April 30, 2022
If you've never studied history, you need to know one thing: primary sources are the best.
If you've ever wondered what it's like to run a magazine or how crazy my personal life is, be sure to read the behind-the-scenes peek at the daily trials and tribulations of running True West. Culled straight from my Franklin Daytimer, it contains actual journal entries, laid out raw and uncensored. Some of it is enlightening. Much of it is embarrassing, but all of it is painfully true. Are you a True West Maniac? Get True West for LIFE...Click here!
April 30, 2022
If you've never studied history, you need to know one thing: primary sources are the best.
April 29, 2022
I just caught "Open Marriage" on Prime Video and I have to say, it's no "Open Range."
My father died when he was 78, my mother passed at 84, but her second husband, Lou Cady, is still going strong and coming up on 101. He is a tough old bird. He called me today to tell me he fell at Thanksgiving and no one found him for three days and he somehow lived through that and now he's holding on to vote in the fall to remove Joe Biden as president which might be a tad hard to do, but I didn't have the heart to tell him that election won't be until 2024. He also had an opinion on Elon Musk and I won't bore you with it, but I hope I have an opinion on something assuming I get that far. As the old vaqueros always say, something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.
Speaking of final words, let's talk about the word coda. No, not the title of the Academy Award winning movie for best picture—CODA—which is actually an acronym for Children Of Deaf Adults, but, the meaning of the root word of the title of the movie, which is: "coda," the concluding section of a dance, especially of a pas de deux or the finale of a ballet in which the dancers parade before the audience. It also means a concluding event, remark, or section, as in, "his new novel is a kind of coda to his previous books." So, it's the final word, or the summing up of all that came before. You know, like this:
Flora Quick Passes
According to lawman Heck Thomas an outlaw named Tom King was killed during a holdup in a border town near Tombstone in the year 1902. Upon burial he turned out to be a she. Further investigation revealed the robber's real name was Flora Quick, alias Flora Mundis and Chinese Dot. According to Heck, Flora had an unhappy marriage back east and fled westward, donned men's attire and started her own gang around Clifton, Arizona. On Tom King's reward circular it read: figure is "faultless" but the outlaw is "badly tanned."
A Better Understanding of Olive Oatman
There is new and compelling evidence in the Olive Oatman mystery. She confessed to Musk Mellon that the Mojaves saved her life. Did she leave in order to save them? We will have a full report in the forthcoming book The Real Women of The Wild West, out this December.
San Diego's First Schoolmarm
Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:
"Mary Chase Walker"
Born in Massachusetts in 1828, Mary Chase Walker began teaching when she was 15, earning $4 a month, including room and board. She received a public school teaching certificate from the State Normal School in Framingham, Massachusetts, but when the Civil War broke out, teachers' salaries were cut in half so she made the brave decision to to go out West where her prospects might be better. She paid $375 for tickets on steamers that worked their way down the Atlantic coast to Panama, then by rail across the Isthmus, and on to California via another steamer. It was on the four week voyage, she and the other passengers learned of Lincoln's assasination. She landed in San Diego at the Colorado House, which burned down in 1872 and was about to reopen, completely reconstructed. “The first night at the hotel, a donkey came under my window and saluted me with an unearthly bray,” Mary wrote. “I wondered if some wild animal had escaped from a menagerie and was prowling around Old Town.” Fleas and mosquitoes tormented her, and the hotel's human denizens also clearly startled the newcomer. “I sat at table alone (being the only woman in the house) an Indian man did the cooking and an Irish boy waited on me at table, & also gave me the news of the town. A man had been shot the previous day.... The landlord an Irish gentleman kindly told me that I could go into the kitchen & cook whatever I wished, if I did not like the Indian's style of cooking. I availed myself of the privilege and while there made some interesting discoveries. The cook was sitting on a bench, in front of an open sack of flour. He was vigorously scratching his head. This brought unpleasant suggestions to my mind, as also did his stirring of food while cooking on the stove, with his long hair dangling over it.” As she settled into her job, she turned her attention to making a better home for herself. “I tried to find board in a private family [home] as the accommodations were so poor at tile hotel, but without success. No one would take ‘La Maestra’ as a boarder." She had been in San Diego for about a week, when a widow named Sarah Robinson finally offered to rent her “two unoccupied rooms in the second story of her house on the plaza.” (A replica of this building dominates the west side of the plaza today and serves as the present-day park headquarters.) Mary was to pay $2 a month for the two rooms, each about 10 by 12 feet, with two large glass doors opening onto a pleasant veranda. When Mary went to furnish the quarters, she discovered that Old Town then had neither a furniture nor a stove shop, but “the people were kind. One lent me a lounge, another a rocking chair. The bed came with the room. An old stove that smoked badly was procured somewhere. Thus I commenced housekeeping.”
