A Chapter for Boys: advice from Capt. Jack Crawford Page 18 • Dakota Territory Times • Summer 2017 Reprinted from “The Poet Scout” by Capt. Jack Crawford (1847-1917). I wish I could sit down and take every dime-novel-reading little boy in America by the hand and point out to him the desti- nation he will reach if he persists in reading the vile trash which depicts such Indian scenes as never occurred, and points out “blood-and-thunder” heroes who never lived, and if such a type as were never heard of in the west. If I had the power I would catch every dime-novel publisher in America and con- fine him in prison for life, where he could not pursue his criminal work — for it is criminal — and lead so many bright boys to ruin and disgrace. My name has never yet figured in one of these trashy concerns with my consent, al- though I have been offered quite large sums by publishers to allow my name to be used as the author of a Western story which they would have written by another, just as they do with other Western characters whom I could name. It is a great trick on the part of publish- ers to endeavor to secure the names of noted scouts, hunters, and actors as authors of the most ridiculous trash that was ever printed, and I regret to say that some West- ern men are so foolish as to bite at their glit- tering bait. But a few weeks since in a New York publication I was pained and morti- fied to see an old picture of myself, published with oth- ers, with a flash story, and labelled, if I remember rightly, “Broncho Billy.” The first desire of the average boy after reading a story of western adven- Capt. Jack Crawford ture is to go “out West and kill Indi- ans.” To a Western man this desire is so ab- surd and ridiculous as to be really laughable. Poor little innocent dupes! Of the many boys who have abandoned their homes to exterminate Indians not one in a thousand ever reached the Missouri River, and those who did get beyond that stream invariably went to work in kitchens of ho- tels washing dishes, or served as lackeys in some subordinate position until their par- ents could send for them. The poor, blinded boys do not realize that to be efficient in the field as a scout a man must have lived in the West for many years, must be familiar with every foot of the country, and acquainted with the Indi- ans and their haunts and customs. Neither do they cast a thought upon the hardships and privations of the life of a scout: exposed to piercing cold; driving, blinding snow storms; drenching rains; starvation for days at a time; intense heat and tongues parched for water in summer; always in danger of death and mutilation at the hands of an invisible and cruel foe — these and a thousand other hardships al- ways fall to the lot of a scout on the frontier. The men who follow such a life do not do it so much from a love of adventure as from a love of the big silver dollars which they receive in payment for their services. Many of the young men in the peniten- tiaries of the Western states and territories assert unqualifiedly that they were brought to their present shame and disgrace through reading dime novels. They longed to be he- roes or highwaymen or noted robbers, and their first attempt at crime invariably led to their imprisonment for a long term. Boys, take the earnest advice of a fron- tiersman, and stay at home. To attempt to gain heroism by following the course pointed out by the publishers of vile novels will lead you to disgrace and death, just as surely as the night follows the declining day. Learn some good trade or profession, and stick to it, and you will grow up beloved and honored by all who know you, and your names may some day be written high up on the glittering scroll of fame. Future Presidents of these great United States are now but boys and you may be one of them, little reader, if you will apply yourself to study, acquire the principles of truth and manhood and endeavor to fit yourself for the position. Try it, little friend, and avoid those damnable dime novels as you would a venomous, hideous rat- tlesnake. They are more dangerous. WAGON TRAIN – The Custer Expedition of 1874, which Lt. Col. George A. Custer led into the Black Hills moved along four columns wide until the group reached the Black Hills, at which time they went single file, stretching out for over two miles. The Expedition route became the trail for countless settlers who followed his tracks over the years in search of gold in the Black Hills. Some of those ruts are still visible in the Hills.