Tascosa – It’s Life and Gaudy Times

Tascosa – It’s Life and Gaudy Times


By Frederick Nolan

Frederick Nolan is the author of The West of Billy the Kid, The Wild West: History, Myth and the Making of America, and many other works of fiction and non-fiction.

From the Book

Whether Tascosans liked it or not, the lawless breed were well aware of the fact that the town – and indeed all of Oldham County – had no law enforcement of any kind and that therefore, if they wanted to, they could literally get away with murder. And when the only available honest options were punching cows, bullwhacking for some freighter’s outfit, or trying to make a living as a gambler, crime was a real alternative…

Early in September 1879 one gang made off with nineteen head of horses and a few mules belonging to Isaiah Rinehart, who “collected a few men to follow the thieves. He succeeded in capturing five outlaws as they rode through the Rattlesnake sand hills [but] four men managed to escape.” The report clearly implied the ‘escape’ was a necktie party.

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For the first time, the true, detailed, down-and-dirty story of Tascosa. The facts that connect the stories of the “beef bonanza,” Pat Garrett’s “Home Rangers,” the 1883 Cowboy Strike and the relentless, undeclared war that ensued between the corporation ranchers—Charlie Goodnight, “Alphabet” Lee, Al Boyce of the XIT and the rest of them—and the tough, dangerous fraternity of rustlers manipulated by Tascosa town boss Jesse Jenkins, a thirty-year conflict that precipitated as gory a procession of violence and death as any frontier town ever witnessed. As well as being the center of ranching activity in the Panhandle, Tascosa also became the last best hiding place in Texas for killers on the run, horse thieves, tinhorn gamblers, hair-trigger shootists or anyone else with a past he wanted to get away from. Billy the Kid, “Poker Tom” Emory, Bill Gatlin, Jim Kenedy, and Louis “The Animal” Bousman were just a few of the outlaws and desperadoes who vied for dominance with Cape Willingham, Cap Arrington, Jim East, and other lawmen in an ongoing war of attrition that made sudden death a routine occurrence on the town’s dusty street. A lot of bad men made fortunes and a lot of good men lost them as Tascosa went from boom to bust, from frontier Babylon to forgotten ghost town, in just a few short gaudy decades. Bypassed by the railroad, its body fenced in and its heart torn out, the community dried up and blew away. Today, Tascosa is a ghost town; its name all but disappeared from maps of Texas. Gone, but not forgotten: in Tascosa Frederick Nolan has dug up the rip-roaring history of one of the most violent outlaw towns of the Old West.

Texas Tech University Press

Weight 1.91875 lbs
Dimensions 7.25 × 10.25 × 1.5 in
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