Sunday, May 29, 2011

Salons, Saloons, Bars, Inns, Roadside Stops

The local saloon plays a big part in cowboy movies no matter what their origin or name with all the rootin', tootin' and shootin' that takes place in them, and in my novels a lot of the action takes place in the saloon or pool hall. So, when I ran across Saloons of the Old West by Richard Erdoes, I had to have it. The narrative is 251 pages written in double column on each page, and has a three-column section for the Notes, Bibliography, Acknowledgements and Index from page 255 to 277. It can't help but be interesting and enervating and packed with useful information and history.

So far, I've read only the first three chapters covering some of the history and development of that place we stop in to have a cool drink now and then, or oftener, and a good meal. I can barely frame a picture in my mind of some of the earlier "saloons" that are described, having only the bare necessities for a thirst-buster made out of who knows what and whatever else the seller thinks will make it taste good or better. When the old cowboy says, "Name yer pizen," that may have been just what it was.

Too bad I can't devote myself to a sit-down-and-read-all-of-it-in-one-sitting event, but there are just too many other things that must be done. Right now, I have to get ready to go to downtown Glendale for something or other, but I am anxious to get back to the book.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blog to follow

A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail notification from Elaine Ash announcing her blog "Ashedit" at Of course, I took a look at it and am now following it as time permits. She covers short story writing, but concentrates on crime and the more far out subjects, fantasy, horror, etc., and has interviews and other info on writers, writing, etc. Her latest post is about H. P. Lovecraft where she interviews the editors of Historical Lovecraft, Tales of Horror Through Time, Sylvia Moreno-Garcia and Paula R. Stiles.

Ninety-five per cent or more of my time dwells on writing westerns, but I do read on other subjects from time to time and "Ashedit" is one of those where I will be spending some of my time. If you write crime, horror, scifi short stories, take a peek if you haven't already.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Yesterday, we attended a wedding outside in the backyard under the citrus trees next door. The weather was nice, not too hot yet with a little breeze, perfect for an outdoor event. The people getting married were two former marrieds ready to tie the knot again. It started with a nice buffet of an egg casserole (delicious), fruit salad, nuts, and various sweet buns and cake-like bread accompaniments and attended by about thirty-forty friends and family of the principals.

As soon as everyone had filled their desire for food, the music was stopped and the ceremony commenced with the pastor (or preacher, bishop, reverend, father, brother) standing with the two under a sign on a tree that read "The knot-tying tree." By the way, the tree trunks, which are normally painted white to protect the bark from the sun, were painted with added black polka dots, the theme of the party. My great-grandson said they look like cows. Where was I? Oh, yes, the man of the cloth read off the where's and what-for's to the bride and groom, and the bride and groom read off their vows to each other, and the preacher pronounced them man and wife.

The Groom kissed the Bride and the music started up again with a slam bang song sung by the old cowboy himself, Gene Autry, "Back in the Saddle Again," which I thought was quite appropriate. The champagne was poured and the party really commenced. We went on home and my wife said, "Nice little ceremony," to which I said "Uh-huh."  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Publicity for the Western (?)

I watched Dancing with the Stars night before last, well about two-thirds of it anyway, and saw the repeat of the Western song, "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy." At least the dancers were dressed in Western clothes, sort of. And I say anything that promotes the Old West is fine with me. The performance was a repeat of the most popular dance that the production has ran over the years. I would give credit where credit is due, but I didn't hear who wrote it, sang it, or whatever, just the dancing, and this morning I can't remember who the dancers were. They were winners or placers in a previous show.

I doubt that the performance will encourage anyone to go read a Western, though, since that wasn't the emphasis of the show. It would have been nice, however, if Tom Bergeron or Brooke Burke (whistle, whistle) had actually said something along the line of "Now, buy the book," or "Go read a cowboy novel," just as an ad lib, or maybe one of the dancers could have squeezed it in.

