Man’s Best Friend: The Story of Old Drum

Man's Best FriendAll across America, courthouse lawns are decorated with various statues. There are statues of pioneers, politicians, war heroes and dogs. Dogs? Well, there is at least one statue of a dog, and it stands in front of the Johnson County Courthouse in Warrensburg, Missouri. Who was that dog? Sadly, he wasn’t a celebrity in his own lifetime, but in death, he was the subject of one of the most significant courtroom battles of the Old West. I’m talking about a very special dog named Old Drum, and his story will bring a lump to the throat of anyone who ever loved a dog.

Nothin’ But a Hound Dog

1a1Old Drum was a black and tan Foxhound that belonged to a man named Charles Burden, a Missouri farmer. For several years, Old Drum had been Burden’s companion. The dog was known by most of the people in the area as an exceptionally good dog. But, even good dogs can wander and one night Old Drum wandered onto the neighboring property of Leonidas Hornsby. Drat it all!

Hornsby was a sheep farmer who had been struggling to keep dogs and wolves away from his sheep, having lost more than 100 sheep. It was 1869 and agriculture was just beginning to make a comeback following the Civil War, so possessions were closely guarded. Hornsby had threatened to kill any dog that set foot on his property.

One evening Old Drum did not return home. That was the same evening that, according to Hornsby, he had instructed his nephew to shoot a stray dog with corncobs. Yet, the following morning, a bullet ridden Old Drum was found dead and the events that followed became a courtroom drama that lasted for years.

It should be noted that Hornsby and Burden happened to be brothers-in-law. However, I’m guessing that their cozy family Christmas dinners ended with the shot heard by dog lovers around the world! Talk about awkward!

Went to See Some Lawyers About a Dog

Charles Burden TrialBurden was burdened by the death of his best friend and wanted justice to be served. In order for that to happen, he felt he needed his day in court. So, Burden went to see some lawyers about a dog and Hornsby was issued a summons to appear in court on November 25, 1869.

The original jury was hung. The second trial resulted in a guilty verdict and Burden being awarded a whopping $25, plus court costs. Hornsby appealed. New lawyers were hired. And, on April 1, 1870, Hornsby was found not guilty and awarded court costs. One might think that it was all over, but one would be wrong!

Charles Burden

Every Dog Has Its Day

Burden was determined that Old Drum would have his day! Burden filed a motion for a new trial, alleging the discovery of new evidence. The motion was granted and George Graham Vest was added to Burden’s legal team. Vest was a lawyer who had served as a Confederate Congressman during the Civil War and who would later become a U.S. Senator. Oddly, the thing that brought Vest the most notoriety was the case of Burden v. Hornsby.

On September 21, 1870, in Warrensburg, Missouri, the case of Old Drum went to trial for the fourth time! The maximum amount of damages allowed by the law was $50, but George Vest argued that trial with the intensity of Atticus Finch in the Tom Robinson case. Vest is quoted as saying that he would “win the case or apologize to every dog is Missouri.”

The “Man’s Best Friend” Defense

On the final day of trial, George Vest didn’t really present closing arguments, for very few people could argue with what he said. Instead, he offered up what has become known as the “Eulogy of the Dog” speech. He stood in front of the jury and he spoke the words that cut directly to the heart of dog lovers everywhere:

“Gentlemen of the jury: The best friend a man has in this world may turn against him and become his enemy. The son or daughter that he has reared with loving care may prove ungrateful. Those who are nearest and dearest to us, those whom we trust with our happiness and our good name, may become traitors to their faith. The money that a man has, he may lose. It flies away from him, perhaps when he needs it the most. A man’s reputation may be sacrificed in a moment of ill-considered action. The people who are prone to fall on their knees to do us honor when success is with us may be the first to throw the stone of malice when failure settles its cloud upon our heads. The one absolutely unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him and the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.

“Gentlemen of the jury: A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

“If fortune drives the master forth an outcast in the world, friendless and homeless, the faithful dog asks no higher privilege than that of accompanying him to guard against danger, to fight against his enemies, and when the last scene of all comes, and death takes the master in its embrace and his body is laid away in the cold ground, no matter if all other friends pursue their way, there by his graveside will the noble dog be found, his head between his paws, his eyes sad but open in alert watchfulness, faithful and true even to death.”

