Sunday, September 22, 2019


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines
Photo property of the author
I am going to go out on a limb and say most of those who write for and read this blog love westerns. For myself, I've been re-visiting and finding the old television shows and movies between work and writing. I thought I'd share some that have been fun, along with the stars that made them memorable.

One of the first series I watched was "Yancy Derringer". It only ran one season, and actually took place in New Orleans. Not really west, but the idea of the lone hero (or anti-hero depending on your view), righting wrongs fits the idea of the early Western. It starred Jock Mahoney. Here is a link to some additional information about the show: Yancy Derringer
Yancy Derringer cast 2.JPG
Cast of Yancy Derringer, Jock Mahoney is on the right
photo from Wikipedia
Of course, who doesn't remember "The Cisco Kid"? Even if you never saw the show, the Cisco Kid is a part of our combined consciousness. The show ran for six seasons and as the official IMDb site, " The Cisco Kid and his English-mangling sidekick Pancho travel the old west in the grand tradition of the Lone Ranger, writing wrongs and fighting injustice wherever they find it." The show was filmed in color, even though most televisions were black and white. The other interesting fact was Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo had starred in Cisco Kid movies prior to the television show. And Carrillo was seventy years old when filming the series. For more info: Cisco Kid

Image result for cisco kid
Duncan Renaldo as Cisco and Leo Carrillo as Pancho
These were followed in short order by "Whispering Smith" with Audie Murphy as a Denver Colorado police detective, "The Dakotas" with Jack Elam and a young Chad Everett, as two of four federal marshals and "The Texan" with Rory Calhoun, a loner who traveled the west righting wrongs.

Of course the "B" movies with the likes of Alan 'Rocky' Lane, Sunset Carson, Don 'Red' Barry, Wild Bill Elliott, and of course Charles Starrett as "The Durango Kid".

Alan 'Rocky' Lane with Lucille Ball
Photo from Wikipedia
There was also the "Gene Autry", "Roy Rogers" and the ever-popular "Hopalong Cassidy" movies and TV shows.

I once read that when William Boyd, who starred as Hopalong Cassidy, finally meet the author who created the character, Clarence Mulford, Mulford was reputed to have said something to the effect of  "So you're the SOB who changed my character". Still, the two were reputed to have gotten along well. Clarence Mulford

Of course, there were many movies and TV shows that came after these early offerings.

And just in case you think it's only movies and TV westerns, I've also been revisiting the stories of Western writers, T.T. Flynn, Alan LeMay, Peter Dawson, Lauran Paine, and L.P. Holmes. If you get a chance, give them a read if you have some time after you read your favorite author and are waiting for their next book to arrive.

What were your favorite old-time movies and TV Westerns? I know all the above and more inform my stories, including my most recent ones 'Duty', in the anthology "Hot Western Nights" and "The Outlaw's Letter"

Purchase from Amazon
Purchase from Amazon

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 

Friday, September 20, 2019

Sowbelly and Sourdough

While poking through my books about the old west (I have quite a few) I pulled out one titled Sowbelly And Sourdough, Original Recipes from the Trail Drives and Cow Camps of the 1800s. Compiled by Scott Gregory, this book is a plethora of chuck wagon recipes, often with funny names, as well as quotes and quips that illustrate the trial drivers’ rigorous lifestyle and the cooks who kept them fed.

Setting the tone, Mr. Gregory opens with a poem called “Old Coosie” by Charlie Hendren, a modern-day poet, songwriter and singer who brings to life the Old West. The poem is kind of long, and I don’t want to infringe on the author’s copyright, but here are a few stanzas.

“Somethin’s got Old Coosie mad,”
the kid whispered as we roused up.
“He’s cussin’ fierce ang whangin’ pots.
We may not get no chuck.”
I stomped into my hightops
and answered, “Don’t you fret.
He gets like this from time to time,
but no man’s gone hungry yet.”

“I ain’t so shore,” the kid replied.
“His eyes are lookin’ grim.
I saw ‘em by the firelight
and they’re frosty round the rims.”
“Kid, I tell you, it’s ok.
Coosie gets like this some morns.
He wakes up recallin’ his cowhand days,
and it puts him in a storm.

