Tag: research

OZARK BELLE & THE CROSSBOW

crossbow-medieval   On a blustery, chilly November afternoon, dh and I were invited to a friend’s remote property for food, friends and some shooting. We took our cowboy guns, of course, but our host had a surprise:  A crossbow.

I’d seen pictures of a crossbow, and knew the basic concept of its function, but I’d never had an opportunity to pull the trigger on one. You know I was first in line to give it a try.

The trigger pull was much easier than I expected, and there wasn’t the recoil you expect of a weapon that can hurl a bolt (an arrow) an impressive distance. Of course, this was a modern crossbow, made of space age materials and mechanisms, in many ways far superior to its Medieval predecessors. Research beckoned.

“The earliest definitive evidence for Chinese crossbow use comes from manuscripts dating to the 4th and 3rd centuries BC in China, associated with the followers of Chinese philosophy Mohism, developed by a masun-tzun named Mozi. This philosophy, although it asserted a belief in universal love, also called for the development of a political structure within which there was no central authority other than Mozi’s writings. The Mohists developed many ideas on fortification, statecraft, as well as agricultural theories, and were soon hired as advisors for the leaders of warring states.”

Am I the only one who finds it “interesting” that a society expounding universal love became advisors on how to prepare for—and win–wars?

Beyond the writings of the Mohists, Sun Tzu’s book The Art of War, from approximately 400 BC, also refers to the use of crossbows. And Alexander the Great is known to have used crossbows for the siege of Tyre in 332 BC.

By the 1100s, the crossbow was considered by many to be a weapon of mass destruction. Not only was it was remarkably accurate and particularly deadly, worse, it allowed any lowly peasant to kill a high-born mounted knight with the simple squeeze of a trigger.

knightThough it took longer to reload than a longbow—a crossbow could manage only two volleys per minute while a bow could fire as many as 10—any soldier could be proficient with crossbow in a matter of days.

I had to dig, too, on whether this weapon, so commonly used across the pond, was brought here. According to Reginald and Gladys Laubin in AMERICAN INDIAN ARCHERY, VOLUME 4, there is some evidence of crossbows among the Cherokee & Potawatomi tribes.

“In 1927 a statement was obtained from Chief Simon Ka-qua-dos of the Wisconsin Potawatomis that as a young man he and his companions had made and used crossbows in hunting during the perod from about 1862 to 1867. He described the weapon as having a gun-shaped stock with an ordinary hunting bow mounted at a righTracyt angle across the stock at its forward end. The stock was grooved, and an ordinary arrow was laid in the groove. The bow was pulled back with both hands, and the string caught in a notch on the barrel from which it was released with a simple trigger device.

“It is almost certain that the Indians got the idea of a crossbow from the Whites, but how long ago is a difficult question. The Spanish and French explorers were armed with crossbows, and it is possible that the idea came to the Indians at that early time. Whether they used crossbows for the intervening three hundred years is anyone’s guess, but they certainly were not reported in any of the early writings.”

History aside, while I enjoyed my “shot,” I think I’ll stick to my Cowboy Action Shooting for fun. The bang is a lot louder.

Happy 2016, Everyone!
Tracy

Famous Last Words: Outlaws of the Old West

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Bad boys of the Old West—they’re endlessly fascinating. Why is that? Maybe it’s because they lived such bold, flash-in-the-pan lives, as untamed as the land they roamed. Some have become such mythic figures, it’s difficult to tell fact from fiction. True or not, their legends live on…and in some cases, so do the last or near-last words that—in a strange, sad way—defined their short, reckless lives.

Bits and pieces like the ones below bring real-life villains to life and sometimes provide insight into the men behind the myths. Still, I often find myself wondering “who were these guys?” Had I been a contemporary, would I have seen the same life historians recorded? Or would the real person have been astoundingly different from what we think we know 100 years later?

All of the bad guys below had parents, grandparents, siblings. Some had wives and children. One, Deacon Jim Miller (also known as Killer Jim Miller) was a pillar of his community…when he wasn’t eliminating someone for money.

As an author of historical fiction, part of my job is to entertain, but I believe there’s another, equally important part, as well: getting the facts straight—or at least trying to hide the wrinkles. Of course, fiction isn’t fact, and no fiction author worth his or her salt lets facts get in the way of a good story. Nevertheless, studying the past and the kinds of people about whom we write is almost a sacred trust for many of us who write historical fiction. Only by familiarizing ourselves with the larger-than-life and the mundane can we give any authority or verisimilitude to the fictional lives we create.

As the writerly saying goes, “Even the villain is the hero of his own life story.” Maybe that’s why I spend so much time researching bad boys…and why the heroes in my stories so often are outlaws, even the ones who wear badges. After all, somebody has to tell the villains’ life stories, right?

Wild Bill Longley

 

“I deserve this fate. It is a debt I owe for my wild, reckless life.”
Wild Bill Longley, outlaw and mean-tempered bully, age 27. Hanged in Giddings, Texas, Oct. 11, 1878, for the murder of a childhood friend.
TomOFolliard

 

 

“Aw, go to Hell you long-legged son-of-a-bitch.”
—Tom O’Folliard, rustler and best friend of Billy the Kid, age 22. Spoken to Sheriff Pat Garrett shortly after Garrett mortally wounded him during a manhunt near Fort Sumner, New Mexico, Dec. 19, 1880.
BillyTheKidFerrotype_c1879-80

 

 

“I’m not afraid to die like a man fighting, but I would not like to be killed like a dog unarmed.”
Billy the Kid, hired gun, age 21, in a March 1879 letter to New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace. Shot to death by Sheriff Pat Garrett at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, July 14, 1881.
BlackJackKetchumYoungUNM

 

 

“Can’t you hurry this up a bit? I hear they eat dinner in Hades at twelve sharp, and I don’t aim to be late.”
Black Jack Ketchum, train robber, age 37. Decapitated during hanging for train robbery, Clayton, New Mexico, April 26, 1901.
TomHornWyoStateArchives

 

 

“Killing men is my specialty. I look at it as a business proposition, and I think I have a corner on the market.”
—Tom Horn, Pinkerton detective turned assassin, one day shy of 43. Hanged in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Nov. 20, 1903, for the murder of a 14-year-old boy.
DeaconJimMiller_c1886

 

 

“Let the record show I’ve killed 51 men. Let ’er rip.”
“Deacon Jim” Miller, age 42, professional assassin. Lynched in Ada, Oklahoma, April 19, 1909, for the contract killing of a former U.S. marshal.
HenryStarr_UALR

 

 

 

“I love it [the bandit life]. It is wild with adventure.”
—Henry Starr, age 53, to a reporter shortly before he was shot to death during an attempted bank robbery in Harrison, Arkansas, 1921.

