Tuesday, May 24, 2022

How I Spend 'Free' Time

Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

Photo Property of the Author

One of my favorite places to spend time, prior to the 'lock-down', was the Special Collections at the local library. Oh, the hours spent reading microfilm of old newspapers or digging into the genealogy of someone whose name I found in the papers. Those were amazing times.

Although I haven't been as consistent as I was prior to the closing, I've been back a few times and if anything the time there is even more exciting.



Lately, I've been perusing the 'stacks'. In addition to magazines such as Overland Dispatch: Smoky Hill Trail Association and The Colorado Magazine, the books I've come across are so full of information that takes me to some amazing pieces of history.

As I've been researching Colorado's History and the Women Doctors who were here in the early days, I've come across books like Mary DeMund's "Colorado Women Physicians". There's a book listing the applications of doctors to practice medicine from 1881 to 1967. Books on illness and cures, including the books by Dr. S. Edwin Solly, an early proponent of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs as a place for recovery from Consumption. Of course, I can't leave out "Dr. at Timberline" by Charles Fox Gardiner.

Books about early pioneers to Colorado, including "Those Bassett Women" by Grace McClure and books on the Ghost Towns of Colorado. One of my favorites is by Sandra Dallas, "Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps". 

I could go on and on, but I will include some of the books from the History Symposium Regional History Series the library has presented for over ten years. These include: "Film and Photography on the Front Range", "Disasters of the Pikes Peak Region" and "Massacre, Murder, and Mayhem in the Rocky Mountain West".   


Until next time.

Doris McCraw

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Dennis Doty - A Very Busy Man

This month Dennis Doty gets the spotlight. I appreciate his patience as I worked through a list of things that needed to be taken care of before this fun interview was posted. I'm sure he understands for he also wears a number of hats also. In addition to being an author, he also is Vice-President of Western Fictioneers, and editor of Saddlebag Dispatches.

Dennis recently was a finalist in for the Peacemaker Award in Short Fiction for his work: "When It Raines" from the Winter 2021 issue of Saddlebag Dispatches.

Dennis Doty-from his Facebook Page

 1. What decided you to start writing for publication?

I read a novel published by one of the major publishers which was so poorly written and lacking in editing that I convinced myself I could do better. That was the impetus to begin writing seriously. Submitting for publication was simply an ego check to see if I had succeeded or if I was fooling myself.

2. Do you like to write short or longer stories?

I like both, but I’m better at short fiction.

3. Do you write for the market or yourself?

Some of both. Usually, I write whatever inspires me, but I can and have written to assignment or the needs of the magazine.


4. What life experiences influenced your writing?

I think the entirety of my life experience influences my writing. My grandfather was a cowboy who started out on the old Jinglebob Ranch in New Mexico. He was a miner, pack master on a dude ranch, and lived all over the west and I grew up listening to his stories. I spent ten years in the Marines and a couple on the old Southwest Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit and those experiences and lessons find their way into my stories. I’ve had a reasonably interesting life and over the years have shared a table or conversation with cowboys, Native Americans, truckers, politicians, waitresses, celebrities, carnies, and minor royalty. I learned that they’re all just people, some more interesting than others.

6. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Mostly a pantser, but for longer works I need more structure to work with.

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

I don’t have a set routine primarily because I have too much going on in my life, but I don’t believe in waiting for the muse either. If I have the time, even a few minutes, I’ll write something even if it’s bad. I can always fix it later or insert it in future work.

8. Do you ‘interview’ your characters before or at any time while telling their story and what do you do if they don’t cooperate with your story idea?

I’ve never interviewed one of my characters, but I do usually have a character sheet with background, description, goals, and motivations, challenges, flaws, foibles, etc. As a pantser, I’m usually free to see where the character wants or needs to go, but in longer works that can lead to some time-consuming rabbit holes that are hard to backtrack from. Thus, the need for an outline.

9. Is there anything else you feel people would like to know or would be surprised to learn about you?

I was once fluent in conversational Korean, both oral and written.

10. Do you write in other genres?

Yes. I’ve written westerns, historical, humor, romance, military, and fantasy.

