Thursday, September 29, 2011

All's Fair in Love and War

Here is an excerpt from an old book published in 1904, Old Put, the Patriot, by Frederick A. Ober, relating one deception by "Old Put" during the Revolutionary War. "Old Put" is General Israel Putnam, a valuable soldier and leader under Washignton.

"It was with only the "skeleton of an army" that Washington, on the eighth of December, crossed the Delaware at Trenton, less than three thousand troops remaining by him then. Cornwallis and his soldiers were not far behind, during a portion of that gloomy retreat, a few days measuring the distance between the rival armies; but they did not catch up with the Americans at that time.

"The very day after his arrival at Trenton Washington ordered Putnam to Philadelphia, where he was placed in absolute command, and where he displayed the same energy and integrity of purpose that had always animated him hitherto. He had been a sustaining force to the Commander-in-Chief on that march across New Jersey, and of the few generals who had stood by him, no one had endured with less complaint or performed with more alacrity than Old Put. He was one upon whom to rely in the proposed scheme of fortifying the city, and his long experience at entrenching made him peculiarly fit for the work.

"His sturdy nature, good sense, and ready wit made him at once a favorite with the Continental Congress and the Committee of Safety; though the former, acting on his advice, soon left the city for the greater security of Baltimore. Putnam soon placed the city under martial law, drafted all the citizens, except the Quakers, into the military service, and put the place in the best posture for defense of which it was capable. "There were foes within the city as well as foes without," for the Tory element was strong in Philadelphia, and it was because of it that Putnam was unable to cooperate with Washington when he dealt the enemy the first of those telling blows at Trenton and Princeton. He dared not withdraw his men from the city, even for a short absence, in order to create a diversion while his Commander- in-Chief made the direct attack. Had he done so, and also the other generals to whom were entrusted the details of this affair, the Hessians might have been entirely cut off in their retreat from Trenton and practically destroyed. As it was, Putnam held to his command in Philadelphia, and soon had the pleasure of entertaining some of the Hessian captives, for whom he was obliged to provide quarters while passing through the city.

"It must have fretted him vastly to be kept in Philadelphia while Washington was pursuing the very tactics he himself would have used against the enemy. After his first success Washington ordered Putnam out to Crosswicks, a small place southeast of Trenton, "a very advantageous post" for him to hold while his superior was planning his descent upon Princeton. On the 5th of January, after Washington had launched his thunderbolt at Princeton (of his intention to do which Putnam had been informed by a letter from his adjutant, written at midnight preceding that eventful third of January, 1777), he wrote at length to his trusty friend and General: "It is thought advisable for you to march the troops under your command to Crosswicks, and keep a strict watch up on the enemy in that quarter. If the enemy continue at Brunswick you must act with great circumspection, lest you meet with a surprise. As we have made two successful attacks upon the enemy by the way of surprise, they will be pointed with resentment, and if there is any possibility of retaliating they will attempt it. You will give out your strength to be twice as great as it is. Forward on all the baggage and scattered troops belonging to this division of the army as soon as may be."

"In accordance with Washington's suggestion as to the augmenting of the number of his men, Putnam availed himself of the request of a wounded British officer, who was his prisoner, that a friend in Cornwallis's army might be sent for to make his will, to practice a ruse. It was in Princeton, whither he had been ordered from Crosswicks. As he had but a few hundred men, in order to prevent his weakness from being known to the military visitor he was brought in after dark, all the windows in the college buildings and private houses were lighted up, "and the handful of troops paraded about to such effect during the night that the visitor, on his return to the British camp, reported the force under the old general to be at least five thousand strong!" In this manner the shrewd but kind-hearted Putnam complied with his prisoner's request, and at the same time turned it to his own and his soldiers' advantage.

"Having failed in his attempt to "bag that old fox" (Washington), Lord Cornwallis had scurried back to protect his baggage and communications at New Brunswick, while Washington ensconced himself in the rugged country about Morristown, and Putnam was left to protect the lowlands and harass the enemy. So effectually did he perform the latter that his aggregate of prisoners taken during the winter exceeded the number captured by Washigton at Trenton, and his captures of wagons laden with provisions for the enemy were highly important."

