A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work: http://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 40 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here: email@example.com
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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!
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
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
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.
Pour in both the diced tomatoes & tomatoes with chiles, pinto beans, potatoes, corn, and veggies. Stir everything until well mixed, then add spices.
Add the water, bring to a boil, and let simmer for one hour.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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 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?”
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!
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”.
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!
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?
Summer seems like the most patriotic time of the year in general, doesn’t it? We kick off the summer months with Memorial Day in May. Poppies are worn in remembrance of veterans on Memorial Day and on Veterans Day in November.
On June 6, we are reminded of the sacrifices made on a faraway beach in Normandy that resulted in many deaths in WWII, but turned the tide for the Allies and helped us gain victory. June 14th is Flag Day, a fine “tune up” for our huge 4th of July celebration that’s right around the corner.
Is anyone more patriotic than a cowboy? I don’t think so! So many country and western songs have been written through the years that are a tribute to not only our troops, but to first responders, and to all the “regular” American people who love our country.
Here is my list of top country and western patriotic songs, compiled from several on the internet—all different, but all wonderful—and all with one thing in common: our love for our country. These are in no particular order. I don’t know how anyone could choose one over the other since they all are products of excellent songwriting and musicianship—and heartfelt sentiments about America! And goodness knows, I didn’t list them all here—no room! Like I said, there are a lot of patriots in the country music field, and a huge number of songs to listen to in order to get in the patriotic spirit of things! I’ve included the youtube links in case you want to pop over and give these a listen!
This first one is an odd one, but I just love it. It was recorded by David Ball, who didn’t have that many hits, but this one will stay in your memory when you hear it for the very first time. I get chills every single time I hear it. A young man buys a ’66 Corvette and discovers a letter in the glove box “My name is Private Andrew Malone, and if you’re reading this I didn’t make it home…” Which always makes me think about so many young men who could have written this following line…“For every dream that’s shattered, another one comes true…” It’s called RIDING WITH PRIVATE MALONE and it has a very twisty ending you’re sure to love!
Probably the most recognized country song that many call our “unofficial” American anthem was written and performed by Lee Greenwood—GOD BLESS THE U.S.A. Written in 1983, it’s become synonymous with patriotism, and is loved by countless Americans, whether they are typical country and western fans or not. Its simple message is one that grabs you and holds on, and I have to admit, that even after nearly 40 years of hearing it, I still get teary! “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me—so I’ll gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today, for there ain’t no doubt I love this land—God Bless the U.S.A.!”
Another “oldie but goodie” is Merle Haggard’sTHE FIGHTIN’ SIDE OF ME, written in 1970. Oh, goodness. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard my husband play and sing that back when we used to have our band…fond memories, and it was a song that was a frequent request, whether we lived in West Virginia or here in Oklahoma. “If you don’t love it, leave it, let this song that I’m singin’ be a warnin’—when you’re runnin’ down my country, hoss, you’re walkin’ on the fightin’ side of me…” I love the sentiment of this song. In true “Merle” fashion, he’s saying that we can disagree on things without trashing our country. I think everyone in the audiences we played to knew the words to this song!
WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE WORLD STOPPED TURNING? is not a “patriotic” song in the way we’d normally think of one, but it was not written during normal times. Penned by Alan Jackson in 2002 after the horrific events of 9/11/01, this song is packed with emotion and validates the many thoughts and feelings that Americans went through during the aftermath of that day. Each chorus of this song ends with the reminder that God’s greatest gift to us is love—even though we were going through some horrendous times. This song was nothing short of a masterpiece that drew Americans together, gave us hope, and let us know we were not alone in our feelings.
In 1974, Johnny Cash wrote RAGGED OLD FLAG, a recitation about all the incidents that happened to “the ragged old flag” that hangs in a little town’s courthouse square as told to a town newcomer by one of the old men who lives there. “She’s been through the fire before, and she can take a whole lot more…on second thought, I guess I do like to brag, cause I’m mighty proud of that ragged old flag!”
8TH OF NOVEMBER, another patriotic song written about the Vietnam war, is performed by Big and Rich. It is the true story of a terrible battle in which the 173rd Airborne was engaged. That day, 48 Americans died with very few survivors when they were ambushed by 1200 Viet Cong. “With the fire rainin’ down and the hell all around there were few men left standin’ that day…”
There are countless others, in case you want to put together a country and western playlist for your big Independence Day shindig! Take a look!
