Photo of Calamity Jane
Calamity Jane

“Leave me alone and let me go to hell by my own route!” Famous almost-last words of Calamity Jane shortly before her death in Deadwood, South Dakota, in 1903.

“Here’s one, lady, that’s already saucered and blowed.” Seems folks loved their coffee steaming hot in the old West, and an eastern matron found it undrinkable during a ten-minute train stop on her way West. She looked at the steaming cup of coffee with dismay until a cowboy seated nearby issued that generous offer.

“The Great Father sends us presents and wants us to sell him the road, but White Chief goes with soldiers to steal the road before Indians say yes or no.” Chief Red Cloud of the Oglala Sioux uttered those words in 1866 to denounced the troops on the Bozeman Trail during negotiations over the right-of-way. Red Cloud went to war and forced the Army to temporarily abandon forts along a long stretch of the trial.

“He is universally despised by all the officers of his regiment excepting his relatives and one or two sycophants.” That harsh assessment was made about Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer. His wife, Elizabeth “Libbie” Custer had much nicer things to say about her husband, including this description: “He wore troop-boots reaching to his knees, buckskin britches fringed on the sides, a dark navy blue shirt with a broad collar, a red necktie whose ends floated over his shoulder…On the broad felt hat that was almost a sombrero was fastened a slight mark of his rank.”

“There are many men in the world who are big chiefs and command many people, but you, I think, are the greatest of them all. I want you to be a father to me and treat me as your son…I am now in your hands.” Those are the words Geronimo spoke as he surrendered to General George Crook in 1883. But Gen. Crook had a far different take on Geronimo when the old Indian scout wanted to meet in 1890: “I don’t want to hear anything from Geronimo. He is such a liar that I can’t believe anything he says.”

“It will take on weight with age and get to the point where you can smell it across the room, but you can’t wear it out.” That’s how one Western traveler described the ever-present cowboy hat.

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