11. Research, do you find it important?

Research is critical. Even in areas and subjects, I’m quite familiar with, it’s important to do my fact-checking. I’ve read far too many stories where the character wore a Stetson before John B. invented them, or Native Americans using African plants. Those are the sort of things that pull your reader completely out of the story and probably lose readers permanently.

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

If I could advise my younger self, I would have started seriously writing decades earlier. I didn’t start until I was in my mid-50s. There are so many stories I’d love to tell that I know I simply won’t have time for. I concentrate on what I can do and try not to have regrets.


14. What are the books or authors you grew up with that inspired you to take pen to paper?

Too many to count, but some of my earliest influences were Walter Farleigh, Will James, Jack London, Carolyn Keene, C.S. Forrester, and MacKinlay Kantor.

15. If it were possible would you choose to go forward in time or back?

Definitely back. There are so many periods in history which fascinate me, and despite the difficulties and hazards of those times, I like to think I’d do well.

16. Have you considered writing a series, either by yourself or with a group?

Yes, but I’m not prepared to talk about it right now.

Thank you, Dennis, for your time and insights. For more about Dennis and his many projects:



Sunday, May 15, 2022

12th Annual Peacemaker Awards Finalists and Lifetime Achievement Peacemaker



David Whitehead/Ben Bridges

12th Annual Peacemaker Awards Finalists

For Western Novels Published in 2021



BLOOD AND GOLD, Jeffrey J. Mariotte & Peter Murrieta, (Sundown Press)

DOWNRIVER SOUTH, Greg Hunt,  (Five Star Publishing)

LOST MOUNTAIN PASS, Larry D. Sweazy, (Pinnacle Books)

OLD DOGS, Ron Schwab, (Uplands Press)

THE UNREDEEMED, D. László Conhaim, (Broken Arrow Press)




CLAYTON SHARP: MESSENGER OF WARNING, Eugene J. DiCesaris, (Five Star Publishing)

THE DEVIL’S HAND, M.J. Hayes, (M.J. Hayes)

THE MRS. TABOR, Kimberly Burns, (Thomas Bard Publishing)

THE SHERIFF, Robert Dwyer and Austin Wright, (TwoDot/Rowman & Littlefield)

THE WOLF HUNT, Will Brandon (Barbara Brannon), (Five Star Publishing)





“Double Deceit”, PERILOUS FRONTIER, John D. Nesbitt, (Five Star Publishing)

“Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary”, SADDLEBAG DISPATCHES, Summer 2021, Kathleen Morris, (Oghma Creative Media)

“The Cowboy, the Librarian, and the Broomsman”, LIBRARIANS OF THE WEST: A QUARTET, Mark Warren, (Five Star Publishing)

“The Running Day”, SADDLEBAG DISPATCHES, Summer 2021, Richard Prosch, (Oghma Creative Media)

“When It Rains”, SADDLEBAG DISPATCHES, Winter 2021, Dennis Doty, (Oghma Creative Media)

Winners will be announced June 15, 2022 on the WF website (www.westernfictioneers.com) and on this blog.

Western Fictioneers (WF) was formed in 2010 by professional Western writers, to preserve, honor, and promote traditional Western writing in the 21st century. Entries were accepted in both print and electronic forms.

The Peacemaker Awards are given annually. Submissions for the Peacemaker Awards for books published in 2022 will be open in July, 2022. Submission guidelines will be posted on the WF web site. For more information about Western Fictioneers (WF) please visit: http://www.westernfictioneers.com

Western Fictioneers would like to thank the judges and James Reasoner for being Awards Chair and for the excellent job they have done.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

On This Day in the Old West: May 13

 On This Day in the Old West: May 13


We’ve been looking at a variety of serious subjects in this series: natural disasters, inventions, etc. Today, let’s have a little levity. On this date in the year 1888, famous Vaudevillian DeWolf Hopper (some sources report it as Hooper) supposedly first recited the comic poem “Casey at the Bat,” published earlier that year. Of course, once I started researching, the dates are fuzzy, with some reporting the poem’s publication as June & the recitation therefore in July or August. But I’ll stick with the May 13th date so we can include the story here.


