HORIZONS by Ken Booth

March 23, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — ycazso @ 5:50 pm

   “The so-called elites, you know the ones who criticized us for not showing respect to our government in Washington have managed to trample the Constitution, completely against the will of the people, have passed Obamacare.”  –Carmen Mercer, President  Minuteman Civil Defense Corps

   Declaring that her organization of civilian border watchers cannot accept the liability growing out of anger over the “criminal act” passage of the highly volatile health care legislation, Minuteman leader Carmen Mercer says the corporation is dissolving.

    In a written statement published on the MCDC web site, Mercer said, “I’m afraid for many citizens, the passing of health care against the will of the people and now indications that Obama will try to pass amnesty (for illegal aliens already in the U.S.) may be the straw that will…ignite frustration that we, as an organization, may not be able to manage or contain.”

    Mercer expressed doubts that Minuteman members “will be less likely to follow the rules of engagement in a desperate attempt to stop the criminals who violate our borders every day.”

   Citing liability concerns, she said her group could not take responsibility if such mistakes were to be made. The latest border muster, a call for concentrated border surveillance by the group in Arizona announced only days before on March 15th, has been cancelled.

Carmen Mercer

    The abrupt move to abolish the Minuteman organization and sell off its assets comes only one week after its issuance of a “High Alert For All Minutemen” in which Mercer wrote, “The Minutemen are returning to the border –locked and loaded- to say, ‘You are wrong Obama, America comes first!’” In the e-mail message, Mercer reserved some of her anger for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, former Governor of Arizona, who she described as an “unqualified buffoon who risks the lives of American citizens every day she is head of DHS.”

     The strongly-worded message continued: “For eight long years we Minutemen played nice (but) this March we return to the border locked, loaded and ready to stop each and every individual we encounter along the frontier that is now more dangerous than the frontier of Afghanistan.” Mercer promised “the operation will not be for the faint of heart” and added that volunteers will have “zero tolerance for any and all violations of our border.”

    The alert also contained this ominous message: Previously prohibited from MCDC musters, long arms (guns) will not only be allowed but encouraged.

    Minutemen detractors suggest there is more to the end of the organization than fear of potential anger spillover resulting from passage of health care legislation.

    The Minutemen outfit grew from a cattle call for citizen border watchers published by Chris Simcox in his Tombstone Tumbleweed newspaper in 2002. Hundreds of pistol-packing citizens converged on Cochise County, Arizona to assist in patrolling the border against an unrelenting invasion of illegal aliens.

   Later, Simcox would come under fire from his own members for alleged financial shenanigans stemming from accountability questions surrounding an unbuilt MCDC-funded border fence, shenanigans he has denied.

   In 2009, the conservative Washington times, writing about Simcox’ brief  challenge of John McCain in the 2010 Senate Primary, offered a rather stinging rebuke of the self-avowed border patriot pointing out that former Minutemen members were “questioning the whereabouts of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of dollars in donations.”

Chris Simcox and Carmen Mercer on the border at Naco, Arizona in 2006

   Last August Mercer herself came under a dubious spotlight when Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard accused her of being part of a property tax scam. Goddard filed a lawsuit and obtained a restraining order to stop what he called a fraud that claimed homeowners’ properties in Arizona, California, and Nevada qualified for a “property tax reduction review.” The solicitation, which requested a $189 processing fee, was not affiliated with any government entity, according to Goddard who also noted that the appeals process for 2009 had already expired and there was no way the solicitation to make good on. Mercer owned the post office box included in the solicitation.

   Mercer turned over to U.S. Postal authorities more than 1000 responses she had received.

   In announcing the disbanding of the Minutemen this week, Mercer implied that citizen anger over the health care law might be taken out on illegal aliens caught crossing the Arizona desert by members of her group.

   “This has brought me to the conclusion that the anger may not be directed by every individual against their government; I realize people have HAD IT (her emphasis)!” She said the Minutemen could not continue under such a great risk of liability.

   Her two page e-mail alert concluded: “you know what to do – the rest is up to you.”




March 14, 2010


Filed under: Uncategorized — ycazso @ 10:40 pm

     The Arizona State Parks Board will shutter nine state parks on March 29, 2010 in an effort to save a projected $8.6-Million and help offset the state’s overall budget crunch. Among those slated for close-down are the historic Yuma Territorial Prison and the Tombstone Courthouse in Cochise County.

     Fortunately, through a series of fundraisers and private donations along with matching money from the Yuma Crossing Heritage Area, the old West icon in Yuma at least will remain open and operated locally.

     The very notion that such historic places that played pivotal roles in the country’s western development could be lost to future generations, inspired many of us to examine in detail some of characters whose misadventures led them to pass through the Tombstone Courthouse on their way to catch the fabled 3:10 train to Yuma from Tucson. There were many, of course, but there are a few whose dark side exploits warrant special attention.

     One of these was Buckskin Frank Leslie.

Frank Leslie (1848-1930)

     According to most historians, notably among them Dennis McLaughlin, Leslie dusted into Tombstone in the first part of 1880. You’d have to forgive the locals had they momentarily thought the ghost of  Buffalo Bill Cody had ridden into town (Cody had died in 1776).

