The Old West Quotes
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May these The Old West Quotes inspire you to never give up and keep working towards your goals. Who knows—success could be just around the corner.
The American frontier, also known as the Old West or the Wild West, includes the geography, history, folklore, and culture in the forward wave of American expansion in mainland North America that began with European colonial settlements in the early 17th century and ended with the admission of the last few western territories as states in 1912 (except Alaska, which was not admitted into the Union until 1959). This era of massive migration and settlement was particularly encouraged by President Thomas Jefferson following the Louisiana Purchase, giving rise to the expansionist attitude known as “Manifest Destiny” and the historians’ “Frontier Thesis“. The legends, historical events and folklore of the American frontier have embedded themselves into United States culture so much so that the Old West, and the Western genre of media specifically, has become one of the defining tenets and prides of American national identity.
The following the Old West Quotes demonstrate the frontier wisdom and fighting words uttered by some of the best Western movies greatest characters.
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[Doc] Holliday had few real friends anywhere in the West. He was selfish and had perverse nature-traits not calculated to make a man popular in the early days on the frontier. – Bat Masterson
… Wild Bill had his faults, grievous ones, perhaps … He would get drunk, gamble, and indulge in the general licentiousness characteristic of the border in the early days, yet even when full of the vile libel of the name of whiskey which was dealt over the bars at exorbitant prices, he was gentle as a child, unless aroused to anger by intended insults. … He was loyal in his friendship, generous to a fault, and invariably espoused the cause of the weaker against the stronger one in a quarrel. – Captain Jack Crawford, who scouted with Wild Bill before they both followed the gold rush to Deadwood.
30 miles to water, 20 miles to wood, 10 miles to hell and I gone there for good. – Carved on a deserted shack near Chadron, Nebraska.
A decent cowboy does not take what belongs to someone else and if he does he deserves to be strung up and left for the flies and coyotes – Judge Roy Bean
A jail is just like a nutshell with a worm in it, the worm will always get out. – John Dillinger several weeks before he bluffed his way out of the Lake County Jail in Crown Point, Indiana.
A pair of six-shooters beats a pair of sixes. – Belle Starr
A pioneer is a man who turned all the grass upside down, strung bob-wire over the dust that was left, poisoned the water, cut down the trees, killed the Indian who owned the land and called it progress. – Charles M. Russell
A Tombstone lawyer was pleading his case to a jury in Judge Wells Spicer’s court when a burro beneath the window started braying loudly. Lawyer Marcus A. Smith arose and said, “If it please the court, I object to the two attorneys speaking at the same time.”
Above all things, the Plainsmen had to have in instinct for direction. I never had a compass in my life, but I was never lost. – Charles Goodnight
After a horse thief had been arrested and tried, he was found innocent by a jury. When they filed back into the courtroom and the foreman stated the verdict, he liked the sound of his voice so much, it took him over an hour of fancy talking to tell the court that the defendant had been found innocent of all charges. When he was finally done pontificating, the judge shook his head and said: “You’ll have to reconsider, the defendant was hung a couple of hours ago.”
After being so bad I could hear the angels singing. – Lillie Langtry
After robbing a bank, Henry Starr walked three miles out of town and was eating supper at a farmer’s house when the telephone rang. When the farmer answered it, he turned to Starr and said, “The sheriff says the bank was held up and he wants to know if I’ve seen a suspicious character out this way.” To this, Starr responded: “Tell him the robber is at your house eating supper and for him to come on out and get me.” With that, he finished his meal, paid for it, and left.
All I hope for is to get home, alive, as soon as possible, so that I can forget it. – A disenchanted Forty-niner from the California Gold Rush
All my life I wanted to be a bank robber. Carry a gun and wear a mask. Now that it’s happened I guess I’m just about the best bank robber they ever had. And I sure am happy. – John Dillinger
“All this country needs is a little more water and a better class of people to move in,” said a newcomer near Fort Smith, Arkansas. The cowboy he was talking to grinned and responded, “Yeah, they say that’s all Hell needs.”
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure. – Mark Twain
Always drink upstream from the herd. – Will Rogers
Anyone who limits her vision to memories of yesterday is already dead. – Lillie Langtry
Are you from California or Heaven? – A survivor of the Donner Party when rescuers appeared.
