Category: Wild West Research

The Ghosts of Old Tascosa

 

I hope you’re doing some fun things this summer. A few weeks ago, I drove thirty miles from where I live to what used to be only one of three towns in the entire Texas Panhandle. Tascosa used to be a thriving, but very dangerous, town that at its peak boasted 350 people. It was settled in 1876 by an ex-soldier and blacksmith named Henry Kimball and it became the assembling point for the Tascosa/Dodge City Cattle Trail. Surrounded by large ranches, the town quickly became known as the Cowboy Capital of the Plains and was an economic rival of Dodge City, Kansas.

It also became a place where outlaws and bad men outnumbered the law-abiding sort.

Here’s an adobe schoolhouse (built 1911). It’s the oldest one of adobe in Texas.

Due to the town being only thirty -five miles from the New Mexico line, Billy the Kid used to rustle cattle and bring them to Tascosa to sell. He made the trip many times. His campground is still marked today in a shady spot near a creek.

Pat Garrett was another regular to frequent Tascosa that in 1879 had a population of 150 with only 8 English speaking women who were not employed in the considerable brothels and saloons.

Inside of two years, there were twenty-eight deaths caused by shootings and Boot Hill saw much activity. Here’s the picture I took and the restored markers. I think it’s the first Boot Hill cemetery I’ve ever been in.

A post office opened in 1878 and in 1880 the county of Oldham (only the second county in the entire Texas Panhandle) was formed and a stone courthouse was built. That courthouse is still there and they’ve turned it into a museum. Here’s the picture I took during my visit.

Despite the lawlessness, romance was alive and well. A mysterious saloon girl and gambler named Frenchy fell deeply in love with Mickey McCormick who owned one of the saloons. They married and from then on, the two became inseparable. This huge, deformed tree and marker is all that remains of the spot where their adobe house sat.

         

Mickey died in 1912 and Frenchy walked to visit his grave every day—even after the town died and everyone moved away, she remained. She lived alone in the ghost town by herself with no running water or electricity for twenty-seven years, grieving for Mickey. Finally, in poor health and her house falling around her, the woman whose real name they never knew or where she was from let them move her to the nearby town of Channing where she stayed a little over a year before dying in 1941. As per her wishes, they brought her back and laid her to rest next to her beloved Mickey.

Other ghosts reside there also—like Ed King, Frank Valley, Fred Chilton, and Jesse Sheets who were killed in a gunfight in the wee hours of March 20, 1886.

The ghost town was bought by Julian Bivins who turned around and donated it to the Cal Farley Boy’s Ranch in 1939. The town sits on this private land and I believe the thousands of boys(and now girls also) who’ve lived there have purged the voices of the ghosts. I didn’t feel any restless spirits. Although it is on private land, they welcome visitors.

If you’ve read any of my Outlaw Mail Order Brides, you’ve seen the town of Tascosa in the stories. Here’s one segment in Tally Shannon’s point of view from Book 1 – The Outlaw’s Mail Order Bride:

Life was full of ups and downs, and this wasn’t the worst that they would face. She’d heard the men talk about a bounty hunter Ridge had seen in Tascosa and the reward poster the man had been showing around. Foreboding told her the worst still lay in front of them.

Have you ever been to or read about a ghost town? I’m curious what you thought. I would love to have seen Tascosa at its peak but I wouldn’t have wanted to live there. Too rough for me!

 

Who Was Calamity Jane?

Jennifer Uhlarik

Hi everyone. I’m celebrating this month! June 1 marked the release of Cameo Courtships, a 4-in-1 novella collection which I am part of. My story in the collection is Taming Petra, and my heroine goes by the name of “Buckskin Pete Hollingsworth.” Buckskin Pete is a buckskin-wearing, gun-toting, tomahawk-throwing tomboy, loosely modeled after Old West icon Calamity Jane.

If you’re like me, you know of Calamity Jane, but only in the most general way. So who was Calamity Jane?

