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Thunder Over the Prairie:
The Story of a Murder and a Manhunt by the
Greatest Posse of All Time.
James squirmed uncomfortably in the saddle and slowed his horse from a fast trot to a walk. The renegade’s attention was fixed on the countryside that unrolled before him. There were miles and miles of open range as far as he could see. The sky directly above was clear with fuzzy pinches of cotton-like clouds scattered here and there, but dark thunderheads were piling up a few miles out. He led his ride around the bones of a buffalo that had fallen some time prior to his passing through the area, and the horse balked and snorted. The mount was apprehensive about moving forward. James strained his eyes over the rugged trail, but failed to see anything that warranted the horse’s obstinate behavior. He poked the animal with his spurs, and the horse continued on.
Bat peered over the mound of earth he and the other posse members were positioned behind and watched the fugitive they’d been pursuing draw slowly nearer. “We’ll stop him out here,” Wyatt announced. “I don’t think he’ll make a fight. Most likely he’ll run for it.” “If he does… I’ll drop him,” Charlie promised. “Kelley wants Kenedy alive,” Bill reminded the men.
Charlie looked around for their horses and noted that the animals were scattered about the vicinity – too far away for the lawmen to reach without being seen. “Damn-it,” Bat spat under his breath realizing along with Wyatt and Bill the location of the mounts. “I’ll attend to the man,” Bat told his fellow riders after contemplating the distance a bullet would have to travel to hit James. “If he runs, shoot his horse,” Bat ordered Wyatt.
James rode on lost in thought. The closer he got to the acres of pastureland outlining the sod house, the more nervous his horse became. The animal raised his head and neighed. James surveyed the region and again saw nothing out of the ordinary. He kept going, but stopped every few yards to make sure the way was clear. Seventy-five yards away from the posse’s location, James brought his ride to a stop. He could hear only the cold wind blowing over the withered grass.
He scrutinized the prairie for a third time and noticed four rider less horses milling about. Anxiety swelled to fear and broke out on him in a cold, clammy sweat. A charged silence descended on the spot as the outlaw and the posse held their positions like graven images, waiting for someone to make a move. James’s face was bloodless and in one quick simultaneous motion, he removed his gun from its holster and swung his horse around.
Wyatt, Bat, Charlie and Bill jumped up and leveled their weapons at James. “Halt,” Bat shouted, cocking his weapon. James was defiant. He fired a shot at the same time he dug his spurs into his mount’s sides. The animal launched into a hard gallop. “Halt,” Wyatt warned the killer again. James refused. “Last chance, Kenedy,” Wyatt warned, “Halt!” James raised his whip to strike his ride and urge the horse to go faster, but a bullet fired from Bat’s .50 caliber rifle struck his left arm and he dropped the quirt. Thoroughly spooked by the violent exchange, the horse hurried to escape the scene. The lawmen let loose a volley of shots. Wyatt took careful aim and fired at James’s horse. Three bullets brought the animal down. James fell out of the saddle just as his mount received the fatal blow and the horse landed hard on top of him, crushing the arm that had just been shot. Horse and rider lay motionless on the ground.
To learn more about the posse that tracked down
Spike Kenedy read Thunder Over the Prairie.