As we go to press, Hell is in session at Ellsworth. – Kansas State News, 1873.
At my age I suppose I should be knitting. – Poker Alice
Aw, go to Hell you long-legged son-of-a-bitch! – Tom O’Folliard to Sheriff Pat Garrett shortly after Garrett mortally wounded him, December 19, 1880.
Aw, you ain’t worth killing. – Billy the Kid to John Chisum after Billy threatened to kill Chisum if he didn’t pay him for fighting in the Lincoln County War.
Away across the endless dead level of the prairie a black speck appears against the sky … In a second or two it becomes a horse and rider … and the flutter of the hooves comes faintly to the ear – another instant … a man and horse burst past our excited faces, and go winging away like a belated fragment of a storm. – An observer recalled the fleeting moment when he witnessed the passing of a Pony Express Rider.
Beautiful, bibulous Babylon of the trail. – An anonymous cowboy describing Dodge City.
Bill Hickok was regarded as the deadliest pistol shot alive as well as being a man of great courage. The truth of certain stories of Bill’s achievements may have been open to debate but he had earned the respect paid to him. – Wyatt Earp
Billy [the Kid] never talked much of the past. He was always looking into the future. – Frank Coe
But you won’t be here to see any of ’em; not by a damn sight, because it’s the order of this court that you be took to the nearest tree and hanged by the neck til you’re dead, dead, dead, you olive-colored son of a billy goat. – Judge Roy Bean
Can’t you hurry this up a bit? I hear they eat dinner in Hades at twelve sharp and I don’t aim to be late. – Black Jack Ketchum, just before he was hanged at Clayton, New Mexico on April 26, 1901.
Carpenter, you have spilled the whiskey! – Mike Fink, after he killed a friend named Carpenter while attempting to shoot a tin cup of whiskey off the man’s head.
Charity covereth a multitude of sins. – The Creede, Colorado preacher who presided over Bob Ford’s funeral and unable to think of anything good to say about him.
Cimarron is in the hands of a mob. – The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper commenting on Cimarron, New Mexico during the Colfax County War. November 9, 1875
Comedian Will Rogers was once asked if his ancestors came over on the Mayflower. “No,” he replied. “But my relatives were here to meet them.”
Conflict follows wrongdoing as surely as flies follow the herd. – Doc Holiday
Cowards never lasted long enough to become real cowboys. – Charles Goodnight
Dodge City is a wicked little town. Indeed, its character is so clearly and egregiously bad that one might conclude, were the evidence in these later times positive of its possibility, that it was marked for special Providential punishment. – a letter that appeared in the Washington D.C. Evening Star, January 1, 1878.
Dodge City is one town where the average bad man of the West not only finds his equal but finds himself badly handicapped. – Andy Adams, The Log of a Cowboy, 1903
Dodge boomed with a roar that split the nation’s ears and still echoes in her memory. – Stuart N. Lake, author
Don’t ever hit your mother with a shovel. It will leave a dull impression on her mind. – Butch Cassidy
Don’t shoot me. I don’t want to fight. – Billy Clanton, just before the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Don’t interfere with something that ain’t bothering’ you none. – Judge Roy Bean
Don’t squat with your spurs on. – Will Rogers
“Dr. Holliday and Mr. Austin, a saloon keeper, relieved the monotony of the noise of firecrackers by taking a couple of shots at each other yesterday afternoon. The cheerful note of the six-shooter is head once more among us.” – Dallas Weekly Herald
Each little chapter has its place. – Lillie Langtry
Every American child should learn at school the history of the conquest of the West. The names Kit Carson, of General Custer and of Colonel Cody should be as household words … Nor should Sitting Bull, the Short Wolf, Crazy Horse … be forgotten. They too were Americans, and showed the same heroic qualities as did their conquerors. – R. B. Cunninghame Graham in a letter to Theodore Roosevelt in 1917.
Every man for his principles. Hurrah for Jeff Davis! – Boone Helm just before he was hanged in Virginia City, Montana in 1863. After yelling out this statement, he then kicked the box from under his feet.
Every one of my hangings was a scientific job. – George Maledon, known as The Prince of Hangmen.
