A LONE STAR COWBOY
Facsimile of Original 1919 Edition
FOREWORD TO THIS EDITION
For a number of years prior to 1922, one of Santa Fe, New Mexico’s most colorful and famous residents was Charles Angelo Siringo (1855-1928), popularly known as “the cowboy detective.” A small, wiry man, he was friends with practically everyone in town, from the governor to the dog catcher.
In 1916 Governor William C. McDonald persuaded Siringo to accept a commission as a New Mexico Mounted Ranger for the state Cattle Sanitary Board. The only thing unusual about that was Charlie Siringo’s age, a ripe 61. Undaunted, he saddled up and with a pack horse started for his headquarters at Carrizozo in Lincoln County.
His duty was to run down outlaws and stock thieves in southern New Mexico. Bill Owens, described as a fighting son-of-a-gun, became his partner. As Siringo reported later, “Poor Bill lasted only a short time.”
The pair got into a gun fight with cattle thieves at Abo Pass east of Belen. Owens was shot through the lungs, but he emptied his pistol and killed two of the outlaws before he went down.
“During my two years as a ranger,” Siringo said, “I made many arrests of cattle and horse thieves and had many close calls with death staring me in the face.” Obviously, Governor McDonald had made a wise choice when he tapped this hard-riding, fast-shooting “senior citizen” for the dangerous ranger job.
Charlie Siringo’s career in the West was as adventurous as it was long. Raised in Matagorda County, Texas, he took to life in the saddle before he was shaving.
As he put it, “When I was twelve years of age, in the spring of 1867, I became a full-fledged cowboy, wearing broad sombrero, high-heeled boots, Mexican spurs and the dignity of a full-grown man.”
After trips up the Chisholm Trail, he landed a cowboy job in the Texas Panhandle, still a teenager. He fought prairie fires, had run-ins with rustlers and saw the last herds of buffalo roaming the Staked Plains.
The years drifted by and Charlie Siringo drifted with them. At age thirty he was tending store at Caldwell, Kansas and putting in nights writing up his previous experiences on the range.
When his book, A Texas Cowboy, appeared, its author achieved fame overnight. Eventually, it sold a million copies. A Lone Star Cowboy, published in 1919, contained many of the stories in his earlier book and the author says in his preface: “This volume is to take the place of A Texas Cowboy….” The latter portion of the book dealt with his life as a Kansas merchant, as a Pinkerton detective, and his term as a member of the New Mexico Mounted Rangers who concentrated on tracking down rustlers.
Meanwhile, soon after publishing his recollections, Siringo joined the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency, whose branch offices covered the West. He remained with the firm for two decades, getting in and out of more scrapes than a modern TV sleuth.
The Pinkerton men first gained national attention just before the Civil War when they foiled a plot to assassinate Lincoln on the way to his inauguration. Later they made headlines in trying to break up Jesse James’ gang, an effort that cost several detectives their lives.
Pinkertons were often hired as strike-breakers. They proved so successful that they earned the bitter hatred of organized unions. Siringo participated in one episode at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
There in 1892 occurred huge labor riots attended by the dynamiting of mines and the murder of managers. In trials that followed, Agent Siringo gave crucial testimony that led to the conviction of eighteen union leaders for these crimes. Soon afterward, the home office sent him in pursuit of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch.
After leaving the Pinkertons, Charlie Siringo returned to the Southwest and did a good bit of roaming before settling in Santa Fe.
Because of the name he’d made in publishing, he had access to many persons, on both sides of the law, who were on their way to winning a place in the history books. From them he got first hand information that he later incorporated in a new book called Riata and Spurs.
In that work, the writer had wanted to include some of his own daring adventures while serving with the Pinkertons. But the Agency threatened a lawsuit if he revealed any of their professional secrets. So the cowboy detective had to delete some of his best material.
Siringo in his later years lived in near poverty, making small amounts of money from his book writing and consulting on western films for Hollywood producers.
Charles Angelo Siringo fell victim to a heart attack on October 8, 1928 in Altadena, California. Humorist Will Rogers, who knew and respected him, sent a telegram upon learning of his passing. It read: “May flowers always grow over his grave.”