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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”).

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Posted in History, Influences, Popular Culture, Sources |

The Boom of 2009

Posted by indy on 24th May 2009

By the hoary beard of Crom, it continues to be a great time to be a fan (and collector) of Robert E. Howard! With REH Days staring us in the kisser, there has been a deluge of recent REH publishing and good stuff, the likes of which continually perpetuates the ongoing interest in Robert E. Howard. (Insert deep sigh of satisfaction from here in Northwest Cimmeriana…)

Undoubtedly, the most important bit of Howard publishing that has impacted us all in the last few years is the publishing of the three volumes of THE COLLECTED LETTERS, followed by THE COLLECTED POEMS. When the Robert E. Howard Foundation was created, its main goal was to perpetuate the Legacy of REH. These four books go such a long way into furthering Howard scholarship and the understanding of  Howard the Writer as Howard the Man. And the Foundation has much more coming – Howard’s well is not bottomless, but it is damn deep! And the Foundation is letting us all have a drink!

I am greatly encouraged by not only the professional publishing going on, but how the trend of REH fan activity is paying off in the name of Robert E. Howard. It does my heart good to see the interest in Ol’ Two-Gun is not fading, as some had feared after the incredible Centennial Year we had for REH in 2006. If anything, the studying, discussion and enjoyment of Bob Howard’s work is intensifying. (Deep sigh #2…)

Here are some specifics, starting with the pro stuff. (And no doubt some other info will pop up soon, so consider this list a work in progress.)

REH is finally getting his own book in the Penguin Classics series: HEROES IN THE WIND is a 400 page tome that will indeed give REH some lit creds. Wandering Star and Book Palace Books have announced the upcoming publication of the long-awaited deluxe edition of  THE CONQUERING SWORD OF CONAN. Finally, those magnificent Greg Manchess paintings in full color! Prion Books in the UK has recently come out with a fully illustrated public domain book of CONAN stories. ( The leather & guilded cover Gollancz version of  THE COMPLETE CHRONICLES OF CONAN is now available in bookstores as a monster-sized paperback with fake leather cover. Simon Sanahujas has recently published CONAN THE TEXAN, his photojournalistic account of his travels in Bob Howard’s Texas with photographer Gwen Dubourthoumieu. And Barbara Barrett brings us THE WORDBOOK, a word index for the huge COLLECTED POEMS OF REH volume, via the REHF Press.

Speaking of the REH Foundation, their publishing plans are still ongoing, and a quarterly NEWSLETTER is available for members. The Newsletter is not only filled with REH news, but with exclusive REH material also, and extra chapbook goodies periodically. Well worth the yearly membership fee – hint hint. (

More “fan” activity (actually “Semi-pro” endeavors) is coming from Damon Sasser with the June release of REH: TWO-GUN RACONTEUR #13. This magazine is a wonderful mix of Howard writing, essays, articles and great artwork that should be in the collections of all Howard Fans. Check it out at THE DARK MAN, the Howard literary journal, will publish V4N2, also in June. ( Dennis McHaney has announced the revised edition of  THE MAN FROM CROSS PLAINS will debut at REH Days 2009 in Cross Plains, and be available through the Howard House Gift Shop. Said gift shop also has an exclusive poetry volume now available, A WORD FROM THE OUTER DARK. And don’t forget that Leo Grin still has copies of  his magnificent THE CIMMERIAN Howard journal available over at

In conjunction with Robert E. Howard Days, there will be a special REH Day at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Jacksonville, Florida. Nice to see REH activity not limited to Central Texas on June 13!

And word has just come that the Cross Plains Review, Howard’s hometown newspaper, has begun serializing the Breckenridge Elkins stories in their weekly edition. (No website or e-mail, but you can subscribe via phone – 254/725-6111 or write for info). This will give quite a boost to Howard’s literary reputation and give him some just due in the town where all his wonderful work was created.

As you can see, there’s a hell of a lot going on in the name of Robert E. Howard, and if there’s more – please let me know. It’s great fun keeping up with “What’s Happening with REH”, but it’s sometimes a daunting task. And I haven’t even delved into games & movies and other media sensations! Robert E. Howard Days 2009 (click on the bar at the top of this page for complete updated info) is less than three weeks away, and we’re going to run a “What’s Happening” panel there – no doubt there’ll be more news to add then.

Hope to see some of youse mugs there, and let’s keep the torch lit.

Posted in Howard's Writing, news, Popular Culture, REH Days, Sources |

REH and HPL – The Letters

Posted by indy on 27th July 2008

Hot off the e-mail presses comes this announcement:

In a very welcome turn of events, Hippocampus Press will publish the
correspondence of famed weird fictioneers H. P. Lovecraft and Robert
E. Howard. Both sides of the correspondence will be presented,
allowing readers to follow the intense and often heady exchange of
ideas between these two titans of literature. Meticulously edited and
exhaustively annotated by reigning Howardian and Lovecraftian
scholars Burke, Joshi, and Schultz, and presented with appropriate
indices and appendices, this release marks a milestone in the study
of both Howard and Lovecraft.

The letters will be published in a limited edition two-volume
hardcover set, with Smythe-sewn signatures and illustrated dust
wrapper, and with each volume individually shrink-wrapped.