I put this in a blog post for a couple of reasons. One was to highlight the book, Old Put the Patriot, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading since in it I found out where one of my ancestor's was killed or died in the Revolution and where Old Put escaped from the British, at Horseneck along the Connecticut coast. And the other is to note the deception carried out by Old Put re the number of troops. This ruse was used throughout the centuries, if I may say so, and also in the West where the cowboys on a ranch or cornered in the hills were paraded to make the attackers think there were more than there were, and at the forts that were surrounded by the Indians and being attacked. These have been depicted in the movies.

Here is a picture of the cover of the book:

Old Put escaping from the British at Horseneck. The British soldiers at the top of the picture are not too legible in this scan, but look fine in the illustration inside the book, which is available at Project Gutenberg.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Recent Purchases

Additions to my To Be Read List:

1. Man on the Run by Giles Lutz, winner of the Spur Award for Honyocker and a prolific Western writer.
2. Man in the Saddle by Ernest Haycox. We've all heard of him.
3. Tough County by Frank Bonham. Wrote Westerns and other genres.
4. Single Jack by Max Brand. Well Known Western writer.
5. Sackett by Louis L'Amour. Can't add anything to this author's credits.
6. To the Far Blue Mountains by Louis L'Amour.
7. Galloway by Louis L'Amour.
8. The Daybreakers by Louis L'Amour, number three of The Sacketts.
9.Guns of the Timberlands by Louis L'Amour. On all of these L'Amour books his name on the cover is at least twice the size of the title.
10. The Fastest Gun in Texas by J. T. Edson, an English author who "had no desire to live in the wild west or ride a horse." (See Wikipedia article on J. T. Edson) Has sold over 11 million books!!!! Still alive and kicking, see his Facebook page.
11. A Death in Indian Wells by Lewis B. Patten. Wrote MANY westerns.
12. West of the Wolverine by Paul Evan Lehman.
13. The Feud at Single Shot by Luke Short. One of my favorite authors.
14. Knights of the Range by Zane Grey. Nothing more needs to be said about Mr. Grey.
15. Raccoon John Smith by Louis Cochran. 1899-1974. Mr. Cochran was a former FBI agent and spy for the Air Force during WWII.

16.Reflections from the Wilderness by Stoney Greywolf Bowers, published by Moonlight Mesa Associates, Inc., a book of poetry from his life as a cowboy.

Many good books to read and not enough time in the day. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Excerpt from Chapter 12, The Upamona Gold Claim Wrangle, my second novel:

     The fire in the stove was nothing but ashes when old man Sanglant was aroused from his slumber by a loud banging on his front door followed by someone yelling.
     "You in the there, Mr. Sanglant? I'm here to get my buggy! It's Bishop Priest!"
     "Hold on there, Bishop. I'll be right out. Just got to get my trousers on and some boots. Hold on!"
     He sat on the bed for a minute, trying to wake up. He felt the bump on the back of his head and on his back below the shoulders and reached for his pants. "I'm a little stiff and sore this morning after that tumble," he mumbled to himself. He pulled on his boots and stomped to the door.
     "Morning to you, Bishop," said Sanglant. "I had a late night and woke up with a big knot on my head and a sore back. How are you this morning? Can I get you a cup of coffee? I need something like that to help me get awake. Come in a minute."
     He hadn't noticed, nor did the Bishop, that he was walking upright, as he turned around and went toward the stove.
     "I don't care for any coffe, but I'll visit with you while you drink some," said the Bishop following Sanglant. "Is Slim around this morning? I'd like to ask him a couple questions about yesterday."
     "Nope, he ain't . Not here and I don't know where he went. He didn't have nothing to do with shooting Mr. Toller, though. He told me it was Graves that done it. That Graves and Fish are no-goods. Don't know why Slim hired them in the first place," Sanglant said, taking a seat by the kitchen table after starting a fire in the stove to heat up his coffee.
     "It just occurred to me Mr. Sanglant. Stand up, will you, and let me get a good look at you." 
     Sanglant stood up as requested like anybody would.
     "What's going on here, Sanglant? You're not all bent over like before. You just been acting like that for some reason?"
     "My God, Bishop! You're right, and I didn't even notice it. Just seemed like the normal thing I do every day. This is a miracle, Bishop. Let me walk around a bit to make sure I'm actually standing up straight. By God, this is something, ain't it? I can stand straight. It must've been that tumble from the wagon. Woops. Bishop, I didn't mean to take the Lord's name in vain, I didn't. But, by God, this is a miracle, ain't it? I can just see me now. I don't have to look at all those damn rocks and dirt anymore. I can parley with the horses face to face now. By God. Oops. Sorry, Bishop. That just slipped out."
      "You better sit down before you break your back again and tell me, where's my buggy that you stole last night? You're a lucky man, Sanglant. Yessir, a lucky man, I say, and if God wasn't my witness, you'd be in a heap of trouble. But, I know that you didn't do it with any bad intentions with all the excitement going on at the store, and we both have just witnessd the Lord's work in standing you up straight again, so I ain't going to do anything about it as long as my horse and new buggy is still in good condition. If you'll just tell me where you hid it, I'll get it and be on my way. And I'll expect you in church Sunday to thank the Lord for his blessings."

