On Jan. 14, 1891, City Marshal James F. Isbell of Bells, Texas was shot and badly wounded intervening in an armed robbery at a Bells saloon where he moonlighted as a bartender. By the time this article appeared in the Dallas Morning News, the marshal had died.
Two trials, one insanity plea, one appeal, and a year and a half later, George Smith would pay the ultimate penalty for the killing. Marshal Isbell’s tragic end and Smith’s long and winding road to justice are detailed in Chapter 5 of Some Gave All.
To Marshal Isbell, and all the brave law officers before and after who have given the ultimate sacrifice – you are remembered. To those who continue to risk their lives daily to keep our communities safe – thank you.
David James Elliott, who starred in TV’s JAG, will play John Wayne in Trumbo, the biopic about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston, and due out Nov. 6.
I’m going to go ahead and guess that it won’t be a sympathetic portrayal of the Duke, considering the film’s subject matter. Still, it’ll be interesting to see.
You can catch the Trumbo trailer (Duke-free, unfortunately) here.
Elliott as the Duke. They’ve got the look right, anyway.
We had to say farewell to our beautiful boy the day before yesterday.
We’ll remember Monte for so many things. He was a rescue – abandoned in the hills above us by a family who evidently didn’t want to deal with his issues. Their loss, our gain. He had a brief career as a shoe-chewer in his youth; I still have the boots to prove it. He was the Stealth Dog – a kitchen ninja who could sneak food off the counter, unseen and unheard, whether you were in the room or not. He was at the same time the most laid-back and easygoing dog in the world, and the most stubborn. He was Fartacus (enough said). In his prime, he was the Fastest Dog Alive. He was kind and accepting to all his fellow creatures great and small, with the exception of deliverymen; he was a terror to our mailman, Arrowhead driver, and the UPS guy (I’m convinced dogs like Monte are the reason they wear brown uniforms). He was a friendly host to any other dog who visited our home. He was the Comeback Kid. He was Braveheart.
We’ll never forget his bright, mischievous eyes, his cheerful smile, the joy on his face when he ran full tilt, and the courage and perseverance he showed when he couldn’t run any more. Mostly we’ll remember his wisdom. Many people would laugh at the notion that you could learn valuable life lessons from a dog – that a guy like Monte could teach you by example to meet each day with a happy face, to be grateful for the good things in your life, to handle adversity with patience and grace, and never to waste one precious moment feeling sorry for yourself. Those people would be wrong.
We’ll be forever grateful and honored that Monte chose to share his life journey, and his love, with us. He lived loved, and he left loved.
Goodbye, Boss. We’ll miss you.
Stay tuned for news about my new novel, “Cowboy Moon,” due out from High Hill Press in the Fall of 2015. For now, here’s a bit about the book:
In the spring of 1938, L.A. private investigator Nate Ross goes in search of a Western film production’s missing screenwriter, and finds himself navigating the world of Hollywood’s B-movie cowboys as he tries to solve a tangled case of murder and sabotage that points back more than thirty years to a bloody, real-life, “wild West” crime.
Wild West Magazine has archived a couple of my older articles online. Although they were written a few years apart, both deal with examples of America’s earliest “extreme reality shows.” Just further evidence that there’s really nothing new under the sun.
If you’d like to check them out, you can find them here:
Dodge City’s Grand Bullfight – August, 2007
Crush’s Locomotive Crash was a Monster Smash – April, 2010
Dodge City’s efforts to keep up its rough-and-rowdy reputation as the Gomorrah of the Plains with a bang-up Fourth of July celebration stirred up nationwide controversy when the town decided to include a Mexican-style bullfight – the first ever held on U.S. soil.
Katy Railroad passenger agent William Crush’s publicity stunt – a train wreck staged for spectators on the Texas plains – ended badly when he miscalculated what would occur as two locomotives traveling at 58 miles per hour crashed head-on into one another.
Things you never see in a Western: this early 1920s ad touts the Thompson submachine gun as the perfect weapon to handle bandits and rustlers.
On this date in 1892, the Texas Supreme Court upheld the murder conviction and sentence in the case of a man who called himself George Smith, but whose true name was almost certainly something else. In January of 1891, Smith had shot and killed Bells,Texas City Marshal James F. Isbell during a failed robbery in a Bells saloon where the marshal moonlighted as a bartender.
Smith’s journey to the gallows was anything but swift and sure. Only after a failed insanity plea, a mistrial, a second trial and conviction, a death sentence, an appeal to the state’s supreme court, and petitions for clemency to the Texas governor, did he pay the ultimate price for his crimes. George Smith was hanged at the Grayson County jail in Sherman, Texas in July, 1892.
Marshal Isbell’s tragic death, and George Smith’s long road to justice, are detailed in Chapter 5 of Some Gave All.
I had the pleasure this morning of talking with Trent Loos on his “Rural Route” radio show. We talked about Some Gave All, of course, and we also covered Dodge City, Wyatt Earp, Cash Hollister, the Hollywood West vs. the real West, ebooks vs. paper-and-ink, neon green cap guns and a whole lot more.
To listen in to our conversation, follow this link.
To check out Trent’s other radio broadcasts, written columns, views of real life on the ranch and video productions, follow this link to visit his “Loos Tales” website.
Variety, the entertainment business magazine, has always been known for its clever jargon and witty film reviews. Sometimes, though, they’re unintentionally funny, at least in retrospect. A prime example is this November, 1932 review of “Ride Him, Cowboy” – a sound remake of a 1926 Ken Maynard silent. The film reused some of the silent’s action footage, and the young up-and-coming actor who played the lead had been cast partly because he bore a passable resemblance to Maynard.
At least the magazine can’t be faulted for predicting the kid had a successful career ahead!
“He is like a sheep dog, feared by the flock and hated by the wolves.”
Although I’m not very much in the habit of quoting Wyatt Earp, that’s one thing he said that I completely agree with and find worth repeating. In an August, 1896 interview with the San Francisco Examiner newspaper Earp discussed the perils of riding a treasure-laden stagecoach across outlaw country. Although he was referring to the shotgun guard on a coach, his remark might easily have described the lot of lawmen in general.
Anyone who works in law enforcement today is likely familiar with the sheepdog/sheep/wolf analogy. It’s interesting to see the same idea expressed more than a century ago. Just further proof that truth is timeless, I guess.