Written by Terry McGahey
Chapter Six: Deputized
For the next few months we had called several more Arizona State Representatives, but we couldn't seem to get anywhere. This issue would have to be settled in court.
For the life of me, I could never understand why the state would not correct this mess without a decision in court. After all, Tombstone was flagrantly breaking the state law. If an everyday citizen was breaking the state law, he would pay the price in a very short period time.
By now it was spring time and the desert was alive with blooming cactus and desert flowers. The purples, yellows, and greens, which you normally wouldn't associate with the Arizona desert were alive and brilliant.
Leon, the manager of the sisters ranch which lies at the bottom of the Dragoon Mountain Range called me. He asked if I would be available for the following day to help with their roundup. I told him I would be there, and loaded up my gear that afternoon.
The next morning I arrived at the ranch about five a.m., and the other hands were already there because they had come out the previous evening and spent the night. Dave, the cowboy I told you about who worked at the Crystal palace as a bartender, was one of them.
We saddled up our horses and rode out to the pasture where the cattle were located. As we approached the gate, we noticed that it had been torn down and upon further inspection we also found portions of the cross fence torn down and the water lines to the stock tanks had been cut.
One of the cowboys noticed some hove prints leading out through the area of the downed fence, so we followed the tracks until we came across the cattle bedded down in some tall brush.
Luckily, only a few had left the pasture and we were able to push them back in without any trouble. We fixed the fences and gates, while Leon rode back to the main ranch to get the materials needed to fix the water lines to the tanks.
As he drove up in the ranch truck, he told us that he had gone to check on the working pens and found roofing nails had been spread all around the area.
We fixed the water lines then rode to the pens and spent several hours picking up nails, and using a metal detector to find the ones under the dirt that we couldn't spot with the naked eye. By now it was too late to begin the roundup, so we decided to do it in the following morning.
That afternoon Leon called the Federal Forest Service to report the crimes. Since this pasture was part of the federal forest lease, this would be a situation which would fall under the Feds jurisdiction.
Bob, the Federal Forest Ranger who had jurisdiction over our area, told Leon that one of the Eco-Terrorist groups called "Earth First" was in the area and causing trouble on several of the local ranches, and that he would come visit with us within a few hours.
When he arrived, we all gathered around his pickup truck as he warned us that this group could be dangerous and that we should arm ourselves for our own protection. This was not a problem, we all carried pistols and rifles in our vehicles.
That night we had camped in strategic areas where the property damage had occurred during the previous night. A few of us had camped near the water tanks, and few more near the main entrance to the ranch, while Dave and I camped at the working pens and Leon stayed at the ranch house.
We were all running cold camps, no fires, and Dave and I were set up with our sleeping bags in a small stand of heavy brush and tall grass which concealed us very well. We both carried .45 Long Colt revolvers and 45-70 lever action rifles.
The 45-70 is a very large cartridge which we loaded with 400 grain, .45 caliber bullets and 70 grains of powder. This is where the nomenclature for the cartridge comes from.
There was hardly any moon that night and it was almost pitch black. Dave and I whispered when we spoke because noise carries very well in the open desert, but most of the time we were quiet and listening for anything unusual in the darkness.
About nine o’clock, we spotted a vehicle coming our way without its headlights on and only the parking lights burning. It was moving very slowly, and as it grew closer to our position the noise of the tires crunching over the rocks on the dirt road heightened our awareness to a point of total concentration.
As we waited for whatever might come our way we readied ourselves by aiming our rifles in the direction of the oncoming vehicle. As it got closer, and our adrenaline began to pump, we realized that it was Bob in his government pickup truck.
He stopped his truck only about thirty feet from our position and stepped out while calling our names. Dave and I stood up, acknowledged his call, then approached him. Bob told us that he had been to the ranch house and Leon had told him where we were located.
He then stated that he had spotted a well lit camp site just around the hill and about a mile or so from our current position, and he was sure that they were members of Earth First. At that moment. he deputized us and told us to come with him.
Walking through the darkness around the hill and along a dry wash, we could barely see two feet in front of us. I asked Bob why we didn't take his pickup truck and drive to their camp, to which he replied, he wanted to come up on them quietly and surprise them, hoping to find evidence of some sort in their possession.
As we reached the other side of the hill, we could see the camp lights glowing in the distance, and as we neared the camp site Bob told us that he wanted Dave and I to set up in a small stand of trees just outside of the lights of their camp and cover him while he went in.
He explained that he had no search warrant, so if he found anything it would have to be in plain site. We approached the stand of trees very slowly, being as quiet as possible, and with the noise from the small generator the campers were using to light their camp, we reached our position without being heard.
Bob then whispered, "If anyone pulls a gun on me, shoot him."
With our rifles pointed at the suspects, he walked into the light of their camp announcing that he was a Federal Forest Ranger while holding his identification in the air.
Bob spent about five minutes or so talking to the suspects, and asking questions while looking around for any evidence which might be in plain view. We could not make out the conversation, but we could see that the group was becoming agitated.
As Bob turned to walk away, one of the members of the group hollered out to him, "You are either a very brave man or an awful stupid one to have walked into our camp alone, especially since we are in the middle of nowhere."
With that Bob hollered, "Come on out boys."
Dave and I stepped out of the darkness and into the edge of the camp lights while holding our rifle barrels towards the ground, but in their general direction. With that, the group looked rather stunned and had nothing more to say.
