Thursday, February 27, 2020



the blog about the medicine and surgery of yesteryear

Dr Keith Souter aka Clay More

Writers are often asked where their story ideas come from. Years ago I read an article by Stephen King in Writer's Digest in which he said that as a horror writer his ideas came from his nightmares. In the same book there was a reprinted article by W.Somerset Maugham who stated that his story ideas came from his notes, his imagination and experience. He always carried a notebook of observations and tended to write in the first person, which he admitted was a device he used to gain verisimilitude. Using his imagination and  personalising his observations he was able to craft a tale.  Also in the book was an article by George Antonich, in which he justified his subscription to the San Francisco Chronicle, because he obtained the ideas for his short stories from the news.

There are so many ways that writers get the germ of an idea for a story. As a doctor I often get snippets of ideas from past cases. Not necessarily my own cases, but those of doctors of yesteryear. This happened when I was trying to come up with an idea for a story  for The Untamed West, and I discovered the remarkable Dr Bernard  J.D. Irwin, recipient of the Medal of Honor and the strange and harrowing case that he treated during the Apache Wars. It does not make easy reading and it speaks volumes about the horrors of war.

Dr Bernard J.D. Irwin (1830-1917)

Born in County Roscommon in Ireland, he moved to the United States with his family in the 1840s. He attended New York University and later New York Medical and graduated in 1852. He served as physician and surgeon on Ward's Island before being appointed Assistant Surgeon to the  US Army in 1856.

Dr Irwin served during the Apache Wars and was involved in the famous Bascomb Affair in 1861. In February of 1861 Second Lieutenant George Bascom led a group of 60 men from the 7th Infantry after Cochise on a rescue mission in Arizona Territory, but were besieged . Dr Irwin with 14 men of the 1st Dragoons caught up with the war party at Apache Pass and by ingenious strategy tricked Cochise into believing that he led a lager party than the fourteen men. The Apaches fled and Boscomb and Irwin united and were subsequently able to complete their rescue mission. 

For his actions Dr Irwin was chronologically by action awarded the first Medal of Honor, although the medal did not exist  at the time and he was not actually awarded it until just before he retired in 1894. 

Dr Irwin's Casenotes

While doing historical medical research I came across this case in the American Medical Times of May 17, 1862. It is worth reproducing it verbatim.

Body Transfixed by a Bayonet: Recovery - Dr B. J. D. IRWIN, Medical Inspector 4th Division Army of Ohio, USA, relates the following remarkable example of this -

"In the early part of February, 1861, the various tribes of Apache Indians, inhabiting the mountainous regions of Arizona, broke into open hostilities against the government, perpetrating atrocities and unheard of cruelties upon the unfortunate white settlers, and touring their luckless captives in the most barbarous and cruel manner. Unfortunately, prisoners were starved, others tied up for slow target practice, and some were hung up by the feet and broiled to death by fires built underneath their subverted heads. It was during this re-enactment of this furious crusade, that the following interesting case came under my supervision.

"A small party of our troops were hemmed in, in one of the gorges of the Chiricahua Mountains, by superior numbers of Indians, who were endeavouring to capture our slender force. We held some prisoners of theirs as hostages for the safety of some citizens in their possession, whom we desired to exchange. On a certain occasion, the prisoners in our possession, whom we desired to exchange attempted to break away from our guards. One robust athlete, aged about 25 years, was knocked down by the sentinel by a blow from a musket on the back of the had, and held pinned to the earth by a bayonet which transfixed his body. The weapon entered the abdomen in the anterior upper angle of the left hypochondriac region, passed directly backwards and downwards, and made its exit a little below the posterior corresponding space, about two inches from the vertebral column. The victim was  held in that position for some moments, until succour arrived to secure him and his desperate associates. A paroxysm of momentary weakness was all that appeared preternatural in him. The amount of hemorrhage was very slight, and the man did not present any of the symptoms to be expected from so serious a lesion. He was tied and placed on his back, kept strictly quiet, and the cold water dressing applied - snow water was used from necessity. The diet allowed was of the sparest kind. Not a bad symptom appeared, and on the fourth day the wounds were perfectly healed by adhesive inflammation. He complained but little of any pain or distress, which I attributed to the innate pride of his stoical character, being a brother of the chief of his tribe, he held it beneath his dignity to manifest any external show of physical or moral suffering. On the ninth day he walked to the place of execution, where he, with five of his companions was hung to the boughs of two stately oaks, overshadowing the graves of some fourteen of our citizens, whom the savages had treacherously and cruelly tortured to death while prisoners in their hands. As we were desirous of making a lasting example to our treacherous foes, the bodies were allowed to remain suspended permanently, which prevented my making a postmortem examination of the body of the one whose case I have described."

