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PCCJ History Lesson

The waterproof Slicker

 By Joyce Johnson

During the Civil War a tobacco farmer named Thomas McCoy enlisted in the army, leaving his wife and seven children to fend for themselves. He entrusted the family farm to his twelve-year old son, Caden.  In August of 1861Thomas was injured at the battle of Bull Run and though he survived the initial wounds, he was left outside wrapped in his blanket and slicker and contracted pneumonia and died.  Thomas' wife began to sew blankets, clothing including cotton duck slickers, to support the family. One evening, 12 year old Caden accidentally knocked over a candle which spilled wax on the tablecloth. While cleaning up the mess, he noticed how the water beaded where the wax covered the cloth.  He ran to get his dad’s slicker from the barn and dripped some wax on the sleeve. Then he poured water over it. Ahah! And so it was: Caden’s mother decided to help soldiers stay warm by using her son’s experiment.  She and her daughters sewed the cotton duck, slit-back riding slickers, and Caden and his brothers coated the fabric with candle wax; the new slicker became the staple of the confederate cavalry uniform and was so valuable, it is said the cavalry stationed troops near the McCoy farm to prevent Union troops from raiding the supplies to make the slickers. When Caden headed to Texas after the Civil War, cattle drivers appreciated the slickers, nicknaming them “fish” because they could live in the rain.  At that time, the cowboys noticed that the slickers made excellent covers to keep the trail dust from their clothes, thus the name “duster” was added.               

Enter Hollywood:

The Long coats can give a character a menacing appearance. For one thing, They flap dramatically, like (bat) wings almost, and they are long enough to conceal things, including a shotgun. Films often have a character pull an unexpected weapon out from under a duster to surprise an opponent. Additionally, because the coat is non-form fitting, it can also be used to disguise a character. In the 1993 movie classic, "Tombstone," a figure in a long roomy duster walks down the road towards Johnny Ringo, with his hat pulled down, but it turns out to be Doc Holiday. And you know the rest.

 [Our pioneers suffered huge losses from winters in their historic journey, but things got better here, when Montana Power Company was born in Butte in 1912.  And the first motor vehicle transport, a model T Ford, entered YNPark in 1915.]


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