Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Agenda & Clay Allison

Yay! It's time for the A-to-Z Challenge to begin! You can still sign up through tomorrow night, if you haven't already. See the A-to-Z tab at the top of my page. While you're there, check out the Flash Fiction Contest. The theme is "Are you devious at heart?" First prize is $100.

I figured for Day 1 I would outline my Agenda. In addition to my regular posting schedule (Monday-Writing Topics, Tuesday-Teaser Tuesday, Wednesday-[Mostly] Wordless Wednesday, Thursday-Helpful/Interesting Links, Friday-Guest Posts/Feature Friday), I will be following the theme of the Wild West! Initially, I was going to do a Colorado-themed topic each day, but since my next WIP has a bit of a Western flair to it, the Wild West was on my mind.

My first Wild West topic is:

llison. Clay Allison.

There were other things I'd thought about writing about today, but Clay Allison kept popping up. Turns out, he was a pretty interesting guy.

Robert Clay Allison was born to the ranching life on September 2, 1840 in Tennessee. From a young age he showed erratic behavior, and was described as having wild mood swings. At the age of 21 he enlisted to fight in the Civil War, just as it broke out, fighting on the side of the Confederacy. True to his his youthful behavior patterns, he was always eager to jump into the fray, becoming enraged with his superiors if they didn't fight or actively seek the enemy.

He was medically discharged, due to his behavior, described as "partly epileptic and partly maniacal," but re-enlisted in another unit shortly thereafter. This ended with him having to surrender with his unit, held as a prisoner of war for seven days in May of 1865. He was to be shot as a spy, but killed their guard and escaped.

Clay joined the local Ku Klux Klan, killed a Union soldier who came to seize the family farm, and ultimately joined up with Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving in 1866, participating in the famous Goodnight-Loving Trail, which involved herding cattle through Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. He and his brother eventually worked for other famous cattlemen, which ended with them being given 300 head of cattle to do with as they pleased.

They settled down outside Elizabethtown, New Mexico, where Clay continued getting himself in trouble. He enjoyed the stereotypical life of a Wild West bad boy, getting drunk in town, fighting with others, shooting up the town and making newcomers dance by shooting at their feet. He led a lynch mob after Charles Kennedy, who was accused of killing and robbing those who stayed overnight at his cabin; they tied a rope around his throat, tied him to a horse and sent it running through town. He took Kennedy's head as a trophy, parading around town with it.

Bored, Clay attempted to get into a bit of cattle rustling, getting away with it the first time, but shooting himself in the foot accidentally when caught the second time. He continued to get into fights at the local saloon, making enemies at a headlong pace.

In 1873, he eloped with Dora McCullough, much to her parents' dismay. You might think this would calm him, but not so much. He continued getting into trouble until the Colfax County War came upon the area. This set the Santa Fe Ring, a bunch of politicians and financiers, against the Colfax County Ring, the landowners being forcibly evicted by the Santa Fe Ring and the sheriff, against each other. Things came to a head when multiple factions, which now included a contingent of Mexicans and Indians out for Clay's blood, set out trying to destroy each other, locked into the town of Cimarron by order of Clay Allison. He survived.

Governor Axtel put a reward out for Clay Allison, accusing him of a murder he was thought to have committed years earlier. Clay gave himself up, demanding a fair trial. He was set free, there being no body and no proof that a murder had occurred, and he promptly set out to get himself into more trouble, killing a sheriff in Las Animas, Colorado (Oh look, there's Colorado again!) when the sheriff tried to remove him from a social he'd crashed. He was let go for self defense, a defense that had gotten him out of hot water repeatedly over the years for other murders he had committed.

He sold his ranch to his brother and took off to Kansas in 1877, becoming a cattle broker. In 1878 he arrived in Dodge City, Kansas, ready to start a fight with Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson over the perceived mistreatment of cattle men in the town. Multiple stories exist on how Clay ended up leaving town, but whichever way it went, he left without a gun battle. Further antics kept him in the public eye, but nothing major occurred for some time.

In 1885, Clay Allison and his wife had their first daughter. They moved around a bit, settling in Pecos, Texas. On July 1, 1887, Clay Allison was killed while unloading a wagon, which ran over him, breaking his neck. He died a landowner, after a life full of infamy. He was 47 years old.

Some quick extra tidbits on Clay Allison:

1. In Cheyenne, Wyoming, Clay Allison went to the dentist at the end of a cattle drive. The dentist began pulling the wrong tooth, prompting him to jump out of the chair and find another dentist. The aching tooth successfully pulled, Allison went back to the first dentist and pulled out one of his molars. He tried to go for a second, but the man was screaming so horribly, men came running and got Allison off of him.

