This week we’re riding the rails through Colorado. The date, February 26th 1878.
Just before 7am, on a chilly winter day, two groups of men boarded a train from the bustling trading town of Pueblo headed for El Moro – a sleepy mining town near the New Mexico border. The men, both on urgent business, were all travelling for the same reason. Theirs was a small world where everyone at least knew of one another, though neither side had apparently met. Both knew what the other was planning – but apparently did their best to ignore other’s presence there. Soon they would be on opposite sides in a war and would know the other all too well. For now though the men took their seats in the carriage and, one presumes, concentrated on the task ahead.
That train, well one very like it anyway, was what all of this business was about. We’ll come back round to this scene.
But first, as densely packed as this episode is, I needs must make a quick digression. From El Moro we briefly detour to a prison cell in Kommunarka, Russia, 17th September 1938. An academic named Nikolai Kondratiev has been sentenced to death, on the explicit orders of Stalin himself. In 1930 he’d fallen afoul of the authorities – who jailed him for eight years for his economic apostasy. While imprisoned he wrote five books on his theories. By days’ end Stalin will have him executed by firing squad. His dangerous idea that had so offended Uncle Joe? In a nutshell…
Kondratiev believed capitalist economies, besides their smaller approximately six year long boom – bust waves, had longer, much bigger waves rolling along in the background. Every forty to sixty years an economy in recession from the previous long wave, would innovate by combining existing technologies in new and exciting ways. This technological innovation would create a new boom – and with it new ways of living, working and even thinking about the world. Often the start is a bit shaky, followed by a decades long trend of huge economic growth. Around halfway in, a jarring turning point occurs. From there we enter a decades long collapse which is often chaotic in nature.
Ideas stagnate, hindered by the people who made a killing from the earlier innovations now deciding to play it safe with their money – principally by putting their money into the finance sector, where it is far less productive.
In a Kondratiev wave, this eventually leads to another big crash. My view, not Kondratiev’s but these decline periods often see the most insane behaviour from desperate entrepreneurs. This is followed by another burst of innovation which creates a boom, and new ways of living, working and thinking about the world.
This concept riled up Stalin, who only liked economic theories that don’t claim capitalism mutated into new models. His world theory needed an end point where capitalism could no longer adapt – where the workers of the world would finally cast off their chains and take the means of production off the rich.
The idea Nikolai Kondratiev died for received mixed reviews by economists. A number of well regarded economists took it up, but a greater number discarded it. One problem, you can broadly define these eras, but start and end dates can differ by several years depending on the theorist – It all seems a little fuzzy and unscientific. As a diagnostic tool economists could use to predict the future, Kondratiev waves are too sketchy for most.
Looking backwards though, Kondratiev waves can occasionally be useful when trying to place a tale in it’s historical context – though all fairness to Mr Kondratiev, it does not explain why two tycoons came down with a case of brain worms in the late 19th century.
But anyway, for context – under most Kondratiev models, the first big wave kicks off in Britain some time between 1774 and 1790. The steam engine changed the world, but the factory was the star of the era.
Innovations in the steam engine allowed engines to be used to power a factory full of machines by one long drive shaft. Seven decades earlier, the first commercial steam engines drove pumps in coal mines, keeping mines safe from flooding. This was not just a repurposing of that old technology, a great deal of innovation had gone into to those engines. Steam powered factories led to cheaper production of goods, and more importantly, the development of tool making machinery – which itself drove further innovations. This all made use of other, earlier innovations such as Abraham Darby’s coking process which made the reliable production of iron an affordable alternative to brass. Iron goods could be churned out all day, so long as you had machine operators, and someone to keep the furnace topped up with coal.
Boat canals appeared across the land to transport goods. This also changed the way we travelled, and how we thought of distance between towns. It changed the way we lived too. Large, industrial cities arose, while agricultural centres withered away. The poet Oliver Goldsmith bemoaned the disappearance of the labouring swain of his imagined Auburn village in his poem The Deserted Village – those folk hadn’t vanished – many of them now worked in dark, dingy factories. They lived in growing industrial centres. One innovation vastly changed how we lived our lives, and how we saw the world.