SOME GAVE ALL by Billy Ray Cyrus
LETTERS FROM HOME by John Michael Montgomery
HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN? by Darryl Worley
IF YOU’RE READING THIS by Tim McGraw
HOME by Dierks Bentley
I DRIVE YOUR TRUCK by Lee Brice
FOR YOU by Keith Urban
IT’S AMERICA by Rodney Atkins
FLYOVER STATES by Jason Aldean
COURTESY OF THE RED, WHITE, AND BLUE (THE ANGRY AMERICAN) by Toby Keith
WHERE THE STARS AND STRIPES AND THE EAGLE FLY by Aaron Tippin
AMERICAN SOLDIER by Toby Keith
THE BALLAD OF IRA HAYES by Johnny Cash
This isn’t all of them, either! Hope you all have a very happy upcoming 4th of July with family, friends, and loved ones. What’s your favorite country and western patriotic song, and why? It’s hard to pick just one!
Have you ever noticed how obituaries of yesteryear seem to always “say more” than many of the current ones do? (I don’t know—maybe it’s just me—I’m an obituary reader! Even those of people I don’t know.) I think one reason for this is, of course, now, everything is shortened and abbreviated to the point that sometimes the heartfelt meaning is lost. We have to make it “fit on the page” and not “run too long” in the fast pace of our modern world.
In 1921, William Allen White was the owner of the Emporia Gazette. So when his teenage daughter, Mary, died suddenly, he penned one of the best obituaries that probably ever has been written. Reading this final summation of her young life, I felt like I knew Mary without, of course, having ever met her. Her obituary became famous throughout the United States at the time it was published, 100 years ago this month.
Mary White obituary
by William Allen White
Emporia Gazette, May 17, 1921
The Associated Press reports carrying the news of Mary White’s death declared that it came as the result of a fall from a horse. How she would have hooted at that! She never fell from a horse in her life. Horses have fallen on her and with her—”I’m always trying to hold ’em in my lap,” she used to say. But she was proud of few things, and one of them was that she could ride anything that had four legs and hair. Her death resulted not from a fall but from a blow on the head which fractured her skull, and the blow came from the limb of an overhanging tree on the parking.
The last hour of her life was typical of its happiness. She came home from a day’s work at school, topped off by a hard grind with the copy on the High School Annual, and felt that a ride would refresh her. She climbed into her khakis, chattering to her mother about the work she was doing, and hurried to get her horse and be out on the dirt roads for the country air and the radiant green fields of spring. As she rode through the town on an easy gallop, she kept waving at passers-by. She knew everyone in town. For a decade the little figure in the long pigtail and the red hair ribbon has been familiar on the streets of Emporia, and she got in the way of speaking to those who nodded at her. She passed the Kerrs, walking the horse in front of the Normal Library, and waved at them; passed another friend a few hundred feet farther on, and waved at her.
The horse was walking, and as she turned into North Merchant Street she took off her cowboy hat, and the horse swung into a lope. She passed the Tripletts and waved her cowboy hat at them, still moving gayly north on Merchant Street. A Gazette carrier passed—a High School boy friend—and she waved at him, but with her bridle hand; the horse veered quickly, plunged into the parking where the low-hanging limb faced her and, while she still looked back waving, the blow came. But she did not fall from the horse; she slipped off, dazed a bit, staggered, and fell in a faint. She never quite recovered consciousness.
But she did not fall from the horse, neither was she riding fast. A year or so ago she used to go like the wind. But that habit was broken, and she used the horse to get into the open, to get fresh, hard exercise, and to work off a certain surplus energy that welled up in her and needed a physical outlet. The need has been in her heart for years. It was back of the impulse that kept the dauntless little brown-clad figure on the streets and country roads of the community and built into a strong, muscular body what had been a frail and sickly frame during the first years of her life. But the riding gave her more than a body. It released a gay and hardy soul. She was the happiest thing in the world. And she was happy because she was enlarging her horizon. She came to know all sorts and conditions of men; Charley O’Brien, the traffic cop, was one of her best friends. W. L. Holtz, the Latin teacher, was another. Tom O’Connor, farmer-politician, and the Rev. J. H. Rice, preacher and police judge, and Frank Beach, music master, were her special friends; and all the girls, black and white, above the track and below the track, in Pepville and Stringtown, were among her acquaintances. And she brought home riotous stories of her adventures. She loved to rollick; persiflage was her natural expression at home. Her humor was a continual bubble of joy. She seemed to think in hyperbole and metaphor. She was mischievous without malice, as full of faults as an old shoe. No angel was Mary White, but an easy girl to live with for she never nursed a grouch five minutes in her life.
