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“The Wild Bunch”

by Captain William French

The author emigrated from Ireland to the US in 1883 to seek his fortune. He settled in southwestern New Mexico and became a rancher. Below, he finds out that “the best trail boss he has ever seen” is actually an outlaw.

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During the interview he drew a photograph out of his pocket and handed it to me to look at. It was somewhat faded, and he must have been carrying it round with him for a considerable time, so I took it over to the window to examine it. There were three or four men represented on it, the majority standing up, but one of them sitting down and all dressed in the usual cowboy outfit. He asked me if I recognized any of them. As I handed it back to him told him that I certainly recognized the man sitting down, and possibly one of the others.

He then asked me if I knew the name of the man sitting down, and I told him that the only name I had ever heard for him was Jim Lowe. That it was Jim there could be no possible doubt, for he had the identical grin that he always wore when he spoke to you. The other one might possibly have been Capehart, but I couldn't be sure of it. The photograph had been taken some years before, and Tom was many years younger than Jim.

The Pinkerton man [private detective] wanted to know if I had ever heard any other name for him, and when I told him “No,” he said that it was Butch Cassidy, or at least that was the name he was known by to the authorities. I told him that all I knew about him was that he was the best trail boss I had ever seen and one of the best men that the WS had in their employ since I had known them. I also said that he had great influence with his men, and that none of them ever got drunk or shot up the town or were guilty of any other foolishness while he was over them.

He said that despite the good character which I gave him there was hardly a state or a territory south of the Canadian line that wasn't anxious to get hold of him, and that there was a large reward offered for his capture. He was well known as the brains and leader of the best-organized gang of outlaws that had appeared in the country for more than a lifetime, and that he thought his own outfit would be willing to pay something like twenty thousand dollars for him. I forget the exact amount he mentioned, but know it was quite a large sum.

He also informed me that it was the custom of those gentlemen when they had committed some especially daring outrage in one section of the country, for the parties who were actually engaged in it to seek temporary employment at as great a distance from the scene as possible, where they remained under an assumed name and in seclusion till the excitement and the public interest in the matter had quieted down. The next job they undertook was always entrusted to a different gang and in an entirely new section of the country. But it was all carried out by a thoroughly organized gang and Jim—or Butch, as he called him—was undoubtedly the head of it.

He said that their information in regard to express shipments was uncanny, and that they must undoubtedly have some means of gaining inside information which was causing the authorities no end of worry. He said that he had no idea where Jim had disappeared to after his last exploit, which occurred some years previously, till he saw him in Alma that morning as he was coming to the ranch.

It seemed to me that I stood a good chance of losing the outfit I was so proud of.

I asked him if he had any intention of trying to arrest Jim, or what he was going to do about it, but he assured me that his only business was in connection with the bills which had been traced as part of the plunder taken from the train at Green Mountain. Moreover, he said: “I'm not such a fool as to attempt it in this neighborhood. If I wanted Jim here I'd need a regiment of cavalry at my back.”

He left me shortly afterwards, saying that all he had to do now was to find McGonigal. He probably might be able to locate him from the description I had given him, but he was very unlikely to be traveling under that name, and that was the last I ever saw or heard of him. When Jim came to the ranch I thought it only right to give him all the information I had received from the detective, and to my surprise found that he already knew all about it.

He only grinned when I told him the name he had given him, and said that he and Tom had already spotted him. In fact, they had stood him a drink when he returned to Alma. As he put it, they suspicioned who he was, and they invited him to drink to make sure. He supposed that he'd have to pull out before very long as it was more than likely they might send after him; but, as it was, he liked the country very much and had no immediate intention of leaving it.