Monday, October 14, 2019


Restless Wind, book 13 in my Redemption Mountain series, takes place in the fictional town of Splendor, Montana. The town has all the required businesses: general store, blacksmith, livery, boardinghouse, bank, millinery, and of course, at least one saloon. Splendor two prominent saloons, the Dixie and the Wild Rose. As with all of my historical books, I do quite a bit of research and thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned about frontier saloons in a blog post.

In the mid-1800s the term “saloon” replaced what most people called a tavern or bar. Saloons were popular in areas with soldiers, cowboys, miners, and railroad workers. Life was rough, and after a hard day’s work, men liked to drink and chat at the local saloon.
Long Branch Saloom
Early western saloons were tents where a man could sit and have a drink of whiskey. However, as more people traveled west, saloons became grander.  In wealthy towns, fancy establishments with mahogany wood, oil paintings, chandeliers, and posh carpets were built. Most important of all, many supplied a boundless supply of first-rate whiskey, champagne, cordials, rum, wine, and more.
In small towns, women could go into saloons without ruining their reputation, but that wasn't the norm. Large saloons often had a small cigar concession near the entrance, so ladies and gentlemen could make purchases without entering the actual saloon’s bar and gambling area.
1868 Tent Saloon
Every saloon had card table and many added the popular game of Far. Brag, three-card-monte, and dice games were also popular in old west saloons. Many towns like Deadwood, Leadville, and Tombstone were known for gunfights over card games. Professional gamblers sharpened their six-shooter skills as much as their gambling skills. Shoot first and ask questions later became part of a gambler’s code.
The Food
Early saloon food consisted mostly of biscuits, beans, beef, and bacon. Steaks were usually overcooked, and some saloons offered rattlesnake meat. Coffee was often the only non-alcoholic drink served.

Saloons in towns that could ship food in on steamboats, and later the railways, served better fare. Many saloons offered free lunches. The free lunches were epicurean buffets on narrow, twenty-foot-long tables covered in white linen and plates of meatballs, French cheeses, hickory-cured ham, cold cuts, beans, pretzels, rye bread, smoked herring, salted peanuts, peppery sausages, sauerkraut, kippers, potato chips, crisp celery and dill pickles. Some saloons featured daily free lunch specials like franks on Monday, roast beef on Saturday, baked fish on Friday, and so on.
Leadville Saloon
The idea of the free lunch was hungry men were thirsty men, and a few shots increased a customer’s appetite. Food, especially salty food, produced a mighty thirst. So, free lunch customers usually spent a great deal on booze. 

Most saloon regulars drank straight liquor—rye or bourbon. In the early days, the whiskey was 100 proof, though sometimes cut by the barkeep with turpentine, ammonia, gunpowder, or cayenne. They called this whiskey tarantula juice, red eye, coffin varnish, bottled courage, bug juice, coffin varnish, dynamite, joy juice, and snake pizen—the most popular term being firewater.
Cactus Wine, was also a popular saloon drink, made with tequila and peyote tea. Another was Mule Skinner, concocted from whiskey and blackberry liquor.

Saloons served beer at room temperature, and though the beer had a head, it wasn’t sudsy like it is today. Customers had to down their beer quickly before it got too warm or flat. But, that changed in the 1880s when Adolphus Busch brought artificial refrigeration and pasteurization to the U.S. brewing process. Some saloonkeepers set up a contract with a brewery to offer beer on tap instead of bottled only.

Famous Saloons
Saloons have become a big part of western lore. Some of the more famous ones are listed below.
·       The Bull’s Head in Abilene, Kansas, opened by Ben Thompson and Phil Coe in 1871.
Coe painted an anatomically correct bull on the outside wall of his saloon. The marshal, Wild Bill Hickok, threatened to burn the saloon to the ground if Coe didn’t paint over the offending image. In a later encounter, Wild Bill killed Phil Coe.
·       The Holy Moses in Creede, Colorado.
Bob Ford, who killed Jesse James, built and ran The Holy Moses Saloon. Ford was shot and killed by a miner in 1892.
Holy Moses, Creed, Colorado

