Bass Outlaw … Ranger Lone Wolf

Our newest anthology “Give Me a Texas Ranger” came out last month, but along with promoting and celebrating a new release, I was knee deep in writing the next of the “Give Me …” series “Give Me a Texas Outlaw”.  Of course I’ve had Texas Rangers and outlaws on my mind for months, so what better to write about than a Ranger named Bass Outlaw?

One of my favorite ways to create a character is to tailor them after a real person (preferably none of your family). While visiting East Texas, I found a book about Bass Outlaw, an ex-Texas Ranger short on stature and long on attitude. Bass Outlaw a/k/a Ranger Little Wolf was a moody, strange, and little known Ranger. I mirrored one of my characters in “Texas Ranger”, Muley Mullinex, after him. It was a simple plan for him to be the town’s darlin’ during the day but when he went on a binge he would be my antagonist. However, from the get go Muley proved to be as obstinate on paper as Bass Outlaw was in real life.

Not to be confused with a much better known Ranger, Sam Bass, Bass Outlaw, whose name was thought to be Sebastian Lamar Outlaw was the black sheep of a genteel Georgia family. He had an inferiority complex we might call the “little man syndrome” today, since he was around 5’4” and weighed maybe 150 lbs. His eyes, cold and unfriendly, were pale blue. He sported a mustache best described as bushy, not the heavy, flowing types worn by the likes of Doc Holliday or Wyatt Earp which were the fashion of that era. If it wasn’t for his prowess with a rifle and a pistol he would not like have commanded any attention at all.

Beginning in E Company, Outlaw soon earned a solid reputation for himself as a quick draw with a deadly accurate shot. He could ride with the best, learned readily how to track even the faintest signs and was earmarked as a Ranger with a future. He climbed the ranks and historians have noted that he could have easily become a legendary Ranger such as William J. McDonald and James Gillette, but Bass Outlaw’s hair-trigger temper changed the course of his life … and history.

The personification of a prairie wolf, earned him his nickname, Lone Wolf. He was a loner, never volunteering anything about his past, never asking anyone about theirs. A moody, sullen, often cantankerous individual, he still possessed the qualities the Rangers required in those days on a wild and unsettled frontier. He was brave, wily and determined in battle. Outlaw was unpredictable in that he was either withdrawn or dangerously aggressive depending on his mood … and the amount of alcohol he’d consumed.

His head was on the chopping board more times than not, but generally after a good dressing down, his Captain would decide not to fire the arrogant lawman because of some heroic deed he’d done.

Bass Outlaw, Top Row, Second from Left

Like all lone wolves, his luck ran out. In 1893, after his Company had moved to a remote part of Texas southeast of El Paso, Bass was placed in charge of the unit while Captain Jones was away on business. 

 One day, after chugging rotgut once too often, Bass left the compound with no one in command and joined a poker game with a former Ranger which lead to his undoing. Bass lost the game and his temper, but had enough sense to know not to shoot up the place. Another former Ranger, Sheriff Jim Gillett, grabbed Bass and pulled him outside, managing to settle the dispute before there was any gunfire.

Needless to say when Captain Jones returned and got wind of the going ons he was furious and fired Bass Outlaw on the spot, ordering him out of camp pronto. 

Although it was a mess of his own makings, until Bass Outlaw drew his last breath, he held a grudge against the Rangers. His bone of contention was at first with Gillett, because he thought the sheriff had ratted him out. Later, Bass learned that the lawman had not reported his behavior.

Gillett was spared, as he was not the Ranger that Bass was destined to kill.

Bass Outlaw stayed out of trouble for a while and took on other jobs, including prospecting for gold and hidden treasures. Failing at all, he eventually caught the attention of the El Paso U.S. Marshall, another ex-Ranger, who hired him as a deputy.

Famed Ranger John Hughes predicted, rightfully so, that Little Wolf would someday kill another Ranger. This proved true when Outlaw entered into a squabble with a constable in El Paso by the name of John Selman, after going into a rant over a soiled dove. Outlaw shot him three times. Leaving the saloon, still sullen and dangerous, Outlaw was confronted by a young Ranger, Joe McKidrict, where Outlaw shot him dead. It is reported that was the only incident where a Texas Ranger has ever been killed by an active or former member of the fabled organization.

Ironically, John Selman recovered. Although the gunpowder damaged his vision and he walked with a cane, he killed the infamous John Wesley Hardin in a saloon in El Paso. Two years later, Selman was killed by Deputy U.S. Marshal George Scarborough in another El Paso saloon.

