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Archive for the 'History' Category

A Primer (of sorts) for Howard Days

Posted by indy on 2nd April 2014

The theme of Howard Days this year is Howard History, which relates to how much REH enjoyed re-writing history in the “guise of fiction”. The panels at HD this year will reflect that, and shown above is a new publication from the REH Foundation Press that could almost act as a primer for those attending Howard Days this year.

The SPEARS OF CLONTARF Typescript: Early Draft is now available through the REH Foundation’s website and will show you the way Bob Howard did indeed re-write historical events. For a fascinating facsimile look at an original REH typescript plus other goodies in a spiffy package, here’s the info:

To help celebrate the 1,000-year anniversary of the historic Battle of Clontarf—and Robert E. Howard’s interest in it—the REH Foundation is offering a facsimile version of an early draft of “Spears of Clontarf.” Also included is Howard’s letter to publisher Harry Bates and an introduction by Rusty Burke. Printed and shipped from Lulu printing, the paperback book is 8.5 X 11, perfect bound, with 36 pages. Cover art by John Watkiss.

Ordering information:

U.S. and Canadian residents pay $20 (REHF members $18), which includes postage.
Non-US residents pay $27 (REHF members $24), which includes postage.
Lulu shipping does not offer insurance, but if you would like tracking information on your order, U.S. and Canadian orders add $5; all others add $10.
To order, pay directly via PayPal at their website, Send the appropriate amount to Be sure to include a note explaining your order. To order via check (personal or cashier’s) or money order send to: The REH Foundation Press, PO Box 251242, Plano, TX 75025. ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE IN US DOLLARS. Be sure that all the necessary shipping information is included and accurate. NO FOREIGN MONEY ORDERS. Books will not be shipped prior to checks clearing the bank. If you have any questions or comments regarding pricing or shipping, please contact us at

Posted in History, Howard's Writing, REH Days, REH Foundation |

Happy Birthday, Ol’ Two-Gun!

Posted by indy on 22nd January 2014

January 22nd marks the 108th anniversary of the birth of Robert E. Howard.

Let’s everyone raise a toast of our favorite libation to his memory and honor the Legacy of what he left us by reading some of his words. You won’t go wrong on either account!

Happy birthday, Bob!

Serape 3

Posted in Biography, History, REH Celebration |

REH Word of the Week: Pathan

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 1st July 2013



1. A member of a Pashto-speaking people of eastern Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan, constituting the majority population of Afghanistan most of whom are Muslim in religion.

[origin: 1638; Hindi & Urdu Paṭhan, from Pashto (eastern dialect) Paxtana, plural of Paxtun]


Allah! . . . .
The long light lifts amain,
And down the cliffs the breezes start,
And in Zenana, Zanda’s heart
Turns to the Pathan hills again.

Black Himalaya!— desert girt,
Days gone a slim-limbed Afghan girl
Flung back a dark and vagrant curl
And mocked the wind that tore her skirt.

What if the silken curtains sway
And window bars be carven gold,
When Khyber skies are blue and cold,
And caravans wind up the way?

[from “A Song Out of the East”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 251 and Night Images, p. 41]

Posted in History, REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

REH Word of the Week: pinyon

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 24th June 2013



1. (var. piñon); Any of several pine trees bearing edible, nutlike seeds, especially Pinus edulis, of the western United States and Mexico. Also called nut pine.

[origin: Spanish piñón, pine nut, pine cone, augmentative of piña, from Latin p nea, from feminine of p neus, of pine, from p nus, pine tree; see pei – in Indo-European roots]


(Killed on the Tularosa River, New Mexico, 1878, in the bloody Lincoln County War.)

Buckshot Roberts was a Texas man;
(Blue smoke drifting from the pinyons on the hill.)
Exiled from the plains where his rugged life began.
(Buzzards circling low over old Blazer Mill.)

On the floor of ’dobe, dying, he lay,
Holding thirteen men at bay.
Thirteen men of the desert’s best,
True-born sons of the stark Southwest.
Men from granite and iron hewed—
Riding the trail of the Lincoln feud.

Fighters of iron nerve and will—
But they saw John Middleton lying still
In the thick dust clotted dark and brown,
Where Roberts’ bullet cut him down.

So they crouched in cover, on belly or knee,
Warily firing from bush and tree.
Even Billy the Kid held hard his hate,
Waiting his chance as a wolf might wait,
His cold gaze fixed on the brooding Mill
Where the black muzzle gleamed on the window sill.

They knew he had taken his mortal wound
And they waited like silent wolves around.
All but Dick Brewer who led the band:
His fury burned him like a brand.
Reckless he rose in his savage ire,
Stood in the open to aim and fire.

Roberts laughed in a ghastly croak,
His finger crooked and the old gun spoke.
Blue smoke spat and the whistling lead
Tore off the top of Brewer’s head.

