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William A. A. Wallace: Map

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Bigfoot Wallace.


Time in Texas

Wallace was born in Lexington, Virginia. In 1836, when he learned that a brother and a cousin had been shot down in the Goliad Massacre he set out for Texas to "take pay out of the Mexicans" (years later he confessed that he believed the account had been squared).

Wallace was a magnificent physical specimen. In his prime he stood six feet two inches "in his moccasins," and weighed 240 pounds without surplus fat. Some of his most graphic memories were of his experiences in Perote Prison. As soon as he was released, he joined the Texas Rangers under John Coffee Hays and was with the rangers in the Mexican-American War.

In the 1850s Wallace commanded a ranger company of his own, fighting border bandits as well as Indians. He was so expert at trailing that he was frequently called upon to track down runaway slaves trying to get to Mexicomarker. He drove a mail hack from San Antoniomarker to El Pasomarker, and on one occasion, after losing his mules to Indians, walked to El Paso and ate twenty-seven eggs at the first Mexican house he came to-before going on to town for a full meal.

During the Civil War he helped guard the frontier against Comanche Indians. At one time Wallace had a little ranch on the Medina River on land granted him by the state of Texas.

The later years of his life were spent in South Texas in the vicinity of a small village named Bigfoot. He never married. He was a mellow and convivial soul who liked to sit in a roomy rawhide-bottomed chair in the shade of his shanty and tell over the stories of his career. Wallace was personally honest but liked to stretch the blanket and embroider his stories.

Wallace died on January 7, 1899, and shortly thereafter the Texas legislature appropriated money for moving his body to the Texas State Cemeterymarker.

Portrayals

Larry McMurtry included a fictionalized version of Wallace in his Lonesome Dove prequel, Dead Man's Walk. In this book, Wallace is one of the Rangers who signs on with Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call to go on the Texasmarker Santa Fe Expedition. After they are captured by Mexican authorities, they are made to draw beans to decide who will live or die, a method borrowed from the Mier Expedition. Unlike his real-life counterpart, Wallace in this story draws a black bean, and is executed. In the film, he is played by Keith Carradine.

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