A witness to Bass Outlaw’s demise stated his last sound was a whimper, the kind a wolf tends to make when he knows his time is finished. For Bass Outlaw there were no flowers, no eulogy and no mourners … not even the soiled dove who proclaimed to love him. He was buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in El Paso, and his tombstone reads: “B.L. Outlaw, 1854-1894, 1st Sgt. Co. D. F. B., State Forces, Deputy U.S. Marshall.”

Now you can see why writing Muley Mullinex fought me tooth and toenail all along the way.  In “Give Me a Texas Ranger,” I referred to Captain Arrington, Hayden McGraw’s superior. Other than Mullinex, Arrington, and McGraw, do any of you remember the name of a fourth Texas Ranger I used in my story? 

I’m givin’ away an autographed copy of “Give Me a Texas Ranger” to the first person posting the correct answer.

  <<<<Click on cover to order from Amazon

The Magnificent Women of The West

Sam, my heroine in my new book, The Lawman, is a pistol toting, whip welding, card playing woman of the west.

She was not unique for the time.

There are  many “real life” heroines of the west from which I modeled Sam. Some came from a book, “The Cowgirls,” by Joyce Gibson Roach. I’ve blogged about women from the book before because it includes some very remarkable ones.

These strong, independent women are why I love writing westerns so much. They had opportunities unavailable anywhere else. Widowed or deserted by husbands, they became ranchers, wranglers, doctors, proprietors, miners and entrepreneurs.   They opened rooming houses, taught school, drove mules and even robbed banks.

Eugene Manlove Rhodes in “Beyond the Desert” put into words an unwritten code for cattlemen. “It is not the custom to war without fresh offense, openly given. You must not smile and shoot. You must not shoot an unarmed man, and you must not shoot an unarmed man. . . ”

According to Ms. Roach, there was a different code observed by pistol-toting cattlewomen. These rules advised:

1. Strange men will do well to shoot.

2. Shoot first, ask questions later..

3. If you shoot a man in the back, he rarely returns fire.

4. Scare a man to death even if you do not intend to kill him.

5. If a man needs killing, do it.

My Samantha had at least two and possibly four of those reasons to shoot Marshal Jared Evans, a man she thought a ruthless pursuer of the man who raised her.

She would fit perfectly among Ms. Roach’s real life heroines.

There was, for instance, Mrs. Stevens who lived in Lonesome Valley, Arizona.. When her husband went to town thirty miles away, she stayed home to guard the homestead and their children. She glanced out the window and  saw a rag on a bush outside. Since she didn’t remember hanging anything on that bush, she decided it was an Indian. She grabbed her gun, drew a bead on the rag, and “plugged an Apache right between the eyes.” After the Indian fell, she discovered the ranch was surrounded by Indians. Emboldened by her success, she held off the Indians until some cowboys chanced by and ran off the Apaches. When finished, they asked Mrs. Stevens if she wanted to send a message to her husband. On a piece of paper, she wrote,

“Dear Lewis,

The Apaches came. I’m mighty nigh out of buck-shot. Please send more.

Your loving wife.”

No please come home. Just send buck-shot.

Then there was Willie. The story was familiar because I once wrote a book, “The Scotsman Wore Spurs” with a heroine just like Willie.

Women occasionally accompanied their husbands on cattle drives, but the usual mode of travel was a buggy.    Willie made it on horseback.

Willie was hired by a trail boss  looking for drovers in Clayton, New Mexico. The boy looked about nineteen, according to the trail boss, and made a good hand with the horses and cattle. According to Ms. Roach’s book, the boss declared that Willie got up on the darkest stormiest nights and stayed with the cattle. “Equally as impressive was the fact that Willie did not drink, chew or cuss.”

After four months, when the bunch reached the Colorado-Wyoming line, Willie said he was homesick, asked to draw his pay, and rode off. Later in the day, a well dressed young lady rode in and addressed the trail boss and asked if he recognized her. The startled trail boss finally recognized her as Willie and asked why she had done such a thing.

She replied her father had been a drover and she wanted to know what it was like. Upon hearing a trail boss was looking for hands, she’d taken her brother’s clothes and asked for a job.

But others earned respect without subterfuge. There was Maude Reed, a Swedish girl who gathered a herd of cattle in Colorado. According to a brief news item in the local paper, she started with a few head of cattle, and by strict attention, economy and bearing all the hardships of a frontier life, she became one of the shrewdest and ablest cattle owners in Mesa County.

In Texas, there were fifty cowgirls operating a ranch in the hill country between San Marcos and San Antonio in the mid-1880’s. Some supposedly came from the finest families in the state and some from the worst. They did, of course, all the riding and roping and branding. Their leader was a whip-cracking brunette from the Oklahoma territory whose boyfriend was an outlaw by the name of Payne.