The What Cheer House and Saloon in Columbia, California.
Considered one of the best saloons in the west, it was founded in 1857 and still serves drinks to this day.
·       The Occidental Saloon opened in 1880 in Buffalo, Wyoming.
The adjoining hotel hosted well-known guests such as Theodore Roosevelt, Calamity Jane, Tom Horn, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Western novelist Owen Wister.
·       The White Elephant in Fort Worth Texas.
It was known as one of the grandest combination of saloons, gambling houses, and restaurants.
·       The Jersey Lilly, was owned Judge Roy Bean who was judge, jury and coroner in Langtry, Texas.
Bean once took a revolver and $40 as a fine off of the corpse of a man who had fallen to his death. Apparently, Bean said, “Just because this gentleman got it into his head to get killed, I don’t mean to let him offend the peace and dignity of Texas.”
Jersey Lilly's Owned by Judge Roy Bean

·       The Long Branch Saloon of “Gunsmoke” fame.
It really did exist in Dodge City, Kansas and served milk, tea, lemonade, sarsaparilla, alcohol, and beer. The original saloon burned down in 1885 but was resurrected as a tourist attraction featuring a reproduction bar with live entertainment.
·       The Buckhorn Saloon opened in 1881 in San Antonio, Texas.
The owner, Albert Friedrich accepted horns and antlers in place of money from cashless cowhands. It is still open today as a museum.
·       Desert John's Saloon in Deer Lodge, Montana.
The Desert John’s Saloon was converted to a museum with an automated saloon keeper who tells visitors about the bar which was shipped up the Missouri River to Montana from St. Louis, Missouri.  The saloon museum also features the most complete collection of shot glasses, jugs, kegs, flasks, and antique liquor bottles in the US.
Bar Room Saloon, Arizona

·       Tombstone’s Crystal Palace Saloon, which serves whiskey to this day.
It was originally named the Golden Eagle Brewing Company but it was renamed the Crystal Palace Saloon when the building was expanded into a fine dining location that also served cigars, wine, and liquor. It was one of the few saloons with a female faro dealer. The second-floor offices were home to legends of the 1880s, like U.S. Deputy Marshal Virgil Earp.

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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Going Home

by Rain Trueax

When writing Going Home, I knew I was taking on some controversy when I had my hero fight for the South. I had researched that period and knew that the South wasn't all the same regarding slavery. Having a hero whose family owned a plantation but no slaves was not unheard of. 
The Hardmans had been leaders of a clan and landowners in Scotland. In the 1700s, the family's patriarch had seen the handwriting on the wall for what was coming in the conflict between the clans and England. He had sent his wife and children to France with what wealth he could put together. He stayed to fight out of honor even knowing it was a lost cause. 

There were many like that family who fought for their land and clan. Honor has people doing things like that. When the patriarch survived Culloden without being maimed or imprisoned, he found his way to France, and they all set sail for the New World where things would be different.  Don't forget Culloden was in 1746; so they weren't to know peace for long.

With the land they bought in Georgia had come slaves. The patriarch not only didn't believe in slavery but had suffered abuse himself. As soon as he could he set his slaves free and offered them work on the plantation. He taught his children and then grandchildren that freed people worked better when treated with respect and paid a fair wage.  

So back to Going Home, and why his family history explains the kind of man he is, why he would fight for a lost cause. It partly explains why he would leave the ranch he is trying to build up in Eastern Oregon, why he'd leave the woman he had hoped to make his wife. There is more involved.

Jed Hardman didn't go to fight to keep slavery, which he also didn't believe was right. He had seen enough of life to believe the South would not defeat the North. Although his family still owned that plantation in Georgia, he had his own land in Oregon. 

When his mother wrote of her need of him and that she was very sick, some might've claimed they just couldn't come. Learning two of his brothers were already fighting for the Confederacy, might not have been enough for a man without a strong sense of clan and honor.  Jed was that man with honor and loyalty-- another reason he didn't ask the woman he loved to wait for him, when he might not survive or even if he did could be maimed.

The book begins when the war is over. Raine, the oldest of the Stevens sisters has a nice life for herself in Portland. Jed returns with his only surviving brother to Oregon unsure if he'd have lost all he'd been building there. 

Oregon had declared itself a Northern state, which meant they didn't take kindly to those who had fought for the South. Oregon's government had done something that belied their sense of honor. No black man could own property in the state. Jed's brother was half black.

