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Petzal: The Four Toughest Men of the Old West

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April 17, 2009

Petzal: The Four Toughest Men of the Old West

By David E. Petzal

In compiling this list, I’ve given myself more latitude then usual—from the post- Lewis and Clark era into the early days of the 20th century. I would not want to neglect one of these men and have his shade come after me in the next life.

HUGH GLASS:  In 1823, while a member of a trapping expedition led by Andrew Henry, Hugh Glass was mauled by a sow grizzly. His back and scalp were torn apart and one leg was broken. Because they were in Indian country, and because it seemed obvious that Glass could not live, Henry detailed John Fitzgerald and the 17-year-old Jim Bridger to stay with Glass until he died, bury him, and then catch up with the main party.

When Glass survived for 4 days, Fitzgerald and Bridger decided that there was no sense in waiting longer and left, after taking Glass’ rifle, tomahawk, and knife. Eventually, Glass grew strong enough to crawl, and be began his journey to Fort Kiowa, 200 miles and 6 weeks away. He set his own leg and let maggots eat the rotting flesh on his back. He lived on roots and berries, and on one occasion was able to drive a pair of wolves away from the carcass of a buffalo calf.

When he made it, he swore revenge on Fitzgerald and Bridger, but it was not to be: the former had joined the army, and he forgave the latter because of his youth. Glass was killed near the Yellowstone River by Arikara Indians in 1833.

JOHN WESLEY HARDIN:  Some gunmen (Wyatt Earp, most notably) built awesome reputations despite having killed very few people. (Earp got three or four.) However, this fun-loving Texan stacked up the bodies on an assembly-line basis. Born in 1853, Hardin stabbed a schoolmate at the age of 14, and then got serious a year later when he shot his first man. For the next ten years his life was one protracted gunfight, interrupted by arrests and escapes from jail. In 1878, he was tried and sentenced to 25 years for murder in Texas, but was pardoned in 1894.

Hardin then went bad. He studied law and opened a more or less successful practice. In 1895, he was murdered in El Paso by Constable John Selman, who shot him in the back of the head while Hardin was rolling dice. Hardin claim to have killed 44 men; the real number is probably more like 30. It will do.

BEAR RIVER TOM SMITH: Remember all the punchouts in the Saturday afternoon Westerns? Mostly that stuff never happened, but here was one lawman who did use his fists in favor of his guns. Tom Smith was a New Yorker, a professional middleweight prizefighter, and a policeman who was hired by the city of Abilene, Kansas, in 1869. Smith enforced a highly unpopular no-guns policy in the cowtown, and for the most part, made the law stick by beating the hell out of people with his bare hands. He was thought to be completely fearless, and never backed down from a fight, no matter what the odds.

Smith met his end while carrying a gun to serve a warrant on two local farmers. He was shot, then clubbed with a rifle butt, and then decapitated with an axe. Smith was succeeded by James Butler Hickok, who believed in shooting people.

FRANK HAMER: Born in 1884 he is my personal selection as the toughest sumbitch of all. This Texas Ranger is best known for leading the posse that killed Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in 1934 (and forget the crap you saw in the movie; no one ever got the drop on him). He was a big man who would cheerfully stomp a mudhole in your ass or shoot you if you broke the law. He was never beaten in a fight of any kind; he survived numerous gunshot wounds and killed numerous people. Hamer did not play politics, which probably cut short his Ranger career.

Hamer’s career spanned the last of the Old West and into the 20th century. He served 18 years in the Rangers, and even after his retirement he retained a special commission as a Ranger. During his life, he refused money (a lot of it, reportedly) to tell his life story. Hamer died in his bed in 1955. His biography, I’m Frank Hamer, appeared in 1968, and if you can find a copy, grab it.

Comments (74)

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from chadlove wrote 5 years 1 week ago

No love for John Colter? Take away the gun and I'd take Colter over Hardin any day.

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from Del in KS wrote 5 years 1 week ago

IMS the movie Man in the Wilderness was about Hugh Glass and the bear. It starred Richard Harris and John Huston. Very good movie to watch.
Frank Hamer was one of my favorites also.

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from 2Poppa wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I liked Hugh Glass.
He seemed to be an all around outdoorsman!

I mean, who lets maggots eat your rotting flesh and scare wolves away for your dinner!
Definitely one gnarly dude!

Here are some more legends ...

http://www.vlib.us/old_west/guns.html

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from Big O wrote 5 years 1 week ago

You forgot the part where Harden "shot a man for snoring to loud"(Paul Harvey).I thought that movie Jerimia Johnson had a guy that got attacked by a bear and lived too. I know they had a part where the ol' man mad him get on to chase him into the cabin so he could kill him.
LOL.

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from buckhunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

No doubt there were some tough dudes running the country side back then. I've always figured the Indians had the upper hand on toughness. I am sure that there are stories that were never written or told of survival which was nearly everyday life back then. Afterall, where do you think the term "windingo" came from?

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

WTF is a "windingo"

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from victorytw228 wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Anyone who was a Texas Ranger is bad ass. I mean look at Chuck Norris! They are the best of the best!

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from John L wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Shound be windigo, not windingo.
Hope link works, otherwise google "windigo" and look for Indian legends.

http://www.americanfolklore.net/folktales/northwestterritories1.html

Toughest "surviver" has to be Hugh Glass (read Frederick Manfred's "Lord Grizzly")
but credit for survival must also go to Alferd Packer, who emerged from the mountains after....oh heck, do your own research if you never heard of him.

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from shane wrote 5 years 6 days ago

My vote also goes for John "Liver Eating" Johnson aka Jeremiah Johnson.

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from Sage Sam wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Gotta agree, John Colter was as tough as tough could be.

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from John L wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Shane,
Jeremiah Johnson was a pretty good movie, but the real life "Liver-eatin' Johnson" was a wood cutter who lived along the rivers selling firewood to the boats, who never did any of what the movie depicts, he was just a blowhard. Good movie, all fiction.

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from John L wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Aplogies all around, I had John "Jeremiah" Johnson confused with someone else. He did indeed earn his "reputation", mainly by his own braggadocio, but certain elements are true.
For cojones, and I can't come up with the name from memory, but how about the one-armed Civil War veteran who took an expedition through the Grand Canyon for the first time, or Jedidiah Smith,the "Trailblazer" and all his exploring to open up the western mountains?

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from dickgun wrote 5 years 6 days ago

I found the Frank Hamer book on Abe Books. Prices from $85 to $400!

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from ishawooa wrote 5 years 6 days ago

DEP picked some excellent individuals but then there are so many to choose from in the old west. Don't forget Tom Horn as we will never know everything in which he was involved. The death of attorney John "Wes" Hardin alone is an interesting story as is his association with what is now known as El Paso Saddlery. Jeremiah or John "Liver Eatin'" Johnston (note correct name as the movie had it wrong) is buried just ten miles or so from where I am sitting so he has always been interesting to me. Certainly among the tough guys are Red Cloud, Gall, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse. I once went looking for the site of Hugh Glass's attack as some folks in Montana claimed to know the location. I don't believe they did.
Colter definately deserves a mention as does Portugee Phillips. If you think Paul Revere is a hero read up on Phillips.

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from ishawooa wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Dang we forgot the toughest of them all "The Outlaw Josey Wales", oh yeah he was fiction...wasn't he???

