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?