Man Hunters of the Old West, Robert K. DeArment, University of Oklahoma Press, $29.95, Cloth. Photos, Notes, Bibliography, Index, 344 pages.
Robert DeArment himself a highly experienced tracker of Old West personalities in a literary sense, has once again given us a collection of seldom heard of characters good with guns and horses. The eight appearing in this collection were noted for their skills at finding and apprehending the bad guys.
These man-hunters came from varied backgrounds, and yet they shared a common goal, that is finding criminals and bringing them to justice. The first in the collection is Jim Hume who grew up on an Indiana farm and handled dawn to dusk chores with never a rest. Resentful of his strict father, he lit out for the California goldfields in 1850. Hume got his fill of pick and shovel, became a Placerville tax collector, and soon moved up to undersheriff of El Dorado, County. He spent 42 years in various forms of law enforcement including prison warden to special Officer for Wells, Fargo & Co. He was even mixed up with Wyatt Earp in Tombstone. From Arizona he headed to Oklahoma and the Indian Territories where he tangled with the infamous Dalton brothers. Upon his death at 76 of natural causes, Hume was praised as “one of the most favorably known figures in Pacific Coast history.”
From this chapter about Jim Hume, the book explores chapter by chapter the adventures of Dave Cook, Millard Leech, John Duncan, Walter Downs, William Llewellyn, Perry Mallon and Charlie Siringo. Very little time is spent writing about their personal lives, most of the research targets the man-hunting operations concerning who they were after, why, and whether or not they caught their man.
While a few of these people have quirky personalities, most are straight-laced, no-nonsense man-hunters either working on their own for the reward money, or as an employee of a detective agency.
Millard Leech seemed to have a sense of humor or at least a wonderful imagination. He was said by one writer of the time to be “a short wiry individual dressed in an old pair of shoes, threadbare pants, a new hat and baggy coat with the tails cut off.” Perhaps this getup helped fool the outlaws he trailed into thinking he was the town drunk. Leech was notorious for telling whoppers about himself.
William Llewellyn of New Mexico was known to be a colorful character, too. His long and exciting life included stints as a man-hunter as well as miner, Indian agent, soldier and politician. Over six feet tall and weighing two hundred pounds, he was a serious individual acquainted with Theodore Roosevelt, becoming a member of Roosevelt’s famous “Rough Riders,” fighting in several battles including San Juan Hill. Llewellyn’s latter years saw him in politics, working until the end of his life, even though he struggled with the debilitating effects of malaria he contracted in Cuba.
Another character in the book is Perry Mallon, known only as a man-hunter because of his attempts at collecting a large reward offered for Henry “Doc” Holliday. Mallon never collected the money, but spent most of his life a womanizing weasel who bilked a number of women out of their homes and finances. He was a fraud and a confidence man, flitting from one scheme to another. This disgusting individual doesn’t exactly belong in a collection of straight-shooters, but his lively adventures breaks up reading about the seriousness of the rest. The last chapter targets Charles Siringo, and he had so many wild adventures with gunshot wounds, bucking horses, rattlesnakes, cattle drives, captured fugitives, four marriages, and even trailing Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It is hard to believe Charles Siringo died of old age.
Kudos to Robert DeArment for giving us a look at the lives of these peace officers who deserve to be remembered. You can get your copy HERE.
Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Lost Roundup, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York. 10988-0700. www.silklabelbookscom