Category: Wild West Research

The Last Golden Girl of the West

The Panhandle was the last area of Texas to be settled and there are a million stories right here. In fact, the railroad takes the credit for taming this last wild part. Along the rails, towns sprang up which pushed out the outlaws and other undesirables thereby bringing law and order.

Amarillo, the largest town in the Panhandle, wasn’t settled until Oct. 1887. Before that, was Tascosa, which is a ghost town now, only 36 miles from here.

Tascosa loosely became a town in 1876. I say that because I don’t think it was ever incorporated. It was a wild and wooly place and occupied mostly by men on the run. Saloons and dancehalls sprang up and gunfights were a regular occurrence. It became known as the Cowboy Capital of the Plains. Temple Houston, son of Sam Houston, served as a district attorney in Tascosa from 1882 to 1884. He was a brilliant attorney by the way.

At the time Frenchy McCormick arrived, there were only three other white women in the whole Panhandle and they had to be as tough as shoe leather. Frenchy would be classified as that. The twenty-four-year-old worked in the saloons dealing Monte at the gaming tables and played cards with many old West legends.

No one really knows her real name. Some say Elizabeth McGraw. She was Irish and well-educated. It’s hard to understand why a well-educated woman chose this life. She could’ve done so many other things, but I suppose her heart led her to Tascosa. A cowboy gave her the name Frenchy because she spoke fluent French and came from Louisiana.

Around 1880, she fell in love with Mickey McCormick, an Irish gambler and livery stable owner. He always claimed as long as she was at his side at the gaming tables he never lost.

They were married in 1881.

When the railroad bypassed Tascosa a few years after, the town began to steadily decline. But Frenchy and Mickey kept living in their small adobe house, their devotion to each other evident by all.

Mickey died suddenly in 1912 at 64 years old, but Frenchy refused to leave Tascosa which had become a ghost town. She occupied their adobe house on Atascosa Creek and visited his grave every day. (The town is now on the property of the Cal Farley’s Boy’s Ranch and they have become diligent caretakers.)

She lived alone in the ghost town for 27 years without electricity or running water, tending Mickey’s grave. She died on January 12, 1941 at the age of 89 and was buried next to Mickey. True to the end. That was true love.

I have plans to go out there to the ghost town and visit their graves soon and I can’t wait. I wonder how many of us would show such devotion.

Do you know of other love stories? Maybe in your family or in books or movies.

The Legend of Lost Blue Bucket Mine by Susan Page Davis

Legend of Lost Blue Bucket Mine

The legend of Lost Blue Bucket Mine has intrigued people for a hundred and seventy years. Is it still out there, waiting to be discovered, or was it real in the first place?

It all started in 1845, when a wagon train got off the beaten track in eastern Oregon. There are several versions of the story, and no one has proof of what actually happened, but it involved at least one kid, a blue bucket, and some strange pebbles.

A large wagon train had reached eastern Oregon and camped for a few days at a hot spring. The travelers were apprehensive about the coming ordeal of rafting down the Columbia River.

A man named Stephen Meek, who was the brother of mountain man Joe Meek, said he knew a shortcut and could lead them overland, via the “Meek Cut-off,” to the Willamette Valley, their final destination. Some of the families decided to go with Meek. Others kept to the trail heading for the Columbia.

As the story goes, the travelers realized after a while that Meek had no idea where he was going. He left them on their own in the wilderness. They had to get through the Cascade Mountains before winter or they might starve to death.

Most versions of the story say children went to the river to get water and returned with a blue bucket full of strange-looking pebbles. One version says three young men went in search of some straying cattle and wandered for hours before returning with the famous rocks.

Anyway, the grownups of the party puzzled over the kids’ find. The blacksmith put one pebble on a metal wagon rim and pounded it. It flattened easily. They decided it was copper.

Why copper? No one’s really sure. The standard excuse is that it was 1845, several years before the California Gold Rush, and most people had never seen raw gold. Supposedly most of the rocks were dumped, but one woman, Mrs. Fisher, kept one. A few years later, with the advent of the gold craze in California, she had it assayed. It was a gold nugget.

The people who had been on that wagon train started remembering, and prospectors from all over began trying to find the spot. Many people spent years looking for it. Gold was found in various places in Oregon, but no one was ever sure where the so-called Blue Bucket Mine was.

Grave

Sarah King Chambors Grave

One clue often cited was that the gold was found three days’ ox team journey from the grave of a Mrs. Chambers near the mouth of Crane Creek. You can imagine how many people were out there looking for that grave. Supposedly the grave has been found more than once. And another tale says two Frenchmen moved it to keep people from finding the mine. People living in the area at the time told of 5,000 miners on Canyon Creek in 1863.

The story of Mrs. Fisher, the woman who reportedly saved one nugget from the children’s bucket, was written down by her grandson, but even this version is riddled with errors. For instance, he said the man who led the pioneers astray was Joe Meek, not his brother Stephen.

The wagon train split at a hot spring about a mile below the present town of Vale, near the Malheur River. Dr. Fisher, who was traveling with the Meek contingent, died and was buried August 12, 1845. The man writing Mrs. Fisher’s story knew several survivors of the wagon train. They named other landmarks they had passed.

The wagon train wandered on. Its exact route is a mystery, though many have tried to trace it. Eventually, they rejoined one of the trains they split off earlier. Some settled near Eugene, and some went on to California.

Twenty-five years later, several veterans of that wagon train got together and discussed it. They made a map of the points they knew they had passed and where they thought it most likely the gold had been found. Mrs. Fisher insisted that Mrs. Chambers died three days before the gold was found. Samuel Parker, who was also on the train at the time, said she died three days after. So, within about 100 miles—probably more like 50—in either direction, if anyone knew for certain where that grave was.