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from Dan Gersbach wrote 5 years 6 days ago

To Buckhunter....windingo,from the Aboriginal tribes,means "farting dog".And I'm barely making that up! To Victorytw228....sorry,Chuck Norris,though a tough guy in his own right,was on tv as a texas ranger....get away from the tv.Special forces are, as a rule,tough,no?! Also,John Harden being a cold-blooded sociopath without a heart(ie..became a lawyer)doesn't strike me as an, especially,tough man.Serial killers aren't generally considered tough for the most part,are they? Hugh Glass seems an accurate example of a tough man!Just my opinion,anyways.

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from ishawooa wrote 5 years 6 days ago

dan gersbach: Of course your are absolutely right regarding Wes Hardin. Nevertheless the character is facinating in his own right although if he were alive today he would be all over the internet and television.
The media would have a heyday and we all would be guard.
One other guy that was as tough as they come whom I failed to mention earlier is Morning Star also known as Dull Knife. This wise and capable Cheyenne chief is considered by many to be the William Wallace of the West, remember Mel Gibson's character in Braveheart?
Morning Star has a special place in history.

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 5 years 6 days ago

All of these guys were some bad assin assasins for sure;tough men for some tough times...My vote goes for Glass since he was mauled by a Griz, left to die,and LIVED. That's some serious resolve with a generous helping of luck!
Which goes without saying these bad-boys had a fair amount of luck going for them as well, but as far as pure tough guy goes it has to be Hamer. The history channel showed a brief clip on his life while they didn't expound upon his "law enforcement tactics", they mentioned that once he was on your trail; HELL would come to life in it's purest form! Wonder how much liability insurance he would cost in today's sue me society?

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 5 years 6 days ago

All of these guys were some bad assin assasins for sure;tough men for some tough times...My vote goes for Glass since he was mauled by a Griz, left to die,and LIVED. That's some serious resolve with a generous helping of luck!
Which goes without saying these bad-boys had a fair amount of luck going for them as well, but as far as pure tough guy goes it has to be Hamer. The history channel showed a brief clip on his life while they didn't expound upon his "law enforcement tactics", they mentioned that once he was on your trail; HELL would come to life in it's purest form! Wonder how much liability insurance he would cost in today's sue me society?

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from chuckles wrote 5 years 6 days ago

There is no doubt that all the above mentioned were strong tough men who deserve to be celebrated.
I have always reserved the greatest portion of my admiration for the often unmentioned women and children who without the comfort of training, experience, knowledge and adequate equipment, forged undaunted into the wilderness. They braved every hazard and survived to pass on a legacy of innovation and perseverance that has become the hallmark of the American spirit.
I realize they were not the subject of your post but every time I hear someone celebrate the unquestioned qualities of the men you mention I cannot help but think of those others who made much of what we enjoy today possible.

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from focusfront wrote 5 years 6 days ago

I would vote for Liver Eating Johnson, but it is hard to prove most of his exploits.

Hugh Glass's is probably the greatest survival story in the history of the west.

Mountain man/ scout Portugee Phillips could also get picked. After the Sioux wiped out Fetterman and the eighty men in his command, Phillips rode from Fort Phil Kearny (about where Buffalo, Wyoming is now)to Ft. Laramie, 236 miles in the dead of winter through deep snow and with hostile Indians everywhere, to request relief be sent. After he got to Laramie the horse he rode in on dropped dead.

But my choice is Jim Bowie. In the Sandbar Fight, despite having a pistol broken over his head, being shot at least twice, and getting stabbed with a knife and a sword cane, Bowie still killed at least one man and chopped up a couple more with his own knife. He didn't get into a whole lot of fights later on, because nobody wanted to get killed. Beat that.

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from Clem Snide wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Hardin only had nine authenticated kills. Check it out in Bill O'Neal's "Encyclopedia of Western Gunfigthers"---University of Oklahoma Press. This is the standard authority on the subject. The most prolific killer on the old west was a man few have ever heard of --James "Killin' Jim" Miller. He had eleven or twelve authenticated kills.

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from Clem Snide wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Hamer DID play politics. In about 1919 he slapped State Representative Jose Canales on a street in downtown Austin, a disgraceful action for which he should have gone to jail. The reason? Canales was heading up a legislative committee that was investigating crimes committed against Mexican Americans in the WWI years, which were considerable. He retired after Miram Ferguson was elected in the early thirties because he, like most of the Rangers, had openly supported her opponent, Ross Sterling. The Rangers were VERY political in this era, having been politicized by both Governor "Pa" Ferguson (Miriam's husband) and Governor Hobby.

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from Clem Snide wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Chuckles, I agree. The real heroes are the unsung ones. They are around us today---the honest and decent cop, the hardworking teacher who puts up with our brats and civilizes them, the devoted single mother who works at two minimum wage jobs to support her kids.

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from Sage Sam wrote 5 years 6 days ago

John L--The one-armed Civil War vet you mentioned is John Wesley Powell, the first explorer of the Colorado River system. He truly was a "tough" character. He rode the Green and Colorado Rivers at a time when no one even contemplated floating those deadly rapids. Add in the he would frequently climb the canyons--one armed--and he became a legend with many of the tribes in this area.

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from Ferber wrote 5 years 6 days ago

I was disappointed to read from a blogger that the liver-eating Johnson story is myth. What a guy--if it ain't myth. I was guided by Robert Geronomo a few years back and asked him about Johnson. Said he never heard of him. Oy.

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from wingshooter54 wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Chuck Norris (Hollywood actor) wouldn't make a pimple on a real Texas Ranger's ass. Research a little on the Rangers and you will find some of them who served prior to Hamer were equally hard and tough; so were some of the early Texas Border Patrol. Unfortunately, today's attitude of political correctiveness has effectively tied the hands of that form of law enforcement.
Michael

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from duckcreekdick wrote 5 years 6 days ago

John L.
The grill in the University Memorial Center at the Univ. of Colorado is named in honor of Alferd Packer, a man of eclectic gastronomical tastes. It is said that he "never met a man he didn't like." Another stated that Packer has "served his fellow man since 1874."

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from John L wrote 5 years 6 days ago

To Duck creek Dick,
My favorite quote about Alferd Packer (probably not quoted accurately, if it even ever occurred) came from the judge at his sentencing.
"Alferd Packer, you man-eatin' son of a bitch, there were only 5 democrats in all of Hinsdale County, and you ate three of 'em"
So the story goes anyway.

And you are correct, the U of Colo student union grill is named after him, with some hilarious signs.

http://www.hauntedcolorado.net/AlferdPacker.html

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from Mike Diehl wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Those are some serious tough guys and bad dudes. I think it's interesting how to a degree the reputation and life of fictional character William Muny of "Unforgiven" resembles that of Hardin. Shot lots of people and then opened his own business. OK maybe nothing to it but who knows.

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from idduckhntr wrote 5 years 6 days ago

My great great aunt is Bonnie Parker my family has early pictures of heer and Clyde before their little rukus. MY uncle Milt said that he was a pleasant fellow as long as you did'nt piss him off. If I can figure out how to upload pictures I will post them.

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from MaxPower wrote 5 years 6 days ago

No Jedidiah Smith. Survived a grizzly attack, one of the first to scout Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon and Wyoming, then got killed by Comanche's all before age 35...

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from Big O wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Tom Horn was a true B.A., now I've got two more for ya,anybody remember "A Man Called Horse" and "Little Big Man" are either of these two "real" or just Hollywood Facts"?

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from Mjenkins1 wrote 5 years 6 days ago

"Just where is it I could find bear, beaver, and other critters worth cash money when skinned?"

