or How the Cowboy Baronet acquired a nickname
Guest Post 16. How often have you picked up an old book particularly an autobiography, long out of print, and been so taken with the story that you have thought “why has this book never been re-printed”?
That thought would certainly pass through the mind of anyone lucky enough to come across a very rare copy of “From Cowboy to Pulpit”, the autobiography of the splendidly named Sir Genille Cave-Brown-Cave published in 1926 by Herbert Jenkins. What an exciting life of adventure this man enjoyed, until he returned to England to become the vicar of the peaceful Yorkshire town of Londesborough!
Here we can only tell just one of his many adventures, but what an adventure!
Genille was born in 1869, heir to the eleventh baronet, Sir Mylles Cave-Brown-Cave. His youthful adventures caused the family many problems. Keen to go to sea, his father sent him to a training ship of the Royal Naval Reserve, but after six months his father was told to “take the little devil home”. Father then apprenticed him to the sailing ships going to Australia. Still causing trouble he left that life. Being a strong looking lad for his age, at 16 ½ he joined the 13th Hussars claiming to be 18. An exceptional horseman from boyhood he was transferred to the 21st Hussars and was on an expedition to the Khyber Pass until his real age was discovered. Gold mining in Mysore, followed by time with military police in Burma, back to more time at sea and then… well you will have to read his book. He eventually found his niche as a cowboy and then ranch foreman in America at a time when the west was not completely tamed. His adventures followed each other in quick succession. Here is just one of them. To start with he was always known as “English” but this is the story of how he acquired his final nickname, which stuck to him in the States, even after he had inherited the baronetcy in 1907 on the death of his father.
The season’s work being over, I was putting in some time helping a ranch owner that I knew and who lived a few miles away. He was a widower with an only daughter, a buxom girl, who kept house for the old man, and who was the apple of his eye. One night we were all sitting round the heater, smoking and yarning, when she burst into the bunkhouse in a state of annoyance mixed with excitement. It appeared that a useless sort of hand in a neighbouring town had for a long time been pestering her with his attentions, and they had culminated that evening with a proposal that they should elope the following evening after dark. She said that, in order to get rid of him, she had agreed, and she now wanted him properly put in his place.
“One of you boys must dress up and go instead of me,” she said. Then, turning to me, she continued, “English, you are thin, and not too tall and clean shaved – will you do it?”
I can still hear the yell of delight that went up from around the heater. Everybody agreed that it was up to me, and pointed out that I couldn’t refuse, so I had to consent, but I did so only on the understanding that they were to remove all bullets from cartridges that they put into their guns that evening, for I guessed that there was going to be a row.
The next night arrayed in some of the girl’s clothes – and they did not fit me badly – and wearing a large sunbonnet that nearly hid my face, I slipped out of the ranch house in answer to a low whistle, and ran over to where I knew the love-sick critter would be.
There he was, carrying a small bag, and I had just time to grab his arm and steer him towards a bit of barbed wire fence that I knew of, when a yell went up that would have done credit to any Indian jamboree, and guns began to go off all around. The devil of it was, as I realised instantly, they had omitted to draw the bullets from their ammunition, although, for the moment, they were firing high.
By this time we were right into the wire, and he was gone – how he got through the fence I never knew. I left most of the girl’s clothing hanging to it in ribbons, as I tried to get through and away, for the bullets were now singing in every direction.
A moment afterwards I heard the mad gallop of a horse and the bang, crash, of the wheels of a buggy. He was trying to make his escape!
In an instant a dozen cowboys had swung into their saddles – for they had them tied up at the back of the bunk house all ready for the fray – and they were off down the road shooting and yelling like men possessed. It was not long before they had roped him and his horse; the buggy they smashed to smithereens. Then they took the amorous swain to a neighbouring creek, gave him a good ducking, and let him loose, to the rattle of more guns. As for me, I was in the bunk house repairing the wire cuts to my hands when the part came back.
“What about the damned lead you were slinging round?” I shouted.
“Sure, we never gave it a thought, Miss Kitty,” said somebody.
“Miss Kitty, be damned,” I roared. But it was no good – they roared, too, and the name stuck to me always after that.
If it is ever my good fortune to set foot on the Western trail again, and I meet any of the old boys there, I am sure that their first greeting will be to “Kitty” – the only name by which most of them knew me.
Not only did the Cowboy Baronet inherit the title from his father, he also inherited massive debts, which he was determined to pay off. It may be thought that it is only in recent years that famous people have earned money by endorsing commercial products. But it is not so. Even well over a century ago it can be seen from the advertisement shown here that the Cowboy Baronet was earning additional income by appearing in newspapers around Britain endorsing Zam-Buk for easing his aches and pains.
(The photograph of him is from advertising postcards sold when he returned the England after he succeeded to the baronetcy and when he ran and featured in “Wild West” shows.)
The guest post article above has been kindly contributed by Geoffrey A. Pocock, author of The Frontiers of Truth, Outrider of Empire: The Life and Adventures of Roger Pocock (University of Alberta Press) and One Hundred Years of the Legion of Frontiersmen (currently out of print). You can visit his blog and website here.