grand canyon outlaw ranch history
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Grand Canyon Outlaw Ranch History

grand canyon ranch horsesThe original owner of what was to be later known as the Outlaw Ranch was Tap Duncan. Born George Taplin Duncan in San Saba, Texas, Tap was a gunslinger turned cattle baron, who once rode with the infamous Kid Curry, the Hole in the Wall Gang headed up by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and the outlaw Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum, related by marriage to Tap.

When Tap bought what was then known as the Diamond Bar Ranch he enlarged it to over 1.45 million acres and eventually ran over 10,000 head of cattle on it. He personally hired all of his cowhands, among whom was Louis L'Amour, who went on to become an immensely popular writer of western sagas that are read all over the world. L'Amour paid Tap the supreme compliment when, years later, he claimed he learned everything about "cowboying" from Tap Duncan.

Purchasing the Ranch was as much Tap's wife Ollie's idea as it was Tap's. She was well aware of Tap's previous life as bank and train robber, and especially his association with Butch Cassidy, who had a unique arrangement with Tap: Pinkerton detectives in the 1880's had come up with the idea of marking all money carried in trains and held by banks in Idaho and Colorado, where the Hole In The Wall gang chiefly operated. Wherever there was a robbery, simply trace the marked money to the outlaws spending it, and make the arrest. But Butch Cassidy was on to the Pinkertons, so he dispatched Tap to Texas to buy cattle with the marked bills, and ship them back to Kingman, Arizona. By the time the Pinkertons reached Texas, the cattle had been sold to ranchers in Montana, Colorado and Idaho, and the profits split among members of the Hole In The Wall Gang. It's not known how much money Tap pocketed from his bank robbing and money laundering days, but it had to be considerable to purchase over a million acres of land from the federal government, and continue paying taxes on it.

Known as one of the best two-gun shooters in the Old West, Tap once came upon two cattle rustlers on his property. They had killed one of his steers, and were busy skinning it when Tap rode up. Tap shot both men dead on the spot, then hauled the steer's bleeding carcass back to the ranch house, where he had it skinned, cured and carved for future steak dinners. The gentler side of Tap is told in this story: playing pool in a saloon in Hackberry, Arizona, with a few of his friends, Tap became bored with the game, hauled out his six-gun, and shot every billiard ball on the table into the four corner pockets (he apologized, and paid for all damages).

How Tap Duncan died is laden with irony: this ornery character, the last of the legendary western gunfighters, who survived shootouts and a series of violent 'dustups' as a young man, was run over by a car in Kingman, Arizona, in 1944, as he was taking a leisurely stroll. Duncan was 75. A friend read the eulogy, which included words about Tap's prowess with pistols: "He was the best gunslinger in the state of Arizona. If you monkeyed with him, you were monkeying with a rattlesnake." The final words of Tap's friend, simple yet elegant, spoke volumes about the code of the West: "his word and his handshake were as good, if not better, than anyone's paper."

A final story about Tap may be the most bizarre of all: when the outlaw Kid Curry was killed during a train robbery in Colorado, the railroad decided not to pay the $32,000 bounty on the Kid's head when the posse mistook Curry's body for Duncan's. After all, both men carried two pearl-handled .45 caliber Colt pistols, and Tap had been seen in the territory. Case closed. A grave stone in Colorado still bears the name of Tap Duncan, even though he is buried in Kingman, Arizona. 

**Quoted from 'Cowboys Indians and an Englishman' The History of Grand Canyon Ranch - Written by Leslie Howard Gargan and Nigel Turner**