Lew Wallace

Lew WallaceAs a young man Lew Wallace practiced law in Indiana. With the outbreak of the Civil War, he was named the adjutant general for Indiana, and served with distinction. Following the war, he went back to his law practice. But he worked just hard enough to pay his bills.
 
Then in 1878, President Hayes, owing him a favor, appointed Lew Wallace the governor of the New Mexico Territory. Some say that Wallace was a bit obnoxious, and this was how President Hayes got rid of him.
 
On September 30, 1878, Lew Wallace and his wife arrived at Santa Fe, New Mexico. By this time the initial incidents of the Lincoln County War had already taken place, and things were quiet. Then in February of 1879 another killing took place. Governor Wallace personally went to Lincoln County, and ordered a number of grand jury indictments and arrests. He also met with Billy the Kid, and agreed to pardon the Kid if he would testify in court for the prosecution.
 
Unfortunately, Governor Wallace was unable to follow through with his promise of pardoning Billy the Kid and went back to Santa Fe. When Billy the Kid realized he wasn’t getting a pardon, he escaped from jail, killing two of his guards in the process.
 
In March of 1880, just two and a half years after he arrived in Santa Fe, Wallace packed his bags and returned east. According to Wallace he was a failure. 
 
Quite possibly while in New Mexico his attention was elsewhere. For upon his arrival in New York he delivered a book manuscript to Harper’s Publishing. It was the novel Ben-Hur.

Chuckwagon: Chocolate Cowboy Caramels

Below is a candy recipe from the October 23, 1893 Albuquerque Evening Citizen.

Chocolate Cowboy Caramels – boil together a pound of white sugar, a quarter of a pound of chocolate, four tablespoons of molasses, a cup of sweet milk, and apiece of butter as big as a walnut. When it will harden in water, flavor with vanilla and pour on a buttered slab. When nearly cold, cut in squares.

Cowboy Caramels

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

Old West Book Review: Villa Lobos

Villa LobosVilla Lobos, Michael Zimmer, Five Star Publishing, $25.95, Hardcover, Western Fiction.

Author Michael Zimmer has written an action-packed, fast-paced western novel that will appeal to readers thirsty for tough adventure tales about the Old West.  Sit back, read, and have fun with it, but don’t try to spend much time trying to figure out who all the characters are.  The names are many.

The story titled Villa Lobos, means “Village of Wolves” giving an apt description of where this story is headed.  You will find four groups of individuals riding south out of Texas and across the Rio Grande river where they are going to collide in a flurry of treachery, gun smoke, slashing knives, and dynamite.

The first group is made up of a gang of American outlaws who have just robbed a bank in Texas.  Some people were killed, the town is in shock, and the gang now heads south where they plan to divide the loot.  The leader is an ex-Confederate soldier named Hollister.

The second group consists of the American sheriff, leading a posse of adventuresome cowboys and townspeople who want their money back.  The sheriff is an old hand at law enforcement and trailing felons, but desert heat and whining store keepers not used to riding with a posse slow him down.

The third group presents a half dozen soldiers escorting three runaway prostitutes back to the town they came from.  The women are riding in a wagon, dressed as soldiers, and voicing more than their share of complaints as they plod along only to be ambushed and taken prisoners by the outlaw Hollister gang who seem to think the women will make valuable hostages in case the sheriff catches up.  The surprised soldiers are embarrassed, and decide to go after the outlaws to get the women back.

Now the story presents a fourth group made up of Mexican bandits, cutthroats, liars and thieves.  They are scalp hunters attacking Indian bands in Mexico for scalp bounty.  They also take children and young women prisoners to be traded or sold deep in the Mexican interior as household servants, prostitutes and slaves.  Known as “The Hunters” this outfit has not one individual that readers would care to-deal with.  They headquarter in Villa Lobos, giving the town its name, and through murder and fear, control everybody.  The leader is so vicious and corrupt we despise him instantly. (Remember The Magnificent Seven?)  The old priest in town is the only person who escapes the bandit leader’s wrath.

By now, you have guessed you will have lots of names to wend through, but still there is no clear-cut protagonist whom we can cheer for, worry about, or hope he or she will come out on top.  A character brave, respectable, wise, admirable, memorable, does not surface here.  While we wonder why we are even reading this book, we find we cannot put it down.  The action never stops, one shocking surprise after another finds us turning pages because we don’t want to miss anything.

The author has a good understanding of horses, guns, desert heat, the Spanish language, military procedure, historic Mexican villages, and the ability to put it on paper.  Without a memorable protagonist the plot is shaky, but if you like western adventure stories, Villa Lobos will entertain you to the last page

Publisher’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including the novel Lost Roundup, published by Silk Label Books, P.O. Box 399, Unionville, New York 10988. www.silklabelbooks.corn

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

Wrong Men Hanged From the Gallows

It was 1864 in Jackson County, Missouri. Two men, Dick Merrick and Jeb Sharp had murdered a horse trader by the name of John Bascum. The two men were arrested and put on trial. The judge sentenced them to be hanged from the gallows. And, he said it must be done within twenty-four hours. There wasn’t much of an appeals process in the Old West.
 
So, on September 6, the townspeople frantically started building a gallows. Just before the twenty-four hour deadline was up, the two men were grabbed, sacks were put over their heads, and they were led to the gallows. Ropes were placed around their necks. The trap door sprung. Before the deadline, their lifeless bodies were hanging from the end of ropes. The townspeople congratulated themselves on a job well done. 
 
Sheriff Clifford Stewart went back to his office to take care of the final paperwork. But, when he stepped inside his office, Sheriff Stewart had the surprise of his life. There in the cell were the murderers Dick Merrick and Jeb Sharp. At first, he thought it surely was a mirage. But it sure wasn’t. 
 
Within a matter of hours, the situation had been sorted out. It seems that the night before two men had been arrested for drunkenness. And they had been grabbed by mistake. The men were still too drunk to protest, and Merrick and Sharp sure weren’t going to tell anybody they had the wrong men.
 
This story should persuade any person of the merits of living a temperate life. Oh, one other thing. Since the judge had required the sentence be carried out within twenty-four hours, and it wasn’t, the two killers were set free.
 
 
Hanged From the Gallows

Black Faced Charley

Black Faced Charley It seems that everyone in the Old West had nicknames… And some of them were very strange. But, none was as strange as Charles Bryant’s. He was called “Black Faced Charley.” It seems that he was shot point-blank in the face. The bullet just creased his cheek. But, the burnt powder coming out of the pistol imbedded in his face, giving him his nickname.
Later, Bryant joined the Dalton gang. And during the gang’s shootout with a posse was heard to say something like, “Me, I want to get killed in one heck of a minute of action.” Well, Bryant put it out there, and on August 23, 1891, he got his wish.
Being arrested, Bryant had to be transported to jail by Deputy U.S. Marshal Ed Short. Marshal Short was transporting the handcuffed Bryant in a train baggage car when he had to visit the john. Marshal Short gave his pistol to the railroad messenger and left. The messenger put the pistol in a desk drawer and went about his chores.
Unnoticed, Bryant moved around to the desk and got the pistol, just as Marshal Short entered the baggage car. Bryant placed one shot into Marshal Short’s chest. Short, carrying a rifle, shot Bryant…severing his spine. Bryant continued firing the pistol until it was empty. The rest of his shots went wild.
Bryant was killed in one heck of a minute of action just as he wished. Marshal Short helped the messenger pick up Bryant’s body. Marshal Short then laid down on the cot and died… also the victim of heck of a minute of action.
Both bodies were left on the train platform at the next stop.
Black Faced Charley
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