SPECIAL NEEDS SCHOOL IN INDIAN TERRITORY–by Cheryl Pierson

What did people on the prairie do for their special needs children? It must have been so hard on families, trying to do the right thing for their children who were deaf, sight-impaired, or with other special needs that, at that time, the world was unequipped to deal with. This is an article about two remarkable women who opened schools for the blind and the deaf with little to no funding for these projects. Take a look at what they accomplished!

The Oklahoma School for the Blind was truly a pioneer institution. In 1897 Miss Lura A. Rowland, a graduate of the Arkansas School for the Blind and “a frail wisp of a girl,” solicited funds and undertook to establish a school for the blind children of Indian Territory at Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. She operated the school without any government assistance for ten years, though there are reams of correspondence indicating she implored governors, congressmen, and other public officials to assist her struggling organization. She did present a case sufficient to be permitted the use of the old Barracks Building to house her school. Concurrently, a Territorial School for the Deaf had been established in Guthrie in 1897 under a five-year contract to care for deaf children under boarding school regulations.

Miss Rowland traveled all over Indian Territory, appearing before the various tribal councils, presenting her needs. Since few Native Americans were blind until Europeans brought diseases causing blindness to the tribes, there was not the acceptance that might have been the case otherwise. During the first four years the institution was supported solely by contributions from the people of the Indian Territory and sympathizing states.  In 1900 the Choctaw and Cherokee Nations each made appropriations for the education of blind Choctaw and Cherokee children. Repeated but unsuccessful efforts were made to have Congress aid the school through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In 1907 the school became a state-supported institution. For “reasons variously stated,” it was moved to Wagoner but soon returned to Fort Gibson. 

(Learning to make shoes–photo by Lewis Hines–ca. 1917)

Miss Rowland, now Mrs. Lowery, had used her own resources, begged for furniture, and convinced other teachers it was their patriotic duty to help her with her project. In addition, schools from various parts of the United States had helped her from time to time. So frugal was her operation that her financial statement upon her retirement indicated that she had operated the school the first ten years on a total of $15,048.44, besides contributions by various persons, including herself. In those ten years she had held eleven school terms from six weeks to nine months long for a total enrollment of fifty pupils.

Oklahoma’s first legislature appropriated $5,000 on May 29, 1908, for the maintenance of the “Lura A. Lowery School for the Blind,” and provided in the same act that the school be under the control of the State Board of Education.  As a state institution the school was supported by legislative appropriations, varying from twenty to thirty thousand dollars yearly. A headline in the Muskogee Times-Democrat March 11, 1911, read: “Perry Miller Saves Blind School.” Miller had authored a bill in the State House of Representatives to move the Oklahoma School for the Blind. Slid Garrett of Fort Gibson had introduced a similar bill in the State Senate. Mr. Miller knew that if the school was not moved to Muskogee, it would be moved to Tulsa. It remained in temporary quarters at Fort Gibson until June, 1913, when the fourth legislature acted to move it to Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Upon moving the school to Muskogee in 1911, first in a couple of temporary locations locally, the state began construction on several beautiful buildings of English architecture with steep roofs. The tornado of 1945 destroyed most of those roofs, demolished the gymnasium, in which three girls were killed, and wounded several others. In the rebuilding, flat roofs replaced the originals.

The school is outstanding in the annals of education, and brave little Lura Lowery deserves a great deal of credit for initiating and carrying on such a program. Helen Keller honored the school with a visit February 17, 1915 and was very complimentary of its administration. Superintendent Mrs. O.W. Stewart was voted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1943 as a result of the outstanding record of the school. When Richard Carter retired as superintendent of the school in June 1979, after being associated with the school since 1939, he had completed the longest tenure of any like position in the nation and was considered an authority in the care and the teaching of the blind.

Following is a list of additional historical highlights:

1897 – 1907 Superintendent Mrs. Lura A . Lowrey

1907 – 1911 Superintendent Mr. G.W. Bruce

1911 – 1925 Superintendent Mr. O.W. Stewart

1913 Oklahoma School for the Blind was moved to its present location in June in accordance with an act of the fourth Legislature. An 80 acre tract of land was donated by Governor C.N. Haskell.

1917 The Oklahoma Commission for the Adult Blind was established. The funds and services of this Commission were quite restricted and the primary thrust of the early program was the provision of limited home teaching services to the blind.

