Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Early Days in the Cripple Creek Gold Region

Post (c) by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

On the way to Cripple Creek
Photo (c) Doris McCraw

Early Days in the Cripple Creek Gold Region:

Some of the earliest people in the region were probably the Utes and various other Native American tribes. Little is written about that time and what is known is mostly supposition. It appears they have found artifacts from the native people around the Mt. Pisgah area. It may have been used as a signal mountain in those early days. Between 1842 and 1844 Capt. John C. Fremont explored the region and his travels around Pikes Peak took him into the Cripple Creek area. As the '59r's headed toward South Park and the mines there, they traveled just north of the Cripple Creek area. 

During the Hayden survey, some members of the survey found gold specimens. However,  nothing came of that find. In 1874, H.T. Wood, of the Hayden survey party, returned to the Cripple Creek district. He was accompanied by other prospectors who tried to find gold. It was Wood who organized the district under the name of Mt. Pisgah. Starting in those early days, the hunt was on to find the source of the gold 'float' from that early survey. That in turn, led to the run on the district. Despite the effort, none of those early prospectors were successful in finding the source. 

In 1884 a second 'discovery' started a second rush into the area. This time there were as many as 5,000 people who rushed to the area searching for that elusive gold. The 'founder' of the rush, 'Chicken Bill', it was leaned had 'salted' the area. He escaped the area just ahead of the lynching party.

Headstone of Robert 'Bob' Womack
Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs, CO
Photo (c) Doris McCraw

This last event was still in most people's memories when Bob Womanck made the real strike in the region in 1890. As a result, it took time for people to accept the truth. 

Since my last post, I've celebrated the publication of my anthology/box set: "Old West Stories of Love". Some of the stories take place near the Cripple Creek area. It helps when you can walk the areas you write about. 

(C) Doris McCraw

Until Next Time: Stay safe, Stay happy, and Stay healthy.


Wednesday, July 19, 2023


Hi everyone! This is something that intrigued me the other day and I wondered what you all thought about it, too. I was on Facebook and saw this question: WHAT IS THE VERY BEST SLOW DANCE SONG? Y’all know that got my little mind to wondering…and WANDERING! I had to scroll through many of the answers just to see what people thought—but not before I answered with my pick. The very best slow dance song (and in my opinion ONE of the very best songs ever recorded) is Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers. I am careful to always say “by the Righteous Brothers” because this song had a lonnnnng history of covers and remakes before the Righteous Brothers ever made their version of it. And theirs is the best.

But what did other people think was the best? There were so many opinions—and some were songs I had not ever heard of that became popular in the 90’s and 2000’s. By the same token, I’m sure there were plenty of songs that were popular in long years gone by that I haven’t ever heard, either.

Since many of us write historical romance, this also made me realize that songs of those old days in history might not be as meaningful to us now as they were then—maybe they even seem childish and simple, not a song that would speak of love to your partner as we would think of today.

Some of the others that people listed as the “very best slow dance song” were:

At Last by Etta James

Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton

In the Still of the Night

I Only Have Eyes for You

Only You by the Platters

Earth Angel

These are just a few! The thread was full of songs, too many to list here. My hubby and I never had a “special” song. In our early years, we had our own band and played mainly country rock and easy listenin’ music, so I heard (and sang) a lot of different songs, but Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers was always my favorite song (and that was one we never performed, because who can top the Righteous Brothers?)

What is YOUR favorite slow dance song? (This did make me wonder what my latest character couple, Johnny and Krissy, might have wanted to slow dance to way back in 1899!)

AMAZON BUY LINK: https://tinyurl.com/hwnwkeu5

Thursday, July 13, 2023

On This Day in the Old West: July 14

 Of course, July 14 is Bastille Day, the holiday celebrating the beginning of the French Revolution, but since that has little to do with the Old West, we’ll just skim past that fact. Instead, we’ll focus on the inventor of a popular contraption in the modern world: the ice machine!


