An Old West Poker Game That Went On & On!

For people of the Old West gambling was a way of life. They risked their life by going into Indian Territory for furs, precious metal or land. They staked everything they owned on a herd of cattle being driven north. And for sure they enjoyed a game of chance.

 
There was faro, euchre, monte, casino, and, of course, poker… which, incidentally, was always dealt to the left of the player to make it easier to pull a gun with the right hand in case of irregularities. The origin of most games of chance came from Europe, with the exception of the old three walnuts and a pea, which started in America, probably on the streets of New York, where it still prospers.
 
Not only did cowboys lose their wages, but whole herds of cattle, and a cattleman’s entire wealth would change hands over night. A few wives were even offered to “match the pot.”

On June 15, 1853, in Austin, Texas Major Danelson and Mr. Morgan sat down to play poker, and evidentially with little to go home to, forgot to quit. The game went on for a week… then a month… a year became years. The Civil War broke out, was fought and lost, but these two Texas gentlemen still dealt the cards. Finally in 1872, 19 years after it started, both men died on the same day… but the game continued. Their two sons took over, and played for 5 more years.

 Finally the game ended in 1877 when a railroad train killed one of the sons, and the other went crazy. Not that all of them weren’t crazy in the first place.
 

Chuckwagon: Sorghum Cake

   This was a dessert made either at the ranch or restaurants in town.  It couldn’t be made on the cattle drive because of the need for butter and eggs, two items that would not remain fresh during a three month cattle drive.

2 Tablespoons butter
½ Cup sugar
2 Eggs
1 Cup sorghum molasses
½ Cup water
½ Teaspoon baking soda
2 Cups flour

     Start by mixing the butter and sugar.  Then add the eggs.  In a separate bowl mix the molasses, water and baking soda.  Mix all the ingredients together.  Bake about 45 minutes at a 350 degree temperature.

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

Rattlesnake Dick

As a teenager Dick Barter and two of his relatives went to the California goldfields to seek their wealth. Dick’s relatives found working a sluice box too tough and went up to Oregon. But Dick loved the possibility of becoming wealthy.

 
One of the richest areas was Rattlesnake Bar. Dick worked that area. He constantly told everyone how beautiful the area was and that Rattlesnake Bar would make him wealthy. So, people started calling him Rattlesnake Dick.
 
But it seems his personality was such that he irritated everyone around him. After working the area a couple of years, some cattle showed up missing. Although there was no proof, Rattlesnake was accused and arrested for stealing the cattle. Eventually he was found innocent. A few months later he was accused and arrested for stealing a mule. This time he was convicted. But, on his way to prison, another man confessed to the crime.
 
Dick decided he had no future at Rattlesnake Bar, so he left. For two years he prospected with no incidents. Then miner’s items started disappearing, and Dick was again accused of taking them. To complicate things, a miner who had known Dick at Rattlesnake Bar told everyone about Dick’s background.
 
At this point Rattlesnake Dick decided that if everyone thought he was a thief, that’s just what he would become. And for the next three years he and his gang stole cattle and horses, robbed miners and stages.
 
Then on July 24, 1859 he met the fate of most outlaws and was killed by the sheriff. One could say, Rattlesnake Dick lived down to the expectations of others. 
 
 

Indians vs. The Army

The year was 1867. The Red Cloud War had been going on along the Bozeman Trail for almost two years. On August 1 some 500 Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho led by Dull Knife and Two Moon, attacked a small detachment of eight troopers and nine civilians that were led by Lieutenant Sternberg. At the time of the attack, Lieutenant Sternberg’s group was in the open crossing a hayfield. Fortunately, they were able to make it to the shelter of a nearby corral. Even more fortunately, the troopers and civilians had repeating rifles.

 
The Indian’s traditional plan of attack against single shot, breech-loading rifles, would be to draw fire, and while the rifles were being reloaded, attack in force. But, with repeating rifles, the fire was constant. Stymied, the Indians decided to set fire to the hay field and burn out the whites. But it wasn’t to be. As the fire got close to the corral, a strong wind came up, and put it out.
 
