A legend during his lifetime, a folk hero after his death, Elfego Baca (1865-1945) was a true product of the Western frontier. Best remembered for his single-handed battle against an estimated eighty Texas cowboys who fired a reported four thousand shots at him without effect, Baca achieved the reputation as one of New Mexico’s most colorful figures during his long career as a gunfighter, ruffian, lawyer, sheriff, mayor, district attorney and perennial candidate for state and federal offices. Three times he was tried and acquitted of murder charges, as well as a charge of conspiracy against the United States government. Ranking in popular imagination alongside the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, Baca’s fight with the Texas cowboys has been the subject of countless articles as well as films and Hispanic folk songs.
Elfego Baca (1865-1945), long considered one of New Mexico’s most colorful and controversial figures, first achieved fame in 1884 as a nineteen-year-old deputy sheriff who single-handedly fought off an estimated eighty bloodthirsty cowboys who fired a reported four thousand shots at him without effect during a two-day siege. The reputation stayed with him for the remainder of his long and eventful life.
Often using his gunfighter reputation to enforce his will, Baca embarked on a long and varied career as a lawyer, private detective, sheriff, county clerk, school superintendent, mayor and district attorney. His unorthodox methods in most instances gave him the added reputation as both a good man and a bad man.
Baca counted Billy the Kid and Pancho Villa among his many friends and acquaintances, although the latter reportedly offered $30,000 for his head. Three times he was tried for murder, but acquitted each time, and he also was charged and acquitted of a charge of conspiracy against the United States government.
Howard Bryan’s lively book examines both the facts and the legends of this picturesque and often amusing character whose eventful life was the subject of a Walt Disney television series, “The Nine Lives of Elfego Baca.”