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Thunder Over the Prairie:
The Story of a Murder and a Manhunt by the
Greatest Posse of All Time.
Fog and a heavy morning mist danced across the wet scrub and brush grass that stretched toward the sun. The posse rode through the somewhat eerie scene without speaking. Their faces a study of relentless purpose, their every senses alive and straining. Their keen eyes searched for vegetation that had been trampled, twigs that had been broken, ground that been packed down, remnants of clothing, any sign that a desperate rider had passed through the area.
Wyatt Earp leaned slightly out of his saddle to study the terrain and the crude path they were following. His expression was resolute and competent. He sniffed at the wind that began to rise and coaxed his horse into a trot beside Charlie Bassett’s and Bill Tilghman’s roans. The men rode three abreast spurred on by an unspoken belief that they were headed in the right direction.
Bat Masterson lingered behind the others, glancing back over his shoulder at someone he felt was following them. Wyatt caught a glimpse of Bat bringing up the rear and pulled back on the reins of his mount, turned the animal around and rode towards the lawman. “Bat,” Wyatt said, scanning the surroundings cautiously. Bat smiled at Wyatt, but behind the smile was a look of uneasiness. “Remember when we were hunting buffalo?” Bat asked. Wyatt nodded. “We’d find a spot up wind of them and pick them off one by one,” Bat continued. “They never even stampeded when members of their herd began dropping. Not so long as they didn’t get a whiff of the hunter. All we had to do was make sure we stayed out of smelling range and drop each animal with one shot.” Wyatt peered warily into the distance they’d traveled. The significance of Bat’s memory resonating in his head. Bat walked his horse past Wyatt’s animal. “All we had to do was stay out of smelling range,” he repeated as he rode by. Wyatt gave another guarded look over the countryside then fell in after Bat.
In the two years Wyatt and Bat had served together as lawmen in Ford County, they’d had numerous run-ins with rowdy Texas cowhands. Both men knew any of those vengeful drovers and their crew could be just out of sight waiting to gun them down.
There were most assuredly rogue Indian braves, either Cheyenne or Comanche, keeping a watchful eye on the posse, but the policemen didn’t believe they were a threat. The bulk of the Plains Indians had been confined to reservations and generally would not launch an attack unless provoked. If there were anyone lurking beyond the tall grasses and iodine bushes, anyone following the lawmen using the crevices in the earth for cover, it was presumed to be the cowpunchers from the Kenedy family ranch. “They’re on their way,” Bat said, referring to James Kenedy’s fellow drovers.
After eight years in law enforcement, Wyatt Earp knew the risks and sacrifices that came with keeping the peace. Many of his friends and acquaintances insisted he was born for the job. One of the men who hunted buffalo with Wyatt recalled that he had “absolute confidence in himself that gave him an edge over the run of men.” Bat Masterson regarded him as someone who was “absolutely destitute of physical fear.”
To learn more about the posse that tracked down Spike Kenedy read Thunder Over the Prairie.