Tag Archives: Saloon

Poker lessons

Giver of the lesson

Giver of the lesson

About once a month, this man gives me a poker lesson.  The lesson has pretty much been the same each time: my pile of chips becomes his pile of chips.

I still enjoy seeing him each month in spite of that, because he makes me laugh, and usually shares a little of his Crown Royal if you ask him real nice.  But, he and his wife have taught me that there is a definite difference in poker players and the good ones seldom loose.  Oh, I get the occasional lucky hand and win, but typically Luke or Lottie win most of the hands.  The fact that they both portray famous old west Gamblers should be an indication of their enjoyment of the game.

We play our game in an old barn that has been converted into a private saloon specifically for this purpose.  Everyone brings a dish to share, and a bottle or ten to sip from.  Then the chips are counted and we start the game.   There are two kinds of players at the table – vultures and victims.  The vultures sit on their perch waiting for the unsuspecting prey to slowly wander by.  I wait until the vulture sees me and then flip over into a defeatist position, and let him pick me clean.

Here are the lessons the Vulture has taught me.

#1.  Poker is serious business.  If you are looking to visit with others, do it on your own time.

#2. If you pick up the cheat sheet, that’s as good as telling everyone you probably have a good hand which will make the pot smaller.

#3. Bet more than you can afford and be a damn fool about it.  It means more meat for him.

#4. Once you’ve been cleaned out, make room at the table for the next victim.

I enjoy poker night.  It keeps me humble and educated all in one.  Some lessons are best ignored for the sake of friendship.  However, I am going to nip from that Crown Royal a little more often.

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How common was the Bowler or Derby hat in the old west?

 

Bowler / Derby Hat

Bowler / Derby Hat

 

In the play “In the Company of Legends”, Elliot Longfellow, the reporter doesn’t wear a “cowboy hat”, partially to distinguish himself for the audience that he is not part of the “wild west” but mostly because a “bowler” is what the businessman of the East wore during the time.   As seen in the photo above he wears a bowler also called a derby hat.  Later on in the play, Bat Masterson appears on stage in a hat that is also derby shaped with a larger brim.  That sort of begs the question, how common and popular was the derby in the old West?

It was the Derby/bowler, not the cowboy hat or sombrero, was the most popular hat in the American West. It was so common in fact that Lucius Beebe to call it “the hat that won the West”.  When you see old west photos of town’s people, shop keepers, bar tenders and the like, almost all of them wore derbies.  Many cowboys purchased derby’s when they came to town because they were easily available and the hat would not blow off easily in strong wind.  It did not provide the same level of protection from wind or rain, and definitely did not protect you from the sun – which led many cowboys to transition to Stetson “Boss of the plains” style hat when they had the money.  Bowlers/derby were worn by both lawmen and outlaws, including Bat Masterson, Butch Cassidy, Black Bart, and Billy the Kid.

 

Bat Masterson

Bat Masterson

So why the bowler?  The bowler was a European hat created in 1849 by the London hat makers Thomas and William Bowler to fulfil an order placed by the firm of hatters Lock & Co. of St James’s.  Lock & Co. had been commissioned by a customer to design a close-fitting, low-crowned hat to protect gamekeepers’ heads from low-hanging branches while on horseback. The keepers had previously worn top hats, which were easily knocked off and damaged. Lock & Co. then commissioned the Bowler brothers to solve the problem.  The bowler became “the hat” in Europe. Many Immigrants would arrive on our shores wearing bowlers and would travel west wearing those hats.  Bowlers were massed produced in felt, meaning cost was much lower.

Stetson’s “Cowboy hat” would not be introduced until 1865. The original “Boss”, manufactured by Stetson was flat-brimmed, had a straight sided crown, with rounded corners. These lightweight, waterproof hats were natural in color, with four inch crowns and brims. A plain hatband was fitted to adjust head size. The inside sweatband bore John B. Stetson’s name.  Unlike a bowler, the Stetson could be modified by the wearer for fashion and added protection against the elements by being softened in hot steam, shaped, and allowed to dry and cool.   Quality fur felt keeps the shape it dries in.

Stetson’s hats were unique and very expensive. How expensive?  Well, about 4-5 times the price of a bowler, so you had to decide which one offered better protection.  However, a cowboy riding the range wearing that “‘Boss of the Plains’ hat showed the world that he was “doing well”.  “Within a decade the name John B. Stetson became synonymous with the word ‘hat’ in every corner and culture of the West.”  Stetson’s hats would soon be copied and the western “cowboy hat” would be the accepted style for anyone working cattle on the range.  But it was still the bowler that dominated.

The Buckhorn

The Buckhorn Exchange, Denver Colorado

The Buckhorn Exchange, Denver Colorado

In the city of Denver sits a saloon built in 1893.  It wasn’t the first bar in Colorado but it does hold the distinction of having liquor license number 1, and has continuously operated since it opened.  What’s more significant for us is that both Buffalo Bill and Theodore Roosevelt frequented the place.

Because of its history, (and awesome food) we always stop by for a drink or dinner when we come to Denver and always dress old west. So many tourists come to the Buckhorn, that we are having our photos taken with people constantly, and yesterday was no exception. A lovely lady with a great southern accent asked if she could have her picture taken with us. In talking, we learned she was an opera singer turned lawyer. I think one of the greatest joys of doing what we do is meeting such interesting people. People interested in history (and theater) are a diverse bunch, and it’s a glue that connects us all together in a way that is fun and peace-loving. No political agenda, no religious bias. Just interest in the past.

Buffalo Bill at the Buckhorn

Buffalo Bill at the Buckhorn