Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | November 23, 2010

Law West of the Pecos

En Route to Big Bend National Park | 22 November 2010

Someone remarked that you know you’re in Texas when you measure distance by hours rather than miles. Today, Cheryl and I drove from Houston to Marathon — a nine-hour marathon of a drive across vast stretches of our beautiful State. We are on our way to Big Bend National Park. Big Bend is a beautiful part of our state tucked away in a big bend delineated to the south by the Rio Grande River. We have always wanted to go there and decided that it would be a great place to spend our anniversary. I first visited this part of Texas in 1972 when I attended the Buffalo Trails Boy Scout Camp in the nearby Davis Mountains. One of the most memorable parts of that journey was stopping at Langtry to visit the Jersey Lilly — the place where the legendary Kentucky-born Judge Roy Bean dispensed justice in the late 1800’s. Roy Bean called himself the “Law West of the Pecos.”

I learned about Judge Roy Bean from my grandfather when I was a kid growing up in the hot South Texas town of Mission. My grandfather was a real estate broker and served on the Mission City Council. One year he was recognized as the oldest city commissioner actively serving in the state of Texas. He also provided notary and translation services to folks in town and leased a part of his office to the local Justice of the Peace. The Justice of the Peace had an old painting of the Jersey Lilly hanging on the wall in his office. The building in the painting had a sign prominently displayed above its entrance: Judge Roy Bean | Justice of the Peace | Law West of the Pecos.

My grandfather shared amusing stories with me about the colorful Judge Roy Bean. It’s hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to Judge Bean. But there is no question that he was a fascinating character in Texas history. He owned a single law book but rarely referred to it. Instead, he dispensed his own brand of justice. Once, Judge Bean fined a corpse, ironically for the exact amount that the deceased man had in his pocket when he died! But, in the lawless and desolate Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas, Judge Bean was the man for the job. So, when my Boy Scout Troop leader announced that we would be traveling to the Davis Mountains and would visit the Jersey Lilly along the way, I was excited to have the opportunity to see a place I had heard so much about.

Cheryl and I enjoyed our brief stop in Langtry. Later in the evening, we talked about how important it is for parents (and grandparents) to nurture a sense of curiosity in their kids — a sense of curiosity about interesting people and places. In some ways it seems that it’s harder to get kids to look at the real world because so many are absorbed in the virtual world. Revisting the Jersey Lilly brought back a flood of good memories and lots of gratitude for my grandfather who took the time to answer my questions and to tell me stories that captured my imagination and created in me a longing to visit interesting places.


Responses

  1. Great story Omar. So…are you in the photo or are you behind the camera?

    Jeff

    • Hey Jeff,

      I am front and center. Good memories.

      Omar~

  2. I’m so glad you and Cheryl are have an anniversary blast in Big Bend, such an awesome place. Congratulations on 30 wonderful years, I love you both.
    Debbie


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