On July 14, 1850, Dr. John Gorrie demonstrated his newly-created artificial ice machine at a party. He had originally designed the contraption to combat Yellow Fever, as he believed that cold was the key to treatment. He noted that "Nature would terminate the fevers by changing the seasons." In 1844, he began, under the pseudonym “Jenner” (in tribute to Edward Jenner, who invented the smallpox vaccine), to write a series of articles entitled “On the Prevention of Malarial Diseases.” According to the articles, Gorrie had constructed an imperfect refrigeration machine in May of that year. 


"If the air were highly compressed,” Gorrie wrote in his notes, “it would heat up by the energy of compression. If this compressed air were run through metal pipes cooled with water, and if this air cooled to the water temperature was expanded down to atmospheric pressure again, very low temperatures could be obtained, even low enough to freeze water in pans in a refrigerator box." The compressor could be powered by horse, water, wind driven sails, or steam.


Dr. Gorrie’s basic principle for his ice machine is the one still used most often: cooling by the rapid expansion of gases. Gorrie used two double-acting force pumps and first condensed, then rarified air. The apparatus reduced the temperature of the compressed air by injecting a small amount of water into it. The compressed air was submerged in coils surrounded by a circulating bath of cooling water. The injected water was allowed to condense out into a holding tank, then was released (or rarified) into a tank of lower pressure that contained brine. This lowered the temperature of the brine to 26 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Gorrie then immersed drip-fed, brick-sized, oil-coated metal containers of rainwater into the brine, creating ice “bricks.” The cold air was then released in an open system into the atmosphere.



A model of Dr. Gorrie's machine


The first known artificial refrigeration was demonstrated in 1748 by William Cullen, when he performed a laboratory demonstration allowing ethyl ether to boil into a vacuum. In 1805, American Oliver Evans designed (but never actually built) a refrigeration machine that would have used vapor instead of liquid. And using Evans’ refrigeration concept, Jacob Perkins of the U.S. and England developed an experimental volatile liquid, closed-cycle compressor in 1834.


The commercial refrigeration business is believed to have been initiated by American businessman Alexander C. Twinning. He used sulphuric ether in 1856 and shortly afterward, Australian James Harrison checked out the refrigerators used by Gorrie and Twinning and introduced vapor (ether) compression refrigeration to the brewing and meat-packing industries. Then, in 1860, Ferdinand P.E. Carre of France was granted a patent for development of a closed, ammonia-absorption system. This laid the foundation for widespread modern refrigeration. Carre used rapidly-expanding ammonia in his machine, unlike the air used in vapor compression machines. Ammonia liquifies at a much lower temperature than water and is thus able to absorb more heat. This technique became (and still is) the most widely used cooling method, although modern machines use a number of synthetic refrigerants so there is no need to worry about the toxic danger and odor of ammonia leaks.

Model of the machine (back view)


Dr. John Gorrie was honored for his invention by his home state of Florida, when his statue was placed in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. In 1899, a monument was erected by the Southern Ice Exchange in the small coastal town of Apalachicola, where he had developed his machine. 


J.E.S. Hays



Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Classic Country Ballads of Lost Love – Running Gun #westernfictioneers #countryballads #classiccountrymusic

I grew up in the late 50s and 60s listening to the country music of that era. I stuck with country music through the 70s. I made it into the 80s but, by the late 80s, country music as I knew and loved was headed in a direction that, with a few exceptions, I wasn’t interested going. So I didn’t. (Get off my lawn.)

 The old west gunfighter and trail ballads, drinking songs, and revenge songs had an influence on me that was, and still is, every bit as strong as the impact Louis L’Amour’s books left with me. My lifelong interest, perhaps fascination bordering on obsession, with everything old west—truth, legends, and myths alike—have roots in those old cowboy and country songs.

I’m inviting you to read along with me this year as I post one or two nostalgic-for-me country ballads on the first Wednesday of each month. I will share a snippet of trivia about each song along with a YouTube video.

