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With Blood in Their Eyes

Thomas Cobb

Publication Year: 2012

On February 10, 1918, John Power woke to the sound of bells and horses’ hooves. He was sharing a cabin near the family mine with his brother Tom and their father Jeff; hired man Tom Sisson was also nearby. Then gunfire erupted, and so began the day when the Power brothers engaged the Graham County Sheriff’s Department in the bloodiest shootout in Arizona history.

Now Thomas Cobb, author of Crazy Heart and Shavetail, has taken up the story in this powerful and meticulously researched nonfiction novel. What seems at first a simple tale of crime and pursuit takes on much greater meaning and complexity as the story traces the past lives of the main characters and interconnects them—all leading back to the deadly confrontation that begins the book. Cobb cunningly weaves the story of the Power brothers’ escape with flashbacks of the boys’ father’s life and his struggle to make a living ranching, logging, and mining in the West around the turn of the century. Deftly drawn characters and cleverly concealed motivations work seamlessly to blend a compelling family history with a desperate story of the brothers as they attempt to escape.

Grappling with themes of loyalty, masculinity, technology, and honor, this sweeping saga reveals the passion and brutality of frontier life in Arizona a hundred years ago. Richly authentic and beautifully written, With Blood in Their Eyes breathes dramatic new life into this nearly forgotten episode of the American West.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Prologue: February 10, 1918

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pp. 1-4

Tom went back into the cabin and poured some water from his canteen into a tin cup for the Old Man. He looked around. There wasn’t much there. Some clothes and their guns. A little food. They had been eating out of cans since Ola May died. Better take it all, he thought. He saw the leather folder for the mine papers and...

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Chapter One: 1918

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pp. 5-17

Tom Power had glass splinters in his eye. His brother John had a large wood splinter in his eye, and a piece of his nose had been blown off. Both were blind on the left side. The wounds were open and bleeding, and their blood mixed on their clothing with the blood of the dead and dying they had left behind...

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Chapter Two: 1889

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pp. 18-23

The young couple had ridden nearly four hours through the tall grass and scrub of the Hill Country, heading for Junction, Texas, county seat of Kimball County. They were dressed in their best clothes, though her dress had become embedded with grass and thorns from the terrain, and her hair had long ago come undone and hung in long...

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Chapter Three: 1918

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pp. 24-30

He walked over to where John slept. The sleep of the dead. He couldn’t help but think that. The sleep of the dead. He knelt down and shook John’s shoulder. Sisson would remember the gesture as one of love and gentleness and that it hadn’t surprised him. For all their bickering, for Tom’s acid tongue, they were brothers and loved...

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Chapter Four: 1896

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pp. 31-35

Jeff came up a small draw onto the mesa where he had seen the cattle. There were a number of them, maybe three dozen, grazing in the sweet grass. Of the three dozen, less than a dozen were his. He swore. This was the fifth time in three weeks he had had to ride out, hunt down the cattle, and separate his from the rest so he could drive...

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Chapter Five: 1918

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pp. 36-48

They hobbled the horses far apart. The horses didn’t like the separation and neighed back and forth to each other. The separation was going to make remounting more difficult and slow, but three horses hobbled together were sure to attract attention. Opportunity was built on calculated risks. They took their saddles and packs...

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Chapter Six: 1894

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pp. 49-56

Just outside of Cliff, New Mexico, they rented a cabin, too small for all of them. Jeff got on at the sawmill. It was hard work, but he liked it well enough. He had no known skill with the saw or any other dangerous equipment, and after he saw the second man carried from the mill with one less hand, he was content with his job of unloading...

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Chapter Seven: 1918

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pp. 57-71

Sisson took the lead then, heading them back toward the Dragoon Mountains and the Stronghold. It was a good place if they could get up there. For years the Apaches had used it as a place of refuge and attack. The Dragoons were the most rugged mountains in Arizona, and no one, except the Apaches, had been able to maneuver his...

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Chapter Eight: 1901

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pp. 72-85

Back in Cliff, New Mexico, after working odd jobs in Texas and New Mexico, Jeff found a faltering cattle ranch looking for an infusion of cash. He bought a half interest in the ranch. Within four months he understood that the ranch was failing because the owner, his new partner, was a drunk and, worse, an ignoramus. Jeff was no...

