Skin and Bones

Buffalo hide hunting was big business in the 1870s. Even after the great slaughter of the herds, folks found a cash crop in the sun-bleached bones. Want to know more? Check out my February 2009 Wild West Magazine article about the dual trades of buffalo hunting and bone picking, now online here.

Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival

I’ll be signing books and meeting folks on April 21 and 22 at the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival’s Buckaroo Book Shop, along with fellow Western writers Johnny D. Boggs, Bob Brill, Al Bringas, Jim Christina, Eric Heisner, Dale Jackson, Richard Paolinelli, Katie Ryan, and Peter Sherayko.

In honor of the Festival’s 25th year, general admission this year is free, so come on out and pay a visit!

Who thought this was a good idea?

Stage a head-on train wreck as a publicity stunt, out on the Texas plains, and invite spectators by the thousands to witness it. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty – as Katy Railroad passenger agent William Crush learned on September 15, 1896.

See my Wild West Magazine article on the “Crush Crash” here.

And listen to Scott Joplin’s “Great Crush Collision March” here.



First casualty in America’s war on drugs?

On August 20 1900, Sheriff John Henry Dillingham of Platte County, Missouri, was summoned to the sleepy little town of Farley over a case of multiple murder. A local physician named Sterling Price “Sturley” Harrington had gone on a day-long, drug and alcohol fueled killing spree. Taking his ten-year-old daughter along on his bloody errands, the doctor shot and killed his mother-in-law in cold blood, then calmly drove to the home of his wife’s uncle and killed him as well. He drove across the state line into Leavenworth, Kansas, where – apparently with further killing in mind – he resupplied with ammunition and more weapons before returning to Farley.

In what was likely part of an addle-brained plan to escape, Harrington tried to rob the town’s general store, and engaged in a point-blank shootout with the store’s clerk. About this time Sheriff Dillingham arrived with a trio of deputies, one of whom was his son, Henry. As the lawmen approached the store, Harrington met the sheriff at the entrance. Shots were exchanged and Sheriff Dillingham was killed instantly. As the murderous doctor fled toward his wagon, Henry Dillingham fired three times and Harrington fell dead in the street.

Twenty-two year old Henry Dillingham was appointed to finish out his father’s term as sheriff. Thirty years later he would also serve as the United States Marshal for the Western District of Missouri

Sheriff John Dillingham’s eventful career, and the tragic events leading up to his death, are detailed in Chapter 8 of Some Gave All.

Marshal Gosling’s Final Train Ride

Kindness is an admirable trait in a lawman, but it must be tempered with a healthy dose of suspicion. It was a lesson U.S. Marshal Hal Gosling learned too late. His good nature led to his death, setting events in motion that would break up of one of the worst outlaw gangs to plague south Texas in the 1880s.

You can read about Marshal Gosling’s sad demise, and the end of the Helotes Gang, in my article from the December 2013 issue of Wild West Magazine, recently put online at Historynet. For a fuller account, see Chapter 3 of my book, Some Gave All.

125 years ago today, one gave all

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.

Isbell site

John Wayne to be portrayed onscreen in “Trumbo”

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.

Duke - Trumbo


Elliott as the Duke. They’ve got the look right, anyway.

Duke - DJE


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.

Monte 7-21-15