Sunday, August 25, 2013
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HALF-BREED – BACK-STORY
Back when I owned one of my weekly newspapers, (over my career I owned 8) I was sent an article about an Apache half-breed named Chato who was murdered in the streets of Tombstone in 1880. I researched the event and couldn’t find any record of the crime. I handed it off to my editor and he couldn’t verify the story either.
At the time I was reluctant to run the piece because my policy was to print news and features; not fiction. A few years later while researching something else, I saw a short blurb on the ‘Chato Affair’. It had occurred in the streets of Tucson – not Tombstone. By this time I had sold the newspaper and had moved on. I looked into the Chato killing and discovered it was indeed a true occurrence in 1866; the year Arizona territory was established. I also learned there were no laws on the books at that time (1860’s) to punish those that murdered an Indian or half-breed. I advanced the story to the late 1880’s, fictionalized the events surrounding the killing of Chato and wrote my period novella, HALF-BREED.
During my research I discovered the law enforcement of that era was marginal at best. In addition, Tucson was very corrupt and some of the law enforcement officials were in the pockets of the Tucson Mob. Most ranchers took the law into their own hands to prevent and punish thieves. This was one of the elements that prevented Arizona Territory from becoming a state of the union until 1912; the last of the contiguous states to be admitted.