June 2, 2023 · 8:37 pm
JACK LONG or The Shot in the Eye (1844) – With the Frontierado Holiday coming up in early August, Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at this Charles Wilkins Webber short story from 1844.
Jack Long was a milestone in western fiction and proved so popular that it was reprinted in many other countries, often in distorted versions and was even presented as a stage play, all without any payment to Webber.
In 1853, the author added his original, official version of the story to his collection Tales of the Southern Border. It may be impossible to overstate the legacy of Jack Long. This Texas-set story presented virtually Biblical levels of violence during the Shelby County War (1839-1844) and set the standard for tales of gunslinging revenge quests down to the present day.
Over a century before High Plains Drifter, Pale Rider and countless similar stories, Jack Long depicted a man subjected to horrific torture & abuse and left for dead who appears later as a possibly supernatural figure blowing away his tormentors. And speaking of the supernatural/ horror angle, no less an authority than Edgar Allan Poe praised Webber’s story, which has been hailed as Southern Gothic. Continue reading →
February 21, 2023 · 12:01 am
RELIC OF FORT TEJON (November 3rd, 1957) – Here’s something a little different from the usual for Balladeer’s Blog’s Forgotten Television category. The 1950s James Garner series Maverick was an all-time classic, but this particular episode is often overlooked.
The subject matter deals with a camel supposedly left over from the ill-fated American Camel Corps that the U.S. Army tried launching in the 1800s. The project fell through in the end, but the dozens of camels from the experimental program – and their offspring – wound up roaming the deserts of the southwest for decades afterward.
Previously, I’ve examined the James Garner western One Little Indian (1973) in which his soldier character winds up using a camel to flee an unjust mutiny charge, and the legendary Red Ghost of Arizona, a Camel Corps leftover which was sighted multiple times in the 1880s to 1890s and was mistaken for a monster.
In Relic of Fort Tejon, Garner’s iconic Bret Maverick, a gambler/ gunslinger, wins a camel named Fatima from a fellow gambler who conned him into thinking he was using an Arabian stallion as part of a poker wager. Continue reading →
Filed under Forgotten Television, FRONTIERADO
Tagged as Balladeer's Blog, blogging, Bret Maverick, Camel Corps, forgotten television, Frontierado, glitternight.com, Maverick, Relic of Fort Tejon, westerns
September 15, 2022 · 11:28 am
SHANE (1966) – David Carradine starred as the iconic gunslinger Shane in this 1966 television series adapted from the 1953 Alan Ladd movie.
The 1953 film Shane is largely regarded as one of the greatest westerns of its era and is usually on critical lists of the best westerns ever made. The closing cry of “Shane! Come back, Shane!” and variations on it became as much of a cultural catchphrase as “Come with me if you want to live!” would become in the 1980s.
If you’re not familiar with the movie, Shane is a gunfighter who longs to settle down and pursue the non-violent life he would have lived if things had turned out differently for him. He falls in with the Starrett family, who are among the Wyoming homesteaders getting leaned on by dishonest ranchers who want them off “their” land.
When the ranchers hire men to use increasing levels of violence against the homesteaders, Shane sacrifices his desire to live a “normal” life and uses his gunfighting skill to help the husband, wife and young son who took him in. Continue reading →
August 5, 2022 · 12:01 am
HAPPY FRONTIERADO! The first Friday of every August marks this holiday devoted to the myth of the old west rather than the grinding reality. For some of us the celebration kicks off Thursday night, for others they wait until the actual day of Frontierado to hold their festivities. Enjoy your buffalo steaks, rattlesnake fried rice, corn on the cob, tumbleweed pizza, cactus salad and more today and tonight, and enjoy the leftovers on Saturday and Sunday.
BUCKSKIN FRANK LESLIE – Franklyn Leslie, full name Nashville Franklyn Leslie, was better known as Buckskin Frank. “Nashville” was, he claimed, his actual first name, NOT a nickname.
Buckskin Frank Leslie had no connection to the popular 1800s magazine of that name, but that’s one of the few questions that can be answered about this gunslinger. Which side of the Civil War did he serve on? He claimed both at various times.
