The Last Battle of the Sioux

So when did the mighty Sioux nation fight its last battle and where did they fight it? How about east central Wyoming in 1903? Like many historical events this one has been reported and changed over the years, but this is what we know, with allowances for a few of my own interpretations of history.

Eagle Feather (early accounts called him Chief Charley Smith, a name purportedly given to him on the reservation by the U.S. Government and one he had to use to collect commodities) led a group of Sioux from the Pine Ridge into Wyoming, now a state for all of 13 years, on a hunting expedition, a hunt that had been given permission by Indian agent John R. Brennan. The small band headed for the area of Thunder and Lightning creeks in what is now Niobrara County Wyoming. The hunter’s accompanied by wives and children shot a few deer, sage grouse and antelope as they traveled across the plains, enjoying a taste of their old life style.

Weston county Sheriff William (Billy) Miller rounded up a posse of local stockmen and headed out to stop the Wyoming hunt. The stockmen may have been duped into believing the tribe was shooting cows instead of game and willingly traveled along to stop this new, “Indian uprising”. When the posse caught up the number of Indians in the party stopped them in their tracks. Miller believed there were too many Indians to arrest for various violations of game laws, trespassing and killing ranch stock and took his crew back to town. The next day the sheriff and his, now larger, posse caught up with the Indians at Lighting Creek and the,” Battle of Lightning Creek,” or “The Last Indian Battle,” took place.

Sherriff Miller and his deputy Louis Falkenberg were killed along with Chief Eagle Feather and several of his hunting companions. A few days later a hearing was held in nearby Douglas and the Sioux were released for lack of evidence that they had committed a crime other than defending themselves.

Wyoming Governor Fenimore Chatterton was enraged at the courts decision and tried to get the Indians in court for murder despite the findings of the Douglass court, but his power did not stretch that far.

Today if you Google, the last Sioux battle, you will first find, Little Big Horn (1876) then Wounded Knee (1890), both of great importance to the west but not the last, that would be Lightning Creek in 1903.

NOTE --A month after the Lightning Creek battle Governor Chatterton allowed popular range detective/shootest Tom Horn to be hanged in Cheyenne, a decision that most likely cost him reelection the next year.

New Home

Almost completed our move to the country--then I will be back.

Medicine Bow Wyoming

Spent last Saturday in Medicine Bow Wyoming—Medicine Bow Days and a celebration of 100 years for the Virginian Hotel. The Hotel was built to be the showcase place to stay between Denver and Salt Lake; it is still going strong and quite a neat old place. Watched some fast draw competition, bought the grand kids snow-cones, and had an all round great time.

Tie Up That Horse Cowboy

The cowhand raced to save the distressed maiden, he leapt from his trusty steed, and ground tied him, as whistling lead and the smell of gun powder filled the air.
I made that up, but did recently finish reading books by two different authors, where the hero ground tied his horse under all conditions- they ground tied so much I got tired of waiting for the horse to run off. Things that I have read, and or tried with ground tying indicate the cowboy may need hiking boots instead of cowboy boots if he ground ties too much.
Much like the cowboys that loop the reins around the hitching post in the old movies, horses will shy and get the heck out of Dodge if too much action and noise starts. Heck my pick-up doesn’t like to stick around if things get to wild-------but I do.
I like well researched western reads, not sure these writers had spent much time around horses. Too bad, one of them was fast paced and fun.

Random Thoughts on the Sundance Kid

Harry A. Longabaugh is a tough name to pronounce and not very memorable. But when he stole a horse, saddle and a gun in northeast Wyoming and got himself tossed in jail in Sundance, Wyoming, he became a legend, the Sundance Kid. The movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid did not hurt his popularity either. It might be that Butch and Sundance would be little more that footnotes in Wild West history if not for the movie. We would still love them in Wyoming and Utah but the rest of the country may have enough of their own bad guys to celebrate.

So who was the Sundance Kid anyway? His friend Butch Cassidy is much better known as leader of the Wild Bunch and as an all around character of the old west. So why was Harry (the Sundance Kid) Longabaugh famous, was it only because he hung out with Butch?

Born in Pennsylvania in 1867 he came west (probably first to Colorado) as a teen and later ended up in north eastern Wyoming. By age twenty his outlaw career had started and ended. A year and a half later he was released from the Sundance jail and returned to life working on a ranch. Either bored with the life of a cowboy, or needing adventure he was implicated in a train robbery three years after his release (1892) and then another five years later. Maybe he was just supplementing his meager ranch wages but more than likely he was an outlaw and had gotten away with more than local people knew about at the time. These robberies may have been as part of Cassidy’s wild bunch.

I suspect, like many of the outlaws of the old west, he lived two different lives. Part of the time he was a hard working ranch hand, raising, feeding and taking care of stock, riding fence and spending time with locals in town when he had a chance. But he had a wild streak, one that left him less than satisfied with this life. It could have been money, might have been a need for adventure, or he may have been in it for the thrill of the chase. Whatever it was, his unsettled feelings may have led him to an on and off life of crime, sometimes with months or years between hold-ups.

After the Winnemucca National Bank, Nevada hold up, Butch and Sundance took off for South America with the Pinkerton Detectives right behind. The story ends there, or does it? Were they killed in the famous shootout with the San Vicente police in Bolivia in 1908? Most avid readers of western history hope not. Stories say he and Butch came back to America, living in Utah, Wyoming or elsewhere for many years. We may never know for sure, but we really hope they were a lot like Redford and Newman in the movie.

The Last Stagecoach Holdup

The summer of 1914 may have truly marked the end of the old west. Why, because that was the year of the last stagecoach holdup, and it took place near Shoshone Point in Yellowstone Park. Other places claim the last holdup, including one of the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage and one in Nevada, but I like this one. The year marked the end of the horse’s only transportation in the park, as cars came for the first time the next year, and a year after that, 1916 would mark the end of the coaches in the park.

I like this bit of history because the robber, Edward Trafton, (Ed Harrington) did not just hold up a stagecoach, he held up fifteen in a row. The stages carried tourists seeing the sights of the park, and the sixteenth coach, sniffing out something bad, turned around and went for help.

Wearing several layers of extra clothes and a black mask,Trafton stopped each coach rustled out the passengers and asked them, while holing a rifle, to put their money in a sack lying at his feet. For his days work he collected a little over nine hundred dollars and jewelry worth another one- hundred and thirty dollars. Trafton, a ladies’ man, or one who believed he was, laughed and asked the ladies to hide their jewelry, he was only interested in cash. Not sure how or why he ended up with more than a hundred dollars worth anyway, maybe he didn’t like some of the women as much as others.

Trafton had so much fun holding up a stage every half hour that he even allowed some of the passengers to take his photo. Not sure Tafton was the smartest of outlaws, but he likely believed he was, because of this day, famous, and needed to secure his place in history. It did secure a place but maybe not what he had in mind.

The well photographed outlaws next stop was Leavenworth, where he rested up for five years. He died more than a decade later
with a letter in his pocket claiming he was the cowboy Owen Wister based the Virginian on. More likely, if Wister ever met him and put him in the famous novel, he was one of the bad guys or less than bright characters in the story. Trampas?

Great Day For A Ride

Such a great day in Wyoming today I decided to go for a ride. I know, I know, you’re thinking, that old guy rides. Well indeed I do. But today I should have stayed home.
The ride was going fine and then for no reason at all—I was lying on my side hurting bad. Not sure if I was bucked off or fell, maybe a loose saddle? I hope to figure it out soon and I will keep you-all posted. Now where was I, oh yes on my side and hurting. Well sir, I am an old guy but when it really hurts I sometimes cry. And I started, softly at first, and then I am afraid, a little louder, anyway loud enough for someone to hear. Within seconds the store manager (K-Mart) helped me up, dusted me off and said, “take it easy ol’ timer, if you’ll quit your whimpering I’ll put another quarter in the horse and you can have a free ride on the store.
I feel better now—sorry for the lame joke, but it’s Friday and I can stay up late and post crazy stuff.