When I begin writing a book, I need to know the background for my characters, what makes them tick (much of what won't make it into the books). I often don't plan out all the secondary characters. Going Home ended up the most multicultural book I've written with Chinese, Jewish, Native American, on top of Jed's half brother. 

So, I was writing that book one summer having no idea that before I'd be bringing it out, my own country would again be arguing over the cause of a war fought between 1861-65, tearing down statues from the wrong side. This was a
bloody war that cost over 600,000 men their lives as it tore a nation apart with a bitterness that appears easily arisen even this many years later. 

When Jed returned to Oregon, he was hated for having fought for the South, but he faced even more turmoil as Eastern Oregon was thrust into another Indian war. The Snake War was one of Oregon's most violent. 

This following snippet has three men discussing the current and previous situation. Jed's father-in-law and friend are sitting on a porch in Eastern Oregon as night, cigars, and some whiskey has made them reflective.

Excerpt from Going Home:

“Part of my crew are two Warm Springs,” Jed said as he watched the smoke rise. The moon had just come up and was casting an eerie glow on the other men’s faces. He supposed his also. “I wonder if they will feel safe to return.”

“They might not want to leave their people,” Phillips agreed. “The Snakes aren’t any friendlier to peace loving Indians than they are to whites. Right now they want to wipe any sign of us from their land.”

“Again,” Adam said, “I understand how they feel, but I’d have to kill them also to keep my own safe and protect my land. I wish there was a better way for men to resolve their differences.”

Phillips looked then at Jed, met his gaze. “Sometimes there isn’t and yet here we are, sipping a whiskey, smoking, when a year ago, Jed and I would have been trying to kill each other. Rather ironic, isn’t it.”

“You expect the Indian conflicts could end up the same way, Rand?” Jed asked with a touch of disbelief even if he wished it to be so.

“Once there is a clear victor.”

“You expect there will be,” Jed said laconically.

“Eventually. Hard feelings or not, this is a problem of land. It seems unlikely to be settled short of a lot of dying. I may not like it, but it’s how the world has always operated. The military tries to make peace but again and again it’s undermined by those who want control. What do you do about that?”

“Peace is found in a cemetery and sent there with a bullet,” Jed said with some bitterness. Two of his brothers had paid the ultimate price as they had tried to secure their land. Just because it had always been that way didn’t mean it should.

Going Home is Book 3 in the Oregon Pioneer series following the Stevens Family. Book 1 had them on the Oregon Trail; Book 2 has them building homes and dealing with the Rogue River War and Oregon's own Trail of Tears;  and Book 4 brings the youngest Stevens sister to Eastern Oregon as a Pinkerton agent who meets up with her first love.

Available at Amazon for eBooks and paperbacks: Going Home.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Finding the Truth By E. Ayers