There was no mention of evidence. For that matter, there was no mention of Old Drum! There didn’t need to be. Hornsby was found guilty and Burden was awarded $50 plus court costs. Some versions of the story say that the jury was so moved that they awarded $500. Hornsby appealed all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court, but the verdict held.

Old Drum StatueThat, my friends, is why there is a bronze statue of a hound dog in front of the courthouse in Warrensburg, Missouri. It’s a reminder that Burden may have won the trial, but the real winners are every person who has ever loved a dog. Gulp. Excuse me; I seem to have a big ol’ lump in my throat.

Happy Trails, y’all!
Anita Lequoia

One Helluva Ride: The Life of Yakima Canutt

Yakima CanuttWe talk about pioneers of the Old West quite a lot, here at the Campfire Chronicle. When we talk a about them, we tend to mean pretty much what the first definition is in the handy-dandy, free online dictionary. It looks something like this:

noun: pioneer; plural noun: pioneers
1. a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.

But today, we’re going to talk about a different kind of pioneer. We’re going to talk about the man who pioneered the field of movie stunt work— cowboy Yakima Canutt!

Stunted Growth

Yakima Canutt PostcardWhen Enos Edward Canutt was born in the Snake River Hills of Washington, in 1895, no one could have imagined that he would be credited with changing action movies forever. But, they should have at least guessed that he would grow up to know his way around a horse!

Although Canutt’s formal education ended with elementary school, he learned plenty working on the family ranch. As was common for the day, he learned life skills from an early age. He knew how to hunt, shoot and ride and is said to have broken a wild bronco, at the tender age of eleven.

Yakima CanuttBy sixteen, Canutt was entering bronc riding competitions and, at seventeen, he won the title of World’s Best Bronco Buster. It came as no surprise when he decided to pursue a rodeo career. In 1914, when he was nineteen-years-old, a newspaper caption provided him with one of the world’s greatest nicknames. He was riding in the Pendleton Roundup in Pendleton, Oregon when a photo identified him as, “Yakima Canutt”. Rather than fighting it, he embraced it, and Enos was forevermore known as Yakima or Yak.

Yakima continued working rodeos, but World War I put a little hitch in some of his plans. In 1918 he enlisted in the Navy, but he was granted a 30-day furlough during his service to return to rodeoing to defend his World Champion title. Which he did!

Yakety Yak; Don’t Talk Back

Yakima Canutt on HorseFollowing the war, Yakima went to Los Angeles for a rodeo and decided to spend a balmy winter in the area. While there, he met Western star, Tom Mix, who invited him to appear in two of his movies. Yakima also had the opportunity to work as a stuntman in the Western serial film, Lightning Bryce. The call of the rodeo circuit was strong, however, and Yakima left Hollywood in 1920.

His rodeo reputation was so great and his awards so plentiful that the Fort Worth rodeo came to be referred to as “Yak’s Show”! In 1923, Yakima returned to Hollywood for an awards ceremony, and  while there, he was offered a role in eight Western motion pictures!

Yakima Canutt Postcard 2He had a fairly decent career playing mostly heavies in a string of B movies. But time marched on and advances came to the film industry. One of those advances didn’t do anything to further Yakima’s acting career. Sound! As with so many other silent film actors, he was not destined to make the transition to talkies. He had a raspy voice that had been badly damaged by a flu virus. He noted that he sounded like a “hillbilly in a well”. There weren’t a lot of parts for hillbillies in wells, so Yakima had to rethink his career path.

Safety Firsts

Yakima CanuttYakima continued to do what hew knew best, riding the rodeo circuit. He also started doing stunts in films. The Hollywood Western was big business at that time, and Yakima watched as other rodeo riders attempted to outdo each other’s stunts in movies, on the hope of being offered more movie roles. Yakima didn’t need more than an elementary school education to figure that at that rate, someone was going to be badly injured, and soon. So he decided to apply his cowboy ingenuity!  He took the tricks being performed in movies of the time, and found ways to make them safer. He created the “L” stirrup, which allowed a rider to fall off a horse without getting his foot caught and being dragged by his horse. He designed cabling that allowed for wagon crashes, while releasing the team.

Stunt Double

His name may not ring a bell, but you’ve seen his work. During his impressive career, Yakima worked as a stunt double for Errol Flynn, Roy Rogers, Tyrone Power and Clark Gable. Do you remember the scene in Gone With the Wind in which Rhett Butler drives a wagon through flames? That was Yakima, thankyouverymuch!

