JEWISH GAUCHOS (1975) – It’s no secret that I love cinematic oddities. For this go-round I’ll examine the movie Jewish Gauchos based on the 1910 novel by Alberto Gerchunoff. The film deals with the musical adventures of a group of Jewish immigrants from Russia working as gauchos (Argentine cowboys) in Argentina in the very early 1900s.
This film plus a few westerns filmed in Israel but set in the American frontier make up the very, very unusual subgenre called Matzoh Westerns (as I’m sure you’ve guessed, those are the Jewish version of the Italian Spaghetti Westerns).
Outside of the bizarre subgenre of amputee kung fu movies from Hong Kong, Matzoh Westerns are my favorite cul de sac in the weirdass movie neighborhood. Continue reading
People who experienced their very first Frontierado with Balladeer’s Blog this year agreed it was a warm and beautiful experience they’ll remember for a lifetime. Anyway, to meet the demand for more Frontierado items til next year here’s one last neglected Wild West figure.
1. SAM SIXKILLER – Not only does this gunslinger have a name that screams out for cinematic treatment (or at least a cable television series) but he also saw more action than many western figures who are better known. Born in 1842 Sam Sixkiller was a Cherokee lawman in Oklahoma back when it was still being called Indian Territory and had not yet been opened up for white settlement. The unique setting of life in Indian Territory and the way it served as a microcosm of issues that the nation at large was dealing with after the Civil War adds layers of depth to Marshal Sixkiller’s tale that I find incredibly intriguing.
After starting out in the Confederate Army, in 1863 Sam enlisted in the Union Army as the Civil War raged and saw action in Arkansas and Indian Territory. Because many Native Americans owned slaves (black and mixed-race) as their tribes had for centuries the Indian Territory was as split in terms of support for the Union and Confederacy as were badly-divided states like Missouri. Between conventional battles and Bushwacker raids the Territory was reduced to a wasteland in many areas by the end of the war. In May 1865 Sam was discharged and returned to his wife Fannie to attend to their farm.
Following the Civil War the slaves in Indian Territory were declared Freedmen like the slaves in the late Confederacy, and as citizens of Indian Territory those Freedmen were in theory entitled to some of the money that was still being paid to the tribes in the Territory and to land. In reality the Five Civilized Tribes who called Indian Territory home were resentful of their former slaves’ new status and often used violence to drive out the freed slaves, even burning down their homes in many cases.
Outlaw bands would ride in to loot and pillage in the Territory then flee outside its borders to escape prosecution. In addition bootlegging and rustling were rampant and construction of railroads through Indian Territory brought new crimes. Throw in the usual inter-tribe conflicts that still surfaced and the Territory was a very dangerous place at the time. Continue reading
QUEEN ANN BASSETT – Ann Bassett, like a female Michael Corleone out west, took over her late mother Beth’s leadership of the Brown’s Park Gang of rustlers. The Johnson County War proper was over and done with but Queen Ann led the band of Robin Hood rustlers in additional raids and other guerrilla strikes at the vicious Cattle Barons of Wyoming.
When Ann was much younger Beth had sent her and Ann’s sister Josie to boarding school and while Josie excelled as a student Ann was a different story. The future Queen of the Rustlers enjoyed shocking people in her teen years, dolling up in the lastest fashions from back east and wearing (gasp) MAKEUP in a way that “decent” society knew was only done by Saloon Girls.
Ann at times put on a New England accent just to see people’s reactions to it and spouted made-up gibberish while claiming to be speaking Chinese. All the while she was absorbing every element of the way her mother Beth ran the Brown’s Park Gang. Sometimes the only things Ann agreed with her mother about were the beauty of Brown’s Park and the need to fight the Cattle Barons of the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association. Continue reading
Frontierado is tomorrow, August 5th!
The various range wars of the Old West were not truly “wars,” of course but were more like modern-day gangster conflicts with very rare examples of outright good guys or outright bad guys. Frontierado is about the myth of the American West, not the reality, though, so think in terms of Renaissance Festivals.
THE LINCOLN COUNTY WAR – Billy the Kid’s involvement in this range war has made this the most internationally famous of them all, so I chose it for this premier look at gangs fighting on both sides of the conflict. For fans of the original Young Guns movie I’ll lead off with the Regulators.