1920 The civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Program developed out of the effort to rehabilitate disabled veterans during and after WWI. On June 29, President Woodrow Wilson signed Public Law 66-236, creating the civilian rehabilitation act. This early program was limited in scope with primary services being counseling, guidance, job training and placement.

1920 Fifty acres of land south of the school was donated to the Oklahoma School for the Blind. This land is currently leased by the city of Muskogee and is known as Civitan Park.

1925 The Oklahoma Legislature passed enabling legislation empowering the State Board for Vocational Education to operate with the Federal Board of Vocational Education in the administration of an Act of Congress related to the promotion of vocational rehabilitation of persons disabled in industry or other, and their return to civil employment. However, this program was not funded by state appropriations until 1927.

 

 

In our family, my grandfather’s half-brother, Bob, had a tumor behind his left eye as a young man and had to have it removed. This would have been approximately 1910 or so, not long after Oklahoma became a state,  when Bob was just a young teenager. Mom had mentioned this to me years ago, and said my great grandfather had taken Bob on the train to Dallas to have the operation done to remove the tumor. But when, after a few months, his other eye became infected with another tumor, Bob made the decision to not have that surgery done. He died before he reached his 18th birthday, and my great grandmother always kept his glasses in a little cedar chest on the mantel along with her other keepsakes. What a heart-wrenching decision that had to be for the entire family.

 

 

Source Documents for this article:

“A History of the Oklahoma School for the Blind, 1897 – 1969”, a document by Cleo Bowman Larason in 1953.

“A School History, 1897 – 1937, of the Oklahoma School for the Blind.”

Credit to the unknown photographer for the image of the school used above.

IT WOULDN’T BE CHRISTMAS IF WE DIDN’T DO THIS…by Cheryl Pierson

Growing up, traditions in my house included putting up a live Christmas tree every year—very few people had an artificial tree “back then”—and of course, setting up our little nativity set. Mom always made fudge and she’d make divinity for my dad, and wait with fingers crossed to see if it would “turn out” like it should.

One thing we always had on our tree were the silver tinsel icicles—and back then, they were made of real aluminum—not this cheap plastic stuff you buy now! So, we saved those icicles from year to year and carefully placed them back on the cardboard holder as we “de-decorated” the tree. I thought we must be the only people who did that, but it turns out, that is a not-so-fond memory that many people my age have.

Our tree was usually not the best—when I wanted a nice, full Scotch pine tree, Mom would shake her head and frown. “Cheryl, those things cost SEVEN DOLLARS!” she’d say. We always got a “regular tree” that cost between $4-$5. I remember one year we paid $5.50, and that was the most I ever can remember paying for a Christmas tree. That was a LOOOONNG time ago!

My “smaller” tree–I downsized. I have a ladder with an elf and Santa climbing up on the side that has been a tradition since my kids were tots.

But our tree, though not “top of the line”, was decorated with love—and our traditional ornaments that had meaning. I inherited many of those ornaments, and I still use them, some that I made in kindergarten. Through the years, we’ve added ornaments made by our children, Jessica and Casey, and ornaments that we bought for them for their own collections.

Jessica, age 3, ornament made in Mother’s Day Out, and Casey age 1.

I’ve never had a “theme” tree. My theme is the same every year. Just memories that are so precious, through the preservation of the ornaments I remember as a child, and those that have been added since, each one with a special story of its own. Handmade items from school years, “our first Christmas” from the year hubby and I were married, a set of little cheap plastic bells and lanterns that my dad bought when I was little and loved the tree a bit too much. Those are special because he wanted me to be able to enjoy Christmas, too, and those were indestructible!

Plastic pink bell and plastic silver lantern–Dad bought these for me when I was learning to walk and loving the tree! Talk about antiques! 

Yes, I still use icicle tinsel. My kids roll their eyes, but to me, it wouldn’t be Christmas without it!

 

This is a small tree I bought a few years back when I was really sick with the flu before Christmas–it was all I could manage that year–the only year I didn’t have a regular tree with tinsel–and now I use it as a decoration on my old 78 record player top along with the ceramic train my mom made many years ago.

Another tradition that always is a must at our house is making fudge. Although we have to be careful about how much of it we eat, that’s the only time of year I make it. That always brings back great memories of home and growing up, for me, and I hope it will for my kids, too. There is no replacement for certain tastes and smells, is there?