Yakima also doubled for John Wayne in gobs of films. John Wayne also doubled for Yakima, in a sense. From the way he walked to the way he talked, the Duke said he modeled his cowboy image on none other than Yakima Canutt. Wayne is quoted as saying, “Yakima Canutt is the most magnificent man I ever met.” It should be noted that Canutt didn’t just double for Wayne; he also taught him how to perform many of his own stunts.

Ben-Hur was His

Even with his safety measures, Yakima suffered some severe injuries over the years. When Yakima realized that the shelf life of a professional stuntman is limited, he turned his focus to the other side of the camera. He became a stunt coordinator and second-unit director. What would the movie Ben-Hur have been without that chariot race, which was staged by Yakima? Both of Canutt’s sons, Joe and Tap, followed in their father’s footsteps. Joe Canutt even served as Charlton Heston’s stunt double in Ben-Hur!

Yakima Canutt Horses

Yakima also handled the stunts in Ivanhoe, Spartacus, El Cid, and Where Eagles Dare. But his reach extended far past the films he worked on. More modern films like Raiders of the Lost Ark contain action scenes inspired by Canutt. Indiana Jones’ spectacular leap from a galloping horse to a Nazi truck was a classic Yakima Canutt stunt.

Publicity Stunt

Yakima Canutt StarYakima Canutt has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street. He was also awarded an Honorary Academy Award for his work as a stuntman and for his development of safety measures to protect stuntmen. An inductee of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, his autobiography, Stuntman, was published in 1979. Yakima died in 1986 in North Hollywood, California, but those in the film industry have not forgotten the work he did.

Before Yakima, no one really thought of being a Hollywood stuntman as a career. I don’t know if he ever thought of himself as a pioneer, but he most certainly was. For Yakima, life was one helluva ride, from the early rodeo days to the pinnacle of his Hollywood career…and I am pretty sure that he enjoyed the heck out of it.
Here’s a great video of Yakima that I know you’ll enjoy!

Happy Trails, y’all!
Anita Lequoia

Mail-Order Brides of the Old West

Mail-order bridesA photographer friend of mine was recently visiting New York City. While there, he did what people roaming the streets of NYC with expensive cameras hanging around their necks tend to do. He took pictures. He took pictures of the regular things—taxis whizzing past, Grand Central Station, a subway station, and even a hot dog cart. But he also took some photographs of random people. One of my favorites is of a young woman bundled like she was standing on a street of NYC in the winter. When I commented on the shot, my friend said, “You’ll like it more when I tell you her back story.” My interest was piqued! He continued on to tell me, “She was a mail-order bride. Her husband works for ____________. (Insert the name a big, hoo-ha deal accounting firm that may or may NOT tabulate the votes for the Academy Awards Show. It wouldn’t be professional of me to say.)

My friend was right. Suddenly, I did like that picture even more—and not just because of its poignant composition. I liked it more because a neon sign went on in my head that was bright enough to light a corner of a big city street! The sign said, “Hey! Write a blog post about mail order brides of the Old West!” Since I’m not one to ignore flashing neon signs…here goes…

People Who Need People

California Gold RushWhen gold was first discovered in California, in January of 1848, tens of thousands of young men kissed their mamas goodbye and headed off to make their fortunes in the Old West. I like to imagine them walking off with their supplies wrapped in bandanas tied to sticks, but that’s probably not how it happened. At any rate, they set up camp in California with just about everything they needed to make their fortunes. . .they had picks and pans, food and water. But it wasn’t long before they realized that something was missing. Women! Well, you’re bound to forget one or two minor details when you set off on an adventure.

And the single women back east were none too happy about the mass exodus of eligible bachelors. They didn’t want to spend the rest of their days dancing with each other and filling their hope chests to the brim. There had to be a way to bring the fortune seekers and the men seekers together.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match

Eliza FarnhamA lady named Eliza Farnham was sure she had found a way! She had arrived in California in 1849, herself a widowed mother who was dismayed by the rough behavior of the men folk in Gold Country. They needed the sort of civilizing that a good wife can bring to an ornery man, she thought…so she set about to remedy that situation by placing advertisements in New York newspapers, to bring nice folks together!

