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45 CAPTAIN SCOTT AND COMPANY F arrived at the camp near Hemphill where they had been the previous autumn. It was the last week of March and a meeting with the local authorities convinced the Rangers that the Conners were on a rampage, intimidating the locals then recoiling back into the safety of the dense forest and bayou country like a deadly snake. Scott retained the “deputized” services of a small-time Sabine County crook who could communicate with the Conners and track them into their lair. Scott also deputized Judge James Polly from Hemphill, and Judge William Wallace Weatherred, a district judge from nearby Milam (and later a deputy marshal), came along as well. Henry Harris and John Toole, local merchants, and Milton Anthony rounded out the posse of deputized citizens.1 These men knew the country, knew the Conners, and were good with a gun. With Scott on this manhunt was his sergeant John Brooks, and Privates Jim Carmichael, Jim Moore (just transferred from Company C), William “Billy” Treadwell, Bob Crowder, Ed Caldwell, Len Harvey, Bob Fenton, and John Rogers.2 On the morning of March 25 the posse rode south out of Hemphill four miles until they crossed the deep gulch of Housen Bayou. They continued south about ten miles, first along Walnut Creek and then to the county border along Brushy CHAPTER 4 The Conner Fight Chapter Four 46 ★ Creek and Big Sandy. Working their way back northward with the help of their guide (who may have been Redden Alford), the Ranger posse searched high and low for the elusive Conners. Five days went by, the men silently complaining about the elements but pressing on in their search of the rugged wilderness that enveloped them. On March 30 they picked up what they thought might be a trail which took them back to Walnut Creek and then east about one mile. They were less than ten miles south of Hemphill. As the sun set to their backs, the Rangers stared with uncertainty into the black forest. An abandoned house stood at the edge of a meadow; the spy said he believed one of the Conners used to live there. Two hundred paces east lay two small graves with roughly carved stones indicating the deaths of two small children ten years earlier.3 Somewhere just a few hundred yards farther east and down a steep hillside was a shallow but running stream named Lick Creek (or Lick Branch) meandering its way slowly toward the Sabine. The infiltrator told Scott that the Conners had been moving their camp up and down the creek bed, but that they kept a bell on their packhorse when moving in the thick underbrush. The Rangers could position themselves to hear the bell and capture the Conners while they slept. The spy disappeared, presumably to locate the Conner camp, and was gone for several hours. Midnight passed. The Rangers kept silent in the darkness. The informer returned about two o’clock and pointed into the blackness where he had spotted the campsite in a deep dry gulch. At a hand signal the men dismounted at the abandoned structure, the Ranger horses obediently silent in this tense situation. Scott motioned to his men and they quietly divided into two prearranged groups. Crowder, Caldwell, Weatherred, Polly and the other three locals moved off to the left; Scott took the rest of his company and moved right. Their plan was to find the Conner camp somewhere between them and descend upon the criminals from both sides. In the black night, both parties walked right past the camp without ever spotting it. Later reports indicated that the Conners had stumbled onto the Ranger trail at some point earlier, took the bell off the packhorse, doused their torches and a kerosene lamp, and waited The Conner Fight 47 ★ to launch their own attack. With them were four vicious hunting dogs, also laying in wait. The group sneaking to the left did not participate in the action, hearing too late the gunfire that signaled the bloodbath in the deep piney woods. Brooks walked down into the gully and motioned to Scott that they should make their way back up this gulch in case it was the one where the campsite was located. The six Rangers, guns drawn and senses sharpened, spread abreast and began stalking the gully. They had walked less than a hundred yards when they became vaguely aware that it was first light, only a half-hour...


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