Chuckwagon: Dutch Oven Trout

dutch oven troutThe following recipe is for Dutch Oven Trout: As soon as possible after catching your trout, clean them and wipe the inside and outside of the trout with a cloth wet with vinegar water.  Don’t put the trout in the water.  Roll the trout in a mixture of flour, dry powdered milk, cornmeal, salt and pepper.  Heat deep fat in a Dutch oven and fry until crisp and golden brown.       

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper.

Old West Book Review: The Frontier World of Fort Griffin

Fort GriffinThe Frontier World of Fort Griffin, Charles Robinson Ill, University of Oklahoma Press, 800-627-7377, $14.95, Paper. 236 Pages, Illustrations, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

This fast-paced, fun to read book tells of the exciting, albeit short, life of the rip-roaring Texas town called Fort Griffin.  Wild and dangerous, it sprouted from the desolate prairie to fulfill the needs of pioneers battling Indians, thus an army post was established.  Next came buffalo hunters with hides to sell, then cowboys on cattle drives. Nicknamed “The Flat”, Fort Griffin was also known as “Hide Town”.  The biggest settlement between Fort Worth and El Paso back in the 1870’s, it eventually dwindled into little more than a few stone foundations found today.

When the buffalo hunting days ended, and the great Indian raids ceased, the army moved out.  The only real business for the town ended too when the great cattle drives no longer came through the area.  Cattle were shipped by train, and into the late 1880s the land around Fort Griffin was slowly turned into small farms crossed by barbed wire fences.

Today, Fort Griffin does not exist as a town at all. But Western historians frequently come across stories about it as one of the wildest towns in the Old West.  The author has delved through newspapers, court documents, and personal interviews to find the stories about what happened here.

It all started when the Republic of Texas was annexed to the United States in 1845.  Next came a few hardy settlers demanding protection from marauding Indians.  Protecting the early settlers came the Army, followed by ranchers with cattle raising ideas.  More feuds, more fights, and eventually the buffalo hunters arrived decimating the great buffalo herds that provided sustenance for the Indians.  Through all this Fort Griffin with its bustling activity naturally attracted gamblers, prostitutes, rustlers and gunmen who in turn were soon at odds with the local vigilance committee.

Rustlers and thieves were regularly hanged by night-riding locals seeking law and order, and sometimes revenge.  Meanwhile, infamous people such as Henry “Doc” Holliday. Big Nose Kate, Pat Garrett, Lottie Deno, Wyatt Earp and a passel of lesser-known characters who were just as vicious and handy with guns came through town making plenty of trouble.  Several chapters in the book are dedicated to downtown merchants, newspaper editors and the otherwise law abiding, but the real story concerning Fort Griffin seems to be about the tough, gritty, ambitious folks who were willing to shoot first and ask questions later.

This book is filled with odd and unusual characters who lived and sometimes died in Fort Griffin. For instance, Mrs. Lam drove a fast-moving buggy to town to try to save her husband from the vigilantes, but arrived too late.  A man named Brock spent years traveling about the country trying to find a man he was accused of murdering in Fort Griffin because Brock wanted to clear his name.

Fort Griffin is compared with other tough towns such as Dodge City and Tombstone, but Fort Griffin was not to become a tourist town or a modern-day survivor.  Only a few scraps of lumber and the walls of the Fort Griffin Lodge No. 489 remained in 1992 when this book was written.  Each year locals gathered to celebrate the old town’s history filled with cowboys, buffalo hunters, soldiers, soiled doves, gamblers and vigilantes.  Researchers will find that browsing through the various chapters will likely turn up some valuable information not easily found elsewhere.  I discovered Glen Reynolds, a sheriff killed by Apaches in Arizona, had originally ridden at least one time with the vigilantes in Fort Griffin.  This book is a little treasure for sure.  It belongs in your Old West library.

Publisher’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, Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988-0700. Phone (845)-726-3434.  Www.silklabelbooks.com

A Duel With The Cactus

September 2, 1892, Daily Herald, El Paso, Texas – “Halt!  What’s that?” said our leader in a sharp whisper.

It was a clear moonlight night in the extreme southwest of Mexico.

