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Old west Mythbusters
January 24, 2007 6:53 PM   Subscribe

Mythbusting Question: can you help me find inspiration in the old west?

MeFi's own Adam Savage here. I'm tasked with busting some "Old West" myths. And we're light in the idea department on this one.
Now we've already done a whole bunch of sharpshooting myths, and gunslinger myths, and they still want more!
I'm asking the hive mind: are there any myths you can think of regarding cowboys or indians or anything to do with the old west. (cue black humor about the donner party etc.)

All suggestions taken seriously. Mostly.
posted by asavage to Society & Culture (205 answers total) 92 users marked this as a favorite
 
Jumping on to horses from great heights... like the loft of a barn. I can't remember where I first saw this, but I know it's been depicted many times.

I can't help but think that either the rider or the horse would be harmed by this. As to how you'd test it... I'm thinking a giant version of Kari's zombie dog (outfitted with sensors to gauge strain) being pounced upon by buster. You know you want to build this rig.
posted by phrontist at 7:01 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


What about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? They seem to have several myths floating around them... most of which probably wouldn't be suitable for the show (i.e. Could Butch and Sundance really have survived being shot by 110 Bolivian soliders... Jaime will play Butch, and Buster will be Sundance).

However, maybe the story about them blowing up the train with dynamite would work. Is that even a myth, or was it just on the movie? I'm drawing a blank.
posted by bjork24 at 7:05 PM on January 24, 2007


Can a cast iron stove plate in your shirt stop a bullet?
posted by zamboni at 7:06 PM on January 24, 2007 [6 favorites]


How bout the scene in the second Back to the Future where McFly uses the door from an oven as a bulletproof vest under his shirt (or something like that, I may be messing up the details)? And on a somewhat related note, V in V for Vendetta did the same thing with a suit of armor.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:08 PM on January 24, 2007


d'oh!
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:08 PM on January 24, 2007


I just asked my roomate and he confirms that I'm not alone in wondering about this... he associates Zorro with this particular stunt, and that sounds right to me.

Ooh, what about Tonto's amazing ability to divine all sorts of information (10 men on horseback are coming this way!) by putting his ear to the ground...
posted by phrontist at 7:09 PM on January 24, 2007


If we're talking Old West like in the movies, there's always some sort of tracking going on in them. It would be neat to see the feasibility of different methods shown in films and which ones are right out the window.
posted by ODiV at 7:09 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


And if you end up using any of these ideas, can MeFi get an on-air shoutout?
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:10 PM on January 24, 2007


Using only technology available in 1885, could a steam locomotive gather enough speed to push a DeLorean to the requisite 88 MPH needed for time travel initiation?
posted by c:\awesome at 7:11 PM on January 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


NO! Percussive Paul beat me to the Back to the Future reference!!!
posted by c:\awesome at 7:12 PM on January 24, 2007


I'd like to see something about "expert trackers." You know, the guys that can put their ear to the ground, sniff the air, look at some broken twigs, etc, and tell you exactly who passed by and when and what they had for breakfast.

Or, how to defeat trackers. You know, like running through a river, putting twigs on your feet, etc.

Or, how exactly did Butch and Sundance survive that jump into the river in the movie?
posted by frogan at 7:14 PM on January 24, 2007


Ear to the ground to listen for approaching horses, train, etc.
posted by JekPorkins at 7:15 PM on January 24, 2007


How about the myth that everyone went around shooting each other all the time? It's a really popular myth that the old west was rife with weekly gun battles and train heists, but I also think there's some truth to the maxim, "an armed society is a polite society."
posted by knave at 7:15 PM on January 24, 2007


How accurate/effective were tradtional Native American bows and arrows?

Are buffalo brains really effective for the curing of buffalo hides?

This one won't fly, but, does "firewater" really effect Native Americans in a really bad way?
posted by snsranch at 7:15 PM on January 24, 2007


How the hell did Clint Eastwood's character get a hanging scar like he did in Hang 'em High, without getting killed? Is it possible to survive a hanging like that?
posted by Loto at 7:20 PM on January 24, 2007


There are a number of crazy "______ing on top of a moving train" stunts that have happened in Old West movies: running, backflipping, swinging in and out of open windows... Some of those could be fun to investigate, and maybe the same people who let you use the train for the myth about people being blown off of the station platform would be willing to share again. :)
posted by sarahsynonymous at 7:21 PM on January 24, 2007


You could probably get quite a few regarding Buffalo Bill or Frank T. Hopkins -- specific things that they or other mythical/historic figures allegedly did.
posted by JekPorkins at 7:21 PM on January 24, 2007


How about the belief that the Native Americans were descendants of a lost tribe of Israel?
posted by wfrgms at 7:24 PM on January 24, 2007


Not sure what the myth would be, but shooting stone-tipped arrows into ballistic gel would be cool.

Wolverines have stories of incredible strength -- can they really rip apart and eat a cast iron stove?

Were the salmon in the Columbia River really so abundant you could walk across the river on their backs? Did passenger pigeons really block the sky and make it like dusk?

Did/could your piss freeze before it hit the ground in the Yukon winter?

How far away can you hear a train coming with an ear to the tracks?

LarryC might have some good ideas on this, being a historian of the period.
posted by Rumple at 7:24 PM on January 24, 2007


Were the cowboys primarily fighting Indians, or farmers?
posted by b1tr0t at 7:25 PM on January 24, 2007


I'm trying to think of improbable things done with lassos... all I can think of right now is lasso-ing a gun from an opponent's hand.
posted by phrontist at 7:26 PM on January 24, 2007


Oh dear, MythBusters is my 9yo sons favorite show and he's forever attempting to recreate the tests and experiments - and that's not easy on a mother's sanity or heart.

I'm thinking it'd be sweet to see Jamie and Adam run over by a stampede of horses or buffalo while testing the idea that Indians and mountain men could hear hoof beats when putting their ears to the ground.

Please take my suggestion mostly seriously ;)
posted by LadyBonita at 7:28 PM on January 24, 2007


-Is it possible to get "scalped" and survive?
-Does pouring whiskey on a wound disinfect it?
-If someone gets shot while standing on the ledge of a building, do they ever fall forward?
-Is it really possible to jump from a horse to a moving train, or vice versa?
-Can a sharpshooter save a person being hanged via a perfectly-timed bullet strike that severs the noose (ie after the trap door opens but before the person's neck is broken)?
-How reliably can "smoke signals" be sent?

"Blazing Saddles" inspired:
-Is it possible for a human to knock a horse unconscious with one punch?
posted by bdk3clash at 7:29 PM on January 24, 2007 [4 favorites]


Are the Loan Ranger's silver bullets any better than lead bullets?
posted by ardgedee at 7:30 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


While I can't think of any specific myths to this regard, I'm guessing at the height of the Gold Rush era there were prospecting myths or other various word-of-mouth techniques for finding gold. Something like a divining rod?
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:31 PM on January 24, 2007


Could a human being survive after being scalped?

(suggested by Mr. Lucinda)
posted by Lucinda at 7:31 PM on January 24, 2007


How about the belief that the Native Americans were descendants of a lost tribe of Israel?

You're misreading the (slightly misleading) wikipedia entry. Though there are certainly many Mormons who make the same misreading that you just did, that's really not what we believe as a religion. Sorry -- no derail intended.

But I've never really thought the point of Mythbusters was to attempt to debunk religious beliefs.

That's the L.A. Times' job.
posted by JekPorkins at 7:31 PM on January 24, 2007


Can a sharpshooter save a person being hanged via a perfectly-timed bullet strike that severs the noose (ie after the trap door opens but before the person's neck is broken)?

They've done this one already (it was confirmed, iirc), but I love your other ideas.
posted by phrontist at 7:34 PM on January 24, 2007


Is it really possible to save someone from a death-by-hanging by cutting the rope of the noose with a bullet fired from a rifle or revolver? From what distance? With what caliber?

On preview: seconded.
posted by steef at 7:34 PM on January 24, 2007


How about all the different methods used to identify a real gold nugget from fools gold?
posted by COD at 7:34 PM on January 24, 2007


On post: did I miss that episode?! Dammit!
posted by steef at 7:35 PM on January 24, 2007


Myabe you could explore the (possible) myth that Native Americans used every part of the buffalo?

Can you really hear a train coming if you put your ear to the track?

How effective are cowcatchers on the front of trains at deflecting obstacles?
posted by JDC8 at 7:35 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ah, how about some Oregon Trail myths! Could you really float a conestoga wagon across a river as depicted in that game (which for my generation represents most of what we know about western exploration).

Full Disclosure: Busting this myth would settle a bet I made in the third grade.
posted by phrontist at 7:43 PM on January 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


Billy Dixon supposedly shot and killed a man from a mile away -- was that possible with the rifles of the day?
posted by katemonster at 7:44 PM on January 24, 2007


Is it really possible to have a fist fight on the roof of a speeding locomotive?
posted by sourwookie at 7:49 PM on January 24, 2007


Try to recreate the Marfa Lights.
posted by sanko at 7:50 PM on January 24, 2007


I was watching some Eastwood spaghetti the other week and I got hung up on the point of the barkeep serving beer in some hot & dusty place without any obvious refrigeration. How did saloons, back in the day, keep the beer (specifically draught beer) cold? Did they serve it warm? Did they really serve it at all? Is this why real cowboys drank whisky?
posted by isopraxis at 7:54 PM on January 24, 2007


Myth: You can tell a bad guy by the way the saloon pianist switches to a minor key when he walks through the swinging doors.