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Chapter Nine: 1915

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pp. 86-94

Robert Franklin McBride had been a deputy sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, for ten months when he could stand it no more. Again, he had arrested two men riding the road from Solomonville to Safford with a load of whiskey. Again, they had been released on the grounds of “insufficient evidence,” though there were six cases of...

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Chapter Ten: 1918

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pp. 95-116

Tom pulled them up to a line shack on the Hendricks ranch. They had ridden most of the day, not seeing anyone, as though the pursuit of them had just stopped. The line shack was small, more a pile of sticks than a building. Most of it was made from boards that looked like they’d been pulled off of packing crates. The roof...

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Chapter Eleven: 1916

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pp. 117-134

Lee Kirby was on duty at the US Forest Service office in Safford. It was a slow day, as most were, and Kirby was talking with T. T. Swift, who was off duty but hanging around the office because he could think of nothing else to do that held any interest. Both men turned their attention to the man who had just barged through the...

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Chapter Twelve: 1918

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pp. 135-145

Tom woke to the rush of wings above him. The sky was nearly dark, streaked with slender bands of rose and orange, and in the middle of it all, a long, dark spiral like the funnel of a tornado, only mottled and full of movement, soared high above them and deep into the night sky. Free-tailed bats. With the coming of the night...

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Chapter Thirteen: 1916

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pp. 146-153

In the days before and after the election, McBride thought about his strange encounter with Tom Power. The expected Democratic sweep hadn’t happened. He, President Wilson, and Governor Hunt were the only Democrats who won, and Hunt lost Graham County by over two hundred votes. And McBride’s election was...

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Chapter Fourteen: 1916

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pp. 154-173

The family began spending more and more time at the mine. On any given day, at least one would be working it. They sold a portion of their cattle to buy another string of burros, and they used the burros to power a stamp mill that crushed the rock and separated the ore from the bearing stone by simple gravity. They could then...

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Chapter Fifteen: 1918

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pp. 174-181

It was hard work, walking as quickly as they could, never really coming to full upright so they could take natural strides. Instead, they did something like a duck walk most of the time, the lactic acid building and burning in the muscles of their thighs. Tom had surrendered the glasses to Sisson, who needed to stop more often than...

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Chapter Sixteen: 1918

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pp. 182-185

Kempton began pacing back and forth, chewing his lip—a man trying to find something to say while he was trying not to say what wanted to come out. “If you just hand the job to me, I guess I’ll take it. I don’t want to take it from you, but you’re acting like you don’t want to be sheriff anymore. It’s all about how people see you...

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Chapter Seventeen: 1918

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pp. 186-193

It was no more than a walk through Bonita Canyon, through the scrub oak and mesquite, a steady uphill pull they were able to do standing up, not crouched, not looking back over their shoulders. Poke had given them a good lead on their pursuers. Ahead of them lay more than twenty miles of mountain to climb and scramble through...

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Chapter Eighteen: 1918

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pp. 194-202

McBride didn’t want to damage Martin’s chances at a future career, for Martin would be sheriff one of these days, soon enough, but he didn’t want to put him in the way of danger, either. Between the weather and the evidence that Haynes and maybe Kane as well had blood in their eyes, it looked like a dangerous piece...

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Chapter Nineteen: 1918

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pp. 203-210

Through the night, the cold came in waves. When Tom thought he couldn’t bear to be any colder, his body would adjust, and he would fall asleep for a short while. Then another wave of cold rolled in, dropping the temperature even farther. He was happy to get up and take his watch and let Sisson try to deal with the cold while he huddled...

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pp. 211

On May 20, 1918, Tom and John Power and Tom Sisson were found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder. The testimony of Marshal Frank Haynes was central to the state’s case. He swore that the first shot had been fired from the cabin. The three were sentenced to natural life in prison at the Arizona State Penitentiary in...

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pp. 213

I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. John Sellechio, OD, for his counsel on eye trauma. To my graduate students—Jane, Amanda, and Adam—and Rod Siino, Rusty Barnes, and Katie and Brian Laferte for reading and advising well. To Bob Carey for reading and helping with the title. To the late Barry Briggs, who...

About the Author

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pp. 215

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599486
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816521104

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012