Nate Love, also know as Deadwood Dick and “the most famous black cowboy of them all,” was born a slave in in 1854 in Davidson County, Tennessee. He was somewhat educated in that he could read and write while he had a love of the free and wild life on the range. Soon, he was known as a good, all around cowboy.
Nate found a Texas outfit that had delivered its herd and was preparing to go back down to Texas. There were several good black cowboys in the outfit. After sharing breakfast with the crew, Nate asked the trail boss for a job. The boss agreed if Nate could break a horse named Good Eye, the wildest horse in the outfit. Bronco Jim, another black cowboy gave Nate some pointers and Nate rode that horse. He said later that it was the toughest ride he had ever had.
The work was very hard. Nate rode through hailstorms so violent that only strong men could withstand them. The first time he met hostile Indians, he admitted he was too scared to run. After going through a number of such trials he adjusted to the ways of the cattle country and could handle any problem,
Nate had a forty-five and he took every chance he could to practice with it and he got very good with it. There came a time when he could shoot better than any of his friends.
Nate left the Texas Panhandle, and rode into Arizona where he got a job working for an outfit on the Gila River. He had ridden many of the trails of the southwest and he believed that he was a capable cowboy. While in Arizona working with Mexican vaqueros, he learned to speak Spanish like a native and he became very good at reading brands.
In the spring of 1876, Nate Love’s outfit received orders to deliver three thousand steer to Deadwood City in the Dakota Territory. They arrived July 3rd. The town was getting ready for the 4th of July. The mining men and gamblers had gotten together and organized a contest with $200 prize money. Nate said that six of the dozen men in the contest were Black. Each black cowboy was to rope, throw, tie bridles, and saddle a mustang in the shortest possible time. The wildest horses were chosen for this event. Nate roped, threw, tied bridles, saddled, and mounted his mustang in exactly nine minutes. The next competitor took twelve minutes and thirty seconds. In the rifle and Colt events, shooting at 100 and 250 yards with 14 shots, Nate placed all of his shots in the bulls eye and 10 of the 12 pistol shots in the bulls eye. Nate Love was the obvious winner and along with the prize money, the town gave Nate the title of “Deadwood Dick”.
In 1907, Nat wrote his life history, an autobiography entitled “The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as ‘Deadwood Dick.’” It is still a classic because of the insight into the life and times of black cowboys.
Nat Love died in 1921 in Los Angeles, CA.