Horace GreeleyEven Horace Greeley, that newspaperman (and frequent subject of “Jeopardy” questions), who famously said, “Go West, young man,” could see that perhaps it was time to say, “Go West, young woman!” About Mrs. Farnham’s efforts, Greeley wrote, “The mission is a good one and the projector deserves success. The enterprise in which Mrs. Farnham has engaged is one which evinces much moral courage.”I’m not sure how much courage it took to place Mrs. Farnham’s ads, but I can imagine how much courage it took to answer one of them!”

But lo and behold, two hundred women did answer the ads and Mrs. Farnham set off to fetch the pretty maidens back to California. Meanwhile, rumors about what was headed their way began circulating throughout Gold Country. The anxious, lonely men were expecting Mrs. Farnham to arrive by ship with 10,000 eligible women. Perhaps they thought it would be a matter of ordering a pretty blond who could cook and clean. It wasn’t. When the ship arrived, the disappointed bachelors discovered only three women accompanied her. Men were so upset that there was an outbreak of bad behavior!

Why were there only three women? Well, that’s probably because boarding a ship to head off for the arms of a complete stranger didn’t seem very respectable. People didn’t understand the finer points of this precursor of cyber dating. Sadly, Mrs. Farnham gave up her career as a matchmaker, but the idea didn’t die.

Stop! Wait a Minute, Mr. Postman!

Civil WarBy the later 1800s, there was a definite man shortage for women of marrying age. One of the sad facts of the Civil War was that Johnny didn’t always come marching home again. So many men had been killed that single women found the pool of eligible bachelors to be a might shallow.

Matrimonial NewsIn the 1870s, 80s and 90’S, Matrimonial News, a San Francisco based matchmaking newspaper helped to make love connections between the single men of the West and the statistically disadvantaged, single women back East. For $1.50 a word, people could place classified ads describing themselves and what they wanted in a potential mate. The paper’s goal was to “promote honorable matrimonial engagements and true conjugal felicities for amiable men and women.” If a match resulted in a wedding, both parties were required to pay an additional fee to the newspaper.

Most ads were fairly direct. I haven’t seen a single ad that mentioned enjoying long walks on the beach, but plenty of them were quite open about wanting someone who wasn’t ugly and had a specified amount of money. (At $1.50 a word, it’s a wonder that some ads didn’t read, “Me want woman!”) Interested parties would correspond with each other and often not meet until they were about to head to the altar. It was quite the leap of faith.

Mail Order BridesMatrimonial News even had a printed disclaimer that some people had been deceived through their want ads. Marriages could even be annulled if men had been “seduced by the use of false hair, cosmetic paints, artificial bosoms, bolstered hips or padded limbs.” That padded limb part really intrigues me!

Going to the Chapel of Love

It is estimated that around 2,600 couples that met through Matrimonial News ads, did in fact make it all the way to the altar. We know that many of those marriages were for life and resulted in a bunch of young ‘uns. I’m not sure if this makes me a romantic or crazy, but I really like thinking about that.

Mail-order bridesAnd, I hope that the woman whose photograph was recently taken by my friend—the woman with the wooly scarf and the haunting eyes—I hope she truly does have a better life now than she might otherwise have had. And, so, I will withhold my judgment of the man who works at the big accounting firm. May he treat her well and may their union be a happy one.

Happy Trails, y’all,
Anita Lequoia

Doc Susie Anderson: Frontier Medic

Susan1I’ve sort of been on a “strong women of the West” kick in regards to picking topics to chaw about in the ol’ Campfire Chronicle. I usually try to mix things up a little in regard to blog posts. I mean, I don’t want to come across like my friend Ronnie who has to eat all of one type of food from his dinner plate before moving on to the next. I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with eating all of your corn before moving on to the mashed potatoes, but I tend to enjoy a good casserole, myself. But doggone it! There are just so many interesting women of the Old West. I hope you won’t mind that I want to write about another one of those strong women, today. Specifically, I want to write about Susan Anderson, M.D.

As you might have guessed, it’s the M.D. after Susan Anderson’s name that really intrigues me. Oh, sure, there were plenty of women who served as midwives. But, doctors? Old West “lady doctors” were a rarity, to be sure.

