Sunday, September 24, 2023

Thomas Arthur Prickett -- Also Known As "Nickel Jim"

Tom Prickett
aka "Nickel Jim"
July 19, 1942 - September 6, 2023

Tom was born in Kenosha, WI on July 19, 1942. He grew up in Waukegan, IL with his father, a
chemist, mother, a homemaker, and 2 younger siblings, Jerry and Pam. As a boy, he enjoyed the outdoors and was a keen hunter, even running a trap line. At a young age, Tom showed a huge interest in machinery and engines. His interest in engines would follow him into the US Air Force in 1959 where he would work on America’s fighter planes. While in the Air Force stationed in Madrid, Spain, he met and married Frances White in 1962. She was the daughter of Senior Master Sergeant Stanley White who was also stationed in Madrid. Their marriage would last 60 years until his passing.

After receiving an honorable discharge, the young couple returned to the States where their daughter, Deanna was born in 1964. In 1967, Tom, Fran and Deanna moved West to California, and in 1969, the young family bought a new home in the small town of Livermore. Their son, Adam was born that same year.

A creative man, he could build or fix anything. He enjoyed building engines, working on hot rods and race cars, owning and running a specialty race & speed shop in Livermore, and operating one of the premier engine balancing companies in the Western United States, Balance Technology.

Tom enjoyed a game of pool and bowling, he fished, was into archery, and several shooting sports. He was an excellent marksman and participated in many competitions. He lent his shooting skills and organizational knowledge to the Livermore Pleasanton Rod and Gun Club, becoming a range master. 

Nickel Jim and his Son-In-Law Tom Correa

In 2007, he took the alias “Nickel Jim” when he joined the Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) and participated in 3 different clubs. As a natural shooter, Tom excelled at SASS matches while also enjoying the camaraderie of the sport.

A man of many talents, Tom served and loved his country, created a loving family, made many friends, and gave back to his community in countless ways, including dressing as one of Santa’s helpers every Christmas just for the enjoyment of children. 

He leaves his loving wife of 60 years, Fran, beloved children and their spouses, Deanna & Tom and Adam & Amanda, adored grandchildren Gabriel, Lucas, and Ginger, friends, colleagues, and his trusty dog Axel.

Services will be held Friday, October 20 at 1:00 p.m. with military honors at the San Joaquin National Cemetery located in Santa Nella, California, off Interstate 5 South. 

Tom was a generous man with a quirky sense of humor and cared deeply for animals. He loved his family and friends and will be greatly missed and forever in our hearts. Thank you, Tom, for sharing your life with us. 

We will miss you.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

At Wyoming’s Historic Occidental Hotel, The Ghost Gets Into Bed With You

The lobby at the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo, Wyoming, is eclectic, elegant, 
and 100% Old West Wyoming. (Occidental Hotel)
Story by Renée Jean
Cowboy State Daily 
September 16, 2023

Those who work at the historic Occidental Hotel in Buffalo have heard guests tell a lot of spooky stories about their stay, and not just its famous ghost child Emily. There's one ghost who gets into the bed while you're sleeping.

Many have told and retold the tale of Emily, a small child who died of cholera in the early 1900s at Buffalo, Wyoming’s Occidental Hotel, who is said to haunt its halls to this day.

But the employees who work in the Occidental Hotel can tell about a lot more ghostly encounters than just Emily.

“Sometimes I think things move there,” Joel Mera told Cowboy State Daily. Mera, who is from Italy, has been working at the Occidental this summer and plans to return home soon.

“I have my earplugs in listening to music while I’m cleaning,” he said. “And then it’s like something is moving or the chairs have strange shadows with the tail of the eye while I’m cleaning. And sometimes I think it’s the clerk coming to check on me, because she does that sometimes, but when I look, no one is there.”

Mera said when that happens, he just pretends he saw nothing at all.

“I go right back to cleaning and thank God I work with my headphones,” he said. “This way, I don’t hear anything else other than music.”

Guests in the Teddy Roosevelt Suite at the Occidental Hotel recently told the front desk clerk they felt someone sliding into the bed between them. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Whiskey bottles have popped off the shelf and wine bottles have blown their corks in the saloon of the Occidental, hotel employees say. Wine glasses sometimes also break for no apparent reason. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Penny Ramirez has heard a piano key play on this piano in the Occidental Hotel's lobby despite no one sitting at the piano. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Unexplained Phenomena

Penny Ramirez is a waitress at the incredibly busy Busy Bee Cafe, which is right next to the hotel, and is part of the string of businesses in the block that make up Occidental Row. She has at times stepped through what felt like cobwebs at the hotel, except that there are no actual cobwebs there.

“Usually, it’s on a Friday,” she said. “I think it’s all the energy from that jam session, because it’s almost always on Fridays.”

The Thursday night jam sessions brings musicians from all over for a bluegrass session that lasts until 9:30 p.m. The sounds from the jam session can be clearly heard all over the Occidental Hotel.

One time after a jam session, Ramirez came into the hotel lobby and she could hear a key go “ding” on the piano that’s sitting in front of the hotel desk.

At first she thought she was mistaken. Probably someone’s cell phone. Until it happened again.

When she asked a co-worker whether there was any kind of digital alarm or something like that which might go ding, she was told there was nothing like that in the lobby.

Later, she had a nightmare about being upstairs in the hotel, where she was running frantically and scared to death.

But that wasn’t the creepiest thing to happen, Ramirez said.

“So, there’s one of these, they call it a spirit box that you can download on your phone,” she said. “One of the girls had it on her phone and we were asking questions like “Hey, who are you,” etc. I thought I heard it say in there, “Richard.” Then it made this popping noise, really loud on both the phone and the radio.”

That was enough of that. The girls turned the app off and stopped asking who’s there.

But that hasn’t stopped ghostly occurrences, Ramirez said. Since then she’s heard someone call her name in the saloon, even though no one was in the saloon at the time.

A stuffed orange cat and other animals left for the ghost of Emily in a room near the one where the girl died of cholera in the early 1900s. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

More stuffed animals left to comfort Emily. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

A New Ghost

Vanessa Vann, who works in the bar, has seen bottles of whiskey and wine just pop off the shelves, or pop their corks.

“That’s the weirdest thing,” she said. “That just happened the other day.”

She’s also seen glasses just break for no reason.

“I’ve seen a wine glass where someone just set up to pour some wine and it breaks,” she said. “Just like that.”

Nancy Lehnert, meanwhile, who is a desk clerk, was told a new ghost story recently, one she’s never heard before while at the hotel.

“This husband and wife were in the Herbert Hoover room,” she said. “And they ended up, like, smelling a lady’s perfume, but she doesn’t wear perfume.”

Later that night, they each felt someone slide into the bed between them, while they were facing each other in the bed.

“When they checked out, they told me that story,” she said.

Lehnert hears the most ghost stories about the Prairie Cowboy room.

“I heard someone telling how his wife was sleeping but he woke up for no reason and he heard something and then he thought he saw like a whoosh, or something like a spirit going by,” she said. “He didn’t want to wake up his wife because he’d end up at his in-laws, so he just stayed quiet in the bedroom.”

Children of guests at the Occidental sometimes write letters for the ghost of Emily, a child reported to have died of cholera there in the early 1900s. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

More notes to Emily. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily) 

Children Write Ghost Emily Notes

There have been touches in the bar, and sometimes even pinches. Others have heard a ball bouncing in the upstairs hallway, or a girl laughing, but there’s no one there.

The latter was probably Emily, Ramirez suggested.

A stuffed orange tabby is kept near the room where Emily died. This is thought to help keep that particular spirit happy. The girl is said to have had an orange tabby cat while she was still alive.

Children have left notes to Emily in that same room. Many of those notes appear to be talking directly to Emily about how much fun it was playing with her. Ramirez finds those notes a little disquieting.

Ramirez remembered two Asian girls who came to work at the hotel one summer. They each separately recounted a story about seeing a girl hiding behind a door and trying to play hide and seek with them.

“They told their stories separately, not knowing about the other one’s story,” Ramirez said. “They did not want to clean that room any more after that.”

Then there was the incident in room 56 where an old-time, heavy iron was sitting in a particular corner of the room. A hotel guest laying in bed heard the iron move across the floor.

“The first time, he put it back,” Lehnert said. “But then he heard it move again, so he just told the spirit, “Really, it’s OK there if you’re fine with it there. Good night.’”

Lehnert isn’t afraid of the hotel’s ghosts.

