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Research

There was an extensive, and at times perhaps exhausting, amount of research needed to nail down the names, dates, places, events, history, maps and questions to be answered. Plus the guns, indoor plumbing, gas lights, Texas Red's mansion, and other technology and especially names, phrases and terms, such as vicious as a meat ax and pull foot and pocket full of rocks were period correct. The stories created by Marty Robbins are much more than three songs, and the three ballads we based Big Iron on are already so well connected that only three major changes were needed to meld all three ballads together into one story. The three major changes are...

  • In the ballad Faleena, it is stated that Felina and the rich cowboy who loved her were together for only six weeks. This time frame was expanded to 10 months to allow enough time for them to have a son.
  • In the ballad El Paso, it is stated that Felina's lover returned to Rosa's Cantina the next day. This was expanded to 5 days.
  • In the ballad Big Iron the ranger was in Agua Fria for only a few hours. This was expanded to 8 days to develop the story and explain how the main characters came to be where they are, and how they became what they are.

  • Plus the full lyrics to all three ballads can be read or printed from the Lyrics Page.

It is imperative for one thing to be understood and kept in mind, and that is when Marty Robbins wrote El Paso, he wrote nothing less than a Shakespearean tragedy set in the Old West. The tragedy focuses on Felina and her lover, whose name is Will Travis. And true to a Shakespearean tragedy, the one and only reason they are exalted so high and built up so great is so their fall will be so far and they will hit bottom so hard that their destruction will be total. But Will and Felina's destruction is not from without, their destruction is from within.

The first issue we resolved was the spelling of Felina's name. I have seen her name spelled three different ways. Faleena, Felena and as spelled originally in the song El Paso is Felina. This one was easy. A quick search on Faleena and Felena came up empty with no matches. But Felina is a Spanish name meaning Cat-Like, and as a dancer the spelling and name are approprate as well as being accurate. So the correct spelling of her name is Felina.

The toughest issue was creating a timeline for the story that matched the existence of the Old West Arizona rangers. The Old West Arizona rangers did did not exist for long periods at a time and were active only three times. First was from April of 1860 until circa June or July of 1861. The Arizona rangers disbanded in mid-1861 because all of the rangers joined the Confederate army soon after the civil war started in April of 1861. So the first time the Arizona rangers were organized, they lasted only about fourteen months, perhaps a bit less, but certainly over a year.

The second Arizona ranger organization lasted a mere two months, from March 8th to May 20th, 1882, which was just enough time for the ranger to be assigned his one vital mission to extract Texas Red. And the final Old West Arizona rangers existed from March 21, 1901 to March 25, 1909.

An issue almost as tough as the timeline was finding Agua Fria its proper home. In the Southwest US, there is an Agua Fria in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California. But only one Agua Fria was, and is, a town. The other locations named Agua Fria are a ranch, springs, rivers, and a stage coach rest stop very similar to an interstate rest area. Since we wanted Big Iron to be as historically accurate as we could, we went with Agua Fria, New Mexico, which is a town that still exists to this day and has existed for over 300 years. And the first six words Marty Robbins wrote in the ballad Big Iron are... To the town of Agua Fria... And the only town that has ever existed in the Southwest US is Agua Fria, New Mexico. Nothing else named Agua Fria remotely qualifies as a town.

Even Marshall Trimble, the offical state historian for the state of Arizona has told me that there is not now, nor has ever been, an Agua Fria, Arizona. There was a ranch, and a stagecoach rest stop named Agua Fria, but even at that, the rest stop was in 1875-1876 and there were no Arizona Rangers in 1875-1876. And by the way, Marshall wrote the foreword for Big Iron and tells us about a dinner he had with Marty Robbins... Please read the Foreword Page. Marshall is a renowned author in his own right and listing his books takes seven pages on Amazon.com.

And finally, a top priority was to make Big Iron an easy read, and as easy on the eyes as we could.




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