Our first Christmas together–that was 42 years ago!

My third just “couldn’t, wouldn’t ever miss doing” tradition at Christmas is setting up our old nativity set. It’s the same one my parents bought before I was ever born. Oh, has it been through some rough times! But it’s so precious to me. I still remember how enthralled I was as a child with that cardboard stable and the figurines. The manger is cardboard too, with bits of straw glued to it. It’s not beautiful by any means. But it is to me, because of the memories.

This angel always goes near the top of my tree. My mom gave each of us girls one of these one Christmas–back in the ’70’s–and I always think of her when I put it on the tree. Another tradition I just couldn’t miss!

Sammy, directing the decorating and enjoying the Christmas ambience!

 

Do you have a tradition at your house that you just wouldn’t be able to do without at Christmas? Let’s hear about them!

Everyone have a wonderful Christmas and enjoy your holidays!

CHRISTMAS CRACKER CANDY–EVER HEARD OF IT? by Cheryl Pierson

Something interesting popped up in my inbox the other day—something I’d never heard of before. And believe me, I thought I’d heard of just about every kind of Christmas candy known to man!

This was a recipe for Christmas Cracker Candy—also known as Christmas Crack–for short (and I am sure with that kind of name it must be addictive!) It’s also known as saltine toffee.

 

When I read the recipe, it boggled my mind to think you could possibly make wonderful toffee candy out of saltine crackers! What fresh magic could this be?

Home - Papa Noel Christmas Trees

 

 

I feel certain my mother didn’t know this recipe existed, because toffee candy (Heath Bars, especially) was her favorite kind of candy.

 

 

 

 

Seasoned Saltine Crackers | Tasty Kitchen: A Happy Recipe Community!

This looks fairly simple, and has lot of variations, come to find out—some with chocolate covering, some with vanilla…oh, the possibilities! I’ve not made it yet, but it is definitely going to be a project at my house during the holidays—I thought you all might enjoy it too, and I want to hear if anyone has ever tried this before or even KNEW about it.

I have a feeling this is going to be a tasty treat included in my next novel, as well, because it certainly is unusual. Take a look!

This recipe is said to be quick and easy, ready in less than one hour! My kind of treat!

Easy saltine toffee recipe: aka Christmas Crack candy

(Picture and recipe credit to SHUGARY SWEETS: SAVOR THE SWEET LIFE)

Ingredients

  • 40 saltine crackers
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 10 oz Ghirardelli white chocolate wafers
  • sprinkles, optional

 

STEP 1: Place a piece of parchment paper (or aluminum foil) on a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking sheet. Line with 40 saltine crackers in a single layer. This is about 1 sleeve of crackers. Set aside.

STEP 2: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

STEP 3: Melt your unsalted butter in a small pan, over medium heat, then add your granulated sugar. Bring this mixture to a rolling boil. Remove from heat once boiling.

STEP 4: Pour the melted butter and sugar mixture over the saltine crackers, slowly, making sure that all the crackers have been covered in butter. All that buttery goodness is going to create the melt in your mouth saltine toffee!

STEP 5: Bake toffee for about 13 to 15 minutes. You want to make sure that the crackers look lightly browned and caramelized.

STEP 6: Remove from oven. In a small bowl, melt the chocolate (I use Ghirardelli white chocolate wafers for best results). Using an offset spatula spread over warm toffee and immediately add sprinkles.

STEP 7: Allow the toffee to set up and harden (about 30 minutes) then use a sharp knife to break into pieces.

Store Christmas Crack in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days (if it lasts that long). ENJOY!

Have you ever heard of this candy? What’s YOUR favorite type of Christmas candy? (Mine is fudge, but I’m willing to try new things…always.) 

ANCESTRY TIDBITS AND SURPRISES–by Cheryl Pierson

Several months ago, I blogged about starting on my “ancestry” journey. I gave myself a subscription to Ancestry . com, and voila! I was on my way!

I had put off doing that for a long time because I was afraid it would be too expensive and would take up too much time. I was wrong on both counts! I got my membership for only $59 during a Mother’s Day special, and as for time—you can spend as much or as little as you are able.

I find myself just browsing through my ancestors, and learning things that one day, I hope to sit down and write into a linear genealogy “book” or journal.

