Early day Oklahoma peace officers usually carried Winchesters and .44 pistols when they were chasing outlaws. Lawman Jim Masters of Kay County did too, but also he carried something that was very special to him. Three 44 caliber cartridges in his right front pocket. Why?
On February 7, 1895, two outlaws drifted into Kay County, Oklahoma Territory. They were Frank Pyle, alias Johnson, and a man named Alfred Stratton. They had been mixed up in several robberies near Guthrie and in the territory. Sheriff Painter of Guthrie had been after Pyle and Stratton for some time. It was suspected that two mail robberies, several highway robberies, and at least one train hold-up had been their work. They had been operating in the Chickasaw country, but were driven out after a running fight with United States Marshals. On the way to Kay County, they robbed Mr. Gilbert, the postmaster at Red Rock, stealing his watch and revolver.
Upon entering Kay County, Pyle and Stratton robbed mail carrier Ed Reynolds, who had a route from Blackwell east to the Rock Island at Kildare. They had rifled the mail, but nothing of consequence was taken. Later that afternoon they robbed a farmer near Kildare, then rode east towards the Kaw reservation, avoiding both Newkirk and Kildare. That evening, they made arrangements to remain overnight at the residence of an unsuspecting H.C. Miller. They gave their names as Brice and Stratton.
Kay County Sheriff Clay Masters was notified that Pyle and Stratton were nearby. A posse was quickly formed. Marshal Austin of Newkirk was deputized. Austin and Kay County Under-sheriff Jim Masters were soon on the trail of the outlaws. Sheriff Masters warned the deputies to be careful because the robbers were heavily armed with two 44 caliber revolvers and both had Winchesters.
The trail of the outlaws was found, and it was discovered that the men had passed within a half mile of Newkirk, heading east. The officers followed and found that the two outlaws had stopped for the night at the Miller place. The deputies sent a neighbor, Mr. Jenkins, to the Miller place to gather information. Mr. Jenkins rode to Miller's house" called him out, and quietly inquired if Pyle and Stratton were there. Miller answered yes, and was told that the deputies would be arriving shortly. Miller, being a very big man in stature, told Jenkins that he would take care of one of the outlaws and for the deputies to take care of the other.
Upon returning to his house, Miller told his wife and 2 guests a story that some neighbors were coming to sing. The outlaws seemed restless and one of them took a chair facing the door. In a few minutes, the deputies rapped at the door and were invited in by Mrs. Miller. In the meantime, Mr. Miller had taken a position near one of the outlaws. As soon as the deputies walked into the room, both outlaws sprang to their feet and reached for their pistols. Mr. Miller seized the outlaw next to him (Stratton) by the arm, in such a way that he held him powerless.
The other outlaw, Pyle, aimed his pistol at Deputy Austin and Under-sheriff Masters. Pyle pulled the trigger three times, but the weapon failed to go off. Almost at the same time, Austin and Masters fired at Pyle, one shot striking Pyle in the chest. Pyle fell to the floor and the lights in the house went out at the same time, Pyle pulled a second pistol, got back on his feet, and started for Masters. As Pyle advanced, Masters fired a second shot from behind the stove. Pyle was hit once again in the chest and fell forward on his chest, dead.
Stratton was handcuffed and taken to the Newkirk Jail. The body of Pyle was taken in charge by the coroner. The postmaster from Red Rock, Mr. Gilbert, along with the farmer and the mail carrier, Mr. Reynolds, were brought in to identify the robbers.
The cartridges were afterward taken from Pyle's revolver and Under-sheriff Jim Masters saved them as souvenirs of the occasion. "It was purely providential that the robbers did not kill me", said Masters. "The distance between us was only three feet, so it was an awful close call. I think I will keep these cartridges for good luck".