She was born Martha Jane Cannary, on May 1, 1852, the eldest child of a gambler father and a prostitute mother. She had two brothers and three sisters. As the family traveled from Martha Jane’s birthplace in Missouri to Virginia City, Montana, her mother fell ill with pneumonia and died. A year later, her father also succumbed to death, leaving Martha Jane, who was just fourteen years old at the time, to take charge of her five younger siblings and support her family. The six siblings settled in Piedmont, Wyoming, where Martha Jane took whatever jobs she could find—from dishwasher, to waitress, to nurse, to ox-team driver, to sometimes prostitute.

 

As her younger siblings grew up and moved on, it freed Martha Jane to strike out on her own as well. In the 1870s, she is said to have acted as scout for the Army, an Indian fighter, as well as displaying excellent aim as a sharpshooter.

Calamity in a dress

When asked how she came to be called “Calamity,” she told the following story in a short biographical pamphlet. While working with the Army near Goose Creek, Wyoming, they were sent out to subdue an Indian uprising. On the way back to the post, they were ambushed about a mile and a half out. As she charged through the fray, being fired upon, she turned in time to see Captain Egan struck and reeling in his saddle. Jane turned back to help, caught the officer before he fell, and pulled him onto her own horse in front of her. Once safely back at the post and the captain recovering, he jokingly stated that he would dub her Calamity Jane, the heroine of the plains, and she proudly wore the name from that point forward.

While the story is an entertaining one, several details call its credibility into question. For one, Calamity Jane was functionally illiterate, so she would have had to dictate such a story to someone else for the pamphlet. It’s possible she did just that. But in the story itself, she claims to have singlehandedly pulled a wounded and reeling man from him horse onto her own and held him in the saddle until they reached the safety of the army post. The likelihood of such feats of strength do cause one to question the story. Another alternative for how she came to be known as Calamity Jane is that she would warn any man who crossed her that he was “courting calamity” by doing so.

She is known to have had a kind and generous side. In Deadwood, S.D., she is rumored to have nursed the sick during an outbreak of smallpox. And she was also known to have helped those in need, providing food she’d hunted herself or given money to those unable to provide for themselves.

Calamity Jane at Wild Bill Hickok’s gravesite

Rumors link Calamity Jane to another well-known Western icon—James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok. Some rumors state they were friends. Others tout the pair were lovers. Calamity Jane herself stated that she and Wild Bill were married in 1873 and had a daughter, who was later adopted by another family. No marriage license has been found to support a legal union between the two characters. Of course, Wild Bill died by a shooter’s bullet in 1876, so any romance that may have existed lasted only briefly.

The later years of Calamity Jane’s life saw her become a hard-drinking alcoholic, often down on her luck, living life mostly alone. For a brief time, she performed with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show as a storyteller and sharpshooter, but otherwise, she drifted from town to town. She died of pneumonia on August 1, 1903, at the age of 51. She and Wild Bill Hickok are buried next to each other in Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood.

My heroine, Buckskin Pete Hollingsworth, is loosely based on Calamity Jane—in their shared propensity to wear men’s buckskin trousers, their ability to scout and track, and their soft sides that enabled both to help those in need. Do you enjoy reading fictional characters you know are based on a true person from history, or do you prefer purely fictional characters that are wholly original? Why or why not? Leave your thoughts to be entered in a drawing for an autographed paperback copy of Cameo Courtships.

Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has finaled and won in numerous writing competitions, and been on the ECPA best-seller list numerous times. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers, Women Writing the West, and is a lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, college-aged son, and four fur children. Check out her website and Facebook page or follow her on Twitter or Pinterest.

 

 

Updated: June 13, 2019 — 8:01 pm

Jack Long Retells How Bob Dalton Shot at Him

In July of 2011, while on our booksigning tour for the anthology Give Me a Texas Outlaw, fellow author Linda Broday and I had the opportunity to not only visit Liberal, Kansas, where we got a lot of insight into their old west and legends, but we also visited the Dalton Gang Hideout at Meade, Kansas.

