The story was a sensation in Southeastern Idaho. Every paper carried updates on the search for Whitney. And what a search it was. Hundreds of men joined the effort within hours. Two groups got close to the escaped men, following them across the desert. Both times the pursuers backed away because of the hammering gunfire.
Somewhere near Hamer, the men split up. Whitney stole a horse at the McGill Ranch, shooting young Edgar McGill in the skirmish. Early reports were that Whitney had killed the youth, but he survived.
Authorities brought in bloodhounds from the Montana State Prison at Deer Lodge. They joined the lawmen and volunteers in the search but turned up only a shoplifter who was hiding out on the desert. A band of Blackfeet Indians joined the search, along with a hundred men from the Rigby area who were scouring the desert, mostly on horseback and with the aid of a couple of automobiles.
The Idaho Statesman reported that Whitney was likely somewhere between Blackfoot and Idaho Falls. The article said, “Until he shall faint from fatigue or fall before the guns of his hunters there will be no rest for isolated ranch families or the lonely sheepherders. New crimes are expected hourly as long as the desperate man is at large.”
Searchers thought that Whitney might try to cross the Menan Bridge to get back on the south side of the Snake where the going would be easier. They stationed Deputy Reuben Scott on the bridge with his rifle at the ready. Sure enough, here came Whitney riding his stolen horse across the planks at a slow clop.
“Halt and get off that horse,” Deputy Scott called out. Whitney replied, “Lookout, I’m a-coming’” and spurred his steed to a gallop. He took a running aim at the lawman and fired once. Scott’s rifle dropped to the ground, as did three of his fingers. Hugh Whitney got away.
Check back tomorrow for the conclusion of this three-part story.