My Great-Grandmother

As long as I can remember there has been an enduring skeleton in our closet about the dreaded “Cox temper”. I almost never get really, really angry, but I’ve always wondered if that was my way of proving to myself that I didn’t inherit the gene. The one that makes you go into an uncontrollable rage, and blindly and brutally lash out as many of my relatives are rumored to have done. Hitting someone in anger was not only something I heard about but something I experienced as a kid. That “Cox “ trait is, sadly, present in this story.

The first time I heard this story, I was 9 or 10 years old. I heard it from my uncle Pete Mays. Uncle Pete was alternately revered or vilified for his wild… bordering on unbelievable… tall tales. My dad always said not to believe anything your Uncle Pete tells you. He said, “He just makes things up”. True… they were unbelievable but they sure were entertaining… (most of the time) This particular story was always adamantly rejected by dad and my aunts and uncles… obviously, it doesn’t paint the family in a very favorable light. But… If there aren’t snatches of truth in it, then why did my brothers and I keep hearing the details of the story.

In the late 1800s, according to Uncle Pete, my great grandfather came from some unknown place back East to homestead in New Mexico Territory. New Mexico didn’t become a state until 1912. Anyway, as he was on the way to New Mexico, he stopped and spent some time at a reservation and married a Cherokee woman. They settled on the Eastern New Mexico/West Texas border. They had three sons…. I don’t know any of their names. According to Uncle Pete, my grandfather was the middle son. This is where the “Cox Temper” enters the story:

When the youngest son was 18… by this time, the two older boys (my grandfather being one of them) had already left home. Uncle Pete said that my great-grandfather had an argument with his son and flew into an uncontrollable rage. He attacked his younger son… and in the brutal fight between them… the young son killed his father. There was a fairly quick trial, and there were several witnesses who testified that the old man attacked his son and that the son’s actions were clearly self-defense… the verdict was justifiable homicide.

Is the story true??? Uncle Pete always said the reason the relatives didn’t want the story to be told was because of the way the story ends. Even though my great-grandmother and great-grandfather had been married for over 20 years… the citizens of the Territory of New Mexico were not about to let a “squaw” own a house or property…. and she was sent back to “her people”.