Frontierado is on August 2nd, so two weeks from now blog posts related to that major holiday will wrap up for the year.
A neglected aspect of Wild West lore is the Alaskan Gold Rush. Klondike Kate was the only figure I’ve covered from the Yukon so it’s long past time for more. Think of dogsleds instead of stage coaches and instead of hot deserts, snow and temperatures so cold that whiskey freezes in the bottle. Boomtowns, gunslingers and gamblers are common to Gold Rushes in the frozen north AND in the continental U.S.
THE MONTANA KID – Dan Egan, before his Yukon fame, was a boxer during the dangerous years when the sport was illegal in many areas and boxing matches were subject to being raided by the police. He had only limited success and his career as a pugilist is distinguished mostly by his losses to THE Billy Hennesy.
Already called the Montana Kid, Egan lost to Hennesy in boxing matches from Leavenworth, KS to San Francisco, CA between 1888 and 1892. Beginning around 1896 the Kid was in Alaska and made a name for himself smuggling whiskey from Juneau and Skagway to Dawson via his notoriously fast dogsled team.
Egan became a legend from his escapades eluding Canadian Mounties and American authorities with his ever-expanding inventory of smuggled goods. The Montana Kid would spend his down time between smuggling runs drinking and gambling in the many saloons in the Gold Rush boomtowns.
When he was on a winning streak Egan would reward his sled-dogs with prime steaks from the best available restaurants. Continue reading
It’s no secret that Balladeer’s Blog is a Lifestyle Brand. (I’m KIDDING!) At any rate the Frontierado Holiday will be here Friday August 2nd so before you know it, it will all be over for another year. Here’s another brand of booze that I like to drink either straight or mixed in my Cactus Jacks: Devils River (1840).
This Texas Bourbon is created with water drawn from Devils River (Devils is plural, so no apostrophe) and is 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley. As usual I prefer Barrel Strength – I’m slamming down a 117 Proof bottle as I type – but naturally you’re free to make your own selections.
Remember, to be a Frontierado Whiskey it’s got to have incomparable taste PLUS be strong enough to let you blow flies out of the air right after you take a drink. Continue reading
The Frontierado Holiday is coming up on August 2nd. As always, the holiday is about the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality.
FARMER PEEL – Gunslinger Langford Peel got the nickname “Farmer” Peel through the same sense of irony that earns some tall people the nickname Shorty and some fat people the nickname Slim. Peel was always well-dressed and smooth-tongued and the furthest thing away from the image of a Farmer that you could get among the high-stakes gambler/ gunslingers of his era.
Peel was born in Belfast, Ireland in 1829 but his family moved to America during his childhood. In 1841, at the age of 12, Peel was accepted into the U.S. Army as a bugler. Buglers and drummers could indeed be enlisted into the service as company musicians with their parents’ consent. Education in their intended musical instruments was part of the bargain.
David Robb would have made a great Farmer Peel
The young Langford Peel was shipped off to Governor’s Island, New York and then Carlisle Barracks, PA for his military and musical training. After 13 months he was discharged at Carlisle on October 24th, 1842 but chose to reenlist. Come 1845 the 16 year old blonde was with Company B of the First Regiment of U.S. Dragoons at Fort Atkinson, IA. (Yes, this would indeed have made him the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B when he was first posted there. I’m kidding!)
By the spring of 1846 Peel got his first action against Native Americans, bugling and fighting for his unit in what is now Pawnee County, Coon Creek and along the Arkansas River. Already skilled at gunplay, Langford notched 3 kills in his first battle and became even deadlier in the future, seeing a great deal of action against the Great Plains and Mojave Desert Tribes. Continue reading
Diamondfield Jack Davis
FRONTIERADO IS COMING UP ON FRIDAY, AUGUST 2nd.
DIAMONDFIELD JACK – Born Jackson Lee Davis this neglected gunslinger is a colorful example of the old west’s gunmen for hire. He’s also a poster child for the confusion and conflicting information that surrounds those figures. Various sources place his year of birth anywhere from 1864 to the mid 1870s and in several different states. Even the story behind his nickname is disputed as I’ll deal with in detail as we go along.
Diamondfield Jack is noted for the shotgun he carried in a holster on his back, like a quiver of arrows carried by an archer. He also sported three 45 caliber pistols in holsters and coatpockets and had a Bowie knife strapped to his leg.
By the late 1880s Jack was in Colorado during the Silver Boom. In return for various killings and acts of violent intimidation he performed for the railroad tycoons and the silver mine owners he was partially paid with several uncut diamonds. Later Jack’s own boasting and the usual embellishments that accompany men like him exaggerated the story to the point where he supposedly owned a hidden diamond mine near the Idaho/Nevada border. Jack cultivated the story by forever after carrying around a pocketful of uncut diamonds.
