Whiskey Creek Press

“Western Legend” in transition

Just a note on “Western Legend” and my site/blog here at WordPress.com.

I got my book back from its former Publisher, Whiskey Creek Press.  And while I won’t go into the problems I had with their non-commitment to their own contract, or the negative things I eventually found out about them, I will simply say that their company has been purchased and will very soon change name and ownership.  So, hopefully, they will clean up their act.  A funny aside: they strangely attempted to purchase the remainder of my e-book contract for roughly $5.  The contract was up this month, anyway, so I declined.  I was already working on placing the book elsewhere, anyway.

But this is why the links will not work at present.  The book is currently unavailable.

I would like to thank everyone who purchased and read my book.  It was a lot of work and very rewarding that many enjoyed it.

The book will see publication again, this time in print, with various illustrations and photos included for reference (all of which were rejected by Whiskey Creek Press.)  And I’m really looking forward to that.

Yours truly,

Jim


Anniversary of the James-Younger Gang’s failed robbery of the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota

Been a while, hasn’t it.  I’ve been so busy with work, I haven’t had a chance to update this blog.  But as of today, that is changing.

What follows will be the first of three posts, commemorating the Anniversary of the James-Younger Gang’s very badly planned and executed robbery of a bank in Northfield, Minnesota, on September 7th, 1876.  Over the next three weeks, I will be presenting the “revised” Chapter (9) from my book Western Legend — which greatly details this historical incident.

This Chapter has been revised incorporating new sources, only recently made available by the State of Minnesota, and the Northfield Historical Society.

So, without further adieu or pomp and pageantry, I give you …

Chapter 9 – Northfield

 

ACTUAL DUSTER left behind in Northfield by a member of the James-Younger Gang.

In addition to some truly inaccurate ramblings found in a multitude of period dime novels, the September, 1876 incident in Northfield, Minnesota has been depicted on film and television many, many times. Most notably in the 1940’s with The True Story of Jesse James, the 1970’s with The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid, and in the 1980’s as both an action center piece in the film, The Long Riders, and an interesting episode of the ‘mysteries of the unexplained’ style television show, In Search Of. But all such depictions have been produced for the purpose of entertainment, and generally eschew the complexity of the incident, without delving into the finer details of the robbery. And while it’s true that a handful of recent cable television recreations have focused on portraying the incident with definitive accuracy (such as The History Channel’s Shootout,) limitations in such productions have illustrated the bank robbery in a manner which strays from the facts and inserts false details into the general narrative. And to make matters worse, a routine internet search reveals numerous, somewhat expected inaccuracies far too frequent to mention here.

In lieu of this, and for the purpose of attempting a relative degree of accuracy in respect to an attempted bank robbery now more than a Century old, this author has first consulted the recollections of Frank James, and for further clarification, the two most regional newspaper reports to be printed within days of the “affray.” The first of these being Northfield’s own Rice County Journal, and the second being the Winona Daily Republican, from the distant but regional town of Winona County, Minnesota. These accounts were made first- or second-hand, by journalists who were either eye-witnesses themselves, or who rushed to Northfield in the aftermath of the incident, and spoke directly with eye-witnesses directly involved. For obvious reasons, reports from these papers have been utilized, as opposed to accounts printed in other well-known, distant publications, such as The Pioneer Press and Tribune, The San Francisco Examiner, or The Chicago Tribune.

I have also utilized documents recently made available on-line by the Minnesota Historical Society.  These include statements made in 1897 by Frank J. Wilcox, D.J. Whiting, John Morton, P.S. Dougherty, and W.H. Riddell. Said statements were made to the parole board when Cole Younger was lobbying for his release from prison.  I have additionally consulted Cole Younger’s own personal recollection printed in The Story of Cole Younger, by Himself. But use of this information has been tempered with the understanding that Younger distorted certain facts, in an attempt to further leverage his attempt at securing parole, and also to protect Frank and Jesse James.

Finally, although supplementary conclusions have been drawn with the assistance of a handful of internet pages, these have been carefully selected. This information was helpful in taking an aggressively convoluted event and reverse-engineering it into a clearer narrative. And also helped pepper what follows with further details, colorizing an otherwise static moment in history.

 * * * *

Setting the stage: two weeks before the fateful day, two of the men involved visited a local man named John Mulligan, residing approximately two and half miles west of Northfield. Both men claimed to be “prospecting for land,” and opened an impromptu negotiation with Mulligan for his homestead. After a brief argument, they apparently agreed on a price. It is not recorded whether this was a legitimate and mutual negotiation, or whether this was a negotiation conducted with the use of intimidation. Certain members of the James-Younger Gang were known for using bullying tactics to get what they wanted. And given that none of the gang would have been interested in sticking around after having robbed the local bank, this meeting is suspected to be a confrontation.

The men stated that part of their currency was in another bank in the town of Red Wing, located on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, and that the remaining amount would be raised soon. It was also later confirmed that four horses had been purchased in Red Wing on August 21st from a P. Watson, together with equipment such as blankets, rain coats, etc.

Next the men quizzed Mulligan on the subject of the nearby city of Northfield, the “general character of her people,” and whether they were a “peace-loving people.” Their rational for this line of questioning reportedly being, that they preferred to “…cast their lot with such people.”

When Mulligan described the town and its citizens with apparent accuracy, one of the two men declared, “Why, according to your statement of (sic) Northfield people, a very few men so inclined could capture the town, couldn’t they?”

“Of course they could,” Mulligan replied.

The men held Mulligan at bay for some time. Further questioning him about local roads and where they led, and local woods and how far they extended.

Eventually, though, the two men left and never returned.

* * * *

Within a week or so later, two men arrived in Northfield around midday; hitching their horses at posts a few feet north of an establishment known locally as Mr. Trussell’s Brick Block, or Trussell’s Corner. Moseying over, the larger of the two men sparked a conversation with Trussell, who was in process of selling a plow to a local farmer named Mr. Jones. The larger man reportedly did all the talking, questioning Trussell and his patron, Mr. Jones, for around half an hour. The larger man-made inquiries about the roads in the area, specifically the road to St. Peter. Trussell admitted that the better route was through Faribault, and so on, but due to the manner of the two men, Trussell was immediately suspicious. In fact, feelings of intimidation were described by all who entered into conversation with these men, with their manner being described as almost confrontational.

The Night of the sixth of September, four of the men attempted to gain lodging at the home of a certain Mr. Ross. Unable to accommodate them, Ross simply directed them to search for lodgings in town. Instead, the men later found accommodation with a Mr. C.C. Stetson, three miles south of town, on the road to Faribault.

On the morning of the seventh, the very day of the bank raid, an African-American man named Walter Lewis drove from the nearby town of Dundas. Arriving at Trussell’s Corner at approximately ten in the morning, he mentioned to Trussell that he had seen four men on horseback exiting the woods and coming toward town. And specifically, he remarked that they looked suspicious. This would seem conclusive proof that many around the area of Northfield were aware of these men as a potential threat, or at the very least, a curiosity. And also, that such a view had been disseminated among numerous local residents within just a few days time.

Moments after being seen by Walter Lewis, the four men rode into town, two by way of Division Street and two by way of Water Street. One hitched his horse near the bank, and waited. The other hitched his horse near Trussell’s Corner as he had the previous week, and proceeded to pace past the bank to a business known as Misses’ Whittier & Balch’s Store.

Then, he suddenly did an about-face, and hastily walked back.

For the second time, Trussell observed the strange behavior of these men, and now filled with suspicion, followed on the opposite side of the street, passing Dampier House—a hotel. But another man named Elias Hobbs—reportedly the town Marshall—assured Trussell that the men were cattle buyers, and in response, the second of the two supposed cattle buyers remarked to Trussell that he was “too suspicious.”

Sometime between eleven and noon, two men crossed the 4th Street Bridge to dine at J. G. Jeft’s Restaurant. An establishment located on the North side of the Cannon River, and in the near vicinity of the local railroad station and Ames Mill. After each of the men had finished off a plate of ham and eggs, their party left—and two other men arrived to take their place. All four were said to be dressed noticeably alike, in their long, glowing duster coats, with their pants tucked into their boots. And Mr. Jeft himself noted that their horses were, “…sleek and clean-limbed, and showing indications of good blood.

It was sometime later, when the two n had a drink at John Tosney’s saloon on the west side of town. One had wine, the other whiskey, both drinking lightly. Meanwhile, two additional men visited the Exchange saloon on the east side of the river, with both consuming whiskey.

Ascertaining just how many of the men had actually entered town at this point, was then, and is still today, difficult. But their repeated presence speaks volumes in respect to just how conspicuous these experienced bandits had actually made themselves. In fact, conspicuous would be a rather powerful understatement, something all eight of the men may not have been conscious of.

That afternoon, the full complement of men, again, all in long prairie linen “Ulster” duster coats light beige or white in color, fine suits, and hats—huddled and squatted in a field of grass, “two or three miles” away from the 4th Street Bridge. These coats were essentially “cavalry style” stockmen coats, and were complete with a short cape. They conferred over one of two maps they’d procured weeks earlier. The first, a pocket map of larger Minnesota, and the second, a hand-drawn map of Northfield reportedly purchased from a bookstore in another town. A map which crudely evidenced the placement of major streets, a few businesses, the bridge itself, and prominently, The First National Bank of Northfield.

CLELL MILLER

 

SAMUEL WELLS (alias Charlie Pitts)

Robert (Bob) Ewing Younger & James (Jim) Younger

 

William Chadwell (Photo of Corpse) Following Northfield Incident

 

Cole Younger After Capture Following Northfield Incident

 

Jesse James

 

Alexander Franklyn (Frank) James

 

 

 

 

 

 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

As later reported by both Cole Younger and Frank James, little was said. And what words were spoken, were done so quietly. The vote was merely taken. And the majority agreed to rob the bank. Then, one of the robbers removed an expensive pocket watch from his person, thumbed open the cover, and revealed the time to everyone. It was now one-fifty in the afternoon. They were ready.

In addition to earlier forenoon visits made to local saloons, the men had also perused local hardware stores, gauging the town’s potential weapons ordinance. Afterward, they had generally roamed around for a couple of hours, killing nothing more than time. And they had been further observed by Mr. George E. Bates, who later remarked, “Four nobler-looking fellows I never saw, but there was a reckless, bold swagger about them that seemed to indicate that they would be rough and dangerous fellows to handle.”

