Tuesday, May 25, 2021


 Post by Doris McCraw

writing fiction as Angela Raines

Those who know me, know I enjoy research and reading old news publications. Some of the pieces I read make me wonder if the 'reporter' was a frustrated fiction writer. And as we all know 'If it's in the paper - it has to be true." 

Photo property of the author

In reading one of the publications from the town of Tin Cup from 1882, I knew I had to share it with you. If anyone knows the history of Tin Cup, especially their propensity to go through local 'lawmen' over short periods of time, this story is even more fun. Since I cannot copy and paste, for it is too long, I will share by re-typing. So from the 'Tin Cup Banner' of May 27, 1882, Volume I Number 38, I give you the story "The Man Who Smiles" from that publication, via the Detroit Free Press.

The man who smiles — a road agent with the record.

There is in the Detroit Work–house today a prisoner whose smile is as soft and sweet as a woman's, and the stranger who meets him is instinctively drawn toward him by his clear, blue eyes, soft voice and gentle smile. And yet that very man is accounted the shrewdest, sharpest and most "nervy" prisoner of the lot. The fact that two officers rode over 1000 miles with him, handcuffed and shackled and constantly watched, is proof of the above assertion. When they turn him over at last to the custody of the superintendent they left the following record on the books:

"Prisoner has been engaged in one train robbery at least, and in half a dozen stage and highway robberies. Has broken jail three times and bears the scars of several wounds. Has the reputation of being a shooter and a fighter; has killed at least three men; was a pal of Wild Bill; is supposed to know all the leading outlaws in the far West. Is sharp and crafty and has great nerve. Look out for him. Offense, highway robbery."

The "Smiller" has not yet exhibited the slightest desire to see the world outside the walls of the Work–house, but is reported to be one of the most orderly and quiet prisoners in the institution.

The first deadwood line stage robbed was the work of a single man, and if  That man was not the prisoner we write of, then he has a twin brother. The robbery occurred just at sunset, 6 miles from 

Deadwood. The stage contained seven men, all well armed. It was just rounding a thicket when a man stepped in front of the horses, halted them, and quietly said to the driver:

"If you pull the line until I am through I'll send you a bullet through your head!"

This was accompanied by such a soft, bland smile that the astonished driver yelled back:

"Stop your fooling, or I'll run over you."

But the smile was deceiving. Up came a navy revolver on line with the driver's eye, and his teeth chattered as he loosened the reins and soothed the horses. Yells and shouts were heard inside the stage, none of the passengers suspected what was happening until the road–agent pulled open one of the doors and called out:

"Now, then, gentlemen, please climb down!"

"Who the dickens are you?" was shouted at him by three or four in chorus, and his smile was honey itself he answered:

"I'll introduce myself directly. Come, gents — these shooters are in a hurry to hurt some one!"

He backed off a few feet, a revolver in either hand, and the passengers began climbing down.

"Leave your arms in the stage!" shouted "Smiller." "I'll pop the man who brings out any sort of weapon with him!,, Now — suns going down fast!"

There were seven revolvers and three Winchester rifles among the passengers, but that one man had the bulge on the crowd. Men are half disarmed when surprised. Coop them up in addition to the surprise, and pluck is gone. The road – agent knows this, and the fact is as good as a half a dozen men behind him.And as the last man left the coach the "Smiler" confronted the line and softly remarked:

"I will now trouble you to deposit your watches and money on the ground!"

With many a grown and curse and sigh the request was complied with. Those who had wallets lost all; those who had divided their money in different pockets save. Two of the seven had no watches to lose. After the last man had "deposited" the robber pointed to the open door of the stage and said:

"It's a tough country, and I won't take your weapons. Please climb in."

As the last man mounted the step the robber slipped behind the coach and called to the driver to go on at a gallop, at the same time firing three bullets over the coach to start things with the rush. Half a mile away the coach halted and the seven victims jumped Down with their arms, but the smiler" had disappeared with his booty.

Less than a month after the robbery related above, "smiler" was half asleep in a Custer City saloon, when in came a sharp known as "grizzly," accompanied by three or four men, whose admiration for his Bragg and bluster made them his backers. "Grizzly" wanted to fight some one, but he wanted to pick his man. When he saw the "smiler" dozing away in his chair he thought he had discovered a "tenderfoot" whom he could wallop. Without a word of warning he advanced and pulled the sleeper's nose. The soft smile came to the little man's face as he slowly rose up, and his voice was no more than a whisper as he inquired:

"Stranger, did ye mean that?"

"You bet!"

"Then sich of this crowd as don't like bullets had better git!"

Three or four men rushed out just as the revolvers commenced to speak. The "Smiler" was alone — the bully had three backers. For three or four minutes there was a constant pop! pop! of revolvers, and then two of "Grizzly's" friends rushed out and ran away, both wounded. Those who rushed in found the bully down and severely wounded and the other one stone dead, while they "smiler" was sitting on a bench reloading one of his revolvers. Thirty shots had been fired at him from a distance of 12 feet, and yet he had received only one slight flesh wound.

One day as for men rode out from Julesburg, Colo., they encountered a smiling stranger, who made several inquiries regarding the mines. They were giving him all possible information, when he suddenly interrupted the conversation with:

"Gentlemen, dismount and hold up!"

At the same time he covered the crowd with his shooters, and there was no alternative but to yield. The crowd Left him over $1,600, but it was his last robbery a large party were soon on his trail, and after dodging them for two or three days he was captured and given a sentence of ten years.

Photo property of the author

I hope you enjoyed this 'little piece' I shared. I did my best to copy it the way it appeared in the paper. I also confess, with my background in 'criminology' my eyes tend to go the articles about criminals and their exploits. Until next time, happy reading and writing and researching. 

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History

Author of  'The Agate Gulch' Novellas and "The Kiowa Wells" Novels
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

(c) Doris McCraw All Rights Reserved.