Another Texas woman, Sally Skull, was very skilled in deciding who needed killing. A man once made an unkind remark about her and when she found out about it, she called him out and shot bullets at his boots until he danced.

Having learned about horses from her late husband, Sally was a horse trader. Totally fearless, she traveled south of the border to buy horses and sold them in Texas. She spoke fluent Spanish, hired Mexicans to work for her, and thought well of the Mexican people in general. She used a salty vocabulary which inspired respect from males, but her real talent was in handling firearms. She carried a rifle and was deadly with it. Two pistols hung from a cartridge belt around her waist and she could use them with either hand with equal skill. She also carried a whip with which she popped flowers off their stems for entertainment, She also liked to gamble, and she played poker at Haynes’ saloon which was also frequented by outlaw John Wesley Hardin.

I’ve always believed a writer can’t possible make up anything as fascinating as real life, and this is particularly true of the bigger than life characters of the west.

Brenda Minton’s Winner

Are you ready for the drawing? Bet you are.

Ah put all the names in a ten gallon hat and shook ’em up real good.

And the winner is……….

GOLDIE HALE

Woo-Hoo! Ah’m so happy for you, Goldie. Send your mailing particulars to Miss Brenda now. She’s at brenda@brendaminton.net. She’ll get the book out on the next stage.

That wraps up this weekend. Have fun everyone.

Until next time………

Brenda Minton ~ True Cowboys

Wow, I’m guest blogging at Petticoats and Pistols! When Tracy first mentioned it I actually had to ask her what to talk about! I’ve never guest blogged before. My own blog has been neglected this summer, but previous posts were about exciting things like noises in the night and runaway mules. If I’m going to guest blog, I’m sure I need something a little better than that, something a little more exciting.

Ummm, yeah, I got nothing. My life is about runaway mules, crazy kids, and chasing the Chihuahua down the road. In my spare time, I write for Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Most importantly, I write about cowboys. When I was searching for my niche, cowboys just made sense to me. It wasn’t about what was hot (not that cowboys aren’t) or what the publisher was looking for (although it’s always good to know). No, I picked cowboys because to me, they define HERO.

As an avid fan of the PBR (pro bull riding, for those who might be thinking Pabst Blue Ribbon) I love the sport because it is exciting, dramatic, and dangerous. But I also love it because cowboys are heroes. These men are competing against one another, and yet they are always there to help each other. They cheer for each other. They defend one another. They’re willing to jump into the arena with an angry, one ton bull if it means saving a friend’s life. And they pray for each other..

When I think of cowboys, I think of Cord McCoy, the professional bull rider who also competed on Amazing Race. Cord is a true cowboy. He’s a man of faith who smiles, even when the bulls are against him. Even when he’s losing, he’s smiling. He’s cheering for the guy who is beating him. He’s praying for them to do a great job and stay safe.

But these cowboys are also tough as nails. They can get stomped on by a two thousand pound bull, get back up and say ‘yes’ to a reride. They’ll ride with broken ribs, punctured lungs and torn ACLs.

Tough is the bull rider who jumps in the arena with bull fighters to grab hold of the rope that his unconscious buddy is tangled up in.

When we think of cowboys we think tough, gentle, heroic and chivalrous. A cowboy hero is the whole package–a man sent to rescue his woman. A man in faded jeans, five o’clock shadow and rip hard muscles sent to rescue his woman, and get rescued by her in the process.

John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, George Strait. What could be better than a hero in the mold of one of those men?

So, you ask, why do I write cowboy stories? Well, it should be obvious—the research is a wonderful way to pass a weekend. What better job than a job that takes a girl to the rodeo to watch men in wranglers!

In my August release, THE COWBOY’S SWEETHEART, the reader gets the combination of a tough-as-nails cowboy and the cowgirl who is having his baby. I’m so excited about this book that I’m giving away a copy to one of you who leaves a comment today. I hope you enjoy the story.

Colt 1848 “Baby Dragoon”: A Rather Big Baby

We’ve had such fun looking at pocket pistols and revolvers, I thought I’d share another I ran across: The Colt 1848 “Baby Dragoon.” Many consider this to be the first true hideout gun.

The Colt Model 1848 Baby Dragoon Revolver was manufactured in Hartford from circa l847 through to 1850 with a total of about 15,000 produced. A .31 caliber weapon, this baby held five shots in its cylinder.

In order to cut back on the weight of the gun, the loading lever was removed from under the barrel and the front sight was scaled down to a tiny bead. This also helped make the gun more “snag-free”, meaning it was less likely to catch in the lining of the pocket or purse when drawn. Rather important if you wanted to get the drop on a bad guy.

