“Texas” John Slaughter

The West was a raw land, full of good men and bad and it was always a race to see who would win.

No one was tougher than John Horton Slaughter, or Texas John as he was called, and before he reached his prime, he became known as the “baddest good guy that ever lived.”

He was born in 1841 and set out to prove himself, possibly because he only stood 5’6” tall. But small stature aside, he made quite a name for himself as a Texas Ranger and then a fighter for the Confederate army. During this time, he showed himself adept with weaponry and his fiery temper was legendary. Everyone learned to stay clear of him when he was angry. Outlaws often froze when they stared into his hard eyes.

Among those who admired his guns were Wild Bill Hickok, Big Foot Wallace, King Fisher, Sam Bass, Billy the Kid, and Pat Garrett.

He was equally admired for his ranching ability. When he developed a successful ranching operation in South Texas in the 1870s, he inspired loyalty from those who worked for him. Two were ex-slaves who were loyal their entire life. John made no distinction in the color of a man’s skin and he treated them well.

In 1871, he married Eliza Harris but she died of smallpox a few years later.

One lawman who chased outlaws with John remarked, “He was like a spider spinning his web for the unwary fly.”

And when he ordered a man, “to lay down or be shot down,” his lips barely moved. One thing for sure, you’d best move fast and oblige.

But John Slaughter had a bad vice—he loved to gamble, sometimes for three or four days straight before finding his way home. That didn’t set too well with his, second wife, sixteen-year-old Cora Viola Slaughter, and they had some mighty big fights. She threatened to leave him on more than one occasion, although she never did.

He moved his ranching operation to Cochise County, Arizona and in November 1886, he was elected sheriff, only the third one they had. Shortly after, the lawless men decided it was a good time to leave the territory or be killed. His gun became a symbol of the law during his Tombstone days. He was quick with his wits, fast on the draw with his pearl-handled revolver, and doggedly determined to clean up Tombstone. He was absolutely fearless because he was convinced he had a guardian angel and would never die from a bullet. He didn’t hesitate to ride off alone into the vast six thousand square miles of Cochise County in pursuit of a bad man and he never returned until he’d dealt with him.

In 1896, he and Cora adopted a baby girl they named Apache May after he found her while chasing Apache Indians in Mexico. Shortly after, he bought a large ranch called the San Bernardino at Douglas, Arizona and it had an unusual feature. Half of the house was located in the U.S. and half in Mexico.

The Slaughters loved Apache May or “Patchy” as they called her. When she was a young girl, she was playing near a scalding pot in the yard and fell into it. She was too badly burned to survive and was buried on the ranch.

Texas John lived to be the ripe old age of 81. True to his lifelong belief, he died in his sleep on February 15, 1922 and was buried in the cemetery at Douglas, Arizona. Cora outlived him by nineteen years.

He’d cleaned up Arizona Territory more than any other single lawman and carved his name in history.

I wonder if you’ve ever heard of him. Have you ever felt you have a guardian angel watching over you?

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Love and Marriage Through a Child’s Eyes

Children crack me up and greatly enrich my stories. Just like grownups, they have strong personal opinions about love and marriage. My goodness, they’re opinionated! Many years ago (way more than I want to share) Art Linkletter had a segment on his TV show called Children Say the Darndest Things. People before the age of 30 won’t know what I’m talking about. However, Jimmy Fallon often talks to children on the Tonight Show about various subjects and they’re always so funny. I can’t think of anything more fun than talking to kids. Some are pretty wise for their age and they’ll make you roll on the floor laughing.

How do you decide who to marry?

One girl answered, “No person really decides before they grow up. God decides it all way before and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with.”

A boy snickered. “You got to find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports and she should keep the chips and dip coming.”

 

What is the right age to get married?

“Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then.”

 

What do most people do on a date?

“Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.” (A wise girl if I say so myself!)

“On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.”

What would you do on a first date that was turning sour?

“I’d run home and play dead. The next day I would call all the newspapers and make sure they wrote about me in all the dead columns.”

 

When is it okay to kiss someone?

“When they’re rich.”  (I like the way this girl thinks. Wish I’d have listened to her advice.)

Another child said, “The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It’s the right thing to do.”