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from John L wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Never heard of anything that "Horse" was based on, think they just wanted something to make white guy look as tough as the Indians. Real Indians would've just skinned him.
Little Big Man was based on a novel by Thomas Berger, about as realistic as "Young Guns" as far as facts. Both were fun to watch but short on real history, and was a satire as regarded Custer, Hickock, Calamity Jane, etc.

Agree with posters above, the real tough survivors were the pioneers who came into vast areas with only what they could carry in their wagons, wheelbarrows, or on their horses, and carved homes out of plains or mountains, fighting weather, natives, and neighbors.
I just spent a few days in the middle of the Nebraska Sandhills and the endless wind and emptiness made it easy to see what grit and determination it took just to survive.
Ask your Mrs's how long they'd live in a hole (cave) dug into the side of a sandhill, with chunks of sod cut for a front wall, with nearest neighbor 10 miles away, grocery store 60 miles away (no cars remember), and with nothing to listen to but your uneducated husband (no radio, no TV, no phone).
Even not to mention, no refrigerator/freezer, microwave, washing machine (water having to be hauled in barrels from ???miles away), electricity, an outhouse (if you were lucky) but no TP (corn shucks?), and an abundance of bugs, snakes,......O.K. I'll quit.
Those were TOUGH people.
No wonder the gunfighters never settled down.

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 5 years 6 days ago

"You ain't afraid of no buggerman are ya?" Roaster Cogburn@True Grit

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from Jim in Avon wrote 5 years 6 days ago

"Smith was succeeded by James Butler Hickok, who believed in shooting people."

Guys, it's snort-out-loud lines like this that make Petzal the best darned read in the gunwriting business. Nice piece, Petz!

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from Mark-1 wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Calling a Hollywood creation real life???? Ya gotta be on drugs.

I thought a news reporter trying to call "G.I. Jane" real life was bad.

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from Brian Robinson wrote 5 years 6 days ago

good stuff

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from Zermoid wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Any sumbitch who can fight a sow grizzly and live to tell about it is tops in my book. Sheer toughness has to go to Hugh Glass.
I'd rank Tom Smith as second, and then Frank Hamer in third and Wesley Hardin in fourth.

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from jamesti wrote 5 years 6 days ago

great post dave. everyone will have their favorites but those were some tough men. remember when you were able to raise your kids to be tough and independent?

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from Del in KS wrote 5 years 6 days ago

idduckhunter, You can take your pics to any photo shop (Walmart's for example) They can scan those pics and put them on a disc for you. Then put the disc in your computer and upload.

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from Mark-1 wrote 5 years 5 days ago

DP,
I can understand your choices. All four are folks I wouldn’t want to irk, but frankly I’d have to replace a couple of them with James “Wild Bill” Hickok and then Clay Allison. Both of them wouldn’t hesitate to kill a man when it came down to it. Hickok was especially lethal since he was a cool, crack shot. Allison was crazy as they come, unpredictable, and just didn’t give a damn.

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from adams_ox wrote 5 years 5 days ago

Audie Murphy was pretty tough too. He gets my vote.

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from idduckhntr wrote 5 years 5 days ago

thanks del

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from Fisher Boy wrote 5 years 5 days ago

all seem to be great tough guys and they should each have a movie made about them

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from buckhunter wrote 5 years 5 days ago

Windigo is an Indian term for going crazy after eating human meat. Tribes would kill any member who ate human meat.

I guess if I was to pick a tough white man I guess it would have to be Simon Kenton or Robert Rogers. They could not be more opposite. Kenton was a phsycopathic killer of Indians and Rogers was a war hero during the French and Indian War.

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from blueridge wrote 5 years 5 days ago

How about men of color, who were from the West?
Geronimo, who fought Mexico and the U.S. almost to a standstill...and Juan Seguin, of the Alamo?

Of course, I have to agree with Petzel about Frank Hamer...Rangers Rule.

Blue

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from blueridge wrote 5 years 5 days ago

How about men of color, who were from the West?
Geronimo, who fought Mexico and the U.S. almost to a standstill...and Juan Seguin, of the Alamo?

Of course, I have to agree with Petzel about Frank Hamer...Rangers Rule.

Blue

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from Shaky wrote 5 years 5 days ago

All four men mentioned are good examples of hard, tough men and important representations of their times. With buckhunter I would vote for Simon Kenton, however without the psychopathic stigma. This man, while blazing trails for people to access the Ohio country, killed to defend himself, and once, Daniel Boone, but a psychopath would simply have set traps, ambuscades, etc, for the sole purpose of murder. There is no recored of Simon Kenton having done that. And the reason I post this is because I have had reason to research his background because he is one of my own ancestors.

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from Jack Ryan wrote 5 years 5 days ago

My vote for the one toughest guy I ever knew was a United States Marine. He darn near raise himself from the age of 8 until the state took him in to the Solders and Sailors orphans home and he left there at 15 to finish "raising" himself. At 18 he was married, a Marine and leaving for Korea in charge of an amphibious assault vehicle.

Back home in the US serving his full hitch he signed up at a funiture factory for the next 40 years of hell, breathing air choked with cotton dust and being threatened with losing the job that supports his family about every day just for the entertainment value. Didn't matter if it was stapled fingers on the frame line or foreman stuck between gripping workers and demanding managers, he went to work every day. His family depended on him.

After 40 years of threats they made good on them and shut the factory putting half the town out of work and he went to work again when he should have been retiring. He served the citizens again in the county jail, hauling murders, theives and various scum bags from jail to prison, to court and back.

In between he remodled a house that still had gas lights to make a home livable for his family doing every thing himself from hauling roofing shingle up three stories to tearing down 5 brick chimneys and hauling them in a 68 chevy truck only to unload them at the dump again by hand.

Never have heard him gripe or belly ache a single time in the 54 years I've known him, never once heard any one ask him for help and get a "no".

He's my father, USMC, Sheriff department, retired.

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from MattB wrote 5 years 5 days ago

Hugh Glass and Frank Hamer-- yes. John Wesley Hardin and Bear River Tom Smith--no --neither can hold a candle to William "Bigfoot" Wallace (an early Texas Ranger)Also Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. Also Josiah Wilbarger-scalped by Indians and survived. Sorry Petzal- you screwed this one up.

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from ishawooa wrote 5 years 5 days ago

Jack Ryan: Your dad and people like him are truly what made this country great. These other SOBs mostly did a few things that drew attention to them, because the oddity of the events was not considered ordinary, by whatever media coverage was available at the time. The elder Mr. Ryan was obviously a REAL tough man in the truest sense of the word. Its unfortunate that these kind of people don't get the applauds that they deserve. I enjoy reading about Wes Hardin et al but in reality many of them were POS, not all but many.

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from YooperJack wrote 5 years 5 days ago

Kind of on subject. Do any of you ever wonder, how many men left Europe or our own cities, to make their fortune in the wilderness, and just never returned? I'll bet it's in the hundreds, if not thousands. Wannabe Davy Crocketts, etc. I spend a lot of time in the woods. I often wonder how those folks survived? They didn't have matches, saws or down sleeping bags.

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from shane wrote 5 years 5 days ago

Alright. Enough. Time for guns.

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from Clem Snide wrote 5 years 5 days ago

A physician and old west historian I know has examined a lot of Hardin family papers. Hardin had terrible teeth---many toothaches. This doctor is also convinced that he had migraine headaches as well. All of which made him prone to fly off the handle.