The one on the left has no loading lever; the one on the right does. See it, under the barrel?

The five-shot Baby Dragoon was a scaled down version of the large dragoon revolvers, and were manufactured with barrel lengths of 3″, 4″, 5″, and 6″ and a distinctive square-back trigger-guard.  The 3” and 4” are reasonable for a pocket revolver, but a 5 or 6” barrel, plus the cylinder and polished wood grip–not exactly a miniature weapon.

The “Baby Dragoon” pistol was more accurate and more powerful than earlier pocket guns, and their lighter weight made them the weapon of choice for Pony Express riders, and the Wells Fargo Company.

Want more info? Check out Colt’s Pocket ’49: Its Evolution, Including the Baby Dragoon & Wells Fargo by Robert M. Jordan & Darrow M. Watt. The book is out of print, but you might be able to find a copy through your local library.

Enjoy Saturday’s Guest: Brenda Minton

Hello you little darlin’s,

On tap for Saturday is a brand new guest.

Brenda Minton is so excited to blog with us. Seems she’s heard lots of good things about us.

Miss Brenda is hankering to talk about the things that make a cowboy such a good hero. You’ll find her hanging out at rodeos watching bull riding and the like. She calls it research but she doesn’t fool Felicia Filly. Ah know she has her eyes peeled for tight fittin’ jeans and a killer smile. Real cowboys are mighty polite and know how to treat a woman like a lady.

Miss Brenda has a new book out and we won’t even hafta twist her arm to get her to talk about it. What red-blooded woman wouldn’t like to be some cowboy’s sweetheart. Hee-hee! Ah’m guilty as sin about that subject.

So rise and shine on Saturday morning and saddle up.  Ride over to the Junction and sit a spell.

We’d love to have you!

Bridal Showers Then & Now

 My oldest son is getting married!!!!  Yes, we’re excited.  Before I get into bridal showers, can I brag a bit? He pulled off one of the best proposals ever.  He went to grad school in Egypt, and he’s done a lot of travel in the Middle East. He and his soon-to-be fiance were backpacking in Syria where he took her to the highest tower of the Crac des Chevaliers, a castle from the Crusader era.  At the top, he asked a British tourist to take a picture.  Clever to the core, he faked having a rock in his shoe. When his girlfriend turned around, he was on bended knee with a ring on display, asking her to marry him.

She said yes and we’re so glad she did.  She came to Lexington this past weekend for a family bridal shower and we had great time.  We shopped for my “Mother of the Groom” dress together, ate Chinese food for lunch and came home to presents, games, food and Skype.  My son is still overseas, but we got things set up so he could watch the festivities via webcam. 

Imagine Skyping to a bridal shower. The world has sure changed . . . or has it? We had a kitchen themed shower much like mom had in in 1954.  As a kid I remember looking in the hope chest she’d filled with sheets and towels and an assortment of what-not for her new home. As long as I can remember, she had special things in that chest.  The history of hope chests would be an interesting blog. Since I have weddings on my mind, maybe I’ll do that next.  Today, though, I’ve been thinking about bridal showers.

My husband and I got married in 1980.  We practically eloped so we skipped the bridal shower tradition, though we made up for it with baby showers a few years later.  We started out with a set of everyday dishes, pots and pans, bedding and a lot of hand-me-downs. What we didn’t have, we bought at Pick n’ Save.  It’s been 30 years and would you believe I’m using the same red-handled can opener?

Bridal showers are a special time for the bride and family alike.  The custom as we know it in America originated in the 1890s.  It’s a gift-giving party for the purpose of getting the bride and groom set up in their new home.  In some cases, where the bride’s family was poor or perhaps opposed to the marriage, the bridal shower made sure the wedding could take place. It provided the bride and groom with what they needed to set up house and sustain their marriage.  Bridal showers also have ties to old dowry practices.  If a woman’s family refused to support her decision to marry, friends would come together and bring gifts to fill in the lack of a dowry.

Did you ever wonder why we call these events “showers” and not just parties”?    I figured it referred to showering the bride with gifts, but the word has more literal roots.  In the 1890s, it was the custom for the bride’s family and friends to put small presents in a parasol and open the parasol over her head.  Small should be the key word.  We gave my future d-i-l a set of pots and pans.  If they’d hit her in the head, she’d have been knocked unconscious . . . Same with the flatware! 

Bridal showers started as an urban tradition among wealthy families, but the custom quickly moved to rural America. Over the years, showers have evolved into a celebration that can be anything from a couples party to a bachelorette party to the traditional kind of party my mom enjoyed.

