True Tales of the Prairies and Plains
Sales Date: July 4, 2007
264 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: July 2007
Ever wonder why cowboys sing? Or where Henry Starr’s treasure is buried? Or what legend lies behind the origin of the word “rawhide”? The prairies and plains are bursting with stories, a region whose flat openness belies a colorful history that’s now captured in this cornucopia of colorful tales.
David Dary is a master storyteller and award-winning historian who was born in the region and still calls it home. In this book, he shares forty forgotten tales that capture the history, romance, and lore of early life on the plains and prairie—rollicking adventures set between the Rio Grande and the Canadian border that reflect the reality of life in the region during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
These stories have been gleaned from old newspaper accounts and little-known published sources, reflecting Dary’s intimate knowledge of his stomping ground. A veritable treasury of lost legends, the book blends history and folklore to offer a fond look back at settlers and Indians, desperados and cowboys—including just how it is that the latter became known for singing.
In these enchanting vignettes, Dary takes readers along trails and rails to tell how the Staked Plains got their name and to recall times when women were scarce. He unearths legends of buried treasure spanning the region and spins tales of buffalo and bears. He tells of famous lawmen like Seth Bullock of Deadwood fame and outlaws like Belle Starr, and sheds light on other famous and obscure personalities, from Chief Old Wolf to Fort Mann’s woman soldier, Caroline Newcomb, to Teddy Roosevelt, the badlands rancher who became president.
For anyone who thinks of America’s middle as dull, True Tales of the Prairies and Plains offers a corrective that entertains as it informs. It is a book as wide-ranging as the land it covers, preserving nuggets of lore from perpetual obscurity and promising readers hours of enjoyment, whether on or off the trail.
"An entertaining collection readers will enjoy."—Annals of Iowa
Dary’s writings have richly deserved his many awards and are as interesting as they are informative. These tales are as wide-ranging as the land they cover, rescuing settlers’ lore from obscurity and promising hours of reading enjoyment."—The Oklahoman
"Should be required reading for students of the Great Plains, but can also be enjoyed by anyone interested in the region. Storytellers will also benefit from these rich, diverse stories presented in this fairly concise and easily read volume."—Kansas History
"Digging through local histories, old newspapers and other documents, Dary finds excitement and romance in the region’s abandoned army posts, old stage routes and rowdy cow towns. . . . At their best, Dary’s tales inspire a passion for the glory days of Western adventure, including a strong desire to get out of the city and onto the grasslands, retracing the steps of warriors, settlers and soldiers who once walked the vast and dusty plains."—Tulsa World
"Dary has gathered an entertaining and disparate collection of stories under the geographical theme of the Plains. . . . Readers will enjoy the brief lessons about the region, such as ‘How the Staked Plains Got Their Name’ and the colorful adventures of plainsman and scout. . . . ‘Buffalo, Horses, and Other Creatures’ adds a welcome dimension to this collection and reminds us that all manner of living things have had unique experiences on the Plains. Drawn from contemporary sources and recent scholarship, this volume will please anyone who likes a good story."—True West
"Colorful tales of treasures, murders, Native raids, wild buffalo and cowboys and cows make up 39 short vignettes of history and speculation of life on the Great Plains. Day covers a large range of tales, giving quick history lessons on the strange and the spectacular. This book can be read in short spans, as each story stands alone."—Lincoln Journal Star
Praise for David Dary, award-winning chronicler of life on the frontier plains:
“Dary understands the double legacy of the real West—hard fact and rich myth—and he savors it.”—Time
“Dary is one of our best chroniclers of the Old West.”—Publishers Weekly
“Dary’s works are bound to become staples in collections about the Old West.”—Booklist
“A wide-ranging, highly accessible, and valuable contribution to the store of knowledge about the Great Plains by one of the leading authorities on the American West.”—Jim Hoy, author of Flint Hills Cowboys: Tales from the Tallgrass Prairie
Part I: Over the Trails and Rails
1. Jim Fugate’s Adventures on the Santa Fe Trail
2. How the Staked Plains Got Their Name
3. The Ride of “Portugee” John Phillips
4. The Texan Who Invaded New Mexico
5. How Cowboys Came to Sing
6. A Trail Drive Honeymoon
7. When Billy Carried the News
8. When Women Were Scarce
Part II: Buried Treasure Legends
Some Words About Treasure Legends
9. The Tres Piedras Treasure
10. Treasure Tales from the Dakotas
11. The Virginia Dale Legend
12. Did Henry Starr Leave a Buried Treasure?
13. The Stage Station Treasure
14. The Sheepherder’s Treasure
15. Legend of “The Cave”
16. The Lost Treasure of the Missouri Traders
Part III: The Lawless, Lawmen, and Justice
17. Civilizing No-Man’s-Land
18. The Prizefight Texas Didn’t Want
19. Who Murdered Bell Starr?
20. Who Was Seth Bullock?
21. The Law and Cattle Town Gamblers
22. When Cowboys Went on Strike
Part IV: Buffalo, Horses, and Other Creatures
23. The Cat that Crossed the Plains
24. Marsh Johnson’s First Buffalo Hunt
25. The White Stallion of the Plains
26. Wild Buffalo and Other Critters
27. Tales of Legless Critters
28. The Missing White Buffalo
29. Grizzly and Black Bear Tales
Part V: The Famous and the Obsure
30. The Day Chief Old Wolf Nearly Lost His Scalp
31. Two Letters from Abilene
32. Spotted Tail’s Daughter
33. The Nebraska Hoax King
34. Fort Mann’s Woman Soldier
35. The Legend of Rawhide
36. Black Mary
37. Ogallala, a Nebraska Cattle Town
38. “California Joe,” Plainsman and Scout
39. The Badlands Rancher Who Became President
About the Author