Robert E. Howard knew and wrote a good deal about the blood feuds of his native Texas, and the old-time range wars that had been fought even before the Civil War. They became still more bitter and intense afterwards. Howard wrote to H.P. Lovecraft in January 1931:

I hope to some day write a history of the Southwest that will seem alive and human to the readers, not the dry and musty stuff one generally finds in chronicles. To me the annals of the land pulse with blood and life, but whether I can ever transfer this life from my mind to paper, is a question. It will be years, at least. Much of the vivid history of the Southwest is lost forever and the breed growing up now looks toward, and apes, the East, caring nothing at all about the traditions and history of the land in which they live.

Lovecraft at times became almost supercilious in his attitude to the violent frontier history of the Lone Star State. Well, much of it had been shockingly bloody, but so had much of England’s history, and Lovecraft admired England and the English to the point of affecting to regret the American Revolution. I’m not one to romanticize gunfights, but the solid fact is that in the old west there were very few activities that were free of physical danger, least of all the cowboy’s. He might meet armed cow thieves or fence cutters any day of his working life. He was understandably not willing to “ride the river” with a pardner who hadn’t shown that he was ready to fight. If he encountered rustlers, Comanches, or crooked lawmen who declared they were going to cut his herd on the excuse that they believed it had been stolen – well, he was better off with a hard-drinking braggart and bully beside him than someone who was yellow.

REH expressed it this way, in the same letter quoted above:

Western feuds have generally been fought over land – cattle – sordid commercial wrangles in outward appearance, but with the underlying reasons of stubborn independent pride. More men have been killed in Texas over fences than for any other one reason. When two men own each thousands of acres, it seems foolish for them to shoot each other to death because one insisted on setting his fence forward a foot or so, doesnt it? But its the old story of ‘the principle of the thing’. And after all, a man cant be blamed for defending what he thinks is his, or taking what he thinks is his. Say you and I own adjoining ranches and I claim that the fences werent run according to the survey. I claim a strip of your land four feet wide and half a mile long. You are just as certain that it dont belong to me. I come in the night and set the fence up four feet. You are patient and not quarrelsome, so you come back the next night and set the fence back where it was. I come again and start moving that fence once more. Well, there’s nothing left for you to do but take your Winchester and start throwing lead in my direction and you’re quite right, too. A man has a right to defend his property. Its not the money value or the grazing value of the land; its the sturdy resolve of the Anglo-Saxon or the Scotch-Irish-American not to be bullied out of his natural rights. And when both contestants are of the same breed, and both absolutely certain they’re right, well, by-standers might as well start ducking, because there’s only one way to settle a row like that, and if its taken to court, it wont do any real good, but merely make feeling more bitter on each side, whichever way the decision goes.

As he observed, land and cattle were the usual cause. Not always, though, and often not the direct cause. The Texas cattle barons of the early 1870s who cursed the Kansas legislators and their quarantine rules had no idea what other problems they were soon to face. Not because of rustlers, Comanches, northern politicians or cowhand unions. Because of one man by the name of Joseph Glidden, tinkering with an apparently harmless coffee mill.

Glidden was a prairie farmer in Illinois. He didn’t invent barbed wire – that was a man named Michael Kelly – but Glidden improved it until it was truly practical. He perfected the barbs, and the means of attaching them to double-strand wire, on a small scale at first, experimenting with a coffee mill. Then he designed machines that could economically mass-produce the wire. He applied for and received a patent in 1874. Other inventors challenged his application in court, but Glidden’s design won by November – not only through his lawyer, but also through its comparative efficiency and the number of sales orders.

Barbed wire across their ranges was about as welcome to the big ranchers as infidels eating pork in Mecca to the faithful.

The clashes between cattlemen and sheepherders on the big ranges had begun at about this time. Like Glidden, the sheepherders had to fight their cases in court as part of the Sheep Wars, and cattlemen had more money. A court case being a contest to see who can afford the best lawyer, the cattlemen mostly won.

Conflict between the two was in fact less intense and violent in Texas than in Wyoming and Colorado – but Texas did have the distinction of hosting one of the earliest such clashes. Shortly before barbed wire was patented, the famous Charles Goodnight’s cowhands met with incursions of sheepmen on that part of Goodnight’s range which comprised the north fork of the Canadian River, in the Panhandle. The clashes were made worse by ethnic prejudice; the sheepherders were Mexicans, and the Texans still remembered the Alamo. In the end, Don Casimiro Romero and Goodnight came to an agreement; sheep would graze on one side of the Canadian River Valley, cattle on the other. That dispute was settled peacefully.