The site now believed to be the famous grave of Mrs. Chambers is about six miles east of where Crane Creek flows into the Malheur. If Mrs. Fisher was correct about the timing, that would put the wagon train in the Willow Creek area. Gold has since been found in that area.

My best guess as to the whereabouts of the Blue Bucket Mine? I think it’s been found, in one of the areas where gold strikes were later made, but the people who found it were never sure that was the exact place.  In 1960 a group of people claimed to have found it and filed claims as the Blue Bucket Group. At least three other gold mines over the years have been named “Blue Bucket Mine,” but none of them had anything to do with the legendary east Oregon find.

One amusing point made by a woman who was part of the Blue Bucket Group: In 1845, about 3,000 traveled west over various routes in wagon trains. By 1950, she said, at least a third of them claimed to have been in the party that discovered the Blue Bucket Mine.

Seven Brides for Seven
Mail-Order Husbands

Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved? This book includes novellas by seven authors.
In Susan’s novella, The Kidnapped Groom:
Riding through the Flint Hills on his way to Dodge City, cowboy Sam Cayford finds himself the kidnapping victim of two children. When he meets their lovely mother, Maggie Piner—whom the kids insist he should marry—Sam starts to question God’s plans versus his own.
Buy: http://amzn.to/2vcMAYh

 

GIVEAWAY:

To enter a drawing for a copy of one of Susan Page Davis’s western romances, leave a comment and your contact information. The winner can choose from several of her titles, either ebook or paperback: The Lady’s Maid, Lady Anne’s Quest, A Lady in the Making, Captive Trail, Cowgirl Trail, The Sheriff’s Surrender, The Gunsmith’s Gallantry, The Blacksmith’s Bravery, Echo Canyon, Desert Moon (paperback only), or The 12 Brides of Summer collection (paperback only).

                                                         

 

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than seventy published novels. She’s always interested in the unusual happenings of the past. She’s the winner of two Inspirational Readers’ Choice Awards and two Will Rogers Medallions, and also a winner of the Carol Award and a finalist in the WILLA Literary Awards. Visit her website at: http://www.susanpagedavis.com .

Find Susan at:

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Sally Scull – One Scary Woman

 

 

Hello everyone and happy Wednesday!  I have a bit of a guilty confession–I am fascinated by lady outlaws. Life was tough in the old west, and people did what they had to in order to survive. And some took things a step farther.

I don’t know what motivated Sally Scull , but over her lifetime she developed the reputation of being a female desperado. There are claims that she killed 30 men, including at least one of her husbands. She was also known as a horse and cattle thief, however, she was never arrested and never spent time in jail for her crimes.

Sally was born Sarah Jane Newman in Illinois in 1817. Her family moved to Texas in 1823 to become one of Stephen F. Austin’s original group of colonists. Sally’s mother, Rachel, was also a tough women. When a Native American intruder tried to come down the chimney, she lit her feather pillows on fire and smoked him out. When another intruder stuck his feet under the front door, she chopped off his toes.

Sally married Jesse Robinson, a  veteran of the first Texas Ranger Company when she was 16 years old. Jesse was twice her age and worked as a volunteer soldier and militia man. The marriage was a rocky one, and after 10 years, Jesse filed for divorce. Sally did not get custody of her children, a son and a daughter, however, she had a reputation as a fierce and loving mother.

Two weeks after her divorce, Sally married a gunsmith named George Scull. He died in 1849, allegedly by Sally’s hand. Although Sally married three more times before her death, she kept the name Scull, which was often spelled Skull–perhaps for effect. Legend has it that her name was used to frighten children of the day–“Behave or Sally Skull will get you.”

Her third husband, John Doyle, also allegedly met a violent end. According to the memoirs of  John ‘Rip’ Ford, “He heard the report of a pistol, raised his eyes, saw a man falling to the ground and a woman not far from him in the act of lowering a six-shooter. She was a noted character named Sally Scull. She was famed as a rough fighter, and prudent men did not willingly provoke her into a row. It was understood that she was justifiable in what she did on this occasion, having acted in self defense.” The man who fell was supposedly her husband.  Her fourth husband, Isaiah Wadkins either left the marriage peacefully…or was drowned by Sally in a barrel of whiskey. Tales differ.

Sally always wore a black bonnet, sometimes dressed as a man, and rode astride her horse instead of sidesaddle, as was appropriate for women of the day.  She was proficient with a bull whip, wore pistols at her waist, and was a deadly shot with both pistols and a rifle.  One visitor to Texas described her as “…Superbly mounted, wearing a black dress and sunbonnet, sitting as erect as a cavalry officer, with a six shooter hanging at her belt, complexion once fair but now swarthy from exposure to the sun and weather, with steel-blue eyes that seemed to penetrate the innermost recesses of the soul…”  there are reports of people witnessing her kill men in self-defense as she conducted her business of buying (or stealing) and selling horses and cattle. She carried her gold on a sack looped to her saddle horn, but no one was fool enough to try to steal it from her. Sally had a tough reputation.

When Union blockades kept the South from exporting cotton, or receiving needed supplies, Sally served the Confederacy by transporting cotton through Texas to Mexico, and then bringing contraband supplies back via this Cotton Road.

 

After the Civil War, Sally simply disappeared. There is no record of her death, and no grave.  One story is that she and her last husband, Christoph Horsdorff, a man 18 years her junior who was said to be without redeeming qualities, went for a ride. Christoph came back alone.  Another bit of lore says that she moved to West Texas and spent the remainder of her life living quietly. No one knows for certain.

