Letters from Readers – December 2008 Wild West

‘I enjoy having Wild West transport me back to a simpler, exciting time in our great history when men were men and political correctness was not rammed down our collective throats’

Pocock Poppycock?
In regards to the item “Pocock and Cassidy” in the August “Roundup”: It is highly unlikely that English equestrian Roger Pocock entered Robbers’ Roost and met Butch Cassidy during his summer 1899 ride down from Canada.

First, at that time Cassidy was being hotly pursued by the authorities after the Wilcox train robbery. The newspapers were swimming with stories about the crime. Improbable that Cassidy would have welcomed a stranger sporting a Kodak.

Second, in his autobiography, Following the Frontier (1903), Pocock talks about Robbers’ Roost, vaguely implying that he went in but never clearly saying that he did. He mentions Cassidy, but never said he met him.

Third, in spite of his adventurous spirit—it is probable that he did ride from Canada to Mexico—Pocock was an embellisher. He had a habit of poaching and exaggerating stories from newspapers and working them into the chronicle of his ride. He linked all the outlaw gangs in the Rockies into one network numbering 400 bandits, all run out of Robbers’ Roost. He suggested that the outlaws “communicate by means of cipher advertisements in a matrimonial paper.”

Fourth, and most important, in an article about the ride that Pocock published in the Buenos Aires Herald in 1911, he said that he got directions to Utah’s Robbers’ Roost only after he had arrived in Flagstaff, Arizona Territory, but did not return north. “I did not find my way to Robbers’ Roost,” Pocock wrote.

Daniel Buck
Washington, D.C.

Merrill Distad, associate director of Libraries, Research and Special Collections Services, University of Alberta, responds: The skeptical speculation regarding the veracity of Roger Pocock’s accounts of his great ride from Fort Macleod in Canada to Mexico City in 1899–1900, published in a series of articles in Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, as well as in his memoirs, should soon be laid to rest (one way or the other). The University of Alberta library has, just this summer, acquired the largest single collection of Pocock’s papers, which are part of the much larger archive of his friend North-West Mounted Police Superintendent (later Major General Sir) Samuel Benfield Steele. We expect that our pending examination of Pocock’s manuscript diary of the great ride and accompanying photographs that he made on the journey will provide fresh evidence regarding the itinerary he followed and the people—including outlaws—he encountered en route.

Second Amendment
Roger Jay (“Second Thoughts About the Second Amendment,” in “Roundup,” of the August issue) should leave Top Ten lists to David Letterman. I didn’t subscribe to Wild West to read juvenile political commentary disguised as black humor. Stick to what you do best and leave politics to The Washington Post.

John D. Williams
Carrollton, Mo.

I am a longtime subscriber to your wonderful magazine. I enjoy having Wild West transport me back to a simpler, exciting time in our great history when men were men and political correctness was not rammed down our collective throats on a daily basis. That is why I take issue with Roger Jay’s anti–Second Amendment article in your August edition. If I wanted to read articles trumpeting the virtues of gun control, I would simply pick up the latest edition of Time, Newsweek, etc.

Steve Bultman
Bellbrook, Ohio

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