Chuckwagon: Fried Cakes

Fried CakesHere is a great treat whether you are a cowboy on a cattle drive; a member of a family on your way west; or spending the evening watching TV.  Obviously today you need to substitute an oil that builds less cholesterol than rendered beef fat.  Sprinkling the Fried Cakes with sugar can make them a great dessert.                                               

Fried Cakes

 Mix well with fork 1-½ cups of flour and 1 cup water.  With plenty of flour on hands and rolling surface, roll out dough to ¼ inch thickness.  Cut into 2-inch squares.  Heat rendered beef fat in skillet, and add dough squares.  Brown on both sides.  Sprinkle fried cakes with salt.  Makes about 20 cakes.

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

Air Conditioning in the Old West – A Reader’s Question

Question:  It’s so hot in the West and the Southwest during much of the summer that even today with air-conditioning, it can get downright uncomfortable.  How did they beat the heat in the Old West?

Air Conditioning in the Old West Answer:  There were several things people on the frontier did to make the hot, dry summers more bearable.  In some cases they used ingenuity.  In others it came with the territory.  One that came with the territory was on the plains.  With no lumber for homes, but plenty of territory or sod, they cut it into one foot by two foot rectangles and used the sod to make their homes.  Although these “soddies” had a lot of drawbacks, they were warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Those frontiersmen who settled in areas with available lumber, built homes with overhanging porches on all sides.  That way no matter where the sun was located, the overhang shaded the windows.  The porch also provided a shady place to take a Sunday afternoon rest in a rocking chair.  And on hot nights a sleeping bag thrown on the porch provided an area with a cool breeze and protection in case of a midnight shower.  Cowboys living in bunkhouses often slept outside under the stars during the summer.

Even businesses found ways to keep their customers cool.  Back in 1880’s the town of Florence, in southern Arizona, bragged of having the coolest tavern in the southwest.  In the rear of the regular saloon, a tunnel had been dug in the ground.  That cool cave was called the Tunnel Saloon.

Natural Gas is Giving Out

The Supply Cannot Be Depended Upon, and Must Be Abandoned

April 30, 1892, Bee, Sacramento, California – The days of natural gas are numbered.  There is surprising unanimity among the mining engineers on this point.  They agree that more gas can be found, and that wells may continue to flow to some extent, but they say that experience has proven that the supply cannot be depended upon for manufacturing or for heating purposes.  The amount of natural gas reached its maximum two years ago.  It has fallen off each year since, notwithstanding the large number of new wells bored.

natural gas drillingSaid a Pittsburg engineer:  “We have had a pretty bad time this winter in Pittsburg.  The flow has given out repeatedly just at the time, perhaps, when most needed.  People who had no coal in their houses have had the gas go out on them in some of the very coldest weather.  Manufacturers who depended on gas for fuel have had to shut down, business has been deranged, and home life has been made miserable.  Some people are still boring wells and trying to keep up a supply by tapping places, but with only partial success.  One after another the wells give out.  When they cease flowing the only thing to be done is to turn the valve and leave them alone.  Sometimes a well will start up again and flow gas after it has been idle for some time, but all the same to reach a state of exhaustion sooner or later.  Manufacturers are going back to coal again, and householders are agreeing that it will not do to depend upon natural gas.  One thing has been made certain, the theory that this manufacture of gas is going on fast enough to supply the flow is all wrong. It is a slow process.   We have already bored holes enough to overtask Nature.”

Newspapers Report on the Discovery of Gold

discovery of goldThe year was 1848. The headline was the discovery of gold. The West would never be the same.

The California and California Star newspapers were the first to run stories about the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill. But they ceased reporting on the gold fields after a couple of months.

It was January of 1848 when James Marshall, working at John Sutter’s sawmill, discovered a couple of gold-colored rocks in the race that could be beaten into different shapes, but not broken. It was gold.

The first mention of the discovery of gold in a newspaper was on May 3. Admitting that the discovery was just a rumor, the Californian newspaper said that “Seven men with picks and spades could gather $1,600 worth of gold in fifteen days.” That’s the equivalent of more than $280,000 in today’s money.

Then, on May 6 Samuel Brannan, a reporter for the California Star, returned from the gold fields stating that the diggings had “full flowing streams, mighty timber, large crops, luxuriant clover, fragrant flowers, and gold and silver.” He concluded by saying, “Great country, this.”