“These are protective spirits,” she said, recounting a story about how one guy left in the middle of the night because Emily kept bouncing on his bed.

The folks at the Occidental later learned the man was a wanted felon.

Renée Jean can be reached at

The article above is reprinted here exactly as it appeared in the Cowboy State Daily.

Monday, September 11, 2023

The Pleasant Valley War

By Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/ Historian 

When it comes to range wars in the Old West, almost everyone has heard about the Johnson County War which took place in the Powder River Country of Wyoming. That war was primarily over the cattle barons' wishes to run out the small ranches and settlers from the area by calling them cattle thieves in order to have the land as their own grazing grounds.

Two of the first hung by them was a lady by the name of Ella Watson better known as Cattle Kate and her husband Jim Averell who was a businessman and didn’t even own any cattle. Later it was proven that Cattle Kate was innocent as well as her husband.

During the Johnson County War an unknown number of 15 to 38 people were killed and not until President Benjamin Harrison ordered the U.S. Cavalry to intervene did this war come to an end.

Of all the range wars the Pleasant Valley War from 1882-1892 in Gila County Arizona had the most casualties of them all. Pleasant Valley near Young Arizona is located approximately 57 miles East of Payson and 67 Miles North of Globe, Arizona. Some of the bloody conflict reached into Globe and Holbrook, Arizona, as well. 

The estimation of numbers killed during this conflict which turned into an out-and-out family feud ran between 35 and 50 men almost wiping out the male population of both families involved.

This range war was the longest lasting and most bloody range war in American history. The two families involved were the Graham’s and the Tewksbury’s. The Graham’s were ranchers and the Tewksbury’s, who were part Native American began cattle ranching but in time began raising sheep also.

The families of Tewksbury’s and Graham’s were actually friends in the beginning but with the arrival of a big rancher by the name of Stinson things began to roll downhill. Stinson’s herd began to occupy the grazing lands of the two families and he began accusing both families of rustling. 

Warrants were served and while the Graham’s were at the Tewksbury’s house two cowboys from Stinson’s outfit came to arrest them. Not allowing themselves to be arrested one of Stinson’s men fired a shot which went over Ed Tewksbury’s head, Ed then drew and fired at the same time the Stinson man fired his second shot hitting Stinson’s man in the shoulder. The second Stinson man was also wounded and they both retreated.

Later in 1884, the Graham’s and Tewksbury’s friendship fell apart when Stinson offered the Graham’s a deal paying them fifty head of cows and would see to it that they would spend no jail time if they would turn states evidence against the Tewksbury’s. The Graham’s took the deal and began working for Stinson. When the Tewksbury’s went to court in Prescott Arizona the judge dismissed the case when he realized the deal made between Stinson and the Graham’s.

In 1887 the Graham’s rode to the Tewksbury’s cabin killing John Tewksbury and William Jacobs while they were gathering their horses. They continued shooting at the cabin with return fire coming from inside and while this battle was taking place the hogs began devouring the two dead men. The law began to show up and the Graham’s fled.

Andy Blevins, one of the Graham faction, was in a store in Holbrook bragging that he had killed John Tewksbury Jr. and William Jacobs. Sherriff Commodore Perry Owens got wind of this and went to the Blevins home in Holbrook to arrest Andy Blevins. When he arrived Andy’s half-brother stepped out and took a shot at Owens and Owens returned fire wounding the half-brother and ended up killing Andy.

In the next few years, many others from both sides were killed by shootings and lynchings by men wearing masks. Tom Horn was also involved with this war but it’s not clear which side he rode for. 

The last man killed during this war took place in 1892. Ed Tewksbury ended up being the last man standing of all who were involved when the range war/ feud came to an end. Ed died in Globe, Arizona. In April of 1904. Many of the men who died during this war are buried in the cemetery in Young, Arizona.

The Pleasant Valley War, in my opinion, was more so a family feud because sheep were not involved in the equation until 1885 but the troubles began around 1883-84. Yes, sheep became part of the problem but this feud began before that. Because of this range war/feud which was going on, along with the Apache problems at the time, the Union would not allow Arizona to become a State until 1912.

I could write much more about the Pleasant Valley War but it would take a small book to do so, just too much to write in a small article.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Come Out & Enjoy A Party This September 9th

Fast guns, great Western Music, outstanding Bar-B-Q, and celebrating what's great about America are what's being served on September 9th at the Back Forty Saloon in Pleasant Hill, California, from 4pm to 7pm. 

Join us in celebrating our rich Western Heritage for our 173rd Anniversary of California's Admission to the United States. Join us as experts demonstrate the Western art of the "Quick Draw."

Gunslinger Joey Dillon Hollywood Gun Coach - YouTube

Come out to listen to genuine live Western Music featuring ... The Diablo Rhythm Wranglers 

Western Music, Outstanding Bar-B-Q, and a Fast Draw Expert make for a Great Party!

Tickets are available at $125 per couple and $75 for individuals. Children 12 and under are FREE.

For tickets, please call (925) 932-6109

or send a check to:
P.O. Box 6114 La Salle Avenue, Suite 603
Oakland, California 94611.

We're The John Coffee Hays Club. And really, I hope you'll come on out to Back Forty Saloon in Pleasant Hill, California. It will be a great time!

California became America's 31st State on September 9, 1850. 

In February of 1848, Mexico and the United States signed a treaty ending the Mexican War. As part of the treaty, Mexico turned over a vast portion of the West to the United States. The land turned over to the United States also included all of present-day California,

Of course, as history tells us, about a month earlier on January 24, 1848, gold had been discovered on the American River near Sacramento. Many things took place with the discovery of gold. But the one thing that took place, more important than anything else at the time, was how the discovery of gold and the rush to California that followed made Washington D.C. get off its backside and into gear -- all to welcome California into the Union.

Because California saw people from all over the world travel here seeking wealth and the benefits that bring in the way of increasing the quality of one's life, the California Gold Rush saw a population boom in ways that have never been seen in North America. That population boom placed emphasis on the need for food, water, the law, and civil government.

As for food and water, many a rancher made more from selling beef cattle than did miners. As for water, clean water was a priority, and pure water was sought. Yes, as was the tradition, many great beers were created as a result of purifying water in California.

As for the law, Miner's Laws and Courts, just as with Citizens Committees and other types of Vigilante Groups, were the first forms of law enforcement that was established. As for a civil government, when Californians sought statehood, the U.S. Congress voted to admit California into the Union as a free state. Officially, California's admission as a state was September 9, 1850.

So now, since I'm a member of the John Coffee Hays Club, I'm hoping that you will want to enjoy the day with our group. And since we're raising money for charity and celebrating the qualities that have made America great, you can't have a better time anywhere.

I hope to see you there!

Tom Correa

Friday, September 1, 2023

Hobby Ranches

By Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/ Historian 

When thinking of cattle ranches, it seems today that most people think of movies or television shows such as Yellowstone and others. But there are many smaller ranches owned by generations of families which are much smaller. 

Many of these smaller family ranches can range anywhere from ten thousand acres to twenty thousand acres with their leases of BLM, state or federal land.

These smaller family ranches are still working cattle ranches and deserve their respect just as much as the big outfits. They may be smaller but these folks work just as hard and even harder because they can’t afford the equipment the larger outfits can, In fact these smaller outfits are ran by just as good of cowboy’s as the big corporate outfits.

Now, changing gears some I will now touch on what I call hobby ranches. These outfits are the ones owned by very wealthy individuals who always wanted to be a cowboy while growing up as a kid but never pursued that lifestyle. Many of these folks now have the kind of money it takes to buy a ranch. Some because they want to play cowboy and some for the write offs a ranch can afford them. I worked for one of those outfits many years ago. Don’t get me wrong, we still cowboy, but it’s not the same.

The best example I can give is when it’s time for roundup. Gathering the cattle, separating mamas from baby’s, branding, castrating, vaccinating and so on. The roundup on these type of outfits are really no different that any other ranch except for one major situation. The wealthy owners of these outfits all have other wealthy individuals that they are friends with and these people love to play cowboy at roundup time but all they achieve to do is to get in the way.

The day before roundup all of the owners buddies showed up with the horse trailers with living quarters that cost more then most peoples pickup truck and with pickup trucks that most folks couldn’t afford. Their horses all came from high dollar blood lines and mostly all chromed out. By chromed out I mean beautiful horses. These horses were gorgous but they were not good working horses.

