Arizona Album: Kid Swilling, badman

2012-04-29T00:00:00Z Arizona Album: Kid Swilling, badmanGeorge H. Smalley Tucson Citizen Arizona Daily Star
April 29, 2012 12:00 am  • 

This piece was published on May 5, 1954.

In the Mogollons, and farther east where the great range of the White Mountains slope into New Mexico, cattle rustlers and horse thieves operated most successfully in early Territorial days.

The New Mexico rustlers drove stolen cattle and horses into those mountains and set up their own camps, adding to their herds by raiding the ranges in the low lands of the Gila and San Pedro. New Mexico was the market for most of the livestock stolen by Arizona rustlers. Often the rustlers from the two territories met on trails and battled for the possession of the livestock. Many of the old trails have unmarked graves where defeated rustlers were laid away.

There were settlers in those Arizona mountains whom rustlers never bothered. Gustave Becker, a merchant in Springerville, was one.

Kid Swilling for many years rode the mountain ranges defiantly, and was one of the worst badmen of his time.

One day he was in Gustave Becker's store, buying a new outfit for himself. Hidden from other customers, he was behind a counter piled high with bolts of cotton goods, donning his new clothes.

As he selected a bright colored pair of suspenders, two officers entered the store. The kid had been peering between bolts of cloth as he dressed - he stole from behind the counter, covered the two officers with two six-shooters, walked out of the store, mounted his horse and rode away. A week later Becker received a letter from the kid enclosing a dollar bill.

"Didn't have time to pay for th' galluses," it read.

These stories were part of a column, Pioneer Anecdotes, written by George H. Smalley, editor of the Tucson Citizen from 1898 to 1901.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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