2. In Texas, people claim Clay Allison rode through the streets naked until the sheriff tried to get him to give himself up. Instead, he got off the horse and forced the sheriff, at gunpoint, into a saloon, where he plied him with liquor until he couldn't function anymore.

3. During the worst of the Colfax County War, Clay Allison was said to walk the streets accompanied by 45 armed men, as so many were gunning for him.

4. After Governor Axtell put a price on his head, Clay Allison managed to get himself on the governor's coach and ride with him to Trinidad, Colorado. It was during this ride that the governor convinced him to turn himself in, and promised him a fair trial.

5. A man named Chunk Colbert tried to kill Clay Allison on January 7, 1874, after befriending him and drinking with him all day. Allison was the quicker draw, and shot him as they sat facing each other across a table. Years earlier, Allison had killed Colbert's uncle, though it was never established whether this was a revenge attack or simply a known gunman (Colbert) wanting to fight an infamous shootist and cattle man (Allison). Either way, he lost.

6. In Texas, Clay Allison had an argument with a neighbor about who owned a watering hole. They dug a grave, jumped in and fought with bowie knives. No one knows whether the neighbor was killed for sure, but the deal had been that the loser would be buried in the grave.

Ever heard of Clay Allison? Do you think he deserved the moniker "Gentleman Gunfighter?" Do you have a theme for your A-to-Z Challenge, or are you winging it?

May you find your Muse.

*Red A courtesy of Dawn at
**Photo of Clay Allison courtesy of Find a Grave member John "J-Cat" Griffith
***Photo of Cimarron, New Mexico courtesy of Legends of America
****Photo of six-shooter courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain


Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

Never heard of Clay Allison before today but found him entertaining.

Short nonsensical is my theme.

Heather Murphy said...

Interesting guy and fun theme!

j said...

Wow, that is fascinating. I don't believe I'd ever heard of Clay before but a little bit sounded familiar from time to time. Great post! And good luck with the challenge!

Jeremy [Retro] said...

Hmmm, he sounds related to my family... kidding very interesting.

Great start... to the challenge "A" is for Awesome!
Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]
A to Z Co-Host
IZOMBIE: Visit the Madness

Bluebethley said...

Interestng post, both for the quality of the information you've found, the neat organization of this historical information, and your reflections. I love the photos and those details that make Clay a real person (shooting himself in the foot!). Fun to read this BG and to wonder where your WIP will take this. May your writing go well.

Unknown said...

I know nothing about the Wild West, so your theme is going to be extra fascinating :)

By the sounds of it, Gentleman Gunfighter doesn't seem all that appropriate, hehe.

I'm actually not winging it this year, which is a huge surprise. I've even got my Q and X posts sorted!

Jamie Gibbs
Fellow A-Z buddy
Mithril Wisdom

Unknown said...

The great thing about A-Z is that you learn so much - I've already learnt about astrophysics today and now Clay (who I'd never heard of before). Great topic. Good luck (I'll be keeping my eye open)

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Interesting bio on a real wild Westerner! I hadn't heard of him but found it fascinating. I look forward to your theme!

f said...

Interesting info! My husband and I will be moving west to New Mexico hopefully soon and I love learning historic info like this.

Unknown said...

i love this! can't wait for more!

Gossip_Grl said...

I have never heard of him before, but your story of him was very interesting to read.

nutschell said...

Never heard of Clay but I certainly found his life story interesting. Great to meet you through this A-Z!

M. Hufstader said...

What an interesting guy! Gotta love Wild West shenanigans. Great start to the challenge!

Cheers, M. from Feed Me A Stray Cat!

Ruth said...

I have never heard of him, but he sounds fascinating.
One blog is recipes, the other blog has no theme.

loverofwords said...

Hi fellow Coloradan: I am so impressed with the bloggers I am meeting. . .how do you get your ideas? I don't have a theme for the A-Z, which is a handicap, I think, but I am learning, learning, learning. I think it is unusual for a woman to be interested in the Civil War, so you are unique which is always good.

Sonnia J. Kemmer said...

Interesting read! Thanks for writing that.

A Ladybug's Life


Timothy S. Brannan said...

Fantastic first post!
Looking forward to seeing what you do!

The Other Side
The Freedom of Nonbelief

DL Hammons said...