Is it better to be single or married?

“It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.”

 

How would the world be different if people didn’t get married?

“There would sure be a lot of kids to explain, wouldn’t there?”

 

How would you make a marriage work?

“Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck.”

 

 

* * * *

One thing for sure, children sure have a unique view of the world. I love writing about them and usually put at least one in every story. They can add a lot of depth and emotion.

In THE HEART OF A TEXAS COWBOY, fourteen-year-old Henry Boone has the mind of a child. Some of the things he says are really funny. Here’s an exchange with Houston Legend.

Outside in the hallway, Houston found himself blocked by Lara’s kid brother Henry. The boy shook his finger under Houston’s nose. “Be nice,” Henry warned. “If you ain’t nice, I’ll give you a black eye.”

Seeing as how his young accoster had to stand on tiptoe to do it, made the situation border on the ridiculous. The whole thing would’ve been comical if not for the glisten of tears in Henry’s eyes and his quivering lip.

“What are you talking about, kid?”

“My sister. A man hurt her and gave her a baby. If you give her a baby, you’ll be mean too.” Henry stuck up both fists. “I ain’t a scared o’ you. I’ll black your eye.”

* * * *

Do you like hanging out and talking to kids? Or maybe you know something funny a child has said.

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Train Travel in the 1800s Was Hazardous

Travel of any kind in the 1800s and before was very difficult—especially if you had young children along. I can’t even imagine trying to corral a child and get where I needed to go. It would’ve taken a lot of doing.

Going by train was by far preferable to stagecoach or horseback, but it definitely had its drawbacks.

Like smoke coming in the windows and ruining your clothes during the summer months.

Freezing in the winter.

Narrow, crowded aisles.

Wrecks.

Outlaws.

The normal speed for steam engine locomotives was about 25-30 mph in 1864. Before that, the best they could get was 15 mph. Trains had to stop every 30 miles to take on water to make the steam so it took forever and a day to get somewhere.

(This photo of a Pullman passenger train doesn’t depict those in the Old West which were bare of luxury.)

The traveler got covered from head to foot with thick soot, smoke and dust that flew in through the open windows. Wearing dusters over their clothing helped some, but they were hot. I guess it depended on how desperate you were a little bit clean. Sometimes women wrapped their hair with a kind of close-fitting cap.

In wintertime, the train company would remove two or three seats from one side and make room for a small stove. Passengers near it roasted while those at the end of the car froze. Toilets were sometimes no more than a curtained off chamber pot. Imagine how embarrassing that would be!

At night, a solitary lamp burned at one end of the car to provide light. Trying to sleep was almost impossible.

The only good thing was the train stations. Passengers could get off, use the facilities and eat a meal. I’m sure they took full advantage of those depots and every precious minute.

Wrecks were a common occurrence. Trains were known to collide, run off the tracks or derail by some large obstacle. Since wood was the #1 type of material used to construct trains until much later in the 1800s, fire was a constant threat. A lot of passengers died from the train catching fire. The coal the engineer burned in order to create steam for the engine was a major concern in a wreck.

This method of travel was by far the fastest but not necessarily the safest and even today there are horrible train wrecks that kill passengers.

The next time you grumble at having to stand in a long check-in and security line at the airport, have your flights canceled, or ride in your air-conditioned car with its soft upholstery and get stuck in traffic don’t complain. We have it so much better than our ancestors it’s not even funny. Just take a minute to appreciate what you have and remember that nothing is ever going to be perfect no matter how advanced our society becomes.

Do you think you’d like to go back in time and take a journey by stagecoach, train, or wagon? If so, which method would you prefer? Or do you mind the endless screenings and lines and cancellations? How about getting stuck in traffic, do you gripe or just accept and make the most of it?

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The Curiosities of Barber Poles

Ever wonder why barber poles are red, white, and blue?

The white and red colors indicated barbers in days past who filled in as doctors and dentists. Barber poles actually descended from medieval times when barbers performed surgical procedures such as bloodletting. Patrons held a firm grip on a wooden pole that often had a brass basin at the top that contained leeches. Barbers hung both clean and bloodstained bandages outside their shops where they would twirl in the breeze.