     Frank had long, blonde hair and a wide, drooping mustache. He wore a jacket festooned with fringed buckskin, yellow-braided cavalry pants, and a wide-brimmed hat – an altogether splendid outfit to which a “fully laden twin-gun harness added a lethal touch.”

     Not much of Leslie’s life prior to his arrival in Tombstone is known.  Plenty of rumors were afoot at the time including the number of notches he had accumulated in a suggested backtrail of violence. The vast majority of these tales could neither be proved nor disproved.

Tombstone, Arizona 1880

He soon got a job tending bar at the Oriental Saloon, a favorite hangout for the likes of Wyatt Earp whose Marshal’s office was on the second floor. In his new job, Frank took a liking to a lass named Mary, with whom he shacked up. Trouble was that Mary was married to a certain Mike Killeen.

     Coincidental or otherwise, Mary became Mrs. Frank Leslie within weeks of her husband’s sudden demise.

     Killen, according to McLaughlin, was “propelled into the unknown by a powdersmoke salute that Leslie is usually, but erroneously, credited with.”

     But Frank’s marriage that had been so conveniently arranged by Colt’s firearms was not to last.

     For you see, prior to any show of eroticism, Frank stimulated his whatever by having a terrified Mary freeze against the wall while he proceeded to outline her statistics in the plaster with bullet holes. A kinky practice, to be sure, but the judge over at the Tombstone Courthouse figured it was sufficient grounds to grant Mary a speedy divorce. Nevertheless, Frank’s exhibition of pistoleered pinups was to be admired for many years to come.

     In November of 1882, Frank left the Oriental bar unattended for a few minutes, stepped outside and shot to death a highly inebriated trouble-maker named Billy Claiborne whom he had earlier thrown out of the place after the young Billy, a survivor of the OK Corral episode with the Earps, had become overly feisty in a heated conversation about politics. The shooting of Claiborne was described as “an incident that became an open-and-closed affair over the short period of time required by Frank to puff through a rolled cylinder of Bull Durham.” Since, it seemed, Claiborne was waiting outside the Oriental to ambush Leslie and, in fact, fired first, the killing was ruled justified.

Billy Claiborne


     By 1889, Frank was showing the toll of heavy drinking.  He spent the summer of that year in a kind of rehab retreat at a ranch up in the Swisshelm Mountains northeast of Bisbee accompanied by a blonde-haired nifty named Molly Williams who, occasionally was listed as an attraction at Tombstone’s Birdcage Theater, was reputed to be much in demand by the army of “uncultured slobs who patronized Tombstone’s red-light section wherein she spent most of her time.”

     But it was during his ‘drying out retreat’ the still buckskinned Frank came home drunk, unpleasantly so,  again one night to find Molly chatting with a hired hand named James Neal. A violent jealous rage ensued and he shot the girl dead and put two more bullets into Mr. Neal. Thinking both were dead staggered away with the notion of blaming some person unknown for the deadly deeds. He was arrested, however,  before he could sober up and was bound over for trial at the Tombstone Courthouse.

Tombstone, Arizona Courthouse

     In a major and life-altering surprise for the defendant, the star witness for the prosecution was none other than James Neal. Leslie was sentenced to the Yuma Territorial Prison for a term of 25 years where he was assigned an easy job in the pharmacy which he held until 1893 when he was inexplicably pardoned.

     Frank Leslie would thereafter drift on a trail that took him to several locations in California. It is believed he was 82 years of age when what were believed to have been his remains were found in a canyon just outside Martinez, California. The bones, however, were never ‘officially identified.’



     To view a short film about the Yuma Territorial Prison, Frank Leslie and other of  its infamous ‘guests,’ go to http://azstateparks.com/Parks/YUTE/



March 4, 2010

Clara Allen Was Wrong

Filed under: Uncategorized — ycazso @ 6:53 am

“And I’ll tell you another thing: I’m sorry you and Gus  McCrea ever met. All you two did was ruin one another, not to mention those close to you.” — Clara Allen to Woodrow Call in Larry McMurtry’s LONESOME DOVE.

   I read Clara’s tirade and at once felt a great deal of empathy for the good Captain who felt “it was hell to have her, of all women, talk to him about the matter” of hauling the corpse of  fellow ex-Texas Ranger Augustus McCrea back to Texas. “A promise is a promise,” said Call.

   Like millons around the world, for me the characters depicted in McMurtry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and the three others in that series which followed became like family or  at least bore an uncanny resemblance to persons known to us.

   The fictional Clara was, of course, absent the knowledge of  the cemented bond between the two real life men whose real life adventures inspired McMurtry’s epic western tale, its prequel novels Dead Man’s Walk and Comanche Moon, and its sequel, Streets Of Laredo.

  In those books’ combined 2,619 pages, the Texas author paints an embellished story of Charles Goodnight (1836-1929) and Oliver Loving (1812-1867), both immigrants to Texas (from Illinois and Kentucky respectively) immigrants  and both of whom made their  livng in cattle. 