The next morning we were going to gather a small pasture with only about eighty head in it and these rich guys were all riding side by side as we headed out rather than split up a bit to search out the cattle hiding in the brush which they are very good at. There was a fairly large hill in this pasture so I just rode up on top of that hill and could see that the cows were in the bottom so I let those guys ride on in the opposite direction without saying a word. When those fellows got out of sight I rode down and started pushing the small herd up towards the working pens.

All was going well and I was only about a hundred yards from the pens when I heard those fellows hooping and hollering lake a scene from a western movie, I turned to see all four of these idiots chasing one steer at a gallop and they ran that steer right into the cattle I had brought up and blew out the whole herd. I couldn’t believe what these idiots had done. Now it was my choice, do I go gather them again or do I say the hell with it. I said the hell with it.

I rode my horse up to the ranch house, pulled my wood off and put the horse in the pen. The ranch manager, who was a real cowboy asked, what you doin’ I told him what happened and also told him I would come back when those idiots were gone. 

Being a cowhand he understood and told me they would be leaving the next day so we would finish the job afterword’s. These hobby ranches, as I call them, are nothing more than a rich man’s playground and I never worked for one of those again.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Democrats Danced When President Lincoln Was Assassinated

In 1854, Americans witnessed a historical first when they saw the creation of the anti-slavery Republican Party. What made the Republican Party different from other anti-slavery political organizations that have been around for many years is that no one could have imagined that a president could have been elected on an anti-slavery platform. That was huge at the time. 

Democrats in the South broke away from the Union after Lincoln was elected. Those in the North, especially the Copperhead Democrats who ran many of the Northern newspapers, wanted to keep African slavery intact. They even fought to split the nation in two and allow slavery to remain in the South. 

During the Civil War, the Northern newspapers run by Copperhead Democrats of the time were really no different than what CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, NBC, and other Democrat-controlled media disseminate what they call the truth today. They hated Lincoln back in the day in the very same way that Democrats hate Trump today. And yes, they ruthlessly attacked and vilified Lincoln at every opportunity. 

That is not a myth, nor is it an exaggeration. Copperhead Democrat editors conducted smear campaigns against Lincoln, spread horrible rumors and straight-out lies about the president, incited violence against Lincoln's policies, called for Lincoln's impeachment, and even called for Lincoln's assassination. Yes, it wasn't really much different than what took place while President Donald Trump was in office.

President Abraham Lincoln was the first president to ever run and hold that office as a member of the Republican Party. He was also the first president to be assassinated. His killer was a Southern Democrat, an actor, a man who is said to have been influenced to carry out his deadly plot to kill the president by Copperhead Democrats who ran many of the Northern newspapers during the Civil War. 

While I've talked about firsts in American history and how Lincoln's assassination at Ford's Theater on April 14, 1865, was a first in American history, another first in our history has to do with the vile reaction of Democrats after President Lincoln's assassination. The fact is that Democrats actually praised John Wilkes Booth for shooting President Lincoln. So yes, while some did mourn after the assassination of the president -- others who hated Lincoln actually lauded his assassin. 

In fact, it was reported at the time that some supporters of John Wilkes Booth "publicly danced in the streets and rejoiced at the assassination of President Lincoln."

Political hatred is nothing new in American History. There have always been haters. And yes, my friends, on April 15th, 1865, a lot of them were Democrats who danced when they found out President Lincoln was shot to death. 

While most in the North conveyed what can only be considered "profound grief" at the news that Lincoln was killed by an assassin, it might be a surprise to many that President Abraham Lincoln was considered a "tyrant." One newspaper wrote at the time that he was "a tyrant who needed to be killed."

Instead of being seen as he would later as "the great emancipator" and the man who worked tirelessly to preserve the Union, Copperhead Democrats in the North echoed the sentiment of their brothers and sisters in the South, who wrote about how Lincoln "deserved a tyrant's death." 

In Texas, The Galveston News printed, "In the plentitude of his power and arrogance he was struck down, and is so ushered into eternity, with innumerable crimes and sins to answer for."

While it's understandable to expect such things coming out of Southern Democrats, one Copperhead Democrat in Massachusetts was reportedly so gleeful to hear of Lincoln being murdered that he horrified his neighbors by shouting, "They've shot Abe Lincoln! He's dead, and I'm glad he's dead." 

If you think it was only Democrats who universally enjoyed the news of Lincoln's assassination, George W. Julian, who was a Republican congressman from Indiana at the time, what we today would call a RINO, a "Republican In Name Only," is known to have said, "Lincoln's death is a God-send."
And yes, if you're wondering, there were even those in the Union Army who celebrated that Lincoln was shot. Probably one of the most noteworthy was a soldier by the name of James Walker, who was a member of the 8th California Infantry. The 8th Regiment California Volunteer Infantry was an infantry regiment in the Union Army during the Civil War. It was a unit that was raised late in the war, actually in the last year of the war. 

The 8th Regiment California Volunteer Infantry had its headquarters located initially at Alcatraz Island and spent almost all of its existence serving in posts around San Francisco Bay, the California Gold Country, and later in Washington Territory and Oregon. 

Upon hearing the news, James Walker allowed his hidden sentiments to rise to the occasion. In front of his Union Army comrades, he declared that Lincoln was a "Yankee son of a bitch who ought to have been killed long ago." Believe it or not, Walked was arrested, given an immediate court-martial, and sentenced to death by firing squad. He was very fortunate that an appeals court later commuted his sentence. 

Of course, he wasn't the only person in the Union Army to voice his glee that his Commander-in-Chief was shot. Believe it or not, it's recorded that military officials dishonorably discharged dozens of enlisted men right after Lincoln's assassination for voicing their joy at hearing the sad news. One was a Michigan soldier stationed in Lincoln’s hometown. He was heard shouting, "The man who killed Lincoln did a good thing."

But really, let's be frank here, it shouldn't be surprising that some people celebrated Lincoln's death just as they celebrate that President Trump's home was raided or that President Trump was indicted for doing what many others have done. 

President Lincoln became a martyr to freedom and nationalism alike. Yes, like Trump, Lincoln was a champion of nationalism. He held the nation together through the worst years that our nation has ever faced. While many issues caused the Civil War, and it was not just the issue of slavery, President Lincoln's opponents were Democrats who would have rather the United States dissolve itself than lose their precious Antebellum life. A lifestyle of slave ownership and wealth that they fight to keep today.

Tom Correa

Friday, August 25, 2023

Tucker Carlson's Interview Of President Donald Trump On August 23, 2023

I'm providing the interview above for a few reasons. First and foremost, I support President Trump. I like what President Trump did for us when he was President. And, because of that, I want to provide my readers with what I consider is a very substantive interview. 

Second, as sad as it is, there are people today who still believe the lies that the Democrats accused President Trump of doing. Those lies have been proven to have been nothing less than an attempted Coup De Tat to unseat an American President. They were lies used to attack our President, an innocent man, and put him through two Impeachment Trials over things we now know did not happen. 

In fact, the people on the Left, including those people working within our government, who were part of the criminal hoax that led to the Impeachment Trials of President Trump, committed criminal acts that they have not yet been held accountable for carrying out. To me, that is something that our nation needs to see happen. 

As for comments attacking Tucker Carlson's interview with President Trump, I refuse to allow such maliciousness, such nastiness, to be posted here. Frankly, I see that sort of out-and-out nastiness as just a way to distract people from focusing on what's being said in the interview. And really, I'm not going to allow such diversions on here.  

There are horrible people on the Left who use distractions like attacking Tucker Carlson to take the focus off of the subject that we should be focused on. Besides the Left's ploy of redirecting the focus, on here hate speech is something that gets flagged in the comment section. And when it gets flagged, I won't override it to allow it on here. 
If you sent a comment and don't see it posted. It was flagged and was stopped.

Tom Correa

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Been There, Roped That

A Cowboy Poem by Benny Bence

I been to that ranch and I roped that cow and what I tell ya is true. 
I've had every horse with 'bout every name from Red to Fred to Blue. 

I've watched near every Western and I've drank near every beer. 
And I'm willing to fight with all my might the man who calls me queer. 

I've been to France, I've been to Spain, I've been to Mexico. 
I've roped in the day, I've roped in the night, and I've wrangled up in Idaho. 

I've been to Texas and the Alamo and I've lived many a life. 
I've loved me many a woman, but I only have one wife. 

I have three lovely daughters and one outstanding son. 
Why heck, by the time he was just thirteen, I gave him his very first gun. 

I've been on TV with Johnny and Dave and I've been on NBC. 
I missed my chance at the Golden Girls, but that don't bother me. 

