Sunday, September 04, 2016

Past tense: A Texas legend - Sam Bass, part 3

by Drew Gomber

Sam Bass had experienced a good and rather lucky career in crime from 1875 onward. But the summer of 1878 would end all of that. By that year, Sam’s gang consisted of Seaborne Barnes, Frank Jackson, and a rather shady character called Murphy. After the law had made it too difficult to rob trains, which had kind of been a specialty of Sam’s, he turned his attention to banks – specifically, the bank at Round Rock, Texas.

As the day of the robbery approached – July 20th, the day before Sam’s birthday – Sam seemed to grow increasingly paranoid, seeing every cowboy as a possible lawman. He finally convinced himself that he was mistaken, but unfortunately for him, he wasn’t. Gang member Murphy had gone to the law and offered to sell out the rest of the gang, and the men Sam convinced himself weren’t lawmen – actually were lawmen! Murphy, in his act of betrayal, had cemented his own place in the legend of Sam Bass.

Before the gang reached Round Rock that day, Murphy conveniently dropped out, leaving the trio of Bass, Barnes and Jackson to continue on into town. And that town was literally crawling with lawmen, all of whom remained un-noticed as the three outlaws dismounted and began sauntering down the street, their saddlebags slung over their shoulders.

But there was a problem: for all the planning that the Rangers did prior to the outlaws’ arrival, staying undercover for days previous as the outlaws scouted the town, they managed to forget to do one thing… notify the local authorities. Consequently, when the outlaws wandered into a store – probably to buy more ammunition, Deputy Sheriff A.W. Grimes had noticed a suspicious bulge under Bass’ coat, and followed them into the place. Strolling up behind the three men, Grimes placed his hand on Bass’ side and said, “Say mister, are you carrying a gun?” They were his last words.

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