By his own reckoning, the actor figured he’d recited the verses at least 10,000 times during his long career. If you’d like to see a very short clip of DeWolf’s recitation, here’s a video from the early part of the 1900s.




and this one’s from a 1906 Victrola recording of DeWolf’s performance if you’d like to listen to the full poem:




I’m laughing nearly as hard at the melodramatic performance of DeWolf Hopper as I am at the words of the poem, which, by the way, are right here:


Casey at the Bat

 - 1863-1940

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, "If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We'd put up even money now, with Casey at the bat."

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile lit Casey's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
"That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one!" the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, "Strike two!"

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey's lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

As hilarious as the poem is, it’s hard to imagine it would be as well-known or beloved today if not for the dedicated support and “vivacious performance” that Hopper brought to the work, first on stage and then in that popular 1906 recording. Cary O’Dell reported that the poem was published several times without an author’s byline before catching the eye of writer Archibald Gunter when it ran in the New York Sun. He clipped the poem and stuck it into his wallet. Gunter just happened to be friends with famous stage actor DeWolf Hopper, a 6’5” actor/comedian with a deep, booming voice. Hopper was one of Broadway’s leading players and a lifelong baseball fanatic.

It was Hopper who suggested to the opera house’s owners that they host, for one performance only, the home team New York Giants and the visiting Chicago White Stockings. Hopper, determined to make the evening memorable and different, started looking around for something to perform. His friend Gunter passed over the clipping of “Casey at the Bat” and Hopper quickly memorized it. The recitation was an immediate hit.

In his autobiography, “Once a Clown, Always a Clown,” Hopper related “I thought at the time that I was merely repeating a poem, a fatherless waif clipped from a San Francisco newspaper. As it turned out I was launching a career, a career of declaiming those verses up and down this favored land the balance of my life.” 

“Throughout the remainder of his career,” O’Dell reports, “almost every one of his curtain calls, regardless of the production, would bring shouts for “Casey.” They were requests that Hopper was happy to oblige. And, then, once again, for five minutes and 40 seconds, he would work himself up and repeat once more Casey’s less-than-triumphant tale.”

If your characters were around in 1888, whether it was May or August, they may have seen a performance of this poem—maybe even by the great DeWolf Hopper himself. The poem became a favorite, even among those who weren’t baseball fans. Listen to the recording and imagine your character sitting back in their seat at the theater, with tears of laughter rolling down their cheeks.


J.E.S. Hays




Monday, May 9, 2022

 Ranger Jim's Ramblings for May

Howdy, all,

After too long an absence, I'm back. Whether that's a good or bad thing I'll leave up to you.

I thought this time around I'd list some random facts about horses, sort of a follow up to the list I blogged some time back. Some of you may know some of these, all of them, or none of them. But they can always be worked into a western.

Most horses have manes which lie on the right side of their neck. A few have manes that lie on the left side. And very rare is the horse whose mane lies on both sides.

Hooves on the left side of the horse are called "near". Right side is called "off". Also can be used to distinguish the right of the horse from the  left in general, i.e., dismounting from the right is dismounting from the off side.

 Appaloosas have very thin, usually short, tails. Their manes also tend to be thin.

A blue eye is also called a glass eye. Some horses have one brown, one blue eye, others have two blue eyes. The eye color doesn't affect the horse's vision at all.

White or striped hooves are generally weaker than dark hooves. Striped hooves are frowned upon for every horse breed except Appaloosa, where striped hooves are considered normal.

The two main types of paints/pintos are Tobiano, smooth dark patches on a white haired base, and Overo (pronounced ovAHro), ragged white patches on a dark haired base. A Medicine Hat paint/pinto is a white horse with only a colored "hat" over the top of its head and its ears. Highly prized by Plains Indian tribes for their supposed spiritual powers, such as he ability to protect their riders in battle. Contrary to popular belief,while many cowboys did look down on paints/pintos, many rode them, including some Texas Rangers. Evidence to prove that can be found in old photographs.

A horse has knees on its front legs, hocks on its back legs. A horse also has no muscles below its knees/hocks,. Tee lower leg consists of bone, tendons, and ligaments. What for humans is the ankle is called the fetlock on a horse.