It was in 1875, also, that the Hoodoo War broke out. Or the Mason County War, after the locale in central Texas. That wasn’t settled peacefully.

Read the rest of this entry »

During my Spring Break this year, Lou Ann Lord sent Paradox Entertainment seven large boxes of paperwork from the Glenn Lord files. Paradox is located in Beverly Hills—or “Down Below” as we call everything south of here; “here” being the High Desert of Southern California. With such a large cache of material so close, I used up three of my seven days going back and forth to help sort the stash. Two of the boxes were full of assorted papers with no rhyme or reason as to organization: newspaper clippings, photocopies of magazine pages, Glenn’s retypes of REH typescripts, notes on foreign REH editions, copies of Glenn’s various efforts for a variety of amateur press associations, etc. A big mess. The other boxes were comparatively neat and organized and consisted primarily of correspondence. This was separated into file-folders, each labeled with either someone’s name—“Price, E. Hoffmann”—or the dates the letters were received—“1979 / January—June.”

Paradox was, of course, most interested in the contracts; I had a different focus: here was the history of everything, letters from the agents, Kittie West and Oscar J. Friend, and Harold Preece and Tevis Clyde Smith and . . . So after Nikko, Paradox’s intern, had gone through a box and made notes on its contents, I went through it and pulled various items for scanning or photographing. I’d originally planned on just scanning everything, but it quickly became obvious that I just didn’t have enough time to do that. I did, however, look at every single piece of paper in all seven boxes. I quickly skimmed each sheet and made my determination: copy or don’t copy. So the Foundation will have Roehm’s version of what was most important in the boxes. I’m sure others wouldn’t agree with everything I selected, and some will whine at what I left out, but the good news is that it will all be available at a Texas University at some point down the road, at least that’s the plan.

Anyway, I’d work at Paradox for four or five hours, then collect the items I thought most important and take them home to scan (their scanner isn’t very good). I’d spend the rest of the day scanning what I had, plus most of the next day, and then return to do it all over again the following day. I found out early that I wasn’t going to be able to scan everything while making the detailed notes about what each scan actually was—I just didn’t have enough time—so now I’m sitting here with a pile of images that need to be dated and sorted. I have no idea how long that’s going to take.

I also discovered that I sometimes lack focus. Several times, something from the stacks would send me off looking for more information. Case in point: a Glenn-typed document beginning “Name: Robert Ervin Howard” and ending “Dime Sports Magazine / June 1936.” The document appeared to be a transcription of an unknown “about the author” letter that Howard had sent to that pulp around the time that “Iron-Jaw” was published (April 1936). Why had we never heard of this? Maybe, I thought, someone had sent it to Glenn and he discovered it was a fake; or maybe he could never verify it was the real deal; or maybe it was just lost in the stacks.

No one I know has that particular issue, so I started making phone calls and sending emails to various places with pulp collections. This took time away from scanning, but I really wanted to know about this letter. Two days later, one of my contacts came through and we now have a new, verified Howard letter for the correspondence collection.

The Score Board

[Dime Sports Magazine—June 1936]

So many of you fans seemed to like Robert E. Howard’s fight novelette “Iron-Jaw,” in the April issue, that we asked Mr. Howard to step up and introduce himself. Here’s what he says:

Name: Robert Ervin Howard

Ancestry: Scotch-Irish, old American pioneer stock.

Born: Peaster, Texas—which is about 45 miles west of Fort Worth—in the early years of this century.

Occupation for the past several years: writing. Occupations before that: picking cotton, working in grocery store, smashing baggage, working in tailor shop, working in dry-goods store, toting rod for geologist, working in drug-store, secretary in law office, ditto in gas office, jerking soda in oil-boom-town drug store, public stenographer, working in automobile agency, writing oil news for newspapers of Texas and Oklahoma.

Have sold many yarns to various magazines: sports, westerns, detectives, mysteries and adventures.

About the first half of my life was spent in various parts of West, East and South Texas and western Oklahoma, mostly following land booms and railroad booms. As a child I crossed the South Plains, not in a covered wagon indeed, but in a buggy, in what was about the last big colonization movement in Texas—the settlement of the Great Plains. (I did go down the Nueces in a covered wagon.) I also saw the beginning of the development of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The last half of my life has been lived in the oil-belt towns of Central West Texas.

My personal appearance doesn’t matter, I suppose, but in case anybody’s interested I stand a little less than six feet, weigh a hundred and ninety-five pounds, like fried liver and onions washed down with lager, and my favorite pastime is holding down a ring-side seat and watching a good fight-card.

And that’s just one of the items that we’ve found in Glenn’s collection. Members of the REH Foundation can look forward to lots of previously unknown material in upcoming Newsletters.