In a break from Industrial Revolution models, which put their second wave decades later, the second Kondratiev wave kicked off around 1850 –
It’s most valuable technology was being seriously developed in the 1820’s, but didn’t take centre stage till the middle of the century. What was this innovation? Someone took a steam engine, and made it drive an iron horse along iron rails. The locomotive would go on to change the world. We’re only really interested in the history of trains in the USA today so I’ll quickly mention the first train in the USA was named Tom Thumb, back in 1827. Tom Thumb had an underwhelming start – it raced against a horse and lost – but the locomotive age did leave the station proper in 1850.
Well, at least it did first along the Northern and east coast cities. Throughout the 1850s, several competing railroad barons laid 30,000 miles of track in the region. It was a messy, chaotic affair with many companies using their own track gauges – but adding this critical infrastructure kicked off an Industrial Revolution in the USA. Factories proliferated due to this infrastructure.
As the century rolled on, Americans were told to go west to find their fortunes. There was huge opportunity in the supposedly uninhabited expanse presidents Thomas Jefferson bought from the French in 1803, and James Polk either bought off England, or mostly seized from Mexico in the mid 1840s. Of course there were already plenty of people on these lands, we’ll put a pin in that subject for now, and come back to some of those Native tribes at a later date.
In the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln launched the first of several Homestead Acts that gave people free land if they settled it and held onto it for five years. Gold strikes and other mineral windfalls like the California Gold Rush (1848-55) were pull factors that brought people in. Sometimes folk arrived due to push factors; like the thousands of Mennonites who fled Russian persecution in Russia and Ukraine in the late 1870s for the plains of Kansas. They brought a wheat seed with them, Turkey Red, which grew so successfully, Kansas soon produced 1/5 of all American wheat. In places like Wyoming, cattle barons made a killing – radically changing how Americans ate… but their ‘killings’ are another tale we’ll put a pin in for now.
The railroads boomed post civil war, and played a major role in settling people out west, at least until it didn’t. Rail eventually connected the East and West coasts of America. A side note: the first attempt to do so, the Union Pacific Rail Road, was disastrous. Starting in 1862, the UPRR laid track in places that became inaccessible in winter. They conspicuously wasted a lot of money, and chose awful places for railroad towns along the way. Most of their picks became ghost towns within a couple of years of incorporating. Bringing this back to the Kondratiev wave – 1873 was the turning point of the second wave, and the Union Pacific played a big role.
The UPRR got caught paying off politicians. The scandal crashed the railroad, which took down a bank. The collapse of that one bank wiped out 40 more banks in turn. 5,000 businesses went broke in the wake of the Union Pacific crash. $250 million in 1873 dollars was wiped out almost overnight, leading to the Stock Market closing down for ten days in a row. Unemployment spiked at 14%. A quarter of the then 364 railway companies operating in the USA filed for bankruptcy. The Panic of 1873 was, to that date, the biggest economic downturn in American history. It would take the Great Depression of 1929 to overtake the Panic of 1873, which till then was dubbed The Great Depression. The ghost of the UPRR was resurrected by the diabolical figure of Railroad Baron Jay Gould. Waiting in the wings for his chance, he bought them out for a bargain basement price.
I’d like to think The Panic was a lesson to the other railway barons on the importance of building railway towns that were worth a damn, in places where people wanted to live; and of not getting involved in questionable behaviour. We’re working our way towards the latter. Of the former, I should mention the railways were not just providers of infrastructure, they were one of the nations’ biggest groups of land developers. They bought land very cheaply – before the 1870s land was just given to them in ten mile square blocks. They built towns as they went, selling on properties for large profits.
Which finally brings us to the men on a train to El Moro, Colorado. One party was a surveyor named Ray Morley, and A.A. Robinson, the chief engineer for the Atcheson Topeka and Santa Fe railroad. The other, the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad’s J.A. McMurtrie and his work crew.
The Rio Grande railway was the brainchild of General William Palmer – a Civil War hero who found peacetime work in the railroad industry. In 1871 he struck out on his own into the Colorado area – laying a smaller than average gauged, boutique track throughout the state. Palmer was not a terribly well-loved man, owing to having played hardball over which towns would and wouldn’t get trains following the Panic of 1873. This was keenly felt in Canyon City, who Palmer snubbed after they refused to pay him $1 million for a train line. Unlucky in love, General Palmer met and fell in love with the daughter of a Pennsylvanian politician named Mary Lincoln Mellon – known to friends as ‘Queenie.’ She accepted his marriage proposal just two weeks after they first met, but got cold feet and refused to move to some rustic frontier town. He built Queenie the town of Colorado Springs solely to woo her. Queenie married the General, and moved to Colorado Springs – but by all accounts, she hated it there. Their marriage slumped into lovelessness and infidelity.
