Friday, May 24, 2013


By Celia Yeary


Judge Roy Bean, the self-appointed “Law West of the Pecos”, became a saloonkeeper and Justice of the Peace on the Rio Grande in a desolate stretch of the Chihuahua Desert of SW Texas. When the Texas Rangers weren’t around to stop him, he brazenly held court.
Roy Bean found himself in trouble most of his life from Texas to California. He killed, stole, cheated, swindled, and abused his wife.

Young women considered Bean handsome, and often competed for his attention. In San Diego, a Scotsman named Collins challenged Bean to a pistol shooting match on horseback. He allowed Bean to choose the target, and Roy Bean decided they would shoot at each other. Bean shot Collins in the arm. The sheriff arrested both men and charged them with attempted murder. During the two months in jail, Bean received many gifts of flowers, food, wine, and cigars from the ladies of San Diego. The last gift included knives encased in tamales. He used the knives to dig through the cell wall.   

In Southwest Texas by the Rio Grande, the small town of Langtry was established as a construction junction from east and west during the building of the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway. Two origins of the town’s name are under dispute. One claim says the town was named for a civil engineer named Langtry who directed a group of Chinese laborers in the railroad construction.
The other more popular and accepted claim is that Judge Roy Bean,
an eccentric, colorful character, insisted he named the town after his idol,
English actress Lillie Langtry, the “Jersey Lily.”
Today, a Texas Visitor’s Center sits next to the preserved
150-year-old-saloon  in Langtry, Texas.
The center is well maintained, with clean restrooms,
a snack area, landscaping, and a gift shop.
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He stood near the door next to the rack that held beef jerky and salted peanuts. He wore the same faded, ragged-at-the-heels, worn-at-the-knees Levis, and the familiar black felt Resistol with the braided leather around the hatband. Oh, yeah, and beat-up, cowhide leather boots. Black longish hair hung down his neck and mirrored sunglasses sat firmly in place on his narrow chiseled nose. Uh-huh. That was him, all right, as gorgeous as ever.

"Hey, Chad. Who told you I was here?"


Shrugging, she stopped one foot in front of him, deliberately holding him against the wall. She remembered he was claustrophobic and didn't like to be crowded, but he was fine if he was the one doing the crowding.

She laughed a little and studied her nails. When she looked up, he'd clenched his right jaw so hard, he had a little red spot there. "Oh, I think someone did. You're looking for me. Why don't you just own up to it and quit beatin' around the bush?"

Shaking his head, he cleared his throat and tried to move sideways, but the rack of beef jerky was in his way. "Okay, Miss-Know-It-All, what do you think?"

Deciding to free him from the wall, she stepped toward the door but stopped with her forearm on the door handle. "Want to move outside? I have a question or two."

He made a grunting sound in his throat. "So do I."
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  1. Celia, I remember driving through and seeing the saloon. I was disappointed it was so blah. I don't know what I expected, maybe a movie studio version or something. LOL Very nice article.

  2. Caroline--I know what you mean. But if you look at the old photos with horses tied outside, etc. you understand there was more to it. Still, it's small and plain, and amazing that it's still standing. And that is really wasn Judge Roy Bean's court room. He was a character, wasn't he?

  3. I have a hanging judge in my current wip and sort of fashioned him after Judge Roy Bean. Fascinating place the west and the wild people who lived in it. I hadn't heard about his popularity with the ladies before.


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