We visited the former home of Eva Dalton Whipple, sister to the infamous Dalton Gang, as well as Linda being arrested by the town’s sheriff and locked up in an original jail cell of the 1800’s. We were honored to be able to witness a true old west shoot out, as well as travel through the underground tunnel between Mrs. Whipple’s house and the barn below the hill where Frank, Bob and Grat Dalton used to hideout.

But one of the most interesting things I personally discovered was taken from The Journal; The Official City Newspaper of Coffeyville, Kansas, dated Friday,::October 7, 1892. I’m using the exact punctuation original to the article. The account was authored by Jack Long for this edition of The Journal.

It was a beautiful morning Oct. 5, 1892, and Jim Boothby and I were going up town from the Santa Fe depot. We had just got in front of McLeese and Lewark’s livery barn when Jesse Morgan came around the corner of Eighth and Union shaking his umbrella and shouting, “They’re robbing the banks.”

Boothby and I walked on to the First National Bank, where I leaned against a railing in front of the plate glass window and looked across the street at the Condon bank. Boothby peeked in the First National bank door. Emmett Dalton saw him and hollered, “Get in here you SOB.”

In a moment, Emmett Dalton punched his gun against the window and said, “Get away from here, son before you get hurt”. I stooped down, looked under the curtain and saw four men inside, J.B. Brewster, Abe Knotts, Jim Boothby, and another man I didn’t know, standing with their hands in the air.

I took Dalton at his word and stepped over in front of Rammel Brothers drug store. George Cubine came up and stood beside me, holding a short Winchester. About that time, the Daltons started out of the bank. George shot, and they turned around and went out the back door of the bank. I walked to the back of the drug store and stood on a platform to watch them. They saw me but didn’t shoot because I had no gun.

They went on to the alley, where Lucius Baldwin was standing by the corner of a barn with a pistol in his hand. I heard Bob Dalton tell him two or three times. “Boy, throw that gun down—I don’t want to hurt you.” But Baldwin stood there like he was froze, and Bob shot him.

The Daltons rode north then to Eighth street, and I ran back through the drug store. Cubine was still in front with his short rifle. I told him, “George, they’re coming this way.” Just then a shot rang out, and Bob Dalton hit a shotgun in the hands of Charles Gump. Gump ran in the Isham hardware store.

By that time, the Daltons had reached Union street. Cubine was standing on my left with the rifle when Bob shot him. He fell on the sidewalk in front of me. Just after he fell, Charles J. Brown, an old shoemaker ran up and picked up Cubine’s gun. He no more than straightened up when Bob shot him. He fell across Cubine.

This seemed like a hot spot, so I stepped back in the drug store. Bob’s rifle cracked again, but the bullet hit the door behind me. The bullet hole is still in the door.

Thomas G. Ayers, cashier of the First National Bank, came running into Isham’s store to get a gun. He came to the north door of the store and was looking through a horse collar that was hanging there for a sign. Bob saw his face peering through the collar and shoot him through the jaw.

I could see the Condon bank, and everybody was shooting at it. While the shooting was going on, Jack Broadwell, one of the Dalton gang, came out of the bank. He walked back and forth in front of the bank for a while, looking in all directions. Broadwell was sure a wild looking human, and I heard he was just as wild as he looked.

After things quieted down a little, I went across the street, where I met Frank Skinner and Pat Boswell. We were the first men on the street. We stumbled over a sack, which Pat kicked and said, “They even brought their horse feed with them.”

Then along came H W. Read, president of the bank, to pick up the sack of what Pat, Frank, and I thought was feed. The sack contained $90,000. Read picked it up and took it back to the bank.

I knew Bob and Emmett. After Emmett got out of jail, I met him in Bartlesville on the day he was married. I asked him why Bob shot at me, and he said Bob thought I picked up the gun and stepped in the store.”

I could have continued to research the Dalton Gang and mixed fact with fiction to come up with a story, but nothing could be any better than a firsthand account of a piece of history. I deliberately used the spelling and punctuation of the era.

As hard as I tried, I was unable to find out anything on the original writer, Jack Long, but the editor wrote, “The following account of the Dalton raid as remembered by Jack Long, was written by Long especially for this edition of The Journal. Therefore, full credit for the newspaper account is given to Mr. Long.

