A Tenderfoot in Colorado | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library http://coloradowest.staging.auraria.edu/book-review/tenderfoot-colorado[12/8/2015 1:10:56 PM] Home A Tenderfoot in ColoradoA Tenderfoot in ColoradoSubmitted by cowestadmin on 9-26-2009 08:40 PMAuthor: Richard Baxter Townshend Publishing: London: John Lane Bodley Head, Limited, 1923. Reprinted with a foreword by Thomas J. Noel. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2008. xv + 282 pages. 5 x 8. $29.95 paperback. Reviewer: Tom Noel Reviewer Affiliation: University of Colorado Denver This nugget of Western history takes you back to Colorado Territory in 1869 to watch Ute warriors in action, brawl with desperados, shoot buffalo, and drive longhorn cattle from Texas to Colorado. A Tenderfoot in Colorado is the first reprint in the University Press of Colorados Timberline Series which aspires to introduce readers to both the best new research on the Highest State and also to out-of-print Colorado classics. This work by Richard Baxter Townshend belongs on the shelf beside better-known books by other British observers of Western America such as William A. Bell, Isabella Bird, Lord Dunraven, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Lewis Stevenson, and Oscar Wilde. Townshend (1846) was born into a well-heeled English family where his oldest brother was slated to inherit the family land. Giving him further reason to leave home, the young man suffered terrible headaches after falling from his horse. Colorados curative climate, about which he had learned from the books of Samuel Bowles, attracted him. He arrived in Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory, in 1869, fresh from Cambridge University where he had studied classical literature, Latin, and French. A slender lad with long curly hair, bright blue eyes, and pink cheeks, he looked every part the tenderfoot as he stepped off the Union Pacific Railroad. He then boarded Wells Fargos four-horse stage, heading south to Denver City and life in Colorado Territory on the ragged edge. On that edge, the tenderfoot would become a superb marksman, horseman, cattleman, and observer. He also would learn how to stalk an antelope, capture a wild longhorn, and cook cattle-drive beans. Townshend and a partner established a cattle ranch along Black Squirrel Creek on the Arkansas slope of the Palmer Divide in El Paso County. To the west, Pikes Peak shone through the incredible transparency of Colorados dry, crystalline air. At the mountains base, he witnessed Colorado Springs grow into a town and fill with so many Britons that it was dubbed Little London. Townshend reported that the town was run by a very tony company, on teetotal lines, and any man there who wanted a drink had to go a couple of miles around the end of the mesa to Colorado City, or Old Town as it was called, where he could find a saloon (p. 187). If Colorado Springs was dry in booze, Denver City was drying up in population. In 1867, it had been eclipsed by Cheyenne when the transcontinental railroad bypassed the Colorado Rockies for the gentler hills EXPLORE BY MEDIABook Reviews Photographs Video Biographies New Publications Resource Guides County Newspaper HistoriesEXPLORE BY TOPICLand & Natural Resources Government & Law Agriculture Mining Commerce & Industry Transportation People & Places Communication Healthcare & Medicine Education & Libraries Cultural Communities Recreation & Entertainment Tourism ReligionEXPLORE BY CULTUREHispanic Native AmericanCasimiro Barela, state senator for over 37 years, fought to ensure Colorados first constitution was published in English, Spanish and German.
A Tenderfoot in Colorado | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library http://coloradowest.staging.auraria.edu/book-review/tenderfoot-colorado[12/8/2015 1:10:56 PM] of Wyoming. Townshend observed in 1869 that: Nobody seemed to be very prosperous in Denver just then; indeed the capital city of the Territory had only about 5,000 inhabitants and seemed to be a bit down on its luck (44). In the territorys northeast corner, Julesburg consisted of about three and a half dilapidated board shanties stuck down on a treeless waste of yellowish-brown buffalo grass . prairie littered for miles with old tin cans and empty bottles (2). Central City was also struggling with many mining-shafts closed and stamp mills idle . waiting for the railway to come and wake things up (47). Colorados boom and bust and boom nature is laid bare in Tenderfoot. In 1870, only a year after finding the capital a dwindling town, Townshend watched as the Denver Pacific Railway snorted into town, saving the city with a rail lifeline. He found some Denverites celebrating and described the scene: [In] a bar-room . some men with whiskey bottles and glasses set out before them sang out to me: Come n hev a drink. No, thank you, I replied without pulling up. In a moment out flashed a revolver pointed start at my head. Yes, you will, said the same voice with emphasis, or else What else meant was left to the imagination, but I didnt find it hard to guess. My reply was: Oh certainly, and I sprang from my saddle saying, Id rather drink than be shot any day. (109) The tenderfoot meets the brainy first Colorado territorial governor William Gilpin who writes even loftier than he speaks (41). He wrote that Gilpin received me cordially, shook hands, and at once began to hold forth on Colorados status as the Garden of Eden, the promised land where the highest amplitude and altitude of the continent is attained (55). Townshend cattily noted that Gilpinthe great visionary, developer, and owner of a million acreswas forced to use a friends office because he apparently could not afford his own. Townshend focused a sharp eye on the pioneers. He witnessed a fundamentalist preacher baptize hundreds by total immersion in a South Platte River ditch (probably Denvers City Ditch) while explaining that those murky waters could wash away all sins. At the Twenty Mile House, the stage stop and tavern that eventually became Parker, Colorado, he watched a gut-shot cowboy undergo surgery on the front bar. The surgeon used whiskey as the only anesthesia and employed a barbers razor to slice into the patient. No sooner was the cowboy relieved of the bullet