The impression of the case

I was not expecting the matter-of-fact tone in the recounting of this case. The resulting execution took me by surprise. In researching this case and the Broscomb Affair it seems that Dr Irwin's patient was the brother of Cochise and some of the others, the chief's nephews. 

Dr Irwin's account gave me the idea for my story Savage Law, which appears in the anthology The Untamed West

Tuesday, February 25, 2020


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

View on the route up Pikes Peak which was submitted by
Julia Archibald Holmes in 1858
Photo property of the author
On March 31, 1776, Abigail Adams wrote a letter to her husband in which she said, "I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation."

Those were strong words and in 1920 the nineteenth amendment to the constitution was passed. This year we celebrate the centennial of that event. Although the suffrage movement started on the Eastern coast, it was the women of the Westward movement who exercised those rights prior to 1920.

In Colorado, even before becoming a state, the papers were discussing the suffrage movement. The Central City newspaper in the 1860s was publishing articles on the subject. The Colorado State Medical Society as early as 1876 introduced the idea of women being admitted to that organization. On a side note, the American Medical Society admitted a female doctor from Illinois in 1874.

Image result for alida avery
Dr. Alida Avery
image from Wikipedia
Although women doctors were not admitted to the Colorado Medical Society in 1876, they started their own society. Alida Avery, MD, left Vassar College, where she was a professor and physician, moved to Colorado in 1874, and was heavily involved in the early suffrage movement.

Dr. Mary Helen Barker Bates, who had moved to Colorado from Utah in 1878 with her attorney husband, was instrumental as part of the group of women who reorganized the movement to work for the passage of suffrage in Colorado. The result, in 1893, Colorado added the right of women to vote to the state's constitution.

Image result for colorado suffrage movement images
Colorado Suffrage Movement 1893
image from Wikipedia 
Women in Western states enjoyed more rights and freedoms than their sisters in the East. Wyoming and Utah allowed women to vote before Colorado. Additionally, California began licensing physicians as early as 1876 and women were licensed just the same as men.

Most of my research is on those early Colorado women doctors, but there were women ranch owners, business owners, outlaws and teachers whose lives made an impact on the state. So the next time you watch an early Western and see a strong female character, don't think it was an anomaly, it was probably truer than you realize. When you read between the lines of some of the news reports from the time, you will find, we need to remember the Ladies.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet

Friday, February 21, 2020

Western Music and Memories

Music has always been part of the west.

Played and enjoyed by the immigrants who settled the vast frontier, they brought traditional tunes, religious hymns, bawdy ballads, and children’s rhymes. With its power to directly touch our emotions, music has a narrative ability to conjure up a time and place. Even more than words and pictures, the story a piece of music tells becomes intensely personal.

Western enthusiasts have their favorite movies, and also their favorite show tunes. Here are mine.

When I hear Ennio Morricone’s score for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, I don’t only think of the Man With No Name (aka: Blondie), Angel Eyes, and Tuco. I think of sprawling out on the living room floor in our trailer watching the film, cut to ribbons with commercials, on our old black & white TV. I remember that evocative flute that so resembles a coyote or—I always thought—a mourning dove at dusk. I think about growing up on the high plains.

