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Daniel Buck
Roger Pocockís Great Ride: Robbers Roost or not?
Fri Feb 16, 2018 6:32am
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Roger Pocockís Great Ride: Robbers Roost or not?, continued: the details of his route from Fort Macleod, Alberta, to Mexico City come to us chiefly from his 1903 autobiography, A Frontiersman, published later that same year in the United States as Following the Frontier, and from Geoffrey Pocockís 2007 biography, Outrider of Empire: The Life & Adventures of Roger Pocock, 1885 Ė 1941. Geoffey (no known relation to Roger) based his account of the ride on Rogerís autobiography.

In his account Roger suggestively gave his readers the idea that he had entered the furthest reaches of Robbers Roost, and in mentioning Butch Cassidy and Tom McCarty Ė spelled McCarthy Ė left an impression with the casual reader that he might even had met and talked with them. Geoffrey accepted Rogerís visit to the Robbers Roost cabin headquarters as fact, and as well that he had met Cassidy and McCarty.

Although itís fairly clear to anyone but the most inattentive reader that Roger never said he met Cassidy and McCarty, he does strongly suggest that he had penetrated the inner sanctum of Robbers Roost because he pinpointed its location and described its cabin nerve center in detail. A skeptical reader might have noticed that Roger, for all his decorative particulars about the Roost, never actually said in so many words that he set foot there. If however the reader arrived at the conclusion that he had trod the Roost, Roger would undoubtedly have not objected.

It turns out that Roger Pocock kept a daily itinerary of his 3,600 mile ride, notes scribbled in pencil chronologically, including where and how many miles he went every day. These itineraries, along with Rogerís scrapbooks and maps, were obtained by the University of Alberta library a decade or so ago. Itís unclear if Geoffrey knew of their existence, or if he did whether he consulted them.

The recent revival of interest in the Great Ride here at OWR reminded me that back in 2008 a University of Alberta librarian had planned on consulting the collection and writing an account of the Great Ride. I made an inquiry and found out that he had retired a few years ago without as far as I know publishing anything, and so I requested copies of the pertinent itineraries.

The recent revival of interest in the Great Ride here at OWR reminded me that back in 2008 a University of Alberta librarian had planned on consulting the collection and writing an account of the Great Ride. I made an inquiry and found out that he had retired a few years ago without as far as I know publishing anything, and so I requested copies of the pertinent itineraries.

Long story short, Roger Pocock did not enter Robbers Roost. In his autobiography he suggested he did. In his itineraries he told a different tale: In September 1899, Roger rode through western Colorado, south/southwest from Fruita and Grand Junction, crossed the Dolores River, angled southwest across the southeast corner of Utah, to Monticello, on to Bluff, and from there into Arizona, where he headed southwest to Grand Canyon. In his book, Roger said that upon arriving in Monticello he attempted without success to hire a guide to take him to Robbers Roost, but then went on to describe the Roost and its central cabin in so much granular detail one could be excused for thinking he had plunged in on his own. In his scribbled itinerary, however, Roger notes his arrival in Monticello on September 11, a rest layover (logging zero miles) on the 12th, and a two-day ride to Bluff on the 13th and 14th (51 miles), followed by another rest day. The 16th heís on his way to Arizona.

Bob Goodwin knows the region far better than I and has looked at the same itineraries, so he might have his own observations. Dan

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