there's one thing Texans like as much as stories about legendary
Texans it's stories about legendary critters. Dogs and horses are
The tear-jerking classic "Old Yeller," written by Fred Gipson of
Mason, is a Texas and national classic. If Gipson had known about
Yalgo - which is an Indian word for "yellow" - he might have had
another yellow-hued classic on his hands.
Yalgo was a horse, a race horse equally at home with desperate outlaws
and law abiding settlers. Andrew Jackson Turnbo, who lived in the
Youngsport area in the mid-1880s, owned Yalgo. Turnbo prized the
horse enough to build Yalgo his own stable because a big, fast horse
like Yalgo would be much prized among the Indians who still appeared
from time to time.
a story they still tell out at Peaceable Kingdom, a retreat in southwest
Bell County for ill children. It happened in 1863, when A.J. Turnbo's
wife, Louisa, and a friend, Amy Smith, were on their way back from
Florence. A group of Indians took notice, then gave chase.
Turnbo was riding Yalgo, but Amy Smith was on a smaller pony. Louisa
asked her friend to abandon the pony and ride with her on Yalgo,
but Amy refused and was soon overtaken and captured by the Indians,
never to be seen again. Yalgo and Mrs. Turnbo lived to ride another
can be a hero in a way that a fast car never can. A horse can be
an inspiration in a way that the fastest vehicle can't. Even when
involved with outlawry and banditry, the horse is always blameless.
name will be forever linked not only to A.J. Turnbo and his wife,
but also to one of the Old West's most notorious outlaws, King Fisher.
In that blameless way of horses, Yalgo is linked to King Fisher's
first foray into a life of crime. When Fisher was 14 years old,
he borrowed Yalgo without telling Turnbo.
Charlie Turnbo of Salado
has spent much of the last two years tracking down the Turnbo family
history. Stories of Yalgo and King Fisher keep turning up in family
"King attended school in Williamson County and was a fairly good
student, although reportedly quite good at fist fighting," Charlie
Turnbo writes in his history of the Turnbos in Texas. "As an enterprising
teenager, King found that he could break wild horses and sell them
for a tidy profit."
his neighbors hauled Fisher to Georgetown for a meeting with the
sheriff, but A.J. Turnbo slipped Fisher a pocket knife, which the
fledgling outlaw used to cut the lead rope to his horse, facilitating
his escape to Goliad.
it's easy to say he (A.J. Turnbo) made a mistake," Charlie Turnbo
says today. "Who knows how things might have turned out for Fisher
if he'd faced the music in Georgetown."
Fisher proceeded to set up his own criminal empire in South Texas,
evidently specializing in cattle rustling. He is remembered for
a sign he put up at the intersection of his private road and a public
road. "This is King Fisher's road. Take the other," the sign read.
Fisher said he was just trying to be helpful. Other people took
it as a threat.
Leander McNelly and Lee Hall captured and arrested Fisher more than
a few times, but he managed to avoid prosecution. He eventually
became a deputy sheriff of Uvalde County. He became acting sheriff
in 1883, and was set to run for the office in 1884, but he and another
notorious gunslinger/lawman, Ben Thompson, were gunned down in a
shootout in the Vaudeville Variety Theater in San Antonio.
As for Yalgo, he was a hard horse to forget. King Fisher apparently
never did. When he settled down on his own ranch, he named one of
his four daughters Florence. His favorite chestnut stallion was
© Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas"
May 17, 2006 column
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