Law West Of The Pecos

You have met my Great Uncle, Lee Wallace, and read some of his humorous stories. Recently, I enjoyed a family reunion with the fine family of his wife, Winnie. Lee had no children and his estate was left to Winnie and her son George. George, a WW II veteran, has passed away, but his wife, Virginia Hearne, along with their 3 children and spouses and 6 Grand Children attended the event. It was held “way up” the Guadalupe River, in the heart of our state’s beautiful, hill country at Lee and Winnie’s Lodge.

Virginia had my attention telling me some stories about Lee, when someone mentioned, how about his trip to Pecos, Texas? Never missing a beat, she passed on to me the following story about Lee’s younger days.

Here’s a picture of Lee Wallace (circa 1900) in his buggy. I’m sure the following trip was made with a larger wagon and a team of horses.

Around the turn of the 20th Century, Lee, County Attorney of Kerr County, Texas and another lawyer, decided they would go and visit one of Lee’s friends in Langtry, Texas, probably a 150 to 200 mile trip. Remember, no interstates and very few cars then and their chosen mode of transportation was a team of horses, pulling their wagon.
A car trip from Kerrville to Langtry, even with our modern highways, is not easy today and in the early 1900’s, had to be a nightmare. To bolster their courage, along with their pistols, they took 2 cases of whiskey, one for their trip and one for Lee’s friend. Wouldn’t you know it, their wagon broke an axle near Rockspring, Texas, and their 3 to 4 day trip turned into a week.

They finally arrived in Langtry, with the whiskey gone, and no “gift” for Lee’s friend. However, his friend’s court was in session, the bar was closed, and they witnessed the strange brand of justice practiced by Judge Roy Bean!

The complaint was by an Anglo rancher that one of his horses was stolen. Judge Bean brought out a Mexican man that was already in jail and said he must have done it. The jury found Mexican guilty and Judge Bean sent him back to jail for a longer term or a hanging (Lee never said). With the swift sentence, the bar quickly opened and warm greetings were exchanged.

After several days, with Lee’s visit and business completed, he and his fellow traveler loaded up for home. To bolster their courage for the grueling trip, Judge Bean presented them with two more cases of whiskey. Four days later, minus the whiskey, they arrived safely in Kerrville.

Back then, you had to be careful of the water you drank!