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Day Texas Bombed Oklahoma


Did you hear about the border war between Texas and Oklahoma? The Oklahomans were throwing dynamite across the border at the Texans. The Texans were lighting it and throwing it back!”

And not to show favoritism, here’s this one…

Q: How many University of Texas freshmen does it take to change a light bulb?

A: None, it’s a sophomore course.

Like many states that border each other, Texas and Oklahoma have developed an interesting relationship that some have described as a sibling rivalry. They will prod and poke each other and get on each other’s nerves, but mess with one and the other comes running. This was the case in 2013 when tornadoes destroyed homes in southern Oklahoma. Hundreds of Texans poured across the border to help out.

When you talk about Texas/Oklahoma rivalry, it usually has something to do with the friendly football rivalry between the Sooners of The University of Oklahoma in Norman and the Longhorns of the University of Texas at Austin. But the friction between the two neighbors hasn’t always been friendly, such as the time in 1930 when Oklahoma and Texas came close to shooting it out with each other in the Red River Bridge War.

And then there was the time just past midnight on July 5, 1943, when Texas bombed Oklahoma…

In the late evening hours of July 4, 1943, a B-17 Flying Fortress and her ten-man crew took off from the U.S. Army Airforce base in Dalhart, Texas, located in the northwest corner of the Texas panhandle. The Dalhart base was a major training facility for Air Force bomber crews, and this crew was on a training mission. Its objective was a bombing range located twenty miles northeast of Dalhart near Conlen, Texas. This was a night-time bombing mission so the crew was told that they could spot their target by looking for a square area illuminated on each of its four corners with lights.

A B-17E Flying Fortress like the one that bombed Boice City

What happened within the next hour was described by Major C. E. Lancaster, commanding officer of the Dalhart base, as an accident caused by “a mistake of navigation.” Somehow, the B-17 crew flew straight north rather than northeast, and no one seemed to notice that they had flown twice as long as they were supposed to.

Shortly past midnight on July 5th, the crew spotted what they believed was their target – a square area illuminated on its corners with lights. What they were really seeing was not their target on the bombing range in Conlen, Texas, but the lights in the courthouse square in Boise City, Oklahoma.

The crew of the B-17 that bombed Boice City

The B-17 circled to begin the first of six passes over their target – dropping one bomb with each pass. Fortunately, the one-hundred-pound bombs were practice bombs that were filled with sand and only contained three pounds of gun powder.

The first bomb blew the door off of an empty garage and left a 20-by-40-inch crater. The second bomb blew the door off of the First Baptist Church and busted some of the stained-glass windows. It also left a three-foot deep crater which became quite an attraction, prompting the pastor of the church to remark that if even a quarter of the people who came to see the crater would attend church, he would be a success. The rest of the bombs hit near a downtown shop, a boarding house missing a parked tanker truck full of fuel, a private residence, and the railroad tracks on the edge of town. The crew would have made yet another pass over their target, had not Frank Garrett, an employee of the city’s power company, pulled the master switch for the town’s power. The crew saw the lights go out and interpreted it to mean that their exercise was over, so they headed back to Dalhart. No one was injured during the attack and the total cost of the damage was around twenty-five dollars.

The B-17 crew, which was extremely embarrassed by the incident, was given a choice of either disciplinary action or immediate transfer to the European theater of war. They chose the latter, and eventually became one of the top B-17 bombing crews in the Eighth Air Force. They served with distinction and only one year after bombing Boise City, the same crew led an eight-hundred plane bombing mission over Berlin, Germany.

After learning the truth about the attack, the citizens of Boise City soon got over any bad feelings. It became a source of pride for the citizens of Boise because it focused national attention on their little burg. Time and Newsweek both printed stories about the attack. Time magazine joked that the citizens of Boise did what any other citizen would do when being bombed; “Most of them ran like hell, in no particular direction.” The proud citizens of Boise even held the distinction of being the only city in the continental United States to be bombed during WWII.

Boice City Memorial to the Bombing

Fifty years after the attack, Boise City erected a bronze plaque near a bomb crater with a replica bomb protruding out of it as a memorial to the night that they were bombed by Texas.

Watch a short (less than two minutes) video about the bombing of Boice City

About the Author

Mike is an award-winning Western author currently living in a 600 square foot cabin in the mountains of Western Montana. He has been married to his redheaded sweetheart, Tami, since 1989. He is a Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award Finalist two years in a row and his short stories have been published in numerous anthologies and are available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers as well as brick and mortar bookstores. His first Western novel, The Sons of Philo Gaines, was released in November of 2020. It is available everywhere books are sold. Mike is a member of Western Writers of America and Western Fictioneers. You can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MichaelRRittAuthor, or at his website https://michaelrritt.com.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Author, Actor, and Oh Yes, A Doctor - Interview with Dr. Keith Souter

Dr. Keith Souter lives across the Atlantic, yet like many of us, has a love of Westerns, writing, and storytelling. I am constantly surprised at the backgrounds and passion the members of Western Fictioneers have for their craft and Keith is no exception. How he fits it all in is a mystery. 

On a side note, I made my library buy a copy of his "The Doctor's Bag" for their special collections section. It has been a wonderful resource for me.


Firstly, thank you for inviting me to this excellent interview slot that you have developed. Being part of Western Fictioneers has been very helpful to me as a writer. There is so much writing talent and a wealth of knowledge about all manner of subjects that are useful to a writer of westerns. I hope there may be something of interest in my somewhat rambling answers!

Dr. Keith Souter
photo provided Dr. Souter

1. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t know whether other writers have had the bug as early, but I was actually bitten by it before I went to school and before I was taught how to write. 

