Friday, October 12, 2018

A Rough & Tumble Duel

Not all showdowns involved a weapon or had the tincture of muddy fun as one finds in the films The Spoilers or McLintock. I offer this glimpse of fact to illustrate.

The following is from The Sioux City Journal circa 1880s regarding a “Rough & Tumble Duel” that took place between two farmers, Duggan Points and Will Moss. At the heart of the duel, the charms of one, Miss Sallie Craig.

The vicious character of the duel is part and parcel of the rough and tumble tradition. I warn, the account is violent and the character of even witnessing such spectated murder is questionable.

Keep in mind, this was a planned for rough and tumble duel, the accounts of impromptu duels are far more dire.

“The place of the fight was agreed upon as halfway between the respective residents. A man from Loveland seconded Moss, and Point’s brother acted as his second. The fight was not to be conducted to any specified rules, but in the most approved rough-and-tumble style. About sixty people were on the ground, among whom was the girl over whom the contest was caused, to witness the brutal affair. The seconds stood with cocked revolvers in hand and warned no one to interfere. The men commenced fighting fiercely. They used fists, heels and teeth; and in clinching and tumbling about rolled over a large area of ground. The fight lasted fifty-five minutes, and throughout was of the most brutal character. It was brought to a fast conclusion by Points’ strength entirely giving way, and then Moss, with the last efforts of his madness, stamped upon his prostrate foe and crushed in his breast and kicked in his head. The spectators at this overpowered the seconds and dragged the men apart. Points was dying when picked up, and expired soon afterwards. Moss had been severely bitten by his antagonist, having had two fingers, an ear and his nose taken off, and was in a deplorable condition from other injuries.

The account does not offer if Miss Craig was happy with the outcome or impressed by the efforts in her favor.

[The above is research from my day job/avocation/vocation as a fight trainer and combat historian. If this intrigues have a look here or here.]

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Western Quote & Lesson of the Day

The following comes from Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin, the 4th Earl of Dunraven & Mountearl. This Welsh nobleman travelled to America’s “Wild West” in 1874 to experience its wonders and dangers.

Despite facing grueling hardships on the trail, in camps, climbing mountains, almost losing his life in river fording,  in “near miss” encounters with less than amiable tribes he writes in his book The Great Divide, a memoir of his travel experiences, the following:

“I never have an adventure worth a cent; nobody ever scalps me; I don’t get ‘jumped’ by highwaymen. It never occurs to a bear to hug me, and my very appearance inspires feelings of dismay or disgust in the breast of the puma or mountain lion. It is true that I have often been horribly frightened, but generally without any adequate cause.”

That last sentence there is the kicker.

You’ve got a man who will travel an ocean to journey thousands of miles in a land that could be less than forgiving, and in his own narrative he recounts many exploits that would quail our pampered 21st century brothers and sisters (well, they quailed me, at least) and yet his observation to himself, and advice to us-- Most of what frightens us is nothing at all.

If a man steeped in an environment that could very well kill him comes to that observation, just what are our contemporary selves so stressed about or frightened of?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Indian Running

My son, you know no one will help you in this world…You must run to that mountain and come back. That will make you strong. My son, you know no one is your friend, not even your sister, your father, or your mother. Your legs are your friends; your brain is your friend; your eyesight is your friend; your hair is your friend; your hands are your friend; you must do something with them.”

The opening quote is the real-world advice offered by an Apache father to his son on the importance of developing stamina, grit, and self-reliance via strenuous effort.

Peter Nabokov’s Indian Running: Native American History & Tradition is a fascinating account regarding the emphasis on running as a warrior conditioning tool, a spiritual practice, or merely a group participatory activity for celebration or competition.

Western fans who like to leaven their reading with history may find much to enjoy in this specialized volume.

Thursday, September 20, 2018


“’Can’t’ is not a Ranger word, Kaintuck! What’s impossible for ordinary men to do just takes Rangers a mite more time!”

Another delving into the comic book world of the genre. I spent an enjoyable 20 minutes with two issues of Tomahawk from 1970. Each issue featured two Ranger stories with a crew of Revolutionary War Rangers under the command of Tom Hawk, a Ranger receiving orders from General Washington himself.

We are clearly seeing a kiddie idealized version of Rogers Rangers and there is nothing wrong with that being a big fan of both the real Rangers and Kenneth Roberts’ magisterial novel The Northwest Passage.

Not essential for the Western comic genre but the Eastern woodlands settings and the Revolutionary War period mark it as unique.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Western High Spots

The subtitle of this volume pretty much tells the tale of what is between the covers:

A preeminent book collector and historian presents bibliographic profiles of published Western Americana.”

Author Jeff C. Dykes penned this useful volume of 15 essays on published facets of the real West and its fictional representation. The high spots for this reader were the essays “My Ten Outstanding Books on the West” which includes way more than ten non-fiction picks, “High Spots of Western Fiction: 1902-1952”, which again exceeds the ten by far with many titles that were new to me, and a fascinating essay titled “Ranger Reading” which is a terrific source guide to all forms of rangering, from Texas Rangers to Rogers Rangers, to Bushrangers in Australia’s Outback.

This eclectic tome will appeal to readers who mix their fiction evenly with non-fiction on the topic. It is written with love and the sure hand of a well-versed authority.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Top Picks from a Modern Master

Ed Gorman reveals these preferences in his excellent essay “Writing the Modern Western.”

·         Lonesome Dove-Larry McMurtry

·         Shane-Jack Schaefer

·         The Searchers-Alan LeMay

The works of…

·         Brian Garfield

·         Elmore Leonard

·         Loren D. Estleman

·         Bill Pronzini

·         Joe Lansdale

His favorite Western film: Ride the High Country and he exults in his fondness for Roy Rogers in his essay “On Roy Rogers.”

Fine tastes from a fine writer.

Monday, September 10, 2018


This tidy anthology of Western works by Ed Gorman is a delicious treat. We are offered ten thoughtful stories.

The stories reveal Gorman as a laconic and evocative craftsman. Each story represents what attracts me to the genre- beyond horses I have no idea where these tales are going. Is it a shoot ‘em up? A murder mystery? A tale of lost love? Mother-Son antagonism? Survival? All are brief, spiced with lovely detail and have a melancholy timbre.

The stories are:

·         The Face

·         Gunslinger

·         Guild and the Indian Woman

·         Mainwaring’s Gift

·         Blood Truth

·         Dance Girl

·         Deathman

·         Love and Trooper Monroe

·         Pards

We are also gifted two brief essays by Gorman on the genre:

·         On Roy Rogers

·         Writing the Modern Western

A very impressive sojourn into the skill of a mighty fine author.

A Rough & Tumble Duel

Not all showdowns involved a weapon or had the tincture of muddy fun as one finds in the films The Spoilers or McLintock . I offer this...