On our way back to our campsite, Bob told us that they were definitely Earth First members because they had Earth First bumper stickers on their vehicles, but since he could not see anything which could be used as evidence of wrong doing there was nothing he could do.
The following morning we saddled up and rode out to gather the cattle and pushed them back to the working pens. We worked the entire day branding, castrating and vaccinating, and we finished up about six o’clock that afternoon.
On my way home, as I waited to turn off of the sixteen mile stretch of dirt road called Middle March onto highway eighty to Tombstone, I noticed the same pickup trucks with campers we had seen the previous night at the Earth First camp.
They were heading out of town in the direction of Benson Arizona. Sure enough, the trucks had Earth First bumper stickers on them. I guess they figured that they had caused enough damage, or maybe the situation was getting a little too hot for them with our little visit. No matter, they completely left the area and the troubles come to an end.
When I arrived home, I immediately took a nice hot shower and fixed myself something to eat. Afterwards, I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote this poem. I call it "Earth First"
We rode to the pasture to gather the herd when we noticed
the gate was torn open. It seemed by the tracks only three
head went through and this we were thoroughly Hopin’
We found the cows shortly, and pushed em’ on back, but it
seems that wasn’t the worst. The water lines were cut and
and some fence was torn down. It turned out to be Earth First.
These folks want the cows of off BLM land and will do what ever
it takes, even though this land we’re using is good for nothing but cattle and snake’s.
There are no trees or sites to behold on this land where their
makin’ such a fuss, but for these people I think it’s just an
excuse to cause trouble and harassment for us.
These lands are still public which no one denies and most of
it’s out in the sticks, and it’s mostly not fit for family gatherings
birthdays or even picknicks.
These people say that their fight is for you but our cattle had paid
with their thirst, and with the forestry service they’re listed as terrorists,
this group they call Earth First.
Groups such as this say their watching out for our land of milk
Honey, but you better look twice and check em’ real close before
you donate your money.
A few minutes had passed by when I heard Jack holler my name as he opened my front door and walked in. He asked me how things had gone at the ranch, and I told him a short version of the story and asked him how things had gone at home.
He replied, "I am not sure."
I asked him what he meant, and he said that he had went out to feed my horses the previous evening and he heard one hell of a ruckus back at his corral. He hurried back to find that his horse had busted through the corral rails, and was running down the wash as though the devil himself was chasing her.
Knowing that his horse couldn't get off the ranch, he just let her settle down, caught her and brought her back later on. I told Jack that maybe it was that Earth First bunch that we had trouble with. But on the other hand this was private property, and I doubted it could have been them.
We decided to walk over to Jack’s corral and look over the situation. I could see where his horse had busted through, and where Jack had made the repairs. As we looked even closer, we found tennis shoe prints in the loose dirt and neither one of us ever wore tennis shoes.
We then found a medium size mesquite branch, which had been cut from the small tree in his corral, and there was no doubt that someone had used it to swat the horse on the rear end causing her to bolt through the wood corral and into the wash.
Whoever had done this must have watched Jack while he was walking down to my horse corrals and took advantage of the distance for their getaway. My corrals were a good five hundred feet from his.
We tracked the tennis shoe prints far enough to realize that they were headed back up the hill to the dirt road above our houses. Jack then mentioned that he had heard a vehicle on the road as he was hurrying back to his corrals, but thought nothing of it at the time.
As we sat in Jack’s living room drinking coffee, I asked him, "Who do you think would have done something like this?"
He looked at me, while nodding his head, and said, "Someone from Tombstone who doesn't like our stand against the old Earp ordinance."
I have to admit, I thought he was wrong about his theory, but it wouldn't be much longer before I would be the one proven wrong.
A few days later I went into town and met Jeff for lunch at the Longhorn, and he too was of the belief that someone in Tombstone who disliked our stand had probably spooked Jack's horse because no one else would have reason to do something of that nature. At first I didn't think the ordinance fight had anything to do with it, but I now thought it at least possible.
The following morning I went to town to buy the local newspaper and someone must have been watching my movements, because they had set a trap for me on the dirt road leading home.
As I neared the sub-power station about half way down the dirt road to my place, I saw dirt kick up and heard the shot of a rifle.The bullet hit the ground right next to my truck door, and I slid down in my seat and put my foot to the floor.
With the dirt flying while driving down our dirt road much faster than normal, I slid up in front of my house and ran inside for my gun.
As I was hurrying back out to my truck, Jack hollered from his shop, "What’s going on?"
I told him that someone had just taken a shot at me, and I was going back with my gun to find the son of a bitch. Jack grabbed his gun, and we both went back to look for whoever had done this.
We looked the area over, and drove up a dirt road which went along side of the sub station. When we reached the top of the hill, we found fresh tire tracks but nothing more.
When we got back home, I called the sheriff’s department and reported what had happened and the dispatcher told me that it would probably be some time before a deputy could get there.
We lived outside of the city limits, so the Tombstone marshal’s office would not respond unless it was an immediate emergency. About two hours later, the sheriff’s deputy drove up and we explained what had happened.
All he could do was to write a report, and he also apologized for the long response time.
He explained that there were not enough deputies to cover the whole of Chochise County, and depending on their locations at the time there could be a long response time should anything happen in the future.
I looked at him and said, "I guess if something happens we are basically on our own?"
The deputy looked at me, nodded his head "yes" and drove away.
-- end Chapter Six
For Chapter 7 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 Seven)