It was late, 1865. The Civil War had just ended and President Lincoln had recently been assassinated. The country was in a dangerous state of chaos and turmoil. In the port city of Norfolk, VA, Mikey, at the mature age of 12, left his home and went his own way to lessen the burden on his over-stressed family. Times were hard, but Mikey was able to get a job as a cooks assistant on a small merchant ship bound for New Orleans.
It was here that Mikey learned the basics of his cooking skills. Introduced to spices that he had never seen before, Mikey never forgot the lessons he learned onboard.
One adventure after another found 13 year old Mikey in Texas with no money and no prospects. But he did have an idea for a mixture of spices that would make anything good better, and anything horrible, at least tolerable.
This idea came to him as a result of some of the food the crew had been forced to eat onboard the ship and traveling the country from camp to camp, eating whatever was available.In Central Texas, Mikey met a cowboy named Charles Goodnight who was gearing up for a cattle drive. Goodnight liked Mikey’s common sense, wit and work ethic. So he tentatively hired Mikey to help out the trail drives cook. The cooks nickname was "Cookie." Mikey got along very well with Cookie, partly because he already knew a little about cooking and quickly learned the day to day responsibilities of a trail drive cook. Life as a trail drive cook was difficult, but Mikey took his common sense ideas to Cookie, who passed them onto Goodnight. It was 1866 and the chuckwagon had been born.
Goodnight was credited with creating the trail drive chuckwagon, but it was really Mikey’s idea.Mikey quickly learned what was expected of him and one fateful day, ol' Cookie fell from the wagon and broke his leg. All of the responsibility was now on Mikey. Not only did he nurse Cookie, but he was up before the sun making sure coffee and breakfast were good, hot, ready and plenty, as the drovers prepared for the day. Before the Trail boss would leave, Mikey would use his small brass compass, a treasured gift given to him by the ship’s captain of the merchant ship he first hired on to. He would make sure the tongue of the chuckwagon always pointed North. This gave the trail boss his directional reference.
After the crew would depart with the herd, Mikey would clean up the camp, wash the dishes, and hitch up the mules and tend to Cookie. Then he would drive the chuckwagon like a madman to select the next campsite before the crew and the cattle arrived. Along the way, Mikey would gather firewood and herbs that grew wild or that Cookie had planted the year before. He would also plant new herbs of his own for the next drive.
Mikey was constantly trying different combinations of herbs and spices. While the cowboys would never complain, Mikey’s first try was generally considered good, but a little too "Genteel" as it didn't have much "heat" to it. Cowboys are a rough lot and appreciated a little "kick" with their food. Not too much… Just some kick. Mikey took notice of this.
Because of Indian trouble directly north, they had to first take the herd west to New Mexico. By the time the cattle drive arrived at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, Mikey was the de-facto trail drive cook and the camp doctor. He was deferred to by the trail boss and looked up to by the men. It was there at Fort Sumner that Mikey met an old Indian that he traded some odds and ends with and got some Cayenne pepper. After trying some different proportions of things the cowboys told Mikey he had a winner.
So that is the spice Mikey made from then on. Goodnight knew he could attract the best cowboys if he could provide the best food, so he encouraged Mikey to make up a few batches. Word filtered throughout the Southwest of Mikey’s Traildust. Soon there were some copies, but Mikey’s batches with his secret ingredient soon became known as Mikey’s Original Old West Traildust. John Chisum was said to have paid a pretty penny to outfit his chuckwagons with Mikey’s Original Old West Traildust.
Some years passed and Mikey grew into a fine young man. He was doing pretty well for himself now. That's when some trouble started. One day Mikey was enjoying himself, having a drink with a pretty gal named Rose, when a jealous cowboy named Laughin’ Sam called Mikey out. He accused Mikey of cattle rustlin', horse thievin' and being a no account, low-life reprobate. Words escalated and Mikey found himself in the middle of the street having to defend himself. Mikey was wounded, having his face sliced three times with Laughin’ Sam’s knife while Sam laughed. But when it ended, Laughin’ Sam lay in the dust never to laugh or stir again.
Thinking this was the end of it, Mikey was in the Docs house gettin’ patched up when Rose rushed in and told Mikey that he had better get out of town because Laughin' Sam's friends were getting ready to bring about some frontier justice of their own before a judge could get there to hold trial.
Mikey dashed to his room and gathered his things as fast as he could. On the table was his latest batch of Mikeyspice, a bowl of Cayenne pepper and one jar. Not thinking about it very clearly, Mikey put the two together in the one jar, packed it and ran for his horse.
Mikey hid out in the canyons and gullies, meeting up with various individuals around the campfire. Being somewhat famous as a great trail cook, it most often fell to Mikey to "throw something together." Mikey didn't mind, but he soon got low on his regular stash of Traildust. One night, not wanting to disappoint the group of nefarious men he was cooking for, Mikey reached for that last jar. The one with "extra" Cayenne pepper. He wasn't sure the group he was with would appreciate that much heat, but after a few loud "WHOOPS," Mikey knew he had another hit on his hands. Thus on the trail, with a bunch of the meanest, ornoriest fellas in the territory, Mikey’s "Outlaw Traildust" was born.
Goodnight rode out a few weeks later looking to fetch Mikey before the judge. The incident with Laughin’ Sam was quickly ruled self-defense so the whole thing blew over. In appreciation, Mikey held a huge Bar-B-Que in town for everyone. Goodnight provided a couple of steers and the General Store provided other necessary parts of the meal. They served ground beef, veggies, beans and freshly baked bread and potatoes baked in the fire. All of it was seasoned with Mikey’s Spice. It was a veritable feast that was talked about for years.
It is said that in deference to Rose, Mikey made up a special batch of his Traildust without the heat, just for Rose and her more genteel friends. While Mikey didn't make a lot of this mix, there was almost always a jar of the "Genteel" around for anyone that preferred it.
Mikey finally married his flame, Rose. The two had only one son. They named him, what else, Mikey. They moved around the country and shared their love of cooking everywhere they went. That sharing spirit has been passed down from generation to generation, and the sense of sharing wonderful food with family and friends is a tradition that lives on. So when you cook up a steak, ground beef, chicken or some veggies with your very own Traildust, your guests are sure to let out a loud WHOOOP or an AAAAH. When they do, old Mikey hears them. And he's glad y'all like it. What the original Mikey used to say, still applies. “Keep on Eatin’ my Dust!”.
That's the story of how Mikey made his Traildust. It became known by many names. Original Old West Trail Dust was the official name given it by Mikey. But most people just call it Mikey’s Spice, or Mikey’s Traildust.
Enjoy some today!