October 30, 2020
Picking up odds and ends.
Billy's Bad Company
After the Kid killed his first man and fled Arizona, he fell in with a band of outlaws calling themselves "The Boys." Being just a literal boy, Billy must have had a hard time holding his own amidst all the drinking and brawling of the older, hardened men.
Drinking on the trail and shooting the hats off of fellow riders just for starters, it had to be nerve-wracking and challenging for the undersized boy.
The truth is hard to find, especially in an election year. Fortunately, I have landed some very good help. Thanks to a recommendation by Roy Young, I contacted Janice Dunnahoo from the Roswell Museum and I got the inside skinny on a couple fronts.
Janice has been sending me newspaper clippings on the black, cowboy Frank Chisum and they are so helpful and enlightening. For example, Frank stayed in the Roswell area after the demise of his namesake, John Chisum (1884) and the collapse of the ranching empire he built. Or, as the Roswell Daily Record puts it, "the passing of the brand." Among other tidbits about the ex-slave cowboy, the newspaper proudly noted, "He rode and ate with William H. Bonney, 'Billy the Kid.'"
Frank evidently tried to start his own herd, as The Las Vegas Optic noted on August 26, 1885 that Frank Chisum "is in the city today. He is a colored man and has gone into the cattle business for himself by gradually working into it. His bunch of cows now numbers 125 head and he is as proud of them as the greatest king on the plains."
That effort apparently did not pan out because in the teens and early twenties Frank is noted in the "old-timer" parades as having worked for many other "large cow outfits in eastern New Mexico serving with the Blocks, Bar Vs, Circle Diamonds, Diamond Az, Flying Hs, and others. . ." The paper goes on to report, "At old-timer reunions he was always placed at the head of the parades where he could be seen riding the finest horses the country afforded and dressed in the uniform of a Confederate officer, a relic sent to him from the Southland and one of his most prized possessions. At the barbecues 'Frank' was always given a place of honor, serving the pioneers in the same fashion which for more than a half century he served the cow outfits."
—Amarillo Daily News, January 10, 1929
Hmmmm, so, if there was a statue of Frank Chisum wearing his Confederate uniform, would reformers demand that it be taken down?
Frank passed in March of 1929. He was 73.
"What's good for the goose tends to be bad news for the gander."
—Old Vaquero Saying