Cowboy Bob's Campfire ConversationsCowboy Campfire


Table of Contents

Cowboy Bob and the Bouncin' Bovine
The Philmont Mountain Lion
The Truth About Wild Horses
Bunc Bradshaw and the Mexican Captain
Cowboy Bob: Movie Star
The Cowboy's Wardrobe
Some Other Cowboy Paraphernalia
The First Bulldogger
God's Bit and Bridle
The Adventures of Cheyenne Dawson
Louis Remme's Wild Ride
Cowboy Bob and the Bunny Buckle

Animated gunfighter The Dyin' Gunfighter

Most folks today don't realize that, until the first part of the twentieth century, tuberculosis killed more people each year than any other disease. More than cancer, more than heart problems, more than fallin' off horses.

 T.B. respects no one. It defeated some of the world's greatest boxers - men like Joe Gans, Tom Sayers and Joe Coburn. It killed the wealthy as well as the poor. Gunslinger "Billy the Kid" Bonney was powerless to fight it when T.B. killed his mom.

The great English poet, John Keats, also watched his mom die of tuberculosis. He started out to be a surgeon, but took to writin' after a bit. His greatest burst of poems came after he discovered that he also had the dreadful disease. Keats was only twenty-five when T.B. laid him under the sod.

 Come to think of it, T.B. almost kept me from existin'. Grand-Pappy Lemen was barely into his twenties when he died of T.B. He left a young widow - and my dad, who wasn't hardly into britches at the time. That's what I call a close call.

 For some folks, havin' a fatal ailment with no cure makes them downright panicky. They run from doctor to doctor, or start pleadin' with God real sudden-like.

Others turn calm - a deadly calm, kinda like the middle of a hurry-cane.

Out West, tuberculosis victims were sometimes called "lungers," because of the damage the disease did to their lungs.

 One of the greatest Texas Rangers was Leander McNelly - a lunger.

A soft-spoken farm boy from Virginia, McNelly fought in the Civil War before joinin' the Rangers.

Feared by law-breakers, McNelly headed the Special Ranger Force that patrolled the Mexican border. Toward the end, McNelly was so sick that he had to direct his men's activities from the bed of a wagon.

Even more famous than McNelly was Wyatt Earp's side-kick, John Henry "Doc" Holliday.

A dentist from Georgia, Doc moved to Dallas, Texas, after he found out he had T.B. Folks didn't seem to like havin' their dentist coughin' T.B. germs in their face, so he was soon plumb out of customers.

His career on the skids, Doc taken' to gamblin' and drinkin' too much - which got him into a bunch of fights. He's known today as a gunman, but Doc probably did most of his fightin' with a knife.

 In Dodge City, Holliday extracted Wyatt Earp from a tight spot - and began a friendship that lasted the rest of Doc's short life.

Doc followed the Earp clan to Tombstone, Arizona - where he got involved in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881.

 Holliday won his fights with men - but lost the battle with tuberculosis. He died in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, at the age of thirty-six.

As he lay on his deathbed, Doc quipped, "This is funny." He was probably talkin' about the fact that he was dyin' in bed with his boots off, instead of in a fight.

 In 1871, an eighteen-year-old "lunger" named Jim Riley arrived in the tough Kansas cowtown of Newton.

On the night of August 20, a bunch of tough Texas cowhands in Perry Tuttle's saloon started shootin' at railroad foreman Mike McCluskie. (Eight days earlier, McCluskie had killed gambler Bill Bailey - a friend of the cowboys.)

As McCluskie went to the floor with three bullet wounds, a trio of his friends tried to intervene . . . and got the worst of it. One eventually recovered from his wounds, the other two died.

Mayhap Riley figured his tuberculosis would kill him soon anyhow. At any rate, McCluskie was his friend.

Riley calmly shut - and locked - the saloon door, drew his gun, and single-handedly blasted the daylights out of the Texans. Three cowhands recovered from their wounds, two died.

Unharmed, Riley - the dyin' gunfighter - drifted off to meet his Maker. No one knows where he went - or where he came from.

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   COPYRIGHT © 1999 BOB LEMEN, GRAND RAPIDS, MINNESOTA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.