Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bloody Dawn by Thomas Goodrich

Bloody Dawn, The Story of the Lawrence Massacre, by Thomas Goodrich, published by the Kent State University Press, was in the third printing when I bought it. It tells the story through detailed research of the raid on Lawrence, Kansas, in the 1860's during the Civil War. This raid was very uncivil and conducted by Quantrill with a force of 400 men. Arriving in Lawrence practically undetected, they proceeded to decimate the town with very little opposition.

This raid was the Missouri bushwhackers answer to all the raids by the Jayhawkers on the border with Missouri. The jayhawkers were regularly going into the border towns and killing, stealing, and setting fire to the buildings and crops of the Missourians, because the bushwhackers were doing the same to Kansas all in the name of slavery-anti-slavery. Kansas was determined not to become a slave State and helped the black people escape with the Underground Railroad. And the people of Missouri accepted slavery and were upset by the Kansas politicians freeing the slaves. So, the cross-border raids continued right up into the Civil War. Quantrill finally got together around 400 men and sneaked into Kansas and was going to put an end to the raids on Missouri.

The account in the book details the house-by-house slaughter and burning of the houses of the influential Kansans who were blamed most for the dastardly and cowardly attacks across the border.
It was a bloody and gory attack with the Lawrence men being shot, knifed, and burned to death, and some of the women were casualties, too. There was advance notice of Quantrill, but due to mix-ups and plain sloppiness of the men in charge, Lawrence didn't get the message until it was too late. There were about 150 casualties and about 50% of the houses burned. Of course, the people of Lawrence who were left in the militia and the Federal troops took off on the trail of Quantrill after the disaster but couldn't quite catch up with the main body due to the tactics of Quantrill, and he escaped, never to be heard of again, practically.  There were bushwhackers who came back into Missouri later up the Sni Valley supposedly led by Quantrill after General Order No. 11 was put forth by General Ewing. This order had the troops clearing out all the people along the border in Missouri and they chased "Old Pap", General Price, and his Rebel troops out of Missouri, too, after having almost reached St. Louis.

Quantrill was wounded in one of the last battles of the Civil War in Kentucky, dying a month or so later at the age of twenty-seven.

I was a little bored by some of the book as the author enumerated the different men killed and how they died. It took several chapters to cover that. The narrative skips back and forth between the years that made it a little confusing in the beginning. Despite this, I enjoyed reading about the raid, even though it was bloody, and recommend it to those who are interested in Kansas and Missouri history and the Civil War, not to mention Quantrill. There was very little said about John Brown, but he was a little earlier, and I'm sure his anti-slavery stance may have carried over to the raid on Lawrence.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Short Western Stories - Killing Trail

Charles Gramlich has written this collection of short stories which includes the following shorts:

Killing Trail
Showdown at Wild Briar
Powder Burn
Once Upon a Time with the Dead

And also a couple of short essays.

Col Colman's choice was Showdown at Wild Briar as he states in his blog Col's Criminal Library where he reviewed the book. I also liked that story, but I choose Killing Trail as my favorite because it is a little longer and a more detailed plot and more characters (at least, to me). Charles explains his writing of this story in one of the essays, why he wrote it and what it is based on (Louis L'Amour) and uses his great imagination to compose the story.

Well, I liked the other stories, too. There is plenty of action and suspense to keep me glued to the pages in each of them. And I just wanted to add my two cents to the mix and let you know where I stand. And Mr. Gramlich's book about his beer drinking feats is a fun read, too.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Annie Get Your Gun

I see where Annie Get Your Gun is going to be playing at the Palms Theatre in Mesa, AZ, until the 14th of February. That isn't very long to take your chances and watch this musical performance.
Over the years from 1935 to 2014 there have been many musical performances, movies and TV series with the subject being Annie Oakley. In 1935, Barbara Stanwyck played Annie in a fictionalized film called Annie Oakley, In 1946, it was Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun, and others who have played in Annie movies, plays, and TV are Betty Hutton, Mary Martin, Gail Davis, Angela Douglas, Geraldine Chaplin, Diane Civila, Jamie Lee Curtis, Reba McEntire, Bernadette Peters, Susan Lucci, Cheryl Ladd, Crystal Bernard, Mary Lou Henner, Elizabeth Herridge, and all the others, amateur and professional who have represented her through the years.