The Coda On San Diego's First Schoolmarm
Mary Chase Walker helped found a ladies' annex to the chamber of commerce and she served as one of the founding trustees of the Unitarian Society of San Diego and she raised $500 to plant ten acres of trees along the west side of Balboa Park. By the 1890s she was an active suffragette, but her heath began to fail and she passed in February of 1899. Her story is told daily at the museum in the Old Town San Diego Museum.
“And now as I come to the end of this book in which I have recorded so many considerable achievements of the Americans, if I am asked how we should account for the unusual prosperity and growing strength of this nation, I would reply that they must be attributed to the superiority of their women.”
—Tocqueville, "Democracy in America"
April 28, 2022
On a good morning I like to wake up with a cup of coffee and a good view of these two morning beauties.
Yes, that is Tim Prythero's miniature of my father's Flying A gas station in the background. A prominent fixture in our living room. And, yes, I got permission from both parties—Uno and the Goose—before I posted this. But not from Tim.
The Longest Shot In The West
Billy Dixon eyes his target 1,538 yards away at the second battle of Adobe Walls with his borrowed "Big Fifty." An 1874 .50-90 Sharps Rifle.
April 27, 2022
Yesterday I had lunch with this guy at Janey's in Cave Creek.
My Border Brother G.S.
His name is Greg Scott and he brought me some bacanora. What is bacanora, you may ask?
"The Bacanora in the pint bottle is from Alamos, Sonora. All liquor made from agaves is properly mescal. Those who make it ( or are known to eat roasted agaves) are Mescaleros. Roasted agaves were (and in some places still are) an important food source for prehistoric Arizonans. Agaves are native to north and South America. Of course they been transplanted all over the world, especially the Mediterranean. Only mescal made in Sonora can legally be labeled Bacanora. In the early 1900s then governor, later president, Plutarco Calles declared total prohibition in Sonora and mescal making went underground. They finally rescinded that order about twenty years ago so now mescal making is less clandestine. Bacanora is a town in the western foothills of the Sierra east of Hermosillo. It enjoys a reputation as the source of the best mescal in the state hence the statewide generic name for all mescal made in Sonora. Alamos had a thriving mescal industry which disappeared due the aforementioned prohibition. Now the mescal magic has returned. The owners have planted significant plantations of agaves. When I was there in January there were eight stills going. Each still about 300 gallons. Simple description of process: agaves harvested and leaves removed, then roasted in a large ( or small) rock lined pit for 2-3 days, removed from pit carefully with a long handled pitch fork, shredded (a tough procedure) now more and more using the PTO of a tractor for power or axes if by hand, resultant mash goes into a tank, very often fifty gallon steel drums, water added, tank sealed, fermentation takes place over 2-3 days, resulting mash distilled (ideally double distilled) this is where the steel drums are valuable since a fire can be built directly under the drums and the resulting steam is directed to a cooling coil suspended in water I’ve seen automobile radiators used in this process the cooled liquid drips out into a waiting plastic jug a bit more water might be added and contents of jug poured into tank to be distilled a second time. Then bottled and delivered to Cave Creek. Some Mescaleros make only a couple hundred gallons at a time. It’s a labor intensive process. This small batch Bacanora sells for (pre-Covid) about fifty dollars a gallon. Buyer supplies the bottles or jugs We’ll visit some Mescaleros on the Rio Sonora in June."
"If drunkards could fly the sky would be cloudy all day."
—Old Vaquero Saying
April 26, 2022
Two women types we will cover in our Real Women of The Wild West book.
Daily Whip Out: "Adelita"
Female soldiers of the Mexican Revolution, also called Soldaderas. And then there's these stalwart women.
Western slang term for a woman who is a rural or small town schoolteacher and who exhibits characteristics of strict adherance to arbitrary rules.
Edith Decker Schoolmarm
Cherie Cloudt sent me this description:
April 25, 2022
One of the problems Bat Masterson has in terms of his Old West legend is he is typecast as a city slicker, always wearing a derby. But the real Bat was a scout and buffalo hunter before he donned his derby. The problem lies with the fact that there are no known photos of him with a broad-brimmed hat which he must surely have worn on the Staked Plains of Texas in the early seventies. You know, like this:
Daily Whip Out:
"Bat Masterson The Scout"
Here's an image—if it was a photograph—that would change everything:
"Bat Masterson at Adobe Walls"
He may not have been wearing buckskins at the famous fight, but I think it's safe to say he had on a broad-brimmed hat. Instead, we are left with a whole bunch of images like this.
