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 (www.jeshays.com)
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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 Amazon.com
Kindle | KindleUnlimited | Print

Here are two doughnut articles of interest:

Doughboy Center: The Story of the American Expeditionary Forces – Doughnut! The Official Story - http://www.worldwar1.com/dbc/doughnut.htm

A Short History of Doughnuts - http://www.essortment.com/short-history-doughnuts-41711.html

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

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*Inglis-Arkell, Esther. Gizmodo. The Scandalous History and Strange Physics of Donuts. https://io9.gizmodo.com/the-scandalous-history-and-strange-physics-of-donuts-474332506.Web. 2013.04-19.Accessed: 2019.07-06.

**Lienhard, John H. Engines of Our Ingenuity, No. 1784: A Priority Allegory.Web. https://www.uh.edu/engines/epi1784.htm. Accessed: 2019.07-06.

Moy, Suelain. The Fiscal Times. The Hole Truth: Celebrating a Huge Day in Doughnut History. Web. https://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/07/08/Hole-Truth-Celebrating-Huge-Day-Doughnut-History.2015.07-08. Accessed: 2019.07-06.