Having regrouped here, the men now deliberated whether or not to “make a go” for the bank. And their reasons for choosing this town, and this bank, remain debatable even today. Through interviews and scuttlebutt, various surviving members of the gang later cited two motives. The first being a deep-rooted hatred retraced to two prominent generals of the Union Army: Benjamin Butler and Adelbert Ames—and their connections to the bank. Ames—as in Ames Mill—had actually owned stock in the bank, and the fact that he’d recently relocated to Northfield was reprinted in several regional newspapers. As for Butler—hatred in his direction went deep. He also held political views the men violently opposed. And according to Cole Younger, his party believed both men had money in bank at Northfield. It was eventually revealed that Ames did have money in the bank, Butler did not.

The second motive centers on hearsay that gang member William Chadwell had prior knowledge of Northfield as a result of having been a previous resident. And though that alone could have been the decisive factor in the town being chosen as a target of opportunity, it’s also possible that Chadwell’s prior knowledge came from him only having served as a scout for the gang’s recent activity in the area.

Regardless of the catalyst—this was their decisive moment.

The men had allegedly attempted another bank robbery in the regional town of Mankato, only to abort. And it’s probable that by now, all were running low on currency, and in need of further finances. Each had money squirreled away someplace for sure, but getting at it was another matter.

It has additionally been suggested that the principal loot from their many successful heists was in actuality being diverted to a covert Southern cause; a group still bitter over the Emancipation Proclamation, Appomattox, and the outcome of the War in general. This reveals the possibility that these men were not merely thieves, but terrorists as well.

* * * *

Frank sat in the saloon in Nacogdoches, contemplating a chosen point-of-view for his tale. He took a long breath, and blew it out, puffing his cheeks.

After a beat, he finally nodded and addressed the room. “Now keep in mind,” He said, “We were experienced at this, and nothing like what I’m about to tell you, had ever happened to us before. So, if I had been there, here’s the truth behind the umm … the legend, if you will.”

He looked down at the four boys, and started with, “There were eight of us.”

* * * *

Eight men mounted eight horses and fell into formation in three separate detachments. The first comprised of three men, then two, then three again. After spacing these detachments apart by roughly forty yards, the first five men nonchalantly rode forward to where they could see much of Mill Square beneath them. A horseshoe-shaped blending of two dirt streets, Division and 4th; also known as Bridge Square due to its approximation to the 4th Street Bridge.

The initial detachment included the first of the two James Brothers—both were reportedly favoring a mustache, and were difficult to tell apart—Samuel George Wells (alias Charlie Pitts,) and Robert (Bob) Ewing Younger. The three rode on, passing Ames Mill, crossing over the 4th Street Bridge, and riding down into the Square.

Splitting up rather quickly, these three horsemen were seen taking alternate routs toward a mutual destination. While two took the long way around, eventually arriving at the bank via the opposite end of Division, the third simply followed 4th directly across the Square. And when all three arrived, they tied their horses to hitching posts in front of the bank, and strolled several yards alongside the large Scriver Building to the corner of Lee & Hitchcock Dry Goods Store. One sat atop a dry-goods box stacked there, while the others leaned against the banister of a staircase that ran up the side of the building diagonally. This large, prominent building faced Division to the South, and along with other businesses, housed the bank.

Catching sight of the three men, a few local citizens took second and even third glances at them. Their appearance was remarked as, “marvelous”.

J.S. Allen and Sons — Allen remarked, “Who are these men; I don’t like the looks of them.” Allen then crossed the street, returning to Lee and Hitchcock’s, while

The aforementioned George E. Bates, and another man, C.O. Waldo, a “commercial traveler” from Council Bluffs, were standing in the doorway of Bates’ Store located across the street when the men rode in. Bates and Waldo had a brief, trivial discussion regarding the appearance of the men, whom town scuttlebutt had labeled cattle buyers.  And even took note of their fine horses. Mr. Bates and Mr. Waldo made nothing more of it, and withdrew to the far end of Mr. Bates’ establishment to look over sample trusses. (Structural frameworks designed to hold up a roof or building corner.)

A dentist named D.J. Whiting, was at this moment inside his office, up the steel staircase of Scriver Building. He happened to look out the window and spotted the three men at the bottom of the stairs. And one of them was using his finger on a dry-goods box to illustrate a plan for the others to follow.  Mr. Whiting was suspicious, but shrugged it off and returned his attention to his afternoon work.

* * * *

Elsewhere, the second detachment, including Thomas Coleman “Cole” Younger and William McLelland “Clell” Miller, was now stationed a few feet behind the Bridge. Cole turned his head, and nodded at the men of the last detachment, several yards back. The nod was reciprocated by one of the three men.

Years later, Younger credited this “third man” as “Woods.” Research has revealed that both Jesse and Frank appear to have used the aliases, “Woodson,” and “Howard” on numerous occasions, and even appear to have traded them routinely, so as to confuse specific identity, in case said aliases were discovered.

Cole snapped his pocket watch shut; nodded to Clell.

And with that, the two galloped across the bridge into town.

But something wasn’t right.  Crossing Bridge Square, Cole noted that the area at the corner of Scriver Building, and Division Street beyond, was rather crowded.

“Surely the boys will not go into the bank with so many people about; I wonder why they did not ride on through town.” He commented to Clell.

Younger later stated that the initial three men couldn’t see any saddled horses visible, and assumed this would be to their advantage. That was the factor that convinced the initial three to go ahead with the robbery, even though the streets were far too crowded to ever get away with it.

On the sidewalk in front of Lee & Hitchcock’s, J.S. Allen was again looking over the first three men habitating around the dry goods boxes just beyond the corner, when he suddenly heard horses. He turned to see the second detachment of men crossing the square, headed toward the bank. Allen quietly remarked to another, “I think they are here to rob the bank.”

The first three men took note of the second detachment approaching, instantly slid from the dry goods boxes, and began walking toward the bank.

Cole and Clell slowed their horses, approaching Division Street.

Clell commented simply, “They are going in.”

“If they do the alarm will be given as sure as there’s a Hell, so you had better take that pipe out of your mouth.” Cole instructed.

Clell dumped the tobacco from his pipe.

Now J.S. Allen, in apron, walked a few steps to the very spot where the first three men had been seconds earlier. From that vantage point, Allen watched as the first detachment of men entered through the wide open folding doors of the bank—and then watched as those doors were suspiciously left open.

It took a beat for it to sink in. But once it had, Allen slowly moved past the corner of the dry goods store, and began walking toward the bank. He looked around the street and saw a few others looking toward the bank as well. His breathing quickened, and incrementally, his pace quickened.

From his second floor window of Scriver Building, D.J. Whiting grew more suspicious when he saw Cole and Clell ride around the corner of Scriver Building onto Division—with Cole looking back over his shoulder, across the square. Cole was catching a glance of the last detachment of three men—the Second James Brother, James Hardin Younger, and William Chadwell—cross over and take position at the foot of the Bridge.

Whiting now watched as Cole and Clell parked their horses directly in front of the bank.

The voice of a citizen was distantly heard, shouting, “It’s a St. Albans Raid!” But due to the sound of street traffic, few heard this muffled plea.

*****

Meanwhile, inside the First National Bank, Charlie Pitts, Bob Younger, and the first James Brother pulled their heavy pistols and rushed the bank counter. The first man immediately hurtled directly through a narrow two-foot teller’s window, flanked by a thirty-inch-high glazed rail. While the other two men jumped upon the counter and squatted, preparing to pounce. Their heavy boots left lasting scuff-marks on the counter, which remain visible today. Each man quickly extended an arm and placed the barrel of his pistol close to the head of one of three— Joseph Lee Heywood, seated upon a cashier’s seat at the far right end of the counter, Alonzo E. Bunker, and Frank J. Wilcox, both seated at the adjoining counter to the left.

“Throw up your hands, for we intend to rob the bank, and if you holler we will blow your God Damned brains out!” barked Charlie Pitts.

“Which of you is the cashier?” The James brother demanded.

Heywood was defiant, and said, with almost disinterest, “He’s not in.”

Instantly, the two men upon the counter jumped down and got close enough that the bankers could smell the alcohol on their breath.

*****

SCRIVER BUILDING (Note: The Bank is the small three white arches at the left-center of the photograph.)

Out on the noisy street, Cole dismounted and made out like he was tying his saddle girth, watching traffic in the eighty-foot-wide thoroughfare. Meanwhile Clell, sporting a white linen handkerchief around his neck, a new shirt with gold sleeve-buttons, a matching gold ring, and a John Hancock felt hat, began re-packing his pipe, now completely unconcerned.  No one on the street seemed at first to sense that anything was amiss.

Cole’s head swiveled around and he quickly perceived that the bank’s folding doors were still open. It was only a matter of time before someone on the street overheard what was going on inside.  So he instructed Clell to get off his horse and close the doors.

Clell finished lighting his pipe, dismounted, and walked up and took a step inside the bank to notify the men they had left the door open.  He closed the door, and then leaned against a hitching post.

Cole mounted his horse, and rode further down the street and back, hoping to quell any suspicion.

W.H. Riddell, who owned a store almost directly opposite the bank, had a customer come up to him, “before any kind of an alarm had been given,” and report that something suspicious was going on over at the bank.  Riddell, guardedly exited his establishment into the wide expanse of Division Street, looking over the men parked in front of the bank, and watching J.S. Allen as he approached the bank on the sidewalk.

 On the same side of the street as Riddell, and on the porch of Wheeler & Blackman’s drugstore, twenty-two year old Dr. Henry M. Wheeler was seated in his father’s rocking chair, talking to a couple of friends. As his gaze fell upon the street, they locked on Cole and Clell.  For the second time, Cole dismounted. Now both men were standing near their horses, suspiciously ranging the street around them.

Without saying a word, Wheeler stood and stepped into the street—and soon spotted J.S. Allen moving closer to the bank, evaluating the bank with profound interest.

*****

Inside the bank, there was only chaos.

The three robbers were repeatedly accosting the three bank employees with, “You are the cashier,” each time provoking a denial out of Heywood, Bunker, and Wilcox.