Copyrighted material.

This book is available at at the Kindle Store and other fine bookstores.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Thirty Days to the Most Powerful Vocabulary

Recently I picked up a copy of 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary with the intention of actually learning more words to add to my mental dictionary. Immediately upon arriving home (well, it wasn't exactly immediately, say two or three days later), I dug right into it, eyes wide open, brain waiting to absorb, and hands turning the pages. YES, I said to myself, this is exactly what I need. I'll be able to throw in my books all sorts of big and little words, so much so that it will amaze everyone how my writing has improved. Ambidexterous, now that's a big word that carries a lot of meaning, I'll just file it away in the lobes of me brain for good use. I didn't learn that word in that book, though. I heard somebody say it when I was maybe 14 or 15 and it has stuck with me ever since. See what I mean about learning and building your vocabulary.

But the heck of it is, I haven't found a place in my writing to actually put it in a spot where it will do the most good. I thought about using it in a sentence describing a two-handed gunslinger, you know, "Slim Jim was ambidexterous all right. He plugged Black John with both barrels at the same time, he did." HELL, we all know that no cowboy talked thataway, so I've never used it. It's too multifarious for anything like that.

I buckled down and ensconced my schnozzola in the pages of that book and before you knew it, I had another word pop into my cerebellum, "scorbutic," a perfect word to put in a description somewhere, if I can just find where. AHA! Found it. "Joe looked scorbutic lying on that scurvy laden bear skin." Nope. We all know that bears don't have scurvy, only humans. At least, I never heard of it. I guess maybe it would fit, he could still look that way to the beholder, but it isn't a very good word.

Well that's enough for the first day. What a great book! I've already learned two new words just by opening it up, even though they weren't in there. I can see my writing improving already.          

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More "Saloons of the Old West"

True to my word for a change, here's some more words on the subject book:

Chapter 4's heading is Walnut, Glass and Brass, and it discusses the interior decoration of the saloons with descriptions and photos of some of the large wooden bars and mirrors that the owners put up to entice the "red noses." They were quite a contrast to the dreary exteriors of many of the buildings in the old west.  

Chapter 5 explains the bartenders, and talks about some of the characters, good and bad, who mixed the drinks good and bad, and tells of one of the females punching out a heavyweight boxer.

Chapter 6 - Painting One's Nose discusses the customers, the various types of drinkers up until Prohibition sets in. The cowboys, miners, those passing through towns, salesmen, politicians, their drinking habits and attitudes.

Chapter 7 reviews the concoctions drunk by the miners, cowboys, easterners, and everyone else and how much. Some of the drinks were laced with turpentine, gun powder, chili peppers, fusil oil, and what have you. Anything that was handy was added, good or not. The "firewater" was terrible, but was made that way to show the Indians it wasn't plain, old water and the seller would light it up to demonstrate that it wasn't water.

Chapter 8 goes on about the sleeping arrangements and the food provided in the saloons. From the downright nasty-tasting starters to the luxurious offerings of the gold strike days, even a short bit on the Harvey Girls and also the Free Lunch days.

