Awesome Names: Cowboy Edition

I apologise, readers, but due to the pressures of work and other commitments, Movie Monday has been postponed to Tuesday this week (I was just so attached to the title that I ignored the fact that Monday is my busiest day. I should have called it Film Friday or something). However, as a consolation, here is a short post about names, a subject that you know I enjoy.

I have been reading Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as “Deadwood Dick,” by Himself; a True History of Slavery Days, Life on the Great Cattle Ranges and on the Plains of the “Wild and Woolly” West, Based on Facts, and Personal Experiences of the Author. One of the things I have learned from this narrative, written by one of the most famous of the African-American cowboys, is that cowboys are almost up there with Vikings and old-timey gangsters in their naming conventions — the randomness thereof, anyway, if not the colour.

Consider this incident from the life of Nat Love:

After the horse got tired and I dismounted the boss said he would give me a job and pay me $30.00 per month and more later on. He asked what my name was and I answered Nat Love, he said to the boys we will call him Red River Dick. I went by this name for a long time.

OK, so:

  1. “Red river dick” sounds absolutely awful. I do not want to think about “red river dick.”
  2. It’s not like his name was Szmyrzlyn Nrasznafrsjowicz or something: it’s “Nat Love.” “Red River Dick” is longer.
  3. This type of thing happens all the time. If you subscribed to the ODNB Life of the Day like I told you to, you’ll see there are all these entries that are like “Tom Smith, known as Raymond Smith, was blah blah blah…”. Why?

Or check this out:

Christmas, Dec. 25, 1872, is a day in my memory which time cannot blot out. I and a number of friends were in a place called Holbrook, Ariz. A dispute started over a saddle horse with the following result. Arizona Bob drew his forty-five Colt revolver, but before he had time to fire he was instantly killed by A. Jack. Then a general fight ensued in which five horses and three men were killed.

It was a sad thing for me to see my friends dead in a corral on a Christmas morning, but I helped bury the dead and took care of the wounded. The names were A. Jack, Wild Horse Pete and Arizona Bill.

I can only assume that “A.” stands for “Arizona,” since we already have a gunfight that involves both Arizona Bob and Arizona Bill.

Also, “deadwood dick” doesn’t sound too good either. I’m just saying.

Awesome Names: Cowboy Edition

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