Thursday, September 23, 2021

My Favorite Book, Part 27.

 

When President William McKinley was assassinated, a high-toned politician said, “Now look! That damn cowboy is President of the United States.” The “damn cowboy” in question was Theodore Roosevelt. And he remains, to this day—despite a few Texans and a make-believe movie actor—the only real cowboy to rise to that office.

Roosevelt’s cowboy career is chronicled in The Cowboy President: The American West and the Making of Theodore Roosevelt by Michael F. Blake.

Blake outlines the circumstances that sent Roosevelt, a patrician New Yorker, to the frontier West where he established cattle ranches in North Dakota. More than an owner, Roosevelt worked alongside his hired hands and became adept at handling horses, working cattle, riding the range, and surviving in a hard land.

Based on detailed research, Blake relates Roosevelt’s cowboy career to his wider life, telling how the lessons he learned in the West colored his endeavors in government service, the military, politics, and family life. The result is a well-rounded picture of the cowboy president that’s interesting, intriguing, and informative.

You’ll close the book with new understanding of and appreciation for “That damn cowboy.”




Monday, September 13, 2021

Camel bytes.


 







The Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award and Western Writers of America Spur Award finalist novel, Rawhide Robinson Rides a Dromedary: The True Tale of a Wild West Camel Caballero, is now available from Speaking Volumes in digital bits and bytes. Which means you can download and read it on your Kindle, iPad, smart phone, or other electronic gadget. For us old-fashioned or unplugged types, it is also now available in paperback.

Here’s where to get your copy of the eBook:
Amazon US
Apple Books
Barnes & Noble
Google Play
Kobo Books
Here’s where to get your copy of the paperback print book:
Amazon US 

You can read more about Rawhide Robinson, the ordinary cowboy who lives an extraordinary life—much of it a product of his imagination—on his very own web site. Enjoy.


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Really stupid words, Chapter 18.







So, there’s word—a tiny two-letter word—that has been annoying me for some time now.

So I have been considering writing (whining) about it.

So, when several friends expressed similar irritation with hearing it ad nauseam, that spurred me to get it done.

So, here goes.

It seems there are hundreds, thousands, millions of speakers of North American English who can no longer start a sentence or other statement with any word that isn’t “so.” If your ears are like mine, they hear it all the time. All the time. Now, “so” is a useful word and has an important place in our language when used properly, usually to indicate a result: They said it, and said it, and kept saying it, and would not stop saying it, so I got annoyed.

But “so” has taken its place with other overcooked, overused, worn-out words and phrases and sounds such as “I mean,” “y’know,” “like,” and the ever-popular “um” that have insinuated themselves into our speech to the point that they are thrown about willy-nilly, automatically, without thought, and, I suspect, without the speaker even knowing it. Or, if they do know, without care.

So, what do we do? Perhaps we should arm ourselves with little bells or whistles and give a ding or toot whenever we hear it. I doubt all the racket raised would be any more annoying than its cause.

So, what do you think?

 


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

How he died.

 

Orrin Porter Rockwell is my favorite historical character. Given his notoriety in his day, he does not get the mention he deserves in the literature—whether dramatic or documentary—of the Old West.

What is written about him tends to be contradictory—some writers presenting him as a cold-blooded murdering gunslinger, others as a righteous gunman who never killed anybody who didn’t need killing. I know from experience that a strong case can be made for either conclusion.

Even his death supports both points of view when it comes to the mythology of how men died in the Wild West. Good men were said to die in bed, which Porter Rockwell did. Bad men, on the other hand, died with their boots on, which Porter Rockwell did.

Here’s how it happened. On the night of June 8, 1878, Ol’ Port attended a play in downtown Salt Lake City, then spent some time imbibing in one of the city’s saloons. He made his way on foot a few blocks to the Colorado Stables, one of many of his business interests—which also included the Hot Springs Hotel and Brewery, and cattle and horse ranches in the West Desert. Rockwell kept an office at his livery stable, along with a room with a cot where he sometimes spent the night when in the city. He went to bed feeling poorly and spent a fitful, painful night. He stayed abed the next day, suffering severe stomach pains and vomiting. Late in the afternoon, he sat up in bed, determined to arise, and managed to pull on his boots before he fell back into the rumpled covers and died, just a few weeks short of his sixty-fifth birthday.

Porter Rockwell, like a good man, died in bed. But, like a bad man, he died with his boots on. Life and death are seldom black and white.


Saturday, August 7, 2021

Vacation time. I just spent several days in a cabin in the woods a short walk from the Buffalo River near its confluence with Henry’s Fork of the Snake River.

While there, I managed to approve the cover design and proof the page gallies for a paperback reprint of Pinebox Collins, as well as deal with some editorial questions about a forthcoming novel, This Thy Brother, and complete the manuscript and associated paperwork for an upcoming collection of short fiction, Black Joe and Other Selected Stories.

However, the work was enjoyable, as evidenced by the above photo of the view beyond my computer screen. We even managed to fit in a bunch of rest and relaxation, some sightseeing, and tourism.

Now I am home and ready to get back to work.

 


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

For young readers of all ages.


What happens when you round up twenty members of Western Writers of America, assign a couple of editors to ride herd on them, have each of them cut out a true—but little known—story from the Wild West and tell it in a way that will engage teenage readers?

You get Why Cows Need Cowboys and Other Seldom-Told Tales from the American West.

Editors Nancy Plain and Rocky Gibbons have accomplished a first in the annals of Western writing with this anthology. WWA has created other anthologies and collections over the years covering a wide range, but never before, not since its establishment in 1953, has a herd of some of America’s most accomplished Western writers pointed their pens and pencils in the direction of our youth.

Well done.

But you don’t have to be an adolescent to read and enjoy and learn from this book. Even those who are well-read in Western history will find new and entertaining incidents and episodes, people and places in these pages.

You’ll even find out why it took Earl—one of the Bronc-Bustin’ Bascom Brothers—sixty-five years to get the All-Around Cowboy trophy buckle he won at a rodeo. I know, because I got to tell that story.

 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Really stupid words, Chapter 17.

 

When was the last time you heard someone say, “I’ll call them,” or “I’ll write to them,” or “I’ll talk to them,” or even, nowadays, “I’ll text them.”

Not long ago, perhaps. But, if your ears hear the same things mine do, it is likely that more often than not you hear, “I’ll reach out to them.”

I hear it all the time. I don’t mind it, really. But it seems less precise than saying what you actually intend to do—such as call, write, talk, text, or what have you. On the other hand, it’s hard to deny that “reach out” has more cachet. And it sounds more personal, warmer, fuzzier, and all that. Like going for a hug, sort of.

Here’s why.

I will bet cash against cow pies that it all started back in 1979 with an advertising campaign from AT&T. Back then, telephone service was provided by regulated monopolies. AT&T was it for long-distance calls (for those who remember such things) and for local service through the Bell System. The campaign encouraged more long-distance calling—for which they made money, of course—by persuading us to “Reach out and touch someone.” That tag line punctuated a lovely (and touching) little jingle on TV and radio that I can still sing to this day. It firmly established “reach out” as the thing to do, and we still “reach out” today.

Except for me. I prefer to write. Or call.