General Palmer was, in truth, married to his job – as an obsessive workaholic. This reflected in the culture of the Rio Grande.
The Santa Fe Railroad also started off as the pet project of a larger than life figure – in this case Cyrus Holliday, the first mayor of Topeka, Kansas. But over time, the Santa Fe became a faceless corporation, run by a board of investors in Boston. These board members were initially hands-on, but then the railroad developed the cattle town of Dodge. Dodge was most definitely not Colorado Springs, and soon devolved into the stereotypical Wild West town of western movies – full of saloons, gamblers, working girls and gun fights at high noon. The board decided they really didn’t want to know what was going on in Dodge, and handed all the day to day management over to a general manager. Plausible deniability seemed a good idea to the board. After several failed attempts to clean up Dodge, the town appointed Wild West legends Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson as deputies, calming Dodge down somewhat.
Throughout the 1870s, a smart, decisive company man – though hardly a larger than life show pony – rose through the ranks of the Santa Fe. The board’s manager on the spot, and soon to be General Palmer’s nemesis was William Barstow Strong. The two men met for the first time in 1877, where Strong offered a decent sum of money to lease the Rio Grande off Palmer – making a lifelong enemy in the process. Strong may as well have asked to rent Queenie while he was at it, as far as Palmer was concerned.
Though not much is documented about Strong’s personal life anyway – it seems reasonable to leave him simply a big cog in a bigger, faceless machine?
Both companies had long term plans to push beyond the boundaries of the state – they even hoped to reach the West Coast one day; but both companies were badly hurt by the Panic of 1873. Their plan in the short term appeared to be to work on smaller projects. But, would it really hurt to send someone to look at a path into New Mexico, for future development?
When it came to plotting out a trans-continental path via the Southwest there was really only one suitable path – to follow the old, treacherous Santa Fe trail, then cross the Raton Pass into New Mexico. This was a difficult path, with a hefty price tag to develop. In the early 1870s General Palmer sent an employee named William Bell out and about with a camera, including out to the Raton pass. At the time he had the area scoped out, and noted a possible route through. This was then put aside for other projects. In 1877 William Barstow Strong sent out Ray Morley, disguised as a Mexican shepherd to survey the pass. Morley did his best to stay incognito, although he got caught out by the owner of the pass, a man named ‘Uncle Dick’ Wooten. Morley and Wooten became friends – Wooten agreeing to sell Morley’s employers the land if they made an offer. Though Morley had been low key, word got out Strong was preparing to make for the pass. Palmer reacted by preparing to send McMurtrie out with a work crew. Neither faction could really afford to take this project on – but both felt they could not afford to miss out on the opportunity to the other. The two companies sent out spies to intercept the others’ messages, and determined to spring into action the moment it looked certain the other would do. So they piled onto a train to El Moro on a cold, snowy February morning.
Now I should state the Raton Pass incident is only the prelude to our main event – but it does set the scene, and the pace.
The train pulled up at El Moro in the dark, and the parties disembarked. McMurtrie looked at Morley, and judged the Santa Fe had no work crew – so figured he was free to get a good night’s sleep at the hotel. Little did he know A.A. Robinson had put together a crew from Trinidad, Colorado – another town with an axe to grind over General Palmer’s business practices. Morley, Robinson and the Trinidad crew took a carriage full of tools up to Uncle Dick Wooten’s house. It was after 10pm when they arrived, but Uncle Dick welcomed his friends in. Wooten was allegedly offered $50,000 for the pass, but bargained himself down to $25 a month for groceries until he, then his wife and finally his daughter passed on – and lifetime passes for the family, giving them unlimited travel on Santa Fe trains. Uncle Dick didn’t need the money.
This stipend would increase over the years, and was up to $75 a month when his daughter passed on in 1930.
Uncle Dick unearthed the first sod of ground at 2am, 27th February 1878, and the crew got to work laying track in all the key places, working by lamp light.
In the morning a furious McMurtrie discovered they had been beaten to the punch. He wired the General, who told him to keep the crew there for now. Palmer had McMurtrie searching round for another, overlooked South-western pass, all to no avail, until April. It was then that another opportunity arose, and things went truly off the rails.
