November 19, 2010

John "Prairie Dog" O'Byrne

I have been having some interesting and fun correspondence with Jan Collins, Director of the Cripple Creek District Museum in Colorado. One of her emails contained the lines I used in the 'artwork' above. I'll let her explain the story.

...I will leave you with one other thing, it's a quote from a book by John "Prairie Dog" O'Byrne who used to run a hack service in (Old) Colorado City. The book is called Pikes Peak or Bust and Historical Sketches of the West. I believe I found a copy of it at the Denver Public Library.

Anyway, O'Byrne had a reputation as being friends with everyone and anyone in the Colorado City region. Being that he kept two pet prairie dogs in a cage on the back of his wagon, which was pulled by two tame elk, O'Byrne appears to have been quite a character himself. It has been many years since I saw the book, but I did quote one of his poems in one of my books (Brothels, Bordellos & Bad Girls: Prostitution in Colorado 1860-1930). Here it is:

In Old Town I cut quite a dash.
I took many pains to sell all my cash, and
I drove through the street with Laura Bell by my side -
A span of elk, how fine we did ride.
We drove down to Byron Hames' old place,
And says I, "Let's go in and see what's the muss,
For I feel just at present like having a fuss..."
And there stood Soapy Smith with three cards in his hand,
And each word he uttered he spoke with command:
"Now gents," he would say, there is the ace and it is plain to be seen."
And that's how I lost all my money on the Ace and the Queen.

Byron Hames was a saloon owner in Colorado City. Laura Bell was Laura Bell McDaniel, my all time favorite madam in the West. It is an established rumor that Soapy spent time in Colorado City and dealt cards there.

Enjoy your day, we will look forward to receiving your books for the shop.

Best regards,

Jan Collins
Cripple Creek District Museum
P.O. Box 1210 ~ 500 East Bennett Avenue
Cripple Creek, Colorado 80813


Thank you very much Jan. I don't recall ever seeing that poem before! I hope you like what I did with the four lines at the top? My publisher Art also contacted Jan and her book and the poem.


I have your book on my reference shelf! I acquired it for research on Mattie Silks, which you handle skillfully, accurately, and well, in my opinion. Other books present things about her that can't be true, such as climbing the Chilkoot trail with "her girls" and Cort on the way to Dawson. Jeff treats her time in Alaska quite well, I think (see 507-13).

I look forward to reading about your all-time favorite madam of the West, Laura Bell McDaniel, as well as others.

By the way, if you have room on your hard drive, you can download O'Byrne's book for free in pdf for free from Google books (see: Google Books HERE ). Nice to have at hand in paperless form for reference. Of course it's always on line, too, (probably), and searchable on line as well.



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