I've shook the hand of ol' John Wayne and Robert Mitchum too. 
And Hell no, I won't take offense if ya call me buckaroo. 

I've been in many a bar fight and I damn sure won them all. 
And I can still challenge any man when trouble comes to call. 

My old belt buckle and Stetson hat are part of who I am. 
And the wrinkles I got on my face, they came from not giving a damn. 

I like Marty Robbins and love my wife, and that, buckaroo, is true. 
And as long as you are nice to me, then friend I'll be nice to you. 

I've done all this and plenty more and folks I ain't no liar. 
But if one of you still thinks I'm wrong, you can set my pants on fire!

Monday, August 21, 2023

Oliver Anthony - Rich Men North Of Richmond

Oliver Anthony is a former factory worker who is getting a lot of attention because of his song, "Rich Men North of Richmond."

His song is about how hard it is for regular Americans to struggle while others are getting rich. He sings about the toil and the heartache of overworked and over-taxed working-class Americans. He sings about how Americans recognize how the rich want to control our lives. He sings about the greed and power and the privilege of the wealthy. He sings a song that's resonating with millions of Americans. 

Oliver Anthony, "Rich Men of Richmond" Lyrics:

I've been sellin' my soul, workin' all day / Overtime hours for bullshit pay / So I can sit out here and waste my life away / Drag back home and drown my troubles away.

It's a damn shame what the world's gotten to / For people like me and people like you / Wish I could just wake up and it not be true / But it is, oh, it is.

Livin' in the new world / With an old soul / These rich men north of Richmond / Lord knows they all just wanna have total control / Wanna know what you think, wanna know what you do / And they don't think you know, but I know that you do / 'Cause your dollar ain't shit and it's taxed to no end / 'Cause of rich men north of Richmond.

I wish politicians would look out for miners / And not just minors on an island somewhere / Lord, we got folks in the street, ain't got nothin' to eat / And the obese milkin' welfare.

Well, God, if you're 5-foot-3 and you're 300 pounds / Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds / Young men are puttin' themselves six feet in the ground / 'Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin' them down.

I've been sellin' my soul, workin' all day / Overtime hours for bullshit pay.

What does he hope for his song? According to him, "The universal thing I see is no matter how much effort Americans put into whatever it is they're doing, they can't quite get ahead because the dollar's not worth enough, they are being over-taxed. I want to be a voice for those people, and not just them, but humans in general." 

The amount of taxes taken from working Americans to pay for things that Americans really should not be paying for is substantial.

For example, over-taxation of Americans goes to pay, according to Congressional sources, "Dead, duplicate, and disqualified Food Stamp recipients get billions of dollars each year. Also, billions of dollars in food stamp payments have been used for everything from Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell, to beer, soda, and condoms."

While politicians will not admit how serious the problem is, it's a fact that the Federal Government wastes billions of taxpayer dollars every year.

"The government has just lost, as if you dropped it on the sidewalk, trillions and trillions of dollars over the last few decades. That is money that was stolen from hardworking Americans to just simply get wasted," said Richard Stern, a budget and spending expert from The Heritage Foundation. 

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., claims "billions more are being wasted every year — from spending $1.7 billion maintaining empty government buildings to accidentally spending $28 million on forest green camouflage uniforms to be used in the deserts of Afghanistan."

And let's not forget, the Democrats pushed through their "Green New Deal" disguised as an "Infrastructure Bill." By itself, and not including other spending bills that Congress passes, it will require historic tax increases of more than $2.75 Trillion in taxpayer dollars. 

Those are taxpayer dollars that will be collected from already overtaxed Americans -- to frivolously spend on pet projects and scams like "Climate Change" and of course Biden, Democrats, and Ukraine. 

Of course, the biggest insult of all is that the "Rich Men North of Richmond" are the politicians in Washington D.C. -- and those slimy people don't give a damn that Americans are over-taxed or struggling to make ends meet. The fact is, they could care less. 

In fact, they don't care if we cry about it, or in the case of Oliver Anthony sing about it. They know there's nothing we can do about it. It's a damn shame. But the fact is it's a rigged game and the crooks are in charge.   

Tom Correa

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Real Cowboy Tales: Bein’ A Cowboy

By Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/ Historian 

For those of you who would like to hear what it's really like to be a Cowboy, I thought I would write down a few stories of my life.

This story relays to my time on one of the ranches back in the late '90s and early 2000s called the Cobra, which is a fairly small outfit of a little over 60,000 acres of mountainous very rough country that could kill you and your horse if you weren’t careful. 

The Cobra is located in an area called Klondike Arizona, not much there but a small general store with the post office located within it, and from what I hear it’s now gone.

This area only consisted of cattle ranches at that time which is located about 58 miles of dirt road from either Wilcox or Safford Arizona. Because of the distance on the old rocky dirt road we only went to town about every two weeks and sometimes only once a month to get supplies and maybe have a drink or two or three and sometimes more at one of the local beer joints. We took advantage of goin’ to town.

My pard Jeff whom I had worked with on other outfits took over the Cobra as ranch manager and he asked me to join him and being we were best of friends I never even gave it a second thought. This outfit had been only taken care of by an old couple who just watched over the place and it had been let go for quite a while with the state threatening to pull the leases.

Now the next thing to understand is this outfit was a purebred longhorn ranch and many of them hadn’t seen people in probably three years being up in the rough mountain pastures. These longhorns were wild, mean, and fast. We wore out two horses a day at times rounding these critters up and pushing them down to the ranch area. 

You had to push these cattle like buffalo, slow and easy only guiding them as best you could. when some would brake away you just let them go as not to lose the main body and came back later to gather them once more. You didn’t use your rope much on these critters but if you did you had to heal them because if you headed them you might not get your rope back for a while and sometimes they would turn and come up your rope a hooking with those double twist horns trying to gut your horse and you also.

I remember one time I was working with one-eyed Luke and yes he had only one eye. Jeff and Roddy roped this big cow by the head and heal, and sucked it to the ground while we had to brand it. 

This cow hadn’t seen people in lord knows how long and I guessed this cow to be about three years old. Well, when we finished I went to pull the head rope but hadn’t quite cleared the horns when Luke pulled the foot rope, this onery bitch came up before I could get out of the way and hit me, goring me slightly in the left leg and threw me what felt like ten feet in the air and maybe fifteen feet away before hitting the ground. I jumped up quick because that bitch was coming fast but I got to the side of the pen and clambered up to the top real quick. After that, I looked at old Luke and said “Next time look at me with your good eye”

There is much more to tell about when it came to a few of the guys getting hurt, and a few were hurt pretty badly but I do not wish to get into that part. Every day the dangers were there, if not because of the terrain, horse wrecks, or shale cliffs it was those wild ass longhorns themselves. 

Anyway, maybe this little insight I am giving you can give you a slight idea of what it’s like to be a working Cowboy.

Terry McGahey

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Captain Jack Was Put To Sleep

About a week ago, I came home to find that one of our horses was in a bad way. He was a horse that I called Captain Jack. When I walked up to him, I knelt down next to him and listened. He lay there and moaned and groaned in agony. 

The old guy was suffering so much, but had to I try to get him on his feet. And I did twice. Each time it was only for a few seconds. Finally, he was too weak and in pain to move. And no, I don't blame him for refusing to get up. He was in deep trouble, and I knew what he needed me to do. Be merciful.

Back in January of 2013, I wrote a story about getting Captain Jack. I wrote about how it was over a year after losing my bay horse Murphy that I finally decided to look for another riding horse. I wanted to get back in the saddle. 

I was told about this horse that one of the local cowboys owned - and was looking to sell. The cowboy was getting ready to move to Wyoming and was selling his horses that weren't making the trip with him. I met him and he told me about a horse that he called "Captain Jack." So why call him Captain Jack? They called him Captain Jack Sparrow the pirate because he was blind in his left eye. One eye was good but the other was blind. And frankly, the cowboy who owned him got him like that so he didn't know how Jack lost his eye.  

That cowboy was looking for a buyer who would give Jack a good home. He already knew that I have a few horses, and he knew that I'd give Jack a good home if I bought him. 

Jack was a stout strong well-muscled Quarter Horse. Jack was built very strong and beefy, wide chest, and straight legs, with an all-around good temperament. That cowboy assured me that Jack was a good riding horse for trail riding and for moving cows. But, he also was honest enough to tell me that Jack was a lousy rope horse. I found out later that that was only half-true. He wasn't a great rope horse, but he wasn't bad when you worked with him. His problem roping had to do with his having only his right eye. 

