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Review - The Real Story - True Grit



I really like the series "The Real Story" from the smithsonian Channel which features facts behind fictional stories or movies. Shows have included Braveheart, Apollo 13, Encounters of the Third Kind, Jaws, Pirates of the Caribbean and True Grit.

Charles Portis wrote "True Grit" in 1968 and it was made into a movie twice - the 1969 John Wayne version and the 2010 Jeff Bridges version. It tells the story of a fourteen year old girl, Mattie Ross, who tracks down her father's murdered by hiring the toughest marshal (a man with "true grit") that she can find. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, who is also after the murderer (Chaney).

The drunken, one-eyed U.S. Marshal was Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn, a Civil War veteran who killed 23 men, supposedly out of self defense, during his career as marshal.

1851 colt Navy cap and ball revolver - took forever to reload, plow-handle shaped handle, accurate up to 50 ft.

Winchester 1873 Rifle was accurate up to 400 yards, lever-action, 14 rounds per load.

During this time, deputies worked on commissions and not on salary, so they had to cover their own expenses. Oftne they performed side gigs and pursued warrants. They could get 6 cents a mile to go out to get someone and 10 cents a mile to bring someone back under arrest. Deputies walked a thin line between good and bad (abuse of power).

Fort Smith, Arkansas had a jail known as "hell on the border". It was dirty, smelly, and had a bucket for a bathroom. By the 1870's, the jail was overcrowded. On Fort Smith's hanging day, over 5000 people came to watch, including consession salesmen (hawkers). About 100 people hung in their gallows.

Judge Isaac Parker, known as "Hanging Judge Parker", 36, was from a small town in Ohio and had a wife named Mary. He sentenced 79 men to die from the gallows.

Indian Territory was desolate, wide open, and made it a haven for dangerous criminals. 17,000 of the 22,000 white people were criminals. It consisted of over 64,000 square miles so it was difficult to police. There were 5 native tribes, the Creeks being the most violent.

Deputy Marshal's job was a lot like a private investigator - had to go interview people, tracked criminals down, went undercover. But it was a dangerous job and 1/5 of Fort smith's deputy marshals were killed.

Resources: The Real Story series





Review - Book - Madame Millie



I have been doing some research in the area of Old West bordellos and found this interesting book, set a little after the Old West (in the twentieth century), but the practices are similar and the rural townships are similar, it was still worthwhile to read.

Mildred Clark Cusey lived from the 1920's - 1970's periods. She was also known as Silver City Millie.

Mildred started her career as a Harvey Girl waitress on the Santa Fe Railroad line. This was a "prestigous" gig in those days.

A lot of people wonder why a woman would turn to prostitution if there were other opportunities to make money (cooking, washing, etc). Take a look at these stats and you can see that a woman could become very wealthy:

In Virginia City, Nevada =, during the Washoe Rush, there were 2379 men and only 147 women. Another stat says in many booming areas, there were 7 men to every 1 woman.

Of course, the problem comes when soiled doves start heading to a place. Then there is too much competition and the prices go down.

For example, in Cripple Creek, Colorado in the 1890's, there was a five mile stretch of "red light district" that featured every type of woman and race. In comstock, Nevada there were 307 prostitutes in 1875 (almost 10 percent were under 18 years old). Another example, Rawhide, Nevada's "Stingaree Gulch" stretched a quarter of a mile with over 500 women.

There was another side to prostitution - drugs. Laudanum (a derivative of opium) was readily available and girls often overdoesed. Suicide was also high among "fallen angles"

An interesting marketing technique performed by Jennie Rogers in Denver, she would take her girls on a coach ride through town to show what was available. Another marketing tool was full-length photographs of girls dressed in their best outfits and these cards were given to their favorite customers. For Mille, she would have a new girl walk a poodle downtown with a special hat to advertise she was available for business.

The term "Red Light District" came about from the red lantern railroaders hung outside the brothel so that the trainmaster could find them if needed (during the day or night).