Thursday, July 5, 2018

Who Knew There Were Stock Detectives?





I love research. Story ideas, setting, even characters can come from one of those tidbits I discover when I fall down the rabbit hole of research.


The other day I was reading an article by Dennis Adler in Guns of the Old West magazine. The article talked about a revolver that is engraved with more than 50 cattle brands. A line in the article mentioned stock detectives, men who were employed by ranchers to sort out an “discussions” that came up about which cattle belonged to which rancher.

I’ve never heard of a stock detective. So, of course, I started digging through cattlemen’s association articles, the Anti Horse-Thief Association website (that’s another blog, right there), books and some Oklahoma history publications. Fascinating stuff.

When the problem of cattle rustling grew bigger than a town’s law could handle, ranchers often hired their own enforcers. Retired lawmen, like Retired Special Texas Ranger Augustus Judson Votaw, became livestock inspectors. They had to recognize the dozens of brands at a glance and ensure the men in possession of the stock were actually the legal owners. 

I can already imagine a hero whose job was to ride into danger with nothing but his wits and weapons, can’t you?



Until next time,

Tracy




12 comments:

  1. Hi Tracy: I enjoyed your article. I've had many similar experiences of finding something not too well-known and putting it in one of my books. I never read about stock detectives, but it sure would make a great occupation for a hero. Research distracts me from writing, and it's hard to know when to call it a day. Your cover for Under a Western Sky is terrific. Love the dog! Best wishes.

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    1. Diane, I could spend hours in unrelated research. Not all bad since it's part of writing historicals. And, I agree, Livia Washburn-Reasoner did a gorgeous cover for this collection. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. Stock detectives play a big role in Wyoming History - Tom Horn and the Johnson County War are probably the two most famous stock dectective stories from our state. Many Wyoming Stock Detectives made their connections at the famous Cheyenne Cattleman's Club, made famous in the movie the Cheyenne Social Club.

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    1. I caught on to Tom Horn, Neil. And thanks for the next "rabbit hole"--Cheyenne Cattleman's Club.

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  4. Two Dot Books just released "Calling the Brands: Stock Detectives in the Wild West" by a good buddy of mine (and a fine writer/historian), Monty McCord. I highly recommend it. Info. at https://bit.ly/2KVutf6

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    1. Monty's book is an excellent resource. It came up when I started searching for the article. Thanks for dropping by.

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  5. Again, a most interesting piece of history. Thank you so much. Now time for another rabbit hole. LOL Doris

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    1. I'll meet you at the Mad Hatter's tea party, Doris.

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  6. Tracy,

    Another resource for a tidbit of history about cattle/stock detectives is in "The Gunfighters" volume of the Time Life series 'The Old West'. Here's a snippet from the chapter 'Frontier justice, vigilante style': "...Often, range-roaming gunfighters were recruited by stockmen's associations and given such bland titles as 'cattle detectives' or 'stock inspectors'. When rustlers were spotted making off with cattle, the gunmen would arrive in a body, suddenly pounce on and dispose of the culprits, then as suddenly disperse. In most cases, they went unidentified, and even when caught they could usually depend on the protection of their employers to elude the law's grasp..."

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    1. That's a great excerpt, Kaye. Thanks!

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  7. A useful book for research I recently found was "The Cypress and Other Writings of a German Pioneer in Texas" by Hermann Steel,1979, University of Texas Press. It covers mainly the 1840s.

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