Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Superstitions That Make You Stop And Think

Since today is Halloween, let's talk about superstitions. And with that, we can start with Friday the 13th being unlucky, in fact the number 13 being unlucky.

There are buildings that refuse to acknowledge a 13th Floor, room numbers sometimes skip a room 13, and of course Friday the 13th is considered bad luck. Some believe the number 13 is unlucky because of myths about 13 demigods. And then there are those who say there were 13 people present when Christ was crucified on that Friday. Others say that number of disciples at the Last Supper was 13 if we include Judas who sold out Christ for 30 pieces of silver.

As for walking under a ladder? It's said that a ladder in use actually forms a triangle. Since triangles represent the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, walking under a ladder breaks up the Trinity. Yes, that puts one in league with the Devil since that is his mission in the world. So when walking under a ladder, please cross their fingers while doing so.

When researching this article, I was amazed to find out that in some countries white cats were seen as harbingers of bad luck while black cats weren't. In America and a couple of other countries, black cats are seen as bad luck.

Some religions have demonized black cats by saying they are demons in disguise. Of course back in Salem, Massachusetts, and in Europe, in the 1690s, Witches were hunted down by religious zealots. Their cats were killed also simply because they too were seen as co-conspirators with the devil.

A black cat crossing one's path was seen as bad because there were people once upon a time who really believed that such a meeting with a cat was no coincidence. They believed the notion that cats were trying to create evil for the person walking. Some folks believed those black cats were actually attempting to cut one off from walking with God. Others said those cats were attempting to block us from getting into Heaven.

Folks using that excuse as why they didn't think they'd get into Heaven were fooling themselves. Leading a nasty life hand in hand with the Devil has more to do with it. They shouldn't have blamed cats of any color for their dancing with the Devil.

Besides black cats, cats in general have a terrible reputation for being bad luck. For example, in some countries, a stray tortoise shell cat is considered a bad omen. A kitten born in May is thought to be a Witch's cat.

Farmers used to believe that cats that were bartered for, actually served a family better than a cat that was bought with money. The cat that was bought are never good mousers. Some believe a cat sneezing once means rain. And if a cat sneezes three times, some believe that its family will catch a cold.

An old American 19th century belief was that a cat washing itself on one's doorstep meant the clergy will pay the family a visit. Those were probably the same people who thought kicking a cat cured rheumatism.

My favorite superstition about cats goes like this: when you see a one-eyed cat, spit on your thumb, stamp it in the palm of your hand, and make a wish. The wish will come true.

To me, the only rival to that tale is the story of the English schoolchildren who believed that seeing a white cat on the way to school was a bad omen. To stop the bad luck from taking place, the person seeing the cat must spit and then turn around completely before making the sign of the cross.

While the English thought such a thing, the Irish believed a black cat crossing one's path by moonlight meant death in an epidemic. There's also the Irish superstition that says to kill a cat brings seventeen years of bad luck. There's a Scottish superstition that says a strange black cat on your porch brings prosperity.

Of course, I'm not too surprised that there's a French superstition that says it's bad luck to cross a stream carrying a cat. In the Netherlands, it's said cats were not allowed to be present when there were private family discussions. The Dutch believed that their cats would spread gossip around their town. Imagine that.

Superstitions about cattle were just as strange. The Celts thought their cattle should have been informed of any deaths in their owners' household. If they didn't, it was believed that cows would sense something was wrong and would probably drop dead from worry.

In Medieval times, some folks believed that cattle would kneel at the stroke of Midnight on Christmas Eve. Some also believed that farm animals were able to speak that night. That tale goes on to say it was considered very dangerous for any human to hear their speech. And no, there's no telling what a sheep farmer's favorite sheep will say if she had the chance.

There was a farm superstition that says if a plow kills a daddy long legs spider that his cows will go dry. A cow mooing after midnight means death. To milk a cow that's being sent to market is considered bad luck. Some farmers really believed that scattering primroses on a barn floor guarded against Witches.

They were probably the same people who believed cows lying down in a field meant rain. How could they since everyone knows that means the fish aren't biting.

Here one more about cows. If you see nine cows in a shed with a gray bull next to the door, and all of them lie on the same side, you are in luck because you will be granted one wish. And no, I don't know if you're supposed to spit on your thumb, stamp it in the palm of your hand, and then make the wish.

Donkeys have never been exempt from superstitions. For example, at one time it was believed that placing three hairs from a donkey's shoulders in a muslin bag which was then worn around one's neck actually cured whooping cough and measles. For curing snakebites and a toothache, some believed sitting backwards on a donkey worked out well.

I like the superstition that says a pregnant woman who seeing a donkey will have a child that will grow wise and well behaved.

As for horses, most know that changing a horse's name is bad luck. And of course, we probably all know that we can predict the sex of an unborn foal by swinging a nail tied from a hair in the mare's tail above her hips. If it doesn’t swing, she's not in foal. If it swings in a circle, then she'll have a filly. If it swings straight, then she'll have a colt.

This is the sort of knowledge that some may take as being common sense. Just like knowing that inhaling a horse's breath can cure whooping cough; or that eating a hair from the horse's forelock will cure worms; or that we have to make sure our horses never step on a wolf's paw print because such an act is sure to cripple a horse; or the cure for founder which says pour turpentine in a saucer and hold it against the horse's navel. Supposedly, the turpentine will be sucked up into the horse and the horse will be cured of founder.