*****

Back outside, Wheeler continued moving slowly across the street, glaring at Cole. Cole instantly turned his back to him, so Wheeler focused on Clell. Anyone could see that Clell Miller needed a shave. But many initially missed that in spite of Miller’s finer clothes, he was wearing two different types of boot—one of finer leather, the other a cheap brand. Wheeler was starting to put it all together now. Clell spotted Wheeler staring at him, and spun around. Wheeler continued walking. He wanted to see inside that bank.

Instinctively, Cole re-mounted his horse.

J.S. Allen arrived at the bank’s folding doors, and reached out to open them—and Clell Miller’s gloved hand reached out and closed them again, softly. Instantly, Clell grabbed Allen by his collar, pulling him close. Allen’s gaze was filled with Clell’s blue eyes. Then it was filled with the muzzle of the bandit’s .44 caliber pistol. The men were hidden by the two horses.

“What’s happening here?” Allen demanded.

“Don’t you holler,” Clell said in heavy whisper past his pipe, “If you do, I’ll blow your damned head off.”

Allen caught his breath and backed off quickly, and ran around the corner of the Scriver Building, shouting, “Get your guns, boys, they’re robbin’ the bank!”

Behind them W.H. Riddell shouted, “Robbers at the bank!”

And Wheeler shouted, “Robbers in the bank!”

Many citizens in the street were reportedly confused. They were expecting a circus in town, and at first assumed this was part of the promotion for that venue.

*****

In the bank, Bob Younger ordered Bunker and Wilcox on their knees and demanded the location of the cash drawer. “Where is the money outside the safe?”

Wilcox pointed, and Bunker showed Bob to a box on the counter. Bob Younger opened the drawer, finding only a roll of nickels; which he promptly removed and dropped with a clunk to the floor.

*****

Cole came galloping back down the street, drew his pistol, and shouted at Riddell, “Get in there, you God-damn Son-of-a-bitch!” Then charged Wheeler, shouting “Get off the street! Get out of here, dingus!”

Cole reportedly then fired a volley of shots over the heads of both men.

Riddell retreated to his store, while Wheeler ran to the Dampier Hotel, screaming, “ROBBERY! ROBBERY!”

*****

TO BE CONTINUED …


06/12/2012: It was a Tuesday, when ALL OF A SUDDEN …

It’s been so long since I’ve posted anything here, I had almost forgotten about this blog.  Got an IT assignment at GE through Robert Half, starting May 1′st.  And I’ve been toiling away since then, hoping for the best at the end of my three-month contract assignment.  (Hoping to go permanent, but you never know with these companies) Hell, they even gave me an office; what do I have to complain about.  Moving on, my contract with Whiskey Creek Press as publisher of Western Legend expires in July, and I am anticipating not extending it.  Book didn’t really do as well as I’d hoped, and I get the feeling that I chose the wrong genre.  While I love westerns, I seem to be in the minority there.  And what I really love writing is a good adventure story, in any genre.   

Sooooo, you can expect some changes here soon.  Western Legend will probably wind up being republished as a self published e-book, and possibly a limited edition softcover.   Naturally, the book’s cover will change, along with the focus of this blog.  That will need to happen, allowing for two books, possibly three to co-exist in the sidebar and menus here.  The first, of course, being the western, and the second and third being of other genres.  I hope those who enjoyed my writing the first time around will stick with me into new territory.  I write just as well in any format, genre and general state of mind.  And I’m really planning something distinctive.

For now, please know I have NOT abandoned this blog.  Just been busy working and taking care of other business. 

Very busy.  As you can plainly see.

 


Western Legend Now Featured on WesterneBooks.com

My book is now being featured on a web site that promotes mainly novels of western heritage.  Good attention if you can get it.   It’s only a synopsis and a link to Amazon, and I’m sure everyone following this blog has seen that a thousand times by now LOL but check it out anyway.  Perhaps you’ll like the website and cruise around a bit.

http://www.westernebooks.com/western-legend-by-james-allder/

Get the latest western novels from WesternEbooks.com – Featuring new and established western authors, bestseller westerns, free western ebooks, book reviews and more.


Western Legend Novel Excerpt

Western Legend
James Allder
Pub. Date: 07/01/2011
Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press

E-book Now Available for Purchase 



Written in a literary style known as “false document,” Western Legend tells of an amazing chance encounter in the autumn of 1899 — and the pulp-style high adventure that results from it.

On a bustling Sunday morning, four notorious men have arrived separately in the crowded metropolis of Nacogdoches, Texas.  Former outlaw Frank James, lawman Virgil Earp, his brother and confidence artist James Earp, and the cattleman’s assassin, Tom Horn.  Recognized instantly, the men ease discord among the populace by seeking respite in a local saloon — and unexpectedly find themselves entertaining adventurous children with two-fisted tales of the West.

Spiriting an honest, forthright effort to convince these impressionable young boys that being notorious isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, the men identify the truth behind “that fancy printed fiction” regarding their legendary exploits, and play down the controversy generally associated with their person.

But as the day wears on, and these western legends learn that a full company of sadistic cattle thieves is terrorizing local citizens, each man wastes no time in volunteering his services to the community.  And the subsequent actions of each proves much of “that fancy fiction,” to be true.


EXCERPTFrom Chapter 16: Invented for killin’ a man

J.D. rose to his feet and carefully approached the table, looking over the guns resting there.

“Can I hold one?” he asked.

The men around the table were taken aback and stared at him in shock.

“You’re creakin’ on a trestle bridge, boy,” Jim said.

“You wanna hold a six-shooter?” Frank asked. “Not a rifle, made for huntin’, but a pistol—which was invented for killing a man—that’s what you want?”

J.D. nodded, and without hesitation, Frank began unloading his pistol.

Virgil literally bit his lip, and moaned.

Jim said, “Hmmm…Frank, you know that’s not a proper thing—”

Tom’s response came right on top of him. “I’m not sure that’s such a wise idea, Frank. Boy could get the wrong idea from something like—”

“I know what I’m doing!” Frank’s voice boomed over them both.

Tom cleared his throat. “Yes, sir.”

The other men were watching with discomfort as Frank began to hand over the weapon to J.D., then held off for a brief moment. “Now, it’s heavy; supposed to be. Only a man should be holding it. Boy your age tries to fire one of these, and it’ll kick back into your head, and kill ya,” Frank said.

“Which is exactly what should happen if you’re stupid enough to point one at anybody,” Tom said. “You understand, J.D.?”

J.D. hid a smile. “Yes, Mr. Horn.”

Frank looked at J.D. and nodded to the gun as he placed it into the boy’s hands. “Hold it with both hands, so you won’t drop it. And hold it up, like a man. Go on.”

J.D. grasped the heavy instrument with both hands for a moment, before trying to hand it back.

Frank refused it.

“No. Hold it for a minute longer,” Frank said.

The other boys watched as J.D.’s skinny arms started to shake, and he began huffing his breaths instead of simply breathing them.

“I can’t—it’s heavy,” J.D. pleaded.

“I know,” Frank asserted.

J.D. continued to try to hand the weapon back to Frank. Then he tried to hand the weapon to Tom. Both men threw up their hands and waved him off. And J.D. was really shaking.

“Now. What if you could never give it back?” Frank asked.

Desperate, J.D. tried to lift the pistol up onto the table, but couldn’t quite reach the tabletop with the weight of it. Then he started to lower it to the floor, and Frank stopped him.

“Don’t put it down! You can never put it down! You do that, you’re a dead man!”

J.D.’s eyes began to tear up, and finally, Frank reached over and relieved the boy of the burden.

“Good,” Frank said. “Now don’t ever pick up one of these God-damned things again. They’re more trouble than you care to know. You can’t change a leopard’s spots once it’s grown them, boys. I left home, joined the Army, ended up an outlaw…now I can’t really ever go back home. This gun is the reason for that.”



135th Anniversary of the Great Northfield Bank Robbery

ACTUAL DUSTER left behind in Northfield by a member of the James-Younger Gang.

Or I should say “attempted” robbery.  On this day in 1876, just a few months following Custer’s last stand a Little Big Horn, the citizens of Northfield, Minnesota realized that their bank was being robbed — and reacted with extreme prejudice.  The result, was a brief, private little war with the James-Younger Gang.

One of the interesting details I found while doing research on this incident, was the coat you see at left.  The men were reportedly dressed in identical “cattleman’s coats.”  The coat you see here was discarded by one of the robbers, and was taken possession of by the Northfield District Attorney, before eventually being donated to the Minnesota Historical Society.   Given that two of the Robbers were killed and remained in the street, one would assume that more than one coat had been left behind.  However, this supposedly, was not the case.

Notice that the coat is not the form-fitting, trench-style duster that has always been portrayed in entertainment.  In fact, though eye-witnesses in 1876 accurately reported the color and style of coat the men wore as a light beige linen duster — the coat left behind is actually fitted with a “cape,’ and takes on the further appearance of a Calvary Coat.

You can read a further detailed account of the Northfield, Minnesota Bank Raid in “WESTERN LEGEND.”  Available in e-book through “Whiskey Creek Press,” “Amazon.com,” and “Fictionwise.”  See links ——>


Column on “Western Legend” in Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel

This was something that had been in the works.  I had over the past few weeks corresponded with Robbie Goodrich a handful of times at the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel, in Nacogdoches, Texas.  And something was going to be printed, I just didn’t know what yet.

Last Sunday (08/14) they printed a blurb on my book under “Book Release” in section D, page 5 of their local paper.  Which is kind of neat, given that much of the story takes place in Nacogdoches.

It’s a brief column announcing the book’s release and describing the story.

Click here to view the page: Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel pg. 5D


Why is COWBOYS & ALIENS not doing better ??

For the record, when the time came, I chose not to go see this movie.  At first that perplexed even me.  I had a good excuse; I had work to do.  I had just published my first book (a Western.)  However, I also knew given the genre that it would be in my best interest to take in this movie, and critique it’s merits or similarities to my own work. 

But something just didn’t feel right — didn’t seem right.  Something about this movie just didn’t interest me.  In fact, I really just did not want to watch it, at all.  Still don’t, actually.  Probably end up watching it on TBS three years from now.  And that’s just fine with me.  And apparently, a whooooole lot of other people felt the same way.  But WHY ?? 

Like many people, I like Sci-Fi, and I like the occasional Western.  This should really appeal to many people, right ?  Best of both worlds.  So what the hell HAPPENED !??  And how does this bode for the Western as a genre ?  I mean apart from the fact that there is too much light clearly coming from the wrong direction in that image above.