I'm still trying to think of real myths...
posted by arco at 7:54 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Not so much a myth, per se, but I think there is a popular notion that the only women in the Old West were prostitutes and maybe a few old maid schoolmistresses. Women in fact were crucial to homesteading and settling the West, and Wyoming extended suffrage to women in 1869 (in part to boost voting numbers in order to get statehood). Wyoming also saw the first woman on a jury and the first female justice of the peace (both 1870) and -- though post-"Old West" days -- the first woman governor (Nellie Tayloe Ross, elected in 1924).

I know, not as sexy as busting sharpshooting myths... but hey! Equality Staters represent!
posted by scody at 7:57 PM on January 24, 2007


You could do the myth that a group of cowboys fired 4000 rounds into the house Elfego Baca was hiding in during the Frisco shootout. Not sure how exactly you would test it but firing 4000 rounds into an Old West style house would be just plain cool to see.
posted by saraswati at 8:01 PM on January 24, 2007


If you can't come up with anything here, one of the librarians at the Denver Public Library's Western History division probably knows a myth or two you could test.
posted by arco at 8:02 PM on January 24, 2007


I have to say I'm thrilled about this question (I love the show Adam).

Second the jumping onto a horse, the ear-to-the-ground (too similar to the chinese drum thing?) and the expert tracking (good Adam v. Jaime potential, which your producers seem to love).

One of the things about westerns that always seemed so fake is the whole "shootout" thing. Ten paces, turn at the same time and fire. Wouldn't both guys end up dead more often than not? Provides the opportunity for all of you to shoot the hell out of each other with water/paintballs/rubber bullets/other non-lethal ammo.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:03 PM on January 24, 2007


Can you shoot a gun out of someone's hand without injuring them?
Could a horse outrun a train like in the robberies depicted?
Could you live off water from cactuses?
Would a barrel of gun powder really explode if lit? or would it just give off lots of smoke?
posted by malp at 8:04 PM on January 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


Does pouring whiskey on a wound disinfect it?

Take this and run with it -- a set of segments on Whiskey Myths. It would dovetail nicely with the Vodka Myths and Rum Myths y'all have already done.

Also:

Can you reliably tell how long ago a horse walked by by sticking your finger in its crap, or does that really just tell you how cold it is outside and give you a smelly finger?

Something about biting a gold coin to see if it's real, or did you do that already?

Make up a myth that serves as an excuse to dismember a dead buffalo with stone tools?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:06 PM on January 24, 2007


Wild Bill Hickock could allegedly always hit a man running away at 100 feet, but more interestingly, crease a friend's hair at 50 feet. I've always doubted this, both that a friendship could survive multiple hairstylings by bullet, and that you could crease a man's hair without causing a mini-furrow (or at least blood) on a man's head.
posted by julen at 8:08 PM on January 24, 2007


There's a myth about Wild Bill Hickock that my dad was just telling me about: Apparently, two murderers were running away, one up the street, one down the street. Wild Bill shot at both simultaneously and killed them both.

He also supposedly shot an even row of holes across a hat brim as it was falling to the ground.
posted by Verdandi at 8:08 PM on January 24, 2007


I guess this is a tough one given that most of the myths and cliches are based on Hollywood movies and are more dramatic exaggerations than myths.

How about all the pinging ricochet sounds that abounds during gunfights? What does it take to get that distinctive sound - better get that bulletproof screen out.....
posted by clarkie666 at 8:08 PM on January 24, 2007


Why did so many of my children die of dysentery? Why did the buffaloes move so slowly, making it impossible NOT to shoot them? And why did my wagon sink, 4 times out of 5, whenever I tried to ford a river?
posted by c:\awesome at 8:08 PM on January 24, 2007


Sigh. Too much Dark Tower heptalogy. I'd love to see a riza plate fly, but I'm probably alone. (FWIW, Roland would've blown away all the gunslinger myths :) ).
posted by tayknight at 8:09 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's that Butch and Sundance scene where they blow up the safe and send money showering all over -- possible or not? And another vote for the buffalo brains question.
posted by snarkout at 8:10 PM on January 24, 2007


Can you shoot a gun out of someone's hand without injuring them?

There's footage of a modern police sniper doing this with a modern sniper rifle.

But I'd love to see youse guys try this with a stunt-shooter firing period pistols or a period rifle at a moving Buster on the zigzag rig from the alligator myth. And real plain-old period guns or replicas like you could have gotten from Sears back then, not fancy-ass modified calibrated eight ways from Sunday guns.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:12 PM on January 24, 2007


My generation didn't grow up watching Westerns; in fact, I think the only Western I saw by the time I reached high school starred Emilio Estevez.

However, I seem to recall some bad cowboy tying up a good cowboy with wet rawhide. The leather would supposedly tighten as it dried, constricting the good cowboy to death. An elaborate execution worthy of Adam West, to be sure, but I've always wondered if it were feasible.

And I've been waiting forever for you to ask us a question like this. Keep up the good work. /fanboy
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:17 PM on January 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


How about how combustible TNT and nitro glycerine were? In the movies, you always see the two being either extremely combustible. Perhaps run tests on what you could or couldn't do with these Old West explosives?

Gives Mythbusters a chance to blow things up. :)
posted by Atreides at 8:18 PM on January 24, 2007


How about: In a gun fight, could you really save yourself by jumping in a horse water trough or hiding behind a barrel?
posted by R343L at 8:23 PM on January 24, 2007


Could a 10 gallon hat really stay on when riding a horse at full speed?
posted by phrontist at 8:26 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can you shoot a cowboy hat off somebody's head?
posted by event at 8:37 PM on January 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


In Westerns you always see beer mugs crashed over people's heads, knocking them out, in the inevitable saloon brawl. Could that actually happen? Wouldn't those sturdy mugs cause more damage then they took?
posted by phrontist at 8:39 PM on January 24, 2007


Did white people really teach Indians how to scalp? (Answer: No, scalping was a traditional practice among many, but not all tribes. Though the increased violence that came with white conquest certainly ramped up the scale of native warfare and attending practices.)

This should lead right into the question about people surviving scalping, which they sometimes did.

How did the bow-and-arrow compare to firearms, and were guns the main reason for the conquest? (Bows were much more effective than guns in the early period of contact, and it wasn't until the introduction of the rifled musket and minnie ball in the 1850s that guns gained a decisive advantage).

What were the lives of prostitutes really like? (Old myth: Soiled doves with hearts of gold. Newer myth: Miserable drug-addicted victims who eventually took their own lives. Historical truth: Entrepreneurs who seem to have profited from their career choice.)

How common was violence in Old Western towns? (Not very on farming frontiers, pretty common in mining camps.)

Did Sacagawea guide Lewis and Clark? (No. Well, maybe once.) God you could do a whole show on Lewis and Clark bullshit!

Did gold miners get rich? (Mostly no, but the people who sold them supplies made a killing.)

Did Indians think the first white people they saw were gods? (No, they thought they were remarkably small and ugly.)

I'll see if I think of some more tomorrow. This is fun.
posted by LarryC at 8:42 PM on January 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


Using only technology available in 1885, could a steam locomotive gather enough speed to push a DeLorean to the requisite 88 MPH needed for time travel initiation?"

I'd love to see this but you'd need both a locomotive and enough track in good enough shape to support 90 mph. The latter especially is in short supply. However it's not improbable if you didn't mind running the engine to destruction (and risking a very dangerous boiler explosion in the process). The Empire State Express is reputed to have done 121mph in 1891.
posted by Mitheral at 8:43 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Are buffalo brains really effective for the curing of buffalo hides?

Get Mike Rowe in on this one somehow, and I guarantee Discovery will sign you for at least ten more seasons.
posted by sarahsynonymous at 8:45 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


smoke signals.
posted by Frasermoo at 8:47 PM on January 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


Something I always wondered (and being a city kid have no real experience to check it against), but wouldn't a horse freak out if you started shooting guns while riding it? Also, would they develop long term hearing loss? More of a VetBusters question, but still comes to mind.
posted by frieze at 8:48 PM on January 24, 2007


I think the ant-hill myth could stand a bit of testing.

Bad guy kills or tortures someone by staking them out on an ant-hill; sometimes he smears them with honey?

I'm wondering if the ants might just ignore the whole thing and go about their business as ants tend to do. And would the honey make any difference?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:14 PM on January 24, 2007


freize, they have to be trained to not flinch, don't know about the hearing loss though.

I like the jumping in the saddle one as well as the tracker listening to the ground one.

Another that comes to mind is from Two Mules for Sister Sarah; can you set of a packet of Dynamite by shooting it?

And from Young Guns 2; would loading as 12 gauge shotgun with dimes (9 per shell IIRC) really be any more effective than regular buckshot?

How hard is it to stop a stampede, and could a stampeding herd / charging wagon have enough strength to pull out the bars of a jail cell?

[I could probably do this all night, what with my love for both westerns and Mythbusters]
posted by quin at 9:19 PM on January 24, 2007


Could Doc Holiday really have shot a man with a shotgun using a shotgun shell filled with dimes?
posted by tumble at 9:20 PM on January 24, 2007


Did Native Americans really hang from hooks in their chests? I'm fairly certain that they did, but it could lead to all kinds of interesting TV where you test how much pectoral muscles can support without tearing, and I think there may be some carnivals around where people do similar hook hanging stuff that could produce a nice I have to look away moment of TV.
posted by willnot at 9:20 PM on January 24, 2007


katemonster, I got to thinking about your question and before I even read your link I figured that if there was one period gun that could pull it off it would be this one, then on actually doing the due diligence, I discovered that it is exactly what they suggested that he used.

(Though both the Henry and Spencer rifles would have also been reasonable candidates.)