This entry filed under Glenn Lord, Howard Biography, News.

This is the first post for 2012 of the online version of Nemedian Dispatches. This feature previously appeared in the print journal and is now on the blog. On a quarterly basis, Nemedian Dispatches will highlight new and upcoming appearances of Howard’s fiction in print, as well as Howard in other types of media.

In Print:

Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard
In this revised and expanded second edition of  author Mark Finn’s Howard biography, many of those old, outdated myths that have grown up around Howard and his fictional creations. Armed with twenty-five years of research and a wealth of historical documents, Finn paints a very different picture from the one that millions of fans of Conan have been sold throughout the years. This item is nearly sold out.

Lone Scout of Letters
Now available from Roehm’s Room Press, Lone Scout of Letters, a volume that  collects a wide variety of material written by REH”s friend, Herbert Klatt. This includes 12 letters to Tevis Clyde Smith and 1 to Howard. Also included is a sampling of Klatt’s work from various tribe and farm papers, letters outlining the planned memorial collection, and an extensive appendix containing all of the known material written by Truett Vinson, including Lone Scout items, letters, and articles from The Junto.

Days of High Adventure
Subtitled “A Selection of the Works of Robert E. Howard,” this book’s webpage states it is not yet ready for publication, but it is available for the Kindle. This collection presents a nice sampling of Howard’s fantasy, adventure and weird menace yarns. El Borak, Black Vulmea, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn and King Kull are all represented in this volume. Edited by Gavin Chappel, with a cover by Margaret Brundage.

Sword & Fantasy #10
This new issue from publisher James Van Hise features an article on Virgil Finlay by Sam Moskowitz, a portfolio of the 1953 Kelly Freas art from the Tops in Science Fiction reprint of “Lorelei Of The Red Mist” (just the art, not the story), a five page reprint of the James Blish anti-A. Merritt reviews from the 1957 Fantasy Times, a facsimile reprint of Donald A. Wandrei’s 1926 Overland Monthly article on Clark Ashton Smith “The Emperor of Dreams,” a 2 page article written by H.P. Lovecraft in 1929 discussing his own horror stories “In The Vault,” “The Hound” and “The Colour Out of Space,” reprints of the 1933 and 1934 letters by Forrest Ackerman and others regarding whether the fantasy stories of Clark Ashton Smith belong in the science fiction mag, Wonder Stories (even H.P. Lovecraft weighed in on the debate), a tribute to artist James Cawthorn (1929-2008), and more. Full color front and back covers by Mahlon Fawcett.

Audio Books:

El Borak and Other Desert Adventures
This is an audio version of the Del Rey book of the same name that collects Howard’s adventure stories set in the Middle East and featuring Francis Xavier Gordon, known as “El Borak,” Kirby O’Donnell and Steve Clarney. This trio of hard-fighting Americans, civilized men with more than a touch of the primordial in their veins, are heroes on a grand scale and their stories are a hallmark of great adventure. This audio book from is narrated by Michael McConnohie; running time: 25 hours and 17 minutes.

Coming Soon:

Marvel Tales
Lance Thingmaker, the publisher of the complete collection of The Fantasy Fan, is back with a hardback book that collects the five issue run of William Crawford’s Marvel Tales. Each issue was chock full of fantasy from a who’s who of Weird Tales writers, with REH’s “The Garden of Fear” appearing in the second issue. A website for Lance’s books is coming soon, in the meantime, to order, contact the publisher. The price of the book is $50.00 (includes US postage), but if you mention the TGR Blog, you can save $10.00 and pay only $40.00 (includes US postage). The book is scheduled for shipping mid-May, with pre-orders shipping earlier.

Adventures in Science Fantasy
Pre-orders are now being accepted for the REH Foundation Press’ collection of Howard’s science fiction stories, which should ship around the first of May. The hardcover book will have a color cover by Mark Schultz and an introduction by Mike Stackpole who penned the Conan the Barbarian movie novelization.

Skullcrusher: Selected Weird Fiction, Volume One
Slated for September publication, Skullcrusher is the first volume of a two-volume collection of classic fantasy stories by REH. The stories in this collection feature all of Howard’s most famous creations — Conan, King Kull, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn — alongside others such as Cormac Mac Art, James Allison, Red Sonya, and Cormac Fitzgeoffrey — in a definitive anthology of sword and sorcery, weird adventure, and occult horror in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

The Sword & Sorcery Anthology
Coming in June, a big collection of sword & sorcery stories from the world’s best  fantasy authors. In addition to Howard’s “Tower of the Elephant,” Jack Vance, C.L. Moore, Fritz Leiber, Charles Saunders, Karl Edward Wagner, David Drake and more writers are represented with some of their best yarns. An original story from Michael Shea rounds out this essential anthology. Edited by David G. Hartwell and Jacob Weisman.