There is no definitive, or even perceptible answer to that question.  Although a few who’ve seen Cowboys & Aliens responded positively, “…they didn’t make it too cheesy, as I feared they would,” there are others who simply didn’t want to see it at all, and some who saw it and only gave a mild recommendation to those who hadn’t.

And people have been paying to see shitty movies all summer long, so even if it is bad that still doesn’t explain it’s failure with the public.  It shouldn’t matter.  Bad movies make money in our current culture.  And yet, this film made around $36 Million over the course of its opening weekend.  That’s not a single day total, like many other previous summer blockbusters — that’s the ENTIRE WEEKEND !

So is it worse than bad ?  And are patrons blaming the “western” element, or the “sci-fi” element ?  Well, no, and no.  No one is claiming this to be one of the worst films of the year.  And while the western element seems to be getting the better response, both genre elements seem to be taking the blame, unfortunately.  With the design of the Aliens themselves being cited as a big issue with most audience members.  Again, haven’t seen it, but I hear they look derivative and don’t really scare anyone.  

Warner Bros. did MASSIVE publicity for this thing.  They went to Comic-Con twice; once in 2010, and then again, just a few weeks ago.  They even had the premiere there — they actually screened the movie, with E! Entertainment News and all the major players present — including Producers Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.  Had a red carpet and everything.  Looked like the Golden Globes for crying out loud.  Great publicity.  Whether or not the San Diego Comic-Con is good publicity for a major motion picture, is another subject for argument.  I don’t think it is.  But … many disagree.  And they cite all kinds of additional marketing techniques, etc., that were used to publicize this film wayyyyy in advance of its release.

Harrison Ford even made appearances on TV.  Including a moment wherein earlier this week he seems to respond to the movies lackluster opening weekend by ripping off the head off a large stuffed Smurf.  Cute.

*****

There was also another, earlier appearance on Letterman.  Here Ford, while not n his prime, is nevertheless very appealing.  He gets a good response from the crowd.  There’s is some discussion of the film, and a brief clip is screened.  But it’s a clip which doesn’t inspire much confidence or interest.  There is also some of Ford and Letterman riding horses down Broadway at the end.  Which is a lot more interesting than a clip from Cowboys & Aliens.  I’d call that an ouch moment for the Warner Bros. marketing department.

*****

*****

So will the film’s performance improve ?

There’s not much competition for the rest of the summer.  A few movies will get prominent attention.  But next week is the last of the BIG SUMMER MOVIES for 2011: Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  This would be a great time for Warner Bros. to relaunch, or re-tune their marketing campaign for Cowboys & Aliens.  If it were to work, they would end up with a bonafide sleeper on their hands, rescue themselves from their perilous situation, and remove what is quickly becoming an embarrassing stain on the western genre.  Word-of-mouth can work against you, but it can also work in your favor.

As of right now, the Western genre is a pariah, incarnate.  Every time a western under-performs at the box office, this happens.  And Producers begin having issues getting financing for a large scale film production, if the genre is Western.  In fact, many have changed their genre, just to get their movie made.  And that sometimes daisy-chains across the board.  Books, TV, Comics: all are labeled a bad investment if they’re western related.

Making it very, very difficult for those of us who work in this genre to prosper.  I can only hope that either A) the film begins to do better, or B) the western sees a better example, and very soon.  Many people have already forgotten True Grit.  Both the entertainment industry and the public have a very, very short memory.

*****

In Addendum: Addition Info:

So who won, Smurfs or Cowboys & Aliens ?  This was the question all weekend.

The situation was clearly so unexpected that many went straight for desperately claiming the “top spot” as the win-win.   It’s truly unbelievable how fast the focus changes when they realize they have a potential bomb on their hands.  Urban jungle time.

Here’s an extensive article at Deadline Hollywood that breaks it down: http://www.deadline.com/2011/07/first-box-office-cowboys-aliens-40m-smurfs-29m-crazy-stupid-love-18m/

Here are also the current numbers for Cowboys & Aliens: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=cowboysandaliens.htm

And The Smurfs:http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=smurfs.htm

UPDATED DATA (8:00 PM CST):http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/box-office-update-smurfs-is-219478

*****

To sum it up, Smurfs did better than expected, and Cowboys & Aliens did much worse than expected.  Analysts even describe C&A as almost “tanking.”  Their box office prediction (which was universally expected to be a low figure,) was $45 Million — and no one’s saying whether that was intended as a one-day gross, or a weekend gross.  In any event, at weekend’s end, Cowboys & Aliens tallied to just the mid 30′s.  With an “unofficial” budget between $163 – $200 Million, and only a few weeks guaranteed in a prime exhibition in theaters, this picture cannot afford that kind of lackluster box office tally.  Therefore, The Smurfs, with a budget significantly less, at $110 Million, is the clear winner.   Both have home video and cable revenues coming their way, but those numbers are also generally commensurate with the box office take.  And they won’t see a dime of foreign theatrical revenue, either.  They never do, the taxes and tariffs are too high.  One of those industry secrets the studios don’t like discussing.  No matter that fantastical “World Wide Box Office Total,” they generally see little more than their share of the domestic (US) box office take.  Behind that, video and cable.  At this point, it has been forecast that Cowboys & Aliens will eventually break even, but not make a profit for a very long time.

And you wanna know the sad part ?  ROFL  The Smurfs has gotten the expected reviews a movie like that always gets.  Critics and Parents don’t like it, small kids inexplicably do.


Errata, or “That List No Writer Wants To Make” 07/28/2011

er·ra·ta

2. a list of errors and their corrections inserted, usually on a separate page or slip of paper, in a book or other publication; corrigenda.

**

That word, “errata” is one every published writer must become familiar with.  The industry uses it to describe errors, and then list them.  Which brings me directly to my point.  I finally had the opportunity to purchase and take a look at my book Western Legend on the free Kindle application.  I don’t have a Kindle, but you can download their app for free and use it to read e-books on any PC.

I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me take you back a few weeks.  You see … either the Publisher got swamped, or they waited until the last minute to assign me an editor, because there was a palpable feeling that we were rushing to get this thing out on time.  Now come forward to the end of July, and me dreading taking yet another look at this thing in yet another format — I had already gone over the pdf, and the grammatical and sentence structure errors I found there, left me dumbfounded.  But I knew this would happen.  Stephen King had discussed this many, many years ago as being common place, and I still had that anecdote in the back of my head.  And to be fair, these errors cannot simply be thrown on the Publisher’s doorstep.  I went through it, too; wasn’t just the fault of the Publisher’s editors.

But, I was hoping for no nasty surprises in the Kindle version.

Keep on dreaming, Jimbo.  I’d had this gut feeling that something else was gonna pop up while reading through it.  And, my instincts turned out to be correct.  Moments ago, I was horrified to discover a glowing blue footnote link — which when clicked, leads to a blank page.  LOL !

Please see the following text in Chapter 4: An excitement on main …

**

“Ahhh…well, joined up for the War, in Florida — had myself a bout with malaria. Rode over to Navasota; visit some people. On my way up to Denver now, do some damage to the place.” 

“You keep a pigeon hole up there?” Virgil asked.

Tom nodded. “As well, yea.”[i]   <——– THAT RIGHT THERE !! 

That’s the little varmint !  

**

That was originally a number, in place as a footnote, back when the book was submitted with the footnotes intact.  The publisher mentioned nothing about their practice of not including footnotes when they agreed to publish the book, but that’s another matter.  So they moved them all to the back of the book.  Problem was, they had no context there.  Footnotes are external information, which have to be connected to the passage they reference, in order to have meaning.  And traditionally, they are placed at the footer of the page.  But, alas, word comes down from the Publisher, “no footnotes.”

So the publisher moved them to the rear of the book, and I naturally elected to simply remove them, altogether to avoid embarrassment.  And I can always replace them and resubmit the book elsewhere at a later date, so it isn’t really that much of an issue.  However, when the publisher accidentally left that little [i] there — they created an issue.  Some people will get frustrated when they click on something like that and get a blank page.  I did, and then spent several minutes trying to get back to where I was, in the book !

For those of you who’ve had this experience already, or for those of you who will eventually come across it while reading my e-book –  I humbly apologize for this error.  I know it’s irritating, because it irritated the shit outta me.

I had earlier found an additional error in the pdf, which also embarrasses me.  In Chapter 10: Street Fight, there is the mention of a small house, which figured prominently in the street fight in Tombstone, commonly referred to in pop culture as The Gunfight at the OK Corral.  The name of the house is actually “Harwood” house.  But due to some oversight, it reads: “Hardman.”  Given that there is a character earlier in the story named “Hardeman,” I can only assume that this was a change offered by Microsoft Word, that neither myself, nor the two editors I worked with caught.  “Hardman” is clearly the same as “Hardeman,” only without the “e.”  Clearly, when you’ve done the amount of research I did on this thing — even though it is just a pulp story — it is galling to find this kind of a novice error.  Lemme tell ya, folks, not a nice moment.

My point this hot and muggy Thursday is this: although I am very aware that this is not an unusual occurrence (I found similar errors in books I used for reference and research,) I am nonetheless, annoyed by it — as I’m sure the average reader will be, when they spot things like this.  So, if you have read my book and found additional items you believe to be errors, PALEEEEAASE do not hesitate to mention them in the comments selection below.

And now … for something completely different !


Odds & Ends 07/21/2011 (From Cowboys & Aliens to the Comic-Con)

THE COWBOYS & ALIENS TELEGRAM

There was a promotion held yesterday for the film Cowboys & Aliens which involved a website that allowed you to send a Cowboys & Aliens telegram to anyone, literally anywhere in the world — and for free, with a special coupon code.  You had to enter an email address for confirmation, therefore I assumed it was only one free telegram per e-mail. I initially sent three, to three separate production companies in the Los Angeles area.  A few minutes later, I decided to try my luck and go back and enter my three separate email addresses again, just to be sure.  Imagine my surprise when all three worked.  LOL !  I sent a total of SIXTY telegrams.  And each time I got an emailed confirmation.  Most of these went to production companies in Hollywood, and reading: “My book WESTERN LEGEND would make a much better movie !”  With my blog typed underneath.

