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Synopsis Of My Novel, “Cottonwood Justice”

March 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Our two heroines meet at Fort Laramie, Wyoming in the early spring of 1878. Both are on separate heroic expeditions to bring the murderers of their loved ones to justice. Having exhausted their funds, the two women pair up to manage a way station along the Cheyenne/Black Hills trail as a means of securing monies in order continue on their missions.

Over the span of the next six months the two women, Josephine Becker (Jo) and Katherine Baine (Katie), breathe life into the Way Station with delicious meals and hand-crafted furniture. They form friendships and even procure a makeshift family when they rescue two abused teenagers, Ann Harms and Manuel Martinez, from their abusers.

In her journey’s Jo learns that she can protect herself despite the fact that she does not know how to handle a gun. Using a frying pan, tin plate, or a coffeepot for defense, she states with her actions as well as her words that injustice will not be tolerated where she is concerned. Katie learns to trust people again as she realizes that in order to meet her goal for justice, the best solution is to enlist the aid of her friend. With her fine shooting skills and quick-thinking, she thwarts more than just the progress of the outlaws that her bead was originally drawn on.

Together or separate, both women lead an action-packed life of rescuing the abused, stopping stage robberies, shooting wanted criminals, preventing a bank robbery, and even saving the life of a courtesan.

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Westward Mountain Man

March 15, 2011 Leave a comment

It wasn’t until I had read “Wagons West, Nevada!” that I finally came to realize what the lure of Nevada could have been back in the old west days. When I saw Nevada for my first time two years ago, all I saw was blackish mountain ranges, sometimes snow-covered mountains, sagebrush and rocks. At that time, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the allure of settling in Nevada – what attracted the likes of Kit Carson, anyway?  Did they really have to pull wagons over sagebrush/rock covered mountains for mile upon mile? Why did they do that?

It was the great gold and silver hunt to fund the Civil War, of course. Well, I have never felt so lacking in my knowledge of American history as I did at that revelation. There was so much gold and silver in Virginny City and the Comstock Lode that Abraham Lincoln granted statehood to Nevada despite the fact that there were not enough residents in Nevada to merit it. When the silver ore was found, it was worth over $2,000 a ton – 1859 prices – so it’s not at ll surprising that President Lincoln wanted Nevada to join the Union.

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West of Lust, I mean Lusk

March 5, 2011 Leave a comment

During the rough and ready days of the Black Hills gold rush, not far from Lusk Wyoming,  there lived a woman with feathers on her legs and  hellfire in her hair. She gave shelter to robbers, threw parties for roughians, and maintained a bank of stolen goods.  This woman was revered with the moniker “Mother Featherlegs” which was as endearing a name that could be attached to a woman who traded flesh for funds.

Without wondering too much at how this renowned woman of the world’s oldest profession acquired “Mother” in her name, the fact is that “Featherlegs” is thought to come from referring to her red pantalettes that waved in the breeze. Some questions one answers, some questions one leaves well enough alone.

Mother Featherlegs is lilely the only prostitute in the United States with a monument erected in her honor. The monument stands ten miles west of Lusk,  not far from where her murdered body was discovered in 1879. Madam Featherleg’s partner, Dangerous Dick Davis, later confessed to the Madam’s murder while also revealing her Christian name, which was Charlotte Shepherd.

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Ft. Laramie – a Portrait of Manifest Destiny

March 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Trappers, Indians, emigrants, soldiers, prospectors, tourists – these people and more passed through Ft. Laramie in southeastern Wyoming throughout the 1800s. Located on the Laramie River trappers picked the sight in the 1830s as a place to trade furs. It became a much needed resting spot for travelers of the Oregon and Mormon trails in the 1850s. As more people moved west looking for land or gold the soldiers were kept busy dealing with the Sioux who resented whites traveling across their land. The skirmishes diminished in the 1860s only to start again when gold was found in the black hills in 1874. Fort Laramie then became a stop on the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage line as prospectors, gunmen and tourists flooded into Deadwood.

 With the building of the train from Cheyenne to Deadwood in the 1880s the fort became unnecessary, but not forgotten. Preservation of Ft. Laramie began in the 1930s and much of the fort now looks like it did in its heyday.  Today Ft. Laramie National Historic Site is managed by the National Park Service and stands as a visual history of western expansion. It is a wonderful place to visit for anyone interested in the history of the American west.

I visited Fort Laramie several years ago. My most vivid memory of the site is not the historic buildings, but the absence of anything modern. As you stand at the edge of the fort and look west you can easily imagine what the emigrants must have seen and felt as they got ready to leave the safety of Fort Laramie and head into the great unknown looking for a better life.

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Wild Wild West, Eight Fascinating Facts About Deadwood

February 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Eight facts about historic Deadwood South Dakota

The history of Deadwood, SD has filled many books through the years. I find it interesting that facts stated in one book are called fiction in another. Many of the people who made Deadwood famous were famous in their own right and that fame came with stories, both real and mythical. Rather than deciding for myself what is true and what is truly made up, I am picking these eight facts from a book whose author worked hard to discover the truth. The Read Deadwood by John Ames is a fascinating book that separates historical truth from both the fantasy of the penny dreadfuls of the 19th century and the fantasy of the TV series in the 21st century. Enjoy!