Who knew I would be learning so much in this Challenge? Interesting stuff!! :)

Jasmine Walt said...

Never heard of him, and not sure I would call him a 'Gentleman' Gunfighter as he certainly didn't sound like no gentleman! But, definitely entertaining, and sounds like he wasn't afraid to live an exciting (if amoral) life!

I find it ironic that after escaping all those deaths, he ends up dying because of a wagon accident. Ha. Thanks for sharing!

Ro @ Eat Live Move said...

Great first post! My theme is Intuitive Eating from A to Z!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

He did all of that before the age of forty-seven? Wow, have I lived a boring life...

jan said...

Wow! You sure know your stuff! Thanks for sharing this little nugget.

Dawn M. Hamsher said...

No, never heard of him. Sounds like a lot of trouble. Thanks for sharing. It was a very interesting read.
The Write Soil
1st Writes

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an interesting and enlightened series this will be. I think I may have to come here with my 3rd grader each day for a short history lesson. I look forward to the next 27 days

DayDreamer said...

That's a great start to the challenge. Loved learning about Clay Allison.

Sangita Kalarickal said...

How interesting! Never heard of Clay Allison before; this is a fun read.
I do have a theme for my A to Z challenge, an emotion for each day. Hopefully I make it to the end of the month!

Andrew Leon said...

We won't talk about the irony of his death after the life he lived. Makes me wonder if he was bi-polar.
The old west was so full of interesting personalities. Good theme! I'm looking forward to more!

The Writing Goddess said...

Gentleman? Not really. Sounds like he could give Charlie Sheen some competition in the "episodic insanity" contest. I'm happy enough to learn about him from here, rather than up close and personal.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Mary, I hadn't heard much about him before, which is surprising since I consider him more of an outlaw than, say, Billy the Kid.

Heather, thanks!

Jennee, thank you, and good luck to you, as well! I wouldn't be surprised if parts of his story hadn't been "borrowed" for more well known figures in movies and such.

Jeremy, ha! You're kidding, but I wouldn't be if I said it. Crazy family.

Blue, thank you so much! Very kind words.

Jamie, good for you! I'm getting there; I do at least have an idea for each day, but since they involve research they are taking me longer than I'd planned for. And I agree that he was no gentleman.

Susan, just one of the many things I love about the A-to-Z! I am betting I know where you read about astrophysics...can't wait!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Karen, thanks! I do have a love for the Wild, Wild West.

F, oh, I'm betting there will be more on New Mexico in these. Quite a happening place for gunslingers. I hope your move goes well!

Stephanie, thank you!!

Gossip, I don't think many people had heard of him. I hope to bring a few more unknowns to attention.

Schell, great to meet you!

M, thank you! I definitely enjoy me some Wild West shenanigans!

Ruth, looking forward to it. Did you figure out your K?

Shannon Lawrence said...

Loverofwords, hello! I need to come find out what part of Colorado you're in. I didn't have a theme last year and it was still great fun, so don't let it worry you. I had about a billion themes go through my head this year before settling on this one.

Sonnia, thanks for reading it!

Tim, thank you! I hope you enjoy the rest.

DL, I can't wait to see what else is out there, as well. I'm just jumping in for the day.

Jasmine, I admit to being highly amused that after all that he finally settled down, only to fall out of a wagon. I'm guessing it was karma.

Ro, thanks, and sounds interesting! I'll be by shortly.

Alex, I feel that way after reading about just about any historic figure. Their life spans were shorter, yet they seemed to have lived so much more in those years.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Jan, thanks! I've been hooked on the Wild West since middle school.

Dawn, he was definitely a lot of trouble!

Overcoming, what a compliment, thank you!

DayDreamer, I'm so please to hear that, thanks!

Sangita, sounds very interesting; good luck to you!

Andrew, I definitely would not doubt his being bipolar. I'd be interested to hearing more about his day to day life and experiences of friends and family with him.

Goddess, love the comparison to Charlie Sheen! I wonder if he drank tiger blood before his gunfights...?

Grammy said...

Hi, enjoyed your post. Kind of reminds me of some Zane Grey books I have read. Always enjoyed stories about the wild west. Thanks for the interesting story of Clay Allison.

Dani said...

Interesting to say the least! Why couldn't you have taught my history classes? Can't wait for more...
Bring on the rest of the letters...

Sarah Tokeley said...

I hadn't heard of him before, but this was a fascinating read. I actually laughed when I read how he died. Not the big finale I was expecting!

Unknown said...