The gnarled hands slid from the worn old gun;
A lark flashed up in the golden sun;
A mountain breeze went quivering past—
So he came to the long trail’s end at last.

[from “The Ballad of Buckshot Roberts”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 481]


Posted in History, REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

Strap Buckner: Breckinridge Elkins Prototype?

Posted by Jeff Shanks on 28th November 2011

Strap Buckner

In my recent Two-Gun Raconteur article on rough-and-tumble fighting I mentioned that one of the figures from Western folklore that might have been a model for Breckinridge Elkins was the Texas pioneer Strap Buckner (Shanks 51). As Buckner is not as well known today as other folk heroes like Paul Bunyon, John Henry, or Pecos Bill it is worth taking a closer look this legendary figure.

Aylett “Strap” Buckner was born around 1794 and was one of the Old Three Hundred, the first colonists that founded Austin in 1824. Much of the little we know about the historical Buckner comes from census records and his letters to Stephen Austin. He seems to have had an on-again off-again relationship with Austin, though ultimately the two became good friends. Buckner was an Indian fighter, but also helped negotiate treaties with the Waco and Kawatoni tribes. He was killed fighting the Mexican army at the Battle of Velasco in 1832 (“BUCKNER”).

Accounts say he was a giant of a man with fiery red hair and matching beard. His great size and strength became the stuff of legend among the early colonists in Texas and a body of folklore eventually began to develop around him. The earliest known written version of the folkloric Strap Buckner appears in the 1877 travelogue of Colonel Nathaniel Alston Taylor. Taylor arrived in Texas shortly before the Civil War and traveled all over the state by horseback, recording his observations on the lives and social conditions of the locals. He heard the story of Strap Buckner recounted by a young man near Buckner’s Creek in Fayette County (Dobie 119).

According to the account of Buckner recorded by Taylor, the big man had the odd habit of good-naturally knocking people down by slapping them on the back. It was said that he had knocked down everyone in Austin’s colony at least three times, including Stephen Austin himself. Although Buckner meant no real harm, his fellow colonists tired of his behavior and Buckner was forced to move away to the La Grange area. There he began to knock down all the members of the local Indian tribe, including the chief. This chief, however, instead of being angry, was impressed by Buckner’s strength and gave him a swift, bob-tailed gray mare as a gift, as well as bestowing upon him the name Red Son of Blue Thunder (Taylor 121-122). Other versions claim that the chief even offered Strap the hand of his daughter, Princess Tulipita, in marriage (“BUCKNER”).

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in History, Influences, Popular Culture, Sources |

REH Word of the Week: seven-up

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 24th October 2011



1. Seven-up also known as Old Sledge, is a card game derived from All Fours. It works well with three players, but is usually played by four in two fixed-partnerships. A standard deck of fifty-two cards is used.

There are four possible points per deal: High trump card, Low trump card, Jack of trumps and Game (highest point score in the game.) Points are awarded in the following order:

1. High: This is for being dealt the highest trump in play

2. Low: This is for being dealt the lowest trump in play. It doesn’t matter who wins the card in a trick. The point is awarded to the player or team that was dealt the lowest trump in that hand.

3. Jack: This point goes to the player or side that wins the Jack of Trumps in a trick.

4. Game: This point is awarded to the player or side that has the highest tally of valuable cards. (based on which player or side has won the greater number of kings, queens, jacks, aces and tens.)

Seven-up is played over several hands to an agreed total such as 7 or 10.

[origin: All Fours, also called Seven-up, is among the oldest extant card games in England. Its first known description was in Charles Cotton’s Compleat Gamester of 1674. The game was taken to America where it acquired other names such as Seven-Up, High-low, Jack or Old Sledge. According to Hoyle (August 1996) it was the favorite of the American gamester for a least a hundred years from the late 1700′s to the Civil war era. The game is still played in northwest England and Wales, and it has become the national game of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.]

The cartoon above shows All Fours being played in the presidential campaign of 1836. It was drawn by a satirist who was in sympathy with the Whigs. Opposing candidates Martin Van Buren (Democrat) and William Henry Harrison (Whig) face each other across a card table. Behind Van Buren stands his vice-presidential running mate Richard M. Johnson. Behind Harrison is incumbent President Andrew Jackson, who smokes a clay pipe and stands on tiptoes to spy on Harrison’s hand. With his left hand he signals to Van Buren. Jackson: “What a h–ll of a hand old Harrison’s got. I’m afraid Martin and Dick Johnson will go off with a flea in their ear.” Johnson: “The old general is making signs that Harrison has the two highest trump cards and low. Martin: “He’ll catch your Jack and then the jig’s up! You’d better beg.” Van Buren: “I ask one.” Harrison: “Take it! Now look out for your Jack!” On the wall above the table is a painting of the Battle of the Thames, one of Harrison’s celebrated military victories as well as the occasion on which Johnson is reported to have slain the Indian chief Tecumseh.


