Wednesday, July 30, 2014

SAN ANTONIO: IN SEARCH OF HISTORY

By Ashley Kath-Bilsky



I haven’t been to San Antonio in years, but each time I return the feeling of stepping back into the past pulls like a tether to my heart. Maybe it’s a Texan thing. But if you read my posts (or my books), you know that I love history and often wish I could time travel to the past. I thrive on research, like a detective on a fascinating case. I seek out historic sites wherever I am, and (whenever possible) try to stay at historic hotels. It may sound funny, but I always ask about ghosts. And I always listen for echoes of the past that might still linger.

This year, however, it seemed as if San Antonio's history wasn’t speaking to me. Then again, maybe I was too busy to hear it. First off, I was attending a huge writers’ conference with a busy schedule of workshops that had me walking all day and into the evening, back and forth between two modern, high-rise Marriott Hotels. All around me there was noisy traffic, lots of writers, lots of tourists, triple-digit temps, and a level of humidity that I haven’t encountered in a long time. For anyone with asthma or respiratory problems, it can be exhausting to just breathe.

When I had a break, I often stood on my balcony overlooking the riverwalk. Here is one of the photos I took from my balcony. No matter the time of day, a constant array of boats—literally jam-packed with people—pulled through the narrow water toward a variety of noisy restaurants and shops. And next door was a huge shopping mall, with still more noise. Ugh. This wasn’t the San Antonio I remembered. Where were the whispers of the past that always beckon to me in a historic place? And then it happened.

I was walking back to my hotel very late one night (wearing a Regency period gown no less). There was no one else around except a patrol car in the distance. I pushed the button for pedestrians at the crosswalk. As I waited for the ‘walk’ signal to flash, this loud voice suddenly said, “wait, wait, wait…” No, it wasn’t a ghost. It was an automated male voice connected to the light, making sure pedestrians didn’t step into the street until the right moment. But for me, it said more than when to walk.

Truth is, sometimes you just have to hit the pause control. Stop whatever you are doing and breathe. Take a moment to embrace where you are, and its history.

The next morning, I did just that. I walked to Alamo Plaza, intent on seeing the Alamo again. In fact, I took lots of photos and was going to write about it today. But another Sweetheart who also attended the same conference has already posted about it. And that’s fine. I am glad she enjoyed it. To be honest, my visit to the Alamo this trip was strangely upsetting, and I still haven’t gotten over it.

San Antonio is a beautiful city with lots to offer. But for me (as a Texan) to stand outside the Alamo and see people behaving badly, not getting how important (even sacred) the site is to Texas, was disheartening. I understand that people want to have fun on vacation and ‘see the sights’. However, the Alamo is not a tourist attraction – not to me. It is a historical site, a battlefield where lives were lost, and is preserved as a monument to their memory. I cannot express adequately what it felt like to look across the street from the Alamo and see over-the-top, excessively loud, tourist traps like Ripley's Believe It or Not hawking their collection of oddities, a wax museum, mirrored fun house, and electronic arcades blaring across the street. The carnival-type atmosphere was just too much.

I needed quiet, a place that not only remembered the past, but respected its legacy. Fortunately, that place sits rather protectively on my side of the street, right next to the Alamo. So, today, I am going to talk about one of my favorite places to visit (and stay) when in San Antonio.

The Menger Hotel

The Menger Hotel was built by William A. Menger in 1859. Mr. Menger arrived in Texas from Germany in 1847. His future wife, Mary Guenther came in 1846 with her first husband. Six weeks after their arrival, however, Mary’s husband died. Alone in a new country, she opened a boarding house at the corner of Commerce and St. Mary’s Street. And one of her boarders was William Menger.

William and Mary were married in 1851 and together operated the boarding house. They relocated to Alamo Plaza in 1855. William also established a brewery, which became a great success. Because of their entrepreneurial efforts, The Menger Hotel was founded in 1859 and remains 155 years later as fine and respectable an establishment as it was when William and Mary opened its doors.

Constructed as a two-story, 50-room hotel, The Menger became so popular that a three-story addition was quickly built directly behind it. Today, the original two-story limestone building can be seen at the southwest corner (or right) side of the hotel. Its classical design was created by John Fries, the highly respected architect who repaired the shattered ruins of the Alamo in 1850.

In the above photo, you can see the glazed, iron canopy supported on iron columns that forms a balcony for the second floor. The railings are original and date back to 1869. In 1909, architect Alfred Giles was contracted to handle the hotel's remodeling project. At that time, the awnings (pictured) replaced shutters that had provided shade over windows facing the west. Mr. Giles is also credited with creating the more neoclassical look to the hotel that remains today, including the beautiful Victorian Lobby.

Victorian Lobby

Situated outside the Colonial Room Restaurant, the beautiful three-story Victorian Lobby is the original lobby of the hotel. Oval in design, Mr. Giles transformed the lobby's iron columns into eight Corinthian columns, and added a skylight of leaded glass.

The lobby’s once cast iron columns are now enclosed in plaster, and styled in such a way to appear marble. Additional columns were also added to better complement the design. Each column is ornamented with garlands, festoons, and modillions that have been painted to resemble stone. The wrought iron in this lobby is original to the hotel.

Throughout the Victorian Lobby are also a collection of beautiful antiques (furniture and paintings) purchased by William Menger in the 1860s.

