Monday, August 12, 2019

My Favorite Song by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #folkmusic #songs

We all have songs that mean something extra special to us whether by our associating them with a special event, a loved one, a precious moment, a situation, etc. In fact, if you’re like me, I could go on for hours singing the words to all the songs that are near and dear to me.

 But there is one song. The one song that tops all the others. The that brings a tear to my eye and a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart.


“My” song is an American rendition of Greensleeves, which is an old English folk song of complicated, and not entirely identifiable origins. Greensleeves was a familiar song (tune) in Shakespeare’s day, because he referenced it in his play, 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' in 1595. Falstaff: “Let the sky rain potatoes! Let it thunder to the tune of ‘Greensleeves’!”

There is a legend that the original song was written by Henry VIII for his future wife, Anne Boleyn, but that is apparently a myth as there is evidence the song was around before Henry’s time.

By 1690, or so, the original song was becoming associated with Christmas and New Year’s. Then by the 19th century, any Christmas songbook worth its salt included some version of the original folk song (lyrics and tune) as a carol. Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, and a host of other crooners have recorded their renditions of Greensleeves.

Here is a clip from The Rifleman with Johnny Crawford singing Greensleeves.

As a Christmas song, we know it as What Child is This? which has also been recorded by too many artists to list here.

For those of you desiring more history about Greensleeves, click HERE, HERE, and HERE. 

My favorite song is A Home in the Meadow. The lyrics were written by Sammy Cahn and the song was performed by Debbie Reynolds in the 1962 western movie (and book by same title written by Louis L’Amour), How the West was Won.

For your viewing and listening pleasure, here is the YouTube clip from the movie. If you've not read the book How the West was Won AND watched the 1962 movie of the same name, you should remedy those most egregious oversights as soon as you can. You can thank me later. *wink*

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

Stay in touch with Kaye

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Old West Trivia

Here are some snippets and bits of trivia about the Old West. You may or may not be able to use them in your writing, but they do make interesting reading.

Rumor has it that the habit of spreading sawdust on the floor of a bar or saloon began in Deadwood, South Dakota. So many miners were spilling gold dust that saloon owners began using sawdust to hide how much dust was actually on the floor. At the end of the night, the dust (and gold) would be swept up and separated.

“Hanging” Judge Roy Bean once killed a Mexican official in a battle over a young lady. A friend of the official tried hanging Bean, but the young lady cut him down in time to save his life. However, afterwards, the judge could never fully turn his head due to his injuries.

The term “red light district” came from the Red Light Bordello in Dodge City, Kansas. The entire front door was made of red glass, and the glow lit the way to the brothel. The name later came to mean that entire part of the city.

Wyatt Earp was indicted for horse theft in Van Buren, Arkansas on May 8, 1871. He jumped bail to escape his trial and fled to Kansas.

Harry Longabaugh became known as the Sundance Kid because he served a term in Sundance, Wyoming for horse theft.

The Oregon Trail, from Independence, Missouri to Fort Vancouver, Washington, measured 2,020 miles. An estimated 350,000 emigrants took this route. One in 17 died along the way. The most common cause of death was cholera.

The infamous Dalton Gang only operated for a year and five months – beginning with a train robbery in Wharton, Oklahoma on May 9, 1891 and ending with the shootout at Coffeyville, Kansas on October 5, 1892.

Although the term “stick ‘em up” is widely used in Western film and literature, the term wasn’t actually coined until the 1930s.

In Tombstone, Arizona’s brief heyday (from 1878 to 1886) some 80 million dollars’ worth of silver was mined there.

America’s first train robbery is believed to have taken place on October 6, 1855 in Jackson County, Indiana. The two bandits, John and Simeon Reno, got away with $13,000 from the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad.

From the end of the Civil War until 1890, some 10 million head of cattle were driven from Texas to Kansas.

On September 8, 1883, Sitting Bull delivered a speech at the celebration of driving the last spike in the Northern Pacific railroad joining the transcontinental system. He delivered this speech in the Sioux language, deviating from the one prepared for him by the army translator. In this speech, Sitting Bull denounced the army, settlers, and the U.S. Government, though listeners believed he was praising them. Periodically, the Lakota chief would pause for applause, bow and smile, then continue insulting the audience as the translator delivered the original speech in English.

The famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral only lasted about 30 seconds.

Jesse James was called “Dingus” by his friends.

The telephone was invented in 1876. After the White House, the first community to have one was Deadwood, South Dakota.

According to witnesses, Wild Bill Hickock could hit a dime tossed into the air nine out of ten times at 25 paces. At the same distance, he could knock an apple from a tree with one shot, then hit the same apple on the way to the ground.

Doc Holliday claimed he almost lost his life nine times. Four attempts to hang him were made, and he was shot at five times.

Annie Oakley (Phoebe Anne Mozee) never lived further west than Ohio.

The first gold rush in the United States was not the California gold rush of 1849 – it took place in Georgia in 1828. It was her that terms such as bonanza, gold digger, placer and gold belt were coined.

After surviving decades of notorious outlaws, retired marshal Bill Tighman was shot and killed by a corrupt Prohibition Officer in 1924 – he was 70.

About one-third of gunmen died of “natural causes,” living 70 or so years. Of those who did die violently (shot or executed), the average life span was 35. Gunfighters-turned-lawmen lived longer lives than their totally criminal counterparts.

One practice credited to the Old West is the Indian practice of taking scalps. However, that actually began in the French and Indian War when General Edward Braddock offered five pounds sterling to his soldiers and their Indian allies for every French scalp. The Indians actually learned the practice from the British.

Female bandit Pearl Hart was the last person to rob a stagecoach in the Old West in 1899.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Western Comics Focus: The Seven Deadly Sins

Troy D. Smith

The western comic book continues its ride... they are not as plentiful as they were in the 1930s-1970s (when they were ubiquitous), but they seem  more common now than they were a couple of decades ago. This is due, in part, to the existence of smaller, independent comics publishers (and a growing amount of online content).

TKO is one such publisher. Their recent western entry was a six-part miniseries (collected last year in a single graphic novel volume) called The Seven Deadly Sins. It is written by Tze Chun, who is best known for his television work (including as writer for the show Gotham). The illustrator is Russian comics artist Artyom Trakhanov. The plot is sort of a mashup of The Magnificent Seven and The Dirty Dozen, as directed by Quintin Tarantino.

The book is set in Texas in 1867. A kind priest, Father Antonio, rescues six killers from a stagecoach that is taking them to their just reward (to wit, hanging in San Antonio). The priest describes each as a "deadly sin," with himself providing the seventh -sloth. He had been peripherally involved in a great injustice ten years earlier, you see, and had only now summoned the courage to try to set it right.

Antonio is the subordinate of Father Threadgill, who is head of the mission. Father Threadgill has a maniacal hatred of Indians, but wants to save the souls of their children... save them from their very Indianness. In 1857, after taking Antonio in when his own mission had failed, Threadgill took his new assistant along on a secret mission. He had hired a company of corrupt Texas Rangers to attack a Comanche village while the men were away hunting, kill all the adults, and capture their children. The kids were to be taken back to the mission, identified as Mexican, and give away for adoption (well, not exactly given away.) It was not the first time.

One infant was deemed too small to make the trip back, so the Rangers were going to kill her. Antonio begged for the child's life and took responsibility for her. He named her Grace, and from then on he was her surrogate father, Her real father, though, was the fierce war chief Black Cloud. His fury at his child's abduction caused him to step up his band's war on whites along the border tenfold, and for years he wreaked his vengeance by slaughtering settlers and stealing their children.

Finally, Father Antonio's conscience could take no more. He stole a large amount of money from the mission -money "earned" by selling Indian children -and freed the six outlaws, offering them a hefty payday if they would help him accomplish his mission.

Taking Grace deep into Comanche country in search of the dreaded Black Cloud -to give her back. Pursued along the way, of course, by Father Threadgill and his corrupt Rangers.

Father Antonio has assembled a colorful crew...

JERICHO  MARSH (wrath). Clearly modeled on Samuel L. Jackson's character in The Hateful Eight, Marsh had led a group of black Union guerrillas during the Civil War and was wanted for war crimes. When the war ended, his two daughters were forced to sign labor contracts- their contracts were sold and they were taken away. This is a pretty rare pop culture reference to the very real historical situation for ex-slaves in the years immediately after the Civil War, when state legislated "Black Codes" were passed that kept them enslaved every way but in name.

