Wednesday, May 22, 2019

How Hopalong Cassidy Got His Name

The character of Hopalong Cassidy was first created by author Clarence E. Mulford in 1904. In this popular series of short stories, Hopalong was portrayed as rude, dangerous and with a crude way of talking. He even had a wooden leg, hence the name Hopalong.

Jump forward to 1935 to the film series. William Boyd transformed the character into a clean-talking, polite, sarsaparilla drinking cowboy hero. Only a few of the popular films were loosely based on Mulford’s books. During the first show, Hopalong got his name a second time after being shot in the leg.

The first Hopalong film.

In the films, Hopalong, and his white horse, Topper, usually ride through the west with two companions, saving damsels-in-distress and righting wrongs. Sixty-six pictures were made by various studios and were called “Hoppies”. They were noted for their fast action and beautiful outdoor photography. Paramount tried to cancel the Hopalong series once, but they were so popular, the studio was forced to bring them back.

When the series was finally cancelled in 1944, William Boyd gambled his future by mortgaging most of what he owned to buy the charater rights from Mulford and the backlog of films.

Boyd thought Hopalong belonged on television and approached the newly formed NBC. On June 24, 1949, Hopalong Cassidy became the first network Western Television Series. The success made Boyd a star. His gamble paid off. Boyd earned millions from the character, mostly from merchandising. In 1950, Hopalong was on the first lunchbox to bear an image.

The series and character were so popular that Hopalong was featured on the covers of national magazines such as Life, Time, and Look. The success of the show inspired juvenile television westerns such as The Roy Rogers show, Tales of the Texas Rangers, and The Gene Autry Show.

In 1951, an amusement park named Hoppyland was developed in Los Angeles. It included a roller coaster, pony rides, and a ferris wheel. Despite all of Boyd’s efforts, it closed in 1954.

Louis L’Amour even wrote four Hopalong Cassidy novels, all of which are still in print.

The shows were off the air from the mid-60s to the mid-90s when the advent of The Western Channel restored the films to cable TV.

I watch the old television versions of Hopalong Cassidy and his sidekick, California Carlson, played by Andy Clyde. I love old westerns, and this is one of my favorites.

If you love nice, soft-spoken heros, try Rocky Road Home, the third book in my Harney County Cowboys series. Rocky isn't exactly a cowboy, but he's-- oh my! Find it and my other books on my Amazon Author's Page.

Which do you prefer? Newer westerns or the older ones? Who's your favorite western star?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Schooners, Sailors, & Sights

An author's life is very busy. Whether full time or part time writing the workload can be heavy. Between your own projects, multi-author series, promotions, advertising, and general work there is always something to do. This doesn't even include research. On the other hand, the research can be amazing.

As an historical western writer, there is always something new to learn, or some aspect of life in the wild west to track down. Still, the learning is fun and the things you discover are amazing. This month I had the privilege of visiting the Laura Ingles Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove Minnesota the actual town where the young author lived. The museum has many interesting items and a great deal of information about life on the plains as well as interactive stations where you can experience the way things were done back then.I especially appreciated being able to see what a real prairie schooner was like and what items a family might bring along with them on the wagon train trip to their new home. They are much smaller than most of us realize or are led to believe in popular television series. 

As I looked through the items used daily by pioneers looking for a fresh start in the west, it made me imagine the long days and multiple hardships one would face on the long trail. It is amazing to think that so many people would have been willing to endure the difficulties and uncertainties of moving their family west. It is easy to forget that even in the Little House on the Parie tales Charles Ingles struggled to make the new homestead work and had to take his family back to the little house in the big woods in Pepin Wisconsin. A combination of warm weather and a series of devastating grasshopper swarms meant a retreat at least for a time.

Wagon's were only one way that travelers headed west.  Many other intrepid people set sail from ports in the East to travel around the treacherous Cape Horn traveling to a California, Oregon, or Washington in hopes of a better life and a patch of land of their own. Sailing would have taken nearly as long as traveling by wagon depending on your destination and held a variety of other perils at sea.  Still, hundreds of immigrants made their way by sea or land to the western lands in hopes of a new and better living for their families.  In the Sailor and the School Teacher aspects of this adventure on the high seas are explored.

The entire Sailors and Saints series explores the transition of life of the sea to a new hope and a happily ever after. Starting something new is always a daunting endeavor but the heroes in the states have a little help, as the set sail for love. Sailors and Saints Series Page  I hope you'll join us to find out what it would have been like to leave one life and try to star another when the prairies were wide open and the call of free land proved irresistible to so many.  