Thus, those bandages came to represent the red and white stripes on the barber pole. Then in the U.S. later on, a blue stripe was added to show the American colors, making them patriotic.

A barber-surgeon often had mundane tasks such as picking lice from a person’s head, extracting teeth, and of course, blood-letting.

Now, can you imagine for a minute how clean those shops must’ve been? Not! I shudder to think about a barber cutting someone’s hair with blood-stained hands. Or worse, performing surgery with hair on him. Lord help! No wonder so many people died back then. Infection must’ve run rampant.

In the old days the pole had a crank that wound it which made for a tedious time keeping it turning. Electric ones that came along had a switch.

The cast iron models weighed around 125 pounds. They would’ve been very hard to wind. They’re much lighter today.

The William Marvy Company in St. Paul, Minnesota opened up for business in 1950 and they still make these today. They number each pole they sell. And they’ve produced over 82,000. They’re proud to say that No. 75,000 built in 1997 is hanging in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Though business sharply declined over time due to electric razors and trimmers, the company still employs 14 workers and are owned by third-generation Marvys.

The barber pole is such an outstanding and recognizable symbol. Today we know it only as a place to get your hair cut.

Thank goodness real doctors do the surgery now!

I wonder….would you have sought the services of a barber back then if you had a bad tooth ache? I sure don’t think I would’ve. 

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I Have Winners!

I’m really sorry that I didn’t post this sooner.

Winners of The Heart of a Texas Cowboy from the week of April 24th are……..

CHERYL C.

QUILT LADY

Congratulations, ladies! I hope you’re enjoying the book.

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Poisonous Jimson Weed

All across the dry, windy plains of the West you can see Jimson Weed growing and it’s one of the most poisonous plants you can find. Most cattle avoid it because of the horrible odor but if they ingest any, it kills very quickly.

This plant grows to a height of 5 feet in places where it’s undisturbed and it has large trumpet flowers. The seed pods are as large as a golf ball. If any part of it is ingested by humans it causes convulsions, vomiting, blurred vision and blindness. Two ounces will result in death.

This plant also causes delirium, hallucinations, coma, and death. Strangely, there are a lot of cases of kids today smoking it and ending up in either the hospital or morgue. Native Americans smoked this plant in sacred ceremonies because of hullucinations.

In The Heart of a Texas Cowboy, this plant causes one of them on this cattle drive to come close to dying and they have to rush to try to find a doctor, which in Indian Territory is about as difficult as finding a lawman.

But luckily they do manage and the doctor immediately pours liquid charcoal down the person’s throat. I apologize for being vague but I don’t want to give part of the plot away.

There are many plants in the wild that look harmless that can cause death. Things like rhubarb, meadow saffron, yellow jasmine, sassafras, and others.

The Heart of a Texas Cowboy releases on Tuesday, May 2nd. This is book #2 of the Men of Legend series and this one is about Houston Legend. I hope you’ll give it a try.

I’m at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention right now so I won’t give away any copies. I wish you were all here with me. I’m having a great time.

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The Lawless Indian Territory

I’m so excited to have THE HEART OF A TEXAS COWBOY out in one week. This is Book #2 Men of Legend and features Houston Legend and I think it’s my best novel yet.

Houston is hard at work on the ranch books one Monday when his father comes in and announces that he gambled away ½ of the Lone Star Ranch. Over 200,000 acres is gone just like that in one hand of cards.

But…Houston can get it back for them. All he has to do is marry the daughter of the new owner and give her baby a name.

Despite anger and resentment toward his father, he does. And so this marriage of convenience story is off and running and he settles into a tenuous relationship with Lara Boone–a woman he’d never met.

Two weeks following the ceremony, he decides to take a large herd of longhorns up the Great Western Trail to Dodge City where he can get triple the money. At the last minute, his cook quits and Lara steps into the job.

This story is full of danger and suspense with an unfolding love story woven throughout. They’re beset by a group of outlaws in Indian Territory and the outcome appears uncertain.

Most of the story is set in Indian Territory. So what exactly was it?

Its wild, untamed land that eventually became Oklahoma. The federal government set the land aside for the five civilized native tribes to live on—Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole. The only law other than Indian was a handful of U.S. Marshals, but they were stretched mighty thin.

