Wednesday, October 25, 2023


Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Photo from Find a Grave

Of the many things that Colorado Springs is known for, one of the most unique, given the fact that Colorado Springs sits in a High Plains desert, is that one Col. George De La Vergne had a series of fish ponds.

An article in the local paper, Colorado Springs Gazette, from March 27, 1879, discussed visiting his business. The following is a description of the reporter's visit to these ponds.

"We first saw a pond in which there were about 70 mountain trout, caught by the Col. himself in the mountains, and brought to this place. Other ponds contained about 200 more of these trout. Most of these are two years old, and of good size for eating, but they will be kept for reproducing purposes. They reproduce very rapidly, one female trout laying at least 500 eggs. Near the mountain trout is a hospital where the sick trout are successfully treated on allopathic principles.

A little distance off are three other ponds containing about 1300 brook trout which were bought a few months ago in Denver from a party who had brought them from the East. The brook trout are decidedly the "gamest" of the trout species. We were much interested in seeing them partake of a little lunch of beef liver. Some of them would jump clear out of the water to grab a piece held over the water, while over the long pieces there would be a terrific struggle for full possession between two or three trout who might have hold of it.

Next we went into the nursery, a covered stone building, which was filled with youngsters. There were about 55,000 baby brook trout and 3,500 Lake Trout. It will be about two years before these fish will be large enough to send to market."

 Col. De La Vergne was born in New York on October 18, 1800. He died in Colorado Springs, CO. on January 15, 1893, of pneumonia. In his lifetime De La Vergne was more than just a fish farmer, but for Colorado Springs, this was an interesting way to make money.

His son, Edward Morton De La Vergne, is known as one of the first men to invest in what became the Cripple Creek Mining District. His story will follow later.

Until Next Time Stay Safe & Stay Well


Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Several years ago, about ten or so, I wrote a book called “The Half-Breed’s Woman” about our hero, U.S. Deputy Marshal Jaxson McCall, who was the son of a white man and an Indian woman. Brought up in Indian Territory, he’s lived a very hard-knock life with his younger brother, Brendan, who is also a deputy marshal.

The heroine is a young debutante from Washington, D.C., Callie Buchanan, whose stepfather, Dunstan Treadwell, has nefarious plans for her now that she is eighteen. She is on the run (who wouldn’t be?) and Treadwell hires Jaxson to track Callie down and return her to him.

Jaxson takes the job, but things get complicated, and soon they are both in danger.

As the years passed, I thought of so many things I wanted to change in this book. Writers do that, many times—and a “do-over” is not always possible. BUT, in my case, I was able to do just that, and what fun I had with this!

I’m re-releasing this fabulous story under a new title and cover, A MARSHAL FOR CALLIE. It’s full of surprises and action, and one of the most poignant love stories ever.

It’s one of my favorite stories, and I have plans, still, to write sequels as to what happens to these characters—they are some of my very favorite creations. I hope you will feel the same.

Here’s the blurb—it tells the gist of the story much better than I can in the space I have:

A MARSHAL FOR CALLIE--A sensual western historical romance that draws you in and won't let go.

  U.S. Deputy Marshal Jaxson McCall is hired by Dunstan Treadwell, a powerful government official, to track down his runaway stepdaughter, debutante Callie Buchanan. When Jax realizes he’s been double-crossed by Callie’s stepfather, he doubles down to protect Callie from an evil nemesis from his own past who has been hired to kill them both.

The stakes have changed: Treadwell doesn’t want Callie back—he wants her dead. And the man coming after them is a master at murder.

Jax catches up to Callie in Fort Smith, and none too soon, for Wolf Blocker, the man Treadwell has hired to murder his stepdaughter and Jax, is one step ahead of them—and he’s got assassination on his mind. Jax and Callie set out on the stagecoach for Texas, neither of them able to be honest about their circumstances. With Blocker on their trail and Apaches ahead of them, the future is uncertain.

One thing Jaxson knows: he cannot take Callie back to Washington to face an attempted murder charge. Matters are further complicated when Jax and Callie are forced into marriage by worried Cavalry Captain Alan Tolbert to avoid the trouble he believes Treadwell could cause.

Through all the pretense, the hardships, and the deadly danger, one thing becomes obvious. Callie and Jaxson were meant to be together for this new beginning, for this new forever love that neither of them had ever hoped to find. Will they live long enough to see it through?

Have you ever read a story or seen a movie that had characters so REAL that they stayed with you long after the book was finished, or the movie had ended? What characters have stayed in your heart and mind long after the story was over?




Thursday, October 12, 2023

On This Day in the Old West: October 13

 October 13, 1792 marks the beginning of an American institution: The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The periodical’s first editor, Robert B. Thomas, published the very first edition on this date in 1792, during George Washington’s first term as US President. Although many other almanacs were being published at that time, Thomas’ The Old Farmer’s Almanac became an instant success. It cost only 6 pence (about 9 cents), and by the second year, circulation had tripled (from 3,000 to 9.000). Published every year since, it is now the oldest continually published periodical in the United States.


An almanac, by definition, records and predicts astronomical events (like sunrise/sunset), tides, weather, and other phenomena with respect to time. So what made The Old Farmer’s Almanac so different? Since Thomas’ format wasn’t all that original, we can only surmise that his astronomical and weather predictions were more accurate, the advice more useful, and the features more entertaining. 


