Old West History Archives

The Intelligence of the Horse

The Intelligence of the HorseAugust 10, 1887, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona Territory – It always seemed to me that there was a great deal of superstition, I may say, about the intelligence of the horse.  Sauntering up to an express man at the corner of Monroe and Dearborn Streets the other day I said to him: “How much does a horse know?”

“A horse, sir?” he replied.  “A horse knows as much as a man – just exactly.  My horse there knows everything, just like a man.”

This is the way everybody talks who owns a horse or who tends horses, and it all seems to me to be nonsense.

I have seen horses walk around a post until they had wound up the bridle and then stand all day with their heads bound down to the post because they didn’t have sense enough to walk the other way and unwind the bridle.  I have seen them get a foot over the bridle, when tied to a ring in the pavement, and then go into fits because they didn’t have sense enough to lift their feet over the bridle again.  I have seen them prance around in a burning barn, with their tails and manes on fire, and burn to death, because they did not have sense enough to run out.

Anybody can steal a horse without any objection from the horse.  A horse will stand and starve or freeze to death with nothing between him and a comfortable stall and a plenty of oats except and old door that he could kick down with one foot, or that could be opened by removing a pin with his teeth.

If this is a high degree of intelligence, even for a brute, then I am lacking in that article myself.  Compared with the dog, the elephant, or even the parrot, the horse seems to me to be a perfect fool.

Wild Bill Hickok Married

Wild Bill Hickok had lived the life of a free-spirited man hunting buffalo, being a lawman, gambling and even a stint as an actor. By the time he was 38 Wild Bill’s eyesight was going bad. For his own safety and the safety of others, he gave up being a lawman. And his attempt to be an actor was a failure. About the only thing left for Wild Bill was gambling. So then Wild Bill Hickok, married? 
           
In 1871 Wild Bill met a widow named Agnes Lake. At the time Agnes was the owner of a traveling circus, in which she also performed as a trick rider.
               
Agnes evidentially sparked something in Wild Bill… Because, even though they went their separate ways, they continued corresponding.
 
The two of them met up in Cheyenne, Wyoming and decided to get married. As an aside, there are those who say that Wild Bill had earlier married Calamity Jane. But there is no evidence to confirm this.
 
So, on March 5, 1876 Wild Bill and Agnes Lake got married. Even though they had been corresponding for five years, the marriage surprised most of their friends. Even Reverend W.F. Warren, the Methodist minister who conducted the ceremony wrote in the church register, “I don’t think they meant it.”
 
They went to Cincinnati, Ohio for a couple weeks honeymoon. Alone, Wild Bill then headed for St. Louis. From there he went to Cheyenne, Wyoming and finally to Deadwood, South Dakota where he was killed.
 
In less than 6 months after their marriage, with them being together only 2 weeks of those 6 months, Agnes Lake Hickok was once again a widow.      
Wild Bill Hickok Married

Jack Abernathy

Jack AbernathyJack Abernathy was born in Texas. At the age of six he and his older brother would sneak away from home to play piano and violin in the local saloon. Following a Christmas shootout in the saloon with several victims, his parents discovered what he was doing, thus ending his entertainment career. 
 
But that didn’t inhibit the enterprising young man. By the age of nine he was working as a cowboy, and at eleven he went on his first cattle drive. At fifteen Jack was a full-fledged cowboy breaking horses for Charles Goodnight. 
 
Jack acquired a couple of greyhound dogs. He found they would hunt wolves. He also discovered a unique way to catch them alive by jamming his hand in the wolves’ mouth. It worked so well that on December 1, 1891 he bought three more dogs and started catching wolves full time. Getting paid $50 per wolf, Jack caught more than 1,000 wolves, supplying them to zoos and traveling shows. 
 
Jack later became a deputy U. S. marshal in Oklahoma. President Theodore Roosevelt learned about “Catch-‘em-alive Jack”, and came outwest to see his skills. He was so impressed with Jack that he made him marshal of Oklahoma. 
 
As a lawman Jack captured hundreds of outlaws and ended up seeing close to 800 of them go to prison. Jack was called to New York to become a Secret Service agent, and for a short time even worked for the Mexican secret service.
 
Returning to Texas in 1919, Jack became a wildcat oil driller making and losing a fortune. Finally, Jack Abernathy, a man who had defied death literally thousands of times finally succumbed, dying of natural causes in Long Beach, California at the age of 65.    

John Tunstall and Billy the Kid

John Tunstall and Billy the KidJohn Tunstall was an Englishman who came to America with some capital to invest. He wandered over to New Mexico where he met a lawyer named Alexander McSween. McSween suggested that there were good business opportunities in Lincoln County. What he probably didn’t mention was that there was a bit of a rivalry, over government beef contracts, going on between a J. J. Dolan and John Riley, owners of a general store called “The House,” and local cattle ranchers. Thus begins the story of John Tunstall and Billy the Kid.
           
So Tunstall came to Lincoln. He bought himself a cattle ranch… which was bad enough. But then, he and McSween decided to open a general store in competition with The House.
               
Tunstall wasn’t familiar with the ways of the West. He was used to a more genteel country, where disputes were settled in court. In Lincoln County it was might makes right. And the law was controlled by his competition.
 
Unfortunately for Tunstall, his partnership with McSween brought him into the middle of the feud. The owners of The House brought legal action against McSween regarding a debt. Since Tunstall became McSween’s partner, the law was convinced that Tunstall’s debt was also McSween’s. So, on February 18, 1878, a posse, led by men loyal to The House, headed to McSween’s ranch to confiscate some horses. McSween went out to meet the posse, and was greeted with a bullet to the head.
 
Dolan and Riley of The House probably figured McSween’s death would stifle the opposition. And it very well could have, had it not been for McSween’s 19 year old friend named William Bonney who became a whirlwind from hell. Incidentally, for anyone who may not know it, William Bonney is better known as Billy the Kid.

John Daly and the Vigilante Committee

John Daly and the Vigilante CommitteeJohn Daly was born in New York. As a young man, he migrated to California. Leaving a string of dead men behind him, he then went to the gold mining town of Aurora, Nevada. The mining company and the town fathers were looking for someone to protect their interests from the criminal element. Since Daly carried himself well, and seemed to know how to handle a gun, they hired him as a deputy city marshal. No one ever thought they would one day need a vigilante committee.
           
Daly convinced everyone that he needed some policemen to help him, so he hired Three Fingered Jack, Italian Jim, Irish Tom and a couple of other men who seemed to be of questionable character.
               
In a short time, the men augmented their income by shaking down the local merchants. Also, people who protested ended up in the local graveyard.
 
Finally, one of Daly’s policemen attempted to steal a horse from a local merchant by the name of William Johnson. In the process, Daly’s man was killed. It took a few months, but on February 1, 1864, Daly and his associates made an example of Johnson. He was clubbed, shot in the head and his throat cut.
 
The honest citizens had looked the other way long enough. They formed the Citizens Protective Order, which is a fancy phrase for a vigilante committee. Daly and his gang were arrested and jailed. For a short time…a very short time, if seems as if the men were going to be tried before a judge and jury. But on February 10 the Citizens Protective Order the gang out of jail, escorted them to a scaffold, and ended the whole affair right then and there.
 
This action angered Governor James W. Nye so much that two days later he headed for Aurora with a Provost Marshal Van Bokkelen and United States Marshal Wasson and was going to call out the troops from Fort Churchill to put down the vigilantes. After the Marshal looked into the facts, no action was taken against what was now called the “Citizen Safety Committee.”
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