Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Antonio Narbona and The Place Where Two Fell Off

Antonio Narbona was a Criollo, or local person of Spanish ancestry, born in Mobile in Spanish Louisiana (now Alabama.) He moved to Sonora in 1789 and became a cadet in the Santa Cruz Company, sponsored by his brother-in-law, Brigadier General Enrique Grimarest. He was promoted to ensign in 1793, and later to lieutenant.

Eventually, Narbona supported the independence of Mexico from Spain in 1821, and was governor of the territory of Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico (New Mexico) from September 1825 until 1827. But what he is remembered for by the Navajo people is his invasion of Canyon de Chelly, the heart of their homeland in what is now northeastern Arizona. At the time it was part of Mexico.

Mexico in 1824; wikipedia, creative commons license 3.0

Lieutenant Narbona led a troop of soldiers to New Mexico from Chihuahua province in January 1805 in response to a Navajo raid on a Spanish military post and nearby settlements. Narbona’s force travelled north from the Zuni Pueblo, through a break between the Tunicha and Chuska Mountains (now called Narbona Pass) to attack the Navajo in Canyon de Chelly.

When the Navajo got word of the Spaniards’ approach, many fled into Canyon del Muerto, the northern branch of the Canyon de Chelly complex. Scaling a steep rock wall, they took refuge in a shallow cave they had hidden in to escape other enemies in years past. They believed themselves safe there.

Navajo pictograph of Narbona leading troops in Canyon de Chelly
The soldiers marched through the canyon, killing warriors who’d lagged behind to guard their people’s retreat, and taking some prisoners. In Canyon del Muerto they were taunted by a shrill woman’s voice calling out, “There go the men without eyes! You must be blind!”

One of the soldiers climbed up the rock wall and spotted the Navajo in their recessed hideout. Another soldier climbed up intending to take prisoners. When he crossed the cave threshold a Navajo woman wrapped her arms around him and threw them both over the edge. Locked together, they plunged to their deaths hundreds of feet below.

From the canyon floor, the Spaniards began to ricochet bullets off the roof of the cave while, according to one account, others dashed out of the canyon, raced around the north rim and shot down at the people in the cave. Eventually, all were killed except one old man, who lived to tell the story to other Navajo.

Although Narbona claimed his men had killed 90 warriors plus 25 women and children, the Navajo say the dead were women, children and the elderly, since most of the men were away hunting when the troops attacked.

Massacre Cave - The Place Where Two Fell Off

When archaeologists examined the cave a century and a half later, they found the victim’s bones still lying on the cave floor. The site is widely known as Massacre Cave today, but the Navajo call it The Place Where Two Fell Off. They believe it is haunted by spirits of those who died there.

Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and paranormal romantic suspense novels, all spiced with sensual romance. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and one very spoiled cat. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged baby.

Amazon Author Page: viewAuthor.at/LynHornerAmazon (universal link)
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Sunday, August 18, 2019