   First an apology for being late, our wonderful modern technology bit me. Seems my computers would not update and finally decided that they were going to refuse to work until I could get them updated. Now, I’m back in the cyber world and few dollars poorer.
That brings me to what are the difference between now and then, and when talking about the Old West, we’re mostly talking about the 1800’s. Lots of things are different, but some things never change. Let’s look at the things that have remained the same.
People are always looking for a better life. They want their children to have a better life than what they had. They want the opportunity to make more money, buy more things, have a better house, better food, better clothes, better education for them and their children, etc. It’s been that way since the caveman. That search for something better has always been with us.
What has changed? The things that we have or own. That’s also tied to wages. Inventions keep moving us forward. We no longer wash our clothes in a stream on a rock. We no longer have to use the old wringer washing machines or turn a crank to make the machine work. Thanks for electricity, Mr. Edison!
We are now saved from chamber pots and outhouses. We turn a spigot and we have running water, both cold and hot! We use shampoo that has been developed to give us “perfect” hair, depending on what we want our hair to do. These products are developed in labs and studied carefully before being released. They smell terrific and so does our hair. It magically heals split ends and makes our hair behave. But once upon a time, not too long ago, people were using some outrageous things to clean their hair and make it look good. Raw egg that was left in the hair? Rinsing with vinegar? How about turpentine on your hair? Might blind you, and much like the egg, I’m sure it stunk!
Children played with blocks, plain wooden blocks. Not fancy toy blocks that are made to snap together and hold tight. Books were expensive! Lucky was the child who had a few books. A ball might have been homemade. A wooden center covered with scrap material made a baseball. I doubt it did much bouncing. A doll made from cloth and maybe with china or porcelain for its head, hands, and feet. Or maybe it was made from cornhusks or wood.
So inventions change things. And as inventions made chores a little easier, we managed to stay cleaner, and do a better job. No longer are we on dirt floors that have been coated in cow blood to make it smooth and shiny. That certainly was easier to keep clean than a dirt floor that kicked up a ton of dust. Today we have vinyl and other products to produce shiny floors. We don’t sweep them with a broom. We vacuum them, or use an electric broom, even electric wet mops.
Advertisements push us to get a better vacuum. My daughter has a robot that does her vacuuming. When I suggested moving the kitchen chairs out of its way, she fussed at me and said no, I’ll confuse it. It has her house mapped. HUH?
So how do I know what was used in 1880? Often looking at patent office information will give us what we need. Old cookbooks are filled with information as they contain recipes for things like shampoo. Old newspaper advertisements contain a ton of everyday items. But going to the source is probably the best. And just because it was invented in 1885 doesn’t mean it was in use in 1885. It took several years before a patent became an easily obtained item.
For me, researching is fun. But figuring out some of the more subtle stuff can be difficult. When my hero in my upcoming historical western was burned, the "modern" practice was to use Vaseline. Yes, I researched it and in the process I learned things about Vaseline that I didn’t know. And the fun part is that we still use it, but not like it was once used.
My line editor is a great guy when it comes to commas. He’s learned a little history while editing my books. He looks this stuff up behind me, because he’s curious. He was surprised. Yes, Vaseline can still be used on minor burns, but not on anything major. We’ve got better stuff today. Chapped lips? Grab the Vasoline.
Things were available in the big cities, but not out in the West. There was definitely a
movement to “free” women. Women in the big cities wore things such as skirts that were actually pants. But not the average female, she wore a dress. Furthermore those fancy dresses with corsets, they for the city. Women had to breathe while they did chores.
A friend has a family photo album and it shows a distant relative that was once a
1897 a portrait in Paris by

John Singer Sargent

debutante. But after marrying and moving west, she went from a delicate rosebud to a tough woman who chopped firewood. I can imagine how she felt after serving high tea to living in the middle of no place and being responsible for firewood. Her fine-featured face and fancy up-do barely resembled the woman she had become ten years later.
Those women who went West on wagon trains…there were no bathrooms or privacy. Open plains didn’t give any cover. So the women stood in a circle and spread their skirts to hide the woman needing to relieve herself. So not fun!
As for women rights and the concept of suffragettes, look to England first, then look to our West. Quite a few of our western states gave women the right to vote in that state’s/territory’s elections. That’s because the most powerful women in the west tended to own the brothels and saloons. They were influential and rich. They got what they wanted. But the funny part is the average women who pushed for the rights to vote grew out of the prohibition movement to end alcohol consumption and cut down on criminal activity. Those were the devout religious women who believed their men were going to Hell for touching alcohol. (Unfortunately prohibition birthed organized crime.)
Life was tough and the men had few outlets for their disappointments and almost zero entertainment. The women who survived had to be tough. Tough enough to stand up for themselves, tough enough to have babies without help, and bury those babies in tiny graves when they didn’t live past their second birthday. They were barely surviving and their husbands’ drinking was robbing their budgets. It's easy to see how things happened but hindsight is always better.
I don’t want to go back in time. I’m happy with my hot and cold water that creates a nice shower, and my wonderful shampoo with keratin that keeps my hair healthy. My washing machine that allows me to toss a load into it along with a detergent pod and walk away, knowing I can come back in thirty minutes to clean clothes. Life is different and with it, we’ve raised the standard of clean. Our whites are whiter and our brights are brighter, and our homes are constantly being disinfected. I don’t own three dresses. I don’t own a dress. I own jeans- lots of jeans. I love my jeans and I have them in all sorts of colors. Life is good. I love writing about the old West, but I don’t want to live it!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

It's a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Today I'm sharing a little about the "business side" of being an author... 