As quoted from the newspaper … DALTON! The Robber Gang Meet Their Waterloo in Coffeyville.

Where is the most interesting historical place you have every visited?

To one lucky reader who leaves a comment, I will send you a copy of Give Me a Texas Outlaw signed by all four authors.

Updated: May 28, 2019 — 5:59 pm

First Woman Governor of Texas

Texas had the first woman elected governor in the United States, but she wasn’t the first woman to be governor. Marian A. Ferguson was better known as “Ma” Ferguson and elected in 1924 and inaugurated in 1925, which was two weeks after a woman became governor of Wyoming.

“Ma” Ferguson was married to former-governor James E. Ferguson, who was barred from running again after he resigned in 1917, just before he could be removed from office on corruption charges.

Interestingly enough, Governor “Ma” Ferguson is remembered for granting an average of one hundred pardons a month during her first two-year term of office, which was also marred by charges of graft and corruption.

Although she lost bids for re-election in 1926 and 1930, she served again from 1933 through 1935, when she fought the Depression with loans for cotton farmers and “bread bonds” to feed starving children.

One of Governor “Ma” Ferguson’s many full pardons went to “Buck” Barrow, who quickly took advantage of his release from prison to continue a life of crime. Buck and his wife got together with Buck’s brother, Clyde, and his girlfriend Bonnie Parker, who were already notorious criminals.
A few months later, in a shootout with police, Buck was killed, and his wife Blanche was capture. Bonnie and Clyde continued their crime spree.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were both Texas natives. They met in Dallas in 1930 and formed a criminal partnership that included jailbreaks, robberies, kidnappings, and murders.

Their crime-spree prompted a well-publicized nationwide manhunt that ended on May 23, 1934, when a group of lawmen ambushed the couple and killed them.

Since then, their short careers as lawbreakers have been popularized in films, songs, and movies. Even in the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco there is a display of exhibits related to their ultimate demise.

Tell me about your favorite outlaw real or imaginary!

To one reader who leaves a comment, I will give them an eBook of my latest Kasota Spring Romance Out of a Texas Night.

Updated: April 29, 2019 — 5:22 pm

The Music of Spurs by Linda Broday

I’m happy to kick off this Bustles and Spurs week. I just love writing everything about cowboys but especially the little visual details that can add so much to a story. The smooth way they walk. The way they talk—from the hard edge they add to their voice when they have to—to the quiet, gentle words reserved for their lady, kids, and animals. Then there are the sounds—the slap of leather chaps against their legs, their boot heels striking a wooden boardwalk.

Most of all, the clink of their spurs. Oh man! I love that music.

I began thinking about spurs and here are some facts that you might find interesting.

* The earliest spurs found go back to Julius Caesar and his Roman soldiers. Who knew?

* The type of metal used in those early spurs once indicated rank. Gold or gilded spurs were reserved for knights or royalty. Hence the expression, “earn your spurs.”

* The part of the spur that makes noise is the rowel that spins when the cowboy walks. The rowel is also the part he uses to make the horse do what he wants.

* The ornate Spanish influence is still evident today.

* Spurs from the second to about the fifteenth century were buried with their owners which is why few remain today.

* Any knight who failed to remove his spurs inside a church had them confiscated and had to pay a fine to get them back.

* The U.S. Cavalry uniform required boots and spurs and they were also worn during the Civil War. These were made of brass, slightly curved, with a small rowel, black straps, and a brass buckle.

* Today, artisan spurs are big business and depending on what they’re decorated with can be quite expensive. I recently saw a pair online selling for $925. Can you imagine?

* Sometimes cowboys attach jinglebobs to their spurs for even more noise.

I have a new book coming April 30 – SAVING THE MAIL ORDER BRIDE – #2 of Outlaw Mail Order Brides series. Jack Bowdre has been arrested and on his way to jail in a stagecoach the marshal flags down. The only other passenger is Lenora Kane who’s on her way to marry a man sight unseen. When the coach wrecks, Jack finds himself handcuffed to Lenora and they’re running for their lives, afoot, with nothing but the clothes on their backs and five days to safety. This has danger, suspense, humor, and romance and available for preorder.

