Nearly everyone agrees that mountain folks tend to be just a bit independent, especially Madera County mountain folks. For years they have more or less marched to their own drum, refusing on numerous occasions to conform to “conventional wisdom.” In the summer of 1914, however, even the residents of Raymond met their match in the arena of self-determination.
Martin Boss was a German immigrant who had moved to Raymond at the turn of the century. He was self-sufficient, self-directed, and self-reliant. Although he had attained the age of 77 years and was handicapped, Boss lived alone and depended on no one for anything. He tended his chickens which he sold and raised his own vegetables in his garden. Martin was the quintessential Madera County mountaineer.
Then in June of 1914, he began to experience some difficulty. His neighbor’s horse kept invading his garden. When he complained, it was suggested that he put up a fence. This, Boss refused to do. Why should he be the one to put up a fence? Let his neighbor take care of his horse!
When the animal continued to trample his garden and scare his chickens, Boss brought the matter to a head, all by himself. He loaded up his rifle and shot his neighbor’s horse. He had given the entire community ample warning. In its independence, it had ignored that warning, and in his independence, Boss forced their hand.
Martin Boss was arrested, pleaded innocent, and E. L. McCapes, Justice of the Peace from the third Judicial Township of Madera County, set his bail at $1,000, which the accused refused to pay. He was taken to Madera and lodged in the county jail until his case could come to trial. As things turned out, that never happened.
District Attorney W. H. Larew dragged his feet on prosecuting Boss. He attempted to persuade the defendant to plead guilty to shooting the horse in exchange for a sentence of restitution. Boss remained adamant and chose to stay in jail. At that point, attorney Joseph Barcroft entered the fray by offering to represent
Boss. In an unprecedented show of unity, the prosecution and the defense put their heads together in an attempt to resolve the difficulty.
On July 2, 1914, after Boss had spent several weeks in jail, there was a break in the impasse. Justice McCapes issued an order that the accused Raymond horse killer could be set free if he left the county within 24 hours. This olive branch was also unacceptable to the unrepentant Boss.
“Vot vill I do apout dem cheekins vot I have up dere, and vot vil becomb of my spin-less cactus?”
So back to jail the German went, leaving Madera County officials scratching their heads trying to figure out how to get the old man out of jail without making him a martyr.
Then came the real break in the case. Someone discovered that Martin Boss had a son living in Southern California, and a call went out for help. Within a few days, the younger Boss was in Madera to take his father to Long Beach.
There was nothing particularly legal about the arrangements that followed. Under the law, McCapes was within his rights in dismissing the charges and releasing Boss, but the proviso that he leave the county had dubious legal standing. No one, however, paid much attention to such technicalities. By now the authorities simply wanted to be rid of the matter.
On July 9, 1914, Martin Boss finally relented. Accompanied by his son, he returned to Raymond where they gathered up his belongings. Included in Boss’ personal effects was a two-quart jug of whiskey, to which some attributed his strong independent streak.
So Martin Boss traded his mountain abode for a home in Southern California to live out his years. He had left his own mark upon Madera County by displaying that ubiquitous strain of independence for which the mountain folks are famous.
Originally published in the Madera Tribune