Texas John Slaughter (TV series)
Texas John Slaughter is a western television series which aired seventeen episodes between 1958 and 1961 as part of The Wonderful World of Disney, starring Tom Tryon in the title role. The character was based upon an actual historical figure, Texas Ranger John Horton Slaughter. Tryon memorably wore an enormous white cowboy hat with the brim pinned up in the front as part of his wardrobe for the series.
The beginning theme song for the series includes the lines:
"Texas John Slaughter made 'em do what they oughta, and if they didn't, they died."
The historical Slaughter was actually born in Sabine Parish in western Louisiana and spent most of his career as a sheriff, state representative, and cattleman in Cochise County in southern Arizona, where he died in 1922, having created the large San Bernardino Ranch, which in 1964 was declared a National Historic Landmark. Slaughter earlier served in the Confederate Army and was a Texas Ranger in San Antonio.
After the war, Slaughter and his brothers engaged in cattle partnerships and drove herds from Texas into New Mexico, Kansas, California, and Mexico, having collected "strays" along the way. Some sources indicate that the real Slaughter spent more time playing poker than he did raising cattle or in the pursuit of the lawless element. Dedicated to the game of chance, he frequently beat the cattle king John Chisum at cards. In 1876, Slaughter was playing poker in San Antonio with cattle rustler Barney Gallagher and several other men when Slaughter noticed that Gallagher had marked cards and appeared ready to claim the pot. Suddenly, Slaughter grabbed the money, backed out the door, mounted his horse, and rode away. Gallagher pursued Slaughter to the Chisum ranch, where he informed the foreman that he had come to kill Slaughter. Instead Slaughter shot a hole in the heart of the surprised gambler. A fellow lawman described the short-in-stature Slaughter when in pursuit of outlaws as "a spider spinning its web for the unwary fly."
A writer called Slaughter "the meanest good guy who ever lived."
John Vivyan, the star of the CBS series Mr. Lucky, appeared twice on the series with Tryon in the role of dishonest rancher Jason Hemp and a third time in an uncredited part. Early episodes focus on Texas, especially "Friotown", possibly referring to a since ghost town of "Frio Town" northwest of Pearsall in Frio County. The second episode entitled "Ambush in Laredo", set in Laredo, Texas, features character actor Robert Middleton as Frank Davis, who attempts to merge five outlaw gangs into one; appearing in the same episode are Chris Alcaide as an outlaw and Judson Pratt as Colonel Cooper. Other guest stars were Darryl Hickman and Bing Russell.
The series appeared in re-runs on the Disney Channel's classic program block "Disney Drive-In" which was later known as "Vault Disney".
Tom Tryon later became a novelist.
- Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), pp. 116-117
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