Heard Around the Bunkhouse #6 – Old West Lingo

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

JIG IS UP: The scheme or game is over. We’ve been exposed.

KNOCKED INTO A COCKED HAT: Fouled up or rendered useless

WIND UP: Settle. “Let’s wind up this business and go home.”

WEARING THE BUSTLE WRONG: A pregnant woman.

BEST BID AND TUCKER: Wearing your best clothes.

GET THE MITTEN: Being rejected by a lover.

Medicine Lodge Treaty

Medicine Lodge Treaty
As the western part of the United States was being settled the Great Plains, known as the Great American Desert, was considered unsuitable for settlement. So, it was decided to make it one big reservation for all the Indian tribes to occupy. So came the Medicine Lodge Treaty.
 
But, by 1865 farmers had found a way to raise crops in this “desert.” And, railroads and telegraph lines were crossing the area, presenting tempting targets for the Indians. Something had to be done. Prior to this, under the direction of the government, various churches had tried to civilize the Indian by making him a farmer. These were met with mixed success. But, the government still felt that it was easier to civilize than to kill.
 
It was decided to abandon the idea of a giant continuous reservation, for one that had clear boundaries in Western Oklahoma. So, on October 21, 1867 a federal peace commission met with representatives from the Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapahoe and other tribes at Medicine Lodge in Kansas to sign a treaty. 
 
The government would provide rations, clothing, housing and schools. In exchange, the Indian would become a farmer, stay on the reservation, and stop attacking whites. The object was to get the Indian to give up his traditional ways, and become civilized.
 
As with other treaties, the Medicine Lodge Treaty was a failure: The treaty was so complicated that most of the chiefs who signed it didn’t realize its implications. The chiefs who signed the treaty didn’t represent all the Indians. And, although Congress set up the terms of the treaty, they wouldn’t appropriate the rations, clothing and housing spelled out in the treaty. So, the Indian wars continued.

Lew Wallace

Lew WallaceAs a young man Lew Wallace practiced law in Indiana. With the outbreak of the Civil War, he was named the adjutant general for Indiana, and served with distinction. Following the war, he went back to his law practice. But he worked just hard enough to pay his bills.
 
Then in 1878, President Hayes, owing him a favor, appointed Lew Wallace the governor of the New Mexico Territory. Some say that Wallace was a bit obnoxious, and this was how President Hayes got rid of him.
 
On September 30, 1878, Lew Wallace and his wife arrived at Santa Fe, New Mexico. By this time the initial incidents of the Lincoln County War had already taken place, and things were quiet. Then in February of 1879 another killing took place. Governor Wallace personally went to Lincoln County, and ordered a number of grand jury indictments and arrests. He also met with Billy the Kid, and agreed to pardon the Kid if he would testify in court for the prosecution.
 
Unfortunately, Governor Wallace was unable to follow through with his promise of pardoning Billy the Kid and went back to Santa Fe. When Billy the Kid realized he wasn’t getting a pardon, he escaped from jail, killing two of his guards in the process.
 
In March of 1880, just two and a half years after he arrived in Santa Fe, Wallace packed his bags and returned east. According to Wallace he was a failure. 
 
Quite possibly while in New Mexico his attention was elsewhere. For upon his arrival in New York he delivered a book manuscript to Harper’s Publishing. It was the novel Ben-Hur.

Chocolate Cowboy Caramels

Below is a candy recipe from the October 23, 1893 Albuquerque Evening Citizen.

Chocolate Cowboy Caramels – boil together a pound of white sugar, a quarter of a pound of chocolate, four tablespoons of molasses, a cup of sweet milk, and apiece of butter as big as a walnut. When it will harden in water, flavor with vanilla and pour on a buttered slab. When nearly cold, cut in squares.

Cowboy Caramels

Old West Book Review: Villa Lobos

Villa LobosVilla Lobos, Michael Zimmer, Five Star Publishing, $25.95, Hardcover, Western Fiction.

Author Michael Zimmer has written an action-packed, fast-paced western novel that will appeal to readers thirsty for tough adventure tales about the Old West.  Sit back, read, and have fun with it, but don’t try to spend much time trying to figure out who all the characters are.  The names are many.

The story titled Villa Lobos, means “Village of Wolves” giving an apt description of where this story is headed.  You will find four groups of individuals riding south out of Texas and across the Rio Grande river where they are going to collide in a flurry of treachery, gun smoke, slashing knives, and dynamite.

The first group is made up of a gang of American outlaws who have just robbed a bank in Texas.  Some people were killed, the town is in shock, and the gang now heads south where they plan to divide the loot.  The leader is an ex-Confederate soldier named Hollister.

The second group consists of the American sheriff, leading a posse of adventuresome cowboys and townspeople who want their money back.  The sheriff is an old hand at law enforcement and trailing felons, but desert heat and whining store keepers not used to riding with a posse slow him down.

The third group presents a half dozen soldiers escorting three runaway prostitutes back to the town they came from.  The women are riding in a wagon, dressed as soldiers, and voicing more than their share of complaints as they plod along only to be ambushed and taken prisoners by the outlaw Hollister gang who seem to think the women will make valuable hostages in case the sheriff catches up.  The surprised soldiers are embarrassed, and decide to go after the outlaws to get the women back.

Now the story presents a fourth group made up of Mexican bandits, cutthroats, liars and thieves.  They are scalp hunters attacking Indian bands in Mexico for scalp bounty.  They also take children and young women prisoners to be traded or sold deep in the Mexican interior as household servants, prostitutes and slaves.  Known as “The Hunters” this outfit has not one individual that readers would care to-deal with.  They headquarter in Villa Lobos, giving the town its name, and through murder and fear, control everybody.  The leader is so vicious and corrupt we despise him instantly. (Remember The Magnificent Seven?)  The old priest in town is the only person who escapes the bandit leader’s wrath.

By now, you have guessed you will have lots of names to wend through, but still there is no clear-cut protagonist whom we can cheer for, worry about, or hope he or she will come out on top.  A character brave, respectable, wise, admirable, memorable, does not surface here.  While we wonder why we are even reading this book, we find we cannot put it down.  The action never stops, one shocking surprise after another finds us turning pages because we don’t want to miss anything.

The author has a good understanding of horses, guns, desert heat, the Spanish language, military procedure, historic Mexican villages, and the ability to put it on paper.  Without a memorable protagonist the plot is shaky, but if you like western adventure stories, Villa Lobos will entertain you to the last page

Publisher’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including the novel Lost Roundup, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 399, Unionville, New York 10988. www.silklabelbooks.corn

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