Gene W. Baade Books on the West recently issued their Catalogue 1111, which we will translate as meaning it was released in the 11th month of the 11th year of the current century. However, the material offered pertains to the prior two centuries. These, naturally, are books about western America, though one or two may expand the definition a bit wider than usual. Some are very old, others more recent, though even those are generally about events from long ago. Everyone is fascinated by the American West, which means there is something in this catalogue that is bound to interest you. Here are just a few samples.
We will start with a classic of gunfighter books: Triggernometry. A Gallery of Gunfighters. Baade describes this as “part of the core of any collection of gunfighter books.” Published in 1934, author Eugene Cunningham did not repeat the exaggerated legends about the men of whom he wrote, including Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, John Wesley Hardin, Tom Horn, Sam Bass, Bill Longley, and Butch Cassidy. Cunningham researched his subjects carefully, and interviewed old-timers who were familiar with them and their notable events. He then looked at the evidence to determine whether the legends he heard were consistent with the facts. The result is some look better in hindsight, such as Tom Horn of Johnson County War fame, executed for killing a child (Cunningham believes he was innocent). On the other hand, others, such as Wild Bill Hickok, do not fare as well. The three men “Duck Bill” Hickok shot, beginning his legend, Cunningham believes were unarmed (Bill liked “Wild Bill” better than the derogatory “Duck Bill,” which came from his long nose). Item 34. Priced at $400.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, there was only one way for all but the most hearty to visit the West – railroad. The railroad companies were in their heyday, and made much of their money on the tourist trade. Item 171 is a promotional book put out by the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific: The Overland Route to the Road of a Thousand Wonders. The Route of the Union Pacific & the Southern Pacific from Omaha to San Francisco – A Journey of Eighteen Hundred Miles Where Once Bison & the Indian Reigned. It is filled with both text and illustrations, and Baade describes it as, “one of the most attractive railroad tourist promotion books I have seen.” $150.
Item 6 is Dmitri Bayanov's America's Bigfoot: Fact, Not Fiction. Actually, this is fiction, not fact. O.K. I am a skeptic. Bayanov is a Russian expert, apparently, on hominoids, a classification that includes humans, apes, and Bigfoot, if it exists. The Russians obtained a copy of the famous Patterson film of Sasquatch around 1970. That's the film of what looks like a man walking in a very bad gorilla costume that supposedly proves the existence of Sasquatch, as Bigfoot is also known. The Russians never believed us when we said we had more freedom and material wealth than they had under Communism, but they believed us about Bigfoot. Go figure. Believers will believe, and skeptics will... I don't know the verb form of “skeptic.” $95.
Speaking of Sasquatch filmmaker Roger Patterson, the year before his filmed sighting of the ape-like creature, he published the book Do Abominable Snowmen of America Really Exist? He was already a true believer when he chanced upon Sasquatch with his movie camera in the woods. This title is considered the first book entirely about Sasquatch. Published in 1966. Item 133. $150.
Here is a book about some other unexpected inhabitants of America – Saga America, by Barry Fell, published in 1980. Fell was a marine biologist who wandered into archeology, particularly epigraphy, the study of inscriptions. Fell found lots of them, all over the North American and South American continents. He determined they were from pre-Columbian Old World immigrants. Fell believed these inscriptions were of Arabic, Chinese, and Byzantine Christian origin. I don't know where these people went, but... could it be...Bigfoot? I don't believe Chinese and Arabs are very hairy, but I'm not sure exactly what Byzantine Christians look like. Most anthropologists reached other conclusions about the origin of Fell's “inscriptions,” believing them to be cracks in the rocks, scratches from farm tools, and forgeries. Item 53. $19.50
Item 47 is John Edwards' (not that John Edwards) Y cyfarwyddyd profedig i bob perchen anifeiliaid : sef, disgrifiad cryno ac eglur o'r holl glefydau adnabyddus... You get the idea. Must be some obscure Indian language, or perhaps what Byzantine Christians speak. Actually, not. It's Welsh. This is one of those borderline “western” titles. Wales is a long way from Dodge City, pardner. However, Baade's “on-line translation” of the 1816 title shows how it could have been used by a westerner, albeit one fluent in Welsh - “The proven guide to every owner of animals: namely, a clear and concise description of all known diseases that happen to cows, calves, oxen horses, sheep...” This is a cattleman's book, or a sheepherder or one who raises horses. It doesn't get more western than that. Many Welshmen emigrated to the American West, and perhaps one brought this book along. The most famous Welsh-descended westerner was none other than gunslinger Jesse James, a fact most from Wales would likely be happy to overlook. $350.
Item 147 is the least expensive item in the catalogue, though it comes from a couple of its best known personalities – Happy Trails: The Story of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Roy has sort of faded from the American consciousness now, but at mid-20th century, there was probably no more popular person around, at least among children. Roy Rogers was a singing cowboy, lighting up the big screen with wife Dale Evans, sidekick Gabby Hayes, and, of course, Trigger and Bullet, his trusty horse and dog. Roy's generation will always remember him for his straight shooting, honesty, wholesomeness, singing, and roast beef sandwiches. $5.