Monday, January 14, 2019

Remembering Tex Ritter by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #countrymusic

To kick off 2019, let's take a stroll down musical memory lane, and take a quick look at the show business career of a talented man named Woodward Maurice Ritter, better known as Tex Ritter.

He was born on January 12, 1905 and he died on January 2, 1974. He was father to actor John Ritter and grandfather to actors Jason and Tyler Ritter.

Tex was a popular actor and country music artist in the early years of both industries. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Tex was born in Murvaul, Texas and grew up on the family farm. After he graduated high school, he went to college with intent to become a lawyer. In 1928, he became interested in show business, and his law/government studies went to the back burner.

Tex Ritter - publicity image 1966*
Here is a timeline highlighting his business/music career:

Radio and Broadway

1928 - sang cowboy songs on radio in Houston, Texas
1928 - moved to New York City - sang in chorus of Broadway show The New Moon
1931 - appeared in the role of Cord Elam in Broadway show Green Grow the Liacs (basis for the musical Oklahoma!)
1932 - played role of Sagebrush Charlie in The Round Up
1934 - played role of Sagebrush Charlie again in Mother Lode
1932 - starred in New York City's The Lone Star Rangers radio show - sang and told Old West stories
1933-1936 - wrote and starred in Cowboy Tom's Roundup (daily radio children's cowboy program)
During this time, he appeared on WHN Barndance and sang on NBC radio shows.
1965 - moved to Nashville - worked for WSM Radio and the Grand Ole Opry - cohosted late-night program with country disc jockey Ralph Emery

Recording Career

1933 - signed with Columbia Records - recorded "Goodbye Ole Paint" and "Rye Whiskey"
1935 - signed with Decca Records - recorded "Sam Hall" and "Whoopie Ti Yi Yo"
1942 - signed with Capitol Records - he was the company's first artist they signed and also their first western singer


1936 - moved to Los Angeles
1936 - movie debut - Song of the Gringo - followed by 12 B-movie westerns (40+)
*Appeared in episodes of Death Valley Days and The Rebel
1938 - 1945 - starred in singing cowboy movies - teamed with Johhny Mack Brown (western actor) in several movies
1945 - starred as "Texas Ranger Tex Haines"
1950 - returned to show business in supporting roles or performing as himself
1966 - played himself in the film Nashville Rebel (side note: Waylon Jennings was also in this movie)

Musical Years

1944 - "I'm Wasting My Tears on You" - No. 1 on the country chart and No. 11 on the pop chart
1945 - "There's a New Moon over My Shoulder" - No. 2 country - No. 21 pop
1945 - 1946 hits: "You Two-Timed me One Time Too Often" and his cover of the song "The Deck of Cards", which is a recitation song
1952 - toured Europe
1952 - recorded the title track of the western movie, High Noon "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darlin'"
1955 - "Remember the Alamo"
1961 - "I Dreamed I was in Hillbilly Heaven"
1965 - moved to Nashville - one of the founding members of the Country Music Association

 'High Noon'

Tex Ritter's contribution to the western genre--movie, television, and country music--is a legacy that I hope will never be lost or forgotten. I hope someday to visit The Tex Ritter Museum in Carthage, Texas. Here is a quote from the museum's website:

The museum started in 1993 as the Tex Ritter Museum and expanded to include friends of Tex and other Texas-born country music legends. In August 2004, the museum expanded to add a significant Jim Reeves display which features the radio equipment from Jim's radio station KGRI in Henderson.

I grew up listening to Tex on the radio or watching his western movies on Saturday afternoon matinees at the theater or on late night television. I still have two 78rpm records of his:When You Leave Don't Slam the Door/Have I Told You Lately That I love You and My Heart's as Cold as an Empty Jug/Rock and Rye. Sadly, I've lost track of my record of Blood on the Saddle.

I mean no disrespect to his memory or his singing, but I cannot listen to Blood on the Saddle without smiling, if not actually giggling. You listen and let me know if you kept a straight face.

