Does anyone know about a saint that I could write about during our centennial year? It would be more of a constructive story for the records than writing about an outlaw like Harry Tracy. I shudder when I think how desperados filled our history books. I’m told by some of my friends that we are supposed to be born stuffed with the original sin. It looks like some couldn’t wiggle out of that ‘so called’ curse, and turned into criminals.
It was over 84 years ago that outlaw Tracy tried to pass through our territory. It did give a lot ot “good guys" the opportunity to shoot at him. When the bullets started flying in his direction, it discouraged him so badly that he killed himself.
Yes, desperado Harry Tracy’s life ended out here at Lake Creek, not too far from the old Janett open space rodeo grounds. Ever since Tracy’s death, scads of stories have been written about him.
In fact, last year Sugar got a letter from a writer in England. He wanted to know some added details about Harry Tracy. It could be that the British Isles are getting tired of Sherlock Holmes stories. Just recently, the legendary story of Tracy popped up in True West magazine.
About 32 years ago, Ronald Reagan was able to get a job presenting the TV show, Death Valley Days. It was during this time that General Electric produced their version of Harry Tracy’s escapades. It was a flop as far as the truth was concerned. They had that dangerous guy Tracy wandering out of Death Valley, where all the desperados were supposed to come from. Eventually, with guns smoking all the way up to south of Creston, the big climax set in. The General Electric producers continued to manufacture more false scenes by having the Spokane County Sheriffs in on the shoot-out with Tracy. The towns of Davenport and Creston weren’t nationally known enough to consider the truthful story.
Let’s go back to the summer of 1902 for some condensed facts on this guy Harry Tracy. It’s no use now to digest his life that landed him in the Oregon penitentiary. But while there, Tracy didn’t want to serve out his prison term, so he killed a couple of guards, and took a cell mate with him. The two bad guys were successful in dodging the law. Tracy and his pal Merrill soon began getting tough. Upon entering farm houses, they announced their names. Being sadistic, the two liked to see scared settlers shake. By standards of the old west, they were very dangerous guys.
After taking a couple of saddle horses without asking, Tracy figured he could make better time if he shot his convict pal in the head, which he did. Merrill’s horse could carry a lot of things Tracy needed for a successful escape.
Tracy and his horses then crossed the Cascades, and made a trail that led to the Lake Creek country. He wound up at a stock ranch that later belonged to Charley Ensor. Harry Tracy caused a lot of excitement around these parts. About everyone wanted to get in on the act.
Tracy was nothing but a cur of the lowest type, who lives a miserable and murderous life. Besides that, he was a nut. Tracy, sitting high in his saddle, led a pack horse through our exposed territory. It didn’t make sense. However, it did throw the law officers off course, as they were looking in places where normal outlaws would travel, tree covered canyons, etc.
When rewards for Tracy totaled 4,000 bucks, it made him a star criminal overnight. He was on the lips of every citizen from the Pacific Ocean to the Idaho border. About everyone had a cooked up idea about what they would do if they encountered this famous outlaw.
During this Harry Tracy saga, my dad was living on a Lake Creek homestead. Dad and his partners agreed that if Tracy was to get the drop on them, they would advise the outlaw to take their white saddle horse. Dad’s theory was that a white nag would make a good spotting target for the Sheriffs.
"Harry Tracy, Rocklyn’s Unwanted Guest" Kik-Back Country, page 27, part 1