AMAZON  |  B&N  |  iTUNES

Leave a comment mentioning some detail about a cowboy that really adds to what you love about him. Maybe it’s a bead of sweat trickling down his neck or the way he tips his hat to the ladies. Something small that gives you that tingle. You know the one. I’m giving away a western movie called Forsaken starring Kiefer and Donald Sutherland. It’s really good. I’m also giving a $10 Amazon gift card to another winner. Drawing will be Saturday.

 

 

A Quick History of the Pony Express

I lived in rural Nevada for thirty years and because my husband and I were originally geologists, we spent a lot of time beating around the state before settling down. The northern and middle part of Nevada can be either blazing hot or bone numbing cold, depending on the season—as near as I could tell, there were two: summer and winter, with three or four days of spring and fall between them. But don’t get me wrong, I love Nevada and its outback, and have so much respect for the early citizens—those that stayed and those that were there to do a job. The riders of the Pony Express were there to do a job. I’ve experienced the country that they crossed, and these guys were amazing.

So how did the Pony Express come about?

Ruby Valley Nevada station. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In brief, Senator William Gwin of California wanted a faster mail service between the eastern part of the country and California. He conferred with the operators of Overland Stage Line of Leavenworth, Kansas, which ran a stage between the Missouri River and Salt Lake City, asking them to develop a mail system. Reluctantly, due to the costs, the owners of the stage line agreed and began developing the Pony Express. On April 3, 1860, less than two months after promising the senator to develop a faster mail system, the first express was ready to run between St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento.

In those two months, the organizers found 80 riders and 500 horses, and stations were built along the route through Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. The riders received $25 per week, two revolvers, a rifle, a bowie knife and a bible. The ponies were sturdy stock, many of them carrying California mustang blood.

The mail was carried in a leather mochila with four locked boxes sewn to it to carry the mail. The mochila fit over the saddle horn, and when the rider arrived at the station, he threw the mochila to the next rider, who would then be on his way. The Pony Express carried mail 2,000 miles in 10 days.

The Pony Express lasted only 18 months, but even in that short amount of time, it left an indelible mark on the history of the county and the region. Finances were part of the reason for the demise of the express. Mail carried by the express cost the sender between $1 to $5 dollars per ounce, but despite the high prices, the Pony Express failed financially, as its organizers had feared. Congress offered no financial subsidies to help the express, despite the fact that it helped keep California in the Union.

Ultimately, however, it was technology that ended the Pony Express. When the transcontinental telegraph system was completed on October 24, 1861, there was no more need for the Pony Express. Four days later, the Pony Express officially ended.

 

Old Spanish Mines by Kristy McCaffrey and a Give Away!

We are thrilled to welcome guest author Kristy McCaffrey to the Junction today.  Kristy will be giving away a copy of her new book Rosemary to one lucky commenter!

Long before the westward expansion of the United States, the Spanish were present. Markings on a canyon wall in central Utah consisting of a cross symbol bear the date ‘1667’. Hieroglyphics and pictographs originally thought to be placed by Native Americans are actually markers along the Spanish Trail, which led from Mexico to the Uinta Mountains (in Utah) and beyond. This trail was the main link between Mexican and Spanish outposts, and it’s posited that they were religious outposts. The Spanish presence lasted well into the 1800’s, when packs of Mexicans were reportedly leaving the Uinta Mountains laden with gold.

Until the 1800’s, the tales of the Spanish gold mines were the subject of Native American history, with few white men knowing of the mines. The Spaniards used the Native Americans as slave labor, and after many years of oppression it’s believed that they revolted and killed most of their Spanish captors. Supposedly the Native Americans returned the gold bullion to the earth and sealed it in the very mines from which it had come.