Jericho Marsh will do anything, and kill anyone, to find his daughters.

MALENE JOHNSON (envy). A pregnant ex-slave. The father was her former master, with whom she was in love and who had promised to marry her -but who betrothed himself to a proper white lady instead, whereupon his whole family perished in a house fire. Malene was convicted of arson and murder.

HOGG SMYTHE (gluttony). An overweight and simple-minded Confederate veteran who, when besieged by Yankees, killed and ate ten of his comrades.

IRISH CLAIRE (greed). A foul-mouthed, hot-tempered young Irish woman who is a notorious bank robber -described by others as a "tomboy" and a Lesbian (or more accurately, a Trans person who identifies as male, and wants to be called Clarke.)

DAPPER DUDLEY (lust). A crack shot, formerly a pistoleer in Wild West shows... also a vain con man and a consummate showman. His face is scarred because his former wife mixed mercury in with his stage makeup to get revenge for his raping her ten-year-old sister.

CHANG (pride). A brilliant surgeon in China and San Francisco who was forced into indenture and made to work on the railroad. He killed in order to make his escape.

The above description may seem like I am telling you a lot... but it is really just setting the scene for the story. Needless to say, there are a lot of shootouts, double crosses, and occasional acts of redemption (sort of).

It may not be for everyone. If you think Tarantino's westerns are too violent and profane, you won't like this. I certainly enjoyed it, though- it was fresh take on some very time-honored themes, and felt a lot like a spaghetti western.

Friday, August 2, 2019

The 10th Annual Peacemaker Awards Now Open for Submissions

Submissions for the 10th Annual Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Awards are now being accepted for works originally published in the year 2019.


First time in print must be between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2019, no reprints or revisions. Limit of 2 entries per category.

Books and short stories may be published in any country in the world (submissions must be in English) in print or electronic format. Electronic submissions must be made with Kindle/mobi, PDF, or Word/text files. WF reserves the right to decline any submission for consideration of an Award.

Authors, agents, or publishers may submit a work for consideration of an Award.

At least three entrants in a category must be received during the submission period for an Award to be presented.

Novels and short stories must be set in the time period between 1830-1920 to be considered Westerns under WF guidelines. Time periods beyond the 1830-1920 traditional western focus may be included in submissions as long as the periods outside of the 1830-1920 span constitute no more than 50% of the story. At least 50% of the story MUST TAKE PLACE in the 1830-1920 period. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Finalists for the Peacemaker Awards will be announced on May 15, 2020 and the winners will be announced on June 15, 2020.

The WF Peacemaker Award will be awarded in three categories:

Best Western Novel – Any novel published during the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920), at least 30,000 words in length. There are no format requirements. The novel may be a hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, or eBook.

Best Western Short Fiction – Any short story, novelette, or novella published during the award year set in the appropriate time period (1830-1920), from 500 words to 29,999 words. There are no format requirements. The short story may be published in any publication, print or electronic.

Best First Western Novel – Must meet the same requirements as Best Novel, and must be the author’s first published Western novel. If the author has published novels in any other genre they will not disqualify the author from the Best First Western Novel Award competition. Submissions for Best First Western Novel may also be submitted in the Best Novel category in the same year.


If sending print form, one copy of the work must be sent to each judge (3 per category), and the Awards Chair for a total of four, accompanied by the appropriate form.

Electronic versions should be emailed to the Awards Chair, James Reasoner, with the appropriate submission form. The electronic submissions will be distributed to the judges by the Awards Chair. All entries must be postmarked or received via email by midnight, CST, January 15, 2020. Judges should not be contacted by any entrant concerning their entry during the consideration period. Doing so may result in disqualification of eligibility for the WF Peacemaker Award. Works submitted will not be returned after the awards have been announced. There is no fee to enter. There will be no exceptions made to the submission procedures, for any reason.

Links to forms to include are at the bottom of the list of judges. You will need 4 copies for each printed entry, one for each judge and one for the Awards Chair.

Awards Chair: James Reasoner

P.O. Box 931

Azle, TX 76098-0931


Tuesday, July 23, 2019


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

Photo property of the author
First I'll get the joke out of the way, yes I write short because I am. Well, maybe not a short as some, but when I go to the market I always have to find someone to reach things from the back of the top shelf.

