Outlaw of Old West Keeps His Word

A notorious outlaw of the old West borrows a horse, leaves his watch as collateral and promises to have the horse returned.

| Good Old Days

An outlaw of the old West, Al Jennings as a young man lived in Western Kansas, Oklahoma and the Indian Territory. In 1885, his father was county judge at Coldwater, Kansas. The family was one of much better background and education than most of the frontier people.

Al threw in his lot with the cowboys, and it was while he was working in the Cherokee Strip that injustice dealt out under the name of the law took the life of his brother and started Al on the road to crime, he explained in later years.

But neither tragedy nor the role of a bandit robbed Al Jennings of his mark of good breeding. He had his own code of honor, and it included loyalty and courage. The settlers were his friends and he never stole from them or missed a chance to do them a good turn.

My parents, Henry and Lida Durkee, had established a homestead 18 miles southeast of Coldwater. Although Al Jennings already was a notorious character, my mother had never seen him until one hot day when she was alone with two small children, one a baby in arms. The drought that year was forcing the ranchers to sell most of their cattle, and my father was away on a cattle drive.

The blistering sun was beating down fiercely upon the plains that August day and the temperature was in the 90s. The short buffalo grass was dry and crackled under the feet of the grazing stock. Heat waves shimmered, and here and there whirlwinds gathered the fine dust and danced away over the prairie.

My mother stood and stared almost unbelievingly at a man making his way on foot across the pasture. She could only speculate on the circumstances that would cause a man to be on foot in this land of great distances.

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