The Doctor is In and Out and In and… Well, Just Read It and See for Yourself

Susan Anderson was born in 1870 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Her family moved to Cripple Creek, Colorado in 1891, during the gold rush. The West had a lot to offer people who were hoping to change their luck by finding a strike. But, Susan made her own luck by heading back east to complete college and medical school. In 1897, she graduated from medical school at the University of Michigan. Things were going great for Susan, except for the fact that she was diagnosed with tuberculosis while in medical school. That diagnosis prevented her from taking an internship at the Women’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The new doctor joined her family in Cripple Creek and set up practice. It wasn’t the fact that she had tuberculosis that prevented her practice from flourishing; it was the fact she was a woman! Even gold miners had their “standards” when it came to selecting a physician, apparently. So, she moved to Denver and set up practice there. Surely, the big city dwellers would be more accepting of a lady doctor, she thought. Well, not actually. So, she moved to Greeley, Colorado, where she practiced nursing for six years.

Get Better or Die Trying

Susie Anderson in ColoradoWhile in Greeley, her tuberculosis took a turn for the worse. A dry, cold climate was just what the lady doctor ordered. Fortunately, she was in Colorado and cold wasn’t difficult to come by. The woman who had already moved more often than a M*A*S*H unit, packed up her trunks, grabbed her dog and headed off for Fraser, Colorado. It was December of 1907 and traveling by train to Fraser meant braving avalanches and snow drifts. Yeah, she had that “cold” part covered! Even a porter tried to talk her out of going to Fraser. But the doctor knew best and would not be dissuaded.

Doctor Anderson settled into a shack with the intention of getting better or dying. Either way, she didn’t plan on moving again anytime soon! How did the people of Fraser react to having a lady doctor in their midst? They reacted just fine, thank you! Of course, she didn’t actually tell them she was a doctor. To them, she was just your run of the mill woman with a concerning cough!

Susan AndersonThe townsfolk discovered that Susie was actually Doc Susie when she treated her first patient in town. The patient was a horse! The horse’s owner was overjoyed with the his recovery and word of the lady doctor in Fraser spread like wildfire! Well, Fraser only had twelve houses, at the time, so it’s probably not all that impressive. But still…word spread until every resident of those twelve houses knew about the lady doctor.

Home at Last

FraserThe people of Fraser seemed more receptive to the idea of a genuine female physician. And, let’s face it; people in remote logging camps didn’t have a lot of options when it came to healthcare! Before long, Doc Susie was regularly treating loggers and their families.

Things were looking up! Doc Susie blended right in with the locals, by wearing the latest in local fashions. That meant hip boots and layers of wool clothing. She wasn’t getting rich since she was usually paid in firewood or food, but she had a community that accepted her and appreciated her. That sense of community paid off in spades when a representative of the Denver and Salt Lake Railroad appeared on the good doctor’s doorstep. It seemed she was living on land that belonged to the D&SL. A local rancher offered her his barn and a group of lumberjacks moved the barn to another piece of land. That house still stands there today in Fraser.

Doc Susie AndersonIn 1918, the great influenza epidemic did not spare the small community of Fraser. Doc Susie’s skills were put to the test as she went from one patient to the next.

When the Moffat Tunnel was being bored, Doc Susie found herself filling the role of Grand County Coroner. While it might not have been her life’s dream, it did provide her with a steady income. Around nineteen men were killed during the construction of the tunnel. A hundred more were injured. More than a time or two, Doc Susie made her way into the recesses of the tunnel to care for the injured and remove the dead.

No Publicity Hound

Doc Susie continued her practice until 1956. In the late 50’s she was the subject of a newspaper article that was distributed by the Associated Press. Over the years, she had also been the subject of magazine articles. Apparently, publicity wasn’t her cup of tea, though. When Ethel Barrymore offered to make a movie about her, Dr. Susan Anderson declined. While I admire that level of modesty, I would like to go on record as saying, “Meryl Streep, if you’re reading this. I would be honored to have you portray me in a biopic. Call me!”

Doc Susie Anderson's graveDr. Susan Anderson died in 1960, in Denver. She was 90-years-old, so I’m guessing her move to Fraser was indeed good for her health! She is buried in Cripple Creek, Colorado. In 1997, she was inducted into the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame. She was also the subject of a book written by Virginia Cornell, Doc Susie: The True Story of a Country Physician in the Colorado Rockies.

Doc Susie Anderson
I hope you have enjoyed learning about this strong woman of the Old West. I promise that one day I will move on to the next “food item” on the plate. But, for now, I’ve really found these dishes to be mighty satisfying!

Happy Trails y’all!
Anita Lequoia