Sunday, June 28, 2020

The Story of "Tombstone Territory"

By Christopher Robinson

Airing from 1957 to 1959, ‘Tombstone Territory’ told the wild western adventures of Sheriff Clay Hollister (played by Pat Conway) in “the town too tough to die” as he dealt out his own brand of law and order to the Arizona Territory in the 1880’s.

Familiar to western history buffs, the town of Tombstone is forever inextricably linked to famed lawman Wyatt Earp, whom the character of Hollister is essentially based upon. The unique angle of the series focuses on Hollister’s working relationship with Tombstone’s newspaper editor, Harris Claiborne (played by Richard Eastham). Claiborne plays a more substantial role in the sheriff’s duties than even Hollister’s deputies.

Leaning towards more historical portrayals in its stories, the episodes feature true to life western characters that give a degree of authenticity despite budgetary limitations and some necessary artistic liberties. The creators, in fact, regularly consulted the staff of the Tombstone Epitaph, the actual publication that the character of Claiborne publishes in town.

To establish this wrap-around theme, Eastham provides ongoing narration throughout the stories, thereby providing an insider’s perspective while simulating the firsthand accounts that Claiborne published in his paper detailing Sheriff Hollister’s daring exploits.

Well worth your viewing, Tombstone Territory is available in DVD and can also be seen weekdays on ScreenPix Westerns channel and weekends on FETV.


About the Author

Christopher Robinson has worked in various mediums creating films, screenplays and music in addition to essays for books, magazines and websites.

He was also the host and producer of Princeton In Focus, a weekly live call-in talk show on cable access TV. For more on Christopher Robinson, click here!

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Sunday, June 14, 2020

George Custer’s Defeat at Little Bighorn Revisited

By Allan B. Colombo

On December 1st, 2019, ‘Custer’s Final Battle’ was published in the Western Magazine Digest (WMD). For those who would like to read ‘Custer’s Last Battle,’ click here.

The intent was to eulogize and celebrate the lives and deaths of more than several hundred Cavalrymen and their commander, Brevet Major-General George Armstrong Custer (1839 to 1876).

On May 28th of this year, I published a short post on the ‘The TV Western and Movie Fan Page’ on Facebook,

“Said to be the last words spoken on the battlefield of Little Bighorn: ‘Hurrah boys, we've got them! We'll finish up and then go home to our station,’ said Charles Windolph, the last known survivor of the failed battle. Windolph, born in 1851, passed in 1950! ‘Question is, why does the death of Custer in the Battle of Little Bighorn strike a nerve in the hearts of all patriotic Americans?’” (
It didn’t take long until the first reply came along: “Does it? How so?” When I asked why he felt that way, the writer continued, “maybe because people feel it justifies the tactics people used in indian fighting.”

As the days drug on, comment after comment filtered in--154 of them to be exact--and it became more and more apparent that the members of the forum were decisively divided in their opinions regarding Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer.

Perhaps the reason for the anger and, in some cases, disdain for a commander whom none of us had ever met, comes from the political side of the subject.

Vernon Corea, a member of the same forum, spoke up, “He was a national hero into the 1950’s before the history of the struggles with Native Americans were reexamined. There were atrocities white-on-red, red-on-white, white-on-white, and red-on-red. The 19th was a barbaric Century.”
On the one hand, we have a political attitude regarding the inhuman manner in which Native American Indians were treated during the time that society began pushing Westward. On the other, we have a reality which reveals that Custer made a miscalculation that ended in the deaths of 268, 7th Cavalrymen and 31 to 136 Irregular military. There also were 55 7th Cal wounded (6 later perished of their wounds), upwards to 160 among the Irregulars--not to mention the deaths of 60 Native American Indians.

The fact is, as history has it, that there were approximately 700 cavalrymen and upwards to 2500 Native American Indian warriors, “210 men died with Custer while another 52 died serving under Reno. All were given hasty burials. Only an estimated 60 Indian warriors died in the battle,” says Kathy Weiser, author of ‘The Battle of Little Bighorn, Montana,’ Legends of America (

According to Weiser, in 1979, three years after the Little Bighorn tragedy, an investigation of the battle revealed three key things that were bound to have a bearing on Custer’s failed attempt to remove the various tribes from the area.

They were:

  1. Reno was a drunken coward
  2. Benteen had disobeyed Custer’s orders
  3. General Terry was late in arriving on the battle front
It’s understandable why Custer’s death is no longer celebrated, but is the condemnation really deserved? How could Custer miss the disparity in troop numbers to this degree? Was it the fault of the scouts, perhaps his commanding officer, or was it something else?
Weiser says, “However, the primary contribution to the U.S. defeat is blamed on faulty intelligence and poor communication.”
In a story written by Monette Bebow-Reinhard, and published on WMD on January 12th of this year, she writes:
“About the Little Bighorn loss Utley noted a second reason for the meeting: ‘Later the army, professing ignorance of the increase in [Indian] strength, blamed the failure of the campaign on Indian Bureau negligence.’ This could be another reason for Smith’s resignation. Utley then related that this was not true because ‘on May 30, Sheridan telegraphed Sherman that information from Crook indicates that all the agency Indians capable of taking the field are now or soon will be on the warpath.’ So they knew long before the Little Bighorn that there were large numbers of Indians in the field. But they still referred to their report, written after the secret meeting, saying only 500 of them would fight.