I can remember it all vividly. As a very small kid in the early fifties, I was always aware of books in the house. I had two older brothers and I inherited their cast-me-down books as they developed as readers and moved on to bigger, longer, and thicker works.  There seemed to be a strange and mysterious ladder in reading, which I was keen to climb. From the wonderful multi-colored picture books, one went to books with black and white pictures and more of those strangely appealing printed words began to cover the pages. Then there were my father’s books, which were Westerns with brightly colored covers of heroic, powerful figures, which had lots of words, but no pictures inside. 

I was entranced by them all. I not only wanted those books, but I wanted to ‘write’ my own. I got paper, crayons, drew pictures of the stories that came into my head and I copied words from empty seed packets and cereal boxes and anything else that I was allowed to use. I had no idea what these strange signs and symbols meant except that they were words, and words were what you put into books. I folded them and even gave them little covers with pictures on them. My mother even stitched them together like proper books.

As I got a bit older, I pulled out other books from the shelves and wherever an illustration appealed to me I would copy it on a scrap of paper and leave my version in the book. An absolute favorite, which I came back to again and again was an old edition of The Universal Home Doctor. It was illustrated and I was fascinated by the anatomical drawings. As a six-year-old, I could tell you where all of the organs of the body were sited, much to my elder brother’s utter disgust. I still have that book in my library, and he is still squeamish about anything connected to anatomy or medicine. 

2. What was the nudge that gave you faith that you could and wanted to be published?

It was when I was at medical school in Dundee. It is a city in Scotland that was well known for ‘the three J’s.’ Those J’s were Jute (you’d call it hessian or burlap in the USA), Jam (especially marmalade. There is a legend that it originated in Dundee in the 18th century after a cargo of bitter oranges from Seville was bought by a local grocer, whose wife boiled them with lots of sugar and marmalade was born), and finally Journalism. Dundee is home to D C Thomson’s one of the most famous newspaper and magazine companies in the UK.

I submitted several short children’s stories to a section called The Children’s Corner in one of their family magazines called The People’s Friend. To my surprise, they were accepted, and then I found myself regularly contributing. I found writing these stories was a great balance to the study of medicine. In the hospital, I was seeing people with often harrowing medical problems, and in my writing, I could take myself completely away from reality and craft stories for preschool children.

When I qualified as a doctor and moved to Hull, a city in England to work in cardiology I started writing for the local telephone company. They had a ‘dial-a-bedtime story’ service. Essentially, for sixpence, which was the cost of a telephone call, parents could call up the exchange and their youngster could hear a tuck-me-up bedtime three-minute-long tale before they went to bed. I wrote about witches, fairies, gnomes, and ducks that couldn’t swim or bats that couldn’t fly. 

Those were certainly the nudges that made me want to one day write actual books. 


3. Do your life experiences influence or hinder your writing?

My profession as a doctor most definitely influences my writing. I write non-fiction books, popular medical books, and fiction. I have penned a series of medical books on back pain, strokes, heart disease, diabetes, depression, dementia, Doctor’s Latin, and one all about the drug Aspirin. The latter is a subject I am enthusiastic about as I was involved in research into it, albeit as a very tiny cog in the process. 

For several years my writing consisted of scribbling doctor-style hieroglyphics on prescriptions. Yes, it is true that a doctor's handwriting tends to be illegible. That comes about from scribbling down notes in lectures as fast as you could. That is not a great thing in medical practice, though. When you consider how important it is to keep good case-notes, we have a responsibility to be legible. I think modern-day medical students probably write more legibly, as they have the benefit of keyboards and computers.

Writing medical papers was the next part of my writing career. Academic papers are not, of course, remunerated. They have to be written in crisp, clinical language and go through a rigorous screening and editorial process before they can be published in peer-approved medical journals. On the other hand, the medical press has many newspapers and magazines which do pay a fee for articles. My very first one was published in the UK and then republished in several other sister publications around the world. 

Photo provided by Dr. Souter

After doing several surgical and medical posts I embarked on training in psychiatry but abandoned it because British psychiatry at that time was heavily biased towards psychotropic medication and electro-convulsive-therapy, ECT. I switched tack and entered family medicine and worked as a general practitioner for the next thirty years. Soon after I started, I was asked to write a weekly column in the local newspaper. I have done that ever since and am currently in my 38th year. This has been a big part of my life because I have to research a new topic every week. It benefits me as it keeps me up to date and it satisfied my writing craving for so many years.

But in my fiction, my medical background always comes to the fore. When I was considering writing for adults, I was always a bit confused about the old chestnut of wisdom to ‘write what you know about.’  By that token it seemed to me that accountants should have accountants as their main protagonists, teachers should set their tales in school or college, and so on. I didn’t at that stage want to write about a doctor or a surgeon. Then I realized I didn’t have to. As long as I peppered my stories with medical details, using my background I could make those aspects of the story credible and believable. 

That is what I did in Raw Deal at Pasco Springs, my first novel. It is about a gambler and a reluctant lawman. He isn’t a doctor, but there is a doctor in the story and there are episodes that appertain to medicine. 

Later on, I wrote a biographical novel called The Doctor, in the West of the Big River series for Western Fictioneers. It is about Doctor George Goodfellow, the surgeon to the gunfighters, who practiced in Tombstone and later on in Tucson in the wild days of the Earps and Doc Holliday. He was the foremost expert on gunshot wounds and a surgical innovator who deserves his place in medical history. It is followed up by another in the series, The Dime Novelist, about the king of the dime novelists, Ned Buntline. 


And I have to mention Wolf Creek, the brainchild of Troy Smith. This was the collaborative project that involved so many of the Western Fictioneers. My character was Doctor Logan Munro the town doctor. Much of the way he practices is a romantic extension of my work as a town doctor. Before he came to Wolf Creek, Logan served in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny (as did my great grandfather) and I also drew on three months experience working in a fever hospital in Southern India back in the seventies. That gave me valuable experience in tropical medicine and I saw diseases like cholera, tetanus, malaria, typhoid, and rabies. I saw cobra bites and I did lumbar punctures by oil lamp when the hospital generators packed up, as well as assisting at operations on typhoid enteric perforations of the bowel, working in front of huge fans because of the sweltering heat. 


