Tuesday, February 19, 2019


When the cold weather starts up (and seems to continue forever!), I’m all too ready to just hunker down and get out of the Oklahoma wind—the older I get, the more I feel that way. But one thing I’ve discovered: If you have plenty of food (for both humans and the dog), running water, and firewood, it’s not terrible. Well, until you have to go out for MORE food!

In Oklahoma, we don’t normally get a lot of snow, but we do get some. The worst problem is the ice. It seems, here in Oklahoma City, we sit on the very cusp of the jet stream—and I can’t say how many times we’re told, “It COULD be just rain, but if the temps drop even one degree, it’ll be FREEZING rain and ice.”

I can’t even imagine how the men and women we write about in our novels survived those long, cold winters. They must have been chopping firewood every day, year-round, except when the freezing rains hit in the winter. With books so scarce, I’m sure the ones that were available must have been memorized by those who read.

Thank goodness we live in a day and age when we are able to read as much as we want—online (if the electricity stays on!) or the old-fashioned way—a paperback book in hand. I do a lot of reading for my work at Prairie Rose Publications, but I have books I read “for pleasure” when I get a chance—and in the winter months it seems I get a lot more time for that than in the summer. This is how I keep cabin fever at bay when the weather is too awful to venture out.


Here are some of my picks I read while I was waiting for spring to roll around. How about you? What do you do to stave off cabin fever in those winter months? Read any wonderful books lately? Please share! I’m always looking for more reading material!


This revised and updated edition contains the most important writings of Charles Eastman (Ohiyesa), the first Native American author to live simultaneously in both the traditional world of the Santee Sioux and the modern civilization of the white man. Dr. Eastman also attended the injured at the Battle of Wounded Knee. Ohiyesa's works represent a complete explanation of the philosophy and moral code of the Plains Indian. Ohiyesa's message speaks to every person who seeks a spiritual way in the midst of a society increasingly dominated by materialism and industrial technology. Sun Dance chief, James Trosper writes, It is a small miracle that these important spiritual teachings have been preserved for us. This new edition contains 10 sepia photographs from Eastman's life and a thought-provoking foreword by Raymond Wilson.

There are a LOT of books of writings by Charles Eastman—very thought provoking and just downright wonderful, in my opinion.

Another excellent book—not really a romance, but a true western, is by my friend Robert Randisi—THE GHOST WITH BLUE EYES. It’s a story of how one mistake can make a person sink to the depths of a whiskey bottle, and what it takes to make him climb back out of it.

HERE’S THE AMAZON BLURB: Lancaster hangs up his six-shooter and grabs a bottle after accidentally killing a young girl in a gunfight, but when another girl needs his help, he will fight to regain his soul and his honor in order to save her.

Okay, not a western, but a ROMANCE-- THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE is book 1 in the "Highland Pleasures" series, or what is known as The Mackenzies. This is an excellent tale by Jennifer Ashley, a shorter piece, and it has a hero you will not likely forget. Ian Mackenzie is afflicted by something—because of the time period this story takes place in, we don’t really know what it is, but it could be autism, could Asperger’s Syndrome—and he is very different. This is the first in a series and I would like to read the others!

I must confess, I did some re-reading of some old favorites, as well. GOLDEN NIGHTS by Christine Monson…speaking of “different” heroes—and heroines—Christine Monson’s characters are always intriguing and no matter how many times you read her stories, the next time you read it again you will find something you didn’t see before.

Here’s the Amazon blurb: Abandoned by her weakling husband on their wedding night, beautiful socialite Suzanne Maintree sets out to track him down in the wilds of Colorado, but is quite distracted by her guide, a handsome English adventurer.

By the way, this blurb doesn’t do this book justice at all. It’s like saying your grandma’s homemade chicken and dumplin’s and cornbread was “good”—there’s so much more to this story!

I could go on and on, but how about a MOVIE to break the cabin fever monotony? Have you ever seen this one? PURGATORY is one you will want to watch. Refuge is a small town in the west where no one carries weapons. There’s no jail, and neither the sheriff nor his deputy even carry a gun. It’s an odd assortment of citizens, who know the rules, and to kill someone else for whatever reason means their mortal soul. It’s not gory, but does have some supernatural elements that are very well done. Stars Sam Shepard, Eric Roberts, Donnie Wahlberg, Randy Quaid, and JD Souther, among others.

I will leave you with an excerpt from FIRE EYES that takes place (appropriately!) in my heroine’s cabin. FIRE EYES is part of a 6-book boxed set, UNDER A WESTERN SKY! I’m so proud to have my story in this set with 6 different authors (Agnes Alexander, Celia Yeary, Kaye Spencer, Patti Sherry-Crews, Tracy Garrett and Cheryl Pierson). The best part is, it’s only .99 right now!