Kamose the Magician – New Tales from Keith Taylor
Keith has just written three “Kamose the Magician” short stories  and is now working on a couple of novels. One is about Kamose and one is a “murder-at-a-tournament” medieval whodunnit set in Salisbury, England, in the year 1352. Looks like he is poised for a big comeback.

The previous post omitted a couple of things to do with the Texas cattle industry before the Civil War. The drives then were small compared to the ones that came later; but the Shawnee Trail, or Texas Road, from East Texas through Indian Territory, wasn’t the only cattle route, as I inadvertently made it seem. Texan cowboys drove herds west to California in the gold rush days of the eighteen-fifties, to supply the hungry miners with beef. The journey took five or six months and would usually start from San Antonio or Fredericksburg. From there the drive normally followed a southern route through El Paso to Los Angeles, and from there, north to San Francisco. Cattle worth five or ten bucks in Texas would sell for ten times that much in the gold rush boomtowns – or even twenty times as much, so the trail drives were worthwhile. But a glut in the beef market came in 1857 and prices went down.

I also seem (not deliberately – through sheer ignorance) to have slighted the Opelousas Trail over which Texas cattle were driven from the Gulf Coast to the New Orleans market in the early nineteenth century. Well, I never claimed to be expert on the history of Texas, just to find it fascinating. And putting every matter of interest into these two meager articles would be impossible. A thousand-page volume couldn’t contain that.

The Civil War shattered the cattle business, and much more. It was the bloodiest human butcher’s yard the USA has seen. At just one battle, Shiloh, over 13,000 Union soldiers died, and over 10,000 Confederates. The idiots on both sides, who had been confidently predicting a quick end to the war, and quick and easy victory, were silent after that.

Texas is often considered the archetypal Confederate state, but in fact about a quarter of the Texican population was for staying with the Union. Among the German immigrants in central Texas, that feeling was very nearly unanimous. (This may have contributed later to the genesis of the Mason County War.) Texas’s governor, the legendary Sam Houston, also wanted to stay with the Union. He thought secession at that time was “rash action”. He went as far as refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. Texas replaced him as governor and declared its secession from the United States of America early in March, 1861. Sadly, in a declaration of its causes for secession, it set out a fervent justification of black slavery and white supremacy. The declaration didn’t mention that the first man to die in the American Revolution against the British had been, in Harlan Ellison’s words, “a black dude named Crispus Attucks.”

Texas supplied some of the best cavalry soldiers the Confederacy had. It supplied beef to feed the southern soldiers, too. The legendary John Chisum, exempt from military service, became one of the major beef suppliers in the Trans-Mississippi Department. When the war ended – and the Confederacy, as we all know, lost – John Chisum was among the first to drive cattle into eastern New Mexico for sale to the army and the Indian reservations. Any number of Indian agents and their backers were rotten crooked low-lifes, who stole the Indians’ assigned beef to market on the sly, but that wasn’t Chisum’s fault; he just supplied the beef cattle, and seems to have done it honestly. Most people who’ve written about him without axes to grind seem to consider him a man of integrity.

Prolific western writer J.T. Edson denigrated Chisum as a manipulator exuding false bonhomie in one of his novels, but then Edson also low-rated Wild Bill Hickok and Wyatt Earp, describing the latter as a “fighting pimp,” in the interests of building up his fictional Texan heroes Dusty Fog and Mark Counter. The latter was, in Edson’s stories, better with a gun than Hickok and a better lover, too. The author had Calamity Jane, no less, forgetting about Hickok fast enough in Mark Counter’s arms. This blogger is skeptical about Edson’s portrayal of John Simpson Chisum, too.

Shortly after the Civil War ended, Chisum formed a partnership with those other cattlemen of mythical stature, Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving. Their almost incredible efforts did much, in J.T. Edson’s words, to “set Texas back on her feet.” A majority of Texas’s best cowboys and riders had worn cavalry uniform through the war; until it was over, the Texas longhorns had bred wild and undisturbed, until there were about five million of them in the Lone Star State. The southern states’ economy had been ruined and beef cattle were worth very little – in Texas. But they were worth plenty further north. Taste had changed and beef had become a desired meat. At the Kansas railheads, a beast worth five or even two dollars in Texas might be worth forty if it could only be delivered there, past the storms, flooded rivers, rustlers and fierce Indian raiders who didn’t appreciate the benefits white men had brought them, but who did appreciate meat in their hungry bellies.

