Born in Kentucky, Phantly Roy Bean Jr. was an American saloon-keeper and Justice of the Peace in Val Verde County, Texas. Located in a desolate patch of the Chihuahuan Desert, his saloon served both as entertainment and as a court. Judge Roy Bean proudly called himself “The Only Law West of the Pecos”. An hour’s drive from Del Rio, we stopped to visit the museum and find out more about this colorful character.
Some call him a romantic while others a womanizer, but most agree that Bean was a troublemaker. Over the course of his life, he managed to shoot several men, some because of quarrels over a woman, and almost died by hanging due to one. Lucky for him, the rope stretched, and his lover came to his rescue, cut the rope, and set him free. He had the rope marks on his neck for the rest of his life to remind him of his “glorious” past.
He settled in Texas and founded the saloon and town of Lagntry, named after the famous English actress, Lillie Langtry. Ever the dreamer, Mr. Bean became enamored with the lovely lady, even if he never met her, and followed her career from afar, reading about her success in the paper.
His quirky personality brought about a good sense of humor which the townsmen appreciated. He didn’t really have a knowledge of the law (except—based on his own experience—that it can get you in trouble if you broke it) but he had a good common sense ruling and that was good enough for the town most of the time. Some of his rulings were a bit strange—like fining a dead man for carrying a weapon, while some were controversial—like releasing a man after killing a Chinese railroad worker. His fame reached national status by the time he fell ill and passed away at the age of 78.
Lillie Langtry came through town ten months after Bean’s passing, so he never got to meet his muse….
We visited Judge Roy Bean Museum and walked around a dry garden, lined with dormant cacti.
Onward, we drove along the seemingly never ending road, accompanied by dust and loneliness.
We pulled on the side of the road and I jumped out to take some photos of the famed Target in the middle of nowhere, in Marfa, Texas.
Our next stop was the small town of Alpine, Texas, were we visited family.