Friday, November 21, 2014

YOUNG GUNS: Passing the Torch Without Getting Burned---by Marc Cameron


      I got a text from my youngest son the other day, bringing me up to speed on his adventures in the police academy
     “Got punched in the face today. Failed to block a left hook. It was awesome.
     That’s my boy.
     Of course, his mother wanted to know the name and badge number of the recruit who hit her baby, but his words brought a tear of nostalgia to my eye.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was in his boots, attending a regional academy in Texas with officers from a dozen different departments. At twenty-two I couldn’t grow the middle of my mustache, but I tried anyway because cops had mustaches—and I was a dead ringer from Opie Taylor without one.
When my son tells me about his day of firearms training and shows me how he’s put so many rounds through his Glock over a two-week period that he’s had to superglue the wound on his trigger finger closed, I’m transported back to dirt berm in the rural pasture, avoiding rattlesnakes and stepping over cow patties as we advanced on our targets.
            When he shows me a new move he’s learned in defensive tactics or a certain handcuffing technique, I envision the ginormous dude who will spin on him someday and bark (or slur or slobber or scream), “You’re just a @*%#& cop! I think I’ll take your gun and…” Anyway, you get the idea.  Thankfully for the folks my son will have to arrest, this new generation of lawdog has Tasers where we only had big honkin’ metal flashlights for the in-between times not covered by open hand or resorting to our sidearm.
            When he tells me about the naiveté of some new recruits, I remember a freshly graduated Highway Patrolman and a Texas Ranger. The two of them walked behind my captain, the Trooper sergeant, and me. It was daybreak and we were all on our way to breakfast. Unbeknownst to us, the Ranger asked to see the new Trooper’s revolver, saying something like: “Is that one of the new 586s they’re issuing at the Academy?” Now, an old salt knows you don’t go handing your sidearm off to someone else in the middle of town—but this kid was new, and it was a Texas Ranger doing the asking. Innocent as a lamb, the young Trooper handed his revolver over so the Ranger could take a look. The Ranger, always a joker, fired a round into the grass, then, quick a wink, passed the gun back to the astonished Trooper. When we all turned, we saw the flushed Trooper holding a smoking Smith and Wesson, a big divot in the courthouse lawn, and a twinkle in the Ranger’s eye.
            Poor kid.  He learned an important lesson that day.
            I just returned from Boucheron, a conference for Mystery and Thriller writers. Great fun, it afforded me the opportunity to associate with incredibly talented and successful authors. I could name drop here but the list is just too long.  There were a handful of former law enforcement officers in attendance, and oddly enough, we all tended to gravitate toward one another, sometimes without even knowing each other’s background. Call it radar for like-minded thinkers. All of us having either retired or quit to write fulltime, we sat for hours telling tales, cussing the system, and reminiscing about favorite partners who’d had our backs during the toughest of times. Often, we’d each end up staring into space, locked in thought about some past adventure or nightmare that would never make it into a war story.
            You certainly don’t have to have a law enforcement background to write about gunfights, fistfights and evil men—but it doesn’t hurt.
As luck would have it, there was an international motorcycle show next door to the conference.  Since my characters are often found on the back of a bike, I snuck away from the author panel discussions and belly-up-to-the-bar chats long enough to walk around the show and do some research.
Along with the BMWs, Ducatis, Triumphs and Harleys, there were, of course hundreds of vendors. A college-age kid pointed to the Maui Jim sunglasses resting on top of my head and asked if he could demonstrate his lens-cleaning product.  Happy to get free stuff, I handed them over. He was a nice guy, chatting about motorcycles and all the famous writers next door while he cleaned—one lens. He gave back the glasses and let me look at the world as I had been seeing it, along side the new world through the clean side. I handed the glasses back to him for the rest of the cleaning and asked if he would please take my money. 
One of the most important things they teach at any law enforcement academy is clarity—seeing things as they truly are rather than the way we wish they were.  My son stopped by the other day to talk to me about his officer survival class. When he parroted back that little truism, I knew he was going to be okay.
          It’s astonishing to watch the kid who used to run around in those little baby gowns, pin on a badge and strap on a pistol. It will be two years next month since I’ve hung up my own badge—and there’s not a day that goes my that I don’t miss it. Don’t get me wrong. I love this writing life. But the people I met in my former life—both heroic and heinous—all inform my writing to one level or another.  My knees are achier these days, I need trifocals if I want to be able to see the computer and the front sight of my pistol, and the ring finger of my right hand feels like someone attacked it with a ballpeen hammer—but when my son regales me with stories about ground-fighting, arm bars and shoot-and-move exercises, I forget about getting old, remember the way it was—and put it in a story.