 

Let’s Get Ready for the National Day of the Cowboy

July 22nd is the National Day of the Cowboy, so the fillies decided to give everyone a quick overview of Cowboy History in preparation for the big day.

The first cowboys in the United States weren’t called cowboys—they were colonial-era cattlemen in western Massachusetts, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina. These men typically did not ride horses as they pushed their cattle from area to area, following the grass, often grazing in trespass on public domain.

Modern cowboys developed after the Civil War. Wild cattle had proliferated in Texas at the same time that beef was in short supply in the north. A $4 steer in Texas, could bring $40 up north. The cattle drives began in 1866, primarily to Missouri, where the cattle could be loaded on trains. The men who pushed the cattle were called cowboys. They faced harsh conditions and were challenged by Native Americans and farmers who didn’t want the cattle crossing their land. As time passed, more trails were developed throughout the west and more men became cowboys.

When open range ended in the west, after the terrible winters of 1887-1888 decimated the cattle industry, cowboys began building and fixing fences, growing hay and managing herds. Cattle from several outfits/ranches were often run together on the same range, then rounded up by cowboys from the various ranches. The cows would be divided out according to their mark or brand, which was why branding was so important in those days—and still is, for the exact same reason.

Cowboys today do essentially the same work as their forefathers, and wear the same gear—a broad brimmed hat to keep off the sun, boots with heels to keep their feet from sliding through the stirrups and getting hung up in the case of an accident, denim or canvas pants, a vest to keep warm in winter and to add an extra layer of protection from prickly plants and barbwire in the summer, a wild rag to soak up sweat or keep the neck warm in the colder months (silk works best for both).

Cowboys are mythical in some ways and real as can be in others—and maybe it’s that thin line between fantasy and reality that keeps the cowboy alive and well in our hearts.

Learning to Love the Camas Root

I grew up in the Palouse area of Idaho, close to the Camas Prairie, and when I was in the third grade, while we were studying the Nez Perce Indians, I ate a cookie made with camas root flour. I can taste it to this day–and not in a good way.  It might have been the cook, it might have been the camas root flour. I don’t know, but that cookie did not agree with me. Interestingly, Lewis and Clark had a similar experience.

Before I tell you about Lewis and Clark, let me give you some background on the camas root. The camas is a blue flowering plant. It’s really quite beautiful and although there are several Camas Prairies, my Camas Prairie is an area in north central Idaho where the Nez Perce gathered camas roots for thousands of years.

The camas root is really a bulb, and it’s higher in protein that some fish. The native peoples would dig the root with sticks or parts of antlers in the early summer months. The time varied depending on the altitude. After the harvest, the camas roots were cooked in earthen ovens. The roots that were not eaten were dried for later consumption. Dried camas root lasted for years. There are stories of travelers eating camas roots that were more than thirty years old.

It was very important to only harvest the blue camas bulbs, because the white camas bulbs, which are also nutritious, closely resembled another species of camas known as White Death. The White Death could be lethal if enough was consumed, so white camas plants were generally avoided.

 So what happened to Lewis and Clark?

When the explorers reached the Weippe Prairie in Idaho in September of 1805, they were essentially starving. The Nez Perce fed the men camas roots, which were described as “sweet and good to the taste”. They were also very high in fiber and very hard on the starving men’s digestive systems.  The men fell ill with vomiting, diarrhea and gas. Captain Clark wrote, “Capt Lewis Scercely able to ride on a jentle horse which was furnishd by the Chief. Several men So unwell that they were Compelled to lie on the Side of the road for Some time others obliged to be put on horses.” The sickness lasted over five days, during which time the less weak men took care of the sicker men while making five canoes to travel the Clearwater River. Those guys were tough.

Later it was discovered that fermented camas made a decent beer and the men felt friendlier toward the root. Eventually, their bodies adapted. The men came to like the camas root and took a large supply with them when then traveled down the Clearwater in October 1805.

In researching the camas, I’ve learned that the roasted bulbs taste similar to pumpkin and sweet potato, both of which I hated as a kid, and that, I believe, was the source of my issues with the root. I would try a camas flour cookie again, given the chance. And hopefully, like Lewis and Clark, I would come to appreciate this historically valuable food source.

Time Enough for Locks

Kathleen Rice Adams: Classic tales of the Old West...that never forget the power of love.

tumbler lock

Rendering of an ancient tumbler-style lock.

For as long as there have been haves and have-nots, the haves have sought ways to secure their valuables. History no longer remembers the inventor of the first lock, but invention of the first key is attributed to Theodore of Samos in the 6th century B.C., which leads to the suspicion locks have been around at least that long. In fact, crude locking mechanisms dating to about 2,000 B.C. have been found in Egyptian ruins.

The first devices resembling what we know today as door locks were discovered in the palace of Persian king Sargon II, who reigned from 722 to 705 B.C. They were large, clumsy devices made of wood. Nevertheless, they served as prototypes for contemporary security devices.

The first all-metal locks, probably made by English craftsmen, appeared between 870 and 900 A.D. in Rome. A row of bars of varying length, called tumblers, dropped into holes drilled through the horizontal bolt securing a door or gate. Only the person who possessed a metal bar fitted with pins corresponding to the tumblers could shove the bars upward through the holes, thus freeing the bolt.

Bodie Bank in Bodie, California, mid-1870s

Bodie [California] Bank’s vault, mid-1870s (photo by Dick Rowan, National Archives and Records Administration)

No great advancements in lock technology occurred until about the 14th century A.D., when locks small enough to carry appeared. Traveling tradesmen used the so-called “convenient locks” to secure their money and other valuables.

