THE CALABAZAS KID.
The advance of the railroad construction gang boomed the Pastoral Arcadia of Calabazas. Town lots began having more than a fictitious value, and the four or five people that had comprised the ancient population, felt more as if they were a portion of the great world. Each new saloon tent with its assorted poisons, array of fancy bottles, and stacks of poker chips, was welcomed as a commercial enterprise of great merit, and the older citizens considered themselves very enterprising indeed, in ever having found Calabazas at all.
Although there was nothing massive about these new structures in the town, but their names and their owners unlimited cheek, yet on account of their being placed regularly on each side of supposed streets, they gave the city something of a metropolitan aspect, and the nightly music in the hurdy-houses on the river bottom, gave the weary and heavy laden notice that the town could furnish some of the metropolitan vices and amusements. As Calabazas filled up with railroad
The new arrival was a finely proportioned young man; his every movement indicated strength and agility. He was about twenty-one years of age, and both his features and language gave evidence that he had been well born, and reared by respectable people. The armory of weapons, and magazine of ammunition belted around his waist, his befringed buckskin suit, rattling spurs, and broad-brimmed sombrero, as well as his actions, were a sufficient assurance to the ever watchful citizen, that he was not a detective or a sheriff. These suspicious characters were the only visitors viewed with any serious disfavor by the cautious inhabitants. He was dissipated looking, of course, and his talk was replete with oaths and slang. He had a fine horse, saddle and bridle, which were disposed of within an hour or two after reaching town, realizing something like one hundred dollars for the outfit. He then filled himself with bug juice whisky, or the tarantula juice Mescal, and proceeded to introduce himself to Calabazas society and have a devil of
Who knew it to be a fact, none could tell; yet it was soon asserted in whispers that this was the dread "Texas Kid," or the holy terror of terrors. Death laid in his finger ends, and disaster in his wink. His deeds of daring, in fighting his way to freedom through cohorts of the minions of the law, put the deeds before Troy to shame. Sheriffs and constables had been his victims by scores; his pistol grip was unwieldy from notches in commemoration of his dead, and his shooting simultaneously from a pistol in each hand, was a miracle of skill and deadly destruction. It would be better to eat sand for a month than to truculently cross the orbit of this flaming meteor of a Kid. He was "The Texas Kid!" the only! the original! He was chief, and annihilation awaited the Calabazas champion that aspired to equality or superiority in all that went to constitute a ruffian.
These rumors were started as soon as this Kid began to made a local record. No one vouched for their truth or could give any authority, but they were supinely accepted as being true. By nightfall of the first day, the Kid was the acknowledged chief of the hardest town in Arizona, and, without leaving that trail of blood that usually leads to the honors that crown the chieftain.
Occasionally a dressy looking stranger alighting from the stage to stretch his legs, would be compelled to dance an exhaustive jig, while the Kid fired his revolver balls at the feet of the dancer to furnish the incentive. "The Moke," our only colored resident, abandoned us because the Kid had so little regard for the fifteenth amendment as to make him stand upon his head, and, with his feet in the air, dance several difficult jigs, breakdowns and quicksteps to the music of that humorous gentleman's revolvers, fired rapidly, and in the direction of the colored brothers quickly moving feet. The prettiest hurdy-girls would leave their escorts at his request. The dancing floor was never too crowded to make room for him. At the gambling table he did not wait for chance to favor him, but replenished his pile of chips from his neighbor's; if the robbed demurred, a look from the knightly Kid was a quieting potion, and a receipt in full. Whisky, wines, and cigars were at his command, to be paid for at his leisure, or not paid for at all, Should he desire to give some saloon keeper a hint that relations were strained, a horse was taken from the corral and ridden into the saloon, the hanging lamps would be used as targets at which to fire his devastating pistol, or the saloon keeper would be made to treat the horse and rider, while with fitful gaze he calculated the size of that gentleman's revolver barrels.
After one week the town had become so used to being bluffed by the Kid that it was accepted as one of the natural conditions of Calabazas life. That he should step uninvited to the bar and be counted in, was to be expected at any social treat of friends and strangers. Men of his own class spoke admiringly of his nervy eye and of his quickness with the gun. There was no doubt in Calabazas of "The Kid" being chief, king, emperor, or anything else he chose to consider himself; and, like other chiefs, kings, or emperors, he worked his title for all it was worth. A more tyrannical, over-bearing, and conceited chief, king, or emperor, never existed.
