Chuckwagon: Corn Dodgers

2 Cups yellow cornmeal
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Cups milk
1 Teaspoon baking powder

Preheat Dutch oven to 400 degrees F.

Cook cornmeal in a saucepan with butter, salt, sugar and milk until the mixture comes to a boil. Turn off heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes. Add baking powder. Spoon the mix onto the Dutch oven in heaping tablespoon-size balls, then bake for 10 to 15 minutes. They are done when slightly brown around the edges.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Calamity JaneThe Life and Legends of Calamity Jane, Richard W. Etulain, University of Oklahoma Press, (405-325-3200), $24.98, Cloth, 416 pages, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index.

Martha Canary, better known as Calamity Jane, was a legend in her own time.  Martha was born in Missouri in 1856, and had several younger siblings.  Her father was a farmer and her mother a housewife who herself gained local notoriety as an eccentric with a volatile temper and a sharp tongue.  When Martha was seven years old, the family left Missouri and headed “Out West,” first to Iowa and eventually to Montana.  By the time Martha was eleven years old, both of her parents had died and she was alone in the world caring for the other children.

This book carefully delves into what is always challenging about the life of Martha Canary. Martha was illiterate; there is no known record of her writing or even a signature.  As her life evolved, she became a tough character facing a tough world. Martha Canary traded face powder for gun powder, smoked cigars, drank whiskey, chewed tobacco, used rough language, drove mules and ox teams, quite possibly was involved in prostitution and during her drinking bouts was notorious for entertaining her bar buddies by howling like a coyote which resulted in her being thrown into jail more than once.

Martha’s reputation reached the ears and imagination of eastern writers who featured her character as the protagonist in a large collection of dime novels designed to entertain and shock eager readers anxious to learn about life in the Wild West.

Martha did travel in 1876 with General Crook’s expedition organized to fight the Sioux Indians.  Known as the Big Horn and Yellowstone Expedition, the group consisted of nearly nine hundred officers, enlisted men, scouts and civilians.  They headed up the Bozeman Trail with eighty supply wagons. Martha Canary was involved in this adventure, but her real role is difficult to pinpoint. She claimed later to have been a scout whose bravery dubbed her the nickname “Calamity Jane” when her derring-do saved one of the officers during an Indian attack.  However, it is likely that she was merely a cook, or even a camp follower, since there is no official military record showing that she was hired as a scout.

It is true she was an eccentric woman who, long before it was socially acceptable, dressed like a man, drank, smoked, brawled, swore and fought her way in a rough and tumble frontier world.  She did travel with a Wild West Show for a time, she did live in Deadwood, she did meet Wild Bill Hickok but it is highly unlikely there was a romance between them. Calamity was probably married at least once and gave birth to a daughter named Jessie.  This poor child raised by an alcoholic mother and with no real father figure in her life, became a troubled person who in her old age was confused as to whether Calamity was her mother, grandmother or aunt.

This biography of Calamity Jane covers every facet of her life beginning with her ancestors to her death from alcoholism in Deadwood at age 47, in 1903.  In her last years she sold a pamphlet filled with tall tales she dictated about her life.  Readers were less interested in historical accuracy than entertainment.  Since her death, numerous biographies, dozens of novels, hundreds of magazine articles and nearly twenty Hollywood movies have featured Calamity Jane.

From Doris Day to Angelica Huston, audiences have been treated to a gun-totin’ tobacco spittin’, buckskin clad gal who aimed to git her man with a gun.  If you want to know anything about the life and legend of Calamity Jane, this is the book for you.  The author has spent many years delving through books, articles, archival collections, old newspaper stories and family reminisces to set the record as straight as possible.  But remember, once Hollywood gets hold of a character with a name like Calamity Jane, Billy the Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, Jesse James, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp or Johnny Ringo, there will never be an end to it.

Editor’s Note:  The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale-de ía Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West, including the true crime Death For Dinner, The Benders of (Old) Kansas,, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York, 10988.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Indian Fighter Jim Baker

Although he may not be as well known as mountain men Jim Bridger and Jim Beckwourth, this “Jim”, Jim Baker was also a trapper, scout and Indian fighter. Born in Illinois in 1818, at the age of 20 he went out West and spent time trapping in the Rockies for the American Fur Company.
He was a friend of Kit Carson, and next to Carson, Baker was General Fremont’s most trusted guide. He also spent a number of years living with the Shoshone Indians.
As an illustration of the type of man Baker was, in 1841 Baker and about 20 other trappers encountered over 500 Cheyenne, Arapaho and Sioux at the Little Snake River, and although unbelievably outnumbered, they were able to hold off the Indians.
After successfully guiding an army detachment on a dramatic midwinter trek from Fort Bridger, Wyoming to New Mexico, and back again in order to get emergency provisions for Fort Bridger, in 1858, at the age of 40, he moved to what is now downtown Denver, Colorado. Although at the time, a settlement of a few shacks, over the next five years Denver grew to the point that Baker decided it was just too crowded, and he moved to a more remote area…Wyoming.
Baker was usually a gentle man, but “the bottle” brought out the devil in him. On one drunken spree, because of a suspected infidelity, he threatened to cut off his wife’s ear.
Finally, at the age of 55 Jim Baker decided he had had enough adventure and settled down in Dixon, Wyoming, and became a farmer. Living to the ripe old age of 80, he died peacefully on May 15, 1898.

