1887 Lever-Action Shotgun


By the late 19th century, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company was well known for their lever-action firearms. Though designer John Browning—who designed most of the lever-action rifles that “won the west”—recommended the new shotgun be pump-action, Winchester management wanted to capitalize on their previous success. Early brand recognition!  The result?  The Winchester Model 1887 Lever-Action Shotgun. [That’s mine, a reproduction, pictured above.]

That brand recognition even extends into modern-day Hollywood — Arnold Schwarzenegger carried a Model 1887 in The Terminator.

The Model 1887 loads from the top or breech (picture on right). It had a magazine tube that would hold six shells plus one IMG_0077more in the chamber. Patterned after their lever action rifles, the shotgun lever design included an internal safety innovation that minimized the possibility of accidentally firing: the firing pin cannot strike the primer of the shell until the breech block is completely closed. That means the shot will go down the barrel and not up into the shooter’s face.

The lever is exactly that—a lever. [See picture on the left] Opening it or pushing it down ejects the spent shell and moves another shell from the tube into firing position.

When a man or woman could carry multiple weapons that used the same cartridges, that meant more variety of firearms and less weight in lead to haul around. Winchester produced lever-action rifles that could fire several pistol-caliber cartridges (from right to left in the picture): .32-20, .38-40 & .44-40, all worked in FullSizeRenderthe Model 1873 rifle; and they made the Model 1886 rifle to use higher powered big game cartridges like the .45-70, the original “buffalo” cartridge.

Since shotgun shells of the time used black powder, the Model 1887 was designed and chambered for these less powerful shotshells. And, while both 10 and 12-gauge model 1887s were offered [two left shells above, respectively], it was quickly realized the 1887 wasn’t strong enough for the more powerful smokeless powder shells. That prompted a redesign that resulted in the Model 1901—but that’s another blog.

Here’s a short video showing how the Model 1887 breech-loading rolling block lever-action shotgun functions. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE9WD9Fihks

And, of course: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9SpHLyZuP0

Tracy Garrett

PRPTracy Garrett Duo Web



Available Now ~ “A River’s Bend Duo,” featuring two short stories, WANTED:  THE SHERIFF & NO LESS THAN FOREVER.

JD McCall Has Winners!

SouthOfRisingSun_blogThank you, Mr. JD, for riding over and sharing a cup of coffee with us. We enjoyed it.

Winners for the E-Book copy of SOUTH OF RISING SUN are……


Woo-Hoo! Congratulations to all you ladies. Mr. JD will contact you with instructions on how to claim your prize.

We Have Two Winners for a free E-Book from Karen Kay

bannerThat’s right!  We have two winners for the ebook — sometimes that happens when I pick out names.  Finally I am home.  Deep sigh.  I love the road, but it is good to at last be home.

Anyway, the winners of the free e-books are Patricia B and Britney.

If you would please, would the both of you please go to my website at www.novels-by-KarenKay.com and pick out which ebook you would like.  Then email me personally at karenkay(dot)author(at)earthlink(dot)com.  Insert (.) for (dot) and @ for (at).

We’ll figure out how to get that e-book to you.  Thanks for all your patience with me.

Welcome Guest J.D. McCall!!!

Lecompton, Kansas: A Legendary, Forgotten Town

Borrowed Guns Cover 1 (2)I’ve been asked by a few people why I chose Lecompton, Kansas, to be the setting of my second book, and the simple answer is: my publisher, Rebecca Vickery at Western Trailblazer, asked for a follow-up effort. I was not planning on writing a second novel, figuring on being a one-and-done author after Borrowed Guns, so when asked for a new effort featuring the same two main characters, I balked by saying I didn’t have any ideas for a story. This was the truth as I am not a very imaginative person, and I also made it clear at the end of the first book there were no further adventures involving the two.

Rebecca then suggested taking an incident mentioned in Borrowed Guns, and making a short story out of it (does a hundred and fifty-five thousand words qualify as short?), featuring one of the characters. Lucky for me, I set that event twenty years earlier in the historically important city of Lecompton, just south of a rowdy little town called Rising Sun.