I started thinking about where he'd end up if I didn't buy him. And yes, as is the case these days, I knew really well that a lot of horses are looking for good homes. Also as is the case today, more and more owners are having to get rid of their horses simply because of how expensive horse can be to keep. 

Because people can't keep them, mostly because of the cost of boarding or the price of feed or both, a lot of horses are ending up in shelters, animal control, and rescue operations. So okay, maybe times haven't changed that much at all.

My wife and I have taken in a few horses who might have ended up in horrible situations. They are horses just looking for homes. All they want is a place where they can live out their days. They eat and seem happy. 

As I said back in 2013, when looking back on how I got my boy Murphy, and the miserable condition he was in when I bought him, he was surely a rescue horse. In Murphy's case, because he was too much horse for the owner and she couldn't ride him, she stopped feeding him on a regular basis to save money. Imagine that if you would. You buy a horse and then realize that he's too much to handle, so you starve him and let his hooves go to ruin.

My first impression of Captain Jack was that he was built like the old-style classic American Quarter Horses of years gone by. The American Quarter Horse has seen a lot of changes over the years. Some say breeders have introduced too much Thoroughbred blood into the breed. 

The American Quarter Horse is the most popular horse breed in the entire world. Quarters Horses have the ability to outdistance other horse breeds in races of a quarter mile or less. Some folks have clocked them at speeds of up to 55 mph. Breeders intermingle Thoroughbred bloodlines with the American Quarter Horse breed to create some of the best racing horses in history. Besides now having issues with health and soundness, another problem with trying to breed more speed into modern Quarter Horse bloodlines is that they are breeding down the size and structure of the American Quarter Horse. 

The classic American Quarter Horse of yesteryear had a compact body that was well-suited to the intricate and speedy maneuvers required in reining, cutting, barrel racing, and calf roping. They were big, strong, sturdy-looking, and had a bulldog-style build with lots of muscle, thick bones, and good feet for working cows, gatherings, and trail riding.

The classic American Quarter Horse is said to have a small, short, refined head with a straight profile, and a strong, well-muscled body, featuring a broad chest and large powerful rounded hindquarters. Quarter Horses should not be tall and leggy and sleek like Thoroughbreds. But instead, lower to the ground at about 15 hands tall.

Captain Jack was definitely a stocky type of classic Quarter Horse. He was a stocky, tough, all-purpose cow horse. He had alert ears and a blaze that crossed his face from his good right eye to his muzzle, sort of diagonal down his face. Because of the blaze going diagonally down his face, at times, he looked as though his head was tilted when it wasn't.

His chest was wide and broad, forelegs are set wide apart. At about 15 hands, he was not tall. He had a straight profile, a short back, and a very strong well-muscled body. In fact, his shoulder muscles caught my eye the first time that I saw him. As for his disposition, he had a good disposition and was all in all pretty gentle. Where some horses can be a pain in the rump because they're either too skittish or pushy, Captain Jack has always calm and easy to be around.

It was always interesting how he has learned to compensate pretty well without his left eye. God has given us two eyes for a reason. The reason is to see things better in stereo so to say, which enables us to have better depth perception and such. Of course, it was always sort of amusing to see the other horse go to his blindside to steal his hay. 

Jack was basically a Quarter Horse who looked and acted like what Quarter Horses used to be. And yes, in his case, like the greater percentage of Quarter Horses out there, he was a sorrel. I really liked the way he was built, and his disposition was great. 

When I first rode Jack, he stood calm and easy the whole time I saddled him. I was a little surprised that he didn't take in air like Murphy used to do when I would cinch him up on the first go. Jack took my bit and bridle easy enough and wasn't head-shy. These were all really good signs.

After I had him saddled, I climbed aboard and asked my wife how he looked? Knowing that I was talking about what happened when I climbed atop our 16.2 hands Thoroughbred and his hind end buckled on the first try, and on the second try just stood there with his legs shaking, she laughed and said Jack was just standing on three legs. Yes, he was so calm and at ease that he had one leg lifted cocked, and relaxed. It was as if indicating that he'd have no problem packing me at all.

After that, I rode him around the round pen. I was looking for his movement and sense of direction. Besides making sure he could carry me since I'm definitely on the heavy side, more than anything else I wanted to see if he had problems turning in the direction of his bad eye. I wanted to see if his not having one eye would be a hindrance of some sort. I'm happy to report that it wasn't.

I was very happy to buy Captain Jack. And yes, he was a little ornery with the other horses while they establish the new pecking order. Of course, I let nature take its course and let them work things out. It wasn't long before everything settled down and Jack elected himself boss. 

So how old was he? Well, when I bought him, I was told he was 9 years old. Later, I found out that he was much older than that. And while I really missed not riding and I wanted to get back in the saddle, I'm happy to say that Jack served to help me fill that yearning. And yes, all in all, even while just having one eye, he was a great riding horse. At least he was while I could still ride. 

As for working cows, I really don't know how "cowy" he was because I had to stop doing gatherings and pennings not too long after bringing him home. And no, I'm sure he didn't mind accepting a life of luxury and ease. All he really had to do was boss around the other horses and wait for me to come out and talk with him, groom him, and spoil him a little. As for finding him a pirate's "eye patch" for his bad eye? I never did. 

Over the last couple of months or so, he took ill and started losing a lot of weight. It's so hard to keep weight on some older horses and I did everything that I could to put the weight back on him. My wife and I both thought he was looking a lot better about a few days before his end. Then he took a turn for the worse and it was not something that I really thought would happen. 

Let me be as straight with you as I can about this. I have never met anyone who enjoys putting their horse down. To me, it's the absolutely worse duty that a horse owner has. And frankly, I really don't think horse owners even like thinking about having to put a horse to sleep. 

Sadly, though, whether we call it "putting them to sleep" or "putting them down," it's something that all horse owners may have to do. And while I've had to put down other horses, certainly more than I've ever wanted to, putting Jack down was one of the hardest things that I've had to do as an owner. 

It's just a fact of life that a lot of horses don't die from natural causes. Putting a horse down over a serious injury or an illness that cannot be treated is tough. And yes, I've heard of owners putting a horse down because they reached old age and their condition had deteriorated to such an extent that they simply no longer had an acceptable quality of life. 

And of course, no horse should have to go through unnecessary pain or distress when putting them down can prevent your horse from suffering. Having to put your horse to sleep is never an easy decision to make. Yes, take it from me, it can be very upsetting for you as an owner to do what you know needs to be done -- even when you know it is the right thing to do. 

When I got home, I found him on the ground in so much pain. I refused to believe he was unable to stand. But soon, I stopped trying. Old Captain Jack had run out his string. And yes, I needed to be merciful and do what was right. So I did what was needed. 

For me, I see my only saving grace, the thing that helps me understand that things like this happen to those of us who give horses good homes, is my knowing that I did give Jack a good home for his last years. Like many horses that would have ended up in who knows where, maybe even a Killers Auction, he deserved a good home. And really, he had one here. It was a place where he could wait for me to come out and talk with him, brush him, and spoil him a little. 

Tom Correa

Monday, August 7, 2023

It's Time To Be An American First

By Terry McGahey
Associate Writer/ Historian

One of the problems I see going on in this country today besides the radical and special interest groups is the American people themselves. People today, as in yesteryears, with much of our population, they have a tendency to refer to themselves by their ethnic background first such as African American, Irish American, Mexican American, Ukrainian American, and so on and so forth.

We the people of this country need to call ourselves Americans first with the ethnic background second. We need to all become Americans first which may start to bring us together somewhat instead of divided as we are now. 

When claiming ethnicity in front of "American," it automatically divides us from other ethnic groups, which believe it or not adds to the division of people in this country.

For example, I heard a friend of mine once say he was from Ukraine because he is of Ukrainian descent. In reality, he was born in this country and his folks were from Ukraine. He is an American with Ukrainian blood. It really hurts my heart to hear people use their blood background first rather than second.

I don’t know how much it may help to heal what's happened to our great nation. But folks should start being Americans first, then maybe we could find a way to start coming back together as a country.

