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Garvin County

County Seat - Pauls Valley

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Empty don't mean it's boring
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Article By Mike Tower  

 Empty don’t mean it’s boring...

Very few people who lived through the post Civil War expansion of the Western United States ever wrote about the experience. Oh, some would keep a half hearted journal and some wrote letters back home, but very few actually sat down and put their experiences to paper. One of the notable exceptions was Mark Twain, whose tales of the West are still fine reading. Another exception, a real life cowboy named Charles Siringo is another.

Siringo was present at the very beginning. He rounded up cows when all he could sell was the hides; participated in trail drives to the Kansas rail heads; the development of the Texas Panhandle; and was a stock detective who pursued, among others, Billy the Kid. His tales of these adventures ring true because he told not only of his victories, but his defeats, mistakes, and errors in judgment. Siringo told it all, including how a cowboy parties.

In his book, "A Texas Cowboy", written in 1885, we find Siringo made at least one trip to old Garvin County. Picking up his story as Siringo, who had spent most of the winter in Kansas, was on his way back home to Texas via the Chisholm Trail. Being both broke and hungry, Siringo stopped off at Silver City, the ranch of Caddo Bill Williams on the South Canadian River, about where U. S. Highway 81 now crosses.

"That morning I left the Chisholm Trail and struck down the Washita River in search of a good, lively place where I might put in the balance of the winter."

"I landed in Erin Springs (south of present Lindsay) late in the evening and found a grand ball in full bloom at Frank Murray’s mansion. The dancers were a mixed crowd, the ladies being half-breeds and the men, mostly Americans and very tough citizens." (Author’s note: The top floor of the Murray/Lindsay house was specifically designed as a ball room, with hard wood floors and large transom window. Murray was determined to show off his daughters and see them well married. Author’s note.)

Siringo continues: "Of course, I joined the mob, being in search of excitement and had a gay old time drinking ‘kill-me-quick’ whiskey and swinging the pretty Indian maidens."

"After breakfast next morning the whole crowd, ladies and all, went down to the river, five miles, to witness a ‘big’ horse race at ‘Kickapoo flat.’"

"After the big race, which was for several thousand dollars, was over, the day was spent in running the pony races and drinking whiskey. By night, the whole mob were gloriously drunk, your humble servant included. There were several fights and fusses took place during the day, but no one seriously hurt."

"It being against the laws of the United States to sell, or have, whiskey in the Indian Territory, you might wonder where it all came from: A man by the name of Bill Anderson--said to have been one of Quantrell’s men during the war--did the selling. He defied the United State’s Marshals and it was said that he had over a hundred indictments against him. He sold it at $10 a gallon, therefore, you see, he could afford to run quite a risk."

"The next day, on my way down the river to Paul’s Valley, I got rid of my extra pony. I came across two apple peddlers who were on their way to Fort Sill with a load of apples and who had the misfortune of losing one of their horses by death the night before, thereby leaving them on the prairie, helpless, unable to move on. They had no money to buy another horse with, having spent all their surplus wealth in Arkansas for the load of apples. When I gave them the pony, they felt very happy judging from their actions. On taking my departure, one of them insisted on my taking his silver watch as a token of friendship. I afterwards had the watch stole from me."....

Siringo passed on down the Washita Valley, racing his pony, Pistol Pete, drinking, fighting, just loafing along. He managed to get shot and spent the winter recovering, but, other than mentioning these facts, Siringo brushed over the details, so I assume he had done something he was less than proud of. Spring found him in Texas, ready to head north again with the first outfit which made an offer.

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