The Wild West Story of S. F Cody & Maud LeeA Pair of Shootists; The Wild West Story of S. F Cody & Maud Lee, Jerry Kuntz, University of Oklahoma Press, (405‑325‑3200) $29.95, Hardcover. Photos, Notes to the Chapters, Index.

This carefully researched book brings to light the story of S. F. Cody, a Wild West performer who was in no way related to the famous Buffalo Bill Cody.  Included in this book is background information regarding many of the Wild West performers and the numerous shows that featured cowboys, Indians, acrobats, wild horse stampedes and the carnival atmosphere surrounding the entertainment of long ago.  Beginning around 1888, these shows became popular and grew in number. Touring every state in the Union, they hauled horses, cattle, equipment, Indians, trick riders and shootists who dazzled audiences with their derring‑do.

The forerunner of the Wild West shows actually began around 1883 when various sharpshooters held public contests to see who could out‑shoot the other using moving targets.  In the beginning live birds were used, but eventually the sport graduated to glass‑ball targets.  Soon these shooting contests added wild horse races, stagecoach holdups, and circus acts.

In this book, Samuel F. Cowdery is the central figure.  Born in Davenport, Iowa in the 1870s, he traveled Out West seeking adventure and became an experienced buffalo hunter, horse trainer, cowboy and miner.  In the late 1880s he joined the Forepaugh’s Wild West Show.  His name was shortened to S. F. Cody by show promoters who were not bashful about fooling people into thinking Cowdery was either Buffalo Bill himself, or, at least Bill’s son.

There was no question that S. F. Cody could ride hard and shoot straight.  He even looked like Buffalo Bill with his long hair, distinctive moustache and fringed buckskin garb.  Next came Maud Maria Lee, a sixteen year old girl in 1888 who hailed from Norristown, Pennsylvania. Maude was the same size and shape as the famous Annie Oakley.  An attractive brunette, Maud had some gymnastic training, loved the circus life, rode horses and was a crack shot.  Also a member of the Forepaugh Wild West Show, it did not take long for Maud to meet Cody, and it did not take long for the Forepaugh promoters to seize upon the opportunity to make audiences believe that Maud Maria Lee was Annie Oakley.

The story tells of the pair’s travels with various touring groups, their trip to Europe with the Wild West extravaganza complete with advertising posters done in England bragging that S. F. Cody was the son of Buffalo Bill.

Long travel, harsh weather conditions, serious injuries, and the vagaries of salary payment took their toll.  Maud began using narcotics to ease her pain and she gradually slid into mental instability.  Maud returned to her parents in America while Cody took up with a new lady partner for his shooting act as well as in real life. While still in England, Cody developed an interest in the early airplane experiments.  Certain the airplane would be invaluable for war, he even worked for a time for the British government.  Cody was killed in 1913 in a crash with his biplane, and is buried in the military service cemetery at Thorn Hill.

After drug use, arrests, lawsuits, and brushes with the law, Maud was committed by her parents to the Norristown State Hospital, a mental institution where she died in 1947 from heart failure at age seventy‑five.

The wild west story of S. F. Cody and Maud Lee is not a happy one.  Their best years together were those few when they first met, when the world was young, when they were the center of attention.  Crowds cheered, the horses were fast, the shooting was usually straight, but they were never really Buffalo Bill or Annie Oakley.  They had to settle for second best, and until now have been mostly forgotten.

A haunting story, this book is filled with good information heretofore overlooked. 

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale‑de la Garza is the author of numerous books including the novel Silk and Sagebrush; Women of the Old West, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988‑0700.

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

Eighth Grade Exam

Below is the actual final exam for the Salina, Kansas eighth grade in 1895.  Could you pass the test?

GRAMMAR (Time, one hour)

  1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters.
  2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no modifications.
  3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
  4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb? Give Principal Parts of do, lie, lay, and run.
  5. Define Case. Illustrate each Case.
  6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.

7 through 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

ARITHMETIC (Time, 1.25 hours)

  1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
  2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
  3. If a load of wheat weighs 3942 Ibs., what is it worth at 50 cents/bushel, deducting 1050 Ibs. for tare?
  4. District No. 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school for seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
  5. Find cost of 6720 Ibs. of coal at $6.00 per ton.
  6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
  7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per meter?
  8. Find the bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
  9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance around which is 640 rods?
  10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. HISTORY (Time, 45 minutes)

  1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
  2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
  3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
  4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
  5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
  6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
  7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
  8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, and 1865.

ORTHOGRAPHY (Time, one hour)

  1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, and syllabication?
  2. What are the elementary sounds? How are they classified?
  3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, and linguals?
  4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘u’.
  5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e’. Name two exceptions under each rule.
  6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
  7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup
  8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
  9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
  10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

GEOGRAPHY (Time, one hour)

  1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
  2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas?
  3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
  4. Describe the mountains of North America.
  5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
  6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
  7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
  8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
  9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
  10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.

Samuel Maverick

Samuel MaverickIn 1835 Samuel Maverick moved to the San Antonio, Texas area, and started practicing law.  He was even one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence.

As the story goes, a neighbor owed him $1,200.  With no ready cash, the neighbor offered to pay him in cattle.  So, reluctantly Samuel agreed to take 400 head of cattle.  Not wanting to deal with the cattle, Samuel hired someone to take care of them.  At first the hired hand branded the calves with Samuel’s MK brand.  But soon things got out of hand, and many of the calves went unbranded.

By 1854 Samuel’s unbranded cattle were roaming all over the area, and his neighbors started complaining, stating that if Samuel didn’t do something about them, he wouldn’t have any.