Stopping by from the A to Z challenge. I've never hear of Clay Allison but I found his story very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Ruby, I don't think I've ever read a Zane Grey, but I have a feeling I should! I was pleasantly surprised when I first picked up L'Amour.

Danielle, so nice of you to say!

Sarah, sort of shocking, isn't it? Guy runs around killing people, retires, so to speak, and dies so simply.

Carol, thank you!

Julie Flanders said...

I'd never heard of Clay Allison before but it was really interesting to read about him. I'm a total history buff so I love this kind of thing. Looking forward to your theme, it sounds excellent!

Tina said...

Holy Cow Girlfriend! That was awesome. I'm a history buff, and you gave me his life in a post. Talk about condensing history...LOL. LOVE your theme, excited to hear more about your WIP, and yowza, isn't this fun! I still have a lot of visiting to do. Bad asthma day led to a long nap. But I'm on fire! My blog went over 300 followers, and I've had the most comments on a post, EVER. Looks like you've got a lot of new friends, too.
Tina @ Life is Good
Co-Host of the April A to Z Challenge
Twitter: @AprilA2Z #atozchallenge

Beverly Diehl said...

Wow. This guy's picture should be in the dictionary next to "larger than life." I'm happy to read about him from the safety of my office, not know him as a neighbor or in-law.

shelly said...

He sounds a little like my first husband. Wild and crazy guy.


michelle said...

I've never heard of Clay Allison before - but now that I have, it's highly unlikely that I'll forget him in a hurry... quite a colourful and crazy dude!

Donna B. McNicol said...

Interesting read about someone I've never heard about before.

You've got as much writing (probably more) in one blog than I will be putting in all 26. WOW!!!

I'll be back tomorrow for more.

Christine Rains said...

Very cool theme. I've never heard of Clay Allison. I'm writing a paranormal story throughout the month as my theme for the Challenge. It's been a fabulous first day! :)

Philip Verghese 'Ariel' said...

This is really new to me.
Wonderful personality
Wonderful post for the challenge day 1
Good Luck

Horst Peters said...

Great story!

Anonymous said...

No, I haven't heard of him before. What a life. This was interesting to read.

Chuck said...

That was great history...being that I live it Texas where this type of thing is all through history. I had never heard of him so I'm not sure whether he truly deserved that name but I'll go with it. No theme, just like last year random and varied.

Theres just life said...

I know who he is. My roommate is an Old West and Gangster junky, so I know a lot about both. I will really enjoy this month here.

Pamela Jo

Theres just life said...

Oh and I think when Allison killed Colbert across the table. Colbert's gun hit the underside of the table as he was drawing, so Allison won. But then dead is dead, right.
Pamela Jo

Unknown said...

Never heard of him---his life would make a great story!

Unknown said...

I love the Old West and am fascinated by the tails and characters that populate the mythology. Clay Allison certainly was something.

This challenge is off to rockin' good start and I am loving all the new blogs I'm visiting.

Sarah Mäkelä said...

Very interesting theme! I'll have to stop by more. The Wild West was definitely an fascinating time period. My A to Z theme is creatures of folklore, mythology, and the paranormal.

ShaunaKelleyWrites said...

I've never heard of this man before, but what an interesting life!

I am focusing on my favorite storytellers.

Unknown said...

Great blog and Clay is a character any author should find interesting. Good job. I'll be back to read more and perhaps stick around to see more of the amazing things you share on your blog.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Julie, thanks! Always good to know who my fellow history buffs are!

Tina, the first day rocked! Glad you got a nap in, but not happy it was because of asthma. Congrats on over 300! Well deserved! I probably should have condensed it more, but it was too fun.

Beverly, truly, I don't blame her family for not wanting him as an in-law!

Shelly, oh my, that's probably an interesting story to hear!

Michelle, then I've done my part in bringing him a little further infamy. LOL!

Donna, wonderful! I look forward to it. I "talk" too much...

Christine, oh how cool! Will be by to read it!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Phil, thank you, very sweet of you to say.

Horst, thank you!

Medeia, he really was an interesting guy. I kept running across mentions of him while looking other people up and decided I just had to look into him more.

Chuck, I like random and varied, too! I'm betting I'll come across plenty of Texas history, as well.

Pamela, that's exactly right! The gun hit the underside of the table, giving Clay Allison the edge. He'd have been totally dead if Colbert hadn't been a klutz.

Damyanti, that it would! Hmmm...

