Old West Book Review: According To Kate – Tale of Big Nose Kate

According to Kate - Big Nose Kate bookAccording To Kate, Chris Enss, Two Dot, $24.95, Cloth. Non-fiction, Photos, Notes, Bibliography, IndexThis book chronicles for the first time the life story of Mary Katherine Horony, known as Big Nose Kate.  Previously small parts of her life have been entwined with stories regarding her association with the Earps and Doc Holliday.  If not for her relationship with Doc, it is likely that nobody would have heard of her, or even cared.  Kate was a prostitute, a soiled dove, a lady of easy virtue who traveled throughout the rough Kansas cow-towns and mining camps in Arizona.

Her early life seems to have been stable.  Her father was a doctor.  She claimed to have had one early marriage and a child who died.  However, she soon took up life on the wild side and stuck with it until old age caught up to her.

According to Kate, which is the title of this book, she hated the Earps and the nickname Wyatt bestowed upon her, “Big Nose Kate.”  This name had little to do with the size of her nose, but because she stuck her nose into other people’s business.  Kate and Wyatt contended for the attention and loyalty of Doc Holiday; Wyatt usually won.

After Doc Holliday’s death of tuberculosis in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Kate married George Cummings, a mining man/blacksmith.  In time she left this abusive drunk, and became a housekeeper at a tiny hotel in Cochise, Arizona.  From here she became a housekeeper for Jack Howard, a mining man living in Dos Cabezas, Arizona.  Thirty years later when Jack Howard died, Kate, nearly destitute was admitted to the Pioneer’s Home in Prescott, Arizona.  She spent the last ten years of her life (to age 90) complaining about the food and accommodations white attempting to sell her memoirs to writers who might use the material for a book.  There were no takers willing to give her money for her stories.  Kate died at the Pioneer’s Home and is buried there.

This book is an accumulation of Kate’s lifetime adventures.  Much of Kate’s story here is gleaned from a combination of her memoirs, some accurate and some not, plus the author Chris Enss’ having gathered historical facts from legal documents, census records, and newspaper articles.

Readers of this book should understand that Kate’s personal letters and memoirs have been picked over tong ago by Earpiana researchers.  Nothing here is really new, but it is now well organized.  There are only three photos of Kate in the book that are authentic.  We have seen them long ago.  A fourth shows an attractive teenage girl on the book cover, but it is hard to imagine this is really Kate.  Mary Katherine Horony was not a pretty woman.  She told some windies in her memoirs probably to help sell her story, but we can excuse an eighty-year-old lady for this.  She had no idea that after her death legions of professional researchers would sift carefully through every facet of the lives and times of the Earps and their associates, including “Big Nose Kate.”

Author Chris Enss has done a creditable job accumulating information, both factual and fictional concerning a famous Old West figure who survived hard times; living to old age still feisty and determined to the end According To Kate is a fascinating read, worthy of inclusion in your Old West library.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous published books about the Old West, including 9 Days At Dragoon Springs, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 399, Unionville, New York 10988. www.silklabelbooks.com.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Denver’s First Trial

When the cry of silver or gold goes out, immediately hundreds and even thousands of people flock to the area. Overnight, the area is dotted with crude structures called homes. And stores, restaurants and the mandatory saloons pop up right along with the homes. What doesn’t happen immediately is the town’s infrastructure… regulations to insure people are civilized, and a means of enforcement when people aren’t civilized. That’s what happened with Denver, Colorado. But, on January 13, 1859, some of the citizens of Denver decided it was time for law and order. This led to Denver’s first trial.
               
A makeshift court was assembled along the Platte River, which would always be known as the locale of Denver’s first trial. The hardened criminal was brought before the court. The man was charged with stealing… six cans of oysters. That’s right oysters. They were a delicacy to the miners. And, those six cans were probably the last oysters in town. Besides, they were valued at $30.
 
He was found guilty. And, since there was no jail in the area, his punishment was 20 lashes. However, there were those who thought he should be hanged.
 
When they discovered that he was drunk at the time he stole the oysters, and, since most of the jury were probably heavy drinkers themselves, the final verdict was amended. They decided the offender should be banned from the settlement.
 
However, realizing that the draw of gold might mean that he would sneak back, they added one more caveat to his sentence. That was that if he returned to the village anyone could shoot him on sight.
 
