The genesis of “Gunslingers” can be traced to the weather conditions in north Texas in the summer of 1877. The region had been victimized by a two year drought that saw extreme heat dominate the area from Arizona through New Mexico, Texas and the Oklahoma territory.
The most notable event from the summer of 1877 was known as the Buffalo Soldier Tragedy of 1877 when U. S. Cavalry troops from the 10th Cavalry, accompanied by several buffalo hunters, wandered for days in the arid north-west Llano Estacado region of Texas leading to the deaths of several men from dehydration and heat exposure. The deaths were initially blamed on an Indian attack due to the army’s prior response to sporadic Indian raids across the territory.
In addition to human deaths, the lack of water caused by the severe drought decimated the cattle herds of the big beef producing ranchers. Because of the heavy loss of cattle, outlaws pounced on the opportunity and increased their rustling, turning their livestock contraband into huge payoffs. In order to combat the rustlers, cattlemen employed gunfighters to ride guard on their pastures and subsequent cattle drives. The added security from the big ranches led to an increase in rustling of the small to medium ranch herds. One of these raids on a small rancher’s herd begins the story of “Gunslingers.”
Unlike the wealthy ranchers of the time, Joel Thornton is in the early stages of developing his herd trying to balance the growth of his stock with the need to earn money from selling what he can. This need for increased money is emphasized by the return of his daughter, Elizabeth. After spending seven years back east with family members after her mother’s death, she returns home during this perilous time in history.
Immediately after the events of the raid at her father’s ranch, financially unable to employ gunfighters, she seeks out her father’s friend, retired U. S. Deputy Marshal Ben Chance in the hope that he’ll agree to recover the herd. Because of a series of unrelated events unbeknownst to Elizabeth, she receives more assistance than she hoped for.