Historians run into trouble with historical feud

Don McAlavy: local columnist

Haney Tate of Ranchvale was one of my best friends. He was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat and I was a smart-aleck Republican, yet we didn’t let politics get in the way of our historian jobs.

Many times he would jump in and do my newspaper column when I was away from Clovis. One time I published a history quiz in the paper, some 25 hard trivia questions. Haney won it.

If I needed some information in writing one of my columns, I would go see him out at his farm, or meet him in town. From the day he was born in 1915, he remembered everything he saw or heard. That is my honest belief.

But one time we both nearly got into trouble. Back in the mid-1970s our historical society was working on the first history book of Curry County. We did a lot of advertising to attract attention. We needed histories of everybody to make it a good book. This was the first time Curry County and towns within its borders were to have a bang-up good history book. And there was Haney coming into the print shop. He asked me if I wanted the history of the Tate-Bohannon feud for the book. “Sure,” I innocently replied.

Haney said he was going to be out of town for a while, but when he got back he’d take me out to the R&F Cafe in the stockyards and buy me a steak and he’d sit there, eat a steak too and tell me the whole story. I asked if he had it written up. “Yep,” he said.

Sure enough in two weeks Haney was back and I got the feud story from him verbally and on paper. Well, two days later I got a call from a Clovis lawyer wanting to talk to me. I went to see him and he asked me if I was going to put the T-B feud story in our history book. I told him I was. He told me he had a client totally against it. I told him it had already been published back in the early 1930s and I could use what was already published. He told me his client would sue me and the historical society for invasion of privacy.

I didn’t back down, but in the following days our historical society members got together and mentioned that we had voted not to print anything that would be embarrassing to anyone. So the T-B feud did not get into the Curry County History Book.

So, that story of the T-B feud was never printed again until Haney and I went to the High Plains Observer, a monthly Clovis area tabloid newspaper. Haney had written the history of the Tate family, and it was published in May 2002. The next month Haney had the paper print the “Tate/Bohannon Family Tragedy, As I Remember It.” Haney was given some 100 of each of these two papers for free, and he proudly passed them out to his friends and the banks.

I had interviewed members of both sides of the two feuding families and got different stories of what happened. Haney, at the time of the second T-B shoot-out, happened to be a half-block away working in the Chevrolet house half a block east of the Citizens Bank where both shoot-outs occurred. Haney hardly ever missed anything that was happening in his family. I decided not to publish any of these interviews out of respect for Haney.

The kin of one family asked me to write a good story about the feud, and this person would see if a movie could be made of it. I turned that proposition down flat.

His stories of tragedies in the Ranchvale area were always good reading, but nobody has ever told me the story of how Haney Tate died. He died Feb. 20, 2005. He was 90.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: