them would see us in town wearing our guns they would just look the other way and drive on.
Not long after that some of the Vigilantes had also began wearing their guns on the show days, before and after the shows were over, instead of putting them in their vehicles as they always had before. They wouldn't help us fight the old Earp ordinance, but they sure took advantage of the situation when it suited them as long as they felt safe in doing so.
By now, I had totally lost respect for that bunch. At least the owner of the Wild Bunch had made it clear where he stood, and no matter if I agreed with him or not, at least he was honest and forthright about his stand and I could respect that.
It was just about time for the cycle of the full moon, so from about ten o’clock at night on, Jack and I began setting ourselves up in a small stand of tall brush in the middle of the wash which was almost directly in line with the path which led from Jack’s house into the wash and close enough to be able to see the horse corral and tack shed.
We repeated this night after night, until the cycle of the moon was over. We had no luck in catching the people responsible for our troubles that month, and the many nights we spent in the wash had been for nothing. It mattered not to us because of our determination to catch these people, and we would just continue this on the following month.
The following month when the cycle of the full moon was about to begin, we had been surprised by an early attack.
Only an hour before we were to set up in the wash, I heard two blasts from a shotgun. I grabbed my gun and holster as well as my shotgun, and while buckling on my gun belt, I hurried from my house over to Jack’s place. As I approached his side window, I noticed that it was open and the house was dark, so before walking in front of the window, as not to get shot, I whispered, "Jack, its Terry! What’s going on?"
Jack then whispered back, "Find some cover, and I will turn on the flood lights."
I told him to count to thirty before turning on the lights to give me time to position myself behind John’s old place where I could have an advantage over anyone within the wash should they fire another shot. I would be able to see the flash of the shotgun, but they wouldn't be able to see me because the lights wouldn't cover the area where I would be waiting and watching from.
I had been positioned for about ten seconds when the flood lights came on, and lit up the whole area in front of Jack’s house. I laid quietly with my shotgun aiming in the direction of the wash while using the corner of the house as cover, but to no avail. Whoever had fired the shots at Jack’s house had already gone and there would be no way for us to know where. Besides, to go looking for them in the dim moon light could have been dangerous for us. They would have the advantage of cover and we wouldn't.
Afterwards, when everything had calmed down, we checked on the horses, and other than being spooked they were just fine. Jack made a pot of coffee and we sat in the darkness on his front porch just in case the perpetrators returned.
It didn’t make any difference because neither one of us would sleep that night anyway. Jack said that he was just watching television, when all of the sudden he heard the shotgun and could hear the pellets hitting this porch roof, then he had turned off the lights in the bedroom when the second blast went off and he could hear the pellets hitting the mesquite tree near his bedroom window.
As we sat there drinking coffee, we also discussed what other ways we might catch these people in the act but we decided that our original plan was still the best one.
So again, we set up in the wash every night during the moon’s cycle, and again, we came up empty handed. Jack and I figured that the reason Ed wasn't having the same type of trouble we were, was because his house was in the open, and there would not be any cover to hide in.
For the rest of that month things were pretty quiet except for a few people in town who loved running their mouths, but by now we had grown completely indifferent to those people and wouldn't even show them the respect to argue with them. We would just walk by them as though they didn't exist.
I think that bothered those folks even more than if we had of stood and argued with them. Besides, all they were doing was flapping their gums and spouting nonsense.
-- end of Chapter Nine
For Chapter 10, 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:
The Last Gun Fight -- The Death of Ordinance Number 9 (Chapter Ten)