If you lead a white horse through the house it will banish evil. The tail of a horse braided with ribbons keeps it safe from Witches. Of course there were some who really believed that if you wear a black stallions tail hair on your wrist, that you'll be protected from Witches.

There are other superstitions regarding horses. For example, there are those who believe that the deeper a horse dips his nostrils while drinking, the better sire he will be. Some believe that a horse will cry when it's master dies.

In England and Germany, it's considered a death omen if one dreams of a white horse. Gray horses and horses with four white feet are considered unlucky in racing. But gray horses are supposed to be lucky, while piebalds are unlucky. It's said that if one places a horses tail in water, it will turn into a snake. 

Copper pennies in a water tank will prevent moody behavior in mares. Horse-hair that is chopped up finely and fed to a child in bread and butter was thought to be a certain cure for worms. Horse-spurs, an old word for horse chestnuts, were believed to cure cancer if dried and ground and drank with milk.

They say if you put a bit of hoof in the microwave it will turn into bubblegum; if you put horse skulls under the floor of a house they improve the tone of a piano that's above them; and we all know that if a horse neighs at the door of a house it means folks inside will get sick.

Such superstitions also say horse brasses, those decorative brass pieces on a harness, were first put there as a measure to protect horses from Witches. Some say this was originally the same reason that Cowboys used conchos.

There are a number of superstitions for rodeo cowboys. For example, some say they won't wear yellow in the arena because it's considered unlucky. There are those who won't compete with coins in their pocket because it means that's all the money they may get.

Since it's said a cowboy should clean up for Lady Luck, it's said she'll favor you if you shave before a performance. While shaving is considered lucky, for rodeo cowboys it's believed to be a bad idea to eat chicken before a competition. Yes, it's believed that after all, you are what you eat.

So now, let's talk about how salt was once used as money as well as used for medicinal purposes. Because it was seen as precious, for that reason, spilling salt was avoided at all costs. The idea that it's unlucky to spill salt may also come from the belief that Christ's 13th disciple Judas is said to have spilled salt during the Last Supper.

As for throwing spilled salt over one's left shoulder? It's believed that that's a link to salt's medicinal uses. Believe it or not, someone must have figured that since it couldn't be used for anything once spilled, that the next best thing was to throw it into the eye of any evil spirits that may have been lurking around and may have been responsible for making people sick. Evil spirits are thought to lurk behind your shoulder just waiting for an opportunity to strike.

As for other such notions, superstitions that one can only guess how they started, remember this, a bat flying in one's home is considered bad luck; so is looking at a new moon over your left shoulder; hearing a rooster crow at night; cutting your nails on a Friday; a picture falling for no known reason; opening an umbrella indoors; stepping on cracks in the sidewalk; giving away a wedding present; wearing an Opal if you were not born in October; and of course breaking a mirror comes with seven years of bad luck. And believe it or not, it's also said to be extremely unlucky to receive a mirror as a present

There are those who believe that stepping on board a ship with your left foot is bad luck. The same goes for a groom who drops the ring during the ceremony. In that case, it's believed the marriage will be doomed to failure if such a thing takes place.

I knew someone who believed that it was bad luck to sign a contract in the months of April, July, or November. He also believed that it was extremely bad luck to put on his left shoe before his right.

So is it unlucky to sit on a table unless one foot is touching the ground? Is it bad luck if we stumble or trip when leaving home? How about returning home to get something that you forgot?

Once upon a time, rabbits were linked with Witches and the Devil because they live underground. Yet, because of the rabbit's ability to reproduce, a rabbit's foot is a symbol of fertility to some around the world. Some say owning a rabbit's foot, and wearing it around your neck as a talisman gives the wearer good luck.

In fact, there are some who say carrying a rabbit's left hind foot in one's left pocket is lucky. But that only applies to a rabbit's left hind foot that had it been removed from a rabbit that was killed during a full moon by a cross-eyed person. Yes, a cross-eyed person!

Years ago I heard a story that talked about how actors used to keep a rabbit's foot in their makeup cases for good luck. Some had all sorts of misfortune because it was lost. In Wales, there is a superstition that says a new-born child should be rubbed all over with a rabbit's foot so that the child will be lucky for life.

Just as there have been people who believe that wearing an emerald is protection against snakebites and other misfortune, there are those who have believed that  wearing a tortoiseshell bracelet is protection against evil, carrying a snake skin gives one protection against illness, and that carrying a dried toad was protection against plagues. Of course, there are those who have had the belief, or maybe still do, that says eating a live toad first thing in the morning means nothing worse will happen to you all day.

If you think that's silly, that is as silly as those who believe in the superstition that says roosters are considered the watchful protectors of mankind. In fact, some say when a cock crows at midnight that a spirit is passing. And in some places, it's considered an omen of death if a rooster crows three times between sunset and midnight. Crowing at other times is often a warning against misfortune. These are probably the same folks who believe if a cock crows at nightfall, that the next day will be rainy.