By Lynda Cox

 The Johnson County War, also known as the War on Powder River and the Wyoming Range War, was a range war that took place in Johnson, Natrona and Converse County, Wyoming in April 1892 and became so brutal and disruptive that the US Cavalry was ordered by President Benjamin Harrison to intervene. This range was fought between small ranchers and the large, wealthy, and much longer established ranchers and culminated in a lengthy shootout between the local ranchers, a group of hired killers, and a sheriff’s posse.
Conflict over land was a somewhat common occurrence in the development of the American West but was particularly prevalent during the late 19th century and early 20th century when large portions of the west were being settled by Americans for the first time. Historian Richard Maxwell calls this time period the “Western Civil War of Incorporation” and Johnson County seemed to be the epicenter. Early in Wyoming’s history most of the land was public and open to both raising stock on the open range and for homesteading.
Large numbers of cattle were turned loose on this open range by the large ranches. Ranchers would hold a spring roundup where the cows and the calves belonging to each ranch were separated and the calves branded. Before the roundup, calves (especially orphan or stray calves) were sometimes surreptitiously branded. Many of the ranchers owning large swaths of land tried to defend against rustling by forbidding their employees from owning cattle and lynching (or threatening such) suspected rustlers—often without benefit of a trial. Heaven help the cowboy found with a branding iron in his saddle bags. Property and use rights were usually respected among big and small ranches based on who was first to settle the land (the doctrine is known as Prior Appropriation) and the size of the herd. Nonetheless large ranching outfits would sometimes band together and use their power to monopolize large swaths of range land, preventing newcomers from settling the area.
It was against this backdrop that the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) was formed with a membership comprised of some of the state’s wealthiest and most popular residents. Socially, the group met at the Cheyenne Club in Cheyenne, Wyoming. As the membership was made up of the elite, the organization carried a great deal of political sway in the state and even in the region. The WSGA carried so much political clout that they were able to set a schedule for roundups and shipments of those beeves East. They also created a detective agency to investigate cattle rustling.
The often uneasy relationship between larger, wealthier ranches and smaller ranch settlers became steadily worse after the winter of 1886-1887 when a series of blizzards and temperatures of 40-50 degrees below 0 °F (-45 °C) had followed an extremely hot and dry summer. It started snowing in October of ’86 and didn’t stop until late May of ’87. When it wasn’t snowing, the weather complicated matters with freezing rain, creating a crust so thick on the snow that the cattle couldn’t paw through to get to what there was of the drought stricken grasses. Thousands of cattle died and while many large ranches went belly up, others of the large land and cattle companies began to appropriate land and control the flow and supply of water in the area. Some of the harsher tactics included forcing settlers off their land and setting fire to settler buildings as well as trying to exclude the smaller ranchers from participation in the annual roundup. The justification for these strong armed tactics was the catch-all allegation of cattle rustling.