THE SET UP: Jessica Monroe is living alone with her adopted daughter in the eastern part of Indian Territory. Her husband has been murdered by Andrew Fallon’s border raiders. Now, the Choctaws have brought her a U.S. Deputy Marshal who has been badly wounded by the same band of outlaws, in the hope that she will be able to save his life. Here’s what happens:

“You waitin’ on a…invitation?” A faint smile touched his battered mouth. “I’m fresh out.”

Jessica reached for the tin star. Her fingers closed around the uneven edges of it. No. She couldn’t wait any longer. “What’s your name?” Her voice came out jagged, like the metal she touched.

His bruised eyes slitted as he studied her a moment. “Turner. Kaedon Turner.”

Jessica sighed. “Well, Kaedon Turner, you’ve probably been a lot better places in your life than this. Take a deep breath, and try not to move.”

He gave a wry chuckle, letting his eyes drift completely closed. “Do it fast. I’ll be okay.”

She nodded, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Ready?”

“Go ahead.”

Even knowing what was coming, his voice sounded smoother than hers, she thought. She wrapped her hand tightly around the metal and pulled up fast, as he’d asked.

As the metal slid through his flesh, Kaed’s left hand moved convulsively, his fingers gripping the quilt. He was unable to hold back the soft hint of an agonized groan as he turned away from her. He swore as the thick steel pin cleared his skin, freeing the chambray shirt and cotton undershirt beneath it, blood spraying as his teeth closed solidly over his bottom lip.

Jessica lifted the material away, biting back her own curse as she surveyed the damage they’d done to him. His chest was a mass of purple bruises, uneven gashes, and burns. Her stomach turned over. She was not squeamish. But this—

It was just like what they’d done to Billy, before they’d killed him. Billy, the last man the Choctaws had dumped on her porch. Billy Monroe, the man she’d come to loathe during their one brief year of marriage.

She took a washrag from the nightstand and wet it in the nearby basin. Wordlessly, she placed her cool palm against Kaedon Turner’s stubbled, bruised cheek, turning his head toward her so she could clean his face and neck.

She knew instinctively he was the kind of man who would never stand for this if it wasn’t necessary. The kind of man who was unaccustomed to a woman’s comforting caress. The kind of man who would never complain, no matter how badly wounded he was.

“Fallon.” His voice was rough.

Jessica stopped her movements and watched him. “What about him?”

His brows drew together, as if he were trying to formulate what he wanted to say. “Is he…dead?”

What should she tell him?

The truth.

“I—don’t know.”

“Damn it.”

“You were losing a lot of blood out there,” Jessica said, determined to turn his thoughts from Fallon to the present. She ran the wet cloth lightly across the long split in his right cheek.

His breathing was controlled, even. “I took a bullet.” He said it quietly, almost conversationally.

Jessica stopped moving. “Where?”

Here’s the BUY LINK for AMAZON:


Friday, February 15, 2019

Western Comics Spotlight: GUNHAWKS

 Troy D. Smith

For Marvel Comics' 80th anniversary, the company is doing special one-shots briefly resurrecting some of their lesser known titles from years past with an all-new story. I believe this is going to be a monthly feature, because last month was the 1970s war comic WAR IS HELL, and this month it is the 1970s western title GUNHAWKS. I have heard future months will feature some of their horror, sci fi, and romance titles from previous decades.

GUNHAWKS was a different sort of western which originally ran for only seven issues, in 1972-73. The full title was RENO JONES AND KID CASSIDY: GUNHAWKS. It was written by Gary Friedrich and drawn by Syd Shores. Warning- spoilers ahead for the 1970s series.

Cassidy was the son of a Georgia plantation owner, and Jones was a slave whose mother was the cook in the big house. The same age, they grew up together as friends -and when the Civil War started Reno was conflicted. Cassidy marched away with the Confederate Army, and many of the male slaves joined the Union Army. Reno felt loyalty to the Cassidy family because its patriarch had paid his slaves wages and allowed them to come and go at will. Unwilling to fight against either side, he stayed behind to help the old man look after the plantation.

When the Yankees came they killed all the men defending the plantation except for Reno, whom they left for dead. They abducted his girlfriend and fellow slave Rachel. Filled with a desire for vengeance, he joins the Confederate Army to kill Yankees.