Maybe best of all, I remember my friend Mark True, who turned me on to so much music, happily playing the Hugo Montenegro cover version of the theme for me one afternoon at his house—when I expected Deep Purple or Alice Cooper. 

We all have memories like that where we shared a tune with friends and loved ones—our favorite radio songs from high school or our favorite records from college.

I remember the chanting chorus from Hang ‘Em High as an earworm that plagued me for days in December, 1984 after I first saw the Clint Eastwood movie during a late night party. That theme came from jazz composer Dominic Frontier who penned the score in only eight days, influenced by Morricone. It’s been a favorite for nearly 40 years.

More on earworms. Most often, it’s the lyrics that gets stuck in my head with a background tune as sticky foundation.

Say High Noon, and those seven words and nine notes, “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling,” are lodged in mind for the rest of the day. Russian composer Dimitri Tiomkin won two Oscars for that music, including Best Music Scoring and Best Original Song. With lyrics by Ned Washington, the 1952 song was performed by Tex Ritter, both in the movie and at the Academy Awards presentation. I remember my dad playing it on a reel-to-reel tape recorder years before I saw the movie so, for me, this one stands apart from the film.

That separation of film from score happened again in the 90s. Another Academy Award-winner, John Barry gave us music for Dances With Wolves. That year I was living in South Carolina, having moved across the country from Wyoming less than a year before. For me, the movie was hit and miss, but the score kept me awake at night, yearning for the wide open vistas I had gotten to know while living in Laramie. Even today, I can’t listen to this one without clouding up with nostalgia—for a mythical lost west, and for my own real lost frontier. Dances With Wolves is the first western movie soundtrack I owned on CD.

If Dances With Wolves brings melancholy, there’s one theme that is the polar opposite. Nothing brings the exuberance and sheer joie de vivre as well as Elmer Bernstein’s theme for The Magnificent Seven. Those of us of a certain age can remember it playing behind the Marlboro man’s TV commercials and hearing it continuously covered and sampled in movies (Moonraker) and television (Cheers, The Simpsons). Heroism and grandeur, action and youth, it’s all there in those majestic horns and thundering percussion. With the theme to the Magnificent Seven playing in my head, my bike became a galloping stallion, and the future an endless tapestry of adventure.

Please share in the comments some of your favorite western TV and movie themes. What do you remember most about them? What images do they conjur up? (And a tip of the Stetson to anybody who can dig deeper than a random Google search and let me know whose chorus performed the vocals for Hang ‘Em High.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2020


I learned a new word the other day, thanks to a dear friend of mine, Sharon Cunningham. She posted on Facebook about the word, “saeculum”—which was one that I’d never heard of. I didn’t even know there was an actual word for this “event” or “circumstance.”

Saeculum means the period of time from when an event occurred until all people who had an actual memory of the event have died. The example she used was World War I. The saeculum for that war is over.

It can also be applied to people. (Something else I never thought about.) A person’s saeculum doesn’t end until all people who have a clear memory of knowing that person are gone. So even though a person has died, their saeculum will live for another two or three generations!

Isn’t this amazing? And comforting, somehow. Yes, eventually our saeculum will be over, but what amazes me, and comforts me at the same time, is knowing there is a word—an actual TERM—for the idea of this memory of an event or person.

When you think about it, knowing that someone has created a word to define this period of time is important, because it defines it and gives it meaning—not just some nebulous “I remember Mama” type idea that is passed down. It means, I DO REMEMBER MAMA. I remember how Mama used to sing, I remember how Mama used to cook, how her palm felt on my forehead in the night when she came to check on me. I remember “that” look when she was upset with me, and I remember how she cried when she learned her dad, my grandfather, had died.
Valentine's Day 1965, Mom, my sister Karen, me, and my oldest sister, Annette
Nov. 1960--my sisters, Karen and Annette cutting up in the living room
Sept. 1966--my mom and dad together
Dec. 1965--my mom wearing the hula skirt my sister Annette brought me from Hawaii for Christmas
April 1960--my grandmother (mom's mother), a not-quite-3-year-old me, and my sister Annette
January 1960--Mom's 38th birthday

I remember Mama the way I knew her. And when we talk to other members of the family who knew and remembered her, we learn many other facets about her personality and things about her as a person we would never have known otherwise. It’s this way with every person we know!

