Train – Oxcart Race

The coming of the railroad was considered one of the greatest things to happen in the Old West. It made possible the transportation of goods and people from the industrialized east to the frontier west. The train also was able to cut that travel time down considerably. But, there was one occasion on December 1, 1880 that a lowly oxcart beat a train in a race that quite possible only the oxcart occupants were aware. 
Oxcart
               
Just as the eastbound fast mail train was steaming out of town a hack containing three eager gentlemen drove up to the depot, only to be told the train they wanted had just rounded the bend. The hack they had rented had left the station, and the only transportation was a wagon and four-ox team.
 
The men sternly walked up to the owner of the rig. “Five dollars if you take us up the rail thirty miles,” said one man. “Another five if you get us there before 8 o’clock,” said the second. “Five dollars more if you get us there ahead of the train,” said the third man.
 
The driver looked at the team, thought really hard about the fifteen dollars to be made in two and a half hours, and said “I’m your man.”
 
The wagon road lay alongside the tracks. The first mile was slow, but soon the oxen warmed up. In an hour they had caught up with the train. In the darkness of the evening they could see the trains red light and fire from the smoke stack in the distance behind them.
 
The men finally arrived at their destination safely. After they had domiciled at the hotel, one of the men said, “Boys, we have beaten the train by twenty minutes; let us go to the depot and see it creep in.”

Women’s Suffrage

Although women had been instrumental the development of our country, as 1869 came to a close, they didn’t have the right to hold a political office, or even vote. But that changed on December 10, 1869 as the first state gave women the right to vote and hold political office. One would expect that it would be an eastern state. But that wasn’t so. It was one of the most frontier areas of that time… Wyoming. So, why were the men in the Wyoming Territory so progressive when it came to women’s suffrage?
women’s suffrage
               
One middle-aged territorial legislator by the name of William Bright backed the bill because his wife convinced him that “denying women the vote was a gross injustice.” Incidentally, his wife just happened to be about half his age. Then there was Edward Lee, the territorial secretary, who argued that if a black man can vote, why couldn’t his dear sweet mother. But most people supported the bill for another reason.
 
At the time the Wyoming territory had a population of about 6,000 men and only about 1,000 women. And most of the 6,000 men were lonely for a woman’s companionship. It was thought that if Wyoming gave women the right to vote, the territory would get national publicity, and in turn single women would come to this rugged, isolated area.
 
When Governor John Campbell signed the women’s suffrage bill one lawmaker gave the toast, “To the lovely ladies, once our superiors, now our equals.”
 
Did it work? Well, if you visit Wyoming today you’ll meet some of the handsomest, most strong-minded women, and happiest men.
An interesting side note: In ancient Athens, often cited as the birthplace of democracy, only adult, male citizens who owned land were permitted to vote. Through subsequent centuries, Europe was generally ruled by monarchs, though various forms of parliament arose at different times. The high rank ascribed to abbesses within the Catholic Church permitted some women the right to sit and vote at national assemblies – as with various high-ranking abbesses in Medieval Germany, who were ranked among the independent princes of the empire. Their Protestant successors enjoyed the same privilege almost into modern times.

Chuckwagon: Cowboy Catsup

Cowboy CatsupTo make Cowboy Catsup take one gallon skinned tomatoes, three heaping tablespoonfuls of salt, some black pepper, two of allspice, three of ground mustard, half dozen pods of red pepper and add to a large pot.

Stew all slowly together in a quart of vinegar for three hours.  Strain liquid, and simmer down to half gallon.  Bottle hot and cork tight.

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

Old West Book Review: Nighthawk Rising

Nighthawk RisingNighthawk Rising, Diana Allen Kouris, High Plains Press, $19.95, Paperback 416 pp, Photos, Maps, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

Nighthawk Rising is the fascinating story is the biography of “Queen” Ann Bassett, an accused cattle rustler living in Brown’s Park in the 1880s through the turn of the century.  Brown’s Park is a wildly beautiful area spanning the rugged mountains throughout western Utah, southern Wyoming, and eastern Colorado.  This is the land of the Wild Bunch, Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, deadly range wars and Tom Horn.

Ann Bassett’s parents settled here, trying to make a living in the difficult cattle business.  Ann’s mother ruled the roost, a tough woman who rode sidesaddle while directing her cowboys.  Ann’s father was a quiet gentleman more likely to be found at home writing poetry.

Ann and her three siblings grew up learning self-sufficiency.  The little girl was a tough cookie, riding the most spirited broncs, and refusing sidesaddles.  She dressed in buckskin trousers, was a top hand with a lariat, and could handle guns.  Headstrong and resisting discipline, as a teenager she roped a grizzly cub and got her horse killed when mama bear came to the rescue.  Ann got a well-deserved spanking from one of the cowboys who saved her life, but even that did not deter the girl from adventuresome deeds.  She was always in the middle of things, whether driving cattle in a snow storm or crawling into a cave to kill coyote pups.

Sadly, Ann’s mother died suddenly of appendicitis.  It now fell on Ann to be a leader in the family.  These changes in the girl’s life coincide with the range war sweeping through Brown’s Park as the big ranchers tried to rid themselves of competition from smaller outfits.  Tom Horn was hired as a “range detective”.  Unsolved murders occurred thereafter, including the shooting death of Mat Rash, a handsome young cattleman who dated Ann Bassett and was destined to become her husband until his bullet-riddled body was found in the hills, most likely murdered by Tom Horn.

This tragic loss undoubtedly shaped Ann’s personal life thereafter.  She never had a young husband.  She had several husbands, all older men, and divorces.  Her life seemed forever in turmoil in her effort to protect her ranch way of life.  She moved from one place to another, was involved in legal disputes, was accused of being a “”rustler”, and nicknamed “Queen Ann” because of her rebellious nature.

Don’t look here for a hard riding bandit queen leading a gang of outlaws.  Ann’s day by day life shows a gritty woman determined to survive against powerful men and forces beyond her control.

Diana Allen Kouris, the author of Nighthawk Rising, herself grew up in the Brown’s Park region. Her family is in the cattle business.  Even though she was born many years after Queen Ann rode the range, Kouris has been able to relate to Brown’s Park and the people.  Her writing is filled with original detail.  We detect the author really knows what she is writing about, generating a feeling of respect and empathy for Queen Ann when readers turn the last page: a truly haunting story.

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.

Heard Around the Bunkhouse #1: Cowboy Phrases

Cowboy PhrasesHeard Around the Bunkhouse is a new feature on Cowboy to Cowboy where we will bring you cowboy 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.

OLD STATES – Back east.

PILGRIM – Cowboy term for an easterner or novice cowboy.

SHAVER – Slang for a young boy.

BLOW-UP: A fit of anger.

CALIFORNIA WIDOW: A woman separated from her husband, but not divorced.  From when pioneer men went West, leaving their wives back home.

DICKER: Barter, trade.

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

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