Thomas Rhoades, a close assistant to Mormon Church leader Brigham Young, was one of the first white men to fully understand the implications of the Spanish mines. Young had become a religious mentor to a Ute Indian named Chief Walkara, who spoke of a secret cache of gold in the Uinta Mountains. The chief agreed to give the gold to the church, and Rhoades was selected to transport it to Salt Lake City.

Unfortunately, the Indians refused to remove the gold, believing it to be cursed. But it was easy for Rhoades to transport since it was already mined and left in bullion form. His first trip was said to have lasted two weeks, yielding more than sixty pounds of pure gold. For several years, Rhoades continued to transfer gold until, in 1887, he discovered additional mines located off Indian ground. This spurred interest in the lost Spanish gold mines, since it appeared there wasn’t just one mine to be found but many.

Prospector With Donkey

 

 

Searching for the mines could be deadly. In the early years, stories circulated of prospectors being shot and killed, often by Native

Americans protecting the sacred mines. Even as recently as 1990 there have been reports of modern-day prospectors being fired upon as a warning by Native Americans who protect the land near historic mining operations.

 

Old-timers in the Uinta Mountains have claimed there are seven mines lined with pure gold that supplied the Aztecs, serving as the basis for the seven golden cities of Cibola sought by early Spanish explorers.

In ROSEMARY, Book 11 of the Widows of Wildcat Ridge Series, Rosemary goes in search of the fabled Floriana mine in the wilderness of the Utah Territory in 1884. While The Floriana is a fictitious mine, I based it on tales of the time.

Rosemary Brennan is recovering from the loss of her husband five months prior in a devastating mine accident that took the lives of nearly all the men in Wildcat Ridge. The mine owner, Mortimer Crane, has given the widows an ultimatum—find husbands or he will evict them from their homes and businesses. Desperate to keep the assay office that her deceased husband had managed, she heads into the hills in search of an old Spanish mine called The Floriana in the hope she can lay claim to a bonanza of gold.

 

Ex-U.S. Deputy Marshal Miles McGinty arrives in Wildcat Ridge to pay his respects to Jack Brennan’s widow. He and Jack had a history, and Miles is heartsick over the loss of the young man he had come to think of as a brother. When he learns of Rosemary’s problems with the piggish Crane, he will do anything to help her—even offering marriage. But when it becomes clear that Crane knew of Jack’s criminal past and was blackmailing him over it, Miles must decide whether to tell Rosemary the truth, because doing so may drive her away. And to his surprise, Miles has fallen in love with his new wife.

A sweet romance set in 1884 Utah Territory.

Available at One commenter will win a digital copy of Rosemary!

 

Kristy McCaffrey writes historical western romances brimming with grit and emotion, along with contemporary adventure stories packed with smoldering romance and spine-tingling suspense. Her work is filled with compelling heroes, determined heroines, and her trademark mysticism. Kristy holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in mechanical engineering, but writing has been her passion since she was very young. Her four children are nearly grown and gone, so she and her husband frequently pursue their love of travel to the far corners of the world. Kristy believes life should be lived with curiosity, compassion, and gratitude, and one should never be far from the enthusiasm of a dog. An Arizona native, she resides in the desert north of Phoenix. To learn more about her work, visit her website.

 

(Photos courtesy of Deposit Photos)

 

Fudging Facts to Name a State

I’m a native Idahoan now living in Montana. Basically, I moved next door, after a thirty-year stint in Nevada (also next door). I love all three states and would be hard pressed to pick a favorite.

Nevada Territory 1860

The origin of Nevada’s name is straight forward—Nevada means ‘snow-covered’ and referred to the many mountain ranges in Nevada, particularly the Sierra Nevada, which often have snow year round. The origin of Idaho and Montana’s names, however, is not so straight forward. In fact, those origins involved deception.

When I learned Idaho history in the fourth grade, we were taught that the name Idaho came from the Shoshone term Ee-da-how, which means ‘sun comes up in the mountains’. Not so.