But let’s take it one step further: I remember family. My own, of course—two sisters, Mama and Daddy. But what about extended family? Sometimes we tend to just “move on” in our lives and not dwell on memories of long ago because somehow, they don’t seem important to us. But now that there is a word that defines us in relationship to those memories, doesn’t it seem a little more important that we remember those long-ago times? Soon, there will be no one to remember, and the saeculum for our entire family will be gone.

A group of my cousins at a family reunion

Oddly enough, I remember what I thought AS A CHILD at family get-togethers—the excitement of seeing my cousins, of taking a trip to visit everyone, of staying up late and having a bit more freedom since I had grandparents at both ends of the small town where both sides of my family had many members living—and I felt special because of that. I was the ONLY ONE of my cousins who had THAT! So we always had somewhere to walk to when they were with me—to one grandparents’ house or the other.

As an adult, I think back on those simpler times and wonder what else was going on in the “adult world”—sisters, brothers, in-laws all gathering with their children and meal preparation for so many people—my mother was the oldest of eleven children!

My mother, El Wanda Stallings Moss, and my aunt (my dad's sister) JoAnne Moss Jackson

Two unforgettable women!

Everyone tried to come home to Bryan County during Christmas and/or Thanksgiving. Such an exciting time, but for the adults…tiring and maybe stressful? If so, I don’t remember ever seeing that side of anyone.   

My mom and dad as newlyweds in 1944--El Wanda Stallings Moss and Frederic Marion Moss--around 22 years old

So, maybe that’s why I think writing is so important. My mom always said she wanted to write down her life story, but “life” kept getting in the way and it never happened. When she ended up with Alzheimer’s, the time for writing down anything was over. Though the written word doesn’t add to a person’s saeculum, it does at least two things for those left behind: It helps preserve the stories and memories the deceased person has talked about before they passed, and it gives future generations a glimpse into their ancestors’ lives, thoughts, beliefs, and dreams.

This is my great-grandmother, "Mammy" (Emma Christi Anna Ligon Stallings)--my mother's dad's mother. I never knew her, but I felt like I did from the stories Mom told me about her. She was born not long after the Civil War ended, and regaled my mother with stories of her growing up years. I wish I had listened better when Mom tried to tell me about her!

We die, and eventually are forgotten by the world. Events happen that were, at the time,  life-changing, world- altering, such as wars, rampant disease, and tragedies of other kinds. These, though horrific at the time, will eventually be relegated to the tomes of the historical past…and forgotten…by many. There is nothing to stop it. All saeculums will be over for individual people and for events. And they will all become history.

What we can leave behind for others is our pictures, the written word of who we are and what we believe, and if we have a particular talent or craft, pieces of that—carvings, quilts, beautiful artwork or writings, creations of so many kinds.
A painting my mom did many years ago of an old barn in a snowstorm. Sorry it's so small! Couldn't make it bigger without making it blurry.

Our saeculum is fragile, and fleeting. So for 2020, my one and only resolution is to try to keep some kind of journal for my children, or for anyone who might be interested in the future. I want to write about my childhood, just the regular every-day things we did, the heat of the Oklahoma summer nights, the fireflies that lit up those nights until we knew we had to go home or get in trouble! The way the house creaked, and how the attic fan sounded like a freight train as it brought in that blessed cooler air during those same hot summer nights. So many memories of “nothing special”—just the business of living.  I want to write about the way life was then—because it will never be that way again, for better or worse.
My best friend, Jane Carroll, and me, on a fall day in the sandbox. I was about 8, and Jane was a year older. We moved in just down the street from one another during the same week of 1963! Jane is gone now, but I still love her and miss her.