Fame is like a shaved pig with a greased tail, and it is only after it has slipped through the hands of some thousands, that some fellow, by mere chance, holds on to it! – Davy Crockett
Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything. – Wyatt Earp
For my handling of the situation at Tombstone, I have no regrets. Were it to be done again, I would do it exactly as I did it at the time. – Wyatt Earp, lawman
For three decades, and perhaps longer, the drift [in America] has been … a downward spiral into blame, finger-pointing, pessimism, self-pity, and litigiousness. It’s been a slide into a culture of whining and rationalizing … It hasn’t been classic American can-do-ism. And it ain’t been cowboy, either. – Jesse Mullins, American Cowboy, September/October, 2000.
Gentlemen, I find the law very explicit on murdering your fellow man, but there’s nothing here about killing a Chinaman. Case dismissed. – Judge Roy Bean
Give me 80 men and I’ll ride through the whole Sioux Nation. – Captain William Fetterman before agreeing to escort a wood-transport train. However, before he and his men even reached the train they were attacked by Indians in northern Wyoming on December 21, 1866. Known as Fetterman’s Massacre, Red Cloud’s Oglala Sioux Warriors ambushed and killed Captain Fetterman and his 81 men.
Hang ’em first, try ’em later. – Judge Roy Bean
Have you any idea of what a man must endure who leads such a life? No, you cannot. No one can unless he lives it for himself. – Frank James
He had a quiet way of taking the most desperate characters into custody which invariably gave one the impression that the city was able to enforce her mandates and preserve her dignity. It wasn’t considered policy to draw a gun on Wyatt, unless you got the drop and meant to burn powder without any preliminary talk. – Dodge City, Kansas Times, July 7, 1877.
He is universally despised by all the officers of his regiment excepting his relatives and one or two sycophants. – a member of General George Armstrong Custer’s command.
He would drink right smart and scrap right smart. He was an old Confederate war colonel with one arm shot off at the shoulder, and the other hand almost gone. But he would fight his shadow; wa’n’t afraid of anything. – Texas Ranger Jeff Milton describing his captain, Bryan Marsh.
Hey, you damn sonofabitch cowboy. Go get a gun and get to work. – Doc Holliday to Ike Clanton, the day before the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
I am aware that my name has been connected with all the bank robberies in the country; but positively I had nothing to do with any one of them. I look upon my life since the war as a blank, and will never say anything to make it appear otherwise. – Cole Younger
I am not coward, but I am so strong. It is hard to die. – Meriwether Lewis‘ last words in 1809.
I asked him [Ike Clanton] if he was hunting for me. He said he was, and if he had seen me a second sooner, he would have killed me. – Virgil Earp
I didn’t want to send him to hell on an empty stomach. – Clay Allison after shooting Chunk Colbert at dinner.
I do not regret one moment of my life. – Lillie Langtry
I found him a loyal friend and good company. He was a dentist whom necessity had made a gambler; a gentleman whom disease had made a vagabond; a philosopher whom life had made a caustic wit; a long, lean blonde fellow nearly dead with consumption and at the same time the most skillful gambler and nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a six-gun I ever knew. – Wyatt Earp speaking of Doc Holliday.
I got the world by the tail with a downhill pull. – Sam Bass
I have acted fearless and independent and I never will regret my course. I would rather be politically buried that to be hypocritically immortalized. – Davy Crockett
I have always been willing to take the blame for the things I have done. – Lillie Langtry
I have at all times tried to use my influence toward protecting the property holders and substantial men of the country from thieves, outlaws and murderers, among whom I do not care to be classed. – Clay Allison, in response to a Missouri newspaper which reported him with fifteen killings under his belt.
I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks. – Daniel Boone
I have no more stomach for it. – Tom Horn when he resigned as a lawman.
I have vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals. – Butch Cassidy
I knew them both well and, in my opinion, Garrett was just as cold and hard a character as the Kid. – Paulita Maxwell, referring to Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.
I know the law… I am it’s greatest transgressor. – Judge Roy Bean
I like to dance, but not in the air. – Billy the Kid
I love it. It is wild with adventure. – Henry Starr describing the bandit life in the Old West shortly before he was shot to death in a gunfight in Arkansas.
