Someone said once, a man is knows less for his friends than his enemies. Although the subject of this week’s story had many friends, it was his one enemy that determined his fate.
As a young man, Jack Harris was a scout for the Army, and he fought in revolutions in Central American. Returning to America, he hunted buffalo, served as a policeman, and did some serious gambling.
Settling down, he and Ernest Hart opened the Green Front Saloon in San Antonio. The Green Front was a first class establishment that even had a Vaudeville House on the second floor.
A wealthy man, involved in local politics, Jack was well liked in the San Antonio area.
But, as is often true, no matter how wealthy you are, or how many friends you have, it’s your enemies that determine your fate. Jack Harris had one enemy…Ben Thompson. For anyone who doesn’t know Ben, he was a hard case who took turns walking on both sides of the law. And, Ben wouldn’t back down to a buzz saw.
On July 11, 1882, after seething about a gambling dispute that took place two years earlier, Ben entered the Green Front Saloon demanding that Jack Harris get his guns and meet him in the street so they could have it out.
While Ben was standing in the street, Jack got a shotgun and went to one of the saloon’s windows. Before Jack could get off a shot, Ben saw him and shot Jack, killing him. Ben Thompson turned himself into the law, and pleading self-defense, was acquitted.
From this experience, one would think Ben Thompson would have realized enemies often determine your fate. But it wasn’t so. Because less than two years later Ben returned to the Vaudeville House, and the enemies he developed from killing Jack Harris put an end to his life.
Dakota Livesay is the editor of the Chronicle of the Old West. For more information about the Old West, visit www.ChronicleoftheOldWest.com You can hear Dakota 10 a.m. each day on KZUZ 93.5 in Show Low and KZUA 92.1 in Holbrook.