What about you? Have you given a bridal shower?  Been the bride at a shower in your honor?  What did you like best?  My favorite moment was watching my son on Skype as he joked with his bride-to-be.  It was just so sweet . . . I’ll never forget it.

TAMAHA TALES–RESEARCH IN STRANGE PLACES

Hi everyone!  I have kind of an odd  topic today about “strange things happening for a reason.”   Okay, maybe I should have saved this for closer to Halloween, but it’s a story that happened in the summer, and summer is coming to an end, so I wanted to tell you all about it now.

Because everything I write takes place in Oklahoma or Texas, and because I was born and raised in Oklahoma, most of my research tools are right at my fingertips.  Talking to older people in the area, going to the actual places where my stories are set, and visiting museums and landmarks are all part of my research practices for just about all my novels. 

Louis L’Amour said that if he wrote about a creek or a particular landmark, it was authentic; that it was actually where he said it was, and looked the way he described it.  I don’t quite go that far, but I try to keep the setting and every other component of my writing as true to life as possible.  In order to do that, sometimes you just have to “be there.”
 
Tamaha, Oklahoma, was an unlikely candidate to be included in my story, FIRE EYES, until I visited there.  But how its inclusion came about is a story in itself—and proves that sometimes our research, as that other saying goes, “happens.”
 
Though there’s very little to say about the actual town of Tamaha as it exists today, I couldn’t help but use it in my story, FIRE EYES, released last year.  In those long ago days of more than a century past when my story takes place, it was a thriving community.
 
There’s an odd thing that happened that made me include Tamaha in my book.  I’d been working on it, and had come to the part where the villain and his gang needed to reference a landmark.  But which one? And what was the significance? As I said, I try to stay as historically accurate in my writing as possible, and this story takes place in the eastern part of the state, toward the Arkansas/Oklahoma border.  I must admit, I’m not as familiar with that part of the state as I am with the central part, since that’s where I was born and raised.  A lot of these smaller towns don’t even dot the map, and I had never heard of Tamaha, until one day in May, 2005.
 
I’d just spoken with a lifelong friend, DaNel Jennings, who now lives in a town in that eastern area of the state.  In the course of the conversation, she mentioned that she and her husband, Jeff, were doing some genealogical research and she had learned she had some relatives buried in a small cemetery in Tamaha.  Now, the intriguing part of this was that her relatives bore the same last name as my maiden name, “Moss.” 
 
“Wouldn’t it be funny if we really were related?” she asked.  We’d always secretly hoped we were, and pretended that we were, when we were kids.
 
“Yes,” I responded with a laugh, “but where in the heck is Tamaha?” (As if I would know.)  She began trying to tell me where it was, and I said, “Never mind.  It’s a good thing Jeff knows where he’s going.  Let me know what you find.”
 
I hung up, wistfully wishing that I could go with her—but that was a three-hour drive and they were leaving the next day.  No way I could take off and drive down there on the spur of the moment, with family obligations.
 
A couple of hours later, my sister Karen called.  “Cheryl, I need you to come down this weekend,” she said.  I was really intrigued, because she is my “much older” sister—10 years older—and never much “needed” me for anything before.
 
“What’s going on?”
 
“I promised Mr. Borin I would take him to visit the graves of his parents and siblings for Memorial Day, and two of his brothers are buried in a cemetery in Tamaha—”
 
I never heard the rest of her sentence.  I was sure I had misunderstood.  “Where?”
 
“Tamaha.  And the others—”
 
Stunned, I interrupted her. “Wait, I have to tell you something.”  I couldn’t believe it.  I’d never heard of this place before, and now, within the space of 2 hours, two people who were very close to me had told me they were going to be going to the cemetery there! 
  
This was no mere “coincidence.” 

I promised her I would be there—no matter what—Friday afternoon.  We would be going on Saturday morning.
 
I would never have found the place on my own.  I doubt that Mapquest even has it on their site.  But Mr. Borin, an older gentleman my sister had befriended in years past, knew exactly where to go.  Once we got there, I stepped out and found the headstones for the “Moss” family.  It was amazing to think that my best friend, DaNel, whom I had not seen in over a year, had been standing where I was just a few days earlier—a place neither of us had been before. Again, I wondered what our research through family ancestry would yield. Were we related, as we’d always hoped?  There was an incredible sense of connection, for me, not only for what we were doing that day for Mr. Borin and his long dead relatives, but for what DaNel and I might discover about our own. (BTW, cemeteries are also one of my passions–great for research, just by reading the headstones and figuring out what happened.)
 