Rising Sun completely disappeared from the Kansas landscape within a few decades of its founding, unlike the more politically significant city of Lecompton across the Kansas River to its south, which has endured until this day. With the population hovering around six-hundred in 2014, Lecompton is still a proud little town, never having forgotten the major role it played in precipitating the election of Abraham Lincoln, in turn leading to the secession of the southern states, and ultimately, the Civil War.

Elmore Street, Lecompton-The Wall Street of the West_blog
Elmore Street, Lecompton: The Wall Street of the West

Following the opening of Kansas Territory, scores of Northerners and Southerners flooded the area in attempt to promote their ideological vision for the future state. Lecompton was the first official capital of the Kansas Territory and was originally founded as a pro-slavery settlement, boasting two newspapers, both in favor of making Kansas a slave state. By 1855, enough Missourians had crossed the border to illegally vote in a pro-slavery legislature which took up residence in Lecompton. Abolitionists in Topeka answered this chicanery by drawing up their own free-state constitution for Kansas, but President Franklin B. Pierce threw his support behind Lecompton, declared the Topeka government in rebellion and rebuked the Topeka constitution, ending its debate in the Senate.

Rowena Hotel, Lecompton Kansas_blog
Rowena Hotel, Lecompton, Kansas

Basking in Pierce’s support, Lecompton legislators drafted their own pro-slavery constitution and submitted it to a vote by the populace in 1857. To make certain it passed, the ballot box was again stuffed with pro-slavery votes from residents of Missouri who crossed the border to vote. The trickery was discovered when an informant saw the candle box containing the fraudulent ballots being buried by two legislative clerks. Upon investigation by the sheriff, it was later found, and a legitimate election was scheduled to be held. Two other constitutions were proposed prior to the new vote, with the free-state constitution winning the election, and all three sent to Washington to be debated on by Congress.

SouthOfRisingSun_blogIt was during this debate that the fight mentioned in the South of Rising Sun broke out on the House of Representatives floor. President James Buchanan, a pro-slavery advocate, urged the legislators to adopt the original Lecompton Constitution, but it was eventually by-passed in favor of the free-state constitution, paving the way for Kansas to enter the Union as a non-slavery state in January of 1861.

The Lecompton Constitution was mentioned thirteen times in the famous Lincoln-Douglas Debates of the 1858 Illinois senatorial campaign. Democrat Stephen Douglas, who ran for president against Abraham Lincoln in 1860, refused to support the Lecompton constitution when it was being debated in Congress, arguing that the citizens of each territory should be allowed to decide the slavery issue by their own vote. Douglas’s outright refusal to support the Lecompton Constitution so enraged Southern Democrats that they split from their Northern counterparts and ran their own candidate for president against Lincoln and Douglas. In addition, a fourth candidate entered the race, and with the vote split four ways, Lincoln won the election with only thirty-three percent of the vote, and the rest became history.

Constitution Hall Lecompton Kansas
Constitution Hall, Lecompton, Kansas

The story is somewhat more complex than the distilled version I have related, but it would require an entire book to elaborate all the intricacies of the politics involved, and I have no intention of going down that path. It does, however, lay to rest the argument that the Civil War was fought over states’ rights.

Today, not a single trace remains of Rising Sun, but visitors to Lecompton (originally called Bald Eagle) can tour the Territorial Capital Museum and Constitution Hall and learn about the fascinating story behind this small but historically important Kansas town. Since doing extensive research for South of Rising Sun, I’ve become engrossed by Lecompton’s past and its role as “the birthplace of the Civil War.” Did you know Lecompton was also home to one of the biggest gunfights in the West? But that’s another story.

To discover more about Lecompton, visit LecomptonKansas.com.

I’ll give an e-book of my latest historical western, South of Rising Sun, to ten readers who leave a comment about the setting, Lecompton, Kansas. The winners will be announced Sunday evening (Aug. 30).


John-Old West Pic B&W jpgJ.D. McCall grew up in Kansas during the time when Westerns were king on television and at the movies. Living in a state that was home to such places as Abilene, Dodge, Wichita, and many other of the wickedest cattle towns ever found in the West, he was never far from Kansas lore, which included the legendary figures of Earp, Hickok, Masterson, and Cody. Not surprisingly, he has retained a great affection for that part of American history which was once the Old West. Born too late to be a cowboy, J.D. makes his living in this modern day as an industrial hygienist in the field of occupational health and safety. He continues to reside in the city of his birth, Ottawa, with his wife and three children.