Will anyone give a hoot? Maybe not. But I will know I’ve done what I could do if anyone DOES care. I’m not sure Laura Ingalls Wilder thought anyone would care about her stories—but look at what a glimpse into the past they have provided for so many generations! I’m no Laura Ingalls Wilder. My journals won’t begin to make the impression on the world that hers did. But you never know who might read them and think, “I wish I had known her!” (Even after my saeculum is over!)

Me, at age three.

Do you have anything you would like to leave to future generations to remember you by? This fascinates me!

Monday, February 17, 2020

A doo-wop singer, a hard-as-nails actor, and the western movie that connects them by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #hollywood #moviemusic

February 17th  and February 19th  have a primary and secondary connection that makes the trivia-loving nerd in me happy as a dog wagging two tails.

I’ll begin with the secondary connection, which is simply February birthdays— 

Musician Gene Pitney was born on February 17th

Gene Pitney (reference below)

and actor Lee Marvin was born on February 19th.

Lee Marvin (reference below)

First, a little about Gene Pitney—

Born on February 17, 1940 (died April 5, 2006), Pitney was an American singer-songwriter and musician. Over the course of his career (1961 – 2006), Pitney experienced musical success with songs he wrote for others and with songs that he wrote and performed himself. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

He referred to himself as a doo-wop singer. According to the website

‘doo-wop is a style of rhythm and blues and rock-and-roll vocal music popular in the 1950s and ’60s [with roots in the 1930s and 1940s]. The structure of doo-wop music generally featured a tenor lead vocalist singing the melody of the song with a trio or quartet singing background harmony. The term doo-wop is derived from the sounds made by the group as they provided harmonic background to the lead singer.’

Notable and successful songs he wrote for others:

  • Hello Mary Lou by Ricky Nelson
  • Rubber Ball by Bobby Vee
  • He’s a Rebel by the Crystals
  • Today’s Teardrops by Roy Orbison
Notable and successful songs he performed:

  • Only Love Can Break a Heart
  • Twenty-four Hours from Tulsa
  • Half Heaven, Half Heartache
  • It Hurts to Be in Love
  • I’m Gonna Be Strong
  • Town Without Pity from the Kirk Douglas movie of the same name. Pitney performed this song during the 1962 Academy Awards as it was nominated for Best Song (lost to Moon River)
 Pitney recorded two albums with country music entertainer George Jones. They were voted the ‘most promising country-and-western-duo of the year’ in 1965.

He also recorded in Italian, Spanish, and German and competed in Italy’s annual Sanremo Music Festival to critical acclaim comparing his voice to that of Italian opera tenor Enrico Caruso.

A radio disc jockey nicknamed Pitney “The Rockville Rocket” because of his meteoric rise in the music charts. (Pitney grew up in Rockville, Connecticut.)

Next, a few words about Lee Marvin—

He was born on (February 19, 1924 (died August 29, 1987). He was an American film and television actor with a military background of having enlisted in the Marines at the beginning of World War II. His military experience, which included receiving the Purple Heart Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Med, and the Combat Action Ribbon.

His military experiences affected him deeply for the rest of his life. He disliked acting in many of his war-related movies as he felt the movies glorified war, and he was picky about which war movies he took. He often spoke out against U.S. involvement in Viet Nam.

These two quotes from the IMDb website (link in references below) illustrate his entire Hollywood career.
  • He was typecast as a heavy before graduating to unsympathetic heroes.
  • He often played tough, hard bitten anti-heroes.
Also from his bio on the IMBd website, here are three of his quotes regarding the violence in some of his movies and the violence in the characters he’d played.