“That he’s too stoved to cowboy
and throw his hoolihan,
And catch him up s cold-backed hoss
and ride the rough off him.
You know, he’s got more cow sense
than any five of us,
But when we ride off he’ll still be here,
cleanin’ dishes up.”

The poem ends with the seasoned cowboy giving the kid some good advice.

“Remember, Kid, it’s no small thing
to show a man respect.
It’s hard to earn and quick to lose,
and you’ve done seen the effect.
Be prayin’, Kid, that when you’re old
and you’re nearly out of hope,
Some kid will come and ask you
to help him with his rope.

"Let’s ride.”

The cook was a major part of any outfit, both at the home ranch and at a cow camp, or on a cattle drive. He was often paid more than the cowboys and took orders only from the ranch owner or trail boss. If a cowboy ever tried to “put the cook in his place,” he might find sand in his beans or horsehair in his biscuits.

The chuck wagon was the center of the operation. As Gregory says, if a stranger rode in he’d likely ask “Which way’s the wagon?” Or a cowboy might advise “Go to the wagon and see if Cook can doctor that for ya.”

There were rules of etiquette about the chuck wagon that cowboys were expected to follow. They never approached on horseback from the up-wind side because of dust the horse would kick up. Cowhands never touched anything in the wagon without the cook’s permission, except for their own bed roll which was carried there. Above all, they never “bellied up to the stew pot” until “the call” came from the cook.

Recipes used by the cooks were a blend of cultures: Mexican, Native American and frontier settlers from varied backgrounds. Cooks from different outfits also shared recipes, each one giving them his own special twist. Cowboys sometimes told the cook about a dish they’d eaten in a saloon or hotel, and he would do his best to duplicate it. Of course, the cook could only prepare food according to how well the outfit stocked the wagon. “Good food kept the cowhand’s belly full and his mind right.”

Now here are three of the many recipes collected by Gregory.

Helava Chili

This recipe came out of Texas in 1891. Gregory points out that chili is an American invention – not Mexican, as many folks think.
2-3 pounds chopped (ground) beef
4 T. bacon drippings
1 large onion diced
Green chilis, to taste
1 - 8 oz. can tomatoes, chopped
4 8:13 PM. Chili powder
2 T. cumin
4 cloves garlic diced
½ tsp. oregano
1 cup water
Pinch of cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of thyme

In a Dutch oven, brown the beef in the bacon fat (do not drain). Add the onions, green chilies, and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Add remaining ingredients; simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. Do not cover unless you’re cookin’ outdoors. Add a little more water whenever it looks like it is going to stick. Skim the grease when well cooked. Thicken with 2 tablespoons flour mixed with ¼ cup water. Stir and cook another 10-20 minutes.

Serve over beans, refried beans, rice, biscuits, or cornbread. You can add the beans to the chili if you like, but most cowboy cooks made it up Separate; it gave ’em more options!

Tater Soup

About this one, Gregory says, “I personally have never been much of a soup eater. But once in a while I find one that sets pretty well, this is one of those.”

1 gallon water
6 large potatoes
1 cup cream
I cup rice
Lump of butter
1 tablespoon flour

Start the water boiling. Peel and chop the potatoes very fine and place in water. Then add the rice. Combine a lump of butter the size of an egg with the flour. Stir this into the cream, then stir mixture into the soup base. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook at a slow boil for one hour or until everything has cooked in well.

This can be stretched by adding some dumplings to it!


Gregory says, “The difference between these and regular hot cakes is that these don’t have any eggs. Even the milk can be substituted with water, making these well suited for the trail.”

1 quart of flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teasoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Bacon grean
 Milk or water

Mix all dry ingredients together. Then add milk or water to make a thick but pourable batter. Pour into heated heavy skillet that has been liberally greased. As edges appear to get stiff, flip and cook other side until done. Serve with syrup and butter, (if available).

All in all, this book is fun to read as it reveals what cowboys ate on their trail drives or at “home on the range”.

