Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Wounded Knee by Ginger Simpson
For years in history, the US Government has lied to and cheated Indians out of their right to life and the land they love.  One such lie involved promising the Sioux tribe sole access to the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota and then later reneging on the promise by allowing white men to invade the territory in pursuit of gold.
 Imagine living off the land, revering the Great Spirit and all creation, and watching the buffalo, the very animal that provided most everything needed in life, fade away as white men killed them simply for sport.  Without the animal, gone were the lodge coverings, the sinew for sewing and bows, the bones and organs that provided cooking pots, pans and utensils, and most of all, food that sustained the Indian nation.

  By declaration of our government, Indians were deemed to live on reservations under the servitude of corrupt Indian Agents who stole money and food promised the red men.  It's no wonder that on February 27, 1973, the Indian people had reached their breaking point, thus the standoff at Wounded Knee began. 
Approximately 200 Oglala Lakota and members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Their mission was a protest of a failed attempt to impeach tribal president, Richard Wilson, who was accused of corruption.  The action was also aimed as the US government for their failure to adhere to agreements with the Indians. The protesters demanded the reopening of negotiations on failed treaties.
The occupied area was cordoned off by United States Marshals, FBI agents and other law enforcement agencies while the Oglala and AIM activists controlled the town for seventy-one days. Wounded Knee, so named for an 1890 massacre see was chosen for its symbolic value. Gunfire from both sides was a frequent event, with a minimum of deaths on both sides.  Because of damage to the community, Wounded Knee would not be populated again until the 1990s.
The event attracted the media on a large scale, and  Indian supporters from all over traveled to Wounded Knee to join the protest. Other than than attracting public attention and garnering public sympathy for the plight of the Indian people, nothing really was accomplished. AIM leaders Dennis Banks and Russell Means Dennis  were indicted on charges related to the events, but their case was dismissed in 1974 by the federal court for prosecutorial misconduct, a decision upheld on appeal.
Unfortunately, Wilson stayed in office and in 1974 was re-elected despite charges of intimidation, voter fraud, and other abuses.  His followers supposedly provoked violent attacks on those who opposed him and the Guardians of the Oglala Nation.  The murder rate between March 1, 1973, and March 1, 1976, was 170 per 100,000.

Since the media was banned from Wounded Knee following the standoff, perhaps the most poignant outcome of the occupation was demonstrated at the Academy Awards.  Actor Marlon Brando, nominated for an award, won, and asked  Sacheen Littlefeather, an Indian actress to speak on his behalf in support of the Sioux Nation.  When he was expected to give his acceptance speech, she announced his declination of the award due to the poor treatment of the Native Americans in the film industry.  She originally had planned to give a speech written by Brando, but was warned she would be removed from stage and arrested if she exceeded her one minute slot.

She did manage to read the speech of media backstage and public attention again focused on the plight of the movement, but did it help?  According to The Learning Network of the New York Times, "Wounded Knee did not bring about immediate reforms sought by the American Indian Movement activists, though it did succeed to bringing national attention to plight of American Indians and promoting Indian cultural identity."

 I plan to visit South Dakota on my vacation, so I'll see what I can find out, and I promise to take pictures.

Information for this article was garnered from

Monday, May 26, 2014


If you’re fond of cowboys (and who doesn't love those cowboy kisses?), you might be interested in knowing more about Texas. We have a lot of cowboys here, the genuine kind. Stick around for some interesting trivia about my favorite state.

Texas, known as the Lone Star State, joined the United States by treaty in 1845 after being a country for nine years. Because of the guidelines set out in this treaty, the Texas flag may be flown at the same height as the United States flag. Texas is called the Lone Star State because of the state flag's design: a broad vertical blue stripe at left, centered by a single white star, with horizontal bars of white and red on the right. Red means courage, White means liberty and Blue stands for loyalty. The star has five points, one for each letter of the state's name.

Texas is the only state to have the flags of 6 different nations fly over it. They are: Spain, France, Mexico, Republic of Texas, Confederate States, and the United States. And you thought Six Flags Over Texas was just an amusement theme park. Yes, I know there are Six Flags parks elsewhere, but this post is about Texas, okay?

Yum, here’s a fact that I love. Dr Pepper was invented in Waco in 1885. There is no period after the Dr in Dr Pepper. Visualize me as a kid trying to convince my mom I actually needed Dr Pepper at ten, two, and four as written on the old bottles and advertised. Yeah, right. I was lucky to get one a week.

