Chuckwagon: Chuckwagon Terms

Chuckwagon Terms:

Wreck pan – The pan in which cowboys placed their dirty dishes following a meal.

Squirrel can – The large can in which cowboys scraped the food scraps before placing them in the wreck pan.

Cook’s last job of the evening – Point the tongue of the chuckwagon toward the north so the herd could “follow the tongue” the next day.

Gut robber, greasy belly, biscuit shooter – Cowboys names for both the ranch house and trail drive cook.

Coffee recipe – A hand full of coffee for every cup of water.

Possum belly – A rawhide apron attached to the underside of the chuckwagon in which wood and buffalo chips are stored for the dinner fire.

Why cooks threw dirty dishwater under chuckwagon – This helped protect the cook’s domain by discouraging cowboys from taking a nap in the shade under the chuckwagon.

John Wayne McLintock WeathervaneFrom Dakota:
    “Our children and grandchildren came to visit Sunny and me over Thanksgiving.
   We were talking about the John Wayne McLintock Weathervane when someone said, “If it’s so great why don’t we make a commercial about it?”
   My grandson Kaine is a performer, so he was all for it. I wasn’t so sure, but I was drafted.”

To check out the classic McLintock Weathervane click HERE.

The Hanging of Robber Tom Bell

hangingTom Hodges was a brilliant surgeon who served in the U. S. Army during the Mexican-American War. In 1855 he gave up his medical practice and headed out west to make his fortune in the gold fields. He soon found that the gold fields were a lot harder than he had thought. 
 
So, Dr. Hodges started down the slippery slope by becoming a gambler in the central California saloons. Not being a good gambler, he took to robbing travelers. Dr. Hodges was caught and sent to prison for five years. Not wanting to soil his name, during this time, Dr. Hodges became Tom Bell. After a short time Tom Bell, as we now know him and some other men broke out of jail. Continuing down the slope, Tom organized a gang.
 
On August 12, 1856 Tom Bell’s gang attempted to rob a stage carrying $100,000 in gold. But the Bell gang didn’t count on the resistance put up by shotgun rider, Bill Dobson. Quite a firefight ensued. In the process the Bell gang shot three passengers, killing one, a woman. Dobson, in turn, shot two of the Bell gang. 
 
Now, this was too much for the citizens. A half dozen different posses took after Tom Bell. One by one the Bell gang was caught, and each informed on the others.
 
Finally in October a posse lead by Judge Joseph Belt found Tom Bell. It didn’t set well with the Judge that Tom was entitled to a due process of the law. Tom was taken to a tree, and a rope put around his neck. They were compassionate though. They did allow him to write a letter to his mother before hanging him. 

Old West Book Review: Cochise County Cowboys

Cochise County CowboysThe Cochise County Cowboys, who were these men? Joyce Aros, Goose Flats Publishing (P.O. Box 813, Tombstone, Arizona 85638) www.gooseflats.com/aros/  $11.95, Paperback. 112 Pages, Index.

When we read about “Cochise County Cowboys” it is usually within the context of those individuals accused of being enemies of the Earps during the 1880s conflict in Tombstone, ArizonaWyatt Earp himself was interviewed in the 1930s, and when talking about his life and times he cooked up a lot of fancy along with the facts, determined to tell his side of the story with an eye toward an eventual book and movie contract.  Wyatt might have the reputation of being the greatest “Frontier Marshal”, but in his old age he was also a sharp businessman.

Certainly he and his brothers, and their pal Doc Holliday were greatly embroiled in the booming silver mine town, but in reality they were only in Tombstone less than 2 years when they were chased out of the Territory wanted for murder.

Books, movies, magazine articles, museum artifacts, TV shows and lively historical re-enactors have kept the Tombstone/Earp story alive until it has become so convoluted nobody knows the truth of what really happened.  And now, who really cares?  Four brothers dressed in long black coats, thumping along the boardwalk, spurs jangling, totin’ well-oiled shootin’ irons is the stuff Hollywood is made of.

For night there has to be day, to have good there must be evil.  If we are to believe the Earps were frontier defenders of law and order, then there has to be a pack of villains, con-men, robbers, thieves and cattle rustlers for the Earps to tangle with.  The worse these characters were portrayed, the bigger heroes the Earps became.  At least, that is what audiences gleaned after reading books about Wyatt, and watching movie and TV dramas starring heroes like Burt Lancaster, Hugh O’Brien, Kevin Costner and Kirk Douglas.

Enter “Cochise County Cowboys”, whose supposed leader was a grizzled individual known as “Old Man Clanton.”  He lived in a shack in the hills, a widower with a passel of mean sons who toted guns and rode with their Pa beside a horde of equally murderous barn-burners with names like “Curly Bill’ and “Johnny Ringo.”  They supposedly stirred up every conceivable mischief from stagecoach robbery to cheating at cards. They lived by their guns, fast horses and derring-do.  A bunch of liars and back-shooters, they were cruel and heartless scoundrels who had taken over Cochise County. Fortunately the Earp brothers arrived just in the nick of time to save the gentle and defenseless townsfolk.

To top it all off, the fighting Earps caught three of those horrible villains at the O.K. Corral on a cold October day in 1881 known as the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.”  Those gunshots are still being heard around the world.  But now, after 135 years, some serious writer-researchers have determined to sniff out the truth, or at least come close to it, and evidence gleaned from census records, newspaper articles, personal letters and courthouse documents bring some truths to light.

Joyce Aros, a resident of Tombstone, Arizona is an astute observer of human nature, careful researcher, and dedicated historian who has doggedly followed the trail of a dozen “Cochise County Cowboys”.  She brings to light the reality of how these men really worked, lived, and sometimes died.  She is fair in her assessment of their contribution to the Tombstone saga.  She scrapes away the frosting on a highly fantasized cake, and takes the reader into a new world of honest evaluation of the characters involved with the Earps in Tombstone.  The four Clantons, the McLaury brothers, Frank Stilwell, Johnny Ringo, Major Frink, Billy Claiborne, Pete Spence, Curly Bill and Sherm McMasters are examined here.

If you like old Tombstone stories, and are interested in the real truth; this little book is a must for your Old West collection.  I suspect Aros will have more of these books forthcoming; perhaps next will be about the Earp women?

Editor’s Note:  Reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West, including The Earp Gamble, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988-0700, www.silklabelbooks.com

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

The 1867 Hayfield Fight

The Hayfield FightThe Hayfield Fight: the year was 1867 and 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. 
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