Because real violence is a thing that must not be tolerated, and in order not to tolerate it, you must be educated in knowing what it is. Violent films come out with value… When I play these roles of vicious men, I do things you shouldn’t do and I make you see that you shouldn’t do them.

...But most violence on the screen looks so easy and so harmless that its’ like an invitation to try it. I say make it so brutal that a man thinks twice before he does anything like that.

I’ve always been against senseless violence myself. When I incorporate violence in my performances, I make sure there’s a point to it. If I were playing a heavy, say a cowboy bad guy, I could commit some senseless crime to that I’d have to be destroyed in the third or fourth reel Holding up the stagecoach, for example, and shooting the old lady because she turned her back on me. So I’m against pointless violence, too.

Just a few of Lee Marvin’s movies: (deliberately left out his numerous television appearances)
  • You’re in the Navy Now (1951 film debut - uncredited)
  • Bad Day at Black Rock
  • Not as a Stranger
  • Pillars of the Sky
  • Raintree County
  • The Comancheros
  • Donovan’s Reef
  • Cat Ballou (Oscar win)
  • Ship of Fools
  • The Professionals
  • The Dirty Dozen
  • Paint Your Wagon
  • Monte Walsh
  • Pocket Money
  • Prime Cut
  • The Iceman Cometh
  • Death Hunt
  • The Delta Force

Finally, the primary connectionThe Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Pitney had a hit with the Burt Bacharach / Hal David song The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Marvin played the villain Liberty Valance in the western film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

…and now you know the nerdy connection.

Side note: The song was not included in the movie because of a publishing dispute. However it did reach No. 4 on the music charts.

Gene Pitney singing the theme song to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance:

We meet Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance in all his villainous glory:

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

Stay in contact with Kaye—

Gene Pitney
Image: William Morris Agency (management), Gene Pitney 1967, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Lee Marvin
Image: NBC Television Uploaded by We hope at en.wikipedia, Lee marvin 1971, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons

Film: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Song: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Saturday, February 15, 2020

New Release THE YOUNG GUNFIGHTER by Lowell Zeke Ziemann

The 3rd book in the "Gunfighter Luc Milton" series has just been released as an e-book and paperback!!!!.  

THE YOUNG GUNFIGHTER Luc Milton Gains a Reputation  

In this PREQUEL we meet young Luc, a fifteen-year old living in Springfield Illinois, waiting for his father to return from the Civil War.  When his father does not return, Luc confronts his future.  He sees the famous Wild Bill Hickok, works to purchase a gun and a horse, and then heads into the Western Territories.  Determined to become an expert with his six-gun, he practices daily. 

Fate interrupts on a train ride to Wichita when he kills two wanted murderers, earns a bounty, and suddenly becomes well-known.

As he continues drifting toward Dallas, several characters; good, bad, famous, and ugly, appear and reappear in young Luc’s action-packed adventure. 

This is a well written tale with twists and turns.  It is a book that you will not want to put down.  Get a copy today!!  And then give it a good rating!

      The Luc Milton Series:

1 THE YOUNG SHOOTIST      NEW  ON AMAZON   ebook and paperback   
  Gunfighter Luc Milton Gains A Reputation   



Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day

Would your character have celebrated Valentine’s Day the way you are no doubt doing today? Let’s investigate the holiday and its celebrations during the days of the Old West.

People have observed St. Valentine’s Day for centuries. Famed London diarist Samuel Pepys mentioned observances in the 1600s, complete with elaborate gift-giving among the wealthier citizens. People began writing special notes and letters to observe the holiday around the 1700s, but papers made especially for Valentine’s Day weren’t marketed until 1820. These became popular both in England and the United States. The first valentines were flat sheets, often with colorful illustrations and embossed edges. The sheets could be folded, sealed with wax, and mailed.

According to legend, the American Valentine industry began in New England, when Esther A. Howland, from Worcester, Massachusetts, received an English Valentine’s Day card. She began making her own cards and, as her father ran a stationary store, began selling them there. Soon the demand had her recruiting friends to help make more cards, and as that demand grew, her hometown became the center of American Valentine production.

