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March 16, 2011     Hays Free Press
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Hays Free Press March 16, 2011 NBGHBORS Page 3C + n or about March 16, 1882, "Mysterious" Dave Mather posted bail, walked out of the Dallas County jail and, as was his habit, skipped town. The future gunfighter, lawman and opportunistic outlaw was born in Connecticut the decade before the War Between the States. He was a rotten apple on a famous family tree that boasted Cotton Mather, the New England Puritan best known for his part in the Salem witch trials. The murder of their sea captain father, stabbed to death in Shanghai by the ship's cook, and the passing of their mother fTom natural causes left Dave and younger brother Sy orphans at ages 17 and 14. The teen- agers went to sea but quickly learned they preferred life on dry land and jumped ship at New Orleans. No one knows for sure where Dave Mather was or what he was doing for most of the 1870s. He may have hunted buffalo with SF in the Texas Panhandle and rustled cattle with the Dave Rudabaugh Gang before checking out Dodge City, Kansas. Mather's first visit to the "Queen of the Cowtowns" was nearly his last. His stomach sliced open like a water- THIS WEEK IN melon in a knife fight, he would have bled to death had it not been for the fast work of a Dr. McCarty, who stitched up the gaping wound. The next confirmed sighting of the Connecticut Yankee was in 1878 at the Panhandle watering hole of Mo- bdetie. Mather and partner-in-crime Wyatt Earp tried to sell "gold" bricks to gullible frontiersmen but were run out of town before turning a profit. By that time, Mather must have acquired a reputation as a gun-for- hire because Bat Masterson recruited him for the "Railroad War" in Kansas. With Mather, Doc Holliday, Ben Thompson, Dave Rudabaugh and other gunslingers on its payroll, the Santa Fe prevailed over the Denver and Rio Grande. From Kansas Mather migrated to Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he hooked up again with Rudabaugh and a host of nasty characters to form the "Dodge City Gang." This crime syndicate controlled the gam- bling and prostitution and also ruled the political roost. For the first time, Mather mixed law-breaking with law enforcement. Appointed Deputy U.S. Marshal by the territorial governor, he did not let his official duties get in the way of criminal pastimes like robbing stages. Mather recorded his initial documentedkill in the Variety Hall Shootout oflan. 22, 1880. In ac- cordance with an ordinance forbid- ding firearms within the city limits, the Las Vegas town marshal tried to disarm four drunken cowboys who plugged him on the spot. Mather, who was either in the sa- loon or arrived on the scene seconds later, took on the quartet by himself. When the smoke cleared, one cow- boy was dead, two were wounded and the fourth was happy to be breathing and in one piece. But all good things come to an end, even in the Old West. By March of 1880, the members of the "Dodge City Gang" realized the local tide had turned against them and one by one departed for greener pastures. For Mather that was Dallas, where he laid low under an assumed name and romanced the black madam of the Long Branch brothel. When the lovers broke up in early 1882, Mather took her jewelry and other valuables, maybe to remember her by, but was jailed briefly on a theft charge. By the spring of 1883, Mather was back in Dodge City and wearing a badge. Although he continued to supplement his income with the oc- casional armed robbery, he became a man of property with the purchase of the Opera House Saloon. Tom Nixon owned a saloon in town too and by the summer of 1884 he also had Mather's deputy job. Fearing his rival would strike without warn- ing, as'he was known to do, Nixon took his best shot on ]lily 18 but inflicted only a painful powder bum. Three days later, Mather slipped up on his attacker from behind, whispered something in his ear and shot Nixon four times before he could turn and draw. The murder was ruled a clear case of