Been Away Too Long

It has been three years since I have used this blog. Way too long, but I am back. Where was I?

Writing, I guess. I have published six books since I last posted. You can find them all here. I will not be away that long again, maybe a few days.

The End of the Old West

As I was writing an introduction to a book that I am working on several thoughts crossed my mind. The book, about Fort Laramie and the American West, has been a much more than interesting research project. Fort Laramie may be more a symbol of the old west and last frontier than anything else.

Fort Laramie 1849-1890

Throughout most of its active years, Fort Laramie was the most important fort of the West. The fort protected an area that was mostly unsettled when it was established as a military fort in 1849. One could argue that the 41 years the fort was active, were the defining years of what many called the old west. Yes, there were people, quite a few, in fact, Native Indian Tribes who would soon be displaced, and a few hunters, trappers, and wanderers, and with Fort Laramie, Soldiers.

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Here I am at Fort Laramie Trapper and Trader Days Last Summer

 

 End of the Frontier

During the active years of the fort the country rapidly expanded. The Gold Rush, Transcontinental Railroad, Telegraph, Pony Express, Civil War, and economic woes in the east all lead to the end of the old west. By the time 1890 rolled around, Benjamin Harrison was president and the United States Census Bureau announced the end of the frontier. In 1893, Fredrick Jackson Turner wrote an article for the Chicago World’s Fair, stating that there was no longer a line of Frontier in America. With the closing of Fort Laramie in 1890 also came the disgraceful Massacre at Wounded Knee and statehood for Wyoming. When Owen Wister published the first Western in 1902, The Virginian, the old west was gone.

Wild West

What about the Wild West? If it ever was, which it was not, it was a part of the old west. The Wild West was a creation by pulp writers turning out dozens of dime novel westerns and a few years later, Hollywood expanded the myth.

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My part of the Wild West – 30 Miles from home last March

 

Fort Laramie was the first sign, or last sign, of civilization to an American people who farmed the land or lived in cities on the east and west coasts and in the south. It was also a sign of things to come, and 41 years after it opened, the buildings were sold off for salvage.

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4th of July at Fort Laramie

 

The Time’s They Are Changing

At my age, we just returned from our weekend 50-year high school reunion, I am not always in favor of the changes I see taking place. It was no different with the ending of the frontier, some saw it as a good sign, others hated the Idea of everything settled. Such is life, change and time march on.

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Thanks for reading it’s great to be back.

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Wyoming Funny Guy Bill Nye

Like all states Wyoming has had its share of colorful characters, none more colorful than Edgar Wilson (Bill) Nye. Nye came west to Wyoming in 1876 and stayed seven years until 1883. He settled in Laramie and found his true passion and maybe what he was put on this earth to do – writing humor.

 

Nye practiced law, became postmaster of Laramie and worked for the local paper before started his own, The Laramie Boomerang, (still a six day a week paper) his newspaper columns became so popular that they were reprinted far from the small town in Southeast Wyoming being picked up by papers all over America and reprinted by more than a dozen newspapers in Europe.

 

Nye was indeed a first rate humorist, one of the best of his time, later in life he often shared the stage, and equal billing with Mark Twain. Unfortunately Nye’s humor has not been as lasting as Twain’s but in the last quarter of the 1800s he was one funny guy.

 

One of my favorite excerpts from his writing follows. This writing explains his resignation as Laramie’s Postmaster.

 

It is a full newspaper column I have reduced to only four of the thirteen paragraphs.

 

Enjoy!

 

                                                                        Postoffice, Divan, Laramie City, W.T.

 

Sir.—
I beg leave at this time to officially tender my resignation as postmaster at this place, and in due form to deliver the great seal and the key to the front door of the office. The safe combination is set on the numbers 33, 66 and 99, though I do not remember at this moment which comes first, or how many times you revolve the knob, or which direction you should turn it at first in order to make it operate.

 

You will find the postal cards that have not been used under the distributing table, and the coal down in the cellar. If the stove draws too hard, close the damper in the pipe and shut the general delivery window.