[Although the telegrams that went to the producers of the movie, got a slightly altered version reading: "My book WESTERN LEGEND would make a great movie !"  I'm bold, I'm not stupid. ]

For fun I additionally sent one to my publishers Debra and Steven Womack at Whiskey Creek Press, and another to the managing editor of True West Magazine, Bob Bell.  For potential publicity I sent along two more to editors of Kirkus Reviews, one to the Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel (I’ve had previous contact with them about a possible article on the book,) one to the Northfield Historical Society, and one to the Tombstone museum for the Tombstone Epitaph.  I would have sent more, but by seven o’clock the code had expired … rofl.  I hope Warner Bros. got something out of that — I certainly did.

*

READ ‘EM COWBOY ??  OK, SUITS ME

Apparently the 23rd (Saturday) is “Read ‘em Cowboy !” National Day of the Cowboy event.  At least, someone said it is.  I read this on-line, and honestly have no idea if this is an actual designated movement to support literature.  It seems to be coming out of a single Barnes & Nobles store in Redlands, California.  But it fits with marketing my book, so I thought I’d mention it.  Read my book on Saturday.  Be good for ya.  Keep ya outta the HEAT !

*

BOOK STATS

I keep getting questions on the stats of sales of the book.  How many have been sold, etc.  I have no idea; the Publisher apparently generate this information quarterly, and not before.

*

GNARBLE IN THE SUN

My friend, Tiffany Turrill did this for a children’s book (The Journey of the Noble Gnarble) to be published October 1st, and written by Daniel Errico.  Amazing.  You can visit her website at: http://tiffanyturrill.daportfolio.com/

*

COMIC-CON, A PERSNICKETY COMMENTARY

This is the week of the now MASSIVE Comic-Con in San Diego, California.  I went to this thing in the summer of 2001.  Met Ray Bradbury for the first time;  shook his hand.  Got snarled at by George Clayton Johnson (one of the writers on the original Twilight Zone,) attended a panel for the then soon to be released, remastered Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture — which was graced by the presence of Robert Wise: editor on Citizen Kane and Magnificent Ambersons;  director of The Body Snatcher, The House on Telegraph Hill, Day the Earth Stood Still, West Side Story, Sound of Music, The Andromeda Strain.  Got to watch a screening of The Last Starfighter – on film and pretty much alone; not a single sole was in there other than me. LOL.  Watched the promo for the original Smallville pilot, featuring a much older couple playing Ma and Pa Kent.  Sat in on the first Will Eisner Awards Ceremony — few people were there; this was a subdued yet incredible experience.  Saw lots of faces I knew from the comic book store I was working at in Burbank at the time.  Had dinner with some friends at the Lasagna House III, then saw Jurassic Park III … meh.

Stayed at the Marriott there at the Marina, in a very nice room.  Close ?  All I had to do was walk next door to the Convention.  Was amazing.  Had a breakfast in the Marriott Restaurant and when it proved vastly more expensive than what was quoted on the menu, I told the guy to bill it to a room number I came up with on the fly, and mentioned charging it too the “Underhill’s” account –  and believe it or not he walked away content with that bit of bullshit.

Toured the ground floor and saw, in addition to the occasional Movie or TV tie in, a LOT of dealer’s tables filled with COMICS and TOYS, etc., etc. Took a nice walk around the Marina one evening with a beautiful girl, then lost her name and number a day later. Shit.  Did a few of the panels — most pertaining to writing the field of comics and writing in general. All in all, it was a good time.

And none of it could be had, again.  I went back once more, and just stepped in for a visit with a complimentary badge. (I was with someone with pull.)  And even then, I could see everything had changed.  No more dealer’s tables.  No more comics for sale, no more toys, no more artists allowed to advertise and sell their work in the main room.  Oh, no, they had been pushed out, into another wing somewhere.  I mean I just wanted to leave, immediately.  And from what I have been told since then, everything has only gone further down hill.  Into the toilet of Hollywood commercialism.  It is now simply a convention wherein Hollywood connects with the fan-boy culture.  Panels about Movies and TV shows, lots of big banners and over-hyped entertainment properties.  Anything else you’ll see, be it toys or art or whatever, is directly tied to a major corporation.

Yet they still call it a Comic book Convention.  Comic-Con.

I’m told you can find the old school convention, but you have to walk for it and it isn’t what it used to be.  And you can no longer get a room at the Marriott, because while they put them up for reservation every year, they seem to go very, very unbelievably fast, and are said to be quite mysteriously occupied by guests of the Comic-Con, i.e. celebrities.

Two years later, I suggested to someone that when they go to the Comic-Con, they take a walk around the beautiful Marina at sunset with someone, like I did.  They came back in shock at my suggestion.  It was so crowded, there was no where to walk, and no privacy to really enjoy.  And it appeared to them to be that way, constantly.

I’d like to go back.  But the convention I once visited is not there anymore.  The public have been duped, completely into believing that the Comic-Con has simply “evolved.”  But in truth, the San Diego Comic-Con has been kidnapped and replaced with an imposter.  And a Corporate one at that.  The Con is no longer owned by the same people, and reportedly is co-owned by a few of the Studios.  Making it nothing more than a fucking marketing tool.

Oh well, so much for the idea of repeating my wonderful one-time excursion.


The 130th Anniversary of the death of Billy “Kid” Bonney

I got away from making Thursday blog posts for a while, mainly due to the “surprise” lol July 1st release of my book.  But as of today, I’m back on track. Today is the 130 Year Anniversary of the shooting and death of the outlaw known today as Billy the Kid.  History.com has a brief article on this here: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/billy-the-kid-is-shot-to-death

Below, is an excerpt from my book wherein the principal characters discuss their knowledge of William Bonney a.k.a. Billy the Kid.  And as you’ll see, I’ve made it somewhat of an interactive experience.  Enjoy.

The following passage is taken from Chapter 8 — Incidentals on the merely Legendary

***

The men around the table discussed their own one-time associations with [James Butler "Wild Bill"] Hickok and their associations with others who knew him, and somehow, it all led back to the question of just how many men such a notorious figure had actually killed. That is, as opposed to the oft-spoken hearsay that had eventually become the tale. And that brought out the subject of the one and only …

“What was that kid’s name?” Virgil asked, “Oh, hell, memory fails me.”

“Who?” Jim asked.

“Called ’em the left-handed gun …” Virgil said.

“Bonney?” Tom offered.

“Billy “Kid” Bonney, that’s him. They’ve written so much about that kid — under no circumstances could all of that possibly be true.” Virgil said, “Maybe some, but not all, not possible.”

“That kid didn’t kill half as many men as they write he did,” Frank said, “He didn’t have time, he was only nineteen when they killed him.

“Well, I think Billy was at least twenty-one, if not twenty-two, by ’81 — ” Tom attempted to interrupt.

“He didn’t, and we know he didn’t, because they’ve written the same exact shit about us,” Virgil said.

There was chatter between the boys, and suddenly J.D. blurted out, “Lincoln County, New Mexico — ”

William Henry McCarty, alias “Kid” Antrim, alias William Harrison Bonney, alias Billy “Kid” Boney, and Billy the Kid — a name known to have been acquired during his lifetime, though no source seems to point to how or when — lived a brief life colored blood-red by violence.  And the facts aren’t clear as to whether he was an instigator of said violence, or merely a victim.  He was a literal “kid,” who never truly reached manhood due to his association with cattle baron Jon Tunstall and his business partner Alexander McSween, during their land and cattle war with a local Sheriff, and a band of rustlers in the Sheriff’s employ.

(Various Unauthenticated Photos, Purported to be of Billy the Kid)

“Jesse met that kid back in ’79 — hotel in Hot Springs, New Mexico,” Frank said.

“Is that right?” Jim said.

“Jesse ask him to join up with him.  Kid declined the offer.”

“Why’d they call him the left-handed gun, sirs?” Sean asked.

“You boys wanna know how ‘the kid’ got called the left-handed gun … ” Tom began.

“You know about that, I heard about that as well — ” Frank was saying when Tom cut him off.

Standing from his chair, Tom proceeded to illustrate. “Billy Bonnie had a man come up behind him, knowing he was right-handed; grabbed Billy’s right arm and twisted it behind to keep him from drawing on him; Kid twisted his wrist around and pulled his right gun with the left hand; pointed the barrel underneath his arm and behind him — and shot that sucker dead!

When he finished, the other men were staring at him, dumbfounded.

“Now Tom, that’s not what I heard,” Frank said.

“Now what I heard, either,” Virgil said.

“I don’t remember reading that,” J.D. added.

Jim was laughing, “He just made that up — I know he did.”

Horn simply smiled, mischievously.

Virgil said, “You’re not helping history at all, Tom.”

“I heard that every time he would have to draw in a hurry,” Jim said, “He would draw from his right holster, with his left hand across his chest — border style, like Virgil here.”

“Heard his wrist was double-jointed,” Frank stated.

“Heard it was hogwash,” Virgil stated.

Scuttlebutt had Billy the Kid drawing his pistol in a variety of styles to justify the nickname, “the left-handed gun.”  And it was rather comical the way the men around the table offered up their individual versions of how Bonnie would draw a pistol.  There were all manner of complex movements suggested to explain away “The Kid’s” famous nickname.  And the explanations depicted Bonney from one end of the spectrum to the other.  From smooth, calculated gunman to utter buffoon, who shot men clumsily and mostly by luck or accident.  But in documented fact, the reason for the misnomer was a famous “verified” photo of William Bonney, with a pistol strapped at his left waist, and a rifle being held to the floor with his right hand.  It was a photo, which at some early point in its history had been reversed, erroneously placing his six-gun on his left side.  A fact which only came to light late in the 20th Century when someone noticed that the rifle’s ejector in the photo was on the wrong side.

Still, there are today those who continue to argue that Billy drew “border style,” meaning across himself, with his left hand.  A belief which can best be described by this author as charming.

“I know you won’t believe this,” Tom began again, “But I crossed paths with him, just not long ago, under a different name.”

The other men exclaimed utter disbelief at this, and instantly began shouting over one another in response.

The boys merely laughed.

**

**

In the immediate years following his death, “The Kid” was seen and identified by a handful of persons who claimed to have known him during his lifetime.  Persons who may, or may not, have ever met him when he was alive.  Today, most historians believe this to have been the catalyst generating the myth that William Bonney either survived being shot by Pat Garret, or was simply never shot by Garret at all, and lived out the remainder of his life under an alias.  It’s a truly bizarre myth that has fascinated even educated scholars, as well as filmmakers, who retold the legend as a framing device for the motion picture Young Guns II.