So, are there people who believe that one can get rid of warts by rubbing a peeled apple and then giving it to a pig? Or believe that any man who eats roasted owl will be obedient and a slave to his wife? How about a person who believes by eating a salted owl, they can be cured of gout? How about people who have been brought up to think that an abandoned house must be haunted if an owl nests there? Some folks still believe that owls are the only creatures known to man to get along with ghosts.

Is it unlucky to give a knife to a friend without being given at least a penny in return? Some have the superstitious belief that giving a friend a knife could sever the friendship if the receiver doesn't pay for the knife -- even with a penny.

Cowboys know that it's bad luck to put your hat on a bed, especially with its brim-down. The idea is that its luck will run out. As for the practical reason of not doing that back in the day? Well, while bathing was not a very common occurrence, head lice was common. So by placing one's hat on a bed, there was the possibility that lice would be spread to the bed.

Besides good manners, I like the idea of keeping its luck from running out of it. And that, well that's called a lead-in to horseshoes. 

Witches fear horses. They are also turned away by a door with a horseshoe mounted on it. That goes double for the Devil. We know that horseshoes have became synonymous with luck when a blacksmith tricked the Devil back in the day.

The story goes that a blacksmith was working hard in his shop forging horseshoes when suddenly the Devil appeared and demanded his own shoes. The blacksmith, recognizing the devil, and knowing that if he did a good shoeing that he would be his prisoner for eternity. So he took a burning hot shoe and nailed it deep into the Devil's own cloven hooves. 

The Devil was in such excruciating pain, that he ripped the horseshoes off and swore he would never go near one again. Some say the Devil swore an oath that he would never enter over a threshold with a horseshoe nailed above it. That was the start of the tradition of hanging a horseshoe over the entrance of a house to ward off evil spirits. That was the day a lucky charm to ward of evil was born.

As for cowboys, horseshoes have been considered lucky since forever started. Horseshoes have been nailed over the doors of both bunkhouse and ranch house for what seems like eternity. There is a debate about how to position it? 

There are those who say a horseshoe is always put in place with the "heels up" like the letter "U" so that the luck won't run out of it. Frankly, that's what I was told when I was a kid on my grandfather's ranch. But then, about 20 years ago, my Uncle Tony came to my home for a visit. He saw the horseshoes at each door  and asked me why they were upside down with their heels up? 

After I told him, he said when he was a young cowhand during the Great Depression, he was told that it should be heels down. The reason, as he told me, was so that the luck showers everyone who walks in and out. That way they have luck starting their day, and luck coming home from a hard day of work. 

Today, here at my home, I have a horseshoe outside of each door with their heels up. And, I have horseshoes inside each door with heels down. After all, I believe a man can't be too careful.

Tom Correa 







Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Shott vs Nott Willing Gunfights

Dear Friends,

Since I've been extremely busy trying to get my barn and property ready for winter, here's a short story about a couple of duels which may or may not have actually taken place. As you can see, I've posted the newspaper article where I first learned about one of the gunfights. It was this article that sent me on a search to validate it. After you read it and the rest of the article, you may see why I say it may or may not have taken place.

So please, read this first. I promise you, you will laugh. I also promise that I will tell you the rest of the story at the end.


OK, so I hope you had a good laugh!

I read where this took place in Texas in 1881, 1887, and 1899. I also read where the above clipping was originally in a Philadelphia newspaper in either 1826 or 1836. And believe it or not, it was put to music in 1902 as you can see below:

THE KNOTT-SHOTT DUEL

I've been reading about a duel
A mixed up affair, oh, it's something cruel
It's puzzling my poor brain, and driving me fair insane
A Mister Nott and a Mister Shott, in an argument one day they got
They decided to have a fight, so they met in the pale moonlight
With a pistol each in a lonely wood they quickly got to work.

Chorus:

Then Shott faced Nott - likeshot he shot Nott
'I'll tie Nott in a knot!' he said
Then Nott at Shott took a little pot-shot
Missed, and Mister Shott he shot poor Nott instead
Said Nott, 'I'm shot, though my name is not Shott
You're shot, so you're Mister Nott shot.'
'How can Nott be Shott,' said Shott, 'If Nott's not me?'

When they went in the lonely wood
Like the Corsican Brothers, there they stood
They were after each other's life, (They'd been after each other's wife)
You understand, they both were shot,
Though both were shot, yet one was Nott
It's as simple as ABC, but I'm blowed if it is to me
I've been sitting up both day and night to work this problem out.

Chorus:

I've got a clue to the mysteree
I'll explain it to you - it's like this, you see
Of course, you will understand - and then, on the other hand
They fought a duel - now we've got so far,
Then again, you see -well there you are
You're following me, no doubt. Now, what am I talking about
See, Shott shot Nott, not Shott, see Shott - I wish they'd both been shot.

Now, the Rest of the Story! 

It wasn't unheard of for a reporter, especially one trying to make a name for himself to fabricate a story or two, or more. Keep in mind that when Mark Twain was a reporter, he was known to have written a few stories for his papers that were lies. He just made them up. And frankly, something tells me that this may be a similar situation.  

Besides, who really knows if this story is true or not? A number of sources give different dates of when Shott shot Nott, and no one really knows where the duel took place. If it was Texas? Where in Texas?

As far as I can determine, it may have simply come from a bored newspaper writer in Philadelphia in the 1840s. Here's another example of the same sort of story that's believed to have come out of a Philadelphia in 1844. 