(I could write a whole essay just about the historical problems with this story and its connection to the Lost Cause Ideology... and in the book I am currently writing about the history of race in comic books in the 1970s I do. For our purposes here, I am just laying out the plot.)

At the end of the war Kid Cassidy and Reno Jones are joyfully reunited when they both return to the ruined plantation. They decide to start a new life out West, and head to Kansas to become buffalo hunters. They are constantly confronted with difficulties due to prejudice against Reno. When they are attacked by rival buffalo hunters who want to steal their take and kill one, Reno finds Rachel's locket in the dead man's possession. They hunt down the others, and learn from them that they occasionally work for another transplanted Southerner, a former Confederate colonel who is still using black people as slave labor, abducting them and sometimes selling them. Rachel had been in his possession, but had been abducted in a recent Cheyenne raid on the farm. Reno organizes an uprising among the "slaves," who kill the colonel.

Soon the two heroes are caught in the middle between the Cheyennes and a Custer-like cavalry officer prone to large-scale slaughter of women and children. They are separated, with Cassidy taken captive by the Indians and Reno imprisoned by the army. Cassidy learns that Rachel is among the survivors of the village, but does not want Reno to know she is still alive because she has been taken as wife by the band's leader, Gray Fox, and does not want her beloved to ever learn of her shame. Reno eventually gains his own freedom and arrives at the Cheyenne village to rescue Cassidy, with the cavalry hot on his heels. The Indians retreat, and Reno sees Rachel among them. When he tries to go after her, Cassidy -having sworn to protect Rachel's secret -stops him. He refuses to give an explanation for doing so, and Reno angrily draws his pistol and threatens to kill him -just as the cavalry arrive.

Reno fires but deliberately misses. Simultaneously, however, Gray Fox -who had doubled back, still in possession of Rachel -takes aim at the hated cavalry colonel and fires. Fearing he may accidentally hit Reno, Rachel tries to knock aside his rifle -and he accidentally shoots and kills Kid Cassidy instead. The colonel demands Reno be arrested for murder, even though one of his men had seen the puff of smoke from Gray Fox's rifle in the trees. Reno manages to escape, stricken with grief. Gray Fox finds him and attempts to kill him so as to no longer have a rival for Rachel's affection. During the fight, in which Reno kills the Cheyenne leader, Rachel runs away yet again.

The death of Kid Cassidy and the subsequent events I described take place in issue #6. With issue #7 the series is renamed RENO JONES, GUNHAWK. Reno had really been the primary protagonist anyhow, with Cassidy playing a supporting role, which is not what one might have expected in a 1972 comic. Issue #7 finds Reno trying to track down his beloved, but now a fugitive with bounty hunters tracking him. That issue ends with him captured and in jail awaiting hanging. There was no notification of the book's cancellation, just a message at the end that Reno's fate would soon be revealed in a team-up with the Rawhide Kid.

And it was... it just took a quarter of a century.

Reno Jones played a central role in the 1999 miniseries (collected as a graphic novel) BLAZE OF GLORY by John Ostrander and Leonardo Manco. This book was mentioned in my 2013 interview with John Ostrander at this very blog, You can read that interview HERE.

It seems that Reno had escaped execution and roamed the West looking for Rachel, befriending along the way other western heroes such as the Rawhide Kid and the Two-Gun Kid. Many years later, having abandoned his quest for a woman who did not want him, he has married someone else and started a family and is living in the Exoduster town of Wonderment, Montana (with his wife Mary and a son he named Cassidy). A local land baron wants the African American community gone, and hires a group of hooded racist enforcers called the Nightriders to slaughter the town. Reno sends word to his friends for help, and all the major Marvel western heroes show up for a dramatic stand against the Nightriders (with several of the heroes perishing in the process).

In an unexpected twist, the leader of the Nightriders is none other than Kid Cassidy. He had survived the gunshot which he believed came from his disloyal best friend, and as a result was consumed with hatred for not just Reno but black people in general. This time Reno kills him for real.

All right, that catches you up on the legacy of the Gunhawks. There will be no spoilers for the new one, just a description and set-up. You can buy the new one at amazon and other sites, but be forewarned that a single issue of a comic book is now four bucks.

The new iteration has nothing in common with the original except for the genre and the title. It is an all-new story with new characters. It is drawn by Luca Pizzari and written by David and Maria Lapham, who are best known for their classic gritty crime series STRAY BULLETS.

The new "Gunhawk" is Dean Donnelly, recently married sheriff of Clearwater, Arizona in 1914. The town did not know his secret, though- that before coming there to be sheriff he had been a ruthless mercenary in the employ of Mexican usurper Victoriano Huerta against Pancho Villa and other rebels. This single-issue comic is the story of how his past catches up to him.

