The Sheriff And His Partner

By Frank Harris, 1894
The Sheriff And His Partner

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Excerpt

THE SHERIFF AND HIS PARTNER.

By Frank Harris

One afternoon in July, 1869, I was seated at my desk in Locock's law-office in the town of Kiota, Kansas. I had landed in New York from Liverpool nearly a year before, and had drifted westwards seeking in vain for some steady employment. Lawyer Locock, however, had promised to let me study law with him, and to give me a few dollars a month besides, for my services as a clerk. I was fairly satisfied with the prospect, and the little town interested me. An outpost of civilization, it was situated on the border of the great plains, which were still looked upon as the natural possession of the nomadic Indian tribes. It owed its importance to the fact that it lay on the cattle-trail which led from the prairies of Texas through this no man's land to the railway system, and that it was the first place where the cowboys coming north could find a bed to sleep in, a bar to drink at, and a table to gamble on. For some years they had made of Kiota a hell upon earth. But gradually the land in the neighbourhood was taken up by farmers, emigrants chiefly from New England, who were determined to put an end to the reign of violence. A man named Johnson was their leader in establishing order and tranquillity. Elected, almost as soon as he came to the town, to the dangerous post of City Marshal, he organized a vigilance committee of the younger and more daring settlers, backed by whom he resolutely suppressed the drunken rioting of the cowboys. After the ruffians had been taught to behave themselves, Johnson was made Sheriff of the County, a post which gave him a house and permanent position. Though married now, and apparently "settled down," the Sheriff was a sort of hero in Kiota. I had listened to many tales about him, showing desperate determination veined with a sense of humour, and I often regretted that I had reached the place too late to see him in action. I had little or nothing to do in the office. The tedium of the long days was almost unbroken, and Stephen's "Commentaries" had become as monotonous and unattractive as the bare uncarpeted floor. The heat was tropical, and I was dozing when a knock startled me. A negro boy slouched in with a bundle of newspapers: "This yer is Jedge Locock's, I guess?" "I guess so," was my answer as I lazily opened the third or fourth number of the "Kiota Weekly Tribune." Glancing over the sheet my eye caught the following paragraph:

     "HIGHWAY ROBBERY WITH VIOLENCE.

     JUDGE SHANNON STOPPED.

     THE OUTLAW ESCAPES. HE KNOWS SHERIFF JOHNSON.

"Information has just reached us of an outrage perpetrated on the person of one of our most respected fellow-citizens. The crime was committed in daylight, on the public highway within four miles of this city; a crime, therefore, without parallel in this vicinity for the last two years. Fortunately our County and State authorities can be fully trusted, and we have no sort of doubt that they can command, if necessary, the succour and aid of each and every citizen of this locality in order to bring the offending miscreant to justice.