Death Valley Christmas

Death Valley ChristmasFor pioneers headed out west times were tough. But no matter what the circumstances, even the harshness of Death Valley, they took time out to celebrate a Death Valley Christmas.
It was December of 1849. The Brier family, comprised of Rev. Brier, his wife Juliet and three children aged nine, six and four were traveling from Illinois to California in an all male wagon train. Unable to keep up, the Briers were left behind. Finally forced to abandon their wagon, they continued on by foot.
On Christmas Eve the Briers entered Death Valley. Rev. Brier went ahead of his family to look for water. Juliet, carrying their four-year-old son pushed the cattle ahead. At midnight they came across a small fire and Rev. Brier. It was six more miles to the main camp and water. When they arrived, they washed off the alkali dust. Two teamsters headed in the same direction as the Briers showed up in camp. Meat was cooked, biscuits made, and coffee boiled.
Sitting by the warmth of the fire, the small group listened to Rev. Brier as he preached his Christmas sermon. After the sermon was over, a man scouting ahead for another wagon train joined the group.
Death Valley Christmas
A Night in Death Valley
Although the Briers were no longer alone, their hard time was not over. They walked the remaining 400 miles to Los Angeles. Were it not for the determination of Juliet Brier, who was only five foot tall, the family would not have made it. During those last three weeks she not only steadied her husband, but she provided inspiration to all the men in the wagon train.
The Brier family arrived safely in Los Angeles where Rev. and Juliet Brier lived a long life, having more children. But they never forgot that Christmas in Death Valley.

Chuckwagon: Cowboy Pickled Eggs

Because it was difficult to keep eggs fresh without refrigeration, cowboy pickled eggs were a delicacy while on the trail.  Once a cowboy got into town, he was able to get pickled eggs at his favorite tavern to add a little solid food to offset the beer and whiskey.

            1-cup tarragon vinegar.                              ½ tsp celery seed.

            1-cup water.                                                  1 clove garlic, minced.

            2 Tbs sugar.                                                  2 bay leaves.

            ½ tsp salt.                                                      12 shelled hard-boiled eggs.

Combine all ingredients in saucepan, except eggs.  Simmer 30 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.  Cool.  Pour over eggs in a crock or jar.  Cover and refrigerate 2 to 3 days before eating.

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

cowboy Pickled eggs

John Chisum

John Chisum

John Chisum

The Old West had a couple of “Chisholms” who were cattlemen… Jesse Chisholm of the Chisholm Trail fame and John Chisum of Lincoln County, New Mexico. Although their last names are spelled differently, they often get confused. Since John Chisum is less well known, today we’ll take a look at this man.

John Chisum was born in Tennessee. Although, reportedly John’s father spelled his last name the same as Jesse Chisholm of the Chisholm Trail fame, they were not related, and for whatever reason, John changed the spelling of his name.
As a young man John and his parents moved to Texas. At the age of 30 John got into the cattle business. Seeing the opportunities better in New Mexico, John moved his operation up there, and ran 80,000 head in Lincoln County.
With this cattle running over a vast isolated area, rustlers started picking them off. So, Chisum teamed up with a couple of other cattlemen named McSween and Tunstall. Their foes were a couple of cattlemen and merchants who were underselling cattle to the Army. And, Chisum felt they were able to sell the cattle cheaply because the cattle were stolen from him.
Before long there was an all-out war. Chisum, McSween and Tunstall recruited cowboys who were gunslingers. One such cowboy was Billy the Kid.
When the war turned in favor of the small cattlemen and merchants, and Chisum continued losing cattle to rustlers and Indians, he lost much of his wealth and power.
In 1884 John Chisum developed a neck tumor, and on December 22 he died in Eureka Springs, Arkansas where he had gone for treatment. An indication of the wealth he had at the peak of his career, when Chisum died, his estate was still worth a half million dollars.

Heard Around the Bunkhouse #7: Western Phrases

Western phrasesIn our feature Heard Around the Bunkhouse we bring you Western phrases and sayings that they used back in the Old West. Hope you enjoy them, and send us your favorite terms from those past times.

ON THE PROD:  Anyone or anything wanting to do battle.

PROD POLE:  A long pole for prodding cattle into railroad cars.

PRIORY: Open land – either rolling or flat that is covered with grass.

BEAR SIGN: Cowboy term for donuts. They were highly regarded.

SHAVE TAIL: A green, inexperienced person.

KICK UP A ROW: Create a disturbance.

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

Old West Book Reviews: Last Warrior

Last WarriorThe Last Warrior, W. Michael Farmer, Five Star Publishing, $25.95, Cloth. Historical Fiction.
This is the third book in the series featuring the Mescalero Apache known as “Yellow Boy.” Earlier books in this series are Killer of Witches, and Blood of the Devil.
Yellow Boy lived sometime from 1860 through 1950, giving the author Michael Farmer an historical time frame through which the Mescalero Apaches survived the great changes brought upon them due to the arrival and domination of white men in the Southwest.
These Yellow Boy books are not only exciting, but help give readers an understanding of Apache culture. Their food, living conditions, beliefs and traditions are carefully woven into the stories. Some words in Apache are introduced, and fictional characters are mixed with some real people who lived during this time. Everything is carefully researched.
This third book is narrated by Yellow Boy himself as he tells his life story to another fictional character, Henry Fountain, who, as a child, had been rescued by Yellow Boy and has remained a close friend and ally of his Apache friend and teacher. While Henry listens, Yellow Boy explains about the most important adventures of his life dealing with both white people and various Apache enemies, plus some escapades that took Yellow Boy far into Mexico while having to deal with characters such as Pancho Villa.
Readers like Yellow Boy. He is not only a straight shooter in life, but a keen marksman having special Powers. A crack shot with his rifle, he is highly respected and carries great pride in the handling of firearms. He uses that to his advantage, but remains always fair in his dealings with friends as well as foe.

In this story Yellow Boy is determined to keep his family safe, while making necessary adjustments to their new life on a reservation. The story moves along quickly with good descriptions of the countryside, weather, animals, and all that is encountered during long rides through this unforgiving desert region.

We learn how a vindictive witch, who is the half-sister of the villain in a previous story, is determined to get even with Yellow Boy for having killed her murderous brother. This witch is nearly as bad as her brother and Yellow Boy must find a way to settle her hash. Her name is Ojo Verde, having one green eye and one brown eye. She plots the demise of Yellow Boy, cooking up all sorts of terrible revenge.

Of course Yellow Boy wins at the end of the story, but just when he is resting on his laurels and enjoying a peaceful smoke, there is more trouble on the horizon. Yellow Boy and both his wives hear talk about some missing friends. Supplies are short, and winter is coming on. It looks like Yellow Boy is in for yet another exciting adventure.

Stay Tuned.

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

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

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