Tag Archives: Frontierado Sagas

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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THE APACHE KID

The annual Frontierado holiday arrives Friday, August 6th this year, so here is another seasonal post. As always, Frontierado is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality.

apache kidTHE APACHE KID – Born as Haskay-bay-nay-ntayl in the early 1860s this Apache legend and future outlaw leader was captured and enslaved by the Yuma Indians as a child. Freed by the U.S. Army the little boy became a street orphan/ camp mascot in army camps. Since his name was such a handful he was nicknamed the Apache Kid early on.

In 1881 former Union General Al Sieber was recruited by General George Crook to become his Head of Scouts. The Apache Kid enlisted that same year as one of the United States Army Indian Scouts whose tracking expertise was needed against their fellow Apaches who were actively fighting the army. Sieber grew to consider the Kid his finest Native American scout and by most accounts “practically adopted” the Apache Kid.

(Another figure who served as a scout under Al Sieber was Tom Horn, the future gunslinger and hired killer.)

apache kid wanted posterThe Apache Kid, who became a Sergeant by July of 1882, served under Sieber and General Crook during the Apache Wars, participating in the Battle of Cibecue Creek (August 1881), the Geronimo Campaigns/ War (1882-1886) and the Crawford Affair of 1886 which nearly started a second war between the U.S. and Mexico. American and Mexican troops inflicted a few fatalities on each other while hunting for Geronimo. Continue reading

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DALLAS STOUDENMIRE: GUNSLINGER

The annual Frontierado Holiday is coming up on Friday, August 6th. As always, Frontierado is about the myths of the old west, not the grinding reality. Here is another often-overlooked gunslinger. 

dallas stoudenmireDALLAS STOUDENMIRE – Dallas was this figure’s real first name, and it was ideal for an old west legend, just like Sam Sixkiller had an ideal surname and John X Beidler had an ideal nickname in “X”, from his middle initial. His life was filled with whiskey, cigars, women and opium, all garnished with the smell of gunpowder. 

Stoudenmire was born on December 11th, 1845 in Aberfoil, AL.   

With the Civil War raging, 1862 and 1863 saw Dallas repeatedly trying to enlist by lying about his age only to be found out within months and discharged. Finally, on March 8th, 1864 Stoudenmire enlisted at legal age and served until the end of the war.

Immediately after war’s end, Dallas moved to Texas with his brother Abednego and his sister-in-law. While Abednego and his spouse settled in Colorado County, Dallas traveled to Mexico like many other former Confederate soldiers and served in the army fighting to keep the country’s Emperor Maximilian on his throne. Among the other southerners putting their military experience to use in Mexico was future gunslinger Ben Thompson aka Texas Ben aka Texas Thompson.

dallas stoudenmire 2After Maximilian fell and was executed in June of 1867 Stoudenmire returned to Texas and farmed with his brother in Columbus in Colorado County.

Between 1870 and 1874 Dallas wandered, working as a wheelwright and other odd jobs when on the Texas side of the border, but engaging in still-mysterious activities during periodic trips to Mexico. Some legends claim Stoudenmire was part of a rustling gang during those outings, while others have him contending with rival fortune hunters in searching for Emperor Maximilian’s lost gold

On January 17th, 1874 this figure enlisted as a Sergeant in the Texas Rangers – Company A under Captain J.R. Waller. That company’s jurisdiction ranged from western Erath County north to Stevens County and southwest to Brown County. Continue reading

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QUEEN KITTY LEROY: GAMBLER/ GUNSLINGER

Kitty LeRoy

Queen Kitty

QUEEN KITTY – The Frontierado holiday is coming up on Friday, August 6th. As always, the holiday is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality. Balladeer’s Blog’s looks at the legends surrounding neglected gunslingers of the time period are popular posts at this time of year. 