4. Where did you get the idea for your latest release and tell a bit about the story?

My next western release is actually a re-release. It is a series of interlinked short stories about Doctor Marcus Quigley, a dentist, gambler, and bounty hunter. I am so pleased that the wonderful folk at Prairie Rose Publications (Cheryl Pierson and Livia Washburn) are soon to publish it.

Marcus Quigley is on the trail of someone who murdered the benefactress who put him through dental school in Baltimore. It was inspired by a series of western novels about a character called Sudden, that I read as a youngster. They were written by British author Oliver Strange and were about a young cowpuncher who was lightning fast on the draw, who was unjustly outlawed. He too was on a revenge mission. 

Once again, my medical background comes into this a great deal, for Marcus is often called upon to carry out operations including brain surgery. 

I can’t say any more than that, because the title has not been decided on and I am eager to see the cover that Livia will conjure up.

5. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Actually, I’m both. I am a pantser when I write short stories, but when I get to novels, I feel I have to be a plotter. With the short form, including the novella, I feel that I can keep the loose threads together in my mind, but since my novels are all basically mysteries with subplots and red herrings strewn throughout, I have to be a plotter.  I envy people like the late, great Frank Roderus, and many of the human fiction factories in the Western Fictioneers who can sit down with a blank page or screen and just type a story from beginning to end.  That takes courage I don’t have. I’d worry about getting so far and then stalling.  

Let me give you an example of my transition between the two. A few years ago, I dashed off a flash fiction short story that I called The Villain’s Tale for a literary competition. Surprisingly, it won me a Fish Award and a decent pot of good Irish cash. Well, Euros actually, but in England, we still write for pounds sterling. It was a miniature historical mystery and it stimulated me to write a medieval mystery set in the 14th century, set in and around an English castle that I actually live within arrowshot of. My point is that I had to evolve from that panster into a plodding plotter. That first novel, The Pardoner’s Crime was an amalgamation of characters from the Robin Hood legends and from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. It has become a series of four novels so far, with two due out this month and next. The research involved amounts to a filing cabinet and a couple of shelves of reference books. When I am in writing such a novel my study becomes like a medieval monk’s cell with papers, scrolls all over the place, and maps of the area as it was in the 14th century pinned to my walls. 


6. Is there a writing routine you follow, or do you write when the muse strikes?

I write when time allows if anything. I retired from general practice a few years ago, but still have a small private practice. When the pandemic started, I was deployed to Test and Trace, swapping my stethoscope for a headphone and microphone to trace contacts of positive tested Covid-19 patients. With the development and rollout of the vaccine, I am back helping to vaccinate as many people as possible. I write after I have taken care of all my other commitments, including my weekly newspaper column. 

7. Do you write in other genres?

Yes, I write crime novels set on the Scottish island of West Uist, featuring Inspector Torquil McKinnon. There are six novels in the series, and I have a seventh under contract. Torquil is a bagpipe-playing detective who heads the smallest police force in the country. I chose the setting to get away from DNA and CSI stories and get back to the ‘locked room’ style of cozy crime and good old-fashioned detection. 


I am probably one of the worst pipers there is, but when writing these I get the bagpipes out and mess about with them. His uncle is called The Padre and he is a keen golfer, so while plotting I can be found chipping golf balls around the garden or through the house!  

As I mentioned I also write a series called the Sandal Castle Mystery Thrillers. I am the chairman of the Friends of Sandal Castle, so I know the area and the history well. It seemed inevitable that I would write mysteries about it. 

I am currently writing a mystery set in ancient Egypt during the Ptolemaic era. It is called Death of a Poet. It follows characters I used in a short story called The Man from Crocodilopolis. I intend to follow it up as another series.

Lastly, I started by writing children’s stories and I achieved one of my aims when I wrote a gothic ghost story set in Victorian London for mid-graders. The Curse of the Body Snatchers, featuring an Oliver Twist style orphan has been published by Prairie Rose Publications. 


8.  What are your favorite areas of research and why they are important to you?

I really enjoy the research aspect of writing fiction. When you write a historical novel, it is so important to get the period right, especially if you are including actual historical characters. If you get details wrong, then there is a good chance that your reader will stop reading at that point. 

If my story has a particular theme, for example, one of my Scottish mystery novels is about whisky – no, the spelling is correct, this is Scottish malt whisky – then I’ll delve into all aspects of it. This includes the history, the science behind distilling, the sale, the bootlegging, and so forth.

Medical history is a great interest of mine and it was for this reason that a few years ago I started to write my blog The Doctor’s Bag on the Western Fictioneers blog. Troy Smith was the WF President at the time and he suggested that I should collect them and publish them as a resource for writers. 

I aimed to write articles that could be useful to anyone wanting to know how a frontier town doctor would approach a particular problem. So, the blogs are on everything appertaining to that, from gunshot wounds to arrow wounds, the infectious diseases that were prevalent, and what was known about them at the time. Also, bits and pieces like the type of stethoscope a doctor might have, whether hypertension (high blood pressure) was even known about, how to diagnose a broken bone without an x-ray, how to set it, how to reduce a dislocated shoulder or leg or pull a tooth. 


On the subject of gunshot wounds, I think there is a problem in many genres, in that ‘safe’ wounds are plucked out of the air. The truth is that gunshot wounds can be life-changing if they are not fatal. I approach this by looking at the anatomical structures that can be damaged. Those arm and shoulder wounds that heroes in TV and film used to wrap a bandana around and then beat the heck out of a villain are just not so easy to believably shrug off. 

