Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tie Up That Horse Cowboy

The cowhand raced to save the distressed maiden, he leapt from his trusty steed, and ground tied him, as whistling lead and the smell of gun powder filled the air.
I made that up, but did recently finish reading books by two different authors, where the hero ground tied his horse under all conditions- they ground tied so much I got tired of waiting for the horse to run off. Things that I have read, and or tried with ground tying indicate the cowboy may need hiking boots instead of cowboy boots if he ground ties too much.
Much like the cowboys that loop the reins around the hitching post in the old movies, horses will shy and get the heck out of Dodge if too much action and noise starts. Heck my pick-up doesn’t like to stick around if things get to wild-------but I do.
I like well researched western reads, not sure these writers had spent much time around horses. Too bad, one of them was fast paced and fun.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Random Thoughts on the Sundance Kid

Harry A. Longabaugh is a tough name to pronounce and not very memorable. But when he stole a horse, saddle and a gun in northeast Wyoming and got himself tossed in jail in Sundance, Wyoming, he became a legend, the Sundance Kid. The movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid did not hurt his popularity either. It might be that Butch and Sundance would be little more that footnotes in Wild West history if not for the movie. We would still love them in Wyoming and Utah but the rest of the country may have enough of their own bad guys to celebrate.

So who was the Sundance Kid anyway? His friend Butch Cassidy is much better known as leader of the Wild Bunch and as an all around character of the old west. So why was Harry (the Sundance Kid) Longabaugh famous, was it only because he hung out with Butch?

Born in Pennsylvania in 1867 he came west (probably first to Colorado) as a teen and later ended up in north eastern Wyoming. By age twenty his outlaw career had started and ended. A year and a half later he was released from the Sundance jail and returned to life working on a ranch. Either bored with the life of a cowboy, or needing adventure he was implicated in a train robbery three years after his release (1892) and then another five years later. Maybe he was just supplementing his meager ranch wages but more than likely he was an outlaw and had gotten away with more than local people knew about at the time. These robberies may have been as part of Cassidy’s wild bunch.

I suspect, like many of the outlaws of the old west, he lived two different lives. Part of the time he was a hard working ranch hand, raising, feeding and taking care of stock, riding fence and spending time with locals in town when he had a chance. But he had a wild streak, one that left him less than satisfied with this life. It could have been money, might have been a need for adventure, or he may have been in it for the thrill of the chase. Whatever it was, his unsettled feelings may have led him to an on and off life of crime, sometimes with months or years between hold-ups.

After the Winnemucca National Bank, Nevada hold up, Butch and Sundance took off for South America with the Pinkerton Detectives right behind. The story ends there, or does it? Were they killed in the famous shootout with the San Vicente police in Bolivia in 1908? Most avid readers of western history hope not. Stories say he and Butch came back to America, living in Utah, Wyoming or elsewhere for many years. We may never know for sure, but we really hope they were a lot like Redford and Newman in the movie.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Virginian --Nope

Ever wonder where writers come up with characters for their novels? Well this guy was sure he was the Virginian. He lived at the right time and was in the same general area as Owen Wister was when he wrote the famous novel, but I doubt he was the Virginian. He may have been the basis for a physical description of the famous cowboy, or as Wister wrote, cow-boy, but he was not the Virginian, of that I am sure.

The summer of 1914 may have truly marked the end of the old west. Why, because that was the year of the last stagecoach holdup, and it took place near Shoshone Point in Yellowstone Park. Other places claim the last holdup, including one of the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage and one in Nevada, but I like this one. The year marked the end of the horse’s only transportation in the park, as cars came for the first time the next year, and a year after that, 1916 would mark the end of the coaches in the park.

I like this bit of history because the robber, Edward Trafton, (Ed Harrington) did not just hold up a stagecoach, he held up fifteen in a row. The stages carried tourists seeing the sights of the park, and the sixteenth coach, sniffing out something bad, turned around and went for help.

Wearing several layers of extra clothes and a black mask,Trafton stopped each coach rustled out the passengers and asked them, while holing a rifle, to put their money in a sack lying at his feet. For his days work he collected a little over nine hundred dollars and jewelry worth another one- hundred and thirty dollars. Trafton, a ladies’ man, or one who believed he was, laughed and asked the ladies to hide their jewelry, he was only interested in cash. Not sure how or why he ended up with more than a hundred dollars worth anyway, maybe he didn’t like some of the women as much as others.

Trafton had so much fun holding up a stage every half hour that he even allowed some of the passengers to take his photo. Not sure Tafton was the smartest of outlaws, but he likely believed he was, because of this day, famous, and needed to secure his place in history. It did secure a place but maybe not what he had in mind.

The well photographed outlaws next stop was Leavenworth, where he rested up for five years. He died more than a decade later
with a letter in his pocket claiming he was the cowboy Owen Wister based the Virginian on. More likely, if Wister ever met him and put him in the famous novel, he was one of the bad guys or less than bright characters in the story. Trampas?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Good Read

Just finished reading, Cormac McCarthy’s, No Country for Old Men, I liked the story line, and have always enjoyed, so called, modern day western’s. The trouble I had with this book, and one other of his that I have read, is trying to figure out where dialog starts and ends, or story narration is taking place. Part of the way down each page I would figure it out and then often start that page over.
But somewhere along the ling I realized I could not put it down—I really liked the story, and now I want to read another of his works.
Good book, but beware of the lack of punctuation.