Quotes and Words of the Old West

“I found him a loyal friend and good company. He was a dentist whom necessity had made a gambler; a gentleman whom disease had made a vagabond; a philosopher whom life had made a caustic wit; a long, lean blonde fellow nearly dead with consumption and at the same time the most skillful gambler and nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a six-gun I ever knew.”  – Wyatt Earp speaking of Doc Holliday.

Tom Horn

Tom Horn, 1903

“You’re the sickest looking lot of sheriffs I ever seen.” – Tom Horn’s comments as he mounted the gallows.

“Have you any idea of what a man must endure who leads such a life? No, you cannot. No one can unless he lives it for himself.” — Frank James

“Every man for his principles. Hurrah for Jeff Davis!” – Boone Helm just before he was hanged in Virginia CityMontana in 1863. After yelling out this statement, he then kicked the box from under his feet.

“We never did hang the wrong one but once or twice, and them fellers needed to be hung anyhow jes’ on general principles.” – A nameless judge in the Old West.

“I never hanged a man that didn’t deserve it.” – George MaledonJudge Parker’s hangman.

“You come here to tell us lies. Go home where you came from.” — Crazy Horse to General Terry

“I think it was the distinguishing trait of Wyatt Earp, the leader of the Earp brothers, that more than any man I have ever known, he was devoid of physical fear. He feared the opinion of no one but himself and his self-respect was his creed.” — W. B. “Bat” MastersonTombstone Prospector, August 16, 1910

“Well, if there ain’t going to be any rules, let’s get the fight started.” — Butch Cassidy

“I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood!” – The violent anti-slavery activist before he was hanged by the local militia for his attack on Harper’s Ferry two years before the Civil War began.

“Give me 80 men and I’ll ride through the whole Sioux Nation.” – Captain William Fetterman before agreeing to escort a wood-transport train. However, before he and his men even reached the train they were attacked by Indians in northern Wyoming on December 21, 1866. Known as Fetterman’s Massacre, Red Cloud’s Oglala Sioux Warriors ambushed and killed Captain Fetterman and his 81 men.

“I would rather play poker with 5 or 6 experts than eat.” — Poker Alice

“Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.” — Wyatt Earp

“There are many in this old world of ours who hold that things break about even for all of us. I have observed, for example, that we all get the same amount of ice. The rich get it in the summertime and the poor get it in the winter.” –Bat Masterson

“Fame is like a shaved pig with a greased tail, and it is only after it has slipped through the hands of some thousands, that some fellow, by mere chance, holds on to it!” — Davy Crockett

Belle Starr, the Bandit Queen

Belle Starr, the Bandit Queen

“I regard myself as a woman who has seen much of life.” – Belle Starr describing her life shortly before she was murdered in 1889.

“Let’s kick their ass and get the Hell out of here.” — General George A. Custer.

“This is the finest fence in the world. It’s light as air, stronger than whiskey, and cheaper than dirt!” — John W. “Bet-a-Million” Gates, Texas barbed wire salesman.

When a Texas cowboy was arrested for stealing a horse, he pleaded not guilty at his trial. When his lawyer managed to get him off and he was set free by the judge, he started to leave the courtroom. Suddenly he turned around and looked at the judge with puzzlement before asking: “Judge, does this mean I can keep the hoss?”

“Charity covereth a multitude of sins.” — The Creede, Colorado preacher who presided over Bob Ford’s funeral and unable to think of anything good to say about him.

”People thought me bad before, but if ever I should get free, I’ll let them know what bad means.”– Billy the Kid

“Is that what you call giving cover?” — Butch Cassidy

“Shoot first and never miss.” – Bat Masterson

“At my age I suppose I should be knitting.” — Poker Alice

Killing men is my specialty. I look at it as a business proposition, and I think I have a corner on the market. — Tom Horn

“A pioneer is a man who turned all the grass upside down, strung bob-wire over the dust that was left, poisoned the water, cut down the trees, killed the Indian who owned the land and called it progress.” — Charles M. Russell

Will Rogers

Will Rogers

“This thing of being a hero, about the main thing to it is to know when to die. Prolonged life has ruined more men than it ever made.” — Will Rogers.

“I asked him [Ike Clanton] if he was hunting for me. He said he was, and if he had seen me a second sooner, he would have killed me.” — Virgil Earp

“If mob law is going to rule, better dismiss, judge, sheriff, etc., and let’s all take chances alike. I expect to be lynched in going to Lincoln [New Mexico.]  Advise persons never to engage in killing.” — Billy the Kid

“The more Indians we can kill… the less will have to be killed the next war, for the more I see of these Indians, the more convinced I am that they all have to be killed or be maintained as a species of paupers.” —  General William Tecumseh Sherman

Poker is a science; the highest court in Texas has said so. — Quince Forrest, quoted in The Log of a Cowboy, 1903.

“Away across the endless dead level of the prairie a black speck appears against the sky … In a second or two it becomes a horse and rider … and the flutter of the hooves comes faintly to the ear — another instant … a man and horse burst past our excited faces, and go winging away like a belated fragment of a storm.”  — An observer recalled the fleeting moment when he witnessed the passing of a Pony Express Rider.

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