If one had ambitions to build a railroad track from Colorado out to the West coast, you could head Southwest to the Raton pass – or you could go west through an area called the California Gulch. This direction made a lot of sense in the 1860s – gold was found in Pueblo in 1859, causing a stampede of 10,000 prospectors to the area. In the following decade $2.5 million, around $100 million today, was extracted from the surrounding area. The area got picked clean of gold within a few years, and most of the prospectors left. A few hardy souls did stay on, with a new plan. Some believed large deposits of silver were out there. Unlike gold, silver usually lurks in dull grey veins below ground, never by itself, but alloyed to base metals. First, you need to dig it out, have someone examine the specimen for silver content – then send that alloy to a smelter to extract the silver from the rest of the junk. In spite of silver being far more common than gold, it was also far more labour intensive to work.
Silver had also fallen out of favour in past decades – the USA had a silver standard from the 1780s, based around the Spanish silver dollar – but it became neglected in the 1860s. Silver was then de-monetised during the Panic of 1873. In 1878, with money people looking for more ways to invest their cash in finance – (remember we’re now on the downward slope of the Kondratiev wave, where people do things like this) – the silver standard made a comeback via the Bland-Allison Act of February 1878.
This was the perfect time for a couple of dirt-poor prospectors to roll up to the general store in Leadville, Colorado. The legend has it these two men were looking for provisions and tools, and in lieu of actual money, promised the proprietor a third of whatever they found with those tools. The proprietor, one Horace Tabor not only took their offer, but threw in a bottle of whisky as well.
The story goes these two prospectors drank as they walked into the wild, and when they became fall-down drunk, they … fell down drunk – and slept where they lay. The next morning, figuring this was as good a spot as any to start, they dug a hole – and a few feet down struck the biggest silver reserve in the USA to that date. They honoured their promise to Horace ‘Haw’ Tabor, who invested his windfall in other sites, soon becoming one of America’s richest men. Their discovery kicked off a silver rush, which saw the former ghost town population balloon enough for politicians to debate moving the state capital to Leadville. In the future Mayor Tabor would even build an impressive opera house in Leadville.
This was great news for General Palmer. Not only could he make a killing transporting all that alloy to the smelters – he knew there would be a rush of people relocating to Leadville. He stood to make a killing if he could extend his lines from Canyon City out to the mining town. They would have to build through a narrow pass through the high cliffs of the Royal Gorge, but the company plotted this out in 1872. The gorge gets so narrow at times only one track would be possible, and like the Raton pass it is the only way through – but the effort would be well worth it. He presumed Strong would be caught up in the Raton pass for some time – but all the same he quietly gave the orders to prepare for the California Gulch – and entered into confidential talks with the St Louis smelter about getting them connected to his network.
The spy vs spy activity kicked off again. Both sides sent encrypted telegraphs to their backers, and did their best to intercept the other’s messages.
On April 19th, Santa Fe chief engineer A.A. Robinson noticed J.A. McMurtrie and his crew – formerly skulking round El Moro since they lost the pass, were nowhere to be seen. He soon discovered they were packing up and waiting for a train to Canyon City, via Pueblo. William Barstow Strong ordered Robinson to do the same – but Palmer’s men refused to sell him a ticket. Strong contacted Ray Morley, then out of town on other business, to get out to Canyon City as soon as he can. Morley booked a private train to Pueblo, waiting for Palmer’s men stationed at the telegraph office to go out for lunch first. He got his train to Pueblo, where, unbeknownst to the enemy, he had a horse stabled. Some time back he’d bought a stallion named King William, cheaply from an English expatriate living in Colorado Springs. Morley galloped into the dark towards Canyon City.
In the meantime McMurtrie and his gang were on the train, first to Pueblo, then after a changeover on to Canyon City. On the way he discovered Morley was headed their way – and resolved this time not to rest. As soon as the men reached Canyon City they made for the Royal Pass – only to find Morley beat them to it again. He’d arrived on horseback, then rushed out to hire a work crew. As with the people of Trinidad, all he had to do was mention General Palmer’s name and volunteers lined up to stick it to the general. Morley’s crew had a half hour head start – but at this point there was enough room in the gorge to lay two tracks near one another. This time McMurtrie ordered his crew to start laying tracks alongside the Santa Fe. For now, the two sides slogged along less than a gunshot distant from one another.