Another thing I love about Waco is that seventy-five percent of the world's Snickers bars are made there at the M&M/Mars plant. In my opinion, nothing is better than Dr Pepper and a Snickers or a Milky Way.

The hamburger was created in Athens, Texas. A hamburger goes well with a Dr Pepper. You knew I’d say that, right? Rats, now I've made myself hungry.

The Texas Rangers were organized in 1835 to protect the growing settlements from Indians and dangerous outlaws. They are very well respected here, the cream of our state law enforcement. The Stetson is a part of their uniform. Or it may be a Resistol, but the shape is the same. The Texas Ranger Museum is at Waco. Hey, Waco is sizing up to be a pretty important town, isn’t it?

The King Ranch near Corpus Christi is larger than the state of Rhode Island and includes 50,000 head of cattle and more than 2,000 miles of fence. That one boggles my mind. My husband's ancestors helped form Rhode Island. That boggles my mind, too. 

Longhorn cattle

Texas is known for its cattle, but more wool comes from the state of Texas than any other state in the United States. Edwards Plateau in west central Texas is the top sheep growing area in the country.

A coastal live oak located near Fulton is the oldest tree in the state. The tree has an estimated age of more than 1,500 years.

Children's book about the Armadillo
authored by my friend Dee Stuart
The armadillo is the official state mammal. Beware, as the armadillo is a carrier of leprosy. (That's a fact. Look it up, you doubters.) The mockingbird is the state bird, bluebonnet the state flower, pecan the state tree, and lightning whelk is the official state shell.


Texas includes 267,339 square miles, or 7.4% of the nation's total area. El Paso, Texas is closer to Needles, California (516 miles) than it is to Dallas, Texas (571 miles). Either one is a long drive.

Tyler Municipal Rose Garden is the world's largest rose garden with 38,000 rose bushes of 500 varieties in a 22-acre garden. In addition to a beautiful garden, I can attest to the garden's wonderful fragrance during blooming season. October is a great month to visit.

Amarillo has the world's largest helium well. Very important if you want to inflate a balloon, talk funny, or fly a blimp.

Photo I use on my blog
and my newsletters. The photo was taken by
my friend Nelda Liles of Frisco, Texas.
This photo relaxes me each time I see it.
The official dish of Texas is chili. If you’re a student of Spanish, you realize that isn’t a meat dish. The food's actual name should be chili con carne, but we just call it chili. And it doesn’t contain pinto beans. You have those as a side dish or add them to your chili after it's cooked, but they’re not cooked together. And I don't mean kidney beans. I mean pinto beans. I serve them with cornbread muffins. Yum. For a genuine recipe, email me at 

The World’s largest parking lot is located at DFW Airport. Well, unless you count Hwy. 121 and/or Interstate 35 at rush hour.  Amarillo airport has the 3rd largest runway in the world and is designated as an alternate landing site for the space shuttle.

We still have some of our old, quaint laws. In Texas, it's illegal to put graffiti on someone else's cow. I suppose that means it’s all right to put graffiti on your own cow. Don't you wonder how that law came into being in the first place?

The 1850 census recorded 213,000 people in Texas. In 1900, there were three million people, and by 1990, the population was more than 16 million. The 2010 census recorded approximately 18 million people live in Texas, only slightly outnumbering its 16 million cattle. No, the census takers didn’t talk to the cows. Their numbers are reported by ranchers I suppose. Texas's population is now the second largest in the country after California (which is where I lived for seven years when I was a girl).

Bluebonnets photographed near Ennis, Texas
by my friend Nelda Liles of Frisco, Texas
I love bluebonnets, so I'm including a second photo.

Have you heard the term “the old 300”? In 1820, American Moses Austin was granted land in Texas from Spanish officials. In 1821, his son, Stephen F. Austin, brought 300 families to farm along the Brazos River in Texas. Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821, extended the boundaries of Austin’s colony and granted other Americans land in Texas. Being descended from one of the “old 300” families is a big deal in Texas. I don't have any ancestors in the old 300, but I have a lateral one who was here when Austin showed up.

The first suspension bridge in the United States was the Waco Bridge. Built in 1870, it is still in use today as a pedestrian crossing of the Brazos River. Dad blame it, that Waco is getting too much press time.