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: (universal link)
Newsletter:  Lyn’s Romance Gazette
Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 

Monday, September 16, 2019

Eating Out in the 1850s

In my latest Sweet, Historical, Western Romance (A Bride for Alastair), my characters are returning to Boston after an extended stay in Missouri. They, of course, hadn’t left any food supplies in the house, except a few dried goods like tea, as they weren’t sure how long they’d be away. In those days, although the arrival of the rails had greatly sped up travel times, it still took at least a week to make the trip one way. But that doesn’t change the fact that you gotta eat.

Interestingly, the word restaurant, from a French word, only applied to eating establishments serving French cuisine. Most famous in the East is Delmonico’s in New York which opened in the 1830s. But aptly named “eating houses” also existed, besides saloons, as well as street vendors. The further West one travelled, the more people had to rely on eating “out” as fewer people had homes. By the time one got as far as San Francisco, nearly everyone ate in restaurants most of the time as so many were living in tents or hovels. This led to cooks coming from all over the world and created a diverse eating experience. The first three Chinese restaurants in the United States were opened in San Francisco in the 1850s.

Hotels served food, of course, to their patrons. In order to protect respectable woman from unwanted advances, a separate dining space in large hotels called a ladies’ ordinary was set aside for families or ladies travelling alone. At this time, women were not permitted to dine alone or unaccompanied by a male escort in restaurants and the public rooms of luxury, urban hotels. A ladies’ ordinary provided a socially acceptable venue where respectable women could dine alone or with other women.

I find this hard to believe as I don’t like them, but in the mid 19th century, one of the most common dishes ordered at any eating establishment was oysters. From my research, it seems like all across the country they were very popular. I can’t imagine them being very good in the middle of the country, but I suppose near the coasts they would be fresh enough.

One thing I found fascinating, because “respectable” women didn’t usually eat in restaurants, a solution had to be found as the nation prospered - wealthy women could work up an appetite while out shopping. Thus the ice cream saloon came about. These decadent eateries allowed women to dine alone without putting their bodies or reputations at risk. The first ones served little more than ice cream, pastries, and oysters, but as women became more comfortable with eating out, these establishments expanded into opulent, full-service restaurants with sophisticated menus. Although ice cream saloons or parlors had an air of dainty domesticity, they also developed more sultry reputations. At the time, they were one of the few places where both men and women could go unchaperoned. As a result, they became popular destinations for dates and other illicit rendezvous.

The research I had done for my book centered around Boston, so I’ve found researching this article absolutely fascinating. I think some of these tidbits are going to have to turn up in future books <grin>.

Secrets divide them. Could love build a bridge to help them overcome their deceptions?

Jane was full of resentment and fear when the man she had married by proxy came to collect her. She resented the circumstances that required her to marry and was afraid of being tied to a stranger, especially a stranger she had to keep secrets from.

Alastair Fredericksburg, Fred to his friends, had arranged successful proxy marriages for a few of his friends but still had mixed feelings about marriage due to his sister’s unhappy union. He was understandably hesitant when his friends Ella and Carter McLain contacted him requesting that he arrange a marriage for their friend, Jane.

When a sudden inheritance that would solve many of his sister’s problems is dependent on his marriage, Fred can’t decide if it’s the Devil or Providence watching out for him. Since Carter had already sent Jane’s proxy, Fred quickly signs and registers their marriage. After making sure his sister was secure, Fred boarded the westbound train to claim his wife.

Jane was certain it was only the sweet wine they had been drinking that had caused her to agree to Ella’s rash suggestion. She had failed to tell Ella of the secrets that made her an ineligible match for Alastair Fredericksburg. Would she be able to keep her secrets from her new husband? And could they ever be happy while divided by deception?

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Returning to the Past: A Woman’s Life on the American Frontier by Shirleen Davies

The period of western expansion and settlement challenged settlers in ways inconceivable to us today. It’s hard to believe, with all our modern conveniences and creature comforts, that our ancestors were ever so resourceful, determined, and resilient in the face of monumental difficulties.
Frontier Woman Hauling Buffalo Chips

When you start to do a little digging, it doesn’t take long to discover that women who traveled west—alone or with their families—had unprecedented responsibility on the frontier. By necessity, women did a great deal more physical labor on the frontier than we’re accustomed to today.