I never hanged a man that didn’t deserve it. – George Maledon, Judge Parker’s hangman.
I never killed unless I was compelled to. – Belle Starr
I never saw so much useless killing. – Bob Kennon, discussing El Paso, Texas in the early 1900’s
I regard myself as a woman who has seen much of life. – Belle Starr describing her life shortly before she was murdered in 1889.
I rob banks for a living, what do you do? – John Dillinger
I see a good many enemies around, and mighty few friends. – Bill Longley’s last words before he was hanged in 1878.
I still have a clear vision of that dignified figure walking down Allen Street. – John P. Clum, Tombstone Epitaph editor, speaking of Wyatt Earp.
I take no sass but sarsaparilla. – John Wesley Hardin, explaining his deadly disposition,
I think it was the distinguishing trait of Wyatt Earp, the leader of the Earp brothers, that more than any man I have ever known, he was devoid of physical fear. He feared the opinion of no one but himself and his self-respect was his creed. – W. B. Bat Masterson, Tombstone Prospector, August 16, 1910
I thought I was benefiting the Indians as well as the government, by taking them all over the United States, and giving them a correct idea of the customs, life, etc., of the pale faces, so that when they returned to their people they could make known all they had seen. – Buffalo Bill Cody
I thought John was the nicest kindest gentleman that I had ever met, why even my parents thought he was polite and well mannered. – Beryl Ethel Hovious said of John Dillinger during an 1889 interview.
I want results when I fight. – Frank James
I was a young boy in the schoolhouse when the cry came, Injuns! I jumped to my rifle and threw down my spelling book, and thar it lies. – Kit Carson
I was happy in the midst of dangers and inconveniences. – Daniel Boone
I wasn’t the leader of any gang. I was for Billy all the time. – Billy the Kid to a Las Vegas, New Mexico reporter after his capture at Stinking Springs.
I wish I could find words to express the trueness, the bravery, the hardihood, the sense of honor, the loyalty to their trust and to each other of the old trail hands. – Charles Goodnight
I would rather play poker with 5 or 6 experts than eat. – Poker Alice
I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood! – The violent anti-slavery activist before he was hanged by the local militia for his attack on Harper’s Ferry two years before the Civil War began.
I’m not afraid to die like a man fighting, but I would not like to be killed like a dog unarmed. – Billy the Kid in a letter to Governor Lew Wallace, March 1879.
I’m not afraid. I never liked long last acts. – Lillie Langtry
I’ve labored long and hard for bread
For honor and for riches
But on my corns too long you’ve tread
You fine haired sons of bitches.
– Black Bart
I’ve never hanged a man. It is the law that has done it. – Judge Isaac Parker
If a man knows anything, he ought to die with it in him. – Some of Sam Bass‘ last words.
If I owned Hell and Texas I’d rent out Texas and live in Hell. – General William Tecumseh Sherman
If mob law is going to rule, better dismiss, judge, sheriff, etc., and let’s all take chances alike. I expect to be lynched in going to Lincoln [New Mexico.] Advise persons never to engage in killing. – Billy the Kid
If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging. – Will Rogers
If you get to thinking you’re a person of some influence, try ordering somebody else’s dog around. – Will Rogers
If you think bull riding’ isn’t intense, come sit on his back and try on my saddle. This aint for tenderfoots. – Clancy Jean Driscoll
In 1883, Sitting Bull was a guest of honor at the opening ceremonies for the Northern Pacific Railroad. When it was his turn to speak, he said in the Lakota language, “I hate all white people. You are thieves and liars. You have taken away our land and made us outcasts.” A quick-thinking interpreter told the crowd the chief was happy to be there and that he looked forward to peace and prosperity with the white people. Sitting Bull received a standing ovation.
Is that what you call giving cover? – Butch Cassidy
It was a hard land, and it bred hard men to hard ways. – Louis L’Amour
It was a land of vast silent spaces, of lonely rivers, and of plains where the wild game stared at the passing horseman. It was a land of scattered ranches, of … long-horned cattle, and of reckless riders who unmoved, looked in the eyes of life or death. – Theodore Roosevelt in An Autobiography, 1913
It was considered the most dangerous route in the Hills, but as my reputation as a rider and quick shot was well known, I was molested very little, for the toll gatherers looked on me as being a good fellow, and they knew that I never missed my mark. – Calamity Jane
It’s immoral to let a sucker keep his money. – Canada Bill Jones, prolific cardsharp of the 1800s
Killing men is my specialty. I look at it as a business proposition, and I think I have a corner on the market. – Tom Horn
Leave me alone and let me go to hell by my own route. – Calamity Jane shortly before her death in Deadwood, South Dakota, in 1903.