I was visiting a friend who conducted a large ranch and hacienda there.

A local revolt had just been quelled in the neighborhood and a spirit of lawlessness still pervaded the atmosphere.  Only the night before my friend had been fired upon and one of his storehouses robbed by a band of Indians some fifteen or twenty strong.  Early in the morning four of us, under the leadership of our host, had set out upon the track of the robbers.

We were well mounted, and resting only a few hours at noon had followed hard after them in a fair field we could drive them into quarters like cows to a pen, but we had no mind to run into a trap in the dark with five against fifteen; hence caution.

“Halt!  What’s that?” our leader had whispered.  We had come to the edge of a dense woods, and across an open space, upon the brow of a low sand hill, clearly outlined in the moonlight against the sky, we had discovered a dozen or more half naked fellows, with their arms extended in every direction, engaged in some sort of a weird, fantastic dance.

We could not see their legs, for the tops of the trees beyond the hill rose waist high, making a black background, but their arms moved slowly to and fro and we could easily imagine their legs keeping company.

“Those are the thieves!” our host muttered.  “I know them, even at night.  You fellow just come to the edge of the wood, where they can see you without knowing how many there are of you, and I’ll have them down here in no time.”

He rode out alone to the foot of the hill.

It required no little courage, and we watched him with proportionate admiration.

The figures did not cease their dance or notice him.  Suddenly, with his rifle at his shoulder, he called to them: “I have you there!  If one of you moves I’ll shoot him dead!”

The wind had been blowing through the trees, so that we could not have heard their response, but fortunately at that moment it ceased, and in the deep silence which settled down upon the forest in such a momentary lull we waited for the result.

Every Indian suddenly ceased his dancing and stood like a statue outlined against the sky.

“Come down here now,” shouted our host.  “Come quietly, too, for the first man who makes any trouble drops dead.”

We could hear a sound, as of a hurried consultation of some sort, going on upon the hill for a moment, but the wind sprung up again before we could distinguish a single voice, and to our utter astonishment the fellows actually began their solemn dance again.

“Come down or I’ll shoot!” roared our host, but they kept on dancing and he did shoot.

Then there was commotion enough.  A wild cry, followed by a cloud of dust rose from the brow of the hill.

“Fire!” yelled our host, and we responded with a well aimed volley, while he whipped out his heavy revolver and gave them another peppering.

There was a perfect bedlam of screams from the hill, and the dust hid everything from the view.  They were either coming down or running for their lives.

For us it was either fly or follow.  We waited irresolutely for the word of our leader, when the dust settled and there stood the Indians, silently going on with their fantastic dance as though we were a hundred miles away.

With a fierce ejaculation our host put spurs to his horse and dashed up the hill.  We followed, without command, to find him upon the summit, sitting on the ground beneath a line of gaunt and ghostlike prickly pears—the ungainly cactus of Mexico.

The extended along the brow of the hill, their naked, skeleton branches spreading out in every unaccountable way and swaying solemnly in the breeze.

Among the roots a multitude of burrows in the dry dust showed where the sand birds had been lying, half buried, and quietly sleeping; and it was their noisy yelp we heard when they were frightened away by our host’s duel with the cactus.e ungainly cactus of Mexico.

The extended along the brow of the hill, their naked, skeleton branches spreading out in every unaccountable way and swaying solemnly in the breeze.

Among the roots a multitude of burrows in the dry dust showed where the sand birds had been lying, half buried, and quietly sleeping; and it was their noisy yelp we heard when they were frightened away by our host’s duel with the cactus.

Duel With the Cactus

Indian Cures

Indian CuresOctober 9, 1892, Call, San Francisco, California – In the depths of the forest, an Indian breaks his leg or arm, said Dr. Hingston is his address at the British Medical Association meeting at Nottingham.  Splints of softest material are at once improvised.  Straight branches are cut, of uniform length and thickness.  These are lined with down-like moss or scrapings or shavings of wood or with fine leaves interlaid with leaves, if in summer; or with the curled-up leaves of the evergreen cedar or hemlock, in winter; and the whole is surrounded with withes of willow or osier or young birch.  Occasionally it is the soft but sufficiently unyielding bark of the poplar or the bass wood.  Sometimes when near the marshy margin of our lakes or rivers the wounded limb is afforded support with wild hay or reeds of uniform length and thickness. Thus is the genius of Indian cures.

To carry a patient to his wigwam or to an encampment a stretcher is quickly made of four young saplings, interwoven at their upper ends, and on this elastic, springy couch the injured man is borne away by his companions.  When there are but two persons and an accident happens to one of them two young trees of birch or beech or hickory are used.  Their tops are allowed to remain to aid in diminishing the jolting caused by the inequalities of the ground.  No London carriage maker ever constructed a spring which could better accomplish the purpose.  A couple of crossbars preserve the saplings in position, and the bark of the elm or birch cut into broad bands and joined to either side forms an even bed.  In this way an injured man is brought by his companion to a settlement, and often it has been found on arrival that the fractured bones are firmly united and the limb is whole again.  This is affected in less time than with the whites, for the recuperative power of these children of the forest is remarkable.  In their plentitude of health osseous matter is poured out in large quantities and firm union is soon affected.

The reparative power of the aborigines when injured is equaled by the wonderful stoicism with which they bear injuries and inflect upon themselves the severest torture.  They are accustomed to cut into abscesses with pointed flint; they light up a fire at a distance from the affected part (our counter-irritation; they amputate limbs with their hunting-knives, checking the hemorrhage with heated stones, as surgeons were accustomed to do in Europe in the time of Ambrose Pare, and sometimes they amputate their own limbs with more sang fiord than many young surgeons will display when operating on others.  The stumps of limbs amputated in this primitive manner are well formed, for neatness is the characteristic of all Indians’ handiwork.

The Indians are familiar with and practice extensively the use of warm fomentations.  In every tribe their old women are credited with the possession of knowledge of local bathing with hot water and of medicated decoctions.  The herbs they use are known to a privileged few and enhance the consideration in which their possessors are held.

The Turkish bath, in a simpler but not less effective form, is well known to them.  If one of their tribe suffers from fever or from the effects of long exposure to cold a steam bath is readily improvised.  The tent of deerskin is tightly closed, the patient is placed in one corner, heated stones are placed near him, and on these water is poured until the confined air is saturated with vapor.  Any degree of heat and any degree of moisture can be obtained in this way.  Europeans often avail themselves of this powerful sudatory when suffering from rheumatism.

The Indians have their herbs—a few, not many.  They have their emetics and laxatives, astringents and emollients, all of which are proffered to the suffering without fee or reward.  The “Indian teas,” “Indian balsams” and other Indian cures —the virtues of which it sometimes takes columns of the daily journals to chronicle— belong to nature and are not theirs.  To the white man is left this species of deception.

Chief Seattle

Chief SeattleBy the mid 1850’s the Pacific Northwest was becoming heavily settled by whites. The area had traditionally been occupied by the Duwamish and Suquamish Indian tribes. They were headed by a chief from both tribes by the name of Chief Seattle. As the early settlers came to the area Seattle welcomed them, and the settlers treated his tribes with kindness. 
 
Through the influence of Jesuit missionaries, Seattle became religious. When in 1855 an Indian war broke out, Seattle was able to convince the warring factions that fighting the whites would only hasten their demise, and peace was had.
 
While Seattle was still alive the settlers named their major city after him. But Chief Seattle believed that if a man’s name is mentioned after his death it would disturb his eternal rest. So, to compensate Seattle for any difficulties he would have in the next life, they taxed themselves and paid him for the rest of his life. And, on June 7, 1866 Seattle did move onto another life. He was buried in the Duwamish cemetery. Twenty five years later, a monument was erected at his grave. 
 
There’s another interesting story about early Seattle, the town. During the gold rush, to meet the building needs of California, Seattle’s lumber industry boomed. They would cut the trees and “skid” them down to the lumber mill. The path they used became known as the “skid road,” and it became the main street in Seattle. Once the trees were cut in that area, the businesses moved and this area became a haven for drunks and derelicts. Thus creating the term we use today for the bad part of any town, “skid row.”
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