In this case, Shott shot Willing!

The story goes that a duel between Mr. Shott and a Mr. Willing resulted in both men being shot. Supposedly, Shott shot Willing willingly. Willing willing shot Shott. Shott's shot struck Willing and it was a spectacle to see. Of course, Willingly's shot struck Shott through his anatomy.

So was Shott shot? Was Nott not shot? Was Willing willingly shot or not? Who knows since we can't trust the news, even back in the day! 

I hope you have a good weekend! 

Tom Correa

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Guns On The Job In The Old West


I was recently in a conversation with someone who asked if I thought everyone carried a gun in the Old West?

Thinking about this, I believe it has everything to do with where one lived at the time. But also, actually more importantly, it depended on what they did for a living back in the day. I really believe these two factors are what determined the type of firearm one selected and whether or not one carried a gun.

For example, a great many friends over the years have all said without hesitation that they would have carried a Colt Single Action Army if they lived back then. A couple of friends have recently said that they would have opted for the Smith & Wesson Schofield because of the faster loading capability in a shootout -- a full blown firefight.

We should keep in mind that unless cut down, those choices are big guns that are not the easiest guns to conceal. Cowtowns like Wichita and Dodge City back East in what we know as the mid-West allowed open carry at first. The same was true for towns out West like Denver, Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and others. But after a while, as those towns grew, most established no carry laws. Yes, weapons prohibition. Because that was taking place around the West, there were a lot of folks who opted to carry concealed weapons.

To ensure their own safety, people had to make a conscious decision to violate the law. They also had to make a choice between carrying a full-size Colt versus a small pocket pistol or derringer of some sort. If we look at the sales figures for firearms for the period of 1867 to 1900, take out the sales to the U.S. Army and Navy, and to foreign sales, you will see that more Americans bought pocket pistols than the big hoglegs that we are led to think people carried.

People talk about how folks dressed back in the Old West and inevitably people will describe some gunman with a lot slung holster and big iron on his hip. While those individuals were surely a part of the landscape for a while until they couldn't carry in towns on their hip, that sort of gunman soon became a minority.

Knowing where we live would be an important factor considering no carry regulations, but that's second in importance to our occupation when it comes to selecting a carry weapon back in the Old West. This determines what sort of gun we would need on a daily basis during a workday? Also, this determines if it's a bother or not? Yes, the question as to whether or not it is a precaution or something that just gets in the way?

For example, if I were in any sort of law enforcement work, such as a deputy, then besides my sidearm, I would have probably carried a side-by-side shotgun when in town. As a stagecoach messenger, a payroll guard, a mail guard on a train, or even a bank guard, those positions would require a shotgun as well. In some cases they were armed with rifles, but mostly a shotgun was the weapon used for it's effectiveness and intimidation factor. 

Traditionally, shotguns in law enforcement were used for a few reasons. First, the officer didn't have to be a great shot to hit his target and shotguns have maximum effectiveness at fairly close range. Second, used in town, the projectiles disperse and have less of a chance of hitting some innocent bystander in town if the officer misses who he's was shooting at. And yes, a shotgun is intimidating.

In a posse, the need changes and subsequently a repeating rifle is needed. While there are always exceptions to the rule, lawmen usually used rifles when on the trail. The reason simply had to do with the fact that a rifle is a better weapon of choice when your target may be out of the effective range of a pistol or a shotgun. 

As far as people who go armed in a town according to Hollywood's version of the Old West? Well, audiences usually see a town marshal, his deputy, a county sheriff, a deputy U.S. marshal, prison guards. a circuit judge, saloon owners, bartenders, dance hall girls and soiled doves, card sharp gamblers, a banker, a hired gun, a bounty hunter, a gunslinger, and most likely a Pinkerton Agent. Of course there are the outlaws, the Mexican bandits, the claim jumpers, the rustlers, the no-name drifter, and a few others including those ever present men who sit around saloons -- the nondescript saloon bums in films who never seem to have a job yet always have money for drinks and gambling.

As for carrying on a daily basis? Lawman of all sort can always carry legally. If not the law, then those people weren't able to carry legally. But frankly, that didn't stop the law from looking the other way -- especially when they were friends of the law. And by the way, in all no carry towns, bounty hunters, private detectives, and even Pinkerton Agents, were not seen as lawmen and were also restricted from carrying in no carry towns. So the bounty hunter walking into such a town carrying a rifle while wearing three guns and bandoleer is all Hollywood.

As for most people who were not the law, or connected to the law, or their friends, if there was a not carry law? They were legally prohibited from carrying a weapon. But did that stop people from carrying anyway? No it didn't. They mostly carried concealed weapons. They carried guns in all sorts of ways from pocket pistols and larger pistols in shoulder holsters, vest pockets, trouser pockets, waistbands, in coat pockets, and a number of imaginative ways.

John Wesley Hardin was known to carry his pistol in his waistband. Wyatt Earp was known to carry a pistol in his overcoat pocket. Luke Short carried his revolver in his back trouser pocket. Killer Jim Miller supposedly favored a shoulder holder that he wore Winter or Summer under his heavy frock coat. Virgil Earp carried his pistol in his waistband in the small of his back. Even Wild Bill Hickok was known to carry a hideout gun, a small Smith & Wesson Model 2 as a backup gun.