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from ishawooa wrote 5 years 4 days ago

Yooper: In the western mountains and plains every now and then someone turns up a antique skeleton. Bones that have been there for maybe centuries. One such discovery was mummified hence his name "Mummy Joe" or "Indian Joe". He was located in a cave west of Cody, WY. South of Cody in another cave was discovered the remains of a Native American which were reburied at the reservation in Montana. In addition within that cave was a helmet and armor of early Spanish origin. This is sort of off topic but I figure at one time these guys were tough also.

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from buckhunter wrote 5 years 4 days ago

Shaky
My Grandfather is buried within 50 yards of Simon Kenton. Also very near are my grandmothers 5 uncles, all killed in the Civil War. Last name Buck. My Grandmother is still alive, 104 yrs old. You from Ohio?

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from crm3006 wrote 5 years 4 days ago

My vote goes to Hugh Glass first, for surviving the bear, and second to Frank Hamer
he walked up to Bonnie and Clyde in the "death car" with only a .38 Super. That man had some hard bark on him!
DEP- Please read my post on the Shaw under "Further testing...." I would appreciate your opinion.
crm

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from Shaky wrote 5 years 4 days ago

buckhunter; my ancestors are traced backward, Arkansas, Kentucky,Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, England, Wales. I was born in north central Arkansas 2mi. from my grandfather's homestead. Mine is the seventh generation from Wales by way of England. I had eight forbears at King's Mountain for the little set to with the Tories,and seven at the battle of the Cow Pens. They were called the over the mountain men, and had migrated to Kentucky following Simon Kenton's report of the rich farm land and abundant supply of game. Sorry, but can't be more specific, due to the nature of the inter net, however the name isn't Buck.

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from Beekeeper wrote 5 years 4 days ago

Thanks Dave! Great post. I'd never heard of Tom Smith. Some like him couls only be followed up by the like of Hickok. A little more on Glass, he made much of the walk back in winter snow storms with only the clothes on his back. One tuff SOB.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 5 years 4 days ago

Re: Glass: The wil to live is apparently stronger in some men than others. He was tough!

Some of the famous tough guys in the old west were probably bordering on mentally deranged to have done some of the deeds attributed to them.

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from focusfront wrote 5 years 4 days ago

Just got back to the blog after a couple of days away. John L. and Jack Ryan were hard to argue with. But it looks like we have confused "tough" with "lethal." Hardin killed a lot of people, but was arrested in Pensacola without firing a shot. Hickock on the other hand shot up the McCandles gang in a gunfight that went on in a room, while they were shooting back (and scoring). He won that fight. That's tough AND lethal. Same with Bowie and the Sandbar fight. But I still vote John L. and Jack Ryan.

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from T.W. Davidson wrote 5 years 3 days ago

All . . .

I'd like to nominate someone for a "Tough Man" award.

I was at a gunshow in my local area this last Saturday. Despite the terrible weather--heavy rains, high winds, lots of lightning--there were people standing in a line a hundred yards long out in the parking lot, getting soaked to the bone, waiting to get in.

Inside the multi-acre-size exhibit hall, gun nuts were packed tighter than sausages in an old C-ration can. I went to the show for the sole purpose of obtaining large rifle primers and found none at all. But by chance I did find lots of .308 Winchester ammo, some of it at reasonable prices.

As I waiting to pay for my ammo, I noticed a gentleman in his late 20s or early 30s in another purchase line no more than 20' away. The right side of his head, face and neck was badly scarred. A hook was where his right arm, wrist and hand were supposed to be. Though he wore jeans and boots, when he moved it was instantly apparent that he was missing his right leg, though I could not determine whether it was from above or below the knee.

The man bought 500 rounds of 7.62x51mm ammo packed in an olive-green military ammo can. There was a bullets-filled can just like it on the table next to where I was standing in line. I picked it up as an experiment and guessed that it weighed at least 20-25lbs. It wasn't a featherweight object to carry around, particularly for a man missing major parts of his anatomy.

The Wounded Man wore a cap that said, 101st Airborne, U.S. Army. His hair, prematurely grey, was trimmed short. Despite his injuries, the Wounded Man's posture was ramrod straight whenever he was still. For a moment I got a good frontal look at his face. His right eye did not quite match his left one; I believe it was made of glass rather than flesh and blood.

Judging by the man's scars and physical losses--all of which were on his right side--it seems a reasonable hypothesis that The Wounded Man was a platoon sergeant or squad leader in an Airborne platoon in Iraq who got blown up by a mine or hit by an RPG or something equally awful. I looked myself over and thought about all the times I've ever been hurt or injured--sometimes pretty badly--and felt shame that I've ever felt sorry for myself or felt unlucky.

The Wounded Man never whined. He didn't ask for any favors. I don't think the words "sympathy" or "pity" are part and parcel of his personal vocabulary, at least not as applied to himself.

And the Wounded Man paid for his ammo, he somehow picked up the heavy box with his one good hand and slowly, painfully, limped his way through the thick crowd and disappeared from sight as he exited the exhibit hall. I thought very hard very quickly about abandoning my purchase line, going to the Wounded Man, and offering to carry his purchase out to his vehicle, but didn't do so. I think I would have embarrassed him, or that he would have felt negative emotions about the perception of someone--even another veteran--offering to help him out of pity--rather than out of respect. So I stayed where I was, and I wonder if I made the right decision.

The Wounded Man is my nomination for a "Tough Man" award.

TWD

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from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 5 years 3 days ago

I think it is pretty safe to say that all of these guys rank as total BA's. Especially the last one, while the others died from the means of other people, Hamer died of natural causes. Almost a shame that he did so too. Probably would of been more proper to die from a shoot out or something... but I guess it is better than him drowning in 2 inches of water.

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from 007 wrote 5 years 3 days ago

According to the History Channel, Kit Carson was no pansy. From what I recall he was not a physco like Hardin but shrank back from nothing.

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from texasfirst wrote 5 years 3 days ago

Frank Hamer was a bonafide tough guy. He dealt out justice here in Brownsville, Texas, where it was said he would "pole-axe" men with an open hand. He had been a blacksmith on a ranch and was a Ranger captain during a massive border insurrection from 1915-1917 in the Rio Grande Valley. Frank Hamer, Jr. was a Marine aviator in WWII and was shot down and killed. The loss of his son was one thing that really was able to deal a beating to the hard Texan. His widow and surviving children sued the Hollywood director and producer of the 1960s BS movie "Bonnie & Clyde" and won.

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from Jim in Mo wrote 5 years 2 days ago

Dave, Why didn't you tell us you were testing the new M70? I'll bet it doesn't beat the Shaw, or does it?

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from Shootstir wrote 5 years 2 days ago

Glass is good, no doubt- but you dropped the ball leaving John Coulter off your list, Petzel.

Not only is he the only survivor left behind after Louis & Clark returned to the East following their westward trek, he survived a full out Blackfoot assault, solo! He was stripped naked and made to race the fastest of the tribe's braves- who were carrying spears. (This across ground littered with cactus and sharp, jagged rock.) Coulter ran for a full 5 miles until he could reach a river crossing and hide under a logjam. (His body was so stressed from the run, pain, and the pressure of his attackers, that he started coughing up blood.) He stayed in that 40 degree water, hiding under the logjam for 12 hours while the braves beat the bushes on both sides of the river, wanting to avenge the death of one of their own at the hands of the plucky Coulter- who drove the Indian's own spear into his chest, killing him instantly.

Once the braves gave up, the beaten, weak, half-starved, naked, and bleeding Coulter walked 128 miles to the nearest town- Big Horn, and the legend was born.

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from epolf wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

Well, you have to include Coulter because after the trial he went through, when he finally got back to the fort, he got more traps and went right back to the same country (Yellowstone)!