Kitty LeRoy was also known as Kitty the Schemer, Dancing Kitty, the Female Arsenal and much later as Deadwood Kitty. Queen Kitty is the most appropriate nickname in part because of her last name but mostly because she was variously known as “the Queen of the Hoofers”, “the Dancing Queen”, “the Queen of the Barbary Coast” and “the Queen of the Faro Tables”.

Kitty was born in 1850 and by the age of 10 was earning money for her family as a professional dancer and novelty act in her home state of Michigan. By 14 she was performing exclusively at adult venues and had added trick shooting to her repertoire. Her most famous shooting trick at this time was shooting apples off the heads of volunteers. At age 15 Queen Kitty was performing in New Orleans and married her first husband – the only man in the city brave enough to let Kitty shoot apples off his head while she was riding around him at a full gallop.

Mascot and guitar

Balladeer’s Blog

LeRoy loved flirting and sleeping around, however, and this led to the breakup of her first marriage within a year. By 1870 Queen Kitty had married a second time, to a man named Donnaly, with whom she had a daughter. The Queen had gravitated more and more to the Faro tables, making a killing as a celebrity dealer.

With Dallas as a home base Kitty and her husband would travel throughout Texas with LeRoy earning money dancing and dealing Faro. Kitty also earned a name for being able to handle any violence that came her way from sore losers and was involved in multiple gunfights and knife fights in dangerous saloons. Continue reading

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KID RUSSELL AND SALLY SKULL: TWO MORE NEGLECTED GUNSLINGERS

Painting by Charles Marion Russell aka Kid Russell

Painting by Charles Marion Russell aka Kid Russell

Frontierado is just over a week away! The joyous day is coming when we can enjoy our meals of buffalo meat, Tumbleweed Pizzas, Southwest Fried Rice, corn on the cob, Cactus Salad, mashed potatoes and Western Spaghetti ! Later we can wash down some Deuces Wilds (Red or Black) and Cactus Jacks while playing Frontierado Poker or watching Silverado.

My most popular Frontierado articles over the years have been the ones about neglected gunslingers of the American West. Here are another man and woman whose lives were at least as interesting as those of the bigger names.

Self-portrait by Kid Russell

Self-portrait by Kid Russell

KID RUSSELL – How cool is it that an authentic, acclaimed international artist spent some of his younger years wandering the Wild West, even earning the nickname Kid Russell? Charles Marion “Kid” Russell was born in 1864 in St Louis, Missouri. As with Klondike Kate Rockwell, most of this figure’s life story is outside the purview of this article.

Since Frontierado is about the myth of the Old West I’ll focus on the legends about Kid Russell’s wild, wandering younger years full of guns, ranches, saloons, cattle drives, bordellos and sketches drawn on any nearby flat surface, sketches that showed the nascent talent that would one day make Russell world-famous.  

Charles Marion RussellWhen he was age 16 Charles’ well-to-do parents gave up trying to force him to continue his schooling at an eastern military academy and let him move to Montana, where, clad in a brand-new buckskin outfit, he worked on a friend’s sheep ranch north of Helena. It took skill with a gun and a true survival instinct to live through encounters with rustlers, hostile cattlemen and their hired gunmen but Charles, already being called Kid Russell, thrived and felt more at home in this rough and tumble lifestyle than among his family’s hoity-toity friends in St Louis high society.     Continue reading

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JOHN BULL: NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER

The Frontierado Holiday, which is coming up on Friday, August 7th, is about the myth of the Old West, not the grinding reality. Here’s another Frontierado Saga in honor of the season:

Union JackJOHN BULL – Very little is known about the early life of this mysterious British expatriate who became a famous gambler/ gunslinger. Even his name is in question – for obvious reasons – since “John Bull” had already been a standard nickname for British men in general for over a century.

Many accounts say the John Bull tag stuck to the Brit because he was so evasive about his real name, while other accounts claim his real name was John Edwin Bull or John C Bull. In my opinion it seems like a cosmically unlikely coincidence that an actual Englishman’s name would just HAPPEN to be John Bull, so I view it as an alias. Sort of like if an Irish gunslinger picked up the nickname “Paddy O’Rourke.”

