Love, Marriage, and Divorce

Judge Roy Bean of Langtry, Texas, aka “The Law West of the Pecos” had no problem exceeding his authority as justice of the peace even when it came to marrying couples. He defended that by declaring he was saving his constituents the cost of having to travel to the county seat at Del Rio.

He also granted divorces justifying that by declaring he’d married them and he had a right to rectify his error. Once two couples came in the saloon requesting divorces. Divorces, like marriages cost two dollars each. As they headed for the door, he noticed they’d swapped partners. He called them back to court, informed them fornication outside the marriage was illegal and he’d have to fine them or perform two more marriages. This time he charged them five dollars each.

Sometimes this business of divorce got complicated. One evening he stopped by Mrs. Dodd’s boarding house to eat. “You look awfully tired Judge,” she opined, “what’s been happening?”

“I’m tired” he replied. “I divorced two couples today then swapped ‘em around and remarried them. Then I spent the rest of the day dividing up the children.”

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