Alexander Robey “Boss” Shepherd, the last territorial governor of the District of Columbia, packed up his family, servants and pets, and headed for Mexico’s rugged Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains.
It was 1880 and in the remote village of Batopilas, at the bottom of the area now known as Copper Canyon, he developed one of the richest silver mining operations in the world. Fifty-seven years later, Shepherd’s oldest son, Grant, who was five years old at the time of the family’s relocation, published a book, The Silver Magnet, recounting tales of growing up in Batopilas. The following excerpt from the book describes an incident between Grant’s younger brother, Conness, who Grant refers to as “The Kid” and Pancho Villa. Shepherd’s views on Villa were less than complimentary:
“Francisco Villa knew quite well who our tribe was, and he knew my young brother. The Kid was a competent horseman, pistol and rifle shot; he stood six feet three in his stockings; weighed one hundred and ninety pounds. There was nothing sticking to his ribs but the very hardest and most efficient and experienced muscle; he possessed a pleasing personality. The Mexicans who knew and worked for him loved him with a devotion not frequently met with. In fact, his position in the estimation of the inhabitants of the sections where his work placed him was one rarely found and much to be desired.
“With the advancement of the revolution, the size and importance of the internationally known Pancho Villa welled with much rapidity. His increase in magnitude and undeniable presence as something actual on the landscape may well be compared to that of a fat mule who had died on the trail, and been subjected to the hot sun of the locality. You soon can see him and smell him from a great distance.
“The Kid was making his way into Chihuahua; he rode into Carretas one afternoon accompanied by a couple of his mozos and a pack animal or two. He had been there only long enough to wash his face and sit down to supper, when into the town rode Villa with a big bunch of followers. Villa swaggered into the main room of the meson where Conness was eating his supper and sat down opposite to him. He had had a few drinks and was bombastic and offensive in elaborating upon the fact that ‘he was a big mad bull who gored whom he pleased and had to account to no one for his goring.’ The Kid is a very quiet, a very silent man … this kind is the most dangerous.
“Villa hated all gringos, but he knew exactly who this gringo was and he also had no particular amount of guts. When he performed his own shooting and killing, which was seldom enough, he needed all the breaks so that this pastime would be a perfectly safe one to be indulged in by Don Francisco Villa.
“The Kid looked him steadily in the eye; that same Kid had a damned mean eye to look into when he felt that way. He then serenely informed Villa that if Pancho started anything it would, of course, result in his, the Kid’s, being killed; but he was positive that Villa was aware of the fact that he himself would go first, and that the news of the Kid’s death would be transmitted to Villa by some of Villa’s many followers in Hell or wherever it was he would be residing when dead. Villa knew that the Kid was right, that when it came to a draw this gringo had him beat a mile, so he decided to laugh it off and be a good friendly boy scout. The Kid went on to Chihuahua that night.”