Let me go – The world is bobbing around me. – Some of Sam Bass‘ last words.
Let’s kick their ass and get the Hell out of here. – General George A. Custer
Letting the cat out of the bag is a whole lot easier than putting it back in. – Will Rogers
Listen, you’re job is to back me up, because you’d starve without me. And you, your job is to shut up. – Butch Cassidy
“Money and whiskey flowed like water downhill, and youth and beauty and womanhood and manhood were wrecked and damned in that valley of perdition.” Said by an Abilene, Kansas citizen about the town and its red light district.
Most of those he did kill deserved what they got. – A Lincoln County, New Mexico resident talking of Billy the Kid.
Mounted on my favorite horse, my … lariat near my hand, and my trusty guns in my belt … I felt I could defy the world. – Nat Love in The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, 1907
My buddies wanted to be firemen, farmers or policemen, something like that. Not me, I just wanted to steal people’s money! – John Dillinger
My life was threatened daily, and I was forced to go heavily armed. – Jesse James
My mother always said that I would die with my shoes on. – Big Steve Long’s last words after having asked to have his shoes removed before he was hanged.
Never expect a handout and never wait for anybody to hand you anything. – Jesse James
Never miss a good chance to shut up. – Judge Roy Bean
Never run a bluff with a six-gun. – Bat Masterson
No cowboy ever quit while his life was hardest and his duties were most exacting. – J. Frank Dobie, A Vaquero of the Brush Country, 1929
No rancher has the right to sell, or own, what God meant to be free. The Range must always remain open.– BBQ Bill Shankelbean, 1855
Nothing does more for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse. – Will Rogers
Nothing to fear. Any coward shooting from night ambush will be too nervous to hit me. – Elijah S. Briant, Sutton County, Texas, when he was warned he might be shot.
Now look, that damned cowboy is President! – Senator Mark Hanna referring To Theodore Roosevelt after McKinley’s assassination in September, 1901.
Of all the eerie, dreary experiences, to be lost at night on the prairie … then to hear the chorus of coyotes, like hyenas, laughing at one’s predicament. – An emigrant recalling her fear when she and her fellow travelers temporarily lost their bearings while crossing the Great Plains.
On the range, the supply of good cooks was always low and the demand keen. – Ramon F. Adams
Other states are carved or born;
Texas grew from hide and horn.
– Berta Hart Nance
Out where the handclasp’s a little stronger,
Out where the smile dwells a little longer,
That’s where the West begins.
– Arthur Chapman, Out Where the West Begins, 1917
Pat Garrett was asked if he was nervous when, in the dark, he shot and killed Billy the Kid. “No,” he answered quickly. “A fellow with nerves wouldn’t last long in the business I’m in.”
People thought me bad before, but if ever I should get free, I’ll let them know what bad means. – Billy the Kid
Perhaps I may yet die with my boots on. – Wild Bill Hickok, who did die with his boots on.
Pistols are almost as numerous as men. It is no longer thought to be an affair of any importance to take the life of a fellow being. – Nathan A. Baker, Cheyenne Leader, October 1868
Poker is a science; the highest court in Texas has said so. – Quince Forrest, quoted in The Log of a Cowboy, 1903.
Poor John, he has been hunted down and shot like a wild beast and never was a boy more innocent. – Cole Younger, talking about his late brother, who had been wanted for the murder of a deputy sheriff, whom he killed in a jailbreak.
Shoot first and never miss. – Bat Masterson
Shooting at a man who is returning the compliment means going into action with the greatest speed of which a man’s muscles are capable, but mentally unflustered by an urge to hurry or the need for complicated nervous and muscular actions which trick shooting involves. – Wyatt Earp
Starting out ahead of the team and my men folks, when I thought I had gone beyond hearing distance, I would throw myself down on the unfriendly desert and give way like a child to sobs and tears, wishing myself back home with my friends. – A young woman on the trail West in 1860.
