February 2021 Readers’ Letters

The Kid in Color
From the editor: A number of readers have commented favorably about the colorful image of Billy the Kid we used in the December 2020 issue as the lead for James B. Mills’ feature “They Called Him Bilito.” The man behind the colorization of that celebrated tintype is Englishman Stuart Humphryes. “I live in London,” Humphryes told us, “and I’m predominantly a film colorizer, although I do colorize photos, too. I chose the photograph of Billy the Kid because it was in such a degraded state, and I wanted to see how restoration and digital enhancement could transform something of such low resolution. I’ve been using some AI (artificial intelligence) restoration and upscaling software and was on the lookout for a suitable candidate. My Twitter feed, BabelColour, has quite a following and pretty much exclusively deals with historical photographs, so my interest in restoration/colorization and history all came together to bring a little life and character back into the face of Billy the Kid! The dark spots under his eyes were entirely a decision of the artificial intelligence program, which interprets the geometry of the face and decides what pixels are eyes, eyebrows, cheekbones, etc. It decided the dark pixels were most probably bruises, as a consequence of a couple of black eyes from some altercation no doubt, and knowing Billy the Kid, that interpretation was probably quite right!”

Don’t kill the messenger. Frederick Benteen was proud of his men’s performance at the Nov. 27, 1868, Battle of the Washita. (Library of Congress)

Benteen’s Words
Soooo…[Captain Frederick] Benteen’s men at the Washita “had again an opportunity of showing their mettle.” Seriously? Soooo…did [Colonel John] Chivington’s men show “mettle” at Sand Creek, and [Major Eugene] Baker’s men at the Marias? How about the U.S. Army men at Wounded Knee? I’m repulsed by that sentence C. Lee Noyes wrote in his June 2020 Pioneers and Settlers article “Galloping to Their Doom?”

Ann Barnett
Staunton, Va.

Editor responds: Benteen is the one who said those words. Author Noyes was quoting him.

Transcontinental?
On P. 76 of the June 2020 issue [“Tracking Omaha’s Past,” Collections, by Linda Wommack] it is incorrect for the author to state that the Union Pacific Railroad was “the world’s first transcontinental railroad.” That statement truly goes to the American-financed, -built and -operated Panama Railroad across the Isthmus of Panama. Completed in 1855, it was helping to transport Americans to the goldfields of California 14 years before the Union Pacific/Central Pacific railroad was finished. The Panama Railroad may have only been about 50 miles long, but it was truly transcontinental, in that it went from ocean to ocean, whereas the Union Pacific, Central Pacific and others were not truly transcontinental, in that they only extended part way, from midcontinent to the Pacific.

Lance Terrell
Austin, Texas

‘Not sure when you’ll get this note in the mail. Pony Express, anybody?’

Dakota Justice
In the December 2019 Letters Colonel John E. Kosobucki asks if the prosecutor at Jack McCall’s trial, Oliver Shannon, and the judge, Peter C. Shannon, were related? I researched this long ago and concluded they were not. An interesting aspect is that Judge Shannon, trier in the original court, also heard the same case as appealed to the Dakota Territorial Supreme Court. Justice Shannon was one of three territorial justices. The other two, Gideon Moody and Thomas Jefferson Kidder, were too busy trying to nullify the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, making the Black Hills sovereign and separate to the Lakota Nation. Moody was in San Francisco hobnobbing with George Hearst, urging him to invest in the hills. He did, and it became the Homestake Mine. Justice Kidder had no love of the Lakotas, as he had lost a son, Lieutenant Lyman Kidder of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, to Indian depredations when the young officer was riding with dispatches for Lt. Col. George A. Custer.

Robert Rybolt
Randallstown, Md.

Print It
Hiding out in the forest near Mount Lassen in northern California, absent the Internet, I wanted to tell you how wonderful it is to receive your ongoing print edition of Wild West. What you do is an enduring national treasure, and I thank you. Not sure when you’ll get this note in the mail. Pony Express, anybody?

Daphne Dunn Wilson
Shingletown, Calif.

Horsepower
I wish to compliment author Aaron Woodard on his August 2020 article “Deadly Horseplay in the Dakotas,” detailing the role, value and interplay of horses in the life and commerce in the 19th-century West. Without horses, what progress would have been measured and achieved in these hard, rugged places? Woodard has clearly described a horse thief in those days got off far worse than a car thief today. I have also enjoyed reading his excellent book The Revenger: The Life and Times of Wild Bill Hickok. 

Dr. Bob Funk
Tegucigalpa, Honduras

 

Send letters by email or to Wild West, 901 N. Glebe Road, 5th Floor, Arlington, VA 22203. Please include your name and hometown. These letters were published in the February 2021 issue.

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