**

**

Nonetheless, Billy the Kid’s reincarnation, as it were, appears to have been nothing more than repeated fanciful attempts by aging men wishing to reclaim his identity in their golden years.  All instances of those claiming to be the aging Bonney were in time disproved using the advanced science of DNA analysis, good detective work, and basic rudimentary math.

"Brushy" BIll Roberts - the man who claimed in the 1950s to be the actual Billy the Kid

“Hell, I was born in the mornin’, but it wasn’t this mornin’,” Frank said.

“I’m serious. Garret didn’t kill him. I don’t know who that was he killed, but it wasn’t Bonney,” Tom continued.

“He was killed in ’81, Tom!” Jim argued.

“I saw him alive and kicking, right in front of these eyes, I’m tellin’ ya!” Tom replied.

“And I say maybe he had a twin brother!” Frank laughed.

“Okay men,” Virgil laughed, waving both arms across the table. “Call if off! Call it off!”

**


“WESTERN LEGEND” e-book NOW AVAILABLE

(CLICK BOOK COVER AT RIGHT FOR PURCHASE)

“WESTERN LEGEND” SYNOPSIS

By the Autumn of 1899 the coffin has all but closed shut on the American Wild West.

Men once considered the quintessence of the term, “desperado” now seek legitimate standing in their respective community.  Some, even long for redemption.

Enter Four such men; each legendary in his own right. The elusive desperado Frank James, divisive lawman Virgil Earp, his brother and confidence man James Earp, and a notorious assassin of cattle thieves, named Tom Horn.

Various authenticated accounts detail a chance encounter, wherein these men arrived separately in the burgeoning metropolis of Nacogdoches, Texas on a lazy Sunday morning, sought respite in a local Saloon, and quickly found themselves entertaining adventurous children. Hastily crafting and illustrating tales of the West, the men threw adventure around the room; dismissing the many myths surrounding their more infamous exploits, and denying the existence of “notches” on their guns.

However, when finally called upon to dispatch a new breed of desperado terrorizing local citizens, these western legends proved every one of those myths true — and in high style.

Carve another notch.

 


10th Excerpt: “WESTERN LEGEND” – A Tom Horn / Stevie Ray Vaughan Combo

*** POST REVISED: “WESTERN LEGEND” NOW AVAILABLE IN E-BOOK ***

*** CLICK BOOK COVER AT RIGHT FOR LINK TO PURCHASE  ***

(For those who came in late:  please click “WESTERN LEGEND SYNOPSIS” at top of blog.)

At this juncture of the story, Tom Horn — a legendary assassin of cattle-thieves — has found himself ambushed by several Rustlers in a deep Ravine, at night and during a thunderstorm.  This chapter of the book was inspired by a song by Stevie Ray Vaughan, entitled “Texas Flood.”  A YouTube link has been provided below.

*****

The following passage has been taken mid-chapter, from …

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE   -  SURROUNDED

A strong wind gust blew through the ravine and lightning danced brilliant, and at longer interval. Suddenly, everyone was moving … except Tom.  In a matter of seconds, he made a tactical evaluation of his surroundings, during which he documented the following: four rustlers above, shuffling back and forth on each rim of the ravine — two more than he initially perceived — all with rifles, and all preparing to fire.  He now knew that made four above, one behind, and one ahead — no, wait — he also spotted another man rappelling down one wall of the ravine, using various draping tree roots.  So, they’re now seven.

That suited Tom just fine.

The seventh man hit the muddy bottom in a forward roll, and Tom lost sight of him.  Shifting, Tom’s view caught the second of the initial two men blur behind the embedded tree stump.  He was making a mental note of that when he was distracted by the sound of the lone rustler, coming up on his six.

Just then, the four men above found a firm purchase and station at the ravine’s edge, and began firing in earnest.  Their shots intermittently struck water and mud all around, but never touched more than a loose fold in Tom’s shirt or trousers.  At this, Tom’s boots came out of the stirrups, his free hand pulled a pistol from his person, and he slid sideways underneath his horse firing his rifle ahead with his strong arm and his pistol behind with his weaker.

Horn had purposely allowed the lone man behind to get closer.  As his boots softly touched ground, he shot that man in the leg, with ease.  The man screamed and Horn felt the vibration of first the rustler’s pistol and then his entire body, drop to the muddy bottom.

One down.

The lightning stopped.  The cattle detective had trained his vision to acclimate quickly.  He watched the moving shadows, and listened.  His rifle-shot down the ravine ahead had been fired at the seventh man.  His Winchester had blown the lower half of the man’s left leg clean away at the knee.  After that, the rustler never made a sound.  He just sort of tipped over and permanently passed out.

Two down.

Realizing his horse was thoroughly spooked, Tom decided the odds were even enough to make a literal stand.  He crawled out, petted the animal’s belly, shooed it away.

The horse ran out of the fight, but remained within sight of its master, who stood tall.

Lightning spider-webbed the sky directly overhead and overlapping rifleshots arrived with rolling thunder.  In response, and in short order, Tom fired his rifle twice at each rim of the ravine, and the sound of two of the men, both in distress, was instantly followed by the sound of two bodies falling to the ravine bottom.

Four down.

“Dispatched,” Tom said, simply.


9th Excerpt from “WESTERN LEGEND”

(For those who came in late, please click “WESTERN LEGEND SYNOPSIS” at top of blog for an immediate summation of the story.)

As July, and the date of publication approaches, these Excerpts will get briefer.  This passage occurs at  the beginning of the third act.  At this juncture, the story is about to change form and become an action-thriller, with much of the material resembling the centerpiece of a Michael Crichton novel.  This excerpt has been taken mid-chapter, from ..

*****

CHAPTER TWENTY  -  TALCUM POWDER, 1,001 USES

Suddenly, there was a flurry of activity among the men inside the saloon. Amid this, Frank retrieved the small, handled bag from the floor, pulled out an old belt with holster, wrapping it around his waist, and twirled a Civil War-era Navy Colt out of an oil rag. It had a myriad of notches carved into its handle. He loaded the antique, converted long ago from a percussion cap-and-ball weapon to a modernized cartridge firing six-shooter, and holstered it, giving the Peacemaker on his opposite hip a partner.

The barkeeper and the Sheriff exchanged a look — the barkeeper of concern; the Sheriff in turn placating him.

Jim’s eagle eyes took notice of Frank’s old Navy Colt.

“How come no one knows of them notches, Frank?” he muttered.

“How come nobody knows of your own?” Frank muttered back.

“Well, because I’m an effective liar,” Jim muttered again.

“Well quite clearly, Jim, so am I,” Frank muttered in return.

“Okay, knock it off, both of ya!” Virgil said, “I think we’ve all done a little lying here and there, today.”

Wind blew in through the swinging cafe doors, and thunder rolled in the distance.

“Barkeeper, you got any talcum powder handy?” Jim asked.

The barkeeper disappeared and quickly reappeared, sliding onto the table a small can, along with four individual boxes of matches. “Better take them along as well — night’s a comin’.”

Jim grabbed the can and sprinkled powder into his holster, then passed it among the other men, who did the same. Frank pulled from his bag a disheveled black slouch hat and light beige duster which had seen a lifetime of use, and slid into both.

There was chatter in the room at this time. And Frank took the opportunity to lean in close to Virgil, whispering, “Jim any good with that pistol?”

“He can put daylight through a man faster than anyone else I ever seen,” Virgil muttered.

“All I need to hear.” Frank whispered.

 


8th Excerpt from “WESTERN LEGEND”

(For those who came in late, please click synopsis at top of blog “before” reading.)

Within the Nacogdoches saloon, the boys have encouraged the men to expand upon their adventures in the Wild West for much of the afternoon. Now one of the boys, J.D., has decided to make a rather bold request. The following excerpt is taken mid-chapter, from …

*****

CHAPTER SIXTEEN — INVENTED FOR KILLIN’ A MAN

J.D. rose to his feet and carefully approached the table, looking over the guns resting there.

“Can I hold one?” he asked.

The men around the table were taken aback and stared at him in shock.

“You’re creakin’ on a trestle bridge, boy,” Jim said.

“You wanna hold a six-shooter?” Frank asked, “Not a rifle, made for huntin’, but a pistol — which was invented for killing a man — that’s what you want?”

J.D. nodded, and without hesitation, Frank began unloading his pistol.

Virgil literally bit his lip, and moaned.

Jim said, “Hmmm … Frank, you know that’s not a proper thing — ”

Tom’s response came right on top of him, “I’m not sure that’s such a wise idea, Frank. Boy could get the wrong idea from something like — ”

“I know what I’m doing!” Frank’s voice boomed over them both.

Tom cleared his throat, “Yes, sir.”

The other men were watching with discomfort as Frank began to hand over the weapon to J.D., then held off for a brief moment. “Now, it’s heavy; supposed to be. Only a man should be holding it. Boy your age tries to fire one of these, and it’ll kick back into your head, and kill ya,” Frank said.

“Which is exactly what should happen if you’re stupid enough to point one at anybody,” Tom said, “You understand, J.D.?”

J.D. hid a smile, “Yes, Mr. Horn.”

Frank looked at J.D., and nodded to the gun as he placed it into the boy’s hands, “Hold it with both hands, so you won’t drop it. And hold it up, like a man. Go on.”

J.D. grasped the heavy instrument with both hands for a moment, before trying to hand it back.

Frank refused it.

“No. Hold it for a minute longer.” Frank said.

The other boys watched as J.D.’s skinny arms started to shake, and he began huffing his breaths instead of simply breathing them.

“I can’t — it’s heavy,” J.D. pleaded.

“I know,” Frank asserted.

J.D. continued to try to hand the weapon back to Frank. Then he tried to hand the weapon to Tom. Both men threw up their hands and waved him off. And J.D. was really shaking.

“Now. What if you could never give it back?” Frank asked.

Desperate, J.D. tried to lift the pistol up onto the table, but couldn’t quite reach the tabletop with the weight of it. Then he started to lower it to the floor, and Frank stopped him.

“Don’t put it down! You can never put it down! You do that, you’re a dead man!”

J.D.’s eyes began to tear up, and finally, Frank reached over and relieved the boy of the burden.

“Good,” Frank said, “Now don’t ever pick up one of these God-damned things again. They’re more trouble than you care to know. You can’t change a leopard’s spots once it’s grown them, boys. I left home, joined the Army, ended up an outlaw … now I can’t really ever go back home. This gun is the reason for that.”