So Bat was very dapper in his town dress and his ubiquitous derby pigeon-holes him in the "Dandy Zone," rather than as the gunfighter, lawman and scout, all of which he actually was. Once again, the irony is that Bat had a more stellar career as a scout and buffalo hunter than Wyatt Earp who was working in a cat house in Peoria when Bat was at the second Battle of Adobe Walls. It's also interesting to me that another brother, Jim Masterson (a Logan County Deputy Sheriff), played a prominent role in the Ingalls, Oklahoma gunfight, when U.S. Marshals went up against the Doolin-Dalton Gang. Those Masterson Boys were in the thick of things to say the least.
Here is a new angle I had never known about Masterson. Stuart Rosebrook found this news item while searching for Bat related news coverage for our cover story on Bat:
Bat Is Fair & Defends Jack Johnson
Reading between the lines is this perhaps another reason Bat disliked Doc Holliday?
In The End We Have Bat to Thank for Wyatt
The irony is, that Bat Masterson encouraged the Wyatt Earp legend because he, Bat, didn't enjoy talking about himself and would rather champion his friends. Bat gets major points for that as well.
The Derby And The Scout
Masterson wears a wider brim in his later years, especially in New York, but the image persists of Bat as a derby wearer because virtually all his photos from the early period he is wearing one. The moral is be careful what you wear in your photos because it just might pigeon-hole you for the rest of your life.
Trapped In A Derby For Eternity
"What I find most interesting in fashion is that it has to reflect our time. You have to witness your own moment."
April 23, 2022
Back in 1994 I was on a roll with my Illustrated Life & Times books, having published tomes on Billy, Wyatt and Doc. I was casting about for a new book subject to sink my teeth into. One of the juiciest concepts I hit on was "Wild Women of the Wild West." I spent several months developing a timeline from roughly 1820 to 1920 culminating with women getting the vote. As often happens, life got in the way, I got fired from my radio gig for saying, "Besa me culo," on the air and then we bought a failing history magazine and before I knew it twenty-some years had gone by and the women's book title was suddenly old hat. About a year-and-a-half ago I came back to the women project and thought to myself, "You know, maybe I should get a woman to co-author this with me."
The problem with the "Wild Women" title was two-fold. One is, that video guy who flooded the market with "Girls Gone Wild" videos more or less wore out the potency of the word Wild, and two, more than one book had already poached the title:
So, we played with other titles, including this one as recently as last month!
But I think my friend and artist who has a studio in Lamy, outside Santa Fe, nailed it early on.
Daily Whip Out: "Olive Sheds A Tear"
April 23, 2022
A friend of mine, Steve Todd, recently sent me photos of his travels in the Big Bend area and one photo, in particular, caught my attention. It showed the entrance to Fort Leaton (which is south of Presidio), giving way to the courtyard and the egress on the opposite side of the fort. The stacking of geometric shapes in a Russian doll sort of way, inspired me.
The 6-Minute Graduation Exit Interview
I just now finished "The 6-Minute Diary" and it was a joy to complete, basically it involved being grateful in the morning and in the evening. At the end of the book there are these exit interview questions. Kind of a graduation exercise. Loved this one.
• If you could direct a movie based on your life, what would be the plot in one sentence? And who would play you?
An Exit's Exit
"A small town kid captures the past on a road trip to Hell! Starring Timothee Chalomet, that little skinny guy with no chest hairs."
An incredible likeness. Boy Howdy.
"Indeed, one of the ultimate advantages of an education is simply coming to the end of it."
April 22, 2022
We are hard at work, getting into the layouts for our book on the Real Women of the Wild West. Here is one of the sidebars we will be covering:
And, then there's this:
And we'll be featuring this wonderful gal:
Daily Whip Out: "The Great Western"
Not to mention this Santa Fe Beauty:
Yes, we are going to have some fun with this book. The upshot is that there has been a sea change since these women fought for the right to be in charge of their own destiny. And their victory is breathtaking. There's only one slight problem for me.
Women in Charge
So, one of the disappointments for me is that our most recent reader's poll (2015) shows our readership is still in the range of 86% male and 14% female. From the beginning I have encouraged female voices in the magazine, but the numbers have not budged. Contrast this with the report, from Stuart, that by his estimation, all the history groups he's involved with are now at least 60% women. So, why the disconnect? Why aren't True West readership rates skewing more female?
"Women don't need to be in front to know they're in charge."
April 21, 2022
When it comes to the hundreds of Old West classic gunfights I have researched, you will find that most of the combatants were at close range. For example, in the O.K. Corral fight they were close enough to touch at the beginning of the altercation.