Gambler Charles Cora Lynched

Following the money, in 1851 professional gambler Charles Cora traveled to San Francisco. He brought with him his 22-year-old paramour, Bella.
Gambling being legal, and Charles being a good gambler, he did well. But, San Francisco’s high society looked down upon them because he and Bella weren’t married.
In November of 1855 Charles and Bella went to a play at the American Theater. Their attendance outraged many of the attendees, including Marshall Richardson and his wife. Marshall Richardson asked them to leave. But Charles and Bella refused.
Over the next couple of days Charles and the Marshall exchanged insults, until one evening a drunken Marshall Richardson called Charles out. Shots were fired, and Marshall Richardson was dead.
In the first trial of Charles, the jury failed to come to a decision. So a second trial was scheduled. Charles Cora was confident of an acquittal… That is until May 14 when James Casey joined him in jail.
James Casey had shot James King, a respected newspaper editor. Ten thousand people gathered outside the jail, seeking vengeance for the shooting of King. Finally, the sheriff handed Casey over to the vigilantes. But they weren’t satisfied. They also wanted Charles Cora.
For two days Cora and Casey were held by the vigilantes. When the newspaper editor died, Cora and Casey’s fate was sealed. On May 22, as the editor was buried, Cora and King were hanged.
Had Casey not killed the editor, Cora would have probably gotten off with a second trial. But that’s not the only point of irony. Just before Cora was hanged, he and Bella got married. Had they done this nine months earlier, Cora wouldn’t have even been in jail.

Book Review: Last of the Old-Time Outlaws

Last Of OutlawsLast of the Old-Time Outlaws; The George West Musgrave Story, Karen Holliday Tanner and John D. Tanner, Jr., University of Oklahoma Press, (405 325-3200),$21.95 Paper, 388 Pages, Illustrations, Maps, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

“He had a reputation as a cardsharp, cattle rustler, bandit, and killer,” and if George Musgrave had had a more romantic-sounding name, Hollywood might have cashed in on this amazing Old West character.

George West Musgrave was born May 27, 1877 in Atascosa County, Texas.  His family ran a thirty-five hundred acre cattle outfit, and baby George was surrounded by tough people earning a hard living.  The boy grew up surrounded by work, horses and guns.  The Musgrave family consisted of various characters involved in gambling, horse rustling, and cattle theft which resulted in arrests and jailhouse stints.  George even had a grandfather who had a long history of dueling, fights with Comanche, feuds with neighbors and “an inclination toward larceny.”

Excuses can be made for these influences on George, however, he began his career as a cowboy who could ride, rope, shoot and show off.  He was known for “putting on shooting displays with a number of revolvers.”  Soon he became involved in rustling with a devil-may-care attitude.  He seemed always ready with a string of wisecracks.  His popularity among his pals and cohorts became legendary.

His adventures led him back and forth from Texas into Old Mexico, then to New Mexico and sometimes Arizona.  He joined what was known as the High Five or Black Jack gang.  They spent years holding up stores, rustling cows, stealing horses, robbing banks and even trains.  Musgrave was one of the gang members who took part in the first bank robbery in Arizona Territory.  They also held up stagecoaches, and eventually pulled off the largest heist in the history of the Santa Fe railroad.

Musgrave was arrested and tried for the shooting death of a former Texas Ranger.  When he miraculously avoided conviction, he migrated to South America where he took up his same old ways, now getting involved on a large scale with some big ranchers and South American politicians.

George was tail, handsome, soft spoken and popular with the ladies, too.  During a trip back to Wyoming, Musgrave met an adventurous young woman named Jeanette “Jano” Magor.  Twelve years younger than George, Jano was known for her smarts and toughness.  Smitten with one another, the pair eloped. Jano followed Musgrave back to South America where she joined his dubious lifestyle.  One photo shows the beautiful brunette dressed like a gaucho complete with her own shootin’ iron.  She eventually grew weary of her husband’s philandering, and returned to the U.S. for a divorce.

After this, Musgrave had a succession of South American wives who produced children, all eventually either leaving him or hating him for his cavalier treatment of marriage vows.

Whether Musgrave was cheating at cards, robbing a bank, or shooting alligators, he joked about it all.  He died in South America at age 70 of natural causes.

The Tanners have written a compete and thoroughly researched book about a tough, strong-willed man who could not resist danger and deviltry.  The authors have a keen eye for unusual facts combined with a subtle and wonderful sense of humor that results in bringing the character of George Musgrave back to life.  Readers will enjoy this book.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including Death For Dinner, the Benders of (Old) Kansas, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 (845) 726-3434. www.

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

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