 

 

Image credits
Black Jack Ketchum: University of New Mexico
Tom Horn at the Cheyenne Jail, 1902: Wyoming State Archives
Henry Starr: University of Arkansas, Little Rock

Women Schoolteachers in the Old West

Webheader 2009 2

 

The Three R’s: Ridin’, Ropin’, and Romance (of course!)

The leading lady of my first book, The Angel and the Outlaw, was a schoolteacher in the “wild, wild, West” of 1873 and so I thought I’d give a small glimpse into the life of a teacher in that day and age. I am also working on a new story in which the heroine is a teacher in Southern California’s back country.

Prior to tThe Angel and the Outlawhe Civil War, schoolteachers were mostly men because the prevailing belief was that women could not maintain discipline in the classroom. When the men left for the war, women moved in and filled positions at 60% less salary. When the men returned, they refused to work at the reduced wages (even though they did make more than the women teachers) and most left the profession.

Women teachers were required to be single. They could “sit” for their teaching certificate as long as they had graduated. Some were as young as fifteen. If they married, they had to give up their job. They were not allowed to attend public performances or dances. Male teachers were permitted to date one night a week or two if they attended church regularly. Because women were so few in number compared to men in the West, the turn-over rate for teachers was fairly high as women married and started their own families.

Children from the age of five would go to school daily through the week and then on weekends, would be expected to come back and help clean the schoolhouse. A teacher might have anywhere from three to forty-five students in the first through eighth grade. Discipline could be difficult at times, especially when some of the older boys towered over the teacher.

                                  Wisconsin Schoolhouse

Wisconsin One-Room Schoolhouse

The typical school house was a one-room building. A male teacher and his family often lived in a home next door or attached to the school house—a teacherage. Women teachers would be housed with one of the families whose children attended the school so that they could be supervised. (Now that would make it hard to “leave your day job” at the end of the day!)

Teachers had to be creative and work with whatever supplies they had. They used memorizing, reciting, and oral testing to teach reading, spelling, arithmetic and history. For many years, the main textbook was the McGuffey Reader. A staggering amount, approximately 120 million copies of McGuffey Readers were sold between 1836 and 1960. Many parents could not afford textbooks and so they sent their children to school with any book from home—usually the Bible—for instruction in reading. Eliza Mott was a teacher who taught the alphabet using the inscriptions on tombstones!

McGuffey Reader

McGuffey Reader

In doing research about the school in La Playa where The Angel and the Outlaw is set, I learned that the main difficulty for the teacher there was a horse track in Old Town San Diego that enticed the children to play hooky and also let them wager on the horses. When the school in La Playa had a teacher vacancy, the children rowed boats to the school in Old Town and attended there.

Some very important and influential people have “graduated” from one-room schools. To name a few ~ Abraham Lincoln (President), Herbert Hoover (President), Joyce Carol Oates (Pulitzer Prize), Laura Ingalls Wilder (author), and my father.

My father and his brothers attended a one-room school house that was built on land his father donated for the school. It still stands (and is now a private home), down a winding country road in central Illinois. It feels like stepping back in time a hundred years when I go back for a visit. My grandparents farmhouse is just around the corner ~ a country mile…


Iron flourish med

One of my memories is that my Junior High School was situated right up against the back of the San Diego Zoo next to the wallaby and kangaroo enclosures. When the tour bus would drive by loaded with people, the bus driver would often comment on the “animals” on the other side of the fence– meaning the children on the gym field. It was all in good-natured fun (I think…)

What about you?

Do you have any unusual or fond memories of school?

Comment for a chance to win a copy of my newest release ~ The Gunslinger and the Heiress ~ (which does not have a schoolteacher in it!) along with Playing the Rake’s Game by Bronwyn Scott. (Continental U.S. only)

Kathryn

 

Parrots, Birdcages and a Giveaway

WG Logo 2015-04

Hello everyone.  Winnie Griggs here.  I’m very excited about the recent release of The Road Home, the new novella I wrote as part of the Journeys of the Heart collection.  This story is one I’ve been wanting to write for some time, but it’s a little bit of a departure for me.  For one thing Anisha, my heroine, has a mother who was born in India and a father who is an American merchant sea captain.

For another, I pictured her with a pet that was a bit out of the ordinary, something to match her own exotic appearance.  And since her father was a sea captain who sailed all over the world, I wasn’t limited to animals in her native country. After trying out several animals, I finally settled on a parrot.  But this in turn spurred me to additional research.  I never realized there were so many species!  From small to quite large, from colorful to drab-in fact there are more than 350 species that belong to the order parrots are members of.  It was quite fun to browse through all the pictures I could find of these colorful, exotic birds.

But I had to narrow my search so I came up with a list of criteria for what characteristics I wanted her feathered companion to have.  He needed to be long-lived, intelligent, loyal, imposing and able to talk (not all parrots can).  I finally settle on the African Grey parrot.  African grey’s, while not the most colorful of the parrot family, have a lot to recommend them.  They are long-lived, in fact have been known to live for upwards of 80 years.  But more importantly, they are considered the most intelligent of the parrot family and can develop quite an extensive vocabulary.  They have been described as having  “… the intelligence level of up to a five-year old with the temperament of a two-year old…”  Bingo – this was exactly what I was looking for.  And thus Anisha’s companion, Sundar (which means ‘beautiful’ in Hindi) came to life for me.