In 1519, Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Piñeda was the first European to visit Texas. Myths of the golden “Seven Cities of Cibola” brought many Spaniards from Mexico into Texas. Spanish missionaries built the first two missions near El Paso in 1682. By the late 1730s, missions and forts were built throughout central, east, and southwest Texas.

The Alamo mission,
cradle of Texas liberty
The Alamo is located in San Antonio. It is where Texas defenders including Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett fell to Mexican General Santa Anna and the phrase “Remember the Alamo” originated. The Alamo is considered the cradle of Texas liberty and the state's most popular historic site.

As of February 2011, the Dallas-Fort Worth area has more residents, 6.9 million, than 39 U.S. states. For example, Colorado has about 5.0 million residents. With, this tidbit about the area in which I live, I'll close the post. I hope you've enjoyed the trivia.

Caroline Clemmons' latest release is GABE KINCAID, book four of the Kincaid series.

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Death and Life of Soapy Smith

By Alison Bruce

"I beg to state that I am no gambler. A gambler takes chances with his money, I don't"

Jeff R. Smith, 1894

1896, George Carmack, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie discovered gold near Dawson Creek, Yukon. It took a year for the news (and gold) to reach San Francisco and Seattle. When it did, the last great gold rush was kicked off and Jefferson "Soapy" Smith headed north to take advantage of it.

Skagway was chief gateway to the Klondike.The port, formerly called Mooresville, became a tent city, unable to keep up with its sudden growth. Soapy Smith and his gang set up shop, going into business with a local saloon keeper. Soon he was taking over the town's underworld, just as he had in Denver and Creed. (See The Good, the Bad and the Soapy) With a corrupt Deputy Marshal in his pocket and miners blinded by gold fever, Soapy never had it so good.

In order to prevent starvation, the Canadian Government required prospectors to bring a year's worth of provisions with them. All those provisions, plus the horses or mules used to cart them, had to move through Skagway. While the Klondikers prepared to hit the arduous trail through the mountains, Soapy separated the fools from their money. Most of his victims were too intent on getting to the Klondike to stick around and press charges. The few that did, had to travel to neighboring Dyea to find an honest cop.

Soapy also contributed to the community. He gave generously to charity. When the town council was raising money to hire a night watchman, he gave enough to hire two. On the flip side of this, he ran a telegraph office so men could contact their families one last time before risking their lives of getting over the Chilkoot or White Pass. Miners could send a message anywhere in the world for $5. One problem. Skagway didn't have telegraph service at the time. The lines in the office went nowhere.

Perhaps his most ambitious project was raising a militia company after the sinking of the battleship Maine in Havana Harbor. Soapy offered his military services to President McKinley. The true purpose of his army, however, was to maintain absolute control over Skagway. With his Department of Defense sanctioned authority, he could declare martial law if he so chose.
Captain Smith's proudest moment in Skagway must have been leading his volunteer military army as grand marshal of the 4th of July parade. He obtained a captured bald eagle which was caged and placed on a red,white, and blue decorated horse wagon which followed behind Soapy in the parade. He was the hero of the day and everyone seemed to appreciate all he had done for the good of the town. However, some citizens did not appreciate the lawlessness and his rivals who sought his power capitalized on that feeling for their own ends. (
In the absence of real law enforcement, vigilante groups sprouted up in Skagway. At first they didn't have much support. Most of the legitimate merchants liked Soapy and benefited from his business. When word of Skagway's lawlessness began to spread, the public's attitude started to change. Miners might stay away from their city and go through Dyea instead. A vigilance committee calling themselves The 101 petitioned the federal government to intervene. Smith retaliated by forming his own law and order committee.He printed handbills warning the vigilantes to cease taking the law into their own hands.

Soapy was in his establishment, Jeff Smith's Parlour, when he was told that The 101 were meeting. Rounding up his men, he went to put a stop to it. 
At the first meeting of the Citizens Committee, Thomas Whitten of the Golden North hotel had been elected chairman. He appointed four men “to guard the approach to the dock in order that no objectionable characters might be admitted to disturb the deliberations of the meeting.” (Wikipedia)
Soapy's Saloon: The Jeff Smith Parlour, Skagway
I think it can be said that Soapy Smith, so far as The 101 were concerned, was an objectionable character. Yet, none of the four guards tried to stop him. Soapy ordered the first two off the wharf and they jumped off, onto the beach below. The second two turned a blind eye to Soapy. Further on, standing alone, Frank Reid stood his ground.