Was he pro or anti-Clanton Faction during the gang war in Tombstone, Arizona? He claimed to be a Lone Wolf, and news accounts of the time do feature him in conflict with figures from both sides. He definitely killed Billy Claiborne and MAY have killed Johnny Ringo. Even his own death is shrouded in mystery.
Nashville Franklyn Leslie was born March 18th, 1842 in Texas. Virtually nothing is known about his early life and at different times he claimed to have served on each side of the Civil War. Why he left Texas is not known, either. By some accounts it was because of a family conflict but by others it was to flee a criminal past, possibly under the surname Korrigan or Corrigan.
Documentation starts to show up regarding Buckskin Frank on July 11th, 1869 when he arrived in San Francisco via the steamship Portland according to the passenger information published by the Daily Alta California.
After working as a bartender in San Francisco and possibly other California cities Leslie worked for Wells Fargo and similar outfits for a few years as a gunslinging guard before becoming an army scout under various commanders including Custer. He dabbled in law enforcement as a Deputy Sheriff and may or may not have met Wild Bill Hickok during the early 1870s, depending on which source you go by. Continue reading →
August 4, 2022 · 12:03 am
The Frontierado holiday, on August 5th this year, is hurtling toward us. Balladeer’s Blog will squeeze in a few more seasonal posts for this year’s celebrations. Frontierado is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality.
PONY BOB – Robert Haslam, better known as Pony Bob, holds multiple records set in the Pony Express during its year and a half history, including the longest individual round-trip ride – 380 miles – when one of his relay riders was put out of action during the Paiute War in 1860.
Pony Bob was born in England in January, 1840 and in his teens moved to the United States. For a few years Haslam worked around Salt Lake City, Utah, doing ranch work and serving as a mounted government messenger before joining in the construction work on the Pony Express stations. When the Express launched in April of 1860, he was among the earliest Expressmen, the official title of the Pony Express riders.
Haslam’s route in Nevada was from Friday’s Station to Buckland Station near Fort Churchill. Among Pony Bob’s experiences during the Paiute War –
Continue reading →
August 2, 2022 · 12:12 am
With Frontierado rapidly approaching on August 5th – or for those of us who kick things off the night before – August 4th – let’s take a look at some of the most obscure but laughably weird Italian westerns. And what better way to start that list than with one of the countless Spaghetti Westerns with phony Django titles?
Franco Nero starred as the original Django but sadly had just a cameo in the 2012 reboot. The original movie was a monumental success everywhere in the world except the U.S. back in 1966. There was only one other “official” Django movie (also starring Nero) but there were literally nearly a hundred false Django movies featuring different actors in the lead role (my favorite being Terence Hill) or that just plain retitled and redubbed other Italian westerns to make them seem like Django movies.
1. DJANGO KILL (1967) – Originally titled If You Live, Shoot!, this was one of the many Eurowesterns to be re-released to theaters years later as a phony Django movie just so it could clean up on the guaranteed cash cow of the Django name.
In this one our pseudo-Django finds himself involved with a kidnapped teen boy, the gay outlaws who have kidnapped and raped him (seriously), and their Wild West castle (?) where they torture their victims medieval-style, including roasting them on spits. Pseudo-Django shoots gold bullets in this flick and greedy townspeople rip open the corpses of the gunmen who fall to him just to get at the precious metal.
Even worse is the scene where the gold-hungry townspeople rip open the wounds of people who were just injured by the gold bullets, adding wince-inducing screams to the tableau. For my review of the original 1966 Django movie click HERE. Continue reading →
July 31, 2022 · 11:53 am
Frontierado is coming up on Friday, August 5th!
POSSE is a terrific western about a gang of African American gunfighters (plus the goofiest Baldwin brother) involved in an action-packed epic journey across the American west. The Frontierado holiday is the perfect time of year to hunker down with this film while drinking a Cactus Jack or a Deuces Wild or two. I’ll review the recipes for those mixed drinks in a few days, but for now we’ll focus on this movie on our countdown.