So where am I going with this? My friend is of the opinion that everyone carried and "everyone in the Old West should have carried at least 3 guns because the West was that dangerous." For me, I think one gun would have been fine for the average citizen who was not a lawman or guard of some sort. And frankly, that's the point, as we all know, not everyone were lawmen and guards in the Old West. Not everyone was associated with seedy gamblers and con-artists, soiled doves and dance hall girls, and the such who live in that world. There were those who worked regular jobs.  

Friends, there were a lot more occupations in the Old West. Yes, certainly a lot more than what we've seen in Hollywood movies. For example, as for the people who built the towns, there were woodworkers, carpenters, cabinet makers, coopers, sawyers, loggers, lumber laborers. And besides bakers and cooks, there were bricklayers, stationary engineers, stationary firemen, hod carriers, stone cutters, stone masons, painters, plasterers, plumbers, even tile layers.

As for clothing, there were dressmakers and sewing machine operators, just as there were shoemakers, leather cutters, stitchers, vampers, lasters and tanners. Most towns made their own clothing for sale, there were doffers, drawing frame tenders, cotton dyers, loom fixers, cotton spinners, cotton weavers, knitters of hosiery and underwear, weavers and winders of silk goods, dressers and dyers of woolen and worsted goods, loom fixers, spinners, and even wool sorters. For houseware goods such as cups and glasses and plates, there glass blowers, potters, kiln placers and turners.

There were blacksmiths in railroad shops, in machine shops, and in livery stables. And of course, horseshoers. Boiler makers could be found in foundries and machine shops, and there were core makers, foundry laborers, lathe hands, machinists, millwrights in flour mills and other places, iron molders, pattern makers, tool and die makers. In mines there were mine drivers, loaders, drilling machine operators, timbermen for the mines.

Of course in most towns, there were newspapers that needed bookbinders, press feeders, proof readers, compositors, stereotypers, and pressmen who operated the printing press. Where tobacco was their cash crop, there were cigar makers, tobacco stemmers and strippers.

To transport all of the goods being made or ordered, there were 1-horse teamsters and 2-horse teamsters, and of course stock tenders, wheel makers, and wagon wrights. As for the railroads, besides the fact that they hired hunters to supply their workforce with meat, there were laborers, brakemen, conductors for passenger railroads, conductors for freight railroads, locomotive engineers and firemen. In shipping, there were sailors and longshoremen, ship builders, chalkers, woodworkers, and a number of trades including sail makers.

There were all sorts of laborers. From Chinese laborers who worked on the railroad, to those who worked in the laundries, or in restaurants as bakers and cooks, and waiters. In saloons as bartenders and beermen. In hotels and cleaners and clerks and such. Yes, there were no shortage of unskilled labor.

As for farmers, cattlemen, cowboys, there were also homesteaders, pioneers, settlers, teachers, missionaries, dentists and doctors. As for the doctors, most times they treated both people and animals. In some towns, depending on its size, there may be a number of doctors there.

The vast majority of these occupations did not have the need to carry a gun while at work. The vast majority of people working understood that a pistol would have simply gotten in the way. Yes, they would have gotten in the way.

For example, rifles were routinely carried on a Cowboy's saddle, and used to hunt with and shoot predators going after the cattle and rustlers. But contrary to what Hollywood depicts, most working cowboys did not carry a sidearm while working cattle simply because there wasn't a need to carry a sidearm during those times. A sidearm just got in the way when working cattle -- especially during brandings.

That's the same as with most occupations in the Old West. Mostly, for most occupations, guns got in the way. But, even though that was the case for many, whether a labor, a clerk, a farmer, and the many occupations that there were, that's not saying that someone working his or her job in the Old West didn't have a gun of some sort nearby. Not to say all jobs had them nearby, but a lot of folks who worked a job that may not have called for a gun usually knew where one was located in case of emergency.

For example, sailors in the Old West didn't go armed other having than a knife. Yet, it wasn't unusual for a boat Captain to have rifle in his cabin along with a gunlocker for his crew. Knowing full well that the law was not obliged to protect anyone, this was for protection against two legged predators.

It wasn't uncommon for a shop owner to have a rifle or shotgun stationed where he knew it just in case of an emergency. It wasn't out of the question for many occupations to have a firearm conveniently located in case the need arose.

One example of this took place during the Coffeyville, Kansas, bank robbery by the Dalton Gang. Townsfolk had there firearms near enough to respond when they were needed. Of course, for those who were not armed, rifles and shotguns were being handed out to them so that they too would be able to defend the town against the marauders.

Another example was when a Frenchman was stabbed in his butcher shop by a Chinese customer who was intent on killing and robbing him. At one point during the assault, the Frenchman reached over to grab a pistol that he kept on the counter of his shop just for such an incident. He fired at the Chinaman, and missed, but his shot singed his attacker's face and sent his attacker running.

A passerby heard the shot and saw the Chinaman running. He chased him down and fought it out before bringing the Chinaman back to the authorities. The attacker was identified by the Frenchman before he died. The people there in that California mining camp took the Chinaman out and hanged him.