What makes this so fascinating for me? Probably because family, to my mother and her generation, was everything. And my mom, being the oldest of 11 kids, was charged with “remembering everyone” – sort of like Aunt Pittypat in Gone With the Wind. So to her, it was very important to pass on family history and stories she’d grown up with.

How I wish I had paid more attention! When I write my books and novellas, I do find myself including some of the stories she told us in those writings. But seeing pictures of some of the people I’ve heard her talk about has been such a revelation. And I’m not sure why, but seeing their handwriting has somehow been almost spiritual for me…maybe because I write all my work in longhand in notebooks before I enter them on the computer. So seeing the handwriting of my ancestors lets me imagine them with a pen (or quill) in hand, writing their names—and on the census reports, imagining them writing their children’s names and ages.

Just picturing the point in their lives in these milestone documents—marriage licenses, military registration cards, death certificates, census documents—even some personal letters that have been included are slowly but surely bringing these long-ago relatives to life for me.

My mom’s parents, Mary McLain and Tom Stallings, when they were ‘courting’–this would have been around 1918 or so. These are my grandparents–my granddad died when I was 10, and my grandmother died when I was 16. (My granddad, Tom, is the son of John Stallings and Emma C. Ligon Stallings that I will mention later on.)

 

This is the page from the 1860 Census for Smith Co., Tennessee. My great grandfather, John Stallings, was only 2 years old. From this record, we can note his father is not in the picture, only his mother, Sarah Hale Stallings. Evidently, she was living with a relative—most likely a brother, Richard Hale, who is 5 years older than she is. There are two other children with the last name of Wooten. I’m anxious to research this part of the family. My mother told me many stories about John Stallings, who was her grandfather, my great grandfather.

 

John grew up and became the headmaster at a school, but he had a temper. The story goes that he was heavy handed with the paddle on one of the students, and had to “get out of town” quickly—but when he did, he did not go alone. He took my great grandmother with him and they eloped! That was when they left Tennessee and headed for Oklahoma, settling in the southeastern part of what was then Indian Territory.

John B. Stallings, my great grandfather, and Emma Christiana Ligon Stallings, my great grandmother.

There have been some surprises, too! I discovered that my grandmother’s oldest sister was born out of wedlock. Another couple who had lived together as man and wife and raised 11 children together were not legally married until the last child was in college.

My grandmother, Mary born 1900; oldest sister Maude born 1886; sister Byrdie born 1896, sister Grace born 1894. Mary is my father’s mother.

This is a truly fascinating journey, and I’m always anxious to “get back to it” again whenever I can.

I have a lot of work and ‘refining’ to do on my family tree, but oh, the discoveries I’ve made and look forward to making in the future!

On my father’s side, using documentation that has been added by other relatives on their trees, I’ve been able to trace my 8th great-great grandparents back to England and Ireland. Now that I know that, at some point, I will pay the extra money for access to global records and see how much farther back I can go.

Have you ever traced your family ancestry? Did you find a surprise or two? Doing this has inspired me with a couple of really great story ideas!

TEXAS COWBOY STEW by Cheryl Pierson

Fall’s on the way, so it’s time for some good recipes to fix on those cool evenings. I’m thrilled to find recipes that are EASY, QUICK, and GOOD. Have you ever noticed how many times cowboys in films and books sit down to a hearty bowl of stew?

Growing up, my mom made a lot of vegetable soup, but never made stew. I don’t know why, because I have seen my dad eat stew elsewhere, but for some reason, Mom just never did make it. I learned to make it because my husband mentioned he’d like some. My early attempts were not the best. BUT…I found those wonderful McCormick Beef Stew seasoning packages with directions on the back and voila—I was suddenly a gourmet stew-maker!

I found this recipe the other day, and boy, does it look great! It’s different from my usual recipe, but looks fabulously tasty. I will be going to the store this weekend for what I DON’T have, but many of the ingredients are every-day items we all probably have on hand in our pantry.

 

TEXAS COWBOY STEW from “Cooking Professionally” website

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 packages kielbasa sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans of peeled and diced tomatoes, drained
  • 4 medium baking potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans of pinto beans, with liquid
  • 1 (15.2-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with green chile pepper, with liquid
  • 1 (10-ounce) package frozen mixed vegetables
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • salt and pepper, to taste

recipe image

Step 1

In a dutch oven, sauteé the onion over medium heat. Add ground beef and cook until there’s visibly no pink left. Add sliced sausage.