 

Tears are unavailing. I once more become a private citizen, clothed only with the right to read such postal cards as may be addressed to me personally, and to curse the inefficiency of the postoffice department. I believe the voting class to be divided into two parties, viz: Those who are in the postal service, and those who are mad because they cannot receive a registered letter every fifteen minutes of each day, including Sunday.
Mr. President, as an official of this Government I now retire. My term of office would not expire until 1886. I must, therefore, beg pardon for my eccentricity in resigning. It will be best, perhaps, to keep the heart-breaking news from the ears of European powers until the dangers of a financial panic are fully past. Then hurl it broadcast with a sickening thud. *

 

*Excerpt taken from—Bill Nye’s  Western Humor

 

                                                        Selected and with an Introduction

 

                                                        By T. A. Larson

 

                                                       University of Nebraska Press

 

                                                      Lincoln, NE  1968

 

If you would like to see the letter in its entirety you can find it here-http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/10/here-roads-seem-to-fork.html

Stage Coaches – Made to be Robbed

Ed Trafton was a pretty good stage robber he may have held up more coaches than any other western outlaw. And he did it all the same day.

On a hot July day in 1914 Tafton and his hidden, and not at all active, partner Charles Erpenbach robbed 15 stages in one day. All 15 were stopped near Shoshone Point on the way to Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park. Seemed like as soon as he robbed one and sent it on its way another one was coming around the corner.

Tafton’s one day take was nearly a thousand in cash and over $100 in Jewelry. Oh—and five years in Leavenworth.

Note-The first autos came into the park the next year and by the next, 1916, stages coaches were gone from the park.

Published in: on December 16, 2012 at 12:06 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ride Proud Rebel & Rebel Spurs

Ride Proud Rebel & Rebel Spurs

I consider myself to be a prolific reader (100+ books a year) and once in a while I run across something accidentally that is really terrific. The two novels in the title kept me very interested and eager to turn pages, I wish this was a trilogy, I need to know more. The first is set in the Civil War with the protagonist a scout for the Confederacy. The second is set in early Arizona immediately after the war.
Andre Norton (1912-2005) wrote the two novels but she (Born Mary Alice Norton) only dabbled in historical fiction, most of her writing efforts, and she published over 100 books, were science fiction and fantasy for young adult and children readers. And she was really good at it as evidenced by the dozens of awards she won in her more than 70 year writing career. Her novel, The Beast Master, became a classic to sci-fi readers and movie goers.
Ms. Norton, who published more than 30 books after the age of 80, also wrote under name of Andrew North and Allen Weston. Wish she would have published a few more westerns.
NOTE – I came across the first novel in a two dollar Kindle download of a 25 western megapack and found the second for free download. Both are worth the reading and each is only around 200 pages, (estimate).

Published in: on December 9, 2012 at 2:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Last Stagecoach Hold-up

The summer of 1914 may have truly marked the end of the old west. Why, because that was the year of the last stagecoach holdup, and it took place near Shoshone Point in Yellowstone Park. Other places claim the last holdup, including one of the Cheyenne-Deadwood Stage and one in Nevada, but I like this one. The year marked the end of the horse’s only transportation in the park, as cars came for the first time the next year, and a year after that, 1916 would mark the end of the coaches in the park.

I like this bit of history  because the robber, Edward Trafton, (Ed Harrington) did not just hold up a stagecoach, he held up fifteen in a row. The stages carried tourists seeing the sights of the park, and the sixteenth coach, sniffing out something bad, turned around and went for help.

Wearing several layers of extra clothes and a black mask,Trafton stopped each coach rustled out the passengers and asked them, while holing a rifle, to put their money in a sack lying at his feet. For his days work he collected a little over nine hundred dollars and jewelry worth another one- hundred and thirty dollars. Trafton, a ladies’ man, or one who believed he was, laughed and asked the ladies to hide their jewelry, he was only interested in cash. Not sure how or why he ended up with more than a hundred dollars worth anyway, maybe he didn’t like some of the women as much as others.

Trafton had so much fun holding up a stage every half hour that he even allowed some of the passengers to take his photo. Not sure Tafton was the smartest of outlaws, but he likely believed he was, because of this day, famous, and needed to secure his place in history. It did secure a place but maybe not what he had in mind.