But there is something about this statement: The inhabitants laughed at Dixon, exclaiming, “They’re a mile away!” which strikes me as hyperbolic, but I'll leave it to the Mythbuster team, should they choose to follow it up.
posted by quin at 9:29 PM on January 24, 2007


willnot, the guys from TSD do this pretty regularly today. [caution, serious piercing link...]
posted by quin at 9:33 PM on January 24, 2007


Not sure how you'd test it, but given the guns of the time, in a gun fight/draw-down, would somebody go down immediately if they were hit or would they take a bullet or 5 and still be able to shoot the other guy?
posted by willnot at 9:37 PM on January 24, 2007


Let's say our beloved protagonist cowboy failed to untie the traintrack bound damsel in distress... would the train derail?

How fast can you really get going with a railroad handcar? Maybe these guys could help.
posted by phrontist at 9:38 PM on January 24, 2007


This is more of a frontier/settler thing, but did settlers travelling in groups really circle their wagons in defense and, if so, was it effective in stopping the attackers?

I second the idea of shooting a gun from someone's hand. You could use Buster for the experiment, and if he's not available, Tory.
posted by smashingstars at 9:57 PM on January 24, 2007


If you bagged 1000 pounds of buffalo, can you really only carry 200 back to the wagon?
posted by lalex at 9:59 PM on January 24, 2007


was there any part of the buffalo the indians didnt eat or use?

my inspiration for this is a gary larson cartoon [and years of anthro classes]
posted by subatomiczoo at 10:00 PM on January 24, 2007


You could do the myth that a group of cowboys fired 4000 rounds into the house Elfego Baca was hiding in during the Frisco shootout. Not sure how exactly you would test it but firing 4000 rounds into an Old West style house would be just plain cool to see.
posted by saraswati


Maybe I can help with this by sharing a little of my wife's (a relative of Elfego) family lore. The buildiing that sheltered Elfego from all those bullets wasn't a house, it was a jacal. Jacals in New Mexico were typically used as sheds, chicken coops or temporary housing while the main house is constructed and often have a floor that is well below ground level to provide protection against extreme heat or cold. The family generally believes Elfego was lucky enough to hide out in a jacal with a floor well below grade.

As a sidenote, I built a house in the California desert several years ago and built a jacal with a floor 5 foot below grade that I lived in while I was onsite. The jacal took less time to build than digging the pit and it was the dirt I removed from the pit that was used to make the mud needed for the jacal. It was quite comfortable in the year that I lived there as temps ranged from near zero to over 120 degrees.
posted by buggzzee23 at 10:09 PM on January 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


How 'bout some myths about Levi Strauss's rise to fame?

Were pants made from tent canvas really that good an idea? How about the rivets? How well would Strauss's pants hold up versus other pants of the day?

Make the build team go hand wash a bunch of 1850's clothes and look at the damage that is caused. Put a pair on Buster and move his legs around to see where they would chafe. Put a particularly tight pair on Kari and watch your ratings soar.
posted by tkolar at 10:13 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's also the myth of the smooth riding stagecoach. See if you can find someone who will let you run a period stage coach over something approximating a period road. Place an accelerometer inside, and compare the results to ... oh, I don't know: a modern car ride, jet plane turbulence, riding a horse.
posted by tkolar at 10:18 PM on January 24, 2007


It's probably pushing the motif a bit, but this is the era that gave us the term "horsepower". Perhaps tie it into a stagecoach theme, but determine how much power a horse actually generates/exerts/whatever exactly it is you do with horsepower.
posted by tkolar at 10:20 PM on January 24, 2007


Something to do with fuses and barrels of gunpowder and railroad tracks. Can a trail of gunpowder work like a fuse? Will a barrel of gunpowder even explode very effectively?

Or blunderbusses. Anything to do with blunderbusses would be good.

Will an ACME hole really swallow a coyote and not a roadrunner?
posted by Rumple at 10:26 PM on January 24, 2007


Holy hell, give tkolar a star. I don't know if any of those suggestions would be good TV, but I'd love to get the inside track on the answers.
posted by quin at 10:26 PM on January 24, 2007


How about busting the myth that the U.S. once had an Emperor?

Unfortunately I'm having trouble working out a science angle on that one, but ... come on, you know you *want* to.
posted by tkolar at 10:27 PM on January 24, 2007


I heard a story once that someone of wealth and privilege wanted to engineer a head on collision of two entire trains for people to watch from a set of bleachers. He would sell tickets to the event. Apparently, he got the trains, people to get them going, event attendees and a location and everything. They set up the bleachers a scant few yards from the site of collision and then ran the trains into each other. Every spectator died in the ensuing crash and, I assume, explosion.
posted by shmegegge at 10:27 PM on January 24, 2007


Pervasive Old California legend:
Grizzled old prospector shoots grizzly bear and angry wounded bear chases said prospector into cave. The cave's entrance is just large enough for the prospector to wiggle through and the bear is only able to get his head and shoulders through the opening, thus trapping the terrified prospector. The bear dies of his wounds but is still blocking the cave entrance and is way too heavy for the prospector to shove out of the way, so the guy uses his knife to cut off the bear's head and the crawls through the bear's carcass as he hacks his way through to eventual freedom. Most accounts I've heard place this event in the Holcomb Valley, near Big Bear Lake in SoCal

Is there enough room in a grizzly bear's skeleton for a human to crawl through?
posted by buggzzee23 at 10:34 PM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]



You might want to check out The Legacy of Conquest by Patricia Limerick. It's chock full.

For example, on the very first page, it talks about how in the 1880s in Montana (and elsewhere) everyone lived out of cans, and each little shack had a heaping mound of them out back. Apparently the cans were a major, dominating feature of every settlement. (This isn't necessarily a myth being busted, but it's definitely at variance from the Hollywood depiction. )
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:41 PM on January 24, 2007


"I'm thinking it'd be sweet to see Jamie and Adam run over by a stampede of horses or buffalo while testing the idea that Indians and mountain men could hear hoof beats when putting their ears to the ground."

This is a myth I've always been told, but never had the balls to confirm myself: Horses won't trample you, but cows will. Running someone over with horses (as is often done in older Westerns) looks scary, but is really safe. Horses won't step on uneven ground, and are smart enough (and can see well enough) to avoid crushing people. Cows? Dumb and oblivious (though I do know that slats are used to keep cattle from going through gates sometimes, and that it doesn't work on sheep).
posted by klangklangston at 10:44 PM on January 24, 2007


How 'bout some myths about Levi Strauss's rise to fame?

Yeah; grab a couple horses and a pair of jeans, and go at it!

What about the John Henry story? (Man vs. machine)
posted by blenderfish at 10:47 PM on January 24, 2007


The cans thing mentioned by palmcorder_yajna is true - you can tell the ethnicity of the different shepherd groups (Scots, Basque, Aboriginal, etc.) in Idaho, for example, by the different manner in which they opened their cans, found by the hundreds at the shepherd's campsites. This has been a valuable tool for historical archaeologists in the area.
posted by Rumple at 10:49 PM on January 24, 2007


I do know that slats are used to keep cattle from going through gates sometimes, and that it doesn't work on sheep).
posted by klangklangston


About half of the roads coming into my stepfather's cattle ranch had pipes with spaces between them embedded at road level where the roads crossed the fence. This was so good at keeping the cows from straying if the gate was left open that the rest of the gates were protected by white stripes painted on the asphalt and the cattle were scared of the stripes after stepping on the pipes.
posted by buggzzee23 at 10:55 PM on January 24, 2007


klangklangston, I've heard that one about horses not stepping on you (where a cow herd would), but I'm not sure that I buy the vision explanation. Horses can't see what's underneath their front feet either --- that's why they sometimes freak out when they are supposed to jump over an obstacle. I suspect, if it is true at all, that it is an issue of agility.

I second (or third) this proposal for a Mythbusters experiment. What would a herd of stampeding sheep do? Goats?
posted by janell at 11:00 PM on January 24, 2007


Rumple : Or blunderbusses. Anything to do with blunderbusses would be good.

I love me some blunderbusses, but you are thinking pirates, not cowboys (I have no doubt that they were employed at some point in the old west, but probably not enough to warrant discussion.)

And while the pirate/ ninja debate rages on, I don't know that the pirate/ cowboy discussion has ever come up with a final verdict.

Personally, I favor pirates. They have parrots.

I was going to add, 'cannons' and 'swords', but if you want to be technical, so did the cowboys. Honestly, push comes to shove, the cowboys would probably kick the shit out of the pirates. As LarryC spelled out above, most likely because of this and this.
posted by quin at 11:00 PM on January 24, 2007


Trains and avalanches. Not strictly an Old West topic, but there was a lot of track laying going on in the Sierras at the time. So:

1) Can a bunch of snow really push a locomotive off a track?
2) Is it really safe to create a tunnel through an avalanche rather than to clear the track completely?
posted by tkolar at 11:02 PM on January 24, 2007


How about:

- the old ear-to-the-ground to hear the approach of the cavalry (or train or whatever) coming? Kind of similar to the mine one you guys did before, though, maybe.

- have you guys done the 'trail of gunpowder as fuse' one? Fire and explosions are always good.

- (probably impossible to get permission but) an examination of how a cowboy's shooting skills degrade with the progressive application of rutgut whiskey?

- (BlazingSaddlesFilter) can somebody really knock out a horse with one punch (OK, yeah, not going to happen, I know)?

- carrying on with the hanging theme, how about Buster-accelerometer stuff to measure the most efficient/inefficient (in terms of drop height, knot position, etc) way of hanging someone so that they die instantly?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:06 PM on January 24, 2007


rotgut, even.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:07 PM on January 24, 2007


Among the hundreds of Hollywood Western movie cliches - deal with the mythical image of the cowboy shooting and and hitting a target from a running horse. Find your best marksman and give him a rifle or a pistol and have him try to hit a fixed target while seated on a horse at full gallop.
posted by X4ster at 11:20 PM on January 24, 2007


I've heard that 10 gallon hats were used to carry water/collect water when it rained.