In the early 1860’s Congress was considering making a new territory in the Rocky Mountain area, which would eventually become Colorado. A (fraudulently elected) lobbyist named George M. Willing suggested the name Idaho, saying it was a Shoshone term meaning ‘gem of the mountains’ or ‘sun comes up from the mountains’. He’d made the whole thing up. Congress figured it out before the territory was named, and that territory became Colorado Territory.

Colorado Territory

By that time, however, the name Idaho was in common usage. A steam ship on the Columbia River was named Idaho, and when gold was discovered on the Clearwater river in the 1860s, the area was called the Idaho diggings. A few years later, when Washington Territory was broken into two sections, the new section was named Idaho Territory.

Idaho Territory 1863

 

The origin of Montana’s name also involved a touch of deception. Montana was part of Idaho Territory until 1864, when a former congressman named Sidney Edgerton brought samples of gold to Washington and suggested the creation of a new territory. The Union needed gold, so congress set to work. Ohio congressman James Ashley suggested the name Montana for the new territory, explaining that ‘montana’ was the Spanish word for mountainous, which perfectly described the area. There was one small problem—there was nothing Spanish about the area, which bordered Canada. Other names were suggested–Shoshone, Jefferson and Douglas. Senator Charles Sumner wanted an Indian name for the territory. One of the original Montana settlers, George Stuart, suggested Tay-a-be-shock-up, which is Snake for ‘the country of the mountains’.  Some unknown person, however, convinced congress that the name Montana was not so much Spanish as it was Latin. Congress could accept a Latin name and Montana Territory was blessed with a name that could be easily pronounced.

The Horse Race that Signaled the End of the Old West

Hi, Kit Morgan here, and for those of you that don’t know, my little sister is a professional racehorse jockey. Marijo has been racing for as long as I can remember and made a life-long career out of it. She left high school early to start galloping at the track and train to become a jockey. Her love of horses drove her, not to mention a keen competitive nature. She has recently given up racing for something a bit safer, like training Hunter/Jumper horses. Ahem … anyway … this post isn’t about my sister, but about one particular race held in 1893. But hey, it’s hard to mention anything about horse racing without bringing her up!

In 1893 the western plains were largely settled. By now much of the land was farmed and fenced in. There were no more wild buffalo roaming the plains, no more Indian wars (for the most part) because the Native Americans had been moved to reservations. Telegraph wires were strung up everywhere and Telephone lines were quickly stretching west. The country was moving on and the wild west was dying out.

Then along came a race, one that started out as a gimmick. The brainchild of a crafty businessman named John Maher, (who by the way was one of the first to report from the scene of the Wounded Knee Massacre) devised the race as a way to draw attention to the tiny town of Chadron, Nebraska, which was struggling at the time. What started out as a mere gimmick, turned into something much more.

Hundreds of hard-bitten cowboys, both locals and those that rode in, wanted to be in the race that came to be known as The Great Cowboy Race. One fellow was a western outlaw and horse rustler! A desperado by the name of “Doc” Middleton. The race drew all sorts of folks to it, all eager to enter and win. The route spanned a thousand miles, beginning in Chadron and ending at Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West showground which was right next to the World’s Fair in Chicago. The prize? A new leather saddle, a golden Colt revolver, and a fat cash purse. The race took the entrants over the Nebraska Sand Hills, through the Iowa cornfields, across both the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and through the wheat fields of Illinois. 

Driving them on was the truth of their own old age. As they rode they saw changes in the land. Changes that would keep growing, pushing out the old cowboy and his ways. Perhaps they could tell the boys that gawked at Model T Fords what it was like to race across the land on a horse, to have the country watching them. Regale the boys with stories of the old west when they, themselves, were young. They could tell them about the small towns of America, those along the race route, and how the blacksmiths would pound on their anvils, signaling the riders were coming. People lined the streets to watch them and shout encouragement. Boys especially cheered them on. Newspapers also covered the race, bringing to life the old west once more. 

For one summer this race created an unforgettable image of the old west that would live on in the minds of many. Cowboys atop thundering horses, racing to their destination and carrying them into cowboy immortality. 

And this is just one of the reasons I love to write westerns! Maybe it’s about time I wrote a story about a horse race, hmm?