The Royal Gorge war began in the law courts. General Palmer filed an injunction, claiming he’d laid claim to the Royal Gorge in 1872. Strong’s lawyers were prepared and countered Palmer never filed a proposed route with the land office, so the claims should go with them; having broke ground first. In the interim the judge ordered the Rio Grande to stop work immediately. J.A. McMurtrie ignored the order and was arrested. His arrest led to a fist fight between the Santa Fe and Rio Grande crews. Tensions escalated with Palmer’s crew cutting Strong’s telegraph lines -and vice versa. The management took to buying the opponent’s workers off them for exorbitant salaries. This all made for an awkward work atmosphere by day – as the two crews continued to build alongside one another. By night the two camps posted armed guards. The guard posts were close enough the guards regularly dared the other side to go on and take a shot.
As everyone waited on the courts, General Palmer sent a gang up into the cliff tops several hundred feet above the lines. The men built a fort, and threw rocks down at the Santa Fe rails below, causing a landslide. Strong reciprocated, sending Morley up the other side with a gang. They built their own fort, and threw their own rocks at the Rio Grande tracks. Men in forts fired upon men in other forts and waited for things to escalate.
When the courts came back with a decision, nobody was happy. Both companies were allowed to build their own line. When the gorge reached pinch points where only one line was possible – a gauge which accommodated both companies’ trains had to be used. General Palmer was apoplectic, and lodged an appeal. In the meantime, the state militia was sent in to keep the peace, and the gangs in the forts were ordered out.
The ugliness continued. The Royal Gorge made up only twenty miles of the journey to Leadville. Once clear of the gorge, the advantage would be Palmer’s. The tracks to Canyon City were Rio Grande tracks, and he could slow the Santa Fe by refusing their cargo on his trains. This caused Strong to go to his backers for more money. He then threatened to build lines alongside every last mile of Rio Grande line. This would cost a fortune, but would have put an end to the Rio Grande. The Santa Fe had bigger trains running on regular sized tracks – so could carry more cargo. Their carriages were more spacious. Both men chased up more money from their backers. Some of that money went into hiring gunslingers for ‘security.’
At the time, a war wouldn’t seem altogether unreasonable to either Palmer or Strong. Across the border in Lincoln County, New Mexico, a war broke out between two business factions in July 1878. An Englishman named John Tunstall arrived from Santa Fe and opened a dry goods store in 1876. He threatened to break the monopoly of the Irish, Catholic businessmen then running the county. Tunstall’s 1878 murder kicked off a war that eventually led to the deaths of 23 men, and left dozens seriously injured – including legendary outlaw Billy the Kid. The Lincoln County War was too wild for the lawmen to rein in, and only ended when the army were deployed in 1881. Palmer and Strong knew they could ramp up to a couple of hundred men a side if needed, and if they did so no local sheriff or court could stop them.
In the meantime the crews built onwards towards Leadville. General Palmer waited for his appeal to reach the Supreme Court.
By October everyone was still tense. The Santa Fe, by far the wealthier corporation, stayed the course. General Palmer, on the other hand, was nearly broke. His share price had taken a tumble, and financial backers were now demanding he put an end to the feud. William Barstow Strong complicated matters by sending a message to the Rio Grande, offering again to lease the company off them for a thirty year term. Palmer fought the offer, but investors insisted the Rio Grande be leased to the Santa Fe. A figure was agreed upon. General Palmer insisted Strong pay the lease monthly. Strong agreed. Palmer also insisted the Rio Grande keep building towards Leadville. Once the lease ran out, he expected the Rio Grande would take those lines back. Strong agreed to let the Rio Grande continue – but no way would they keep the line to Leadville.
Panicked, and looking to buy more time, Palmer rushed to Boston in November. He demanded a cash bond of $150,000 to cover any future damage to Rio Grande equipment. This was reluctantly agreed to, but the Santa Fe board told Palmer they would pay half now – the other half when he handed the keys over. Palmer continued to find ways to drag his feet – but this only tanked the stock price further. The investors had enough and demanded Palmer hand the keys over on December 1st 1878. He did so only at the stroke of midnight on December 14th.