How well would a hat function compared to other gear that a cowboy might have on them like for instance a pan in which to cook their beans? Would the water even be safe to drink after the hat had been on a dirty, sweaty cowpoke's noggin for days and days?
posted by willnot at 11:21 PM on January 24, 2007


The problem with this is that most of the myths of the Old West are historical or sociological and don't lend themselves to the scientific rigor exhibited on Mythbusters. Good candidates for the program will have to center around technology of the period.

Someone mentioned the rawhide thong/torture myth -- that could probably be tested with pressure sensors and such.

In a nod to the expert trackers myth, there are stories of people shoeing horses backwards to make it appear that they were travelling in the opposite direction. Would that fool anyone who had even moderate tracking skills?

It's known that the golden spike that finished the transcontinental railroad was really an alloy of other metals, but you could pursue something demonstrating that a spike made of gold could not withstand a sledgehammer.

Was "fanning" a pistol really effective?

The Comanche chief Buffalo Hump was said to be strong enough to shoot arrows completely through someone and pin them to the ground. Is that possible?

Is the old "pour gunpowder into the wound and set it on fire" really an effective antiseptic?

Is it possible to stir a speeding wagon when sitting on the seat and using the wagon tongue? (From those movies where the wagon is loaded with explosives and steered into the enemy camp)

Is Miss Kitty really Kari's great-great-grandmother?

Ned Christie was said to hunt squirrels by shooting the branch they were sitting on, stunning the squirrel and saving more meat. Is that consistently possible?
posted by forrest at 11:25 PM on January 24, 2007


Can the swift application of whiskey diminish the effects of a snakebite? Or act as any sort of antibacterial magical medical juice (topically)? Old West style folk medicine seems rich in testable hypothesis.

Do the fringe-y bits on chaps and vests actually help you pass through brush?

Can Adam and Jamie communicate via smoke signals?

There have got to be myths about the Pony Express, or the stagecoach, or all that dreadfully unkempt Old West facial hair, if only I could think of them. I bet there are myth-busting-worthy myths in the Little House of the Prairie books.

So, my mental picture of a wagon train has all the people walking or riding near the wagons. I remember thinking it was because the riding inside one of those things would simultaneously give you a backache and seasickness, but now I kinda think it's because the wagons were generally full of the "200 pounds of buffalo" and assorted household goods. I would like to see Buster and his suite of accelerometers ride in a stagecoach (at speed), in a covered wagon, and on horseback. to see if my original idea has any merit.

Most of the gunslinging suggestions so far have focused, unsurprisingly, on guns. But what about bows and arrows? Lot's of experiments could be redone, with probably different results. Does a horse trough or pond water protect you from an arrow? &c. Maybe I just want to see arrows shot into ballistics gel.

Any myth-busting related to that Oregon Trail game would be fantastic. You could debunk all of the very dodgy assumptions governing that game.
posted by janell at 11:28 PM on January 24, 2007


How did they fit so many bullets in a six-shot revolver? </westernmoviefilter>
posted by SpecialK at 11:30 PM on January 24, 2007


SpecialK : heh, movie magic (and/ or continuity directors, undone. I like it.)

X4ster : Find your best marksman and give him a rifle or a pistol and have him try to hit a fixed target while seated on a horse at full gallop.

This is an awesome idea.

And from a purely TV perspective, I like pretty much everything forrest has to say.
posted by quin at 11:39 PM on January 24, 2007


Can a horse pull the bars out of a jail cell window?

What about a stick of dynamite? Can you blow a hole in the wall of the cell without killing the prisoner inside?
posted by willnot at 11:48 PM on January 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


just exactly how appetizing and edible was that side of beef the rancher stuck in his cupboard for the family. How many days did it last, and did they then revert to eating beans or go out and shoot another beast and eat unrefrigerated meat until it went mouldy? How does it taste? What does it do to your insides?

How easy is it to circle them wagons? They looked unweildy and the terrain untravelled, but every night without fail, the pioneers would put em in a circle so they could look at the fire or something? Did they float when they took them through a river, and if they did, wouldn't that be enough to sweep the horses away too?

How bad did the meat that they were carrying smell?

No toilet paper, no washing machines. Just how bad did that underwear get. How smelly were people? Didn't they get chafing or something from all that lack of hygene?

How did they get past giardia - did they get it once and were thereafter immune or did they regularly get a case of the tummywobbles?
posted by b33j at 11:49 PM on January 24, 2007


There are so many I knew growing up in Oklahoma, but I can't remember a damned one right now.

You might want to check out The Legacy of Conquest by Patricia Limerick.

My favorite prof in college.

Xth the Oregon Trail stuff (the caulked wagons especially).

Was "fanning" a pistol really effective?

Damnit, someone already got to this one. More to the point, is it possible for someone to fan a six-shooter and gun down six people?

On ear to the ground, what about ear to the rail? Could a Native scout hear a train coming from a mile away just by listening to the rail?
posted by dw at 11:55 PM on January 24, 2007


I've only scanned the thread, and I'm not sure if you guys have done it already, but...

How about two bullets hitting in midair and stopping each other, melding together? As in a showdown at high noon.

In the same vein, shooting at a hat continuously, keeping it in the air. Like in For A Few Dollars More.

Also...

Please tell Kari that I want to marry her.
posted by brundlefly at 12:25 AM on January 25, 2007


I think you should try and bust the myth that the job of the pretty young boys who went out on the trail was to wash the dishes/help with the cooking.

Adam to play the part of the pretty young punk, Jamie (due to his superior moustache) to play the part of the horny cow hand.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:29 AM on January 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


No Old West Mythbusters would be complete without a look into the lore of barbed wire, including such legends as The Big Die Up of 1885. Could barbed wire fences really withstand or stop cattle stampedes? Has barbed wire proved so durable (as it was claimed back in the 1880's) that the fence posts holding it rot away before the wire?

Lots of Old West history, politics, and lore built up around the subject of barbed wire, and it ought to be fertile ground for Mythbusting.
posted by paulsc at 12:34 AM on January 25, 2007


Oh, I've got one!

You know how the good guy walks into the saloon and faces down with the bad guy and his friends in The Biggest Bar Brawl of All Time, and all the tables are busted up by guys ripping up table legs to whomp each others' heads, and bits of the ceiling are knocked down and the piano crashes and the door falls off and the saloon is just FUCKING SMASHED by this brawl?

Get four of the burliest, toughest, nastiest stuntmen you can find and get them to have a fight in a typical saloon or some facsimile thereof, and see how much they can smash!!

I bet it's not much. :)
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:00 AM on January 25, 2007


I don't know how you guys are for field trips, but do you know the reason why Hell's Canyon got that name? It's because it was easily the worst problem on the Oregon Trail.

What I was taught in grade school was that the pioneers had to take apart their wagons, lower everything (even draft animals) down to the bottom of the canyon with ropes, take everything across the Snake River on rafts, lift all of it up the other side, and then put it all together again before they could proceed on their way.

If you're sufficiently ambitious, that might be interesting to try to duplicate. But you'd have to go on location to really do it right.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:02 AM on January 25, 2007


Did all Saloons have swinging doors on the front? How easy did they swing, and could a man get injured being tossed through said swinging doors?

How often did old pistols/revolvers jam up? How many bullets could you reliably fire in a row?

From how far away could you read a smoke signal?

Did people really bite on gold to test it's purity?
posted by stovenator at 1:04 AM on January 25, 2007


I've seen several references to shooting at people's feet to make them "dance." How much more likely is it that this resulted in a lost toe?

Also, please have Jamie recreate this photo
posted by borkencode at 1:10 AM on January 25, 2007


There is not enough dirt and disease and infestation and boredom and nastiness in westerns.

If it's cattlemen you're testing, try sending men (and boys) and animals (just cowboys and mencalves) out into the wild for some months with no inoculations, no medicines, no toilets, no toilet paper, no insect repellent, no soap, very little water to spare, and maybe one change of underwear (for the men, none for the animals). No doctor. No real first aid kit. Nothing made of materials not common in 1870 or so. Expect filthy, stinking people, and fistfights and sex (sometimes in combination), and sometimes sex with the animals ("Oh... I think I'll just go out and check on the animals..."). Lots of infections and infestations, itching and scratching and moaning. Hunger. Sick men and animals. Overwhelming boredom.

If it's settlers, add a few women and children to the mix and expect it to get even nastier. If some don't die of disease or exposure, or at least lose a few toes or get seriously ill, you aren't recreating things correctly.
posted by pracowity at 1:37 AM on January 25, 2007


Annie Oakley? I believe you've already discussed that one though
posted by isopropyl at 1:52 AM on January 25, 2007


Heavy drinking as seen in, among others, Deadwood. In a mining camp, just how much booze DID them grizzled muckscrabblers down on a daily basis?

No need to debunk the good offices of Emperor Norton, but I would love to learn more about the Hurlothrumbo, Norton's legendary business venture before acceding majestically to Imperium. I would deem such a segment satisifactory. You should, of course, build one.

Donner Party: careful scientific analysis of the potential nutritional value of the long pig.

Chaco canyon, Canyon de Chelly, the Anazasi, and the Diné: mysterious vanished Indian culture, or precursors of the indigenous populace at the time of contact, their prior high-density culture having stripped the environs of food and fuel, resulting in war and starvation?

Brokeback Mountin's: on the frontier, where men were men in a patriarchal culture and might be long from the company of women, how often did homosexual interactions take place, and how were they treated by the culture?