Although padlocks were known to the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, the first combination lock didn’t appear until the 18th century. Until 1857, most banks used combination locks of some kind to secure their vaults. The secret to combination locks was to create complex series of letters and numbers that would frustrate anyone who tried to disarm the mechanism. The code for the combination lock securing the safe in the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington D.C., for example, required a lengthy series of letters and numbers that provided 1,073,741,824 possible combinations. Because cracking the code by systematically running through all the possible combinations would require 2,042 years, 324 days, and 1 hour (barring a lucky guess), the lock was considered burglar-proof.

Nye & Ormsby County Bank, Manhattan, Nevada, 1906

Vault among the ruins of the 1906 Nye & Ormsby County Bank in Manhattan, Nevada. The bank crumbled (literally and figuratively), but the vault survived.

Soon enough, enterprising criminals figured out combination locks had an Achilles heel: Robbers could hold a bank employee at gunpoint and demand he or she dial in the correct code.

In 1873, James Sargent invented what he called a theft-proof lock. The device combined a combination lock with a timer that would not allow the safe to be opened until a certain number of hours had passed, even if one knew the combination.

By the late 1870s, theft-proof locks were de rigueur in banks all over the U.S. Though they weren’t quite unbreakable — dynamite trumps almost any security measure — theft-proof locks thwarted more thieves than any previous mechanism.

 

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Pathfinders — Sacagawea

 

Pathfinders — Sacagawea

I need to add to my series of posts on Pathfinders, Sacagawea, the lone woman who’s story seems to have survived.

The more I read about Sacagawea the more … well, it’s strange … but the more emotional I felt about it.

When you start and read the bare bones account, from Wikipedia, it’s fine, fascinating. This young girl. I MEAN YOUNG. She set out with the Louis and Clark Expedition as a THIRTEEN YEAR OLD!

Now pause for a moment and think of the 13-year-old girls you know.

Now picture her married. Pregnant. A mother. Setting out with a husband known to be abusive with a crowd of men headed across the Rocky Mountains on a path for which no map exists.

Add in the rumors of Sacagawea being won by her husband while gambling. Or possible sold to him.

This isn’t some pretty fairy tale. Well, maybe it is considering all Cinderella went through with that old bat. But Cinderella … well, the shoe fit and she got her prince.

Not Sacagawea

She did all this work, hiked over those monstrous mountains, came near starvation and is credited with keeping the men alive by finding food in odd places. My dubious research says she dug up wild asparagus roots, or something related called camus roots, and pretty much kept everyone from starving with those things.

Anyway, it wasn’t a pretty picture.

But the most blunt thing I read, that also made me hurt, was a statement written by someone very realistic who said so much that we know about Sacagawea, is just plain made up.

The truth is Louis and Clark and their expedition members took a stunning number of notes. By count they wrote more than one million words about this expedition. Very few of them were about Sacagawea.

Sacagawea is mentioned by name seventeen times and her name is spelled eight different ways. There is plenty of debate about her name. Generally, Sacagawea means Bird Woman in the Hidatsu language, (the Hidatsu the tribe is who she was living with when she joined the Expedition-taken captive from her own tribe, the Shoshone) . But there are those who say  she renamed by the Hidatsu or her true Shoshone name was mispronounced by them to sound like Sacagawea…honestly how would they know how to spell her name in English. And Louis and Clark just had to sound it out. Still, you’d think they’d have PICKED ONE NAME AND STUCK WITH IT!

I will note here that Louis and Clark and their corp were notoriously bad at spelling. Their journals are incredibly hard to read. I will additionally note here that until Daniel Webster wrote his first dictionary, no words were really widely spelled alike. Most people wrote by sound with no one judging a word ‘misspelled’. There just was no accepted correct spelling until 1806, when Webster’s Dictionary was first published…and he kept adding words and republishing until 1825. So random spelling was widespread.

What words there are about Sacagawea, are very favorable, about her courage, about how much she helped. About how her knowing the Shoshone Indians and indeed finding her brother and enabling the expedition to trade for horses, once they had to abandon their boats, helped them through the mountains. About those camas roots.

But most of these things are noted in a one sentence reference to her between long intervals of writing about other things.

Women of the West

I have this theory that I can get very passionate about that someone needs to take all the famous men in history and write about their wives. Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett had wives. What were they doing while their menfolk went about exploring? I’ll bet they were standing right there beside them, fighting the wilderness, wrestling survival out of the frontier and doing it pregnant and wearing a dress.

I suspect if I set out to research these women, I’d find something similar to what exists about Sacagawea. A few passing notes left behind. I’d have to build my books out of fantasy, make 2 + 2 = 10 by sheer willpower.

So Sacagawea did NOT keep them alive. No, she did NOT single-handedly drag their sorry backsides across the Rockies.

The truth of the Corp of Discovery

The truth of the Corp of Discovery is that this was a pack of incredibly tough men. Louis and Clark did a fantastic job of picking real hardened men who took their job seriously, faced untold hardships, battled on forward through disappointments, danger and pain.

And Sacagawea was right there with them. She was tough. That little baby strapped on her back was tough. That awful Charbonneau, well he might not have been all that tough, but he knew the mountains. He helped. They all worked hard together and managed this incredible journey. Made it to the Pacific…and made back to tell the tale.

One man died. Based on the sketchy notes taken, it’s believed Sgt. Floyd probably died of an appendicitis attack, get that? He didn’t freeze or starve or die in battle or fall off a cliff. Poor guy, he was probably really tough too, but he didn’t make it.

I want so much more for Sacagawea than to die at age 25 of a stupid fever. I almost hunger for her to be more. To have survived.

Sacagawea’s ages on this timeline are approximate. No one really knows. It is known that Jean Baptiste lived to travel in Europe and knew several languages. Louis was his godfather and kept his promise to Sacagawea to give her son a fine education.

