Old West Lifestyle & Stories


BacaThe subject of this story had more grit that the most famous heroes of the Old West.  But chances are you’ve never heard of him.

Although the Mexican people had traditionally occupied the southwest, by the 1880’s it comprised primarily of Angelo cattle ranches and towns…some, of whom, considered the Mexicans second-class citizens.  A ranch owned by John B. Slaughter occupied the area around what is now Reserve, New Mexico.  Now, John B. Slaughter isn’t to be confused with the famous rancher and lawman John Horton Slaughter.

The Slaughter cowboys were known to use the Hispanics in the area for target practice.

A young 19-year-old Mexican by the name of Elfego Baca got tired of this harassment, and got commissioned as a deputy sheriff to do something about it.  One of the Slaughter cowboys, Charles McCarthy, shot at Baca.  So, Baca arrested him.  That evening some of the Slaughter cowboys tried to spring McCarthy loose.  During the gunfight a falling horse killed one of the cowboys.  The cowboys now felt justified in killing him.

On December 1, 1884 about 80 cowboys came after Baca.  By now Baca had taken refuge in a tiny shack.  For 36 hours the cowboys, surrounding the shack, filling it with bullet holes.  They literally fired thousands of rounds at the shack.  Supposedly, many as 400 bullets struck the door alone.

By nightfall Baca had killed a cowboy and wounded several others.  By now the cowboys were sure Baca was dead.  But they decided to wait until morning to go in after him.  In the morning, the cowboys caught the smell of food cooking.  It was Baca, cooking breakfast in what was left of the cabin.

Fortunately, for the cowboys, two deputies and several of Baca’s friends showed up, and they retreated.  Elfego Baca was tried for killing one of the cowboys, and found innocent.  He returned home, an obvious hero to the Hispanics of the area.

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