Sure glad to see you, but hand me those guns. – Wild Bill Hickok, greeting cowboys new to Abilene, Kansas in 1871.
Surrender had played out for good with me. – Jesse James
Thank God for that. For a moment there I thought we were in trouble. – Butch Cassidy
The adulation’s heaped on him by a grateful nation for his supposed genius turned his head, which, added to his natural disposition, caused him to bloat his little carcass with debauchery and dissipation which carried him off prematurely. – General George Crook delivered this unusual obituary in memory of General Philip Sheridan, who was disliked by many Army officers of the West
The bigger a man’s gun the smaller his doodlewick. – Calamity Jane
The cowboy don’t need no iron hoss, but covers his country on one that eats grass and wears hair. – Charles M. Russell
The cowboy goes to the school of nature. – Will James
The deceased came to his death at the hands of an unknown party who was a damned good pistol shot. – Judge Roy Bean
The grimly humorous phrase about our town was that Tombstone had ‘a man for breakfast every morning.’ – Josephine Sarah Marcus, actress (Josie would later marry Wyatt Earp)
The more ignorant you are, the quicker you fight. – Will Rogers
The more Indians we can kill… the less will have to be killed the next war, for the more I see of these Indians, the more convinced I am that they all have to be killed or be maintained as a species of paupers. – General William Tecumseh Sherman
The mosquitoes continue to infest us in such manner that we can scarcely exist. My dog even howls with the torture he experiences. – Meriwether Lewis
The only good Indian is a dead Indian. – General Philip Sheridan
The past is sufficient to show that bushwhackers have been arrested… charged with bank robbery, and they most all have been mobbed without trials… I have lived as a respectable citizen and obeyed the laws of the United States to the best of my knowledge. – Jesse James in a letter to a frontier editor
The phrase “There’ll be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight” was coined on Myers Avenue, the center of the Red Light District in Cripple Creek, Colorado.
The Seventh can handle anything it meets. – General George A. Custer while declining reinforcements for the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
The South! The poor South! God knows what will become of her. – John C. Calhoun, an American politician and the strongest proponent of Southern rights, on his deathbed in 1850.
The stranger’s slow approach might have been a mere leisurely manner of gait or the cramped short steps of a rider unused to walking; yet, as well, it could have been the guarded advance of one who took no chances with men. – Zane Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage, 1912
The United States court opened at Fort Smith last week, with many cases on the docket. This court has the most extensive jurisdiction of any in the United States. More prisoners are tried and convicted here of serious offenses than at any other court in this country, and more people are hanged here than at any other place in the Union. Here also resided the most noted executioner in American, George Maledon, who has hanged more people than any other man now in the business and never did a bad job. Maledon seems to take pride in his profession. Launching a man into eternity appears to have no more effect on his nervous system than caster oil on a graven image. – The Fort Smith Elevator, October 23, 1891
The wildest, roughest, wickedest honky tonk between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast. – The New York Times commenting on the Birdcage Theater in Tombstone, Arizona.
The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail. – John Wesley Powell
The Old West is not a certain place in a certain time, it’s a state of mind. It’s whatever you want it to be. – Tom Mix
The West, where a man can look farther and see less of anything but land and sky. – Will James
There are many in this old world of ours who hold that things break about even for all of us. I have observed, for example, that we all get the same amount of ice. The rich get it in the summertime and the poor get it in the winter. – Bat Masterson
There are many men in the world who are big chiefs and command many people, but you, I think, are the greatest of them all. I want you to be a father to me and treat me as your son… I am now in your hands. – Geronimo as he surrendered to General George Crook in 1883.
There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence. – Will Rogers
There is no law, no restraint in this seething cauldron of vice and depravity. – The New York Tribune describing Abilene, Kansas.
There is only one road away from trouble, and this is along the straight and narrow road. – Otto Wood, in his book, The Life of Otto Wood, written in prison in 1926.