Indian Territory became a place to hide for outlaws, train robbers, and murderers. They could ride into the neighboring states, commit their crimes, and ride back to safety. And they did that for a lot of years until Oklahoma became a state in 1907.

Until it became a state, Judge Isaac Parker ruled over this territory. He in turn appointed a few U.S. Marshals to try to curb the lawlessness but it was far more land than the marshals could cover. Outlaws ran roughshod over them.

So when Houston and his drovers find themselves fighting to stay alive, there was no law to help them. They were completely on their own.

I hope you’ll give this book a try. I’m very happy with the reviews it’s getting. Book #3 To Marry a Texas Outlaw comes out in November with a thrilling conclusion of the series.

My question….what is it about marriage of convenience stories that draw you? I’m giving away a copy of the book to two people who post a comment on this blog.  

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Manners and Morals of Victorian America

Here’s another book in my research arsenal and sure to get plenty of giggles — Manners and Morals of Victorian America by Wayne Erbsen.

It addresses all sorts of subjects such as: Business Ettiquette, Children, Courtship, Kissing, Dining, and so many more. This is just a treasure-trove of information and I hardly know where to begin.

This one should be #1 though:

Beware of Bad Books – one half of the youth in our prisons and houses of correction started on their evil path by reading bad books, or at best, worthless novels. These books are the nicotine and alcohol of literature; they poison and burn, and blast the head and heart as surely as their cousins do the stomach. (1903)

* * *

No wise girl would accept a man who proposed by moonlight or just after a meal. The dear things are not themselves then. Food, properly served will attract a proposal at almost any time, especially if it is known that the girl prepared it.

* * *

Matrimony for women is the great business of life, whereas for the men it is only an incident. (1838)

* * *

Avoid the pen as you would the devil when you are angry. If you must commit follies, don’t put them down on paper. (1887)

* * *

We kiss too much. The principles of both hygiene and honesty are constantly violated in the practice. We might well indulge in a perfunctory little peck on the cheek that means nothing. It ought not to be necessary—but it is—to say that kissing in public is extremely bad form. (1907)

* * *

It is not allowable for a young man to shake hands with a lady unless she offers hers first. Only those of unimpeachable integrity and unsullied reputation should be introduced to a lady. (1892)

* * *

There is beauty in the helplessness of women. The clinging trust which searches for extraneous support is graceful and touching. Timidity is the attribute of her sex; but to herself, it is not without danger, inconveniences and sufferings. Her first effort at comparative freedom is bitter enough. The delicate mind shrinks from every unaccustomed contact and the warm and gushing heart closes itself, like the blossom of the sensitive plant, at every approach. (1916)

* * *

What men want in a wife for the most part is a humble, nattering, smiling, child-loving, tea-making being who laughs at their jokes however old they may be. Women who coaxes and wheedles us to good humor and fondly lies to us through life. (1886)

* * *

Ladies, never marry a genius. As the supply of geniuses is very limited, this advice may seem useless. It is not so, however, for there is enough and too spare of men who think that they are and take liberties accordingly. (1886)

* * *

No lady should use the piano of a hotel uninvited if there are others in the room. It looks bold and forward to display even the most finished musical education in this way. It is still worse to sing. (1910)

* * *

And one more. These are just too hilarious.

It is evident that although a man may be ugly, there is no necessity for his being shocking. (1836)

* * *

Okay, there you go. I didn’t even get a chance to get into table manners or umbrella etiquette or any of the other interesting topics. I guess I’ll have to save those. It blows my mind that those people went to such lengths to have rules for everything. They had waaaaay too much time on their hands.

Which was the funniest to you?

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Facts Worth Knowing in the 1800s

Over the years, I’ve collected a lot of books in my personal research library about various subjects. One book is an 1887 Edition of The Original White House Cookbook by P.L. Gillette. This book is full of recipes by the presidential First Ladies of the White House and actual menus served in addition to one of the State dinners, Mrs. Cleveland’s wedding lunch and President Grant’s birthday dinner. Then at the back are several very interesting sections.

