Old West History Archives

The Prospector and the Gunfighter

Here’s the story of the Prospector and the Gunfighter, with not one, but five lessons for each of us:Prospector and the Gunfighter

An old prospector shuffled into town leading a tired old mule.  The old man headed straight for the only saloon to clear his parched throat.

He walked up and tied his old mule to the hitch rail.  As he stood there, brushing some of the dust from his face and clothes, a young gunslinger stepped out of the saloon with a gun in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.

The young gunslinger looked at the old man and laughed, saying, “Hey old man, have you ever danced?”

The old man looked up at the gunslinger and said, “No, I never did dance.  Never really wanted to.”

A crowd had gathered as the gunslinger grinned and said, “Well, you old fool, you’re gonna dance now,” and started shooting at the old man’s feet.

The old prospector — not wanting to get a toe blown off — started hopping around like a flea on a hot skillet.  Everybody was laughing, fit to be tied.

When his last bullet had been fired, the young gunslinger, still laughing, holstered his gun and turned around to go back into the saloon.

The old man turned to his pack mule, pulled out a double-barreled shotgun, and cocked both hammers.

The loud clicks carried clearly through the desert air.  The crowd stopped laughing immediately.

The young gunslinger heard the sounds too, and he turned around very slowly.  The silence was almost deafening.

The crowd watched as the young gunman stared at the old timer and the large gaping holes of those twin barrels.

The barrels of the shotgun never wavered in the old man’s hands, as he quietly said, “Son, have you ever kissed a mule’s ass?”

The gunslinger swallowed hard and said, “No sir. But — I’ve always wanted to.”

There are a few lessons for us all here:

1 – Never be arrogant.

2 – Don’t waste ammunition.

3 – Whiskey makes you think you’re smarter than you are.

4 – Always, always make sure you know who has the power.

5 – Don’t mess with old men; they didn’t get old by being stupid.

Pearl Grey, Future Old West Author

Pearl GreyToday’s story is about a man who was a dentist.  But he gave up his career to go out west and gain fame in a completely different profession.  Do you think you know the person I’m talking about?  You may be surprised: Pearl Grey was born on January 31, 1872.  He was a talented baseball player, and played for the University of Pennsylvania while getting a degree in dentistry.  Pearl was scheduled to follow in his father’s footsteps as a dentist.  Looking for some excitement, he played some semi-pro baseball.  But that didn’t satisfy his need.

Incidentally, Pearl Grey never liked his first name, which was thought by everyone to be a woman’s name.  So he decided to change it to his mother’s maiden name, Zane.

Pearl Zane Grey (January 31, 1872 – October 23, 1939) was an American author and dentist best known for his popular adventure novels and stories associated with the Western genre in literature and the arts; he idealized the American frontier. Riders of the Purple Sage (1912) was his best-selling book.

In addition to the commercial success of his printed works, his books have had second lives and continuing influence when adapted as films and television productions. His novels and short stories have been adapted into 112 films, two television episodes, and a television series, Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater

A Duel With The Cactus

September 2, 1892, Daily Herald, El Paso, Texas – “Halt!  What’s that?” said our leader in a sharp whisper.

It was a clear moonlight night in the extreme southwest of Mexico.

I was visiting a friend who conducted a large ranch and hacienda there.

A local revolt had just been quelled in the neighborhood and a spirit of lawlessness still pervaded the atmosphere.  Only the night before my friend had been fired upon and one of his storehouses robbed by a band of Indians some fifteen or twenty strong.  Early in the morning four of us, under the leadership of our host, had set out upon the track of the robbers.

We were well mounted, and resting only a few hours at noon had followed hard after them in a fair field we could drive them into quarters like cows to a pen, but we had no mind to run into a trap in the dark with five against fifteen; hence caution.

“Halt!  What’s that?” our leader had whispered.  We had come to the edge of a dense woods, and across an open space, upon the brow of a low sand hill, clearly outlined in the moonlight against the sky, we had discovered a dozen or more half naked fellows, with their arms extended in every direction, engaged in some sort of a weird, fantastic dance.