Now, someone who does promote the Old West and the reading of western stories is Gary Dobbs (Jack Martin) of Take a gander at his blog to see the books he has written and the info about the West he blogs about. Just day before yesterday he posted an article on the only Billy the Kid photograph which is going up for auction and expected to bring in a ton of moolah. Also see the True West magazine article on the same thing (    

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Opinions On Certain Inventions And The West, First Edition

One of the inventions that comes immediately to mind is the "bullet," which had an awesome effect on the Western way of life of some people. It took a lo-n-g, lo-n-g time for the bullet to be made feasible in fast-firing guns and rifles, from 1260 to the 1800's. If it had taken another hundred years, it would have been overtaken by other inventions that would have eliminated or had a devastating effect on the movies of John Wayne and other western heroes as there wouldn't have been any fast draws and maybe the casualty rates of the World Wars would have been ameliorated somewhat. The outcome of a World war with old-fashioned weapons maybe would have been different, too. The Indians might have won out with their bows and arrows in our little wars, too..

The invention of chewing gum should have had a more intrusive effect on cowboying and smoking. Chewing gum was supposed to be a great substitute for a cigarette, but I don't recall ever seeing a movie where Mr. Wayne opened a pack of gum before shooting a bad guy, but several had to have a last cigarette. The first factory to make chewing gum was opened in 1870, right in the middle of the cowboy and outlaw heyday, and there should have been much more chewing of gum instead of smoking the stogy or ciggy. Some of the saloons were so thick with smoke and tobacco juice that you couldn't see a person standing six feet away. That's a mite exaggerated, but if  only they chewed gum, there would have been less lung disease and cancer, maybe.

Dynamite blasting caps, invented by Alfred Nobel (Father of the Peace Prize?? Yes, the one and the same. Photo below.) in 1863. You can blame all those safes that were blown up in the banks and the train tracks destroyed on Mr. Nobel. It sure has made movies exciting, though. And there were even a few dams blown to Kingdom's come by water-starved Westerners, I hear. If Mr. Nobel had opened a pack of chewing gum and thought about it, we may not have all that chaos and destruction. I wonder if he ended his life with a bullet? No, he didn't.

One more today. Alfredo Binetti or Alfred Binet invented the first intelligence test, later known as IQ test in 1911 or thereabouts. He started studying children in 1899 and wrote a book, Experimental Studies of Intelligence (in translation) in 1903 which set the stage for later tests. Hmm-mm. 1899? Almost missed the whole Western era. Maybe if he had came along, say, in 1869 and threw some light on the matters of intelligence, there wouldn't have been so many crazy outlaws running around shooting people, like Billy the Kid and the like. I'm not saying Billy was unintelligent. I'm saying that if he had a psychiatrist back then before he began shooting people, he may have turned out a better person, and an IQ test may have gotten him on the right path. That's all I'm saying.

Photo of Alfred Nobel in public domain due to copyright expiration (Wikimedia). 


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Oregon Cow Rancher

I ran across this old book in an antique store and couldn't pass it up, Pete French, Cattle King, by Elizabeth Lambert Wood, copyright 1951 by the author and published by the Metropolitan Press, Portland, Oregon. The book is a fictional biography of Pete French, who became the biggest cattle rancher in southeast Oregon.

Mr. French was a dreamer ever since his father sent him to work for Doctor Glenn in Jacinto, California, and even in Red Bluff, his hometown, before going south to Jacinto. Red Bluff is south of Redding on the Sacramento River and north of Chico. His dream that kept recurring to him was of a valley in Oregon that he could settle and raise cattle. Doctor Glenn was the person who set him up with that ranch in Harney County after a few years working for him. Pete set about building up the ranch and adding more cattle, even building a big ranch house for his future wife, Ella Glenn, who he had his eyes on since she was eight years' old. They eventually got married, but Ella was a different person than the young girl he knew at Dr. Glenn's house. She wouldn't live on the ranch, hated cattle and anything to do with country life, and lived in San Francisco at the Palace Hotel with money provided by Pete. And he had a lot of it by then, and she lived high on the hog in her very cultured way, while Pete handled the ranching.  He had dreams still and he always wanted a bigger ranch, the biggest in Oregon and anywhere else, he dreamed, even though he had thirty thousand cattle and all the land around, it wasn't enough for him. He bought out all the small settlers and ranches around and kept expanding his territory. Over time, he and Ella were divorced, and the small ranchers and settlers were building up a hatred for Pete French, aided by a fellow named Long John, who finally skipped the country because he was playing both sides.

This was a well written book to my way of thinking, even though it was "encumbered" by a feminine style of writing, very cultured in its way, not like the Luke Short or Max Brand style of writing with action being predominant. Anyway, that was the impression I was left with upon finishing it. I enjoyed the reading of it and recommend that if you run across it, don't look at it and put it down, take it home for a couple of hours of recreational reading if you haven't already read it.