All joking aside, I love the challenge of writing a short story, and to be truthful, some stories are better told in short form. There were some masters of the short I loved to read. Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Louis L' Amour, and Elmore Leonard. While I may never reach their level, it is something to strive for. Of course, you notice, they are all no longer with us. There are some wonderful authors now who are also an inspiration.

Probably the best thing I've done recently is to judge short stories. I am so in awe of the talent writing today. You learn so many things when judging and it helps to improve your own writing, at least it did mine. (Or so I want to believe).

This leads me to Anthologies. Unless you have a large enough following for a collection of your shorter work, most short stories find their home in anthologies or in the few magazines left that accept the Western genre. I'm thrilled that both options are available to writers today. My four authors learned and perfected their craft in those magazines of yesterday. Now, for many of us, it's the online and anthologies that are our training ground.

The other wonderful advantage of an anthology is you share the pages with other authors. By default, your audience expands. There is nothing wrong with that, especially in the market today.

Personally, I love reading anthologies and short stories. The exposure to new authors is exciting to me. I also enjoy the shorter stories when life is so busy I don't have time for the longer form. I get a great complete story and can finish it in one or two sittings. That is a win-win for me.

Lately, I've been reading the short stories of Peter Dawson, T.T. Flynn and others from that earlier time. Who is your favorite short story writer?

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't do a short piece about the current anthology I have a story in. If you haven't heard of "Hot Western Nights", edited by Cheryl Pierson and published by Praire Rose Publications,  you are about to. There are six stories to this anthology, each different, yet all taking place in the early West.  Below is a short excerpt from my story, 'Duty':

Miranda Foster climbed the hill overlooking the ranch her stepfather left her to run for his heirs. Clouds flew across the sky. Standing on the hilltop, she watched a storm building, its track headed toward the ranch house. She didn't begrudge her duty, but by the time her step-brother Byron was old enough to take over, she'd be an old maid.
No one knew she wasn't the owner. It was her step-father's way of keeping the ranch safe. She remembered their conversation. "I know I'm asking a lot of you, but you'll be taken care of."
Miranda thought back on that conversation as she caught movement near the leading edge of the storm. Watching, she saw five specks detach and draw closer. The wind was pushing her back the way she'd come, trying to guide her to safety.
Miranda would not be moved. "You may threaten, cajole, or do me harm, but I will not be swayed from my duty," Miranda sent back to the wind as she waited for the oncoming riders, shotgun in hand. She never left the ranch house without it since the coming of Tate Browning. She stood, a calm determination not to give in.
"A woman can't hold such a place as this," the old man said as he rode up, almost on top of Miranda.
Miranda stood her ground, looking each of the men in the eye. "I've been charged with keeping this land safe, to never sell for any reason. Tell Tate Browning, it's a duty I shall discharge to the best of my ability."
The man glared back, looking for a way to pierce Miranda's armor. The wind whipped by the men and Miranda. Thunder sounded in the distance.
Miranda stood firm as the wind spent its fury. The old man growled, his anger a living thing, pressing on her as was the wind.

Purchase book from Amazon here

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Monday, July 22, 2019

How Roy Bean Made the National Limelight, and Saved a Heavyweight Prize Fight

The Fitzsimmons/Maher Fight of 1896

Bob Fitzsimmons and Peter Maher
The heavyweight boxing championship fight of 1896 was arguably the most controversial sporting event of all time, escalating at one point into an international incident that involved three great athletes, the Texas state legislature, an ambitious boxing promoter, U.S. marshals, Texas Rangers, the Mexican army, and last, but not least, an eccentric and entrepreneurial saloon keeper and part-time Justice of the Peace by the name of Roy Bean.

John L. Sullivan held his heavyweight championship title from 1882-1892. He is recognized as the last champion of the bare-knuckle fighters under the London Prize Ring Rules, and the first champion of the gloved boxers under the Marquess of Queensberry Rules. Sullivan is said to have won more than 450 fights during his career, finally losing the heavyweight title on September 7, 1892, in a fight with “Gentleman” Jim Corbett that lasted 21 rounds.
Press Pass for the Sullivan/Corbett fight
September 7, 1892

Corbett wasn’t interested in defending his title; instead, he used his champion status to put on theatrical “boxing” exhibitions from which he derived a substantial living.