As he walked, Soapy's rifle was shouldered. When he closed in on Reid, he brought his rifle down, either to club or threaten Reid. Reid parried with his arm, grabbed the rifle and drew his revolver. Soapy yanked back as Reid shot him in the leg and shoulder. Finally getting control of his weapon, Soapy pressed the rifle barrel into Reid's belly and shot.

Seconds later, the Soap Gang rushed in. Murphy, one of the guards that had ignored Soapy, got to him first and wrested the rifle out of his hands.

Witnesses report that Soapy cried out: "Oh my God, don't shoot!" But Murphy did shoot and then he aimed Soapy's rifle at the Soap Gang.

It might have ended badly for Murphy but he got lucky twice. First, the members of The 101 came out at the sound of gunfire. They out numbered the Soap Gang, who backed off. Second, the community decided to credit Reid with killing Soapy. Self defense. Heat of battle. And Reid was dead. It was only recently that Soapy's descendant and biography, Jeff Smith, brought to light the documents that state that Murphy killed the wounded and unarmed Soapy.
The funeral services for Soapy Smith were held in a Skagway church he had donated funds to help build. The minister chose as the text for his sermon a line from Proverbs XIII: "The way of transgressors is hard." (
Soapy's criminal empire died with him. The vigilantes took over Skagway and rounded up the Soap Gang. Their reign was short, broken up when the US Army stationed in Dyea threatened martial law if authority wasn't returned to the town council.

Soapy, on the other hand, was never forgotten. Loyal friends toasted Soapy's Ghost then, and his descendants continue to make that toast now. Since the 1974, Soapy's Wake has been held annually at Eagles Hall, Skagway; Alaska, Magic Castle, Hollywood, California; and The Tivoli Club (a reproduction of Soapy's saloon in Denver, Colorado), Whitehorse Ranch movie lot, Yucca Valley, California.

Jefferson "Soapy" Smith, born November 2, 1860. Died July 8, 1898. Lived on in legend ever since.

For a more extensive biography of Soapy Smith, check out You can also find Jefferson Randolph Smith II on Facebook care of his descendent Jeff Smith.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Meaning of Trees as researched by Ginger Simpson

Cherry Tree
Now days most of us are only interested in trees if they fit into the scheme of  landscaping.  Some people don't like deciduous tree, others don't like pine needles, some branches don't bear wind well, others are too slow growing. Some want to grow their own fruit, while others want to grow wood to burn in their fireplaces in the wintertime. The list goes on and on when we consider planting.

I discovered more than I ever knew while researching my latest WIP, Yellow Moon, and thought it would make for an interesting blog.  I noticed our scheduled person didn't feel up to blogging today so I thought I'd step in and give you a lesson fit for an arborist. As well-intentioned as we to meet our schedules, sometimes life happens.  *smile*

Oh, by the way, a Cottonwood was the sacred tree used by the Lakota for their Sun Dance because of several reasons.  Known to withstand lightening and be strong, the tree has the same conical leaves after which tepees are shaped, and if you cut a larger limb crosswise, inside you'll find a perfect five-pointed star which represents the Great Spirit  Bet you didn't know that, did you?

Trees didn't only have a spiritual meaning for the Northern American tribes, most had a healing property of some sort.  Indians of the past didn't have doctors to run to, they counted on medicine women or men to gather healing herbs, berries and barks to ease various maladies. Here are a few I've read about.

Ash trees symbolize peace of mind and sacrifice.  Digestive system ailments are aided by the bark.

Aspen trees symbolize clarity of purpose, determining and aid in overcoming fears and doubts.  Those suffering from stress, allergies, eczema and neuralgia benefit from this tree.

Beech trees symbolize tolerance, past knowledge and softening criticism.  Here again is another tree that aids with the digestive system, and helps wounds, ulcers and sores to heal.

The Cedar symbolizes cleansing protection, prosperity and healing.  Those with respiratory problems find relief from the Cedar.

The Cherry tree symbolizes strong expression, rebirth, new awakenings and compassion.  Remedies made from the Cherry aids those who suffer from colds, flu, coughs, fever, headaches and indigestion.