Step 2

Pour in both the diced tomatoes & tomatoes with chiles, pinto beans, potatoes, corn, and veggies. Stir everything until well mixed, then add spices.

Step 3

Add the water, bring to a boil, and let simmer for one hour.

Step 4

Serve with your favorite cornbread recipe!

(Recipe and photo credit to Cooking Professionally)

Do you like stew? If so, what’s your favorite recipe for stew? What do you like to eat with it?

SAILING TO PHILADELPHIA–LEARNING HISTORY THROUGH SONGS #5 by Cheryl Pierson

Hi everyone! I found this little gem quite by accident. Do you remember studying about The Mason-Dixon Line here in the United States? Maybe in a history class many years ago?

Chances are, if you did, it was skimmed over and briefly touched upon. And you may still have misconceptions about it, because of this. Is it a “real” line, or just one that exists in American cultural references? How far south is it? Why did we need a “line” such as the Mason-Dixon Line?

And probably, you’ve never even given this a second thought once high school nine-weeks’ tests were over and done with, right? I wouldn’t have, either, but I became fascinated with a piece of music of Mark Knopfler’s called SAILING TO PHILADELPHIA.

I stumbled across this on Youtube one day and was shocked when I printed out the words and to learn it. I was even more surprised to find a very short documentary that accompanies the song, in which the lives of surveyor Charlie Mason and astronomer Jeremiah Dixon are touched upon.

Here’s the song performed by Mark Knopfler and James Taylor.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PTxt7Qa06g

 

Briefly, according to a Wikipedia article:

The Mason–Dixon line, also called the Mason and Dixon line or Mason’s and Dixon’s line, is a demarcation line separating four U.S. states, forming part of the borders of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and West Virginia (part of Virginia until 1863). Historically, it came to be seen as demarcating the North from the South in the U.S. It was surveyed between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in the resolution of a border dispute involving Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware in Colonial America. The dispute had its origins almost a century earlier in the somewhat confusing proprietary grants by King Charles I to Lord Baltimore (Maryland) and by King Charles II to William Penn (Pennsylvania and Delaware).

The largest, east-west portion of the Mason–Dixon line along the southern Pennsylvania border later became known, informally, as the boundary between the Northern free states and Southern slave states. This usage especially came to prominence during the debate around the Missouri Compromise of 1820, when drawing boundaries between slave and free territory was an issue, and resurfaced during the American Civil War, with border states also coming into play. The Virginia portion of the line was initially the northern border of the Confederacy, until West Virginia separated from Virginia and joined the Union in 1863. It is still used today in the figurative sense of a line that separates the Northeast and South culturally, politically, and socially (see Dixie).

But did you realize this “line” was “drawn” in great part by using the stars at night as the guide? And that this line is marked by stones every mile 1 mile and “crownstones” every 5 miles using stone shipped from England. The Maryland side says “(M)” and the Delaware and Pennsylvania sides say “(P)”. Crownstones include the two coats of arms. Today, while a number of the original stones are missing or buried, many are still visible, resting on public land and protected by iron cages. (Wikipedia)

Here’s the link to the documentary–it’s about 10 minutes long and WELL WORTH IT!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaQS45-YFdE&t=62s

Mason and Dixon confirmed earlier survey work, which delineated Delaware’s southern boundary from the Atlantic Ocean to the “Middle Point” stone (along what is today known as the Transpeninsular Line). They proceeded nearly due north from this to the Pennsylvania border.

Later, the line was marked in places by additional benchmarks and survey markers. The lines have been resurveyed several times over the centuries without substantive changes to Mason’s and Dixon’s work. The stones may be a few, to a few hundred, feet east or west of the point Mason and Dixon thought they were: in any event, the line drawn from stone to stone forms the legal boundary. (Wikipedia)

Think of it. This “line” was drawn between 1763 and 1767 and has been remeasured and re-calculated many times through the following centuries—and there have been “no substantive changes to Mason’s and Dixon’s work.” Amazing!

I’m going to include the links to the song, the documentary, and the Wikipedia article in this post. But I think I’ll be talking more about the Mason-Dixon Line in the future. It was truly a huge accomplishment that needs to be remembered!

Here’s the link to the entire Wikipedia story about the Mason-Dixon Line. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mason%E2%80%93Dixon_line

CHERYL’S WINNER!

Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by to read, comment, and wish me a happy birthday! I loved reading y’all’s comments and learning about everyone’s favorite cakes and birthday memories!