Crandall, the Land Company's agent at Calabazas, was a good-natured but dissipated man, and a pleasant and entertaining fellow; drink did not entirely obliterate these qualities in him. Everyone liked him, for he gave no intentional offence, and his unfailing good nature, drunk or sober, forbade him taking offence, even at the most offensive jokes; he saved no money—which is a virtue in such a town—and being the agent of the Company that claimed the Earth, was an important citizen.
Crandall carried a pistol. A pistol was a part of every man's and many women's costume in Calabazas. A man did not feel fully dressed if the grind of a revolver was not felt on his hip or thigh at each step. Why most of them carried weapons, no man knew, for the majority were ready to throw their "gun" away and run like deer at the slightest danger, or hand it, without demur, to the first gun-fighter that demanded them. But being the frontier fashion, Crandall, of course, had to carry one; it at least impressed the "Tenderfeet," and insured, from them, a measure of respect and awe. His pistol was an old, rusty, muzzle loading Colt's, and it is doubtful if it had been loaded
It was the afternoon of a July day, one of those dry, hot, debilitating days, known only to the sun-baked valleys of the extreme Western States and Territories. It was so suffocatingly hot that the least exertion was wearisome. The corpulent, ubiquitous Calabazas fly was too enervated to buzz, or too dispirited to let go of the ceiling or fall into the butter; and coatless men lounged lethargically in the shadow of their tents, in vain attempt to keep cool.
Crandall was sitting at a table in the Palace Hotel, the one nearest the door, with his side toward the entrance, and facing one of the tent sides. Opposite him sat a stranger, one who had arrived that day, and spread upon the table was a map of Calabazas. The stranger was an intending settler, and Crandall was setting forth to him the future greatness of the town, praising its social advantages, and, in fact, telling all the standard lies of a real estate agent who is hungry for a commission. The stranger was a respectable looking man, and, though he had been but a half day in Calabazas, his restless eye and nervous starts betrayed the fact that he had seen enough of the unaffected free and easy manners of the town, to wish that his early education in frontier customs had not been neglected. Crandall was so deeply engaged in impressing the stranger with the advantages of the town, that he did not notice the Kid enter the tent to partake of his midday meal, something he never missed
‘‘Me no sabee, gleat molly stanby. Me no sabee Alizona tulke, hab got bled, hab got sullup, hab got----.’’ 1
At the first shot, Cum Sing, saturated with fright, gave a blood-curdling shout of ‘‘Wha fo?---Je Cli! wha fo you shoot me?’’ jumped six feet perpendicularly, and, as his feet touched the floor, shot from the dining room as an arrow from the bow, yelling at the top of his falsetto voice to his brethren in the kitchen. As the terrified Chinaman left the room, his cue uncoiled, and stood out stiff and straight behind him. The second shot accentuated his speed, and
Up to the time of firing the shots, Crandall had been oblivious to all but the stranger and the map. At hearing the shots, the stranger turned pale, lost all interest in Calabazas real estate, and hastily arose to go. Crandall, rendered desperate by the idea of losing his whilom customer, and the commission that would have supplied him with the satisfying Mescal for many days, jumped from his seat, pulled the rusty old pistol from his pocket, and, turning rapidly, slapped the Kid upon the back with a resounding whack, at the same time inquiring, ‘‘What in the h---l is the shooting about?’’ Crandall was so exasperated at seeing the stranger hurriedly disappear, that he did not stop to consider, and had not the least idea of whom he was talking to. The blow had been unintentionally hard, and was given for the purpose of attracting attention to his question, therefore it may be imagined what his feelings were, when he instantly realized that he had familiarly slapped the back of the unconquerable Kid, and had so cavalierly asked that monarch for information. He was riveted to the spot and frigid with fear; he expected no less than instant death.