But General Palmer was not done yet. He refused to cash the Santa Fe’s monthly cheques. Palmer would claim the Santa Fe defaulted on their payments. He planned to tear the lease up and repossess the business. Strong responded by putting ticket prices up on all Rio Grande trains. Where the two had co-existing services, this drove business to the Santa Fe trains. Where the Santa Fe didn’t, in towns like El Moro – locals packed up and left in droves. This turned a number of settlements into ghost towns. Colorado newspapers, everywhere but in Canyon City, turned against the Santa Fe. Reporters branded them greedy and heartless. Many of the people of Colorado started to remember General Palmer fondly, and wished he could take his railway back off the Santa Fe.
Meanwhile, dozens of men of violence loitered, waiting for orders. They drank, got ornery and continued to make locals nervous. Both lines continued towards Leadville.
The supreme court finding loomed, but General Palmer was at the end of his tether. He continued to discard the Santa Fe cheques, and sent his men out to hire an army of gunslingers to repossess his railway. Strong reciprocated by adding to his own army. A fortune was spent by both sides on hundreds of men, guns, and an armoury full of ammunition. Thuggish men like Bat Masterson and Doc Holliday awaited orders at several key locations. Tensions rose and a handful of gunfights broke out between the armies. Then on April 21st 1879, the Supreme Court announced their decision. They sided with the Rio Grande over ownership of the Royal Gorge line. But did this actually meant anything, given the Rio Grande was under Santa Fe control? The Supreme Court gave no opinion on that. In May the armies prepared for war. Strong went to the county clerk to call in the state militia, only to find the Rio Grande had kidnapped him. Again, the telegraph lines came down, cutting off communication with the outside world. On June 11th, General Palmer sent his army to repossess his property.
Palmer’s army closed in on all their stations. Strong’s men fought back, opening fire on the invaders – but as a rule, as soon as they were served legal papers to cease and desist – they laid down their guns and left. After several ugly stand offs, papers were eventually delivered to besieged Santa Fe gunmen.
In Pueblo things looked set to get really nasty – both armies had close to 100 men a side. The Santa Fe army, led by Bat Masterson, were holed up in a roundhouse used to move trains around. The armies exchanged gunfire with one another. Eventually J.A. McMurtrie’s men forced the door open, and men flooded in to take the roundhouse. Papers were served.
And this is where I have to throw a Deus ex-machina into the mix – or should that be a diabolus ex-machina? A demon on a wire? The constant fighting left the Rio Grande drained of funding. William Barstow Strong still held a lease for their property, and would eventually send in his own people to repossess them back again. Not a lot of business is going on with the Rio Grande when their stations are packed with armed men looking for a fight. To pre-empt Strong, Palmer put the Rio Grande into receivership. He had a friend lined up to be the receiver – but the courts insisted on their own receiver who would refuse to be Palmer’s puppet.
General William Palmer finally managed to tank his own railway. The Santa Fe looked on – as the diabolical figure of Jay Gould swooped in to pick over the carcass.
Jay Gould was the King of the American Railway. In a world of larger than life figures, Gould was quiet and unassuming – but due to his terrifying ruthlessness – a formidable figure. He’d been watching the proceedings and decided the best tactic was to buy out Rio Grande shares once they hit rock bottom. With a controlling stake he called Palmer and Strong to his office to lay down the law.
The Robber Baron’s terms were as follows. Both companies were to cease litigation immediately. The Santa Fe would hand all the Rio Grande’s tracks and equipment back to them free of charge. If they didn’t, Gould would reach into his considerably deeper pockets and build his own lines alongside Santa Fe lines. He would then run those rails as cheaply as was needed to put them out of business. The Rio Grande would get the line through the Royal Gorge, but have to pay the Santa Fe $1.4 million for their trouble. From here on in the Rio Grande would only build north of Pueblo, the Santa Fe south of Pueblo. Neither tycoon had a choice but to accept Gould’s terms of surrender.
As a coda, somewhere in Leadville, in amongst the hired thugs awaiting orders – is a young man with a singular skill set. He’d come to Leadville with high hopes of finding silver, but ended up moving a lot of dirt around. When the tycoons sent men out to find gunslingers, he happily volunteered – as a skilled sharpshooter – what we’d now call a sniper. I’ve got a few Wild West tales to share over the following year – the next chapter will be much later in the year. This man will intersect with all of them. As a gun for hire he’ll murder dozens of men, before he faces his moment of truth …. But we’ve got a lot of ground to cover before we tell his tale.