Nat Love: The Real Life Deadwood Dick

Nat (pronounced Nate) Love was born into slavery around 1854 in Tennessee. He learned to read and write with help from his father, despite the statutes which outlawed Black literacy. When slavery was overturned, his family stayed on the plantation as sharecroppers with 20 acres of land. After his father died, he took on another job at another farm to help the family. He had a noted gift for breaking horses (training them), and after taking on odd jobs, he won a horse in a raffle, which he sold back for $50. He took his newly earned money, and at the age of 16, headed west.

Nat arrived in Dodge City, Kansas where he worked with the Duval Ranch as a cowboy. He learned to be a master marksman, and fought cattle rustlers, which earned him the nickname ‘Red River Dick’. In 1872, he moved to Arizona, and worked the cattle drives there.

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When driving a heard of cattle into Deadwood, Dakota Territory, he happened upon a rodeo contest in which one had to, rope, tie, bridle, saddle and bronco ride. Nat won every tournament which earned him the nickname ‘Deadwood Dick’, based on a dime novel character created by author Edward Lytton Wheeler.

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After 20 years of being a cowboy, Nat decided to leave the life. He settled down and married his wife, Alice in 1889, then eventually became a Pullman Porter the next year while in Denver. While he worked the railroad, his family lived in many states out West before eventually landing in Los Angeles. In 1907, Nat published his autobiography Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as ‘Deadwood Dick’ by Himself. He spent his later years as a courier and security guard in Los Angeles, where he died at the age of 67.

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