Nat Love

Nat Love
Nat Love

Nat Love, also known as Deadwood Dick (1854–1921), pronounced as Nate Love, was an African American cowboy following the American Civil War. In 1907, Love wrote his autobiography, "Life and Adventures of Nat Love." In his autobiography, Nat Love explains that his father was a slave foreman in the fields, and his mother managed the kitchen. Love had an older brother Jordan and an older sister Sally.

Love was born a slave on the plantation of Robert Love in Davidson County, Tennessee, in June, 1854. Despite slavery era statutes that outlawed black literacy he learned to read and write as a child with the help of his father, Sampson Love. When slavery ended, Sampson attempted to start a family farm to raise tobacco and corn, but he died shortly after the second crop was planted. Nat then took a second job working on a local farm to help make ends meet. After a few years of working odd jobs, he won a horse in a raffle. He sold the horse for one hundred dollars and gave half to his mother, and he used the other half to leave town. He went west to Dodge City, Kansas, to find work as a cowboy. In Dodge City, he joined the cowboys from the Duval Ranch which was stationed in Texas. Because of his excellent horse riding skills, the Duval Ranch cowboys gave Nat the nickname "Red River Dick." Once he joined the Duval cowboys he left Dodge City and returned with them to the home ranch in the Texas Panhandle. Nat Love's autobiography tells of many adventures fighting against cattle rustlers and inclement weather. His many years of experience made him an expert marksman and cowboy. He entered a rodeo in Deadwood, South Dakota on the 4th of July in 1876. He won the rope, throw, tie, bridle, saddle and bronco riding contests. It was at this contest that the fans gave him the nickname "Deadwood Dick."[1] In October 1877, he was captured by a band of Akimel O'odham (Pima) while rounding up stray cattle near the Gila River in Arizona. Love reported that his life was spared because the Indians respected his fighting ability. A while after being captured, Love stole a pony and managed to escape into West Texas.

Love spent the latter part of his life working as a Pullman porter. He died in Los Angeles at age 67 in 1921.

In 1969, a clothing company in Boston took the name Nat Love to pay homage to this 'groovy guy.' Nat Love, Inc. introduced hot pants to the United States at the first National Boutique Show held at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City.

Eventually Nat Love’s family was freed from bondage because of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. As he got off on his own, some of his associates were Billy the Kid, Bat Masterson, the James Brothers. He also was adopted by more than one Indian tribe. As a young man he wanted to get into the west and start living on his own, and he knew he could find work as a cowhand. He started working in Dodge City, Kansas, but it was then when he started to become a really good cowboy- he could catch cattle and rope them very easily. Then, he was offered more money at the Pete Gallinger company, so he started to work there. When he was 22, Love entered in a Roping contest on the 4th of July in Deadwood, South Dakota. He impressed the crowd so much that he received the nickname, “Deadwood Dick.” He won many contests, and published two autobiographies- The Life and Adventures of Nat Love and Better Known in the Cattle Country. Nat rode through hailstorms so hard that "only men could withstand them." Nat fought off attacks by Indians a lot, like many other cowboys. The first time he met a mean group of Indians he said he was too scared to run. Nat found love at first sight by a Spanish woman when he passed by a house in Old Mexico. They got married, but she died the spring after because of sickness. Later, he married another woman in Denver, CO. Nat eventually gave up on being a cowboy for the railroad industry instead. In 1980, he got a job in the Pullman service on the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.

Quotes by Nat Love:

"Mounted on my horse my... lariat near my hand, and my trusty guns in my belt... I felt like I could defy the world."[citation needed]

"Every time you shoot at someone, plan on dying."[citation needed]

"If a man can't go out in the blaze of glory, he can at least go with dignity."[citation needed]


  1. ^ Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience P.175

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