The soft part of the bottom of a horse's hoof is the frog. It absorbs shock, and needs regular trimming.

A horse's brain is approximately the size of a grapefruit.

All of a horse's head between its eyes and jaw is bone and air passageways.A horse can have a hole punched through the side of its head in that area and still keep breathing. It can even fully recover from the injury.

A horse's hoof is the equivalent of a human fingernail. Ancient horses had three toes on each foot. They evolved to just the middle one. That means every time a horse picks up his foot he's giving someone the "middle finger" (Sorry, couldn't resist.

Horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal. They  are set high and wide, so a horse can see almost a full 360 degrees without moving its head. The only blind spot for a horse is about two or three feet, directly in front of its face. They cal also see in color, but similarly to a person with  red-green color blindness. They tend to see blues and yellows better.

A horse has excellent hearing. They move their ears to pinpoint sounds, and also indicate their mood. Ears pricked sharply forward means they are listening to something ahead of them. One ear pointed in each direction indicates the horse is listening in both direction. Ears partially laid back indicates the horse is relaxed.  And ears pinned flat back against the head is a threat or warning the horse is angry.

Horses use their whiskers to feel if a space is large enough for them to get through, and also to help sort out edible from non edible items.

Horses have extremely strong neck and throat muscles, so they can't vomit. That's why colic is so dangerous for a horse. If their intestines become blocked, they can't vomit up the contents.

While horses have no muscles in their lower legs, the tendons and ligaments are extremely strong, while the bones are thin and fragile compared to the weight of a horse.  When a leg bone breaks, it usually shatters, and the tendons and ligaments pull the pieces so far apart it's impossible to set them back together. Almost always a death sentence.

 One last point. Without horses, arguably human civilization would never have advanced (If it indeed has) as far as it has. 


Until next time, Adios.

                                          Birth  Control in the 19th Century

                                                By Jesse J Elliot aka Julie Hanks

         American women in the 19th Centuries averaged seven live births during their lifetimes. Prolapsed organs often occurred with this number of pregnancies, and this did not include a number of undocumented early terminations. Women’s diaries and letters reveal the considerable time women spent preparing for the pain and the realistic possibility of dying in childbirth. Pregnancy was truly a mixed blessing. Infection was another great scourge of childbirth. Women were very susceptible to infection during and immediately after the process of childbirth. Puerperal or childbed fever was both common and much-feared in the nineteenth century. For these reasons, as well as other concerns, 19th Century women looked for safe and ethical methods of birth control. Below is a list of birth control efforts and devices.

         However, one should remember that not all women had access to these methods, contraptions, information, or a cooperative partner. Women on isolated homesteads and women in restrictive homes were at the mercy of their situations (as are some girls and women today).


Fertility Awareness Methods

Also known as the rhythm method, fertility awareness involves tracking your menstrual cycle and symptoms in an attempt to avoid intercourse on your most fertile days. Tracking can be done via the: calendar method, which helps you predict when you’re fertile by tracking your menstrual cycle time frames over several months.

While the rhythm method is cost-free, low-risk, and a great way to learn more about your body, fertility awareness methods have a high failure rate.  A 21st Century doctor states “usually, fertility awareness methods are a far better route if you are actively trying to become pregnant.”  According to Planned Parenthood, fertility awareness methods are up to 76 to 88 percent effective. This means that about 24 out of every 100 people using fertility awareness became pregnant.


People had been using forms of condoms for milenniums before the 1800s.  In the early part of the 19th century, condoms tended to be made from animal intestines and tied in place with a ribbon. However, in 1839, a man named Charles Goodyear made a huge development: vulcanized rubber. And that later spelled the mass production of rubber condoms, creating a more effective form of birth control that more people could afford. Plus, they helped protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

However, in 1873, the Comstock laws started a ban on contraceptives, including condoms. This forced manufacturers to call them by a different name (unknown). Rubber condoms remained popular until the invention of latex in the 1920s


1.     Sponge (to block)

2.     Syringe to wash away sperm

3.     Cap

Diaphragms and Cervical Caps

People inserted cup-shaped devices, like diaphragms and cervical caps, into the vagina to block sperm from entering the uterus. And, when used with a spermicide, they were probably the most effective birth control of the time, aside from abstinence.

