The Law of Capture
1869 - 1875
My life has been a long string of false moves, one after the other, until fortune blessed one of my failures. There were no guiding principles in my life. I advanced through my years on the strength of my own reckless manhood. Things happened, good, bad or neither and I reacted to them accordingly. I have managed to stay alive as long as I have because I changed my opinions to fit the prevailing wisdom. Only an idiot would think he was certain about everything. And I tried not to think too much. If a situation required thought, I kept it simple and put little faith in the results. I began my life with one name and I will end my days with another. Was I two different men? Or more likely, two halves of the same person. Regardless of what name I traveled under, I will do my best to truthfully set down the momentous events from that distant time. But reader be warned, my memory is a rushing river and my pen is a thin channel of ink.
I was thrown into this world as Corky Vance. At the age of fourteen I left home to fight the tail end of the War Between the States. My father and older brothers fought on the side of the rebels. I joined the union army as a camp attendant to my uncle. The war, for many men, was the school that trained them as outlaws and bandits. After that savage conflict these rough men found it difficult to put down their guns as they had grown restless for the thrill of battle.
I returned from the war, a sixteen year old veteran, to find life on my father’s farm a little too quiet. With a horse and a few dollars in my pocket I rode out to see the new country. In Fort Smith, Arkansas I found work driving a wagon of lumber to the Indian Territory. Upon my return my boss refused to pay me. Perhaps my age persuaded him that I would not pursue payment. He was wrong. I clubbed him to the ground and took my wages. Unfortunately, he died a few days later.
I was arrested and indicted. The only defense I offered at my trial was the truth, which proved to be sufficient. I was acquitted. As I was leaving the courtroom after the trial the sheriff took me aside and told me the man’s brothers were not pleased with the verdict and suggested that I should seek a healthier climate.
I decided to ride for Texas.