Most women on the frontier who took jobs to survive, worked in traditionally female roles such as teaching, nursing, and service work. However, these jobs made women’s labor integral to the growth of western communities.

The challenge of frontier life started with the journey. Women were responsible for preparing their families for the long, dangerous trip westward. One of the most important pieces of that puzzle was outfitting a wagon. 
Family in their Covered Wagon

Women hand-sewed wagon covers (often in groups as a social event) as well as clothes for the journey. These items were necessary to surviving harsh and varied climates which included burning heat in the plains and deserts, and freezing cold in the mountains. Wagons were stocked with the bare necessities, forcing tough choices when it came to leaving precious heirlooms behind. Families needed to be kept clean, fed, and clothed, but saving space and weight in the wagon made this a delicate balancing act between preparedness and minimalism.

When families reached the frontier, priorities shifted away from basic survival toward establishing sustainable lives in the new land. Women were vastly outnumbered by men. Some figures place it at three or four men for every woman. However, women still shouldered a great portion of the work.
Female Cattle Rancher

Men worked jobs that drew them west in the first place, while women took charge of home management as well as assisting with farming and ranching chores. Unmarried women often cleaned rooms in hotels and boarding houses, worked in saloons, and assisted in medical clinics that benefited local families as well as the huge number of single men who lived in or passed through their towns. Providing laundry and seamstress services also gave women with no family a way to survive. Women as a whole often pooled time, skill, and capital to provide care for the entire town’s children, bachelors, transients, ill, and injured.

Women also shouldered the responsibility for orchestrating social and leisure time. Church boards and ladies’ groups were often a town’s most important asset in terms of creating a homey, enjoyable social life in frontier towns that were isolated and detached from the rest of the country.
Mining town life, however, drew a different type of woman. Many traveled from camp to camp, working in saloons and offering their favors in the sex trade. Brothels sprung up overnight in such camps and were extremely popular. Women who didn’t make it in this trade occasionally became outlaws. There are accounts of numerous females who became accomplished at robbing stagecoaches, banks, and unsuspecting newcomers to the west.
Many women were drawn westward for teaching opportunities. One of the reasons that so many women were able to get jobs in education is that one could get away with paying female teachers less than male teachers. Still, education jobs were considered valuable opportunities, enticing women to strike out for the western territory. Female educators did their best with little to no supplies, bare classrooms, overcrowding, and nothing more than the Bible for reading material.
Frontier School House

Schools also operated according to ranch and farming schedules, which meant some schools were in session for as few as three months out of the year. As a group, determined, altruistic female teachers were responsible for educating an entire generation of western Americans in basic academic and life skills.

Because there were so many more men, women were “in demand” among those who wanted to settle down in the west. This meant that unmarried women could afford to be picky, and many women held more social and financial capital than they could have in the east.

Participating in local politics became more common among women in the west. Tough, resourceful, enterprising women, earned the respect and admiration of the town’s men through their mettle and fortitude, proving themselves through their countless contributions to the economy of frontier towns. In some towns, women secured their rights earlier than their eastern sisters. Believe it or not, women in the western territories had the right to vote well before the 19th amendment, and well before most of their sisters on the eastern seaboard.

Unending work, hardships, and unparalleled opportunity awaited those women willing to make the sacrifices necessary for a life on the frontier. Could I have lived during the western expansion? Of course. Any of us could. Would I want to do it given present day conveniences and jobs? Hmmm…that’s a whole other question.

What would you do?

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Inspiration coming from the land and an author

by Rain Trueax

Zane Grey with one of his guides-- painting inside the lodge at Kohl's Ranch
Most writers have authors who inspired them. For me, one of the earliest, was Zane Grey for his mix of action, romance, and nature. His books made me want to be in the places he described because I knew he'd written of what was real. I loved how he depicted the land having the power to change lives.