The Elm is a symbol of wisdom, strength of will and intuition.  It provides healing salves for wounds.

The Oak symbolizes strength of character and courage, and helps blood problems, improves circulation and reduces fevers.

The Sycamore symbolizes ambition and acts as an astringent.

The Walnut tree symbolizes clarity and focus, the gathering of energy for starting new projects.  Skin problems, colds and flu are treated with medicines garnered from this tree.

This is but a few of the many named, and aside from the symbolization and healing properties, many trees
Lakota Talking Stick
were chosen  to provide the wood for prayer sticks, talking sticks, and other sacred items.  Each item was prepared with respect after asking permission from the tree spirit.  The Lakota as well as other tribes had a rich and abiding respect and belief in all things earthly. Until I started writing historical westerns, I never appreciated how easy I have it, nor did I realize how thankless I've been for all the riches the Great Spirit provides for us.

I hope you've found this as interesting as I did.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bucket List

Whether they are referred to as goals, dreams, aspirations, or just things we’d like to do someday, I believe most people have a bucket list—the term made popular by the movie titled such. I’m so excited to say an item will soon be crossed off my list. In two weeks I’ll be attending a taping of Antiques Roadshow! For any of you who enjoy that show, and want to know more about it, this post is for you.

My husband is the TV watcher in our family, but the Roadshow is the one show I tune into on a regular basis. A couple years ago, thinking it would be fun to see it in person, I checked into how to get tickets—which is through a lottery only. 

I put my name in the lottery last year, when filming was close to home, but didn’t win. This year, when I received the email inviting me to put my name in again, my state wasn’t included in the stops the show will make, but they will be in a neighboring one. (The show films in eight or so cities each year and creates three segments from each stop to air the following year.) I chose the closest city to me—about 400 miles away—subbed my information, and in all honesty, forgot about it. In mid-April I received an email telling me to check my ticket status, and to my dismay, I’d won two tickets!

Now I have the dilemma of what to take. I don’t believe I have anything that is a national treasure, but we do have several items we’d like to know more about. Like the old gun one of our grandparents found in a cave when he was a child. An art portfolio issued as a newspaper supplement in 1885. The tea set one of our grandmother’s received as a wedding present. A mountain man’s saddle, steel fishing poles, a child’s bullfighting suit each of my children wore for Halloween, a shoe shine box complete with all the tools, several Elvis collectables. With the passing of our parents and grandparents, we’ve inherited “things”, mainly with great sentimental value, and because I love browsing antique stores (I call it research), I’ve purchased several other unique things—like my 1906 cook stove and several Red Wing crocks I use for storage and end tables.

Roadshow instructions say I need to be able to carry whatever I bring and that I should be prepared to stand in line for extended amounts of time, so that eliminates plenty of items. My ticket provides me with an entrance time. Though the event will take place from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, a specific number of people will be admitted each hour. Each participant is allowed to bring two items and every entrant is required to bring at least one. There will be approximately 70 appraisers covering about 20 different categories. The rules state entrants will be sent to category lines and if an initial appraiser believes an item is of special interest they will signal a producer who will guide the entrant into the ‘green room’ for a filmed appraisal. They see an average of 600 people per hour, so even if an appraisal is filmed, there is no guarantee it will be used in the final production.  There is a list of items, including coins, stamps, fossils, tools, cars, hazardous materials, and a few other things they will not provide appraisals for. They will only appraise items if the owner is present, and will not consider a person illegible for the green room if the owner already knows the current value of the item. Appraisers are not allowed to offer to purchase any items, however their contact information will be available at a table upon exiting the show if anyone is interested in contacting them at a later date. 

A friend will be attending the event with me—hubby has plans he can’t alter. We will travel on Friday, attend the show on Saturday, and return home on Sunday. I’ll update you on my adventure in my June post. Otherwise, feel free to friend me on facebook @ for ongoing updates.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Divas in Pink Tights

by Lyn Horner

I’ve been reading The Gentle Tamers, Women of the Old Wild West by Dee Brown. It’s a marvelous testament to how women endured and flourished on the wThe Gentle Tamersestern frontier. Some of the accounts are grim, others inspiring, but one chapter is a bit lighter in tone. Titled “Pink Tights and Red Velvet Skirts,” it shines a spotlight on female entertainers who trod the boards in San Francisco, Virginia City, Denver and far flung mining camps.

