Tom O'Day, Horse Thief and Mystery Man


The Outlaw Tom O’Day rode with the Wild Bunch, or at least they put up with him, according to some Butch Cassidy experts. He is sometimes referred to as a forward scout, you know the guy who goes in and cases the joint, before the robbery. Others say he may have been kept around for comedic relief, like the time he got too drunk to even watch the horses properly.

Regardless of which Tom O’Day the real guy was, he is interesting and certainly much more than just a footnote in Wyoming and Wild West history. Almost any mention of the Wild Bunch and you will find Tom O’Day’s name.

In November of 1903 O’Day was tired of working for wages for area ranchers and decided to run off a few horses to sell for himself, something he had done in the past and was quite good at. He rustled fifteen head of fine horses and took off for the rugged lands of the Owl Creek Mountains of central Wyoming.

The penalty for horse stealing in 1903 Wyoming was five years a horse, so O’Day was looking at 75 years worth of horses. It was a good business if you got away with it. Each prime horse could be worth two or three months wages. O’Day liked his chances, a little bit of work; hide the horses for a few weeks in a mountain pass, then run them into Montana to sell. Easy street, for the next few years, was just around the corner.

But, things didn’t work out so well for Tom O’Day, he got caught, likely because he stole the horse flesh from Bryant B. Brooks, an important Wyoming politician of the day. The judge was soft hearted toward the amicable O’Day and sentenced him to six year in the Wyoming state penitentiary in Rawlins.

Well of all the crazy stuff! Bryant Brooks was elected as Wyoming’s seventh governor two years later and two years after that re-elected to a second term. And then he pardoned O’Day with a year and a half left on his sentence.

Who says politicians can’t be understanding fellows at time?  

O’Day went straight after leaving prison, moving to a Nebraska farm where he lived and worked happily ever after until his death in 1936. Or maybe he moved to Deadwood where he worked as a greater in a gambling and other entertainment business up to his death in 1930. Some Wild West historian’s note O’Day left prison, never to be heard from again until his death in Iowa in the 30s.

OK, so no one knows what become of the horse thief after leaving prison. Well at least we know he left other peoples horse flesh alone for the rest of his life----maybe.

Crazy Discovery Tail


Not sure if every state has a tail of discovery, but Wyoming does. I would rather call it, the, who was here first story. The answer is, of course, Indians, several tribes. But much like Columbus discovering America, when there were already a million, or so people here, Wyoming, for years taught about who the first, non Indian to enter Wyoming was and like Columbus often said they were the discoveries of Wyoming.

Many texts tell us that a brother duo, the Verendrye’s were likely the first non-natives to visit the cowboy state. Nice, but this is based on the fact that that school children in South Dakota found a lead plate in 1913 that was buried by Chevalier de la Verendrye dated March 30, 1743. This is a fine tail, and likely true, with a few details filed in, but it was a long way to Wyoming from Fort Pierre, South Dakota.

Historical speculation seemed to get carried away. Some would be historians assumed the Verendrye’s must have journeyed on to the Black Hills from Fort Pierre and then might just have went on to Wyoming. Maybe just to say they had been there, just kidding.

Fort Pierre is some 200 miles from the Wyoming boarder; believe I will stick with my belief. John Colter, who traveled west with Lewis and Clark, left the ‘Corpse of Discovery’ on the west coast and made his way back east, stopping in what is today Yellowstone. No one believed him when he told tales of Yellowstone wonders, but later they were proved true, and I have been there to see them.

Historical facts are just that, they can be proven; historical speculation belongs in fiction, not text books.

 

Big Lie becomes a National Park


From the time of John Colter, who left the Lewis and Clark expedition when they reached the Pacific, to wander back to what would become Yellowstone Park, to Jim Bridger and later the Washburn- Langford expedition of 1870, everyone who told stories of the Yellowstone area was branded a liar.

The wonders of the park were just too much for people to believe, so they didn’t. Finally in 1872, only a little more than a year after Langford was branded the last of the champion Yellowstone liars of the west, President Grant approved dedication of Yellowstone as a national park. And guess what? Langford was named the first park Superintendent, guess Grant believed his tales of the Yellowstone country.

Today only in Iceland and New Zealand can one see geysers on the tremendous scale of Yellowstone. But you won’t see bears, bison, elk and moose anywhere else in the world like you can in Yellowstone.

It is a must see, if you have not yet been there put it on your list.  And on your way stop here in Guernsey, Wyoming to see the Oregon Trail Ruts, Register Cliff and the magnificent Guernsey State Park.