“Grant and Sheridan both continued to lie about Indian strength. And of course, Custer believed them. And they believed he would be arrogant enough to think he could whip any number of Indians. They also knew he’d follow his normal procedure of dividing his forces” (Grant’s Indian Wars, We Could See They Were Good People!,

So, what would make President Grant knowingly send Custer and his men into harm's way without knowing what they faced? To find the answer, read Monette Bebow-Reinhard’s story here: To learn more about Monnette, click here.

Monnette is the author of Civil War & Bloody Peace: Following Orders, available from Amazon (see ad below).

Order your copy of Monette Bebow-Reinhard's book:
Civil War & Bloody Peace: Following Orders

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Sunday, May 31, 2020

WMD Promotes Carrie Aulenbacher and Christopher Robinson

In the life of every publication in growth mode, there comes a place where this growth spawns the need for a higher level of organization. It’s with that in mind that today, May 31st of 2020, that I make this announcement:
  • Carrie Aulenbacher is hereby promoted to the position of Managing Editor.

  • Christopher Robinson is hereby promoted to the position of Senior Editor.
Carrie Aulenbacher has a long history of writing books, mentoring other writers, and designing and maintaining excellent websites on the Internet. Her duties include editing our writer’s work, recruiting talent, and building and maintaining WMD’s Twitter feed on social media. She’s already performed an internal audit of WMD’s website and social media outreach and has been instrumental in making adjustments. Stay tuned, there’s more ahead. Learn more about her by reading her partner page on WMD: click here.

Christopher Robinson, creates interesting, realistic, and engaging copy in the pages of WMD. His history includes freelance writing, film production and he's performed camera work for documentaries and other concerns. His personal phone interview with the late James Drury, also known as the Virginian, took the form of two back-to-back articles, beginning on August 25th of 2019, and both part 1 and part 2 continue to interest readers. Learn more about Christopher through his partner page on this website: click here.

Allan B. Colombo, WMD Publisher

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Looking for a Haunted Ghost Town? Here's 15 for the Picking

By Christopher Robinson

They are haunting reminders of a bygone era that creak, howl and bend in the arid dusty wind. Subtly hinting at legendary stories of the past, they offer distant glimpses into the hardships and dreams of the dead that never cease to stir our collective imagination.

They're the ghost towns of the American west and though they fade, rust and decay in an unrelenting sun, they remain nevertheless in various forms of existence. The spirits of their former inhabitants are often imagined to reside there alongside the few living souls who choose to call them their home while the remnants and relics of their humble structures hang on just long enough to tell their heartbreaking and unbelievable tales.

Most of these ghost towns originated as gold mining towns when miners migrated to various destinations in hope of striking it rich after ‘gold fever’ spread in the wake of gold strikes in places like Sutter’s Mill, California and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Many towns were situated near streams where gold was panned for until it went to “hard rock”, meaning ore had been mined.

If the vein “pinched out”, that meant no more ore could be dug, and the townspeople emigrated once again. Often complete hillsides were depleted and decimated, leaving behind empty carcasses of desolate streets and small ramshackle buildings with their unpainted false front rooftops slowly fading gray.

The following is a list of popular ghost towns in the United States. Since many states are opening up from the COVID-19 situation, perhaps you will visit one on vacation this summer.

Instructions: Click on the Town to visit each ghost town location below:
St. ElmoColoradoGoldYes
Virginia CityNevadaSilverYesHome to Mark Twain.
Setting of TV's Bonanza.
Animas ForksColoradoGoldUnknown1884: Endured 23-day blizzard
South Pass CityWyomingGoldYes
RubyArizonaGold, Silver, Lead, Zinc, CopperUnknownSite of notorious 'Ruby Murders.'
ThurberTexasCoalYesPopulation 5
ColomaCaliforniaGoldUnknownDawn of California 'Gold Rush'

As an aside, in 1874, Custer discovered gold in the Black Hills leading to the boomtown of Deadwood, South Dakota. The resulting gold rush clashed with sacred Sioux land, creating a problematic situation with inevitable repercussions.

In Closing, be sure to read Gary Miller's Ghost Towns of the West, previously published in Western Magazine Digest on December 1st, 2018.

About the Author

Christopher Robinson is a writer, filmmaker and musician in New Jersey who has contributed to several magazines and websites.

