Monday, December 31, 2007
Helldorado, Bringing the Law to the Mesquite - William M. Breakenridge This is the 80th volume in the wonderful Lakeside Classics series. Published by the R. R. Donnelley Company of Chicago in 1982, this is a reprint of the original 1928 book by the author.
Cowboys, Indians, train robbers, the Gunfight at OK Corral, Black Jack Ketchum, the Earps, Doc Holliday, Johnny Ringo, the Clantons, Bat Masterson, General Crook....is it possible for one man to write about them all? Not only is it possible, but Billy Breakenridge knew them all, met them all, worked with them, fought them and survived as a lawman in one of Western history's most tumultuous eras.
What an absolutely fascinating book. A barn burner. Can't put it down book. It reads like the most fantastic fiction, but it's not. It's the real deal. Every bit is true and well documented. What makes it even more appealing is the fact that it's a first person historical narrative...That is, "Breck" (as Billy was usually called), is talking to you directly in this book. In his own words, describing the events as he lived them. No third party to interpret things and to "filter" the description.
Breck was born in Wisconsin in 1846 and sought excitement in the West before the Civil War. Boy, did he find it! He spent most of the 1860's in Colorado and was a courier in the infamous Sand Creek Massacre.
By the late 1870's Billy had found his way to Arizona and used the skills he learned on the frontier to become a lawman. He was known as perhaps the most courteous and modest lawmakers of the Wild West. He was loath to have to resort to gun play but if he was forced, he always came out on top. Take that little bit of information and place him in Tombstone, Arizona at the same time as the Earp Brothers and the Clanton family!
Interestingly enough, while he was on good terms with both the Earps and Clantons his story is not at all flattering to the Earp brothers. The Clantons were no saints but he paints a picture of the Earps being a plotting vengeful group that instigated the fight and most likely shot unarmed men and men who while armed had thrown their hands up.
After years of being a lawman, Breck became a "Special Officer" for the Southern Pacific Railway chasing train robbers. In 1903, the demanding life of trailing "bad guys" was getting to demanding for a 58 year old man and he became a claims investigator for the same railway.
William M. Breakenridge authored this book just a few years before he died in 1931. In the first sentence of the book he says; "Some of my friends say that my life has been eventful enough to make interesting reading and since a good deal of it was spent in helping to tame the Indians and bad men in Colorado and Arizona, maybe they were right."
Let me tell you, his friends were right. If you want to hear a fascinating story....let Breck tell you one. Read the book.
Thanks for visiting.