The Texas cowboys of the great cattle drive era included black former slaves who, like the Native Americans, still had to eat. Despite being depicted in Hollywood movies as exclusively WASP, they were about fourteen per cent colored, with an even higher proportion of them Mexican. The vaqueros, after all, had been the original Texas cowboys.

Charles Goodnight’s early career has been given a thumbnail sketch in the previous post. In 1866 he and Oliver Loving drove their first herd of cattle northward by the route that would become known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. With a crew of eighteen cowboys they took 2,000 head of cattle to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Food supplies were badly needed for the eight thousand Navajos interned at the Bosque Redondo Reservation – largely due to lousy planning by the government department responsible for them. They sold some of the cattle to the agent at Bosque Redondo, and then Goodnight turned back to Texas, while Loving went on towards the railhead in Denver, Colorado.

Read the rest of this entry »

This entry filed under H. P. Lovecraft, Howard's Texas.

Time to sharpen your pencil and fill out your ballot for the 2012 REH Foundation Awards. Follow the voting rules here and send your ballots to before the polls close on April 15, 2012. You can find the list of nominees here.

Remember, only members of the Foundation are eligible to vote. If you are not a member yet, you are missing out on a whole lot more than just voting. For example, this year’s quarterly newsletters are a Howard collector’s dream come true. The first issue, which just shipped, has the three new pictures that Patrice Louinet discovered and the first publication of “A Rattlesnake Sings in the Grass” (verse) The following three issues will contain items more recently uncovered treasures. So don ‘t get left out, sign up for a membership today.

On a recent trip to Texas I had some time to read. Air travel isn’t the best for concentration, so I selected a couple of “easy reading” novels for the flight, both by Horatio Alger, Jr. I’ve wanted to read Alger since seeing the list of his books on the Robert E. Howard Bookshelf. Over the years, I’ve picked up quite a few titles from the Bookshelf and I was glad to finally read a couple of them. I don’t recall reading any of Alger’s “boys’ adventure” stories as a kid, but I was aware that his novels usually featured a scrappy youth who overcomes the obstacles thrown in his way. What, I wondered, might Robert E. Howard have thought of these books.

The first book I read was Only an Irish Boy. This tells the story of Andy Burke, who struggles to help provide for his mother and sister with the help of an altruistic colonel, Anthony Preston. When Preston dies, his wife attempts to suppress his will, which names Burke’s mother as one of the beneficiaries. The novel has a robbery scene in a forest which sort of reminded me of “In the Forest of Villefére” or a Solomon Kane yarn, but was otherwise uneventful, at least as far as a Howard connection: there is no shortage of ups and downs for the star of the novel. All ends well, of course.

The next book was Mark Mason’s Triumph. It concerns the selling of stocks in a Nevada gold mine, the withholding of the proceeds to Mrs. Mason by her brother-in-law, and Mark Mason’s uncanny ability to overcome all obstacles. One scene has a boy locked in the attic as a punishment, which was slightly reminiscent of “The Ghost with the Silk Hat,” but the really interesting part was the name of that gold mine: “Golden Hope.” This, of course, is the name of the mine in Howard’s own “Golden Hope Christmas,” first published in The Tattler in 1922 while Howard was attending Brownwood High School. Someone has probably noticed this before, but it was news to me.

L. Sprague de Camp described Howard’s tale in Dark Valley Destiny:

Golden Hope Christmas,” a sentimental trifle, tells of a Western badman who sells a worthless gold-mining claim to a tenderfoot and is outraged when the tenderfoot strikes it rich. He lies in wait for the lucky miner but gives up his plan to shoot him because it is Christmas morn.

Reading Howard’s story again, it certainly could have been inspired by his reading of Alger. Red Ghallinan’s change of heart at story’s end would fit nicely in an Alger novel, as would Hal Sharon’s reward for his hard work. But overall, I’ll have to agree with de Camp’s assessment: “sentimental trifle.”

Anyway, there are six other Alger titles on the Howard Bookshelf: The Cash Boy, Joe’s Luck, The Tin Box, Tom the Bootblack, The Young Acrobat, and The Young Miner. I recently purchased a couple of Alger collections for my e-reader; for less than ten bucks I’ve got all of the titles from Howard’s bookshelf. Who knows what other Howardian nuggets these might contain? But I think I’ll wait a while to read more—I’ve had enough of boys’ adventure fiction for now.

We’ve all read countless westerns, as well as seeing them on the big and little screens, in which the rotten predatory cattle rancher who claims the entire range, with a legion of hired guns (or just one really fast one), gets tough on the little people he sees as standing in his way. The classic novel and then movie of the type was Shane. But the hackneyed plot had been played out often enough in the real world, in Colorado, Wyoming, and of course Texas. Robert E. Howard knew the history of those sanguinary feuds and range wars, and he referred to them often in his letters.

