I read that an Arizona outlaw beat a check kiting charge by eating the evidence during the trial. True or false?

Joshua Young

Phoenix, Arizona

Rufus Nephews, a.k.a. Climax Jim, was a little-known but notorious cattle rustler in Arizona’s White Mountain country. He acquired the nickname because of an affinity for a brand of chewing tobacco called “Climax.”

Climax was an unabashed cow thief. He once stole a herd of cattle over in Apache County, altered their brands and drove them to Clifton where he sold them to a local butcher. Then he came upon a novel idea—why not double his profit by altering the check as well?

The law caught up with Climax Jim, not for stealing the cows, but for altering the brand on the butcher’s check. No one was surprised when the county prosecuting attorney denounced him as the most dangerous criminal in the whole territory. The defense attorney was, of course, outraged at the use of such strong language against his client, so he jumped up and indignantly engaged the prosecutor in a shouting match.

During the confusion, Climax Jim spotted Exhibit A, the altered check (and the only evidence against him), on a table in front of the bench. He reached over, picked it up and stuffed it in his mouth, which was chockful of his namesake chewing tobacco.

When order was returned to the courtroom, the judge asked for Exhibit A. Climax Jim sat pensively, chewing his tobacco, while the prosecuting attorney and his staff searched in vain for the check.

The judge ended up dismissing the charge for lack of evidence. Climax Jim smiled innocently, saying, “Thank ya, judge.” Then, with all the aplomb of a muleskinner, he spit a curious-looking wad into the judge’s own cuspidor and strolled casually out of the courtroom, a free man once again.

For more info on this scalawag, check out Climax Jim: The Tumultuous Tale of Arizona’s Rustling Cowboy by Karen Holliday Tanner.

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