Tuesday, July 19, 2016

1957: John Prather Loads Guns, Awaits Next Move

Bill Montgomery
El Paso Times -
Deputies Fail To Get Rancher Off Range Area

Prather’s Ranch, N.M. – John Prather loaded up his 30-30 Winchester and .38 automatic pistol late Tuesday to face up to a new day’s battle with the U.S. deputy marshals he refused to let take him off his ranch.

Meanwhile, two Ft. Bliss colonels, and five military policemen were reported ready to join the marshals at daylight. The later news leaked out after newsmen’s automobiles finally were allowed through roadblocks after being sealed inside the vast McGregor guided missile range by Army roadblocks.

Presence of Col. H.T. Baughn, Ft. Bliss judge advocate and Col. Allison T. Leland, base provost marshal, seemed to put a question mark on an earlier Ft. Bliss official statement that the Prather eviction was “entirely up to the court.”

U.S. District Judge Waldo Rogers in Albuquerque Tuesday morning issued a writ of assistance which deputies of U.S. Marshal George Beach were supposed to use to force the fighting rancher from his home.

But it didn’t work. The deputies failed to lay a hand on the 82-year-old Prather, who warned if they ever touched him he would fight until they killed him. Col. Baughn, who also was at the ranch Tuesday afternoon, told newsmen late Tuesday that he was coming back at dawn and would bring the military policemen with him, but failed to say for what purpose.

Soldiers at Roadblock – Regular soldiers manned roadblocks in the area Tuesday. “I’m going to stay here, dead or alive,” Prather said with the same rugged determination which has held off the U.S. Army for taking his range home for two years.

The judge’s order – apparently anticipated by the U.S. marshal who ordered three deputies into Alamogordo Monday night – came as a flat turnabout. Judge Rodgers was quoted Monday as saying he “had serious doubts” about whether he had done the right thing in giving Prather’s land to the Army, because it appeared the Army might not need it.

...“I’m stout enough that they’ll never haul me to town in a car alive,” he said. “I’ll guarantee you that.” Never, throughout the long and rugged day did the indomitable rancher waiver from his stand that he would die rather than leave or be moved.

“I’d like to live a while yet,” he told the solemn-faced peace officers, “but I’m not moving, by damn, and if it’s time for me to die I’m ready. Let’s get on with it.” At one point the nearly-blind rancher – who used to shoot crows off fenceposts from a moving automobile with a pistol – issued a direct challenge to one of the marshals for a personal shoot-out in the finest Old West tradition.

“Just let me get my gun and we’ll square off and have at it,” he said. “I’m ready any time you are.” The marshal, already bemoaning their fate at being assigned to the job, wanted no part of it.

Also see  John Prather Stood His Ground | American Cowboy

John Prather: Life with New Mexico's Mule King

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