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Always A Cowboy

In June 1879, an intriguing interview with Texas Jack Omohundro appeared in the Cleveland Evening Post, providing a glimpse into the legendary scout and actor's future plans. The interview, conducted just a year before Jack's untimely death, suggests that he was seriously considering a return to the cowboy life he had so famously portrayed on stage. With his time in the limelight drawing to a close, Texas Jack intended to trade the applause of the theater for the wide open ranges of the West, raising cattle and living out his days in the open air.





The Interview: A Window into Jack's Intentions

 

From the Cleveland Evening Post, June 4, 1879:


Texas Jack


Texas Jack is in town.  Jack is somewhat known to fame as a prairie scout and guide, and it was by his general appearance that a reporter recognized him as he was playing a game of billiards in Richards’ Tuesday afternoon.  The big sombrero hat and long hair betrayed this Western celebrity at once and the newspaper man finally ventured to engage him in conversation:


“You have left the government service, I believe?”


“Yes, nine years in its employment was enough for me. After looking around, I found an agreeable change that afforded me more satisfaction.”


“You refer to the stage?”


“Not exactly.  I can’t say that I am satisfied with acting as a profession.  Indeed, it has so little attraction for me now that I have made up my mind to appear on the boards no more after this season.”


“Will your wife withdraw also?”


“Yes, we will remain in the West where I will engage in the business of cattle raising.”


“Who are the squatters that are raising such a disturbance in the Indian Territory at present?”


“I know a good many of them to be deserters from the United States Army--a desperate set of me who will risk a good deal but who are judicious enough to keep out of the clutches of Uncle Sam.  I do not think there will be much difficulty in riding the Territory of them, now that troops are investigating the matter.”


“Do you think we will have any serious Indian troubles this coming season?”


“No, nothing more than a few brushes that will hardly be noticed.”


“What do you think of Sitting Bull?”


“I think for some time to come he will stay where he is.”


“In Canada?”


“Yes.”


“How many Sioux are with him?”


“About three thousand.”


The reporter, who had already occupied a good deal of the scout’s time now thanked him and withdrew.


 

The interview begins with Jack's confirmation that he had left the government service, a career in the Confederate Army in Virginia, driving government cattle and tending government horses in Texas, and scouting for the United States Army out of Fort McPherson, Nebraska. This combined stint of service had spanned nine years and seen him through numerous adventures as a scout and guide. However, his foray into acting, while initially appealing, had lost its charm. Jack declared to the reporter, "I have made up my mind to appear on the boards no more after this season." This declaration was not just a fleeting thought but a concrete plan that included his wife, Giuseppina Morlacchi, who would also retire from the stage to join him in the West.



Jack's dissatisfaction with acting was clear: "I can’t say that I am satisfied with acting as a profession. Indeed, it has so little attraction for me now that I have made up my mind to appear on the boards no more after this season." His longing for a return to the West was palpable, driven by a desire to engage in the business of cattle raising. This was not a whimsical fantasy but a strategic decision grounded in his experiences and explorations the previous summer.


Exploring the Bighorn Basin: A Foreshadowing of Future Plans


In the summer of 1878, Texas Jack had ventured into the Bighorn Basin, scouting the area and showcasing its potential to Otto Franc, a German immigrant who would later establish the Pitchfork Ranch in Meeteetse, Wyoming. Jack's familiarity with the land and his enthusiasm for its suitability for cattle raising hinted at his own aspirations. The Bighorn Basin, with its fertile grounds and abundant resources, was an ideal location for establishing a ranch.


A Partnership with Otto Franc?


Given Jack's plans and his exploration of the Bighorn Basin, it is plausible to speculate that he might have intended to follow in Franc's footsteps or perhaps even partner with him. Jack's experience, reputation, and fame would have made him a valuable asset in any cattle-raising venture. His skills as a cowboy and scout, coupled with his charismatic personality, could have complemented Franc's practical knowledge, available capital, and entrepreneurial spirit.


However, this partnership remained unrealized. Jack's vision of a tranquil life raising cattle in the West was tragically cut short. In 1880, just a year after the Cleveland Evening Post interview, Texas Jack succumbed to a combination of tuberculosis and pneumonia in Leadville, Colorado. His dreams of returning to the cowboy life and establishing a ranch never came to fruition.





Legacy and Unfulfilled Potential


Texas Jack's death marked the end of an era, but his legacy as a pioneer of the cowboy image on stage and his contributions to the mythos of the American West endure. His final dreams of a peaceful life raising cattle serve as a poignant reminder of the rugged individualism and adventurous spirit that defined him.


In the twilight of his life, Texas Jack Omohundro yearned for the simplicity and authenticity of the cowboy life he had left behind for the stage. His plans to quit acting and return to the West reflect a deep-rooted connection to the land and a desire to live out his days in the open air. While fate had other plans, Jack's story remains a testament to the enduring allure of the cowboy life and the indomitable spirit of one of the West's most iconic figures.


For those intrigued by Texas Jack's adventures and legacy, "Texas Jack: America's First Cowboy Star" offers a comprehensive look into his life, capturing the essence of a man who straddled the worlds of reality and myth with unparalleled grace. Explore more about Texas Jack and his contributions to the American West by checking out the book here:





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