Whether traveling by sea or land one can only imagine the sights that would have been seen by pioneers on their long journey. By sea, one might encounter whales, tropical ports, and even icebergs as they round the Horn. Imagine the excitement as the ships slowly made port and the challenges of outfitting a family to start over again once more.

As I've been rolling through the northern states and seeing so many different landscapes, animals, and sights I can almost feel the thrill of the early pioneers as they encountered their first buffalo, antelope, or herds of wild horses. Perhaps they lived in fear of encountering raiding bands of outlaws or Indians, or perhaps they quaked at the river crossings that could prove so dangerous. The sights, sounds, and scenery must have at once amazed, then wearied the travelers. Traveling by wagon a good day would see fifteen miles of forwarding motion and I'm sure that the early pioneers would have eventually become weary of the same rolling plains stretched out before them day by day. I'm loving seeing so many sights but I travel a little faster in my rolling home. I'll be exploring more of these ideas and thoughts in a new series coming out later this year as well so keep watching for The Brides of Needful along with my other offerings. Please feel free to follow me at my website you can find my series, multi-author projects, blog, and even sign up for my newsletter. Or following at these sights: Facebook Bookbub AllAuthor

Friday, May 17, 2019

Soundtrack of the Old West ~ by Kristine Raymond

And so it begins.  A thunderous blare of horns gives way to an overture of strings - staccato or mournful, depending upon the mood meant to be conveyed.  Then follows the low rumble of drums punctuated by a crashing cymbal; a single, pristine note from the triangle added for effect.  The combination of notes stirs the senses, creating anticipation and excitement, and maybe a degree of trepidation for what lies ahead.   Such is the soundtrack of the Old West - at least by Hollywood standards.

I've never made secret the fact that if time travel were possible, I'd be sporting crinolines and button-up boots in the space of a second, though I imagine I'd be disappointed upon discovering the lack of theme music scoring my adventures in a dusty, frontier town.  I've grown up associating a certain 'sound' with westerns, from the opening credits for The Big Valley and High Chaparral to the overture for The Magnificent Seven.  Makes me sad to think that folks didn't have background music underscoring their daily activities back then.

As an author writing historical western fiction, I have two things to rely on - research and experience.  Born 100 years later than the setting of my first story, the only 'true-life' experience I was able to draw from was my exposure to cinematic westerns (and some time spent living in Arizona in my late-20s.)  And, since music makes more of an impact on me than any of the other arts, the addition of The Wild West: The Essential Western Film Music Collection to my personal collection was, in fact, essential.
Photo courtesy of Amazon
Now, I prefer to write in absolute silence - no playlists for me - but while creating Hidden Springs and its characters, there were times I needed to 'get in the mood', as it were.  Cue up Track 16.  Or Track 4.  Or...oh, all right, just start at the beginning and let it play through.  There's not a song listed that failed to inspire and stimulate my creative juices, lending authenticity to the scenes I was constructing; authenticity that may have been manufactured in Hollywood, but every story needs a soundtrack, doesn't it?   

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

A Visit to the National Museum of Wildlife Art

'Chief' by Robert Bateman

By Andrea Downing

'Buffalo Trail' by Richard Loffler
Set up on a ridge overlooking a wide expanse of the high plains, including the National Elk Refuge, and backing into the Teton front range, The National Museum of Wildlife Art blends into its setting so well, one might think the bronzes of various animals outside the main building are actually the animals themselves.  The  museum houses a collection of over five thousand artworks from more than five-hundred-fifty artists, spanning three centuries, and depicting worldwide wildlife.  The main attraction of the museum seems to be artist, hunter, and conservationist Carl Rungius, for whom the main road leading to the museum is named, and who is blessed with a separate gallery. 
A Rungius I liked!
I cannot say I’m a big Rungius fan; I find some of his works very much better than others, which to me appear flat and lifeless.  But that’s my personal opinion. There are certainly enough works by other artists to hold anyone’s interest, including such varied names as Audubon, Bierstadt, George Catlin, Edward Hicks, Georgia O’Keeffe, C.M. Russell, Thomas Moran, N.C. Wyeth, and (believe it or not!) Andy Warhol, along with pottery by native artists. There are also classrooms, a children’s gallery, conference rooms, a shop, and a restaurant.