Visit J.D. at his website. Find all of his books on his Amazon author page.


Karen’s Back to School Winner!!!

A Worthy PursuitI so enjoyed strolling down memory lane with all of you yesterday! Thanks to random.org, we have a winner.

Congratulations to:

Ruth Ebert

Ruth will be receiving an autographed copy of my latest book,

A Worthy Pursuit.

I’ll be sending you an email, Ruth, so be watching for it.

Thanks to everyone who entered.

Be sure to hug a teacher this week … or at least eat an apple in his/her honor.

Woo-Hoo! Brand New Fillies to the Corral!!

Lord have mercy! Things they are a changin’! And in a very good way I might add. My mule Jasper agrees because of the two new horses in the corral.

The Fillies are jumping for joy at having both these additions–Jane Porter and Jeannie Watt! These ladies are so talented. I can’t even begin to list all the nice things to say about them because my fingers would get tired from typing.

Jane PorterJane Porter is the NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of 47 romances and women’s fiction. She’s won many awards and her novel, Flirting With Forty, was turned into a Lifetime movie in 2008 starring Heather Locklear. She hails from sunny California where she lives with her surfer husband, three sons and two dogs.  Jane’s first blog here is on Tuesday, September 1st. Don’t you dare miss it!


Jeannie WattJeannie Watt comes to us from Nevada where she lives in a historic ranching community. She teaches science and art at a remote rural school. Jeannie and her husband both have degrees in geology and they often roam about the desert and argue about rocks. They have two children along with three horses, two dogs and a cat named Floyd. Jeannie has a new book coming in December — To Tempt a Cowgirl. Her first blog date is Wednesday, September 23. I guarantee it’ll be interesting!


So there you have it. Give them a big howdy and make them feel welcome. Time’s a wastin’. You can also bring over a casserole–one of those kind with plenty of cheese. We’re hungry! Writing books is awful hard work.


What To Call a Slew of Cowboys


cowboysWhat do you call a group of cowboys? Don’t know? I didn’t either until I read an Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton.

Most of what Lipton calls terms of venery were codified between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries.  I must say our early ancestors sure did have a great sense of humor. Who else could have come up with such delightful terms as a rash of dermatologists, a prickle of porcupines, or transparency of toupees?

So what do you call a slew of cowpokes? Why a saunter of cowboys, of course! Here are some more terms of venery from the Old West. Some you might already know:

A spread of Texans
A drove of cattle
A coalition of miners
A string of ponies.
A quiver of arrows
A trace of bounty hunters
A stud of poker players
A herd of harlots
A streak of gamblers
An obstinacy of buffaloes
A converting of preachers
A hangout of nudists
(Couldn’t resist throwing that one in)


So dear browse of readers,
Some of the more familiar terms that have lasted through the years are den of thieves, flight of stairs and comedy of errors. Can you think of any others? I can’t wait to see your blizzard of quotes.


Doggone Fun!

What would happen if two people unknowingly owned the same dog?

Read Margaret Brownley’s story Dog Days of Summer Bride.





Mr. JD McCall Comes to Visit!

SouthOfRisingSun_blogWestern author JD McCall will be here on Friday, August 28th!

Mr. JD is writing a series about one man, a US Marshal who’s trying to bring law and order to Kansas. Mr. JD loves the old west and is brimming with little known tidbits that he’s itching to tell.

He’s toting a passel of e-books to give away too!

So get your fannies over here and get to talking.

Yep, you’ll be sorry if you don’t.

Back to School

letterhead-header 2


Here in Texas, our children have returned to the classroom. My three kids were up early Monday morning, making lunches, packing backpacks, and rushing off to the first day of school. My oldest is starting her senior year of high school. Gasp! Not sure mom is quite ready for what that means. But whether mom is ready or not, it has begun.

