Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Legendary Lawmen of the West


The western territories were still moving onward at the end of the Civil War. Fur traders, scouts, legendary army units, miners, and fortune seekers all hurried away from the destruction left in the east.

As with the discovery of the Americas, men filtered in first, then women to take care of the needs of the men, and finally families to settle down their long roots to sand away the rough edges of this all-male society. With families, came the need for civilization. With civilization came the need for laws and for those laws to be enforced.

In the next few months, we are going to be looking at legendary lawmen. Many of these lawmen have been immortalized on both the small and large screens. Men like Bat Masterson, Matthew Dillon, Pat Garrett, and Wyatt Earp.  We will examine ten of the most renown lawmen of their time.

Bat Masterson was born in Henryville, Quebec on November 26th, 1853. He was the second child of seven to his Irish born parents who farmed in Canada and later moved to New York, Illinois, Missouri, finally settling near Wichita, Kansas. He did not begin in law enforcement. Instead, he and his brothers struck off to hunt buffalo in the Great Plains. Their first paying job was to grade the land for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. After working for three months, their boss, Raymond Ritter skipped town without paying the boys for their work. It did not sit well with Mr. Masterson.

For an entire year, Bat and his brothers tracked down Mr. Ritter. On April 15th, 1873, they received word that Mr. Ritter was on a train headed for Dodge City. The brothers arrived in town before the train and when it pulled to a stop, Bat (short for Bartholomew) hurried to the car in which Mr. Ritter was riding and confronted him.

A crowd of town folks gathered hearing about the incident and watched as Bat, gun drawn marched him to the rear of the train car where his brothers and others who had been stiffed by the gentleman were waiting. There under scrutiny, he forced the man to pay the back wages while the crowd cheered. Thus, a legend was being shaped.

He continued to hunt buffalo only to be hired by the army when the Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne led by the famed warrior, Quanah Parker. He participated in the battle of Adobe Walls and later, as an Army scout, helped follow and locate four young girls who had been abducted by the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers. ( sounds a bit like the plot for the movie, The Searchers, doesn’t it)

Eventually, he and his brother, Ed, settled in Dodge City and by July of 1877 began working under various lawmen. The two worked well together until Bat’s brother, was shot and killed by Jack Wagner. Bat caught them and in a short gun battle, Wagner was mortally wounded, and his boss slipped away to Texas.

His fame growing, he found jobs working as a gun for hire as railroads battled for ground in which to lay their tracks. 1882 found Masterson as the city marshal of Trinidad, Colorado. There he was contacted by Wyatt Earp to help keep Doc Holliday from being extradited from Colorado to Arizona. Masterson took the case to the Governor who granted Holliday to stay. As we all know this would not be the only time these men would meet.

When his moonlighting as a faro dealer got him in hot water, Masterson moved along to other cities sometimes as an officer of the law, sometimes as a newspaper man. He promoted prize fighters, and even spent time in New York as a bodyguard for the millionaire George Gould. Befriending President Theodore Roosevelt, he received an appointment as U.S. Deputy Marshall for the Southern District of New York. Like with all presidential appointments, what the president giveth, the next one in office can taketh away.

Taft was not a worshiper of Masterson. Under investigation, Bat was terminated in 1909 and moved back to journalism where for the New York Morning Telegraph he covered boxing matches. It was in his office on October 25, 1921 he suffered a massive heart attack and died at age 67. He is buried in the Bronx.

Numerous movies and TV series romanticized his life. At least ten movies were made, stars like Joel McCrea, Randolph Scott, and George Montgomery played the legendary lawman. Television stars like Hugh O’Brian, and Gene Kelly portrayed him on the small screen. Even Doctor Who had his character in an episode.

Next month, we’ll take a gander at Pat Garrett.

Image from NBC Television via Wikipedia

Image from Library of Congress via Wikipedia


Sunday, January 24, 2021

Women’s Work!

 I walked into my kitchen this morning to start my coffee like I do every morning. Dust is everywhere, which happens during a remodel. My mind drifted back in time to what it must have been like for women hundreds of years ago. What modern women do in a few hours must have taken all day for them. 