By May 26, according to the Californian, “The whole country, from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and from the seashore to the base of the Sierra Nevadas, resounds with the sordid cry of gold! Gold!! GOLD!!! While the field is left unplanted, the house half built, and everything neglected, but the manufacture of shovels and picks.”

That was the last report the Californian newspaper made on the gold field, because three days later the Californian closed its doors. All the employees, including editor Benjamin Beckelew, went to seek gold.

With great joy the California Star reported that their competitor was dead. And the verdict of the inquest was gold fever. But, the California Star didn’t have long to gloat, because in less than a month, the California Star’s editor, Edward Kemble, headed out to the gold fields and the California Star also folded.

The Wild West Story of S. F Cody & Maud LeeA Pair of Shootists; The Wild West Story of S. F Cody & Maud Lee, Jerry Kuntz, University of Oklahoma Press, (405‑325‑3200) $29.95, Hardcover. Photos, Notes to the Chapters, Index.

This carefully researched book brings to light the story of S. F. Cody, a Wild West performer who was in no way related to the famous Buffalo Bill Cody.  Included in this book is background information regarding many of the Wild West performers and the numerous shows that featured cowboys, Indians, acrobats, wild horse stampedes and the carnival atmosphere surrounding the entertainment of long ago.  Beginning around 1888, these shows became popular and grew in number. Touring every state in the Union, they hauled horses, cattle, equipment, Indians, trick riders and shootists who dazzled audiences with their derring‑do.

The forerunner of the Wild West shows actually began around 1883 when various sharpshooters held public contests to see who could out‑shoot the other using moving targets.  In the beginning live birds were used, but eventually the sport graduated to glass‑ball targets.  Soon these shooting contests added wild horse races, stagecoach holdups, and circus acts.

In this book, Samuel F. Cowdery is the central figure.  Born in Davenport, Iowa in the 1870s, he traveled Out West seeking adventure and became an experienced buffalo hunter, horse trainer, cowboy and miner.  In the late 1880s he joined the Forepaugh’s Wild West Show.  His name was shortened to S. F. Cody by show promoters who were not bashful about fooling people into thinking Cowdery was either Buffalo Bill himself, or, at least Bill’s son.

There was no question that S. F. Cody could ride hard and shoot straight.  He even looked like Buffalo Bill with his long hair, distinctive moustache and fringed buckskin garb.  Next came Maud Maria Lee, a sixteen year old girl in 1888 who hailed from Norristown, Pennsylvania. Maude was the same size and shape as the famous Annie Oakley.  An attractive brunette, Maud had some gymnastic training, loved the circus life, rode horses and was a crack shot.  Also a member of the Forepaugh Wild West Show, it did not take long for Maud to meet Cody, and it did not take long for the Forepaugh promoters to seize upon the opportunity to make audiences believe that Maud Maria Lee was Annie Oakley.

The story tells of the pair’s travels with various touring groups, their trip to Europe with the Wild West extravaganza complete with advertising posters done in England bragging that S. F. Cody was the son of Buffalo Bill.

Long travel, harsh weather conditions, serious injuries, and the vagaries of salary payment took their toll.  Maud began using narcotics to ease her pain and she gradually slid into mental instability.  Maud returned to her parents in America while Cody took up with a new lady partner for his shooting act as well as in real life.While still in England, Cody developed an interest in the early airplane experiments.  Certain the airplane would be invaluable for war, he even worked for a time for the British government.  Cody was killed in 1913 in a crash with his biplane, and is buried in the military service cemetery at Thorn Hill.

After drug use, arrests, lawsuits, and brushes with the law, Maud was committed by her parents to the Norristown State Hospital, a mental institution where she died in 1947 from head failure at age seventy‑five.

The wild west story of S. F. Cody and Maud Lee is not a happy one.  Their best years together were those few when they first met, when the world was young, when they were the center of attention.  Crowds cheered, the horses were fast, the shooting was usually straight, but they were never really Buffalo Bill or Annie Oakley.  They had to settle for second best, and until now have been mostly forgotten.

A haunting story, this book is filled with good information heretofore overlooked. 

Editor’s Note: The reviewer, Phyllis Morreale‑de la Garza is the author of numerous books including the novel Silk and Sagebrush; Women of the Old West, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988‑0700.

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

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