Upon receiving the slap the Kid turned and saw Crandall, pistol in hand, lips firmly set, and staring at him with dilated eyes. In a moment the Kid's figure was as rigid, and his stare as intent as was Crandall's. For a few seconds they eyed each other steadily. The silence was so oppressive that it sagged in the roof of the tent and bulged out its sides. Suddenly, and
It was with mingled emotions of terror and surprise that Crandall saw the Kid kneeling at his feet imploring mercy. His head actually ached with the excess of his astonishment and doubt. Was he actually and really Crandall, or had all but Crandall's form been replaced by the spirit of Agamemnon? Was this kneeling figure the Kid or the Astral body of that truculent chieftain? If actually the Kid, was not his present humble demeanor intended as a sarcasm? Was he not playing with him, as a cat does with a mouse, before he wreaked a final and deadly vengeance? It might be so! and Crandall's grip upon his old pistol tightened. But no! the stricken look and humble attitude of the vanquished Kid was too plain to be misunderstood.
Crandall grasped the situation with a presence of mind that few in that town would have displayed. The pallor left his face, and the blood returned with such force and volume that it soon became more rubicund than usual. How his heart swelled with the pride of victory! How mighty thoughts of his determined attack on this terrible Kid surged through his mind; he had intended doing this very thing, of course he had, no one could harbor a doubt about it. Eyeing the Kid sternly, meanwhile keeping his old pistol aimed point blank at that humble person's head, he ordered him to ‘‘hold up your hands and hold them
Calling Cum Sing, he ordered him to tie the Kid's hands behind him and to hobble his feet. This command was obeyed with great cheerfulness. That reorganized heathen next proceeded to dismantle this wreck of a Kid, and closely examined each weapon before delivering into Crandall's hands. After disarming the captive, Cum Sing gazed at him with great scorn and severity and said, ‘‘You go h---l, you no good. Wha fo you foolee me, spose you likee shoot; wha fo you no shoot Mis' Clandal; him welly good man; --- ---. Me no flaid you. You eatee my g'lub plenty; you no pay one --- cent. You allee time shoot box, shoot can, shoot air. Me no flaid you. Je Cli! you foolee me one more time, me b'leak yo head. Wha fo you no pay me fo g'lub? You go lound, you dance huldy-girl, you no pay; all lite! You go s'loon, you catchee d'link; you catchee cigah, you no pay; all lite! You go washouse an get cloze, you no pay; you shoot flo an sca'a ebbybody; all lite! You come my house, you shoot flo; Hi Sing him lun way; Lo Sing, him lun way; him man go buy lot, him lun way; you laise h---l allee time; all lite, I sabee! Me an Mis' Clandal no flaid you. Je Cli! wha fo you tink me flaid? Wha
Cum Sing led the prisoner to a chair; his captor, after first putting his pistol in his pocket, seated himself opposite, and slowly running his glance up and down the Kid's figure, asked, ‘‘What in h—l do you mean by cutting up in this way?’’ This question was entirely supererogatory when it is remembered that the Kid had been doing equally as bad or worse daily since he had bestowed his unwelcome presence on Calabazas. What could the Kid say in answer? Were not his knife, his pistols and his ammunition belt now the trophies of his captor's prowess? Was he any longer king, emperor, or chief? Had he not met his Waterloo? Not getting an answer, Crandall leaned over the table, and, taking the Kid's ornamented hat from his head, contemptuously twirled it into the kitchen with the remark, ‘‘You --- scrub, take off your hat when you talk to me.’’
How much oftener Crandall would have asked the same question it would be hard to say, had not the crowd made its presence felt. The news of the capture of the Kid, "after a deadly conflict," had spread like wildfire over the town. The tent and the street in front of it were crowded with citizens. Every hurdyman, rustler, gambler or saloon-keeper that the Kid had bluffed was on hand, with tempers certainly not of the sweetest when they learned that, single handed and without conflict, Crandall had captured the mighty and invincible Kid. Crandall, whom any one could bluff; who always had important engagements elsewhere in troublous times; who had the most aged pistol in the town, and not a notch on its hilt; a pistol that he had never fired so much as at a mark. Some were inclined to give him credit. and, as he sat opposite his captive drinking in their admiration, how sweet to his ears were such remarks as, ‘‘I'm --- if Crandall aint got nerve.’’ ‘‘Crandall is a daisy when he starts in.’’ Didn't think it was in Crandall by ---." And many others of like tenor.