In Cheyenne, Wyoming, a Merry Go Round Operator saw Tom Horn escaping from jail. He reached in his toolbox and grabbed his Iver Johnson .38 S&W and took after Horn. He shot at Horn and later beat him with his pistol while capturing the killer. We all know that Horn was taken back to jail in spite of the townsfolk wanting to save the state some money and simply string him up at a nearby tree that day.

While there are a lot great choices, some will read this and say a .38 S&W back in the day was a sad choice. And while I agree to a certain extent, a top break double action Iver Johnson is easily concealable and can be reloaded faster than my second choice to carry which really would have been a Colt 1877 Sheriff's Model with 2 1/4 inch barrel in .41 long colt. 

While I like the stopping power of a .41 long colt versus a .38 S&W, reloading a Colt 1877 can take some time in comparison to a top break. And then there's the problem of only being able to load five rounds in a six shooter, the hammer of a Colt Single Action Army has to rest on an empty chamber unless you know you're going into a fight. 

In the case of what happens if a Colt Single Action Army is dropped by accident, this is what can happen if one doesn't put the hammer down on an empty chamber. As reported in the Wichita Beacon on Janaury 12th, 1876.

"Last Sunday night, while policeman Earp was sitting with two or three others in the back room of the Custom House saloon, his revolver slipped from his holster and in falling to the floor the hammer which rested on the cap, is supposed to have struck the chair, causing a discharge of one of the barrels. The ball passed through his coat, struck the north wall then glanced off and passed out through the ceiling. It was a narrow escape and the occurence got up a lively stampede from the room. One of the demoralized was under the impression that some one had fired through the window from the outside."


Iver Johnsons top-break pistols were chambered in 5-shot versions of .32 S&W and .38 S&W. They were also produced in a 7-shot .22 Long Rifle. Those pistols were ahead of their time in that they included an internal transfer bar safety. They had transfer bar safeties more than a half century before Ruger created the modern transfer bar safeties in their pistols. If the trigger was not pressed all the way to the rear, the gun would not fire. Just as with the Ruger these days, the Iver Johnson transfer bar safety sat between the hammer and a cartridge and prevented the gun from discharging unless the trigger was depressed all the way. 

Iver Johnson advertised this feature because it was revolutionary at the time. The hammer itself cannot make contact with a loaded cartridge. This was a feature that Colt and others didn't have. It was a feature that appealed to the gun-tottering civilian who stuck it in his or her coat pocket on the way to town, or while in town on the way to the Merry Go Round. 

Tom Correa




Saturday, October 13, 2018

When Did The American Indian Wars End?

Ute and Paiute Indians involved in the Posey War

Dear Friends, 

First, I'm sorry for not posting as offend as I usually have. It seems that getting ready for Winter, finishing my book which is a collection of my Old West stories, and fighting a couple of medical problems, I haven't been able to sit and finish a post for you. Frankly, I really feel bad about that since I appreciate that you like my work and don't want to disappoint you.

If you've been a reader for a while, then you know that I've disagreed with some who have said that the Old West period went from 1865 to 1895. For me, I've always believed that the Old West was still wild and woolly up into the 1920s well after World War One. So what do I base this one? Well, the last events that were in fact connected to the Old West and the American Indian Wars where the participants acted no differently than others in the same situations in the 1800s.

The Battle of Kelley Creek, 1911

For example, in January of 1911, a small band of Shoshone and Bannock Indians killed four Range Detectives at a ranch after they trailed the Indians. They followed them in an effort to arrest them for stealing cattle. Their deaths is contributed to the Battle of Kelley Creek, which is also known as the Last Massacre. That even is often considered to be one of the last known massacres carried out between Native American tribes and the United States at the end of the American Indian Wars.

After the Range Detectives were found murdered, lawmen formed a posse of local citizens and set out to track down the Indians responsible for what took place. They were the Indians camped at Kelley Creek near Winnemucca, Nevada.

In what is considered a one-sided engagement on February 25th, 1911 with nine Indians being killed. One American was wounded. At the time the incident was sensationalized as a Native American revolt of some sort, when in reality it had to do with cattle thieves in a shootout with law enforcement.

The Battle of Bear Valley, 1918

The Battle of Bear Valley was a small engagement which took place in January of 1918 between a band of Yaqui Indians and the U.S. Army. It started on January 9th of that year when elements of 10th Cavalry Regiment encountered 30 or more armed Yaqui Indians in Bear Valley, Arizona. 

It's said that in 1918, the Yaqui people were still at war with Mexico. They had been several years over the Yaqui wanting to establish an independent state in Sonora, Mexico. Their war bled into the United States because a large number of Yaqui were driven north and had crossed into Arizona. 

In reality, many of them went to work on the farms in the citrus groves of in Tucson. They worked and got paid for their work the same as everyone else. But the Yaqui were known to spend their wages on guns and ammunition, which they would send to their tribe in Mexico to carry on the fight with the Mexican government. 

Yes, a hundred years ago, the Yaqui Indians were buying guns and ammo in Arizona and smuggling them across the border. The Mexican government complained to the United States and requested help in dealing with what they considered was a huge problem. 

If this sounds a lot like the situation with the Mexican Drug Cartels today, here's something that also hasn't changed in a hundred years. Arizona ranchers reported large numbers of cattle being stolen and butchered, as well as a many clashes with armed Yaqui from Mexico who were moving across the border freely.