Each month, I will include a link back to the previous month’s article as reference to those songs. The common thread that runs among the songs I’ve chosen for this musical memory lane excursion is tragic lost love.

January – Marty Robbins – El Paso and Feleena
February – Faron Young – TheYellow Bandana
March – Willie Nelson and Ray Charles – 
Seven Spanish Angels
April – Marty Robbins – San Angelo
May – Billy Walker – Cross the Brazos at Waco
June – Billy Walker – Matamoros 

This month’s song is Running Gun by Marty Robbins.

Running Gun was written by Jim Glaser and Tompall Glaser. Marty Robbins recorded the song in April 1959 and released it in September 1959 on his album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.

Running Gun tells the story of a gun-for-hire outlaw who loses the draw against a bounty hunter’s gun. The ballad begins with the outlaw thinking about Jeannie, the woman he loves and left behind until he reaches the safety of Old Mexico and can send for her to meet him. The song ends with his dying thoughts of Jeannie, and his regret for causing Jeannie to waste her life loving a running gun.

In my western romance novel, The Comanchero’s Bride, which, by the way, was inspired by Marty Robbins’ song Meet Me Tonight in Laredo, I wrote in a scene that is reminiscent of the confrontation between the ‘running gun’ outlaw and the bounty hunter. Here is the scene from my novel. (500 words)

Excerpt from The Comanchero’s Bride:

At the livery, Mingo remained in the shadows where he could see both ways along the street. Opening the wagon doors just wide enough to allow him to pass through, he eased his way inside. Speaking in a low soothing tone to his horses, he packed and saddled them under the moonlight coming in from two windows. Opening half the double doors, he led the two riding horses out the back, tied them to a corral rail, and returned for the packhorse.

He no more than reached the packhorse when a cold voice in the shadows stopped him in his tracks.

“Don’t turn around, Valderas.”

Mingo froze. A few more steps and he would have been on the off side of the packhorse, but where he was, he had no protection.

“I’ve got a good bead right between your shoulders. I know about your fast draw and the price on your head. I’ve also heard stories about your throwing knives, so keep your hands where I can see them.”

“You know me. But who are you? What do you want?” Mingo didn’t care. He knew the challenge from the shadows was a bounty hunter. He needed the man to talk so he could pinpoint his location.

“I came out of El Paso. A man named Jack added to the price on your head—dead or alive—and some politician is offering a pretty penny on top of that to bring in the woman you have with you. He wants her alive.”

From the sound of the man’s voice, he hadn’t moved and was off to his right. Mingo fought the urge to whirl and fire, but shooting blindly was not his way. He wouldn’t risk a wild shot that could injure a horse, and gunfire would bring others into the fray. Shadows were both his enemy and ally, depending upon how he used it.

“The way’s clear behind you, so back towards the open wagon door, and keep your hands away from your body. When I heard the talk of a Mexican man traveling with a white woman, and they were staying at the hotel, I figured I’d hit pay dirt. I was just supposed to worry you into making a wrong move. Never thought I’d be the one to catch you.

“I’m taking the woman to El Paso. You, I’m locking up in the back room of the saloon for safe keeping…unless you give me an excuse to kill you right now, which I’ve a yearning to do. I can’t miss at this range. It wouldn’t do my reputation any damage to be the man who took down Mingo Valderas.”

Now, he knew who he was up against. Earl Johns was vicious and a killer, a back-shooting coward. Mingo inched backward, buying thinking time.

“Where’s the woman, Valderas?”

“There is no wom—”

“She’s too close for your comfort.” Isabel’s voice cut through the night.

The sound of a shotgun hammer pulling back was an angry, lethal sound that made the hairs on Mingo’s arm prickle.

As a related diversion, you might enjoy this Reddit ‘fan theory’ thread about the songs 
Big Iron and Running Gun being the same story, but told from the opposing perspectives of Big Iron’s Texas Red and the Arizona Ranger. The fan theories are a stretch, but entertaining, nonetheless.

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer
Lasterday Stories
writing through history one romance upon a time