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Love's Life


It isn't easy to sum up the life of a man such as Nat Love into a few pages, seeing as he has himself done such an excellent job of telling us his story.  Nonetheless, we will try and provide an accurate portrait, so that those who do not have the pleasure of reading his book will have a better idea of who he was, and why he was so important.

Nat Love was born a slave in 1854, only 7 years before the beginning of the Civil War.  Nat tells of his early days (CHAPTER I) When his family was freed from bondage, along with thousands others following Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, Nat Love was still a very young man, ready to start living a new life out west, where he heard he could find work as a cowhand. In the sixth chapter (CHAPTER VI) of his book, Nat Love tells of the beginnings of his life as a cowhand.

Nat Love found work in Dodge City, Kansas, as part of a group of cowboys called the Duval outfit, and it wasn't long until he began to show his talent as a cowboy, roping and herding cattle and learning to shoot his Colt .45 revolver.  Love later reluctantly left his companions,  joining another outfit called the Pete Gallinger company, which offered better pay.

At the age of 22, the now experienced Love showed off his skills at the 4th of July Roping contest in in the town of Deadwood, South Dakota. There, Nat Love impressed the crowds with his roping technique, setting the 9 minute record, and earning the moniker "Deadwood Dick".   One interesting detail here is that many others also shared that name,  which was taken from a popular series of adventure novels.  Love was proclaimed "Champion Roper of the Western Cattle Country.", and he would become the most famous Deadwood Dick in history, a name which he was proud of the the extent of defending it with his own life.

That same day, Nat Love also impressed onlookers with his shooting skills, putting 14 bullets into the bull's eye of a target, all of them shot from the hip,  while other contestants could only manage 8 at best.   That day, not only did Nat Love gain fame, but also fortune, walking away with a $200.00 purse; the kind of money that could go a long way in making sure a black cowboy would get equal treatment during his stay in town.

Whether these stories, which abound in his autobiography are fact, or just tall tales, they are nonetheless entertaining, and inspiring.


Excerpts from the electronic edition of The Life and Adventures of Nat Love Better Known in the Cattle Country as "Deadwood Dick" by Himself; a True History of  Slavery Days, Life on the Great Cattle Ranges and on the Plains of the "Wild and Woolly" West, Based on Facts, and Personal Experiences of the Author, are the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The full electronic edition, which also includes original illustrations of this text may be viewed here. All other text and graphics on this website are 2002 http://www.natlove.com Send mail to webmaster@natlove.com
Last modified: October 18, 2002