One is labeled For the Sick and lists things to feed someone who’s ailing. Such as: Beef tea, Mutton broth, Gruel, and Porridges. Then it also has a section on how to make different poultices, a remedy for boils, and a cure for ringworms.

Another section is called Heath Suggestions. I found it very enlightening and funny. For instance: “People swallow more colds down their throats than they inhale or receive from contact with the air, no matter how cold or chilly it may be.”

So don’t be swallowing a cold down your throat!

Furthermore…. “Many colds are taken from the feet being damp or wet.”

“Sleeplessness caused by too much blood in the head may be overcome by applying a cloth wet with cold water to the back of the neck.” (HaHa!)

There’s a miscellaneous section that tells you how to clean kid gloves, freshen up furs, wash feathers, and clean oil-cloths. Invaluable I’m sure if you’d lived back then.

Then we come to Facts Worth Knowing and this is priceless.

To clean marble busts: First free them from all dust, then wash them with very weak hydrochloric acid. Soap injures the color of marble. (You want to keep your marble busts in tip-top shape.)

To keep milk sweet: Put into a panful of grated horseradish and it will keep it sweet for days.

To remove paint from black silk: Patient rubbing with chloroform will remove paint from black silk or any other goods and will not hurt the most delicate color or fabric.

To remove stains, spots and mildew from furniture: Take half a pint of ninety-eight percent alcohol, a quarter of an ounce of pulverized resin and gum shellac, add a pint of linseed oil and shake well. Apply with a brush or sponge.

To soften boots and shoes use kerosene. Saturate a woolen rag and rub into the leather.

Choking: A piece of food lodged in the throat may sometimes be pushed down with the finger, or removed with a hairpin quickly straightened and hooked at one end, or by two or three vigorous blows on the back between the shoulders. (Alrighty! I’m laughing here. Seriously? A finger or hairpin down my throat?)

To prevent lamp wicks from smoking soak them in vinegar then dry thoroughly. (This is something we all need to know. My lamp wicks smoke something horribly.)

Never use water from a stone reservoir for cooking purposes. (Huh?)

To prevent the odor of boiling ham or cabbage: Throw red pepper pods or a few bits of charcoal into the pan with them. (Good Lord!)

Death to bugs: Varnish is death to the most persistent bug. It is cheap—ten cents’ worth will do for one bedstead—is easily used, is safe, and improves the look of the furniture. The application must be thorough, however. Coat the slats, sides, and every crack and corner.

To make tough meat tender lay it in strong vinegar water.

To ventilate a room place a pitcher of cold water on a table and it will absorb all the gases with which the room is filled from the respiration of those eating or sleeping. Very few realize how important such purification is for the health of the family or understand that there can be impurity in the rooms; yet in a few hours it will make the air pure. But the water will be unfit to drink.

There were tons of these pieces of sage advice. A few are what we do today but others were just really off the wall and kept me laughing. I wonder what things we do now that future generations will snicker at. No telling but I’m sure there’ll be plenty.

Which things that I mention in this book caught your attention?

Here’s a link to the book on Amazon:  http://a.co/fBoY1sG

Just three weeks until The Heart of a Texas Cowboy!! Happy, happy!

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Law Enforcers on the American Frontier

When have you ever picked up a western romance book to read that didn’t have some kind of law enforcement hero? I’ve noticed that an overwhelming number of stories feature marshals, sheriffs, Texas or Arizona Rangers, bounty hunters, and Pinkerton agents. And little wonder, because those occupations tend to breed larger than life heroes. Not that I’m saying the ordinary man can’t be a memorable hero. Heroes spring to life wherever there are people—the man who struggles to provide for his family, the rancher who’s trying to hold onto a piece of land by his fingernails—any man or woman who faces long odds and certain loss, yet overcomes.

A hero is someone who gives his all for a belief in justice and right, knowing full well he might lose, and plunges ahead anyway.  He has unwavering conviction that he can make a difference. And he’s someone people respect above all else.

In the settlement of the West, law-enforcers were few and far between. Circumstances bred lawless men who ran roughshod over the weak. Oftentimes, the ordinary citizen took it upon himself to protect and defend. Ordinary people with grit and determination filled the gaps and helped carve out a land free of outlaws and greedy land barons. I’ve put together a list of the most written about heroes. I wish I’d known some of these facts when I wrote my first three books which featured a bounty hunter hero, a Texas Ranger, and an ex-Confederate spy. Almost all my books have a sheriff or marshal in them and at times I used the two professions interchangeably. <groan> I didn’t exactly know the distinction between them. Until now.