1) Women wanted – Deadwood in the late 1870s had 200 men for every woman.

2) A prospector could find $20 to $25 worth of gold a day in the early days of the gold rush. He often lost it in the saloons and brothels in Deadwood. If he managed to not lose it on the many vices available he would probably lose it buying food. 100 pounds of flour started at $10 and went as high as $80. Fresh eggs sold for several dollars apiece.

3) Seth Bullock became Deadwood’s first sheriff in 1877. He and Theodore Roosevelt were good friends.  Seth rode in Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade, leading 50 cowboys.

4) A small pox epidemic hit the Black Hills in 1878. Among the brave people treating the inflicted was Calamity Jane.

5) Lawman Wyatt Earp spent the winter of 1876-77 in Deadwood. Since no claims were left he started a business hauling winter stove wood to the residents. It was cold hard work but in the spring he left Deadwood with $5,000 profit.

5) The queen of female gamblers, “Poker Alice” Ivers was known to make up to $6,000 a night at the height of her career. She became a legend in the Black Hills and often sat in on big stakes games.

6) The Sundance Kid spent time in the Lawrence County jail in Deadwood in 1897 for a robbery of a bank in Belle Fourche, South Dakota. After several weeks he escaped and became one of the west’s best known outlaws.

7) Potato Creek Johnny (Welshman John Perret) stood only four foot three, but was the stereotype of a well-worn prospector. His fame exploded when he found the largest gold nugget ever discovered in the Black Hills. It weighed 7 ¾ troy ounces. A replica of the nugget is on display in the Adams Museum in Deadwood. The real one is in their safe.

8) Mt. Moriah Cemetery sits above Deadwood. With congressional permission an American flag flies day and night over its famous residents:  Seth Bullock, Calamity Jane, and Wild Bill Hickok, among others. Over one hundred thousand people visit Hickok’s grave annually.

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“Wagons West…” by Dana Fuller Ross

February 23, 2011 Leave a comment

The westward flow of American exodus having been staunched by the pounding pacific long ago, we can be thankful that the journeys of our brave ancestors are entombed for our re-living in books and films. Among this vast array of collected tales, I have been most fortunate to stumble across what I can only refer to as the best series I have ever read.

The “Wagon’s West…” series by Dana Fuller Ross first entered the roundup of historical fiction in 1979 with the release of the first book, …”IDEPENDENCE!”  It’s great to see such a diverse group of people forging friendships and making allies from foes as the wagon train begins its first leg of a long journey west. The character development is very strong in this particular book, which is the reason why the reader absolutely cannot wait to pick up book 2; NEBRASKA!” Who marry’s who? Who beats the odds against nature, natives, and nay-sayers?  The people who undertook the westward roll were braver than anyone I’ve ever encountered, and this series portrays that sense of courage and dedication to a ‘T’.

This series is action-packed to beat all get out. Sometimes, while reading this series, I just couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and I found myself  wishing that I could move my eyes as fast as I could move my fingers. Five stars, five stars, five stars. Buy it, read it, and read it again. You can’t do much better in re-living the westward experience than within the pages of the “Wagons West” series.

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Western novel, “Cherokee Trail” by Louis L’Amour

February 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Louis L’Amour is the king of westerns; with many of his dozens of books turned into movies or TV shows*. He turned the wandering of his early years into the vivid stories that have lasted for decades. His many adventures introduced him to many captivating people, and he filled his books with unforgettable characters. Unlike some western writers, he knew that the west was made by both men and women and some of his books tell the women’s stories as well as the men’s. One such book is Ride the River which continues the Sackett saga with Echo Sackett from Tennessee. Another is Cherokee Trail, the story of two women surviving and thriving in Wyoming during the height of the Civil War.

 

Mary Breydon is a typical woman facing difficult problems. Her plantation in Virginia has been destroyed by the War Between the States. As she and her husband head west to start a new life, he is murdered leaving her alone to care for herself and their young daughter. Her only choice is to take the job her husband had accepted, running a rough and tumble way station on the rugged Cherokee Trail. With the help of a young woman in need of a job, and a variety of friends she finds a home in the untamed west.

 

All she wants is to run a successful business and provide for her family, but there is danger she must face. Her husband’s killer is using lies and money to gain power among the community. At first she has no desire to endanger herself or the people at the station, but when the killer discovers who she is and how she can ruin him, he brings the fight to her. With her back against the wall she faces her fears and does all she can to stop this man before he can harm anyone else.

 

Is Cherokee Trail worth reading? I think that any Louis L’Amour book is worth a try, but no fan of western fiction would be disappointed by this book. Humor, adventure, loyalty, and deceit – all that and more can be found between these pages.

 

*One of the long running TV shows was Five Mile Creek that ran three seasons starting in 1983 on the Disney Channel. It was based on Cherokee Trail.

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