Chapter 9 covers the uses of the saloons for preaching and funerals. It describes some of the history and early preachers of the west - the fire and brimstone types to the more normal preachers who drank and ones who didn't, the con artists who used religion to buy his poke and sleeping accommodations, and the saloon as a funeral parlor - A pretty funny chapter.

Chapter 10 reviews the meteing out of justice by the judges and juries in the old west. Some of the sentences handed down were humorous and some (most, it seems) deadly. As an example, in Montana a man was hung after he was killed by the hometowners as being "dangerous."

More in a later post after I catch up on reading.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Richard Erdoes, Author

Before I get to Mr. Erdoes, I would like to remind everyone of the  western short-story competition at Check it out for submission guidelines, rules, etc. I had a problem when I tried this link, even though it tested fine. If you have the same problem, just enter it into your browser and hit search. And be sure to check out the website, it's terrific!

Now, on to Mr. Erdoes. Richard Erdoes wrote several books about the West and the American Indians and I ran across one of his books, Saloons of the Old West, a few months ago not having heard of him. I looked him up on the internet and found a newspaper, The Lakota Country Times, which had an article about him on July 24, 2008. The article stated that he had passed away at the age of 96.and the funeral was held July 22, 2008, at the El Rancho de la Golondrinas in Santa Fe, NM. (See article here:

Some blogs may have already mentioned his death, but it's new to me, and I'm really enjoying his Saloons... , and have written about it once or twice before (last time was May 29). I can't believe it's been four months, but I've had many interruptions, and like I've said before, I'm a slow reader, getting slower all the time.

Mr. Erdoes came from Austria and joined in the marches and meetings of the American Indian Movement and was also a Photographer and Illustrator. His many books include, Lame Deer, American Indian Myths & Legends, Legends and Tales of the American West, The Sun Dance People, and others.

Next post, will have some more on Saloons of the Old West.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Labor Day is Over

[NOTE:  The picture in the heading is BOOT HILL. At least that's what we called it as kids growing up in this small town in northeast UT. Several relatives are buried there, including my older sister and her husband, an aunt and uncle, and others. The town is no longer there, but the ranches and some of the houses are still around.] 

Wow, what a weekend! It is memorable from all the inactivity that took place in my house. We have the habit.... or I should say I have the habit.....of asking the wife if she wants to go somewhere and eat breakfast. I find that getting out first thing livens up my system and prepares it for the day. Most of the time the wife answers in the affirmative, but not always and Labor Day was such that she preferred to eat out.  We went to a local restaurant and I had a fine breakfast of biscuits and gravy, the "artery clogger" from all the sausage fat and gravy fat and what have you fat, a true western-type belly favorite. The wife had a bagel, fried on the grill, with cream cheese and a small "jugo de  naranja" (orange juice). Labor Day was off to a terrific start.

While waiting for the fat to arrive, I observed the other patrons surreptitiously. Just the other day I overheard a lady telling her dinner companion that "if you don't have a walker, a wheelchair, or a cane, you're not allowed in here," and she let out a squeal of laughter at her little joke. I laughed too, because I thought it was pretty funny as I thought about it. The population of Sun City is 99% old people and we all have to eat somewhere. I commented to the wife, "And on top of that, most of them have to drive here, too," which I thought was even funnier. I don't mean this in a mean or derogatory way, it's more like the character of the old guy on the Carol Burnett Show, Tim Conway, as he barely could walk all bent over with a cane, "running" across the stage. Funny! About half the times we go there, I hold the door for somebody having a hard time getting in or out, and once in awhile I'll ask the wife, "Which one is doing the driving?" 

But I have to hand it to the older people, they still have enough interest to get out and about even if they do have an accident now and again, and I say more power to 'em. They don't let minor inadequacies get in their way of having a good time. The lady down the street is in her nineties and she still drives, albeit not much. She drove herself to a party a couple doors up the street last Saturday night and may have had a glass or two of wine (or may not). She pretty much keeps her driving to the length of the street, since she can't walk as good as she used to. And the feller on the other end is approaching 95, if a day, and he just stopped riding his bicycle around the neighborhood. I saw him out trimming his rosebushes a few days ago.