Imagine if you will making breakfast. First you’d need to make a fire in the wood stove which is harder than you might think. I had my mother in laws beautiful cook stove for a few years while I lived in Idaho. I loved cooking on it, but it was difficult to adjust the heat so I didn’t burn the food. Then she would draw water from the well or from the river to heat for Coffee or tea, washing up, and doing the dishes. Afterwards she’d go to the barn milk the cow and gather eggs from the chicken coop. In the summer and early Fall she’d gather vegetables and fruit from her garden. Make fresh bread or biscuits from scratch for the day or perhaps make enough for a few days. 

When breakfast was eaten and the dishes were washed by hand she would start her other daily chores. The floors would be either dirt or wood in the majority of the homes which made it hard to keep the floors clean. The soot from the wood or coal stove was always a challenge. Not to mention the kerosene lamps. 

Then there’s the laundry, most women did that on Sunday. They would have to bring gallons of water in for that. They would soak the clothes over night. The next morning they would get up and scrub them on a wash board with lye soap. Then they would have to take the gallons of dirty water outside and dump it before carrying fresh water for the rinsing of the clothes back inside. After washing and rinsing the clothes they would wring them out and then hang them on the clothes line outside. I remember watching my Grandma Martha Cheney do her laundry this way. She didn’t have indoor plumbing for years. We had to use the outhouse outback of her house when we came to visit and let me tell you during the cold snowy winter nights that wasn’t fun. It was even kind of scary. 

When it was time to bathe they brought the washtub into the kitchen along with more gallons of water to heat for the bath. Can you imagine how many times a day they went to the well or river for water. I’m thinking like 15 to 20 times. They weren’t sissy’s, they were strong women to survive their hard life.

Next she would prepare lunch. Then in the afternoon if the laundry was dry she would bring it into the house where she would use a hot iron and starch on them before putting them away. I personally love to hang my bedding and towels out to dry. They seem to smell fresher.

21st century women are spoiled compared to nineteenth century women. We wake up go into the kitchen and start our coffee maker. While it gets ready we go into the bathroom and take a shower and make ourselves ready for the day. We grab a load of laundry carry it to the laundry room put the laundry in the washing machine with some detergent close the lid and hit start. Then it’s time to relax and drink that cup of coffee while making a grocery list for Fred Meyers, or any other stores she likes to shop at. She would pick it up after work on her way home. Then she fills her crock pot with the ingredients for dinner. Next she would take a last look in the mirror puts her purse over her shoulder and stop at the laundry room moving the clothes from the washer to the dryer. She returns about nine to ten hours later after work and stopping by Fred Meyers for her grocery pick-up.

Many women stop by the gym after work. Or go for a run or a hike. Some work on their projects or hobbies. I write while the house is quiet. Then it’s dinner time which is already done in the slow cooker. After dinner me and what I consider my cowboy watch a movie or read a book before bedtime.

This picture is of my man Jon and our son Jon Kyle putting on the last part of the cement floor. Yay, now next weekend we can begin with the tile.

Happy New Year one and all! 

If you haven’t read my Chasing Time series here’s the link where you can by it on Amazon or read for free  if you have Kindle Unlimited

Thanks for reading my thoughts for the day as I painted my family room. Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. ❤️

Friday, January 22, 2021

Locomotive Steam Whistles by Zina Abbott

Steam locomotives often have two types of sounding devises—bells and steam-powered whistles. Although newer locomotives have moved to air horns, the old engines of the 1800s relied on steam to power their whistles which generally located on the top of the steam boiler in front of the engineer’s cab. Railroad employees still use the term “whistle” to refer to signaling.


CLICK HERE to see and hear a steam-driven locomotive whistle.

The loud blasts served several purposes including signaling and warnings. Because trains are fixed-rail vehicles, this was necessary to avoid collisions and other problems.

If you wish to hear examples of different train whistles through the years, please CLICK HERE.

Whistles were almost always actuated with a pull cord, or sometimes a lever, that permitted proportional action, so that some form of "expression" could be put into the sound. Many locomotive operators had their own style of blowing the whistle. It was often apparent to other employees who was operating the locomotive by the sound of the whistle.

During the 1800s, different whistles and signaling patterns became popular as railroad technology developed and different whistles came into use.