Alongside my desk is one of his books. It originally came out as To the Last Man, inspired by a real feud in the Tonto Basin-- [The Pleasant Valley War]. Years after the censored version, the book came out as he had originally intended-- Tonto Basin. Even back then but more so today, Zane Grey is criticized for not being politically correct. He had his prejudices and was a product of his time. He wrote his stories when the West wasn't that far removed from its wild and woolly days. Remember Arizona was denied statehood until 1912-- some say because the rest of the states thought it was still too violent. There was some conflict over it not wanting to be one state with New Mexico for possible racist reasons. Add to it that it seemed barren without water. Whatever the reasons, it was the last of the contiguous states to be admitted.

Much as I loved Grey's heroes and heroines, his descriptions of nature inspired me the most and probably contributed to my own love of it for my writing. He brought the land alive as a real character in his stories. As a hunter and fisherman, he walked the trails about which he wrote.

As an example of what I loved, the following is a snippet typed from the book. It was worth the work as I am still inspired to remember to bring to my books the nature that I always found in his.
 "Early in July the hot weather came. Down in the red ridges of the Tonto it was hot desert. The nights were cool, the early mornings were pleasant, but the day was something to endure. When the white cumulus clouds rolled up out of the southwest, growing larger and thicker and darker, here and there coalescing into a black thunderhead, Jean welcomed them. He liked to see the gray streamers of rain hanging down low from a canopy of black, and the roar of rain on the trees as it approached like a trampling army was always welcome. The grassy flats, the rocky slopes, the thickets of manzanita and scrub oak and cactus were dusty, glaring, throat-parching places under the hot summer sun."

As I typed the snippet, I was tempted to put in the commas that I am dinged for missing; but no, this is how it is in the book and how he wrote when you knew he'd experienced that kind of day.
We have been on the Rim many times but just one time through the valley where the feud happened. It is out of the way and required some gravel roads to leave it to the south.  It's a small place, very pretty with homes and business spread apart-- at least when we were there. Grey changed the names; but in an interview, he said there was still fear and anger from those he spoke to about that bloody time-- when it came down to the last man.

This photo above is not in Paradise Valley; but from 2011, near where Grey had a cabin under the Rim from where he hunted, fished, hiked, and wrote his Arizona books. 

My first time at his cabin came out of my desire to find his hunting and writing cabin. It was 1974. We had camped several miles below. It turned out the road to the cabin was closed due to storm damage. I had to see it, and we began walking. I think it was just over two miles.

Part way, some young rangers stopped and asked if we wanted a ride. We rode in the back of their pickup to the turnoff to the cabin. We were lucky that day that the caretakers were there. The cabin was one room with no bedrooms. Inside was a desk where he wrote. His guests and Grey slept in cabin tents. On that first visit, there were books for sale, and I bought three paperbacks even though I already owned them. 

In 1979, we had a second visit where the road to it was open. We parked in the parking area, but the caretaker was not there. We though could be on the porch and look in the windows.

My third time was 2011, after the monster Dude Fire had come though the rim country, and despite all efforts to save it, burned the cabin. A few mementos were saved. When we drove up anyway, the property was gated off by the association that apparently owned it.

Today there is a replica of Grey's cabin in Payson, a nearby town. I chose not to go into it as although it resembles the cabin, it's not the same for energy as when it was possible to see inside the walls that inspired a writer to create stories that still live on. 

When I wrote this, it reminded me of wanting to watch again the most recent movie (I read there were 112) based on one of Grey's books-- Riders of the Purple Sage. It's on Amazon, but I own it-- some movies I know I'll want to see again and again.  

Grey had a prejudice against Mormons and used some words that are not okay today, but this film avoids that and goes to the real problem with some groups using religion-- greed, search for power, and fundamentalism. Ed Harris and his wife, Amy Madigan, starred and kept it true to the energy of the book. It was filmed in gorgeous, red rock country, which is not on the Rim but to the north. Arizona is a state of diversity, which is why I've loved having a home there for over twenty years now and where I have placed so many of my books.