Speakeasy · writing

The Last of the McCarty’s

Photo purported to be Joseph McCarty Antrim. photo discovered by Ray John de Aragon
Photo purported to be Joseph McCarty somewhere around the age of 15 years
Photo discovered by Ray John de Aragon

In the span of a breath, everything changed. It was a rattling breath, a final breath. It was drawn in September 1874. It was the last painful breath of Catherine McCarty, wife of William Antrim, and loving mother of William Henry and Joseph McCarty. It was drawn in Silver City, New Mexico where she was living when she finally lost her long battle with tuberculosis.

Shortly after their mother’s death, William Antrim placed his stepsons in foster homes. He was a miner and a matter-of-fact man. There were no excuses, or emotions associated with this development. It was simply the way things had to be. The boys, at fourteen and eleven, were too young to go into the hills mining with their stepfather. Their mother’s death was pivotal for her sons. The good people of Silver City said they had been well behaved, educated young men. They were friendly and outgoing with generous personalities, just like their mother.

Billy, the older boy was placed with the Truesdell family, owners of the hotel. He worked for his keep and by all accounts comported himself well. Eventually, he set off from Silver City and achieved some level of notoriety through his participation as a Regulator in the Range Wars of Lincoln County, where he was shot dead.

Young Josie went to the Dyers. They were saloon owners and Joe also worked. Although the nature of his work was decidedly different from that of his brother – he grew up rough and he grew up fast. He drank, he fought, he smoked a bit of opium, and he gambled.

The high deserts of New Mexico did not interest Joe McCarty. The grazing lands, where grasses thrived while the trees were twisted and beaten down by the winds, offered nothing that he cared to embrace so he took up the life of a gambler; oscillating between New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. In 1882 or maybe ‘83 Joe found himself in Tucson where his luck had been good. Riding a wave of good fortune, he married a bordello girl, Rose Marie Perkins, who went by the name of Amber Annie. She refused to settle down to domestic life and Joe would often find himself sitting at the gaming tables downstairs while his wife worked the bedrooms upstairs. Their union did not last long and the emotional toll served only to embitter and further harden young Joe. He left his wife and went back to Denver where he pieced together a living as a gambler.

Joe spent the rest of his life alone in Denver. A pauper’s life; he slept on the streets or, when his luck was good, he would take a room in one of the boarding houses that fringed the downtown area. He died penniless in 1930 at the age of 67 and was buried in an unmarked grave at the expense of the state. No records exist to pinpoint the exact location of his interment.

There were no children. Catherine McCarty had been dead since 1874. No records exist to identify the biological father of her sons, not even his name is known. Joe’s older brother, Billy, had been killed in 1881, also childless. His stepfather, William Antrim had disappeared into the mountains around Silver City about the same time that Joe went to Tucson. His fate was unknown. When Joe McCarty died that branch of the McCarty family tree died with him.

I need to tack on a note that while the McCarty family was real, this story is fiction. Details described herein are primarily the product of my imagination. Please do not use anything written here as reference material for your history report. Thanks.

19 thoughts on “The Last of the McCarty’s

    1. Good, good – I had hoped for stark, like the tree – and the tree looks like high desert cedar – I’ve seen trees like this for most of my life. Departing from my normal MO, I spoke about my characters instead of letting them tell the story. Trying to work outside of my comfort zone.


  1. Love the historical feel here, Thom. I think the telling worked well; you stayed in voice and in character as genealogist/narrator. I have a natural interest in this kind of historical story, so it easily drew me in and held my attention but, that aside, I think that the way you pieced it all together was very effective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I promise that I did not intentionally interlope on your genre. I’m glad you liked it Nate. I like “tumbleweed-y” I like that a lot.


  2. I agree with Nate — nice tumbleweed voice. The opening paragraph, with its repetition of the final breath, is especially well done.–drawn out, painful, as one would be with tuberculosis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Books by Zane Grey or Louis L’Amour? Those were classics.
      Wait, you’re not that old! Whose westerns were you reading?


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