U.S. Marshals — the first federal organization to come into being.  George Washington and the Continental Congress created the service in 1789. Marshals are federally appointed, not elected, and they served a certain territory and still do today. Their authority extends to everything within that territory. Where states had not yet formed, the U.S. Marshal provided the only law. Their primary function was to support and defend the federal courts. They had wide authority in enforcing every aspect of the law, handling disputes, and carrying out death sentences. They also disbursed and accounted for monies used in running the courts. While I’m not exactly sure, I assume U.S. Marshals paid the bounty money for outlaws. The marshals were not put on an annual salary until 1896. Before that, they worked on a fee system, collecting set amounts for performing particular tasks. Strangely, from 1790 to 1870 they were ordered to take the census every ten years, a fact I didn’t know. U.S. Marshals reported directly to the Secretary of State until 1861 when Congress created the Department of Justice. U.S. Marshals hired as many deputies as needed to perform their duties. Another odd piece of information I learned was that U.S. Marshals had no official headquarters until around 1972. Kinda interesting.

 

Sheriffs –- Elected by the citizens of a town and paid by the city officials to perform their duties. Their jurisdiction was limited to the county in which they served. Their primary duty was to keep the peace, uphold the law, and maintain the jail. They acted in conjunction with the U.S. Marshals, but had limited authority. Sheriffs hired deputies and formed posses when needed. The sheriff also served as the tax collector for the county.

Texas and Arizona Rangers –- I can’t think of any tougher law enforcement groups more honored and more deserving than the Texas and Arizona Rangers. Rangers to this day offer untold service to their respective states. Some of their duties include: protect life and property, handle special criminal investigations, quell disturbances, serve as officers of the court at a judge’s request, and suppress criminal activity in any area where local officials are unable or unwilling to maintain law and order. A Ranger’s authority extends throughout the entire state, not curtailed by city or county boundaries. Directly under the governor, they act as an army at times while at others they’re like a police force. The Texas Rangers organized in 1823 when Stephen F. Austin got together a group of men to protect the frontier. Each ranger had to furnish his own horse and firearm. He received $1.25 a day. They were called upon to handle the toughest assignments, usually in conflicts where they were severely outnumbered – “one ranger for one riot” kind of thing. The Arizona Rangers were formed in 1882 under the territorial governor. They were the exact counterpart of the Texas Rangers. The Arizona State Congress abolished them in 1909 but they were reformed years later.

Bounty Hunters – People aren’t quite sure where bounty hunters sit when it comes to being a good guy or a bad one. Some writers make them more the villains than the hero, but bounty hunters began as law enforcers. A lot of them served in the capacity of deputy U.S. marshals. Others worked directly with sheriffs in apprehending criminals. Bounty hunters freed up the marshal’s or the sheriff’s time so they could focus on their normal duties and they performed a valued service. Of course, I’m sure there were rogue bounty hunters and that’s probably what led to their tarnished reputations. Today bounty hunters track down bail jumpers.

 

Pinkerton Agents –- A detective agency founded in 1850 by Allen Pinkerton. They operated nationwide, working for railroad and stage companies. Their logo was the image of an eye and their motto was “We Never Sleep.” Hence, the term private eye.  They performed some of the same work now assigned to the FBI, CIA, and Secret Service. In 1861 while investigating a railroad case, the agency uncovered and foiled a plot to kill Abraham Lincoln on his way to the inauguration. They sometimes used heavy-handed tactics and it sullied their reputation. However, it continued as a family-owned operation until 1967.

You also had the Secret Service that was formed on July 5, 1865 to combat counterfeiting. Later, it became their job to protect the president, vice president and other government leaders.

Matt Dillon at 6’7” is probably the best known TV marshal. And Steve McQueen made an excellent, fair-minded bounty hunter in Wanted Dead or Alive. But do you have other favorites? Or maybe you learned something you never knew before about law-keepers in the Old West.

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