Blazing Saddles: were there any black lawmen in the West circa 1865-1890? Who, what, where, when, how, why?

Uppity Wimmins: Beyond assessing the role of the brothel in parts of the west, how common were figures such as Calamity Jane? Was she a unique instance, or did every gol-dang knocked-up territorial outpost play host to a wildcat tomboy with blood in her eyes? Was she all that and a bag of chips, or some sort of Wild Bill - dotin' gasbag?

Long haired fools: Custer, Wild Bill Hickock, Buffalo Bill. Who else? Were they celebrated in reflection of factual prowess, or more in reflection of profound campaigns of personal aggrandization?

Mark Twain: Was there an actual jumping frog of Calaveras Country, and could you stuff a frog full of shot to restrict movement without killing it?

BIG MEN: Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, whoever else. Any shreds of historical personages transformed into these fictions? Is it possible to grease a skillet with skates of bacon? Could one actually put reins and a saddle on the whirlwind?

TALL TALES: will a heavy link-chain on a pole act as an effective wind meter anywhere on the planet, let alone Montana?

Adam, will you be introed on the episode as 'MeFi's own'? 'Cause that would be hilarious.
posted by mwhybark at 1:53 AM on January 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Can guys really go around drinking prodigious amounts of whiskey all day and then accurately aim and fire their weapons at one another? Were these guys so used to operating while slightly drunk that they could shoot straight even after a night the saloon?
posted by Clay201 at 3:19 AM on January 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


Did prostitutes really have hearts of gold?

Was there ever heard a discouraging word?

How effective is a bullwhip as a weapon?

Did spurs jingle-jangle?

Boots - was they high boots or low boots? (Ditto heels)

What's the maximum range you can hit a spitoon at, using a well-masticated chaw?

Did stables really have big piles of straw lying around under kerosene lanterns that were lit at night, even when no one was working there? (I blame Reagan for gutting OSHA.)

White hats?

Boxers or longjohns? Cotton or wool?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:06 AM on January 25, 2007


Late to the party, as usual.

I read somewhere that Old West safecrackers use to blow the doors off safes by puttying the cracks in the doors, pouring nitroglycerin in through an opening left at the top, and then giving the door a sharp whack with a sledgehammer. It might have even been in a movie, I can't remember.

Another legend about Bill Hickok was that he could shoot a cork into a bottle without breaking the bottle.

Also, there must be some hypothesis that can only be tested by giving Jamie mescaline.
posted by Ritchie at 4:30 AM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's some cool stuff here. One thing I'd suggest would be a running gag/bit between the cast where over the course of the show, you all try and count coup on each other. Sure, you'd have to set some ground rules (no counting coup while the other guy's using equipment, etc), but it could be fun to see folks darting around corners with their coup stick trying to score some feathers.

Also, just how hard was it to communicate via smoke signal?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:41 AM on January 25, 2007


I have a few, but here are some I think could actually look good on the show if you tried them:

-Can you really tell how far a train is by putting your hand/ear to the rail?

-Can you really sever a pair of handcuffs/leg shackles by resting them on a train and running over it?

-One of my favorite gun myths from For a Few Dollars More/Cat Ballou- does shooting an object multiple times (hat, tin can, bottle) really send it back up into the air? I would think after a second shot you'd proper it too far away from you.

And while I doubt you'd ever be able to do this because the ASPCA would kill you, it's my favorite Western scene of all time, even though it's from Blazing Saddles... can a human being really punch a steer unconscious?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:44 AM on January 25, 2007


How the hell did Clint Eastwood's character get a hanging scar like he did in Hang 'em High, without getting killed? Is it possible to survive a hanging like that?

Loto, I can actually answer that one for you, since I doubt it could be tested on Mythbusters anyway- they lifted him by his neck waiting for him to strangle to death, hence the scar. Normally hanging kills you instantly by snapping your neck as you fall.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:47 AM on January 25, 2007


Ooh, what about Tonto's amazing ability to divine all sorts of information (10 men on horseback are coming this way!) by putting his ear to the ground...
posted by phrontist


Which reminds me... (ahem)...
The Lone Ranger comes upon Tonto in the prairie, with his ear to the ground. Tonto says, "3 men... on horses... followed by 4 horses pulling covered wagon."

The Lone Ranger asks, "Wow! You can tell all that just by putting your ear to the ground?"

Tonto replies, "No. They just ran over me, now help me the fuck up!"

Yeah, bust that myth!
posted by The Deej at 5:10 AM on January 25, 2007


Part of the humor and appeal of the old Wild Wild West show - not the braindead movie - inhered in the protagonists' use of technologies that we didn't necessarily associate with the 1890s. I guess it was kinda steampunk avant le lettre.

Being more or less a geek, I got the same kind of frisson from Tom Standage's excellent The Victorian Internet, where he's documenting the existence of telegraphic chatrooms and all the other paraphernalia we associate with 1997 AOL, well before the close of the nineteenth century.

So I think it would be kind of fun to somehow build a show around what you could and could not achieve with the bleeding-edge personal technology of 1880. It's not properly a Mythbusters idea, but there's the kernel of something in it. It just needs to be turned inside out like a Jeopardy question.

And that's entirely enough pop culture references for one answer.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:19 AM on January 25, 2007



-Is it possible for a human to knock a horse unconscious with one punch?


Mas Oyama could kill bulls with a single punch.
posted by the cuban at 5:23 AM on January 25, 2007


Since pistols are undoubtedly going to come up, I'll not that six-shooters in the Wild West were much slower weapons than modern ones. They were single action (you had to cock the hammer, then pull the trigger) They were heavy -- many were over four pounds, which may not seem like much until you try to hold one still at arms length. The mechanical tolerances were much lower and spring were heavier, so they had a very heavy trigger pull.

Tricks that you can do with modern pistols are vastly harder, if not impossible, with period weapons.

There is a competition called "Cowboy Action Shooting" that involves period arms, they'd obviously be the guys to talk to about period weaponry.
posted by eriko at 5:25 AM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Part of the humor and appeal of the old Wild Wild West show - not the braindead movie - inhered in the protagonists' use of technologies that we didn't necessarily associate with the 1890s. I guess it was kinda steampunk avant le lettre.

Adam's partner could play Dr. Miguelito Loveless.
posted by hal9k at 5:41 AM on January 25, 2007


My post on the first Wild West shootout.

Billy Dixon supposedly shot and killed a man from a mile away -- was that possible with the rifles of the day?

It was in The Magnificent Seven:
Chico: Ah, that was the greatest shot I've ever seen.
Britt: The worst! I was aiming at the horse.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:49 AM on January 25, 2007


Let's say our beloved protagonist cowboy failed to untie the traintrack bound damsel in distress... would the train derail?

Um ... no. If the train had a cowcatcher (er ... "Pilot"), it might push her aside if the train was going slowly enough, but that impact would still probably kill her. If it didn't have the cowcatcher, she'd just get run over.
posted by Alt F4 at 5:52 AM on January 25, 2007


Wild pigs called Javelina roam the southwestern deserts.
posted by netbros at 6:20 AM on January 25, 2007


Are bandanas really that useful when it comes to filtering water? (OK, no explosions involved, but I remember reading when I was a kid that cowboys wore bandanas for that very purpose. And for hanging horse thieves, of course.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:30 AM on January 25, 2007


What about another echo experiment? If you are in a box canyon, can you really tell the number and direction of horse riders coming for you? Can you tell the number and direction of people shooting at you?
posted by onhazier at 6:35 AM on January 25, 2007


I'm always late to the party!

Wild West Tech on the History Channel always made me think of this one - what's the best way to rob a train?

There was mention on one of those episodes about using black powder/dynamite to blow open payroll safes on the trains, but this usually resulted in blowing up the money inside. It could be a neat tie-in to the cat burglar episodes, too - best way to board a moving train, overpower the guards, stop the train or get the safe off of a moving train, open the safe, etc. No borescope on the safe this time, either - period tools only.

I've also always been curious whether using a divining stick to find water actually works.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:54 AM on January 25, 2007


Can someone really consistently hit a stationary person-sized target while galloping through rough terrain on horseback?

Who really made money in the gold rush? The prospectors, the saloons, the banks, or the people selling shovels and pans?

It'd probably be worth it to pull in something about Sarah Winchester. She was crazy as a loon, but in a fascinating way.

How much do rattlesnakes/scorpions really like cowboy boots anyway? Is the appeal of a rapidly cooling leather cave the reeks of cowboy feet that appealing?
posted by plinth at 7:06 AM on January 25, 2007


Could you do something about laying railroad track? Like the myth that John Henry could pound ties faster than a machine? Or looking at how dangerous pounding the ties can be, which would allow you to bring up Phineas Gage (the man who had a tamping iron go through his head in the 1848 and lived), which is way too entertaining a story. They have his skull and the spike at the Harvard Medical Library.
posted by JonahBlack at 7:09 AM on January 25, 2007


What about the legend of the Lost Dutchman's Gold Mine? It's famous in the Southwest, to this day no one has proved or disproved it
posted by hermitosis at 7:12 AM on January 25, 2007


netbros, javelina aren't a myth. I see them all the time when I visit my dad. Development of the deserts has been hard on them, but they are alive and well and in ur backyard eatin ur garbidge.

I even have one of their skulls, a memento from a hunting trip when I was a kid.
posted by hermitosis at 7:15 AM on January 25, 2007


Seconding the "ear to the ground = 3 men on horseback," various methods of tracking, jumping from a building or train onto a horse (or horse onto a moving train), the horse pulling out the jail cell bars, multiple uses of the bandana (that could be a theme one if you don't want to do whiskey since you guys have already done a bunch of alcohol myths), shooting a gun out of someone's hand.