Same with shootouts in saloons or outside buildings where many of these fights took place. In a few fights the shooters were about about 25 to 50 yards apart, which is the TV show preferred distance (think of the opening to "Gunsmoke"). And, occasionally there are fights with longer distances, like when California lawman Harry Morse brought down the outlaw Juan Soto at 225 yards. Or, when legendary lawman Bass Reeves took down an outlaw at 500 yards. But there is one legendary fight where the adversaries were 1,538 yards apart. That is not a typo. Fifteen hundred yards! And change. To put that in perspective, that's more than fifteen football fields. In fact, it's only a couple hundred yards short of a mile. There's nothing that has ever topped this shot in the annals of the Old West. Any way you slice it, that's one crazy, looooong shot. Plus, what kind of a weapon could shoot that far and who could hit anything at that range?
Well, legend and the army corp of engineers say that a sharpshooting scout named Billy Dixon made that shot with a borrowed "Big Fifty" at the second battle of Adobe Walls. What is a Big Fifty you may ask? Well, let's go back to the history and see if we can verify the event, and make sense of it all.
The Second Battle of Adobe Walls
On June 27, 1874, 28 men and one woman were occupying a crude little settlement in the Texas panhandle called Adobe Walls.
The youngest of the group is a scout named Bat Masterson. Yes, that Bat Masterson.
Adobe Walls had formerly been a trading post and saloon with a couple makeshift buildings and a crumbling stable. Because of Comanche raids, it had been abandoned more than once before this latest group came in to set up operations for buffalo hunting and other business. Needless to say, the Comanche and their allies, the Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho, did not take kindly to all this tresspassing on their hunting grounds and took the hunter's presence personally. In fact, there had been an earlier fight, ten years prior, on the same spot when none other than Kit Carson and a battalion of Union soldiers came out from Fort Bascom to beat back the Comanche and protect settlers who were being attacked. That fight ended in a contested draw with both sides claiming victory. At any rate, ten years later the angst remained the same, and the Comanches, now led by Quanah Parker, were going to take care of this nest of tresspassers once and for all.
Several months before the fight, a medicine man named Isa-tai began claiming he had true "puha" which was Comanche for "power" and anyone who followed him would be immune to the White Man's bullets. He appeared before the tribe totally naked, painted yellow and his horse painted yellow which Isa-tai believed would make him and his horse immune to White Man bullets. Many of the other braves painted their bodies yellow as well to demonstrate their own belief in Isa-tai's "puha."
And, by the way, Isa-tai's name translates as "Wolf's Vulva" or "Coyote Vagina."
The Comanche and their allies, believed to be about 300, are led by Quanah Parker and Isa-tai, who charge at dawn, expecting to suprise the sleeping hunters, but most of them are up and around repairing a broken ridgepole.
The defenders retreat inside of the main dwelling and repel the first wave using their pistols and small arms with only the loss of two men who were asleep in a wagon. Several of the attackers, including Quanah Parker get close enough to pound on the doors with their rifle butts but the doors and windows hold. Frustrated, they kill almost all the livestock on the grounds including all 28 horses and oxen belonging to the Shadler brothers.
After the first attack is repulsed, the buffalo hunters pull out their long guns and send volley after volley after the retreating Comanches. They kill 15. And, no doubt some were painted yellow.
On the second day, it was a stand off, but the hunters were bold enough to venture outside and drag off the dead horses and oxen away from the dwellings to avoid the smell, while sharp shooters kept the Indians at bay. Several more hunters also arrived increasing the number of defenders to over 30 fighting men. One of the hunters volunteers to ride to Dodge City for re-enforcements and he takes off to do just that.
On the third day, 15 Indians are spotted riding out on a bluff nearly a mile away, out of the range of the hunter's guns. Or, so they think. Billy Dixon, using a borrowed .50-90 "Big Fifty" Sharps rifle, throws some dust in the air to calculate the wind and adjusting the rear sights for the distance, he fires. About four seconds later, one of the Indians on horseback drops off his horse.
The Indians soon clear out and the hunters believe Dixon's "scratch" shot thoroughly discouraged the Indians and they left.
As news of the fight spread more hunters came in for protection and to help defend the settlement. By the sixth day, the garrison grew to about 100 men.
Later it is discovered that Quanah Parker was wounded in one of the attacks and some believe this is why the Indians retired without more of a fight.
Most historians today believe that fewer than 30 died in the battle.
