Jesse James' Mother, Tom Mix's Horse, & More From Gene W. Baade
By Michael Stillman
Gene W. Baade is offering his Catalogue 505 of "Books on the West." It is certainly an eclectic collection of items you don't often find. They range from old and collectible books to reading copies to more recent publications. The common thread is America's West, and if you share an interest in this subject, then this is a catalogue for you. Here are a few of the items.
We all know the story of Frank and Jesse James, but how about that of their mother, Zerelda James Samuel? Daughter of a respectable Kentucky family, Zerelda married the Reverend Robert James in 1841 at the age of 17. It's hard to imagine what a man of the cloth would think of sons like these, but we will never know, since he died while they were young. She remarried Dr. Reuben Samuel, and both mother and stepfather would be fiercely loyal to the James boys, though their occupation would bring much suffering to the family. The book is titled The Empty Sleeve, and it refers to the right sleeve of her clothing, her arm having been blown off in a raid of her home by Pinkerton detectives. A young son was also killed by the Molotov cocktail-like device thrown through their window. Zerelda was instrumental in promoting the theory that her boys were not criminals, but loyal Confederate soldiers, being persecuted by Radical Republicans for their loyalties. The James brothers had joined a group of Missouri Confederate guerrillas, whose outlaw behavior even the Confederate authorities disowned. It evolved to pure outlawry. However, Zerelda's claim was sufficient to generate support from many who still held onto their Confederate sympathies. Jesse died in 1882, shot in the back of his head for reward money, but Zerelda lived on until 1911. She died on a train trip returning from a visit with her retired, other infamous son, Frank. This 1961 first edition was written by Martha McKelvie, and has her signed presentation. Item 104. Priced at $45.
If we can have a book about Jesse James' mother, how about one on Tom Mix's horse? Tom Mix, for those who have forgotten, and many have, was one of the first cowboys of the silver screen. He was enormously popular, making as much as $10,000 a week in the 1920s, when it took the average citizen a few years to earn that much. Mix was a big favorite of silent movie fans, but his voice was evidently not as appealing as his visual persona. His career slipped along with the economy in the 1930s. But, back in his heyday, before anyone had ever heard of Trigger or Silver, there was Tony the Wonder Horse. Tony learned many tricks, though none quite as spectacular as some portrayed on the screen, such as untying his bound master or running off to summon help in an emergency. Tony appeared in Mix's movies until 1932, when the aging cowboy was no longer confident riding an aged horse. Tony was replaced by Tony II. However, Tony had the good horse sense to retire quietly to the farm. His daring master, who survived all kinds of risky adventures on and off horseback, died in a freak auto accident in 1940, when swerving to avoid road workers in his custom Cord, a suitcase smashed into the back of his head. Tony died two years, to the day, after Tom. The book is Tony and his Pals by H. and F. Christeson, published in 1934. Item 32. $50.