Friday, June 5, 2015

The Wild and Crazy West . . . Some Fact vs Fiction

By: Peggy Henderson

In 1855 congress paid $30,000 to buy and ship camels from Egypt. Someone came up with the idea was that these critters would be better suited for the dry and hot southwest than horses, and could e used for survey and exploration. By the time of the civil war, the army had seventy camels. While some were used in the war camping, other camels escaped into the wild, where they reproduced. For the next hundred or so years, up until 1941, wild camels were part of the wildlife in Texas

 A land of many cultures
Classic Hollywood movies depict the American cowboy as a white tough guy who fought against other white tough guys, with the occasional black and Mexican, or maybe even an Irishman, tossed in.
The truth is that the “wild west” was a place for people of all nationalities. Germans, Swedes, Slovakians, Chinese, and others made the south and Midwest their home. This only increased with the 1849 Gold Rush in California.

Gun Control

If Hollywood movies were fact, everyone in the Old West carried a gun, and you’d better be ready for a shootout in town at any time.
Carrying a firearm in most cities, however, would probably land you in jail. One of the first laws passed in Dodge was the prohibition of carrying firearms. Other famous towns had similar laws. Probably the second most common cause of arrest in the Old West was illegally carrying a gun.

Every good western has the classic shootouts, bar brawls, and bank robberies, making the Old West a place of violence.
In truth, it was better to get along with your neighbor than start shooting at him. Ban robberies, too, were almost unheard of. Homicide rates were low. The highest body count in Tombstone in one year was five. From 1870 to 1885, Dodge and Wichita had a murder rate of 0.6 per year.

The Gunfight at the OK Corral
….didn’t take place at the OK Corral. It happened in a back alley. Three men died during this epic shootout, which lasted about thirty seconds.

Prostitution in the Old West wasn’t glamorous, just as it’s not today. Back then local newspapers would name, shame and hound prostitutes to the point of driving many to suicide.
Brothels were nothing more than poverty traps, forcing girls into never ending competition with one another for enough scraps to eat, with no hope of escape. Put simply, it was a profession for people with no other options

The cowboy – big Stetson hat, rough and tough, unwavering moral code, big spurs and chaps, right?
First of all, they weren’t called cowboys, but cowpunchers. It was a dirty job, and none of them dressed like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. Most likely, they looked more like homeless people, wearing practical clothes that got worn and dirty.  
Most of them probably were illiterate, and not very moral. Many had terminal cases of STD’s.

Peggy L Henderson
Western Historical and Time Travel Romance
“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”

Author of
Yellowstone Romance Series
Teton Romance Trilogy
Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series


Paty Jager said...

Gee, thanks for bursting that bubble, Peggy. ;) Yes, the wild west wasn't as glamorous as Hollywood made or makes it out to be. But it is a fun time period to write about. Fun post!

Caroline Clemmons said...

Which is why we write fiction, right? I love writing about the wild west even if we gloss it over a bit.