The “New” Lost Dutchman’s Mine

Lost Dutchman’s Mine In the past we have told the stories of two of Arizona’s lost treasures. One was the Lost Dutchman’s Mine located in the Superstition Mountains a short distance from a busy Phoenix freeway. Another was a treasure comprised of gold coins lost when a dam broke on the Hassayampa River just north of Phoenix.
This week we’re going to learn about another Arizona lost treasure.
It all started on May 10, 1881. A Wells Fargo Stage was taking passengers and mail from Canyon Diablo to Flagstaff. On the way the stagecoach was robbed by five bandits.
Two mailbags were taken containing $125,000 in gold, silver and coins. When the stage made it to Flagstaff the authorities were notified and a Cavalry detachment was dispatched to run down the outlaws. And that’s just what they did. A shootout ensued and all the outlaws were killed. But, the loot wasn’t found.
Now, fast forward some 32 years to 1913. The regulars were enjoying their libations at Black’s Saloon in Flagstaff when an excited Jimmy McGuire came into the saloon and ordered a drink. Quickly downing it, he ordered another. And Jimmy didn’t stop until he had four empty glasses in front of him.
He then pulled some gold coins from his pocket to pay for the drinks. They were immediately recognized as coming from the 1881 stage robbery. A crowd gathered around asking about the treasure. As Jimmy started explaining where he found them, he began gasping and holding his chest. In no time Jimmy was on the floor dead of a heart attack. And the location of the treasure died with him.

Sodbusters

SodbustersIn order to get, what were to become the plains states, settled, President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act on May 20, 1862. And, it worked as thousands of people, who were soon called Sodbusters, took up the government’s offer for free land.
           
They expected to settle on treed land with running water similar to the places they left behind. But, what they found was a treeless plains.
               
With shelter the first priority, and no trees or stones to build one, they resorted to burrowing a cave in the side of a hill. It was called a dugout home. Although these dugouts were protection from wind and cold, they were dark, crowded and damp.
 
Being ever resourceful, they discovered they could build a home using one foot by two foot pieces of sod cut from the ground with a shovel or special plow. These pieces of sod were called “Nebraska marble.” As one pioneer put it, a house could be built “without mortar, square, plumb or greenbacks.”
 
A 12 ft by 14 ft home could be built in 10 days. The sod houses were ideal for the plains. They were cool in the summer, warm in the winter and in case of a prairie fire, wouldn’t burn.
 
However, there was the down side. The roof shed dirt into food and bedding, in addition to an occasional snake. When it rained, it would drip muddy water, forcing wives to hold an umbrella in one hand while cooking with the other.
 
But, these “sodbusters” rarely complained. It truly took a special person to settle the West.

Old West Book Review: Contention and Other Frontier Stories

Contention and Other Frontier StoriesContention and Other Frontier Stories: A Five Star Anthology of original Western stories by seventeen authors, Edited by Hazel Rumney, Five Star Publishing, $25.95, Cloth, Frontier Fiction.

Most of the authors of these short stories are well-known winners of writing awards, having plenty of experience with word-wrangling. These stories are fast- paced, filled with original detail. Here you will find a wide selection of ideas and varied circumstances pertaining to our American frontier.

A good short story hooks the reader right away, and almost always ends with a surprise. The reader will arrive at the end and get a laugh, or perhaps be entertained when the villain gets his or her comeuppance.  Nearly all of these stories live up to our expectations.

The editor is Hazel Rumney who began working for Thorndike Press in 1983.  By 1995 Thorndike began publishing the Five Star western series, and soon the books began winning awards.  Hazel Rumney was right in the middle of it all.  She retired in 2011, but in 2012 Five Star called her back, offering her the job doing work from home, via computer.  She grabbed the opportunity to edit in the comfort of her own home “drinking coffee” and avoiding travel; her dream job.  Writers will tell you she is strict, she’s demanding, she looks for good stories that are exciting, believable, and true to Old West authenticity.

This collection has all the right combinations that make short stories work.  The authors keep you guessing until the last page.  Here you will find a deserter from Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders; another is about a young ranch wife avenging the brutal and sudden murder of her husband; a wounded Pony Express rider brings in the mail during a blizzard; Geronimo sends one of his wives away to save her from life in captivity; a young cowboy and his sweetheart get even with a nasty gambler; a Mormon wife treks across the plains toward Utah, protecting her family even after her husband was killed; a tough old buffalo hunter stands firm in the face of removal from his home by encroaching civilization; two cowboys stranded in the mountains with a cantankerous old cook resort to cannibalism; a mysterious rider rescues two young girls held captive on a lonely ranch-far from town; a cocky young troublemaker finds himself involved in a shotgun wedding; a city girl newspaper reporter gets stranded in a dust storm, a miner tries a variety of imaginative ways to bury his dead partner, an aged colonel from Civil War days struggles with his memory; a preacher is embroiled in a Texas blood feud; a baseball player living in the past tries to avoid the reality of giving up the team; a young man with a speech impediment finds clever ways to defend himself.

These stories highlight protagonists with grit and imagination, who forge ahead against difficult circumstances.  A variety of provocative issues are explored.  These were tough people surviving tough times.  This is good frontier fiction, a fun book to read.

Publisher’s Notes: 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 399, Unionville, New York, 10988. Ph. (845) 726-3434. www.silklabelbooks.com

Chuckwagon: Cowboy Sourdough Starter

Cowboy Sourdough Starter

Sourdough biscuits were a delicacy whether on the trail or at the ranch. Once a cook got a good sourdough starter he cherished it like a baby. On the trail he would store it in a dark, cool place in his chuckwagon. Here is one cooks recipe for a sourdough starter.

2 cups of lukewarm potato water.
2 cups flour.
1 tablespoon sugar.

Make potato water by cutting up 2 medium-sized potatoes into cubes, and boil in cups of water until tender. Remove the potatoes and measure out two cups of the remaining liquid. (The potatoes can be used for the evening meal.) Mix the potato water, flour and sugar into a smooth paste. Set the mixture in a warm place until it doubles its original size.

Cowboy Sourdough starter

Sitting Bull Goes to Canada

After the defeat of Custer in 1876, realizing there would be retaliations, the Indians broke up into smaller bands so they could move faster and not be easily found. But many of the bands were tracked down, and relocated to reservations.

Sitting Bull, in command of the western party, took his people to Montana, and avoided any major confrontations with the army. Four months after Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull met with American commander Nelson Miles. Sitting Bull refused to surrender. So Colonel Miles stepped up his campaign against him and his people.

With the scarcity of buffalo, the cold winter and the army’s constant pressure, Sitting Bull’s people began to suffer. So, on May 5, 1877, Sitting Bull decided to avoid war by going to Canada. The Canadian government, with a more tolerant attitude toward Indians, let them stay in peace. With plenty of buffalo and no harassment from the military, it was a great life. But within a couple of years the young warriors, who had grown up doing battle, became restless. They started making trouble with their neighboring tribes, and the Canadian government started putting pressure on Sitting Bull to leave Canada.

The final straw was the disappearance of Canadian buffalo. With promises that they would have plenty of food, and with most of his people having already returned to America, four years after he had left, and five years after his great victory at Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull returned to the United States leading just 187 Indians, most of who were old and sick.

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