So too are arrow wounds. As with gunshots, I went back to the medical texts and papers of the day and then discuss the reality of the trauma they can cause, and the infections that can result and which caused many deaths. Again, it’s not just a matter of plucking an arrow out, tossing it aside, and then jumping in the saddle and riding off after the baddies. Both arrowheads and bullets needed to be extracted and, in the book, I describe the methods as used by the experts of the times, using the instruments they would have available. Infections would add a whole raft of other problems, possibly even resulting in amputation of a limb. So that is in there, too. 

I am grateful to Cheryl Pierson and Livia Washburn for taking the book The Doctor’s Bag on over at Sundown Press.

9. Is there anything else of interest about you that you would like to share?

I am a frustrated actor. I have acted as Agamemnon in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida with the Touring British Shakespeare Company, in front of the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum. I have also been a supporting artiste in TV and film, usually as either a surgeon, a psychiatrist, or a peasant. 

Photo of the Interviewee on the left
provided by Keith Souter

10. What advice would you give to those who dream of writing, or what advice would you give your younger self?

First, read as much as you can. Read works by different authors, try various genres and you will find the genre that you like best and feel most comfortable in. 

Secondly, write. Don’t procrastinate and dream of being a writer. Writers write and that’s what you should do. Have a notebook with you at all times and jot down interesting conversations, character features, and ideas. If you don’t get these things down, they disappear like smoke.

For more of Dr. Souter's Medical books: Amazon

Amazon Author Page: Keith Moray

Amazon Author Page: Clay More

(c) Doris McCraw All Rights Reserved 2021

Wednesday, May 19, 2021


On a vast open plain a few miles south of Ponca City, Oklahoma, lies the burial ground of one of the greatest ranching empires of the West—the Miller brothers’ 101 Ranch.

Established in 1893 by Colonel George Washington Miller, a former Confederate soldier, and his wife Molly, the 101 became known as the “Largest Diversified Farm and Ranch in America.” It was nicknamed the “White House.”

Not only was the 101 one of the largest working ranches west of the Mississippi, it was even more famous for its Wild West shows. These displays of horsemanship, roping, and daring “rescues” transitioned from local shows to the national level in 1907 when the 101 Wild West Show performed at the Jamestown Exposition in Virginia. In 1908, the tour circuit began in earnest.

The Miller brothers, Joseph, George Jr., and Zack, had permitted some of their cowboys to perform at a local fair, and from this, their own Wild West show grew to become known worldwide.

It was essentially a Wild West show, complete with cattle, buffaloes, cowboys and Indians. It included an all-around crowd pleaser—the attack on the stagecoach. But it also contained elements of the circus with sideshows, and “freaks” such as the Bearded Lady. In the heyday of its popularity, the Millers’ 101 Wild West Show netted them over one million dollars per year!

The idea of formalizing the performing cowboys into a Wild West show came from the Millers’ longtime friend and neighbor, Major Gordon W. Lillie—also known as Pawnee Bill. Pawnee Bill eventually combined his own Wild West show with Buffalo Bill Cody’s. The 101 Wild West Show, however, remained solitary, boasting stars such as black bulldogger Bill Pickett, Bee Ho Gray, early movie star Tom Mix, Mexican Joe, and eventually, Buffalo Bill Cody as well.

The Miller brothers were latecomers to the Wild West show circuit, causing them to suffer financially with the advent of movies. Even so, their show became the largest in the nation by the 1920’s, requiring more than 100 train cars to travel from town to town.

By 1916, the two younger Miller brothers, George Jr. and Zack, gave up trying to work with their temperamental oldest brother, Joe. It was during this time period that Joe hired an aging Buffalo Bill Cody to star in a WWI recruitment show: The Pageant of Preparedness. Cody quit the show due to illness, and died within a year. Still, Joe tried to keep the show going, but was unsuccessful. He offered it for sale to the American Circus Corporation in 1927. They were uninterested, suffering from financial distress as well. On October 21, 1927, a neighbor found Joe Miller dead in the ranch garage of carbon monoxide poisoning. Several months later, his brother, George Jr., was killed in a car accident. In 1932, Zack Miller was forced to file for bankruptcy. The U.S. Government seized what remained of the show’s assets and bought 8,000 acres of the 101 Ranch. Zack Miller died in 1952 of cancer.

Today, what remains of the once-glorious three-story stucco 101 Ranch headquarters is rubble. Over ten years ago, efforts began to turn the site into a roadside park.

Bill Pickett, the inventor of bulldogging, or steer wrestling, is buried there. On the same mound where Bill Pickett lies is a memorial to the Ponca chief, White Eagle, who led his people to a nearby reservation during the 1870’s from their holdings along the Nebraska-Dakota border.

The stone monument was built as an Indian trail marker where signals and messages could be left by different friendly tribes who passed by. These tribes generally understood the signals, and could tell which way the other travelers were going. Gradually, settlers took away the stones for building purposes. Because Colonel George Miller and White Eagle were lifetime friends, and Joe Miller was adopted into the tribe, the renovation of the trail marker had significance to the 101 Ranch for many reasons.

The 101 Ranch was a bridge between these old, lost days of the early West, when Colonel George Miller started the venture as a settler after the States’ War, and the modern times of change. The 101 Ranch was the headquarters for the show business contingent of cowboys and other western performers of the early 1900’s. Will Rogers was a frequent visitor, as well as presidents and celebrities from around the world. Some of the first western movies were filmed on the 101 Ranch.

Though there isn’t much left of the actual building, the 101 Ranch exceeded the expectations for a “cattle ranch.” Indeed, it was a virtual palace on the Oklahoma plains; a place where dreams were lived.

