“I am A Friend to any Brave and Gallant Outlaw”

Belle Starr

Belle Starr said that, the “bandit queen” who liked her men, her moonshine and her stolen horses. There’s a part of her legend that speaks of independence and plain old guts, but another part that underscores her early reputation as a “spoiled rich girl” who never thought the rules applied to her. She was born Myra Belle Shirley. She came from a good family and had a rich-girl’s education, but lived most of her life on the spoils of crime. History traces her outlaw days to 1866 when she got a crush on Cole Younger when his gang came through Texas after the first James-Younger Gang bank robbery in Missouri. But she didn’t marry Cole. She married another outlaw named Jim Reed—at least, that was her first husband. She almost married an Indian named “Blue Duck,” but instead married a Cherokee named Sam Starr. She and Sam had quite an active life rustling, horse-stealing and bootlegging. When he died, she married again, to a much younger Jim July, who later was suspected of ambushing Belle as she rode home on February 3, 1889. She was 41 years old. The man who never fell for her charms was hanging Judge John Issac Parker, who sent her to prison when she was caught red-handed, trying to steal a horse. Her only daughter had a stone carved over her burial site that reads:

Shed not for her the bitter tear
Nor give the heart to vain regret,
‘Tis but the casket that lies here
The gem that fills it sparkles yet.”

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