In my opinion, one of the more unpleasant aspects of an election season is the never ending quest of the media to find “dirt” in a candidate’s past. While it may be—and, at times, probably is—important to learn of the smudge on an individual’s record of personal history, it occasionally feels like a point learned long ago is being rubbed in. No one is perfect. Everyone, even those we view as heroes, has those proverbial skeletons in their closet.
Consequently, when I was just wandering through some old records one afternoon, it was no great surprise to discover that Coral Hickman—the honored deputy who was killed in pursuit of the notorious Manter gang—had had his own run-in with the law.
It was in June of 1905—Saturday, June 10th, to be precise. A group of men—Coral Hickman, H.L. Corder and Dan Rogers, among them—had gone fishing at the lakes. This was obviously a somewhat common pastime. A brief mention in the June 9th edition of the Kiowa County Press states that Dan Rogers and H.L. Corder had gone fishing earlier that week in the company of some of the town’s most respected men, including D.W. France and others. As a whole, the group must have been good fisherman, too. The paragraph states they caught 700 pounds of fish. Nonetheless, on the following Saturday when the group—including Coral Hickman, this time-- returned to Eads after another day spent fishing, they decided to stop at the saloon in town.
As often happens when a group of men, probably boisterous after a day of fishing, meets up with liquor, which was probably flowing freely at that point, a “friendly scuffle” broke out. As also often happens, the friendly scuffle later turned into a not-so-friendly altercation involving Hickman and Corder. It must have gotten fairly serious when, as Hickman later claimed, Corder began to choke him. Hickman, in an attempt to loosen Corder’s hold, drew his gun and “dealt him a blow”. Corder then grabbed the gun and, as the two men struggled for the weapon, the gun went off. The shot hit Rogers in the stomach, passing entirely through his body.
Dr. Sherman was summoned immediately, and Rogers was taken to Minnequa Hospital in Pueblo on the first train Sunday morning. Unfortunately, he died at around 7:00 that night.
Dan Rogers was described as one of Kiowa County’s most respected citizens. He had served a term as County Treasurer and was also a successful cattleman. (This is where recorded and retold history briefly part ways. The current resident of Eads who first told me this story some time ago said that Dan Rogers actually owned a pig farm that was located close to what is now Kiowa Estates and, as a result, was known by the nickname “Pig Rogers”. Either way—whether he owned cattle or pigs—Mr. Rogers didn’t survive the shooting.) Interestingly enough, Mr. Rogers was also a Deputy Sheriff at the time of his death.
Just seven days later, on the 17th of June, an “inquisition” was held, complete with a jury of Corder and Hickman’s peers. After listening to testimony, the six-man jury ultimately ruled that the shot was an accident.
The shooting caused a great shock among Eads’ residents and led to a relatively major decision for a town that had no small number of cowboys (and obviously, fishermen, too) who appreciated a drink (or two) of liquor at the end of the day. The death of Dan (possibly aka “Pig”) Rogers led to the closing of the only saloon in town. The town’s sobriety was no passing fancy, either. By December of 1913, Sheriff John W. Blair had been presented with a number of petitions requesting that he enforce the law and “stop the illegal sale of intoxicating liquors in Kiowa County”. This was almost a full year before the entire state of Colorado was “voted dry” in November of 1914.
Coral Hickman was 26 years old and working as a cowboy at the time of the shooting. Three years later, his wife gave birth to their son, Earl, who grew up to be an avid fisherman, preferring mountain streams to those of the plains.
Twenty-five years later, in 1930, Hickman, was, himself, employed as a Deputy Sheriff, a job which claimed his life when he apprehended a gang of bank robbers. He would forever be remembered as a local hero.
One incident does not diminish the importance of the other. It simply proves what most people—at least, those people who’ve been alive for a while—already know: we all must learn to live our imperfect lives to the best of our ability. And perhaps the extent of that ability ultimately defines who, among us, deserves to be called a hero.