Once you lose interest in doing anything, you may as well cash in your chips, because it's about over anyway. That reminds me, I have a class tonight on something or other that I signed up for a couple months ago. I'll have to get there early (my bedroom office) and turn on the PC to get it warmed up and sign in. I sure hope it isn't a waste of time, since my time is running short in the overall scheme of things. But, then I got that book signing to go to in Sedona next month. I hope I don't have an accident on the way up there. I'd sure hate to miss that. 

I better get back to my book writing. Give me a hand, will you? My right leg is a little off kilter today. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I've probably put a few instances in my scribblings that may have required or been susceptible to relating an occurrence with words similar to this, but I don't think I would use them in a western, as I think it is too fancy and high-minded. What I'm talking about is James Fenimore Cooper putting these words in the mouth of his Doctor Battius pondering his recognition of the beekeeper in his book, The Prairie, which appears on page 105 of the Signet Classic paper back:

     "The principal characteristics of your countenance, friend," he said, "are familiar; either you or some other specimen of your class is known to me."

Of course, it fits right in with the language used by the doctor, so it isn't out of place here, but I think it would be a prelude to an altercation of sorts, if someone had said that to one of my cowboy characters.

     "Why you horn-tailed ole devil callin' me a spess'mun of sum'thin er other will git ye a ribcage full of .45 cairtrijes if'n ya think ya know me er not. I'll be damned if'n I ain't no friend a yer'n!" the so-called stranger said, pulling his long-barreled pistol and aiming it at the little man in a black suit and neck-squeezing string tie who was taking a bite of dripping buffalo hump.

Anyway, that's why I enjoy reading old books like The Prairie and Wolfville that are written and published with the reflection of the language in use that the author deemed fit for the circumstances, as compared to today, when publishers require that there be no dialects or slangish use. It's just too hard for the readers to plow through! No, I think it is the printers, editors, and publishers who don't want to put in the extra effort thinking it won't sell. And it may not, but I'm just a cantankerous old conservative who likes things the way they are or were.



Thursday, September 1, 2011

Excerpt from novel

Here's a page from Chapter 3 of tentatively titled The Long-time Posse. Cyrus Ocklund, Sheriff of High Bench, has hired a Ute to be his deputy since no white man wanted the job after the former deputy was found strangled to death. 
Billy Yellowtree [nickname Custard - explained in Chap 2] was 24 years old, still unmarried as far as I knew, at least, that's what he told me, and somewhat egotistical, vain, and arrogant. He wore his hair in two long braids that hung down in front over his shoulders most of the time, tied at the ends with red ribbon, no headband, but had a gray cowboy hat to shade his brown eyes.
     Custard was sitting behind the desk in my chair with his moccasined feet resting on the desktop and his hat pulled down over his upper face sound asleep, I thought, when I returned to the office.

     "I wouldn't do that, if I were you, Sheriff," said the Ute, stopping me from pushing his legs off the desk.

     I looked at him, not believing what I heard, and then I saw the pistol aimed at my chest.

    "Whoa, now, Custard, ain't that a little drastic, pulling your gun on the boss?" 

     The Ute let out a loud laugh, "Got you there, Boss. You thought I was sawing logs as the white men say, but I was wide awake watching to see what you were going to do."

     He put his feet on the floor and stood up with a big smile on his face.

     "That ain't very funny," I said, "but you got me all right. Don't you ever sleep?"

     "You bet. I'm going to go lie down right now on that cot in the cell and sleep 'til I wake up."

     "Don't you want to go home for awhile?"

     "This my home now," he said,  laying down and turning his face to the wall after taking off his moccasins and hanging his hat on a wooden peg.

     I sat down at the desk for a few minutes, and then got up and walked to the post ofice.

     "How you doing today, Sheriff? Got any leads yet on who might've killed Hank?" asked the postmaster.

     "Nothing yet, Fred. Did I get any mail this time?"

     "Just one envelope, is all. I hear you hired a Ute for a deputy?"

     "Mighty fine deputy he is, too," I said.

     "The town ain't going to like that."

     "They might not like it today, but they will, mark my words," I said, going out the door.

{Copyrighted material.]