Finally, in 1856, Samuel sold his cattle to another rancher.  The cattle were sold on the basis of “range delivery.”  This meant that the rancher bought an approximate number of cattle that happened to be located on the open range.  Whenever the new owner found an unbranded cow, he claimed them as Samuel Maverick’s cattle, or “Maverick’s”.  By 1857, people in the area were referring to unbranded cattle as “mavericks.”

But the term didn’t come into general use until after the Civil War, when the cattlemen returned to find tens of thousands of unbranded cattle roaming the plains.  It’s interesting to note that during this time, although taking a branded cow was a hanging offence, to take an unbranded calf that wasn’t following a cow, or a maverick, was not rustling.  And rounding up mavericks is the way many a cattle ranch started out.



Bert Murphy

Louis L'Amour

In five novels Louis L’Amour lets you experience Old California and the Pacific coast circa 1800 to 1880.  When the railroad reached California in 1869, it diminished the frontier period.  When it reached Los Angeles in 1876, the western frontier was essentially closed.  The cowards who never started and the weak that might have died on the way could now ride west on cushioned seats.

However, frontier pockets still remain. In my life, I have known many who have the frontier-pioneer spirit.  They are the few of the many, both men and women, who have the heart, nerve and sinew to push into the unknown of space or ideas.  They don’t particularly give a damn what their contemporaries think.  They are driven to see and know.  If they think of them at all, they scorn the historical revisionists who would deprive us of our heroes.  They joke about extreme environmentalists who are unreasoning obstructionists.  Yet they understand and protect the earth.  They love their country and despise these who are destroying it.  They support and defend our hard- won and kept Republic, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Those of the pioneer spirit drive on into the great unknown to make a better world.  Soon they will feel the snarl of the jets at their backs as they drive toward the frontier of space.  L’Amour recognized this final frontier.  There will be L’Amour novels tucked into cargo pockets of space suits.  There will be men like L’Amour, Service, London, Kipling, Grey, Clark, Asimov and Heinlein to tell their stories.  They will tell of courage, love, loyalty, survival and lonely death in the endless frontier of space.  The arenas will change.  Those frontiersmen and women of space will have the pioneer spirit L’Amour knew and wrote of.

The virtues and characteristics of pioneers and heroes will not change.  L’Amour’s main characters were people of stamina and intelligence.  They did not lie, steal or cheat.  They were independent and killed their own snakes.  They celebrate the free human spirit.

Many of the things that Louis L’Amour teaches in his writings are useful to any age.  Paleo hunters or spaceman must know that peripheral vision is the best to use at night.  Aim low at an uphill or downhill target.  Firearms are sighted horizontally above the target to allow for gravity drop.  Uphill or downhill the gravity vector is reduced or eliminated.  Weapons shoot high.  So, as L’Amour wrote, shoot low.  Read the signs around you. When did that horse go by-was he ridden?  The spaceship that landed-was it ours or theirs?  Carry a knife and fire maker-they will get you out of all kinds of trouble.  Know the place you are in.  Can you eat that plant?  Where is the water?  There is much field craft in L’Amour’s novels.

In Trailing Louis L’Amour in New Mexico, I quoted L’Amour as saying, “man is tracked in his mind.”  With his tenth-grade education, great intelligence, amazing memory, extensive travel, war experience and voluminous reading, L’Amour was as erudite a person as you will meet.  A reasonable estimate would be that he read seven thousand books and “dipped into” many more.  His amazing memory let him recall much of what he read and experienced.  He chose historical fiction as his genre, and he chose to be historically and geographically accurate.  He added much in the way of science to his novels.  He showed an extensive knowledge of the world’s odd corners, history, Indian lore, literature, field craft, botany, geology, geography, archeology, anthropology, psychology and other hard and soft sciences.  He wrote of and speculated on the paranormal.  Read Louis L’Amour for pleasure, knowledge or both. There is much to be gained.

A background and knowledge of the stage where the L’Amour novels play out adds to the enjoyment and understanding of his stories.  A knowledge of the land, people and forces that made California and the Pacific Coast what they were when L’Amour’s characters encountered them in the 1800’s will let you appreciate his marvelous research, accuracy and craft. You will enjoy his novels even more.

Read more about Louis L’Amour HERE.

Clay Allison – Old West Psychopath

Clay AllisonClay Allison can be truly called a psychopath. At the height of the Civil War when the Confederate Army was drafting into service anyone who could hold a rifle, Clay was released on a medical discharge because he was maniacal.     
Ending up in Cimarron, New Mexico in 1870 Clay and some other local citizens broke a man out of jail and lynched him in the local slaughterhouse. Not being satisfied, Clay grabbed a knife; cut the man’s head off; stuck it on a pole; and gave it to a local saloon owner to display in his establishment.          
In 1875 Clay became involved in another lynching. This time the man was hanged from a telegraph pole. Without butcher equipment around, Clay dallied the end of the lynch rope around his saddle horn and dragged the corpse around town.
A lot of Clay Allison’s strange actions could also be credited to his fondness for strong drink. It seems that when Clay was “under the influence” he was inclined to take off his clothes; jump on his horse; and Lady Godiva around town. Then he would invite everyone into the nearest saloon for a round of drinks… Such a party animal.
Although Clay shot more than his share of men… usually when the confrontation was decidedly to his advantage, and knifed at least one. He didn’t go down in a blaze of glory like most gun fighters.
Clay Allison moved to the Pecos, Texas area, took a wife, started a ranch, and, for the most part, settled down. On July 3, 1887 he went into town for supplies. While there he stopped at the local tavern, and imbibed a bit more than he should have, because on the way home Clay fell off the wagon. A wheel rolled over him and broke his neck. He was dead within an hour. 
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