Legends, lies and myths of the Old West

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Jonah Hex

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Can you help me to list the legends, lies and myths of the Old West? I think they could be good sources of ideas for our western stories.

- Saloons had bat wing doors
- There were "high noon" duels every day
- Men on the frontier ate only beans
- Earp brothers were stainless heroes
- The OK Corral gunfight took place at a corral called OK
- The job of the cowboys was romantic
- Saloon dancers were prostitutes
- Men on the frontier drank only whiskey
- Men on the frontier used only Colt or Winchester
- Soldiers wore the yellow handkerchief around their neck
- Gamblers were all swindlers
- All indians lived in teepees
- Texas Rangers wore the star-shaped badge
- Any lawman was a sheriff

Keep going with your ideas!
 
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Maryn

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I grew up in Cowboy Land, where even the kids laughed at all that westerns got wrong.

--Schoolmarms were pretty, single for no reason.
--Any man could get where he was going on horseback, without directions, landmarks, or carrying much beyond a rifle, bedroll, and canteen.
--Working cowboys were uniformly decent and honest.
--Saloon girls wore makeup and looked pretty good.
--Widows were helpless and needed a man, as soon as was decent.
--Kids stayed on the ranch as they grew up, happy to follow in their parents' footsteps, with little interest in the Big Cities Back East.
--Men wore vests and jackets regardless of temperature. I've been to Tombstone. It's hot most of the year.
--Dinner on an ordinary evening at the ranch involved fresh vegetables, meat, potatoes, home-made bread, the table laden with serving dishes.
--Bad guys were careless about staying clean-shaven, and they preferred black hats.
 

frimble3

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Schoolmarms were pretty, single for no reason.
I have a quibble on one point - yes, I imagine schoolmarms being young and pretty was wishful thinking by cowhands, but, AFIAK, (from Canadian Western history) 'single' was for a reason:
Back in the day, a married woman was busy cleaning and cooking and doing laundry, all by hand and without labour-saving devices. She didn't really have time to look after other people's children all day.
And, I suspect that there was some doubt about a woman's ability to be impartial, if she had children of her own.
You might get the occasional widow, or childless married woman, but, in some areas, when a schoolteacher got engaged, the town officials started looking for a replacement.

Other than that, I love these lists.
Let's not forget that horses in Westerns are always well-behaved and obedient.
 

Chris P

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-Six-shooter black powder revolvers didn't take ages to load and were accurate.
-Living off the land outside of the desert was easy to do, despite hundreds of miles of nothing but grass in every direction on the prairie, or with 8 months of winter in the mountains.
-Oh, and they always had plenty of salt (which weighed nothing and took up no space) to preserve the meat from the plentiful game that never migrated away, hibernated, or simply didn't live in that habitat they could hunt whenever they needed to.
 
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Friendly Frog

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- All cowboys were white and had great teeth.
- Every cactus contains great quantities of drinkable water.
- This is a general movie thing, rather than a western one: the bird one sees in movies is always the same bird as one hears.
 

redpbass

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Horses can walk all day and all night and all day again without a break while carrying a rider and all his things; the only reason to stop is so the cowboy can heat up some beans or sleep.
 

RBEmerson

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OK Corral - the shootout did not happen at the OK Corral (existed) but near Freemont St. and C. S. Fly's photo studio.

See Jeff Guin's The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral and How it Changed the American West for more detail than most folks would ever care to read.
 

CMBright

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Not a myth, but my Great Grandmother wrote about Native Americans showing up from time to time. The encounters were peaceful, but there was anxiety on both sides as well as a language barrier.

Another of her short stories was about a severe blizzard, this was Dakota territory. Her father ran a local newspaper that got part of the paper by rail from somewhere in the East, he then finished it with local news. By contract he HAD to print but the train couldn't get through. So he got creative and printed that particular edition on (brand new, I assume) wallpaper he scrounged up.

Not all "west" is desert. Not all encounters with Native Americans were blood baths, though there was enough history on both sides that both were on guard. Sometimes one had to come up with creative solutions when things went wrong.

Photographs were virtually entirely formal portraits. My Great Great Grandfather had more casual photographs because he had connections through the paper that he could ask to come by the house.
 
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