I belong to a writing critique group, and during a meeting one of the members said something that got me thinking.
“Christi, all you’ve done lately is revise chapter after chapter of your novel and work on your synopsis, proposal, and loglines. You’re putting so much effort into making everything absolutely perfect that it doesn’t seem you get to have fun with your writing anymore.”
He’s right. It is hard work doing all the things needed to get published. Writing and polishing my novel was only the beginning. Creating the synopsis was tedious at best, the pitch sentence took days, and the book proposal, though finished, is still woefully inadequate and will need additional revisions. Don’t even get me started on the query letter.
The path to publication is also expensive. Writing conferences, reams of paper, printer cartridges, “how to write” books, membership dues to various writing clubs—all these costs add up quick.
Then there’s the social networking aspect to make sure you can actually sell your book once a publisher takes you on. Facebook, Twitter, blogging, building a platform, writing your bio, maintaining an email database and sending out newsletters to every person that expressed any interest whatsoever about your writing, and finally reading, and commenting on, fellow author blogs.
Don’t forget about the staggering amount of time it takes for a successful career in writing. First there’s hours, days, years spent in front of the computer researching, writing and revising your own work. Then you’ve got to find and read comparable works for reference and to make sure your own measures up, critique partner manuscripts, and somewhere in there you’ve got to read for pleasure.
After all that, when you’ve honed every last word of your manuscript/query letter/synopsis/book proposal/logline/pitch to shining perfection you send your work out. Then comes the crushing blows of all the various stages of rejection. And fighting back the self-doubt. And the fear in the back of your mind of “Am I good enough?”
Publishing is not for the weak, and even the most determined writer needs to take a break and regroup from time to time. I am no exception.
Over the summer I decided to relax for a bit since I’ve been working so hard lately. But, during my time off, my WIP (work-in-progress) continued to wait, patiently beckoning, knowing I can’t resist. Soon, my self-imposed “writing rest” found me thumbing through the pages longingly and I found myself filling the margins with notes and ideas.
It was during this moment when I realized, to an extent, my writing critique partner is right. This is the part that I love the most. As I flipped through page after page of my “already written but needing a serious revision sequel” ideas come forth and make their way to the paper with no worries of storyline, word choice, grammar–all the things that slow the flow of ideas.
However, my ultimate goal is seeing my book published. And since the “business” part of writing is how they’ll get on those shelves, consider me a businesswoman!

Friday, October 4, 2019

R. I. P. By Cheri Kay Clifton

We western authors have researched stories of legendary frontiersmen, outlaws, gunslingers, lawmen, and Native Americans.  For this post, I’ve written how and where a few of their stories ended and where they now “rest in peace.”

For many notorious outlaws, the Old West cliché is true, they died with their boots on! Not surprising that a number of cemeteries in the West are named Boot Hill.  The most famous one of all is Boot Hill in Tombstone, Arizona.  And its most famous inhabitants are Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury, all killed at the gunfight at O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881.

Certainly another outlaw at the top of the numerous list of those lying 6 feet under is Henry McCarty, aka, William Henry Bonney, aka, Billy the Kid.  On July 14, 1881, Pat Garret, the Lincoln County, New Mexico Sheriff was questioning a friend of Billy’s at his home in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Sitting in a darkened bedroom, Garrett was asking Billy’s whereabouts when Billy unexpectedly entered the room.  Billy didn’t recognize Garrett in the dim light and asked, “Quien es?” – “Who is it?”  These were the last words Billy uttered.  Garrett shot Billy twice in the heart.  Billy the Kid was buried the next day at Fort Sumner cemetery.  He was just 22.  The old Fort Sumner Post Cemetery is near present-day Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

As for lawman, Pat Garrett, (proper name, Patrick Floyd Jarvis Garrett), he endured a sullied reputation from folks accusing him of killing Billy the Kid without warning.  After finishing his term as Lincoln County Sheriff, Garrett wrote (with the help of a ghostwriter), his experiences with the Kid.  He died his own strange death, shot on the road while talking to a rancher who he’d leased grazing rights to in order to pay debts.  Originally buried in Odd Fellow Cemetery in 1908, Las Cruces, New Mexico, Garrett was reinterred in the Masonic Cemetery in 1957.