Just off this lobby, is the hotel’s famed Colonial Room Restaurant. An immediate addition to the original hotel, it was remodeled in 1912 by architect Atlee B. Ayres. At that time, the cast iron columns that once graced the restaurant were enclosed by wooden ones, and feature beautifully detailed millwork and carvings.

An interesting fact is that the Colonial Room Restaurant (pictured below) has been in continuous operation since it first opened.

Many of the restaurant’s original chefs came from Europe. As a result, by the late 1860s, the hotel had already garnered a reputation for its culinary excellence.

Among the celebrities who have dined there are: Presidents Grant and McKinley, General Robert E. Lee, and even French actress Sarah Bernhardt.

I highly recommend the Shrimp and Crab Martini appetizer, as well as the Filet with Bernaise Sauce, served with a perfectly baked potato wrapped in puff pastry. And you cannot dine there without having the famous mango ice cream, so exceptional it has been on the menu for over a hundred years.

The Menger Bar (pictured below) is one of my favorite spots in the hotel. After William A. Menger died in March 1871, the family eventually sold the hotel in 1881 to Major J.H. Kampmann. In 1887, the Major decided a “new tap room should be built within the hotel as a replica of the House of Lords Pub in London". Clearly that pub made quite an impression on the Major. He even sent his architect to London to personally study the pub in order that its design could be perfectly copied. At an extravagant cost of $60,000, a paneled cherrywood ceiling and cherrywood booths were installed, as well as beveled mirrors and decorated glass cabinets from France.

True to its design and traditions, even on a hot Texas summer day in the 21st century, entering the Menger Bar feels like going back in time. It is a very masculine looking tap room. On the day I took these photos, it was still early and empty. Still, (especially if you have an imagination like mine) you can almost hear the murmuring of male voices from long ago and smell the hint of ghostly cigars.

I should point out that The Menger Bar still serves mint juleps in silver tumblers during hot weather, and hot rum toddies during the winter. Isn't that worth a visit?

And it was in this bar that Teddy Roosevelt recruited many of his Rough Riders. Roosevelt first visited The Menger Hotel in 1892 while on a hunting trip. He returned in 1898 with Colonel Leonard Wood to organize the first US Volunteer Cavalry to fight in Cuba during the Spanish-American War.

Just outside The Menger Bar, the hotel features an impressive mini-museum display showcasing information about the Rough Riders as well as artifacts.

Walking toward the Main Lobby, I also enjoyed seeing the bank of polished wooden phone booths. Remember when you could phone someone in private and didn't have to listen to other people's conversations while they yell into a cell phone? Even the house phone situated on a hall table is an antique corded phone -- which I love. Yes, a real phone!

The Garden

Whether you are seated in the Main Lobby of the hotel or dining in the Colonial Room Restaurant, you will have a beautiful view of the hotel’s courtyard-style tropical garden. In the 17th century, Franciscan fathers dug five irrigation ditches in San Antonio. One of these ditches ran through the Menger garden and connected the Alamo to Mission San Jose.

Today, beautiful palm, mango, and banana trees stand tall amidst a lush array of greenery in The Menger garden. For someone who wanted to get away from crowds of people and the carnival atmosphere across the street, walking about this garden and admiring the flora and fauna was truly an oasis.

An interesting character that loved to walk about The Menger's garden was none other than English writer, Oscar Wilde.

While traveling through the United States on a lecture tour in 1882, Wilde stayed at the hotel. Well, don't you know gossip ensued about how he strolled about with a spiked lemonade in one hand and a long, foreign cigarette in the other. Imagine seeing him walking toward you wearing slippers with silver buckles, scarlet stockings, knee-length trousers, and a lace-frilled black velvet coat. Apparently, he talked about Decorative Art in his lectures, but his attire sounds more appropriate for a Shakespearean performance. But I digress...

In addition to a lovely fountain and various historical plaques in the garden, there is a marker for the Chisholm Trail. The marker commemorates the history of the cattle drives and Texas ranchers who frequented The Menger Hotel. Between 6 and 10 million cattle and a million mustangs were driven along this trail that began south of San Antonio and ended in Wichita, Kansas.

I could go on and on about the wonderful things you might see at The Menger Hotel, and the interesting and beautiful history that this hotel preserves. It truly is one of my favorite historic hotels, one that not only embraces its past but keeps its history alive by sharing that history. The staff is wonderful. The accommodations are excellent. And the food is absolutely delicious.

On a personal note, I think it is so important to preserve history. To educate children and visitors to our cities or countries about the past and the significance of a specific place. We all lead such hurried lives, and it seems at times the noise level escalates the busier our lives become.

You may not have a voice telling you to ‘wait’ at a crosswalk, but sometimes we all need to remind ourselves to stop, or just press the pause control on your life for a few moments. Breathe. Put down the iPhone and talk to someone in person. Look up, not down all the time. Encourage your children to turn off the video game and go outside for a while. Write a letter instead of texting. Embrace your life, your history, and the people around you. Go to the library and read about the origin of your town. Visit your local historical society or museum. Share history, whether it is a family recipe or who made the quilt that has been passed down from generations.

