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Daniel Buck
buscando buscadero
Mon Jun 18, 2018 5:58am

Below is a letter I posted to True West back in 2006 re tangled roots of the word the word "buscadero" --do not recall if the letter was published -- followed by a later note to myself with more info.

Dear Editor,

In reference to "Buscadero Bio" [June 2006], as far as I've been able to figure it out, the first writer to use the word "buscadero" in English was Eugene Cunningham, in his 1934 book, TRIGGERNOMETRY. He took an obscure Spanish word, once used in the California gold fields to mean "prospector," and transplanted it to Wyoming as a synonym for outlaw.

Seemingly out of nowhere, buscadero appears half-a-dozen times in his chapter on Butch Cassidy, as [if] it's standard northern-Rockies lingo. I doubt it.

Ramon F. Adams, in WESTERN WORDS; A DICTIONARY OF THE AMERICAN WEST (1968), is closer to the mark, saying that "buscadero" was Southwest talk for lawman, later gunman. A Madrid-born Spanish professor told me that "buscadero" is also obsolete, colloquial Spanish for brothel. Regardless, by 1935 the word was familiar enough that Western writer Lee Bond had titled two short stories, "Buscadero Bullets" and "Buscadero Buster."

So how did the word migrate to gun rigs? Cunningham again. Per ED McGIVEN'S BOOK ON FAST AND FANCY REVOLVER SHOOTING AND POLICE TRAINING (1938), Cunningham inspired El Paso saddle-maker Samuel D. Myres to name his two-gun belts "buscaderos."

Not so fast. Cunningham himself, in TRIGGERNOMETRY, says Myres came up with the name, although the rig itself was based on one developed by Captain John R. Hughes of the Texas Rangers.

Daniel Buck

After I posted that letter, THDF poster Ann Collier found "buscadero" in Carl Meyer's NACH DEM SACRAMENTO (1855), an account of his travels in Mexico and California. Meyer described a caravan of Mexicans and Chileans bound from Mexico to the California gold fields as "gambucinos or buscaderos to seek gold." A "gambucino" is a low-level prospector, akin to a scavenger or itinerant prospector.

More recently -- that is today -- I found that Cunningham used the word even before TRIGGERNOMETRY, in the short story "Empty Sixes," published in a West Virginia newspaper in 1932. A character describes Sam Bass as "a tinhorn pennie ante buscadero." Take that Sam.

Did Cunningham somehow scavenge buscadero from 19th century California mining slang? Or did he confuse "buscar," to search, with "emboscar," to ambush? Who knows.

What if Cunningham had lit on "gambucino" rather that "buscadero"? Would the two-gun rigs today be known as "gambucinos"?


  • Re: Another point on the Logan Laramie sighting.Vince Garcia, Mon Jun 18 2:28am
    They must have because the report says he had a gun "strapped to each hip." Not a hard thing to do--just use two holsters, though the left might face backwards unless they had left-handed holsters,... more
    • buscando buscadero — Daniel Buck, Mon Jun 18 5:58am
      • Dan, please email...Deborah , Tue Jun 19 12:55pm
        Dan, we exchanged email a few years ago. I've lost your email address but hopefully you'll see this. I have questions. Thanks. P.S. I don't bite! Seems to be a lot of that here...
        • I will drop you a line (nm)Daniel Buck, Tue Jun 19 12:58pm
        • OopsDeborah , Tue Jun 19 12:56pm
          I thought my address would post but I don't see it. It is
      • Good Stuff Mark A Mszanski, Tue Jun 19 7:27am
        Dan, A monthly music magazine in Italy among the fray - A BIO Good Stuff - thanks for this . Sincerely,
        • Re: Good Stuff Daniel Buck, Tue Jun 19 12:35pm
          Thanks. The Italians have a long love affair with the American movie Western, Sergio Leone -- -- and all that. Dan
      • Re: buscando buscaderoVince Garcia, Mon Jun 18 5:01pm
        Fascinating. One holster site claims the holster originated in the 20s, which is what i had heard but I wouldn't know past what I've heard... more
        • Re: buscando buscaderoDaniel, Mon Jun 18 6:30pm
          Vince, Yes, I've seen that site. He has no source, but in any event we are dealing with two separate issues, the history of the rig itself, and the use of the word buscadero to describe it. The rig... more
          • Re: buscando buscaderoVince Garcia, Mon Jun 18 7:24pm
            I can say this--i have owned or seen many, many 1890s/early 1900s holsters. I have never seen a Buscadero from that era
    • I would have thought Logan was a kind of guy who would have preferred a shoulder holster as a back up - perhaps a modern Colt Model 1903 pistol pocket hammerless - in order to squeeze off a few... more
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