An English boxer from Cornwall by the name of Bob Fitzsimmons held the U.S. middleweight title and began to fight as a heavyweight. He repeatedly challenged Corbett to a fight, but Corbett repeatedly refused, stating that Fitzsimmons wasn’t in his league as a fighter. Finally, in 1894, a boxing organization called the Olympic Club named Fitzsimmons the heavyweight champ because Corbett refused to fight, essentially forcing Corbett to fight Fitzsimmons to defend his title.

A gambler and boxing promoter in Dallas, Texas, by the name of Dan Stuart, saw an opportunity and started promoting the fight in an effort to bring it to Dallas. He arranged for special railroad fairs for people around the country who wanted to come to Dallas to see the fight. He even started plans for a fifty-two thousand seat arena to be called the Dallas Coliseum. Through his contacts with Dallas businessmen, Stuart was able to raise forty-one thousand dollars for the purse.

But there was opposition to the fight. The Dallas area clergy condemned the fight because they believed that it would draw the worse elements of society to the city. Other issues arose as well. Corbett was distracted by a very public and ugly divorce, and Fitzsimmons was about to go on trial for manslaughter, having killed his sparring partner in a boxing exhibition the previous year. Furthermore, the laws in Texas at the time were vague as to the legality of boxing.

The Governor, Charles Culberson, under pressure from the Dallas clergy, called the state legislature into a special session in October of 1895 in order to pass a law prohibiting boxing in Texas. The issue was settled once for all. The fight would not take place in Texas.

Texas Rangers sent to El Paso to make sure
the fight didn't take place on Texas soil
Stuart considered other states in which to hold the fight, but one by one they all turned him down. Governor Clarke of Arkansas went so far as to threaten to enlarge the state penitentiary to accommodate the crowds if Stuart brought the fight to his state.

To make matters worse for Stuart, Corbett decided to retire from boxing, believing that the fight was never going to happen. He relinquished his title to a little-known Irishman by the name of Peter Maher who had just fought Corbett’s sparring partner and knocked him out in sixty-three seconds. Stuart was now left with only one fighter and no venue for the fight. Things were looking pretty hopeless.

Fitzsimmons, who had been eager to fight Corbett, was furious about the champ bowing out of the fight, so he immediately challenged the new champion, Peter Maher, who accepted the challenge. Fitzsimmons and Maher had fought once before, in 1892, with Fitzsimmons emerging the victor. The fight was on once again. All they needed was a place to battle. The people of El Paso came to the rescue with a plan of their own.

Souvenir coins from the fight before
the last-minute change of venue
When Texans want a fight, they will find a way. They knew that they couldn’t have the fight in Texas because of the new law, so, raising fifteen thousand dollars for the purse, their plan was to have the fight across the border in Juarez, Mexico.

Everything seemed to be falling into place. Fitzsimmons arrived in El Paso to begin training and Maher set up his training camp not far away in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The spectators started pouring into El Paso, and with them came a contingent of law enforcement, including U.S. marshals and thirty-two Texas Rangers, to make sure that the fight didn’t take place in Texas.

No one had considered asking Mexico what they thought about having the fight in Juarez, but they found out when the Mexican government sent 150 soldiers to Juarez to keep the championship bout out of their country. Once again, the fight had no venue.

Enter Roy Bean.

The eccentric saloon keeper/Justice of the Peace from Langtry, Texas on the Rio Grande said that he would guarantee a venue for the fight that would satisfy everyone.

Stuart kept the location of the fight a secret and arranged for a special train to carry the spectators, sportswriters, gamblers, and lawmen from El Paso to the location of the fight. On February 20th of 1896, passengers loaded onto a special ten-car Southern Pacific train, paying twelve dollars each ($300 in today’s money), to head east toward a secret destination. It wasn’t until the train stopped in Langtry that anyone knew where they were going.

