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Letters From Readers - October 2007 - Wild West

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: August 03, 2007 
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Cover Lover

I think the covers on your Wild West magazines really catch the eye on the newsstands. I purchased your June 2007 issue with George Custer on the cover. It was excellent. Keep up the good work.

Paul Gordon
St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada

The editor responds: Thank you very much. Hope you like our October cover, which is not quite like any previous cover in the magazine's 19-year history.

Caption Bashing

What in the hell were your editors smoking when they wrote the caption on the top of P. 26 ("A 1920s saddle-bronc rider is on a high during competition at Cheyenne Frontier Days") of the "Western Enterprise" article "Test of Cowboy Skills Led to Today's Rodeo" in the June 2007 issue. Can't you tell by the clothing and gear this is not the 1920s? The biggest sin of all: That is a bareback-bronc rider!

The photo (above right) is a classic of bareback-bronc rider Jim Mihalek on a horse called Hud, and it was taken at Tucson, Ariz., by Fred Kobsted Photo. I am especially familiar with the photo as the rider, Jim Mihalek, and I went to high school together at Westminster, Colo., in the 1950s and kept in touch on and off in the 1960s. Mihalek won the 1960 All-Around Championship of the International Professional Rodeo Association at the Calgary Stampede in Calgary, Canada.

Leonard P. McCann
Florence, Mont.

As always I thoroughly enjoyed reading your latest edition of Wild West. As a former rodeo cowboy and announcer I especially enjoyed the article "Test of Cowboy Skills Led to Today's Rodeo" in the June edition. There is an error in the first caption. The rider in the photograph is riding a bareback bronc, not a saddle bronc. The saddle-bronc rider uses a customized version of the average, everyday roping saddle, including stirrups. The bareback-bronc rider uses a leather handhold, similar to a suitcase handle, attached to a leather pad that is tied to the bronc via D rings and a latigo. There are no stirrups on the bareback rigging. The saddle-bronc rider also uses a rein, and his spurring actions are much different than the bareback-bronc rider's.

Bob Sullivan
Parker, Colo.

The editor responds: The faulty caption information came with the image, which I didn't look at closely enough. Thanks for the informative corrections.

Pendelton Penance

Has there been a major earthquake on the West Coast that has gone unreported? I am sure the residents of Pendleton, Ore., would be quite surprised, probably even shocked, to find out that their town and its rodeo, the Pendleton Round-Up, have been moved quite a distance south to the state of California, at least according to your Western Enterprise article in the June 2007 Wild West. Unless my maps have been incorrect all these years, Pendleton has always been in Oregon.

James J. Griffin
Branford, Conn.

On P. 27 of the June "Western Enterprise " article it states that the Pendleton Round-Up is in California. I do believe it is in eastern Oregon. Of course, with all of the Californians selling out and moving to Oregon, maybe California has annexed Oregon.

Art Bowen
via Internet

The editor responds: Let 'er buck, as they say. My head is bowed. Pendleton is of course much closer to Walla Walla, Wash., than to anywhere in California—something to keep in mind if you plan to attend the Pendleton Round-Up in Oregon this September (see www.pendletonroundup.com).

Posseman Proof

I take exception to David Turk's "Billy the Kid and the U.S. Marshals Service" (February 2007 Wild West). Mr. Turk does not present one single scrap of physical evidence that the Kid ever rode as a deputized posse member, let alone a member of a federal marshal's posse. Your magazine even bought into the hysteria. The front cover states: "The Kid once rode for the U.S. Marshal's service (no kidding)."

J.D. Matthews
El Paso County Dept. Sheriff (ret.)
Pratt, Kan.

David Turk, historian for the U.S. Marshals Service, responds: There is ample evidence already out there to prove the fact that Billy the Kid was indeed a federally deputized posseman for a short period. His term would have been measured in days in assisting Deputy U.S. Marshal Robert Widenmann. Two examples of proof follow. (1) The Frank Warner Angel Report for the Justice Department that describes the Kid's actions on February 23, 1878, National Archives. This clearly indicates he served in a posse in searching James Dolan's store with Deputy Widenmann and Fred Waite, among others. Widenmann had jurisdiction on the search, and Maurice Garland Fulton's History of the Lincoln County War (pages 125-126) reinforces this. (2) Letter from U.S. Marshal John Sherman to U.S. Army Colonel Edward Hatch, dated March 8, 1878, National Archives. This letter clearly indicates that Deputy Widenmann had a civil (or nonmilitary) posse. Deputy Widenmann utilized this authority during the search of the Dolan store. The Kid was in that posse. Although some would like a signed certificate, the evidence is clearly there. Widenmann, who was free to deputize any citizen (including military, as this was before the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878), did so frequently in many of his actions as a deputy U.S. marshal.

Frontier Flashes

As a new subscriber of Wild West, I am awed by the articles and the "Frontier Flashes" in the "Roundup" section. They are full of information, even in small details! I have never learned so much from a magazine until now. I read the April 2007 issue cover to cover, and as a fledgling historian, I find myself with a couple of questions. Is the James B. Miller mentioned in "Frontier Flashes" the same "Killin' Jim" Miller who received legal assistance from John Wesley Hardin? Was William Wells, one of "Paul Hutton's Top Ten Frontier Characters" (P. 10), the inspiration behind Charles Frazier's book Thirteen Moons? Your magazine is great, and I plan on being a subscriber for as long as we are both around.

Chad Whittington
Huntsville, Texas

The editor responds: Glad you like the magazine. Hardin, on behalf of Miller (his cousin by marriage), filed charges of attempted murder in 1895 against a former Texas sheriff, Bud Frazer. The first Frazer trial ended in a hung jury. Frazer was acquitted at a second trial but was later killed by Killin' Jim. William Wells, who was captured by the Miami Indians and adopted by Chief Little Turtle, is in need of a good biography (hint: Hutton says, "I have plans to yet make him famous"). William Wells and Maconaquah: White Rose of the Miamis, a work of historical fiction by Julia M. Gilman, came out in 1985. Thirteen Moons, Frazier's follow-up novel to his 1997 best-seller Cold Mountain, was inspired by William Holland Thomas, a 90-year-old white man who spoke nothing but Cherokee for days after turning up in an asylum in Raleigh, N.C., in the late 1800s.

Send letters to: Wild West Editor, Weider History Group, 741 Miller Dr. SE, Suite D-2, Leesburg, VA 20175, or e-mail to WildWest@weiderhistorygroup.com.



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