As the three of us, Karen, Mr. Borin, and I stood in the quiet peacefulness of the old cemetery, a man made his way toward us.  “Can I help you?” he asked, introducing himself.  We explained why we were there. “Let me show you the historical side of Tamaha while you’re here,” he said cheerfully.  He had lived there all his life, and there was no detail about the once-thriving community and surrounding area that he didn’t know.  He was glad to share his knowledge, and believe me, I was writing in my little notebook as fast as I could while he talked.
 
The cemetery is on a bluff overlooking the Arkansas River.  “Right down there is where the J.R. Williams was sunk.  She was a Confederate ship, but the Union seized her and changed the name to the J.R. Williams.  But Stand Watie and his men seized her back.”(June 15, 1864)  Our guide chuckled at the thought. 
 
NOTE:  (Stand Watie was one of only two Native American brigadier generals in the War Between the States.  He was the last Confederate officer to lay down his arms, and was also Chief of the Cherokee Nation at the time.) 
 
“Come on, I’ll show you the largest black oak tree in Oklahoma—and the oldest.”  Sure enough, it stood towering over one of the first buildings of the settlement of Tamaha, dating back to the 1800’s. 
 
Next, we visited the town jail, the oldest jail in Oklahoma, built in 1886.  We were able to walk right into it and take pictures.  “We’re trying to get money up to preserve it,” he said.  It stood in the middle of an overgrown field.  “Watch out for snakes, hon,” he told me. Yep, he didn’t have to tell me twice.  My eyes were peeled.
 
When we left, I knew I had my landmarks that I needed for my book.  I had seen it, and my imagination took over.  It was the “jog” I needed to get on with the writing, but I will never believe for one minute that it was coincidence. 
 
I use many research resources, but because of the nature of what I love to write—western romance—and because I have been so blessed to actually grow up in the area that I’m writing about, I feel like the most invaluable resource available to me are the people and places I meet and visit.  It’s all around me.
 
One of the best “hands on” research places I’ve ever been is The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.  I worked there for two years, and I loved every minute of it. The best advantage of working there was the fact that every morning when the doors opened, there was a whole new crowd of people to visit with, and yes, I carried a piece of paper and a pen in my pocket at all times. As for research books, I swallowed very hard and bought the complete set of Time/Life books about the West.  I use it constantly.  Another set of books that I have that really have been a great research tool have been Shelby Foote’s three-book series on the War Between the States.  Very easy to read and full of rich detail that you wouldn’t find in a “regular history book.”
 
But my day of research at Tamaha is one that I will never forget, and that I’m so glad to have been able to take part in.  Have any of you ever experienced anything like this?  Some kind of remarkable occurrence that has affected your writing  in some way?  Do you classify that as “research”?  Share it, if you have—I know I can’t be the only one!
 
Below is an excerpt from FIRE EYES. I hope you enjoy it! 
  
    
 
THE SET UP:  A stranger has shown up at Jessica’s door in the evening.  She is reluctant to let him inside, even though good manners would dictate that she find him a meal and a place to bed down.  There is something about him she doesn’t like—and with good reason, as we find out.
 
 
“Evenin’, ma’am.”

The stranger looked down the business end of Jessica’s Henry repeater. It was cocked and ready for action.

She drew a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves. She stood just inside the cabin door, the muzzle of the rifle gleaming in the lamplight that spilled around her from the interior.

He raised his hands and gave her a sheepish grin. “Don’t mean to startle you. Just hopin’ for a meal. Settlers are few and far between in these here parts.”

“Where’s your horse?” She didn’t lower the gun.

“Well, funny thing. I kinda hate to admit it.” He rubbed the back of his neck and looked away. “I, uh, lost him. Playin’ poker.”

“Where?”

“Over to Tamaha.”

“You’re quite a ways from Tamaha,” she said. “Even farther from where I expect you call home.”

He gave a slow, white grin. “More recently, I hail from the Republic of Texas.”

Jessica raised her chin a notch. It was almost as if this man invited dissension. She disliked the cool, unperturbed way he said it. The Republic of Texas. “Texas is a state, Mister. Has been for over twenty years.”

“Well, now,” he said, placing his booted foot on the bottom porch step. “I guess that all depends on who you’re talkin’ to.”

Her eyes narrowed, and she stepped back to shut the door. “I think you better—”

“Ma’am, I’m awful hungry. I’d be glad for any crumb you could spare.”

“What did you say your name was?” Her voice shook, and she cleared her throat to cover her nervousness. Most people had better manners than to show up right at dark.

“I didn’t. But, it’s Freeman. Andy Freeman.”