Another thing that would be interesting would be to talk about dust devils/tornadoes (how about the myth that air pressure variances during a tornado causes houses to explode if you don't open the windows (would LOVE to see you guys create a controlled tornado). I guess that's not hugely wild west-ish but it would still be rather awesome.
posted by marginaliana at 7:17 AM on January 25, 2007


Is the word "Wasatch" actually derived from a Ute word (something like "Wuhu Seai ") meaning "frozen penis"?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:28 AM on January 25, 2007


Additional to ear-to-the-ground myth - the ear-to-the-tracks myth - that you could hear an approaching train from miles away by laying your ear to the tracks.
posted by kokogiak at 7:29 AM on January 25, 2007


Partly gleaned from above, but these would work well for the show:

1. Cerebral: Smoke signals...
- How far can you see them?
- How far can a message be discerned?
- How cute does Kari look in an Indian outfit? (How silly does Tori look?)

2. Weapons: Shooting a man from a full gallop with:
- a period 6 shooter
- a period rifle
- a period bow n arrow
(You'll need to recruit experts for each of these, as the assumption is that the shooters are total badasses.)
- Compare and contrast the above with you and/or Jamie firing a modern rifle from a moving 4-wheeler.

3. Destruction: Breaking Buster out of jail by:
- pulling the bars out with a horse (or fascimile). If that fails, use a 4 wheeler. If that fails, use a pickup! (i.e., scale up the force until something definitively works.)
- blowing a hole in the wall using period dynamite, multiple sticks, modern dynamite, modern plastique... (again, scale as necessary)

Mini-myths, if you need a shorter segment:
- How volatile is nitro glycerine, and how much damage would it cause to a human? Put vial in Buster's (ballistics gel) hand, vibrate until explosion occurs (or not), evaluate damage.
- Can a gun be shot from Buster's (ballistics gel) hand without injury?

If you're feeling particularly lazy, re-run the saving-a-hanging-man-by-shooting-a-rope bit.
posted by LordSludge at 7:35 AM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


netbros, the javelina actually a peccary, from the family Tayassuidae. They're definitely real, they definitely travel in bands and have super-sharp teeth, they can definitely attack humans, and you can definitely smell them before you see them. No myths to bust there!

Just want to be the first to say: Should you Mythbusters come to Tucson, I'll be happy to take the lot of you out for the world's best carne seca.
posted by parilous at 7:37 AM on January 25, 2007


Nthing Oregon Trail. Because the Oregon Trail game was soooo widespread, and so many people have vivid memories of the game, it would make an excellent item-by-item theme for a debunking show.

Rattlesnake: can you really save a snakebite victim's life by sucking the venom from a fresh wound? I don't know about the testability, but it always seemed rather extreme.

Something with the Donner party?

I agree -- it's tough. Most of our Old West lore is social history and though it can be debunked, it's sort of non-visual.
posted by Miko at 7:40 AM on January 25, 2007


Gratuitous gunfire qualifies as a myth, as in the Fifties westerns where the various belligerents are popping off their weapons for the sheer hell of it. Bullets were expensive and ranchers often poured their own.

Also the notion that cowboys weren't gay. Brokeback Mountain aside, if you look at the romantic male-male sentiment expressed in period collections of cowboy song lyrics, it becomes obvious there was far more fun out on the prairie than usually assumed.
posted by plainfeather at 7:42 AM on January 25, 2007


quin writes "And from Young Guns 2; would loading as 12 gauge shotgun with dimes (9 per shell IIRC) really be any more effective than regular buckshot?"

You can do this with an unchoked shotgun but because even silver dimes mass less than lead and have such a large surface to mass ratio the effect is less than buck shot. Now if you soldered the dimes together to make a slug you might have something.

phrontist writes "Let's say our beloved protagonist cowboy failed to untie the traintrack bound damsel in distress... would the train derail?"

Nope, A train will slice right thru a human no problem. The downtown switching yard I used to live next to would have a couple drunks loose a limb every year when they'd pass out on the tracks and a train would run over them.

tkolar writes "1) Can a bunch of snow really push a locomotive off a track?"

A avalanche doesn't so much push the locomotive off the tracks as it removes the track bed.

forrest writes "Is the old 'pour gunpowder into the wound and set it on fire' really an effective antiseptic?"

Potassium permanganate, a key ingredient of black powder, is an antiseptic and disinfectant. No need to light the powder off.

janell writes "Do the fringe-y bits on chaps and vests actually help you pass through brush? "

I always though the fringes are to shed water in the days before gore-tex. That's why they run across the shoulders.

b33j writes "just exactly how appetizing and edible was that side of beef the rancher stuck in his cupboard for the family. How many days did it last, and did they then revert to eating beans or go out and shoot another beast and eat unrefrigerated meat until it went mouldy? How does it taste? What does it do to your insides?"

Meat Potting was used to store meat without refrigeration. Apparently with care it'll last a long time. It can also be dried, smoked or salted.

paulsc writes "Has barbed wire proved so durable (as it was claimed back in the 1880's) that the fence posts holding it rot away before the wire?"

Depends on the soil and the post, however it's not unusual for posts to rot away at ground level to the point they fall over while the barb wire is fine (if a little rusty). Remember the wire is essentially protected from long term contact with water (it's only wet while it's raining and then soon drys out) while the post is in contact with the ground.

Kirth Gerson writes "Did spurs jingle-jangle?"

Modern spurs do a bit though you can increase the effect with jingle bobs.
posted by Mitheral at 8:04 AM on January 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


When I was a Boy Scout, I remember an adage (i.e. not in the handbook) stating that a coiled rope around your campsite will keep snakes out. Maybe not a "cowboy myth", but still...
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:09 AM on January 25, 2007


(Some people seem to be a bit unclear on the whole Mythbusters concept. It's not "Legendbusters.")

I'd like to third the divining rod myth. There are probably similar myths about finding gold that have been half-forgotten. (Did you do the "test a gold coin by biting it" one?)

I also like the smoke signals myth; it's certainly testable and interesting. I think the "ear to the rail" myth is probably too close to the "Chinese drum" myth you've already done, but it or something similar would be doable.

(Man, I love your show!)
posted by arco at 8:15 AM on January 25, 2007


Mitheral, the point isn't to bust the myths here on AskMe, it's to give Adam ideas for the show. Several of us could discount/confirm almost everything that's been posted so far, but that wouldn't make good TV, would it?

I thought of some more during this morning's Pre-Rising Ponder 'n' Scratch session: (No, that's not TMI -- if one of these suggestions is actually used, I like to think of the dismay on MeFiers' faces when they watch the show and picture where the idea had its genesis.)

Greasing railroad tracks to rob a train -- did it really work? If it did, wouldn't the train be brought to a standstill every time the rails got icy?

There are multiple scenes in Westerns were the hero finds a cow bogged in mud (sometimes quicksand). He will lasso the cow, throw a couple loops around the saddle horn, then back his horse up to pull the cow free. Could a horse generate enough pulling power to do that? Could the saddle cinchstrap be tight enough to keep the saddle in place?

Drunks would pass out in the dirt streets of towns and heavily laden wagons would run over them, neatly and completely amputating a limb. Could that happen or would the arm/leg simply be crushed?
posted by forrest at 8:25 AM on January 25, 2007


In the series Connections, James Burke talks about billiard ballss that were made from nitrocellulose instead of the traditional ivory, but allegedly had a problem with exploding while in use. He did a rather entertaining re-enactment of one such event. While I would trust Burke's research, I don't know if I necessarily trust the original report.

Exploding billiard balls: hogwash or truth?
posted by plinth at 8:48 AM on January 25, 2007


As far as whiskey as an antiseptic:

The company I work for makes hand disinfectants (similar to purell, but for hospital use only) and they are about 60-70% alcohol, so if the whiskey was 120 proof, it would be as effective as any of our fancy gels and foams, and if it was weaker, it would still be almost as effective. Although undistilled beverages like beer and wine aren't nearly strong enough. Ethanol (whiskey) and Isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) have basically the same antiseptic efficacy. We make products with both kinds of alcohols.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 8:58 AM on January 25, 2007


As a Donner descendant, I can't think of any testable D.P. "myths" whatsoever. (There are a lot of D.P. misconceptions, but Kristin Johnston has done an excellent job with those.)
I like the dowsing idea, and I think there's probably fruit, (and humorous fruit, at that) to be found in folk medicine, though if anybody could come up with a Donner myth, I'd be chuffed beyond reason to have the Mythbusters handle it.
posted by cookie-k at 9:00 AM on January 25, 2007


Well no Mythbusters episode would be complete without blowing stuff up.

It might have been done previously on Mythbusters, but how effective is opening a safe with dynamite?

What really happens when you shoot a stick of dynamite out of mid air? (John Wayne movie)

As long as there are explosions. Big ones.
posted by Totally Zanzibarin' Ya at 9:05 AM on January 25, 2007


Well, the New Yorker reported on an archaeological expedition that still did not conclusively prove cannibalism at the Donner site, and I guess that proof is still lacking...?
posted by Miko at 9:05 AM on January 25, 2007


Oooh, I'd forgotten about this one. I'd heard that story before the James Burke series, but I can't place where it happened. But that would be an easy one to do and feature explosions.
posted by dw at 9:29 AM on January 25, 2007


The only things that pop in to my mind are horse-related as well:

1) Ability of someone to not only survive being dragged behind a horse, but to pull themselves up.

2) Ability of good guy or bad guy to jump from horse onto horses pulling caarriage and then gain access to the carriage by sliding along ground under horses and carriage.

Someone else mentioned jumping from rooftop to horses back without injuring self or horse.
posted by terrapin at 9:31 AM on January 25, 2007


Alferd Packer.

