Got something stuck
in your craw, or do you
just feel like jawing?
Shoot us an email at
Be sure to include
your name and hometown.
On P. 45 of Bart Smith’s “Trailing Western History,” in your April 2021 issue, the lower photo caption states that the pictured deer (see above) are standing near Rabbit Ear Mountain in Oklahoma. Rabbit Ear Mountain is outside of Clayton, N.M.
Bart Smith responds: Sorry for the confusion. I photographed the deer and their immediate surroundings from the westernmost reaches of the Oklahoma Panhandle, along the Cimarron Route of the Santa Fe Trail. While the telephoto lens may make Rabbit Ear Mountain appear near, it is some distance away in New Mexico, as you point out.
The ‘Real’ Las Vegas
While binge-reading back issues of Wild West, I came across the very interesting article “Dead Men for Breakfast,” in the August 2020 issue, about the old West’s wildest towns. Author Ron Soodalter obviously knows his stuff, as included in his list was Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory. While far less well known than Tombstone, Deadwood and other notably bad places, Las Vegas was indeed a den of iniquity in the latter part of the 19th century. I didn’t know about the Dodge City Gang but do know other notables such as Billy the Kid and Doc Holliday visited “the real Las Vegas,” as natives refer to their town, during the West’s hell-raiser days.
The picture accompanying the Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory, segment of the article shows the Plaza Hotel (top right), which faces the town plaza, and to the right of and abutting the hotel is the original headquarters of the Charles Ilfeld Co. My great uncle Charles Ilfeld opened the business there in the early 1870s and in 1874 returned to his native Germany to secure a wife—Adele (née Nordhaus) Ilfeld, after whom the auditorium at Las Vegas’ Highlands University is named. On arriving back in Las Vegas, Charles and bride Adele took up residence on the top floor of the Ilfeld Co. building, a common living arrangement at the time for many merchants starting new business ventures. Adele’s first morning as a new bride in the untamed Western town of Las Vegas was initiated by her looking out her new residence’s window and, to her horror, seeing the body of a man hanging in the center of the plaza from one of the large trees that often served as a gallows for individuals who had run afoul of frontier “justice.” A true Wild West welcome to the new frontier!
Sandia Park, N.M.
To Bat for a Brother
In his article “Damage Control,” in the April 2021 Wild West, my friend John Boessenecker describes the story that Bat Masterson was responsible for shooting his brother’s attackers as a myth, which was very much the prevalent view following publication of the late Robert K. DeArment’s classic biography of Bat [Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend] in 1979. Bob later revised his views on this incident in the light of further information, notably evidence Bat had admitted to shooting both Jack Wagner and Alf Walker in two court cases when it was not in his interests to do so. In the introduction to his later book on Bat’s New York years (Gunfighter in Gotham) Bob listed the fatal shooting of Wagner and wounding of Walker among the few occasions when Bat used a firearm against a fellow man. I reviewed the emergence of this and other evidence in my article “Gunfire in Dodge City: The Night Ed Masterson Was Killed,” in the December 2004 Wild West. Incidentally, at one point in John’s article it is stated Wagner survived his wounds when it was actually Alf Walker who recovered.
John Boessenecker responds: I am the last one to argue with my friend Chris Penn. Many thanks for setting the record straight. I stand corrected.
In response to George Layman’s Guns of the West article in the June 2021 issue on the Dance pistol, with regard to outlaw Bill Longley carrying a “brace” of such firearms: The source of that information is not revealed. Such a claim was made by Ed Bartholomew in his 1953 book Wild Bill Longley: A Texas Hard Case, Carroll C. Holloway in his 1951 book Texas Gun Lore and Robert Elman in his 1974 book Badmen of the West. However, none gave any attribution. Longley himself never mentioned the manufacturer of any firearm he carried, and after very thorough research into that so-called gunman, I never found any contemporary mention of a Dance revolver. It would be helpful for sake of accuracy if a credible source for that information could be provided your readers.
George Layman responds: Miller, the author of Bloody Bill Longley: The Mythology of a Gunfighter, makes a good point. A generations-old tale, “Longley and his Dances” appears to have been repeated so often for so long it became “fact.”
Mike Coppock’s article on General O.O. Howard and the Nez Perces (“Westward, Christian Soldier”) in the June 2021 Wild West contains an error on a name. The “Colonel John Gibson” mentioned at the Battle of the Big Hole in Montana Territory is actually Colonel John Gibbon.
Editor responds: Our apologies for the error. Though rather remote, Big Hole National Battlefield (10 miles west of Wisdom, Mont., on state Highway 43) is well worth a visit. For information visit nps.gov/biho/index.htm.
Send letters by email or to Wild West, 901 N. Glebe Road, 5th Floor, Arlington, VA 22203. Please include your name and hometown. These letters were published in the October 2021 issue.