Outlaw Jesse Woodson James held the well know distinction of gang leader, bank robber, stagecoach robber, train robber, and murderer from the state of Missouri and the famous member of the James-Younger Gang. In 1882, he was killed by a member of his own gang who hoped to collect a reward.  Originally buried at his homestead in Kearney, Missouri, his grave was moved to Mount Olivet Cemetery in 1902.  Jesse was 34 years old.

Known as Texas’ most deadly gunman, John Wesley “Wes” Hardin killed over thirty people.  Captured by a Texas Ranger, he was released in 1894 after serving eighteen years in prison.  One year later, Hardin was shot and killed by John Selman, an outlaw-turned-lawman in El Paso’s Acme Saloon.  Selman was gunned down just a year later.  Hardin is buried at the Concordia Cemetery in El Paso, Texas at the age of 42.  Ironically, Hardin’s killer, John Selman is buried just a few feet away.

John Henry “Doc” Holliday was a gambler, gunfighter, dentist and good friend of lawman Wyatt Earp.  He’s best known for his role as a deputy marshal in the events leading up to and following the gunfight at O.K. Corral.  The man suffered nearly his entire life with tuberculosis.  In 1886 he moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, hoping that the hot springs vapors would improve his health.  However, a year later after spending two months in bed, he looked down at his bare feet and said, “That’s funny,” and died.  He’d always figured he would have died with his boots on.  He was 36 years old.

The Glenwood Springs cemetery sits high on a steep hill.  At the time of Doc Holliday’s death, the steep road was too icy so he was buried at the bottom of the hill with the intention of his body being moved when the ice thawed.  But, he never was and many years later, a housing development was built at the base of the hill and though a marker sits in the cemetery, his actual remains are probably buried in someone’s back yard!

Don’t want to discriminate, for there was also the female legendary “outlaw queen,” Belle Starr who was a horse thief, outlaw and part-time prostitute, and the first woman to be tried for the serious crime of horse thievery by the famous Judge Isaac Parker. In 1889, she was shot in the back and killed by an unknown assailant. Forty years old, she was buried at her cabin southwest of Porum, Oklahoma. Her daughter, Pearl had the following inscription engraved on her tombstone:
“Shed not for her the bitter tear,
Nor give the heart to vain regret,
‘Tis but the casket that lies here,
The gem that fills it sparkles yet.”

Can’t leave out James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, a legend in his time and one of the most famous frontiersmen in the West. On August 2, 1876, he was playing poker at the Nuttall & Mann’s #10 Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota when he was shot from behind by Jack McCall.  At age 39, lying dead on the floor, Wild Bill was holding a pair of black aces and a pair of eights, which has since been known as the “Dead Man’s Hand.” When in Deadwood, I visited his grave at the cemetery. Calamity Jane, who had long been infatuated with Wild Bill during his lifetime, asked to be buried next to him. Her last request was granted when she died on August 2, 1903.

Another famous lawman and gunfighter, Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp, who was marshal of Ellsworth, Kansas in 1873, marshal in Wichita in 1874, and marshal in Dodge City in 1876, spent his final years working mining claims in the Mojave Desert during the winters and summered in nearby Los Angeles, California.  In 1929 at age 80, he died peacefully with his wife, Josie at his bedside.  Earp is buried at Hills of Eternity Memorial Park in Colma, California.

Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s death became one of the most famous American legends known as “Custer’s Last Stand.” Custer finished at the bottom of his West Point class in 1861, yet led courageous service during the Civil War, only to lead his 7th Cavalry troops to their demise at the Little Bighorn Battlefield in 1876. He was 36 years old and is buried at West Point, New York.

 In a previous blog, I had reported on Buffalo Bill Cody, the greatest showman the Old West ever knew and his extensive museum in Cody, Wyoming.  After his death in 1917, he was buried on Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado.  He was 70 years old.

Speaking of Buffalo Bill, I’d also like to add Phoebe Ann Moses, a sharpshooter who rose to fame in a way most men could only dream of doing and became a legend in her own time!  She was known as Annie Oakley.  Buffalo Bill cast her as “Little Sure Shot” and she did trick shooting with his Wild West show for 16 seasons.  Even at age 60, she was still performing and winning shooting contests.

 Her health declined in 1925 and she died of pernicious anemia in Greenville, Ohio at the age of 66 on November 3, 1926. Her body was cremated in Cincinnati two days later and the ashes buried at Brock Cemetery near Greenville, Ohio. Assuming their marriage had been in 1876, Oakley and he expert marksman husband, Frank Butler had been married just over 50 years.

