John Jakes Short Stories

Fall in the Mountains
I just finished, last evening, reading John Jakes book of short stories, The Bold Frontier. This collection covered much of Mr. Jakes writing career, stores from as far back as the 1950s. I especially enjoyed the first story in the book, The Western and How We Got It. That story gives a background of where and how the western genre started. Other than that, the stories run the gamut from traditional to a bit quirky.

Not everyone that reads westerns is a Jakes fan, but after reading all the books of his Kent Family Chronicles, many years ago, I then read his North and South Trilogy which included North and South, Love and War and Heaven and Hell. Guess that makes me a pretty big fan.

Oh, one last note, the 84-year-old Jakes is still alive and well, the Chicago native now lives in Flordia.

Seems like I am not getting much writing done lately. Might be I am enjoying the great fall weather a bit too much. The photos on today's post came from our ride out west of town this morning. We covered 85 miles enjoying the wildlife and fall colors along the way.

Keep on reading and keep on writing. 
Nice Black Bear, but lots of timber between him and us - probably a good thing.

Fort Laramie and the Old West

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.

 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. 
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.

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. 
Enjoying Time With Old Friends From The Class of '66'

A Ride With The President

In late May of 1903 the president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt,  rode 50 miles from Laramie to Cheyenne. The story is well known in Wyoming and to Roosevelt and presidential scholars. Not much has been said about those accompanying him, and I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the riders who rode with the president up the mountain trail.

Francis E. Warren - U.S. Senator from Wyoming
Warren was the man that did it all for the State of Wyoming. Served as territorial Governor twice before being elected as Wyoming's first governor. Shortly after becoming Governor he was elected to the Unites States Senate. Warren served as a Senator from 1890-93 then was elected again in 1895 and served until his death in 1929. At the time of his death, he had served longer than any other U.S. Senator and was the last Civil War Veteran to serve. Warren was also a Civil War Medal of Honor winner.  Warren's daughter married John J. Pershing in 1905. Pershing went on to lead the American Expeditionary Force in WWl.

Frank Hadsell - U.S. Marshal
Appointed a U.S. Marshall for Wyoming in 1872, Hadsell is best known as one of the posse leaders who tracked down Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch after the Wilcox Train Robbery.
Wild Bunch

Joe LeFors - Deputy U.S. Marshal
LeFors was appointed by Hadsell, reportedly after asking repeatedly. He bragged of being with Hadsell after the Wilcox Train Robbery but most likely was not. He did lead a posse after the Wild Bunch robbed the train at Tipton Wyoming. LeFors is best known for bringing in Tom Horn. In modern days LeFors name is well known among western movie lovers because it is mentioned as the mysterious man in the white hat chasing Butch and Sundance in the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

N.K. Boswell - Albany County Sheriff
Boswell was the first sheriff of Albany County and most responsible for cleaning up- actually; they strung them up – Laramie’s crooked Marshall Steve Long along with his half-brothers, Ace and Con. Today he may be best known as the man who built the historic N.K. Boswell Ranch south of Laramie near present day Wood’s Landing.

R.S. Van Tassell - Cheyenne area rancher
One of the largest landowners in Wyoming history. One of his holdings, his Laramie County Ranch, was where Roosevelt and his companions stopped several times and changed horses at least once was listed as approximately 21,000 acres. During the ride Van Tassell who was near 70 years old at the time set such a fast pace that President Roosevelt, nearly 30 years his junior, reportedly said, “Say, Van, you old rascal, I believe you're trying to show me up.” Van Tassell for much of the 50 plus mile ride rode his favorite mount, Gypsy. Van Tassell kept and rode a horse named Gypsy for more than 50 years. Obviously several different horses, but most certainly a good way to remember your horse's name.

Seth Bullock - Black Hills Forest Reserve Supervisor

A long time friend of the president. Bullock was a Lawman from Deadwood South Dakota, a position he took over the day after Wild Bill Hickock was murdered.  He met Roosevelt in 1884 when he was in Deadwood and Roosevelt was a lawman in North Dakota. Roosevelt once said of his friend, "Seth Bullock is a true Westerner, the finest type of frontiersman." Bullock, although never deployed was a captain in company A of Roosevelt's famous Roughriders. When Roosevelt was inaugurated, Bullock rode in the parade along with Tom Mix to honor his friend. It was Roosevelt, as president, that appointed Bullock to the position in the Black Hills.

Living in a Small Town

Since I have never lived in a town with more than 30,000 people and have spent most of my life in towns much smaller than that I do not know much about city life. One thing I do know is about life in the country, in my case in a rural Wyoming town of 1,200 people. What I know is friends and neighbors can be great.

My pickup has been down for a week, the shifter would not put it in any gear, including park. Diagnosis from the Dodge dealer, it needed a new steering shaft. Ouch! $1,800 for the shaft and several hundred in labor. I looked it up online and this seemed about right.

Here is where the great small town neighbor part comes in. My, across the street neighbor, said, “Let me see what I can find in the junkyard.” The next day he said he found one for $75.00 plus the cost to take it out. Good deal I figured maybe a $100 or so to take out. I told him to go ahead. Well, he found one, but it was already out and for $65.00.

Today I subbed at the school teaching high school history classes. When I got home he had already replaced the old with the new – all done. Then he decided that my battery cable ends should be fixed, and they needed it.  He didn’t want to see me stranded somewhere, so he put on new ends.

Now the pickup is once again running great, thanks to a kindly neighbor. I can hardly believe when we read all the bad news in today’s world that there are people like this man. Always paying it forward. 
Here is our previously, and once again, reliable pickup up on Black Mountain

Thanks a million Bob. and when I can I will pay it forward for someone myself.

Love living in small town Wyoming – where the livin’ is easy.

School Is Back In Session

It’s that time of year again. School starting all over Wyoming. With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at early schools in the state.
Remember these? Black boards and Elementary School Rules

The first Wyoming school opened at Fort Laramie and was soon followed by several private schools as the population warranted. Robert Baker opened a school in South Pass with families paying one dollar each week per child. By 1870 the census listed five private and four public schools in the state. That same year the only public school buildings were in Cheyenne.

In 1871 Dr. J. H. Hayford, the auditor for the territory of Wyoming listed schools in Albany and Laramie counties as good, Carbon and Uinta had schools he listed as fair. Students furnished their own school materials and textbooks were, a haphazard, whatever could be found that was suitable for the job.

Pretty Nice Place to Live

In 1873 a compulsory education law took effect, ordering every child between ages 6-18 to attend school for three months each year. As the state grew so did the number and efficiency of the schools. Territorial Governor Hoyt said in 1878, “I have never known a community, whether in this country or in Europe, more zealously devoted to the cause of popular education than the people of this new Territory.”

In the last decade before statehood, in 1890, Wyoming’s population tripled and the school population doubled. The number of buildings now used as, or built for schools, grew from 39 to 138.

Wagon Trains, trappers, traders and hunters passed through the state for many years, but when the railroad came, people followed and with people came schools. And with schools came that great sound of kids playing on the playground and if you are inside, learning the old three Rs and a few other things.
Just Passing Through

After 42 years of teaching, I still sub in the local schools a few days each month. That leaves me many days to sit and write at home. I just published Ghost of the Fawn, my sixth book.

It is set, of course in Wyoming, and originally I targeted it as a young adult book. My first readers, who help me refine and edit, seem to think it is a great adult read as well. If you have time give it a look, not sure when it will be available but certainly should be by the end of the weekend.