The Long and Winding Road…

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.

Smith verdict

Wyatt Earp and neon green cap guns??

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.

Earp - toy gun

With “a little more camera practice,” this guy could be a star!

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!

Ride Him, Cowboy collage

Of wolves and sheepdogs…

“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.

I should’ve been a cowboy…

Interesting photo of city dudes playing cowboy (check out the tight pants and town shoes). Quite an interesting array of hardware they have, but not one of them looks like he has a clue how to use it (the gent on the right has the piece he’s holding cocked).

Looks like the only one not faking it here is the dog.

Cowboy wannabees

Have gun, will subscribe…

Boy, magazine premiums sure have changed since the 1880s. The E.C. Rideout Company’s ad in the December 24, 1881 edition of Harper’s Weekly mentions their promotional campaign offering a free Blue Jacket revolver with every paid $2.00 subscription to Household Guest Magazine.

I think the last magazine I subscribed to sent me a pocket calendar.

Blue Jacket revolver

Household Guest Magazine

John WHO?

The article below (and the letter from “An Observer”) from a 1930 Hollywood Filmograph magazine discuss the flak director Raoul Walsh caught for casting an unknown “college boy” as the lead in “The Big Trail.”

Pretty funny in retrospect, considering the career the kid went on to have.

John Wayne as Breck Coleman in "The Big Trail"

John Wayne as Breck Coleman in “The Big Trail”

Hollywood Filmograph, Jan.-June, 1930


No, not THAT Billy the Kid…

On this date in 1893, three men held up a St. Louis and San Francisco Railway train at Mound Valley, near Parsons, Kansas. Their efforts to rob the safe in the express car were thwarted by the express messenger, Charles Chapman, who paid with his life. After gunning down Chapman, the bandits settled for robbing passengers of about $500 in cash and jewelry, plus a jug of whiskey.

Dodge City Globe-Republican Sept. 8, 1893

Diligent detective work by local lawmen and Wells Fargo detectives quickly identified the three robbers. One of them was a career criminal and self-styled bad man named Will Chadburn, who liked to call himself “Billy the Kid.” Chadburn found himself in custody a month later and, with the prospect of hanging for his crimes, agreed to give evidence against his partners, Hanse/Hans Hydrick and Claude Shephard (Shephard had fired the round that killed Chapman). Chadburn, Hydrick and Shephard were convicted and sent to the state prison at Lansing.

Chadburn served just under eight years. Nine months after he was freed, he was back in custody for an Oklahoma post office robbery, which landed him in the federal pen at Leavenworth. Less than two weeks after he walked free in early July of 1905, Chadburn and cohort Ed Madigan robbed a poker game in Winfield, Kansas. The next day the men were recognized in nearby Cedar Vale by Frank Calhoun, a railroad detective for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. When Calhoun and the Cedar Vale marshal confronted the robbers, a gunfight ensued and Detective Calhoun was killed.

Hutchinson (KS) News July 12, 1905

Hutchinson (KS) News
July 12, 1905

Chadburn and Madigan fled on horseback to neighboring Hewins, where a posse was waiting. In the brief battle that followed, both men were cut down; Madigan was killed instantly, and Chadburn died of his wound two days later.

The colorful careers of law dog Calhoun and outlaw Will “Billy the Kid” Chadburn, and their fatal encounter, are detailed in Chapter 9 of Some Gave All.