Read CHAPTER XIV of The Life and Adventures of Nat Love Better Known in the Cattle Country as "Deadwood Dick", free online book, by Nat Love, on

The old haze and Elsworth trail. Our trip to Cheyenne. Ex-sheriff Pat A. Garret. The death of “Billy the kid”. The Lincoln county cattle war.

Early the next spring 1878 we went on a short trip to Junction City, Kan., with a small herd of horses for Hokin and Herst. We started out from the home ranch early in April, stringing the herd out along the old Haze and Elsworth trail. Everything went well until we were several days out and we had went in camp for the night. The herd had been rounded up and were grazing in the open prairie under the usual watch. And all the cowboys except the first watch had turned in for a good night’s rest, when it began to storm finally developing into a genuine old fashioned Texas storm, with the usual result that the herd stampeded.

The watch at once gave the alarm and we awoke to find everything in confusion. It was a very dark night and under such circumstances it is hard to control a herd of horses in a stampede. In a few moments every man was in the saddle, as we always kept our saddle horses picketed out, so they could not join the other horses. And it was our custom when on the trail with a herd of horses on going into camp to leave our saddle horses, saddled and bridled, merely loosing the cinches of the saddles though sometimes we removed the bridles, to enable them to graze better. So when the alarm was given in this instance, it did not take us long to get in the saddle and after the horses who were now going across the prairie as only frightened horses can go in a stampede.

The storm continued with more or less fury all night and it was late the next day before we got the herd rounded up and under any sort of control. The next morning we found that one of the boys, Frank Smith, had lost his horse and outfit during the night. While chasing the horses over the prairie, his horse stepped in a prairie dog’s hole and fell. Throwing his rider and snatching the rope out of Smith’s hand, the horse made off over the prairie carrying with him bridle, saddle and outfit, and we never saw or heard of him again. After getting our breakfast, we continued north, and all went well with us until we struck the Wakeeny river, near Junction City, when in fording the stream. It was high water and we were forced to swim our horses across. All went well with the herd and the boys were following when one of them came near being drowned, and was only saved by my quick rope.

I had entered the river and my horse was swimming easily, when on glancing around I saw one of the boys, Loyd Hoedin by name, go under the water. Both man and horse completely disappeared. They soon came up only to disappear again. I saw at once something was wrong so when they came up the second time I threw my rope. It fell near Hoedin, who had the presence of mind to grasp it, and hold on while I snaked both man and horse out to safety. After reaching Junction City and turning the herd over to their new owners we started out to have the usual good time. This lasted for several days during which time we cleaned up pretty near all the money there was in the Junction with our horses in a six hundred yard race, between ourselves and cow boys from different outfits who happened to be in the city.

Our horses without exception proved the fastest runners, accordingly we pocketed considerable coin, and in consequence we were feeling first rate when we struck the trail homeward bound. We arrived at the home ranch all right in June. This was the last trip we were called to make this season, and our time for the remainder of the year was taken up with the general routine work of the large cattle ranch.

Late the next season we took the trail en route to Cheyenne, Wyoming, with two thousand head of fine Texas steers for the Swan Brothers, 20 miles northwest of Cheyenne. Nothing of unusual importance happened on this trip aside from the regular incidents pertaining to driving such a large herd of cattle on the trail. We had a few stampedes and lost a few cattle, arriving in Cheyenne we had a royal good time for a few days as usual before starting home. On arriving at the home ranch again we found considerable excitement, owing to the war between the cattle men and cattle rustlers and every man was needed at home and few there were who did not take part in one way or another in the most bitter and furious cattle war of history and I being one of the leading cowboys of the West, necessarily took an active part in the dispute and many were the sharp clashes between the waring factions that I witnessed and fought in and was wounded many times in these engagements. For years the cattle rustlers had been invading the large cattle ranges belonging to the large cattle kings of the West and running off and branding large numbers of choice cattle and horses, this led to many a sharp fight between the cowboys and the rustlers, but of late these thieves had become so bold and the losses of the cattle men had become so great that the latter determined to put a stop to it, and so open war was declared.

On one side was the large ranchmen and cattle men and on the other the Indians, half breeds, Mexicans and white outlaws that made the cattle country their rendezvous. The cattle men had now organized with the given determination of either killing or running out of the country for good these thieves, who had caused them so much loss. And during the war many of them cashed in and the others for the most part left for pastures new, having been virtually whipped out of the country. It was a desperate and bloody war while it lasted.

But it was satisfactory to the cattle men who could now rest easier in the security of their herds and their grazing grounds. It was at this time that I saw considerable of William H. Bonney alias “Billie the kid”, the most noted desperado and all around bad man the world has known.

The first time I met Billie the Kid was in Antonshico, New Mexico, in a saloon, when he asked me to drink with him, that was in 1877. Later he hired to Pete Galligan, the man in whose employ I was. Galligan hired the Kid to drive his buck board between the White Oaks, the nearest town, and Galligan’s ranch with provisions for the boys, and the Kid told me himself that one these trips he would drive the team, on a dead run, the whole distance of 30 miles to the Oaks in order to get there quick so he would have more time to stay around town before it was time to start back, then when he would arrive home the team was nearly dead from exhaustion. He remained in the employ of Galligan for about eleven months, then he was hired by John Chisholm to rustle cattle for him. Chisholm agreed to pay the Kid so much per head for all the cattle the Kid rustled. When the time came for a settlement, Chisholm failed to settle right or to the Kid’s satisfaction, then the Kid told Chisholm he would give him one day to make up his mind to settle right, but before the Kid could see Chisholm again, Chisholm left the country going east where his brother was. The Kid then swore vengeance, and said he would take his revenge out of Chisholm’s men, and he at once began killing all the employ of John Chisholm. He would ride up to a bunch of cowboys and enquire if they worked for Chisholm. If they replied in the affirmative, he would shoot them dead on the spot, and few men were quicker with a 45 or a deadly shot than “Billie the Kid”. The next time I met the Kid was in Holbrook, Arizona, just after a big round up. The Kid, Buck Cannon, and Billie Woods were together. I was on my way to Silver City, New Mexico, in the fall of 1880 when I met them, and as they were going there also, we rode on together The “Kid” showed me the little log cabin where he said he was born. I went in the cabin with him, and he showed me how it was arranged when he lived there, showing me where the bed sat and the stove and table. He then pointed out the old postoffice which he said he had been in lots of times.