The dust jacket was pretty well worn, needing to be mended with scotch tape. I like the sketch of the loner on his horse, exactly the type that Mr. French was.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Luke Short's "Dead Freight for Piute"

Cole Armin comes to Piute at the request of his Uncle Craig Armin, the owner of the Monarch Freight Company. After the meeting, Cole decides that his uncle is not a fair dealer and wants to prevent any competition hauling the ore from the mines. Cole goes into partnership with Ted Wallace of the Western Freight Co. and tries to beat the Monarch from getting the contract for the China Boy mine. The struggle continues through thick and thin as the Sheriff, supposedly in cahoots with Monarch, plans to get it all himself. Ted Wallce has a beautiful sister, of course, to throw in some love interest and Cole Armin falls for her. Its a dicey game, with Keen Billings who works for Craig Armin, plays dirty tricks on Cole and Ted, like breaking Ted's leg and fighting with Cole, cutting brake handles part way to ruin the freight wagons as they come down the hill, etc.

Lots of fighting and shooting and jailing and flirting and wagons tumbling off the side of the mountain that keeps the story interesting. There is a big surprise as it gets toward the end and the Sheriff's plans are ruined and the bad guys are chased out of town or killed and the good guys win out. Hooray!

I put this book in my car to read while I waited for the wife to visit the quilt shops, grocery store, beauty parlor, and various other places, but I finally finsihed it and it was a fine book, not your typical cowboys and cattle rustling story, and I couldn't wait to get back to it during the wating to find out what happens next.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Reading and Writing

Once upon a time I participated in a speed-reading course. It's been so long ago that I don't correctly remember where or when. I do remember running a finger down the middle of the page and absorbing all the words in every line. Maybe this was a vision test to see how far I could see laterally, but on second thought, I'm sure it was speed-reading. And the funny (or good) thing was, I fairly well absorbed what was on the page, not word-for-word mind you, but thought-wise. And I remembered it for at least ten seconds, or maybe only a second or two, long enough to get onto the next page and the next set of thoughts. It was a good thing I wasn't tested on the results, because my mind was on something else after a page or two while still going through the motions of speed-reading. Maybe I absorbed what I read subconsciously and could only remember the facts by being hypnotized and coughing them up from my inner soul. Maybe if I had used my middle finger or even my thumb, it would have helped recall the facts better, since I used only my forefinger, and it isn't as big and absorbed less than the thumb or middle finger or even two fingers. I could have been a "Whiz Kid" maybe if I had used my whole hand.

Also in the distant past I had the opportunity to learn shorthand, the Gregg Method, something that I enjoyed and never used in real life. I learned it twice, matter of fact, twice. By the time I had the chance to use it after the first course, I had forgotten it and had to re-learn it all over again. I could listen to conversations and take 'em down right along with it, but of course, I never did, since it was impractical to carry around a notebook and a pencil or two. It would've interefered with my regular duties, e.g., drinking socially and eating ravenously. And it wasn't long before I had forgotten all about shorthand, except for a few words like "and" and "the" and "there" or "their" and "but" or "butt". If I'd become a journalist, it would have been my lifeline. Of course, I would've had to learn to spell though.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Bloody Gulch

The Bloody Gulch is my next novel and am hoping to have it out sometime this year. I've finished proof-reading it two or three times, but am rewriting parts of it that don't do much in moving the plot along. It seems like every time I get into the middle of writing it, Walgreen's Pharmacy calls to tell me I have a prescription to pick up. I admit I take a few prescriptions, about half of which are supplements that are prescribed, and the other half regular prescription drugs for one thing and another. The doctors have to make money somehow, they tell me. If it isn't a prescription its a lab test that I have to have.
See how it is, I'm off the subject already, and keeping up with all the blogs takes time, but I don't want to miss anything that I like or think important concerning writing and what-all. I guess I'm just the world's biggest complainer. Maybe if I stopped complaining and devoted that time to writing, I would have been finished with The Bloody Gulch. It isn't like I don't have anything else to complain about, I do, of course. They used to tell me that if you weren't bitching about something you weren't happy. I guess I'm just the happiest feller you ever did meet.