Melissa, he definitely was! I have come across such wonderful posts, so far! So much fun.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Sarah, that is a theme I can really get behind! Love mythology and supernatural creatures.

Shauna, that sounds fun!

Billie, thanks so much! I'm surprised he hasn't gotten more attention.

Unknown said...

I am from Clay's bloodline and still live here in Tennessee where he left from almost 150 years ago. Alot of what you read is untrue and exaggerated but none the less he was an interesting character to say the least. Thank you for creating renewed interest in Clay.

Jason Allison

Shannon Lawrence said...

Jason, I'm afraid I'm not sure how to contact you back, but I really appreciate you having stopped by. I admit I was terribly excited, as a fan of the Wild West. I imagine quite a bit of what I turned up in reading on all of these people was exaggerated or untrue. Likely, their stories wouldn't be half as interesting witout a century of embellishment. Given, it seems me that Clay Allison's still would be interesting.

Thank you very much for your visit.

Unknown said...

Clay was a relative of mine...yes, he had plenty of events in his life...but there are a number of serious errors in this article...I would suggest the book "Clay Allison, Lone Wolf of the Washita" by F. Stanley, copyright 1956 for a more accurate account of his life.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Hi Bob, thanks for leaving a comment. I'm sure much of it is inaccurate, but the post was done for fun, not as an intensive research project, so it reflects information found online. I wasn't aware when I did it that it would carry on for so long outside the sphere of the original intention. I appreciate your comment, as well as the book recommendation. I've found Clay Allison tends to be underrepresented in Old West histories, which likely leads to the misinformation.

Unknown said...

Shannon, please don't take my comments as criticism of your efforts, I don't mean them that way at all...what you are doing is a great thing, too many people have forgotten or never bothered to learn of our real history...what you are doing is making a difference...I guess I get a tad defensive of comments on Clay because he is a relative...Clay led a wild and colorful life, no doubt about it...he did things that some might see as extreme, by today's standards they are, but in the day they were seen differently...Clays actions were driven by his beliefs in right vs wrong against the innocent or the victims...not right as in "my way or the highway," but right as in what was his way of standing up to wrongdoing...the kind of wrongdoing that everyone would agree was unwelcome...even as over the line as some of his actions were, he was standing up to wrong and for the example is when he killed Kennedy...there was other evidence that came to light that proved Kennedy's guilt, and brought to light some horrible acts by Kennedy...that was what Clay reacted to when he took Kennedy from the jail, hung him, decapitated him, then rode through the streets of Cimarron with Kennedy's head on a stick...yes, it is very gruesome, no doubt about it, but Clay was reacting to Kennedy's wrong doing and sending a clear message to anyone else that those types of horrible crimes would not be tolerated in Colfax those days that's what it took to get the point across to some of the outlaws and thieves...and it should be noted that most of the residents of the Cimarron area backed Clay completely in the things he did, not out of fear, but out of agreeing that Clay did the right things...Shannon, what you are doing here is a great thing, keep up the good work!!!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Thank you, Bob! I can understand what you're saying. To you, he's family, and he lived during a time of strife where the law didn't make much of an impact. I truly would like to learn more about his real history. I imagine that knowing the truth and/or reasons behind certain instances would illuminate quite a bit on the whys. For instance, the Colfax County War is something I think people can identify with even now. As for Kennedy, he was a predator, and at no point would I dispute that making an example of him wasn't a solid thing to do.

Thank you for talking with me about this. It's made me think about the truth behind the stories. It has always sounded to me like Clay Allison was a passionate man who acted on things, rather than standing back and expecting someone else to do so. What you've said has backed that up and made the picture that much clearer, versus the sensationalized stories which, unfortunately, are what have lived on from that era, due to those being the interesting stories to tell (which I'm equally guilty of).

I appreciate your time and your kind words. Thank you for being nice about my having continued to pass along the sensationalized stories. You and another relative who posted above really put it into perspective for me. Talking about a time in the past, it's easy to grasp the more exciting stories and pass them along without thinking about the fact that you ARE talking about someone's relative, a person who had family and a normal life.

Jaded2 said...

He's my great great uncle. My grandpa was Frank Allison. We live about an hour from Pecos. I dont know why theyre romaticizing him with that posh grave they moved him to. He wasnt known for his intelligence and died from being run over on his kneck by his own wagon wheel. I mean, its a dumb way to die, don't you think? Member of the kkk? Figures ugh. And a confederate. At least my grandpa fought in an honorable war for a good reason. (Ww2) Redeeming the Allison Name. Right Uncle Bill?