The well photographed outlaws next stop was Leavenworth, where he rested up for five years. He died more than a decade later
with a letter in his pocket claiming he was the cowboy Owen Wister based the Virginian on. More likely, if Wister  ever met him and put him in the famous novel, he was one of the bad guys or less than bright characters in the story. Trampas?

Modern Day Western

Just finished reading, Cormac McCarthy’s, No Country for Old Men, I liked the story line, and have always enjoyed, so called, modern day western’s. The trouble I had with this book, and one other of his that I have read, is trying to figure out where dialog starts and ends, or story narration is taking place. Part of the way down each page I would figure it out and then often start that page over. But somewhere along the ling I realized I could not put it down—I really liked the story, and now I want to read another of his works. Good book, but beware of the lack of punctuation.

Published in: on January 8, 2011 at 3:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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Western Movies

In just a few days the new version of True Grit opens. Will it be a winner or just another western that today’s audiences don’t like? Fifty years ago nearly everything on Television was some kind of western series and many feature films were westerns. Did too much cowboy time on TV kill the western? Twenty-nine series westerns in 1959 –Over exposure, maybe! And maybe that is what killed the big budget westerns on the silver screen. There have been some exceptions but for the most part westerns, of today, are marginal hits at best.

Maybe westerns don’t lend themselves to enough special effects and big screen tricks to keep today’s young viewers in their seats.

Or likely we oldsters don’t go to the theater enough.

Just for fun here is a list of my favorite westerns (some well know some a little more obscure) – not in order just my top 15.

What are your favorites?

       Here is mine.

  1. Open Range

  2. 3-10 to Yuma

  3. The outlaw Josie Wales

  4. Winchester 73

  5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

  6. The Shadow Riders

  7. Last of the Dogmen

  8. Jeremiah Johnson

  9. Dances With Wolves

10.  Stage Coach

11.  Unforgiven

12.  The Good the Bad and the Ugly

13.  Rio Bravo

14.  Treasure of the Sierra Madre

15.  Ride the High Country

Lauran Paine

Every few years a new list of greatest of all time for something comes out. Westerns are no different with a little research I was able to find, greatest western novels, greatest western short stories, TV series, mini-series and movies.
Never have I read a list of the most prolific authors. I have one particular author that I really enjoy, William W. Johnstone, who wrote what I felt was a great mountain man series. He wrote in several genres, but mostly westerns. He was published for only about twenty-five years but managed to write and impressive two-hundred books.

But that does not come close to Lauran Paine the author of Open Range Men, a novel later made into the movie “Open Range”. If you have never heard of him, how about these writers all pseudonyms for Lauran Paine: John Armour, Reg Batchelor, Kenneth Bedford, Frank Bosworth, Mark Carrel, Robert Clarke, Richard Dana, J F Drexler, Troy Howard, Jared Ingersol, John Kilgore, Hunter Liggett, J K Lucas, John Morgan.
Lauran Bosworth Paine was born February 25, 1916 in Minnesota and has written more than 900 books.

–WOW-

Have you read anything by him?

Published in: on December 12, 2010 at 7:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Wyoming in Summer

Second night in a row I am setting out on the patio enjoying another beautiful Wyoming evening. We pay for it when winter comes but summers are spectacular.  Seventy-one degrees, southwest breeze and 27 percent humidity can’t beat it. Last night we sat outside until ten-thirty, put the blankets over us about nine. Temperature went down to 48 last night but back around 80 today.

Published in: on August 12, 2010 at 1:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fort Robinson, Nebraska

Took a day trip to Fort Robinson to do some research yesterday. Always good to go back again. This is my fifth or sixth trip to Fort Rob and I always come away with something new, plus we ate a great lunch at the post cafe. Fort Fobinson and the Red Cloud agency are such a big part of Sioux history that it is a must visit for anyone who loves the old west and it’s history. Crazy Horse was killed on a site at the fort and remains to this day a spot of reverance to Native people and history buffs alike. The fort also has some world war one and two history with the United States Army Calvary and Canine Core.