Robert L. Hicks: Rugged Individualist

Robert L. Hicks, my great-great grandfather, was a man who moved west shortly after the final shot of the Civil War. He was a Kansas cowboy with a hankering for more elbow room–to breath some air that hadn’t already been breathed.

His father-in-law, William Henry (Hand) Lile, had just died as the result of a terrible illness he received due to the deplorable conditions in the Union, Alton Military Prison in Missouri. I think grandpa just had nothing keeping him in Kansas anymore. He needed a new brand of freedom–free of carpetbaggers and the national bickering that endured long after the end of the war. And he wanted land and the ability to carve his own future. He was a Rugged Individualist.

So, he headed west, with his wife, Annie and a couple of young kids. He was a man of medium build, dark hair, with a handsome, handlebar mustache spread across his face. And he was never seen without his Colt revolver strapped to his hip. His mantra was, “if there’s ever a gun fight to defend yourself or family, stay calm, clear leather, and shoot straight and true.”

On the way west, he had a shoot-out with a man who was “dishonoring the women of the wagon train.” In the battle, grandpa took a bullet and had to be nursed back to health by his dear wife, Annie.

As the group entered what is now south-central Idaho, grandpa looked around at the wide open plain and decided to stay. He and Annie and the kids lived in a cave that first year until he could build a cabin.

As the family grew, grandpa moved them further north until they eventually settled in the Salmon Valley, a small mining town built on the banks of the Salmon River. Grandpa settled his family in town and then went about building some cabins on his mining claim up near Stormy Peak by Wallace Creek. And that’s where he got into another gun battle with a bad man who was looking to “destroy and steal what he had built and worked hard for.” Once again, that Colt revolver was put into action.

Grandpa Robert Hicks lived out his days and died in Salmon. He was known as a miner, rancher, and family man. He was one of many who helped carve-out and define the United States of America.

Grandpa’s Colt revolver is still in my family. Not long ago, I sat and examined that gun–the final relic left of Robert L. Hicks. I held the gun in my hand and admired how balanced and comfortable it felt–like an extension of my hand. I slipped the gun into the old, worn leather holster attached to grandpa’s gun belt and estimated that belt fit about a 32” waist.

Grandpa’s old Colt revolver is an antique. But it still shoots straight and true just like it did 150 years ago although nobody shoots it now. It’s just a symbol of the fortitude of my ancestry–and a family man who had the nerve to build a strong future. And his gun–without that old Colt revolver, I would not be here to write this story.

I am proud of my Grandpa Robert L. Hicks. He defines the Hicks family name and his posterity. The hundreds of men and women who came after him carried on the ethics of hard work and determination he perpetuated.

As I reflect on grandpa’s legacy, I know that some things really haven’t changed over the years since he was alive. For example, there are still those who are motivated to destroy and steal that which others have built and worked hard for. Fortunately, in many places in our great country, we still enjoy the right to defend ourselves by “shooting straight and true.”

Jeff Hicks

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