of laughter in Old West
by Delbert Trew
matter how serious the history of the Old West gets, there is always
a little humor included if you keep reading.
Recently, while reading about the Rath Trail, starting at Rath City
at the Double Mountains of Texas, meandering by Matador,
Mobeetie and ending in
Dodge City, Kan., several enjoyable incidents were included.
It seems that Charles Rath, well-known Indian trader, store owner
and contractor, blazed the Rath Trail by leading about 50 heavily
loaded wagons from Dodge City to Rath City. One wagon held 12 men
with shovels and picks while Charles Rath led the way with a compass
in hand. When a terrain problem occurred, the men unloaded and went
to work making the trail passable. The trail was straight as a string
if at all possible.
In time, other wagon trains followed as well as Texas trail herds
imprinting the route further. The tracks can still be seen today along
the old original route.
book, The Rath Trail by Ida Ellen Rath, tells many tales related by
pioneers interviewed during the late 1950s and early 1960s. One story
tells of a letter of recommendation that backfired.
It seems Satank, an Indian chieftain of the time, asked a white trader
to write a letter in his behalf that he could hand to wagon trains
and trail herds, stating he was a good Indian and deserved being given
cattle, horses, supplies or money to let them pass through his tribal
| The letter
was hand-written; he could not read it, and he handed it to various
trespassers without any favorable results. Becoming suspicious, he
had another person read the letter. It said:
"This is Satank, the biggest liar, beggar and thief on the plains.
What he can't beg off you he will steal. Kick him out of your camp
because he is lazy and good for nothing."
Needless to say, Satank found the original letter writer and settled
the score by riddling his body with bullets and arrows.
second interesting story tells of a man named Chalky Beeson of Dodge
City who formed a famous Cowboy Band. It was directed by Roy Drake
and was first called a Stockman's Band as their expenses were paid
by the big cattlemen of the area. Musicians came from Denver, Kansas
City, St. Louis and Chicago playing for celebrations, dances and marching
Their uniforms were boots and spurs, blue flannel shirts, silk scarfs
and leather belts, including a brace of pistols. They wore huge white
Stetsons with hat bands of silk embossed with the brands of the sponsoring
cattlemen. No doubt they were the favorites of all who attended.
The director used a loaded six-shooter as a baton to direct the band
and fired a shot in the air each time to start the music. He enjoyed
explaining the loaded baton was also for any musician who played a
sour note. This must have been true as the music appeared to be without
Charles Rath died July 30, 1902, at the age of 66, leaving behind
a legacy of early trade and marketing history second to none. The
Rath Trail also took its prominent place in the history of the Old
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" May 8, 2008 Column