Hole-in-the-Wall, Robbers Roost, and Brown’s Park
My favorite scene in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is when Butch and Sundance retreat to Hole-in-the-Wall to find that Kid Curry has proclaimed himself head of the gang in Butch’s absence. While Logan and Cassidy spar, you get a glimpse of the hideout: a corral, log cabins, and a good number of matronly looking women in the background busy with domestic chores.
I know this scene well because almost every year in school we were led to the auditorium to watch Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Now we can argue if this was suitable viewing for young children or not, but because some classmate’s father was connected to the film, we got to see it. The same reason we were also shown Downhill Racer—another excellent choice for schoolchildren.
Suitable or not that scene at Hole-in-the-Wall took root in my imagination.
In my book Margarita and the Hired Gun, Margarita and Michael (a.k.a., Rafferty, a.k.a., Jack) are forced to take a detour after some really bad things happen to them (these events are chronicled in detail in my book Margarita and the Hired Gun). Michael knows he’s taking a taking a risk to bring Margarita to an outlaw hideout, but he wants to live.
When Michael made that decision, I had to create the world of an outlaw hideout. I had a lot of questions.
With such advancements in technology such as the telegraph, and the railroad opening up the west to increased population, life for the man on the run got tougher. In response a series of hideouts sprung up along the outlaw trail from Mexico to Canada. Places were chosen because they were remote and easy to defend. Places like Hole-in-the-Wall, Brown’s Park, and Robbers Roost were spaced so an outlaw could pick up fresh horses, supplies, and ammunition—advantages the perusing posse didn’t have.
I hate to remind you we’re not talking Paul Newman and Robert Redford here. These were characters like Tom Horn, who killed 17, including a defenseless 14-year-old boy. Men who made a living robbing from others. And they all holed up together? How did that work out?
Sometimes the various gangs would ride out together, but mainly they stayed within their own gangs. There was no Head Outlaw King: the gangs separately maintained their own hierarchies.
The gangs seemed to coexist just fine. Not stealing from each other was an actual rule. They entertained themselves while they cooled their heels. Butch Cassidy was famous for organizing horse races, shooting contests, and even throwing barbeques while at Hole-in-the-Wall.
Hole-in-the-Wall was reached by a gap eroded into a rock wall. From its spot on top of a mesa, the outlaws had a 360 degree view and could see anyone approaching. And the surrounding box canyons were perfect places to hide the cattle you’d just stolen, which was good because if caught, the rustler would immediately get invited to be guest of honor at a Necktie party. Hole-in-the-Wall ran as a bandit refuge for 50 years without once being penetrated by the authorities.
To reach Robbers Roost (which Butch Cassidy found a dull place), one has to first cross 40 miles of open desert. If that wasn’t enough to stop you, there were rumors it was well protected with bobby traps and dynamite, which it wasn’t, but the wise lawman gave the place wide berth. In its 30 years of activity the law never reached Robbers Roost.
I read a brief mention that undercover attempts to infiltrate the gangs were unsuccessful. I want to know that story!
How did a hungry outlaw survive in such remote locations? Some of the hideouts were in Mormon territory, and those ranchers and farmers didn’t exactly care for authority either. The ranchers and the outlaws had a reciprocal relationship with an exchange of goods and favors. The hideouts themselves were situated in spots right for grazing, so they were able to kept cattle and chickens of their own.
These were not permanent settlements. The gangs would flow in and out, maybe sheltering in the cabins during the harsh winter months. The enormous area the gangs criss-crossed is astounding. We have an idea how long it takes to cross one state in a car. Can you imagine crossing multiple states on horseback? Jesse James would venture out all over the west and then return to his home base in Missouri, for instance.
I had to people my hideout with characters. Obviously, there were outlaws, but what about women? What would happen when Michael/Jack showed up with Margarita (hint: she stirs up some interest)?
Few women were admitted to the hideouts—only four were ever allowed in Robbers Roost. But there were lady outlaws like Laura Bullion and the very interesting Basset sisters from Brown’s Park. These ladies had various romantic liaisons with the Wild Bunch. And like the Sundance Kid and Etta Place, some outlaws did bring their girlfriends or wives along. There was a report that Cassidy would send women—thought to be prostitutes—into nearby towns for supplies when he didn’t dare show his face.
