The Cisco Kid

This year at Howard Days, I talked to a couple of people about my obsession with the minutia of Robert E. Howard’s life. While I am a firm believer that the more we know, the clearer the picture of the writer from Cross Plains will become, I still think some of the things that intrigue me are pretty far out in left field. But the folks I talked to said that they found these things interesting, too, and that I should keep on keeping on. Well, I’ve got a few things lined up that may change their minds. Read on, if you dare.

When I first became interested in Howard’s life he seemed to be characterized as kind of a lone nut, with only a couple of friends over in Brownwood and maybe one or two more in Cross Plains. But when you start digging, others emerge. Without mentioning any female companionship (we’ll get to that at a later time), Howard had more friends than just Clyde Smith, Truett Vinson, Dave Lee, and Lindsey Tyson.

Reading Howard’s correspondence and autobiographical writings reveals other friends, including Aud “Slue Foot” Cross, Winfred Brigner, and Ottie Gill, not to mention Harold Preece and E. Hoffmann Price who both visited Cross Plains on more than one occasion. The de Camp papers at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin contain interviews with other Howard pals like Austin Newton, Leroy Butler, and Tom Ray Wilson. Even Howard’s hometown newspaper, the Cross Plains Review, has items of interest like this one from July 25, 1924: “Earl Baker of Ballinger visited Robert Howard last week.” (Baker was a buddy from the Burkett days.) These were all people who came in and out of Howard’s life, friends of circumstance like we all have from time to time, while our core group remains somewhat stable. To this list we should add Ray Adams.

Not too long ago Patrice Louinet sent me a clipping from the November 16, 1923 edition of the Cross Plains Review:

One little clipping, and a question: did I know anything about Ray Adams. At the time, I’d never even heard of him, now I know more than anyone outside of his family needs to know. I’ll share the relevant bits here.

Alton Ray Adams was born in Eastland County, Texas, on October 11, 1905, the first child of William and Fannie. His father was a farmer. Sometime after the 1910 enumeration of the U.S. Census but before the end of the year 1919, the Adams family had moved to Cross Plains and gained two more members: Kermit and Bonnie. And if they hadn’t met earlier, Ray Adams and Robert E. Howard would have bumped into each other at the Methodist Church on Christmas Eve 1919 where they are both on the program giving readings, as reported on December 26.

Presumably, Adams attended school in Cross Plains and, since he was just a few months older, may have had classes with Robert E. Howard, whose family had moved to Cross Plains in 1919. If they attended school together, they don’t appear to have been in the same class: Adams is not listed with Howard in the graduating class of 1922 that appeared in the paper. But he is one of the young men, along with Howard, mentioned in the following July 28, 1922 item:

After the radio experiment, Robert E. Howard went off to Brownwood for another year of high school. Ray Adams moved back to Eastland County, Cisco to be precise. But the two appear to have been good enough friends that they tried to stay in touch. When Howard returned to Cross Plains in 1923, Adams visited at least once, as the clip at the head of this post indicates.

How long the pair remained friends is a mystery. Like many school friendships, it may have simply dwindled away, or perhaps they became pen pals, though I haven’t found reference to Adams in Howard’s surviving correspondence. Whatever the case, sometime before the death of his father, W. M. Adams in June 1934, Ray had moved to Montana. He died there in 1942.

(From the June 29, 1934 Cross Plains Review)