Thursday, June 8, 2017

Queen of the Outlaws

"I am a friend to any brave and gallant outlaw."
Belle Starr

Belle Starr, tagged "The Queen of the Outlaws" or "Bandit Queen" by the tabloids and dime novels of her day was brought up in a well-to-do, genteel family in Missouri, where she and her brother first met the James boys and the Younger brothers.  She adored her brother, Bud, and trailed after him and his friends, learning to ride (sidesaddle) and shoot as well as any of them.  This was quite unusual for a young lady who went to finishing school, made good grades, and spoke several languages.  Although she looks kind of  rough in most of pictures I've seen of her, she was said to have been a charming and lovely young lady.

I found this photo of the young Belle on the internet.

We've been at Belle Starr Corps of Engineers Park on Lake Eufaula for the past few days.  Tim played golf on Tuesday and today, but yesterday we went to find Belle's old home place, which she called Younger's Bend, on the other side of the lake.  Of course, there wasn't a lake back then, but the Colorado River ran very close to her cabin.

  The cabin is actually long gone, (although there is some interest in rebuilding it, I've heard), and her grave, which was in front of the cabin had also been vandalized over the years.  But the new owners repaired the grave and graciously opened the site up to visitors.

We parked the pickup just off the main road, and hiked about a 1000 feet to the old homeplace/
gravesite.  I was hoping to see at least the foundation of the old cabin, but all we could see was the grave and headstone.  But it was a nice day for a short walk through a lovely wooded area, so I still feel it was worth the hike.

I'm glad we went.  And doing some research on Belle beforehand made it that much more interesting.  If you'd like to learn more, you can find books about her, or you can do like I did, and search the internet.  There's lots of information there, although it's kind of difficult to sort out what's true and what's legend.

The stone has a picture of a bell, a horse and a star.  It was ordered and paid for by her daughter, who also wrote the epitaph at the bottom:

Shed not for her the bitter tear
Nor give the heart to vain regret
'Tis but the casket that lies here
The gem that filled it sparkles yet.

The folks around here seem to be mighty proud of their legendary outlaw queen.  We ate dinner today at the Belle Starr Grill.  There's a Belle Starr Rd, Belle Starr Flea Market, Belle Starr Marina, Belle Starr Inn, and Belle's West Ladies Boutique, to name a few.

We will leave here tomorrow and go on to Bartlesville.  But before we go, I had to get a photo of the beautiful view right outside our door.

Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma
Belle Starr CoE

One last quote from Miss Belle:

"I regard myself as a woman who has seen much of life."

Her real name, by the way, was Myra Maybelle Shirley Reed Starr.  Her family called her Myra or May, but when she started on her outlaw life, she started calling herself Belle.  Perhaps to remind herself that, no matter how dark and unlawful her life had become, inside, she was still the Southern Belle she was raised to be.

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