So, yes, women in the hideouts were not unheard of, but I doubt the amount of feminine domestic activity seen in the movie was accurate. I don’t see any of the above-mentioned women fading into the background wearing dowdy dresses and making lye soap, but there may have been a few behaving like this.
And if you want to see what comes out of showing children inappropriate things, here’s a link to Margarita and the Hired Gun:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EAS7F50/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_PKwexb1H1WD6N via @amazon
I'm giving away a digital copy of MARGARITA AND THE HIRED GUN! Do you think you could have survived with the outlaws in one of these hideouts? Leave me a comment along with your contact information to be entered for the drawing tomorrow evening for a copy of MARGARITA AND THE HIRED GUN. Thanks for stopping by today! I leave you with an excerpt to wet your appetite...
Margarita meets her protector for the first time...
"Rafferty,” said Homer, nodding his head in the direction of the man, who was now moving toward the stairs, eyes still on Margarita.
He walked slowly, swinging one long leg after another, a slight swagger in his shoulders. Unable to bear up under his direct gaze any longer, Margarita looked down at her coffee. Her ears were burning, and her throat was constricted in anticipation, but still, he moved down the stairs and across the room at an unnervingly slow pace.
When he arrived on the scene, the women at the table stopped talking and looked expectantly at him. He didn’t register their presence as he walked past them—to their apparent disappointment. The men playing poker watched him with wary eyes. One of them touched the gun in his holster, nervously. The cowboys stopped talking and drew closer together.
Without a word or invitation, the tall man pulled out the chair across from Margarita. The gun sticking out of his waistband put a lump of fear in her stomach.
He jerked his head in her direction, looking at Homer.
“Why is she here?” he asked in a deep voice, speaking in the same slow pace as he walked. He had an Irish accent, she noted. Homer poured out a cup of the thick, dark liquid for him.
“Rafferty. This is Margarita McIntosh, Jock’s daughter.”
“And she’s here for what reason?” he asked again, in a brusque tone.
Margarita looked up, her face burning with indignation. She was met with quite a sight. The man across from her had a few days’ growth of black whiskers covering the lower part of his face. Jet-black hair stood in loose curls around his head in an uncombed mass. His hair was in need of a wash, strands clumping together with something she didn’t want to dwell on. It was hard to guess his age. Older than she, certainly, but she couldn’t discern much beyond that.
He was without a jacket or shirt, and his long john’s undershirt was pushed up at the elbows, showing long, muscular forearms. Worse, the top buttons of his shirt were unbuttoned, exposing the patch of black hair on his chest. The tight, sweat-stained garment showed every bulge and indent in his lean torso, including his nipples. He was as good as naked.
Margarita tried to hide her shock at this unseemly display. She’d never seen so much of a man’s body before, up close. His eyes bored into her. They were steely eyes the color of indigo set in bloodshot orbs. Her discomfort seemed to amuse him. He narrowed his eyes at her, and a smirk twisted his lips as he observed her watching him. Other than his lips and eyes, he was as still as if he’d been carved in stone. Very economical in his movements, Margarita thought.
“Well, here’s the thing. She’s the job. Jock wants his daughter delivered to his sister in Durango. He wants you to make sure she gets there. Safe—and intact,” Homer said, in a way which made her redden.
The man called Rafferty grinned rakishly, displaying surprisingly even, white teeth. “If it’s safety he after, there’s better ways to transport his precious cargo, I would think.”
“He wants her movements to go undetected.”
Rafferty leaned over the table. She could smell him now. He smelled like sour sweat, whiskey—and cheap perfume. There was some other odor Margarita couldn’t identify, but it was a smell which repelled her.
Repelled her, yes, but she felt an odd measure of arousal at the same time. She raised her handkerchief to her nose to breathe through its lavender-scented folds. Catching her gesture, the dark man glowered at her briefly before the smirk returned to his lips.