With all her eagerness for the out-of-doors, she loved books. On her table when she left her room were a book by Conrad, one by Galsworthy, “Creative Chemistry” by E. E. Slosson, and a Kipling book. She read Mark Twain, Dickens, and Kipling before she was ten—all of their writings. Wells and Arnold Bennett particularly amused and diverted her. She was entered as a student in Wellesley for 1922; was assistant editor of the High School Annual this year, and in line for election to the editorship next year. She was a member of the executive committee of the High School Y.W.C.A.
Within the last two years she had begun to be moved by an ambition to draw. She began as most children do by scribbling in her school books, funny pictures. She bought cartoon magazines and took a course—rather casually, naturally, for she was, after all, a child with no strong purposes—and this year she tasted the first fruits of success by having her pictures accepted by the High School Annual. But the thrill of delight she got when Mr. Ecord, of the Normal Annual, asked her to do the cartooning for that book this spring, was too beautiful for words. She fell to her work with all her enthusiastic heart. Her drawings were accepted, and her pride–always repressed by a lively sense of the ridiculous figure she was cutting–was a really gorgeous thing to see. No successful artist every drank a deeper draft of satisfaction than she took from the little fame her work was getting among her schoolfellows. In her glory, she almost forgot her horse—but never her car.
For she used the car as a jitney bus. It was her social life. She never had a “party” in all her nearly seventeen years—wouldn’t have one; but she never drove a block in her life that she didn’t begin to fill the car with pick-ups! Everybody rode with Mary White—white and black, old and young, rich and poor, men and women. She like nothing better than to fill the car with long- legged High School boys and an occasional girl, and parade the town. She never had a “date,” nor went to a dance, except once with her brother Bill, and the “boy proposition” didn’t interest her—yet. But young people—great spring-breaking, varnish-cracking, fender-bending, door-sagging carloads of “kids”—gave her great pleasure. Her zests were keen. But the most fun she ever had in her life was acting as chairman of the committee that got up the big turkey dinner for the poor folks at the county home; scores of pies, gallons of slaw, jam, cakes, preserves, oranges, and a wilderness of turkey were loaded into the car and taken to the county home. And, being of a practical turn of mind, she risked her own Christmas dinner to see that the poor folks actually got it all. Not that she was a cynic; she just disliked to tempt folks. While there, she found a blind colored uncle, very old, who could do nothing but make rag rugs, and she rustled up from her school friends rags enough to keep him busy for a season. The last engagement she tried to make was to take the guests at the county home out for a car ride. And the last endeavor of her life was to try to get a rest room for colored girls in the High School. She found one girl reading in the toilet, because there was no better place for a colored girl to loaf, and it inflamed her sense of injustice and she became a nagging harpy to those who she thought could remedy the evil. The poor she always had with her and was glad of it. She hungered and thirsted for righteousness; and was the most impious creature in the world. She joined the church without consulting her parents, not particularly for her soul’s good. She never had a thrill of piety in her life, and would have hooted at a “testimony.” But even as a little child, she felt the church was an agency for helping people to more of life’s abundance, and she wanted to help. She never wanted help for herself. Clothes meant little to her. It was a fight to get a new rig on her; but eventually a harder fight to get it off. She never wore a jewel and had no ring but her High School class ring and never asked for anything but a wrist watch. She refused to have her hair up, though she was nearly seventeen. “Mother,” she protested,” you don’t know how much I get by with, in my braided pigtails, that I could not with my hair up.” Above every other passion of her life was her passion not to grow up, to be a child. The tomboy in her, which was big, seemed loath to be put away forever in skirts. She was a Peter Pan who refused to grow up.
Her funeral yesterday at the Congregational Church was as she would have wished it; no singing, no flowers except the big bunch of red roses from her brother Bill’s Harvard classmen—heavens, how proud that would have made her!—and the red roses from the Gazette forces, in vases, at her head and feet. A short prayer: Paul’s beautiful essay on “Love” from the Thirteenth Chapter of First Corinthians; some remarks about her democratic spirit by her friend, John H. J. Rice, pastor and police judge, which she would have deprecated if she could; a prayer sent down for her by her friend Carl Nau; and, opening the service, the slow, poignant movement from Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which she loved; and closing the service a cutting from the joyously melancholy first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetic Symphony, which she liked to hear, in certain moods, on the phonograph, then the Lord’s Prayer by her friends in High School.
That was all.
For her pallbearers only her friends were chosen: her Latin teacher, W. L. Holtz; her High School principal, Rice Brown; her doctor, Frank Foncannon; her friend, W. W. Finney; her pal at the Gazette office, Walter Hughes; and her brother Bill. It would have made her smile to know that her friend, Charley O’Brien, the traffic cop had been transferred from Sixth and Commercial to the corner near the church to direct her friends who came to bid her good-by.
