THE VIRGINIAN

Today is the 78th birthday of James Drury, TVs Virginian. The Virginian was the first 90-minute color western TV series. It aired from 1962-1971, and was the third longest running western series in the history of television.

The TV show was an adaptation of the 1902 Owen Wister western novel, “The Virginian, A Horseman of the Plains.”

It’s interesting that in both Owen Wister’s novel and the TV show, the lead character was never given a name other than “Virginian.”

The fact that no one knew his real name added mystery to the character.

The two pictures are of James at the time of the Virginian’s TV series and today.

BAT MASTERSON

I find Bat Masterson one of the more intriguing men of the Old West.  He is known as a gunfighter, but he was in very few gun fights.

The last gunfight he was in took place on this day back in 1881.  It was to help out his brother Jim.  Jim owned a business in Dodge City and was having trouble with Al Updegraff, a business partner.  It had even involved gunfire.

I don’t know if Jim actually said the words, “I going to get my big brother and he’ll beat you up,” but Bat, in Tombstone at the time, heard about the conflict and jumped on a train to Dodge City.

Not a man to mince words, Bat immediately spotted Updegraff and brother-in-law Peacock and said, “I have come over a thousand miles to settle this.  I know you are heeled, now fight!”  All three men immediately drew their guns.

In the fracas Updegraff took a bullet in his right lung.  The mayor and sheriff arrived with shotguns and stopped the shooting.  No one was mortally injured in the shooting, and in accordance with Old West standards, the gunfight was fought fairly.  So Masterson was fined $8.  He paid the fine and took the next train out of Dodge City.

As an aside, had Bat not left Tombstone to help his brother, the chances are excellent he would have been around to help his friend Wyatt Earp in another gunfight…The one that took place at the OK Corral.

BUTCH CASSIDY

On this date back in 1866 Robert Leroy Parker was born in Beaver, Utah Territory. But we know him as Butch Cassidy.

Supposedly, he picked up the name “Butch” from the short period of time he worked in a Rock Springs, Wyoming butcher shop. The last name came from a minor criminal mentor by the name of Mike Cassidy…I also suspect he didn’t want to bring shame on his strict Mormon family by using Parker.

Although Butch’s organizational skills and personality were probably suited more for a legitimate business life, he assembled a group of ruffians known as the “wild bunch.” Even though they could be considered misfits, Butch was able to meld them into a sophisticated criminal operation.

By the 1900’s the wild days of the West were fading and law enforcement was becoming more effective. So Butch, The Sundance Kid and Etta place fled to Argentina.

Here’s where legend and fact get blurry. Some say Butch and the Sundance Kid were killed by Bolivian troops. However members of his family maintain Butch came back to the United States and died of old age under another name.

Just as an aside. There are more than a dozen Old West outlaws, including Billy the Kid, who were supposedly not really killed, and they lived a long life under an alias. Sometimes I wonder if any Old West outlaw was ever killed.

SILVER SCREEN PROJECT

There’s an interesting classic western movie event taking place on April 29. It’s The Silver Screen Cowboy Project Show “Live” highlighting the movie cowboys from the B-Westerns of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.

This will be a multi-media event as the attendees take a nostalgic ride back to the time of the B-Western cowboys.

The event takes place at Calvary Chapel in Casa Grand, Arizona. For tickets and more information, call 520/705-5901.

We’re planning on being there.

FESTIVAL OF THE WEST

I spoke to Mary Brown, the Head Wrangler for Festival of the West.  For those of you who are not familiar with Festival of the West, it’s one of the premier Old West events that usually takes place in Phoenix, Arizona.

 Mary indicated the attempt to sell the event didn’t work out, and she has it back.  Because of time constraints the event won’t be held this year.

 However she’s still looking for someone to take over as producer of the event.  And she said she may have something important to share in the near future.

 I would advise anyone who wants to know when something happens, to periodically visit their web site.  When Mary gets everything lined up, the web site will be activated again.  The web address is:  http://www.festivalofthewest.com

 

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