A Piece Of History

Sheriff Jim encounters a legendary firearm from the Old West.

by
posted on June 17, 2024
Sheriff Jim Wilson

This story is a bit of a change from my usual topics, but I thought you folks might enjoy it. The Texas Gun Collectors Association is a group that I call “The big boys at the bicycle rack.” Their shows, attended by invitation only, are full of unbelievable stuff, like tables full of mint vintage Winchesters, historic guns and western history memorabilia. I used to go whenever I could and drool over all the really interesting guns and history. I also enjoyed seeing the late Bobby McNellis, owner of El Paso Saddlery.

This particular time in the early 1970s, the show was in Dallas at one of the hotels. As soon as I got in the door, I sought out Bobby to catch up on our visiting. When I got to Bobby’s table, I found that he was accompanied by a slim, gray-haired gentleman that he introduced as Jarvis Garrett.

I asked, “Where are you from, Mr. Garrett?”

He answered, “I’m from Albuquerque.”

“Well,” I said, “You must be one of those Garretts.”

“Yessir, Pat Garrett was my father.”

Well, you could have knocked me over with a stick. Being a history buff, I was in hog heaven. And Mr. Garrett was kind enough to tell me some stories about his famous father. Jarvis Garrett was Pat’s youngest child and was born only a few years before his father was murdered a few miles above Las Cruces, New Mexico. That murder, still quite controversial, occurred in 1908.

After visiting for a while, I got up to leave. That’s when Bobby asked me if I was armed. When I said that I was, he mentioned that it was already dark outside and Mr. Garrett needed to get something out of his car. Would I please go out with him for safety’s sake?  I was happy to.

So we went out and got his briefcase out of the car trunk and made our way back inside. When I got ready to leave again, Garrett said that I should sit down, and he would show me what I had been bodyguarding.

And with that, he opened the case and handed me the gun that his father used to kill Billy the Kid. It was a well-used 7 1/2-inch Colt Frontier in .44-40 Win., with one-piece walnut stocks. Also in the case were several of Pat Garrett’s badges and a couple of his pocket watches. Jarvis Garrett, having no heirs, had arranged the sale of this historic collection to a Texas gun collector of some stature.

As you can imagine, this was one of the highlights of my life spent with guns. But it is also a reminder to all of us, especially those of us in the Southwest, that our history is often far more recent than we realize. The lawman and outlaw are part of our lives and tradition. That of the lawfully armed citizen is too.

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