I haven't seen anyone mention "Pegleg" Smith. The stories on him are a) he took an Indian bullet in the knee, b) it was an arrow, or c) on his way from the fort to his trapping ground, his horse slipped on a narrow trail, fell, and crushed his knee against a rock. (I'd always heard the latter but in googling his name, I found the other two accounts ("a" and "b") of how his knee was injured. Take your pick.) Not to worry, he amputated his own leg at the knee, fashioned a pegleg for himself, and in a subsequent bar brawl with four men, took off the pegleg and killed two of the men with the wooden leg. Obviously not someone to mess with!

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from Digger369 wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

All the people discussed in this forum are worthy of being named one of the toughest. But you all are forgetting the toughest SOB of all. Me. I've been married to my wife for nine years now. I don't think any other man alive could live through that. Others have tried, but none except me have made it.

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from taronda wrote 4 years 50 weeks ago

I think Hamer was a man before his time , with his tracking, shooting skills etc. Definitely could not use the tactics he was accustomed to today. The sad part is that his career consisted of so many other important cases besides the Bonnie & Clyde episode. It's unfortunate that those get overlooked.

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from meagel wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Hugh Glass was very tough. He ate a rattle snake that he killed with a rock and then saved some for a week until it rotted. Jim Bridger was forced to follow the other and did not want to go. I'd not want to be on Hugh's bad side!

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from Neil Sadler wrote 35 weeks 2 hours ago

I have to say it was my Navy Chief BMC 'mad dog' Bathhurst; he was on a prb in 'nam for 6 moths on the mekong delta, and won a silver star, despite being a small man only about 5'8" i saw him once whip there Italians by himself in a bar fight, in that same fight he bithalf of a guys ear off, he was a mean lil sob, looked exactly like charles bronson, only smaller. oops three Italians*

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from Del in KS wrote 5 years 1 week ago

IMS the movie Man in the Wilderness was about Hugh Glass and the bear. It starred Richard Harris and John Huston. Very good movie to watch.
Frank Hamer was one of my favorites also.

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from Jack Ryan wrote 5 years 5 days ago

My vote for the one toughest guy I ever knew was a United States Marine. He darn near raise himself from the age of 8 until the state took him in to the Solders and Sailors orphans home and he left there at 15 to finish "raising" himself. At 18 he was married, a Marine and leaving for Korea in charge of an amphibious assault vehicle.

Back home in the US serving his full hitch he signed up at a funiture factory for the next 40 years of hell, breathing air choked with cotton dust and being threatened with losing the job that supports his family about every day just for the entertainment value. Didn't matter if it was stapled fingers on the frame line or foreman stuck between gripping workers and demanding managers, he went to work every day. His family depended on him.

After 40 years of threats they made good on them and shut the factory putting half the town out of work and he went to work again when he should have been retiring. He served the citizens again in the county jail, hauling murders, theives and various scum bags from jail to prison, to court and back.

In between he remodled a house that still had gas lights to make a home livable for his family doing every thing himself from hauling roofing shingle up three stories to tearing down 5 brick chimneys and hauling them in a 68 chevy truck only to unload them at the dump again by hand.

Never have heard him gripe or belly ache a single time in the 54 years I've known him, never once heard any one ask him for help and get a "no".

He's my father, USMC, Sheriff department, retired.

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from 2Poppa wrote 5 years 1 week ago

I liked Hugh Glass.
He seemed to be an all around outdoorsman!

I mean, who lets maggots eat your rotting flesh and scare wolves away for your dinner!
Definitely one gnarly dude!

Here are some more legends ...

http://www.vlib.us/old_west/guns.html

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from Big O wrote 5 years 1 week ago

You forgot the part where Harden "shot a man for snoring to loud"(Paul Harvey).I thought that movie Jerimia Johnson had a guy that got attacked by a bear and lived too. I know they had a part where the ol' man mad him get on to chase him into the cabin so he could kill him.
LOL.

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from John L wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Shound be windigo, not windingo.
Hope link works, otherwise google "windigo" and look for Indian legends.

http://www.americanfolklore.net/folktales/northwestterritories1.html

Toughest "surviver" has to be Hugh Glass (read Frederick Manfred's "Lord Grizzly")
but credit for survival must also go to Alferd Packer, who emerged from the mountains after....oh heck, do your own research if you never heard of him.

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from shane wrote 5 years 6 days ago

My vote also goes for John "Liver Eating" Johnson aka Jeremiah Johnson.

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from Dan Gersbach wrote 5 years 6 days ago

To Buckhunter....windingo,from the Aboriginal tribes,means "farting dog".And I'm barely making that up! To Victorytw228....sorry,Chuck Norris,though a tough guy in his own right,was on tv as a texas ranger....get away from the tv.Special forces are, as a rule,tough,no?! Also,John Harden being a cold-blooded sociopath without a heart(ie..became a lawyer)doesn't strike me as an, especially,tough man.Serial killers aren't generally considered tough for the most part,are they? Hugh Glass seems an accurate example of a tough man!Just my opinion,anyways.

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from John L wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Never heard of anything that "Horse" was based on, think they just wanted something to make white guy look as tough as the Indians. Real Indians would've just skinned him.
Little Big Man was based on a novel by Thomas Berger, about as realistic as "Young Guns" as far as facts. Both were fun to watch but short on real history, and was a satire as regarded Custer, Hickock, Calamity Jane, etc.

Agree with posters above, the real tough survivors were the pioneers who came into vast areas with only what they could carry in their wagons, wheelbarrows, or on their horses, and carved homes out of plains or mountains, fighting weather, natives, and neighbors.
I just spent a few days in the middle of the Nebraska Sandhills and the endless wind and emptiness made it easy to see what grit and determination it took just to survive.
Ask your Mrs's how long they'd live in a hole (cave) dug into the side of a sandhill, with chunks of sod cut for a front wall, with nearest neighbor 10 miles away, grocery store 60 miles away (no cars remember), and with nothing to listen to but your uneducated husband (no radio, no TV, no phone).
Even not to mention, no refrigerator/freezer, microwave, washing machine (water having to be hauled in barrels from ???miles away), electricity, an outhouse (if you were lucky) but no TP (corn shucks?), and an abundance of bugs, snakes,......O.K. I'll quit.
Those were TOUGH people.
No wonder the gunfighters never settled down.

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from T.W. Davidson wrote 5 years 3 days ago

All . . .

I'd like to nominate someone for a "Tough Man" award.

I was at a gunshow in my local area this last Saturday. Despite the terrible weather--heavy rains, high winds, lots of lightning--there were people standing in a line a hundred yards long out in the parking lot, getting soaked to the bone, waiting to get in.

Inside the multi-acre-size exhibit hall, gun nuts were packed tighter than sausages in an old C-ration can. I went to the show for the sole purpose of obtaining large rifle primers and found none at all. But by chance I did find lots of .308 Winchester ammo, some of it at reasonable prices.

As I waiting to pay for my ammo, I noticed a gentleman in his late 20s or early 30s in another purchase line no more than 20' away. The right side of his head, face and neck was badly scarred. A hook was where his right arm, wrist and hand were supposed to be. Though he wore jeans and boots, when he moved it was instantly apparent that he was missing his right leg, though I could not determine whether it was from above or below the knee.

The man bought 500 rounds of 7.62x51mm ammo packed in an olive-green military ammo can. There was a bullets-filled can just like it on the table next to where I was standing in line. I picked it up as an experiment and guessed that it weighed at least 20-25lbs. It wasn't a featherweight object to carry around, particularly for a man missing major parts of his anatomy.