Parrot

 

My research into parrots, however, led me down a fun rabbit trail of additional research.  During all of my digging into keeping pet parrots, I found some really gorgeous Victorian birdcages.  I thought I’d share just a few of the images I found with you.  Aren’t they gorgeous?

collage

 

So what about you?  Do you have first hand experience with parrots?  If not, how do you feel about them as potential pets – can you picture yourself with one?  Leave a comment today and be entered into the drawing for a copy of the novella collection that contains my story, The Road Home.

 

 

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White Spacer

 Here’s a short excerpt from the opening of the story:

Where had they gotten off to?

Wyatt Murdoch’s irritation was turning into worry. This was the third time his two young charges had tried to slip away from him on their journey from Indiana to Texas, and they’d only made it as far as Arkansas.  Thank goodness they’d arrive at their destination tomorrow.  Of course, that assumed he found them before the train left.  This was the longest they’d managed to keep out of his sight and the train would be resuming its journey in less than twenty minutes.

Why did they keep running away when they had no place to go? And how could a ten year old girl and eight year old boy have so completely disappeared when he’d only turned his back for a moment?

He supposed he couldn’t really blame them for wanting to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and warm spring sunshine, especially when they’d been cooped up on the train for four very long days.  But they could have just asked him.

He scanned the horizon and caught sight of the circus tents off in the distance. Of course. That would have drawn Hallie and Jonah like ants to a picnic.

He started off in that direction at a fast walk. If they missed the train because of this nonsense…

He was some distance from the circus tents when he caught sight of his charges. But they weren’t alone. A woman, small in stature but big in presence, walked between them holding onto a hand of each. There was something faintly exotic-looking about her—it had something to do with the warm golden color of her skin and the shape of her eyes.

There was also the fact that she wore some kind of padded leather affair on her left shoulder, and regally perched upon that shoulder was what looked like a large gray parrot.

Someone associated with the circus, no doubt. Was she an actual performer or just an assistant?

More importantly, had she caught the children trying to sneak into the big top or one of the side shows? Or worse yet, had they gotten too close to her parrot and hurt it in some way?

He hoped she was looking for their caretaker—namely him—and not the sheriff. But from the frown on her face and stiff determination of her posture, she was obviously unhappy about something.

He quickened his pace. “You two have a lot to answer for,” he said as soon as he reached them.

But it was the woman who responded. “You are the person responsible for these children?”

He noticed that she had a faint accent of some sort, but he couldn’t quite place it. “I am. And I apologize for whatever they—”

She cut through his apology. “It appears you are not doing a very good job of watching out for them.”

Her accusation and tone got his back up. “Keeping up with them is not the easiest job in the world.”

“So watching over them is your job? Are you their nanny?”

“Are you their nanny?” The parrot squawked. “Are you their nanny?”

There were muffled giggles from the children at the bird’s echoed words, which Wyatt chose to ignore.

He tugged on his cuff, trying to maintain his dignity. “No, I am not their nanny,” he said. “I am their escort. Now if you will just hand them over, we have a train to catch.”

If anything, the woman clasped their hands tighter. “They tell me they ran away because you have not been treating them well.”

Wyatt glanced from Hallie to Jonah, making his displeasure clear. Another loud squawk from the bird did nothing to smooth his temper. “What you should know about these two runaways is that they are not only slippery, but they also lie.”

Her frown only deepened. “Those are harsh words to use about children, sir.”

How in the world had he gotten into this ridiculous discussion with a circus performer? Before he could respond, she turned to the children.

Her expression was that of a schoolmarm handing a failing grade to a favorite student. “Have you been telling me untruths?”

Both children shook their heads vigorously.

“He doesn’t let us do anything fun and he’s always fussing,” Hallie said.

“Anyone can tell he doesn’t even like us,” Jonah added.

The woman once again turned an accusing look his way.

But it was his turn to cut her off before she could speak. “That is neither here nor there, madam. It is my job to escort these children safely into the keeping of their great-uncle, and I intend to do just that. Now, I don’t have time to stand here and argue with you. We need to be on that train when it pulls out from the station.” He held out his left hand, keeping his right carefully down at his side. “Come along you two.”

The children looked up to their circus-performer friend, obviously ready to ask for her support. Had they formed such a quick bond because of the exciting nature of her life? Or was it just that they thought anyone better than he?

To his surprise, the stranger gave them a shake of her head. “Go on with your escort as he asks. It’s his job to keep you safe. And you should apologize for causing him worry, even if you don’t think he likes you. He may not be the most pleasant of people, but he is trying to look out for you, and you should respect him for that, not make his task more difficult.” She shot him a quick glance, then turned back to the children. “Besides, I’m sure he’s not really a bad man at heart.”

Was that condescension in her tone? His irritation changed to shock when the children came to him without further argument.

“We’re sorry, Mr. Murdoch,” Hallie said. “Aren’t we, Jonah?”

Jonah nodded.

Wyatt was dumbfounded. How had she gotten these two mischief makers to obey her without argument?divider002a

 

 

 

JOTH_mediumJourneys Of The Heart

From merry old England to the wilds of Texas, take a delightful journey into adventure and romance in these novellas written by authors Camille Elliot, Winnie Griggs and Erica Vetsch.  In these three stories you’ll travel alongside a feisty spinster, an English lord, a trail boss, a determined widow, and an unusual train companion—a parrot.

The Road Home by Winnie Griggs

Wyatt Murdoch feels his life is over—his career certainly is.  In fact, he’s agreed to escort two orphans halfway across the country mainly because he needs a distraction.  But when the task proves more than he bargained for, he seeks help from the exotic beauty with the talkative parrot who befriended the children when they slipped away from him.

Anisha Hayes, who’s hiding wounds of her own, has left her uncomfortable home to seek adventure.  However, something about this unorthodox trio touches her heart, so when Wyatt asks for her help she agrees to put her plans on hold to accompany them. After all, it’s only a temporary detour.