Native Pottery depicting animals
To me the highlight of the visit was the outdoor sculpture trail, currently featuring twenty-one works of art with more expected to be added. One rather upsetting piece on the trail was ‘Lost Birds’ by Todd McGrain. This features
'Lost Birds'

an arrangement of several species now extinct, one from as early as 1878—the Labrador Duck.
'How Many Millions, One Can Only Guess' by N.C. Wyeth, a statement on the near-extinction of American Bison

One of 61 Peaceable Kingdoms by Hicks
While I enjoyed my visit and walk along the sculpture trail on a bright beautiful day, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of incongruity—looking at artwork of various animals when an ark-load of them are just down the road in the Grand Teton National Park.  Perhaps the answer for tourists is to combine the two visits, and get the most out of a stay in or near Jackson WY.
Thomas Moran
"Presidential Eagle' by Sandy Scott

'Black Timber Bugler' by Tim Shinabarger
All photos author's own

Tuesday, May 14, 2019


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Photo Property of the Author
As I was going through some early Colorado Magazine articles I came across a short one that got me to thinking. What did they eat and what was the process for so many?

According to the article, in May of 1859 a man from Indiana had left packets of vegetable seeds for sale at the Rocky Mountain News offices. They were selling for twenty-five cents a packet.

Soon the paper was talking about the first crop of radishes and how there were several acres of corn, peak and onion that were sprouting up.  Throughout the summer there were gardens that had peas, beans onions, squashes, cucumbers, beets along with melons.

So you can see, at least in early Denver, there were fresh vegetables available. But what about flour, rice, cornmeal,etc. Those products needed to be shipped in from the 'states' or New Mexico. Prices would vary depending on where they originated from, along with the distance, etc.

The article quoted the following prices:
Flour from the states - $14 @ 16 per 100 pounds
Flour Mexican $10 @15 per 100 pounds
Potatoes 25¢ per pound
Rice 25¢ per pound
Butter 75¢ per pound
Fresh Beef 15¢ per pound
Venison $1 per quarter
Milk 10¢ per quart
Molasses $2.50 per gallon
Whiskey $3.00 per gallon
Bacon sides and Ham 35¢
Cheese 50¢

As winter approached people began preparing to put their vegetables for winter. The cucumbers, tomatoes and cabbage were combined with vinegar.  There also appeared bear, turkey, grouse and duck as the winter months approached.

Image result for early colorado images
Early Denver Illustration
Colorado Encyclopedia
As people continued to arrive, many may have had gardens, but those in the high mountains would have had short growing seasons. The town of Guffey, Colorado in the late 1800s chose to grow potatoes to sell to the mining camps. Towns like Fountain and Canon City grew vegetables and fruit.

The Mormons who came through in 1853-54 planted gardens and while the rest of the party moved on toward Salt Lake, there were those who stayed behind to harvest the crops which the carried on to their destination.

This information is in stark contrast to an article in 1881 in the Colorado Miner where the early pioneers met and stated their 1859 menu was Beans, Dried Apples, Hard Tack, Bacon and Taos Lightning.

Which story is true? Probably a bit of each. I can see the how those away from the larger settlements would have to do with much less, but those in the 'cities' seemed to have fared much better.

So, what did they eat? Probably whatever was available. It is something to think about when writing, that's for sure. In my latest novel, "The Outlaw's Letter" my heroine eats cornbread made by the woman who is tending her while she recovers. It seemed logical for someone to eat in 1880.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
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Monday, May 13, 2019

How I Fell in Love with the West

By Laura Drake

I'm a suburban Detroit girl. I moved to California at 23 (but I don't really consider that 'west').

There, I was lucky - I met my forever husband. Our first date was horrible (he talked about his ex the whole time) and the only reason I agreed to a second date was . . . he had a motorcycle, and asked me to go for a ride with him!

I fell in love - both with him and his bike. We took all our vacations on a motorcycle from then on. and I have ridden 100,000 miles together, and I’ve logged over 100,000 on my own. We've ridden from Mexico to the Canadian Rockies, and both coasts, and most in-between.

I’m so grateful for my motorcycle adventures - In a car I probably never would have experienced:

  • The awesome vistas of Wyoming, where the land is so open and rolling, that from the top of a hill, you can see how the glaciers carved the land and how time has softened the harsh effects.
  • In the badlands of Utah, the delicate multicolored striations in the crumbling ledges made me wish I knew how to dye cloth to be able to recreate it on fabric. 
  • The vast open sky of the Four Corners area, with the dramatic red stone monoliths seeming to rise out of the ground in the distance.
  • The never-ending green prairies of Canada, where the wheat dances with the wind.
  • Small towns in the middle of nowhere, shutting down the main highway that runs through town for a Fourth of July parade, complete with tractors pulling hay wagons festooned with bunting and carrying the local beauty contest winners. 
  • Real country stores with wooden floors and pot bellied stoves surrounded by rocking chairs – not to be trendy, but because the old-timers sit there.
  • The howling aloneness of the Canadian Rockies, where the mountains stretch on forever.