The Wounded Man wore a cap that said, 101st Airborne, U.S. Army. His hair, prematurely grey, was trimmed short. Despite his injuries, the Wounded Man's posture was ramrod straight whenever he was still. For a moment I got a good frontal look at his face. His right eye did not quite match his left one; I believe it was made of glass rather than flesh and blood.

Judging by the man's scars and physical losses--all of which were on his right side--it seems a reasonable hypothesis that The Wounded Man was a platoon sergeant or squad leader in an Airborne platoon in Iraq who got blown up by a mine or hit by an RPG or something equally awful. I looked myself over and thought about all the times I've ever been hurt or injured--sometimes pretty badly--and felt shame that I've ever felt sorry for myself or felt unlucky.

The Wounded Man never whined. He didn't ask for any favors. I don't think the words "sympathy" or "pity" are part and parcel of his personal vocabulary, at least not as applied to himself.

And the Wounded Man paid for his ammo, he somehow picked up the heavy box with his one good hand and slowly, painfully, limped his way through the thick crowd and disappeared from sight as he exited the exhibit hall. I thought very hard very quickly about abandoning my purchase line, going to the Wounded Man, and offering to carry his purchase out to his vehicle, but didn't do so. I think I would have embarrassed him, or that he would have felt negative emotions about the perception of someone--even another veteran--offering to help him out of pity--rather than out of respect. So I stayed where I was, and I wonder if I made the right decision.

The Wounded Man is my nomination for a "Tough Man" award.

TWD

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from Shootstir wrote 5 years 2 days ago

Glass is good, no doubt- but you dropped the ball leaving John Coulter off your list, Petzel.

Not only is he the only survivor left behind after Louis & Clark returned to the East following their westward trek, he survived a full out Blackfoot assault, solo! He was stripped naked and made to race the fastest of the tribe's braves- who were carrying spears. (This across ground littered with cactus and sharp, jagged rock.) Coulter ran for a full 5 miles until he could reach a river crossing and hide under a logjam. (His body was so stressed from the run, pain, and the pressure of his attackers, that he started coughing up blood.) He stayed in that 40 degree water, hiding under the logjam for 12 hours while the braves beat the bushes on both sides of the river, wanting to avenge the death of one of their own at the hands of the plucky Coulter- who drove the Indian's own spear into his chest, killing him instantly.

Once the braves gave up, the beaten, weak, half-starved, naked, and bleeding Coulter walked 128 miles to the nearest town- Big Horn, and the legend was born.

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from chadlove wrote 5 years 1 week ago

No love for John Colter? Take away the gun and I'd take Colter over Hardin any day.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

WTF is a "windingo"

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from ishawooa wrote 5 years 6 days ago

DEP picked some excellent individuals but then there are so many to choose from in the old west. Don't forget Tom Horn as we will never know everything in which he was involved. The death of attorney John "Wes" Hardin alone is an interesting story as is his association with what is now known as El Paso Saddlery. Jeremiah or John "Liver Eatin'" Johnston (note correct name as the movie had it wrong) is buried just ten miles or so from where I am sitting so he has always been interesting to me. Certainly among the tough guys are Red Cloud, Gall, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse. I once went looking for the site of Hugh Glass's attack as some folks in Montana claimed to know the location. I don't believe they did.
Colter definately deserves a mention as does Portugee Phillips. If you think Paul Revere is a hero read up on Phillips.

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from Clem Snide wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Hamer DID play politics. In about 1919 he slapped State Representative Jose Canales on a street in downtown Austin, a disgraceful action for which he should have gone to jail. The reason? Canales was heading up a legislative committee that was investigating crimes committed against Mexican Americans in the WWI years, which were considerable. He retired after Miram Ferguson was elected in the early thirties because he, like most of the Rangers, had openly supported her opponent, Ross Sterling. The Rangers were VERY political in this era, having been politicized by both Governor "Pa" Ferguson (Miriam's husband) and Governor Hobby.

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from John L wrote 5 years 6 days ago

To Duck creek Dick,
My favorite quote about Alferd Packer (probably not quoted accurately, if it even ever occurred) came from the judge at his sentencing.
"Alferd Packer, you man-eatin' son of a bitch, there were only 5 democrats in all of Hinsdale County, and you ate three of 'em"
So the story goes anyway.

And you are correct, the U of Colo student union grill is named after him, with some hilarious signs.

http://www.hauntedcolorado.net/AlferdPacker.html

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from Mike Diehl wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Those are some serious tough guys and bad dudes. I think it's interesting how to a degree the reputation and life of fictional character William Muny of "Unforgiven" resembles that of Hardin. Shot lots of people and then opened his own business. OK maybe nothing to it but who knows.

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from MaxPower wrote 5 years 6 days ago

No Jedidiah Smith. Survived a grizzly attack, one of the first to scout Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon and Wyoming, then got killed by Comanche's all before age 35...

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from Jim in Avon wrote 5 years 6 days ago

"Smith was succeeded by James Butler Hickok, who believed in shooting people."

Guys, it's snort-out-loud lines like this that make Petzal the best darned read in the gunwriting business. Nice piece, Petz!

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from adams_ox wrote 5 years 5 days ago

Audie Murphy was pretty tough too. He gets my vote.

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from buckhunter wrote 5 years 5 days ago

Windigo is an Indian term for going crazy after eating human meat. Tribes would kill any member who ate human meat.

I guess if I was to pick a tough white man I guess it would have to be Simon Kenton or Robert Rogers. They could not be more opposite. Kenton was a phsycopathic killer of Indians and Rogers was a war hero during the French and Indian War.

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from blueridge wrote 5 years 5 days ago

How about men of color, who were from the West?
Geronimo, who fought Mexico and the U.S. almost to a standstill...and Juan Seguin, of the Alamo?

Of course, I have to agree with Petzel about Frank Hamer...Rangers Rule.

Blue

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from blueridge wrote 5 years 5 days ago

How about men of color, who were from the West?
Geronimo, who fought Mexico and the U.S. almost to a standstill...and Juan Seguin, of the Alamo?

Of course, I have to agree with Petzel about Frank Hamer...Rangers Rule.

Blue

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from ishawooa wrote 5 years 5 days ago

Jack Ryan: Your dad and people like him are truly what made this country great. These other SOBs mostly did a few things that drew attention to them, because the oddity of the events was not considered ordinary, by whatever media coverage was available at the time. The elder Mr. Ryan was obviously a REAL tough man in the truest sense of the word. Its unfortunate that these kind of people don't get the applauds that they deserve. I enjoy reading about Wes Hardin et al but in reality many of them were POS, not all but many.

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from 007 wrote 5 years 3 days ago

According to the History Channel, Kit Carson was no pansy. From what I recall he was not a physco like Hardin but shrank back from nothing.

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from texasfirst wrote 5 years 3 days ago

Frank Hamer was a bonafide tough guy. He dealt out justice here in Brownsville, Texas, where it was said he would "pole-axe" men with an open hand. He had been a blacksmith on a ranch and was a Ranger captain during a massive border insurrection from 1915-1917 in the Rio Grande Valley. Frank Hamer, Jr. was a Marine aviator in WWII and was shot down and killed. The loss of his son was one thing that really was able to deal a beating to the hard Texan. His widow and surviving children sued the Hollywood director and producer of the 1960s BS movie "Bonnie & Clyde" and won.

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from Jim in Mo wrote 5 years 2 days ago

Dave, Why didn't you tell us you were testing the new M70? I'll bet it doesn't beat the Shaw, or does it?