But when they reach their destination, both Wyatt and Anisha find it’s not as easy to part ways as they’d planned…

Famous Last Words: “Killer” Jim Miller

Kathleen Rice Adams header

 

“Let the record show I’ve killed fifty-one men. Let ’er rip.”

Jim Miller, c. 1886

Jim Miller, c. 1886

With those words, “Killer” Jim Miller, a noose around his neck, stepped off a box and into eternity. The lynch mob of thirty to forty outraged citizens who had dragged him onto a makeshift gallows may have found it irritating Miller didn’t beg for his life like the three co-conspirators hanged with him.

Then again, perhaps they rejoiced at the professional assassin’s departure, no matter how defiant his attitude. By the time of his 1909 lynching in Ada, Oklahoma, Miller had earned a reputation as sneaky, deadly, and slippery when cornered by justice.

Born James Brown Miller on October 25, 1866, in Van Buren, Arkansas, Miller arrived in Franklin, Texas, before his first birthday. Unsubstantiated, but persistent, rumors claim he was only eight years old when he did away with a troublesome uncle and his grandparents. His first confirmed kill—and his first jaw-dropping escape from justice—happened a few months before Miller turned 18. After arguing with a brother-in-law he didn’t like, Miller shot the sleeping man to death. Had the subsequent sentence of life in prison stuck, Miller’s reign of terror might have ended right there—but a court overturned the murder conviction on a technicality.

Upon his release, Miller joined an outlaw gang that robbed stagecoaches and trains before turning his back on a life of crime and taking a succession of jobs in law enforcement. Reportedly, he even briefly served as a Texas Ranger. Based on his boasting, the badges may have been a calculated way for Miller to indulge his bloodlust behind a thin veneer of respectability.

And he was respectable, at least on the surface. A Bible-thumping Methodist who never missed a Sunday church service, Miller didn’t curse, drink, or smoke. In fact, his clean-cut appearance and apparent piety—bolstered by an ever-present black frockcoat that made him look a bit like a minister—earned Miller the nickname Deacon.

James Brown Miller and wife Sallie Clements Miller with one of their four children, 1890s

James Brown Miller and wife Sallie Clements Miller with one of their four children, 1890s

Miller married John Wesley Hardin’s second cousin in 1888, fathered four children, and enjoyed a financially rewarding career selling real estate in Fort Worth. Reports indicate the family was considered a pillar of the community.

Behind the scenes, though, Miller advertised his services as a killer for hire, charging $150 a hit to “take care of” sheep ranchers, fence-stringing farmers, Mexicans, and almost anybody who got in someone else’s way. He specialized in doing away with lawmen, lawyers, and personal enemies, most often employing a shotgun from ambush under cover of darkness. Murder charges caught up with him several times, only to evaporate when witnesses for the prosecution mysteriously disappeared.

Frontier justice finally caught up with Miller on April 19, 1909. A cartel of ranchers outside Ada, Oklahoma, paid him $1,700 to silence a former deputy U.S. marshal who was a little too outspoken in his opposition to a shady land-acquisition scheme known as “Indian skinning.” Before the marshal-turned-rancher died, he identified his murderer. Miller and three of the conspirators were arrested, charged, and awaiting trial when an armed mob broke into the jail, overpowered the guards, and wrestled Miller and the others into an abandoned livery stable. Fearing Miller would slip a noose yet again, the mob hanged all four men from the rafters.

JimMillerLeft1909AdaOK

A souvenir photo taken at the scene of “Killer” Jim Miller’s lynching. Miller’s body is on the far left.

By the time of his death at age 42, Miller was known to have killed fourteen men. His boast of fifty-one executions may have been truthful. A photo of the grisly scene became a must-have tourist souvenir.

Killer Jim Miller was buried in Fort Worth’s Oakwood Cemetery. At the time, one respectable citizen reportedly commented, “He was just a killer—worst man I ever knew.”

 

 

 

Wild Bill Longley: ‘The Most Dreaded Man North of the Rio Grande’

Kathleen Rice Adams header

The years following the American Civil War were particularly difficult for Texas. The state fought reunification for five long years, insisting it had the right to become an independent republic once again. While the U.S. Army attempted to enforce martial law and the feds dragged the battered would-be empire before the Supreme Court, outlaws, freedmen, and carpetbaggers flooded the wild and wooly, wide-open spaces.

The era produced some hard men. None were harder than Wild Bill Longley.

The sixth of ten children, William Prescott Longley was born October 6, 1851, on a farm along Mill Creek in Austin County, Texas. His father had fought with Sam Houston at San Jacinto. Little is known about Wild Bill’s youth until December 1868, when, at the age of sixteen, he killed his first man — an unarmed former slave he claimed was cursing his father.

Wild Bill Longley

William Prescott “Wild Bill” Longley

The episode set Longley on a path he would follow for the rest of life.

After the black man’s murder, Longley and a cousin lit out for southern Texas. They spent 1869 robbing settlers, stealing horses, and killing freed slaves and Mexicans — men and women. A virulent racist with a hair-trigger temper and a fast gun hand, Longley quickly gained a reputation for picking fights with any whites he suspected of harboring Yankee sympathies or carpetbagging. In early 1870, the Union occupation force in Texas placed a $1,000 price on the cousins’ heads. Longley was not yet nineteen.

Not that he saw the bounty as a cause for concern. Standing a little over six feet tall with a lean, lithe build and a gaze described as fierce and penetrating, Longley “carried himself like a prince” and had “a set of teeth like pearls.” One newspaper writer called him “one of the handsomest men I have ever met” and “the model of the roving desperado of Texas.” The same writer called Longley “the most dreaded man north of the Rio Grande”: What his looks couldn’t get him, the brace of fourteen-inch, six-shot Dance .44 revolvers he carried could.