He told me he was born and raised in Silver City, New Mexico, which is near the Moggocilion Mountains, and at that time the Kid was badly wanted by the sheriffs of several counties for numerous murders committed by him mostly of John Chisholm’s men in Texas and New Mexico.

The Kid bid me good bye. He said he was going to the mountains as he knew them well, and once there he was all right as he could stand off a regiment of soldiers. The three of them departed together. I never saw him again until the spring of 1881. I was in the city of Elmorgo, New Mexico, and saw him the morning he was forced to flee to the mountains to escape arrest. We could see him up there behind the rocks. He was well armed having with him two Winchesters and two 45 Colts revolvers and plenty of ammunition, and although the officers wanted him badly, no one dared go up after him as it was certain death to come with range of the Kid’s guns. Later on he escaped and the next time I saw him was in Antonshico, New Mexico. It was in June, and we had come up from Colonas after some saddle horses, and I met and talked with him.

The next time I saw him he was laying dead at Pete Maxwell’s ranch in Lincoln county, New Mexico, having been killed by Pat A. Garret at that time sheriff of Lincoln county, New Mexico. We arrived in Lincoln county the very night he was killed at Pete Maxwell’s ranch and went into camp a short distance from Maxwell’s, and we saw the Kid a short time after he had been killed. The Kid had been arrested by Pat Garret and his posse a short time before at Stinking Springs, New Mexico, along with Tom Pickett, Billy Wilson and Dave Rudebough, after arresting these men which was only effected after a hard fight and after the Kid’s ammunition had given out. Garret took the men heavily ironed to Los Vegas. When it became known that Billy the Kid had been captured a mob formed for the purpose of lynching him. But Garret placed his prisoners in a box car over which himself and deputies stood guard until the train pulled out which was nearly two hours. During that time the mob was furious to get at the men, but they well knew the temper of Sheriff Garret so they kept their distance.

The men were tried and convicted. The Kid and Rudbough were sentenced to be hanged. Rudbough for having killed a jailer at Los Vegas in 1880. The judge on passing sentence on the Kid, said you are sentenced to be hanged by the neck until you are dead-dead-dead. The Kid laughed in the judge’s face saying, and you can go to Hell, Hell, Hell. After the Kid had been sentenced he was placed in jail at Los Vegas, ironed hand and foot, and under heavy guard, but never lost confidence and was always looking for a chance to escape. When the day of his execution was not much more than a week off, the Kid saw his chance, while eating his supper both handcuffs had been fastened to one wrist so the Kid could better feed himself. He was only guarded by one deputy named Bell. The other deputy, Ollinger, had gone to supper across the street from the jail. Bell turned his head for a moment and the Kid noticing the movement quick as a flash brought the handcuffs down on Bell’s head, stunning him. The Kid then snatched Bell’s revolver, he shot the deputy through the body. Bell staggered to the steps down which he fell and into the yard below where he died. Ollinger hearing the shot rushed across the street. As he entered the jail yard he looked up and saw the Kid at a window. As he did so the Kid shot Ollinger dead with a shot gun which was loaded with buck shot. The Kid then broke the gun across the window sill, then going to the room where the weapons were kept the Kid picked out what guns he wanted and broke the balance. Then he made the first person he met break the irons from his legs and bring him a horse. The Kid then took four revolvers and two Winchester rifles and rode away. Sheriff Garret was at White Oaks at the time and as soon he as heard of the escape he hurried home and organized a posse to recapture the Kid, but the Kid was at liberty two months before he was finally rounded up and killed at Pete Maxwell’s ranch. At the time the Kid escaped at Los Vegas myself and a party of our boys had our horses at Menderhall and Hunter’s livery stable, just a few doors from the jail and I was standing on the street talking to a friend when the Kid rode by. From Los Vegas he went to the borders of Lincoln county where his ever ready revolver was always in evidence. Shortly after his escape he shot and killed William Mathews and a companion whom he met on the prairie without apparent cause, and several other murders were attributed to him before he was finally located at Maxwell’s ranch and killed by Sheriff Garret.

The Kid was only 22 years of age when his wild career was ended by the bullet from the sheriff’s gun and it is safe to assert he had at lease one murder to the credit of every year of his life. He was killed by Sheriff Garret in a room of one of the old houses at Fort Sumner, known at that time as Maxwell’s ranch, July 12, 1881, about two months after his escape from the Lincoln county jail, and Sheriff Pat A. Garret, one of the nervest men of that country of nervy men and the only man who ever pursued the Kid and lived to tell the tale, is at present at the head of the Customs Service at El Paso, Texas, and to meet him and note his pleasant smile and kindly disposition, one would not believe him the man who sent Billie the Kid to his last account. But behind the pleasant twinkle in his eye and the warm hand clasp there is a head as cool and a nerve as steady as ever held a 45.