True, I could have traveled to all these places in a car.  But what makes them unique is that on the bike is that I didn’t go looking for them.  In a car we generally tend To Go Somewhere – have a destination in mind, say a National Park.  You drive there, experience it, and drive home.  On a bike, I like to have a destination, but the destination is not the reason for the trip.  We “happened upon” most of the above places on our way to somewhere else.

There’s something about experiencing life from the seat of a motorcycle that makes it more real and indelible than a car experience. I believe we’ve been so indoctrinated by our “socialization” to be able live so closely together, that we lose the sensitivity to really experience life to the fullest.  The physical and mental rigors of riding a motorcycle scour that protective layer off, and allow the details of life to sink in to the pores of our consciousness. 

To me, riding in a car is like watching a rain storm from inside a house. Then imagine experiencing it on a motorcycle; black clouds ahead, and the straight road ahead leading right into them.  Before you get there, there is a temperature drop, the wind buffets you, you smell the rain in the air, but more than that, you feel the storm inside of you…it almost feels like a small electrical current humming inside your body.  An experience like this is naturally going to remain with you longer than watching rain come down outside a window. 

So I've had the lucky experience of not only seeing the west - I've experienced it. And I tap into those memories to describe the places I've been. Or, since I live in Texas now, I can just hop on the bike and go again!

Friday, May 10, 2019

The Wild Women whose Inventions still Save Lives

By Jacqui Nelson

An inventor's life is an adventurous mix of creativity, practicality, and paperwork. Products need a purpose and patents need to be pursued. Meet two historic women whose inventions helped save lives (on land and at sea) back in their day and today too...

Mary Elizabeth Anderson  

( born 1869 in Greene County, Alabama )

In 1889, Mary and her sister and their widowed mother moved to Birmingham, Alabama where they built and managed an apartment building. From 1893 to 1898, Mary moved to Fresno, California where she operated a cattle ranch and vineyard before returning home to Alabama.

Note: I couldn't find out why Mary went west or why she left. I feel there's a larger story there! But the life-saving invention story happened later, so on we go...

In the winter of 1902, Mary visited New York City where she observed a trolley car driver struggling with windshield visibility due to falling sleet. When she returned home, she hired a construction company to produce a working model of a windshield wiper.

In 1903, she was granted a 17-year patent for a hand-operated wiper with a lever inside a vehicle that controlled a spring-loaded rubber blade on the outside of a windshield. The patent paperwork labeled it a "window cleaning device."

Similar devices had already been made, but Mary’s was the first to be effective. In 1922, Cadillac became the first car manufacturer to make Mary’s windshield wiper standard equipment. Unfortunately, by then Mary’s patent had expired.

Maria Kenny Beasley

( born 1847 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ) 

Note: Sadly, I could not find a picture of Maria.

Two years after being inspired by the 1876 Centennial Exhibition (the first official World's Fair in the United States), Maria gained her first patent in barrel making. She went on to earn seven more patents in barrel making and in 1884 showed her barrel-making machine at the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition in New Orleans.

Maria’s machine enabled 1,500 barrels to be produced a day. Royalties from sugar and oil refineries contracts using her barrel-making machine earned her $20,000 annually.

Her other inventions included foot warmers, cooking pans, train anti-derailment devices, and in 1880 a life raft that was "fire-proof, compact, safe and readily launched." Earlier life rafts were made of flat, wooden boards. Maria’s design included guard railings surrounding rectangular metal floats.

In 1912, the Titanic carried 20 of Maria’s life rafts that helped 706 men, women, and children survive until rescuers arrived.

Can you imagine driving a vehicle without windshield wipers? Or boarding a ship that doesn’t have life rafts? 

I can't, and I'm very thankful that these women (and so many other intrepid inventors) made life a lot safer than it was in the past. The more I read about the past, the more I realize just how wild it truly was!

Have you ever invented something or wanted to? 

Hope you'll share your favorite or even your not-so-favorite inventions! I love my computer, but sometimes I hate it as well. Life seemed so much simpler and a lot more relaxed before computers became standard equipment.  

~ * ~

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