In Johnson County, with emotions running high, agents of the larger ranches killed several alleged rustlers from smaller ranches. Many were killed on dubious evidence or were simply found dead while the killer(s) remained anonymous. Frank M. Canton, Sheriff of Johnson County in the early 1880s and detective for the WSGA, was rumored to be behind many of the deaths. The double lynching in 1889 of Ella Watson and storekeeper Jim Averell (who never owned a cow in his life) enraged local residents. A number of additional dubious lynchings of alleged rustlers took place in 1891. At this point, a group of smaller Johnson County ranchers led by a local settler named Nate Champion formed the Northern Wyoming Farmers and Stock Growers' Association (NWFSGA) to compete with the WSGA. The WSGA “blacklisted” the NWFSGA and told them to stop all operations. The NWFSGA refused the WSGA's order to disband and announced their plans to hold their own roundup in the spring of 1892.
The WSGA, led by Frank Wolcott (WSGA Member and large North Platte rancher), hired gunmen with the intention of eliminating alleged rustlers in Johnson County and break up the NWFSGA. Twenty-three gunmen from Paris, Texas and four cattle detectives from the WSGA were hired with Idaho frontiersman George Dunning who later turned against the group. Some WSGA and Wyoming dignitaries also joined the expedition including State Senator Bob Tisdale, state water commissioner W.J. Clarke, W.C. Irvine and Hubert Teshemacher, both instrumental in organizing Wyoming's statehood four years earlier. They were accompanied by surgeon Dr. Charles Penrose as well as Ed Towse, a reporter for the Cheyenne Sun, and a newspaper reporter for the Chicago Herald, Sam T. Clover, whose lurid first-hand accounts later appeared in eastern newspapers. A total expedition of 50 men was organized. To lead the expedition the WSGA hired Canton, a former Johnson County Sheriff-turned-gunman and WSGA detective. The group became known as “The Invaders”, or alternately, “Wolcott's Regulators”.
The first target of the WSGA was Nate Champion at the KC Ranch (of which today's town of Kaycee, Wyoming is a namesake), a small rancher who was active in the efforts of small ranchers to organize a competing roundup. The “Regulators” traveled to the ranch late in the night of Friday April 8, 1892, quietly surrounded the buildings and waited for daybreak. Three men besides Champion were at the KC. Two men who were evidently spending the night on their way through were captured as they emerged from the cabin early that morning to collect water at the nearby Powder River, while the third, Nick Ray, was shot while standing inside the doorway of the cabin and died a few hours later. Champion was besieged inside the log cabin.
During the siege, Champion kept a poignant journal which contained a number of notes he wrote to friends while taking cover inside the cabin. “Boys, I feel pretty lonesome just now. I wish there was someone here with me so we could watch all sides at once.” The last journal entry read: “Well, they have just got through shelling the house like hail. I heard them splitting wood. I guess they are going to fire the house tonight. I think I will make a break when night comes, if alive. Shooting again. It's not night yet. The house is all fired. Goodbye, boys, if I never see you again.”
With the house on fire, Nate Champion signed his journal entry and put it in his pocket before running from the back door with a six shooter in one hand and a knife in the other. As he emerged he was shot by four men and the invaders later pinned a note on Champion's bullet-riddled chest that read “Cattle Thieves Beware”.
Two passers-by noticed the ruckus that Saturday afternoon and local rancher Jack Flagg rode to Buffalo (the county seat of Johnson County) where the sheriff raised a posse of 200 men over the next 24 hours and the party set out for the KC on Sunday night, April 10.
The WSGA group then headed north on Sunday toward Buffalo to continue its show of force. The posse led by the sheriff caught up with the WSGA by early Monday morning of the 11th and besieged them at the TA Ranch on Crazy Woman Creek. The gunmen took refuge inside a log barn on the ranch. Ten of the gunmen then tried to escape the barn behind a fusillade but the posse beat them back and killed three. One of the WSGA group escaped and was able to contact the acting Governor of Wyoming the next day. Frantic efforts to save the WSGA group ensued and two days into the siege Governor Barber was able to telegraph President Benjamin Harrison a plea for help late on the night of April 12, 1892.
Harrison immediately ordered the U.S. Secretary of War Stephen B. Elkins to address the situation under Article IV, Section 4, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which allows for the use of U.S. forces under the President's orders for “protection from invasion and domestic violence”. The Sixth Cavalry from Fort McKinney near Buffalo was ordered to proceed to the TA ranch at once and take custody of the WSGA expedition. The 6th Cavalry left Fort McKinney a few hours later at 2 am on April 13 and reached the TA ranch at 6:45 am. The expedition surrendered to the Sixth soon after and was saved just as the posse had finished building a series of breastworks to shoot gunpowder on the invader's log barn shelter so that it could be set on fire from a distance. The Sixth Cavalry took possession of Wolcott and 45 other men with 45 rifles, 41 revolvers and some 5,000 rounds of ammunition.
The WSGA group was taken to Cheyenne to be held at the barracks of Fort D.A. Russell as the Laramie County jail was unable to hold that many prisoners. They received preferential treatment and were allowed to roam the base by day as long as they agreed to return to the jail to sleep at night. Johnson County officials were upset that the group was not kept locally at Ft. McKinney. The General in charge of the 6th Cavalry felt that tensions were too high for the prisoners to remain in the area. Hundreds of armed locals sympathetic to both sides of the conflict were said to have gone to Ft. McKinney over the next few days under the mistaken impression the invaders were being held there.
The Johnson County attorney began to gather evidence for the case and the details of the WSGA's plan emerged. Canton's gripsack was found to contain a list of seventy alleged rustlers who were to be shot or hanged, a list of ranch houses the invaders had burned, and a contract to pay each Texan five dollars a day plus a bonus of $50 for each person killed. The invaders' plans reportedly included murdering people as far away as Casper and Douglas. The New York Times reported on April 23, that “The evidence is said to implicate more than twenty prominent stockmen of Cheyenne whose names have not been mentioned heretofore, also several wealthy stockmen of Omaha, as well as to compromise men high in authority in the State of Wyoming. They will all be charged with aiding and abetting the invasion, and warrants will be issued for the arrest of all of them.”
Charges against the men “high in authority” in Wyoming were never filed. Eventually the invaders were released on bail and were told to return to Wyoming for the trial. Many fled to Texas and were never seen again. In the end the WSGA group went free after the charges were dropped on the excuse that Johnson County refused to pay for the costs of prosecution. The costs of housing the men at Fort D.A. Russell were said to exceed $18,000 and the sparsely populated Johnson County was unable to pay.
Emotions ran high for many years following the “Johnson County Cattle War” as some viewed the large and wealthy ranchers as heroes who took justice into their own hands in order to defend their rights, while others saw the WSGA as heavy-handed vigilantes running roughshod over the law of the land.
A number of tall tales were spun by both sides afterwards in an attempt to make their actions appear morally justified. Parties sympathetic to the invaders painted Nate Champion as the leader of a vast cattle rustling empire and that he was a leading member of the fabled “Red Sash Gang” that supposedly included the likes of everyone from Jesse James to the Hole in the Wall Gang (of which the most famous members were Butch Cassidy and The Sundace Kid). These rumors about Champion have since been discredited. Parties sympathetic to the smaller ranchers spun tales that insinuated the Regulators hired some of the west's most notorious gunslingers such as Tom Horn and Big Nose George Parrot (whose skull was later used by the warden at the prison in Laramie as an ash tray). Horn did briefly work as a detective for the WSGA in the 1890s but there is no evidence he was involved in the war.
As many historians as there are is as many theories as to why this dispute over land and resources turned into a shooting war, but one thing remains consistent and that is the popular image depicts the Johnson County War as an act of vigilantism by aggressive foreign-owned land and cattle firms against small, individual settlers defending their rights.
Sources include: 