There are oral histories that are very weak, that say she lived to be 100 years old. There are markers by her burial site in Wyoming when the truth is almost certainly that she died and was buried in an unmarked grave in North Dakota.

And the real tricky part here is, those few words written about Sacagawea, with two very minor exceptions that support her death at age 25, were all that was ever written about her until one hundred years later.

All the oral history, including that she married a second time, had more children, reunited with her son Jean Baptiste and lived until 1884, was only ‘discovered’ on the centennial celebration of her amazing fete of endurance and courage.

 

 

Creating a fable about Sacagawea

Clark nicknamed Sacagawea’s son Pompy or Pomp and refers to him in notes occasionally by those names. He named a pillar of rocks after Pompy and this memorial sign refers to the still visible name ‘W. Clark’ dated 1806.

Yes, I want more for her. So much more.

But it is very doubtful she lived until 1884…a story that was ‘discovered’ in 2004. There was certainly a woman who lived to be 100 who many, on looking back, believed could have been Sacagawea. But these were the long ago memories of elderly people remembering a long dead member of their tribe. And these folks may well have believed this woman was Sacagawea, but they may have wanted that to be true as badly as I do.

Whatever happened to her after this expedition, she belongs in this list of Pathfinders.

By creating a fable about Sacagawea, I think we diminish what she really did.

As if surviving, guiding, and feeding the Corp of Discovery wasn’t enough.

As if walking, boating, riding a horse from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean wearing a dress, carrying a baby on your back, a baby she’s certainly breastfeeding and diapering and probably trying to get to sleep at night, wasn’t enough.

I think we need to let the story we know, the story that is written down about Sacagawea be enough, because….it is.

To get your name in the drawing for a signed copy of Long Time Gone leave a comment about Sacagawea or any woman in history you’d like to know more about.

 

Long Time Gone

The Boden clan thought their problems had ended with the death of a dangerous enemy, but have they truly uncovered the real plot to take their New Mexico ranch? Rancher Justin Boden is now in charge. He is normally an unshakable and rugged man, but with his brother, Cole, shot and in mortal danger, even a tough man faces doubts. And it doesn’t help that Angie DuPree, the assistant to the doctor trying to save Cole, is as distracting a woman as Justin ever laid eyes on.

With her and the doc’s timely skills, Cole looks to be on the mend, and Justin and the rest of the Bodens can turn their attention back to the dangers facing them. It’s clear now that everything that’s occurred is part of a much bigger plot that could date back to a decades-old secret. Can they uncover all the pieces before danger closes in on them, or is the threat to the ranch even bigger than any of the Bodens could imagine?

Updated: May 17, 2017 — 11:14 pm

Wild West Words: Temper, Temper

Kathleen Rice Adams: Classic tales of the Old West...that never forget the power of love.

Fighting — over insults, over ideals (as in war), or just for fun — has been a popular pastime since the first person drew the first breath. There’s a reason the American West was called “wild”: Folks on the frontier seemed ready to throw a punch or unshuck a weapon with the slightest provocation, at least if popular myth is anywhere near the truth.

Nineteenth-century words and phrases relating to fighting, things that could provoke a fight, and means of stopping a fight are below. If you’re of a mind, also check out words for women, insults, outlaw vocabulary, food terms, and gambling.

"Smoke of a .45," Charles M. Russell, 1908

“Smoke of a .45,” Charles M. Russell, 1908

At outs with: no longer on friendly terms with; from about 1826. Became “on the outs with” around 1900.

Bantam: small, aggressive person; first documented in 1837. Extension of the 1749 name for a a breed of chicken discovered on Bantam, a Dutch colony in Java. As a lightweight class in boxing, use is attested from 1884. “Banty” is a dialectical corruption of the word.

Beat the living daylights out of: thrash, punish, chastise. Americanism; arose 1880s based on the late-18th Century threat to “let daylight into” a foe. The original phrase meant intent to kill by sword, knife, bullet, or other deadly weapon, but as the force of law began to catch up with the U.S.’s western frontier, the phrase was softened to lessen the perceived risk of hanging for murder should the target of the threat be found dead.

Below the belt: unfair; arose 1889 from boxing.

Bulldozer: person who intimidates by violence. Arose during 1876 U.S. presidential election, along with related “bulldose,” meaning “a severe beating” (literally, “dose fit for a bull”). Both were slang associated with aggressive intimidation of Negro voters in the North and the former Confederate states. Bulldozer acquired its current meaning, “ground-clearing tractor,” in the 1930s based on the image of bulls shoving one another around during dominance displays.

Call [someone] out: challenge, especially to a duel or fight. Arose c. 1823.

Cold shoulder: icy reception; deliberate coldness or disregard; a snub. Arose mid-1850s, evidently as a sarcastic reference to the European elite setting out hot feasts for their guests while the poor were able to afford only a cold shoulder of mutton (not a well-regarded meal). Sir Walter Scott is credited with creating the figurative sense c. 1816 by using “cold shoulder of mutton” to convey a deliberate intention to be rid of an unwanted guest. Americans, as usual, clipped the phrase.

Come off the rimrock: back away from a discussion that has turned unfriendly. Attested from the 1860s in the American West.

"Busted," Charles M. Russell, c. 1920

“Busted,” Charles M. Russell, c. 1920

Comeupance/comeuppance: Get what’s coming to you. 1859, presumably rooted in the phrase “come up,” meaning present oneself for judgment or trial.

Crotchety: irritable, contrary, grouchy. Arose c. 1825 from late-14th Century French crotchet, literally a small hook. In English, crotchet came to mean a perverse, capricious or eccentric notion c. 1800.