Side: Tunstall-McSween Faction
Billy the Kid
Comment: Like many of the units fighting in the Lincoln County War the Regulators were “deputized” by law enforcement personnel in the pocket of their faction’s leaders. This provided an arguable veneer of legality to the group’s actions. Dick Brewer led the Regulators until he was killed by Buckshot Roberts, then Frank McNabb led them and, after his death Josiah Scurlock took over.
Prominent Members: Billy the Kid, Tommy O’Folliard, Charlie Bowdre, Jim “Frenchy” French, Dirty Steve Stephens, Tiger Sam Smith and the Coe Brothers.
SEVEN RIVERS WARRIORS
Side: Dolan-Murphy Faction Continue reading
The Frontierado holiday is this Friday, August 5th! As we all count down to it like little kids excitedly awaiting Santa Claus here’s another look at legends surrounding another neglected figure of the American west. ** Special thanks to Jay Thorington, a descendant of Lucky Bill, for the correct spelling of the last name **
LUCKY BILL – William B. Thorington was the real-life inspiration for Bret Harte’s fictional gambler Jack Hamlin. Lucky Bill was born sometime in the 1820s in New York and after serving in the Mounted Rifles during the Mexican War of 1846-1848 had wandered as far as Michigan when word of the discovery of gold in California hit in 1849.
Thorington traveled west with one of the countless wagon trains, putting his Monte-playing skills and his con artist tricks to good use along the way. By the time the wagon train reached California, Lucky Bill had supposedly acquired a large amount of cash and valuables from his traveling companions. Periodic clashes enroute with the Pawnee and other tribes helped hone Lucky Bill’s gunmanship.
Sacramento in 1849, when it was inhabited exclusively by cartoon figures. Later they would move south and establish Toon Town.
Rather than spend his time prospecting for gold Bill settled in to fleece prospectors and other gamblers at the Monte table or with his skill at the Shell Game. Eventually, after winning many pots and losing a few others Lucky Bill settled in Sacramento, already with a trail of dead bodies in his wake courtesy of his Colt Walker pistol. Thorington played his game and his cons out of casinos like Jimmie Lee’s Stinking Tent, Mansion House, The Humboldt, New Orleans West and The Diana. He even spent time working The Empire – run by Andrew Butler – the brother of future Civil War General Benjamin Butler. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog presents another underappreciated Wild West gunslinger since the Frontierado holiday is fast approaching! Friday August 5th will mark the event, the yearly celebration of the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality.
MADAME DUMONT – Decades before Poker Alice and Lottie Deno came along Eleanore “Madame” Dumont made a name for herself as a blackjack-dealing gambler and gunslinger. Much of the Madame’s early life is unknown but she supposedly was born in France around 1830. In 1854, when the record of her activities becomes more concrete, she arrived in Nevada City, CA as the Gold Rush was still at its peak.
By this time the charming and aristocratic Madame Dumont had already acquired a small fortune in gambling winnings after playing cards and slinging lead in mining camps throughout northern California. Eleanore’s cash and her nascent reputation for being able to maintain order with her own guns if necessary made it easy for her to immediately open her casino named Vingt- et-Un (“21”) right on legendary Broad Street itself. Continue reading
Frontierado is Friday, August 5th!
For a change of pace I’ll give a brief synopsis of western-flavored horror flicks. In keeping with my blog’s theme of covering out of the way topics I won’t be examining movies that are too well known, like Billy the Kid vs Dracula, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter or The Terror of Tiny Town. Ditto for more recent movies like Sundown and Billy The Kid In Hell. As for West World and Welcome to Blood City, those are more science fiction than horror, so they aren’t included either.
BLACK NOON (1971) – Roy Thinnes stars as an old west preacher who falls in with a coven of witches in the town of Melas (Salem spelled backwards of course). The witches tempt Thinnes into thinking he’s a prophet and healer, then use his vanity against him and his wife during their dark ritual of the Black Noon, which takes place during a mid-day eclipse.
CURSE OF THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN (1974) – A medical student and his hippy friends try to renovate a dude ranch haunted by the Headless Horseman. No, it’s not the figure from the Washington Irving tale, but an old-west gunslinger who was unjustly hanged, losing his head in the process. The Horseman now roams the dude ranch by night looking for victims to frighten. SPOILER: The Continue reading