In my novel, Fire Eyes, Kaed Turner talks with his friend and mentor, Tom Sellers, about giving up law enforcement and settling down to ranching. I don't think they ever had anything as grand as the 101 Ranch in mind. At first, Tom sees it as an unattainable dream; but as the conversation progresses, the possibilities look better. Here’s what happens!

Tom smiled. “Glad you’ve got somebody good—deep down—like you are, Kaed. Ain’t too many men who’d take on another man’s child, love her like you do your Lexi.”

Kaed put his hand against the rough wood of the tree and straightened out his arm, stretching his muscles.

Tom drew deeply on his pipe, and Kaed waited. He’d known Tom so long that he recognized the older man was going to broach a subject with him that he normally would have avoided. Finally, Tom said, “I told Harv he needed to find someone. Settle down again. Grow corn and make babies. Think I might’ve offended him. But after seein’ him with little Lexi, it hit me that he seemed content. For the first time in a long while.”

It had struck Kaed, as well. Harv rarely smiled. But when he’d played with Lexi, it seemed that grin of his was permanently fixed on his face.

“Seems that way for you, too, boy.” Tom wouldn’t look at him. “Seems like you found what you’ve been looking for. Don’t let marshalin’ ruin it for you, Kaed. I’ve stayed with it too long. Me and Harv and Jack, we’ve been damn lucky to get this old without gettin’ killed either in the War, or doin’ this job.”

“Tom? Sounds like you’ve got some regrets.”

Tom nodded. “You made me realize somethin’, Marshal Turner, and now I don’t know whether to thank you or cuss you. When I saw the way that woman looked at you, the way that baby’s eyes lit up, it made me know I shoulda give this all up years ago and found myself somebody. Taken the advice I gave Harv. Planted my seed in the cornfield and in my woman’s belly, and maybe I’d’a been happier, too.”

“It’s not too late.” Kaed’s voice was low and rough. The doubt he’d had at starting his own family again was suddenly erased by the older man’s words. Nothing would bring his first family back. But he had a second chance now, and he was a helluva lot younger than Tom Sellers. He’d had it twice, and Tom had never had it at all. Never felt the love flow through a woman, through her touch, her look, and into his own body, completing him. Never looked into the eyes of a child who worshipped him. He wouldn’t have missed that for anything the first time. Or the second.

Tom turned slowly to look at Kaed, the leaves of the elm tree patterning the filtering moonlight across his face. “You think that cause you’re young, Kaed. Twenty-nine ain’t forty-three.”

“Forty-three ain’t dead, Tom. There’s plenty of women out there. Plenty of land. Room to spread out. What’re you grinnin’ at?”

Tom laughed aloud. “Got any particular woman in mind?” Quickly, he added, “Now, remember, Kaed. She’s gotta be young enough to give me a baby, but not so young she’s a baby herself. Gotta be easy on the eye, and I want her to look at me like your Jessica looks at you. And by the way, have you got any idea where a fella could get a piece of good land for raisin’ cattle, with a little patch for farmin’?”

Kaed’s lips twitched. Tom was dreaming, but only half dreaming. The serious half had taken root in his heart and mind. Kaed knew before too much longer, that part would eat away at the lightheartedness until it took over completely, becoming a bold, unshakeable dream that he would do his utmost to accomplish. Now that Tom had envisioned what his life could be, Kaed knew it would fall to him to help make it a reality.

“Let’s end this business with Fallon. After that, we’ll find the land and the cattle.”

“Don’t mean nothin’ without the woman, Kaed. You oughtta know that.”

“I do.” Kaed smiled, his thoughts straying to Miss Amelia Bailey, the not-so-young-but-young-enough school teacher in Fort Smith, who always seemed to trip over her words when Tom Sellers came around. Just the right age. And very easy on the eye. “Stick with me, old man. I may even help you find a decent woman to settle down with.”

I'm giving away an autographed copy of FIRE EYES today to a lucky commenter! Please leave your contact info in your comment and be sure to check back sometime after 9:00 this evening to see if you were the winner of the drawing!

You can find more of my work here:

Monday, May 17, 2021

Western Movie Nostalgia - Maverick 1994 by Kaye Spencer #westernfictioneers #westernmovies

The television show Maverick starring James Garner and Jack Kelly ran five seasons from September 22, 1957 to July 8, 1962. I adored this show, although I was too young to watch it until it made it to the rerun stage. I was an only child for 13 years, so I found all sorts of ways to entertain myself, and play-pretending that I was Bret Maverick was one of them. ;-)

'Maverick' tv show - Public Domain

Maverick - tv show and movie - is about a card playing con artist/cardsharp whose secondary talent is getting himself in all sorts of scrapes, tight places, and compromising situations.

When the movie Maverick hit the theaters on May 20, 1994, I was giddy with anticipation (Holy Moly - 27 years ago... My how time flies...) I was not disappointed. The tongue-in-cheek humor from the tv show was woven throughout the movie. Mel Gibson as Bret was a perfect fit. James Garner playing the father to his original character was just about too much fun for me to bear. Jodie Foster as the female antagonist pitting father and son against each other was the stuff of romance novels (more on that below).

'Maverick' movie poster - Fair Use

The song for the movie, A Good Run of Bad Luck, co-written and recorded by country music artist Clint Black, was released in February 1994. The song reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks and Canada Country Tracks. 

This is the music video/trailer for the movie. I've listed the url for your viewing convenience if the video doesn't appear on your device. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lexhv8MaXQ8

The cameos of actors, actresses, and singers in the movie are many. Next time you watch the movie, you might spot a few familiar faces in brief appearances (not a full list): Corey Feldman, Deb Taylor, Reba McIntire, Vince Gill, William Smith, Margot Kidder, Denver Pyle, Waylon Jennings, Doug McClure, Henry Darrow, John Fogerty, Jamers Drury, Robert Fuller, Clint Black, Paul Brinegar, Will Hutchins, Kathy Mattea, and Carlene Carter.