Annie wrote a letter to President William McKinley offering to round up a company of fifty women sharpshooters who would furnish their own weapons and ammunition to fight in the war against Spain should it occur. And she trained at least 15,000 women in gun handling and sharpshooting over the years.She was a strong advocate for women being able to defend themselves with firearms. Sitting Bull named her Watanya Cicilla, Li'l Sharp Shooter, when she was in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show.

She married Frank Butler August 23, 1876 when she was sixteen years old and they went into business in their Sharpshooting show. She won 54 libel lawsuits against newspapers that cost her more than she got out of them. Huh. I thought that newspapers don't lie???

Anyway, I culled this out of Wikipedia, which has a fairly long bio and history of this lady of the targets who was always dead center with her shooting. A gun owner par excellence.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Writing Guide

Slim Randles' Saddle Up: A Cowboy's Guide to Writing tells you about everything you need to know about writing. Although he says no one can teach you how to write, he goes ahead and shows you by discussing the various aspects of writing for profit, for magazines, novels, and non-fiction. Slim Randles has been a writer in the newspaper world for a long time and he has also been busy writing fiction and non-fiction for about as long. If anybody knows how to write it is Slim, and he offers some very good advice to other struggling writers in his book.

He explains and shows how to write query letters, a must for any writer, not only for books but magazines, too, with examples. And he follows that up with a guide on interviewing, how to with samples of the art and explains the use of the valuable question "Why." And he tells you to leave your opinions out of the finished product. It isn't you being interviewed. He gives examples of people who may want to be interviewed or at least don't object to it, not only famous authors but almost anyone in any kind of endeavor. And he tells you how to get to the "kernel" of good stuff. And he has some examples of good writing in his book to show you how to do it.

A writer, struggling to be published or not will find some fine advice in this book and I recommend the book to those trying to become, or are already, an author. You just can't have too many books on the art of writing.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Something Completely Different

On Christmas Day, the family was gathered around in a crooked circle in the family room choosing White Elephant Christmas presents. I saw what looked like a book all wrapped up nice and neat and chose it. Guess what? It was a DVD. I announced the name of it and everyone started laughing and hooting. It was Revenge of the Nerds, Panty Raid Edition.
It was a hoot watching the Nerds win the games and take control of the clubs on campus. It started with a student not wanting to leave home and leave his mother. Definitely a Nerd. They get motoring down the highway with one of the boys' father driving (he's a Nerd, too.) at thirty-five miles per hour on the freeway with everyone honking their horns and yelling as they passed them.    

The two boys get to school and the fun starts with the athletic fraternity burning down their house by accident, and kicking the freshman out of their house to start life in the gym. The Nerds seek revenge and the athletes seek their revenge and the Nerds want revenge for that. The Nerds raid the sorority house and put cameras in strategic places so they can watch the girls flounce around in their undies (caution: there are some nudity clips involved, duh!). And the girls and the athletes seek revenge and it all comes to a head in the Greek carnival fiesta, and the Nerds win most of the games and take over the campus. A hoot and a holler!

I have to admit that I enjoyed watching the DVD and the old jokes playing out between the Nerds and the football team. A young John Goodman was the coach.

An Old West theme of the movie would be the Cattlemen versus the Sheepmen and their revengeful clashes to see who wins the West. Or the Good Guy versus the Bad Guy, or ...... etc.etc.

I can't recommend the movie for an Academy Ward or probably anything else, other than to kill an hour or two in an otherwise boring day.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Texas Ranger Jack Hays

I was in downtown Glendale, AZ, this past week escorting my wife, stepdaughter, granddaughter, and two great-grandkids while they looked around in the antique shops. After a great Italian lunch at the Piazza al Forno, they headed for the shops and I headed for the library. Before I even reached the inside, I ran across the only Western I could find in the pushcarts full of used books for sale. It is a non-fiction book (it appeared to me having an index and bibliography) by Curtis Bishop, entitled The First Texas Ranger Jack Hays, published by Julian Messner, NYC, in a 1962 Second Printing.

