Original Clovis settlement named after outlaw

By Don McAlavy: Local columnist

Some say that it’s a person’s urge to get away from regimentation, that the so-called laws puts a man into too tight a situation. I think there’s too many dern outlaws anyway. Why is it that so many people are fascinated by outlaws?

So why do men turn outlaw? Some say it’s because of a woman every time! A poem I wrote a while back tells how one man was forced into becoming an outlaw by a woman.

I can’t say a woman is responsible for getting Billy the Kid into his trouble. In my outdoor drama over at the Caprock Amphitheatre I try to show Billy’s side of the fight he was in, against crocked politicians, and crooked men who ran the law and country back then.

You know there were other not so famous outlaws that roamed across eastern New Mexico. I’d give a quarter to the first one to name just two of them! Well, no, I’d list three of them right now: Blackjack Ketchum, Clay Allison, and Henry Hawkins.

But there is one man, and I won’t call him an outlaw, ’cause he still has folks around here, but he was a pal of Portales Bill, a small time badman. He was killed just northeast of here a few miles at old Endee. The refused to give up to a posse and they shot him down.

But this man I’m talking about is Cage Riley. His family was the inspiration to name Riley Switch, the small settlement where Clovis is today. Cage Riley was the real and only famous outlaw in Curry and Roosevelt Counties.

Some didn’t dare call him an outlaw, cause he still has folks around here. Cage Riley’s folks came in the San Jon Valley just north of here on Dec. 24, 1881, just six months after Billy the Kid was killed. The old man has a lot of kids and in-laws with him, Cage was the youngest and the black sheep of the family.

Yes, Cage Riley did settle in San Jon Valley with his wife and a bunch of his kids. Yes, Boss Jackson tried to kick Cage and his family out, but Boss Jackson lost his advantage when he saw the Riley camp was armed and waiting for him with pistols and shotguns, giving the two shotguns to his two youngest kids, 8 and 9 years old. Boss and his men threw up their hands, turned around and left the Riley’s alone after that. Cage died in 1960 at age 92 and was buried in the small Blanco Cemetery near Ben Hall’s ranch near Fort Summer. One page here won’t tell the whole story of our Cage Riley and his kids.