AT the solicitation of many friends and acquaintances as well as a great many people who are desirous of knowing about early life in the wild west and the Great American Desert, especially in wicked Dodge City, I write these true stories and historical facts. The task is a pleasant one. As I look back and endeavor to recall the events of that period, a kaleidoscopic panorama presents itself to my mind--a picture ever changing, ever restless, with no two days alike in experience. In those days, one lived ten years of life in one calendar year. Indians, drought, buffaloes, bad men, the long horn, and, in fact, so many characteristic features of that time present themselves that I am at a loss where to begin.
I have often thought that did I possess but an atom of the genius of a Kipling, what an interesting narrative might I write of the passing events of that period. It would be another forceful proof of the trite saying that, "Truth is stranger than fiction". Had I but kept a diary of each day's events as they occurred, from the first time I entered the great West, what rich food it would be to the novelist, and how strange to the present generation would be the reading.
If you wish to feel yourself more comfortable than a king while listening to the sweetest strains of music, come back into a warm, pleasant home with its comforts and listen to the crackle of a cheerful, open wood fire, after being out in cold and storm for a month or two, never, during that time, being near a house or comfortable habitation, while every moment being in terror of Indian attack, or suffering from cold and storm really more terrible than Indian attack, sitting up the greater part of
the night to keep from freezing, and riding hard all day on the morrow. In the joy of the change, you will imagine yourself in the heaven of heavens. How many of us have often experienced these feelings on the frontier of Kansas in the early days. Yet this kind of a life gives one a zest for adventure, for it is a sort of adventure to which he not only becomes accustomed but attached. In fact, there is a fascination about it difficult to resist, and having once felt its power, one could not permit himself to give it up.
In writing these stories, I have yielded to the request of my friends, principally, for the reason that there are but few men left who saw these things, and I, too, will soon pass away. But before I go, I want to leave behind a feeble description of the greatest game country on earth, as well as of the game that roamed over it, and of its people, and various phases of life.
No doubt, many readers of this book who are reared in Christian homes under proper influences and, by reason of wholesome teachings, parental care and guidance and pure environments, will naturally conclude that Dodge City, in its early period, did not offer the best social climate in the world.
Dodge City has been quoted all over the United States as the most wicked town in existence. The New York papers refer to it as such, the Washington papers do the same-so it goes. From New York to Washington, from Washington to New Orleans, from New Orleans to St. Louis, from St. Louis to Chicago, and from there back to Kansas, if horrible crime is committed, they say, "This is almost as bad, as wicked, as Dodge City."
But, in extenuation of the conduct of her early inhabitants, I plead the newness of the territory, the conditions of life, the dangers and associations of a western
frontier, and the daring and reckless spirit that such conditions engender.
I also insist that Dodge City was not the worst place on earth and at last I have heard of a town which was equal to, if not worse than Dodge City, and, by way of comparison, I here quote a graphic picture taken from the "Virginia City Chronicle," published in the '70's, of another bad town:
"There are saloons all over the place, and whisky four bits a drink. They put two barrels upon end, nail a board across for a bar and deal out. A miner who wants to treat pours some gold dust on the barrel head and says, "Set 'em up!" They never weigh the dust. Sometimes a man won't put down enough dust, but they never say a word, and if he's a little drunk and puts up ten or fifteen dollars' worth they never mention it. They have three faro banks running all the time. They don't use checks, for the boys, when they won a pile of checks they threw them all over the place and some of them were too drunk to handle them. So the checks got played out. Now a man puts a little gold dust on a dollar greenback and it two dollars worth of dust, on a ten-dollar greenback goes for twenty dollars, and so on--don't weigh the dust at all but guess the amount. We have a daily newspaper--that is, sometimes it's daily, and then when the compositors get drunk it doesn't come out for several days. If a man wants gun wadding he goes and pays four bits for a newspaper. Whenever they start a new city government they print a lot of city ordinances, then there's a grand rush for the paper. Sometimes it comes out twice a week and sometimes twice a day. Every man in Deadwood carries about fourteen pounds of firearms hitched to his belt, and they never pass any words. The fellow that gets his gun out first is the best man and
they lug off the other fellow's body. Our graveyard is a big institution and a growing one. Sometimes, however, the place is right quiet. I've known times when a man wasn't killed for twenty- four hours. Then again they'd lay out five or six a day. When a man gets too handy with his shooting irons and kills five or six, they think he isn't safe, and somebody pops him over to rid the place of him. They don't kill him for what he has done, but for what he's liable to do. I suppose that the average deaths amount to about one hundred a month."
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