Carl gave a yell and dealt the cards unto the other chumps
And they all whooped with joyous glee when diamonds turned up trumps.
“High, jack and game is here, begad!” Pink** bellered with a scowl;
“You lie, you sot! You have it not!” Carl answered with a yowl.

Pink led the ace of trumps full soon, and “There,” said he, “is high!”
Carl followed suit, it was a trey, with a tough light in his eye.
Then Pink led out the queen of trumps and gave an ugly frown;
Carl snickered with unholy glee and laid a four spot down.

Pink swore full long and loud and rough and led the deuce of clubs;
Carl caught it with a king and said, “You’re all a lot of dubs.”
He led an ace and caught a king, “Here’s a game for me, egad!”
For many an ace and many a face the wicked scoundrel had.

And then an argument arose and loud was their abuse
And Pink got into lead again with a nine upon a deuce.
Then Pink laid down the diamond king and feinted with his right,
“Egad, that jack of yours will go, if it takes the rest of the night.”

Carl drank four pints of beer or so and at his hand he glanced—
He flung his cards at Stupid’s head and in his rage he danced.
Then with a curse that would, egad, clean freeze a camel’s humps,
Beside the king that Pink had led he put the jack of trumps.

Then long and loud the battle raged until the evening meal,
They punched each other in the nose and bit each other’s heel.
The battle lasted all that night; at last the field was clear,
And Pink had high and jack and game, and Carl was drunk on beer.

*Carl Macon and Pink, along with Robert E. Howard, were members of the “boardinghouse gang” while they were students at Howard Payne Commercial School. Pink was a nickname for REH’s friend, Lindsey Tyson.

[from “The Seven-Up Ballad”; to read the complete poem see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 604 and Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, p. 175]

Posted in History, REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

Robert E. Howard and The Outline of History by H. G. Wells

Posted by Jeff Shanks on 10th October 2011

A few months ago on the REHupa email list I brought up a question about The Outline of History by H.G. Wells and its presence in Howard’s library. For those who aren’t familiar with it, The Outline of History was a massive work by Wells that was essentially a macro-history of the world, from the formation of the earth to modern times. It was first published in a series of twenty-four soft-cover booklets in 1919, then in book form as a two-volume set in 1920. The Outline of History went through several significant revisions throughout Wells’s lifetime—particularly within the first few years of its publication—so for anyone attempting to look at the influence of this work on Howard’s fiction, it becomes very important to determine exactly which edition Howard had in his library.

Steve Eng’s list of Howard’s library in The Dark Barbarian records a four-volume set of The Outline of History with four individual accession numbers for the Howard Payne University library. As the set was no longer in the HPU holdings, no publication information was given to indicate which edition Howard owned other than to note that the four-volume version exists in numerous printings. When compiling the online version of the “Robert E. Howard Bookshelf,” Rusty Burke followed his standard practice of listing the earliest American edition for books no longer in the HPU holdings. For The Outline of History this is the 1920 two-volume 2nd edition published by Macmillan (the 1st edition being the 1919 serialized version). A 3rd revised edition was also published by Macmillan in 1921 in both single volume and two-volume versions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Biography, History, Howard's Writing, Influences |

REH Word of the Week: Lotus

Posted by Barbara Barrett on 19th September 2011


1. Lotuses are five species of water lilies, three in the genus Nymphaea and two in Nelumbo. Growing from the mud at the bottom of ponds and streams, the exquisite Lotus flower rises above the water and is usually white or pink with fifteen or more oval, spreading petals, and a peculiar, flat seedcase at its center.

The lotus has appeared in legends originating from ancient Egypt and played an important part in ancient Egyptian religion. For thousands of years it has also symbolized spiritual enlightenment. The Nymphaea lotus, the Egyptian white lotus, is believed to be the original sacred lotus of ancient Egypt. Along with the Egyptian blue lotus, N. caerulea, it was often pictured in ancient Egyptian art. The white lotus opens at dusk and blooms at night while the blue water lotus blooms during the day.

Recent, studies have shown that the blue lotus has mild psycho-active properties and can act as a mild sedative. It may have been used as a sacrament in ancient Egypt and certain ancient South American cultures.

The lotus with properties similar to that of the blue lotus also appears in Ancient Greek mythology. According to legend, the Lotophagi, or lotus eaters, were a race of people who lived on an island near Northern Africa. Their diet consisted mostly of the lotus plant and its flowers. The narcotic effect caused the people to sleep in peaceful apathy. In the Odyssey, some of Odysseus’ men go ashore on this island and eat of the lotus food. They forget about their homeland forcing Odysseus to drive them aboard the ship.