By late afternoon, the Indians decided to take their fight elsewhere. During the Hayfield Fight, as it was called, 20 warriors were killed and more than 30 seriously wounded. For the other side, only Lieutenant Sternberg, two soldiers and one civilian were killed.
 
The interesting thing about the conflict was that it took place near Fort C. F. Smith, where it could be seen and heard. Although Fort Smith contained a garrison of troops, none was ever sent. About seven months earlier at Fort Phil Kearny, Captain Fetterman and a command of eighty men were wiped out when they left their fort to help some woodcutters. It’s speculated that the commander was in fear of a repeat of the Fetterman Massacre.

Old West Book Review: Dragoons in Apacheland

Dragoons ApachelandDragoons in Apacheland, William S. Kiser, University of Oklahoma Press, (405) 3253200, $29.95, Cloth. Illustrations, Maps, Notes to the Chapters, Bibliography, Index.

Dragoons in Apacheland details the fifteen years from 1846 through 1861 when the U.S. Army was engaged in dealing with the Apaches in southern New Mexico Territory. The conflicts and misunderstandings led to daily turmoil as the dragoons tried bringing peace and order to the region.

Deadly Apache raids, heat, dust, long marches in the desert, lack of decent food and shortages of equipment were only part of what the men were forced to put up with.  Army posts usually consisted of crude huts, shabby tents, harsh weather, sick horses and mules, and sometimes squadrons of mosquitoes.

Meanwhile, civilian leaders and politicians from Washington to the Territorial governors, lawmen and regional mayors only added to the confusion.  No one seemed to agree on how to handle this new land with its new problems.  At the same time, various Apache bands including Mescalero, Mimbres, Mogollon and Chiricahua fought to hold their ancestral homelands.  Indian raiding, kidnapping, horse and mule rustling and murder occurred regularly.  Some of these Indians took the blame for others, while a few wise old leaders like Mangas Coloradas tried to negotiate peace.  Mangas knew instinctively that the wave of white settlers would eventually wipe out the Apache bands by sheer numbers alone.  He held off the inevitable as long as he could.  The disputes raged endlessly between military men, Apaches, Mexicans, white settlers, and adventurers crossing the territory.

The author gives detailed accounts of the many skirmishes and battles between Apaches and the U. S. Military during those fifteen years prior to the Civil War.  Anyone doing research about the Apache Wars and what led up to the 1880s Indian Wars will find this a valuable source of information.  Readers will find this book a wonderfully detailed and accurate account of the pre-Civil War period in New Mexico Territory not often written about.  This time period seems to have been skimmed over until now, perhaps because people think of the Indian Wars having always to do with the names we are familiar with such as Geronimo, who came much later.

Kiser points out the Apaches presented an obstacle to those politicians, ranchers, farmers and businessmen working toward civilizing the new frontier.  Meanwhile, the Apaches driven from their land had good reasons of their own to offer resistance to those encroaching on their old way of life.  Both sides of the problem are presented here in careful detail, without taking sides.  The reader is given the opportunity to judge for his or herself what can happen when one civilization takes over another.

The book has maps showing the Chiricahua Apache homelands that extended from New Mexico (part of what is now southeastern Arizona) and far into Sonora, Mexico.  Eventually part of New Mexico Territory would split off and become Arizona Territory.  At the outbreak of the Civil War, the American troops were called back east for the horrific fighting about to begin. At that time New Mexico was not a priority for the United States government until the Civil War ended, and troops returned to the Western Frontier.

Carefully written and accurately documented, the author has gleaned his information from military records, U.S. government documents and publications, newspaper accounts and important books and papers on the subject.  Personally, he explains how when he was a child, his father took him to some sites of the old abandoned forts.  Here, sifting through the debris with a metal detector, he found a few precious mementos that piqued his interest to eventually write this book, an important addition to your Old West library.

Editor’s Note:  The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de Ia Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West, including Hell Horse Winter of the Apache Kid, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York, 10988-0700 www.sllklabeIbooks.com.

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

 Page 1 of 56  1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last »