by Mike Cox
| Whoever he was, he
got a nice funeral.
Texas Ranger J.W. Fulgham and a Reeves County sheriff’s
deputy, identified in the press only by his last name of Lackey, left Pecos, Texas
for a ride down the Pecos River, looking for cattle thieves or fugitives in early
September 1893. Back then, the Pecos was a good place to find either variety of
After an easy-paced 13 mile scout, the two lawmen camped for
the night near Emigrant’s Crossing, one of the river’s two principle fords. The
next morning, after coffee and breakfast, they continued their trek southward
along the snake-like river.
Not long after swinging into their saddles,
the two lawmen noticed that they were being followed at some distance by a solitary
cowboy leading a packhorse. Wanting a closer look at the man, the officers slowed
their horses, assuming the rider would overtake them.
But when they slowed,
the cowboy behind them seemed to slow down, too.
Since the two officers
didn’t look much different from cowboys themselves, they were beginning to get
slightly suspicious at the man’s apparent disdain for company. Reining their horses,
the ranger and the deputy dismounted and waited for him to catch up.
When he did, he rode right by with not even so much as a howdy or even a tug on
his hat brim. At that, the two officers got back on their horses and quickly caught
up to him, one officer on each side. Observing that he wore a pistol, Lackey identified
himself and asked the man if he was an officer.
“I have been,” he said,
Lackey shot a few more questions in his direction.
“He answered all questions as to his name and destination in an abrupt and
surly manner,” the Pecos News reported a few days later. “His actions were those
of a fugitive from justice.”
The Reeves County deputy studied on the
matter for a moment.
“Jim,” he told the ranger, “we will go to Pecos
and take this man with us.”
Hearing that, the stranger dropped the reins
to his packhorse and went for his pistol.
At that, the two officers yelled
for the rider to throw up his hands. Instead, the cowboy raised his pistol.
The ranger must have had his eyes fixed on the cowboy’s Colt, because his
first bullet went through the non-communicative rider’s gun hand. The smoke from
that round blew into Fulgham’s eyes. Aiming by instinct, he pulled the trigger
again, sending a slug into the stranger’s chest and knocking him off his horse.
“By God boys,” the cowboy said, raising up on one arm. Then he slumped down,
The officers left the body where it lay and rode to Pecos to summon
Reeves County Sheriff G.A. Frazier. The sheriff and Ranger Lon Oden accompanied
the other two officers back to the scene, where Oden picked the dead cowboy’s
gun up and found it had been half cocked. Then they loaded the dead cowboy on
a horse and brought him back to Pecos.
About all the cowboy had to his
name was the Colt revolver, which had one black grip, one white, a memorandum
book and a letter with the signature torn off.
“Started to work for the
flying E. Cow Co.,” one entry in his notebook said.
One line in the
letter gave credence to the officers’ belief that the cowboy was wanted by the
law somewhere: “I would like to be back on the old creek, but you know I can’t
The officers figured the man to be about 23 years old. The doctor
who examined the body measured him at 5 feet, 10 inches, guessed his weight at
about 160 pounds and noted that he had grey eyes.
“Messrs. Fulgham and
Lakey regret the occurrence very much,” the newspaper account continued, “but
from what we can learn from the facts of the case, we feel certain that they did
nothing more than their duty required.”
Unable to learn the man’s identity,
Sheriff Frazier saw to it that he got “a nice suit of clothes” and had him “buried
in a quiet and genteel way, Rev. J.E. Sawders officiating.”
© Mike Cox