cowboys and prostitutes -- 2/11/19

Today's selection -- from Dodge City by Tom Clavin. Cowboys and prostitutes:

"When the cowboys came to Dodge City [after a long cattle drive], they wanted their entertainments, too. Filled with energy and pockets filled with their pay, they enjoyed riding down Front Street firing their pis­tols, sending citizens diving under their beds, and shopkeepers behind their wooden counters. It had been a long, dusty journey guiding thou­sands of cows to the cattle pens adjacent to the Dodge City railroad station, and the drovers' thirst and appetites had to be satisfied without delay. No one, not even a lawman, was to get in their way.

"Prospectors, new settlers, would-be settlers heading farther west, men on the run from some trouble back east, and outlaws looking for more trouble were in Dodge City, too. Violent urges percolated in the kind of melting pot that [Dodge City] had become. In his colorful memoir Our Wild Indians, Colonel Dodge considered such men 'the most reckless of all the reckless desperadoes developed on the frontier' and 'the terror of all who come near' them. Their ar­rival in town was 'regarded as a calamity second only to a western tornado.'...

Front Street, Dodge City, KS, 1874

"It was estimated at the time by the Ford County Globe that of Dodge City's seven hundred residents there were forty-seven prostitutes. Some were tough, imposing women in the Big Nose Kate mold. Ac­cording to Odie Faulk. 'Most were as crude as their customers.' Even those hailing from Ohio, Illinois, or even New York often took on names like Belle, Dixie, and other ones with a southern flavor that were more appealing to their clientele, most of whom were Texas cowboys. The rest were hunters, gamblers, and the occasional Ford County citizen who had ridden in for a night on the town. Between the drinking, long hours, physical abuse, and sexually transmitted diseases, few frontier women in this profession lived to middle age. Old age was miraculous, with the odds much more in favor of an early demise, sometimes in unexpected ways.

"That happened to a prostitute named Lizzie Adams. She had made a romantic conquest of George Palmer, who owned a ranch quite a way outside the city limits and brought her there as his bride. One would think that being a housewife and perhaps a mother would be a preferred existence, but apparently Lizzie missed the old life, because she began to entertain former clients in a room at a Dodge City boarding­house. One night the building burned to the ground, with Lizzie in it. Palmer was the prime suspect but he was nowhere to be found, until his lifeless body was discovered some weeks later. One of Lizzie's old clients, apparently another romantic conquest, was arrested, and he confessed to the revenge killing."



Tom Clavin


Dodge City


St. Martin's Press


Copyright 2017 by Tom Clavin


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