Our stories OUT West, Home on the Range

Many thanks to Diana over at her site, Diana’s Little Corner In The Nutmeg State,for passing along this information.

*OUT WEST*'Out West'

*One-Eyed Charlie

*One-Eyed Charlie was a driver for the California Stage Co. After his death, he was discovered to be a woman. (Wells Fargo / December 14, 2009)


At the Autry museum in LA  a series of panel discussions and exhibitions examines the history of homosexual and transgender people in the old west. The first in a series of installments was a panel discussion this past weekend, “Whatever happened to Ernis Del Mar?” The second installment will be a gallery exhibition entitled, ‘Hidden Histories.’ This exhibition is scheduled to open in May and will feature historical artifacts which tell the story of members of the LGBT community who traveled to the west to seek freedom and acceptance that was lacking in the big cities out east.

See the LA Times Article HERE.

For more information on the events go to, www.autrynationalcenter.org.

Oh yes, way before fictional Brokeback Mountain we were out there in the west doing our thing.

Some notes of interest from other sources:

For further reading see: “Queer Cowboys: And Other Erotic Male Friendships in Nineteenth-Century American Literature,” written by Chris Packard.

*Let us thank Alan V. Miller for his extraordinary site. Just how we like it. He introduces us and then encourages us to check the important works he lists.

From: Voices West: Sex In The West, Cowboy-related Documents. http://www.cowboysong.com/bib/bibc.html

1. * Garceau, Dee. “Nomads, bunkies, cross-dressers, and family men: cowboy identity and the gendering of ranch work.” p.149-168. In Across the great divide: cultures of manhood in the American West. Edited by Matthew Basso, Laura McCall and Dee Garceau. New York: Routledge, 2001. 308 p.

“Memoirs and folk songs from the open-range era depict an all-male culture with distinctive freedoms. Sexual license, nonmarital intimacy with women, close relationships with men, and playful cross-dressing were among the masculine privileges enjoyed by these livestock herders.” p.153

“Cowboys sometimes parodied gender identity with episodes of cross-dressing. Freedom from middle-class social convention was freedom to make ribald fun of Victorian gender norms. This lay at the core of cowboy cross-dressing. Occasionally, men would take the female role socially, in order to form couples for a dance where no women were present. At these times, a cowboy dressed normally, the only feminine marker being a scarf tied to his arm to signal his place in the dance as a women.” p.160

In footnote 36, Garceau notes that of the seventeen cowboy narratives surveyed, only one hinted at homoerotic affection, Andy Adams’s The log of a cowboy : a narrative of the old trail days. (See Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1964, c1903.) Also mentioned is a song about a young woman passing as a youth, Powder River Jack Lee’s, “The stampede: the Cherokee Kid from the Cimmarron Strip.” And a cross-dressing cowboy recalled by Ike Blasingame.

2. Alan V. Miller writes on this site: http://www.cowboysong.com/bib/bibint.html. Please check out Alan V. Miller’s amazing work.

“This section will add to material recovered in “Male-male intimacy in the American West” first published in Jonathan Ned Katz’s Gay American history (New York: Crowell, 1976, p.766-769). Over the last 20 years, so much more has been published on same-sex love and friendship in both the American and Canadian West. In the same period authors have been careful to not talk too openly about the intensity of male-male affection, for example the biography of Witter Bynner by James Kraft. Others have been accused of misreading the evidence, for example the bed-sharing in the youthful years of Mark Twain (see Andrew Hoffman). There is no doubt that much has changed over the last 150 years.”