I'm not interested in whether he was a murderer or just a cannibal. I want to know how long can someone survive eating their moccasins? Is it possible to even digest them? Do you soak them first to soften them up? Boil 'em to get rid of germs? Make a stew? How does one season moccasins?
posted by lilnemo at 9:35 AM on January 25, 2007


Regarding Terminal Verbosity's comment about the wet rawhide drying as a torture device: that was on an episode of Brisco County, Jr. starring Bruce Campbell and currently available on DVD from Netflix. I'd love to see it busted, though. In the episode, I think it dries in an elapsed time of 15-30 mins. I can't remember how Brisco escaped, though.

I also would be interested in a ricocheting bullet myth: wouldn't the bullet lose force, and thereby velocity, each time it hit something?
posted by sarahnade at 10:08 AM on January 25, 2007


forrest writes "it's to give Adam ideas for the show. Several of us could discount/confirm almost everything that's been posted so far, but that wouldn't make good TV, would it?"

I don't think so, the best Mythbuster episodes (aside from the sloppy science) are stuff where the truth isn't wildly known and are difficult to test in home labs because they either require a lot of space, a lot of capital or explosives. Stuff like "Do spurs jingle" wouldn't make good TV because the answer is "Yes, because movie spurs are flashy and flashy spurs have jingle bobs to make noise." Anyone with access to a tack store (IE: everyone here) can answer that question once they know what to look for.

Also experiments that have analogs that make the news every year are going to bore a lot of people. People in Texas or New Mexico might not know that avalanches can take out trains but anyone who pays attention to the news in places with avalanches and trains knows the answer. Same with the human train derail question. If you can do a newspaper search and find a multiple real world analogs of the experiment it's not a good mythbusters IMO.

Now the leather fringe question would be a good one, I'd like to see a test to determine if it was just decoration or actually effective as either a rain or brush repealent. And the dime/shotgun one would be fun to reproduce, so fun it's been done by many people.
posted by Mitheral at 10:09 AM on January 25, 2007


In terms of the show, I do think the punch-to-the jaw in the saloon has a lot of potential for recreation and busting. Will a cowboy fly backwards 10 feet when punched in the jaw? Can he come back for more after such a blow? Will he lose his teeth/crack his wooden dentures?

Basically, as others have suggested, test the physics of a saloon fight.

I understand that rubber fists can be purchased on the internet, so that part is easy. Slowly panning footage of Kari setting up a rubber fist to smack Buster in the chops would guarantee substantial ratings, with viewers from across the age/gender/sexual orientation spectrum. Putting the glasses on Buster would be the icing on the cake.
posted by Rumple at 10:18 AM on January 25, 2007


More northern than a lot of these examples, and probably a little earlier:

Was pemmican as durable a foodstuff as has been described (used as the runners for sledges, etc.) and how does one prepare to achieve that level of durability.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:21 AM on January 25, 2007


Actually, a fur trade/frontiersman theme might be interesting. You could get into things like whether or not black flies could actually reduce a man to bone.

I recall a Canadian documentary I saw once that tested whether or not trappers could use the locks on their muskets as an impromptu fire starter. Apparently they could.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:25 AM on January 25, 2007


Slowly panning footage of Kari setting up a rubber fist to smack Buster in the chops would guarantee substantial ratings

Any slow panning footage of Kari doing anything is ok with me. :)
posted by The Deej at 10:43 AM on January 25, 2007


Cow catcher's on the front of Trains? How effective are/were they and at what speeds? What about stories of Native American's using telegraph wire strung across RR tacks to damage trains / kill engineers? How about Jumping between RR cars? (Wind resistance would cause problems here right?)

Annie Oakley could plug an ace with a six shooter out of a deck of cards tossed into the air? How about some Archery Trick shooting? How effective is/was a Native bow & arrow? Several stories with that: Being able to shoot several arrows into a thrown target (something like 3 arrows into a tossed hoop?). Being able to kill a Bison with one well aimed arrow to the heart while ridding a horse? Arrows being able to penetrate objects (tents, windows, doors?). You can pull out can an arrow penetrate somebody's skull so that you have the point on one side and the feathers on the other (like the silly hats/headbands).

I also seem to recall a myth about making some sort of Bison-hide shield that would stop a musket ball (not a rifle bullet).
posted by Numenorian at 10:46 AM on January 25, 2007


This would be more early wild west but how about the idea that bows and arrows were less effective at close range than guns. Considering the reload time of a blackpowder rifle or a blackpowder pistol compared to the reload time of a bow and arrow, I've always figured that most of the advantages of the gun at close range were psychological. Did the gun toting cowboy really have that much of an advantage over his quiver wearing enemy?

"Now the leather fringe question would be a good one, I'd like to see a test to determine if it was just decoration or actually effective as either a rain or brush repealent."

I've always remembered the explanation for the fringe as being that it was a basic form of camouflage designed to break up the silhouette of the user.
posted by 517 at 10:56 AM on January 25, 2007


Can a sheriff's badge absorb/deflect a bullet?
posted by brundlefly at 11:15 AM on January 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's an old episode of "Little House on the Prairie" where Pa has to make money by transporting some nitroglycerine-- the myth would be whether a) it was feasible to transport this by stagecoach and b) whether a few well-placed bumps would blow the whole thing up.

I think the attraction of this myth should be rather obvious.

you could also have some themed critter myths: do snakes go for sleeping bags? do scorpions hide in shoes? ~do coyotes really think roadrunners are delicious?~
posted by norm at 11:27 AM on January 25, 2007


Could raw meat placed under a saddle all day really be eaten at the end of the day?

The handcar racing sounds like fun.

I don't recall MB ever doing a "shotgun full of rocksalt" myth. Might be good in combo with the dimes. (The Box Of Truth tests the rocksalt Here)

Ear to the train rail would be interesting. Especially if in addition to just listening to it directly, if a contact mic/piezo pickup was attached and amplified/recorded just to see how far away the vibrations are detectable at all.
posted by alikins at 11:37 AM on January 25, 2007


Is it really possible for everything to be going fine, and then - suddenly and without warning - for a member of my family to die of dysentery?
posted by sixfoot6 at 11:43 AM on January 25, 2007


Also, can you shoot from horseback while the horse is running with any accuracy?
posted by 517 at 12:01 PM on January 25, 2007


One interesting fact I know is that Squanto had been in Europe before the Pilgrims came and walked up to them and started speaking English, which is kinda opposite the whole Tonto "HOW" thing.
posted by xammerboy at 2:46 PM on January 25, 2007


Holy Shit!

I had no idea what a wealth of ideas would come of this idea! Wow. MeFi rocks. You can count on a shout out during the show both obvious and subtle.

This is invaluable. I'm endebted and awed by the hive mind. You guys have given us not only new ideas, but confirmation that some of our old ideas weren't as lightweight as I thought.

I know the posts are rarely signed, but I sign this one gratefully:

I remain,
MeFi's own
Adam Savage
posted by asavage at 3:28 PM on January 25, 2007 [11 favorites]


Fire Arrows... Hollywood perfected them in the heyday of the Western. But did the Indians ever get them right? Wouldn’t the flight of the arrow tend to “blow” the flame out by outrunning flame propagation? To get more bang for your buck you could shoot a fire arrow into a keg of powder, or maybe a high arcing shot into a long powder trail leading to the open bunghole of the keg from which the trail was poured.
posted by Huplescat at 3:45 PM on January 25, 2007


Is it true that you would drown from mud weighing down your pockets if you swam in the Rio Grande in your clothes?
posted by yohko at 3:48 PM on January 25, 2007


Can you fire two pistols at once (one in each hand), and be even remotely accurate?
posted by jazzkat11 at 4:19 PM on January 25, 2007


Could a cowcatcher on a locomotive truly split a cow in two?
posted by Freen at 4:41 PM on January 25, 2007


Wait, nothing about poker or bank robbing? Those things are synonimous with the Old West. Maybe something about Wild Bill Hicock and Dead Man's Hand?
posted by Ugh at 4:50 PM on January 25, 2007


When can we expect the episode you're researching to air?
posted by 517 at 4:54 PM on January 25, 2007


You can count on a shout out during the show both obvious and subtle.

T-shirt. "I am not Matt Haughey."

(That, or beam the MigSig onto the ceiling.)
posted by eriko at 5:21 PM on January 25, 2007


jazzkat11, The popular term for this kind of shooting is 'akimbo' and the answer is no. It can be done if you fire them alternating between your right hand and left hand being center of focus, but to get an accurate aimed shot off, your better using one gun, held in both hands. A friend of mine and I tried this at the range, and when timed we discovered, that it was actually faster to get aimed shots down range using one gun and reloading once, than using two guns and not reloading at all. Laser sights help, but not significantly so.

It looks really cool in the movies, but it really isn't all that practical.

/stops answering the damn questions...

posted by quin at 5:24 PM on January 25, 2007


You guys have to do the Peacemaker myth! I can't remember all the details, But I am pretty sure it appeared in a movie or book I read. It's a really simple myth. The myth is that the Colt Peacemaker got its name because it was accurate enough to shoot a bullet out of the air.

Any Myth busters fan would love to see two bullets collide on high speed film!
posted by magikker at 5:27 PM on January 25, 2007


Can a sheriff's badge absorb/deflect a bullet?

That's an entire show right there -- what WILL stop a bullet?

Teddy Roosevelt had a speech in his front pocket that stopped a bullet, for example. There are plenty of urban legends of preachers stopping bullets with Bibles or crosses. And then there are those old movies where bullets deflect off of iron pots and pans.
posted by dw at 5:28 PM on January 25, 2007


Any Myth busters fan would love to see two bullets collide on high speed film!