Dander: ire, irritation, temper, strong emotion. Entered American English c. 1831: “Don’t get your dander up.” Exact origin unclear, but may have been based on the slightly older (1825) shortening of dandruff (loose flakes of skin; mid-1500s), Spanish redundar (to overflow), or West Indies dunder (fermentation of sugar).

Dustup/dust-up: fight; brawl. Arose c. 1897; Americanism. Most likely a colorful reference to brawlers raising dust as they duked it out, but also may have roots in the late-16th Century usage of dust to mean confusion or disturbance. In the 1680s, to “dust [someone’s] coat” meant to deliver a sound thrashing.

Faceoff/face-off: disagreement (often silent, using only eye contact) that might turn physical. Arose c. 1893 as an extension of the boxing term that first appeared in 1867.

Face the music: Arose 1850 in U.S. congressional debates, probably as a reference to actors facing the orchestra pit—which sat between the audience and the stage—when delivering particularly dramatic lines or soliloquies.

Fired up: angry; arose c. 1824 in the American West. The meaning “throw someone out of a place”—a saloon, for example—arose c. 1871, probably from a play on the two meanings of “discharge”: “to dismiss from a position” and “to fire a gun, the latter of which dates to the 1520s.

Fistiana: anecdotes about pugilists; boxing lore. From 1839.

"Not a Chinaman's Chance," Charles M. Russell, 1894

“Not a Chinaman’s Chance,” Charles M. Russell, 1894

Get in [one’s] hair: persistently annoy, vex, or irk. First appeared in print in the Oregon Statesman in 1851, though the expression undoubtedly is older. Etymologists speculate the phrase originally may have compared an irritating person to head lice.

Gunfight/gun-fight: combat with handguns. American English c. 1889; combination of “gun” and “fight.”

Hold your horses: settle down; take it easy; be patient. Original usage was literal: During harness races at American county fairs, horses picked up on their drivers’ nerves, often resulting in a false start. Consequently, announcers frequently admonished participants to “hold your horses.” First appearance in print: New Orleans Times Picayune, 1844.

Hot air: unsubstantiated statements; empty, exaggerated or pretentious talk; boasting. Probably from observation of a flaccid balloon puffing up and rising as it fills with heated air. Colloquialism; may have arisen as early as 1835-40 but was in common use during the latter half of the 19th Century.

Humps and grumps: surly remarks; a fit of ill humor. Arose c. 1844 from the adjective “grumpy” (c. 1778), which most likely arose as an extension of “grum,” meaning morose or surly (also possibly related to Danish grum, meaning cruel). By 1900, the “humps and” had dropped off and “grump” had become a common term for a disagreeable person. (In this case the adjective appears to have given rise to the noun, instead of vice-versa as was more common.)

Keep your shirt on: be patient; calm down. The Americanism arose c. 1904 from prizefighting. Because organized boxing was illegal in much of the U.S. until the 1920s—not because of the violence, but because gambling and organized crime quickly attached to the sport—pugilists waited to remove their shirts and engage until they were reasonably certain a police raid would not be forthcoming. Men fighting fully clothed was considered a spontaneous brawl; men fighting half-naked indicated forethought.

Knock-down drag-out: violent fight. Arose c. 1859 in the U.S.

Knockout/knock-out: as pertains to general fighting, arose 1887 from the phrase “knock out,” meaning “to stun by a blow for a 10-count,” in boxing. Slang meaning “attractive person” is from 1892. To knock oneself out, meaning “make a great effort,” is from 1936.

"Loops and Swift Horses are Surer than Lead," Charles M. Russell, 1916

“Loops and Swift Horses are Surer than Lead,” Charles M. Russell, 1916

Lather: state of agitation. Arose c. 1839 from the 1650s application of the Old English word for “soap suds” to the violent sweating of horses under stress.

Lock horns: Arose 1839 in the American West from observation of the way cattle butted heads during dominance displays.

Manhandle: to handle roughly. First recorded use 1865, from the earlier nautical meaning “to move by force of men” (instead of using tackle or levers). The nautical connotation arose from the mid-15th Century meaning “to wield a tool”; the 1865 connotation seems more closely related to the late-15th Century common usage meaning “to attack an enemy.”

Mexican standoff: stalemate; impasse. First documented use 1891, though the expression may be older. “Stand-off,” meaning draw or tie, arose c. 1843. Though some sources claim “Mexican standoff” is Australian in origin, a more likely source is Texas, where Mexican bandidos routinely crossed the border for nefarious purposes. Originally, the idiom referred to three mutual enemies facing each other with drawn weapons. If A shot B, C would shoot A, thereby winning the conflict. Everyone wanted to be C, so nobody fired—leaving the dispute unresolved.

Pull in your horns: calm down; back away from a fight. Mid-1800s among cowboys in the American West as a reference to cattle battling with their horns.

Pull up: check a course of action. First recorded use 1808 as a figurative reference to pulling on the reins to stop a horse.

Rough/rough up: beat up or jostle violently; first documented use 1868.

Roundhouse: blow delivered by the fist with a wide sweep of the arm. Arose latter half of the 19th Century from the 1856 use of roundhouse to describe the circular shed with a turntable at the center for repositioning locomotives.

Scrap: fight. First attested 1846, possibly as a variant of scrape, which came to mean “abrasive encounter” or “scheme, villainy, vile intention” in the 1670s.

Scrappy: inclined to fight. First documented appearance 1895, from scrap.