Another trivia tidbit is the screenwriter for the movie Maverick was William Goldman. He wrote the book The Princess Bride as well as the screenplay for the movie. Two of his notable screenwriting credits are Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President's Men.

In my western romance, Gambling with Love, I borrowed the high-stakes poker scene idea from the movie Maverick and wrote my version of a high-stakes poker game for the heroine, Lainie Conrad, whom I pitted against the man who killed her gambler husband.

Gambling with Love excerpt

Ford put the cards down and took the cigar from his mouth. With his free hand, he reached inside his vest and came up empty-handed. “I don’t seem to find my matches.” He patted other pockets. “Could I trouble someone?” An overeager spectator came forward to meet Ford’s request. The man struck a match and held it to the end of the cigar. With smoke circling around his head, Ford stood and shook the man’s hand. It was in that diverting movement that Ford ringed-in the cold deck.

Lainie saw him do it, because she was watching for it. It was a slick, fluid move that was lost to the untrained observer. Ford resumed the deal. 

The waiting was over. Every sacrifice she’d made, every tear she’d cried, every time she’d cursed Ford’s name came down to this moment. The months of endless traveling, the lonely days and nights away from her son, the guilt for leaving Nick without explanation in New Orleans— All of it would be forever in her past in a few minutes. She promised herself even if she didn’t leave this table with Seaton’s watch in hand, she would have it in her possession before the sun rose on another day. 

Gambling with Love book video (https://youtu.be/Mp7T6-7lmmY)

Available on Amazon

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer

writing through history one romance upon a time

Look for Kaye here:

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Western Fictioneers Announces the Peacemaker Award Finalists

On behalf of Western Fictioneers, I’m pleased to announce the finalists in the 11th annual Peacemaker Awards for the best in Western fiction published in 2020. Finalists are in alphabetical order by author.

MUSKRAT HILL, Easy Jackson (Five Star Publishing)
GREAT LONESOME, John D. Nesbitt (Five Star Publishing)
THE SONS OF PHILO GAINES, Michael R. Ritt (Five Star Publishing)
THE RETURN OF THE WOLF, Larry D. Sweazy (Five Star Publishing)
ANSWER CREEK, Ashley E. Sweeney (She Writes Press)

GOLDWATER RIDGE, Hannah Kaye (Jellysquid Books)
CHEROKEE CLAY, Regina McLemore (Oghma Creative Media)
THE SONS OF PHILO GAINES, Michael R. Ritt (Five Star Publishing)
FOLLOW THE ANGELS, FOLLOW THE DOVES, Sidney Thompson (Bison Books)

“The Last Photograph”, John T. Biggs, SADDLEBAG DISPATCHES
“Dakota Clothesline”, Elisabeth Grace Foley, ROPE AND WIRE
“The Miner and the Greenhorn”, Charlie Steel, UNDER WESTERN STARS
“The Gunsmith of Elk Creek”, Big Jim Williams, UNDER WESTERN STARS

Congratulations to all the finalists! The winners of this year’s Peacemaker Awards will be announced on June 15. Thank you to all the authors and publishers who submitted work to the awards, and special thanks to the judges, whose diligent efforts make the Peacemaker Awards possible.

And last but certainly not least, the 2021 Peacemaker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Western Fiction goes to . . .


Thursday, May 13, 2021

On This Date in the Old West: May 14

This month, we’re continuing my research into interesting facts from U.S. history. On May 14, two useful products were patented in America: condensed milk and Vaseline.


In 1853, Gail Borden, teacher, rancher, businessman, land surveyor, newspaper publisher, politician, and inventor, became the first person to successfully develop a commercial method for condensing milk. Mr. Borden was born in 1801 in Norwich, New York, where he lived with his family until they moved to Kentucky in 1814. It was there he learned how to survey land by helping his father plot the future city of Covington.


On the move again, Borden taught school in Indiana and Southern Mississippi before eventually settling in Texas in 1829, joining his father and two brothers. He started out raising cattle and farming, but soon found a calling in the political arena. As a delegate to the Convention of 1833, he helped write the first draft of the Republic of Texas Constitution. He was also appointed the Republic of Texas Collector of Customs in 1837, for which he raised government funds. 


Borden also co-founded the first lasting Texas newspaper in 1835 (the Telegraph and Texas Land Register). He ultimately had to sell his newspaper shares due to ongoing financial difficulty but continued his surveying career and helped lay out the city of Galveston and co-plotted Houston. Borden even contributed to the first topographical map of Texas.


In 1849, Borden began experimenting with beef processing. He invented a dehydrated product called the “meat biscuit,” loosely patterned after the Native American pemmican. He sold some of these biscuits to men seeking gold in California, and more to Arctic explorer Elisha Kane. The meat biscuit won Borden the Great Council Medal at the 1851 London World’s Fair, and he set up a factory in Galveston to produce the food. He was aiming for the military market since the military of any country needed easily transported food that wouldn’t spoil. However, none of the expected customers materialized. Not only did customers complain about the taste and texture of the “biscuits,” but the U.S. Army actually concluded that the product didn’t satisfy hunger and might even have made people ill. Borden filed for bankruptcy in 1852.


This set-back didn’t deter the inventor, though. On his way back from the London World’s Fair in 1851, both cows on board the ship died, as did several children who had drunk their disease-contaminated milk. Borden became interested in a method to preserve milk, inspired by the vacuum pan he had seen Shakers use to condense fruit juices and herbs. Borden learned how to reduce milk without scorching or curdling it, and eventually succeeded in producing a milk derivative that lasted without refrigeration. After three years of refining the product, Borden patented the process, abandoning his “meat biscuit,” and partnered with Jeremiah Milbank to found the New York Condensed Milk Company. 