In 1892 Diamondfield Jack was in Silver City, Idaho, working for the Black Jack Mine’s owners to try to shoot down chances of the miners organizing a union. After a time he was wanted for questioning in some killings in the area and laid low in the mountains for several months. Continue reading
GANG OF ROSES (2003) – The annual Frontierado Holiday, coming August 2nd this year, is about the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality. So is the movie Gang of Roses, which is why I cannot believe the merciless reviews this fun, harmless, escapist movie has gotten. I find it far better than the similar Bad Girls.
I eat, sleep and breathe Bad Movies, and this was a case where I settled in happily expecting to see an all-time disaster based on the reviews that Gang of Roses gets and its 2.3 rating at IMDb. Instead I saw a movie that I think deserves AT WORST a 5 or 6 rating. Maybe a 7 if you’re into Spaghetti Westerns.
Years ago I gave a glowing review to Posse (1993) starring Mario Van Peebles and, significantly Gang of Roses features a cameo by Van Peebles – dressed as Jesse Lee from Posse – giving an assist to the all-female title gang. He then says “Good luck, ladies” and rides off. (For obvious legal and financial reasons he’s listed in the credits simply as “Cameo” instead of Jesse Lee.)
I mention this because many Western fans told me they would have liked Posse if not for the underlying political message. Well, in Gang of Roses you get all the fun action of Posse with NO politics at all.
Let me give a quick synopsis, then take a look at the main characters, following which I will state my counter-arguments to the most frequent criticisms leveled at this female-led Western:
The gunslinging gang of the title is made up of four black women and one Asian woman. We’re told that after robbing a few dozen banks the gang split up and its members went their separate ways. When the sister of the Roses’ leader gets murdered during an outlaw gang’s crime spree that leader gets the band together again to seek vengeance and a hidden fortune in gold and jewels.
The main characters: Continue reading
The Latter-Day Saints aka Mormons, faced very real oppression and bigotry because of their faith. In Missouri in the 1830s the Church’s opposition to slavery added to the usual mistrust and suspicion that Mormons faced. The series of Mormon “Wars” were not truly large-scale wars (with the exception of one).
The Mormon Wars bore more of a resemblance to Range Wars of the American West, which is one of the reasons I’m covering them during Frontierado Season. I’m not claiming either side was entirely innocent. Only political propagandists and immature fools pretend conflicts are clear-cut “good guys vs bad guys” situations.
FOR MORE ABOUT WHY I FEEL MORMONS AND DANITES FIT IN WITH FRONTIERADO CLICK HERE
MISSOURI MORMON WAR (August 6th – November 1st, 1838)
AUGUST 6th, 1838 – This was Election Day in newly-formed Daviess (sic) County in Missouri. One of the candidates, William Peniston, called Mormons “horse-thieves and robbers” and warned them not to vote. A band of 30-some Mormons DID show up to vote on August 6th and were blocked by roughly 200 Anti-Mormons.
Legend has it that a cry of “Oh yes, you Danites, here is a job for us” (sometimes claimed to have been “Come on, you Danites!”) rallied those Mormons who belonged to the armed sect of Mormon “Knights” called Danites, from the Book of Daniel.
In the resulting clash the outnumbered Mormons drove off the Missourians who were illegally trying to stop them from voting. Continue reading
Forget Mysterious Dave Mather, most of whose real-life escapades are well-chronicled. THESE gunslingers are little more than names which popped up in occasional newspaper accounts or journal entries. So tantalizingly little is known about them that they’d make great RPG material for those so inclined.
ARKANSAS BILL – A gunfighter who made Dodge City, KS his home base in the late 1870s. Arkansas Bill was sometimes referred to in indignant articles about Western violence written in Washington DC’s Evening Star and other Eastern newspapers. The gunman claimed to be a Bounty Hunter who had slain twenty-two men thus far in his career.
Bill, who said he was nicknamed after the Arkansas RIVER, not the state, avoided having his picture taken, claiming that success at Bounty Hunting was reliant upon a certain degree of anonymity. Like many other gunslingers, Arkansas Bill was said to have served in the U.S. Civil War but on which side is not known. By the early 1880s this mysterious hombre disappeared from written accounts.
Potential Happy Ending: One could assume he eventually collected enough bounties to retire or to set up a legitimate business for himself under his real name, whatever that may have been.
Potential Unhappy Ending: Blown away by one or more of the desperadoes he was trying to bring in.
LONG-HAIRED SAM – Easily the most well-known of the neglected figures on this list, Long-Haired Sam Brown had a beard and long red hair, and was an outlaw active during the California and Nevada Gold Rushes. Long-Haired Sam and his boys robbed gold and payrolls in both locations.
In 1855, at a cabin in Calaveras County, California, Brown and one of his gang members were gambling at cards with some gold prospectors from Chile. The Chileans supposedly tried claiming a pot that wasn’t theirs and Long-Haired Sam shot three of them to death in the following gunfight. Continue reading