As news of the reward spread, Longley and his cousin separated, and Longley took up with a cattle drive headed for Kansas. By May 1870 he was in Cheyenne, Wyoming; by June, he was in South Dakota, where for unknown reasons he enlisted in the army. Within two weeks he deserted. Capture, court-martial, and prison time followed, but evidently none of that make a big impression. After his release from the stockade, Longley was sent back to his unit. In May 1872, he deserted again and lit a shuck for Texas, gambling, scraping — and killing — along the way. Folks as far east as Missouri and Arkansas learned not to get in his way, not to disagree with him, and for heaven’s sake not to insult Texas. Longley was rumored to have shot white men over card games, Indians for target practice, and black folks just for fun.

By the time he killed another freedman in Bastrop County, Texas, in 1873, Longley was well beyond notorious. The murder jogged a local lawman’s memory about the federal bounty still outstanding from 1870. The sheriff arrested Longley, but when the army wasn’t quick to hand over the reward, he let the surly gunman go.

Longley visited his family, worked a few odd jobs, and fended off several reckless sorts who hoped to make a name by besting a gunman known as one of the deadliest quick-draw artists in the west. In March 1875, he ambushed and killed a boyhood friend, Wilson Anderson, whom Longley’s family blamed for a relative’s death. That same year, Longley shot to death a hunting buddy with whom he’d had a fistfight. A few months later, in January 1876, he killed an outlaw when a quarrel-turned-ambush became a gunfight.

Illustration of Longley's hanging from National Police Gazette, Oct. 26, 1878

Longley’s end (National Police Gazette, Oct. 26, 1878)

On the run, using at least eight different names to avoid the multiple rewards for his capture plastered all over East Texas, Longley hid out as a sharecropper on a preacher’s cotton farm, only to fall for a woman on whom his landlord’s nephew had staked a prior claim. Longley killed the nephew, then took off across the Sabine River into De Soto Parish, Louisiana. Reportedly turned in by someone he trusted, the law caught up with him on June 6, 1877, while he was hoeing a Louisiana cotton field, unarmed.

Though historians dispute the figures, Longley confessed to killing 32 men, six to ten of them white. Later, he retracted that account and claimed eight kills. A court in Giddings, Texas, convicted him of only one murder, Anderson’s, and sentenced him to hang. While awaiting execution, “the worst man in Texas” wrote his memoirs, embraced Catholicism, and filed a wagonload of appeals. All of them were denied.

Facing an ignominious end, Longley seems to have had a change of heart. On the day of his execution, October 11, 1878, the 27-year-old sang hymns and prayed in his cell before mounting the gallows “with a smile on his face and a lighted cigar in his mouth.” After the noose was placed around his neck, the man the Decatur [Illinois] Daily Review described as “the most atrocious criminal in the country” held up a hand and addressed the crowd:

“I see a good many enemies around me and mighty few friends. I hope to God you will forgive me. I will you. I hate to die, of course; any man hates to die. But I have earned this by taking the lives of men who loved life as well as I do.

“If I have any friends here, I hope they will do nothing to avenge my death. If they want to help me, let them pray for me. I deserve this fate. It is a debt I owe for my wild, reckless life. When it is paid, it will be all over with. May God forgive me.”

 

 

Is that a gun in your pocket, or…?

Kathleen Rice Adams header

 

Life is full of little ironies. Every so often, a big irony jumps up and literally grabs a person by the privates. Just ask late Texas lawman Cap Light.

Bell County Courthouse, Belton, Texas, late 19th Century

Bell County Courthouse, Belton, Texas, late 19th Century

Many of the details about William Sidney “Cap” Light’s life have been obscured by the sands of time. His exact birth date is unknown, though it’s said he was born in late 1863 or early 1864 in Belton, Texas. No photographs of him are known to exist, although there seem to be plenty of his infamous brother-in-law, the confidence man and Gold Rush crime boss Soapy Smith. Several of Light’s confirmed line-of-duty kills are mired in controversy, and rumors persist about his involvement in at least one out-and-out murder. Even the branches of his family tree are a mite tangled, considering the 1900 census credited Light with fathering a daughter born six years after his death.

What seems pretty clear, however, is that Light survived what should have been a fatal gunshot wound to the head only to kill himself accidentally about a year later.

Light probably lived an ordinary townie childhood. The son of a merchant couple who migrated to Texas from Tennessee, he followed an elder brother into the barbering profession before receiving a deputy city marshal’s commission in Belton at the age of 20. Almost immediately — on March 24, 1884 — he rode with the posse that tracked down and killed a local desperado. Belton hailed the young lawman as a hero.

For five years, Light reportedly served the law in an exemplary, and uneventful, fashion. Then, in 1889, things began to change.

In August, while assisting the marshal of nearby Temple, Texas, Light shot a prisoner he was escorting to jail. Ed Cooley tried to escape, Light said. Later that fall, after resigning the Belton job to become deputy marshal in Temple, Light shot and killed Sam Hasley, a deputy sheriff with a reputation for troublemaking. Hasley, drunk and raising a ruckus, ignored Light’s order to go home. Instead, he rode his horse onto the boardwalk and reached for his gun. Light responded with quick, accurate, and deadly force.

The following March, Light cemented his reputation as a fast and deadly gunman when he killed another drunk inside Temple’s Cotton Exchange Saloon. According to the local newspaper’s account, Felix Morales died “with his pistol in one hand and a beer glass in the other.”

Light’s growing reputation as a no-nonsense straight-shooter served Temple so well that in 1891, the city cut its budget by discontinuing the deputy marshal’s position. Unemployed and with a wife and two toddlers to support, Light accepted his brother-in-law’s offer of a job in Denver, Colorado. By then, Jeff “Soapy” Smith was firmly in control of Denver’s underworld. After the Glasson Detective Agency allegedly leaned on one of Smith’s young female friends, Light took part in a pistol-wielding raid meant to convince the detectives that investigating Smith might not be healthy.

Main Street in Creede, Colorado, 1892

Main Street in Creede, Colorado, 1892

In early 1892, Smith moved his criminal enterprise to the nearby boomtown of Creede, Colorado, where he reportedly exerted his considerable influence to have Light appointed deputy marshal. At a little after 4 o’clock in the morning on March 31, Light confronted yet another drunk in a saloon. Both men drew their weapons. When the hail of gunfire ceased, Light remained standing, unscathed. Gambler and gunfighter William “Reddy” McCann, on the other hand, sprawled on the floor, his body riddled with five of Light’s bullets.