Not all these codes are universal, but vary by nation. Other signals used in the past are obsolete. One signal that remains in use in North America is the one for approaching a crossing such as that used by vehicles or farm equipment. It is the Morse Code letter “Q”:

  - - . -

Why the letter “Q”? Railroad technology was developed in England before it made its way to North America. Even after the United States broke away from Britain—and that nation finally accepted that we were a separate nation no longer under their dominion—what took place in Britain still had a great influence on this nation.

Queen Victoria reigned for sixty-three years from 1837 until 1901. Train travel was the most efficient and comfortable mode of transportation at the time. When the queen traveled, for security, efficiency, and homage reasons, the train on which she rode was treated as a through train. All other trains were to clear the rails during the times her trains were expected to pass. Likewise, those on the ground crossings were to stay back and not impede her trains. The engineers started using the signal “Q” to announce that the queen was on board the train. Eventually, that became the signal for approaching a crossing.

1994-Santa Fe train before merger with Burlington-Northern under Bradley Overhead, Merced County.

Since I live close to two railroad lines—the Burlington-Northern & Santa Fe and the Southern Pacific—I plan my driving routes between my little town and the two neighboring communities around the railroad tracks. The BN&SF is not bad to wait for if it is the Amtrak coming through. I don’t enjoy waiting for the freight trains on either line, especially since one major crossing has the side track as well as the through track. Being blocked by one freight train waiting on another one to pass in the opposite direction is no fun. 

One of my friends once asked why I didn’t take a shorter route. I told her my game plan is to get across the tracks while the getting is good. I don’t like to take the chance the double tracks will still be clear on the “short” driving route. 

One thing I can tell you is, I’ve heard the above "approaching a crossing" signal many times. It sounds like this: CLICK HERE.

Here is a chart of some of the whistle codes used in North America.


As has been known to happen to me before, after I finished and published my latest book, Kate’s Railroad Chef, I realized there was in inconsistency in my story. I end with those at the Jubilee Springs railroad depot hearing the train signal it is approaching the station. However, the story starts with passengers waiting for the train to arrive. Did they hear the whistle? If not, why not?

So, dear reader, I rewrote the first chapter to include a few sentences about the train whistle. It will not change the overall story line for those who already bought the book or are reading it on Kindle Unlimited. However, I will publish the additions to Chapter One here (If you have not yet read the book description, please be aware my hero stutters.):

            As he left his office, Garland raised his hands and shook his head to ward off those waiting in the lobby as they surged toward him.

            The question coming from one man who stepped in front of him stopped Garland’s forward movement. “I was standing outside about an hour ago and heard a whistle. How come the train’s not here yet?”

            Garland focused his gaze on the man he did not recognize. “You heard a whistle? How long ago?”

            “At least an hour, maybe more. You know—toot-toot-toot, and then nothing.”

            “Thank you for t-telling me. I’m on my way to the maintenance shop now. I’ll ask.” Garland raised his voice to be heard as he pushed through the crowd. “I have no news. I’m going to s-s-send men to check.”

            Once he reached the door leading outside the depot, Garland finally broke free of the crowd. Gritting his teeth in frustration, he rushed toward the repair shop used for necessary track and equipment maintenance. After searching the premises, he finally spotted the foreman, Joe Hodges, walking towards him. He strode over to meet the man. “T-train’s been delayed.”

            “We noticed. What do you figure? They this side of Cotopaxi?”

            “Yes, Cotopaxi said the t-train is running an hour late, but it should have been here. I need a handcar loaded with t-tools. Can s-some of your men be p-prepared to go looking for it?”

            Hodges grimaced. He twisted his upper body to look at his crew of maintenance men huddled around a wood-burning heater toward one corner of the repair building, and then he turned back. “I suppose we could. Hate sending them out this late in the cold with the dark coming on, only to have the locomotive round a bend and plow into them.”

            As he glared at the man, Garland clamped his lips tight. Everyone worried about getting hit by the train, but no one seemed concerned that the engineer and passengers might have run into trouble. True, Martin Underwood left him in charge, but there was a limit to how much he could order around Joe, who had as much authority in his realm as he did in his. “A man waiting in the depot s-said he was s-standing outside about an hour ago and heard a whistle. No one in here heard anything like that?”