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


The Blackfoot and the Crow were two tribes of Montana whose lands overlapped. Both play a significant role in book six, Promise Trail, from my Redemption Mountain historical western romance series.
Blackfoot with bone chestplate.
The Crow, sometimes we're referred to as the “Crow Nation” derived their name from their own native word, Aspalooke (opp-sah-loh-kay), which literally means “children of a long-beaked bird.” The French translated this as “People of The Crow.”

The Blackfoot Tribe, or sometimes “The Blackfoot Confederacy,” trace their roots to lands near Alberta, Canada. Their territory stretched all the way to the Yellowstone River of Montana. They were united by a common language, and originally carried the name Niitsitapi, literally translated as, “the original people.”

Although tradition made them enemies, each tribe had many similarities. Both were nomadic hunter-gatherers, lived in tipis, were expert horsemen, and hunted buffalo.

Crow brave.

Spirituality was important to both tribes, each embracing a mystical, earth-based religion. Both tribes believed everything in nature—plants, trees, rivers, mountains, and rocks—had a spirit. Crow and Blackfoot men used sacred sweat lodges to breathe in the steam from the sacred rocks, allowing mother earth to draw negative energy and toxins from their bodies and spirits.  The men emerged sweaty and virile, cleansed and rejuvenated.

Appearance was important to the Crow. Men never cut their sleek, beautiful hair. It flowed from their broad warrior shoulders past their muscled chests and flat stomachs to their powerful thighs and calves, and down to their feet. Oiled with bear’s grease, their long hair shined like raven feathers. When hunting or fighting, they’d pull the long tresses into a bun.
Crow chief.

Crow men took great pride in their dress, wearing opulent sun-bleached buffalo robes which were a brighter white and finer than those of other tribes.

The Crow were generally a friendly people, even towards the white settlers, securing them a sizable reservation in Montana. Their main food source came in the form of American Bison, which they hunted with impressive efficiency and innovation. They also used the bison skins for clothing in the winter and for their traditional shelters, the tipi and skin lodge.  Their main form of transport came from horses, which they learned to breed and train.

Crow women played an important role in society and were well regarded, evidenced by the fact that when a couple married it was always the man who moved into her home and never the other way around.
Blackfoot woman with child.