Butler died 18 days later in Michigan. His body was buried next to Oakley's ashes, or, according to rumor, Oakley's ashes, placed in one of her prized trophies, were laid next to Butler's body in his coffin prior to burial. Both body and ashes were interred in the cemetery on Thanksgiving Day (November 25, 1926).

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Happy Trails To You!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019


BY Vicki Hunt Budge

It was the compass and chain
that won the west, not the six-shooter!

This quote by David Garcelon captured my attention while doing research for my Sweet Historical Western Romance, Her Believing Heart, book 1 in The Surveyor’s Daughters Series.

For years, I have been interested in the surveying process because of my husband’s family of engineers. His father was a highway engineer for the state of Idaho, and his grandfather was an engineer and surveyor who oversaw the construction of the courthouse, hospital, churches, and the flour mill, in a small southern Idaho community. Grandpa Budge’s 120-year old transit and tripod have stood in our living room for years. You can’t dust an antique piece of equipment like this without wondering about the everyday lives of those who used it.
Abraham Lincoln, Surveyor
Land surveying has always been an essential part of property development and land ownership in the settlement of the western states. Surveying makes it possible to have accurate maps and property lines using the complex elements of engineering, geometry, physics, and mathematics.

Stephen E. Ambrose, in his acclaimed book, Nothing Like It in the World: The Men Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad, 1863-1869, called pioneer surveyors the true “…mountain men, adventurous, capable of taking care of themselves, ready for whatever the wilderness threw at them…Nothing could be done until they had laid out and marked the line.”

Survey Crew Camp, 1800s

The early surveyors required the skills of a woodsman to blaze trails, mineralogist skills to document the soil structure or important minerals, and marksmanship to obtain fresh food and defend against hostile Indians. Many surveyors lost their lives in skirmishes with the native tribes, as the tribes considered these European “measurers” the main cause for losing their land.

The mapping of the western territories was interrupted by the Civil War, but in 1867 four great surveys were put in motion: a geological survey of natural resources along the route of the railroad being built, a major survey of the western territories, a survey of the unknown canyonlands in the southwest, and a survey to create a military map of the southwestern area and to select sites for military posts. Clarence King (1842-1901), the first director of the U. S. Geological Survey, claimed that, “Eighteen sixty-seven marks . . . a turning point, when science ceased to be dragged in the dust of rapid exploration and took a commanding position in the professional work of the country.”

Honoring surveyors is this
statue at the Texas Rangers
Museum in Waco, Texas

In the meantime, thousands of smaller surveys were taking place for mines, towns, roads, and canals as people moved westward. In Route Surveys, my father-in-law’s old college instruction book for prospective surveyors, Harry Rubey includes a list of clothing and personal supplies with which to provide members of a survey crew. In addition, he suggests the “Chief of Party” check availability of forage for animals, and housing and boarding of men. “If in farm houses, the spacing and capacity, if in tents, the number of tents necessary and the proper design to withstand storms, animals, and insects.

County Surveyors, an elected
position in the 1800s

 Further instructions by Mr. Rubey include, the assembling of each party at the close of the day’s work, so that no one may be lost or left alone in case of accident. Special instructions should be given in regard to passing through cultivated fields. “The engineer’s tact, good judgment, and ability to get along with property owners and other influential persons in the community will contribute largely to his progress, while neglect of this important function is apt to handicap him severely.”

One thing was for sure according to James R. Dorsey, a land, boundary, and title consultant. Without surveyors, “there would have been no migration west—at least nothing orderly.”
He says that without the orderly location of land by surveyors, range wars would have been worse than they were. No government land was sold, no towns or cities platted, no railroads, canals, irrigation channels, roads or mines were developed without surveyors going in first.

As the western territories developed into states, many surveys took years to complete. Others were of a shorter nature, allowing surveyors to work part-time like the father in my Surveyor’s Daughters Series. In this series, Mr. Gardner is a homesteader as well as a surveyor, and two of his eight daughters always go along to cook for the survey crew. Will one of his daughters want to tackle the rugged life of a surveyor when she grows up? That remains to be seen as the series progresses.

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