Despite witness testimony stating McCann had emptied his revolver shooting at streetlights immediately before bracing the deputy marshal, a coroner’s inquest ruled the shooting self-defense. The close call rattled Light, though. He took his family and returned to Temple, where in June 1892 he applied for a detective’s job with the Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railroad. His application was rejected — possibly because his association with Smith and lingering rumors about the McCann incident overshadowed the stellar reputation he had earned early in his career. According to a period report in the Rocky Mountain News, “Light’s name had become a household word, and for years he was alluded to as a good sort of a fellow ? to get away from. He was mixed up in many fights, and after a time the ‘respect’ he had commanded with the aid of a six-shooter began to fade away. It was recalled that all his killings and shooting scrapes occurred when the other man’s gun was elsewhere, or in other words, when the victim was powerless to return blow for blow and shot for shot.”

With his life apparently on the skids, Light developed a reputation of his own for drunken belligerence. With no other options, he returned to barbering in Temple until, during one drinking binge in late 1892, he pistol-whipped the railroad’s chief detective — the man Light blamed for the end of his law-enforcement career. During Light’s trial for assault, the detective, T.J. Coggins, rose from his seat in the courtroom, pulled his pistol, and fired three .44-caliber rounds into Light’s face and neck. Although doctors expected the former lawman to die of what they called mortal injuries, Light fully recovered. Adding insult to injury, Coggins never faced trial.

GunmanIt’s unclear how well Light adapted to circumstances after the Coggins episode or why he was traveling by train a year later. What is clear is that his life came to a sudden, ironic end on Christmas Eve 1893. As the Missouri, Kansas & Texas neared the Temple station, Light accidentally discharged a revolver he carried in his pocket. The bullet severed the femoral artery in his groin, and he bled to death within minutes. He was 30 years old.

In a span of fewer than ten years, Light’s brief candle flickered, blazed, and then burned out. Though once hailed as a heroic defender of law and order on the reckless frontier, not everyone was sorry to see him go. An unflattering obituary published in the Dec. 27, 1893, edition of the Rocky Mountain News called him “a bad man from Texas.” Beneath the headline “Light’s Ready Gun. It Took Five Lives and then Killed Him,” the report noted “‘Cap’ Light of Belton, Texas, shot himself by accident the other day … thus [removing] one who has done more than his share in earning for the West the appellation of ‘wild and woolly.’”

 

Fallen Lone Stars: Indianola

Kathleen Rice Adams header

Founded in 1840 as an Indian trading post, Indianola, Texas, served as a major seaport from 1844 to 1886. The city and Galveston, about one hundred fifty miles northeast, had many things in common—including a desire to outstrip the other and become Texas’s maritime leader.

Indianola in 1860 (Helmuth Holtz, Library of Congress collection)

Indianola in 1860 (Helmuth Holtz, Library of Congress collection)

For a long time, Indianola seemed to be winning. Companies in the city’s industrial district began canning beef as early as 1848. In 1869, Indianola became the first U.S. port to ship refrigerated beef to New England.

The city’s reputation for innovation and dogged determination paid off handsomely. Ships arrived from New York and other New England ports, ferrying passengers and goods bound for San Antonio and California. Indianola became a major debarkation point for European immigrants…and a few boatloads of camels imported for the U.S. Army’s notorious Camel Corps experiment. (The experiment was abandoned at the outbreak of the Civil War, and some of the camels were turned loose. The last feral camel sighting in Texas took place in 1941.)

“Union Troops in the Streets of Indianola, Texas.” Civil War wood engraving by Thomas Nast, published in the New York Illustrated News, April 6, 1861. From the collection of the Calhoun County Museum, Port Lavaca, Texas.

“Union Troops in the Streets of Indianola, Texas.” Civil War wood engraving by Thomas Nast, published in the New York Illustrated News, April 6, 1861. (From the collection of the Calhoun County Museum, Port Lavaca, Texas.)

Indianola did so well that it made itself a target during the Civil War. Determined to cut one of the major Confederate supply lines, Yankee vessels blockaded the port in October 1862 and demanded surrender. Being Texans, the nearby fort politely declined with a cannonade. Several scuffles later, Indianola and its port fell to the Yanks on December 23, 1863. One of the jewels of Texas remained in Federal hands for the rest of the war.

In 1867, fire and a yellow fever epidemic ravaged the town. Indianola rebuilt bigger and better, reaching a population of 5,000 by the time the first death knell rang. Although the city had been damaged by a strong storm in 1851, a major hurricane in 1875 demolished almost everything. Tough to the core, the people of Indianola used the debris to rebuild again.

Indianola ca. 1875. Image courtesy of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Indianola ca. 1875. (Texas State Library and Archives Commission collection)

Then, in August and September 1886, two major hurricanes six weeks apart left Indianola and its celebrated seaport in ruins. Sand and silt blown in by the storms made the bay too shallow for big ships to navigate. Most of the residents moved inland.

The post office closed in 1887, and what remained of the town was abandoned.

The storms ended Indianola’s competition with Galveston for maritime supremacy. Galveston got its comeuppance in 1900 when the Great Storm leveled the island city, giving Houston the right break at the right time to become—and remain—the dominant economic power in Southeast Texas.

The city once known as “the Queen City of the West,” today is “the Queen of Texas Ghost Towns.” Though an unincorporated fishing village stands on the shore, Indianola lies beneath the water, 300 feet off the coast in Matagorda Bay.

 

‘A Criminal with a Badge’

DallasStoudenmireDesperate times call for desperate measures, and in April 1881, El Paso, Texas, was about as desperate as a town could get. Four railroad lines had converged in the city, bringing with them gamblers, gunmen, and “ladies of questionable virtue.” Within spitting distance of Old Mexico and the lawless western territories, El Paso became a haven for vagabonds, thieves, murderers, and other criminals.