The United States Border Patrol had not yet been established, and the job of protecting Americans along the border was part of the mission of the United States Army since the Constitution states that our Federal government is responsible for protecting our borders. 

The troops out of Fort Huachuca commanded the Nogales, Arizona, sub-district. At the time, it was home of the U.S. Army 35th Infantry. The Army orders increased patrols of the area where the attacks on American ranchers were increasing. The 35th Infantry Regiment stationed at Camp Stephen D. Little in Nogales was joined by the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers who were assigned to protect American towns on and near our Southern border. 

A unit of roughly 30 combat soldiers, accompanied by their service and support contingent, maintained a camp at Atascosa Canyon in Bear Valley because that are was seen as "strategic natural crossing" into Mexico. U.S. Army Captain Ryder was in command.  

On January 8th, local rancher Philip C. Clarke who owned the Ruby Mercantile, rode into their camp to report that his neighbor found a cow butchered for its hide in the mountains. While the meat was left and not used, it was very evident that its hide was used by the Yaqui to make sandals. Captain Ryder sent First Lieutenant William Scott and a detail to check out the situation and watch the trails for any Yaqui activity in the area.

According to reports, about the middle of the afternoon Lieutenant Scott had First Sgt. Samuel H. Alexander alert the troops to a long column of Yaqui crossing the border on a ridge. Within a few minutes, it's said the troops were mounted and left to pursue the Yagui.

During their search for the Yaqui, the soldiers came across the Yaqui who opened fire from positions which offered cover in a rocky area. The troops returned fire and "a typical Indian war skirmish began."

One report stated, "the fighting developed into an old kind of Indian engagement with both sides using all the natural cover of boulders and brush to full advantage. The Yaquis kept falling back, dodging from boulder to boulder and firing rapidly. They offered only a fleeting target, seemingly just a disappearing shadow. The officer saw one of them running for another cover, then stumble and thereby expose himself. A corporal alongside of the captain had a good chance for an open shot. At the report of the Springfield, a flash of fire enveloped the Indian's body for an instant, but he kept on to the rock."

What became known as Battle of Bear Valley resulted in the death of the Yaqui commander and the capture of nine others. Some consider the skirmish, the last time the U.S. Army engaged a Native American tribe in combat. 

Was this the final battle of the American Indian Wars? No.

The Posey War, 1923

I really believe that dubious honor goes to what is known as the Posey War that took place in March of 1923. Yes, March of 1923. While not completely never heard of, unlike previous engagements during the Indian Wars, it's said that lawmen and their possess took the lead. The U.S. Army offered support, but it was not used. 

For 40 years, between 1881 and 1921, that Paiute and Ute Indian band of Bluff, Utah, fought in several engagements against the U.S. Army, local militia, lawmen, Mormon settlers, as well as other Indian tribes. The band was nomadic and liked to roam. They also didn't get along with other Indians on their Reservation.

By the 1920s, the band was very well known for their assortment of conflicts over the years. Their leader was Chief Posey who was not a purebred Paiute, and was actually half Mexican. He married into the Ute Mountain tribe. By 1923, he was in his sixties when he and about 90 Paiute and Ute men, women and children, left their lands and went into the mountains after helping two Ute young men escape the local authorities. 

In February of 1923, a couple of young men of the Posey band attacked a sheepranch at Cahone Mesa. Besides robbing and beating the rancher, it's said that they killed some of his livestock and destroyed his property -- which supposedly included setting a bridge on his property ablaze. The two perpetrators were identified and County Sheriff William Oliver was notified. Knowing that the law was after them, the two surrendered to Sheriff Oliver in Blanding. While in custody, the young men are said to have gotten food poisoning. After receiving medical attention, the two were allowed to go home, with the agreement that they would return for trial. 

When the trial began on March 20, Chief Posey and a few of his men attended the trial. When the court adjourned at noon, Sheriff Oliver took the two young men to lunch. That's when things turned sour. 

Sheriff George A. Hurst was present at the trial and made the following statement of what happened next:

"Joe Bishop's boy was walking upon a large stick as though he were crippled or incapacitated.... After hearing evidence presented for and against the accused, Joe Bishop's boy was found guilty and at 12:00 noon he was placed in the hands of Sheriff Oliver, to have lunch. He was to reappear at 3:00 p.m. for sentencing. Immediately upon the adjournment of court, all the white men left and went home for lunch, leaving no one there but the sheriff, George A. Hurst, Jr., a few school children, and a band of angry Utes.... After quite a while trying to persuade the Indian boy to go without any avail, Sheriff Oliver got on his horse, rode up to Joe Bishop's boy...and insisted that he come along without any further trouble and get their lunch. Whereupon, the young Ute threw away the big stick that he had been walking on, grabbed the reins of the horse the sheriff was riding, and jerking with all his might. At this point, Sheriff Oliver whipped out his gun and attempted to shoot the Indian, but the gun spiked, and would not fire. Joe Bishop's boy grabbed the horn of the saddle with one hand, the other seizing the gun that Oliver held. He wrenched the gun from the sheriff's hand and with one leap, sprang into the saddle of Jess Posey's [Chief Posey's son] race horse with Jess, stood holding and headed north. As he started off he tried to get the gun to work. He had only gone about 200 yards when he succeeded and over his shoulder he shot the sheriff's horse in the neck."