Sockdolager: a heavy, finishing blow; a conclusive argument. First documented appearance 1830 from the 1700s “sock,” meaning “to beat, hit hard, pitch into.” Sockdolager is assumed to have arisen from the conflation of “sock” and “doxology,” meaning finality. The word shifted meaning to “something exceptional” in 1838. “Sockdologising” (confronting with a forceful argument) likely was one of the the last words Abraham Lincoln heard. During the performance of Tom Taylor’s Our American Cousin, assassin John Wilkes Booth—an actor who had performed in the play—waited for the humorous line “Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, you sockdologising old man-trap.” Amid the laughter that erupted from the audience, Booth fired the fatal shot.

Smack: hit with an open palm; slap. Attested from 1823; presumed to be imitative of the sound of flesh meeting flesh with force.

Spat: petty quarrel. Arose c. 1804 as American slang. Of unknown origin, but perhaps from the notion of “spitting” words.

"Buccaroos," Charles M. Russell, 1902

“Buccaroos,” Charles M. Russell, 1902

Wild and woolly: untamed; rowdy. Americanism first documented in 1855 in The Protestant Episcopal Church Quarterly Review and Register (“wild and woolly-haired Negrillo”). In the post-Civil War years, as dime novels and newspaper accounts popularized sensational tales about Indians, outlaws, lawmen, land and gold rushes, etc. in the new territories, the alliterative phrase “wild and woolly West” became a popular way for Easterners to describe the entire region west of the Mississippi River.

Winded: tired; out of breath; rendered temporarily breathless. Arose c. 1802 as a boxing term used in reference to the effect of a punch in the stomach.

Yank: sudden blow; cuff. American English from 1818. (Also short for “Yankee” during and after the Civil War.)

 

The Calgary Stampede with Linda Ford

Today our guest is Linda Ford, who is here to give us some background on the rough and rowdy Calgary Stampede.  Linda will also introduce us to her Big Sky series and give away a book to one lucky commentor!

The year is 1912 and the hero of the story is Guy Weadick, a man born in New York. He ran away from his boyhood home to Montana where he learned to ride and rope and talk like a cowboy. Weadick considered himself to be ‘half cowboy and three-quarters showman.’ Along with other performers, he toured with a vaudeville troupe, barnstorming across the country and even performing in England.

Enter our heroine, Flores LaDue, the stage name of Grace Maud Bensell raised in Montevideo, Minnesota next to an Indian Reserve where she learned riding and roping early in life. At a young age, she ran away from home to join the circus.  A talented athlete, she was famous for roping five running horses while lying down on the arena floor. It is said Guy fell in love with her the first time he saw the petite horsewoman (she was less than five feet tall) hanging upside down from her horse while swinging her rope overhead. Flores was a little more reserved about committing to the re

lationship. She was an independent woman with no interest in marriage. Nevertheless, she couldn’t resist the handsome cowboy and they were married five weeks after being together. He was 21, she was 23. They were partners in a way that was unusual for that day and age. Guy treated her as an equal. After her death, Guy had these words place on her tombstone “A Real Partner.”

Back to the story of 1912. Guy was concerned that the cowboy skills of the West were disappearing as the flood of settlers increased. He approached the Canadian Pacific Railway livestock agent with the idea of staging a rodeo to preserve the old west. He talked some local ranchers into financing his venture and thus the Calgary Stampede was born. From the beginning Guy use this boastful brand that has continued to this day, ‘The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth.’ Guy considered Flores the business woman behind this venture. He considered himself the talker—the salesman.

Guy was determined this would be a Big show—$20,000 offered for prizes, 200 imported Mexican longhorn cattle, 300 of the meanest horses, a replica of the notorious Fort Whoop-Up and many other wonderful offerings. He didn’t want to leave out anyone and invited Treaty 7 First Nations to participate. The Stampede opened with a grand parade through the town. Among those watching the performances were the Duke and Duchess of Connaught and daughter, Princess Patricia.

Courtesy of the Calgary Stampede Archives

Top North American cowboy and cowgirl performers came to compete. Mexican Bandit Pancho Villa even sent his best rider.

A number of women contestants participated alongside men in events such as steer roping and bucking horse competition.

One of the most exciting events featured a local bronc rider, a Blood Indian by the name of Tom Three Persons. He drew the bucking horse, Cyclone, a big black gelding that had rarely been ridden. People shook their heads and predicted that poor Tom was done. The horse exploded from the chute and bucked his best but Tom held on and won the most important contest of the show.  The thousands of spectators erupted into a roar of applause.

Several competent trick riders gave Flores La Due stiff competition for the title of World Champion Trick and Fancy Roper but she won the prize in the end.

For some wonderful pictures of the Stampede and the people involved go to http://www.glenbow.org and search Calgary Stampede under the archived photos.
The Calgary Stampede continues to this day—still at tribute to the cowboy skills of the west.

My stories have never included the Calgary Stampede but do honor the cowboy life. My book, Montana Cowboy’s Baby, is out in July. It is the third book in my 6-book Big Sky Country series. It’s a story about a baby left on the doorstep of the hero with a note saying the baby is his. He knows it’s not. This series is set in Montana—in case you didn’t catch that—and features three Marshall young men, their sister and two close friends. Montana Cowboy Daddy was out in Oct. 2016. Montana Cowboy Family was out Jan. 2017. The fourth book—Montana Bride by Christmas—will be released in Oct. 2017. I am really looking forward to that story. It has many sweet elements. At least I think so. I’ve just turned in the fifth book and it’s about Annie Marshall’s friend, Carly, who is prepared to do anything to save her ranch and her home…including marrying a complete stranger.

I will be giving away a copy of Montana Cowboy’s Baby to one of those who comments on this post. (Or one of the earlier titles according to your wish).

The Pathfinders — John C Fremont

 

The Pathfinders – John C Fremont

I’ve written a series of posts I call The Pathfinders.

