Pasatiempo - - In Other Words -

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

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