Getting set to hit the highway this morning for a little road trip with my honey, who just got back from Germany. Wrapping up some loose ends on the Wild Bill book. With all the unadulterated stretchers and yarns without substance, that have been told, and retold, it's very hard to get a handle on the real Wild Bill. However, there are some snippets of actual letters that speak volumes about what he actually saw and experienced, like this excerpt, in a letter to his family:
"I have seen since I have been here [sights] that would make the wickedest hearts sick."
—James Butler Hickok
He was in Kansas at the time, in 1856, so that makes some sense. But what exactly could have been so wicked and heart rendering? A plague of locusts? Drunken debauchery? Lesbian fur trappers? Our imagination runs rampant, but James doesn't tell us. Still, we intuitively know, that the raw and "untamed" frontier was boiling with plenty of outrage and cruelty on all sides, especially including Mother Nature.
In another letter he describes the state of the state:
"I looked ahead of me to where the roads crossed and saw about 500 soldiers agoing on and I looked down the river and saw some nice steamers, and they were all going on and that is the way with all the people in Kansas (he spelled it as Cansas) they are all a going on."
"When about half mile from [Fort Zarah] 'Wild Bill' Hickok, on a dandy horse, came riding by on a a run, shouting as he rode by 'Lee's surrendered! lee's surrendered!' He was a striking figure as I noticed him, a large broad-brimmed hat on his head, long drooping mustache, long flowing hair that fell about his shoulders, a brace of ivory-handled revolvers strapped to his waist, and an extra pair in holsters that fitted about the horn of the saddle where he could reach them instantly."