By 1856, the sending of manufactured cards was so popular that the New York Times published an editorial condemning the practice. 

"Our beaux and belles are satisfied with a few miserable lines, neatly written upon fine paper, or else they purchase a printed Valentine with verses ready made, some of which are costly, and many of which are cheap and indecent. 

"In any case, whether decent or indecent, they only please the silly and give the vicious an opportunity to develop their propensities, and place them, anonymously, before the comparatively virtuous. The custom with us has no useful feature, and the sooner it is abolished the better."

Despite the scathing article, the practice of sending Valentines continued to flourish throughout the mid-1800s. On February 4, 1867, the Superintendent of the Carrier Office of the New York Post Office, one J. H. Hallett, stated that in 1862, New York City Post Offices had accepted 21,260 Valentines for delivery. 1863 showed a slight increase, but in 1864, the number dropped to only 15,924. A huge change then occurred in 1865, perhaps because the dark years of the Civil War were ending. New Yorkers mailed more then 66,000 Valentines that year, and 86,000 in 1866.

In the late 1860s, most Valentines were modestly priced, and designed for a mass audience. Many were designed to be humorous, with caricatures of particular professions or ethnic groups. The sending of such joke cards became a fad during the late 1800s, although many serious cards were also sent.

New Yorkers sometimes paid exorbitant prices for a romantic card. An article explains that, in addition to beautiful paper scenes, “Receptacles cunningly prepared may hide watches or other jewelry, and, of course, there is no limit to the lengths to which wealthy and foolish lovers may go."

The legendary British illustrator of children’s books, Kate Greenway, designed enormously popular Valentines during the late 1800s. Some of her illustrations were collected in Quiver of Love: A Collection of Valentines, published in 1876 (link is to a free Google-Books copy).

Valentines typically portray Cupid, the Roman god of love, along with hearts, traditionally the seat of emotion. Because it was thought that birds began mating in mid-February, they, too, became a symbol of the day. Traditional gifts include candy and flowers, especially red roses, a symbol of beauty and love.

Does your character have a particular romantic interest they’d have sent a card or gift to? What about receiving a Valentine’s Day card? Or would they remain anonymous in both cases? Would they have sent a hand-penned letter or used a manufactured card? Whatever you decide, Valentine’s Day is a day to think about love and celebrate it (or bemoan its lack).

J.E.S. Hays

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Yankee giving his opinion on all the candidates fromboth parties for the 2020 Presidential election.

Monday, February 10, 2020


Life is full of them. (Even for pirates!) Anniversaries of births, deaths, marriages, (and sometimes divorces) as well as holidays. So for this post, I decided to research the origin of anniversaries.
It seems calendars were invented for keeping up with anniversaries, not just for planning into the future. An early account of memorializing dates for future recognition can be found in Shakespeare’s Henry V.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
Some of you fellow adorers of Western arts and literature will recognize this speech from the Birdcage Theatre scene in the movie Tombstone. This speech also refers back to the the feast day of Saint Crispin – which takes us even earlier in our search for the origin of the celebration of anniversaries –the Christian liturgical calendar.  
Catholicism especially reveres in anniversaries – with each day of the year attributed to a specific Saint of that was either martyred or otherwise died on that day. This is said to be their Feast Day and even non-Catholics celebrate many of these Feast Days. Two examples are St. Valentine’s Day, which is coming up, and St. Patrick’s Day!
Another special anniversary which is the root cause of this post today, is that it is ours. My husband’s and mine. On one hand, it seems like we’ve been married forever (in a good way!) though it’s just year number two, and on the other hand, it feels that forever as Wesley’s wife isn’t long enough. I've included a couple of pics of us through the years (I can officially say years -- not just year!) I think my favorite is Wesley getting attacked by the giant fake spider. Love is funny that way.