The city was not entirely without a law-and-order presence. The county sheriff’s office was only fifteen miles away — a half-day’s ride on horseback. Fort Bliss was closer, but the Army had its hands full defending settlers from Indians and cross-border marauders. Nearest of all was an entire company of the Texas Rangers Frontier Battalion, headquartered right there in town. Even a force of forty fearsome men who a few years later would adopt the motto “one riot, one Ranger” couldn’t be everywhere at once, though, especially when they had a 1,250-mile unruly border with Mexico to police.

El Paso needed a tough city marshal, and it couldn’t seem to find one. During the eight months starting in July 1880, the town employed four different men in the position. One resigned after two months in office. Another was relieved for “neglect and dereliction of duty.” A third was allowed to resign after a dispute over his pay left El Paso full of bullet holes. By April 1881, the town drunk wore the badge because he was the only man who would take the job.

City fathers thought they were in luck when, on April 11, they enticed a six-foot-four shootist with experience as a soldier, Texas Ranger, and city lawman to claim the marshal’s star. Dallas Stoudenmire, 36, was described by newspapers of the day as a temperamental, physically imposing man with an even more imposing reputation for gunplay.

El Paso leaders realized they had made a hiring mistake in only a few short days, but a total of thirteen violent, frightening months would pass before they removed the new marshal from office. Ultimately, only Stoudenmire’s untimely demise freed the city of his presence. Some called the man a criminal with a badge; others credited him with doing more than any other single individual to tame El Paso’s lawless element.

The trouble started three days after Stoudenmire pinned on the marshal’s star. In an incident that came to be known as the Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight, Stoudenmire’s twin .44 Colts dispatched three people — one an innocent bystander attempting to take cover. The other two were an accused cattle rustler and one of El Paso’s former city marshals. The fourth casualty, whose death at the hands of the alleged cattle rustler started the ruckus, was a county constable. Stoudenmire, unscathed, received a raise.

Dallas Stoudenmire had the barrel of this 1860 Colt Army revolver sawed off so the gun could be concealed. The Colt was retrieved from the El Paso street where Stoudenmire was killed in a shootout on September 18, 1882. (from The Peacemakers: Arms and Adventure in the American West by R.L. Wilson — I highly recommend the book)

Dallas Stoudenmire had the barrel of this 1860 Colt Army revolver sawed off so the gun could be concealed. The Colt was retrieved from the El Paso street where Stoudenmire was killed in a shootout on September 18, 1882. (from The Peacemakers: Arms and Adventure in the American West by R.L. Wilson — I highly recommend the book)

Three days later, friends of the dead men hired another former El Paso city marshal to assassinate Stoudenmire. Eight or nine shots later, Stoudenmire had obliterated the would-be assassin’s privates.

The notorious gunman continued to collect enemies while he performed some aspects of his job admirably. Even his detractors credited him with a steel-nerved ability to face down miscreants, six of whom he reportedly introduced to Boot Hill. Stoudenmire collected fines and taxes with alacrity, at the same time shooting dogs whose owners neglected to pay the $2 annual license fee. He angered the local religious community by using a prominent church’s bell for target practice, usually in the middle of the night. The jail and prisoners were well tended, but the marshal’s records were a mess, and unauthorized expenditures caused friction with the city council.

Stoudenmire also drank heavily, often on duty, leading the editor of the El Paso Times to call into question his fitness as an officer of the law. When the Texas Rangers took an interest in Stoudenmire’s idiosyncratic approach to law enforcement, he called them a pack of cowards and liars and tried to get the entire force banned from El Paso, predictably without success.

The city decided it had endured enough in February 1882, when Stoudenmire and his new bride returned from their wedding trip to find her brother murdered and the accused killer absolved of charges. Vowing revenge, Stoudenmire went on a violent drinking binge. One writer called his behavior “as irresponsible and dangerous as the town hoodlums.” Right away the city council passed a resolution mandating a stiff fine for any lawman caught drinking in public. Since Stoudenmire collected the fines, the law was woefully ineffective.

Public sentiment against the marshal had reached a crescendo…and so had the city council’s fear of the monster they had created. In May the council called a meeting to fire Stoudenmire, but when the marshal showed up drunk and waving his infamous Colts, the meeting quickly adjourned. Two days later he sobered up and resigned.

Despite the public’s ill will, Stoudenmire and his wife remained in El Paso. The now ex-marshal continued to drink, get into fights, and settle arguments with his guns; nevertheless, in July he was appointed deputy U.S. marshal.

Dallas Stoudenmire had the barrel of this 1860 Colt Army revolver sawed off so the gun could be concealed. The Colt was retrieved from the El Paso street where Stoudenmire was killed in a shootout on September 18, 1882. (from The Peacemakers: Arms and Adventure in the American West by R.L. Wilson — I highly recommend the book)

In May 2001, Dallas Stoudenmire’s Smith & Wesson American, serial number 7056, sold at auction for $143,000. His El Paso city marshal’s badge sold for $44,000 in a separate lot. (from Little John Auction Service catalog, May 2001)

Over the next few months, Stoudenmire’s feud with the man accused of his brother-in-law’s murder escalated. Stoudenmire mocked and insulted the man and his two brothers in public, daring them to fight. When other citizens ventured an opinion about his behavior, Stoudenmire cursed and threatened them. The El Paso Lone Star warned “citizens stand on a volcano,” and the streets might be “deluged with blood at any moment.”

On September 18, the volcano erupted. Stoudenmire and the three brothers met in a saloon and argued. One of the brothers and Stoudenmire drew their guns. Stoudenmire was hit twice: The first bullet broke his gun arm, and the second knocked him through the saloon’s batwing doors. Lying in the street, Stoudenmire pulled his second gun and wounded his attacker just before another of the brothers killed him with a shot to the head. The wounded brother pistol-whipped the body.

Separate trials acquitted the brothers of murder. They left El Paso and died of natural causes in 1915 and 1925.

Stoudenmire’s widow buried him in Colorado County, near Columbus, Texas, where they had been married a few months earlier. The Freemasons, of which he was a member, paid all funeral expenses for the destitute widow. No stone marks his gravesite, and all records of the grave’s location have been lost.

