Though only two
of the twelve officer’s quarters had been rennovated by the following spring,
Hoxie did bring 3,500 or so visitors to Fort
Davis on March 23, 1930 for a rodeo touted as featuring six Hollywood “Cowboys
and Cowgirls.” But a severe dust storm ended the show before it had hardly begun.
proved only the beginning of a run of bad luck for Hoxie and his dream. With the
economy continuing to worsen following the October 1929 crash, Hoxie’s financial
backing dried up faster than a cow pattie in July. Not long after the fizzled
rodeo, Hoxie stored what tack and furnishings he had acquired, hired a caretaker
for the fort, and left town to perform with the 101 Wild West Show.
wise, 1931 got off to a bad start when three of the actor’s associates in the
Fort Davis venture enlivened a boozy party in Midland
thrown by oilman Oscar Yates and his wife. Late in the evening, having enjoyed
way too much non-petroleum lubrication, Western actor and former Texas Ranger
Buck Jones pulled a loaded .38 as movie producer Bert Bennet and Lee Cox, a former
Sul Ross College student who had gone to work for Hoxie, looked on.
told Jones to stow the hardware, to which he replied: “I have had 25 years’ experience
with these things.” And then the pistol discharged, dropping a guest from Abilene
to the floor with a bullet in his intestines. At first, the partygoers thought
Jones had pulled a Hollywood stunt, but then someone opened the downed man’s coat
and saw real blood.
Amid “the wildest confusion,” Jones and Cox sped off
in Jones’ car. Arrested some hours later in Stanton,
the two were returned to Midland,
where Jones soon faced a murder charge with Cox held as a material witness. (How
the case played out in the courts has yet to be determined, but it didn’t directly
involve Hoxie or his plans for Fort Davis.)
only favorable ink Hoxie got that year came in February, when the San Antonio
Express carried a story about “Dynamite,” a black bear Hoxie kept at Fort Davis.
When the year-old female awakened from her winter hibernation Hoxie and animal
trainer Bert DeMarc brought her a tub of water and a quart of cornmeal mush. “She
licked the platter clean, boxed it 40 feet aside with her paw, hopped upon the
top of her den and gave herself a good scratching,” the newspaper reported on
what must have been a slow news day.
Hoxie’s bear may have ended her seasonal
snooze, but the film star’s plans for a Big Bend resort continued in hibernation.
With the Great Depression deepening, Hoxie soon rode out of town on the figurative
horse he had come in on. In the fall of 1932, his wife Dixie Starr slipped into
town just long enough to collect all the costume trunks and boxes of tack left
behind and return them to California. Dozens of Jeff Davis County investors never
got their money back.
Hoxie continued rodeoing for another 20 years, but
his career had peaked decades before. The old actor did a slow ride toward the
sunset, dying in 1965 at 80 in Elkhart, KS.
Unlike his sure-shooting movie
persona, Hoxie had missed many of the real-life targets he aimed at. But he knew
a good movie location when he saw it. Long after Hoxie’s Stockade and Motion Picture
Studio had been forgotten, Hollywood did come to Fort
Davis, in the 1990s using the old fort and the area landscape as the scenic
backdrop for two moderately successful films, “The Good Old Boys” and “Dancer,
Cox - August 23, 2012 column
Topics: Fort Davis
Columns | People
| Texas | Texas Town