            Hodges shook his head and waved his hand as if to brush away the question. “Awhile back, one of my men said he thought he heard a couple of short blasts. They were so faint, though, he decided he was just hearing things. All the engineers who run this line blow a very distinct whistle after they round that last point on Longfellow Gulch to signal they are approaching the station. We know that sound like we do our own mothers’ voices. No one’s heard anything like that tonight.”

            As he leaned his head forward, Garland worked his jaw. Does he think I’m an idiot? I’m well aware there is a list of whistles a train engineer uses to signal different situations. “I’m aware there is a s-special Morse Code s-signal used strictly for approaching the s-station. The whistles that your man did hear, were they a s-series of short blips, like the s-signal used for an emergency?”

            As Joe Hodges gaze met that of Garland’s, his eyes widened, and he swallowed. “I don’t know. I’ll ask.” He shook his head. “That whistle is pretty loud, and it’s not like we’re in the middle of a big storm right now like we were yesterday. You’d think if the engineer did blow his whistle, we all would have heard it.”

             Garland shook his head. Simple physics. “Not if the t-train ran into t-trouble in the middle of the gulch. With the way the walls are s-steep and shaped like an amphitheater, the gulch would p-project any s-sound the t-train whistle makes toward the s-southeast, the direction it faces, which is away from Jubilee S-Springs.”

            Hodges cursed as he turned his face away and shook it. “Makes sense, now you point it out. I’ve even had one engineer tell me that’s why they wait until the locomotive rounds that last bend before they blow the signal that they’re approaching the station.”

              “Mr. Hodges, we need to do s-something. Because Mr. Underwood is gone, I must s-stay at the s-station.” 

            Heaving a sigh, Hodges used his fingertips and thumb to rub each side of his forehead. “I’ll send some men—”

            “Hey, boss! We got someone here from the incoming train needs to talk to you.” 

Kate's Railroad Chef, the third book in the Train Wreck in Jubilee Springs series, is currently available both for purchase and for no additional charge using your Kindle Unlimited subscription. To find the book description, please CLICK HERE.



The link for the Train Wreck in Jubilee Springs series may be found by CLICKING HERE. (Amazon is being shy about putting it on its own series page since these books are also part of the Sweethearts of Jubilee Springs series.)



Steam Locomotive Components from Wikipedia

Train Whistle from Wikipedia


Photo of train whistle courtesy of the blog post, https://www.trainsandtravel.com/2015/06/07/a-train-whistle-mystery/  by Jim Loomis, author of “All Aboard! The Complete North American Train Travel Guide ” (Chicago Review Press)

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER By Kathleen Lawless @kathleenlawless

 If you’re like many people I know, the new year means decluttering and redecorating their homes, an activity I admire but never seem to get around to.  In my defense, I live in a small cottage without a lot of options to move things around and change up the space.  

 But books! There’s an entirely different matter.   Authors are always second guessing everything in this business, including their covers.  Earlier this month, as I prepared to launch a new series, I got really excited by what my designer was creating and decided to revamp some older covers, in hopes that the investment would lead to more reader interest and discoverability.  I call that my version of redecorating. 

 Between the two of us, it took a while studying other covers, images, fonts and layouts, as I decided what I liked, what I didn’t, and what elements would, I hoped, give my books an eye-catching, up-to-the-minute look.  Cover trends are constantly changing and various theories abound regarding covers with scenery only, a romantic couple, or the hero or heroine on their own. 

It’s early days, but I’m pretty pleased with the results.  The true test will be what the readers think and if they find my new covers intriguing enough to catch their eye so they read the blurb or an excerpt.  How important is the cover in your decision to purchase a book?  As a reader, what draws you in?     


Kathleen Lawless blames a misspent youth watching Rawhide, Maverick and Bonanza for her fascination with cowboys, which doesn’t stop her from creating a wide variety of interests and occupations for her many alpha male heroes.   

Sign up for Kathleen’s VIP Reader News Group to receive a free book, updates, special giveaways and fan-priced offers.    http://eepurl.com/bV0sb1