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The end of 1969 was a “wild” time in Columbus, NM and local resident Ed Beck, Jr. made sure it was immortalized. Beck sent the following letter to New Mexico Magazine on January 12, 1970:
“Midway in December the village of Columbus was surprised to learn that it had a most extraordinary inmate in its local jail, in fact the first inhabitant of the local abode in nearly ten years.
This surly villain was captured after a lengthy chase by two cowboys, named Carl Graham and Tom Farrell; you guessed it the culprit was a female mountain lion.
Graham and Ferrell were searching for stray cattle on horseback about seven miles northwest of Columbus near Black Hill when they came upon the puma in a draw; Graham stated that he had lost “ten to twelve head” of cattle, primarily calves, to mountain lions and surmised that the cat had been tracking deer as he had spotted fresh deer tracks in the arroyo.
Having no weapons with them, Graham and Farrell began chasing the lion for nearly half a mile until the cat was lassoed around it’s middle.
While Farrell held the puma (wound in ropes) with a taut lariat, Graham raced back to his ranch a mile away for his pick-up truck; a half hour later Graham returned and both men dragged the lion into the truck.
Upon arrival in Columbus, they were greeted by Town Marshall Bill Livingston; he suggested the old jail, with no lights but two cells, was the only feasible place that the animal could be kept.
For the next few days, Livingston was busy unlocking the jail door so the local populace could see the caged lion; while confined she’d hiss and emit a low rumbling roar.
The puma dined on raw meat, mostly rabbits—“she ate the meat, bones, fur—everything,” related Livingston, and was given plenty of water.
Duncan Freeman, a local rancher, has brought the puma out to his ranch where she will be kept indefinitely or until a zoo acquires her.
While a prisoner of the Columbus jail, joshed Lunda County Border Deputy Sheriff, no one ever advised the cat of her rights but neither was anyone about to take a “paw-print” either!
For several days after it’s capture, the female puma had been the primary conversational topic in this historic border town; it’s quite unlikely that Columbus will have another similar inmate for some time—Marshall Livingston hopes they will never have another.”
Thank you to Anne Marie Beck for sharing this fascinating piece of Columbus history! Do YOU have a story or picture to share about the history of Columbus? Send it to [email protected].