Jack Hays was a small, wiry, Tennesseean, who came west to Texas to join the fight with Sam Houston, his friend, against the Mexicans at San Jacinto at the age of nineteen. What followed was a life of fighting the Mexican guerrillas, banditos, the Mex Army, and the Comanche Indians. He arrived too late for the Battle of San Jacinto, but Texas President Houston sent him on a foray to the Rio Grande to check out the fortifications of Laredo expecting another invasion by Santa Anna. After a skirmish with some Mexican cavalry at the town of Chacon, Jack was assigned to check out Laredo, which he dutifully did and reported back to his Captain, "Deaf" Smith. Hays was promoted to Sergeant. Life became pretty dull for the troops and Jack was made a junior surveyor to earn some money while he was biding his time for an invasion by the Mexicans.

Along came the Comanches raiding the small towns and being a thorn in the side of the new Republic, Jack was given free reign to round up some volunteers to push back against the Indians, and he was careful about who he chose. They must be able to handle a mustang horse and shoot a five-shot revolver at the same time. The revolver made by Sam Colt had recently been received and Jack showed the volunteers how to use it to best advantage. This was the beginning of the Texas Rangers and they beat the Comanches at their own game with the new guns. Sam Walker and Bigfoot Wallace were among his volunteers.

Life was good to him, being made a Captain of the Rangers, and they did a stint with the U. S. Army after Texas joined the Union. The Rangers went into Mexico in 1846 in that fracas, and afterward he led the Rangers for many years eventually making Colonel.

He met a young Susan Calvert of Seguin, Texas, and was enamoured of her, eventually marrying her  and settling down. Hays was born Jan 28, 1817 and died April 21, 1883. The author, Curtis Bishop, died in 1967 and is buried in Austin, TX. At the time this book came out, Bishop had written over 30 books with a variety of subjects: sports, westerns, history and biogaphy, it says in "About the Author".

I found this book to be interesting, fast-paced, exciting, and entertaining. I recommend it if you haven't already read it.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Upcoming Arizona Events

Now that the holidays have come and gone, here are some events that you might want to attend:

Jan 10 - For the "green-thumbers", a Phoenix Rose Society Pruning Demonstraton at the Valley Garden Center, 1809 N. 15th Avenue, Phoenix, 623-581-3756.

Jan 10-11: Gathering of the Gunfighters, Yuma. Old West re-enactment groups ride into town for this annual event, at the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park, 1 Prison Hill Road, 928-783-4771.

Jan 17-18: Superstition Mountain Heritage/Apacheland Days! Western history family fun with Wild West re-enactments, gold panning, Native American artisans, etc.  4087 Apache Trail, 480-983-4888. In Apache Junction (where in hell is that?).

Jan 25: Pro-bowl in Glendale about a mile from my house at the University of Phoenix Stadium.

Jan 26-Feb 1: FanFest, Scottsdale. The ESPN gang broadcasts live as the fans go nuts experiencing culinary delights (what the hell is that?), fashion shows (what the hell is that?), and family fun (what the hell is that?).

Jan 28-Feb 1: Super Bowl Central. Here you'll find live NBC and NFL Network broadcasts, football-themed experiences, autographs, concerts, food trucks (what the hell is that?), and nightly fireworks at downtown Phoenix (3rd Street to Central Avenue and Jefferson to Monroe streets) (where in hell is that?).

Feb 1: Yahoo, the Superbowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium, Glandale. Who will play in it?

Jan 31-Feb 1: Civil War Days, in Yuma at the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, 201 N. 4th Avenue, 928-373-5196.

Feb 6-8: Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering in Sierra Vista, Buena High School Performing Arts Center, 5225 E. Bujena School Blvd, 520-249-3545.

Feb 12-22: Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show at Westworld, 16601 N. Pima Road, 480-515-1500. This will be the 60th year. Wow! Almost as old as I am.

(Thanks to AAA Highroads Magazine.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Ole Cranky in the header doesn't seem to be to happy that this new year has begun. He may lighten up later when he partakes of the feast to be laid out for dinner. This year we're having roast pork loin with mashed potatoes and gravy after some salad greens. And we'll be having green beans as one of the sides. Maybe boiled carrots, too. To chase it all down a glass of wine and coffee. And don't forget the dessert. Okay, I won't. How about some coconut cream pie? Sounds yummy. We'll bless the food and wish the poor people of Ireland a Happy New Year!

And to all, a HAPPY NEW YEAR!! May 2015 be the best year ever.