My winner for the print copy of FIRE EYES today is…..

CRYSTAL!!!!

 

Crystal, if you will e-mail me at fabkat_edit@yahoo.com with your home address, I will be glad to get your copy of FIRE EYES in the mail SOON!

Thanks again to everyone for stopping by and participating! We love you all here at Petticoats & Pistols!

 

BIRTHDAY CAKE AND MEMORIES–AND A GIVEAWAY! by CHERYL PIERSON

I love July for so many reasons, but when I was growing up, I have to confess, I loved it because I had a birthday on the 28th day of the month!

Of course, the 4th of July was always a great holiday, back then, too. We’d gather up and go to “Bryan County” (as my dad always called it) where both sets of my grandparents lived and almost every single one of my cousins on both sides of the family. That was what I was interested in—being surrounded by a slew of cousins who were all close to my age!

We had fireworks, home-made ice cream (the kids had the job of sitting on the top of the ice cream freezer while the men cranked the handle) and so much food. If it was hot (and it usually was, being July in Oklahoma) we’d just make a huge pallet on the floor of the living room and the kids would all sleep there, with the box fans blowing on us and the front door standing open for the least bit of breeze.

When my birthday rolled around on the 28th, I always had a party of some kind. From the parties of the early days—early-mid 1960’s—where all the little girls dressed in their Sunday best, complete with anklets and white patent leather shoes and party dresses, to the later teen years when slumber parties were the thing. What a time we had!

 

I bet you figured it out–I’m the 2nd from the end on the left. This was my 8th birthday–here we are, all in our party-dress finery!

 

 

 

 

This is my 12th birthday. I was surrounded by friends as we celebrated, ate, and just had a wonderful time. I’m on the end in the striped outfit, and my dear friend and cousin, Julie is just to my left–so this birthday, I got the best of everything–a COUSIN and friends, along with cake and great memories!

 

Remember those birthday party games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey? Drop the clothespins into the bottle while standing on a stepstool? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to have fun like that today?

 

Mom always baked her “famous” chocolate “jelly roll” cake from scratch, and made her own thick, creamy, chocolate frosting. She’d let it cool, but it had to be rolled up while it was warm from the oven so it wouldn’t break later on. After she gently unrolled it and frosted it, she sprinkled chopped pecans on top of it. Then,  it went into the fridge. OH, MY GOODNESS.

I’ve often thought about making that jelly roll cake—my sister has the recipe—but I don’t know if I’m talented enough to keep it from breaking!

I’m including a link to a cake that looks a lot like Mom’s but hers had frosting on the inside AND the outside, too. If you make this, I’d love to hear how it turns out!

truffle cake roll

/https://www.crazyforcrust.com/chocolate-truffle-cake-roll/

Do you have a favorite birthday cake? What is it? I have to admit, I’m a cake fanatic. I love them all, but that chocolate one my mom made…I wish I had some of that today!

As I mentioned earlier, I’m giving away a copy of FIRE EYES today—there’s a scene in it where one of the very young deputies, Frank Hayes, has made a terrible mistake that could have resulted in the death of our hero, Kaed Turner. In this scene, Kaed tries to find familiar ground to bring two young deputies Frank Hayes and Travis Morgan, to an understanding. Here’s what happens:

 

 

BLURB FROM FIRE EYES:

“Frank?”

Frank whirled at Kaed’s voice, his hand at his Colt instinctively. Kaed and Travis stood behind him, holding their horses’ reins. Kaed stepped forward. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”

Frank nodded, standing stiffly awkward in front of them.

“Relax, Frank,” Kaed said. His gaze dropped to where Frank’s hand still hovered above the butt of his gun. Frank looked down, as if he didn’t recognize the hand was attached to his body.

“What’re you doin’ out here?” Travis asked.

Hayes shrugged. “Thinkin’ ’bout everything.” He turned to lean against the boulder, away from them. “‘Bout how I almost got you killed, Mr. Turner.” His voice was low.

Kaed glanced at Travis, and Travis looked away.

“Well, Frank, I expect you’ll remember to tell someone next time, won’t you?” Kaed said quietly.

“Won’t be a next time, Mr. Turner. I don’t b’lieve I’m cut out for this.”

Travis started forward, but Kaed put a staying hand on his arm. Travis met his eyes and Kaed shook his head. He came toward Frank slowly. When he got within arm’s length, he stopped.