The Blackfoot were named that by French fur traders who watched them walk through a prairie fire, noticing the black bottoms of their moccasins. The name the Blackfoot called themselves means Lords of the Plains. And their plains, the majestic Blackfoot territory, held more buffalo per square mile than anywhere else in the northern lands.

Four northwestern plains tribes made up the Blackfoot Confederacy: the North Piegan, the South Piegan, the Blood, and the Siksika tribes. They shared the same language and culture, had treaties of mutual defense, gathered for ceremonial rituals, and freely intermarried.

These handsome lords of the plains fashioned their flowing hair into three long braids with a topknot or pompadour. The women wore their hair loose or in two long, thick braids.
Blackfoot chief Big Mouth.

A war-like people, the Blackfoot granted a great deal of honor and tribal esteem to members who committed brave and heroic deeds. They played a significant role in the Indian wars.

Thank you for reading the post. I’d love to hear your insights or comments about the Crow and Blackfoot people.

Promise Trail, book six in the Redemption Mountain historical western romance series, includes scenes about the Blackfoot and Crow tribes, and is available at most online retailers.

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Monday, August 12, 2019

Wild Turkeys -- summer

by Rain Trueax

Living on  little ranch in the Oregon Coast Range, we have wildlife as our neighbors. Sometimes that's worrisome like coyotes with sheep. Other times, it's such a blessing. Such is with the wild turkeys that live part of the year in our yard and pastures. I learned a bit about them out of curiosity as to how they fit into history.

In Oregon, they don't. It is claimed that the first wild turkeys were introduced here in 1961. I thought maybe they'd been over hunted as they had other places but apparently no evidence to show that they were ever here. They were elsewhere in the United States and have played a role in even stories about pioneers and Native Americans.

Of the four subspecies of turkeys, we have two in Oregon. The Merriam's wild turkeys were the first. They were live-trapped in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Montana. Today, it's believed that they hybridized with Rio Grande
wild turkeys brought to southwestern Oregon in 1975. They were native to riparian zones and scrub woodlands from the southern Great Plains into northeastern Mexico. They flourish in places like our ranch land here in the Coast Range.  
In researching, I learned wild turkeys evolved more than 11 million years ago although probably not exactly as they are today.  There are five subspecies of wild turkeys with different ranges and feathers. 

Ancient civilizations, like the Aztecs revered the birds and held religious festivals twice a
year. They thought the turkey was a bird manifestation of one of their gods-- a trickster. In the Mayan and Aztec culture, turkey feathers were used to adorn jewelry, clothing and headdresses. Although they regarded the turkey as of spiritual significance, they did also eat them. Navajos, in the American Southwest, penned wild turkeys to fatten them. 
In pagan and nature based religions, the turkey represents spirituality and Earth Mother. The red wattle, which is that flap of skin that originates from the forehead and is seen on the toms, is said to represent the energy center of intuition. 

The stories of them with the pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving are well known. Maybe less so is that Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be our national bird. He considered the proud, adaptable turkey superior to the eagle, whom he had little use for.

Most of the West had turkeys and then they were nearly hunted to extinction along with their natural habitat being reduced. It was time for an intervention and that was begun as hunting was limited to seasons and the birds were moved into areas, like Oregon, where they had never been. 

We had long seen them around us but two years ago is the first time that they began to raise their broods here where it's a natural habitat for them with the oaks and meadow like pastures. 

Some think of them like domestic turkeys, but they are not. Domestication takes a lot out of any animal. Wild turkeys have a wide variety of sounds they make to call each other, fight, or just express enjoyment. To hear them outside is one of the more enjoyable part of my life here in Oregon. 

Most often, we see the toms and hens together with the chicks but they are not monogamous birds. It's about the community. A tom may mate with several females but the hens only with one. They lay about twelve eggs, one egg a day for two weeks. The hens sit on the nest until the eggs hatch after four weeks. She stays there to protect those babies from all that would eat the eggs. 

