Triggerfingeritis – The Old West Gunman

While waiting for the train, Colonel George Baylor, the famous Captain of Texas Rangers, chided Fountain for not wearing a cord to fasten his pistol to his belt, as then did all the Rangers, to prevent its loss from the scabbard in a running fight; and he finished by detaching his own cord, and looping one end to Fountain’s belt and the other to his pistol. Then Fountain bade his old friend good-bye and boarded the train with his prisoner, taking a seat near the centre of the rear car.

When well north of Canutillo and near the site of old Fillmore, Fountain rose and passed forward to speak to a friend who was sitting a few seats in front of him, a safe enough proceeding, apparently, with his prisoner handcuffed and the train doing thirty-five miles an hour. But scarcely had he reached his friend’s side, when a noise behind him caused him turn — just in time to see his Mexican running for rear door. Instantly Fountain sprang after him, before he got to the door the man had leaped from platform. Without the slightest hesitation, Fountain jumped after him, hitting the ground only a few seconds behind him but thirty or forty yards away, rolling like a tumbleweed along the ground. By the time Fountain had regained his feet, his prisoner was running at top speed for the mesquite thickets lining the river, in whose shadows he must soon disappear, for it was already dusk. Reaching for his pistol and finding it gone — lost evidently in the tumble — and fearing to lose his prisoner entirely if he stopped to hunt for it, Fountain hit the best pace he could in pursuit. But almost at the first jump something gave him a thump on the shin that nearly broke it, and, looking down, there, dangling on Colonel Baylor’s pistol-cord, he saw his gun.

Always a cunning strategist, Fountain dropped to the ground, sky-lined his man on the crest of a little hillock he had to cross, and took a careful two-handed aim which enabled Rio Grande ranchers thereafter to sleep easier of nights.

And now, just as I am finishing this story, the wires bring the sad news that dear old Pat Garrett, the dean and almost the last survivor of the famous man-hunted of west Texas and New Mexico, has gone the way of his kind — “died with his boots on.” I cannot help believing that he was the victim of a foul shot, for in his personal relations I never knew him to court a quarrel or fail to get an adversary. Many a night we have camped, eaten, and slept together. Barring Colonel Fountain, Pat Garrett had stronger intellectuality and broader sympathies than any of his kind I ever met. He could no more do enough for a friend than he could do enough to an outlaw. In his private affairs so easy-going that he began and ended a ne’er-do-well, in his official duties as a peace officer he was so exacting and painstaking that he ne’er did ill. His many intrepid deeds are too well known to need recounting here.

All his life an atheist, he was as stubbornly contentious for his unbelief as any Scotch Covenanter for his best-loved tenets.

Now, laid for his last rest in the little burying-ground of Las Cruces, a tiny, white-paled square of sandy, hummocky bench land where the pink of fragile nopal petals brightens the graves in Spring and the mesquite showers them with its golden pods in Summer; where the sweet scent of the juajilla loads the air, and the sun ever shines down out of a bright and cloudless sky; where a diminutive forest of crosses of wood and stone symbolize the faith he in life refused to accept — now, perhaps, Pat Garrett has learned how widely he was wrong.

Peace to his ashes, and repose to his dauntless spirit!


Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated September, 2017.

The Murphy & Dolan Mercantile in Lincoln, New Mexico would later become the Lincoln County Courthouse

The Murphy & Dolan Mercantile in Lincoln, New Mexico would later become the Lincoln County Courthouse

About the Author: Edgar Beecher Bronson was the author of The Red-Blooded Heroes of the Frontier. Triggerfingeritis is a chapter this book, published by A. C. Mcclurg & Co. in 1910. Bronson worked not only as a reporter and a writer, publishing a number of books and articles, he was also a cowboy and a rancher. The text as it appears here; is not verbatim as it has been edited for clarity and ease of the modern reader.

Also See:

A Cow Hunter’s Court by Edgar Bronson

Cowboys, Trail Blazers & Stage Drivers

Outlaws of the American West

Kit Joy – The Evolution of a Train Robber by Edgar Bronson

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