Tales from the Morgue: Vigilantes, dudes and other rodeo news of days gone by

2014-02-13T10:30:00Z Tales from the Morgue: Vigilantes, dudes and other rodeo news of days gone byJohanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 13, 2014 10:30 am  • 

The annual Fiesta de los Vaqueros is on its way. Almost everyone in Tucson dresses in western gear. Schools close for the rodeo parade. Nothing has changed.

Seventy-five years ago it was much the same. From the Arizona Daily Star, Saturday, Feb. 4, 1939:

VIGILANTES CALL BLUFF OF DUDES
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Fast Shooting Sets Tangle At Noon Today, If All Goes Wrong
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Thar'll be shootin' and bloodshed a-plenty around noon today, if all goes well. Recent reports of a bunch of local dudes and citizens that aim to monkey with the Vigilantes—aim, in fact, to just plumb defy them—have riled the Vigilantes plenty.

Vigilante scouts overheard a stool pigeon of the dude bunch tell a fellow last night, that the dudes were going to lay for the Vigilantes at noon today, and bushwhack 'em when they rode into the clear where Stone Gulch meets up with Pennington Wash.

Them dudes fancies themselves as being tough, the Vigilantes information committee opines, and intend to clear the country of the whole bunch. On the otherhand, the Vigilantes kind of think they are just about the toughest crowd here-abouts, so it looks like gunplay—to the last man.

Vigilantes yesterday sneered at the report that the dudes had 'em a lawyer, and a copy of the Constitution. "We're the law west of the Pantano" the information committee stated. "We aim to clean out this dude bunch, and the sooner done the quicker."

So, as originally planned, the Vigilantes will ride into the clear, around noon today, and if the dudes make good their threats, there'll be plenty of trouble. So confident are the Vigilantes that they can call the bluff of the dudes, ride into the planned-bushwhack, and come out top, that they figure to carry their portable jail along with them, parking it in front of Jack Proctor's Pioneer trading post, and throwing into same all dudes not rendered completely dead by the ensuing business session, which is to say the shootin'.

Well, the Morgue Lady hopes this is all tongue in cheek. She hates to think of the gun play that may ensue and the innocent bystanders who may be harmed.

The following day, Tucsonans were warned that they must don western wear or fear reprisal from the Vigilantes.

From the Star, Sunday, Feb. 5, 1939:

DEADLINE COMES FOR BIG HAT DAY
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All Local Recalcitrants Will Be Jailed After Today for Slacking
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Tomorrow is the deadline!

With 10 days' warning decreed sufficient, the Vigilante corps of the Tucson junior chamber of commerce rides again. And all who have failed to heed repeated admonitions to don western apparel will be fair game of the galloping outriders.

The new portable jail is ready and in fact willing to open its maw and receive the protesting quarry which the Vigilantes, without fear or favor, will round up. There is but one offense that can be committed on and after tomorrow's sunrise—to appear on the streets of Tucson not garbed at least in a big hat.

Vigilante outriders have been champing at their respective bits for these past 10 days, anxious to have off with delay and to be off and at 'em. Just for the sake of the record, "'em" embraces that heretofore described non-big-hat wearer.

Scoffing at repeated rumors of an organized revolt against their big-hat program, Vigilantes last night pointed to the rout, yesterday noon, of an attempted rebellion, which was quickly stamped out in the downtown section.

"They don't come big enough, or mean enough, or tough enough, or enough enough to stop us," the information committee stated at its last night press conference.

And so, recalcitrants, from now on its going to be jail, jail, jail....

Meanwhile, the future of the annual rodeo was looking bright with ticket sales booming and parade details complete.

From the Star, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 1939:

RODEO'S FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT
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Committee Hears of Progress Made in Plans at Lunch Meeting
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With advance ticket sales higher than in any previous year this far from show date, Gomer Lewis, in charge of the ticket sales committee of the Junior chamber of commerce, informed the rodeo executive committee yesterday that indications of the largest crowd in Tucson rodeo history prevailed.

The executive committee, in session in the Old Pueblo club, awarded the concession contract to Charles Fowler for $401, heard the reports of individual committees through chairmen and outlined last minute arrangements.

Parade Is Ready

Pete Waggoner, head of the parade committee, announced that all details for the parade were complete and the big western spectacle of the show would top all previous attempts. His report was backed up by that of Harold Wilson, in charge of music, who said the uniformed band of the University of Arizona will appear each day of the show as well as in the parade.

The Lions club, sponsors of the big hat-go western movement ever since 1928, have been retained in that capacity for the coming year, their representatives were informed yesterday, while the vigilante committee—a separate unit, made up largely of Jaycees will continue to support the western dress idea in conjunction with the Lions club.

Vigilantes Warned

The vigilantes, who were warned yesterday to confine their gunfire to daylight hours, will make daily apearances on the downtown streets, but care will be taken to confine the activities to such nature as to avoid offense to those not in sympathy with robust humor when applied to their person, Pete Waggoner said.

Representatives of the Indian tribes which will take part in the Indian day celebration reported on the progress of that phase of the annual show and outlined several new additions to their program.

The rodeo is big news in Tucson and it will continue to be so for a long time. So saddle up!

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

Tales from the Morgue is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library - also known as News and Research Services - for 18 years before becoming an online content producer for StarNet. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@azstarnet.com.

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