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from epolf wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

Well, you have to include Coulter because after the trial he went through, when he finally got back to the fort, he got more traps and went right back to the same country (Yellowstone)!

I haven't seen anyone mention "Pegleg" Smith. The stories on him are a) he took an Indian bullet in the knee, b) it was an arrow, or c) on his way from the fort to his trapping ground, his horse slipped on a narrow trail, fell, and crushed his knee against a rock. (I'd always heard the latter but in googling his name, I found the other two accounts ("a" and "b") of how his knee was injured. Take your pick.) Not to worry, he amputated his own leg at the knee, fashioned a pegleg for himself, and in a subsequent bar brawl with four men, took off the pegleg and killed two of the men with the wooden leg. Obviously not someone to mess with!

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from Digger369 wrote 4 years 51 weeks ago

All the people discussed in this forum are worthy of being named one of the toughest. But you all are forgetting the toughest SOB of all. Me. I've been married to my wife for nine years now. I don't think any other man alive could live through that. Others have tried, but none except me have made it.

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from meagel wrote 4 years 43 weeks ago

Hugh Glass was very tough. He ate a rattle snake that he killed with a rock and then saved some for a week until it rotted. Jim Bridger was forced to follow the other and did not want to go. I'd not want to be on Hugh's bad side!

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from Sage Sam wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Gotta agree, John Colter was as tough as tough could be.

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from John L wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Aplogies all around, I had John "Jeremiah" Johnson confused with someone else. He did indeed earn his "reputation", mainly by his own braggadocio, but certain elements are true.
For cojones, and I can't come up with the name from memory, but how about the one-armed Civil War veteran who took an expedition through the Grand Canyon for the first time, or Jedidiah Smith,the "Trailblazer" and all his exploring to open up the western mountains?

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from dickgun wrote 5 years 6 days ago

I found the Frank Hamer book on Abe Books. Prices from $85 to $400!

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from ishawooa wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Dang we forgot the toughest of them all "The Outlaw Josey Wales", oh yeah he was fiction...wasn't he???

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from ishawooa wrote 5 years 6 days ago

dan gersbach: Of course your are absolutely right regarding Wes Hardin. Nevertheless the character is facinating in his own right although if he were alive today he would be all over the internet and television.
The media would have a heyday and we all would be guard.
One other guy that was as tough as they come whom I failed to mention earlier is Morning Star also known as Dull Knife. This wise and capable Cheyenne chief is considered by many to be the William Wallace of the West, remember Mel Gibson's character in Braveheart?
Morning Star has a special place in history.

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 5 years 6 days ago

All of these guys were some bad assin assasins for sure;tough men for some tough times...My vote goes for Glass since he was mauled by a Griz, left to die,and LIVED. That's some serious resolve with a generous helping of luck!
Which goes without saying these bad-boys had a fair amount of luck going for them as well, but as far as pure tough guy goes it has to be Hamer. The history channel showed a brief clip on his life while they didn't expound upon his "law enforcement tactics", they mentioned that once he was on your trail; HELL would come to life in it's purest form! Wonder how much liability insurance he would cost in today's sue me society?

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 5 years 6 days ago

All of these guys were some bad assin assasins for sure;tough men for some tough times...My vote goes for Glass since he was mauled by a Griz, left to die,and LIVED. That's some serious resolve with a generous helping of luck!
Which goes without saying these bad-boys had a fair amount of luck going for them as well, but as far as pure tough guy goes it has to be Hamer. The history channel showed a brief clip on his life while they didn't expound upon his "law enforcement tactics", they mentioned that once he was on your trail; HELL would come to life in it's purest form! Wonder how much liability insurance he would cost in today's sue me society?

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from chuckles wrote 5 years 6 days ago

There is no doubt that all the above mentioned were strong tough men who deserve to be celebrated.
I have always reserved the greatest portion of my admiration for the often unmentioned women and children who without the comfort of training, experience, knowledge and adequate equipment, forged undaunted into the wilderness. They braved every hazard and survived to pass on a legacy of innovation and perseverance that has become the hallmark of the American spirit.
I realize they were not the subject of your post but every time I hear someone celebrate the unquestioned qualities of the men you mention I cannot help but think of those others who made much of what we enjoy today possible.

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from focusfront wrote 5 years 6 days ago

I would vote for Liver Eating Johnson, but it is hard to prove most of his exploits.

Hugh Glass's is probably the greatest survival story in the history of the west.

Mountain man/ scout Portugee Phillips could also get picked. After the Sioux wiped out Fetterman and the eighty men in his command, Phillips rode from Fort Phil Kearny (about where Buffalo, Wyoming is now)to Ft. Laramie, 236 miles in the dead of winter through deep snow and with hostile Indians everywhere, to request relief be sent. After he got to Laramie the horse he rode in on dropped dead.

But my choice is Jim Bowie. In the Sandbar Fight, despite having a pistol broken over his head, being shot at least twice, and getting stabbed with a knife and a sword cane, Bowie still killed at least one man and chopped up a couple more with his own knife. He didn't get into a whole lot of fights later on, because nobody wanted to get killed. Beat that.

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from Clem Snide wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Hardin only had nine authenticated kills. Check it out in Bill O'Neal's "Encyclopedia of Western Gunfigthers"---University of Oklahoma Press. This is the standard authority on the subject. The most prolific killer on the old west was a man few have ever heard of --James "Killin' Jim" Miller. He had eleven or twelve authenticated kills.

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from Clem Snide wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Chuckles, I agree. The real heroes are the unsung ones. They are around us today---the honest and decent cop, the hardworking teacher who puts up with our brats and civilizes them, the devoted single mother who works at two minimum wage jobs to support her kids.

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from Sage Sam wrote 5 years 6 days ago

John L--The one-armed Civil War vet you mentioned is John Wesley Powell, the first explorer of the Colorado River system. He truly was a "tough" character. He rode the Green and Colorado Rivers at a time when no one even contemplated floating those deadly rapids. Add in the he would frequently climb the canyons--one armed--and he became a legend with many of the tribes in this area.

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from Ferber wrote 5 years 6 days ago

I was disappointed to read from a blogger that the liver-eating Johnson story is myth. What a guy--if it ain't myth. I was guided by Robert Geronomo a few years back and asked him about Johnson. Said he never heard of him. Oy.

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from wingshooter54 wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Chuck Norris (Hollywood actor) wouldn't make a pimple on a real Texas Ranger's ass. Research a little on the Rangers and you will find some of them who served prior to Hamer were equally hard and tough; so were some of the early Texas Border Patrol. Unfortunately, today's attitude of political correctiveness has effectively tied the hands of that form of law enforcement.
Michael

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from duckcreekdick wrote 5 years 6 days ago

John L.
The grill in the University Memorial Center at the Univ. of Colorado is named in honor of Alferd Packer, a man of eclectic gastronomical tastes. It is said that he "never met a man he didn't like." Another stated that Packer has "served his fellow man since 1874."

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from idduckhntr wrote 5 years 6 days ago

My great great aunt is Bonnie Parker my family has early pictures of heer and Clyde before their little rukus. MY uncle Milt said that he was a pleasant fellow as long as you did'nt piss him off. If I can figure out how to upload pictures I will post them.

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from Big O wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Tom Horn was a true B.A., now I've got two more for ya,anybody remember "A Man Called Horse" and "Little Big Man" are either of these two "real" or just Hollywood Facts"?

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from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 5 years 6 days ago

"You ain't afraid of no buggerman are ya?" Roaster Cogburn@True Grit

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from Mark-1 wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Calling a Hollywood creation real life???? Ya gotta be on drugs.

