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Confessions of a Horse Thief by Alias Spearman
Denver Post, October 15, 1905

Chet Spearman, Horse Thief, Cattle Rustler and All Around Desperado, Says It Does Not Pay to be a Horsethief. He ought to know, for he is at this moment serving a fourteen years' term in Canon City for that very offense. Read what he has to say about the way of the transgressor. It may be interesting to you.


SPEARMAN is not his real name - just one of his many aliases. The bad man has a record of crime that has no parallel in the central West. To look at him, one would never suppose for a moment that he has handled thousands of head of live stock and after months of trailing shipped the horses and cattle to Eastern points by the train load. New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Chicago and St. Louis has been the market for his stock for 15 years.

Spearman is 26 years of age, six feet in height, Jewish cast of features, superb physique, very pleasing address, and the thousand little wrinkles that radiate from his steel gray eyes tell that his life has been spent on the trail, on plain and mountain country alike.

"If I had kept to the open ranges and not molested the pastures that the high-bred and high-priced animals are turned into, I would never have had to come here to pass the most pleasant period in a man's life. Well, I'm here and I guess, by the looks of things, I will serve my just sentence.

"Yes, I was born in Colorado, up in what is now called the potato belt. My first crime was committed when I was but 9 years of age." He smiled in a reminiscent way.

"I* was influed by a man to steal a load of potatoes. This same man is now a member of the Denver police force. This was my initial start. The money was easy, and potatoes about Greeley were to be had for the loading and cartage. I delivered them to Denver and pocketed the proceeds.

"Sixteen years ago there were comparatively no fences in the country, except a few big outfits. I started on the open range by myself, picking up mavericks (and a few head that were not), and drove them over the "belt" trail into Wyoming, where there was a quick market. I naturally drifted into the horse business. We picked up 600 head in Montana and Wyoming, rushed them down the Colorado river trail into the Arizona White mountains, then to the Santa Fe railway at Cambray, and shipped to Chicago, where the four of us cleaned up a nice pile. It was on this trip that I became acquainted with Tom Horn - an acquaintance that ripened into a friendship lasting until his death.

"Tom? Oh, yes, I could have been in the same business that he was if I had wanted to - but not for me. Stealing horses and cattle is bad enough, but not the other - no show for the other man.

"Well, the repeatedly successful issues of our raids made us bolder, and with less thought of capture and greater surety of big money. We inauguared the relay system of riding a bunch away. For instance, we picked up a few hundred in the Big Horn country. Myself and two riders hiked them seventy miles; then another bunch of men took them a hundred and fifty, or until they were in fine feed and safe quarters on the Black Mesa, in Gunnison county. This particular bunch were shipped to Los Angeles - a half dozen of us went by passenger train.

"Oh, yes; we had one big bunch - ten cars of good horses, Oregon stock, which we peddled in New York. This thing of changing brands is no good. It is bound to be the undoing of a man in my business. Take them as they are, relay them over the unused trail at a gallop for a week, then turn them into an out-of-the-way draw in the hills until they pick up; then drive them to a railroad and ship a thousand miles - easy money. If I had only adhered to the original line, I would have been in business yet; but -!

"I fairly delivered myself to Leonard De Lue, county detective of Denver. Like a fool I went into a pasture near Fort Collins and hitched up a fine pair of Kentuckys to a rubber-tired road wagon and drove into Denver. De Lue was waiting for me, and here I am, for fourteen years. I ought to be here.

"Did a posse ever have me? Did they! Good Lord, it makes the chills run down my back to think of it. Something like ten years ago I was rounded up with three middle-aged partners near Laramie, Wyo. I was young looking and innocent of expression. My pards were jerked up into a big old cottonwood. I was tied and the old grizzlies were just getting ready to give a big pull on the rock that was around my neck and half chocking me, when some one yelled: 'Hold on; wait a minute! Maybe he will tell us where the rest of the horse thieves are. They slacked away and to all their queries I replied that I knew nothing - and that is all that I remembered until I came to lying across the horn of a saddle ridden by one of my gang. Four of the boys had decoyed the posse and I was saved - the other three were dead and riddled with bullets. I was saved by the fraction of a hair. God! but it was awful! The thoughts of your lights-going-out sensation? Just a tightening around the throat and then your head bursting with pain - feels as if your head was being pumped full of something and then it burst.

Well, sir, I went to work on a ranch near Greeley and was good for two years. I went into the business again, bigger than ever, too. Down in Kansas, over the line from Brush, I was again taken prisoner by a posse, one partner was hung, another shot trying to escape, and I was hauled up and down by the neck until I went out. This crowd turned me loose on account of my youthfulness and innocent manner. How I lit out of that country was no trouble, and I haven't been down there since. What's more, 'Bud,' I'm not going back there.

"Never any more Wyoming for me, either. It was up there, just a while back - during Tom Horn's activity - that I met it - I mean the scare of my life. It was more terrible, even, than my two experiences on the light end of the rope. I had picked up quite a nice bunch of horses and was heading for the Colorado pastures. Coming across country I met two men riding - one was middle-aged and the other a bit younger; they were strangers to me. Two days afterward I had my bunch turned out in a blind draw up on the edge of the Green river country. It was just at sunset. I was tired for i had been given a chase the day before and had come a good many miles. I noticed a bunch of horses scattered about the hills and figured that I would pick out the best of them in the early morning and add them to my string. Well, sir, I was never so tired in my life as I was that night. I pulled the saddle off my ony, picketed one near me for the morrow, and dragged my saddle, blankets and tarpaulin to the butt of a big spruce tree and made ready for a much needed rest. I rolled up in the covering, took off my boots and hat and snoodled my head down in the saddle seat comfortably and, half asleep, turned over on my back. Some unknown influence drew my eyes wide open. Ugh! Lord! Lord, can I ever forget that sight? Swaying gently in the evening breeze, fifteen feet almost directly over me, were the hanging bodies of the two men I had met but two days previous, and their popping, staring eyes were looking directly into my own bulging orbs. Pinned to the breast of each was, "Horse Thief - Beware.'

"I was paralyzed with fear. I was sick with the thought of the two deaths above me. In the fraction of a second I tore off my covering. I took that picketed pony's back in one jump. Bootless and hatless, I went into the night, riding like the mill tails of hell, and, what's more of it, I rode that way all the way down to Cananea, Old Mexico. God! man, it was terrible - the beautiful night, with the fragrance of pinon in the sweet, dry air, and drowsiness, and then those two hideous things above me. Whew! It starts the perspiration now.

"Oh, you're welcome. Kind of think that I"ll keep to strays, mavericks and long ears after I finish my rest in prison. Good-by!"

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