Thank you for visiting today. I hope you enjoyed my post and the photographs. And if you are ever in San Antonio, stay at The Menger Hotel. Then, you can also watch the sunrise over the Alamo or walk outside and see it beneath a quiet, starry Texas sky. And when you do, please say a prayer for those who fought and died there. Remember, it's hallowed ground. Thanks. ~ AKB

Ashley Kath-Bilsky is a best-selling, award-winning author of Historical Romance with Mystery, Suspense and/or Paranormal elements. She also writes Gothic Historical Young Adult and New Adult fiction. To learn more about Ashley and her work, please visit her website at: www.ashleykathbisky.com.

Monday, July 28, 2014

PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS--MAKING A DIFFERENCE by CHERYL PIERSON



In August, 2013, my business partner, Livia Reasoner and I decided to take the plunge and open our own publishing house. So many little companies were bursting on the scene that we wondered if we would be able to make much of a difference in the publishing world. Less than a year later, I want to share with you all what we’ve done.

To start with, I better talk a little about why we wanted to start Prairie Rose Publications to begin with. Livia and I both belong to a professional western writing group, the WESTERN FICTIONEERS, of which we are both very proud to be members. I am currently acting as President of the Western Fictioneers until 2016. We had both noticed that there were many women writers—good women writers—who were having trouble “breaking in” to the western genre. Many of these women wrote “gritty” western stories—not so heavy on the romance as on the “western” aspect; many of them wrote shorter stories than the normal popular length for a novel, or novella; and many were having trouble just because they were women—with the name to prove it.

Lots of publishers don’t like taking a chance on westerns anymore, written by man or woman—but when they have a choice, they’ll be publishing the ones by men—since men are more apt to buy western and science fiction works by another man than by a woman.

Livia and I agreed that one of the submissions requirements for our publishing house would be first and foremost, to submit, you had to be a woman. We have not been sorry, and have had more business than we can handle at times.

Another thing we wanted to do was encourage new writers as well as seasoned ones. We’ve got a fantastic mix of both, and have thoroughly enjoyed working with them all. Our royalty rate is one of the best anywhere, paying 80% net to the authors, who work so hard to write these wonderful tales and hope with everything in them to find a home for their stories. After years of being offered the traditional meager 35% for e-books and 7% for print, our authors are extremely happy with the royalty payments, and so are we.

We can do this because we don’t accept anything that requires heavy editing, so we are able to produce more quality stories and novels in a shorter time span.

It wasn’t long after we opened Prairie Rose Publications that we were asked if we published children’s westerns. And what about contemporary and science fiction? Well, did we also have an imprint for youngsters’ contemporary or fantasy stories? The answer became YES very quickly. Painted Pony Books is our imprint for Middle Grade, YA and New Adult western fare; Tornado Alley Publications is the sister imprint for Middle Grade, YA, and New Adult contemporary stories, and Fire Star Press satisfies contemporary, science fiction and fantasy categories for adults.

All of our imprints except Prairie Rose Publications are open to ANYONE to submit to—men and women, alike; newbies and experienced writers.

Since opening our doors, we have published many anthologies at PRP—Wishing For a Cowboy (Christmas 2013), Hearts and Spurs (Valentine’s Day 2014), Lassoing a Bride, Lassoing a Groom, Lassoing a Mail Order Bride, and Cowboy Cravings (Summer stories, 2014).

We’ve also put out 14 novels in the PRP line, as well as 6 novellas.

In the Painted Pony Books imprint, we’ve published 9 books, some for all three of our age groups.
In the Tornado Alley Publications imprint, we published our first anthology, THIS SUMMER STORM, for YA readers just a few weeks ago in time for summer reading for ages 13-17. We also released a “retro” novel about the Viet Nam era, Echoes in the Night, and will be releasing two more about that era in the next couple of months.



Fire Star Press has seen the release of one novella and one novel, with many more on the way.
Part of what we want to do with our company is to inspire people in many ways, and one of these ways is by helping others. We have partnered with some charities that are so rewarding and exciting to work with. One of them, The Lighthouse For Recovery Ministries, has many branches that reach out to all segments of the Birmingham, Alabama community—the homeless, abused animals, addiction programs, and programs for veterans who need help. http://www.thelighthouseforrecoveryministries.org/

Another of our “pet projects” has been helping with Westie rescue expenses by donating books to the Westie Rescue Missouri Fundraising Auction (here is the Facebook page for their event, for anyone who might be interested): https://www.facebook.com/groups/WestieRSQMissouriAuction/


What do we have coming up in the next year? More of the same! Prairie Rose Publications will have its first Halloween anthology, Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico making a debut in late September. But there’ll also be an anthology from Tornado Alley Publications for Middle Grade Readers this fall called My Dog Can Do Magic! For New Adult readers, we’ll have an anthology just in time for Halloween—It Could Happen—stories that have a love story with a Halloween twist. We have submission calls open for all three of these anthologies, if you have a story you think might meet the requirements!


Christmas will see two anthologies, Present for a Cowboy and Present for a Cowgirl in our PRP line.
And Valentine’s Day will be marked by another new anthology to be released in the middle part of January.

But even more immediately, we have a special CHRISTMAS IN JULY event coming up from July 25-Aug. 1! During that time period, we’ll have many new Christmas-themed novellas and short stories available for purchase at our brand new website!


We’ll have a lot of giveaways going on, too! We hope you’ll come join us during National Week of the Cowboy, the week we’ve chosen for our Christmas in July event—and get to know our authors. But don’t wait until then—here’s the link, come on over and join us now!