The chapter opens with this quote from historian Hubert Howe Bancroft: “The mere appearance of a woman sufficed in early days to insure success.” Even if the performer was untrained, had a cracked voice and was far from beautiful, she could strut off the stage amid a shower of silver and gold.

During the decade between the first California gold strike and the Civil War, theaters flourished in San Francisco, but also in just about every mining town. They might be fancy playhouses or canvas tents. In a land where men far outnumbered women, it didn’t matter as long as a woman arrived to put on a show.

When an actress with real talent came along, she was idolized by her male audience. One such woman was Caroline Chapman. Born illegitimately into a famous theatrical family, Caroline performed with her father, William Chapman. After their first performance in San Francisco, the pair were showered with buckskin bags of gold dust. Dubbed “our Caroline” by her adoring audience, she drew mobs of followers. When she and her father arrived in Sonora to christen a new theater with She Stoops to Conquer, they were met and escorted by a thousand miners. The Chapmans would perform anywhere, even on the sawed off trunk of a huge tree in one case.

Lola Montez

The most glamorous, seductive and scandalous western diva was Lola Montez. More akin to a burlesque queen than an actress, according to Dee Brown, she “. . . burst upon San Francisco like a bombshell, making excellent copy for the newspapers with stories of her many marriages and her claim that she was the illegitimate daughter of Lord Byron.” She dressed like Byron in black jackets with big rolling collars, and strolled the streets with two leashed greyhounds and a parrot on her shoulder. Lola’s sensational and shocking spider dance made her famous. She purposely spread stories of her sinfulness, tales that have perpetuated her legend in western lore down the years.

 Lotta Crabtree

Petite, talented Lotta Crabtree took the stage as a shy little girl. A protégé of sorts of Lola Montez’s, she danced and sang her way through the mining camps with her mother and eventually landed on the San Francisco scene. She took the “West’s theatrical center” by storm. Headlines read: “Miss Lotta, the San Francisco Favorite,” “La Petite Lotta, the Celebrated Danseuse and Vocalist,” and “Miss Lotta the Unapproachable.” Brown attributes her lasting success to her innocence. She remained above scandal and suspicion, the perennial princess for thirty-five years, amassing a fortune, which her mother carefully hoarded. When Lotta died in 1924, she was worth over four million dollars. All of it went to charity since she never married and had no children. 

Dee Brown goes into much greater detail about performers and the history of theater in the West. And this is only one chapter in his amazing book.

Amazon Author Page

Barnes and Noble



Friday, May 9, 2014

Sparks Fly in the Old West by Jacquie Rogers

It's a Hot Topic

We see “Sparks fly when...” in just about every romance novel, either in a review or the back cover blurb. A lot of emotional sparks did fly in the Old West, romantic or otherwise. I’m going to talk about the “otherwise.”

We don’t worry too much about making fire these days. All we have to do is go to the store and buy matches or a lighter and we’re all set for our outdoor grilling. But what did the lawdogs use when they were hot on the trail? Or the outlaws who were making that trail? They had to fry bacon and boil coffee some way, and there weren’t a whole lot of Thermador stoves or Super 8s around.

Flint and Steel
The use of flint and steel is the percussion style of fire making. Hold the flint in one hand with the sharp side facing away from you, and strike the steel at an acute angle. That makes sparks fly but you won’t get a bonfire from it—you have to strike the steel (or iron pyrite) near a charcloth or tinder and just hope something catches even the tiniest flame. Then feed it more tinder while shielding it from the breeze until the flame grows large enough to light the kindling. Once the kindling catches, then larger fuel items—logs, buffalo chips, brush, prairie grass, or whatever is available—and tend until the flames are large enough to provide heat and light.

Here’s a quick demonstration:

Our hero wouldn’t always have the perfect materials, though. Charcloth could be hard to come by on the trail. I watched a park ranger demonstrate the use of a flint and steel kit (consists of flint, striker, and tinder box) with no charcloth, taking nearly 30 minutes to gather the materials and build a fire. Keep in mind he was in familiar territory and knew where to find what he needed for tinder and kindling.

Imagine that you’ve ridden hard all day with little to eat or drink, unpacked and unsaddled the horse, groomed and picketed the horse, and now that you’re dead-dog tired, you have to spend 30 minutes building a fire before you can eat or have a cup of Arbuckles. This is why, with the new invention, flint and steel was quickly replaced by...