The Letters of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard
Edited by Rusty Burke, S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz
2009: 2 volume set (individual volumes not sold separately)
ISBN: 978-0-9814888- 0-6
Price $100.00 / Pre-publication discount price: $90.00

http://www.hippocam puspress. com

Looks like 2009 will continue to be a great time to be a fan of Robert E. Howard!

Posted in Biography, Howard's Writing, news, Sources |

A Compact German Machine Gun

Posted by morgan on 18th May 2008

Those of you smart enough to buy The Last of the Trunk should find something for everyone. I was blown away with the story given the title “The Man Who Went Back.” They say great minds think alike. John Pendragon is a Howard hero that unfortunately never got his full due.

“Raised in an Anglo-Saxon Land, speaking an English tongue, he grew up an alien to the people about him; he was, in his own mind, a Briton – one with his ancestors.”

As you can guess from my first name which is Brythonic Celtic that means “Sea Dweller” and a last name of Cymric origin which means the Holly bush, I have had similar thoughts.

“The Man Who Went Back” is a science fiction story involving time travel. The opening has similarities to Almuric. I don’t know when this fragment was written but it is similar in tone to the interplanetary adventure. Here is a great part:

“The next night he faced Professor Worley in the scientist’s study. Worley gaped in amazement. On Pendragon’s back ws strapped a bulky case and about his waist were belts with buttoned flaps. ‘A machine gun,’ said John Pendragon grimly. ‘A little souvenir of a South American revolution I managed to salvage from the ruin when our little rebellion failed. It’s a German gun –remarkably compact. And I know how to use it. I’m not going into a youner age unprepared.’ ”

The mention of a “compact” machine gun made me take notice. The light machine guns of WWII were in developement in Howard’s time but not yet in service. The U.S. Army did have the Browning Automatic Rifle which had good firepower but lacked a large enough magazine. The water cooled Maxim/Vickers machine guns used in WWI were still the norm, but you need crews to move them and run them. There were a couple of submachineguns around. The Thompson submachinegun just missed WWI but found use in gang wars during Prohibition and by the U.S. Marines in “Banana Wars” of Haiti and Nicarauga. The other submachinegun was of German origin and used in 1918 by the Wehrmacht Stormtroopers- the MP18. This was the first submachinegun used in combat and effective enough that the Versailles Treaty forbid the German Army from possessing it. There were variations including an MP22, MP28, and MP34. These submachineguns are known as “Bergmanns” (after Theodor Bergmann) or Schmeissers (after Hugo Schmeisser). The MP22 for example by produced by S.I.G. in Switzerland under the direction of Bergmann. Hugo Schmeisser made changes in the gun that resulted in the MP34 which was used by the German Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War. A number of nations bought these submachineguns including Denmark, Belgium, Finland, China, and Japan. Calibers used included 9 mm, 7.63 (used by China which had the “Broomhandle” Mauser pistol of this caliber), and 7.65 (Finland, a very fast bullet).

Unfornately, this story ended when Pendragon arrived in Dark Ages Britain. To give an idea of conditions at the time, I love to quote Gwyn Jones from A History of the Vikings: “By an interesting survival the Welsh and Gaelic speakers of the Island of Britain have preserved to our own day their ancient usage, Saesneg, and Sassenach, words not entirely without savour of Teutonic piracy and barbarism.”

The ancestors of today’s English were Germanic barbarians schooled in warfare from fighting both in and against Roman armies and probably in Hunnish armies also. Some scholars think that when the Saxons would conquer a section of Britain that 50-90% of the native population was exterminated or expelled. For more on this read Peter Beresford Ellis’ Celt and Saxon. Ethnic cleansing of Devon for example is well documented in the early 10th century. Robert E. Howard intuitively knew this which showed up in letters and stories. A shame he didn’t finish this story as I was ready to see a Saxon shield wall get mowed down with 9 mm bullets.

Posted in Howard's Writing, Sources |

A Master of the Pen

Posted by Rusty Burke on 30th October 2007


My sister threw down the book she was reading. To be exact, she threw it at me.

“Foolishness!” said she. “Fairy tales! Hand me that copy of Michael Arlen.”

I did so mechanically, glancing at the volume which had incurred her youthful displeasure. The story was “The Shining Pyramid” by Arthur Machen.

“My dear girl,” said I, “this is a masterpiece of outre literature.”

Thus begins Robert E. Howard’s story “The Little People,” a tale featuring the loathsome underground dwellers who became fixtures of Howard’s oeuvre. As this passage suggests, Howard’s conception of these degenerate survivors of a long-ago race of surface dwellers owes much to the work of Welsh author Arthur Machen. Howard made clear his admiration for Machen’s work, and cited “The Novel of the Black Seal” (from the book The Three Imposters) as one of “the three master horror-tales” (along with Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” and Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu”).

John J. Miller
, who has previously written about H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard for the Wall Street Journal (and who recently interviewed me for National Review Online), has now turned his attention to this “master of the pen” who influenced both great weird fictionists. Quite a suitable Halloween treat for lovers of “outre literature”!

And it might be noted that there is also a Machen connection with the venue at which REHupa’s Texan members (and guests) will convene on Saturday, November 3: the Dog & Duck — it’s the title of a collection of Machen’s journalistic pieces.

Be sure to check out Leo Grin’s comments at The Cimmerian, as well. For further information on Machen, try the Friends of Arthur Machen.

Posted in Popular Culture, Sources |