Skip to main content

Massacres at Palisades: F-Troop in Real Life

Image result for f-troop
A fumetti of the old TV series F-Troop.

If you believe what you see on TV and in the movies, the Old West was a place of constant violence and turmoil.  And while there sure was plenty of that, people who want a good story tend to exaggerate.  And if you want a good story badly enough, you’re prone to being taken in by someone.  One of history’s greatest hoaxes took place in the 1870s in the out-of-the-way town of Palisades, Nevada (population 300,) tucked away in the north-central part of the state. If you were in Palisades, you were probably on your way to somewhere else. In fact, getting to somewhere else was Palisades’ main industry: it was the terminus of the Eureka & Palisade railroad, and also served as a departure point for wagon trains and stagecoaches in the region.

According to legend, a railroad conductor mentioned to a Palisades resident that his passengers felt let down that the Wild West wasn’t as wild as they’d been reading in the dime novels back east. Much of it tended to be kind of sleepy; there weren’t any daily Indian raids or gunfights or bank robberies or even train robberies. If you came all the way across the country from New York City or Boston, you might expect a little excitement, right? Really, who travels three thousand miles just to see dust, mesas and a few cactuses?

The Palisades resident took it to heart. Before long, rail passengers in Palisades got a taste of the Wild West at its wildest. Trains entering town were frequently subject to Indian attacks, shootouts regularly took place, banks were robbed in broad daylight, bad men were gunned down in the middle of the street. So were lawmen. It was frightening to the passengers, who wouldn’t get off the train in Palisades unless it was absolutely necessary. Locals would stroll up to the trains with sandwiches to sell, and would tell tales of how rough life was in Palisades.

Notoriety started to grow. Trains would be routed through Palisades even when it took them well out of their way, since passengers would want to pass through the real Wild West. It barely gave the locals enough downtime between trains to wash the beef blood (courtesy of a local slaughterhouse) out of their clothes. Word eventually reached the United States Army, which was horrified and embarrassed to learn that such an open sore of anarchy was popping off daily right in their own backyard. The Cavalry was sent in.

It didn’t take long for the Cavalry to figure out what the score was. The locals were ordered to stop dressing up like cowboys and Indians and to stop playing cowboys and Indians. Palisades’ reign of terror was over.

Palisades, Nevada declined in later years, following the decline of passenger rail travel in the United States. By 1938, passenger trains ceased to pass through Palisades (known as Palisade by then,) and in 1962, the local post office was closed. Today, Palisade is just another small town in the desert, and today—just like it really was in the 1870s—it’s so peaceful it doesn’t even need a sheriff.

If this story seems familiar to you, you might be remembering the old 1960s sitcom “F Troop”, which is based on this hoax.  The only difference is that on the show, the “Indians” were supposed to be actual Native Americans, and were not played by white settlers like they were in Palisades’ pageants.

Image result for Palisades, Nevada
A historical marker in modern Palisade, Nevada.  Though accurate, it doesn't tell the entire story.


Popular posts from this blog

How the Lemon was Invented

Lemons How do you make a lemon?  Silly question, isn’t it?  You just take the seeds out of one and plant them, and wait for the tree to come up, right?  That’s true, but it hasn’t always been that easy.  Lemons today are a widely cultivated citrus fruit, with a flavor used in cuisines of countries where no lemon tree would ever grow.  You might think that it was just a matter of ancient peoples finding the trees, enjoying their fruit and growing more of them, but that’s not true.  The lemon is a human invention that’s maybe only a few thousand years old. The first lemons came from East Asia, possibly southern China or Burma.  (These days, some prefer to refer to Burma as Myanmar .  I’ll try to stay out of that controversy here and stick to fruit.)  The exact date of the lemon’s first cultivation is not known, but scientists figure it’s been around for more than 4,000 years.  The lemon is a cross breed of several fruits.  One fruit is the bitter orange, best known in the west for

Origins of the Word Hoser, eh?

Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as cultural icons Bob and Doug McKenzie These days we often hear Canadians referred to as “Hosers”.  It’s a strange word, and it sounds a little insulting, but it’s sometimes used more with affection than malice.  Any such word is difficult to use correctly, especially if you don’t belong to the group the word describes.   I can’t say I feel comfortable throwing the word around, myself, but I can offer a little information about it that might shed some light on what it means. First off: is it an insult?  Yes… and no.   The word hoser can be used as an insult or as a term of endearment; the variation hosehead , is certainly an insult.  It’s a mild insult, meaning something like jerk or idiot or loser .  Its origin is unclear, and there are several debatable etymologies of the word.  One claims that it comes from the days before the zamboni was invented, when the losing team of an outdoor ice hockey game would have to hose down the rink in or

The Whoopie Cap

What can you do with your father’s old hats?  If you were born after, say, 1955, the answer is probably “Not much.”  Men were still wearing fedoras in the 1970s and 1980s, but by 1990, fashion had turned to the point where unless you were Indiana Jones, the hat didn’t look right.  Some blame Jack Kennedy for starting it all, strutting around perfectly coiffed and bare-headed in the early 1960s.  In 1953, Harry Truman, a haberdasher by trade, stepped out of office, and just eight years later we had a president who didn’t care for hats?  The times, they were a-changin’. If you set the WABAC machine to the 1920s or 1930s (when Indiana Jones was supposed to have lived), you would see the fedora was still very much in style.  Men just didn’t leave the house without a hat of some kind, and for what remained of the middle class, the fedora was the topper of choice.  But like any other piece of clothing, hats wear out, too.  When that happened, you’d just throw it away.  Though if there were