Gene W. Baade Books on the West has issued their latest catalogue of western wear – Catalogue 216. This land, bigger than life, where myth intersects with reality at some unknown point, remains one of the most fascinating places on earth. There is no Wild East, no Old East, no dealers in Books on the East, but we can never get enough books on the West. Fortunately, Gene Baade will at least give us a hand toward reaching that goal. Here are a few of the 165 selections this time around.
If you are going to read books on the west, first you need to learn the lingo. Here's where you can learn the language. Item 2 is Western Words. A Dictionary of the American West. It was put together by noted western expert and collector Ramon Adams, this being the 1968 revised edition. It contains thousands of words, ranging from abajador to zorillas. I looked those up for you. "Abajador" is a stable hand. "Zorillas" are Zorro's children. Maybe not. Most likely it refers to striped polecats. For those not familiar with striped polecats, folks back East call them skunks. Priced at $17.50.
Who better to write someone's biography than the person who killed him? Item 56 is The Authentic Life of Billy The Kid the Noted Desperado. The author was Pat Garrett, the Lincoln County Sheriff who shot The Kid in the dark, unarmed. It made him a hero to those who despised Billy, but not to those who saw The Kid as something of a defender of the downtrodden. In reality, it's hard to think of either of these two characters as sterling examples of good behavior. Garrett's motivation in telling this story (from his point of view) was not to preserve the reputation of Billy, who was not that well known outside of New Mexico. It was to enhance his own. Garrett himself would be gunned down years later, with the name of the triggerman still disputed today. No one wrote a biography claiming credit. Garrett's book was first published in 1882. Offered is the 1927 edition edited by Maurice Fulton, who attempted to make the account a bit more accurate. There is some handwritten commentary in this copy which mentions Garrett and speculates on Albert Fall's possible involvement in his death. Fall successfully defended the only person ever brought to trial for Garrett's death, was later elected to the Senate, and served as Secretary of the Interior, from which position he was convicted of taking bribes in the Teapot Dome Scandal and spent time in prison. $100.
Next, we have not just an outlaw, but a whole family of them. The three Dalton Brothers, relatives of the Youngers whose gang gave birth to the James Brothers, made the unwise decision to get into the same business. They were evidently fairly adept at robbing trains, but when they turned to bank robbery, they did not fare so well. They foolishly held up a bank in their hometown, and despite disguises, were quickly recognized. Two of the three brothers were gunned down in the ensuing shootout, while Emmett Dalton survived to write a book about it. It took awhile. He had a lot of lead inside of him, and then was waylaid by 14 years in prison before he was pardoned. Dalton made the most of his notoriety, riding off to Hollywood where he became an actor, a neighbor of Wyatt Earp (we do not know if they met), and wrote this book, When the Daltons Rode, published in 1931. A decade later, the story was made into a movie, but Dalton had died a few years earlier, the toll of all those gunshot wounds finally catching up to him. Item 33. $375.
One of the earliest Americans to visit the West was Zebulon Pike. His journey began in 1805, not long after Lewis and Clark, but he explored the southwestern part of the newly acquired Louisiana Territory, rather than the Northwest. He made it as far as the Rocky Mountains, and discovered, naturally enough, Pike's Peak. He drifted a bit south of the border on his way home and he and his men spent some time as guests of the Spanish in a Mexican prison before being permitted to return home. Pike's original account of his journey was published in 1811. Item 91 is The Journals of Zebulon Montgomery Pike With Letters and Related Documents, edited by Donald Jackson, published in 1966. This book includes his journal along with other material, such as his papers and documents captured by Mexican officials and his correspondence with them. Some of this was published for the first time in this book. $65.
In 1870, 18-year-old Robert Strahorn, on the advice of his physician, moved from Illinois to the Rocky Mountains. After trying his hand at being a cowboy, he decided journalism was more his calling. He became a writer for the Rocky Mountain News, while also serving as a correspondent for the New York Times and other eastern newspapers. He reported on the West, becoming embedded with General Crook's troops during the Sioux War. They all suffered great hardships, chasing Indians rather than fighting them most of the time, often traveling through the bitter cold and snow of winter. At one point they were reduced to eating their horses. And he did this for his health! He reported the fall of Custer. In 1877, he married Carrie Adell Green. A week later, he was offered a job heading up a new publicity department for the Union Pacific Railroad by Jay Gould. He took it on the grounds that "Dell" be allowed to travel with him wherever he went. They traveled by stage, horse, rail, boat, any way necessary throughout the West, writing publicity to entice easterners and foreigners to travel the rails west and help settle the territory. They traveled this way until 1883, when Strahorn began investing in railroads and real estate along the routes himself. He followed this up with seven years back east as an investment banker, still promoting the West, and then returned West, settling in a mansion in Spokane. The Strahorns were now wealthy. In 1911, Carrie Adell Strahorn, a prolific writer like her husband, published Fifteen Thousand Miles by Stage. A Woman's Unique Experience During Thirty Years of Path Finding and Pioneering from Missouri to the Pacific and from Alaska to Mexico. It recounts their years traveling for the Union Pacific plus many more of their adventures and all that they learned about the West. It is also filled with photographs and illustrations by her friend, noted western artist Charlie Russell. Item 147. $235.