[origin: ca 1541; Latin & Greek; Latin lotus, from Greek lotos]


My beard is white and dim my sight and I would fain be gone.
Speak without guile: where lies the isle of mystic Avalon?”

“A league behind the western wind, a mile beyond the moon,
Where the dim seas roar on an unknown shore and the drifting stars lie strewn:
The lotus buds there scent the woods where the quiet rivers gleam,
And king and knight in the mystic light the ages drowse and dream.”
With sudden bound Falume wheeled round, he fled through the flying wrack
Till he came again to the land of Spain with the sunset at his back.
No dreams for me, but living free, red wine and battle’s roar;
I breast the gales and I ride the trails until I ride no more.”

[from “The Ride of Falume”; to read the complete poem, see The Collected Poetry of Robert E. Howard, p. 11 and Always Comes Evening, p. 25]

Posted in History, REH Poetry, Word of the Week |

Blown to Fragments — Pioneer, 1922

Posted by Rusty Burke on 14th September 2011

Robert E Howard was well aware of the dangers of working in the oil field. In a letter to August Derleth in July 1935, for instance, he relates two violent deaths that occurred on oil rigs, and many of his letters speak of the toughness of the oil field workers. In a December 1932 letter to H.P. Lovecraft, he mentioned one of the notable dangers of the oil patch: nitroglycerin.

“Again, the father of another friend, shooting an oil-well, having lowered the nitro-can, was horrified to see it shoot out of the shaft, having been expelled by a gas-pocket. There was but one thing to be done, and he did it. He grasped the ‘can’ firmly in his arms in midair, and held on, cradling it with his body. That took quick thinking, but it also took unusual bodily strength. Had the ‘can’ escaped his arms, struck against the timbers or fallen on the floor, the impact would have set it off and blown to bits the rig and everybody in it. It’s a wonder it didn’t anyway. But there was one of many cases where a keen mind tied to powerful muscles saved human lives.”

Now, it’s probable that this story is a prime piece of hyperbole, meant simply to nail down Howard’s point about the need for physical strength for survival, against HPL’s view that the work of the mind was far more important. Nevertheless, nitroglycerin was used in drilling (once the drills hit solid rock, they needed some help in busting it up, so explosives were dropped into the hole), and it added yet another element of danger to an already chancy business.

Rambling through old issues of the Cross Plains Review, I came across this story, from August 11, 1922, which amply illustrates the dangers.

Fatal Nitro-Glycerin Explosion in Pioneer Field — Mangled Bodies Picked Up

The most disastrous accident that has happened in the local oil field occurred at the Texas Company camp about one mile northeast of Pioneer at 11 o’clock last Saturday morning [i.e., August 5] when a large quantity of nitroglycerin exploded in the midst of the shacks and tents that were occupied by the oil field workers and their families. W.D. Massengale, the nearest victim to the explosion and who was handling the trecherous [sic] fluid, was literally blown into fragments. Portions of his body were picked up over an acre of space surrounding the spot where the explosion occurred. Eight others, including women and children, were most seriously injured.

Mistaking the can of nitroglycerin for linseed oil was the cause of the tragedy. Mr. Massengale was a teamster and it is reported that he secured the nitroglycerin from one of the nearest deserted wells of the field, believing the fluid was linseed oil, which he intended using as a saturant on the wheels of his wagon to protect them against the dry weather. He had placed one of the wagon wheels in a pan and was applying the fluid, which it is reported he had previously heated on a cook stove, when the disasterous [sic] explosion occurred. all [sic] the nearby shacks and tents completely wrecked or damaged and the mangled bodies of the victims were picked up in every direction from the explosion. Fragments of Mr. Massengale’s body were still being found and buried late Sunday afternoon.

 (Note: picture is NOT from Pioneer, it’s an image borrowed from the Web. But you get the idea….)

Posted in Cross Plains, History |

REH Word of the Week: caballero

Posted by Jeff Shanks on 5th September 2011


1. a Spanish gentleman; a cavalier
2. a man who is skilled in riding and managing horses; a horseman.

[from Spanish: gentleman, horseman, from Late Latin caballārius rider, horse groom, from caballus horse]


Then Steve yelped in exultation as his pick rang on a bit of metal. He snatched it up and held it close to his eyes, straining in the waning, light. It was caked and corroded with rust, worn almost paper-thin, but he knew it for what it was–a spur-rowel, unmistakably Spanish with its long cruel points. And he halted, completely bewildered. No Spaniard ever reared this mound, with its undeniable marks of aboriginal workmanship. Yet how came that relic of Spanish caballeros hidden deep in the packed soil?

[From “The Horror from the Mound,” originally published in Weird Tales May 1932; to read the complete story see The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard (Del Rey 2008), pp. 185-199.]

Posted in History, Howard's Writing, Weird Tales, Word of the Week |