‘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’
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.
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.
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
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.
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If my subscription weren’t ending anyway, I would cancel it as a result of [Roger Jay’s] article. I can think of no group of individuals more outraged to lose their Second Amendment rights than those in the Old West. They understood the need to defend themselves against criminals and the fauna of the West. For your publication to carry an article even hinting at changes to gun rights means you have no understanding of your subject matter.
North Little Rock, Ark.
In regard to “Second Thoughts about the Second Amendment”: Your magazine used to be my favorite, until this issue, which by the way will be my last. Why did you have to let the B.S. in your magazine?
The editor responds: What Roger Jay wrote was an opinion piece in the form of a Top Ten list. In each issue, we have a writer come up with a list (humorous or serious) about the Wild West for our Roundup department. As the title indicates, it is Roger Jay’s list. We would have run his list had he called it “Roger Jay’s Reasons for Loving the Second Amendment.” We also like the First Amendment. We do regret a couple of mistakes in the editing process of Roger Jay’s feature story “A Tale of Three Western Cities.” Samuel Botts was not a “drunken road grader”; he was the road grader who attempted to arrest the drunk cattle baron Shanghai Pierce. And the leader of the Texas gang was Hurricane Bill Martin, not Madden. We apologize for the mistakes.
The August 2008 issue of Wild West is what the Wild West is all about: a little shootin’, a little minin’, some justice, some killin’ and the usual drama mixed with theater, law and order, outlaws and a slew of wayward “Kids.” It’s a great mix.
The editor responds: Glad you enjoy the magazine. Readers can go to “forums” at our Web site www.HistoryNet.com and debate the top Old West towns.
Mackenzie, Not Miles
On P. 44 of the October 2008 issue, we ran a photo of Ranald Mackenzie instead of Nelson Miles. A miss is as good as a Miles, and we apologize.
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