Caught Red-Handed

Joe LeFors
Caught Red-Handed

 I remember hearing, many years ago, the phrase, “caught red-handed,” and it can still be heard on the occasional old western. I am sure I have used that phrase, knowing it meant caught in the act. But where did it come from? There may be a host of stories to match up with, “caught Red-handed,” but I really like this Wyoming version.

Legendary Wyoming lawman, Joe LeFors, instrumental in the solving of the Tom Horn murder of Willie Nickell, may have, according to Wyoming folklore, coined the phrase. Before telling that story I should mention that LeFors is legendary because of his own bragging about how great a lawman he was. Several lawman of the day called his a braggart and incompetent lawmen. But this still is a nice story.

Seems that LeFors watched with binoculars as a poor homesteader butchered someone else’s yearling cow. He waited until the beef was gutted and the rustler was quartering the animal for transportation before he rode in. The man was hacking away with an old knife and LeFors told him he was caught, “red-handed,” because of the blood all over his arms, hands and shirt.

Could be true, maybe not, but it’s still a great story.

Maybe the homesteader was after this one - could have fed the family for a few weeks
As an afterthought note. LeFors rode home with the rustler and after seeing how destitute he and the family were told him he would be back in, “a few days,” to pick him up. LeFors may or may not have ever went back. The man was never arrested and the homestead was abandoned by the time anyone took the time to ride out and check.
Landscape north of town - taken from Brimmer Point - Guernsey State Park
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