Marc Cameron is a retired Chief Deputy US Marshal and 29-year law enforcement veteran. His short stories have appeared in BOYS’ LIFE Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post. He's published eleven novels, six of them Westerns.   
TIME OF ATTACK fourth in his USA Today Bestselling Jericho Quinn Thriller series, is the newest release from Kensington February of 2014. DAY ZERO will hit the shelves February 2015.
Marc lives in Alaska with his beautiful bride and BMW motorcycle.

Visit him at:  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Railroads, Silver, and Weddings #western #history @JacquieRogers

November in the Old West
by Jacquie Rogers

I can’t help myself—just keep poring over those old newspapers. There’s no better way that I know of to get the genuine flavor of post-Civil War daily life west of the Mississippi than to read contemporary reports of the day. Of course, we know they printed what sold papers, just as now. Old-time editors weren’t above sensationalizing, or throwing in an editorial comment here and there—and sometimes even made a joke of one of the esteemed residents.

These snippets all come from The Owyhee Avalanche, first established in Ruby City, Idaho Territory, and then moved to Silver City (as did everyone else—they even moved the hotel). They began publishing in 1864 and still have a going concern today, so this is their 150th year in business.

With the war over, the United States concentrated on building the infrastructure we enjoy today. Every move the railroads made was news and reported in every newspaper in the territory—and usually the adjacent states and territories as well. Here’s an example from November 4, 1865.

The Owyhee Avalanche, November 4, 1865

In a mining camp (Silver City was always called “camp” and locals call it that to this day), a good share of the articles concerned who dug up how much of what ore and who came up empty—that sort of thing. This article, dated November 22, 1873, gives us an insight into what all those numbers mean. How much is a ton ore worth?

The Owyhee Avalanche, November 22, 1873

The Paiute hadn’t quite come to terms with being ousted from their homeland, and few of the immigrants had any idea why the Indians were in a toot about moving on (not that they had anywhere to move to). Articles in The Owyhee Avalanche and other newspapers in the Pacific Northwest aren’t kind, to say the least, and definitely not politically correct by today’s standards.

The Owyhee Avalanche, November 11, 1865

When a man takes off into the wild country to find his fortune, in his zeal for riches he sometimes forgets his family. But working alone on top of a mountain is a good way to remember. Here’s an item about a man who did just that.

The Owyhee Avalanche, November 4, 1865

Life can get a little barren when there are no supplies to be had, but entrepreneurs were always ready to fill the void. Generally the storekeepers made more money than the miners. In fact, just about everyone made more than about 90% of the miners—poor fellows. Anyway, Silver City definitely was excited when a new shopkeeper came to town bringing wagons full to brimming with goods, as reported in the same issue.

The Owyhee Avalanche, November 4, 1865

Nineteenth Century newspaper editors weren’t a bit afraid to make light of important persons. In fact, if they didn’t make fun of you, you just weren’t important enough. So it was a dubious honor to be mentioned. This item was published in the November 11, 1865 issue.

The Owyhee Avalanche, November 11, 1865

And of course we can't forget the local gossip.

The Owyhee Avalanche, November 8, 1873

That's it for now!  See you next month with more news from the Old West.

Muleskinners #1: Judge Not

Elsie Parry and her eight mules survived the war, but can they escape the wrath of the Danby Gang? She lived alone for five years after the Recent Unpleasantness and was overcome with happiness to be reunited with her father. Now, his fondest desire is to leave all the bad memories behind and see the Pacific Ocean, so she agreed to head west. All’s well until they approach Wolf Creek, where they’re set upon by the notorious gang of ex-Confederate guerrillas… intent on proving the war is not over, after all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Hi everyone. Our Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA is coming up next week. For the last several years, I have not “cooked” a big Thanksgiving dinner. With my daughter going to LA every year at that time so often, and my son grown and gone as well, there just wasn’t a need to make a big dinner.

Yes, my husband did complain. Every year. But he never offered to help with anything, either. In desperation, we tried different traditions—the “Festive Fajita Party Pack” from our nearest Mexican restaurant, which is wonderful, by the way; the “Smoked Turkey Dinner and Fixin’s” from a fantabulous barbecue place we love…but of course, it wasn’t the same.

