Legend of Los Lunas

“There is to date not a satisfying explanation for the peculiar events that occurred in Valencia County over the last two weeks. Federal marshal Seth Bullock has not been able to put cause to these happenings and as such returned to the Dakota Territory yesterday. Mr. Bullock, brought in especially to cogitate on the strange events that have unsettled the townsfolk of Los Lunas, left the New Mexico territory after providing no more answers than were apparent before his coming.

 
“Marshal Bullock stated that he is ‘mystified’ also as to the identity of a dead man, reckoned to be about age 30, that was found in the high country early Friday, some 20 miles outside Los Lunas. A deputy, Joe Cruz, later ran down a rider-less horse that is believed to be that of the dead man. Texas Rangers raised by telegraph confirmed that the horse branding and markings on the saddle and packs indicate they were gotten from a Comanchero trade post near Amarillo.

Sherriff Bullock

Sherriff Bullock

 

“It was first believed that the dead man, bare-foot and clad only in torn calico trousers, had been mauled to death by a large mountain cat that was discovered, also dead, not 40 feet from the body. But closer examination showed the man had been shot six times, most likely by revolver, through and around the heart. Dr Henry P. Brown, of Los Lunas, acting as coroner, said the angle of the bullet holes showed an unknown shooter fired up at the man, who was found unarmed, at a ‘10-20 foot distance’ in the doctor’s exact words. There were no marks indicating a cat attack. Sherriff Bullock added that the wounds indicate the shooter was ‘an accomplished marksman.’ There are no suspects at this time.

 

“The mystery is deepened by the aspect of the dead cat, estimated at a weight of 200 pounds. The cat’s jaws had been torn asunder as if pulled apart by powerful hands or paws. Dr Brown estimates the puma and the man had been dead for a comparable time, leading to speculation that the man had killed the beast, after first it was thought the reverse was true. But it is thought incredible, by both Marshal Bullock and Dr Brown, that the dead man, reported at a height of 5 feet 8 inches and weighing 155 pounds, could have served such havoc on a cat so large.

 

“It is thought perhaps that the presence of the massive wildcat explains the report from John Fara, a cattle rancher east of Los Lunas and not 10 miles from the site of the dead cat. Mr Fara explained how during very early morning on Saturday, August 24, he had just finished preparing rations for a drive to the Southern Pacific rail line when he heard loud commotion from his corral.

John Fara

John Fara

“Expecting coyote activity, Mr Fara emerged with shotgun in hand, only to see what he described as what looked to be a ‘huge man, standing maybe seven feet, carrying a large cow. It was unclear whether he held it in his teeth, his hands or both.’ He said this was plain to him, though fantastical, as the lighted moon rendered the corral visible and clear. He said the head bore a ‘snout-like countenance’, causing him to think momentarily it was perhaps a large bear. But after observing this apparition for some two minutes, Mr Fara said it was clear ‘it stood upright on two legs, crazy as it sounds to recount.’ So unsettling was this scene, and the death screams of the beast, that Mr Fara, a veteran of the 30th Texas Cavalry Regiment, did not advance beyond the outside fence of the cattle paddock. Two cows, and another yearling, were found at dawn, partially devoured.”

______ Lead article in the Albuquerque Journal, Saturday, Sept 3, 1881

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