7th Excerpt from “WESTERN LEGEND”

(For those who came in late, please click synopsis at top of blog “before” reading.)

Within the Nacogdoches saloon, the boys have encouraged Virgil Earp (with some input from his brother, James Earp) to relate his version of events of the infamous street fight, today known as the Gunfight at the OK Corral.   Thorough research by the author has better informed Virgil’s retelling of this historical incident. This rather healthy excerpt is taken mid-chapter, from …

CHAPTER TEN –  STREET FIGHT

*****

Once they began moving, eye-witnesses observed Virgil trade Holliday the Wells Fargo shotgun for his cane. Holliday concealed the weapon under a long gray coat he wore, that reached beneath his knees.

In their wake, and from a discrete distance, the four men were being shadowed by many from the crowd that had congested Hafford’s Corner. In the group trailing them were Sills, Hatch, and William H. Soule. Once reaching the intersection, and turning onto Fremont, Sills stopped and watched as the other two men continued on.

Also keeping pace with the Earp party were small groups of citizens seen through the alleyways on both sides of the street. One of these being William Allen, a Cowboy ally, whom having heard of the situation, had made his way across the streets of Tombstone, down alleys, over fences, and now kept pace with the men as they traveled.

The Earps and Holliday peered down the street with a cat’s glare. More than two hundred feet ahead, they discerned Behan, Frank, Tom, and Billy at the edge of a vacant lot. Behan turned and spotted the Earps and Holliday coming his way. Instantly, he began briskly walking toward them, throwing repeated looks back over his shoulder, checking on the men in the vacant lot.

Frank could be seen stepping out and speaking to him, “You need not be afraid, Johnny, we’re not going to have any trouble!”

The Cowboys retreated deeper into the lot. Now all the Earp party could see was the rear end of a horse. Doc and Virgil deviated onto the left sidewalk, staying close to the buildings. Wyatt and Morgan remained on the street. They were moving steadily ahead, four across.

* * * *

Virgil interrupted himself to orient the four boys.

“Now this was around two o’clock — ”

“Was three, Virgil.” Jim said.

“It was two, Jim — ”

“Beg to differ — was three.”

“I had just wound this here watch I’m still carrying here, in my pocket.”

“Well then you best have it checked, ’cause every clock in town read three.”

“Skip it,” Virgil said to the boys, finally, “Let’s just move on — ”

“Was three, boys.” Jim said.

* * * *

As they approached Bauer’s Meat Market, a citizen standing in the open doorway turned and shouted to everyone inside, “Here they come!” In response, the door was speedily blocked by a number of people. One of them was housewife Martha J. King, who specifically testified that due to a steady wind, Holliday was having a hard time concealing the shotgun. Fuelling further disquiet, the crowd may or may not have also seen the nickel-plated pistol sticking out of Holliday’s coat pocket, as well as Virgil resting his right hand lightly on the pistol pushed into the waist of his own pants.

As they passed the open door of Bauer’s, Mrs. King overheard Morgan, as he bent his neck slightly forward to catch Doc’s line of sight, and finish the statement, “ … let them have it.”

“All right,” Doc replied.

Sheriff Behan kept looking back over his shoulder as he met Virgil coming out from underneath the awning of Bauer’s. “Hold on, boys, I don’t want you to go any further,” he said, “I’m not going to have any trouble if I can help it,”

The men initially passed without even acknowledging him. Turning, Behan quickened his pace, and said quietly, “For Christ sake, don’t go down there; you’ll be murdered — ”

“Johnny, I’m gonna disarm ’em,” Virgil replied in a quiet, even tone.

“I’ve been down there to disarm them,” Behan stressed.

But the men ignored him. Briskly moving along the side of the street, they could just see Ike, his brother Billy, and someone else — probably Billy Claiborne — step past the corner, and back again.

Behan now shouted, “I’m the Sheriff of this County, and dammit, I want this thing stopped!”

Again, every member of the Earp party ignored him. It was too late for arguments. Behan stopped in the near center of the almost eighty-foot wide street.

Wyatt, possibly feeling that if the Cowboys were indeed unarmed, this could all result in public embarrassment, placed his long-barreled Colt into his pistol pocket — a bottomless coat pocket that gave access to either a holster, or simply his waistline.

Within the eighteen-foot wide vacant lot, the Cowboys overheard the footfalls of the Earps and Holliday approaching, along with the sound of whispering voices trailing them. Six men were now present in the vacant lot. Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, a friend of theirs named Billy Claiborne, and an acquaintance named Wesley Fuller. Hearing the Earps and Holiday approach, Fuller immediately retreated deeper into the lot, hiding in a space between Fly’s Lodging House and the small building in back, which Fly used as his Daguerreotype Photographic Studio and Gallery.

Ike had taken a step forward to meet the men, when suddenly, the Earp party turned the corner of Camillus Fly’s Lodging House, in a diamond formation, with Virgil out front, Wyatt and Morgan directly behind, and Holliday bringing up the rear. Virgil remained within sight of citizens watching from around the corner; Wyatt, planted himself right at the corner; Morgan centered himself on the sidewalk, facing down Billy Clanton; and Doc stepped just past the sidewalk, six feet away from Frank McLaury.

Also in the lot, were two horses which figured prominently in the orchestration of the fight — Tom McLaury had his hand on a Winchester rifle in a scabbard on Billy Clanton’s horse, while Frank had one hand wrapped tightly around the reins of his own steed.

As the following crowd got closer to the lot, Robert Hatch referenced two men now visible in the vacant lot and asked of a stranger, “Who are they?”

“The McLaury brothers,” The stranger replied.

Ike had initially moved straight to Wyatt, and Wyatt pulled his pistol and pushed Clanton back with the barrel, barking, “You sons-of-bitches have been looking for a fight; now you can have it—”

Ike quickly backed off; Frank and Billy each rested hands on holstered six-shooters. The second part of Wyatt’s statement overlapped with that of Virgil’s. “ — throw up your hands!

“Boys, throw up your hands,” Virgil said, “I want your arms!”

In the street, Behan’s hands had gone straight up into the air, as if he himself were under arrest. He began shouting, “Put up your guns, boys! Put up your guns, boys!”

Robert S. Hatch turned to Deputy Sheriff & Jailer William H. Soule and said, “This is none of our fight. We had better get away from here.”

Ike backed into the approximate center of the lot near Billy Claiborne; both men clearly agitated. Within a second of Virgil giving the order for the Cowboys to throw up their hands, Claiborne had the common sense to throw up his left hand, and quickly dart deeper into the rear of the lot. He may’ve even dropped a pistol to the ground. Then came the sound of two hammers being cocked: CLICK, CLICK.

In sequel to this sound, Virgil’s hands went straight up, with Doc’s cane still in one of them. “Hold!” he said sternly, “I don’t mean that! I’ve come to disarm you!”

In front of Bauer’s Butcher Shop, Reuben Franklin Coleman was afraid he was too close. And while in the act of turning to move back up the street, he heard — BA-BANG! Coleman jolted in spasm with the initial two shots. He turned and saw Ike Clanton being shoved away by Wyatt, then spin at the corner of Fly’s, and jump inside the Gallery — with Behan right behind, his hand on his shoulder. In that instant, a stray shot struck the wagon parked right next to Coleman.

Both sets of testimony hint that before this, much of the crowd had begun to move en masse, back up the street. And all at the same instant. Possibly accounting for a lack of reliability on many eye-witnesses in nailing down the exact sequence of shots fired at that very moment.

“And the rest is history.” Virgil said, definitively.

* * * *

The four boys were still leaning forward on the floor of the saloon waiting for more … When it became strangely obvious that there would be no more. Jim was trying to hold in his laughter, but eventually, he cracked into an uncontrollable cackle.

“What happened next?” J.D. said.

“What about the rest of the gunfight?” Sean exclaimed.

“The gunfight?” Virgil smiled, “The gunfight!? That all you care about, the gunfight?

All four of the boys answered at once, and without reserve, “YEAH!”

“It was like what Frank said about Minnesota, just sheer racket.” Virgil had now tossed both hands in the air in gun pose and was firing off shots around the room, “BANG, BANG! — BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG! BANG, BANG, BANG!”

While out the window behind him, several Nacogdoches citizens were alarmed by the sight of this. One young woman turned the corner, saw Virgil’s motion, and fainted dead away.

Meanwhile, those inside the saloon were simply having a good time. Virgil continued, “BANG, BANG! BANG, BANG! BANG, BANG, BANG! Men shootin’, horses going crazy, dogs barking … Krakatoa didn’t make that much racket.”

Virgil finally appeared to be finished when his brother offered up a suggestion which intrigued him, “Go on,” Jim said, “Set the record straight. Give them boys the blood-and-thunder.”

Virgil looked around at the men, half-smiling, and then peered down at the boys with complete seriousness. “All right,” he said, “Let me draw it out for you. And don’t blink.”


6th Excerpt from “WESTERN LEGEND”

UPDATE: the editing/revision stage is done; check edits have been completed; the book is soon to be typeset for e-book. Right on schedule for publication next month. (July)

(For those who came in late, please click synopsis at top of blog “before” reading.)

Within the Nacogdoches saloon, eleven-year-old boys have asked former desperado Frank James about the James-Younger Gang’s foiled bank robbery in Northfield, Minnesota, in 1876.  Within the context of his recollection, the author has established a definitive account of this historical incident. The following has been heavily researched for accuracy.

This “selected” text has been taken from …  CHAPTER NINE – NORTHFIELD

*****

Out on the noisy street, Cole and Clell had dismounted and were tying up their horses near the bank, while also watching traffic in the eighty-foot-wide thoroughfare. Younger was on the lookout for trouble. While Clell, sporting a white linen handkerchief around his neck, a new shirt with gold sleeve-buttons, a matching gold ring, and a John Hancock felt hat, began to pack his pipe, completely unconcerned.

On the porch of a drugstore not far away, twenty-two year old Dr. Henry M. Wheeler was seated in his father’s rocking chair, talking to a couple of friends. As his eyes fell upon the street, they locked on Cole and Clell, both of whom were suspiciously standing near their horses, ranging the street around them. Without saying a word, Wheeler stood and stepped into the street — and soon spotted J.S. Allen moving closer to the bank, evaluating the bank’s closed doors with profound interest.

