Lawmen & Outlaws
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Submitted by: Mollie Stehno
|A THIEF OF THE OLD BLOCK|
|The Cherokee Advocate|
|February 6, 1895|
In later years one of the most cunning of outlaws was Bill Starr, a grandnephew of Henry and father of the notorious Belle Starr. He did not turn outlaw until well along in years, but in a short time became the leader of one of the most adroit gangs of thieves that has ever infested the Indian country. He was not a common thief, and in one sense was not actively in the business, being rather a superintendent of general manager. His gang was large in numbers, and he had spies in every town, trading post and community in the Territory and adjoining States. He did not make a practice of stealing for fun or excitement, but was in it for business, and would take only the best and when he was sure of a large return for the work, but once making up his mind to steal a thing, there was nothing at which he would hesitate. There was not much ready cash in the Territory to steal in those days, and they confined their work mostly to stealing horses. A member of the gang in a neighborhood would take a fine horse, ride it a few miles and turn it over to a confederate, who would do the same, which procedure would be repeated in turn by a dozen different men, and as each one would be at home the next morning detection was almost impossible.
The gang had a cipher language whereby they could converse intelligently among themselves about their work, and an outsider listening would think them conversing about some ordinary topic.
Occasionally, when there was some particularly valuable horse to be stolen Starr himself would do the work. He was an expert blacksmith, would carry shoeing tools along with him, and after riding the horse a half day, would take the shoes off and put them on backwards. Thus those in pursuit were fooled, and it was a long time before they discovered his strategy. They would be on the trail all right, following the horses' tracks, when suddenly the footprints would be reversed indicating that the animal had been traveling in the very opposite direction. Had they followed the trail sufficiently long they would have come to a place where the tracks again changed, but they seldom went far enough and gave up the chase in disgust.
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