PRP website:

PRP blog: www.prairierosepublications.blogspot.com

Questions? Ideas? Thoughts? Please leave a comment with your contact information! I will be drawing the names of 3 lucky winners today!


Here’s what’s up for grabs from the PRP goodie bag!
1 signed print copy of TIME PLAINS DRIFTER
1 digital copy of COWBOY CRAVINGS
1 digit copy of LASSOING A MAIL ORDER BRIDE
Winners will be announced tonight! Thanks so much for stopping by and celebrating with me!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

FUNNY COLLOQUIALISMS



My dad was a stickler for proper speech. He said, and rightfully so, that people judge you by your speech. If you’ve lived in one area most of your life, you can spot a newcomer not only by the sound of his or her voice, but also by the phrases and words used. In Texas, which is where I grew up and currently live, we have a lot of, um, I’ll say unusual phrases and words. 

We never say “Forgetaboutit” unless we’ve been around someone from the Northeast—or watched one of the movies like “Mickey Blue Eyes” that use the phrase. Texas is part of the Southwest but also part of the South. We don’t use the F or S word as freely as those in some parts of the country—at least the people with whom I socialize don’t use them. In general, men don't curse in front of women.

Texas is known as the friendly state. We look passersby in the eye and smile and/or offer a greeting. Like most Southerners, we value smiles and good manners. We may still stab you in the back, but we will do so graciously and with a polite smile. ☺

Recently, I was reminded of some of our unusual words by another author at a critique meeting. I’ll share that one and others with you now that are currently in use. 

Usage of these words/phrases may depend partially on whether you live in a rural or urban area.

The Brazos River runs a fur piece.

Helping my plate – taking a serving of food and placing it on my plate.

Fixin’ to – I will in a minute.

Fixin’ to get ready to start – I’m not feeling peppy, but I’ll get it done as soon as I can force myself to stand.

Bless your heart – usually means you are too stupid to live and I feel so sorry for you.

Blessings – means the literal bless your heart

Nothing but a barbed wire fence between here and the North Pole – that north wind is freezing me

Gonna – going to

Gotta – I have to

Hafta – same as gotta

Fur piece – a long way

Yonder are some trees in those bluebonnets


Yonder – not a long way, you can probably see it from here

Rode hard and put up wet - that is not a nice woman and she looks easy

Roadrunner or chapparal near our old home
Some think they're only in cartoons

Pulled backwards through a knot hole - I feel terrible today

He isn't worth the bullet it would take to shoot him - The subject is worthless

These are only a few of our peculiar colloquialisms.

What are some colloquialisms from your part of the country?



Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Alamo




I flew into Texas two days ago and had every intention of making this a long and interesting post with all sorts of information I’d discover while visiting the Alamo (and other historic places) this week. However, too many other things have taken over my schedule. Therefore, here are a few pictures. 

The Alamo, built in 1718, was San Antonio’s first of five Spanish missions built along the river and was made famous when Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie gallantly fought in the 1836 Battle for Texas Independence.


The Alamo

A huge oak tree growing in the square at the Alamo

A miniature replica of the great battle

The River Walk

I'm sorry that my pictures do not do this wonderful city justice. It is full of history and culture.  This is my first trip to San Antonio, and I have decided I must return when I'll have time to explore all the wonderful places I'm only hearing about this trip.


Cheers,
Lauri

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hey, Ranger!




By Peggy L Henderson

The west wouldn’t be the west without its rangers. Many stories have been written about the most famous of the western rangers, namely the Texas Rangers. Sorry, I’m not going to talk about them today. I am going to talk about a different ranger. The National Park Ranger, and how the National Park Service came to be.

After Yellowstone became our first national park on March 1, 1872, Congress set aside exactly zero dollars to fund the park. The first superintendent, Nathaniel P. Langford, was not paid a salary.
Visitors came to Yellowstone almost immediately after its creation, and along with them came the vandals and poachers. Yellowstone’s natural resources, which were the sole reason the park was created in the first place, were being destroyed as poachers killed animals, souvenir hunters broke off pieces of geological formations, and developers established numerous tourist camps.
Langford resigned in 1877, disgusted with Congress and their refusal to help support the park. Along came Phileus Norris, who volunteered for the superintendent position. He was finally able to get Congress to financially help support the park, and he set aside $1000 of the $15,000 he received in 1880 to pay for a “game keeper”, someone who would protect the wildlife of Yellowstone from undue slaughter. Hunting was not regulated within the park’s boundaries until 1877, and not prohibited until 1883.
Harry Yount, a civil war veteran, hunter, trapper, guide, and packer, was appointed to the position of game keeper in 1880.
“Rocky Mountain Harry Yount” has been described as “a typical leatherstocking frontiersman. He was rough, tough, and intelligent.” Independent, resourceful, able to subsist on his own, and having familiarity and knowledge of the natural processes surrounding him, Harry Yount has become an archetypal model for the National Park Ranger.
He pointed out in a report that it was impossible for one man to patrol the entire park, and urged the formation of a ranger force. He is credited with being the first national park ranger.
As a result of his report, and his resignation a mere 14 months into the job, the park turned to the US Army for help. In 1886, men from Company M, First US Cavalry, Fort Custer, Montana Territory, came to Yellowstone to begin a - what would be thirty year - military presence in the park. The troops lived in temporary frame buildings near Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. After enduring five cold and harsh winters, they realized they would not be leaving anytime soon. In 1890, Congress appointed $50,000 for a permanent post, and Fort Yellowstone was completed in 1891.
Soldiers stationed at the fort were ordered to “conduct themselves in a courteous and polite, but firm and decided manner” when carrying out their duties.
In 1912, President Taft in a special message to Congress said: "I earnestly recommend the establishment of a Bureau of National Parks. Such legislation is essential to the proper management of those wonderful manifestations of nature, so startling and so beautiful that everyone recognizes the obligations of the government to preserve them for the edification and recreation of the people."

