Don’t Take Your Gun to Town
Years before Arthur Cooper lost his farm, the 8000 acres deeded to the Evetts branch of the family after the war against Mexico, was also lost. Only this time it had to do with fate.
William Milton Evetts died of heat stroke in 1882, at the age of 34, while he was out on his ranch branding horses. His wife, Josephine, then remarried and when she subsequently died, her second husband then also remarried. As a result, William and Josephine’s children either walked away from, lost, or were cheated out of any claim they might have had to the property.
No one will ever know for sure. Maybe it was something as simple as not bonding well with their stepfather and then saying “adios.” It was also axiomatic that in those days land in Texas was cheap, largely without extrinsic or intrinsic value, and easy to ignore. Cash was still King, oil had not yet been discovered, acreage sold for pennies; and out of necessity widows or widowers conveniently took the next available spouse largely as a south-western plains’ survival mechanism.
William had previously learned the hard way about bragging over monetary assets. One day, he rode into town to sell some cattle, turned a nice profit, and then stopped at a saloon to do a bit of celebrating. In the process of bragging about the proceeds of the sale he was overheard by two men, who later waylaid him on the journey home in an ambush bid to steal his cash. William was outnumbered two to one but had a .45 caliber Colt revolver in his possession. In not wanting to part with his hard-earned money, he used the great equalizer to shoot both men dead, and simply left them where they fell lying in the dust by the side of the road. After that he jumped on is horse and high-tailed it home. (A horse at full gallop has a high-flying tail.) After racing home, then padding down the sweaty animal, he confessed the incident to his brother Lemuel.
William was so shaken by the affair that in an exculpatory handoff of the smoking evidence to his brother, simply relinquished ownership. He told his brother he would never again shoot it and never again wished to lay eyes on it. Lemuel did keep the gun that has subsequently passed down to the progeny on his side of the Evetts clan. Hidden away and never being entered into evidence in the annals of old Texas history for an unsolved double homicide, it has now been relegated to the more benign category of simply being “a very valuable old antique.”
Now I love those cowboys, I love their gold,
Love my uncle, God rest his soul,
He taught me good, Lord
Taught me all I know,
Taught me so well, that I grabbed that gold,
And I left his dead ass there by the side of the road.
(Me and My Uncle: The Grateful Dead)