The 'Murder' Of A Cowboy



Many of the stories I have written have been handed down through my family, especially through my granddad, Floyd Monroe Pyle, lion hunter, cattle rancher, and guide for Zane Grey.

I have heard the following story several times over the years, but Raymond Cline filled in a few gaps for me.

Before proceeding with the story, I will give you a little background on my granddad.

Floyd was born Aug. 17, 1891 in Star Valley, Ariz., to Elwood Fremont Pyle and Sarah Corder Pyle. He received most of his formal education at the old Rim Rock School where Dude Creek runs into the East Verde. He attended school at Strawberry for one season because the school was in danger of being shut down. They needed one more student to keep it open, so Elwood and Sarah sent Floyd to live on the Strawberry Ranch where he enjoyed a season at the school under the instruction of May Herron LaZear.

When he graduated from the eighth grade, Floyd was drawing top wages from Hi Fuller's U Bar outfit, headquartered at Cold Springs, a few miles from the Pyle Ranch at Bonita Gardens.

Some of Floyd's early experiences as a cowboy were also gained while working for Hook Larson on the 13 Ranch near Gordon Canyon. He told of a branding there, when Hook heeled 61 calves and dragged them to the branding fire without a single missed loop. Both heels were secured in his loop every time he brought a calf to the fire.

Hook was a long-legged man and rode a little paint horse. Floyd described how his stirrups almost reached the ground and said that Hook would just quarter up alongside a calf and pitch a loop under it. He never looked back, just turned off, dallied, and rode to the fire.

In 1911, Floyd bought the Myrtle Ranch on Ellison Creek from Jack and Katie Payne. Just a year later, in 1912, he went into partnership with Fletcher Beard who had married his sister, Nellie on July 4, 1897, and the bought the P Bar L Ranch in Star Valley. This ranch took in most of the same country as Raymond and Pat Cline's old Seven Open A Ranch.

Floyd lived in the old house back of where Raymond and Pat lived for about 40 years, while Fletcher and Nellie lived in the main house.

Fletcher Beard died in Payson in 1913 and Floyd continued to run the P Bar L in partnership with his sister, Nellie Pyle Beard. Floyd also kept and ran the Myrtle Ranch.

Floyd and his good friend, Alec Cox, were pulling a spring roundup on the P Bar L. They were headquartered at the Houston Pocket in the old rock house that still stands there. Ambrose Booth came riding up from Gisela to help. Ambrose was a pretty fair hand with cattle, and during the thick of the roundup, Floyd and Alec were glad to have his help and company.

At the beginning of any roundup, there are short rides, lots of cattle to be worked, and in the spring, lots of calves to be branded. Toward the middle and through the end, it becomes necessary to make progressively longer and harder rides to find the remaining few ungathered cattle.

So, as more cattle were gathered and the calves branded, Ambrose's help was needed proportionally less each day. To compound the problem, they didn't have enough horses and those they had were ridden down and in need of rest.

Ambrose always rode along with Floyd or Alec, tiring another horse and not finding any cattle on his own hook. In blunt words, Ambrose had become a detriment rather than a benefit to the cause. Floyd dropped a few hints, even going so far as to thank Ambrose for the help and making it known that he and Alec had the roundup in hand and that Ambrose should return to Gisela.

Still, Ambrose, who had a well-deserved reputation for putting away grub, insisted that Gisela was doing just fine without his being there. He didn't want to go home. He would work for nothing. He was enjoying the company of Floyd and Alec, having a good time, and they were feeding him better than he ate at home, so Ambrose figured to settle in for the duration.

One evening Floyd stepped into the cabin and confronted Ambrose. "Has ol' Alec been a sayin' anything against me?"

"No, no, no! He ain't ever said anything agin you."

"Well, I know he has," insisted Floyd. "He has been sayin' some mean things and I am goin' to put a stop to it." He went back outside.

Before Ambrose could get his wits about him, Alec burst through the cabin door. "What did Floyd Pyle tell you about me?" he demanded.

"Why nothin', Alec, he didn't say nothin' bad."

"Well, I know he came in here tellin' you something agin me! He has been talkin' rough about me and I thought we were friends. I am goin' to find out what it is that he has been tellin' folks!" With that Alec, too, stomped out the cabin door.

The next day they rode. Ambrose tried his best to smooth over the prior evening's difficulties, but neither Floyd nor Alec would speak to the other, and the hostilities continued for two more days. The antagonists were now dropping hints to Ambrose to the effect that each might have to kill the other.

They rode back to camp one afternoon on tired horses and ate an early supper. Ambrose stayed in the cabin while Floyd and Alec went out to tend to some chores. Soon Floyd returned to the cabin for his gun. He told Ambrose, "I have put up with all I can stand from that damn Alec Cox. I am goin' to kill him!" Floyd then turned and stepped through the door into gun fire! He whirled and fell back into the cabin, clutching his chest. "Ambrose, he shot me first," Floyd strangled as he got out the words. Of course, no one had been shot; it was all a gag staged for Ambrose's benefit.

The Booth family had seen gun play in the not too distant past. In 1903, Ambrose's father, John Booth, and his uncle, Zech Booth, were arrested for the murder of two sheep herders, Wiley Berry and Juan Vigil. Ambrose's father was not convicted, but his uncle Zech was -- and was hung for the murders in Globe in 1905. Because he was convicted of murder, the custodial authorities of the Globe Cemetery would not consent for Zech to be buried within the confines of the cemetery, so his grave lies on the south side of the hill outside the cemetery. Popular opinion in Gisela held that Zech had assumed responsibility for the killings as he was a bachelor and his brother, John, had a family.

Given the impact on these recent events in Ambrose's life, it is not surprising that he was a little gun shy. He also harbored a few superstitions. He would not step over what he perceived to be Floyd's dead body, but crawled out the window of the rock house and fled home to Gisela. Mission accomplished.

These things occurred before Floyd married my grandmother, Verda Childers Pyle in 1914.

Floyd wasn't really a prankster like his brother-in-law, Orin Childers, but in his youth he pulled a few just for entertainment.

If a hoax would liven things up, Floyd and Alec were all for it.

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