The first friction matches were invented in 1827 by English pharmacist John Walker and called “Congreves.” He didn’t patent the matches, but Samuel Jones did. He designed a cardboard box, with the warning, “If possible, avoid inhaling gas that escapes from the combustion of the black composition. Persons whose lungs are delicate should by no means use the lucifers,” and an industry was born.

The need for fire was great but unfortunately the “strike anywhere” matches did strike anywhere, intentional or not, and they gave off a foul odor. Worse, the factory girls suffered from phossy jaw, cancer caused by phosphorous.

Safety Matches
By 1855, Johan Edvard Lundstrom had perfected the safety match, and from then on, not many who could somehow get their hands on matches bothered with flint and steel anymore. These safety matches were still called “lucifers,” though, and would be clear into the 20th Century.

Even with matches, our tall, dark, and handsome hero still has to use kindling, so he has to collect the perfect, dry grasses and bark shreds to make his fire, and he doesn't have any charcoal briquettes, either.

Oops - It Rained!
The weather isn't always perfect. Rainstorms make it danged hard to find dry burning material. This next video shows what to look for. Of course, if your characters are in the middle of the prairie with nary a tree in sight, it’s a whole different game.

Pull up a log and have a cup of Arbuckles!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Virginia City, Nevada

Comstock Lode

Virginia City, Nevada is likely familiar with people because of the television show, Bonanza, or the Comstock Lode. As men made their way across the United States to San Francisco’s gold rush, many traipsed over Nevada’s mountains. Feint strains of gold were seen, but most men didn’t put much faith into the strains containing valuable ore and pressed on to California. But the boom of San Francisco’s gold rush fizzled in 1859 when Pat McLaughlin and Peter O’Reilly discovered gold at the head of Six-Mile Canyon in Nevada. Henry Comstock was a fellow prospector in the area and convinced the men the gold was on his property. McLaughlin and O’Reilly believed Comstock and assured him he would earn a place in history when the giant lode was named; hence the vein becoming known as the Comstock Lode. The gold was followed up the canyon where an outcropping of gold in quartz was found by another miner, James Finney, saddled with the nickname ‘Old Virginny’. It is believed Finney honored himself by christening a new town at the top of the gulch, Old Virginny Town, during a drunken celebration.

Early on the miners faced a problem when panning for the newly discovered gold. A sticky blue-grey mud clung to axes and shovels. The mud was assayed and found to be silver of exceptional purity, worth over $2,000 per ton. Miners swarmed the area and Nevada became a territory in 1861. Within two years, the population of Virginny Town soared from 4,000 to 25,000, as saloon, hotels and various businesses sprang quickly into existence. Miners struck it rich and built their own mansions, importing furniture and fashion from Europe and the Orient. In the mix of this, Virginny Town was renamed Virginia City and became as important as Denver and San Francisco, with a reputation similar to modern day New York City. It was the town that never slept. Morning, noon and night, something was always going on above and below ground.

Comstock Minors
The rapid growth spurt of Virginia City produced the building of the Virginia-Truckee Railroad, which shuttled folks from Reno to Carson City to Virginia City. Investments made in the Comstock ignited the building of San Francisco. Among those striking it rich were Ralston and Crocker, founders of the Bank of California, Leland Stanford and George Hearst. Eventually, the gold mixed with the high quality of silver caught President Lincoln’s interest. He needed both to keep the Union solvent and made Nevada a state even though the population wasn’t enough for the land to qualify as a state. By the 1870’s, the Comstock Lode had produced enough money to help finance the Civil War and bolster the value of the Union’s greenbacks.  

The MacKay--Present Day
Virginia City’s population began to decline in 1877. In 1930, about 500 people remained. The city remains in existence today and is one of the largest federally designated historical sites in America. Many of the original buildings and homes are intact, most notably the Castle, the MacKay and the Savage. The Virginia-Truckee Railroad once again runs from Virginia City to Gold Hill.

