Friday, July 22, 2016

On The Road: Judge Roy Bean and Poetic Justice

Jersey Lilly Saloon...and courthouse of Judge Roy Bean in Langtry, Texas.

Even the historical markers in southern Texas state that it's hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to Judge Roy Bean, the self-professed only "law west of the Pecos."

Whether the following death sentence was ever handed down by Bean is murky. Notoriously famous as a hanging judge there is scant evidence that he ever sentenced anyone to death. If he did, there is no evidence that the sentence was carried out. What cannot be denied is that the sentence reads as poetic justice.

You Will Not Be There

Jose Manuel Miguel Gonzales,
in a few short weeks it will be spring.
The snows of winter will flow away,
the ice will vanish,
the air will become soft and balmy.
The annual miracle of the years
will awaken and come to pass.
But you will not be there.

The rivulet will run
its soaring course to the sea.
The timid desert flowers
will put forth their tender shoots.
The glorious valleys in this imperial domain
will blossom as the rose.
Still you will not be there.

From every treetop,
some wildwood songster will carol his mating song.
Butterflies will sport in the sunshine.
The gentle breeze will tease the tassels of the wild grasses
and all nature will be glad.
But you will not be there to enjoy it.

Because I command the sheriff of the county
to lead you away to some remote spot,
swing you by the neck from a knotting bough of some sturdy oak
and let you hang until dead.
And then Jose Manuel Miguel Gonzales,
I further command that such officer retire quickly from you

— Judge Roy Bean

There wasn't much to Langtry,Texas at the turn of the last century and there isn't much there today. But what was there has been preserved and that includes the saloon that also served as the court of Judge Roy Bean. Bean — the man, the myth — served as justice off and on from 1882 until his death following a night of heavy drinking in the saloon in 1903.

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