Posse stars Mario Van Peebles, who also directed, as Jesse Lee, the brooding, revenge-driven hero of the saga. He and all but one member of his gang, our titular posse, are soldiers fighting in Cuba during the Spanish-American War in 1898. A dangerous assault they carry out turns out to be Continue reading →
July 28, 2022 · 10:20 pm
FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 5th!
The Frontierado Holiday is about the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality. The Danites – the gunslinging Knights of the Mormon faith – are an underutilized and underappreciated element of Old West fiction.
The opportunities for action presented to a Danite could start as early as the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. After that there’s the Illinois Mormon War in the 1840s which ended in the Siege of Nauvoo.
Following that conflict the Mormon Exodus to the West began, with “Deseret” (later called Utah) as the ultimate destination. Danites – like Christian Knights of long ago protecting Pilgrims headed for their “Holy Land” – safeguarded Mormon travelers from attacks by hooded anti-Mormon gangs, from armed outlaws and from various Native American tribes along the way.
In Deseret itself there were conflicts with Mexican raiders after the end of America’s war with Mexico (1846-1848). Danites would also be called upon to battle various Native American tribes in Deseret, in the role of oppressors rather than oppressed much of the time.
They would also fight Navajo armies to stop them from seizing Paiute Indians as slaves. (The anti-slavery aspect of Mormonism is often overlooked.) Plus the Danites faced the task of driving off armed bands of prospectors wanting the gold and other precious metals of the area.
There was also the Utah War with the Mormons fighting the United States Army from May 1857-July 1858. Continue reading →
July 26, 2022 · 12:16 am
Balladeer’s Blog takes another look at a Pony Express Rider for a seasonal post now that the Frontierado Holiday is fast approaching. (It falls on August 5th this year.) Frontierado is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality.
BOSTON – Warren Fremont Upson, better known by his one-word nickname, was one of the Pony Express Riders aka Expressmen to ride with the service for its entire existence from April 3rd, 1860 to October 26th, 1861. His real name was so seldom used in the old west that in some sources on Pony Express history he was listed only as “Boston.”
Warren was born in 1841 in Marion, AL and moved with his family to Sacramento, CA in 1851 when his father Lauren Upson became the editor of the Sacramento Union newspaper. Though the elder Upson spent his career in the publishing field, Warren was too rambunctious and preferred the great outdoors.
Already experienced at hunting and camping, W.F. Upson learned polished horsemanship skills from the local vaqueros. Legend has it that these Sacramento vaqueros nicknamed him “Boston” because it was the eastern city they were most familiar with, and they had not yet met anyone else who had Warren’s southeastern accent. So, Boston it was, despite the geographical inaccuracy.
Our hero spent most of his time riding and exploring in the Sierra Nevadas, hunting and cooking his own food and acquiring a familiarity with the mountain range’s often-treacherous curves and turns and sudden drops. That familiarity would pay dividends later in life when Boston was assigned to the most geographically dangerous route of the Pony Express.
In February of 1860, Upson responded to one of the Express’ famous job advertisements asking for unattached men who would not leave behind a wife and children if they were killed while carrying out their duties. (“Orphans Preferred” was just one of the variations on that theme.)
Not only was Boston hired, but the young man’s already celebrated mountain man skills and marksmanship got him the perilous route from Sportsman’s Hall in what is now Pollock Pines, CA to Genoa, UT and/ or Friday’s Station near Lake Tahoe. Continue reading →
July 24, 2022 · 3:24 pm
With the Frontierado Holiday coming up on August 5th, how about a reminder of the rules of Frontierado Poker?
“You’re not goin’ nowhere, ya bottom-dealin’ Hombre,” the gambler-gunfighter exclaimed, “We’ve got us a few apparent paradoxes and their effect upon contemporary religious thought to discuss!”
Here’s a refresher on the rules for Frontierado Poker, the game that is strictly my own invention, to be played on Frontierado (the first Friday of every August).
1. Remove all face cards from the deck. The game is played with a 40-card deck.
2. Every player antes up. (I’m not advocating gambling. You can decide for yourselves what you play for.)
3. Each player is dealt 4 cards (the deal rotates like in many conventional poker games). Continue reading →