'Badlands' of Southern Arizona - Cowtown Keeylocko Outfit
By Tony Dorty
Some where in the mesquite and 'chouia" cactus of the ' Badlands " of Southern Arizona , just off Ajo road and nestled in the Indian reservation, is 'Cowtown Keeylocko". Built rustic board by rustic board and rusted metal by rusted metal by a 'Cowboy" and 'Cattle Rancher", named Ed Keeylocko. Every nail, board and metal had a piece of Ed in it or on it. Both he and 'Cowtown" had long history, some of it good, perhaps more than enough bad. But they both stood, solid and both had stories to tell from dawn to dusk. Ed came from way back and had 'spit" with the best of them and knew them all. He had also survived them all and looked as if he had plenty of 'Cowboy'in" left to do before he was done. And when he was done he'd look forward to where ever it was that he was going. He figures he has done enough right on this 'side of the river" to end up in a place where he could take cool walks in the afternoon.
He shared his 'Cowboy Way" with a bunch of modern day Buffalo Soldiers, historians, any body who felt so inclined to wander in, to include a cute freckle faced nurse, whose husband he nick named 'Handsome. They came for the 'Great Cowtown Keylocko Roundup" and to share an experience of the West only the Cowboy knew. And for 3 glorious days they knew no other 'Way", only the 'Cowboy" one Ed had invited them to.
The 'Outfit" was made up of folks from various parts of Arizona and other parts west of its borders. L Company 9th Cavalry lead by Linus Hinton came from around the Phoenix Area. Members of that unit included George Taylor, who portrays a Seminole Negro Scout, Brian Barham, Reggie Simmons and Stan; no one seemed to know his last name. Sharon Hiest traveled from other parts of Arizona as did Rocky Nealy and his wife. Tony and Elaine Dorty crossed the border from California . All would share comradeship and a wonderful experience. Though he was not there in the flesh, Bennie McRae's spirit was with them all. In a round about way he was responsible for all of them being there, it was he who acquainted them all.
Once together the 'Outfit" took on a peculiar identity not unlike its predecessors. Everyone had a peculiarity about them that warmed every body to them; it bonded the 'Outfit" together very quickly. Linus, keep it easy with his antics, a regular 'Coyote" with his Old school songs and philosophy of life, mostly his. He was though passionate about what he was doing there at Keeylocko, what brought him there, he connected the dots and the spirit of the cavalry rode with him always. George and Tony had plenty of war stories to tell, they were indeed a 'Band of Brothers". Brian was the quiet one; he kept Linus in check as it appeared he always did and kept Tony safe in the saddle. Reggie finally told the story of the 'Infamous New Orleans Ride", when he finally told it, it took him forever to get to the good part. Sharon kept the 'Outfit" nourished as Ed was suppose to cook breakfast, but each day never got there in time to cook it. Several times the 'Outfit", contemplated bolting the reservation to go into town and get 'Grub". Sharon 's intervention and solution prevented and preempted starvation. A 'Cowboys" morning cup of coffee was even a problem until one of the boys commandeered a coffee pot from off of, (as a lot of stuff, hung here and there off the structures) or inside some where, where it had been collecting dust for a decade or more. Elaine graced the rustic Cowtown with her beauty and charm; she fit right in and said nary a word about the fact that there was no running water to be had in the whole town save the spigot water and that was what they were giving the 'critters" of Keeylocko and the horses.
The 'Outfit" rode the range for two days chasing elusive strays that seemed to know the 'Cowpunchers" every move. They seemed to draw the 'Buckaroos" out and then double in behind them close to home. Both days they were spotted on the return and the 'Outfit" gave chase. Day one they split the boys at the perimeter, Tony, George and Linus caught on one side, Brian and Israel on the other. Tony's deal in the whole thing ended when he and DW had their second episode with the cactus. The Boys rode into town empty handed and slightly 'Blooded". Day two was a rerun with a few differences, Tony had a new horse and a more positive experience and no cactus episodes. This time the boys were joined by two other experienced cowboys in Bobby and Manny and they ventured further out. As it was the day before, the strays had doubled back, but this time the boys had picked up the trail long before they spotted them. Linus saw them first, or did he say he smelled them? Never the less they were indeed spotted and the boys fanned out aiming to get the best of these cows. Tony and Brian rode hard for the fence to block them if they were turned. Linus and Israel rode hard to head them off and turn them back. Back in town the folks had their cameras ready to catch the triumphant 'Outfit" driving the strays into the corral. It was however not to be, even Israel mounted on a fast cutting horse couldn't get in front of them. The best the boys good do was to gallop their horses into town to the delight of the people gathered there.
The early parts of the evening were spent in two places depending on the disposition of the 'Cowboys". At times in Keeylocko or at the officer's tent Linus had put up a short distance away from town where the mounts were picketed. Either place had its share of war story telling, gossip, ribb'in and jibb'in and reflective conversation. It was a place where 'Cowboys" would be, and a slip of the tongue was excused by the Ladies and treated as such. Each one had their favorite westerns, although some favorites weren't westerns at all. Everyone knew themselves blessed to be on that patch of ground at that time, together doing what they so love and it was made known seldom in words. Often times a look or a smile would tell it.
It was indeed a memorable experience for 'Bennie's Brigade", one which will be long on ones memory. The soft melodic voice of Herb Jeffries first welcomed them on that Thursday evening. That same voice said goodbye and stayed adrift in their wake as they and others returned to the points from whence they came. The 'Outfit" left Cowtown Keeylocko and Ed behind, and rode into the face of the sun. Some where on that range the cows they'd chased for two days might have been thinking they would have a long respite.
They don't know that Bobby, Manny and Israel will be on them tomorrow and the next day, if that day doesn't give 'em up first.
Gallery (Click images to enlarge.)
The Boys had been out foxed by cattle that knew every inch of the range and every trick when it came to negotiating the abundance of 'Jumping Cactus' that peppered the range. Israel the 'Boss,' of the outfit had the only horse familiar with the terrain. The cows split in two groups when they were spotted and there fore split the 'Boys' as well. Tony and George lost canteens in the 'chase.' They found them both the next day. All in all it was a good experience for the 'Boys' and their mounts. There was always tomorrow and these 'Cowboys' had a good idea where the 'strays' would be the next day. In this image George, Tony and Linus discuss the days events.
'You and Me, DW,' Tony pulling cactus needles out of 'DW' with a set of tweezers. This horse and its rider had two brushes with the cactus on day one. 'DW,' got the worst of it when he stepped on it and bolted with Tony in the saddle head long thru a field of cactus. The 'Boys' kept yelling for Tony to jump off, he never did. No one couldn't say that Tony wasn't brave, but with the abundance of cactus all around them, Tony might have felt safer in the saddle then on his but in a cactus plant. Bravery had nothing to do with, but pulling 4 inch needles of cactus out of ones hind area had more than a lot to do with it.
The 'Cowboys' had gotten separated by a chunk of irregular terrain, that was a stand of trees and a watering hole. It was a place the 'Cowboys' were sure the cows would be, but they were not. A fence on the far side kept the boys from riding any further out. Tony and Manny were on the extreme side and had been separated from the 'Outfit,' but only momentarily. Manny hooked up with Bobby and Tony rode over the far side of the hills crest to link up with the boys at the watering hole. All was not a total loss, the horses got a chance to drink and get there feet wet and the boys got a moments rest in the saddle.