There were only two things the old-time cowpunchers were afraid of: a decent woman and being set afoot. – E.C. Teddy Blue Abbott
There’s many a slip ‘twix the cup and the lip. – Billy the Kid
They saw me, those reckless seekers of beauty, and in a night I was famous. – Lillie Langtry
They say I killed six or seven men for snoring. It ain’t true. I only killed one man for snoring. – John Wesley Hardin.
This dern grits is burned, but that’s the way I like it. – Bone Mizell, thinking quickly to avoid violating the rule that cowboys didn’t complain about the food.
This is the finest fence in the world. It’s light as air, stronger than whiskey, and cheaper than dirt! – John W. Bet-a-Million Gates, Texas barbed wire salesman.
This thing of being a hero, about the main thing to it is to know when to die. Prolonged life has ruined more men than it ever made. – Will Rogers
To tittle-tattle is like playing poker, you win from time to time but in the end are ensnared at your own game. – Judge Roy Bean
Tombstone has two dance halls, a dozen gambling places and more than 20 saloons. Still, there is hope, for I know of two Bibles in town. – Judge Wells Spicer in 1881
Tombstone is a city set upon a hill, promising to vie with ancient Rome in a fame different in character but no less important. – John Clum in his first editorial in the Tombstone Epitaph
We are rough men and used to rough ways. – Bob Younger to a newspaper reporter following the 1876 Northfield, Minnesota raid.
We never did hang the wrong one but once or twice, and them fellers needed to be hung anyhow jes’ on general principles. – A nameless judge in the Old West.
Well, if there ain’t going to be any rules, let’s get the fight started. – Butch Cassidy
When a group of rowdy outlaws went on a terror in a Texas town, shooting out the lights and windows, killing several citizens, the town quickly requested help from the Texas Rangers to come and quell the “riot.” When Pat Dooling arrived and stepped off the train, the town officials immediately looked around for the other rangers. “I’m the ranger,” said Dooling. “Did they only send ONE ranger?” the town folk asked. To which, Dooling responded: “you’ve only got one riot, haven’t you?” He soon quelled the riot and boarded the next train.
When a Texas cowboy was arrested for stealing a horse, he pleaded not guilty at his trial. When his lawyer managed to get him off and he was set free by the judge, he started to leave the courtroom. Suddenly he turned around and looked at the judge with puzzlement before asking: “Judge, does this mean I can keep the horse?”
When you begin a cattle drive you can’t expect to say you are finished until you have visited a fancy woman and played some games of chance. – Wild Bill Hickok
Whenever you get into a row be sure and not shoot too quick. Take time. I’ve known many a feller slip up for shooting in a hurry. – Wild Bill Hickok
Where do you want to go? asked the conductor.
To Hell, said the cowboy.
Well, give me $2.50 and get off at Dodge.
– Conversation overheard in Newton, Kansas, during the late 1800’s, quoted in Trail Driving Days, 1952.
Where the Indian killed one buffalo, the hide and tongue hunters killed fifty. – Chief Red Cloud
Why should I obtain by force that which I can obtain by cheating? – Doc Holiday
Wild Bill [Hickok] was anything but a quarrelsome man yet I have personal knowledge of at least half a dozen men whom he had at various times killed. – Buffalo Bill Cody
Wild Bill was a strange character, add to this figure a costume blending the immaculate neatness of the dandy with the extravagant taste and style of a frontiersman, you have Wild Bill, the most famous scout on the Plains. – General George Custer, writing about Wild Bill Hickok.
You can’t tell how good a man or a watermelon is ’til they get thumped. – Judge Roy Bean
You come here to tell us lies. Go home where you came from. – Crazy Horse to General Terry
You damn dirty cow thief, if you’re anxious to fight, I’ll meet you! – Wyatt Earp to Ike Clanton before the fight at the O.K. Corral.
You get so tight with your players that they can’t let you down. – Doc Holliday
You may hear of a killing if everything works right…but it may be some time yet. – Texas Ranger Ira Aten to Capt. L. P. Sieker in 1888.
You sons of bitches. Give my love to Mother. – Francis Two Gun Crowley, bank robber and murderer, just before he was electrocuted in 1931.
You’all can go to hell. I am going to Texas. – Davy Crockett after serving three terms as a Tennessee congressman.
You’re the sickest looking lot of sheriffs I ever seen. – Tom Horn’s comments as he mounted the gallows.