The book also includes a brief editorial about the important place the western genre has held in the history of Marvel Comics, and how it has been making a comeback in comics the past few years. If you're like me, you are always happy to see a new western from any comics publisher.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Remembering Jack Palance by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #hollywood #classicwesterns

As I develop the characters in the stories I write, I invariably attribute a Hollywood celebrity’s appearance, mannerisms, and persona related to particular roles they’ve played to my characters. I'm careful, however, to leave enough imagination wiggle room for the reader to create their own mental image of my characters...

...except for the supporting villain in my western historical romance, THE COMANCHERO’S BRIDE. I deliberately created this villainous character in the image of a well-known Hollywood villain of his time,  Jack Palance.
Jack Palance - Publicity photo for film 'Man in the Attic'
By 20th Century Fox - ebay, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27756531
 Since 2019 marks one hundred years since his birth, let’s take a brief look at his life and his acting career. I have used information from these websites: Jack Palance biography at IMDb.com | Jack Palance page at Wikipedia.com   | Jack Palance biography Website

Pertinent information

  • Born: February 18, 1919
  • Died: November 10, 2006
  • Married twice – three children
  • Birth name:Vladimir Ivanovich Palahniuk of Ukranian descent and born in Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania, which was coal country. His father an anthracite miner, who died of black lung disease.
  • received a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina
  • dropped out be a professional boxer as Jack Brazzo
  • served as an Army Air Force bomber pilot in WWII
  • after military service, he returned to college to study journalism at Stanford University
  • worked as a sportswriter for the San Francisco Chronicle

Jack Palance in The Godchild 1974
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=147085
Examples of his acting career

Stage (Broadway)

  • 1947 – 1st stage performance in “The Big Two” – his role was a Russian soldier
  • 1947 – understudy for Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in Broadway's “A Streetcar Named Desire” (he eventually assumed this role)

Anecdote:  While an understudy to Marlon Brando … Brando, who was into athletics, rigged up a punching bag in the theater’s boiler room and invited Jack to work out with him. One night, Jack threw a hard punch that missed the bag and landed square on Brando’s nose. The star had to be hospitalized and understudy Palance created his own big break by going on for Brando. Jack’s reviews as Stanley Kowalski helped get him a 20th Century-Fox contract.

A few notable movies (early in his acting career, he was billed as Walter Jack Palance)

  • 1950 – 1st movie: Panic in the Streets (with Richard Widmark) – his role was as a plague-carrying fugitive  – Widmark said, “...the toughest guy I ever met. He was the only actor I've ever been physically afraid of.”
  • 1951 Halls of Montezuma (again with Richard Widmark) – his role was a boxing Marine
  • 1952 Sudden Fear – his role was a rich and famous playwright who plots to murder his wife (Joan Crawford) and run off with girlfriend (Gloria Grahame)
  • 1953 Second Chance with Robert Mitchum
  • 1953 Shane – his role was “...finest villain of the decade, that of creepy, sadistic gunslinger Jack Wilson”
Jack Palance in 'Shane'
Google Search, Google, www.google.com/search?site=imghp&tbm=isch&q=Jack Palance&tbs=sur:fc#imgrc=ID_BbZMGHHdvIM:

  • 1956 Attack – his first lead role – WWII action film with Lee Marvin, Eddie Albert, Buddy Ebsen
  • 1960s and early 1970s movies found him in filming in Europe with much success
  • 1966 The Professionals with Burt Lancaster
  • 1970 Monte Walsh with Lee Marvin
  • 1972 Chato's Land with Charles Bronson
  • 1988 Young Guns with the Hollywood “brat pack”
  • 1989 Batman with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton
  • 1989 Tango and Cash with Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell
  • 1991 City Slickers with Billy Crystal
  • 1994 Cops and Robbersons
  • 1999 Treasure Island as Long John Silver

Jack Palance CBS Television
CBS Television, Jack Palance 1975, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Oscar Nominations and Win for Supporting Actor

  • Nominated: Sudden Fear
  • Nominated: Shane
  • Won: City Slickers
A few of his television appearances
  • Studio One in Hollywood
  • The Gulf Playhouse
  • The Motorola Television Hour
  • Zane Grey Theater
  • Playhouse 90: Rquiem for a Heavyweight as a down-and-out boxer (Emmy nomination)
  • The Greatest Show on Earth
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Bronk – series in which he was the title character Lt. Alex Bronkov
  • Host of Ripley's Believe It or Not!

