Old West Book Review: Valley of the Guns

Valley of the GunsValley Of The Guns, Eduarado Obregôn Pagan, University of Oklahoma Press, $29.95, Cloth. Maps, Illustrations, Photos, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

“Pleasant Valley” conjures up images of warm summer evenings, horses quietly munching hay in the corral, Mom and Dad laughing quietly on the porch while kids play with a favorite pet lamb.  But don’t be fooled. Pleasant Valley was only a name.

The location is northern Arizona below the Mogollon Rim, made up of rough, mountainous country near Indian reservations and a long way to town. Men of derring-do pioneering spirit, determined to find success in a world of sprawling cattle and mining opportunities settled here.  Some brought wives with them, while most came alone.  They built sturdy one-room cabins compete with gun ports in the log walls.  Roving Apaches, sometimes fleeing the nearby reservation skulked amid the tall trees while coveting white man’s supplies and horses.

The late 1880s saw these settlers always on the lookout for trouble, while determined to make a good life.  Folks settling in the area soon made friendships and alliances with neighbors.  A long way from law enforcement, they learned to band together to protect one another.

However, a series of misunderstandings, revenge and stubborn pride led to the violent deaths of eighteen men, four seriously wounded, and one man missing.  The leading families involved were the Grahams and the Tewksburys.  The Tewksburys were Arizona natives with an Indian mother and white father.  The Grahams, originally from Iowa, like many young men of that era, decided to head “west” eventually meeting the Tewksburys in Pleasant Valley, Arizona.

The author of this book does a careful background search into the lives and origins of both these families and their friends. He delves into their history, what made them act and react to situations resulting in the Pleasant Valley War.  Over the years many historians have suggested the conflict was between sheep men and cattlemen, but this is not exactly true.  While the Grahams specialized in raising horses, the Tewksburys had both cattle and sheep, and at times shared grazing land with not only the Grahams, but others in the valley that had both cattle and sheep.  Many families helped one another in their quest to protect themselves from both rustlers and Apaches, thus the exact cause of the feud is hard to pin down.

What is known is that a lot of men died.  There was great fear in the community as even vigilantes and night riders took to the trails.  One by one, men died violently, while friends and relatives got revenge.  There was even the ghastly lynching of three young ranchers whose bodies were left dangling from a tree for many days as a warning to others who might consider stealing cows.

This book is easy to read, written in a style designed to inform as well as keep the reader turning pages.  The author digs into the underlying causes of fear, revenge, guilt, anger and hatred.  Blood feuds always result in senseless tragedy, and when they end, nobody seems able to remember what really started it all.  The author explains how humans react naturally during moments of grave danger.  We either fight, flee, or freeze.  We don’t know what we will really do until actually confronted with the emergency that requires instant decision.

Fear, murder and revenge rode those mountain trails.  The author of this book has done a creditable job of bringing the story of the Pleasant Valley War to life.  He has weeded through all the controversy, explains what happened to all of the participants of the conflict, and leaves the reader with much to ponder after turning the last page. This is a good addition to your Old West library.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Nine Days at Dragoon Springs, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 399, Unionville, New York ,10988. www.silklabelbooks.com

History of Deadwood, South Dakota

history of deadwoodThe history of Deadwood centers around discovery of gold in the southern Black Hills in 1874. This set off one of the great gold rushes in America, and in 1876, miners moved into the northern Black Hills. That’s where they came across a gulch full of dead trees and a creek full of gold and Deadwood was born. Practically overnight, the tiny gold camp boomed into a town that played by its own rules that attracted outlaws, gamblers and gunslingers along with the gold seekers. Wild Bill Hickok was one of those men who came looking for fortune. But just a few short weeks after arriving, he was gunned down while holding a poker hand of aces and eights. This hand has come to be known as the Dead Man’s Hand.

Calamity Jane also made a name for herself in these parts and is buried next to Hickok in Mount Moriah Cemetery. Other legends, like Potato Creek Johnny, Seth Bullock and Al Swearengen, created their legends and legacies in this tiny Black Hills town.
Deadwood has survived three major fires and numerous economic hardships, pushing it to the verge of becoming another Old West ghost town. But in 1989 limited-wage gambling was legalized and Deadwood was reborn.

