June 9, 1904
Two days earlier, the westbound San Francisco Express—train no. 5—was robbed near a shipping station in Colorado known as Parachute.
Three robbers got away with an undetermined amount of loot (some stated as little as $30; others claimed the take was much larger). The three robbers fled on foot in a rainstorm to a stolen rowboat and crossed the Colorado River. They mounted the horses they had stashed there and rode east toward Battlement Mesa.
Many locals assumed the robbers would flee west into the sparsely settled high desert, but, perhaps thinking counterintuitively, the outlaws headed east into a settled area. This was their first mistake.
Their horses quickly tired in the rugged terrain, so the outlaws had to steal new mounts from Rolla Gardner’s ranch. This was mistake number two.
Within hours several posses and bloodhounds were hot on the robbers’ trail. As the bandits stole more horses (see map), the locals became more incensed and riled up. It was one thing to steal railroad money, but these guys were getting a tad too personal. This was mistake number three.
At five a.m. on June 9, these three bandits have now shown up, on foot, at the Banta Ranch on Mamm Creek. They pay a dollar for breakfast and take three horses from the Banta barn. They also cut the telephone line. Banta quickly repairs the phone line to alert the law and all his neighbors. In no time, a 15-member posse from Grand Junction and De Beque is in the saddle and on the trail, with another 25 men en route from New Castle.
Stealing more horses along the way, the outlaws come across Gibson Flats to East Divide Creek at about 11 in the morning.
A six-man posse—including Sheriff Adams, Joe Dobey, Rolla Gardner, James Dooley, Elmer Chapman (a brand inspector) and Willis Kissie—rides into view and comes straight at the outlaws. One of them fires off a shot accidentally. The outlaws, who are dismounted and perhaps contemplating their next move, or a last stand, lose their horses in the commotion as many shots are exchanged.
Kid Curry, a.k.a. Harvey Logan, yells back at the posse, “Okay, you S.O.B.s, that is far enough. Turn around and head down the mountain. If you try to follow us again, I will shoot the first man that comes in my sights.”
Incredibly, the posse follows Kid Curry’s request and rides back toward the Larsen Ranch. But, once out of sight, the men ride hard to circle around and head off the outlaws.
Kid Curry and his two partners scramble up the steep ridge on foot. Clearing the trees, they see the posse come up the back trail. Kid Curry steps up on a rock, aims his rifle and fires rapidly. He takes down both Gardner’s and Dobey’s horses. One of his bullets also grazes the brand inspector’s cheek.
As Kid Curry takes aim again at Dobey, who is scrambling for cover on foot and firing back over his shoulder, rancher Gardner comes up from behind his dead horse and fires a .38-55 bullet that tears through Kid Curry’s left arm. The bullet passes across the outlaw’s chest, shatters the breast bone, breaks two ribs and plows through the right arm. (See mistake number two.)
One of the outlaws yells at him, “Are you hurt, Sam?” (Some of the posse hear “Tom” as the name; Tom Jones is a known alias of Kid Curry’s.)
Kid Curry replies, “Don’t wait for me. I’m all in and might as well end it right here.”
He places his revolver to his right temple and pulls the trigger.
The fight is over, but the mystery of this outlaw’s identity is just beginning.