Hanging in my memory are vague stories I read about Judge Roy Bean, the Hanging Judge of Texas. As we pulled the motor home into Langtry, Texas, (iffen ya all don't know,) that's Bean country. Jim remarked, "Now if ole' Roy was alive, we wouldn't even be allowed to enter this town."
Langtry is just a fallen down spot along the highway, except for the legend of Roy Bean. Larger than life, he has kept this place going long after his death in 1903. A beautiful new building, his preserved house and saloon, a botanical garden and windmill pull in such as we to enjoy one of the wild west's enduring characters. Roy was actually a Justice of the Peace in this lawless area. An ad writer from San Antonio sensationalized the job for his readers even then. Roy was the law by fear as much as anything else. He often threatened to hang people, but never did. The old hanging tree in the middle of town, dead now, was really the spot where the law breaker was tied up.
Bean proclaimed himself the only law West of the Pecos and he was for many miles around.
He held court in this saloon. If enough men were around, the fine might include a round of drinks for all present. Since there was no jail in Langtry, which Bean claimed he named after the famous English singing beauty Lillie Langtry, all culprits were tied to a tree until their "trial". All miscreants were fined since he couldn't sentence them to jail.
By dint of his personality, he kept a semblance of control over a lawless area during the building of the railroads at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers. And his control wasn't exactly the type written in the law books, though he patted down an old law book now and again and claimed it would make a good fire starter.
One dead man was brought to him after being shot. Bean emptied his pockets of a knife and $41 dollars and proclaimed, that his crime was carrying a concealed weapon and he fined him $41. He confiscated the knife and the money on the spot.
A ranger brought him a couple of guys for stealing. Bean ordered him to let them go proclaiming they're both broke and no good to us anyway.
In another instance, a man sat before Bean with a lawyer. He said, "In a minute I'm going to find this man guilty and have him hung." He turned to his bartender and said, "If I order you to hang this man would you do it?" The bartender said he would. Then, he asked, "If I order you to hang his lawyer too, would you do it?" The bartender agreed he would. "Now, lets get on with this case." They left town as fast as they could.
He often ignored the law because it was impossible to enforce it in the wilds of Texas.
His love for Lillie Langtry was another story. Guess ya all gotta visit the Texas Visitors Center at Langtry. Its well worth the stop.