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

Chuckwagon: Dutch Oven Trout

dutch oven troutThe following recipe is for Dutch Oven Trout: As soon as possible after catching your trout, clean them and wipe the inside and outside of the trout with a cloth wet with vinegar water.  Don’t put the trout in the water.  Roll the trout in a mixture of flour, dry powdered milk, cornmeal, salt and pepper.  Heat deep fat in a Dutch oven and fry until crisp and golden brown.       

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper.

Old West Book Review: The Frontier World of Fort Griffin

Fort GriffinThe Frontier World of Fort Griffin, Charles Robinson Ill, University of Oklahoma Press, 800-627-7377, $14.95, Paper. 236 Pages, Illustrations, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

This fast-paced, fun to read book tells of the exciting, albeit short, life of the rip-roaring Texas town called Fort Griffin.  Wild and dangerous, it sprouted from the desolate prairie to fulfill the needs of pioneers battling Indians, thus an army post was established.  Next came buffalo hunters with hides to sell, then cowboys on cattle drives. Nicknamed “The Flat”, Fort Griffin was also known as “Hide Town”.  The biggest settlement between Fort Worth and El Paso back in the 1870’s, it eventually dwindled into little more than a few stone foundations found today.

When the buffalo hunting days ended, and the great Indian raids ceased, the army moved out.  The only real business for the town ended too when the great cattle drives no longer came through the area.  Cattle were shipped by train, and into the late 1880s the land around Fort Griffin was slowly turned into small farms crossed by barbed wire fences.

Today, Fort Griffin does not exist as a town at all. But Western historians frequently come across stories about it as one of the wildest towns in the Old West.  The author has delved through newspapers, court documents, and personal interviews to find the stories about what happened here.

It all started when the Republic of Texas was annexed to the United States in 1845.  Next came a few hardy settlers demanding protection from marauding Indians.  Protecting the early settlers came the Army, followed by ranchers with cattle raising ideas.  More feuds, more fights, and eventually the buffalo hunters arrived decimating the great buffalo herds that provided sustenance for the Indians.  Through all this Fort Griffin with its bustling activity naturally attracted gamblers, prostitutes, rustlers and gunmen who in turn were soon at odds with the local vigilance committee.

Rustlers and thieves were regularly hanged by night-riding locals seeking law and order, and sometimes revenge.  Meanwhile, infamous people such as Henry “Doc” Holliday. Big Nose Kate, Pat Garrett, Lottie Deno, Wyatt Earp and a passel of lesser-known characters who were just as vicious and handy with guns came through town making plenty of trouble.  Several chapters in the book are dedicated to downtown merchants, newspaper editors and the otherwise law abiding, but the real story concerning Fort Griffin seems to be about the tough, gritty, ambitious folks who were willing to shoot first and ask questions later.

This book is filled with odd and unusual characters who lived and sometimes died in Fort Griffin. For instance, Mrs. Lam drove a fast-moving buggy to town to try to save her husband from the vigilantes, but arrived too late.  A man named Brock spent years traveling about the country trying to find a man he was accused of murdering in Fort Griffin because Brock wanted to clear his name.

Fort Griffin is compared with other tough towns such as Dodge City and Tombstone, but Fort Griffin was not to become a tourist town or a modern-day survivor.  Only a few scraps of lumber and the walls of the Fort Griffin Lodge No. 489 remained in 1992 when this book was written.  Each year locals gathered to celebrate the old town’s history filled with cowboys, buffalo hunters, soldiers, soiled doves, gamblers and vigilantes.  Researchers will find that browsing through the various chapters will likely turn up some valuable information not easily found elsewhere.  I discovered Glen Reynolds, a sheriff killed by Apaches in Arizona, had originally ridden at least one time with the vigilantes in Fort Griffin.  This book is a little treasure for sure.  It belongs in your Old West library.

Publisher’s Note:  The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza, is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Death For Dinner; the Benders of (Old) Kansas, Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988-0700. Phone (845)-726-3434.  Www.silklabelbooks.com

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

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