This year, my daughter will be home with us, and she wants “the dinner.” I haven’t bought my turkey—or anything else. It’s still a week away. I’m not stressed, though. Let me tell you why.

I have the money in the bank to buy those groceries. So many people don’t. If I want to make sweet potato pie, I don’t have to skimp on the marshmallows. If I want to make turkey, I don’t have to worry about one brand being ten cents cheaper than the brand I really want. And best of all, I can buy both kinds of cranberry sauce, since I’m the only one in my family who really loves the whole berry kind. So I’m very thankful for the fact that I don’t have to worry about being able to provide the menu I want to make for this holiday dinner.

I have learned to cook pretty darn well. It wasn’t always this way, believe me. My mother was a wonderful cook, but being a child of the 60’s I couldn’t have cared less about learning from her. I was happy with a hamburger (which I did learn how to make for myself) and chips. I learned how to cook only after I got married—and there were quite a few trial and error “errors” that had to be tossed. They were unsalvageable. So, I’m glad that now I have learned through the years and am able to do the job right at this point.

I have the physical ability to cook. This may seem like a little thing. We gripe and complain sometimes about having to fix a meal, but I promise you, one short walk through a nursing home will make you thankful for so many things. Seeing the older people there who would give anything to be able to prepare a meal once more, or go work in their gardens, makes me realize how much I have to be thankful for—even the simple preparation of a holiday meal takes on new meaning.

I have a wonderful family. And this year they are all going to be home for Thanksgiving! So many military men and women are far away from everything familiar in dangerous situations. Families separate as children grow up and move away. It’s not always possible to get home for the holidays. And many homeless men and women have no families to go to.

I have fantastic memories of growing up, all of us gathered around my grandmother’s table, or wherever we could manage to find a place to perch with our plates. We spilled out onto the porch, into the living room, eating in shifts. Of course, the men ate first. It was a huge gathering—my grandmother had eleven children. I have thirty-three cousins on my mother’s side of the family. When we were done there, we’d go to my dad’s side and visit. There were only eight cousins there, but two of them were boys and loved to play cowboys and Indians. What could be better? Another blessing to be thankful for—boy cousins who were just my age.

A good time was always had by all, and that was the holiday that brought everyone home to Granny’s house, even if they couldn’t come at Christmas. I had a cousin, Julie, who was a few months older than I. She was my “partner in crime”.

One Thanksgiving, we spotted a package of six Milky Way candy bars in the refrigerator—our favorite. With everything going on, we managed to sneak the package out, and she hid it in her jacket. We made it out the door and into the nearby woods. This was quite a trick since she had three younger siblings at the time. We ate those candy bars, three each. I can tell you, I was feeling sick when I ate that last bite. But we were so proud of ourselves for managing to get them out undetected and to actually be alone to commit the rest of the crime.

When we got back to the house, our Aunt Joyce was beside herself. It turned out, she had bought those candy bars for a specific purpose—to make her “Mississippi Mud Slide Cake” that two of her brothers-in-law had requested. Of course, as eleven-year-old children, we’d never even thought that the candy bars might be needed for a recipe. We laugh about it now, but at the time, it was serious stuff.

These are only a few of the “everyday” things that I’m so thankful for. This is really just the tip of the iceberg. When we think of everything we have in this beautiful world, it’s impossible to make a list of things to be thankful for, isn’t it?

What are you thankful for this holiday? Do you have a favorite memory to share?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Three soldiers by the names of John Evans, Albert Cashier, and Jack Williams fought for the Union Army in the US Civil War.

But there more to these enlistees than anyone knew. Despite being assigned to different regiments, they shared a common secret.

    • All three enlisted. 
    • All three went to war in disguise. 
    • And, all three were women.

The Union and Confederate armies banned the enlistment of women to take up arms during the war so they served in other capacities. Many went to work as nurses. A few made their mark as spies.

Most kept the home fires burning while their husbands, sons, fathers, and boyfriends went off to thick of battle.

Some women, however, needed to express their patriotism in a more proactive way. 

So they trimmed their hair, slipped into men's clothing, and enlisted as men. It's surprising to learn that an estimated 400 women concealed their identities so they could serve on the front lines. Others put the number at closer to a thousand. 