I understand he was never heard from again. 
Denver's First Trial - Six Cans of Oysters

The Cowboy Kid

Johnny Baker was born on January 12, 1869. While still a young kid he met and became enthralled with Buffalo Bill Cody. At the age of 9 little Johnny would hold Buffalo Bill’s horse, and run errands for him. At this time Buffalo Bill was appearing on the stage and the subject of many a dime novel. About five years later Buffalo Bill came up with the idea of starting a Wild West show. Johnny Baker was only 14 years of age… but he talked both his parents and Buffalo Bill into letting him join up. It was discovered that Johnny was a pretty good shot. So he became the shows trick shot expert under the name “The Cowboy Kid.”
The Cowboy Kid, Johnny Baker
One of the features of the Wild West show was a shootout between Annie Oakley and The Cowboy Kid. Whether planned or not, the Cowboy Kid never won.
 
Even after the Wild West show closed, Johnny remained loyal to Buffalo Bill. And, after Buffalo Bill’s death Johnny tried resurrecting Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But it didn’t last long. Still wanting to be a part of the circus atmosphere, he went to work for the Miller 101 Shows, which were more like a rodeo. For a while Johnny was their arena director. And then they closed their doors.
 
Johnny still yearned for the excitement he experienced while traveling with Buffalo Bill. He started working with the town of Denver, Colorado to open a museum. And in 1921 the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum was opened.
 
Johnny Baker ran the museum until his death. It stands today, not just a monument to a great showman, but also an indication of the love Buffalo Bill’s unofficial foster son had for the showman.

Heard Around the Bunkhouse #2 – Old West Terms

Old West TermsIn our feature Heard Around the Bunkhouse we bring you Old West terms and sayings that they used back in the Old West. Hope you enjoy them, and send us your favorite terms from those past times.

FISH – A cowboy’s rain slicker.  Slicker was manufactured by a company whose trademark was a fish.

RICH – Amusing, funny, improbable.

BILK – Cheat.

THE WHOLE KIT AND CABOODLE – The entire thing.

BAZOO – Mouth as in “Shut your big bazoo.”

GONER – Lost, dead.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Old West Book Review: The Ranger Ideal, Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame

The Ranger Ideal; Texas RangersThe Ranger Ideal, Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame, Volume 1, Darren L. Ivey, University of North Texas press $39.95, Cloth. 672 p.p., Photos, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

For anyone interested in the history of the Texas Rangers, this book is a must read.  It is the first of a three-book series telling about the lives of the most important men involved with the founding of the Texas Rangers.  The time period it covers is from 1823 – 1861, and includes Stephen F. Austin, John C. Hays, William A. A. “Big Foot” Wallace, Samuel H. Walker, John S. Ford, and Lawrence S. Ross.  All of these men have been inducted into the Hall of Fame and Museum at Waco, Texas.

The author points out in his Preface that several of these men are well-known, but the others have been mostly overlooked and do not have biographies or even extensive coverage in history books.  All of these men are honored in the Texas Ranger Museum at Fort Fisher located near the Texas city of Waco. Visitors to the museum find Ranger displays including guns, clothing, saddles, equipment and artwork.  The museum opened to the public in 1968, and continues its work educating the public about the important contributions Rangers made to Texas.

Readers find a timeline of Ranger history to help us better understand the enormous upheavals Texas went through beginning in 1821 when Americans established a colony on land that originally belonged to Mexico.  Political changes are explained as Texas went from Mexican control to annexation to the United States in 1845.

Each of the seven men featured here were vastly patriotic, and did not hesitate to join in any and all of the fights, shoot-outs, military campaigns, long marches, sometimes capture and imprisonment in Mexico, and including every hardship imaginable.  By the 1860s, two Rangers featured here joined the Confederate Army when civil war was declared and Texas went with the South.  The battle records of these men are shown here, their adventures and derring-do included a multitude of battles and skirmishes reminiscent of Bruce Catton’s Civil War books where readers follow the amazing courage these soldiers displayed under the most difficult circumstances.

In 1860 Ranger John Ford was involved in the recovery of the highly publicized white woman Cynthia Ann Parker who, when still a child, was taken captive by Comanches.  By the time she was rescued years later, she had mostly forgotten her white way of live, and even how to speak English.

Of the seven Rangers featured in the book, only three ever married while the others seem to have dedicated their lives to Texas.  Two of these men died fighting.

The author has done an impressive job of researching for truths related to this material. Anyone looking for information about the Texas Rangers will find this tome invaluable.

Darren L. Ivey is to be commended for his good writing and careful research into an important topic about the American West.  In addition to The Ranger Ideal, Texas Rangers in the Hall of Fame his writing includes a previously published book on this subject titled The Texas Rangers; A Registry and History.

Thus far, thirty-one individuals have been honored in the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame. If you are a Texas Ranger fan, you will want this one for your Old West library, and will look forward to reading the next two books in the series.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of many books including Death For Dinner; The Benders of (Old) Kansas, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York, 10988-0700. Ph. (845) 726-3434. www.silklabelbooks.com

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

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