than Tiger Bill, slouched in a corner of the bar, woke up from a drunken stupor to threaten the life of tavern keeper Corny Dowd: There came a flash of petticoats, Townshend described next, and Mrs. Dowd . darted into the bar with a feminine screech and set her ten commandments in his face, dragging her nails down each cheek (63). Tiger Bill is the first of many desperados to bloody these pages. Along with Billy the Kid, Wild Bill, Livereating Johnson, there is no shortage of rustlers, crooked gamblers and gunmen. Everybody in North America, Townshend speculates, was born, so to speak, with a gun in his hand and a six-shooter in his hip pocket (258). Townshend reported on Indian wars, graphically describing Ute Indian rituals, including how the women mourned horribly for their husbands fallen in battle. His descriptions create beautiful images, as in the following about the Los Pinos reservation: [I]n a lovely natural park on the Gunnison [River], the first frosts had painted yellow and scarlet the quakenasp [aspen trees] and dwarf oak. . The cone-shaped teepes of the Utes stood in clusters, each band grouped, as its
A Tenderfoot in Colorado | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library http://coloradowest.staging.auraria.edu/book-review/tenderfoot-colorado[12/8/2015 1:10:56 PM] sub-chief chose, near wood and water. Naked Indian boys were driving wiry ponies back and forth through the grass, and other boys were coming up from the creek with strings of splendid trout, and the gaily-dressed bucks rode in from the hills with dripping red lumps of fresh-killed venison and elk-meat hanging to their saddles. (97) Townshend also described ugly scenes of environmental devastation. He finds once clear streams and the trout in them choked by sawdust from massive tree cutting. Amid many mutilated tree stumps, boomtowns rise in raw yellow skeleton buildings of unseasoned boards. Seeing how palefaces ravish the land, he sympathizes with the growing hostility of the Utes. He reports a Ute attack: They dashed fully eight hundred strong from the timber[,] . their gleaming guns in their hands, their faces black with war-paint, their naked bronze bodies shining in the bright sun, the feathers in their long hair dancing behind them in the breeze. Shawano [Shavano] himself in all his glory led them, his gorgeous war-bonnet of eagle-plumes streaming out four feet behind him. To right, to left, he circled in swinging curves, the endless line of warriors following him; then as if by magic he sent separate bands flying this way and that, forwards and backwards, weaving a maze of figures like a dance. And every man of the eight hundred as he raced along seemed to be part of his pony . (100) Townshends love of animals shines throughout this book, especially in his tale of rescuing an abandoned calf. In another chapter, he bemoaned the disappearance of pronghorn after a market meat hunter killed 300 with a high-powered telescope rifle in only three weeks. The buffalo, not the grizzly bear, according to Townshend, was the king of Colorado beasts. In a tribute to the bison that once dominated the High Plains he included a memorable story of an old defeated bull isolated from his herd. Alone, stiff and weak from past battles and one nasty red gash left by a rivals horns, the old solitary bull faced his last fight as hungry wolves smelled his blood and closed in for the kill. Townshend had a sharp ear, as well as a sharp eye. As a linguist, Townshend collected slang phrases like you bet your boots, a jumping-off-place (i.e., a lynching), tin-horn, and mushroom city. He correctly used a tilde in Caon City and called the territorys residents Coloradans, not the incorrect but widely used Coloradoans. He traced ranching terms to their Spanish origins. Townshend marveled at the wealthy lungers with tuberculosis who were replacing the pioneers. He watched the rise of Colorados womens suffrage movementwhich in 1893 made Colorado the first state where men voted directly to fully enfranchise women. Twenty three years earlier, the tenderfoot overheard a woman complain: I wont obey any laws I dont help to make! Its an abominable shame, the men make the laws, or wretches who call themselves men, execute them and give poor women no chance (248). While exhibiting some of the anti-Mormon and anti-Semitic sentiments common in those days, Townshend was surprisingly tolerant of Mexicans. He described Mexican cowboys as courteous, high-spirited, courageous, and superior to young Anglo-Saxon cowboys (267). At his ranch he hired Hispanic ranch hands, paid them a generous $40 a month, and later called them his partners when he sold his ranch in Colorado and headed to New Mexico in 1874 to try sheepherding, about which he wrote in A Tenderfoot in New Mexico. Eventually, Townshend returned to England to become an eccentric scholar at Oxford, where he entertained faculty and students with his roping, riding, shooting, and tale telling. He translated Latin into English for Clarendon Press and served as treasurer of the Oxford University Golf Club. He also performed in musicals where his remarkable ability to alter his pitch led his friend Sir Edward William Elgar, the composer of Pomp and Circumstance, to mimic Townshend in his Enigma Variations .
A Tenderfoot in Colorado | Center for Colorado & the West at Auraria Library http://coloradowest.staging.auraria.edu/book-review/tenderfoot-colorado[12/8/2015 1:10:56 PM] Auraria Library 303-556-4587 1100 Lawrence Street Denver, Colorado 80204 In the News Partners & Donations About Us Contact Us This expert horseman spent his last days riding a tricycle equipped with a little bell to warn others of his approach. In 1899 he published his first book, the novel White Pine, which was followed by Bullwhack Joe. A Tenderfoot in Colorado (originally published by Londons John Lane Bodley Head Limited) was published three years before his death in 1926, followed by Last Memories of a Tenderfoot (London, 1926). Colorado readers should enjoy this minor classic as a candid, entertaining and unusually insightful look at territorial times. This review is adapted from Prof. Noels foreword for A Tenderfoot in Colorado Reviewer Info: Tom Noel is a professor of history at the University of Colorado Denver. Add new comment