“Are you related to Dave Freeman?”

“He’s my brother.” He gave her a sincere look. “Look, ma’am, I’d sure feel a heap better talkin’ to you if I wasn’t lookin’ at you through that repeater. I been lookin’ for Dave.” There was an excited hopefulness in his tone. “You seen him? Ma, she sent me up here after him. She’s just a-hankerin’ for news of him. He ain’t real good about letter-writin’.”

Jessica sighed and lowered the rifle. “Come on in, Mr. Freeman. I’ll see what I can find for you to eat, and give you what news I have of your brother.”

“Thank you, Ma’am. I sure do appreciate your hospitality.”

FIRE EYES  is available at www.thewildrosepress.com

Native American Medicine

Good morning!

With health concerns being in the news more and more these days, I thought it might be interesting to have a look at the average person’s state of health in the Native America of the past, as well as medicine, as defined by Native Americans, what it was – and medicine men — who were they?  What did they do?  And who were shamans?

Let’s begin with medicine.  In Native America, medicine meant the great mystery.  If one could cure the sick, that person had great medicine.  If a man could go to war and come home alive, he had great medicine.  Plants had medicine.  Animals had medicine.   And certain parts of  nature had medicine.  The word medicine did not mean a pill or even an herb or remedy.  It meant simply that a man or a woman had a special connection with the great mystery or with the Creator.  When the white man came with his boats and guns and various things that the Native Americans could not easily explain, the old time Indian called these things (not necessarily the person who used them – but the things used), medicine.  The picture to the right is a painting by George Catlin of a medicine man.

native-americans.jpgThe Native Americans of North America  enjoyed great health and a physcial beauty that would rival the most beautiful of the ancient Greeks.  So writes George Catlin in the mid-nineteenth century, as well as Prince Maximillian and Bodner, Maximillian’s friend and artist, who travelled with the Prince to America.  The Native Americans of the past had no processed food, and, depending on the tribe, they ate many things raw or dried.  Many of the North American tribes were tall and firm of limb and body and as history tells us, a very handsome people.

Food, clean water and fresh air was their medicine.  True, there were herbs that the medicine men & women might use to help their people, but a medicine man’s stock and trade was not merely in herbs alone.  Indians of North America (before their diet was changed) were known for their straight teeth, which did not decay, even into old age in many cases.  There was a saying with the settlers — “teeth as strong as an Indian’s.”  There was little tooth decay, illness was not the norm amnong the people, and many of the diseases that plague us today were completely nonexistent.  People lived (if they weren’t killed in wars) to a grand old age.  There were many people who lived well into their hundreds, keeping hold of their facilities until death.

july06-yukon-photo-4.jpgThey lived in a land of beauty with fresh air, warm breezes, wholesome food and the love of family.  So what did a medicine man (or shaman) do if presented with illness?  Or physical problems due to injury?  Well, I can’t say exactly, since I have not this lifetime been trained in the Native American way of medicine.  I do, however, know this.  The stock and trade of the medicine man was his ability to drive out the evil spirits which inhabited the sick person’s body.  It was known by these men that illness was often caused by evil spirits that would make their way into a person’s body.  So a medicine man’s cures often had to do with driving these spirits away.  Thus, the rattles and drums of the medicine man.

How successful were these people?  According to legend, they were fairly successful.  While they didn’t keep statistics as we do today, their fame was only as good as they could cure those who were sick.  While using herbs collected and dried, they never forgot that their aim was to rid the person of the evil spirit which had taken over a part of the person’s body.

On a final note, since whole foods were the basis of their “medicine,” let me take a moment to tell you about corn, as prepared by the Native Americans.  The Iroquois built strong, tall and healthy bodies based on the three sisters, corn, beans and squash, with corn being their main staple.  The diet was augmented with meat when it was available, but corn was their main diet. 

However, it was a different kind of corn than what we know of it today.  Our corn has been altered, and cross-bred and genetically modified until it is almost completely a carbohydrate.  Not so Indian corn.  The Indians knew that corn had to be soaked for days in lime water before it could be used as a food.  Of course we know today that corn has many anti-nutrients — phytates — those things that protect the seed or grain, but are irritating and stressing to the human digestive system.  Soaking the corn in lime did two things:  1) it got rid of the phytates or anti-nutrients in the grain, and 2) it changed the nutrition of the corn into a per protein with all the amino acids present.  This tradition of soaking cornmeal or corn in lime before use is still with us in the southern part of the country — masa flour is often soaked in lime.   And on this sort of diet, the Iroquois built a confederation that was so strong, that it influenced a whole generation of our forefathers, who saw in the Five Nations Confederation, an organization of government that permitted every individual in the nation freedom of mind, freedom of spirit and freedom of body.