Friday, August 4, 2023


William J Howard- on his 97th Birthday

as told by Capt. W J Howard

The San Francisco Chronicle, April 28, 1907

Despite the fact that more than eighty years measure his age, Capt. W. J Howard recently made the long trip from Mariposa County to Berkeley alone in a covered wagon. He left his large holding in Mariposa to make an extended visit with son, Royal T Howard, of South Berkeley. The Captain has an extremely interesting history that should appeal to every resident of California, because of the fact that he is the sole survivor of the California Rangers, the famous troop which in the early days succeeded in brining peace to the newly discovered gold county and law to the new State. With the years all the members of the Rangers have passed away and Capt. Howard has reached his twilight days.

The captain is enjoying a peaceful old age. He tells his children and his children's children of the many adventures he has met, but has given up looking for them. He has adapted himself to most of the modern appliances, but there are several things he finds it difficult to take up. One of them is the railroad. As long as he can make his way on horseback or in a wagon, he will have nothing to do with the steam cars.


Howard was breveted captain in the Mexican war. He was one of the twenty men appointed in 1853 by Gov. Bigler to suppress the lawlessness then rife. These men, later known as the California Rangers, were selected by a special act of the legislature empowering the governor to appoint this civil guard. It was at this time that the famous bandit, Joaquin Murietta, was terrorizing the southern pat of the State, and things had come to such a pass that it became absolutely necessary that Murietta be captured. A reward of $3,00 was offered for the body of the Mexican desperado.

Murietta, as Capt. Howard tells the story, had become the leader of a band which stopped at nothing. Several murders were charged again him; he was accused of horse stealing and other serious offenses in the category of crime were chalked up against him. Of the twenty men who were appointed to hunt down the outlaw, Harry Love was chosen as Captain.

At the time of the gold excitement the Mexicans, who had flocked in large numbers, worked with a small bowl. The Americans came with their cradles and later with their sluice boxes, and long toms and commenced hydraulicing. When the Mexican saw that they were being beaten in the race for wealth they became jealous and envious and finally showed their displeasure with murder. It became so serious that it was unsafe for Americans to leave their tents and cabins. Out of this friction emerged Murietta, the greatest bandit of early California days. His depredations became such that it was necessary to organize a well armed and brave body of men to hunt him down.


All this the captain tells in a hearty, pioneer fashion. "The rangers started out in May, 1853," to quote Howard. "We had order to ransack every nook from Marysville to Los Angeles to find Murietta. At the same time we were to look for two other men, Joaquin Corillo and Joaquin Vallanzuela. These were also desperate men, and we were taking no chances with any of them.

"On July 1 we received word that Murietta had stolen horses in Los Angeles. A plan was formed whereby the company was divided, one section shirting the coast and the other going through Fort Tejon. When we arrived a Los Angeles we found that Murietta had left. We also received definite information that he had fifteen men in his band. Stocked with his knowledge, we started back through Fort Tejon. We ascertained from the Indians, who had sold them food and buckskins, what route the had taken, and two days later we came upon the outlaw's camp.

"The camp was situated in a little cup of a valley , and we had the desperadoes surrounded before they were aware of their danger. A battle took place, which resulted in the total rout of the bandits, thirteen being killed and two taken prisoners. You see, we had this bad gang on the hip, and, although they put up a good fight, we put up a better one and came out ahead.


"The fierce Murietta himself was killed. When the fighting was at its height , Murietta jumped upon his horse and attempted to escape. One of the rangers, John White by name, and fine, brave fellow, gave chase and opened fire upon the bandit, wounding him and bringing him to bay. He then commenced parleying with him, and it was at this juncture that the rest of us approached. We saw the two men in consultation, and, fearing that Joaquin would do White an injury, we opened fire and killed the bandit. It would have been avoided, but there are men who are too eager and will make trouble.

"It was finally decided that in order to show the government that the notorious robber was dead it would be necessary to have proof of his identity. In order to do this Murietta's head was cut off. One of the prisoners was asked who his companion had been, and he refused to answer. One of the rangers, I don't remember which, held the head before the captured bandit and threatened to decapitate him if he would not tell. The Mexican made a proud gesture, threw up his head, and informed him he could cut away.

The threat was not carried out, however, and the prisoner was tied to a horse and we started on our return journey with him. We also made fast our other prisoner. One of these, the one who had so boldly defied us, we were destined to lose. Just before we come to a slough where passing was dangerous, we loosened the thongs which held him, and when we came to a place in the slough a little deeper than in the other portions he threw himself from the horse. 

He plunged in to the water and sank rapidly to the bottom, not more than six feet deep, where he clung to the tulle's. George Chase was an expert swimmer, and tried to save the man, but the Mexican held fast and met his death in this manner. We voted him a brave man.


The other prisoner we took to Fresno, which in the early days was known as Millerton. Two weeks later he was hanged. For all this time he was hand-cuffed to me. He told me that he was not a bandit, but had been captured by Murietta. I believed he told the truth, but justice was swift in those days, and the Mexican's story was not generally believed. When we came to Millerton we had the head of Murietta placed in alcohol by Dr. Leach. Later it was identified, and we received our reward. 

We also brought back with us the hand of the infamous desperado, Three-fingered Jack, which was also put in alcohol. Three-fingered Jack put up a great fight, and was shot three times, at least twice fatally, before he finally succumbed. He fired his gun after he ahd been shot through the heart.

"Some time later the head of Murietta was taken to San Francisco, where it was placed on exhibition. It cost the curious twenty-five cents apiece to see the sight. Afterward it was taken to New York City, where it was again exhibited. In later years it was in Robinson's Museum, in San Francisco. At the time of the late fire it was lost and it is not known now what has become of it."

"Although our band had several close calls, there were not fatalities. We were in organization three months after this, at the end of which time peace was restored. We received $150 a month for our services. Never since did the Mexicans resort to any desperate acts of violence. We had succeeded in bringing them within the pale of the law.


"I would like to say a word concerning the wife of Murietta. It has been said that she was mistreated by the Americans, and that it was for this reason that Murietta became a bandit. I know that these stories are false. I had the best of opportunities for knowing the woman because for a considerable time she lived near me when I was camped down close to Hornitos. She was an extremely beautiful woman and was known as "Queen:" on account of her beauty and regal ways. At one time she bet me ten bottles of champagne, which was then extremely dear, that she was a better marksman than I. A soda water bottle was placed at sixty yards. I had no trouble in winning the wager, having always been proficient with a riffle. Not being a drinking man, I thanked her and refused the wine.

"There have also been a great number of stories told of Murietta which are not true. For example, he was never tied to a tree and whipped by the miners. Bancroft's history covering this period is in error. I would like to show up these errors, but I'm getting on in years now and don't think I will ever put the true facts in print. I am a much better man with a rifle that I am with a pen."

The captain has completed most of the manuscript of a book dealing with the stirring times in which he had taken part, but in a recent fire this labor of a long period was destroyed. He believes he will not rewrite it.


Capt. Howard was born in Virginia August 26, 1826. In spite of his extreme age, he is hale and hearty. He has lived an outdoor life always. Since 1849 he has lived in California. Before he became a Ranger he fought the Indians and met with many adventures while thus employed. He has served several terms in the State legislature, has held county offices, and for years has been successfully a farmer.

Capt. Howard's life has been a series of adventure. In the many years that he has been a resident of California he has met with his fill of happenings, and if he should put the thrilling chain of events in which he played a part in their order in a book he would supply the reading public not only with an interesting volume, but of historical and instructive value. Conditions have changed since Capt. Howard helped to subdue the lawlessness of the early '50's in this State. 

Today there is a new order of things, and a change which leaves no room for the rejuvenation of the old days when a gun was law and a rope in the willing hands of the vigilantes was used to enforce order. It was in these days that Capt. Howard was a competent actor, and was recognized as such by the men of his time. He was intrusted with many dangerous missions, often held the life of a man in his hand, and never took advantage of an unequal combat.

It was while Capt. Howard was holding the position of Sheriff at different times in Mariposa County that he showed anew what he could do as a peace officer. He was responsible for the deserts of many criminals and cleared up more than one mystery of murder and robbery. And all the time he held that office he never mistreated a prisoner. Kindness was his principle and with this he did more than has ever been done by force.


Captain Howard has the following to say concerning his first adventure with the Indians: "in the year 1859 I owned the Buena Vista ranch, about four miles southwest of the town of Hornitos, on Burn's Creek, and in December of that year I had a large number of horses and mules stolen by the Indians. As soon as I discovered my loss I organized a party of twenty men and, after striking a trail of the despredators, we followed it as far as the Mormon Bar, where we met Maj. James Burney, who, in command of a body of volunteers, was out after the Indians also.