****While my teachers briefly touched on the Comstock Lode in history classes, I gained a better knowledge for the silver mines in Nevada while researching Lady Luck. William Larsen is the villain in Lady Luck. Having grown up in poverty, William is now a prominent San Francisco banker, having gained his riches by stealing from his late boss and from the customers at his bank. But the wealth and power he’s accumulated isn’t enough to satisfy the memory of his cruel beginnings. He wants more and hopes to gain it by joining forces with those backing the Comstock Lode. However, he needs more cash than he has on hand to throw in with them, hence his quest to take possession of Lady Luck, the notorious gaming ship permanently dry-docked along the Barbary Coast.     

Monday, May 5, 2014

Ciara Gold's comments on Two-stepping

First, I confess this is a repeat post from another blog I'm on, but alas, this week is when my AP portfolios are due. Just got finished with a big art show this past weekend so... no time to research for a new post. I'd wanted to do something on Cinco de Mayo. I will give you this tidbit from Wikipedia, "Historian Justo Sierra has written in his Political Evolution of the Mexican People, that had Mexico not defeated the French in Puebla on May 5, 1862, France would have gone to the aid of the South in the U.S. Civil War and the United States' destiny could have been very different.It's because Mexico defeated the French in Puebla, Mexico that Mexico and now, many Texans celebrate Cinco De Mayo. Anyway, I promise to deliver something new next month. :-)

We used to go dancing at the local country western dance hall quite frequently, but since they tore down the hall to make way for a Super Walmart, we haven’t been in a while. Regardless, dancing was something that we both did well and enjoyed, so - I thought I'd comment on the art of Texas two-stepping.

Okay, first of all for those of you that don't dance country, with the two-step, you step twice slow, then twice fast, so - 1, 2 slow, 1, 2, fast. A really good two-stepper doesn't lift his feet, but slides. So perhaps, slide, slide slow, slide, slide fast. That's much better than the bunny hopper. Oh yeah, the hopper is hard to follow. Hop, hop, slow, hop hop fast. I had to dance with a hopper once and yep, only once. My husband, on the other hand, is a great slider.

Now then, there's the hitcher. This is a very uncomfortable move for me because I'm a slider, but heck, I've seen some great hitchers. So what's a hitcher? So glad you asked. A hitcher moves like this: 1, 2, slow, hitch. He hitches his hip up and holds his toe to the ground for the count of the fast 1, 2. It's kind fun to watch them hitch that hip.

I found this entry from a long ago post made about 6 years ago and thought I’d share. Evidently we had a grand ole time;

“Last night we saw it all; hitchers, sliders, two-steppers (thems that don't slide) and hoppers. We also saw an unusual combination that made us both smile a lot. An older couple, older meaning about 20 years older than us, danced almost every dance. They were having a grand time, but he was dancing and trying to lead with a two-step, while she waltzed most of the night and dang if they didn't manage to make it all the way around the floor without tripping. I love to see older folks having fun and dancing. I picture myself in their shoes when I'm their age.”

No one is quite sure when the two-step came into being but it is speculated that he derived from a variety of dances. The most likely dances being the Foxtrot and the One Step. In the 1800s, couples would dance the “valse a deux temps”, which was a two-beat waltz. Some speculate that the two step comes from this two-beat waltz. Whatever the situation, in 1847, writer Henri Cellarius declared that this particular dance be called the two step. Since then, many variations of this dance have come into play.

John Philip Sousa wrote the “Washington Post March” in 1891 and couples discovered this to be a great song to dance the two step to thus making the dance and the song grow in popularity. The advent of record albums and radio broadcastings of Country Western music made it easier for young couples to enjoy dancing. Dance Halls began to pop up in the late 1800s and gave young couples a fun “courting” activity. The term “honky tonk” first appeared in print in 1894 in the Daily Ardmoreite (Ardmore, Oklahoma) and referred to a bar that had a dance floor and a stage for musicians. “Taxi-dance” halls were places where men could pay a small fee to dance with a hostess.

One of the most famous dancehalls in Texas got its start in the 1880s and was rebuilt in the 1920s. By 1967, Luckenbach, Texas was almost a ghost town until it was put on the market and sold to John Russell “Hondo” Crouch and partners, Kathy Morgan and Guich Koock.   John turned the small town into the place where “everybody is somebody.” In 1977, after Hondo had died, Waylon Jennings gave us a song that put Luckenbach on the map; “Luckenbach, Texas (Backto the Basics of Love)”. Even now my toes are tapping to the beat even if it is a waltz beat and not a two step. Maybe I can talk hubby into some dancing this weekend.