Before Goodyear’s rubber invention, people tended to insert all kinds of objects — even half a lemon. However the safer and more comfortable rubber versions that inspired today’s devices weren’t as popular as condoms.



Withdrawal — the act of pulling out before ejaculation — was the most accessible form of birth control in the 1900s, since it didn’t cost a thing.  It could be highly effective if done correctly, and it was in fact effective for some people at that time. But it’s hard to do perfectly and, even now, there’s always a chance of getting semen inside the vagina.


The most effective contraceptive, if stuck to continuously, was abstinence. This simply means not having sex at all.

Abstinence was promoted quite a lot throughout the 1800s, and many married women did follow it. (Of course, some may not have had the freedom to choose this.)

However, lots of married men then turned to prostitution, causing “epidemics” of STIs.


Birth control was technically illegal for married people until 1965, and remained illegal for singles all the way until 1972. However, as is often the case with laws restricting sexual behavior, people found their own ways around it.

Women have been trying to block sperm from [entering the] cervix ever since they first suspected what sperm and women’s bodies created—pregnancy. Three main ways to prevent pregnancy involved block the sperm, kill the sperm, rinse the sperm away.

1. One popular method for blocking sperm involved sponges—like, actual sea sponges. Sears and Roebuck advertised a popular one as a regular old household sponge, but it was called a “ladies fine cup shaped sponge with netting," and had a string for easy removal. Other common blocking devices were pessaries, which doctors insert into the vagina to support bladders and other prolapsing organs.

2. & 3. To kill sperm or wash it out of the body, women commonly turned to suppositories and douches, which were also marketed as hygiene products. Lysol sold a douche that promised to wash out germs and other foreign substances, and marketed its disinfectant for use in the vagina with an ad that read, "Lysol has amazing, proved power to kill germ-life on contact." Women would also douche with vinegar, ammonia, and paprika. For their part, Sears sold “Ladies Antiseptic Suppositories."

These birth control methods (if you can even call them that) were—as you might guess—not exactly effective or safe, and hundreds died of Lysol exposure during the Victorian era. We're still a long way away from effective, cheap, side-effect-free contraceptives for everyone (get on that male birth control, scientists). 










Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Hand-Me-Down Family Recipe - Poor Man's Cake by Kaye Spencer #recipes #westernfictioneers

For my April article, I shared a hand-me-down family recipe (Dutch Babies/Puff Pancakes). I’ll continue sharing old family recipes for a few months. This time, the recipe is Poor Man’s Cake.

This recipe is probably older than the 1930s date I put on it. I do know both my maternal and paternal grandmothers made a variation of this recipe. This rendition is my alteration of mom’s version.

Poor Man’s Cake was a common sweet-treat during the Great Depression Era. It doesn’t require a lot of each of the ingredients, and it’s easily altered to accommodate the ingredients on hand.

 Poor Man's Cake c. 1930s


1 cup raisins
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
½ cup shortening
1 egg, beaten
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground cloves
2 cups flour                                                    


1. In a small sauce pan, boil raisins in the water until about  ½ cup of water remains & raisins have plumped.

2. Add: shortening & sugar. Stir until shortening melts & sugar dissolves.

3. Set pan aside to cool.

4. When cool, transfer to a mixing bowl & add egg, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, & cloves. Mix by hand until blended.

5. Add flour. Mix by hand until batter is smooth.

6. Spread batter evenly over lightly greased jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. Batter will be thin.

7. Cake is done when nicely browned, edges pull away from sides, & center is springy to touch.

8. Straight from the oven & while still quite warm, frost cake with a thin powdered sugar frosting glaze.

 *Bake at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes.

*It’s okay to cool the raisin mixture until the shortening solidifies on top. Simply stir & continue with recipe.

*Cut cake into pieces & store lightly covered.

Powdered Sugar Frosting

For every 1 cup of powdered sugar, add a splash of vanilla, a tablespoon of melted butter, & enough water or milk to mix until smooth. Add  more liquid &/or powdered sugar to make a thin glaze.

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer
writing through history one romance upon a time