Well, that’s it for today.  So tell me, what do you think of the medicine’s stock and trade?  What do you think of their main medicine — whole foods?  If you had lived at that time, would you have taken the time to learn about their foods and how they prepared them? 

I’d love to hear from you.    Don’t forget to pick up your copy of SENECA SURRENDER or BLACK EAGLE today!

The Fannie Farmer You Didn’t Know

     
One hundred and eight years ago today, Fannie Merritt Farmer opened the door to Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery in Boston. 

I’m sure most of you have at least heard the name Fannie Farmer and are aware that there is a famous cookbook that bears her name.  But how much do you know about the woman herself?  Fannie Farmer was a woman of keen intelligence, unusual motivation, avid curiosity and personal courage.

Fannie, born in 1857 in Medford, MA, to Mary Watson Merritt and John Franklin Farmer, was the oldest of four daughters.  Her father was an editor and printer and both parents placed a high value on education – it was expected that Fannie would go to college.  However, when Fannie was 16 she suffered a paralytic stroke and could not continue her education.  For a number of years after her stroke she was unable to walk and remained in her parents’ care.  It was during this time that Fannie developed an interest in cooking. 

At the age of 30, Fannie, who now walked (though she would have a pronounced limp for the remainder of her years), enrolled in the Boston Cooking School. This was at the height of the domestic science movement and the school utilized a scientific approach to cooking and food preparation.  It also trained women to become cooking teachers at a time when their opportunities for employment were limited.  Fannie attended the school for two years, learning what was considered the most crucial elements of the science – nutrition and diet for the healthy person, cooking for convalescents, methods of cleaning and sanitation, techniques of baking and cooking, and general household management.  During her time as a student, Fannie studied under Mary J. Lincoln, who published the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book.  This cookbook was used in a number of cooking schools, most of which were established for the training of professional cooks and cooking instructors.

Fannie proved herself to be one of the school’s more outstanding students and was kept on as assistant to the director after she graduated.  During this time, Fannie started exploring the association between eating and health.  She went so far as to take a summer course at Harvard Medical School to aid in her understanding of this connection.  Eventually she was appointed school principal and then, in 1894, director.  It was just two years later, in 1896, that Fannie revised and reissued The Boston Cooking School Cookbook.  The publication of Fannie’s book was a highly significant event in cooking history.  Before this publication, ingredient measurements were imprecise, using  subjective notations such as ‘the size of an egg’ or ‘a teacup full’.  Such vague measurements made it very difficult to duplicate results from cook to cook.  Fannie’s cookbook introduced the idea of using standardized measuring utensils with an emphasis on taking care to use level measurements..  In addition to the more than 1800 recipes, the book included scientific explanations of the chemical processes that occur during cooking as well as essays on housekeeping, the importance of cleanliness in the kitchen, canning and drying produce and nutritional information.

Little, Brown & Company, who produced the book, had doubts that the book would do well and so only produced 3000 copies, which were published at the author’s expense.  However, the book proved so popular that Fannie saw twenty-one editions printed during her lifetime.  It has remained a standard work and it is still available in print today, over 100 years later.

Fannie continued to serve as director of the Boston Cooking School for eleven years, then resigned and went on to establish her own school.  Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery, as it was known,  emphasized the practice of cookery rather than just theory.  Its target students were housewives rather than future academics.  Fannie also focused on developing cooking equipment for the sick and disabled.  She became a highly respected authority in this field and was invited to deliver lectures to nurses, women’s clubs and even the Harvard Medical School.  Her lectures were printed by newspapers across the country making her influence widespread and her name a household word.  She also wrote a popular cooking column for a national magazine, the Woman’s Home Companion, which ran for ten years.

In addition to the 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cookbook (Later known simply as the Fannie Farmer Cookbook), Fannie published five other cookbooks.  They are:

  • Chafing Dish Possibilities,  1898.
  • Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent, 1904.
  • What to Have for Dinner,  1905.
  • Catering for Special Occasions, with Menus and Recipes, 1911.
  • A New Book of Cookery, 1912.

Later in life, Fannie suffered a second paralytic stroke that confined her to a wheelchair for the last seven years of her life.  However, that did not prevent her from carrying on her responsibilities.  She continued to lecture, write, invent recipes and travel.   In fact, just ten days before her death, she delivered a lecture from her wheelchair.  Fannie died in 1915 at the age of 57.

For those of you interested in taking a look at the original 1896 Boston Cooking-School Cookbook here is a link to the online version  http://www.bartleby.com/87/