By Hardie Matthews —
I read the article, “The beautiful, peaceful roadside park.” Enjoyed
it so much. Brought back fond memories of two similar stories of
In 1933-35, there was one phone in each county. Then Southwest Bell
brought the Van Horn phone system, whatever it was called. Southwest
Bell, according to everyone in Van Horn, was determined to make money on
their enterprise and did they ever!
Everyone got a phone.
With the old system, there was one phone in each county. That phone was for the sheriff's office.
Each office was charged an exorbitant monthly fee, so little Hardie
B. Matthews was told. Before Southwest Bell, the sheriff of one county
could call the other, and that was the phone service before Southwest
So, one night a rare tourist was riding down State Highway 80 and saw
a fire. That was about two in the morning. That tourist was by himself,
and he went to the courthouse and told Mr. Downey.
Mr. and Mrs. Downey lived on the third floor of that beautiful
red-stone courthouse. Mrs. Downey was the cook for the prisoners of Van
Horn's small jail, which was behind the three-story Culbertson County
Mr. Downey was the Deputy Sheriff for Sheriff Abe Anderson. Sheriff
Anderson was forever elected sheriff of Culbertson County. He was so
respected and seldom ever had an opponent. So, the tourist told Deputy
Sheriff Downey about the big fire he had seen from the highway. Mr.
Downey got Sheriff Anderson out of bed and the two of them went to
investigate the fire. Sure enough the fire was still burning.
The Mexicano working for the Smiths (I do believe that was their
names), was standing there. He said that he didn't know how the fire
began. One thing that wasn't burning was the ice box, which he was
standing beside. It was opened, and there stuffed inside it were the
remains of the Smiths.
He had butchered them and confessed to murdering both because they
paid him nothing but his food and a place to stay and made him feel less
He confessed that he hated them. He lived a miserable life in the
bunkhouse. During round-up time, like all other ranches, that bunkhouse
was full; the rest of the time, it was empty.
As a little boy living across the street from the courthouse, and
being a good friend of Mr. Downey, I was always right behind that good
man. On this particular morning, there I stood as Sheriff Anderson and
Mr. Downy (couldn't give him an official title; Mr. Downey was my
friend) got that tall, nice looking Mexicano out of the Sheriff's car
and put him in jail.
He was so clean shaven and very neat looking. He sure didn't look
like the criminals I saw in the EL PASO TIMES HERALD newspaper. Of
course he was tried within two weeks, sent to Huntsville and that was
the end of him.
What an impression that tall man made on me.