“Pistol Pete’s” Memoir Brings The Real Old West To Life.
After I got back to the ranch house, I changed my under britches :>) and dusted off “Pistol Pete’s” memoir. I started to read.
Instantly I was spellbound, totally absorbed ‘cause unfolding before my eyes was something truly special.
This was exactly what I’d been looking for. . . to travel back in time and actually be in the real Old West.
Reading “Pistol Pete’s” own words gave me such a living, breathing, experience of saddling up and riding with him – – I felt like I’d needed to wash off the trail dust.
Always A Man Of Straight Talk
Always a man of straight talk, here’s what he said on the very first page of his memoir:
“My friend and partner, Eva Gillhouse, wrote this book.
It’s just the way I told it to her -it’s all-true and
I’ll back her with both guns.”
His 303 page memoir is so action packed I was turning the pages like a speed reader after too many cups of Arbuckle’s cowboy coffee.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about – -here are just 3 examples of the priceless nuggets I found that could only be told by the person with the dusty boots that lived it. . . “Pistol Pete:”
Fill Your Hand You Son-Of-A-Bitch
The riveting account of his gunning down of one of the six men from Quantrill’s Confederate guerrilla outlaws he witnessed murder his Union Army veteran father in cold-blood:
He said, “What are you doing here, and what do you want?”
“I just want you,” I said,
“Who the hell are you anyhow? And how do you know who I am?”
“I am Frank Eaton and I ought to know you.”
“You killed my father.” “Fill your hand
We both went for our guns. He landed cold dead
with a forty-five clear through him.
“Pistol Pete” goes on and details how he stopped at nothing to track down from Missouri to New Mexico each one of the remaining four killers and exact the blood oath revenge he swore on his father’s grave.
Killer number six was gunned down the day before “Pistol Pete” found him. “Pistol Pete” then does something rather strange to make sure the “dirty coward” was dead.
Fearless “Injun’” Fighter
“Pistol Pete” served as a Deputy US Marshal under Judge Isaac C. Parker outta Fort Smith Arkansas. Parker was known as“The Hanging Judge” because he sentenced 160 criminals (156 men and 4 women) “To hang by the neck until you are dead, dead, dead!“
But the cost for these hangings in lawmen’s lives was high.
More than 100 deputy marshals died at the hands of the outlaws during this time known as: “Hell on the Border.”
In 1872 “Pistol Pete” entered this cauldron where sudden death was a routine occurrence when he was age 17 making him one of the youngest- -if not the youngest – – Deputy U.S. Marshal in Old West history.
His territory extended from south Kansas through the Oklahoma Indian Territory to north Texas. This was a no-mans land where the real desperadoes, cattle thieves, horse thieves, whiskey peddlers and gunmen on both sides of the law were.
Eighty miles west of Forth Smith was known as “the dead line,” and whenever a deputy marshal from Fort Smith crossed the Missouri, Kansas & Texas track he took his own life in his hands and he knew it.
On nearly every trail would be found posted by outlaws a small card warning deputies that if they ever crossed the dead line they would be killed.
“Upholdin’ the law was dangerous
business in those days.”
So dangerous “Pistol Pete” was forced at times to be judge, jury and executioner. Bringing back the owlhoot’s boots, gun or even an ear as proof of having:
“Done my duty.”
The first row left to right are noted Deputy Marshals: Heck Bruner, Bud Ledbetter, Grant Johnson, Heck Thomas and Bill Tilghman.