That episode was quite good, but the camera didn't catch it, if I remember correctly.

The Civil War myths have a lot of commonality w/ the old west myths, since it's the same time period.

And let me suggest for the MeFi shoutout that asavage wear a shirt that says either "asavage," "This will Wendell" or "I'm quoting SCIENCE!"
posted by JekPorkins at 5:45 PM on January 25, 2007


Ugh is on to something: was the poker that Wild Bill played the same poker we know today? Was poker the jeu par excellence, or did the game of whist lead to the ruination of many a fine man out upon the trackless American Desert? Is there a way to work explosives into the investigation? Did Pecos Bill play poker, and, if so, could he have done so whilst riding the aforementioned whirlwind? Failing that, did there was an Iron Horse circuit analogous to the Riverboat Round featuring itinerant gamblers and attendant moral failings? And what about them colliding trains?
posted by mwhybark at 5:49 PM on January 25, 2007


There are plenty of urban legends of preachers stopping bullets with Bibles or crosses.

Woody Allen once told about keeping a bullet in his breast pocket as a momento of his grandfather's service in the army. One day a crazed evangelist jumped out of a doorway and threw a New Testament at him. And if it hadn't been for that bullet, the Bible would have gone right through his heart.
posted by The Deej at 6:27 PM on January 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


There's a story about Davy Crockett being chased by a bear and a panther. He only had one bullet, so he fired it at a rock, which split and killed both his pursuers. Can you hit two targets with just one bullet and a carefully shaped rock?
posted by zamboni at 7:35 PM on January 25, 2007


Was it Winchester that 'won the West' or pioneer women's petticoats ripped up for bandages?

Marshal Matt Dillon always shot last, with deadly accuracy. Miss Kitty Russell hooked him up with the petticoats ripped up for bandages, and whatever...

disclaimer: I [my family] stopped watching when he started whipping his horse.

A New Mexico favorite: "Whiskey's for drinking. Water's for fighting."

What about 'Indian Country' and tribal sovereignty...no, wait...you want gunslingers.
posted by taosbat at 7:52 PM on January 25, 2007


♠♠♠88
posted by taosbat at 7:54 PM on January 25, 2007


How about the John Henry myth: can a man dig faster than a steam shovel?

Alternately, there is a great story about the Bent brothers who built a fort in New Mexico, and when the Feds refused to buy it from them they blew the thing up!! A recreation of the fort has been built in the outskirts of Denver, and is operated as a restaurant, but it would be fun to see if how much gunpowder you need to blow up an adobe fort! [2 stories, stable inside, etc.]
posted by owalt1 at 8:34 PM on January 25, 2007


...there is a great story about the Bent brothers

Well...Charles Bent may have been Governor of New Mexico, but he didn't live to see his bro' blow up the Fort (in Colorado) because he died after being scalped alive in his own house right here in the middle of Taos...so they say.
posted by taosbat at 8:55 PM on January 25, 2007


Can a horse be made to drink?

Yeah, forcing animals to do things is problematic television, but man, think of the implications!
posted by ulotrichous at 9:06 PM on January 25, 2007


Answers to a couple questions:

Normally there's about a 2-3 month lag between shooting and airing, depending on the season. Sometimes it's longer, sometimes, like with Mentos and Soda, it's 6 weeks.

We've already done a "what is bulletproof" episode, but there's plenty here to potentially hit it again. Side story about this: We brought a bible to the range to see if it would stop a bullet, and the range master matter of factly told us that we'd be shooting no bibles that day. I mean he said it like you'd tell people that you only shoot downrange. So we used a dictionary.

MeFi Rocks. I'm having the T-shirts made next week!
posted by asavage at 10:11 PM on January 25, 2007 [2 favorites]


How much water can a ten gallon hat really hold? (that ones a joke, sort of)

You could do some survival myths old west style, like try and drink from a cactus.

I'd like to see the smoke signals tested for range.

Isn't there something about taking milk from town to town, and due to the heat and bumpy mule ride it becomes butter?

Pecos Bill used a rattle snake for a whip, is that possible?

Get enough horses together and see if you could pull the back wall off a jail to break Jamie out.


or you could bust this
posted by magikker at 10:36 PM on January 25, 2007


Test the Rain dance!
posted by magikker at 10:39 PM on January 25, 2007


asavage : MeFi Rocks. I'm having the T-shirts made next week!

Yeah, I have an opinion on this, but I'll tell you all more about that later.

Looks to the hand of asavage to pull this trick off... [and not saying anything, one way or another.]
posted by quin at 10:51 PM on January 25, 2007


Levi's canvas pants, like they used to make them were said to be unbreakable... Hence the logo with the two horses pulling them apart, I'd like to see if thats true.

and isn't there a movie were some one shoots off all the bad guys trigger fingers but leaves them otherwise unharmed?
posted by magikker at 10:53 PM on January 25, 2007


magikker : Pecos Bill used a rattle snake for a whip, is that possible?

I always parsed that as 'he used a rattle-snake whip', as in a whip made out of a snake's rattle.

And while I loves me some snakes, I would also love to see your concept put into practice.

Using only willing snakey volunteers, of course...
posted by quin at 10:57 PM on January 25, 2007


Huh. I just watched the folding-paper-more-than-7-times and let's-drown-Adam-in-a-submerged-Taurus episode (taped Oct-Nov?), where you announce a fan-submission show -- although I'm pretty sure you've announced that before. Watchers are encouraged to go to http://www.discoverychannel.com/mythbusters (I may have remembered wrong, as that link is broken -- this works though) and submit suggestions. Then I run across this AskMe post.

I wonder... Is this a bet? As in (to Jamie or producer or whomever): "These user submissions from Joe Public are asstacular. I bet you 42 fish crackers that we'll get better submissions from MeFi, cuz they're, like, smart!"

Also, you should sell your t-shirts online if you're not already. People would buy 'em up by the, um, shirt-load.
posted by LordSludge at 6:22 AM on January 26, 2007


Hmm, to add to the stampede myths. Thought I had heard/read that a person could stand in a cattle stampede with their hand outstretched in front of them and the cattle would part leaving the person unharmed.
Could be a good one to test.
posted by evilelf at 7:55 AM on January 26, 2007


What were some common ingredients in snake oil, and did any have medical benefit?

Great show, btw. And please, don't group MeFi with the rest of the internet. This place really is special.
posted by kc0dxh at 8:27 AM on January 26, 2007


Here's another one (quin jogged this one):

Is it possible to 'whip' a cigarette out of someone's mouth?

It isn't the old west, but I recall the Blues Brothers doing it in the honkey tonk scene during their rendition of 'Rawhide'.
posted by jazzkat11 at 8:38 AM on January 26, 2007


can quickly cutting open a rattlensnake-bit area and attempting to suck out the venom help mitigate the effects if done correctly?

can applying the liver of a freshly killed animal to a rattlesnake bite draw out the venom? (i read this in the yearling but i believe it's a common myth of the west too).

can mirages appear to be complex objects (like people or horses that aren't there), or are they usually just modifications of existing objects? as a kid i saw some interesting mirages (outside of tucson) where a mountain range abruptly shifted and looked as though its top was cut off and completely flat, and i often saw water mirages. and this mirage in china apparently shows an entire city. but they are all images or alterations of things that are really there, not illusions of non-existent objects.
posted by jjsonp at 11:13 AM on January 26, 2007


Is it possible for someone to be thrown onto a bar and slide all the way down its length, smashing bottles along the way?

Sounds like a job for Buster.
posted by brundlefly at 11:35 AM on January 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just have this image of an old western movie with the cowhands coming into the saloon, being served by a saloon girl, getting into a fight (lots of myths there to be tested with broken bottles, broken furniture, and maybe somebody sliding down the bar out the door. )

Next scene could be our cowhands plotting to rob the train (how do they get on the train? jump from galloping horse to the train? jump from the top of a building onto the train?) and then once they make their way onto the train, finding the safe and blowing it open. (if possible)

They steal the money/gold and almost make it away except for one of them gets caught and is taken to jail. How does the gang get their pal out? Blow out the wall? Can they even do that without killing their pal?

That's just the images that popped into my head after reading this great question...
posted by redtriskelion at 3:21 PM on January 27, 2007


Noting Adam is already thanking Metafilter for this thread....his thanks is 23 minutes in on this radio interview.

http://www.harrisonline.com/2007/01/today-adam-savage-mythbuster.htm

Just poniting out Adam is a man of his words!
posted by mattfn at 8:36 AM on January 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


That's pretty cool. Good on ya, Adam.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:33 PM on January 30, 2007


Did sand people conestogas etc. really travel single-file hide their numbers? How would that really work? Can a wild boar really kill two men and three dogs, and bend a rifle barrel with its jaws?

Fun!! Please follow up and let us know when this will be on. You guys are awesome, a friend uses clips of your show in his physics class.
posted by mimi at 7:39 AM on January 31, 2007


I'm comin late here, but I see the Canadian flag in the background on the show. What gives?
posted by Frasermoo at 7:33 PM on January 31, 2007


I saw this in a terribly cheesy Dennis Hopper movie..not of a western genre but could possibly work. How about the idea that a bullet fired from the back of a moving train could never be lethal to its target.

I appreciate your black humor Adam, I am a descendant of one of the first people eaten in the Donner Party. Not really anything I can say to follow that up.
posted by crystaleden at 7:38 PM on January 31, 2007


They're airing this episode tonight!
posted by riffola at 6:25 PM on May 30, 2007


I just watched it... did anyone see anything else besides the (very cool) "MeFI" text at the studio?

Adam mentioned he was having t-shirts made, did anyone see anything that mentioned mefi?
posted by WetherMan at 7:55 PM on May 30, 2007


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