Inside the bank, there was only chaos.

The three robbers were repeatedly accosting the three bank employees with, “You are the cashier,” each time provoking a denial out of Heywood, Bunker, and Wilcox.

Bob Younger ordered Bunker and Wilcox on their knees and demanded the location of the cash drawer. Wilcox pointed and Younger opened the drawer, finding only a roll of nickels; which he promptly removed and dropped with a clunk to the floor.

Back outside, Wheeler continued moving slowly across the street, glaring at Cole and Clell. Cole instantly turned his back to him, so he focused on Clell. Anyone could see that Clell Miller needed a shave. But many initially missed that in spite of Miller’s finer clothes, he was wearing two different types of boot — one of finer leather, the other a cheap brand. Wheeler was starting to put it all together now. Clell spotted Wheeler staring at him, and spun around. Wheeler continued walking. He wanted to see inside that bank.

J.S. Allen arrived at the bank doors, reached out and opened them — and Clell Miller’s gloved hand reached out and closed them again, softly. Instantly, Clell grabbed Allen by his collar, pulling him close. Allen’s gaze was filled with Clell’s blue eyes. Then it was filled with the muzzle of the bandit’s .44 caliber pistol.

“What’s happening here?” Allen demanded.

“Don’t you holler,” Clell said in heavy whisper past his pipe, “If you do, I’ll blow your damned head off.”

Allen caught his breath and backed off quickly.

At that instant Wheeler’s voice was heard among street traffic, shouting, “Get your guns, boys, they’re robbin’ the bank!”

Cole reeled. He drew and pointed his pistol point blank at Wheeler.

“Get out of here, dingus!” Cole shouted.

Wheeler began running to the Dampier Hotel at the near opposite side of the street, screaming, “ROBBERY!”

J.S. Allen began running back toward his store, dodging at least two shots along the way.

Several citizens were now in the street with shovels, boards, and anything else they could find handy, shouting and making a lot of racket. It was a futile attempt to drive the robbers away.

Cole and Clell looked at each other, mounted their horses, and in-tandem fired their pistols into the air.

Citizens in the street scattered. And fast.

The last three men at the Bridge heard the dual gunshots, pulled their revolvers, and galloped into Mill Square.

At the exterior bank entrance, Clell stepped his horse close to the doors and pleaded through the glass, “Hurry up, boys — they’ve given the alarm!”

Back inside the bank, the initial three men were still getting nowhere. After hearing Clell’s message, they glanced around at one another, before all gazes landed on Joseph Lee Heywood, still upon the cashier’s seat. Charlie Pitts leveled a long-barreled pistol at Heywood’s head, and in a harsh voice said, “You are the cashier. Now open the safe you goddamn son-of-a-bitch.”


A Brief Note on Gambling in a 19th Century Bowling Alley

I received an interesting inquiry regarding the last excerpt I posted here (the 5th,) wherein I mention that James Earp worked in a bowling alley in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1881.

The inquiry questioned the validity of this information, and the existence of a bowling alley in the 19th Century. This immediately interested me as well.  It has admittedly been a while since I looked into this, and I was equally surprised by the history of the bowling alley.  My research revealed that in 1881 bowling alleys were used for gambling.  Thus explaining why a confidence man and gambler would be working in a bowling alley.  And they were also often masked as “Saloons” — probably for the purpose of evading a city ordinance. Re: “Vogan and Flynn’s Saloon and Bowling Alley”

The information regarding the Earp brother working in such an establishment, is accurate and was taken directly from verified documentation.  But the existence of a bowling alley in 1881 is nonetheless, a curiosity.  I have provided links below to validate. For even further information about the specific establishment mentioned above, please contact the city of Tombstone, Arizona, via their website.

- legal code from 19th Century, mentions “bowling alley”: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=67.14&full=true

- more good info on the history of bowling alleys: http://www.tenpinbowling.org/view.php?page=the_game.history

- also see paragraph here marked “City Growth and Decline”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tombstone,_Arizona

- this is a later image from 1910, but it gives the reader a visual idea of what a bowling alley looked like in the 19′th Century: http://theboweryboys.blogspot.com/2009/04/bowling-brooklyn-style-100-years-ago.html


5th excerpt, from “WESTERN LEGEND”

For Those Who Came In Late:  Told in “false document,” the story of “Western Legend” details a chance encounter among a motley group of aging historical legends in the Autumn of 1899, their afternoon spent entertaining adventurous children with tales of the Wilder days of the West –  and an astonishing sequence of events that play out over the next 24 hrs.

**

In this instance, I have chose to include the text of an entire, albeit brief, chapter:

SIX – DUBIOUS EXPLOITS

The Boys were now seated cross-legged on the saloon floor, looking up at and listening intently to, men of genuine legend. In geography, the four had come to rest in a semi-circle not more than two feet away from the edge of the table, with Horn to their immediate left, Frank to their immediate right, Jim to the right of Frank, and finally Virgil, with his profile boldly facing the window. Lastly, across the Saloon behind them, was the Barkeeper; leaning on his bar and observing the newcomers, with total confusion. He never even saw them come in.

After a moment of chatter, the Men grew quiet, and Tom took the opportunity to address the recent addition to their party.

“Now, if you’re gonna be in here,” He gave them a wry smile, “You’re gonna have to ignore any language that might be sour to your ears, boys. Can you do that?”

All four boys nod, diligently.

Frank suddenly pointed at J.D. “You said J.D. — you’re name’s J.D., right?”

His voice was powerful and stunned the boys for a few seconds.

“Yes, Sir,” J.D. nodded.

“What’s the J.D. stand for?” Frank asked.

“I’d rather not say, Sir.”

“Speak up for your name, son!”

Reluctantly, J.D. gave it to him, “Jamie Dwayne.”

Sean was so nervous. He pointed at the men one at a time, and said, “Mr. Tom Horn! Mr. Frank James! Mr. Virgil Earp! Mr. James Earp!”

“That’s right, I am the James Earp,” Jim boasted.

“Shit…” Virgil snarled, humored.

Mahlon offered, “People say you’re ‘The Pistoleer’ himself, what killed a whole mess o’men, Mr. James Earp.”

“That true, Sir?” Sean asked, “You a gun-fighter?”

“Well…N-No,” Jim stuttered, “That’s just here-say.”

To elaborate, (and this information must be taken with a grain of salt) James Cooksey Earp was one of several suspected gamblers, rumored to have been the individual popularly known as “The Pistoleer.” Truthfully, no evidence ever surfaced to substantiate Earp’s connection to a series of shooting scrapes, all committed in correlation with various card games, and all committed in the Southwestern U.S., immediately following the end of the Civil War. And in fact, Jim Earp’s connection to these incidents (which mind you have never been proven to have ever really happened,) was probably nothing more than gossip, attributed mainly to two acknowledged facts: 1) the eldest Earp brother was known to carry a firearm, even when his current occupation did not include wearing a badge, and 2) although he was to an extent crippled during the Civil War and wore his arm in a sling thereafter, James Earp was nevertheless known to have the full use of that arm, and was witnessed frequently by many in the close company and confines of a darkened saloon, removing his arm from its sling and demonstrating its full capability. For leisure, to better facilitate a business transaction, and legend says, once in a while, for self defense.

Yet truthfully, even when taking all of this into account, it remains probable that the elder Earp brother simply allowed the rather suspicious “Pistoleer” rumors to include him, because the reputation kept him alive following a bloodbath of events that trailed the street fight in Tombstone.

“Then tell about your proven, true exploits, Sir.” Foster suggested.

“Yea, that there’d be just fine.” J.D. nodded.

“Well, all right…” Jim said and straightened his jacket.

Countering the gossip with various proper, yet more colorful moments of his life, he told them about how he’d fought with the 17th Illinois Infantry at Fredericktown, Missouri in October of 1861. And about how he had been wounded in battle and thereafter found himself discharged and on bed rest at his families farm. He told of his work as a Deputy in Dodge City, Kansas. Then there was his gambling, and working establishments such as Vogan and Flynn’s Saloon and Bowling Alley, and the Sampling Room Saloon; both of which were in Tombstone.

He took a breath, and there was more about his gambling expertise and exploits, with Jim often leaving out the more violent confrontations associated with such a profession. And lastly, he finished by briefly describing both driving a Hack (a horse and buggy, or Nineteenth Century taxi,) and working as a Postmaster…before discovering his brother looking at him sideways, and with a strange twist on his face that said a lot.

Turning from Jim, Virgil simply said, “Yea, absolutely boring stuff you boys wouldn’t be interested in.”

“Right,” Jim said, “But I’m not the Pistoleer you’ve read of.”

“Well then why do you carry a gun, Mr. James Earp?” Virgil said facetiously, bating his brother.

“Cause I’m famous,” Jim stuttered, “If you only knew the number of people which’ve tried to kill me just because I’m a brother to this one,” He referenced Virgil, “And especially that other one.”

“Don’t forget you’re now a friend of mine,” Frank said toasting him.

“Frank James, Wow…” Foster said.

Frank took a drink, and inquired, “I’d expect boys your age would have greater interest in pirates and sea monsters, no?”

“Mr. Virgil Earp, is it true you killed one man for every year of your life?” J.D. asked.

Virgil’s face grimaced, “What…??”

“Guess that answered my question.” Frank said.

Jim laughed, “Why, Virgil is that true?”

“No, of course not,” Virgil said, “J.D., a lot of what you’ve heard about us is wholly innac — horseshit.”

“Most of that stuff isn’t true, son,” Frank also responded, “People used to say I was a monster. Truth is I never killed an unarmed man.”

“I always give a man a warning!” Tom tapped the table, “Always! And do you know they’ve not recorded that, yet!”

Mahlon looked to Horn, “How many men have you killed?”

“Not as many as they say, Mahlon. Not that many.”

“Now, are you sure about that, Tom?” Virgil asked.

Tom nodded forcibly, with diligence, almost like a child. And it drew a laugh from the other men. “However…” He answered, “Other than that, all the fanciful stuff they write about me is absolutely true.”

“Except the number of men he’s killed,” Virgil added.

“Correct,” Tom said, “Otherwise, I’ve done some of everything. You wanna hear about an adventurous life?”

The bottom dropped out of the room. There was a brief pause, as the Boys, taken by surprise, caught their breath.

Then all four unanimously shouted, “YEA!!”