In December 1930 he wrote to H.P. Lovecraft:

The fiercest fights were between sheepmen and cattlemen and later between the small farmer and the ranchmen. That last was a bitter war, carried on with neither honor, mercy or human consideration. Ranchmen cut the squatter’s fences, burned his buildings, and frequently wiped out whole families, men, women and children with no more hesitation than Comanche Indians would have shown. In return the squatter stole the ranchman’s cattle and killed them on the sly, fouled the springs, dammed up the streams, dynamited dams on ranchmen’s property, ambushed cowboys and shot them out of their saddles – and made laws. Thats the way they licked the cattlemen – by legislation. They simply swarmed in and took the country, swamping the original settlers just as they, in turn, had swamped the Indians in an earlier age.”

I’d nitpick just one part of that. It doesn’t appear to me that the sheep and cattlemen conflicts, in Texas especially, came much before the big ranchers’ and little farmers’ bloody disputes. The sheep wars principally took place between 1870 and 1900. The famous clashes between Charles Goodnight’s cowboys, and the sheep herders driving their flocks onto his range along the New Mexico-Texas border, took place in the mid-1870s. The small farmers started encroaching on the big cattlemen’s ranges at about the same time, the 1870s, after the Civil War.

In fact the Texas cattle business was started by the Mexicans, with its roots set as early as 1540. The Spaniards had established cattle spreads in Mexico and then pushed their herds northward, looking for good pasture. The first cowboys were Spanish and Mexican “gauchos,” later known as “vaqueros.” They had brought cattle as far north as Texas by 1690. Their commercial value was limited then, and they were left to roam those wide open spaces and breed to their heart’s content. They did, and these feral Mexican cattle between the Neuces and the Rio Grande crossbred with the eastern cattle of the early Anglo settlers in Texas. The result was what some would describe as a hellish bastard animal with horns spanning seven feet or more, an untamed nature, and a frequent infestation of Texas ticks that made it unpopular outside its home state.

As you’d expect of a Texan critter, they were tough. They could survive on the open range where grazing was often marginal or worse. They could come through droughts and blue norther storms still feisty. They were long-lived – if they survived – and their calves could stand and walk sooner after being born than other cattle breeds.

By the early 1800s there were hundreds of thousands of wild longhorns in the region. They weren’t much of a commercial proposition in those days. Beef wasn’t the meat of first choice in the U.S.A. during the early nineteenth century; pork was more popular. Cattle were slaughtered mainly for their hides and tallow. Texas longhorns gave good lean beef from their carcasses but not an immense amount of fat.

The huge spreads that were effectively kingdoms began to appear about that time, in the days when Texas was really wide open and lately freed from Mexican rule, after Sam Houston’s army had thrashed General Santa Ana at San Jacinto in 1836. The biggest ranch ever known, even in the Lone Star State, was founded by Richard King, who had taken a significant part in Texian affairs before he came to own vast tracts of land. Born into a poor Irish family in New York in mid-1824, King was apprenticed to a jeweler as a child, and hated it. The jeweler was a slave-driver and exploiter straight out of a Dickens novel. He (Richard King) scarpered, stowed away on a ship and was welcomed into the crew when they discovered him. From that beginning he became a steamboat pilot by the time he was sixteen. He served in the Second Seminole War in 1842, and after it ended, he operated steamboats in Florida and Georgia for five years.

When the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) broke out over the U.S. annexation of Texas, King and his partner Mifflin Kennedy ferried army supplies on the Rio Grande. King invested his riverboat profits in land in Texas, and from then on continued acquiring it hand over fist. As REH wrote to Lovecraft in January 1931:

How many know of Captain King, who owned the biggest ranch the world has ever seen? It stretched from inland rivers to the Gulf of Mexico and when the country was settled up, it was divided into whole counties. I have seen the old ranch house which cost nearly a million dollars to build, and it looks more like a castle than an ordinary house. How old it is I cannot say, but the great stone stable has a date of 1856 carved over the door, and once cannons were mounted about the building to resist Indian attacks and Mexican raids. It lies adjacent to the little town of Kingsville, a most beautiful town – the prettiest I have yet seen in Texas. The worthy ranch-man was an old sea-captain and I have heard it hinted that, if he followed the same tactics on sea that he did on land, he must have been a pirate.

Years and years ago he was killed by a Mexican vaquero who worked for him, and who, it is said, carried out his orders regarding various men who owned ranches the captain desired. Be that as it may, they died and their ranches were engulfed in the ever growing boundaries of the great ranch. Giant fortunes are not built without intrigue and bloodshed, whether those fortunes be land or gold, or both.