The first accounts of him in the American West came in late 1861, when he took part in the Gold Rush to Elk Creek Basin back when Idaho was still technically part of Washington Territory. John Bull, giving his age as 25, claimed never to have engaged in anything as strenuous as prospecting, but said he had spent the last few years at multiple Boom Towns on the west coast, making a living as a card-player. 

PistolFor the next few years nothing can be pieced together except tales about “John” winning some big pots, losing others, gunning down sore losers and sometimes fleeing gold or silver camps with angry, shooting victims of his card-sharp skills on his trail. In 1865 or 1866 Bull arrived in Virginia City, NV where he met notorious gambler/ gunslinger Langford “Farmer” Peel and played a well-known practical joke on the young Mark Twain.    Continue reading

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DANGEROUS DAN: NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER

The Frontierado Holiday is coming up on Friday, August 7th! As always, Frontierado is about the myth of the old west, not the grinding reality. Balladeer’s Blog’s looks at neglected gunslingers of the American west are always a hit each year and here is another one.

Not Dangerous Dan Tucker

NOT Dangerous Dan Tucker

DANGEROUS DAN – David “Dangerous Dan” Tucker was no relation to the legendary “Ol’ Dan Tucker” from the folk song. This Dan Tucker was born in Canada in 1849 but his family moved south to the American state of Indiana when he was a child. In his late teens or early twenties, Tucker moved west to Colorado and began working as a machinist.

It was in Colorado that the soft-spoken young man picked up the handle Dangerous Dan (despite his real first name being David), a name he earned from being good with a gun during the wild and dangerous “Hell On Wheels” years of rapid railroad expansion throughout the Territory. By the mid-1870s this prototypical “strong, silent type” was forced to leave Colorado over a still-hazy incident in which he stabbed the wrong man to death.

Dangerous Dan relocated to New Mexico Territory, where he managed a Stage Coach Station near Fort Selden. That station was along the infamous Jornado del Muerto Desert, the “Journey of Death” between Santa Fe and El Paso. In his time there Tucker proved effective in fighting off attacks from Apaches, Mexican bandits and occasional homegrown outlaw gangs. 

By the summer of 1875 the legendary Sheriff Harvey Whitehill of Silver City, NM (Grant County) hired Dan as a deputy, kicking off the most well-known period of the gunslinger’s life. Early in 1876, outside Johnny Hall’s Dance Hall & Saloon on Broadway in Silver City, a man was fleeing after having disemboweled another man in the saloon, only to fall to Dangerous Dan’s gun. Continue reading

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SAM SIXKILLER: NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER

Frontierado is coming up on Friday, August 7th. Balladeer’s Blog is, as always, the international hub of this holiday which is now celebrated on 6 continents. Anyway, as the glorious day approaches here’s another neglected old west figure. 

Sam Sixkiller

Sam Sixkiller

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.

masc chair and bottleFollowing 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

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PISTOL PETE – NEGLECTED GUNSLINGER

Frontierado is Friday, August 7th! 

Pistol Pete

Pistol Pete

PISTOL PETE – Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton was another of those real-life figures that some people mistakenly think are fictional characters. The elementary alliteration and the association of the name Pistol Pete with the mascot of the Oklahoma State University sports teams are part of the reason. That mascot was named after and was designed to look like the real-life Pistol Pete.

Eaton was a man who LIVED what would eventually become a cliche of Wild West fiction:  the quest for revenge over the murder of a loved one, no matter how many years it takes. 

In 1868 young Frank was eight years old and living with his parents in Twin Mounds, Kansas. Frank’s father had served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was being harassed by several former Confederate Army men who had ridden with Quantrill’s Raiders for a time. One day six of those men shot our hero’s father to death right in front of him, setting the course for the rest of the young man’s life.  Continue reading

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