In the American West, teachers were often little more than former students who had completed the 8th grade and gone on to pass a teacher’s examination. My youngest is starting 8th grade this year, and I can’t even imagine him having enough knowledge to turn around and teach.

As more settlers headed west and communities grew, so did the demand for teachers with a higher education. In the early 1800s, schoolmasters were men. They ruled their classrooms with discipline and authority. Yet in the 1830s when tax-supported common schools made education more widely available, the result was a teacher shortage that left the door open for women.

“God seems to have made woman peculiarly suited to guide and develop the infant mind, and it seems…very poor policy to pay a man 20 or 22 dollars a month, for teaching children the ABCs, when a female could do the work more successfully at one third of the price.” — Littleton School Committee, Littleton, Massachusetts, 1849

By the time of the Civil War, women dominated the teaching field. However, if a woman wanted to set herself apart, to establish herself as a professional, she required training that went beyond the rudimentary grammar schooling of her peers. She needed a diploma from a reputable Normal School.

Normal Schools were two-year academies designed to grant teachers a mastery of the subjects taught in the common schools as well as giving them a practical knowledge of teaching methodology. Normal Schools prided themselves on their thorough, cohesive, and “scientific” curriculum. They would provide a norm for all teachers (hence the term Normal School) that would assure a level of quality generally unavailable previously.

The Boston Normal School, for example, was established in 1872. According to a regulation manual published in 1888, a teacher studying there would have taken courses in the following areas:

  • Mental and Moral Science and Logic
  • Physiology and Hygiene
  • Natural Science
  • Study of Language
  • Elementary Studies
  • Principles of Education, School Economy, and Methods of Instruction
  • Vocal Music, Drawing, and Blackboard Illustration
  • Observation and Practice in the Training School
  • Observation and Practice in other public schools

Not so very different from our current teacher education programs, is it?

Click Cover to Order
Click Cover to Order

The heroine in my latest release is a teacher of exceptional youths, or what we would call today – gifted children or child prodigies.

In honor of teachers across the country who are getting back into their classrooms, I’ll be giving away an autographed copy of A Worthy Pursuit to one reader who leaves a comment.

Tell me about you favorite first-day-of-school memory. What made you excited, what you dreaded. How long it took you to pick out the perfect outfit. Anything related to the first day – kindergarten through college. Or maybe your first day as a teacher, if that is your profession. Anything is fair game.

Have fun! 🙂




Well, I am going to be on the road all day, Tuesday, and believe it or not, I don’t have one of those fancy i-phones.  So I’ll be off email pretty much the whole day.

However, I do plan on giving away a free e-book (your choice).  But bear with me — I’ll be on the road for a few days and so I won’t be able to send it until I finally am able to get back on the computer and do a drawing.

Lately I’ve been blogging about the awesome ability of the American Indian scout — there’s more…so much more.  But today, I thought I’d post an excerpt from the book, THE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF, which is just out (end of July) in Tradepaper.

So here we go:

SpiritoftheWolf-The-R -- first draftTHE SPIRIT OF THE WOLF, Excerpt

By Karen Kay


At last, they reached the top of the little mesa, and as soon as they did so, Marietta was no longer left in doubt as to what was in Grey Coyote’s mind. It wasn’t from necessity that they were here. Indeed not. Grey Coyote had come here by choice.

Standing quite still, he gazed at the sunset laid out before them. As though only now remembering her, he looked behind him, and Grey Coyote motioned, indicating that she should slip down from the pony.

Wasn’t he going to help her down? Disappointment washed over her. It was too bad, for she had begun to think of Grey Coyote as a savage sort of gentleman.

“Sir,” she said, “do you mean not to aid me in getting to the ground?”

Grey Coyote spun back toward her, and she at once wished she had remained silent. It was one thing to ride next to the man with scant inches of clothing between them; it was another to bear witness to the wide expanse of the man’s muscular and naked chest. Perhaps she would do well to hand him back his shirt.

She gulped instead.

Frowning up at her, he asked, “Help you to the ground? Do you have an affliction that does not allow you to jump off the pony on your own?”

She bit her lip. “No, I can jump.”

His frown deepened.

“It is only,” she continued, “that in my society, a gentleman helps a lady down from her mount. It is considered good manners.”