   Goodnight, who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, had entered the cattle business in northwest Texas at age 20 and also served with the local militia in a long-running fight with Comanche raiders. He became a member of the Texas Rangers in 1857.  He was McMurtry’s  Captain Woodrow F. Call.

Charles Goodnight - "Woodrow F. Call"

   As Goodnight began gathering his herd from cattle scattered across Texas by the Civil War he happened upon Oliver Loving’s cow camp and had no trouble convincing him to join him on an ambitious trek with 2000 head of cattle to supposed lucrative markets in Colorado. Thus was formed a partnership of legend.


Oliver Loving - "Gus McCrea"

    According to historical records in Harding County in far northeastern New Mexico, Loving was 24 years older than Goodnight, “knew cattle and how to manage large herds over the worst terrain” while his new partner was experienced in Indian fighting, was a young strong plainsman, and knew the country of west Texas.

   Both, according to the Harding County file, were “men of the highest honor and character, willing to go to heroic lengths to account for every stray, every cow and willing to ride for days to see that every cent of proceeds got to its rightful owner.”

   They left Texas in early June, 1866 with a 2000-head mixed herd and 18 cowboys to blaze what history recognizes as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. A notable figure among the assembled outfit was Bose Ikard , a  black cowboy, one of many who worked for both Goodnight and Loving over the years. Ikard was born a slave in Mississippi and went west to first work for the -by then- somewhat famous Loving and later the Goodnight-Loving outfit. McMurtry’s book named him Joshua Deets.   

Bose Ikard - "Joshua Deets"

   Writing for NewsMax, Diane Alden said Ikard settled in Weatherford, Texas after his work on the cattle trails. He and his wife, Angeline, were the parents of six children. He died at age 85. Goodnight had a granite marker placed at his grave.

   By all accounts and evidenced by the book  Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman among many other works,  Goodnight religiously kept meticulous records including personal diaries. Upon Ikard’s death he wrote,”Bose surpassed any man I had in endurance and stamina. There was a dignity, a cleanliness and reliability about him that was wonderful. His behavior was very good in a fight and he was probably the most devoted man to me that I ever knew. I have trusted him farther than any man. He was my banker, my detective, and everything else in Colorado, New Mexico and the other wild country. The nearest bank was in Denver, and when we carried money, I gave it to Bose, for a thief would never think of robbing him. Bose Ikard served with me four years on the Goodnight-Loving Trail, never shirked a duty or disobeyed an order, rode with me in many stampedes, participated in three engagements with Comanches, splended behavior… Bose could be trusted farther than any living man I know.”

Texas Historical Marker for Bose Ikard - "Joshua Deets"

  In June, 1867, Loving, accompanied by one-armed W.J. Wilson, depicted as Pea Eye Parker in the novel and subsequent movie, rode on ahead of the herd to scout the territory where the cattle were to be driven.  It was on that unfortunate occasion that the two men were set upon by a small band of Indians and sought shelter in a river redoubt. They fought off their attackers for several hours before a brave shot Loving. The arrow went through his arm and pierced his side.

   Wilson was dispatched the 80 miles back to the herd and the rest of the boys for help.  By his own account published in the historical records housed in Texas’ Cushman Library and other Texas Historical Society documents, Wilson walked barefoot for three days before “I found a little place, a sort of cave, that afforded protection from the sun, and I could go no further. After a short time the boys came along with the cattle and found me.”

   By this time, “Loving had been found by some Mexican vaqueros, ” Alden writes,  “and taken to Fort Sumner.” There, he was near death from gangrene in his arm when Goodnight found him. Loving could not be saved.

   On his deathbed, Loving made Goodnight  promise to provide for his family which included nine children. Goodnight assured Loving he would and also carry out his dying wish to be carried hundreds of miles back to Weatherford, Texas and buried there.  “It was the strangest and most touching funeral cavalcade in the history of cow country…” wrote J. Evetts Haley in his landmark  Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman.

   Loving’s request was not simple, but there would be no letdown between the two men. Goodnight continued to divide his cattle profits with his old friend’s family.  

Oliver Loving's headstone - Weatherford, Texas





   In 1876, Goodnight consolidated his operations back in the Texas Panhandle where he contiued to apply vigilante justice to outlaws and rustlers. He lived into his 90’s  on a small ranch near Goodnight, the town named for him where he died in 1929.

Charles Goodnight statue - West Texas A&M Campus

    Actor Barry Corbin who lives in Texas is a big fan of that state’s Western history.  You may remember Corbin whose role in the movie Lonesome Dove was that of Roscoe, the rather slow-witted deputy to Fort Smith Sheriff July Johnson.  In a one-man show sometime back Corbin depicted Charles Goodnight on the last day of his life.

   In her article,  Diane Alden quotes Corbin’s description of Goodnight: “In any part that you do, there is an honesty to your character and you have to get in touch with that. In the case of Goodnight, it’s easy because his core of honesty extended all the way out to surface.” It is a devotion to personal codes, “an unshakable belief in right and wrong, that’s almost unheard of today.”

“The cowboy became the best-known occupational type that America has given the world. He exists still and will long exist, though much has changed from the original. His fame derives from the past.”   — J. Frank Dobie


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