“What I will do is introduce some key works and encourage the reader, from the few lines I have discovered, to seek out the work and make up his or her own mind. There is a large body of work on friendships on the east coast of the United States and a growing body of work on California communities. George Chauncey’s Gay New York: gender, urban culture and the making of the gay male world, 1890-1940 (New York: Basic Books, 1994), has set a high standard for other community scholars. We will have to look at many sources, over periods of much change, and try to interpret the evidence without too much misreading or extrapolating from present community structures and spaces. Are wide-open spaces totally different from the streets of New York City? The arts’ community of Sante Fe or Taos in the 1930s, or Denver in the early 1900s, can they compare to Boston or New York? Did the trials of Oscar Wilde get coverage in the newspapers of Leadville, Colorado? Did single effete men – or a few couples – find an accepting place in the ranges of the southwest? There may be similarities that will surprise the investigator.”

3. Both Jonathan Katz in Gay American History, Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A and Neil Miller in Out of the Past, Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present,’ mention cowboy relationships in the old west.  There was a Mrs. Nash of Custer’s Seventh Cavalry who help the post of company laundress and married a succession of soldier-husbands from 1868-1878. When Mrs. Nash died it was discovered that Mrs. Nash was a man. According to Katz when his documentary was published there were ony a few brief documents to suggest “a different image of male-to-male relationships in the American West.

4. Badger Clark was a poet who settled on a small ranch in Arizona. His book Sun and Saddle Leather has this poem.

“The Lost Pardner”

by Badger Clark

I ride alone and hate the boys I meet,

Today, some way, their laughin hurts me so.

I hate the steady sun that glares and glares!

The bird songs make me sore.

I seem the only thing on earth that cares

Cause Al ain’t here no more!

And him so strong, and yet so quick he died,

And after year on year

When we had always trailed it side by side,

He went-and left me here!

We loved each other in the way men do

And never spoke about it, Al and me,

But we both knowed, and knowin’  it so true

Was more than any woman’s kiss could be.

What is there out beyond the last divide?

Seems like that country must be cold and dim.

He’d miss this sunny range he use to ride

And he’d miss me, the same as I do him.

It’s no use thinkin’-all I’d think or say

Could never make it clear

Out that dim trail that only leads one way

He’s gone-and left me here!

The range is empty and the trails are blind,

And I don’t seem but half myself today.

I wait to hear him ridin’ up behind

And feel his knee rub mine the good way. ***

*** Badger Clark, Sun and Saddle Leather, The first edition was published in 1915 and the second in 1917. (Boston, Richard G. Badger, Gorham Press, 1919) Info. from Jonathan Katz, Gay American History, Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A.

Jonathan Katz, Gay American History, Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A, 1976, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York.

Neil Miller, Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present. Cintage Books Edition, February 1995.

Now you all know us here on this blog. We are not going to let you get away with out a little sing a long. The beautiful song, Home On the Range was written by Dr. Brewser M. Higley in the early 1870 in Smith County Kansas. We thank Achila85 for the video and song posted on you tube.

This piece was first published in December 2010 on A Few Queers On The Prowl.
  1. Ralph Bolton Says:
    January 1, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Reply As one of the owners, along with my partner Robert Frost, of the Witter Bynner Estate, which is now the Inn of the Turquoise Bear (a gay-oriented B&B in Santa Fe), I was delighted to see the reference to Bynner. There is no question that he was a relatively open gay man living in Santa Fe with his partner, Robert Hunt (and previous partners, “secretaries along the way). When we bought this place to try to preserve it as a piece of gay history (1996), we met friends of Bynner (e.g., John Meigs) who told us stories about the parties and orgies that Bynner hosted when he lived here (from 1921-1968). Bob, the neighborhood barber at the time, related how everyone knew about Bynner’s “lifestyle” but it didn’t matter. Indeed, Bynner is credited with contributing to the live-and-let-live acceptance of diverse minorities that is a signature feature of Santa Fe. And a mural at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque celebrates Bynner’s contributions to human rights in New Mexico, specifically gay rights. While Kraft, his biographer, acknowledges Bynners homosexuality, he is circumspect, treating it a bit too cursorily. There is much to be discovered—a terrific doctoral dissertation for someone in gay studies.

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