As I don’t send a newsletter, you might consider following me on these platforms:
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Until next time,

Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time


“Tex Ritter.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Dec. 2018,
“Tex Ritter.” IMDb,,
Razor Tie Artery Foundation Announce New Joint Venture Recordings | Razor & Tie, Rovi Corporation,
*Capitol Records, Tex Ritter 1966, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Old West Recipes: Breads

For 2019, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some Old West cooking. For most of this, you’ll need an old-fashioned cast-iron Dutch Oven – that little 3-legged cookpot with a lipped lid. Dutch ovens have been in use since the 1700s, and nobody cooking over an open fire would be without one in the Old West. You can roast in one (place coals on top of the lid and underneath the pot), fry or boil (place coals underneath), bake (place coals on top of the lid in a 3-to-1 ratio with coals underneath, leaving most of the coals on top), and simmer or stew (place coals underneath in a 4-to-1 ration with coals on top of the lid, with most of the coals beneath). Legends of America has a great table showing how many modern charcoal briquettes to use in order to achieve specific cooking temperatures in your Dutch oven. 

Let’s start with some basic frontier bread recipes.

Bannock or Frying Pan Bread

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Grease and pre-warm a skillet or Dutch oven. Thoroughly mix dry ingredients, then add just enough water to make a stiff dough. Work dough as little as possible and form a 1-inch cake. Set cake into skillet and brown both sides, then set in front of the fire to bake. Test for doneness by thumping with a wooden spoon handle or stick. A hollow ringing sound tells you it’s done. Or, you can insert a clean stick or matchstick – if it comes out clean (no clinging dough), the cake is done.

Hoecakes or Johnnycakes

1 cup white cornmeal
½ cup flour (optional)
½ tsp salt

Lightly grease your skillet or Dutch oven. Combine the dry ingredients and mix well. Flour will improve the texture of the cake, but is optional. Add just enough cold water to make a stiff batter. Drop large spoonfuls of batter onto the skillet and cook slowly.

Ash Cakes

1 cup white cornmeal
½ cup flour (optional)
½ tsp salt
Mix dry ingredients and add just enough batter to make a firm dough. Form dough into thin cakes. Clear the coals from an area of your fire and lay the cakes on the hot earth. Rake coals and ash over the cakes and let them cook for five minutes. Test for doneness by thumping with a spoon handle. A hollow ringing sound indicates doneness.

And here’s a more modern recipe for an old-fashioned product:


2 cups stone ground flour
1 cup water

Combine flour and water and knead until smooth. Sprinkle some flour onto a smooth surface and roll the dough flat until it is one-fourth inch thick. Cut biscuits out with a can or glass, making each one about three-fourths inch in diameter. Poke holes into each biscuit with a fork. Place on a floured cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees F for 35 to 45 minutes. Biscuits should come out hard and dry.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Ranger Jim's Ramblings for January

Happy New Year, everyone.

With the snow flying, and below zero temperatures rolling in here in New Hampshire, I thought I'd write a bit about horses in winter.

I don't believe there are many instances in the movies or television where horses look as they do in teh wintertime. They are always slick and shiny. And of course, clean, hardly the way hard working cow ponies typically look.

In the wintertime, horses grow long, thick coats, which act as insulation. (When Yankee sheds out in the spring, I brush enough hair off him to make several more horses, or horsehair sofas). Depending on the breed, the climate, and the latitude, horses grow different lengths coats. Some in the South might not grow any at all. I recall when I lived in San Diego. I was surprised when Sam didn't grow a coat... until I realized the temperatures were still in the 70s. Of course, the San Diegans thought  that was freezing. They'd wear windbreakers and sweatshirts while I was in T-shirts. Horses up nroth can grow very long, thick coats, so they can look almost like bears, they are so fuzzy. I can also get a pretty good handle on how severe the winter will be by how long Yankee grows his coat. Some winters it is real thick, others, not so much.

Although you'd never know it today, with so many horses blanketed in the winter,  that long coat means horses can survive teh cold just fine. If you see horses standing outside in a snowstorm, you'll notice snow can pile up on their backs to three or more inches without melting. They also bunch up, to keep each other warm, and turn tails to the wind. The only real hazard for horses in cold weather is getting soaked in a cold rain, or a sleet and ice storm. On occasion, a horse might lose the tip os his ears to frostbite, but that's rare.

So, in your writing, if you're doing a story or chapter set in the cold weather, no slick, smooth coated horses, please, Give them the thick, mink coat look. And of course, when your rider gets to town, give  his or her horse a nice warm stall in the livery stable. The horse will appreciate it.