About 250 women secretly joined Confederate forces. Here are the stories of three women-soldiers:

  • Mary Owens assumed the name of John Evans and spent eighteen months at war.

The reason Owens went to war was to be with her lover, William Evans, whom she had secret married in Montour, PA, over her father's objections. Soon after the war was underway, she enlisted in Company K, 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry. The accounts differ as to assignments.

One says Owens and Evans served in different divisions. Another report, however, contends they fought side-by-side until William was killed in action. Despite his death, Owens continued to battle on pretending to be Williams' brother.

The lie wasn't discovered Owens was a woman until she was seriously wounded. She was discharged and sent home to Pennsylvania. As to why she wanted to serve, Owens said, "I wanted excitement."

Owens achieved a reputation as a daring soldier and demonstrated a "nerveless performance in combat situations. . . "

Owens, who later married welsh-born coal miner Abraham Jenkins and moved to Stark County, Ohio, died around 1881. She was in her early 40s, and survived by a son, daughter, and a sister.

  • Jennie Hodgers enlisted in the 95th Illinois infantry as Albert Cashier on August 6, 1862.

Her regiment, part of the Army of Tennessee, fought in over 40 conflicts, including the Siege of Vicksburg, the Battle of Nashville, and the Red River Campaign.

Hodgers, considered the shortest soldier in the regiment, spent three years in uniform until her discharge in August 1865. She was the most famous among those women who enlisted because she continued to live as a man after the war. 

Her secret emerged when, in November 1910, she was struck by a car and broke her leg. The hospital, wouldn't reveal her true gender and sent her to the Soldiers and Sailors Home in Quincy, Illinois. 

Three years later, Hodgers was diagnosed with dementia and she was sent to a state hospital for the insane. 

That's when the staff discovered she was a woman and forced her to wear a dress. The publicity that followed surprised her former military comrades but they protested thee way she was treated.

When Hodgers died, October 10, she was buried in her uniform. The tombstone was inscribed with the name Albert Cashier. A second tombstone was added in 1970 with her real name.

  • Frances Clayton enlisted in the army with her husband in the fall of 1861 and called herself Jack Williams.

The back of a photograph of Clayton, dressed as a soldier, contains handwriting saying she served in the 4th Missouri Heavy Artillery, Company 1, as well as the 13th Missouri Cavalry, Company A.

According to newspaper accounts, Clayton served along side her husband, Elmer Clayton, until 1862 when he was killed in the Battle of Stones River. The reports indicate she saw him die at a skirmish in front of her and then stepped over his body and joined other soldiers in mounting a charge against the Confederates.

Clayton, sometimes referred to as Frances Clalin, succeeded in carrying off her masquerade by assuming the persona of her comrades.

She was a tall woman with a few masculine features. She taught herself to walk "with a masculine stride" and speak in gruff voice. She also learned to swear, drink, and gamble. 

From a skill standpoint, fellow soldiers described her as an excellent swordsman. A superior described Clayton favorably when he wrote, "She stood guard, went on picket duty, in rain or storm, and fought on the field with the rest, and was considered a good fighting man."

Clayton fought in about seven more battles and sustained a wound to her hip. That's when her identity was revealed, and she was discharged. She returned to Michigan, tried to re-enlist, but was rejected.

Women involved themselves in the Civil War in a variety of ways and in muliple roles.

Taking a page from the Continental Army, some women traveled with their husbands' units, helping in a variety of ways, whether it involved carrying water to troops or helping launder clothes.

Most Civil War soldiers were farmers. Farm families, of course, had a tradition of working side-by-side, so the idea of separation didn't set well. As a result, they often traveled together. Some soldiers even refused to enlist unless their wives were allowed to join them.

Ironically, many of the wives or girlfriends could shoot as well as their partners, so their services were valuable during the war. Others helped as scouts, telegraphers, clerks, or worked in armories.
Several women achieved the rank of officer, the highest being a Union major.

* * * 

Monday, November 17, 2014


Why are many older cartridges identified by two-number designations? Prior to the turn of the 20th century, two double-digit—three-digit in some cases—numbers separated by a hyphen identified many American small arms cartridges, especially rifle-caliber, .25-20, .30-30, .38-40, .45-70, and .50-115 for example, and were usually followed by the manufacturer’s name or some other identifying word. Keep in mind though that some revolvers were chambered for certain shorter cased rifle-caliber rounds, .32-20. .38-40, .44-40, for example.
The first digit is the cartridge’s bullet caliber in hundredth of an inch (usually rounded out) and the second is the weight of black powder propellant in grains. Even after smokeless powder was introduced just before the turn of the century some newly developed cartridges were still designated with the two-number system.

