Tag Archives: American West

BUCKSKIN FRANK: HAPPY FRONTIERADO 2022

arizona desert

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 frankBUCKSKIN 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.

buckskin frank drawingDocumentation 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

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PONY BOB: PONY EXPRESS RIDER

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 bobPONY 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

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MOST LAUGHABLY WEIRD SPAGHETTI WESTERNS

mascot cowboy smallerWith 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.

django kill1. 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

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PONY EXPRESS: THE MAN CALLED BOSTON

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.

another pony express pictureBOSTON – 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.

pony changeOur 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

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DUTCH HENRY: NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER

This year the Frontierado Holiday falls on August 5th. Here is another seasonal post and, as always, Frontierado is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality.

dutch henryDUTCH HENRY – Henry Borne, spelled Bourne in some sources and Born in others, was born on July 2nd, 1849 in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. His parents were fresh from Germany and the old “Deutsch-Dutch” confusion on the part of non-German speakers led to Borne’s eventual nickname Dutch Henry.

The family moved to Montague, Michigan where Henry worked as a lumberjack in his teens. Around 1866 the young man enlisted in the 7th Cavalry but had left the army by 1868. Later that year Dutch Henry was arrested for stealing 20 government mules at Fort Smith, Arkansas.

After serving just 3 months of his prison term the resourceful Henry escaped and in 1869 was in Kansas, keeping “off the grid” as it were as a buffalo hunter for years. During lean times Borne would work as a freighter in Kansas and Colorado.

quanah parkerCome 1874 and Dutch Henry was living on the Texas Panhandle. He was on hand at the storied Adobe Walls store called Myers & Leonard’s when the Second Battle of Adobe Walls began on the morning of June 27th. A combined force of several hundred Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche and Kiowa warriors attacked, led by Comanche Chief Quanah Parker (at right). Continue reading

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BEST OF FRONTIERADO’S 2021 SAGAS

Before moving on to new blog posts for the upcoming Frontierado holiday (August 5th this year), here is a guide to the most popular new entries from the 2021 celebration.

apache kidTHE APACHE KID – This Native American gunslinger’s life on both sides of the law intrigued a lot of people. Some saw his saga as a western Robin Hood tale when he was funneling supplies to his put-upon people on reservations. The tantalizing mysteries regarding his ultimate fate cement his immortality in the public’s imagination. Click HERE.

QUEEN KITTY LEROY – She was one of the most successful female gambler/ gunslingers of the era. She was also legendary for her stage dancing and for her many marriages. Kitty’s travels took her all over the west, ultimately winding up in iconic Deadwood, SD. Click HERE

DALLAS STOUDENMIRE – The man with one of the most “westernish” first names ever, Stoudenmire served in the U.S. Civil War AND in Mexico’s war against Emperor Maximilian. After that he worked as a Texas Ranger, then a wandering gunfighter and ultimately a lawman – first in Socorro, NM and in his most popular years taming El Paso, TX when it was known as “Hellpaso.” Click HERE Continue reading

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THE SIRINGO SAGA: HAPPY FRONTIERADO 2021!

western scenery“All through the year we waited” as the song lyric goes, but in this case regarding Frontierado instead of Christmas. 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 kicked off Thursday night, for others they wait until the actual day of Frontierado to hold their festivities. Enjoy yourselves today and tonight, and enjoy the leftovers on Saturday and Sunday.

SiringoCHARLIE SIRINGO – Like a real-life Harry Flashman of the American West, Charles Angelo Siringo, cowboy, bounty hunter and lawman, fought alongside or against some of the biggest names of his era. Siringo crossed paths with the likes of Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, the Wild Bunch, Tom Horn, Clarence Darrow, Kid Russell, Will Rogers, William Borah and many others.

Charlie was born February 7th, 1855 on the Matagordo Peninsula in Texas. In 1867 he began doing ranch work in whatever positions his youthful frame could handle. By April of 1871 he was working for Abel “Shanghai” Pierce as a full-fledged cowboy. Siringo went on to work on cattle drives throughout Texas, New Mexico, Kansas and Oklahoma (then called Indian Territory).

L Q Jones as Siringo

L.Q. JONES AS SIRINGO

In 1876 our hero rose to the position of trail driver and led his subordinate cowboys in herding roughly 2,500 head of Longhorn Cattle from Austin, TX along the Chisholm Trail to Dodge City, KS. Spring of 1877 found Charlie once again serving as trail driver from Austin to Dodge City.

