Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bastards, Drunks and Thieves

Right after the elections last week I got a little reprieve from contemporary politics at work because a long-planned massive historical piece for The New Mexican's 400th Anniversary of Santa series was due. You can read that HERE.

So I got to write about scoundrels, con men, and other evil-doers in Santa Fe's proud history. Hmmmm. Some reprieve. One reader commented on my story, "Only to 1980? No mention of the rash of DWI's, drug-fueled crime and politicians stealing investment fund monies from taxpayers??"

A flippant answer to that is that there were so many in recent times we didn't want to hurt anybody's feelings by leaving them out.

One character I did get to include was Hyman G. Neill, aka "Hoodoo Brown," the legendary leader of The Dodge City Gang in Las Vegas, N.M. circa 1880.

Hoodoo became something of an obsession for me about 29 years ago. I started looking into his colorful career when a short item appeared in The New Mexican's "100 Years Ago" feature. This was published the same week my daughter was born. At the time I had very little experience as a journalist, not to mention zero experience as a historical researcher, but I did gather as much information as I could at the state archives about Hoodoo.

One problem you run into while researching Hyman Neill is there was another Hoodoo Brown, a George "Hoodoo" Brown who, like Neill was born in Missouri and spent time in Kansas. Different guys.

Several online sources say that after the murder of Michael Kelliher in Las Vegas, Neill went to Houston. I'm not sure what the source of this is. During my research I could never trace him beyond his release from the Muskogee jail. (There were some reports of Neill getting shot to death in a card game, but nothing I could confirm.)

One weird twist in the Hoodoo story is that in 2005 there appeared a video game called "Gun." One of the characters is a corrupt mayor of a fictional New Mexico town. His name is, you guessed it, Hoodoo Brown. His voice is done by actor Ron Perlman. (The image of the video Hoodoo graces this blog post.) Interestly, the video Hoodoo has deputies including Dave Rudabaugh and J.J. Webb -- just like the real Hoodoo did in Las Vegas.

Below is "The Outcast," the Tom Russell song I quoted in the article, (Your promised land was settled by bastards, drunks and thieves.") sung by Dave Van Ronk