The June 3, 1881 Sedan, Kansas Times-Star carried this brief item of local interest. Had the snake known what kind of fellow ten-year-old Willie would grow up to be, it might have held back out of professional courtesy. For unless he was stealing the strawberries, this may have been the only newspaper account ever mentioning him without connecting him to some act of deviltry.
A dozen years later Will Chadburn made plenty of headlines as he went on the owlhoot trail for good, seeking to justify his adopted nickname of “Billy the Kid,” After committing a rapid-fire string of crimes around his home town, including several robberies and a stolen horse, he lit out east toward Coffeyville and connected with a pair of Arkansas fugitives. Their train robbery scheme ended in murder and landed all three in the Kansas State Penitentiary at Lansing (where the below photo of Chadburn was taken).
His prison stretch (which included one bold but short-lived escape) taught him nothing. Shortly after his release a post office burglary sent him to the federal prison at Leavenworth. And shortly after leaving Leavenworth in 1905 he’d pull another robbery, kill a Santa Fe railroad detective in a shootout, and end up gunned down by a citizens’ posse less than twenty miles from his home town.
My April 2020 Wild West magazine article about Chadburn, “Billy the Kid of Kansas,” can be found online here: bit.ly/3uLKt9B (subscription required). From the same issue, “The ‘Most Daring’ Train Robbery at Mound Valley,” about the caper that sent Chadburn to the Kansas pen, can be found here: bit.ly/3g6RWum (no subscription required). A fuller account of Chadburn’s murder of railroad detective Frank Calhoun, and the bloody end of his outlaw career, can be found in Chapter 9 of Some Gave All: amzn.to/3pcpKuk.
Wild West Magazine has placed a few of my previous articles online at their HistoryNet site. Read about roller skating in the old West (yes, it was a thing), the day the Katy railroad staged a head-on train wreck, the birth of the buffalo-hunting trade, and its sister trade: bone-picking, the train robbery case of Billy the Kid (no, not THAT Billy), the fatal gunfight that started wild and wicked Dodge City on the road to respectability, and more.
For quick access to any or all, just follow the links on my new LinkTree page: linktr.ee/jrsanders.
“He is like a sheep dog, feared by the flock and hated by the wolves.”
I’m not much in the habit of quoting Wyatt Earp, but 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 Earp discussed the perils of riding a treasure-laden stagecoach across outlaw country. Although he was referring to the coach’s shotgun guard, he could as easily have been describing 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 a century-and-a-quarter ago.
Just further proof that truth is timeless, I guess.
Happy to announce that Stardust Trail was selected as a Finalist for Historical Novel in Western Writers of America’s 2021 Spur Awards. Since 1953, WWA has promoted and honored Western writing with the annual Spur Awards, selected by panels of judges and given for works “whose inspiration, image and literary excellence best represent the reality and spirit of the American West.”
Needless to say, I’m honored. A big thank you to WWA, the Spur judges, and my publisher, Level Best Books/Historia. And congratulations to all the other Spur winners and finalists! To see the entire list, go here.
I had the pleasure of talking with Jason Meuschke last week on his outstanding Sample Chapter Podcast. You can listen to our discussion (and hear a sample chapter of Stardust Trail, read by yours truly) here.
Looking to do some early holiday shopping for those middle-grade (age 9-12) youngsters on your list? Emily’s Gift: A Tale of a Christmas Present, and a Christmas Past (co-written with my wife, Rose) will be released in Kindle format on July 31. Right now, it’s available for pre-order here for just $2.99.
About the book: Who has ever seen a faded photograph from bygone days without wondering about the people pictured – whom they were, how they lived, what became of them? Which of us has toured a historic building and never once thought, if these walls could talk…?
Emily Primm has. A thoroughly modern New York girl devoid of such childlike imagination, she sees herself as an adult trapped in a ten-year-old’s body. She’s never more anxious to slip the bonds of childhood than at Christmas, when all the grownups around her seem to become kids themselves. However, when she’s given an unusual gift – a dollhouse that once belonged to a great-great grandmother, Emily’s intrigued. She’s inexplicably drawn to the heirloom, so much so that she finds herself whisked away to the house’s real-life counterpart thirty miles – and more than a hundred years – from home.
Emily spends Christmas Eve, 1905 with the real house’s residents, the Forrests. She becomes fast friends with young Grace and her little brother Harry, a bookish boy who may hold the key to sending Emily back home. Their bonds strengthen when Emily learns that Grace is the dollhouse’s original owner, and realizes that Harry and Grace are not only her friends, but her ancestors. As she shares in the Forrests’ old-fashioned traditions, Emily begins to view the holidays, her own family, and her youth in a different light. She longs to go home (even though it means enduring the dreaded family dinner!), and by the time she finds her way back she’s happy to return to the childhood she’d almost let slip away.
I’ll be taking part in this San Diego Writers Festival panel tomorrow (6/27), discussing Western writing and the WWA along with fellow authors Deanne Stillman and Mark C. Jackson (Chris Enss, unfortunately, had to bow out due to tech issues). Our moderator will be Kirk Ellis.
The panel runs from 1:30-2:30 PST, and will be streamed live on Facebook, and recorded for future viewing on FB and YouTube.
“The San Diego Writers Festival is a free, community based event designed to celebrate the power of writing and storytelling…”
I’ll be joining a fine group of writers for a panel discussion at the San Diego Writers Festival on April 4. Come join us for some fine weather and a day jam-packed with panels, workshops, and performances by writers and storytellers of all genres and disciplines. And be sure to catch “More than Sagebrush and Cowboys: Western Writers of America Celebrate the Diversity of the West.” Hope to see you there!