Grey Coyote nodded. “And so you think I am ill-mannered?”


“This is not a custom in my country. Here, most women would be offended if I offered help. Here, a woman might wonder why I was assisting her instead of attending to my duty to guard her.”


Hau, hau, it is so. She might even be angered if I tried to aid her, for in her mind, for me to do this, would be as to say that she was not worthy of defending.”

“Truly?” Marietta gazed off at the panorama of beauty. “It’s strange, isn’t it?”


“How different are some of our customs.” Bringing her attention back to the matter at hand, she started to vault down from the pony. But she had only begun when he was there in front of her.

He tossed her a lighthearted grin. “Let me help you.”

She laughed.

Looking up at her, he stopped cold, staring at her as though she had sent a poisoned arrow to his heart. His smile faded, and time seemed to have developed a warp, for she could have sworn it stood still.

He recovered swiftly enough, and without further hesitation, his hands came around her waist, and he lifted her easily from the pony. On the descent, she rubbed against him, the action sending a jolt of energy surging through her body.

Briefly, he held her closely, and then with a chuckle and a shake of his head, he said, “I never realized how clever is the white man.”


Hau, hau, it is so.”

“And what makes you say that?”

He grinned. “A red man would need a very big reason to hold a woman such. But the white man excuses himself with manners. Hau, hau. I think the white man is very clever, indeed.”

Marietta, too, grinned. “Indeed.” Gazing up at him, she stepped out of his arms.

For a fleeting moment, their eyes met, held. Then, unexpectedly, he turned away.

To her surprise, she felt suddenly bereft. “Mr. Coyote,” she said, stepping up to him. “Did I say something to offend you?”

Hiya, you did not. In truth, I am uncertain that you could do something which would offend me. But I came here to see this.” He gestured toward the western side of the prairie, where the sun was announcing its departure by means of a glorious, golden sunset.

Marietta looked the way he indicated, and saw that the sun, which had been hidden from them most of the day, was practically screaming at them now. As they gazed outward, the sun sent streaks of light upward through clouds, clouds that were awash in various shades of golds, reds, pinks, blues and greys. Moreover, the sky itself was painting the once brown-drab prairie, transforming it into shades of amber and scarlet, the land appearing as though it were a gigantic mirror, set afire in color.

Then the strangest thing happened. Coming down onto his knees and lifting his hands to the sky, Grey Coyote began to sing.

Watching, Marietta stood aghast. The moment was unusual, yes, for Marietta was not accustomed to men opening their arms and breaking out into song. But unaccountably, the event was also stunning, and she hardly dared breathe, afraid she would disturb its remarkable charm.

In due time, she allowed herself to take a breath as she looked out toward the west. From here one might very well be able to see forever. In truth, so much space was there, she felt as though her soul expanded.

It was then that it came to her. Grey Coyote was praying. He had climbed all this way to do no more than communicate with his Creator. Was he even now thanking the Lord for the beauty set here before them?

Looking on, Marietta was aware that her throat felt tight, and worse, there was a tear forming in her eye. Not because of him. No, more likely it was because of the enchantment of the prairie, or maybe even the crisp feel of the pure air. Or perhaps it was no more than the incessant wind, which was now blowing directly in her face.

How curious to discover such artistry here, here where there was nothing but the earth, the sky, the winds. Unforeseen, unexpected, the beauty seemed to take hold of her.

“It reminds me of you,” said Grey Coyote, and Marietta was awakened to the knowledge that it had been several moments since he had stopped singing.

“What was that?” she asked. “What did you say?”

“The sunset.” He pointed outward toward the west. “It is golden like your hair, red like your cheeks, pink like your lips. You should be called Little Sunset, I think. Even now, your hair reflects the colors, looking as though it is set afire.”

The praise was simply said, yet it was one of the most excellent compliments she had ever received. Certain she was blushing, Marietta turned away.



By Karen Kay

Well, there you have it.  Do leave a message, and although it might be a few days before I will be able to access the internet, I will eventually do that drawing and pick a winner for a free e-book.  Picture below taken close to Chief Mountain (a main figure in the book SOARING EAGLE’S EMBRACE) in Montana.