We could not see their legs, for the tops of the trees beyond the hill rose waist high, making a black background, but their arms moved slowly to and fro and we could easily imagine their legs keeping company.

“Those are the thieves!” our host muttered.  “I know them, even at night.  You fellow just come to the edge of the wood, where they can see you without knowing how many there are of you, and I’ll have them down here in no time.”

He rode out alone to the foot of the hill.

It required no little courage, and we watched him with proportionate admiration.

The figures did not cease their dance or notice him.  Suddenly, with his rifle at his shoulder, he called to them: “I have you there!  If one of you moves I’ll shoot him dead!”

The wind had been blowing through the trees, so that we could not have heard their response, but fortunately at that moment it ceased, and in the deep silence which settled down upon the forest in such a momentary lull we waited for the result.

Every Indian suddenly ceased his dancing and stood like a statue outlined against the sky.

“Come down here now,” shouted our host.  “Come quietly, too, for the first man who makes any trouble drops dead.”

We could hear a sound, as of a hurried consultation of some sort, going on upon the hill for a moment, but the wind sprung up again before we could distinguish a single voice, and to our utter astonishment the fellows actually began their solemn dance again.

“Come down or I’ll shoot!” roared our host, but they kept on dancing and he did shoot.

Then there was commotion enough.  A wild cry, followed by a cloud of dust rose from the brow of the hill.

“Fire!” yelled our host, and we responded with a well aimed volley, while he whipped out his heavy revolver and gave them another peppering.

There was a perfect bedlam of screams from the hill, and the dust hid everything from the view.  They were either coming down or running for their lives.

For us it was either fly or follow.  We waited irresolutely for the word of our leader, when the dust settled and there stood the Indians, silently going on with their fantastic dance as though we were a hundred miles away.

With a fierce ejaculation our host put spurs to his horse and dashed up the hill.  We followed, without command, to find him upon the summit, sitting on the ground beneath a line of gaunt and ghostlike prickly pears—the ungainly cactus of Mexico.

The extended along the brow of the hill, their naked, skeleton branches spreading out in every unaccountable way and swaying solemnly in the breeze.

Among the roots a multitude of burrows in the dry dust showed where the sand birds had been lying, half buried, and quietly sleeping; and it was their noisy yelp we heard when they were frightened away by our host’s duel with the cactus.e ungainly cactus of Mexico.

The extended along the brow of the hill, their naked, skeleton branches spreading out in every unaccountable way and swaying solemnly in the breeze.

Among the roots a multitude of burrows in the dry dust showed where the sand birds had been lying, half buried, and quietly sleeping; and it was their noisy yelp we heard when they were frightened away by our host’s duel with the cactus.

Duel With the Cactus

Indian Cures

Indian CuresOctober 9, 1892, Call, San Francisco, California – In the depths of the forest, an Indian breaks his leg or arm, said Dr. Hingston is his address at the British Medical Association meeting at Nottingham.  Splints of softest material are at once improvised.  Straight branches are cut, of uniform length and thickness.  These are lined with down-like moss or scrapings or shavings of wood or with fine leaves interlaid with leaves, if in summer; or with the curled-up leaves of the evergreen cedar or hemlock, in winter; and the whole is surrounded with withes of willow or osier or young birch.  Occasionally it is the soft but sufficiently unyielding bark of the poplar or the bass wood.  Sometimes when near the marshy margin of our lakes or rivers the wounded limb is afforded support with wild hay or reeds of uniform length and thickness. Thus is the genius of Indian cures.