An obituary in the Colorado [County] Citizen called Stoudenmire “a brave and efficient officer, and very peaceable when sober.”

 

Dude’s Head West–with Kirsten Lynn

DUDES HEAD WEST! DUDE RANCHES IN SHERIDAN, WYOMING

A big thKirstenLynnank you to the Fillies for inviting me to share their campfire today. It’s a pleasure to be here with such talented Western Romance authors!

Every summer a herd of visitors from around the world stampedes into Wyoming seeking recreation, fresh air, a look at the Old West, and a gander at a cowboy or three. In the late 1800s, some local ranchers realized they could open their homes and lives to these guests and possibly earn enough change to keep the family ranch in the family.

Sheridan County, Wyoming, holds the distinction of opening two of the first dude ranches in the West. In 1890, Daniel T. Hilman operated the first dude ranch in Sheridan County when he accepted two summer guests. These guests would be the first in a long series of guests willing to pay for the privilege of riding horses and even helping with chores at the Hilman ranch near Big Horn, Wyoming.

Used with permission of Eaton’s Ranch

Used with permission of Eaton’s Ranch

What Hilman started, the Eaton brothers perfected. The Eatons; Howard, Willis Larimer, and Alden, launched the nation’s first dude ranch on their family ranch in North Dakota. Looking for a location more suited to providing the Old West experience, more varied riding terrain, and drawing more visitors, the brothers moved their operation to Wolf, Wyoming in 1904. Eaton’s became the second dude ranch in Sheridan County and still remains popular today. It also holds the distinction of still being run by the Eaton family, now the fourth and fifth generations.

Used with permission of Eaton’s Ranch

Used with permission of Eaton’s Ranch

Dude ranches reached the height of their popularity after the stock market crash in 1929. Those who used to travel to Europe now turned West and a more affordable escape.

Spear-O-Wigwam Ranch (1923-1945) and TePee Lodge (1929-1947) offered Eastern dudes and dudines (female dudes) a rustic experience in the mountains surrounding Sheridan.
These ranches not only offered income to the ranchers, but they provided work for local cowboys, waitresses, housekeepers, cattle and thousands of horses. They also attracted wranglers from around the country to spend their summers taking greenhorns into the mountains, or entertaining them around the campfire.

The Dude Raduderanchpamphletnchers’ Association was formed in 1926 to set standards for the industry and attract visitors to the various ranches. The Burlington Railroad assisted by printing special maps highlighting dude ranches in Wyoming and Montana. Postcards flourished showing dudes at play in the West. 

For some dudes, dudines and wranglers the experience turned into something that would last a lifetime. While conducting oral history interviews for a local project, it became a game to see how many when asked where they met their spouse said, Eaton’s Ranch. One cowboy, interviewed, came from New Mexico in the 1950s to work as a wrangler. He met a local rancher’s daughter and returned for two more summers before they married and settled in the area. Another was a “dudine” whose family came annually to Eaton’s during the 1930s. She married one of wranglers and they built their life here. Stories of finding romance at a local dude ranch abound in the area, which is great for the local romance writer.

Courtesy of Kirsten Lynn

Courtesy of Kirsten Lynn

For those dudes with the desire to slap on a cowboy hat and try on some cowboy boots, there are still places in Wyoming where you can get your Western fix.

Eaton’s continues to offer some of the best hospitality and gorgeous guided rides into the Bighorn Mountains. Their wranglers drive their horses through town on the way from their winter pasture back to the ranch. Along with Eaton’s, there is the HF Bar Ranch near Big Horn. These two ranches not only entertain their guests on the ranches, but entertain spectators at a yearly Cowboy Polo face-off. There are even ranches now offering cattle drive experiences, where greenhorns help drive herds into the mountains for summer grazing, or down the trail back to the ranch come fall. These experiences are not for the faint of heart and dudes are trained at length before they hit the trail.Courtesy of Kirsten Lynn

The dude ranch allows guests to share in what many of us Wyomingites take for granted, and for some ranchers it allows them to hold onto their family legacy. Romance with a wrangler is not guaranteed, falling in love with the land is.

 


My
recent release HEARTS IN WINTER doesn’t take place on a dude ranch, but it does take place in Sheridan, Wyoming. I’m giving away an e-copy of HEARTS to one lucky commenter.

If you visited a dude ranch, what would you like to experience?

 

Hearts in Winter KirstenL Web-2HEARTS IN WINTER

Christmas Eve, 1894…

The night Garrett McPherson finds his wife violated and murdered is the night he turns his back on his Wyoming ranch to become the most feared bounty hunter on either side of the Mississippi. But what keeps Garrett on the hunt for Elsie’s murderers and unable to come home is his sister-in-law, Jenny Westin. He’s never stopped loving her, and if it weren’t for his young son, Ethan, he might never return to the ranch again to keep from facing her and his feelings.

Jenny has never understood why Garrett threw her over for her sister, beautiful Elsie. When Jenny returns to Wyoming, a tense reunion at the train station for the two former lovers becomes a nightmare when they discover Elsie’s battered body upon their return to the ranch. Garrett vows to find Elsie’s murderers and avenge her death, and Jenny has no choice but to stay and care for Garrett’s son. For three years, she manages to live at the ranch raising Ethan, keeping her secrets and heartbreak hidden.

Another Christmas will bring Garrett back from his search for Elsie’s murderers to the Double M Ranch. Will this be the season for Jenny and Garrett to sort through the hurt and betrayal and face the truth of their love? The secrets of the past are the only key to unlock their HEARTS IN WINTER…

 

Kirsten Lynn writes stories based on the people and history of the West, more specifically those who live and love in Wyoming and Montana. Using her MA in Naval History, Kirsten, weaves her love of the West and the military together in many of her stories, merging these two halves of her heart. When she’s not roping, riding and rabble-rousing with the cowboys and cowgirls who reside in her endless imagination, Kirsten works as a professional historian. 

Visit Kirsten at www.PrairieRosePublications.com.

 

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