The National Park Service Act was signed on August 30, 1916.
Soon after, soldiers were discharged from the Army to form the first ranks of park rangers. The National Park Service took over protection of Yellowstone National Park, "by arrangement with the War Department, and with its hearty cooperation," on October 1, 1916. The National Park Service assumed full administrative responsibilities in 1918.


During the Army's tenure, they developed regulations that put much emphasis on conservation, and under their watchful eyes, the features and wildlife of Yellowstone National Park were protected from vandalism and extinction. Many of the policies initiated by the army at Fort Yellowstone were later adopted by the National Park Service.

Today, the old post is known as the Fort Yellowstone-Mammoth Hot Springs Historic District, designated as a National Historic Landmark on July 31, 2003. Within the district are the administrative headquarters for Yellowstone National Park. It is located in the northwestern portion of the park on an old hot springs formation. 
Numerous buildings continue to stand including the Captain's Quarters, Post Headquarters, Guard House, Hospital Annex, Commissary and Quartermaster storehouses, and several more.

Duties of the park ranger today include:
Law enforcement – park rangers hold police powers and enforce national laws and park regulations
Interpretation and Education – park rangers provide a wide range of informational services to visitors
Emergency Response – They are trained in wilderness first aid and participate in search and rescue to locate lost persons in the wilderness
Firefighting – park rangers are often the first to spot forest fires and are trained in wild land firefighting
Scientists and scholars – they are responsible for protecting the natural resources or cultural sights for which they work



Saturday, July 19, 2014

Women Who Dared to be Free

Horsewoman2

“The emancipation of women may have begun not with the vote, nor in the cities where women marched and carried signs and protested, but rather when they mounted a good cowhorse and realized how different and fine the view. From the back of a horse, the world looked wider and possibilities greater.”

~ Joyce Gibson Roach, Texas author, teacher and folklorist

I love that quote, don’t you? It paints a picture of western women, not just as housewives who cooked, laundered and raised children, but as adventurers who loved riding the range just as much as their menfolk. Women who dared to free themselves, to break the shackles placed upon them by society.

When pioneer women crossed the Mississippi River, they left behind the laws and customs of the East. They may not have given that fact much thought, but the hardships of frontier life forced them to assume new roles they never would have dreamed of back home. Many were wives and mothers, struggling to maintain a crude home, raise their children and drive off marauding Indians with a gun if need be, while their husbands worked the land or herded cattle. Often they were left alone for weeks, even months with only themselves to depend on.

Others, single women, widows or wives wanting to supplement their family income, took up work that ranged from running a boardinghouse or hotel, to baking and selling pies to hungry miners, to designing hats and dressmaking. Still others worked on horseback.

We generally think of ranch hands and drovers in the old west as men, but the fact is women also worked cattle, broke horses, roped and branded steers. Most were wives or daughters of ranchers and occasionally ranch owners themselves.

“We ranchwomen today really don’t know the hardships the ladies did then. My grandmother had it really tough. Since my grandfather was a sheriff and a U.S. marshal, she took care of the ranch. She worked in the hay fields and broke all the horses.” ~ Carol Horn of the Horn Ranch in Granby, Colorado

There were also a daring few western women who hired on as cowhands. One who became famous was Middy Morgan. An Irish colleen by birth, Middy came to the U.S. in search of a new life. Not finding New York to her liking, she headed west and took a job as a hired girl with a rancher.

“So completely did she identify herself with the change in her position, that in a short time she had acquired so much skill in the breeding and rearing of stock that the farmer (rancher,) perceiving her value, admitted her to a partnership in the farm (ranch.) Soon did her fame spread abroad, and at every fair and cattle market in the West was her name familiar. Gradually this fame has travelled East, and indeed no reputation is so widespread over all the Union as that of Middy Morgan.” ~ The North British Agriculturalist, June 30, 1880

When the Earl of Dunmore decided to try his hand at ranching in Montana in 1880, he needed to know which of his 30,000 head of Scottish cattle would fare best in the Montana environment. He chose Middy Morgan as his advisor.

The North British Agriculturalist went on to describe her this way:

“At every great fair or market may she be seen, with broad-brimmed hat tied down beneath her chin by a bandanna handkerchief, a thick frieze coat with many capes, short skirt, ingeniously gathered into high leather boots, something like knickerbocker costume. With a long cowhide whip in hand, wending her way with skill between the droves, now stooping low to examine the hoofs, now standing on tiptoe to examine the head of the beast brought to her for valuation; and so great is the reliance placed by the farmers (ranchers) on her judgement in these matters, that none would ever seek to cheapen the animal after Middy Morgan has pronounced her verdict . . .”

Seems like Miss Morgan and all her unheralded sisters were indeed emancipated in many ways by heading west.