In the crowd were several of the hurdy-ladies who had been the recipients of the Kid's enforced attentions. They cast scornful glances at him who had so lately basked in their smiles. One lady, more forward than the others, whipped out a pair of scissors and clipped off a handful of his luxuriant locks, exclaiming
There was nearly as much feeling against Crandall for having captured the Kid as there was against that uncrowned king for having so long bluffed the town, and then surrendering to the least dangerous man in it; in short, when these desperadoes, some of whom, safety assured, would not hesitate to commit the most atrocious crime, saw the ridiculous light in which the capture of the terrible Kid by the good-natured Crandall placed them; when they knew that they had been cowed, and made to eat leeks by a bluffer without the shadow of a record, their cowardly anger knew no bounds, and it was only by the exertions of the better class of sports, and the taunts of the more sympathetic hurdy-girls, that they were prevented from taking immediate and dastardly revenge on the helpless, trembling culprit, by filling his body with bullets.
Crandall's demeanor at this juncture was ridiculously sensible. Seeing that the crowd was in a dangerous humor, he arbitrarily ordered the Kid "to shut his ---- mouth;" not that the Kid was saying anything, far from it. He then addressed the crowd, stating that the Kid was his capture, and the spoils of his individual courage; that through the Kid's actions in
As the evening shades came on, groups of people gathered in the different saloon tents to discuss the Kid's downfall and career in Calabazas. Of course, many who desired to put a new polish on their dimmed records, claimed they knew from the first that this was not the "Texas Kid," and that he was a "rotten fake;" but they had laid low to see how he would run the town, and at the proper time had intended "to do him up in great shape," etc. The more manly acknowledged that the Kid had "played them for suckers;" "had made———fools of them, and had worked Calabazas for a Jay town, which it was." Calabazans were much like the rest of the world; nothing bad enough can be said of an unsuccessful person, and a detected rogue is always the worst possible rogue.
After the first of anger was over, by some strange impulse—an impulse that often takes the place of reason with these people—the past deeds of the Kid were looked upon more as in the nature of a good joke on the town than as deserving of anger or ill will.
That night the leading sports gathered in the Golden Fleece, and formulated a plan for punishing the Kid, and at the same time amuse themselves at his expense as he had done at theirs. It is hardly necessary to say that Crandall was not at all consulted. That fearless and vigilant man, during the silent watches of the night, had convinced himself that he had captured a notorious criminal, and he revelled in thoughts of the large rewards he would reap thereby. The lost commission was dismissed as unworthy of longer thought. He would take the Kid to Tucson, deliver him to the authorities, collect the rewards, and return to Nogales to buy into the Mescal distillery, and there reside evermore. As for the Kid, he passed a sleepless night, and utterly refused the food which Crandall did not neglect to bring him.
Next morning, after breakfast, Handsome George and Curly Pete called at the Custom House, where they found Crandall sitting in the official arm chair, his hat on the back of his head, his heels on the table, and his head filled with the magnitude of his own merit and importance. In a most anxious tone of voice they asked Crandall,
In front of the house stood Drinky's horse ready for mounting. Drinky had just stepped into the saloon for a stirrup cup, before starting on an exhausting trip to the distillery at the Line. In a moment Crandall had vaulted into the saddle, and so vigorously did he ply lash and heels, that he disappeared over the little ridge at the head of the valley before Drinky could offer any protest.