General Trivia

  • Owned a California cattle ranch, exhibited his landscape paintings (poem on the back of each), and was a published poet (The Forest of Love 1966)
  • Fell asleep in his square during a taping of The Hollywood Squares television program (1965)
  • Awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960
  • Inducted in Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum 1992
  • Turned down role of General Chang (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country 1991) due to scheduling conflicts (part went to Christopher Plummer)
  • Wanted the Kid Shelleen role in Cat Ballou (1965) for which Lee Marvin received an Oscar
  • Played Dracula, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and Ebenezer Scrooge
  • Has been described as having ‘an imposing glare, intimidating stance, and kill-shark smile’
  • Recorded a country music album in 1969, “Palance” – he wrote the song “The Meanest Guy that Ever Lived”, which is included on the album
'Blackjack County Chains' performed on the Porter Waggoner show in 1970

 Many of you will recall his famous one-handed push up during his Oscar acceptance speech.

Now, for the excerpt from THE COMANCHERO’S BRIDE when we meet “Jack”:

Grayson leaned back in his chair. “They need to see me as a man of action. A man who can get things done. A man who takes charge. I have to head-up the rescue crusade myself, and you’ll write about it, firsthand, emphasizing my discomfort and desperation to save her, which makes Elizabeth’s peril all the more real and heart-rending to the readers.”

“This is going to cost you more, Gray.” Doyle swirled the whiskey in his glass. “I create and destroy careers from comfortable accommodations, not from the midst of inconveniences that go hand-in-hand with chasing an outlaw from here to Mexico.”

“There’s a mighty big piece of country in between here and the Rio Grande.”

Grayson and Doyle turned as one person to stare at the man standing beside their table. Grayson sized him up in a glance and didn’t like what he saw. The stranger was tall, grizzled and unkempt, clad in weather-worn, dirty buckskins, and he sported a battered, sweat-stained hat cocked at an angle over shoulder-length gray scraggly hair. He carried a faded military haversack slung across his body. His rifle, muzzle pointed down, rested in the crook of his right arm, which lifted his right shoulder higher than the left with a rounded, misshapen hump. He had the look of a mountain man, mean, rough-hewn, and hard as granite, but his defining feature was his puckered eye that drew the left side of his face into a disturbing grin. The eye itself was canted in the socket, a milky white-blue orb that sometimes seemed to focus and other times to look right past a person.

Although the man was starkly out of place in the swank surroundings, he didn’t seem to notice, or, more importantly, didn’t care. Grayson saw the concierge watching from the doorway, his expression strained and demeanor nervous at this stranger’s presence, inappropriately attired as he was for this establishment and that he openly carried a rifle. Grayson made a mental note to slip a hefty tip to the concierge to buy his cooperation.

“Who are you?” Grayson demanded.

“I’m the tracker yer lookin’ to hire. Name’s Jack.”


“Jack’s good enough.”

Grayson reassessed the man coolly, his initial unfavorable impression changing. This crude-cast stranger might just be the sort of man he needed.

“Have a seat.” Although Grayson nodded to the concierge that all was well and the small man visibly relaxed, although he maintained his watchful position at the doorway.

Grayson offered bourbon, and a chair across the table, but Jack declined both with a slight head shake then took a chair that put his back to the wall and beside Grayson. Grayson exchanged a quick glance with Doyle.

“What’s your price?”

“Depends on the job.”


Available on Amazon.com as a single purchase

AND in the boxed set


Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

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Friday, February 8, 2019

Old West Recipes: The Meats

Here are some more recipes in our series of Old West Cooking. This time we’re going to cook our main course, the meat dish. I've included jerky and pemmican because those recipes are an ideal method of storing meat.

Beef Jerky

Several pounds of flank steak
Salt and seasoning salt

Trim fat and slice steak with the grain into ¼ to ½ inch strips. Lightly salt strips – or soak overnight in a solution of water with 2 tablespoons of salt. Arrange strips onto skewers and sprinkle with seasoning salt and pepper. Hang strips in a smoker or set in oven on the lowest temperature (175 to 200 degrees F) with door slightly ajar to allow moisture to escape. If using an oven, be sure to set a pan beneath the strips to catch drippings. Drying time will vary (in an oven, eight to ten hours should be sufficient) but result should be tough and leathery but not brittle. Store in cloth bags in a cool, dry place.


Equal quantities of jerky and animal fat (lard)
Dried berries (optional)

Pound jerky to break up fibers. In a skillet, melt fat, making sure it does not boil or smoke. Stir pounded jerky into fat, adding berries if desired. Let fat cool and cut pemmican into candy-bar sized pieces. Store in cloth or rawhide bag in cool, dry place.