I thought a news reporter trying to call "G.I. Jane" real life was bad.

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from Brian Robinson wrote 5 years 6 days ago

good stuff

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from Zermoid wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Any sumbitch who can fight a sow grizzly and live to tell about it is tops in my book. Sheer toughness has to go to Hugh Glass.
I'd rank Tom Smith as second, and then Frank Hamer in third and Wesley Hardin in fourth.

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from jamesti wrote 5 years 6 days ago

great post dave. everyone will have their favorites but those were some tough men. remember when you were able to raise your kids to be tough and independent?

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from Del in KS wrote 5 years 6 days ago

idduckhunter, You can take your pics to any photo shop (Walmart's for example) They can scan those pics and put them on a disc for you. Then put the disc in your computer and upload.

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from Mark-1 wrote 5 years 5 days ago

DP,
I can understand your choices. All four are folks I wouldn’t want to irk, but frankly I’d have to replace a couple of them with James “Wild Bill” Hickok and then Clay Allison. Both of them wouldn’t hesitate to kill a man when it came down to it. Hickok was especially lethal since he was a cool, crack shot. Allison was crazy as they come, unpredictable, and just didn’t give a damn.

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from idduckhntr wrote 5 years 5 days ago

thanks del

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from Fisher Boy wrote 5 years 5 days ago

all seem to be great tough guys and they should each have a movie made about them

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from Shaky wrote 5 years 5 days ago

All four men mentioned are good examples of hard, tough men and important representations of their times. With buckhunter I would vote for Simon Kenton, however without the psychopathic stigma. This man, while blazing trails for people to access the Ohio country, killed to defend himself, and once, Daniel Boone, but a psychopath would simply have set traps, ambuscades, etc, for the sole purpose of murder. There is no recored of Simon Kenton having done that. And the reason I post this is because I have had reason to research his background because he is one of my own ancestors.

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from MattB wrote 5 years 5 days ago

Hugh Glass and Frank Hamer-- yes. John Wesley Hardin and Bear River Tom Smith--no --neither can hold a candle to William "Bigfoot" Wallace (an early Texas Ranger)Also Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie. Also Josiah Wilbarger-scalped by Indians and survived. Sorry Petzal- you screwed this one up.

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from YooperJack wrote 5 years 5 days ago

Kind of on subject. Do any of you ever wonder, how many men left Europe or our own cities, to make their fortune in the wilderness, and just never returned? I'll bet it's in the hundreds, if not thousands. Wannabe Davy Crocketts, etc. I spend a lot of time in the woods. I often wonder how those folks survived? They didn't have matches, saws or down sleeping bags.

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from shane wrote 5 years 5 days ago

Alright. Enough. Time for guns.

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from Clem Snide wrote 5 years 5 days ago

A physician and old west historian I know has examined a lot of Hardin family papers. Hardin had terrible teeth---many toothaches. This doctor is also convinced that he had migraine headaches as well. All of which made him prone to fly off the handle.

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from ishawooa wrote 5 years 4 days ago

Yooper: In the western mountains and plains every now and then someone turns up a antique skeleton. Bones that have been there for maybe centuries. One such discovery was mummified hence his name "Mummy Joe" or "Indian Joe". He was located in a cave west of Cody, WY. South of Cody in another cave was discovered the remains of a Native American which were reburied at the reservation in Montana. In addition within that cave was a helmet and armor of early Spanish origin. This is sort of off topic but I figure at one time these guys were tough also.

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from buckhunter wrote 5 years 4 days ago

Shaky
My Grandfather is buried within 50 yards of Simon Kenton. Also very near are my grandmothers 5 uncles, all killed in the Civil War. Last name Buck. My Grandmother is still alive, 104 yrs old. You from Ohio?

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from crm3006 wrote 5 years 4 days ago

My vote goes to Hugh Glass first, for surviving the bear, and second to Frank Hamer
he walked up to Bonnie and Clyde in the "death car" with only a .38 Super. That man had some hard bark on him!
DEP- Please read my post on the Shaw under "Further testing...." I would appreciate your opinion.
crm

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from Shaky wrote 5 years 4 days ago

buckhunter; my ancestors are traced backward, Arkansas, Kentucky,Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, England, Wales. I was born in north central Arkansas 2mi. from my grandfather's homestead. Mine is the seventh generation from Wales by way of England. I had eight forbears at King's Mountain for the little set to with the Tories,and seven at the battle of the Cow Pens. They were called the over the mountain men, and had migrated to Kentucky following Simon Kenton's report of the rich farm land and abundant supply of game. Sorry, but can't be more specific, due to the nature of the inter net, however the name isn't Buck.

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from Beekeeper wrote 5 years 4 days ago

Thanks Dave! Great post. I'd never heard of Tom Smith. Some like him couls only be followed up by the like of Hickok. A little more on Glass, he made much of the walk back in winter snow storms with only the clothes on his back. One tuff SOB.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 5 years 4 days ago

Re: Glass: The wil to live is apparently stronger in some men than others. He was tough!

Some of the famous tough guys in the old west were probably bordering on mentally deranged to have done some of the deeds attributed to them.

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from focusfront wrote 5 years 4 days ago

Just got back to the blog after a couple of days away. John L. and Jack Ryan were hard to argue with. But it looks like we have confused "tough" with "lethal." Hardin killed a lot of people, but was arrested in Pensacola without firing a shot. Hickock on the other hand shot up the McCandles gang in a gunfight that went on in a room, while they were shooting back (and scoring). He won that fight. That's tough AND lethal. Same with Bowie and the Sandbar fight. But I still vote John L. and Jack Ryan.

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from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 5 years 3 days ago

I think it is pretty safe to say that all of these guys rank as total BA's. Especially the last one, while the others died from the means of other people, Hamer died of natural causes. Almost a shame that he did so too. Probably would of been more proper to die from a shoot out or something... but I guess it is better than him drowning in 2 inches of water.

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from taronda wrote 4 years 50 weeks ago

I think Hamer was a man before his time , with his tracking, shooting skills etc. Definitely could not use the tactics he was accustomed to today. The sad part is that his career consisted of so many other important cases besides the Bonnie & Clyde episode. It's unfortunate that those get overlooked.

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from Mjenkins1 wrote 5 years 6 days ago

"Just where is it I could find bear, beaver, and other critters worth cash money when skinned?"

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from Neil Sadler wrote 35 weeks 2 hours ago

I have to say it was my Navy Chief BMC 'mad dog' Bathhurst; he was on a prb in 'nam for 6 moths on the mekong delta, and won a silver star, despite being a small man only about 5'8" i saw him once whip there Italians by himself in a bar fight, in that same fight he bithalf of a guys ear off, he was a mean lil sob, looked exactly like charles bronson, only smaller. oops three Italians*

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from buckhunter wrote 5 years 1 week ago

No doubt there were some tough dudes running the country side back then. I've always figured the Indians had the upper hand on toughness. I am sure that there are stories that were never written or told of survival which was nearly everyday life back then. Afterall, where do you think the term "windingo" came from?

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from victorytw228 wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Anyone who was a Texas Ranger is bad ass. I mean look at Chuck Norris! They are the best of the best!

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from John L wrote 5 years 6 days ago

Shane,
Jeremiah Johnson was a pretty good movie, but the real life "Liver-eatin' Johnson" was a wood cutter who lived along the rivers selling firewood to the boats, who never did any of what the movie depicts, he was just a blowhard. Good movie, all fiction.

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