Today, the town is booming once again. You’ll find modern-day casinos, resort hotels, full-service spas, big name concerts, and some of the best parties in the entire United States. You can walk in the footsteps of Deadwood’s legends and make history in Deadwood. They’ve been entertaining guests since 1876.

To get more information about Deadwood visit their web site: www.deadwood.com.

Old West Phrases

old west phrasesAt Cowboy to Cowboy we get intrigued with Old West phrases. Here are some of our favorite descriptive terms:

PRAIRIE TENOR – A coyote.

BARKIN’ AT A KNOT – Doing something useless.

WEARING THE BUSTLE WRONG – A pregnant woman.

ROUND BROWNS – Cow chips.

TEAR SQUEEZER – A sad story.

COLD AS A WAGON WHEEL – Dead

BEAR SIGN – Cowboy term for doughnuts. They were highly regarded.

SHAVE TAIL – A green, inexperienced person.

KICK UP A ROW – Create a disturbance.

THE WHOLE KIT AND CABOODLE – The entire thing.

BAZOO – Mouth as in “Shut your big bazoo.”

GONER – Lost, dead.

Kansas Trail Drives Come to an End

Kansas Trail DrivesIt seems that Kansas had a love-hate relationship with Texas cattle and the cowboys that brought them up. The love part was the profits to be made providing supplies to the Kansas trail drives and a good time to trail-weary cowboys.  Frontier struggling towns like Dodge City, Caldwell, Ellsworth, Hays, and Newton competed with Abilene to be the top “Cow Town” of Kansas.

But, as Kansas started getting less “frontier” and farming became more important, residents, anxious to attract businesses other than saloons and places of ill repute, started getting less enamored with the Texas cattle industry.

Although the Texas cattlemen tried to stay away from cultivated farmland, according to one cowboy “there was scarcely a day when we didn’t have a row with some settler.”

In addition to this, the Texas cattle carried a tick fever and hoof-and-mouth disease for which they were immune, but the Kansas cattle weren’t.

So, on this date back in 1885 the Kansas Legislature passed a bill that barred Texas cattle from the state between March and December 1.

This, along with the closing of open range with barbed wire fences, signaled an end to the cattle drives to Kansas.

William Brady and Billy the Kid’s Regulators

Billy the Kid kills a sheriffThe Lincoln County War was going full tilt. William Brady was the sheriff of Lincoln County. Brady was known to be in the pocket of the Murphy-Dolan faction… the bad guys as far as Billy the Kid was concerned. The next sequence of events unfold as Billy the Kid’s Regulators come to the forefront.
           
During this time, Billy the Kid had formed his “regulators,” a semi-legal group to fight what he considered was the corruption in the county. And, for the most part, the average local looked favorably upon the regulators.
               
On the morning of April Fools Day 1878, Sheriff William Brady was walking down the Main Street of Lincoln with four of his deputies.
 
Then, from behind an adobe wall, guns started barking. It’s obvious that Sheriff Brady was the main target, because in a matter of seconds, he had more than a dozen holes in him.
 
Brady and Billy the Kid had history. Billy blamed Brady for the death of his friend John Tunstall, and in February of that year, Billy had tried to arrest Brady. But, Brady turned the tables on the Kid, and the Kid ended up in jail.
 
It was revenge through and through. When the shooting died down, Billy the Kid walked up to the body of Sheriff Brady. Some say Billy was looking for arrest warrants for Billy and the regulators. Others say Billy was looking for the Winchester rifle Brady had taken from him back in February.
 
When a bullet shot from hiding nicked Billy’s hip, Billy wisely returned to cover and the regulators left town.
 
Although Billy was able to get his vengeance, the outcome of the event wasn’t good for him. Because of the way it happened, Billy started losing the sympathy of the locals, and they began questioning the legality of his regulators. 
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