Deep Trails in the Old West: A Frontier Memoir

Written by Frank Clifford
Review by Jo Ann Butler

Born in 1860, John Menham Wightman came to Cimarron, New Mexico, at the age of eleven. Seventy years – and several name changes later – Frank Wallace, a retired councilman in Emporia, Kansas, left an account of tales that he’d never told his family: 20 years drifting across Texas and New Mexico’s high plains and parched mountains.

Frank never explained why he’d changed his name so many times, but as Frank Clifford, he was hired to ride with the Canadian River Cattle Association to break up Billy the Kid’s cattle-rustling gang. Fresh eyewitness accounts from Billy the Kid’s day are hard to come by, but Deep Trails in the Old West is one of them.

Clifford’s transcribed memoirs, edited and scrupulously annotated by Frederick Nolan, are the most entertaining Western yarns I’ve read since Mark Twain’s Roughing It. I highly recommend Deep Trails in the Old West to any reader who enjoys stories well told and wants to learn what the Wild West was really like from one who lived there.