In Gail Gardner’s cowboy poem “Tyin’ Knots in the Devil’s Tail,” were the two drunken cowboys Buster Jig and Sandy Bob based on real people?

ask-the-marshallE. Smyth

Via the Internet

They sure were. Buster Jig was Gail Gardner himself. This Dartmouth-educated native of Prescott, Arizona, had a father named James I. Gardner, initials J.I.G. So Gail was nicknamed Buster Jig. Sandy Bob was Bob Heckle, who hailed from an old Texas family. He was also an uncle to legendary singer Marty Robbins.

After a night of imbibing in Prescott’s 40 saloons along Whiskey Row, the two cowboys were heading back to their ranch in the Sierra Prietas (Sierry Petes) when the Devil jumped out and tried to gather their souls. They took out their ropes and heeled Lucifer, necked him to a blackjack oak tree and proceeded to brand him. Before riding off, they added to the Devil’s indignity by tying knots in his tail.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian. His books include Law of the Gun and Never Give A Heifer A Bum Steer.

If you have a question, write:

Ask the Marshall, PO Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327

or email him at

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