On his trips to iconic Dodge City, Siringo had supposedly friendly encounters with the likes of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson and witnessed an altercation between a pair of Dodge City merchants and Clay Allison, the notorious gunfighter and bullying rancher. Continue reading

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JEFFERSON SMITH: 1800s GANGSTER

The Frontierado holiday is this Friday, August 6th. As always the festive occasion is all about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality. Here’s another seasonal post.

soapy smithJEFFERSON “SOAPY” SMITH – This figure was one of the closest things to a 20th or 21st Century gangland chief in the 19th Century. Jefferson Randolph Smith II was born on November 2nd of 1860 in Coweto County, GA. In 1876 his family moved to Round Rock, TX, where his mother died of natural causes in 1877.

Jeff was one of the Round Rock citizens who witnessed the Sam Bass Gang’s shootout with Texas Rangers when the gang arrived in town intent on robbing the Williamson County Bank. The date was July 19th, 1878 and Smith would forever after state that he had yelled “I think you got him!” as Rangers Richard Ware and George Herold shot Bass, mortally wounding him.

soapy smith hatlessShortly after that event Jeff moved to Fort Worth, TX. The story goes that Smith had begun working at confidence games to make money when he was 16 and in Fort Worth his savvy and leadership qualities let him gather around him a gang of talented and experienced crooks and con artists. The group traveled from town to town running rigged poker games plus 3-card Monte, the shell game and similar rapid-fire, uncomplicated cons and ripoffs.

Jeff was soon on his way to earning a name as a crime boss, with his gang being called the Soap Gang and Smith himself being tagged with the nickname Soapy. The soap references came from one of the gang’s favorite grifts. Continue reading

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CANYON DIABLO: THE MOST LAWLESS TOWN OF THE OLD WEST

It is now less than a week to go until the Frontierado Holiday coming up this Friday August 6th. Balladeer’s Blog will be making a few more seasonal posts between now and then.

railroad over canyon diabloCANYON DIABLO: THE MOST LAWLESS TOWN OF THE OLD WEST – In 1880 construction crews for the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad reached the wide chasm called Canyon Diablo in what is now Coconino County, Arizona. Construction had to pause for several months when the crews discovered that the wrong size bridge had been manufactured and would not reach all the way across Canyon Diablo.

canyon diabloWhile waiting for new bridge materials to be manufactured and shipped to the site, workers stayed in the area doing stonemasonry, surveying, cutting and preparing railroad ties and preparing the grade & bed. A quick Hell On Wheels town sprouted called Canyon Diablo, named after the canyon. Unlike most such towns this one lasted for decades, from 1880 into the 20th Century but was at its peak for just a few years in the 1880s.

This wasn’t just another of the many Hell On Wheels towns that sprang up along all railroads under construction in the 1800s west. Canyon Diablo earned a reputation as the deadliest and most lawless town in the old west. Law enforcement officers of any kind were not welcome in the place and so, many drifters, criminals and fugitives paraded in and out of the town, sometimes even taking up residence there. The nearest officers of the law were located 100 miles away.

canyon diablo bridge 1882Canyon Diablo is not a household name like Dodge City, Tombstone, Deadwood, Silver City or others because not only law enforcement, but anything resembling newspapers, churches or schools or any other of the usual fixtures of civilization failed to survive there.

For that same reason, few details survive about the gunfights, knife fights and ambushes which filled the graves in the town’s nearby Boot Hill Cemetery. There was simply no one on hand to chronicle events in the town. And that’s exactly how the violent and larcenous denizens liked it. 

Boozing, gambling, prostitution and shelter for fugitives from the law were the figurative economic base of Canyon Diablo. According to one historian “Murder on the street was common. Holdups were nearly hourly occurrences, newcomers being slugged on mere suspicion that they carried valuables.” Continue reading

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MARIE LORDS: 1861

marie lordsWith the Frontierado holiday coming up on Friday August 6th it’s time for another seasonal blog post. Marie Lords is still remembered for her 1861 quote “A cowgirl gets up early in the morning, decides what she wants to do, and does it.”

With increasing numbers of “menfolk” going off to serve in the Civil War that was raging, plenty of other women gained experience working as cowgirls like Marie had been doing.

From cowgirl to entertainer, Marie Lords’ life deserved a lot more attention than it has gotten. Continue reading

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