"We at once joined forces, and with Maj. Burney in command our force of over sixty men with James D. Savage as guide, resumed the trail. On the Second day out, Savage made report that the village was not very far off as he had heard the Indians singing.

"When we received the order to charge the enemy, we did so with a rush, scattering the Indians in all directions, but they soon rallied and as many of them were armed with old Spanish riles, they commenced to make warm work for us. Suddenly it occurred to me that I could charge to better advantage from behind a tree, and acting on this impulse I sought the shelter of a large pine. 

Evidently the same thought had occurred to the others , as I found that Maj. Burney and John Sylvester were already in possession. However, the tree was large and we made it a point to stay close together.
"The first of our men to fall was Lieut. E. Skeqane, then Bill Little, who was shot in three different places. A little later Charles Houston got a bullet through his neck and Dick Tilasan had his nose shot away.


"Then to make matters worse (for me) I met with what I felt sure was a mortal wound. I exposed myself a little too much, and an Indian took a pot shot at me, which tore away the whole side of my face (at least I thought so), and toppled me over. Burney and Sylvester quickly pulled me back behind our friendly shelter where with hands pressed tightly over my mutilated face, I told them of the serious nature of the wound and called attention to the blood that was trickling through my fingers.

"They pulled my hands down to see how badly I was hurt, and then they burst in to a hearty laugh. 'Why', they said 'you are not hurt at all, you are only crying,' and to my intense relief I found this to be true. The heavy ball from the Indain's gun had scaled off a large piece of bark from our tree, and this had struck me in the face with such force that it stunned me, and brought the tears to my eyes."


The following list was the personnel of the Rangers, as given by Capt. Howard: Harry Love, captain, was killed in Santa Cruz in a feud; Gen. B. Edward Conner died in San Francisco; William Burns, died in Stockton; Charles Bludworth, killed Snelling, Merced County, Thomas T Howard, died in Galveston; W. J. Henderson, died in Fresno; John White, killed at Fort Tejon; William Campbell, died at Kings River; Edward Campbell, died at Kings River; Augusta Black, killed in the civil war; Dr. Hollister, died in San Jose; Robert McMasters, died in Sacramento; George Evans, died in Santa Cruz; John Nutall, killed at Nicaragua; George Nutall, died in Stockton; Nicholas Ashmore, killed at Salt Lake; James Norton, killed at Salt Lake; Ned Van Buren, killed in Contra Costa County, George Chase, drowned in the Fresno River, and Capt. W. J. Howard, living.

Transcribed by C. Feroben

I found this published online in the Mariposa County Family Chronicles, and it appears here as it did in The San Francisco Chronicle in 1907. I have not corrected the spelling or punctuation.  

The following link will take you to the in-depth book The Last of the California Rangers written by author Jill Crosely-Batts in 1928. It is an excellent read.

Tom Correa

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Thomas Egan - An Innocent Man Hanged 3 Times With 2 Different Ropes

No one believed he was innocent when he was hanged in 1882. No one thought they were making a mistake when Thomas Egan became the first man "legally" hanged in Sioux Falls in the Dakota Territory. It's said that everyone was so determined to see him hang that he was actually hanged 3 times and with 2 different ropes before all was said and done. That's what took place near what is today the Old Courthouse Museum in Minnehaha County, South Dakota.

Today, there is a historical plaque marking the spot where Thomas Egan was hanged. It reads:

The Hanging of an Innocent Man Marker 

Early day justice in Minnehaha County, Dakota Territory, overlooked innocence when gallows were erected near this site for the hanging of Thomas Egan, a pioneer immigrant farmer from County Tipperary in Ireland. Egan settled in Dakota in 1876.

Egan was arrested, tried, convicted, and hanged for causing the death of his wife, Mary. She was murdered in September 1880, on the family homestead farm 20 miles northwest of Sioux Falls, north of Hartford. She was found in the cellar of their sod home, dead from a bloody beating.

The suspicion of neighbors, which promptly spread through the community, centered on Thomas Egan. He was immediately taken into custody and placed in jail in Sioux Falls where he remained until the hanging. Many years later, a surprising revelation would prove his complete innocence.

Mary Hayden Lyons was a widow with a five-year-old daughter, Catherine, when she married Thomas Egan, in 1866, in Madison, Wisconsin. When the couple later moved, Catherine remained behind with relatives. Three sons, Sylvester, John, and Tommy, were born to Thomas and Mary Egan before Catherine rejoined the household in Dakota Territory. Soon thereafter, on November 23, 1879, Catherine married a neighbor, James Van Horn. 

During the trial, James and Catherine Van Horn testified for the prosecution, a fact which angered Thomas Egan greatly.

When the day of sentencing arrived, Territorial Judge Jefferson P. Kidder asked Thomas Egan if he had anything to say. With an angry scowl he replied, “Judge, I have nothing against anybody in the Court, or anybody around the country, except the Van Horns. They betrayed me and may the curse of God be upon them. I can stand it, Sir. The law may not reach the Van Horns, but the curse of God will.”

Catherine Van Horn lived 45 years with the words of her stepfather ringing in her ears. 

On June 3, 1927, on her death bed, at age 65, in Seattle, Washington, she confessed that she had killed her mother. She wrote, "Back in South Dakota in the early ‘80’s I killed my mother. We quarreled and I hit her again and again over the head until she died. No one ever suspected me. My stepfather, Thomas Egan, was hung for the crime. He died vowing his innocence."

It took three drops from the hangman's trap door on July 13, 1882, to end the life of Thomas Egan. On the first drop, the rope broke and Egan was carried back to the platform. On the second drop, a deputy inadvertently broke Egan's fall and the hanging man was dragged to stand on the trap door a third time. Following the third drop, the official physician declared him dead.

-- end of the inscription on the historical marker.

Reading about this. One has to wonder if Thomas Egan knew who the killer was but instead decided to protect them. Is that why he felt betrayed by James and Catherine Van Horn when they testified for the prosecution?  

Thomas Egan was born in County Cork, Ireland in 1835. His family immigrated to America during "The Great Irish Famine" which started in the mid-1840s. It was a time of starvation in Ireland because crops of potatoes were destroyed by a blight. The blight was so bad that it caused a famine that resulted in about one million deaths between 1845 and 1851. During that time, it's estimated that a million Irish emigrated to other lands -- including some coming to the United States.

How badly did that famine impact Ireland? Well, between starvation, hunger-related diseases, and those who fled for other lands, Ireland lost a quarter of its entire population. In America, many Irish families found life tough. 

In 1866, Thomas Egan married widow Mary Hayden Lyons in Madison, Wisconsin. When they were married, she already had a 5-year-old daughter, Catherine. The Egans left Wisconsin and moved to the Dakota Territory in 1876. Catherine, by then 15 years old, stayed with her mother's relatives. 

Thomas and Mary Egan had three more sons together and lived northwest of Sioux Falls. Catherine wouldn't join the rest of her family in the Dakota Territory until late in 1879. After arriving in Dakota Territory is when 18-year-old Catherine met and married James Van Horn.

On September 9, 1880. Mary Egan went missing. A search was started and on September 12, her body was discovered in the cellar of their sod home. It had been three days before her body was found dead in the cellar of the Egan's sod home north of Hartford. 

Details were printed in newspapers after the trial reported that her husband was guilty of her murder. It was reported that on the morning of September 12, Thomas Egan sent their children, Sylvester, John and Tommy, away so "he could carry out his grim task." 

The newspapers reported that "He approached her as she washed dishes, threw a rope around her neck and began to strangle her. While she was incapacitated, he brutally beat her about the head with a club until he was sure she was done for. After that, he threw her in the basement through a trapdoor in the floor. She was found three days later, having moved toward a wall and into a semi-reclining position. This suggested that she may have expired after a fair amount of time had elapsed. Neighbors were horrified and testified that the couple argued often. Thomas Egan was arrested quickly."

By December 1881, Thomas Egan had been tried and found guilty of murder. In May 1882, he was refused a new trial. It was then that Judge Jefferson Kidder sentenced him to death by hanging on July 13, 1882, in Sioux Falls. Upon hearing his sentence, Egan reportedly said, “Amen, I guess I can stand it.” 

She had been brutally murdered, and at least one newspaper, the Sioux Falls Pantagraph, tried to suggest that he may have been the same man who was implicated in a brutal murder in Minnesota in 1864. Of course that wasn't true. But that didn't matter. 

And as for you folks who will write to remind me that I use a lot of period newspapers as sources and to remind me that I should be aware of their bias and untruths even back in the day, I want to assure you that I know about that. That's the reason why I try to check things out before running a story only based on what a newspaper reported. 