Thomas used a complex series of natural cycles to devise a secret weather forecasting formula, still in use today, which brought amazingly accurate results, said to be as much as 80 percent accurate. His last edition, in 1846, was not that much different from his first, over 50 years earlier. However, in those 50 years, Thomas established The Old Farmer’s Almanac as America’s leading periodical by outselling and outlasting the competition. Thomas died at the age of 80, supposedly reading page proofs for the 1847 edition of the almanac.


Every September, The Old Farmer’s Almanac publishes weather forecasts, planting charts, astronomical data, recipes, and articles. Topics include gardening, sports, astronomy, folklore, and predictions on trends in fashion, food, home, technology, and living for the coming year. Few people, other than the Almanac’sprognosticators, have ever seen Thomas’ secret formula for predicting the weather. It is kept in a black tin box at the Almanac offices in Dublin, New Hampshire.


The publication was not always “Old,” however. At first, it was simply known as The Farmer’s Almanac. However, in 1832, with his publication having survived longer than similarly-named competitors, Thomas inserted the word “Old” in the title, later dropping it from the title of the 1836 edition. After his death in 1846, John Henry Jenks was appointed editor, and, in 1848, changed the title of the book permanently and officially to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. In 1851, Jenks made another change to the Almanac when he featured a “four seasons” drawing on the cover by Boston artist Hammatt Billings, engraved by Henry Nichols. Jenks dropped the new cover for three years, but then reinstated it permanently in 1855. This trademarked desing is still in use today.


An interesting anecdote has lawyer Abraham Lincoln using The Old Farmer’s Almanac to free his client from murder charges in 1858. William “Duff” Armstrong was on trial for murder in Beardstown, Illinois. Lincoln used an almanac, supposedly The Old Farmer’s Almanac, to refute the testimony of Charles Allen, an eyewitness who claimed he had seen the crime by the light of the moon. The book stated that not only was the Moon in the first quarter, but it was riding “low” on the horizon, about to set. There was no way Allen could have seen Lincoln’s client.


With The Old Farmer’s Almanac in continuous publication since 1792, any of your characters could have read this periodical, depended on its forecasts, or just noted its articles. You could even use the information contained in this post to date the exact cover and title your character would have seen. Robert B. Thomas’ creation has withstood the test of time.


J.E.S. Hays

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Classic Country Ballads of Lost Love – Long Black Veil #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
July – Marty Robbins – Running Gun
August – Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger
September – Marty Robbins – They’re Hanging Me Tonight

I planned this month’s song specifically for October, since the song has a paranormal slant. The song is [The] Long Black Veil by Lefty Frizzell.

Lefty Frizzell promo 1957

Long Black Veil is a 1959 country ballad written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin. Lefty Frizzell was the original artist who recorded and released the song.

The story is sung from the perspective of a man who has been falsely accused of murder and has been executed. He declined to provide the alibi that would have exonerated him, because he was having an extramarital affair with his best friend’s wife at the time of the murder ‘neath the town hall light. He chose death over dishonor and took their secret to the grave with him.

The woman mourns his death by walking the cemetery and visiting his grave while wearing a long black veil and enduring the unforgiving, wailing night wind.

This song is equal parts tragic, achingly sad, and otherworldly. Otherworldly, because the singer is dead, and he’s telling their story, which is creepy-fabulous.

Now, hear me out.

I have a theory about the woman and why she visits his grave when the night winds wail. Nobody knows. Nobody sees. Nobody knows but me.

If nobody knows and nobody sees and nobody knows but the dead man, then I say the woman is also dead, and her soul can’t rest because she stood in the crowd at his hanging and ‘shed not a tear’. Her guilt for allowing an innocent man to die, a man she evidently cared about, drove her to suicide.

So why does she wear a long black veil? Maybe she wore a black dress with a long black mourning veil after the man died, and that’s what she was wearing when she died.

 I didn’t make up the afterlife wardrobe rules.

But, I do know that ghosts are stereotypically depicted as an entity of flowing, draped, white cloth because, for hundreds and hundreds of years, people were buried in white linen shrouds as the proper care for the deceased and also as an affordable alternative for a ‘coffin’. White shrouds eventually became associated with spirits that can’t rest...aka... Ghosts.

It’s not unreasonable that her eternity outfit included a long black veil.

Back to the song…

Evidently, the man and woman are unable to communicate directly with each other in the afterlife. But, he can watch her visit his grave and walk the hills, and she can visit his grave and walk the hills for all eternity. Almost together, yet always apart.

Country Music Trivia:

Marijohn Wilkin was known as “The Den Mother of Music Row”. She toured with Red Foley, co-wrote ‘Waterloo’ (Stonewall Jackson’s No. 1 country hit), and co-wrote ‘Cut Across Shorty’ and ‘I Just Don’t Understand’ (big hit for Ann Margaret). Most famously, she wrote ‘One Day at a Time’ (big gospel hit of the 1970s).

She was the first to publish Kris Kristofferson’s songs (specifically, ‘For the Good Times’ which was a huge hit for Ray Price). Her son, John “Bucky” Wilkin was front man for the surf rock group Ronny & the Daytonas who had a 1964 hit single with ‘G.T.O.’

Wilkin and Dill said the inspiration behind Long Black Veil came from a Red Foley gospel song called ‘God Walks these Hills with Me’; a newspaper story of an unsolved murder of a priest; and the legend of the mysterious woman who visited Rudolph Valentino’s grave.

Lefty Frizzell’s version of Long Black Veil was selected by the Library of Congress in 2019 for preservation for being ‘culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant’.

Image: Lefty Frizzell promotional image attribution by Columbia Records, derived from Public Domain.

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