Bean, always the entrepreneur, had arranged for a train from San Antonio to deliver a fresh supply of beer, which he sold for a dollar a bottle ($25 today) to the thirsty spectators. Then he directed them to the Rio Grande where he had set up a boxing ring on a sand bar in the middle of the river. He had constructed a canvas wall around the ring to discourage any non-paying on-lookers who couldn’t afford the twenty-dollar price of admission. However, the canyon walls of the Rio Grande rose up high enough so that many people who couldn’t get a seat inside the canvas wall were able to climb up on the heights to get a free show. The Texas Rangers, who had accompanied the train, stood along the banks of the Rio Grande at the extent of their jurisdiction.

Historical Marker at the site of the Fitzsimmons/Maher fight
The fight had been gestating for four years. After months of preparation, after spending thousands of dollars on promotion, after bouncing from one city to the next not knowing where the fight would take place, after overcoming special legislation and special interest and armies of soldiers and law enforcement, the fight was finally happening…and it ended in ninety-five seconds with a knockout by Fitzsimmons.

(Author’s note: The very next fight by Fitzsimmons in December of 1896 was almost as controversial, but for different reasons, and involved another Wild West icon. You can read about it in one of my previous articles here.)

Mike 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 and humorous fiction and has been published in a number of anthologies and magazines. His first novel, The Sons of Philo Gaines, is scheduled for release in May of 2020. You can visit his blog at: 
and his Facebook page at: 

Friday, July 12, 2019

Cowboys: Reality vs. Expectation

When you mention the word “cowboy,” people usually get a fairly vivid mental image. But is that image accurate? Here are some facts a writer of Westerns should keep in mind about these hard-working historical figures.

Expectation: Cowboys are as American as apple pie.
Reality: The tending of cattle as a profession has its roots in Europe, particularly in Spain. American cowboys learned from Spanish and Mexican workers, which explains how words like lariat, buckaroo, chaps, rodeo, lasso, remuda – even the word ranch itself – became part of the cowboy vernacular.

Expectation: John Wayne was the perfect image of a cowboy.
Reality #1: Many, if not most, cowboys deserved the name. It’s a tough life, and the older you get, the harder the job is. Sprains and broken bones leave lasting damage you feel after a certain age. Cowboys started out in their early teens, some as young as 12-14, and were earning a man’s wage before they needed a good shave. Sure, they wouldn’t be the trail boss or take point on a cattle drive, but they made up a good bit of the working force of a cattle operation.

Reality #2. There weren’t as many white-bread workers as you’d think. Blacks, Mexicans, Native Americans, Europeans and men from Mediterranean countries worked right alongside the Anglos, often outnumbering them. Remember: tough life. Immigrants have always taken the jobs nobody else wanted, and cowboying was a hard, dangerous job. After the Civil War, as much as a quarter of total ranch hands were freed slaves.

Expectation: Cowboys were supremely attractive to the opposite sex.
Reality: Cowboys often wore their clothes for weeks without changing them. They lived rough, and often had neither the time nor the inclination to clean up their act. Of course, it was different when a cowboy went into town – then, you were expected to get gussied up in your Sunday best and do a little sparking. But when encountered in their day-to-day jobs, a cowboy wouldn’t exactly turn a woman’s head (unless she happened to be standing downwind, perhaps).

Expectation: Cowboys followed a “Cowboy Code,” perhaps best vocalized by one of the most famous TV cowboys, Gene Autry:A cowboy never takes unfair advantage, even of an enemy. A cowboy never betrays a trust. A cowboy always tells the truth. A cowboy is kind to small children, to old folks, and to animals. A cowboy is free from racial and religious prejudice. A cowboy is always helpful, and when anyone’s in trouble he lends a hand. A cowboy is a good worker. A cowboy is clean about his person, and in thought, word, and deed. A cowboy respects womanhood, his parents, and the laws of his country. A cowboy is a patriot.
Reality: Cowboys were common workingmen. Sure, some of them were honorable and loyal. Most were ordinary young men out for a paycheck. They ran the gamut from sterling characters to men you wouldn’t want to meet in a twilight alley, just as in most jobs. Being a cowboy was no different from taking any other job at the time.
J.E.S. Hays (
Adams, Andy: The Log of a Cowboy

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Ranger Jim's Ramblings for July

Howdy, y'all,

This month's post will be a continuation of sorts. One interesting fact few people know, then a cautionary tale about place names.