self-defense. Mather and brother Sy, reunited once more in Dodge City, where they were playing cards with gambler Dave Jones in May 1885. A dispute escalated into gunfire, and ]ones was slain by a bullet from Sy's six-gun. Even though the facts were on their side, the Mather boys chose not to hang around for trial. They went their separate ways, and that was the last verified sighting of "Mysterious" Dave Mather. Sy, who lived until 1933, swore years later that he never knew what happened to his brother. One of several theories claimed Dave was spotted in a Canadian Mountie uni- form as late as 1922, while another had him as a customs inspector in the state of Washington. Then there was the report that a body fonnd in 1886 on railroad tracks in Dallas was that of "Mysterious Dave." However, since the positive identification was made by a bonds- man anxious to get off the hook for a bail Mather had jumped, this story also must be taken with a skeptical helping of salt. Bartee Halle welcomes your com- ments, questions and suggestions' at haile@pdq.net or P.O. Box 152, Friendswood, TX 77549. And come on by www. twith.com for a visit! BY MICHELE MILLER Special to the Hays Free Press Designated a national park in 1944, the Big Bend has inspired gen- erations of writers, filmmakers, photographers, and musicians. Selections of their works are on view now through July 17 inthe newWitdiff Collections exhibition, Big Bend: Land of the Texas Imagination. In conjunction with the exhibition, on March 31 the Wittliff Collections will present a 6:30 p.m. reception and 7:00 p.m. panel discussion on the Big Bend with photographer Laurence Parent, authors Joe Nick Patoski, Barbara"Barney" Nelson, and ]ake Silverstein, editor of Texas Monthly, and Marcos Paredes, a long-time National Park Service River Ranger at Big Bend, recently retired. Attendees are asked to RSVP to southwestemwriters@ txstate.edu. The Big Bend exhibition and program are presented in support of the 2010-2011 Common Experience theme of "Snstainability" at Texas State University-San Marcos. Admis- sion to both the exhibition and program is free and open to the public. The Wittliff Collections are located on the seventh floor of the Alkek Library at Texas State. Big Bend: Land of the Texas Imagination explores the way authors and others have been influenced by and interpreted the geology of Big Bend and its culture. Maps, photo- graphs, books and articles, manuscripts, journals, and other items illustrate how the Big Bend has infused mythic storytelling and folklore, served as the scene of the crime for mysteries and thrillers, added depth to novels, stories, and memoirs, effected transcen- dent nature wrifin~ spurred environmental calls to ac- tion, starred as atmospheric location on film, and played a part in the border's history and politics. Big Bend On Thursday, March 31 beginning at 6:30 p.m., the Wittliff Collections will host an exhibition reception and panel discussion on the topic of Big Bend. Featured panel- ists include Joe Nick Patoski and photographer Laurence Parent, co-authors of "Big Bend National Park" and many other books, Barbara "Bar- ney" Nelson, editor of "God's Country or Devil's Playground: An Anthology of Nature Wdting from the Big Bend of Texas," and Marcos Paredes, a long- time National Park Service River Ranger at Big Bend, recently retired. Moderating the discussion is Jake Silversteln, editor of Texas Monthly, who worked as a reporter for the Big Bend Sentinel prior to join- ing the magazine and writes about the area in his first book, "Nothing Happened and Then It Did: A Chronicle in Fact and Fiction." A book signing with the authors will follow the program; books will be for sale by the University Bookstore. The event is free and open to thepublic. Attendees are asked to RSVP to southwesternwdters@ txstate.edu. plorer Cabeza de Vaca traveled through the Big Bend region in 1535. The Wittllff Collec- tions owns a rare 1555 edition of Cabeza de Vaca's La rel- aci6n, and the exhibition case features facsimile pages from the book in which Cabeza de Vaca writes of the "extremely barren and harsh" mountains he encountered. Since then, generations of writers, including Joe Nick Patoski and Stephen Harrigan, have acknowledged the rug- ged environment depicted by Cabeza de Vaca. But they have also expanded the definition of the Big Bend, bringing to light the region's wondrous natural beauty. Patoski, in his recent book, Big Bend National Park (LIT Press, 2006), observes, "Big All the exhibition pieces are Bend is otherworldly. No one from the permanent archives at thinks twice when Big Bend is theWittllffCollections, includ~ described as a place where wa- ing materials from such noted ~titers as Billy Lee Brammer, Ndfiez Cabeza de Vaca, James Crumley, J. Frank Dobie, John Groves, Stephen Harrigan, Cormac McCarthy, Iee Nick Patoski, James Sanderson, Sam Shepard, and BillWittl~, along with selections from the Collec- tions' extensive Texas Monthly archives. Also on display are photographs by Fun Bones, James Evans, Laurence Parent, BillWittliff, and Bill Wright. A short film by Shelly Seymour, AWalk Across Big Bend, is also on view. Considered the earliest "Texas" writer, Spanish ex- ter runs uphill, where rainbows wait for rain, where the river lives in a big stone box, where mountains go away at night to play with other mountains, and where the lies told about Texas are true." Stephen Har- rigan, writing in the pages of Texas Monthly, describes the allure Big Bend holds for many Texans: "For thousands ofhar- tied urban dwellers throughout the state it is a recharge zone, someplace pure and resolute, an imaginary ancestral home." The exhibition also shows how the Big Bend has inspired See BIG BEND, pg. 4C South Rim with Agave, by James Evans, 1994 Texas Crossword and Sudoku sponsored by | See Solution, page 6C ACROSS 1 former Austin event: " Feat" ('62-'98) 5 TXism: =he's an ornery old 6 coarse file 7 wallet stuffers 8 __ Marcos, TX 9 Houston was _---- by a Cherokee chief t6 this Bob was 1st pick by Cowboys in '79 18 Dlerks Bentley '05 country album: " Drifter" .>1 TX semiconductor co. ~2 TX-bom Silver invented adhesive for 3M Post-it .............. ->3 "echo" so. of border ->4 TXism: = a caged cougar" 30 JFK was shot (~ing on this (2 wds.) 34 symbol for gold 35 a county in TX, but this in neighbor LA ]6 TX singer-songwriter and actress Lisa 37 TX Lyle Lovett's "If ...................... Boat" 39 Cowboy '99 WR, "The Rocket" ~,3 TX Don Henley and this Bob wrote song "Heartache Tonight" ~4 TXism: "play __ __ you're dealt" t5 TXism: "fixin' " ~,6 TX Jay O, Sanders '01 film: =Along ____ a Spider" ~7 FBI used this in '93 Waco raid (2 wds.) 49 likely the main reason TX George H. lost in '02 52 singer Pat who went to UNT (init.) 53 legislative "yes" vote 54 TXism: "he blazes .................... trail" (fat) 55 seat of Taylor Co. 58 in Dallas & Co,in Cos. on hwy. 78 59 TX Noble Witlingham was in 79 film "Norms --- 60 make a mistake 61 band for TX- 10om drummer Bryan Hitt: = Speedwagon" DOWN I '66 film: "Texas14 the River" 2 in Hardeman Co. 15 on hwy. 287 3 where Cornyn and17 Hutchison work 4 deadly Egyptian snakes 19 9 TX Reeves wrote 20 _ I Losing You" 10 TXism:" off more than you 24 can chew" 25 11 boot aroma 12 Gent who wrote 26 "North Dallas Forty': 13 TX King Vidor ; 27 autobiography: "A a Tree" Iongtime Rangers announcer Eric (init.) : TX-bom 5-star general and president (init.) Turkey, TX hosts "Bob "in honor of western swing star Award TX-bom Billy Preston co-wrote" So Beautiful" ('74) soldier cops (abbr.) TXism: "within __ Shot" (nearby) TXism: "fast as up a rafter"- TX Tanya Tucker's "It's a Cowboy Lovln' by Charley & s7i 28 TXism: ". ................. in wolf's clothes" 29 TX poet Naomi ........... Nye 31 TX Spacak '94 film "Trading .__" 32 __ Rim State Park 33 " of the west" See Solution, page 6C Guy Orbison Orbison Bros. P-10t~ TXism: "boring as a fishing trip with warden" 40 honky tonk 41 Swedish name 42 '83 Burt Lancaster film shot in TX & UK 48 "sail the 7" 50 "he me a favor" 51 TX Dabney '80 film: " to Five" 56 more ~nekkid'? 57 " ......... San Antonio" provides vision services for th~ n~dv +