To carry a patient to his wigwam or to an encampment a stretcher is quickly made of four young saplings, interwoven at their upper ends, and on this elastic, springy couch the injured man is borne away by his companions.  When there are but two persons and an accident happens to one of them two young trees of birch or beech or hickory are used.  Their tops are allowed to remain to aid in diminishing the jolting caused by the inequalities of the ground.  No London carriage maker ever constructed a spring which could better accomplish the purpose.  A couple of crossbars preserve the saplings in position, and the bark of the elm or birch cut into broad bands and joined to either side forms an even bed.  In this way an injured man is brought by his companion to a settlement, and often it has been found on arrival that the fractured bones are firmly united and the limb is whole again.  This is affected in less time than with the whites, for the recuperative power of these children of the forest is remarkable.  In their plentitude of health osseous matter is poured out in large quantities and firm union is soon affected.

The reparative power of the aborigines when injured is equaled by the wonderful stoicism with which they bear injuries and inflect upon themselves the severest torture.  They are accustomed to cut into abscesses with pointed flint; they light up a fire at a distance from the affected part (our counter-irritation; they amputate limbs with their hunting-knives, checking the hemorrhage with heated stones, as surgeons were accustomed to do in Europe in the time of Ambrose Pare, and sometimes they amputate their own limbs with more sang fiord than many young surgeons will display when operating on others.  The stumps of limbs amputated in this primitive manner are well formed, for neatness is the characteristic of all Indians’ handiwork.

The Indians are familiar with and practice extensively the use of warm fomentations.  In every tribe their old women are credited with the possession of knowledge of local bathing with hot water and of medicated decoctions.  The herbs they use are known to a privileged few and enhance the consideration in which their possessors are held.

The Turkish bath, in a simpler but not less effective form, is well known to them.  If one of their tribe suffers from fever or from the effects of long exposure to cold a steam bath is readily improvised.  The tent of deerskin is tightly closed, the patient is placed in one corner, heated stones are placed near him, and on these water is poured until the confined air is saturated with vapor.  Any degree of heat and any degree of moisture can be obtained in this way.  Europeans often avail themselves of this powerful sudatory when suffering from rheumatism.

The Indians have their herbs—a few, not many.  They have their emetics and laxatives, astringents and emollients, all of which are proffered to the suffering without fee or reward.  The “Indian teas,” “Indian balsams” and other Indian cures —the virtues of which it sometimes takes columns of the daily journals to chronicle— belong to nature and are not theirs.  To the white man is left this species of deception.

Some New Arithmetic

April 15, 1882, Mountain Democrat, Placerville, California – Some New Arithmetic: Some New ArithmeticIn a schoolroom are twelve benches and nine boys on a bench.   Find who stole the teacher’s gad.

A laundress takes in twelve shirts and has four stolen from her line.  How many are left and what are the losers going to do about it.

A farmer sold eleven bushels of potatoes, with the product purchased two gallons of whisky at 90 cents per gallon.  How much per bushel did he get for his tubers, and where did he keep the jug.

What velocity must a locomotive have to pick up a dead man walking on the track and fling him so high that six cars pass before he comes down?

A boy earned 20 cents a day for 18 days and bought his mother a muskrat muff costing $2.10.  How much did he have left to go to the circus with?

A mother standing at the gate calls to her boy who is just 68 feet distant.  It takes two minutes and twenty-two seconds for the sound to reach him.  Find from this the velocity with which a woman’s voice travels.

A woman earned 42 cents a day by washing, and supported a husband who consumed $1 worth of provisions per week.  How much was she in debt at the end of each month up to the time he was sent to the workhouse.

 A father agreed to give his son four and a half acres of land for every cord of wood he chopped.  The son chopped tree-sevenths of a cord and broke the ax and went off hunting rabbits.  How much land was he entitled to?

A certain young man walks five-sevenths of a mile for seven nights in the week to see his girl, and after putting in 112 nights he gets the bounce.  How many miles did he foot it altogether, and how many weeks did it take him to understand that he wasn’t wanted?

Two men agreed to build a wall together.  One does four-fifths of the bossing and the other three-tenths of the work, and they finally conclude to pay a man $18 to finish the job.  What is the length and height of the wall?

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