First, few people realize that, until the early to mid-twentieth century, pink was not for girls and blue was not for boys. In fact, it was the complete opposite. Red and pink were considered strong and war-like, while blue was considered calming.

Up until the early 1900s, color was not even considered. Babies, both male and female,  mostly wore white dresses. Pastel colors gradually became in vogue starting in the mid-1800s.  Here's an excerpt from the June, 1918 Ladies Home Journal:

The generally accepted rule is pink  for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason being is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl."

In 1927, Time Magazine printed a chart sowing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene's told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle's in Cleveland, and Marshall Field in Chicago.

It wasn't until the 1940s that clothing manufacturers settled on blue for boys and pink for girls. The Baby Boomers were the first generation to grow up with this color preference. So, in a western, keep it simple, and keep the babies in white dresses.

The other thing you have to be careful of when writing Western fiction is place names. Many towns and cities people assume were part of the frontier West weren't even in existence.Two examples are Amarillo and Lubbock, Texas, both of which weren't established until the 1890s, although both had settlers before then. Many of the small towns in the West didn't come into existence until long after the days of the cattle drives and Indian wars were over.

There are two tings to consider when using a place name in your Western fiction. First, should you use the name of an actual city or town? If you do, make certain the existence of the locale matches the time frame of the story, The other choice would be to just make up a fictional name for the setting of your tale.

Have a great summer, everyone.

"Ranger" Jim

Monday, July 8, 2019

The Hole in the Doughnut and Book Excerpt by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #inventions #doughnuts #donuts

I will confess that I have a fondness for doughnuts. For me, doughnuts are as versatile as Forrest Gump’s shrimp.

You can deep-fry them, bake them, fill them, frost them, and freeze them. There are doughnut holes, long john doughnuts, glazed doughnuts, sprinkled doughnuts, cake doughnuts, pumpkin spice doughnuts, blueberry cake doughnuts, old fashioned doughnuts, coconut topped doughnuts. Doughnuts for breakfast. Doughnuts for brunch. Doughnuts with coffee. Doughnuts with champagne. Doughnuts for lunch. Doughnuts for afternoon snack. Doughnuts for supper. Doughnuts at midnight… 

The concept of ‘doughnut’ evolved from lumps of dough dropped in boiling oil and cooked until golden brown. But how did the hole come about? Well, read on.

According to an article by Esther Inglis-Arkell*:

 “…the makings of doughnuts made it to American shores in the 1700s, when the Dutch came over. They were just deep-fried balls of dough sometimes spiced for flavor, and called ‘oilycakes’….Captain Hanson Gregory claimed to have been the first to put the hole in the oilycake, having thought it up in 1847 at the age of 16 during a long sailing voyage. He popped the middle out of the centers of dough with the lid of a pepper tin, and invented the modern doughnut…”

[Side Note: Supposedly, Captain Gregory’s inspiration to put a hole in oilycakes was to mitigate the drownings that followed when sailors over-indulged in large oilycakes… Inquiring minds want to know if the sailors became ‘drunk’ on oilycakes, stumbled around the deck, toppled overboard, and sank like they had lead in their bellies. *shrug* Sounds fishy to me.]

But, an article on the Engines of Our Ingenuity** website explains the invention of doughnuts in a similar fashion (without the drowning reference):

“…article that attributes [the invention of doughnuts] to Maine sea captain Hanson Gregory. Gregory’s ship was named Frypan, and he fed his sailors ‘fried cakes’, made according to his mother’s recipe. A problem with those otherwise delicious cakes was that their centers were seldom fully cooked. In 1847, Gregory punched out the center of a cake…for a far more uniformly cooked doughnut.”

However, since anyone could have figured out to poke a hole in a piece of dough, deep-fry it, and slather it with a sweet concoction, an argument can be made that John F. Blondel gets the credit for creating the doughnut in the form we know today.
Arnold Gatilao [CC BY 2.0 (]
Blondel was issued a patent on July 9, 1872 for ‘a new and useful improvement’ on the doughnut cutter’. Note the word ‘improvement’, not original invention.

His doughnut cutter was crafted from spring-loaded blocks of wood that, when pressed, punched holes through dough. (beefed-up hole punch) This greatly simplified, and enhanced, a doughnut seller’s productivity.

