I thought I’d share some interesting findings. Since I spent summers in Texas as a child, I had inside information on several facts. The other snippets came from watching the History channel and reading a multitude of historical documents. The information is in parentheses are my personal discoveries.
Feral camels once roamed the plains of Texas.
The U.S. Camel Corps was established in 1856 at Camp Verde, Texas. Reasoning that the arid southwest was a lot like the deserts of Egypt, the Army imported 66 camels from the Middle East. Despite the animals’ more objectionable qualities—they spat, regurgitated and defied orders—the experiment was generally deemed a success. (Camels can kick side-ways with all four feet.) The Civil War curtailed the experiment and Confederates captured Camp Verde. After the war, most of the camels were sold (some to Ringling Brothers’ circus) and others escaped into the wild. The last reported sighting of a feral camel came out of Texas in 1941. Presumably, no lingering descendants of the Camel Corps’ members remain alive today.
Billy the Kid wasn’t left-handed.
A famous tintype photograph of Billy the Kid shows him with a gun belt on his left side. For years, the portrait fueled assumptions that the outlaw, born William Bonney, was left-handed. However, most tintype cameras produced a negative image that appeared positive once it was developed, meaning the result was the reverse of reality. There’s another reason we know Billy the Kid was thus a right handed. His Winchester Model 1873 lever-action rifle--Winchester only made 1873s that load on the right.
The famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral wasn’t much of a shootout and didn’t take place at the O.K. Corral.
One of the most famous gunfights in history—the shootout between the three Earp brothers (Morgan, Virgil and Wyatt), Doc Holliday, Billy Claireborne, the two Clanton brothers (Billy and Ike) and the two McLaury brothers (Frank and Tom)—didn’t amount to time-frame often depicted on the Silver Screen. Despite the involvement of eight people, the gunfight only lasted about 30 seconds. Furthermore, the shootout didn’t take place within the O.K. Corral at all. Instead, all the shooting occurred near the current intersection of Third Street and Fremont Street in Tombstone, Arizona, which is behind the corral itself. (I have visited the area. Tombstone is brutally hot in the summer. The incest large. ) Bloodshed made up for the brevity. Three of the lawmen were injured and three of the cowboys killed.
The Long Branch Saloon of “Gunsmoke” fame really did exist in Dodge City
Anyone who watched the television show “Gunsmoke” is well acquainted with Miss Kitty’s Long Branch Saloon of Dodge City, Kansas. What viewers may not have realized is that the Long Branch really did exist. No one knows exactly what year it was established, but the original saloon burned down in the great Front Street fire of 1885. The saloon was later resurrected and now serves as a tourist attraction featuring a reproduction bar with live entertainment. According to the Boot Hill Museum, the original Long Branch Saloon served milk, tea, lemonade, sarsaparilla, alcohol and beer.
What did Cowboy really eat?
Cowboy food used a limited number of ingredients, partly because imported foods were expensive and partly because they needed food that kept well on the cattle trail. Coffee was an essential part of breakfast, which was large and high in fats and protein. Lunch was commonly beans, and dinner generally included something sweet like vinegar pie or apple dumplings. Because a large percentage of cowboys were of Mexican origin, spices and flavorings of that cuisine were popular.
Cowboys loved "mountain oysters," sliced and fried calf testicles. These were harvested in the spring when preadolescent bulls were castrated so they would be steers. (Served with horseradish sauce and are very tasty).
The Wild West was Wild.
But when it comes to Western Romance--it's all about the booths, Stetson, and the cowboy who wears them.