This piece was originally published in a winter 1976 Buffalo Bill Center of the West newsletter.
The letters of Charles M. Russell (1864-1926) are as distinctive as his paintings, and each one is a clue which helps to reveal the full dimension of the man.
Russell referred to his letters as “paper talk” and claimed to be unhandy at that form of communication. However, it is hard to imagine how a more refined vocabulary or conventional chirography could add to his ability to express himself.
The misspellings, the ignored punctuation, and the run-together sentences somehow seem to be a part of Russell’s style rather than quaint, ignorant mistakes. It is easy to believe that much of it was simply his original observations while maintaining the pose of an innocent, uncultured, unaccomplished frontiersman.
The highly embellished letter reproduced here is on display in the Whitney Gallery, a gift of William E. Weiss. It is featured in Good Medicine a compilation of Russell letters published by his wife in 1929. According to Mrs. Russell, it was written to H.P. Raban, a California newspaperman.
One of Russell’s long-time friends, Will Rogers, called him a storyteller, a philosopher, and a humorist. Evidence to support these contentions can easily be found in this one letter.