Ranger Jim

Saturday, January 5, 2019



Engineer George Ratcliff squinted into the darkness and spotted a red lantern on the tracks up ahead. When the big unit neared a small station at Alila, California, Ratcliff applied the handbrake on the Southern Pacific train #17.

In the darkness of February 6, 1891, three masked men leaped aboard the passenger train, making its run San Francisco to Los Angeles. Drawing their guns, Bob and Gratton Dalton rushed Radcliff and forced him to halt the train.

A third Dalton brother, Bill, bulled his way into the passenger compartment brandishing a rifle and ordered everyone to stay in their seats.

Bob and Grat forced Radcliff out of the engine and shoved him toward the Express car.

At this point, the robbery attempt took a turn for the worst. Radcliff tried to take advantage of the darkness and made a run for it. 

One of the brothers snapped off a shot and hit the engineer in the stomach. The Southern Pacific engineer would later die from his wound.

The bad luck continued when the Daltons reached the express unit. They ordered guard Charles C. Haswell to unlock the door. He refused.

 The brothers fired several rounds of buckshot into the door. But Haswell retrieved his gun. Utilizing a small hole in the door, he returned the Daltons' gunfire.

The Dalton Brothers first-ever attempt at train robbery had failed. The trio decided to call it a night and regroup.

A posse tracked down Bill and Grat. Bob managed to escape. A court released Bill but sentenced Grat to twenty years. Grat, however, succeeded in getting away. 

Southern Pacific lent some validity to the Dalton Gang by posting $6,000 rewards for each of them.

The three brothers made their way back to Oklahoma and reunited with their younger brother, Emmett.

Despite the botched, the Daltons didn't decide to go straight. 

Far from it. The Dalton Brothers figured there is strength in numbers and began recruiting other outlaws to join. Between May 1891 and June 1892, the Dalton Gang robbed four trains in Indian Territory.

Over the period, they stole between several hundred dollars to over $10,000.

Bob Dalton always considered Jesse James a rival, no doubt envious of the kind of publicity James commanded. 

He once boasted he could top anything the infamous Missouri bandit every did by robbing “two banks at once in broad daylight."

On October 5, 1892, the Dalton Gang rode into Coffeyville, Kansas, to rob the C.M. Condon & Company Bank and the First National Bank across the street.

Although gang members wore fake beards and other disguises, townspeople recognized them because the Daltons once lived In Coffeyville.

"The Last Day of the Daltons" proved a disaster with Grat and Bob Dalton, Bill Power, and Dick Broadwell killed by angry townspeople.

Emmett was shot twenty-three times but survived. He was sentenced to life in the Kansas penitentiary but won a pardon after serving fourteen years.

He played it straight the rest of his life as a successful real estate agent, author, and actor.


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Cowboys in Chicago

I caught a History Channel documentary a bit ago on the Chicago Union Stock Yards.

In 1848, when Chicago was only a connection for transporting livestock from the West to the rest of the country, small stockyards such as Lake Shore Yard and Cottage Grove Yard were scattered throughout the city along various rail lines. As the railroads expanded westward, Chicago evolved into a large railroad center. As the number of trainloads of livestock increased, the need for a centralized stock center became obvious.
In 1864, a consortium of nine railroad companies acquired three hundred and twenty acres of swampland south west of The Loop, and the Chicago Union Stock Yards was born. By 1890 the yards were handling more than nine million cows, pigs and sheep a year. That’s a lot of hooves.

But I wanted to know who took care of all those critters.

Before the creation of the stock yards, tavern owners provided pastures and care for cattle herds waiting to be sold. Eventually they built 2300 livestock pens on the swampy site. They also built
hotels, saloons, restaurants, and offices for merchants and brokers, but that’s another blog.

My next question: who moved all those animals around? I had visions of cowboys throwing lassos in downtown Chicago.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a storyline there, after all. The cowboys only moved the doggies as far as Dodge City, Kansas City, and all the other termini of the cattle drives.

In the early days of the Stock Yard, drovers herded cattle, hogs, and sheep down two wide thoroughfares from the railroad cars to the pens. Then the railroad consortium built more rail lines, bringing the livestock right to the holding pens—and removing the need for the drovers.

It’s a shame really. A thousand head of longhorns moo-ing their way down Michigan Avenue ahead of a couple of swoon-worthy cowboys would have been entertaining.

Happy New Year!

Coming February 1 ~ GRACE