Just as some Old West History writers embellish an event to make it that much more decorative, even if it means getting the facts wrong. I've read several writers who insert their personal opinions and present faulty conclusions while using adjectives to describe things that in many cases they don't know if factual or not. Newspaper writers do the same while dramatizing an event to inflame their readers. That's always been the case. 

I had a journalism teacher many years ago who said "Readers need to take the personal bias and commentary, along with the adjectives out of a news story if a reader wants to find the truth of what took place." Below is a perfect example of using supposition and conjecture to inflame readers  -- while also getting the facts completely wrong. Which, in the case of Thomas Egan, was years later determined to be the case.

The twice-botched hanging was covered in detail in newspapers of the day. Note below how this syndicated news story about the murder and the trial was not even close to really what took place. 


The Execution of Thomas Egan, the Wife Murderer, at Sioux Falls, Dak — The Drop Fails Three Times Before the Culprit is Deprived of Life, Owing to Rotten Ropes.

On Thursday, July 13, occurred at Sioux Falls the first judicial hanging ever done in the territory of Dakota. Nearly two years ago Thomas Egan, who suffered the death penalty, most foully and cruelly murdered his wife, with whom he had lived for nearly a quarter of a century. From evidence produced at the trial it would appear that 
they had frequent quarrels which at length culminated on this fatal morning in her death. 

He deliberately sent the children away, and while she was washing dishes at the table came behind her, and after throwing a rope around her neck and strangling her, pounded the life out of her with a club. The body was then thrown through a trap door into the cellar, where it was found three days after, horribly mutilated. The skull was fractured and the head was covered with frightful gashes made by the club. It appeared also as if she were not dead when thrown down, as she was discovered partly reclining against the call [sic] of the cellar, which added to the horribleness of the crime. Eagen [sic] was arrested and tried, and although there was every effort made by his attorneys to save him; he was convicted and sentenced to be hanged at Sioux Falls by Judge Kidder of the Fourth judicial district of the territory.

On Thursday, 13th, after eating a hearty breakfast, hearing the sentence read, and some religious exercises by a Catholic priest, Eagan [sic] was taken to the gallows. All eyes were intently fixed on the prisoner. His face was somewhat pale, but his lips were firm and he seemed to exhibit no sign of fear. He was a straight, heavy-set man, weighing 180 lbs., with a retreating forehead, heavy projecting eyebrows and an ugly looking eye. His general appearance was far from prepossessing. He was dressed in a plain black suit, with clean white shirt, collar and tie, and low shoes. He walked straight up to the platform to the scaffold, taking his place on the fatal trap, turned around and faced the crowd below.

The sheriff now asked him if he had any thing to say, but his lips still were kept sealed to his secret, and he shook his head and answered in a low voice, “No.” His legs were now tied, he himself assisting the officer by placing his feet close together. The black cap was put on his head, but not a limb quivered. The noose was adjusted and the fatal moment had come. While the priests were chanting their solemn service, and while the attending officers and crowd were holding their breath in silence, the sheriff touched the trigger which alone kept Thomas Egan from his death. There was a crash as the door flew back against the boards and body, deprived of its footing, shot through the door, and now, horror or horrors!

The rope snaps like a piece of thread, the body drops to the earth with a dull thud, partly on its back, and rebounding rolls over on its face. The crowd are paralyzed with astonishment and fear. An unearthly gurgling sound now breaks forth from the prisoner. 

His neck is not broken, but the cord is wound tightly about it and he is strangling. A half a dozen men now rush forward, one seizes him by the arm, another by the leg, another by the waist, another by the head. It is seventy-five feet from the ground, where he has fallen, back to the jail-door, and around to the platform of the scaffold he is hurriedly conveyed through the crowd, the broken rope in the meanwhile dangling from his neck, while his horrible groaning strikes terror to the bystanders. 

Once more on the scaffold, another rope is adjusted and the sickening details once more gone through with, the trap falls again and the half-dead man drops once more; but worse. The rope was not fully adjusted before the excited sheriff again touched the trigger and down the body goes a second time but not with sufficient force to accomplish the desired result.

His neck is still unbroken, and the slow process of suffocation is all this time going on. The attendants seize him by the arms and again pull him on the scaffold while the death struggle continues. The first rope is flopping from his neck and he still has life enough, so one says who was on the scaffold, to brace his feet for the third and last fall. 

If at this juncture some one had mercifully stepped up and put a bullet through his head, it would have been an act which would have certainly been appreciated by the crowd. The rope is finally fixed, the door drops once again, the man shoots down, and there is a snap which is heard all around the yard and outside. There is a shrugging of the shoulders, a twitching of the legs a convulsive shudder and all is still. The body swings slowly around. There is no motion of leg or arm or muscle, and in eight and one half minutes the doctors pronounced him dead, and shortly after the body was taken down. Yes, he is dead at last, and the sightseers heave a genuine sigh of relief. 

The corpse is now cut down and the pinioned arms and legs released. The dirt was brushed from the clothing and body laid in a coffin, where it was afterwards viewed by the crowd, both outside and inside the jail. The effects of the strangulation were fearfully evidence about the neck. The first cord had embedded itself, but the action of the heart had forced the blood under it and the flesh was swollen, purpled and discolored. There was a sightless stare to the eyes and blood was flowing out of the corners of his mouth. After all those desiring had seen the corpse it was boxed up, and early in the afternoon it was taken to the Catholic burying-ground where it was buried, and with it the club and cord with which he killed his wife.

-- end of the circulated news report. 

One writer put it this way, "Nobody in a position to help Egan knew he hadn’t 'most foully and cruelly murdered his wife' or that 'the horribleness of the crime' stained some other’s soul, of course … but one wonders how the writer thinks he did know it."

It was reported that the noose used to hang Thomas Egan "was specially ordered from a company in Lincoln, Nebraska, that manufactured items for just such an occasion. It was woven of silk and hemp and came accompanied by a written guarantee. The rope arrived late on the night before the scheduled hanging. It was not tested." 

It was also reported that "Thomas Egan was given a hearty last breakfast on the morning of his execution, July 13, 1882. He was read the death warrant at 9:10 a.m. His arms were tied, and he was walked to the gallows. At 9:34 a.m., he was placed in position on the trapdoor with the noose adjusted on his neck. At 9:35 a.m., Sheriff Dickson sprung the trap. Egan dropped 5 1/2 feet, at which point the rope snapped with 'a report like a percussion cap.' Egan landed on his feet and fell on his face and stomach, all the while emitting 'a most blood-curdling noise.'

Four men brought him back up to the gallows. A new manila rope was arranged as quickly as possible. They put the new noose on him and the trap was sprung again, but before the rope could be adjusted correctly. Egan was unable to drop far enough to provide him a quick death. He was hauled up and again hanged, though this time correctly. He was pronounced dead at 9:46 a.m. 

The community at large was satisfied that justice was served and that a wife murderer would no longer be counted among their population."

It took three tries to hang Thomas Egan. To me, I can't help but wonder if providence may have been at work. Two botched hangings seem a little more than mere coincidence. How else could there have been so many problems, one after another? And having to use a second rope after the first specially ordered rope apparently rotted and didn't do the job? I can't help but wonder why that happened. 

Of course, someone there knew the truth of what really took place in September of 1880. And yes, the fact is that Thomas Egan's stepdaughter knew the truth and didn't do a thing to save her stepfather even after his hangings failed twice. Instead, she let him hang. She let the world call him a "Wife Murderer." She allowed the world to think that Thomas Egan was a killer when she knew that he wasn't.

She waited for 45 years before she decided to tell the truth about what happened to her mother. She waited until her stepfather was long dead and she lay on her deathbed before she confessed to what got her stepfather hanged. 

It's true. On June 3, 1927, Thomas Egan’s stepdaughter, Catherine Van Horn, died. But, before she died, she told witnesses there at her side about what took place in September 1880. Some say "she relieved her soul of the burden which she had carried since September 1880." Some may disagree that it burdened her at all. Either way, it was then that she admitted that not only had she killed her mother in the Dakota Territory, present-day South Dakota, but that she had willingly let her stepfather hang for it.

And to some, like me, I see Catherine Van Horn as a double-murderer. She not only brutally killed her mother, she could have certainly stopped her stepfather from being hanged -- but didn't. Instead, she actually assisted the prosecution when she knew he was innocent. 

Tom Correa