Murdeous Bad Dog finds that hiding in an old western town barn causes him to get hooked
The town looked deserted, but I could hear the snorting of horses. I had entered the town long after sundown and kept out of sight by going down the alley instead of walking down the street, a muddy vein through Lawless, Nevada.
I hurried toward the stable and when I looked inside, I saw several horses including the black stallion that belonged to the crazy, murderous outlaw whom I had been tracking for months. Unwisely, I squeezed through the opening where someone had removed some boards and then immediately, a pitchfork pierced my shoulder. As I reeled in pain, I saw Bad Dog Lawton grinning at me.
Called "Bad Dog" throughout Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, J.W. Lawton was on the loose. An eyewitness had seen him massacre a family of four and he was wanted for three similar murders.
Lawton grew up in Tombstone, Arizona where he had heard the many stories about Wyatt Earp and outlaws who were buried in Boot Hill. Men who had known him all of their lives said that at the age of twelve, he had been bucked off a horse and was a bit crazy after that. He had fiery red hair that matched his hot temper. He left home four years after his injury and said that he was going to the Badlands of Dakota to make new friends. Apparently, he succeeded.
U.S. Marshalls who tried to find and get rid of the Dalton Gang were often told that a redheaded youth rode with them and that when he shot someone, he laughed about it. Because they described him as a crazy man, he was dubbed "Bad Dog Lawton." Worse than bad, he was a maniac. Only such a man would leave a trail of merciless massacres behind him in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada.
George Holman, the eyewitness of the latest massacre, was a ranch hand who had been eating supper outside the back door of the home of Frank Henley, his wife and two small boys. Holman saw Lawton and two companions ride up to the house where they knocked the front door down and went inside. Unarmed, Holman hid in the rain barrel when heard three shots and laughter that sounded like it came from a wild dog.
The crazy laughter mixed with screams came from the house while the three men misused and tortured Mrs. Henley. Surely it was a blessing when they shot her to death. Holman stayed hidden until he knew that the outlaws were far away before he rode into town to get the sheriff who documented the horror of the massacre and formed a posse that gave up after three days without finding the outlaws.
I was the Marshall in eastern New Mexico where Lawton had apparently been the killer who committed a similar massacre against a family of six. A family in central New Mexico was later massacred. I was determined to track the murderers for as long as it took to put them away.
When I learned about the Henley family, I rushed there to talk with the sheriff and George Holman. Then, I knew exactly who I was hunting and became more determined than ever to find Lawton. The maniac had to be stopped.
Approximately ten miles outside of Lawless, I approached their camp and ambushed the three outlaws while they were eating. Luckily, I killed Lawton's two partners before his shot grazed my head causing me to be unconscious most of the day. He took all the horses and left---apparently, he believed that I had died where I had fallen.
A heavy rain woke me. Blood covered my head and matted my hair. My head hurt like hell and I was dizzy. After the rain stopped, I found some dry wood that made it possible to heat the coffee and the beans that had not been consumed by Lawton and his two-man gang. When I could walk a straight line, I headed toward Lawless.
I had not expected to find myself standing in that stable with a pitchfork in my shoulder and facing Bad Dog Lawton.
"You had to be dead back there with the Bad Brothers. How did you get here?" Lawton growled as he pointed his gun at me.
"Angels carried me." The pain in my shoulder and head was excruciating. "Maybe they're still with me. I have no intention of dying until you do."
Lawton laughed as he leaned against the rack where the four saddles were placed. In that moment I realized that the town was deserted except for the two of us.
"Are you carrying a badge? I've never killed a Marshall. You'll be my first."
On the pole behind him, I saw a large hook embedded in the wood, and a hay hook on a nail. I had an idea. I hoped that I could keep him talking until my plan for escaping death could be successful.
"Lawton, Those were good people? Only a cold-blooded, mean son-of-a-damn-dog like you would murder such good people. Why? What do you get out of doing it?"
"So, you want to talk before you die?" He scratched his cheek with his gun and grinned. "I'll tell you. After I fell off a horse about ten years ago, my mother's old man was always laughing at me and calling me "Stupid Dog" or other names. He beat the hell out of me too many times and laughed about it. Killing those men made me feel like I was killing him, and, of course, I couldn't leave any witnesses."
"Is that why you laugh when you kill people? Seems to me that he was wrong. You don't sound stupid to me."
"How do you know that? Nobody's ever seen me kill anyone. No one except the Bad Brothers, and they were crazier than me. They couldn't have told you because of your bullets back at the camp. How did you get here? That had to be twenty miles away."
I was glad that Lawton wanted to keep talking and answered his questions. "Lawton, you made a mistake. You left a witness at your last massacre. The cold storm woke me up. And, thanks for the coffee and beans. I was pretty hungry. The walk wasn't too bad, even in the dark. Can I sit down on that bucket over there?"
"Just move real slow. After that long walk, you ought to be too damn tired to move any other way."
Now the pole was halfway between the two of us. "They say that you went to the Badlands in Dakota. Did you really get there?" I couldn't believe he was sitting there having a conversation with me. Outlaws like Bad Dog Lawton just don't do like that. At least not until now.
"You bet I did. When they saw this redhead coming, I guess they were too curious because nobody shot at me. I met some of the best of them. The Daltons let me join up with them. Those were great days, especially the charge to get out of town with bags of money from a bank."
He seemed to be enjoying himself a little too much. I hoped he would get distracted enough for me to grab the hay hook and change the situation.
"What about when the law had horses on the trains that you robbed?"
"Now, that was tough. Their horses were fresh but ours were always tired. After dealing with that a couple of times, I left the gang and found the Brothers and a couple of other men. After I had to kill those two, the Brothers rode with me. I called the "Bad Brothers" because people were calling me "Bad Dog"
We went south and ended up in Arizona."
Lawton became distracted when his horse jumped around the stall. Maybe a rat had gotten in the stall with him.
Even though my shoulder was hurting, I grabbed the hay hook and rushed him. It surprised him so much that he almost fell over the saddles. I hit his gun arm and he dropped his gun.
He yelled as he instinctively grabbed the arm that was hurting and then I swung the backside of the hook and cracked his head. He slumped to the ground. After dragging him over to the pole, I put a rope around his chest and managed to lift him up and hang him on the hook.
I tied his legs to the pole, picked up his gun and mine, and then took a nap on the soft hay until daylight.
At dawn I saddled the horses and laid Bad Dog over one of the horses, not his of course. I didn't want him on his own horse because every rider has a special way with his own horse. If he woke up, I didn't want him to find a way to get some help from his horse and get away.
It was a long ride to take Bad Dog Lawton to face a judge. He was still alive; in fact, he was able to sit in the saddle for the last part of the trip.
With George Holman as a witness, it didn't take long for the judge to send him to the gallows. The whole town turned out for the hanging . The outlaw had massacred their neighbors, the Henleys.
I retired as Marshall soon after that.