1 onion, thinly sliced
2 slices bacon
½ cup oatmeal
Salt and pepper

Chop bacon into one-inch chunks and fry. When grease coats the pan, add sliced onion and fry until transparent. Add oatmeal to absorb the fat, keeping the mixture thick. Stir for seven to ten minutes until cooked. Serve with mincemeat, roasted poultry, or as a main dish when the larder is bare.

Racoon Fricassee 

1 Racoon
1 Onion, sliced into rings
½ cup vinegar
1 ½ cup water
1-2 tbsp lard or other fat
1 bay leaf
1 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper

Skin the raccoon, remove the musk glands and dress out the carcass. Soak in salt water overnight to draw out the blood. You can add baking soda to the water to remove the gamey smell. Cut raccoon into serving pieces and dredge pieces in seasoned flour. Brown in hot fat. Add remaining ingredients and simmer two hours or until tender. Thicken the juice with flour and water mixture for gravy. Serve hot with cornbread.

Mouse Pie

5 fat field mice
1 cup macaroni
½ onion, thinly sliced
1 medium can of tomatoes
1 cup cracker crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil macaroni for ten minutes. While this is cooking, fry the mice long enough to drain out some of the excess fat. Grease a casserole dish with some of this fat and add a layer of macaroni. Add onion slices, then tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Add mice and cover with another layer of macaroni. Sprinkle the top with cracker crumbs and bake at 375 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until mice are well done.

Roast Beaver

Remove skin and scent glands carefully – these are found between the front forelegs, under the thighs, and along the spine in the small of the back – be careful not to cut into the glands. Also remove fat completely, as it has a strong odor and taste. Soak in salted water or in a vinegar bath (1/4 cup vinegar with enough water to cover meat) or cover with boiling water with 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Drain meat and wash in cold, clear water.

Place in roaster and cut several slits into the meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place four strips of salt pork over the slits. Dust meat with a little flour. Pour ¼ cup water into the pan and roast with lid off until half done. Add more water if needed to keep pan from becoming dry. Cut up enough celery, onions and carrots to make one cup. Add vegetables to meat and continue roasting with the lid off. Meat should be falling off the bone. Add water and flour to juices to make gravy.

Pan Hoss

1 hog’s head
4-6 cups water
1 medium onion
6 stalks celery
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp salt

Simmer the first five ingredients together until meat falls from the bones. Grind and chop meat fine. If hog’s head is not available, neck bones (chicken, turkey or lamb) may be substituted.

Strain liquid from meat. Boil down or add water to make four cups total liquid. To boiling liquid, add cornmeal until mush is thick. Add 1 tsp salt. Boil for three to five minutes. Add meat and place over boiling water for ten to fifteen minutes, adding additional seasoning if desired.

Chicken (or Any Other Game Bird)

3 to 4 pounds of fowl
¼ tsp sage
¼ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp basil
¼ tsp coriander

Wash the bird(s) and pat dry. Mix all seasonings except basil together and sprinkle mixture into cavity or bird(s). Place bird(s) into a Dutch oven and sprinkle with basil. Cover and bake for four to six hours until tender.

Thursday, February 7, 2019


“Bronco busting isn’t a game for the timid and weak,” Buffalo Bill Cody told newspaper reporters in January 1912. “Death lurks close every time a rider mounts up.”

Lulu Bell Parr thrilled audiences around the world with her daring rides on unbroken ponies. Born in 1876, she was only three when her parents died and she and her brother were sent to Ft. Wayne, Indiana to live with their uncle, William Sheehan. She burst onto the Wild West Show scene in 1903, when newly divorced Lulu Bell joined Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Brighton Tour and traveled to Europe where she performed for King Edward VII.
Lulu Bell moved from one wild west show to another, from Pawnee Bill’s to Buffalo Bill Cody’s, to the 101 Ranch Wild West program. With them she toured South America and charmed Argentina’s President Jose Figueroa Alcorta, who showered her with flowers and gift. She moved back to Pawnee Bill’s show in 1916, riding the decline of the entertainment form until her retirement in 1929. Fifty-three and broke, Lulu moved to Dayton, Ohio, to live with her brother and his wife. She spent her days entertaining children in the neighborhood with stories of her travels and the horses she’d ridden.
Lulu Bell Parr died on April 24, 1960, from complications she suffered from a stroke. Among her possessions was an ivory-handled Colt single-action revolver engraved with the words “Buffalo Bill Cody to Lulu Parr – 1911.” Newspapers reported she had so many souvenirs of her career you could hardly walk into her room.
In 2005, Lulu Bell Parr was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. She was, and is, considered the “Champion Lady Bucking Horse Rider of the World.”