Robinson also worked as a cameraman, videographer, cable access TV host, teacher and producer. He scripted and produced commercial videos as well as cable television programs for local consumption.

For more info about Christopher, click here.

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Sunday, May 17, 2020

James "Buddy" Edgerton: The Unknown Lone Ranger

By Martin Grams

Throughout the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, the covers of pulp magazines and comic books featured incredible paintings. Many of those illustrators have been forgotten, and their original canvases long ago consigned to garbage bins. The beautiful artwork would ultimately be discarded for cheaper options such as comic illustrations or photographs of the television celebrities in costume. The artwork has since become relished by numerous fans of The Lone Ranger, and of recent years reproduced for the Radio Spirits bookshelf albums containing licensed old-time radio shows.

One of the artists responsible for those oil paintings is Don Spaulding. In the summer of 1950, Norman Rockwell used an empty schoolhouse to create a studio for young promising art students. Among the six students was Spaulding, who was a member of the Art Students League when he had the opportunity to study with the great Norman Rockwell.

“The entire thing was all gratis,” Spaulding later recalled for Charlie Roberts, “which was typical of the type of person Rockwell was. We had a place to live, but we provided our own food… But there was the feeling that I was imposing on Rockwell because I was living rent free and so forth, so I thought I should go home and get some more of the League under my belt.”

After a few months of assignments and studies, Spaulding went back home. “We went around to pocketbook (paperback) houses and magazines in the hopes of securing steady income from his talent. They all smiled, said nice things, and I never heard from them again,” Spaudling concluded. “But then I took my samples to Dell Publishing. They were general illustration sampled. Mostly adventure type stuff. The art director I saw there was Ed Marine. He was art director for the comic books. He liked my work and took a chance on me. That was probably a year or so after art school.”

Spaulding’s first cover was of a cowboy standing in a stream and a Yaqui Indian sneaking up behind him. Marine liked it and Dell assigned him a Lone Ranger comic cover to do. That was the one where he was swinging on a rope, kicking the outlaw in the face. This would ultimately lead to 16 Lone Ranger comic books, 15 Buck Jones, 18 Tonto, and a few Tarzan comic books. The oil paintings confirmed are listed below for reference:

Buck Jones (6 covers): Full Color #500, Full Color #546, Full Color #589, Full Color #652, Full Color #773 and Full Color #850

Tonto (18 covers): Issues #13 through 27, 29, 30 and 31

The Lone Ranger (16 covers): Issues #62, 63, 64, 71, 74, 76, 79, 83, 86, 88, 89, 91, 97, 98, 110 and 111

For the role of The Lone Ranger, he consulted one of the models frequently used by Norman Rockwell, whom he knew from the schoolhouse summer. Don Spaulding asked Norman Rockwell to get in touch with James “Buddy” Edgerton, to see if he would like to model for the covers.
“Being paid to model was easy money and I was a college student, so I jumped at the chance,” Buddy recalled. “I modeled for fifteen Lone Ranger comic book covers for Don. His process was very much like Norman’s – first, he took a photograph, then he worked from the photo to the final piece. It was easy to see Norman’s influence on Don’s work. It was a great experience to be able to model for The Lone Ranger. Though I had handled guns all my life, there sure is something different about holding two pearl-handled revolvers while you’re dressed up like a cowboy – no matter how old you are.”
“I usually wore a uniform of sorts when posing for the oil paintings, sometimes for photographs to be used if I was unable to pose for a few hours. I never wore a mask, tho. Don would add the mask later,” Buddy told me. “I recall being paid $5 per session. He would usually do two or three images each time and pick the best for use as an oil painting.”
The model to pose for Tonto was Don Spaulding himself. A friend would take photographs of Spaulding in pose, which the artist would then consult to produce the oil painting. But Buddy recalls another art student, Don Winslow, posing as Tonto for a number of the sessions.
“I only modeled for The Lone Ranger for twelve of the sixteen paintings,” Buddy explained. But James “Buddy” Edgerton has another claim to fame.
In the Spring of 1943, Norman Rockwell, his wife Mary, and their three young sons moved into the farmhouse next door to thirteen-year old Buddy in West Arlington, Vermont. As a result, he found himself as the model for many of Rockwell’s paintings, some of which are featured below for reference. Who would have thought that the proverbial Boy Scout of magazine fame was also The Lone Ranger in the comics?

Buddy since co-wrote a book about Norman Rockwell, providing insight to the artist from a perspective few could ever provide. The Unknown Rockwell: A Portrait of Two American Families is available for sale on Amazon.


Martin Grams Jr. is the author and co-author of numerous books about old-time radio and retro television.

He's winner of numerous awards in the Best Book categories, author of more than 100 magazine articles and co-author of "THE LONE RANGER: THE EARLY YEARS, 1933-1937."

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