Horshoe, cactus, stetson & horse divider  New Cover redo 2013

The heroine of Dashing Irish, Texas Devlins Book II, is a daughter of the West who does a man’s job but longs for love.

Excerpt:

“Consarned critter! Why’d you have to go and get stuck in there?” Lil Crawford muttered. She tugged harder on her rope in an effort to pull the bawling calf from the mud wallow it had wandered into. No luck. The animal was mired nearly up to his shoulders in thick clay gumbo. No matter how hard she pulled, she wasn’t going to get him out.

Nearby, standing beside the creek that had carved out the treacherous wallow along the bank, the calf’s mamma lowed plaintively as if blaming Lil for her baby’s predicament. Sending her a baleful glare, Lil said, “It’s not my fault. You should’ve dropped him in the spring like you’re supposed to ’stead of in the middle of summer. Then maybe he’d be big enough to climb out of this dang mud.”

Arms crossed, she studied the situation. She considered letting Major, her buckskin gelding, drag the calf out but feared injuring the little mite, possibly even breaking his neck. She sighed in disgust. There was no help for it; she’d have to get down in the mud and wrestle the calf out. It was either that or leave him there to die a slow, miserable death.

Dropping to the ground, she tugged off her boots and socks. She set them near the edge of the wallow, then rose, unbuckled her gun belt and laid it atop her footgear, where she could reach her six-shooter if need be. Her hat joined the pile for good measure.

Lil took a deep breath, set her teeth and stepped into the wallow, cringing as she sank up to her knees in the gooey muck. It squished between her toes and clung to her legs, plastering her britches to her skin. It also stank of rotting grass and other things she’d as soon not name.

Crooning softly to the frightened calf, she wrapped her arms around his middle, coating her hands, arms and shirt with mud in the process. She braced herself, preparing to wrestle the animal free.

A man’s deep-throated laugh caught her off guard. Jolted by the sound, she cried out in surprise and struggled to turn around, fighting the mud that imprisoned her legs. Once she succeeded, she stared, slack-jawed, at the stranger grinning at her from atop the most broken down nag she’d ever laid eyes on. The dude himself was a sight to behold. Togged out in a funny checked suit, with a derby hat atop jet-black hair, he made her lips twitch. However, her humor fled when she met his eyes. Brilliant blue, they shot sparks of light, brighter than the toothy grin splitting his handsome face.

“Sure’n I must be dreaming,” he said in a lilting Irish brogue. “Or are ye truly a lovely faery maid sent to enchant me?”

His foolish question broke Lil’s frozen stare and roused her anger. She knew she was far from lovely, and right now she was covered with nasty muck besides. “Mister, I’m no fairy and I don’t take kindly to strangers who ride up on me with no warning. So you can just turn that bag of bones around and git. Right now!”

“Ah, colleen, will ye not grant this poor beggar a few moments of your company? ’Twould be my pleasure to help ye with the wee animal if ye like.”

She snorted at his offer. “No thanks. I can get him out by myself. ’Sides, you wouldn’t want to muddy up your fancy suit, would you?” she drawled with a smirk.

He looked down at himself and grimaced. “I take it ye don’t care for my fine attire.” Fine came out sounding like foin. “Well, you’re not the first. A layer of mud might not be such a bad thing, eh? With that in mind, will ye not reconsider and allow me to lend ye a hand?” He gave another roguish grin and splayed a hand over his heart. “In truth, your beauty so captivates me that I fear I cannot turn away.”

Lil bristled at his absurd comment. Certain he was making fun of her now, for her beauty would never captivate any man, she narrowed her eyes. She’d teach him, by criminy!

Without a word, she plowed through the mud over to where her belongings lay piled. She hastily wiped the worst of the mud from her hands onto the grassy embankment, then reached under her hat and drew her Colt. Coldly calm now, she turned to face the impudent stranger. It pleased her to see how fast he sobered with a gun aimed between his eyes.

“This is Double C land, mister. You’re trespassing. I could shoot you dead and nobody’d blame me. So unless you want a hole in your head bigger than your mouth, you’d best get moving.”

Sighing, he crooked his lips. “As ye wish.” He tipped his hat to her, clumsily reined his horse around and started to leave, but then he pulled up and glanced at her over his shoulder. He held up his hands when she cocked her gun. “I’m going, colleen, never fear. But first, could ye be directing me to the Taylor place, by any chance?”

Lil stared at him for a moment while questions raced through her head. Normally, she didn’t poke her nose into other folks’ business, but in this case . . . . “What do you want at the River T?” she demanded.

He frowned testily. “I mean no harm, if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m merely trying to find my sister. She’s wed to David Taylor. D’ye know him?”

Lil drew a sharp breath. “You’re Jessie’s brother?”

“Aye, that I am. So ye do know them.”

“I know them all right,” she gritted. She should’ve guessed who he was from his damned Irish accent and those blue eyes that were so much like his sister’s. The two looked a lot alike in other ways, too, except Jessie’s hair was dark red instead of black. And he was handsome, not beautiful.

Fiddlesticks! She didn’t care what he looked like. And she didn’t cotton to the way he was staring at her now, as if he was trying to see inside her head. It gave her an uneasy feeling. She wanted him gone. If giving him directions would get rid of him, so much the better.