One very angry warrior supposedly struck Isa-tai across the face with his quirt because of his disgust at the medicine man's false claims, and another, a berieved father of a slain warrior demanded that the yellow medicine man go down and retrieve his son since he was immune to the White Man bullets. Isa-tai shrugged off the debacle, blaming the Cheyennes' killing of a skunk the day before the battle. In spite of his bad medicine, Isa-tai continues on his merry way, spreading his false gospel.
The Adobe Walls fight led to the Red River War of 1874-75 which resulted in the final relocation of the Southern Plains Indians to reservations in what is now Oklahoma.
The Dixon long shot was, and is, of course controversial and there are quite a few arm chair historians who don't believe the tale. After the battle and the news spread about the incredible shot, the army corp of engineers measured the actual distance and that's how we get the very specific distance of 1,538 yards. Our True West gun editor, Phil Spangenberger, weighs in with a report that in 1992 the Shiloh Sharps owners were invited to the Yuma Proving Grounds in Arizona to use some then-newly declassified radar devices to test the performance of several types of ammunition. In one of the tests a Sharps rifle launched a bullet over 3,600 yards, which is over two miles. When they replicated Dixon's elevation of 4.5 degrees and using the same load, the lead slug landed 1,517 yards downrange, almost the exact range of Dixon's controversial shot.
Also, in 2015 members of the Wild West History Association re-staged the Billy Dixon shot and put two riders on the actual bluff to the east of Adobe Walls.
Turns out, the shot heard round every campfire in the Western world actually has some scientific credence. It's no wonder the Comanches dubbed the 1874 Sharps as "The Shoot Today Kill Tomorrow Gun."
"If I wasn't Bob Dylan, I'd probably think that Bob Dylan has a lot of answers."
—Bob Dylan, in Playboy, March, 1978
April 20, 2022
I've been inspired to do some promo, checkerboard quads of the feisty females who put the Wild in Wild West.
Daily Whip Out: "Quads of Feisty Females"
File This Next One Under
'Don't Worry, Be Hopi'
Daily Whip Out:
"More Quads of Feisty Females"
A guy I know is married to a Native American woman. He had this to say about the upper, left hand corner Hopi woman.
"People believe Hopis are peaceful people, not true. My wife is Hopi and I told her she should have been Apache. She's meaner than a barrel of rattlesnakes."
April 19, 2022
We just got this question from a reader:
"Looking at the postmortem picture of the Dalton gang in Coffeyville, there is, as I'm sure you know, a small boy peeking through a hole in the wall just above Tom Evans' body. The boy has been identified as Ray H. Clark. Do you have any information of whatever became of Ray H. Clark? That little fact would make a great addition to the story of the demise of the Daltons!
Here is what a Coffeyville historian, told us about the Kid:
"Ray H. Clark was born in Chanute on April 29, 1879 and he was 13 years old at the time of the Dalton Raid. In the 1900 Coffeyville Directory, Ray is listed as living at 502 W. 11th street. In the 1910 census Ray was listed as living with his older brother William and his wife Nellie. On September 12, 1918 Ray filled out a WWI registration card. He was 39 years old and by this time he was living in Portland, Oregon and employed by the NW Steel Co. as a shipfitter. He was married twice and died on September 22, 1949 in Portland, Oregon of a heart attack. His body was sent to Coffeyville, to be buried in Fairview Cemetery where both his parents are buried."
—Kris Cane, Coffeyville historian
Thanks to Amy Dollar, who is the tourism director for Coffeyville, Kansas, for rounding up this fascinating information for us. This is what I love about my job. Getting to talk to the people who have spent their lives studying our amazing history. It doesn't get any better than this.
"A nation that disdains its past has no future."
—Paul Andrew Hutton
April 18, 2022
Okay, here's a confession: I did time in a Mexican prison. Meanwhile, here are some of my contemporaries who have also spent time behind bars.
Mug Shots of Famous Troublemakers
One of them is not a real mug shot, can you spot it? Turns out the mug shot of Elvis, top row, middle, was taken as a joke, while Mr. Presley, long a cop groupie, was hanging out at a police station. The rest are legit. As for me, I was in college and did a stupid thing on this street.
Canal Street, Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, 1969
It was in the B-29 Club where things got out of hand and the bartender called the Federales on us because we brought our own beer and refused their service. I ended up in a paddy wagon, as I should have, with three extremely obnoxious and drunk A-holes (my roommates at the U of A) and we all spent the night in the Nogales, Mexico drunk tank with three inches of urine on the floor.
There were perhaps twenty of us in there. One of these cellmates raped an old man in the darkness who kept yelling out, "Americans! Help me!" We said nothing.
"Beer makes you feel as you ought to feel without beer."
—Old Vaquero Saying