To ensure a sanitary product, Borden established strict requirements for farmers supplying his factories with raw milk (the “Dairyman’s Ten Commandments”). These included washing the cows’ udders before milking, keeping the barns swept clean, and scalding and drying their strainers twice a day. By 1858, Borden’s condensed milk (sold as Eagle Brand) had gained a deserved reputation for purity and economy.


Meanwhile, in other inventing arenas, Robert Chesebrough, the chemist who had formerly clarified kerosene from sperm whale oil, traveled to the Pennsylvania oil fields in 1859 (after kerosene had been rendered obsolete by petroleum products). His goal was to research new materials that might be made from this new fuel. Chesebrough learned of a residue called “rod wax” that had to be periodically removed from oil rig pumps. Oil workers had been using the greasy residue as a cure-all for cuts and burns. Chesebrough took samples back to Brooklyn and extracted the petroleum jelly, which he patented as Vaseline on May 14, 1872. He claimed to have invented the name by combining the German word for water (wasser) with the Greek term for olive oil (elaion). 


Chesebrough promoted his new product by driving around New York and burning his skin with acid or open flame, then applying Vaseline to the wound and showing his healed scars. By 1874, stores were selling over 1400 jars of Vaseline a day. Chesebrough believed in his "new" product so much that he ate a spoonful daily until his death at 96. In actuality, petroleum jelly had been in use among the Native Americans since the early 1400s. They built sophisticated oil pits to extract the substance, which they used for protecting and healing the skin. Chesebrough just refined the product and made it marketable.


If you’re writing about these periods in history, your characters could certainly encounter condensed milk or Vaseline (or both), or even meet their respective inventors. 


J.E.S. Hays



Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Ranger Jim's Ramblings for May 2021

Sorry I haven't posted for some time, but I've been rambling all over the place. The big news is I'm in the midst of starting my own  small publishing outfit, Yankee Cowboy Press More news on that as things get developed.

This month, I thought I'd go back to horses, and discuss some of the main injuries or diseases that can cripple or kill a horse, even today. Of course, such equine life-threatening issues were much more dangerous to both man and mount in the time of the frontier West, where veterinarians, like physicians, were few and far between. And of course, as in the case of human medicine, veterinary medicine and knowledge was far less advanced than it is today.

Today, the average lifespan of a horse, depending on the breed, genetics, etc., is 25-35 years, give or take. The barn where I keep Yankee just had to put down a quarter horse gelding who was 42, which is ancient indeed. Yankee is now 28, making him about 84 in people years, so he's an old man indeed. The oldest horse on record was a stallion in England during the latter 1700s, who lived to be 62! Amazing  as that is, considering the time he lived, it's miraculous. In the era of the frontier west, a horse ten years old would be considered a very old animal, and few lived to see 15.

Colic and laminitis, which an lead to foundering, are still two of the main causes of horse deaths. Since a horse's neck and throat muscles are so strong, they can't vomit. That makes any kind of stomach or intestinal upset, gas, or blockage a very serious situation. I lost Yankee's predecessor, Sizzle, at a very young age due to chronic colic problems. The symptoms are looking at the sides, pawing at the belly, or lying down and rolling, as the animal is in extreme discomfort. A horse that colics must be kept up and moving until veterinary help arrives. Treatment can include intubating with liquids to try and move the blockage, pain relieving medication, and lots of walking. Surgery is possible, but the outcome is highly questionable. I had surgery done on Sizzle, which was deemed successful. Unfortunately, scar tissue eventually developed in his colon, where a section had been removed, then the remaining colon sewn back together.. Since the scar tissue isn't capable of motility,blockages tend to develop. After three years of fighting, Sizzle's system finally gave up.

Laminitis in an inflammation of the tissues inside the hoof. It's extremely painful, and can be caused by overwork, eating too much green grass when it first grows in the spring, too much water when a horse is overheated, or a bruise to the sole of the hoof. The inflamed tissues create pressure inside the hoof, which can displace the coffin bone. The horse can go lame, or founder. In severe cases, the coffin bone can be forced right through the sole of the hoof. If left untreated, laminitis can be deadly.

Of course, most people know if a horse breaks a leg it's usually a death sentence. Horses have no muscles below their knees, just tendons and ligaments. These are so strong that when a horse's leg is broken, they pull the pieces of bone so far apart it's almost impossible to cast them to be allowed to heal. In addition, horse's can't lie down for any length of time (most horses sleep no more than three or four hours a day, in short periods of about 15-20 minutes), without major damage to internal organs. Since most horses won't tolerate being confined by a sling, hung from the ceiling aoround their belly to keep weight off the broken leg, surgery to repair the break is usuall a futile effort.

In the old West, bullets were another hazard. Anyone pursuing a person on horseback would aim at the horse, rather than the rider. The horse is a much bigger target, and once the rider was unhorsed, they were relatively easy to capture or kill.

Snakebite is another hazard to grazing horses. While a horse is large enough to survive the venom of a poisonous snake bite, in most cases, they usually suffocate. That's because a grazing horse is most often bitten on the nose or lower lip. The ensuing swelling closes the nostrils and air passages, so the animal can't breathe.

Interesting side note. A horse's brain is about the size of a grapefruit. Most of its head is air passages. A horse can literally have a hole pierced through the side of its head, below the eyes and brain, and survive.

Most horses won't eat poisonous plants, but if grazing is poor, they sometimes will. Horses actually enjoy bitter tastes, so they can be attracted to poisonous shrubs like yew (which wasn't around in frontier days). And of course a horse thirsty enough will drink poisonous water. While horses are generally good swimmers, they can drown if caught in s strong current, or get tangled in underwater vegetation or obstacles.

Moldy feed, grain or hay, can also kill a horse, either fro colic, or by poisoning.

So there's some basics about horse health. Hope it's useful in your writings.

Until next month,

Ranger Jim