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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Herding turkeys in the Wild West

"They can have my turkeys when they pry them from my cold, dead fingers."

One of the side effects of writing nonfiction is that you end up with a bunch of little side stories and tidbits of information that don't fit in the book. These end up as material for later works, talking points at parties, or. . .blog posts!

I'm currently writing a book on Wyatt Earp and his involvement in the O.K. Corral gunfight and his Vengeance Ride. One minor figure in this history is Henry Clay Hooker, a prominent rancher in southern Arizona who sheltered Wyatt and his crew as they rode around the countryside hunting the Cowboys. Hooker was played by Charleton Heston in the movie Tombstone.

Before Hooker became a big rancher, he had quite a past. Born in New Hampshire, he moved to California in 1853, ran a store, and drove cattle to Nevada mining camps. A fire destroyed his store in 1866 and in order to make money he bought 150 turkeys at $1.50 each and herded them from California to Carson City, Nevada, where he turned a tidy profit by selling them for $5 each. This gave him enough money to get started in the cattle business, and he eventually became one of the Arizona Territory's most successful ranchers.

Herding turkeys? I didn't even know this was possible! While I doubt any Western movie has ever shown a hard-bitten hero with a ten-gallon hat herding turkeys, it's one of the remakrable stories of the Old West.


  1. If it's anything like herding cats, no thanks!

  2. My sis had wild turkeys in her backyard when we visited in Georgia a few years ago. She lives on a higher elevation in the tonier suburbs of Atlanta. So, some of those colonial turkeys have descendants running around, tony or not.

    The Wyatt Earp book sounds interesting. I like reading about the western side of life, especially that which captures the 'personalities' in those times.


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