So Chief Posey and his Ute and Piute followers helped the two young braves escape the Blanding authorities. As they attempted to flee the area, right behind them was a quickly gathering posse. The few men in the posse all tried to jump into a Model T Ford automobile to chase after Posey and his band. At one point, Posey is said to have stopped and turned around.

At that point, the old Chief used a .30-06 rifle to shoot the Motor T Ford in the radiator. Thus ending the chase for a while. The lawmen had to regroup. As for Chief Posey and his band? They were now wanted, so they headed north to the desert around of Navajo Mountain. 

If you think fake news is just a recent problem, keep in mind that it's always been around. The difference today is that it's on the mainstream media on television, radio, in magazines, and the newspapers. Following the bands exit from their lands, newspapers at the time accused Chief Posey and his band of being involved in a number of rapes and murders in the area. Though all were lies, the reports had the effect they wanted and incited hate for the Posey band.

On March 22nd, the Times-Independent is reported to have run an the article with the sensational title, "Piute Band Declares War on Whites in Blanding." The article is said to have described the situation as deadly and dire as "County Commissioners had requested permission from Utah Governor Charles Mabey to allow the use of a military scout plane to bomb and strafe the natives." 

At the same time this was going on, there were other newspapers reporting that there was a $100 reward on Posey's head by the state of Utah, supposedly "dead or alive." That wasn't true. 

The Salt Lake Tribune's editor C. F. Sloane was in Blanding when he wrote fake reports of what was taking place regard the Posey band. He stated that the town of Blanding was experiencing thirty-six hours of terrorism with Ute Indians in full war paint riding through the streets. Sloane claimed that Posey was putting together what Slaone called a "mobile squadron" to rob the San Juan State Bank. He lied about Posey having "sixty men skilled in the art of mountain warfare awaiting the call to service."

And just for the record, many of you my regular readers have heard me say that I use period newspapers as sources. It's newspapers like that, and others like The Tombstone Epitaph that I always take with a grain of salt. Many were just biased hate mongering rags. Many were filled with sensationalism to increase circulation and sell papers. 

Fake news over this incident was horrible. Of course, it didn't go unnoticed by locals in Blanding who knew what was really happening. It's said that a local resident actually took a news reporter to task at one point to ask why he wasn't reporting the truth? The reporter is said to have responded, "We're not ready to go home yet, and if we don't keep something going, we'll be getting a telegram to come home." 

With the help of the fake news of the time, gossip and rumors circulated to frighten the public in the area into believing that an Indian War was about to escalate. In 1923, there were a lot of people still young enough to remember what the full-scale Indian Wars were all about. There were many people there at the time who lived through such a war. Subsequently, folks in Blanding and Bluff reacted by organizing a posse. Their posse was mostly made up of the Mormon militia. They quickly mounted up and went after Chief Posey and his band to stop a full Indian War from starting. Fact is, it didn't take long for the posse to  immediately jumped on Posey's trail. 

The Battle of Comb Ridge

It was the next day that the posse caught up with Posey and his twenty miles from Blanding. Believing that the posse would kill all of them including their women and children, Chief Posey and his men took positions on Comb Ridge to hold off the posse while their women and children escaped. Right after the gunbattle, the band decided to surrendered rather than be killed. 

There were those later who spread the rumor that the old Chief was killed by flour that was supposedly poisoned by Mormons. There is no evidence that the Mormons ever poisoned flour. As far as I can see, that is a horribly false urban legend that got started to make Mormons look like genocidal killers. The truth about Chief Posey is that he died from an infection due to a gunshot wound that he received during the battle at Comb Ridge. And while it's said that posse member Bill Young shot Chief Posey and wounded him as his band was trying to get away, there is the belief that Posey was shot and died later after he killed one of the young men who beat and robbed that sheep rancher. 

The fake news jumped in and ran a number of different stories including how a  he died in flash flood after being washed away into a canyon. And since Chief Posey was his sixties at the time, there was a fake story going around that he died of a heart attack during the battle of Comb Ridge and he was buried where the Mormons couldn't find his body. 

The remaining members of the band were taken prisoners and placed into custody in Blanding. A few days later, they were all released when Chief Posey's body was found in Comb Wash. Blanding Marshal Jesse Ray Ward was summoned to officially identify the body and certify the chief's death. Marshal Ward had Posey's body buried in an unmarked grave in an attempt to stop people from digging it up for one reason or another. It's too bad that Marshal Ward's plan for the Chief's body didn't work. Later, we know that those who wanted to put the Chief on display got their way. Yes, it's true, the Chief's body was dug up at least twice by people there who wanted to have their picture taken with the corpse. Imagine that.

Some call it Chief Posey's War, and it ran from March 20th to the 23rd, 1923. It is the last of the American Indian Wars. When it was over, Chief Posey and Joe Bishop's son who beat and robbed that sheep rancher were the sole fatalities during the conflict. As for wounded or killed posse members? No one on the posse was killed or wounded. Fact is, for the authorities, the only casualty on the side of the posse was a horse which one of the Posey band shot and killed. 

As for the Model T Ford which took a .30-06 round to its radiator, it was repaired. 

Tom Correa