“Follow the creek. It’ll take you to their place,” she snapped, jerking her head in the downstream direction. “Now leave before my trigger finger slips. On purpose.”

He blinked and seemed to come back to himself. “I thank ye for your kind assistance, milady,” he said mockingly. Facing forward, he kicked his sorry mount into a stiff-legged trot and headed down the creek, bouncing in his saddle.

Watching him, Lil snickered. He was a greenhorn if there ever was one, and he was going to be mighty sore tonight. She waited until he was well out of sight before laying her gun aside and returning her attention to the mired calf.

Dashing Irish (Texas Devlins, Tye’s Story)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0069HLDJU (Kindle)

http://tinyurl.com/lk8w55d (Nook)

Sources:

Riding Pretty: Rodeo Royalty in the American West by Renee M. Laegreid

Quotable Texas Women by Susie Kelly Flatau and Lou Halsell Rodenberger

Cowgirls, Women of the American West by Teresa Jordan

Friday, July 18, 2014

The 101 Ranch and Wild West Show

                                                         
Presented by Sarah J. McNeal, author of contemporary, historical, paranormal, time travel and western stories.

                                                  The Ranch 101

Years ago, after my father died, when I received Grandfather McNeal’s family trunk, for the very first time, I looked at the things that lay beneath the false bottom. Before then, Pop had only shown us the things at the top of the trunk, things like pocket watches, clay and wooden smoking pipes, wire rimmed glasses, a huge magnifying glass, and other small items. I was very curious about what lay beneath that false bottom.

After I removed the false bottom, I discovered a photo album with all the pictures Uncle John had taken while he toured the United States and Canada on his motorcycle. I found his death certificate, birth certificate, an envelope containing all the news clippings of his drowning and a two letters he wrote home to his family. Uncle Donald, on the other hand, must have written home every week because there were quite a few letters from him. The trunk was full of old pictures, tintypes, marriage, birth and death certificates, letters from other family members, a childhood drawing by my sister, Mary, my baby book and a school paper with the word purple colored with purple crayon that I enthusiastically colored having discovered the color for the first time.
 
And there were other things that didn’t have anything to do with family; among them two rolled up posters from an old rodeo. One poster was of a cowboy on a horse, and the other was an American Indian on a horse. 



(Thanks to my nephew, Matthew McNeal Beaty for taking these pictures of the posters)

The posters were very colorful and I could tell they were quite old. I knew that if I didn’t do something to preserve them, they would eventually deteriorate. I had both posters framed with acid free paper behind them and spacers so they wouldn’t touch the glass the way museums preserve such things. It was certainly worth the money it cost to do it.
It wasn’t until I read a Southern Living Magazine article about the Ranch 101 in Oklahoma and saw posters of the rodeo, one of which looked just like mine, that I realized what those two posters were all about and the magnificent history behind them.

The 101 Ranch began as a cattle ranch in the Indian Territory of Oklahoma on 110,000 acres before Oklahoma was a state. It was founded by Colonel George Washington Miller, a Confederate Army veteran, in 1893. The 101 Ranch was the birthplace of the 101 Ranch Wild West Show and was also an early focal point of the oil rush in northeastern Oklahoma.

                                      The Huge Ranch House at the 101 Ranch
                                            (What's up with those ostriches?)

When Colonel Miller died in 1903, his three sons, George Jr., Zack, and Joseph took over the operation. Their neighbor, Major Gordon W. Lillie, who performed as Pawnee Bill, convinced the brothers to produce their own Wild West Show. The brothers, who had done local performances, began shows on a national level in 1907 and began their show at the Jamestown Exposition in Virginia. From there, they began touring in Brighton Beach, New York. An exceptional equestrian, the eldest brother, Joe, was the star performer. As their show grew, it included well known performers such as Lillian Smith, Bill Picket, a black performer who also worked on their ranch for thirty years, Bessie Herberg, Bee Ho Gray, Tom Mix, Jack Hoxie, Mexican Joe, Ross Hettan, and the now elderly Buffalo Bill.

                          A Mural of the 101 Ranch Painted on the Side of a Building

Because they came into the Wild West Show business late, they suffered financial set backs due to the invention of motion pictures. They also suffered problems that cost them money during their first year after a serious railroad accident, followed by an outbreak of typhoid fever among the cast. Later, Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill combined their shows into an extravaganza that broke records at Madison Square Gardens in New York City. The Miller brothers took their show abroad. In England, the British confiscated the 101 horses, stagecoaches, and automobiles for the war effort while tensions were building that would lead to World War I. In Germany, the Oglala Indians were arrested under suspicion of being Serbian spies and were never seen again. Zack Miller became frantic and managed to get all of them out of Germany through Norway, and back to England, but he couldn’t find a steamship that would sell them passage. Finally, he was able to obtain passage on an American ship for his cast. Once they returned to Oklahoma, Joe Miller refused to pay the Indian cast overtime, and as a consequence, the entire Indian cast left.

                                   Geronimo touring the 101 Ranch in an automobile

By 1916, the two youngest brothers had had enough of their volatile eldest brother, Joe. George Jr. and Zach went back to working on the ranch, but Joe had big ideas of making the show a success. He hired the aging and out of work Buffalo Bill to star in a World War I recruitment show he called the "Pageant of Preparedness." Buffalo Bill Cody quit the show and died with a year. Undeterred, Joe persisted to try to sell the show to the American Circus Corporation until 1927, but was unsuccessful. In October 21, 1927, Joe was found dead by a neighbor in the 101 Ranch garage with his car still running. His death was determined accidental by the family doctor. In 1929, George Jr. died in a car accident.