“How old are you, Frank?”

“Twenty. Or close enough. My birthday’s next month. My ma, she always made a cake.” He glanced around at Kaed, a flush staining his neck, making its way into his face. “Chocolate,” he mumbled, “if she could get it.”

Kaed gave him a half-smile and closed the last bit of distance between them. “You’re awful lucky, Frank. I lost my mother when I was just shy of nine. I’m not sure I even remember exactly when my birthday is. But, that’s not really important, anymore.”

Frank nodded, but didn’t look at him. He kept his eyes fixed on the gently swirling water of the creek.

Kaed went on. “When you became a deputy marshal, you got another family. We all share the same life, the same dangers, the same loneliness of bein’ out on the trail.”

Frank shuddered, his lips compressing tightly. “I know you’re right, Mr. Turner.”

When he didn’t continue, Kaed said, “I’m not mad at you, Frank. Anybody can make a mistake. Travis, here, he was a couple of years older than you when he made his big one.”

Travis drew his breath in, and Kaed turned to give him a quelling glance. “Right, Trav?”

Travis nodded.

Kaed turned back to Frank. “You’ll have to get Trav to tell you about it.” He spoke easily, as one friend would to another, as if he thought Travis and Frank were on amicable terms.

Frank gave a short, brittle laugh. “I don’t think Travis Morgan is gonna talk to me about any mistake he ever made.”

“Trav, come on up here,” Kaed said.

Travis slowly stepped forward to join Frank and Kaed, swallowing tightly. “Frank, I guess I need to say—”

“You better do more than guess what you need to say, Travis,” Kaed said, his tone cool.


I’m giving away a copy of FIRE EYES to one lucky commenter today! Do you have a favorite birthday memory? What about a favorite birthday cake? Please share! I love memories of parties, cake, ice cream, presents—and GOOD TIMES!

AMAZON AUTHOR LINK:  http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson

EL PASO BY MARTY ROBBINS–LEARNING HISTORY THROUGH SONGS #4 (AND A GIVEAWAY!) by Cheryl Pierson

Continuing my series on “learning history through songs” I just knew I had to include this “series” of songs by one of my favorite songwriters/balladeers, the incomparable Marty Robbins. This isn’t specific history, but these songs give us an idea of how life was for this particular gunfighter, then for his love, Feleena, and then how a modern-day man feels such a connection to it all. I love that there is “history” as we think of it, and then the modern-day connection to it all to “complete the circle.”

How many songs do you know that had sequels to them? Remember “back in the day” when recording artists would sometimes “answer” a song with one of their own? Well, if you love Marty Robbins like I do, you’ll know that his song El Paso had not only one sequel, but two, and he was working on a third sequel when he died in 1982! I think that’s a “record” for musical sequels, don’t you? I love ballads, or story-songs, and to find out that there were sequels to my all-time favorite one was pure pleasure!

El Paso was written and originally recorded by Marty Robbins, and was released in September 1959 (I was two years old at the time, but Marty was my man from the minute I heard this song!) Though it was originally released on the album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, within a month it was released as a single and immediately became a hit on both the country and pop music charts, reaching NUMBER 1 IN BOTH at the start of 1960! But that wasn’t the end of it at all—it also won the Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording in 1961, and with good reason. It still remains Robbins’ best-known song, all these years later.

 

Wikipedia states: It is widely considered a genre classic for its gripping narrative which ends in the death of its protagonist, its shift from past to present tense, haunting harmonies by vocalists Bobby Sykes and Jim Glaser (of the Glaser Brothers) and the eloquent and varied Spanish guitar accompaniment by Grady Martin that lends the recording a distinctive Tex-Mex feel. The name of the character Feleena was based upon a schoolmate of Robbins in the fifth grade; Fidelina Martinez.

The storyline is this: The song is a first-person narrative told by a cowboy in El Paso, Texas, in the days of the Wild West. The singer recalls how he frequented “Rosa’s Cantina”, where he became smitten with a young Mexican dancer named Feleena. When the singer notices another cowboy sharing a drink with “wicked Feleena”, out of jealousy he challenges the newcomer to a gunfight. The singer kills the newcomer, then flees El Paso for fear of being hanged for murder or killed in revenge by his victim’s friends. In the act of escaping, the singer commits the additional and potentially hanging offense of horse theft (“I caught a good one, it looked like it could run”), further sealing his fate in El Paso. Departing the town, the singer hides out in the “badlands of New Mexico.”

