When you think “western,” you think of a posse riding hard cross country to catch the bad guy.
But you certainly don’t think of a deputy sheriff in a buggy in hot pursuit.
Such was the case back in March of 1901, however, when a subcontractor for the railroad being built along the border near Bisbee ran off with a load of supplies.
The firm of Robinson & Toohey was contracted by Arizona & Southeastern Rail Road and then successor El Paso & Southwestern to build the line. In turn, it hired subcontractors for the various stretches of the road, and furnished them will all their supplies, including “all kinds of merchandise, plows, scrapers, etc.,” the Cochise Review reported.
One of the subs was C.C. Harwell, who had a “large” contract and required supplies and material valued at about $1,500. The sub loaded his supplies at the contractor’s commissary and started for the section of ground on which he would be working, somewhere between Don Luis and the New Mexico line.
“Instead of stopping at the designated place, he set his face towards the rising sun and started for New Mexico with merchandise and supplies that would last him for some months.”
Word got back to S.R.W. Robinson, the contractor, that Harwell “was making tracks for New Mexico as fast as six horses could pull a Studebaker wagon.”
Robinson grabbed deputy sheriff Al Strickland and “overtook the wagon near Camp No. 3, about nine miles from the New Mexico line.
Finally a horse race
“Harwell cut loose one of his work teams and escaped across the line. Deputy Sheriff Strickland unhitched a buggy animal and gave pursuit, but without success. The buggy horse could not travel in the rocks and Harwell made good his escapee.”
Apparently, the contractor retrieved his goods, but the newspaper article telling the story was written after Robinson came into Bisbee a few days later to meet with Tombstone lawyer Allen R. English “in reference to the proper legal proceedings to be taken in order to retain possession of supplies, etc., which he had intercepted near the line of New Mexico.”
Yep, chasing across the rocks with a buggy horse is a lot like taking a squad car into the desert in pursuit of a Jeep. Suppose that’s why today’s sheriff’s deputies all drive four-wheel-drive trucks or SUVs.