The King Ranch is a legend in Texas. It still exists, is one of the largest in the world, and was officially made a National Historic Landmark in 1961. REH declared that he could not say how old it was, but King apparently saw the land that would become the nucleus of his immense ranch in 1852, when he came to the waters of Santa Gertrudis (Saint Gertrude) Creek, after riding a long way through arid country. He was travelling to the Lone Star Fair at Corpus Christi at the time, and at the fair over drinks, he and a friend of his, Texas Ranger Captain Gideon Lewis (nicknamed “Legs”) agreed to acquire and ranch it. In July 1853 King bought the Rincón de Santa Gertrudis grant for 300 dollars and sold Lewis a half interest in it for 2,000. He was a genuine nineteenth-century entrepreneur and no mistake. Or as one of the Sackett boys observes in a Louis L’Amour western novel, “If a man can buy cheap and sell dear, he naturally ain’t liable to starve.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Writing in a letter to H.P. Lovecraft, dated September 22, 1932, Howard asks him if he heard any stories about a certain notorious Illinois landmark and the desperados who frequented it when he was on a recent visit down south:

While you were in the South on your recent visit, did you hear any legends of the Cave-in-the-Rock gang? That’s a bit of scenery I’ve always wanted to visit. A friend of mine [Clyde Smith] saw it a year or so ago, and said it’s really impressive. It certainly harbored a desperate horde. Foremost of these were the Harps, who to my mind were the most terrible outlaws that ever cursed this Continent, not even excluding Boone Helm, from whom Zane Grey apparently drew his hellish “Gulden” of The Border Legion, and who on one occasion, finding himself snowed in with a companion in the mountains of British Columbia, and out of food, murdered the companion, partly devoured his body, and took up his journey again, carrying a leg along for supplies on the way; who, when strung up along with the rest of Plummer gang by the Vigilantes, standing on a wagon with a rope around his neck, asked if he was expected to jump off, or be pushed off. On being told that he could do as he liked, he replied, “Every man to his own principles! Three cheers for Jeff Davis and the Confederacy! Hurrah for hell! Let her rip!” — and jumped off.

The “Cave-in-Rock” landmark Howard mentions is located in southern Illinois and overlooks the Ohio River, just across from Kentucky. The massive cave has a fifty-five foot wide entrance and a one hundred foot vertical fissure leading to a top entrance – this fissure provides the cavern with a natural chimney, thus making it inhabitable. The cave was carved out of the limestone rock by water thousands of years ago and was originally discovered by French explorer M. de Lery, who in 1729 called it caverne dans Le Roc. Today the cave and surrounding area is a state park.

Samuel Mason, a former soldier in the Revolutionary War, found Cave-in-Rock in 1797 shortly after running into some trouble with the law in Virginia. He and his family fled to the southern Illinois and western Kentucky area and the cave became the headquarters and a trap for his large-scale river piracy operation. Mason put up a sign on the bank of the river near the cave that read “Liquor Vault and House of Entertainment.” It was difficult for anyone traveling along the river to avoid noticing the signs, and many captains, crews, and passengers on boats were lured to it. Many disreputable people were attracted to the tavern as well. From this group of men, Mason recruited a band of criminals that terrorized that stretch of the Ohio River for years.

Mason took advantage of the fear that travelers had of hitting the rocks and shallow spots in the river and being grounded. The earliest travelers used small, clumsy boats that were propelled by small paddles or oars, making travel difficult in rough stretches of the river. Boaters, even before Mason had arrived in the area, were advised by people who had traveled the river to pay a man to pilot their vessel through a dangerous channel that ran from about two miles below the cave and extended six miles past it. Playing off this need for pilots, Mason and his pirates passed themselves off as trustworthy local pilots who could steer boats through this area. One pirate stationed himself around ten miles from Cave-in-Rock, and when employed, he would ground the boat at Cave-in-Rock. If he failed to get the job done, another person at Cave-in-Rock would take over and pilot the boat for the next stretch of river. If he was successful, he landed the boat at Hurricane Island. This was another station for the pirates along the Ohio. Boats with too much protection or an unprofitable cargo were allowed to pass through the channel. Another tactic Mason used was to have a young, attractive woman pretend to be stranded. She would station herself at Diamond Island, below Cave-in-Rock and attempt to get picked up by passing vessels. She then had the boat drop her off at Cave-in-Rock where the boat and crew fell into Mason’s trap. Once Mason had the boats in his clutches, he would murder the crew and replace it with his own men. They would then take the cargo down to New Orleans where it would be sold. The bodies of the murdered crew members were disposed of by slitting them open, filling them with rocks, and sinking them in the Ohio River.