Tracy Garrett

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Monday, January 28, 2019

The Strange Journey of Elmer McCurdy – The Outlaw Who Wouldn’t Give Up

Elmer McCurdy
What do an Oklahoma bandit, a traveling carnival, Skeletor, and the Six Million Dollar Man have in common? To find out, you need to know the story of Elmer McCurdy, the bungling outlaw who wouldn’t be taken alive, and who had more success in death than he ever did in life.

Elmer McCurdy was born on New Year’s Day in 1880 in the town of Washington in the southern part of Maine. He was the son of an unwed 17-year-old by the name of Sadie. The father was rumored to be Sadie’s cousin, Charles Smith, a name that McCurdy would use as one of his aliases during his later years. The baby was raised by Sadie’s brother George, and his wife Helen as their own. Ten years later, George died of tuberculosis, and Helen, Sadie, and Elmer moved sixty miles away to Bangor, Maine. Sometime during his teen years, Sadie confessed to Elmer that she was his real mother, not Helen, and that she wasn’t sure who his biological father was. During his mid-teen years, McCurdy worked with his grandfather as an apprentice plumber. He began drinking during this time, but was, by all accounts, a good worker.

In 1898, McCurdy lost his job, and in 1900 Sadie passed away, followed one month later by his grandfather. McCurdy left Maine after the death of his mother and grandfather and, over the course of the next few years, worked as a lead miner and as a plumber. His drinking continued and made it difficult for him to keep a steady job. On at least one occasion, in 1905, he was arrested for public intoxication.

Then in 1907, McCurdy joined the Army. He served as a machine gun operator at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1910. While in the Army, he gained some (little) knowledge of explosive ordinance, in particular, he learned how to work with nitroglycerin.

By 1911, McCurdy was living in Lenapah, Oklahoma where his short-lived career as a bungling bandit began. In March, he and three other men decided to rob the Iron Mountain-Missouri Pacific train. They stopped the train and located the safe, but McCurdy used too much nitro to blow the safe open and wound up destroying most of the money that was inside. Instead of making off with the four-thousand dollars that were inside the safe, they only managed to salvage four-hundred and fifty dollars, including silver coins that were melted and fused together.

Later that same year, in September, McCurdy and two of his gang attempted to rob the Citizens Bank in Chautauqua, Kansas with pretty much the same results. McCurdy, using nitroglycerin to blow open the door of the bank’s outer vault, wound up blasting the door of the vault through the bank, destroying the interior of the bank, but leaving the safe inside the vault untouched. Before they were able to successfully blow open the safe, their lookout man was scared off, so the remaining bandits grabbed one-hundred and fifty dollars in coins and fled.

The Guthrie Daily Leader October 09, 1911
The final entry in his criminal log took place on October 4, 1911, near Okesa, Oklahoma. McCurdy and his accomplices had heard that a particular train was carrying four-hundred thousand dollars that was on its way to the Osage Nation. However, in his usual bungling style, McCurdy and his gang stopped the wrong train. This was a passenger train with no big payday for the bandits. Instead of the four hundred thousand dollars they were expecting, they made off with forty-six dollars, a pocket watch, a coat, a revolver, and two jugs of whiskey.

McCurdy fled to a ranch belonging to a friend of his named Charlie Revard near Bartlesville, Oklahoma. He spent the next couple of days hiding out in a hay shed, drinking the stolen whiskey. On the morning of October 7th, a posse, which had trailed him to the ranch, surrounded the hay shed and a gunfight ensued which lasted about an hour before McCurdy was killed by a single shot to the chest.

McCurdy’s body was taken to nearby Pawhuska, Oklahoma, to the Johnson Funeral Home where his body was embalmed with an arsenic-based embalming fluid that was in common use at the time. This type of embalming fluid was used, particularly when they weren’t sure if the body would be claimed by anyone within a reasonable amount of time because it helped preserve the features of the body for a longer period.

It’s probably a good thing that the undertaker, Joseph L. Johnson, used this method because McCurdy’s body went unclaimed for the next five years. Sometime during this five years, the enterprising undertaker decided that he might as well make some of his money back while he was waiting for someone to come and claim the body, so he propped McCurdy up in a coffin and charged onlookers five cents apiece to see “The Bandit Who Wouldn’t Give Up.” People would drop their nickels into McCurdy’s open mouth where they would later be retrieved by Johnson, who wound up making quite a substantial side income from McCurdy’s corpse.