The song then fast-forwards to an undisclosed time later – the lyrics at this point change from past to present tense – when the singer describes the yearning for Feleena that drives him to return, without regard for his own life, to El Paso. He states that his “love is stronger than [his] fear of death.” Upon arriving, the singer races for the cantina, but is chased and fatally wounded by a posse. At the end of the song, the singer recounts how Feleena has come to his side and he dies in her arms after “one little kiss”.

Robbins wrote two songs that are explicit sequels to “El Paso”, one in 1966, one in 1976. Robbins intended to do one more sequel, “The Mystery of Old El Paso”, but he died in late 1982 before he could finish the final song.

Feleena (From El Paso) (FIRST SEQUEL TO EL PASO)

In 1966, Robbins recorded “Feleena (From El Paso)”, telling the life story of Feleena, the “Mexican girl” from “El Paso”, in a third-person narrative. This track was over eight minutes long, but what a story it tells!

Born in a desert shack in New Mexico during a thunderstorm, Feleena runs away from home at 17, living off her charms for a year in Santa Fe, New Mexico, before moving to the brighter lights of El Paso to become a paid dancer. After another year, the narrator of “El Paso” arrives, the first man she did not have contempt for. He spends six weeks romancing her and then, in a retelling of the key moment in the original song, beset by “insane jealousy”, he shoots another man with whom she was flirting.

Her lover’s return to El Paso comes only a day after his flight (the original song suggests a longer time frame before his return) and as she goes to run to him, the cowboy motions to her to stay out of the line of fire and is shot; immediately after his dying kiss, Feleena shoots herself with his gun. Their ghosts are heard to this day in the wind blowing around El Paso: “It’s only the young cowboy showing Feleena the town”.

 

https://youtu.be/ryzIX09s2o4

 

El Paso City (SECOND SEQUEL TO EL PASO)

In 1976 Robbins released another reworking, “El Paso City”, in which the present-day singer is a passenger on a flight over El Paso, which reminds him of a song he had heard “long ago”, proceeding to summarize the original “El Paso” story. “I don’t recall who sang the song,” he sings, but he feels a supernatural connection to the story: “Could it be that I could be the cowboy in this mystery…,” he asks, suggesting a past life. This song reached No. 1 on the country charts. The arrangement includes riffs and themes from the previous two El Paso songs. Robbins wrote it while flying over El Paso in, he reported, the same amount of time it takes to sing–four minutes and 14 seconds. It was only the second time that ever happened to him; the first time was when he composed the original “El Paso” as fast as he could write it down.

Though there have been many cover versions of the original “El Paso” song, Marty Robbins put out more than one version of it, himself. There have actually been three versions of Robbins’ original recording of “El Paso”: the original full-length version, the edited version, and the abbreviated version, which is an alternate take in stereo that can be found on the Gunfighter Ballads album. The original version, released on a 45 single record, is in mono and is around 4 minutes and 38 seconds in duration, far longer than most contemporary singles at the time, especially in the country genre. Robbins’ longtime record company, Columbia Records, was unsure whether radio stations would play such a long song, so it released two versions of the song on a promo 45—the full-length version on one side, and an edited version on the other which was nearer to the three-minute mark. This version omitted a verse describing the cowboy’s remorse over the “foul evil deed [he] had done” before his flight from El Paso. The record-buying public, as well as most disc jockeys, overwhelmingly preferred the full-length version.

I can’t tell you how many times I played my 45 record of El Paso on my little portable record player as a little girl. As a country and western song, this has to qualify as my all-time favorite, and my husband even managed to record and adapt the ringtone for me on my iPhone, so when my phone rings it plays the opening words to EL PASO. This has been a huge embarrassment for my kids when they were teens and had to be with me in public, but also was a source of amazement for them when other people actually smiled and said, “Hey! Marty Robbins!

Now THAT recognition is the mark of endurance—a song that is still beloved by so many after over sixty years!

A picture of “retro” Rosa’s Cantina that hangs in my breakfast nook.

 

I’m offering a free copy of The Devil and Miss Julia Jackson to one lucky commenter today (USA only)–so don’t forget to leave a comment and your contact info!

What’s your favorite classic country & western song? Is there a sequel to it?