If you would like to check out my books, you can find them at http://www.authorkitmorgan.com

Updated: September 17, 2018 — 1:12 pm

Edible Wild Plants

 

While working with my grandsons on a Boy Scout survival project, I came across an interesting book by the Department of the Army, ”The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants”.

It got me  thinking about how our frontier travelers used some of vegetables, plants for spices, and medicinal purposes.  This book answered many of my questions.

It’s most important that I preface this blog with a warning directly from the book:

Very important, please read this before you continue with the blog.

Warning:  The critical factor in using plants for food is to avoid accidental poisoning.  Eat only those plants you can positively identify, and you know are safe.

Plants are valuable sources of food because they are widely available, easily procured; and, in the proper combinations, can meet all your nutritional needs.  Absolutely identify plants before using them as food.  Poison hemlock has killed people who mistook it for its relatives, wild carrots and wild parsnips.

Chicory: I think one of the most popular plants used throughout history is Chicory.  The base leaves resemble those of the dandelion.  The flowers are sky blue and stay open only on sunny days.  Chicory has a milky juice.  It can be found in old fields, along roads and weedy lots.  All parts are edible.  Eat the young leaves as salad or boil to eat as a vegetable. Cook the roots as a vegetable. I wasn’t aware that the plant are edible and had so many usages, but of course, coming from the South, Chicory used as a coffee substitute is well known.  Roast the roots until they are dark brown and then pulverize them.  I just image the frontiersman kept a look out for this plant.

Dandelion:  Believe it or not all parts are edible. I’m not gonna describe this plant, as we all have to deal with it during the spring and summer. The roots are high in vitamins A and C, as well as calcium.  Like Chicory, you can roast and ground the roots for a good coffee substitute.  Another use is the white juice in the flower stems can be used as glue.

Sassafras:  Everybody has heard of Sassafras tea in historical stories.  This shrub bears different leaves on the same plant. The spring flowers are yellow and small, while the fruit is dark blue. The plant parts have a characteristic root beer smell.  The young twigs and leaves are edible fresh or dried.  Small dried young twigs and leaves can be used in soups.  Now for the tea…dig the underground portion, peel off the bark, and let it dry.  Then boil in water for tea.  Of interest, shred the tinder twigs for use as a toothbrush.  Now we know how the frontiersman cleaned their teeth!

 

Here’s a couple of popular, yet dangerous, common flower garden plants.    

Trumpet Vine or Trumpet Creeper:  The last two very dangerous plants I want to tell you about are ones that almost everybody have around them.  The first is the Trumpet Vine, which climb all over fences and are intentionally planted. The trumpet-shaped flowers are orange to scarlet and climb to 15 meters high and spreads like a wild weed It has pea like fruit capsules.  The caution on this plant is that it causes contact dermatitis, so be very careful working around this plant.  If pruning, I’d make sure I had long sleeves and gloves on.  And, I’d suggest you be very careful touching your face and be sure to wash your hands very good.

Lantana Plant The second is a very popular plant.  The Lantana is a shrub like plant that may grow up to 45 centimeters high.  The color varies from white, yellow, orange, pink or red.  It has a dark blue or black, berry like fruit.  A distinctive feature is its strong scent.  The caution on this particular plant, again very popular, is that it is poisonous if eaten and an be fatal.  It also causes dermatitis in some individuals, so if you’re working with this plant, I’d follow my suggests for the trumpet plant.

Again, I’m going to warn our readers that all or part of many wild plants, once used, can be very dangerous.  Always, always be very careful about eating or cooking any wild plant unless you know for certain it’s safe.  Cautious is best!  When in doubt, don’t eat!

Now my question to you, really two of them:  Do you think the frontiersman used the edible part of wild plants?  The second, do you think people died coming west due to consuming or coming into contact with dangerous wild plants?

 

To one lucky winner who leaves a comment, I am giving away an eBook of my newest western contemporary romance “Out of a Texas Night”.    

 

 

Updated: August 27, 2018 — 3:22 pm