Fun-March Ends In DeathThat's the headline of an article in an issue of the Silver City Independent from Silver City, New Mexico dated Tuesday, February 14, 1911.
The lead paragraph gives the short version of the story:
Murdoch R. Ballou, one of the best-known cattlemen of Grant County was shot and instantly killed Thursday evening by Sheriff Herbert McGrath. The killing was the result of an effort on the part of the officer to disarm Mr. Ballou, was done in self defense and was absolutely justifiable.Mr. Ballou had apparently been drinking and was having some "sport" with a couple of victims who he had chained together and forced to march down the main drag. When a night watchman tried to interfere with the party, Ballou went into his room at the Palace Hotel and armed himself. Eventually Sheriff McGrath--a friend of Ballou's--was notified and McGrath went out to confront him. The article continues:
During the early part of the conversation Mr. Ballou took a pocket knife from his pocket, which held in his left hand. The knife, however, was unopened. Seeing this the sheriff caught his left hand and held it, still trying to persuade him to surrender his gun. A few moments later Mr. Ballou drew his gun with his right hand, saying: "Get it if you can." The Sheriff saw the move and waited until the gun was in plain sight and was being raised, then loosing his hold of Ballou's left hand he jumped back a few steps, drew his own gun and fired three shots in quick succession. Before Mr. Ballou drew his gun, however, he had become very angry. Mr. Ballou staggered back toward the side of the building and sank to the ground. The Sheriff rushed to a nearby telephone and summoned medical aid.Mr. Ballou was known as "MR" to his friends and family, and among the surviving members of that family was his brother, Steve. When Steve had his first child--a boy--he named him Murdoch R. Ballou in honor of his late brother.
Unfortunately, "MR" as he was also called, died at the age of 16 when he was asphyxiated by a malfunctioning gas heater. Although the Ballous had a younger daughter and were in their early 40s at the time of MR's death, they decided to have another child--perhaps in hopes of having another boy. They had another daughter, who they named Zoe Ann.
When anyone asks about the gold watch engraved with the initials MRB that I have on the mantle of my fireplace:
Or exactly who this "M.R. Ballou" guy that my first book, The Immortal Game, is dedicated to:
I tell them the story. I figure if the two MRs hadn't died, my mother Zoe Ann Coggins nee Ballou probably wouldn't have been born--and neither would I.