Finally, in October of 1916, two men showed up claiming to be McCurdy’s brothers. After convincing Johnson and the Osage County Sheriff of their rightful claim to the body, they took possession and hauled McCurdy away to give him a proper burial. As it turned out, the two men weren’t McCurdy’s brothers at all. Instead, they were two carnival promoters named James and Charles Patterson, owners of the Great Patterson Carnival Show. After hearing of the success of Johnson in exhibiting McCurdy’s body to the public, they concocted the scheme to get McCurdy for their own use. For the next six years, “The Outlaw Who Would Never Be Captured Alive” traveled the country with the Patterson carnival. This was just the beginning of McCurdy’s strange journey.

In 1922, James Patterson sold his carnival to a man named Louis Sonney who operated the traveling “Museum of Crime” which featured wax figures of famous outlaws. In 1933, Sonney loaned the body out to director Dwain Esper who used it to promote his film "Narcotic." Esper would prop McCurdy’s body up in the lobby of movie theaters as an example of what drug addiction would do to a person.

Sonney died in 1949, and McCurdy’s body was placed in storage in Los Angeles for fifteen years. Then in 1964, Louis’s son Dan lent the body to another filmmaker, David F. Friedman, where it played a part in his 1967 film "She Freak."

In 1968, Dan Sonney sold the body, along with some wax figures, to the Hollywood Wax Museum. The owner, Spoony Singh, allowed the body to be exhibited in a show at Mount Rushmore. By now, the corpse had deteriorated quite a bit, the body shrinking in size and the skin hardening and tightening. To add insult to injury, while at Mount Rushmore, McCurdy sustained some damage, losing the tips of his ears and some fingers and toes in a windstorm. By now, he was probably already thought to be an actual wax figure. Singh retired poor old McCurdy until 1976 when he sold him to Ed Liersch who was part owner of an amusement park in Long Beach, California, where McCurdy found a place hanging from a gallows in the “Laff in the Dark” funhouse.

The amusement park, called the Pike, was in a rough part of town with tattoo parlors and bars, and it provided a rather seedy atmosphere that attracted several television shows including Columbo and The Six Million Dollar Man. It was on December 8th, 1976, when the production crew for The Six Million Dollar Man was preparing to film a scene in the funhouse at the Pike when a crew member went to move the body of Elmer McCurdy. The body had a waxy complexion and had been painted orange and looked out of place in the scene. When the crew member picked up the body, an arm fell off revealing human bone and tissue.

The authorities were called and over the next few days, a number of clues helped them to identify the body as that of the Oklahoma bandit, Elmer McCurdy. Among these clues were a 1924 penny and ticket stubs to Louis Sonney’s Museum of Crime that were lodged inside the throat of the corpse.

The Chief Medical Examiner for Los Angeles County allowed the body to be turned over to officials from Oklahoma, and on April 22, 1977, Elmer McCurdy reached his final destination in the Boot Hill section of the Summit View Cemetery in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Two feet of concrete was poured over the casket before the grave was filled in – just to make sure that McCurdy stayed put. As fate would have it, Elmer McCurdy, the bungling bandit who never pulled off a successful heist, was laid to rest next to one of the most successful outlaws in the history of the American west – Bill Doolin, founder of the Wild Bunch. Whether McCurdy has picked up any pointers from Doolin since being interred next to him is a matter of speculation.

Final resting place - Doolin and McCurdy
Although McCurdy was finally laid to rest, his influence continues. He has been the subject of several documentaries and television shows. He was the inspiration for a 2009 song entitled, “Body of an Outlaw” by the group Rotary Downs. He was the inspiration for the mystery book, “The Castlemaine Murders” by Kerry Greenwood. He even has a pizza named after him in the Washington General Store in his hometown of Washington, Maine. He is also suspected of being the inspiration behind the highly popular Jonah Hex comics and film franchise, as well as the inspiration of the Mattel toy, Skeletor, who was created by a Mattel toy engineer after recalling a scary afternoon in the Laff-In-The-Dark Funhouse in Long Beach as a child.


About the Author
Mike Ritt describes himself as Conservative, Christian, Pro-life, and Pro-gun. He is a drinker of copious amounts of coffee. Happily married to his redheaded sweetheart, Tami, they live in the mountains of western Montana. He is a writer of western short stories, poetry, and humorous fiction and has been published in a number of anthologies and magazines. He has finished his first western fiction novel and is patiently waiting for publication. You can visit his blog and his Facebook page by clicking on the following links: http://michaelrritt.blogspot.com