Bob Paul vs Road Agents
- Written by Bob Boze Bell
- Published September 02, 2012
March 15, 1881
Two California boys are riding the box on this chilly night along the San Pedro River bottom in Arizona. Eli “Bud” Philpot, a top-rated stage driver who hails from Calistoga, California (about 60 miles north of San Francisco), and
shotgun messenger Bob Paul, all six feet four of him, a former sheriff of Calaveras County (southeast of Sacramento). They are about halfway to Benson, after leaving Tombstone several hours earlier.
After passing through Contention City, the Kinnear & Co. stage (with a reported $26,000 cargo) rumbles north about two miles. While the stage goes up a small incline, 200 yards short of Drew’s Station, a dark figure steps onto the road from the east side and calls out, “Hold!” Without even a pause, Paul roars back, “I don’t hold for anybody!” and shoulders his double-barrel shotgun.
At the same time, more men step out of the brush and both sides fire as one. Hit in the crossfire, a mortally wounded Philpot takes the lines with him as his lifeless body falls “heavily forward between the wheelers [the two horses closest to the wheels],” causing the entire team to “immediately [spring] forward into a dead run.”
Riding atop a careening, driverless stage, Paul answers back shot for shotas angry outlaws step onto the road and empty their rifles at the disappearing stage.
The stage blows by Drew’s Station, where its employees, upon hearing
the commotion, come running out. Swallowed up in the darkness and finally out of range, Paul has no choice but to jump down onto the wagon tongue as the stage perilously lurches and bounces toward imminent disaster. He works hard to keep his balance with one hand and capture the flailing, slithering lines with his free hand....
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