A Question Of Possession
Along in the 80's there occurred a question of possession in regard to a brand of horses,
numbering nearly two hundred head. Courts had figured in former matters, but at this
time they were not appealed to, owing to the circumstances. This incident occurred on
leased Indian lands unprovided with civil courts,--in a judicial sense, "No-Man's-Land."
At this time it seemed that _might_ graced the woolsack, while on one side Judge Colt
cited his authority, only to be reversed by Judge Parker, breech-loader, short-barreled, a
full-choke ten bore. The clash of opinions between these two eminent western authorities
was short, determined, and to the point.
A man named Gray had settled in one of the northwest counties in Texas while it was yet
the frontier, and by industry and economy of himself and family had established a
comfortable home. As a ranchman he had raised the brand of horses in question. The
history of this man is somewhat obscured before his coming to Texas. But it was known
and admitted that he was a bankrupt, on account of surety debts which he was compelled
to pay for friends in his former home in Kentucky. Many a good man had made similar
mistakes before him. His neighbors spoke well of him in Texas, and he was looked upon
as a good citizen in general.
Ten years of privation and hardship, in their new home, had been met and overcome, and
now he could see a ray of hope for the better. The little prosperity which was beginning
to dawn upon himself and family met with a sudden shock, in the form of an old
judgment, which he always contended his attorneys had paid. In some manner this
judgment was revived, transferred to the jurisdiction of his district, and an execution
issued against his property. Sheriff Ninde of this county was not as wise as he should
have been. When the execution was placed in his hands, he began to look about for
property to satisfy the judgment. The exemption laws allowed only a certain number of
gentle horses, and as any class of range horses had a cash value then, this brand of horses
was levied on to satisfy the judgment.
The range on which these horses were running was at this time an open one, and the
sheriff either relied on his reputation as a bad man, or probably did not know any better.
The question of possession did not bother him. Still this stock was as liable to range in
one county as another. There is one thing quite evident: the sheriff had overlooked the
nature of this man Gray, for he was no weakling, inclined to sit down and cry. It was
thought that legal advice caused him to take the step he did, and it may be admitted, with
no degree of shame, that advice was often given on lines of justice if not of law, in the
Lone Star State. There was a time when the decisions of Judge Lynch in that State had
the hearty approval of good men. Anyhow, Gray got a few of his friends together,
gathered his horses without attracting attention, and within a day's drive crossed into the
Indian Territory, where he could defy all the sheriffs in Texas.
When this cold fact first dawned on Sheriff Ninde, he could hardly control himself. With
this brand of horses five or six days ahead of him he became worried. The effrontery of