I’ve talked about John Mullen, John Colter, Kit Carson, and Jim Bridger.

Today I’m writing about the guy they call………..The Pathfinder.

Yep, he’s the guy that inspired this whole thing.

John C Fremont — The Pathfinder

As I write my books I am struck, again and again, with how formidable the west was to people traveling through it. The mountains, the deserts, the vast grasslands. Not only the land but the grizzlies, the herds of buffalo. The harsh winters, the burning hot summers, and the storms in all seasons. Let’s add native people who weren’t that crazy about their new neighbors.

A person couldn’t just start driving their covered wagon across the land and hope to survive. There were streams and rivers that were hard to cross. Someone had to find the places shallow enough, without sinking mud and steep sides. Even on fairly level grasslands you had to guide your team to water, and there weren’t just creeks and lakes everywhere.

The deserts had water holes and narrow crossings but you had to know where they were. These are cattle drive stories many of them. The Goodnight Loving Trail was a wonder. Goodnight and Loving found a way through that no one had ever traveled before (well, not with a herd of cattle needing to be watered)

The Rockies. ON MY GOSH. Hello? Sacagawea dragging the Louis and Clark Expedition through? Donner Party anyone??

I am honestly just in awe of the men who made this their life. Finding a path through these places. What compelled them to do such a thing? How would you set out in the mountains and hope to find your way through. First on horseback, then a trail a wagon could cross, finally a path wise enough, up and down those vast, rugged mountains for a train.

John C. Fremont — The Pathfinder

And no one…No One was better at it than John C Fremont. In the 1840s, Fremont led five expeditions into the American West.

Fremont’s first expedition

was in 1842. He went with Kit Carson to present day Wyoming to find and map a path called South Pass, first discovered by Jedediah Smith. This trail was at first only passable on foot, so narrow and with such cliffs and barriers a horse couldn’t cross it. By 1846, after Fremont’s expedition and with tons of work to widen and clear it, it became the Oregon Trail.

Fremont’s reputation was launched from this. He was featured in dime novels, including one called The Pathfinder, which propelled to him to nationwide fame.

Fremont’s second expedition

was began at South Pass and was to map and describe the rest of the trail to Oregon. Jedediah Smith again led the way, but Smith never wrote down a good description, he never drew a map. He just told tales and Fremont, again with Kit Carson, followed Smith’s trail all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

 

Fremont also reached the site of present day Las Vegas and he is the first non-native person to see Lake Tahoe. He saw it from a great height and didn’t go down close to it, but he wrote of seeing it. The maps he drew led the pioneers through the Oregon and California trails, inspired the Mormons to travel to Utah, and were the road map for the 49ers heading for the California Gold Rush.

Fremont’s third expedition

was a wild one. He started out to explore the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains but instead ending up in California, nearly started a war with Mexico, and had battles with the Indians, both of which nearly cost him his entire crew of men. Fremont, the son-in-law of a powerful Senator, ended up being appointed California’s military governor, but there was trouble when the president appointed another man, and Fremont ended up being court marshalled and thrown out of the army. He was pardoned. But his career was over.

And then came

Fremont’s fourth expedition

To restore his honor after the mess in California, Fremont, along with his father-in-law Thomas Hart Benton, went all in to work for America’s Manifest Destiny. That was the idea that the United States should spread all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Mexico had signed California over to America but the country had yet to really take control of the area. Fremont set out to plot a path for the railroad to reach San Francisco. It was a disaster at the time, with ten of his thirty-five men dying on the trip due to unexpected snow storms.

Fremont’s fifth and final expedition

was mostly a second try at finding a railroad path along the same trail he’d tried before. His goal was to pass through the Rocky Mountains in winter. It was a brutal journey but they made it and this path was ultimately the trail taken by the Transcontinental Railroad. Fremont had found the way to connect the nation.

John C Fremont for President 1856 at age 43

Fremont also was an anti-slavery Republican presidential candidate in the election before Abraham Lincoln was elected. He was 43 when he ran. Yes, that’s right, he’d done all that stuff, all those expeditions and he was only 43 and was back east running for president. 

James Buchanan won and many believe Buchanan’s sloppy handling of the growing divide between the north and south led to the Civil War.

Fremont then fought in the Civil War and rose to the rank of General, yes this was after he’d been court martialed and drummed out of the military.

He also discovered and documented countless new species of plants and he has so many western places named after him it’s almost funny, including towns named Fremont in ten states, streams, canyons, counties, schools, on and on and on. Chances are if you named something in the west Fremont, the man had been there.

When I read about Fremont’s life after his exploring years, the man seemed like honestly a radical nut, always in trouble. He declared an emancipation proclamation before Lincoln did, in Missouri and he put the whole state under martial law. He had absolutely no power to do this, but he did it anyway. This is just a sample of some of his wild ways.

But I think a man living in the west, forging his own path, had to be so independent, such an individual and so used to being a in charge and going his own way, that he’d make a darned poor employees.

Long Time Gone

Do you have anything near you named Fremont? Can you imagine what it took to be a pathfinder? Tell me the bravest thing you’ve ever done. The wildest thing?

Could You Have Found a Path Across the West?

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for a signed copy of Long Time Gone (Cimarron Legacy #2)

Long Time Gone 4 Star Romantic Times Review

Here is another amazing, fast-paced, suspenseful, page-turning novel by Connealy! Written in third person, this works as a stand-alone novel, but is the second in the Cimarron Legacy series. You will recognize characters from the first book as well as from a past series. This is a must-read that will stick with you long after you finish. Recommended for fans of historical suspense.

 

Updated: April 20, 2017 — 7:09 am
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