Now the Kid was still confined safe and fast in the corral, and Crandall had barely gotten out of sight before a committee entered the corral and brought the prisoner out. He was a most pitiable sight, haggard, pale and tearful; the remnant of his once abundant hair was scraggly and tangled with straw; his hands were swollen from the tightness of his hay rope manacles; his feet were numb from the impeded circulation,
The Kid was given a large drink of whisky; the bindings of his feet and wrists were loosened, and he was asked to give an account of himself. He spoke almost in a whisper, and stated that he had come from Indiana, had been well raised, but a dime novel reader; he desired to live a frontier desperado's manner of life, and his mother being a widow and pretty well off, he had taken enough money from her to come West. At Denver, Colorado, he had purchased a cow-boy's outfit. His first stopping place had been Tombstone, but the amiable differences existing there between several cliques of bad men—in which the undertaker had the last say—made the town honored by their residence rather undesirable as a place in which to safely begin a record, so he had hied himself to Calabazas, where he was gratified and astonished to be mistaken for the "Texas Kid," a gentleman who seemed to be much dreaded, and had accepted the name because it was
When the Kid had finished his story, he was given another drink to brace him up, and was told by the spokesman of the committee that they had decided to give him a chance for his life; that he would be taken to the outskirts of the town and be given one hundred feet start on the road to Nogales; when he reached that mark, all hands would take a shot at him. Should he not be killed, he could keep right on; if wounded, he would be cared for and turned loose on recovery; but if he should escape and again come to an Arizona camp, any of them meeting him would kill him on sight. Needs must where the devil drives, and the Kid had to reconcile himself to the situation. The terror stricken fellow cast such pitiful, appealing glances at the lawless crowd surrounding him, that even their hardened hearts would have been softened if injury had been intended; but it was fully understood that the shots were to be fired into the air; the boy's mental suffering was to be the sole punishment for his two weeks of fraudulent chieftainship.
After an hour to recover strength and courage from the restorative whiskeys administered, the Kid was brought to the starting point and made ready for his run. A Cottonwood tree one hundred feet distant was selected as the point to be reached before firing began. At the word "Go," the Kid was off like a flash; just as he reached the tree a volley was fired, and his body was seen stretched upon the ground. There was a general rush made to where he lay, and some of the crowd raised his head from the ground. His deathly pale face and staring eyes indicated that he had met his death at their hands; and, with few exceptions, the breasts of the mob were filled with regret at the result of their fun. It was presumed that some cowardly scoundrel in the crowd had left a loaded cartridge in his weapon, and fired to kill, knowing the impossibility of fixing the guilt upon any certain person. If this had been the case, the culprit, if detected, would have been strung upon a tree, or have been riddled with bullets.
As they stood around the body scanning each other's faces, in an endeavor to detect the guilty person, a moan was heard from the Kid, and a twitching of his eyes noticed; he had only fainted from fright and exhaustion. He was quickly placed with his back against the tree, and freely-administered whisky soon brought the color to his cheeks. As he revived, and was seen to be unhurt, so did the better feelings leave the hearts of his persecutors. He was induced to eat, and to drink a cup of hot coffee, topped off with more of that universal panacea, whisky, and was told that he would be given another chance; this time he would
At the word "Go," he went like the bullet from a rifle, and, as he passed the mark, every gun was fired, accompanied by a yell from the shooters. The Kid had been so strengthened by his slight meal and the improved programme, that he attained a speed that made it doubtful if a bullet could have caught him. In an inconceivably short time he had disappeared over the ridge, and was out of danger; but he continued running as if on urgent business—Calabazas business, so to say. His splendid physique stood him in good stead; for Pete-the-rancher said that when he passed his place, he was running so fast that there was a draught on each side of the trail for two weeks afterward. But then every one knew old Pete's failing.
Crandall, when he so hurriedly departed, had ridden to the Mexican Custom House at the Line, where he intended to remain until assured of the Kid's permanent departure from Calabazas. Just at dusk he was sitting at a large table in the officer's waiting room, deeply engaged in a game of solitaire, and near him stood a bottle of Mescal, from which he drew inspiration from time to time. Suddenly a shadow flitted across the table; Crandall looked up and saw—The Kid. The Kid at the same moment recognized Crandall.
Crandall grieved very much over the rewards that he was convinced he had lost by the Kid's escape. He was not long permitted to retain the evidences of his valor; the pistols, the knife, and the belt were taken by different parties—with a record—to satisfy claims made by them, that the Kid had received certain loans (forced) of poker and faro chips to the full value of his assets; all that was left to Crandall was the glory. He ever claimed that his lightning trip to the Line was in pursuit of the Kid, and comforted himself in a great measure by cornering unsophisticated Easterners who might tarry at Calabazas, telling them of his valor and heroism in capturing the "Terror"
There must be many who will recollect the extraordinary manner in which this green Eastern boy dominated the town—the hardest in Arizona—for two weeks. Let us hope the lesson was not lost on the Kid, that he returned to his widowed mother, and lost all desire to emulate the mythical Cow-boy of dime novel celebrity.
1. The Chinese with difficulty pronounce "r" or "v"; for these letters they substitute "l" and "w."