In addition to the cave and its outlaw inhabitants, Howard also mentions in his letter to HPL the Harps or Harpes, who were the nation’s first serial killers. Though often referred to as the Harpe Brothers, they were actually cousins who often passed themselves off as brothers. Both of their fathers were Scottish immigrants who had settled in Orange County, North Carolina. Micajah Harpe was born to John Harpe and his wife, while Wiley Harpe, who was actually named Joshua, was born to John’s brother, William and his wife. Soon after the arrival of the Harpes in America, they changed the spelling of their original name from “Harpe” to “Harp.”

Micajah Harpe was otherwise known as Big Harpe. He was, according one account, a man “above ordinary stature” and, with his muscular structure, an imposing sight. He was further described as typically being “dirty and shabby,” the darkness of the grime offset by a thatch of “fiery red hair.” Big Harpe always carried a rifle, knife and tomahawk.

Wiley Harpe stood, literally, in the shadow of his larger cousin. Since he was smaller than Micajah, he went by the name of Little Harpe. Despite his smaller stature, he was every bit as dangerous as his partner in murder. In 1797 Little Harpe, who was in his late twenties or early thirties, married a pretty and delicate woman about 20 years old named Sarah “Sally” Rice. Not to be outdone, Big Harpe came home not with one wife, but two — his legal wife, Susannah Roberts, described as “rather tall, rawboned, dark hair and eyes and rather ugly” and his “subordinate” wife, Susannah’s sister Betsy, described as “rather handsome, light hair and blue eyes and a perfect contrast with her sister.” The five settled down together in a cabin outside of Knoxville.

Read the rest of this entry »

Please join me in congratulating the winner of the 2012 Howard House Museum T-Shirt Design Contest, frequent TGR contributor Michael L. Peters. I think you will agree with me when I say it is a wonderful design that captures the essence of Howard and his many literary creations. For those of you who may not be familiar with Michael’s work, here is a blurb from his website:

Who is Michael L. Peters?  I’ve drawn Comics for such publishers as Heavy Metal Magazine, Caliber, Image, and CFD.  I create and sell Prints mostly on mythological and fantasy themes, in pen & ink, watercolor and/or acrylics.  A few years ago, I was hired by Ferris State University to create a series of pen and ink portraits of their former presidents.  I’ve taught drawing and illustration through a local art gallery, though I don’t have a degree.  What I’ve learned about drawing and painting, I’ve learned through my own studies and practice and from following the example of those I respect.

Michael has has done artwork for issues 10 through 15 of TGR and The Chronicler of Cross Plains #2 (four color covers, four portfolios and one full page illustration), and he is currently hard at work on a new portfolio for the upcoming 16th issue of TGR.

As for the t-shirt, it will be screen printed at Salamander Apparel in Cross Plains and held until Howard Days when it will officially go on sale. The color will be in the traditional black and white and sell for $15.00 plus $3.00 shipping.

I know what I’ll be wearing this June.

03/09/2012 Update: You can now pre-order your t-shirts via Project Pride’s PayPal account (, but those orders will not be filled until after Howard Days. The t-shirts will officially go on sale June 8th at the Howard House Museum, so folks that plan on attending will be assured of getting one of the first ones. Just to clarify, the t-shirt will not ship until AFTER Howard Days, so don’t get antsy and starting pestering the nice folks at Project Pride before then.

The shirts will be available in both black on white and white on black, so order both colors – one for daytime wear and one for evening wear. Sizes include Medium though XXX Large. As stated above, the price is $15.00 per shirt, plus $3.00 for US shipping and handling. Obviously, overseas shipping will be more. To get the rate for overseas shipping, send an e-mail to Project Pride.

Richard Toogood, our man in Great Britain, took notice of the new photo of Howard and the Butlers and wanted to share a few of his:

I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed seeing the new pic of REH. Although I’ve nothing of any comparable value to supply you, some of the attendant comments did make me wonder whether the attached might be of some small interest to somebody. As there are people who evidently never saw the Butler house, nor had the pleasure of meeting Leroy Butler himself, then they might like seeing these photos which I took back in June 1992. Now I’m sure there are many people with better shots of both, but these are mine and I’m only too pleased to be able to share.

And a tip of the hat to Richard for sharing these photos. In the above photo, the Butler house is in the foreground and you can see the Howard house directly behind it. It is also great to see Glenn Lord in his element, visiting with John Adams and an unarmed Leroy Bulter during a long-ago Howard Days.

This entry filed under Glenn Lord, Howard Days, Howard Fandom.