                                                Pawnee Bill and Zack Miller

Zack Miller tried to carry on alone, but The Great Depression hit and, in 1932, Zack filed for bankruptcy. The United States government seized the show’s remaining assets and bought 8,000 acres of the 101 Ranch. The show closed after the New York World’s Fair in 1939. Zack died of cancer in 1952.



The 101 Ranch Oil company
Back in 1908, the Miller brothers had entered into a leasing agreement with E. W. Marland, who formed the 101 Ranch Oil Company. After striking oil in 1911 at the “Wiilie-Cires-for-War” well, Marland would become a millionaire and then a U. S. congressman. Eventually he was elected governor of  Oklahoma. The 1911 discovery of oil led to the founding of Marland Oil Company, which later became renamed the Continental Oil Company, and finally, the Conoco Phillips Company.



The 101 Ranch Historic Landmark

After Zack went bankrupt, the federal farm Security Administration divided what was left of the ranch and sold it off in parcels to individuals. The 101 Ranch house and most of the other buildings were torn down. Until September 22, 1987, the 101 Ranch store remained standing until it burned in a fire. Very little is left of the 101 Ranch today, but in 1990, the Oklahoma Legislature designated State Highway 156 as the 101 Ranch Memorial Road. An historic marker is located on the highway just 13 miles southwest of Ponca City. All that remains of the 101 Ranch today, is a couple silos and some building foundations of the store, other outbuildings, and the once palatial house on one acre of land.

Bill Picket, was posthumously inducted into the Cowboy Hall of fame in1971. The legendary African-American cowboy was additionally honored in 1994 when his image appeared on a special issue U.S. Postal stamp as part of the notable “Legends of the West” series.
His grave and the White Eagle Monument are located on the ranch grounds.
Wild West Show performer, Lillian Frances Smith. Known professionally as Princess Wenona. The Murphey’s found her grave in Ponca City’s IOOF Cemetery. Her grave was simply marked with a small stone that read, “P. Wenona”. Lillian Smith once billed as the “Champion Rifle Shot of the World” toured with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Shows and later performed with the 101 Ranch Wild West Show from the 1880’s into the late 1920’s died destitute in 1930 while a resident of Marland, OK.


                               Location of Kay County Oklahoma and the 101 Ranch 

                                      All that remains of the 101 Ranch Today
Preservation Measures
I was happy to learn that funding to restore some of the 101 Ranch is ongoing by several organizations and they are making progress in buying back part of the land that the 101 Ranch once owned.

In January of 1996 the 101 Ranch Old Timers acquired the remaining acreage owned by the 101 Ranch Restoration Foundation and later that year opened three acres as a public picnic area.

For its 1996 dedication, the United States Department of Interior supplied National Parks Service historic plaques. Hundreds attended as Indians danced in front of teepees while cowboys and cowgirls on horseback paraded with wagons and a stagecoach during the ceremony.

On August 16, 1998, the Old Timers group with the City of Ponca City sponsored the dedication of a monument to the memory of the late Bill Pickett of the 101 Ranch. Today, that engraved flat stone monument can be found at the corner of Third St. and Grand Avenue in downtown Ponca City, OK. Pickett was both a working and performing cowboy from 1905 to 1932 with the historical ranch and its Wild West Shows. He is credited with the innovation of what is known today as the rodeo sport of “Bulldogging”.

In August of 1999, the 101 Ranch Old Timers and other sponsors unveiled a handsome stone monument for “Princess Wenona at her Ponca City I00F grave site. The four foot tall black marble memorial headstone features the image of Princess Wenona along with her record breaking accomplishments as a trick shot artist and association with the 101 Ranch.

In December of 2004, the Old Timers group hosted a national television film crew doing a segment for the History Channel series, “History’s Mysteries”. On the subject of the 101 Ranch, that episode aired in 2005.

During the summer of 2007, the 101 Ranch was chosen as a topic by the Oklahoma Educational Television System broadcast series “Oklahoma Horizon” (www.okhorizon.org). It also appeared internationally on the Dish satellite systems’ RFD-TV network (Dish satellite channel 231).

The 101 Ranch OTA offers a single DVD on the history of the 101 Ranch. Produced by Ken Greenwood and Cox Communication Company, the DVD is titled, ‘Cowboys and Tall Grass Country-The 101 Ranch”.

 For Your Viewing Pleasure
Documentary video of 101 Ranch

Ghosts and Legends: the 101 ranch

Resources:
Wikipedia History of the 101 Ranch
History of the 101 Ranch Old Timers Association by Al Ritter

The information on the 101 Ranch was taken from: The Noble County Genealogy Society History of Noble County Oklahoma Perry, OK: McNaughton & Gunn, Inc., 1987. Permission was granted by the Noble County Genealogy Society to Cheryl DeJager and the Cherokee Strip Museum to use this information for research purposes. The information should not be used for publication or for other purposes without the express permission of the Noble County Genealogy Society.
Note: Not all of the photographs contained in this exhibit are available at the Cherokee Strip Museum. Photographs may have been edited for presentation on the web site.

 Where you can find me: