Bullets over New Mexico Where else but New Mexico would mischievous turkeys wander onto a neighbor’s land and cause so much bother that gunplay breaks out? And did you know that David Crockett died in a drunken gun duel in Cimarron, New Mexico, and not at the Alamo in Texas? (That’s because this Crockett was the grandson of the Alamo hero.) And who would have thought that an argument over the merits of a defunct newspaper would lead a gunman to draw on a man with a Bowie knife in a Santa Fe saloon — with the gunman losing the duel!
These incidents are just a few of the roughly 50 stories that Don Bullis relates in Duels, Gunfights, & Shoot-Outs: Wild Tales From the Land of Enchantment (Rio Grande Books), a bullet-ridden compilation of gunplay in New Mexico. Relying on biographies, newspaper accounts, and history books, Bullis recounts the just-crazy reasoning behind so many of these deadly incidents (“A husband and wife go for their guns, and both end up dead!” reads the tag line for one story).
While there’s some dark humor to be found in that tale, Bullis’ New Mexico’s Finest: Peace Officers Killed in the Line of Duty, 1847-2010 (also from Rio Grande Books) is a sobering account of the roughly 200 men and women who have given their lives working as peace officers in the state. A few — like Pat Garrett — are well known, but the rest of these lawenforcement heroes would likely be forgotten were it not for Bullis’ book. Many of their deaths came about in the traditional line of duty; others — as the result of a car wreck or a misfire on a shooting range — were unfortunate accidents. Bullis knows his stuff: he worked as a deputy sheriff and town marshal in New Mexico before going to work for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety. He retired in 2002.
— Robert Nott