[click image to enlarge details] Patents. Improvement in doughnut-cutters.
My doughnut cutter:

Kaye's hand-me-down doughnut cutter

Cowboys in the Old West called doughnuts ‘bear sign’, and they were a delicacy they would ride miles out of their way to enjoy. The slang bear sign came about because these doughnuts didn’t look like the modern day doughnuts we know. They more closely resembled a pile of bear poop (beat scat), hence, bear sign (a sign that bears were in the area).

Here is the doughnut excerpt from my western romance, The Gunfighter’s Woman.

“Howdy, ma’am.”

“Hello, gentlemen. I never turn away an injured or hungry man. Help yourself to water and cool yourselves in the shade over there.” Brenna waved toward the summer table. “But if your intentions are otherwise, I invite you to leave now in the same healthy condition as when you arrived.”

Matt smiled when she lifted the shotgun barrel a few inches to make her not-so-subtle point.

“Thank you, ma’am. I promise, we mean no ill toward you. I expect you’re Mrs. GĂ©rard?”

“Yes. What is your business?”

“We just come through Trinidad headed to Laramie, and we offered to deliver these letters to you.” He reached inside his vest and brought out two letters. The cowboy dismounted, handed his reins to his partner, and walked to Brenna.

Matt crossed the yard, keeping close to the buildings, and though neither cowboy looked toward him, Matt knew from the glances they exchanged they were aware of his approach.

“Thank you. That was thoughtful, but also considerably out of your way.”

“Our pleasure, and we don’t mind.” The cowboy took a respectful step back. “To be honest, we could have been here yesterday, but we’d heard tell you make bear sign— doughnuts—on Sunday mornings, so we waited. And word got to us that the postmaster was looking for someone comin’ this way who would bring letters and…” The cowboy ducked his head, turning his hat in his hands like it was a wagon wheel rolling along.

Brenna smiled at his confession. “I do have doughnuts. They’re still warm. I’ll bring them to the table along with coffee and milk. Make yourselves at home.”

Matt recognized the men. “Akins. Myerson. Been a long time.”

Both men turned to him. Akins, the cowboy who’d done the talking asked, “Caddock? Matt Caddock? Well, I’ll be damned.” He shot a sheepish look toward Brenna. “Sorry, ma’am.” He held out his hand, and Matt shook it. “How did you end up here? Last we heard, you’d taken an arrow somewhere up in the high country. Also heard you hooked up with Archer.”

“You heard right on both, but I got shut of him.”

Akins pushed back the front of his hat, nodding. “I hear what you’re sayin’. He’s runnin’ a mean game. Story is, he blew a section of tracks down around Lamy for the payroll on the train. Waited until dark and wasn’t ridin’ a horse anyone recognized. Looks like he got away with it.”

Myerson added, “Watch your back trail. Couple of fellas in Trinidad said they’d heard Archer’d headed down toward Big Spring looking for you.” He dismounted and shook Matt’s hand.

“Thanks for the warning. He and his boys worked me over down in Maxwell a while back. I left them wishing they hadn’t.” “Well,  now  that  you’re  shut  of  him,  best  stay  that  way. Archer  kills  just  for  sport,  and  he  likes  the  sound  of  big

“That, he does. Always made me nervous that he carried a couple of sticks of dynamite in his saddlebags, though I never was around when he used them. I’d appreciate you not mentioning you saw me here, or anywhere else.”

“That road runs both ways.” Matt nodded that he understood.

The men drank their fill of coffee and milk and, between them, ate a plate full of doughnuts before riding off with more doughnuts tied-up in an old tea towel.


The doughnut recipe that was handed down through the generations in my family is available on one of my Pinterest boards. Click here: Doughnuts

 Available on
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Here are two doughnut articles of interest:

Doughboy Center: The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces – Doughnut! The Official Story -

A Short History of Doughnuts -

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

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*Inglis-Arkell, Esther. Gizmodo. The Scandalous History and Strange Physics of Donuts. 2013.04-19.Accessed: 2019.07-06.

**Lienhard, John H. Engines of Our Ingenuity, No. 1784: A Priority Allegory.Web. Accessed: 2019.07-06.

Moy, Suelain. The Fiscal Times. The Hole Truth: Celebrating a Huge Day in Doughnut History. Web. Accessed: 2019.07-06.