When the poults hatch, they are up inside of a day. They must walk to find food as this isn't like the birds that can feed their young. The job of the flock is to get the young to food sources. Until the chicks get their flying feathers, they are vulnerable on the ground to snakes and other predators. Turkeys can be very aggressive and don't have spurs on their legs for nothing. One year, Ranch Boss watched a sad story as a hawk was attacking a chick that appeared crippled. The hen fought with him but the battle was hers to lose.

Something many don't know is adult wild turkeys fly quite well. They roost in trees as soon as their babies have enough feathers to fly. Ours here roost about 40 or 50 feet up. To hear them take off for their big branches is like a whirl of wind. They come down with less noise. The sounds in the trees range from gobble gobble to tweets and almost purring sounds. 

They generally will not stay one place for long. Even though we put out some grain for sheep and birds, they never linger but always move on. I expect them to not stay on the farm here although they get along quite well with the sheep. Both like the grains from tall grasses and what drops off the hay bales. It appears we have four flocks with varying ages of chicks. Earlier as the chicks were growing, it seemed the toms hung with the flock for protection. Now, they are hanging more together than with the hens and chicks. 

We have taken a lot of photos but haven't had much luck in capturing the sounds they make. They are very defensive and if you watch them in a flock, some will be looking behind and some ahead for predators.

What I have seen besides photos are a LOT of feathers. I don't know why they drop so
many, but they seem to be most heavily below where they roost. I am trying to figure out if I can use these in any productive way. Someone told me it's illegal to keep any feathers, even from game birds. I need to do some research on this. The striped ones look like many Native American headdresses, where they suggest eagle feathers. Some say their feathers have spiritual significance.

This week, when I had to deliver a message to Ranch Boss at the barns, walking down the gravel and dirt road, there were two hens ahead of me, without their chicks. As Ranch Boss
approached from the other barn side, the hens saw they had a problem. They ran toward him, then looked back at me. I was standing still. I knew that soon they'd have to choose to fly, something they prefer not doing. First one, then the other took to the air, very cool to watch and part of the joy of living with wildlife.
They are hunted in Oregon in two seasons-- spring and fall. I guess it's a popular sport, but nobody better try shooting the ones on our land. This is a sanctuary. :) They are not as afraid of us anymore, but they still run when we approach, which is good. Not all humans can be trusted. 

All photos are from our Oregon home from June to August.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

TOOLED LEATHER - Then and Now? E. Ayers

What exactly is it and how did that design get on the leather?
Tooling just means that the leather has been changed to create a design on the leather. That might be initials or a very elaborate pattern. Leather that is being tooled in usually made from several layers of leather glued together much like plywood. Then the leather is pressed or gouged with special tools. Vegetable processed leather is softer and makes it easier to alter the leather and most tooled leather is process with vegetables. Today we see leather that had been painted or airbrushed. That’s not tooling. The leather has to be pressed or cut to be considered tooled.
Tooled leather dates back to the Egyptian tombs. The Moors tooled leather as did the Aztecs. Its found all over the world throughout the ages. But our American West is known for tooled leather. Leather chaps were worn to protect legs from cactus thorns and other thorny plants. Saddles were where most men spent their day. Much like today’s pickup trucks decked out with bumper stickers, window decorations, or license plate frames, tooling was a way for men to express themselves. They’d get their initials embedded into their saddle. They loved their chaps, belts, gun belts, vests, and especially their tooled boots. There was pride and prestige in their tooling.
The process that permitted tooling also made leather softer, more pliable, and
longer lasting. It also waterproofed leather. Leather-bound books were tooled. If it was made from leather, chances are it was tooled.
It’s an art form! And the people who create tooled leather are artists. Even today, tooled leather can be found on ladies handbags and other accessories. Animals, flowers, initials, and geometric designs are embossed into leather. Distinctive and beautiful, you don’t have to belong to the Old West to
enjoy the beauty of tooled leather.
Juan Antonio handbag

 Look around, do you own tooled leather? My boots are tooled. I have several books with tooled leather bindings, and a book cover that has been tooled. There's a half dozen belts in my closet that are tooled. I even have a pair of glasses with a tooled design on the case.  And I'm in love with that handbag!