Sunday, January 20, 2008

Frank "Pistol Pete" Eaton, A Review

The title of the book is "That Boy Packs The Truest And Fastest Guns In The Territory". It is written by a friend and partner of Frank "Pistol Pete" Eaton, Eva Gillhouse. Perhaps you've heard of him, his picture is the mascot of the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Born in Hartford Connecticut in 1860 his family went west after the War of Northern Aggression, to Osage County, Kansas. It's hard to imagine, today, but back then there were millions of acres of prime farm and ranch land given free to veterans and, sometimes, plain farmers, or would-be farmers. Being from Kansas stock myself, I understand, many don't.

Frank's father was part of the local Vigilance Committee in a time when such were needed. Aside from the ill feelings left over from the Civil War, the Santa Fe trail was right there so there were the folks robbing the wagons and then the ne'er do wells that are always on the "highways".

Frank was eight years old when outlaws murdered his father.

This book is the desktop publishing type, the pages are the size of regular typing paper, although the paper seems fairly high quality, it's not that thin stuff that won't last. The book is written in that same flat, declarative style as the old Elmer Keith gun books, the modern thing of slopping emotions all over the page hadn't come in yet.

This book recounts the adventures of a young boy learning to hunt and shoot, his hunt for the men who killed his father and the death of those men.

It describes his lifelong friendship with Rolla Goodnight, the son of Col Charles Goodnight of Goodnight-Loving Trail fame and his adventures as a Deputy US Marshall, cattle detective and ranch hand.

Reading it I could feel the sweat and taste that red Oklahoma dust. "Pistol Pete" died in 1952.

If interested one should send a check for $25.02 to Jim Huebner,

4224 Center Gate Lane

Sarasota, Florida, 34223

Jim has a simple deal, write and date the check thirty days ahead. He promises to tear up the check if the reader returns the book within 30 days.

Now, here is what took me so long to write this review. The simple fact is that Pistol Pete was probably not a gunman at all. There are no mentions of the man in any contemporary literature. No newspaper articles, no mentions in diaries and letters, nothing. Now an old west gunman was a famous fellow. I could see it if only half or so of his gunfights had ever made the news, but none? I can even see, sort of, a conspiracy among the newsies of the day to keep quiet the deeds of a Deputy Marshall who was too young to legally take the job. But those deeds would have been mentioned in letters and diaries, the blogs of the day back then. Too many of these gunfights had Frank out drawing the villain.

Now I am a (very casual) student of the old west. The only times someone outdrew another was in the saloon gunfights and those were fairly rare. Back then, as now, wearing of guns in saloons was frowned upon. Now not everyone obeyed the rules about checking your iron but most did, if for no other reason than weight. Most townies that went armed carried smaller guns, those old British Bulldogs were popular. Cowboys and ranchers tended to carry heavier iron. A feller on the range might need to kill a cow critter, to this day the most dangerous animal in America is a barnyard bull. Or a cowboy might want to kill a horse, more than a few were dragged to death when their boot got hung in a stirrup. Now a minutes though about the geometry of a cowboy shooting a horse while being dragged shows that a lot of penetration would be needed. Hence the popularity of those old Colt .45s and .38 and .44 WCF revolvers.A close range hit with any of those and the bullet will penetrate to next Tuesday.

Now a townie, of course, had a different set of needs from a gun. A man isn't all that thick and back then any solid hit was fatal, eventually. Remember, no X-ray machines and no antibiotics.

So, the book is almost certainly false. Still, if anyone enjoys the old dime novel type western, it's worth the money.

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