The west was full of famous cowboys and cowgirls, and I love when I stumble upon one I’d never heard about. While researching the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad for a work in progress, I came across Nat “Deadwood Dick” Love.
Born in Tennessee around 1854, Nat (pronounced Nate) Love was granted his ‘freedom’ from slavery in 1863. His father died shortly thereafter, and Nat took on odd jobs until he won a horse in a raffle at the age of 15. Then he headed west.
In Dodge City, Kansas, he found his dream job—that of being a cowboy. He asked a trail boss out of Texas, Bronco Jim, for a job. Bronco said he’d hire Nat, only if he could break a horse named Good Eye—the wildest horse in the outfit.
Nat later said that was the toughest ride of his life, but he broke the horse and was hired for $30 a month. Driving cattle north wasn’t an easy task, but Nat loved it. He soon became an accomplished cowboy in riding, roping, and marksmanship.
1n 1876 while in Deadwood, South Dakota, Nat participated in a rodeo and won all seven of the contests he’d entered. After winning the roping and wild horseback events, he placed 14 out of 14 shots in the center of a target at 250 yards. His accomplishments that day gave him the nickname “Deadwood Dick”.
A year later, while rounding up mavericks Nat was captured by a band of Pima in Arizona. Eventually, he stole a pony and escaped back into Texas. He said his life had been spared because of his fighting abilities, but later, in the biography he published in 1907, he wrote his life had probably been spared because he’d been too scared to fight. Those had been the first hostile Indians he’d ever encountered.
After the cattle drives, Nat spent several years working as a Porter on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad before he passed away in California in 1921 at the age of 67.