A rift in the clouds in a gray day threw a shaft of sunlight upon her coffin as her nervous, energetic little body sank to its last sleep. But the soul of her, the glowing, gorgeous, fervent soul of her, surely was flaming in eager joy upon some other dawn.”
Mary’s father, journalist and newspaperman William Allen White, Feb. 10, 1868-Jan. 31, 1944
Don’t you feel like you know Mary through her father’s words? Have you ever read an obituary that touched you deeply? One that made you laugh? This one, especially that last lovely paragraph, brings tears every time I read it.
Hi everyone! In the first post of this series (The Battle of New Orleans—Learning History Through Songs #1) I mentioned that these ballad-type tunes were popular in the 1950’s and 1960’s, with Marty Robbins and Johnny Horton being two of the best-known singers of this type of songs.
The Battle of New Orleans was penned by an Arkansas school principal, Jimmy Driftwood, who wrote it in the hopes of making learning more fun for his students.
But what about The Ballad of the Alamo?
This theme was written by Ukrainian-born composer Dimitri Zinovievich Tiomkin (May 10, 1894 – November 11, 1979). He was a Hollywood film score composer and conductor. According to “Lyrics”, he is considered “one of the giants of Hollywood movie music.” Though he was musically trained in Russia, he is best known for his westerns, a genre “where his expansive, muscular style had its greatest impact.” Tiomkin received 22 Academy Award nominations and won four Oscars, also according to “Lyrics”.
I can see why! He also wrote The Green Leaves of Summer (also from the John Wayne BATJAC production of THE ALAMO, as well as the theme for the movie Do Not Forsake Me from the movie HIGH NOON, and among other favorites, the theme song for Rawhide!
Tiomkin had a way of putting sweeping musical scores together with some “killer” lyrics—and with Marty Robbins recording The Ballad of the Alamo, it was a sure-fire winner! Though this song has been covered by other artists, and inspired other songs about the Alamo as well, the original Marty Robbins version is incomparable. Recorded in 1960, it became a “crossover” hit, spending 13 weeks on the pop charts and ranked high at #34, at one point.
Imagine, telling the entire story of the Alamo in one story-song. With its haunting melody combined with unforgettable lyrics, this piece stands tall among these songs that teach history through music.
“In the southern part of Texas/Near the town of San Antone/ There’s a fortress all in ruins that the weeds have overgrown…”
The words go on to describe what’s left of the battle scene briefly and the men who were there, as they “…answer to that roll call in the sky.”
Switching gears to what actually happened, the next verse takes us to the action: “Back in 1836/Houston said to Travis/Get some volunteers and go/Fortify the Alamo…”
The story is told in full—how Santa Anna called for surrender and Travis “answered with a shell—and a rousin’ Rebel yell.” Santa Anna issues his decree: “ ‘Play Degüello,’ he roared/ I will show them no quarter/Every one will be put to the sword!”
I still get chills at this line: “One hundred and eighty-five/Holdin’ back five thousand…” The days are counted off to mark time quickly, and then the sad fact that the “…troops that were comin’/ Never came, never came, never came…”
Of course, we know how the story ends. But Tiomkin brings the lyrics full circle when he starts the final verse with the same lines as the first verse, then diverges and lets us see what the cowboy sees, as if we are there with him.
In the southern part of Texas
Near the town of San Antone
Like a statue on a pinto
Rides a cowboy all alone,
And he sees the cattle grazing where a century before
Santa Anna’s guns were blazin’ and the cannons used to roar
And his eyes turn sorta misty,
And his heart begins to glow,
And he takes his hat off slowly…
To the men of Alamo.
To the thirteen days of glory
At the siege of Alamo…
Here’s the YOUTUBE link if you would like to hear this wonderful retelling of this battle. I can’t even imagine having to perform this in a concert setting as I’m sure Marty Robbins had to do quite often. It’s very difficult to sing, though the logical progression of events make the words easy to remember.
Here’s a favorite memory. When my son was in elementary school in fourth grade, his teacher called me one night to tell me that when they’d started talking about the battle of the Alamo in class in history, Casey seemed to already know all about it. She said, “Well, what do you know about it, Casey?” Having heard this song about a million and one times in the car, he said, “Back in 1836, Houston said to Travis…Get some volunteers and go fortify the Alamo!” After some questioning, she was amazed that he remembered so much, and it sure brought a smile to my face.
Have you ever been to the Alamo? We went one year, and it’s one of the most moving places I’ve ever been. You can definitely feel the presence of those men who fought and died there.