The left cartridge is the original .45 Colt (sometimes called the Long Colt). The center is the .45 S&W for the Schofield revolver. The Army adopted both revolvers, but issued only the .45 S&W so it could be used in both revolvers. The right cartridge is also a .45 Colt, but made in the same length as the .45 S&W, also called the .45 Colt Government. It will chamber in both revolvers, but the .45 Long Colt cannot be fired in the Schofield revolver.

Some of these were loaded only with smokeless propellant. The .30-40 Krag, for example, adopted by the US Army in 1892. It was never loaded with black powder, only smokeless. The “40” was the black powder equivalent of its smokeless propellant loading. The famous .30-30 Winchester was also loaded with smokeless powder, but in this case the second “30” was apparently the sole instance when it meant 30 grains of smokeless powder and not black powder. Some exceptions will be found, such as the .30-06, in which the second digit has another meaning, but that’s a different story.
As an aside, smokeless powder, Poudre B, was invented by a French chemist, Paul-Marie-Eugène Vieille (1854-1934), in 1884. It was made by dissolving nitrocellulose in ether and alcohol until it became a gelatinous mass, which was rolled into sheets and cut into flakes after the solvent evaporated. The first military cartridge using smokeless powder was the French 8x50mmR Lebel of 1886. Much improved nitrocellulose single-base propellants were later developed by Alfred B. Nobel (1833-96), who also patented dynamite in 1867 and established the Nobel Prize. Other smokeless propellants were also developed such as cordite and ballistite. The oft used description, “the smell of burnt cordite,” is only accurate if referring to British Commonwealth weapons from World War II and earlier.
A three-number system identified some cartridges with the third number being three-digit, for example, .45-70-500 and .45-70-405. The third number was the bullet weight in grains. In the case of the different .45-70 Government (aka .45-70 Springfield) loadings, the 405-grain bullet was the first issued in 1873. In 1882 the 500-grain bullet was adopted to achieve longer range. There was also a .45-55-405 dating from 1873, which had the lighter bullet plus a much lighter powder charge for carbines in order to reduce the recoil. All three rounds were interchangeable in any of the weapons, but a rifle’s sight would not have been graduated for the carbine’s lighter bullet and charge and vice versa.
Earlier than this when muzzle-loading ammunition was used, paper or linen cartridges and balls (even pointed bullets were called balls) were identified on cartons and packets by the make of the weapon and the caliber designated, for example, “Calibre 52-100 for Sharps Carbine,” meaning 52/100th of an inch caliber; often without the decimal point.
Another early two-digit cartridge designation oddity was the “.56” Spencer rimfire series of the 1860s. The first “56” in the designation is the diameter of the base of the cartridge above the rim. The second number is not the propellant weight, but the bullet’s caliber and it was available in four chamberings: .56-56, .56-52, .56-50, and .56-46. The cartridge base diameter was 0.560-inch on all of these, but the cases tapered to the smaller calibers identified by the second number. The .56-50 could be fired in .50-70 Springfield rifles.

The widely variety of Sharps rifle cartridges could be confusing with multiple types in .44, .45, and .50-calibers identified by bullet caliber, black powder weight in grains, and bullet weight in grains. The number below each cartridge is the case length, not the overall cartridge length.

So, now you are probably thoroughly confused. The point is that there are a lot of exceptions and different ways of designating cartridges. A cowpoke or gunslinger could not simply walk into a mercantile or general store and say, “Gibme a box of forty-four.” There were about a dozen different .44-caliber cartridges commonly in use in the last half of the 1800s, plus a few odd ones. Very few were interchangeable. The guns themselves were often poorly marked as to the caliber, not like today when the caliber is more precisely marked. A gun might be marked simply “.44”.
The easy way out is to simply not mention the calibers of guns or be vague, saying it’s a .45, but not which one. There’s nothing wrong with that.
What is worse is to use the wrong cartridge or to incorrectly show a cartridge’s designation. For example, it’s a “.44-40”, not a “44/40”. It will damage credibility with those who are familiar with weapons.

The preceding article is expanded from an article in The Big Book of Gun Trivia: Everything you want to know, don't want to know, and don't know you need to know.