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Monday, December 9, 2019


I must admit, my very favorite ride at any fair or carnival is the Ferris wheel.  I love being “up” – someday I’ll tell the story of my 2-year-old self climbing to the top of the refrigerator.  I actually took up snow skiing just so I could ride the gondolas and see the view from the top of the mountains.

I adored the giddy feeling of swooping away from the ground, rocking a little with each stop as the cars were loaded, then going around and around…  Just seeing a Ferris wheel now brings back fond memories of our hometown fair and being “stuck” at the top and able to see forever.

The Ferris wheel, named for George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., seems to have its origins in a 17th century “pleasure wheel,” on which passengers rode in chairs suspended from large wooden rings turned by several strong men.  These wheels or swings were in operation as long ago as 1615 in Constantinople. Pietro Della Valle, a Roman traveller who attended a Ramadan festival in Constantinople, described a Great Wheel which swept him upwards and downwards with some enjoyable speed.
A Frenchman, Antonio Manguino, brought the wooden pleasure wheel to America in 1848 to attract visitors to his fair in Walton Spring, Georgia.

In 1892, William Somers installed three fifty-foot wooden wheels at Asbury Park and Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Coney Island, New York. The following year he was granted the first U.S. patent for a "Roundabout." Ferris rode on Somers' wheel in Atlantic City prior to designing his wheel for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. [It should be noted that Ferris’ design was so similar that Somers filed a lawsuit for patent infringement. Ferris and his lawyers successfully argued that the Ferris Wheel and its technology differed greatly from Somers' wheel, and the case was dismissed.]
The original “Chicago Ferris Wheel” stood 264 feet high. The wheel on this behemoth rotated on a 71-ton, 45.5-foot axle, with two 16-foot-diameter cast-iron spiders weighing another 26 tons. There were 36 cars, each fitted with 40 revolving chairs and able to accommodate up to 60 people, giving a total capacity of 2,160 at a time (that’s another 2+ tons). The wheel took twenty minutes to complete two revolutions and carried 38,000 passengers daily at 50 cents each.

After the Exposition, the wheel was rebuilt on Chicago's North Side, near Lincoln Park, next to an exclusive neighborhood. It operated there from October, 1895, until 1903, when it was again dismantled and transported by rail to St. Louis for the 1904 World's Fair. The Chicago Ferris Wheel was finally demolished on May 11, 1906.

However, a new wheel has been built at Union Station in St. Louis, changing the skyline and offering a glimpse into the past. It’s 200 feet tall and offers a 20-mile view of the area. Next time you visit, check it out.

So, tell me. What’s your favorite ride at The Fair?

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Book review: A Gift of Christmas Hope by Kaye Spencer

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A shooting over a poker game, a family seeking revenge, a blizzard sweeping across the Texas Panhandle—it’s more than the world-weary gambler known as Lady Sapphire can handle without help. Determined to make it to her childhood home by Christmas Eve with her stagecoach full of treasure, she needs an escort, and there’s no time to be choosy.

Neal Behlen, a drifting gambler and occasional lady’s man—depending upon the size of the lady’s bank account—has his eye on the contents of Lady Sapphire’s mysterious steamer trunks. Taking on the job as her temporary bodyguard seems a lucrative venture and a pleasant diversion, since he plans to work in bedroom benefits along the way.

The price of their business arrangement is steep—their hearts—and both are reluctant to pay. What they need is a gift of Christmas hope, but will it arrive before it’s too late for love?

My Review:

This is a delightful and steamy little Christmas tale to warm you up on the cold winter night!

I adored the history/connection between Mara and Neal, which provides the perfect set up to deepen their re-connection.  Their banter and tenacity with each other kept me entertained. 

Mixing in some treasure and some Christmas hope, this short story sweetly satisfies.

Purchase Links:

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Moravian Christmas #MoravianStar #MoravianCookies By Sarah J. McNeal

The Emblem of the Moravian Church  

Who are the Moravians and exactly what so they do? Some have thought of the Moravians as Amish or Mormons, but they  are completely different.

Moravians are protestants much like the Methodists. Hans Hus (John Hus in English)started the Moravian movement in Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, in the early 15th century. He objected to the practices and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church that dominated Europe. For instance, he wanted the liturgy to be celebrated in the common language of the people (Czech), lay people to receive communion in both bread and wine, priests to be allowed to marry, and to eliminate the idea of purgatory. These concepts predate the Protestant Reformation by a century and some historians claim the Moravian Church was actually the first Protestant Church. Even though the movement gained support in the Crown of Bohemia, Hus was summoned to the Council of Constance where he was declared a heretic and released him to the secular authority which sentenced him to be burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.
Hans Hus burned at the stake

The Moravian Church did not die with Hus, instead, the movement spread even to far flung places like Greenland, Africa, Tanzania, and the West Indies. The Moravians wanted to spread the Gospel even though they did not try to convert others to their religion. By the middle of the 16th century 90% of the inhabitants of the Bohemian Crown had become Protestant. The majority of the nobility was Protestant, and the schools and printing shops established by the Moravian Church were flourishing.

Protestantism had a strong influence in education of the population. By the mid 16th century every single town in Bohemia had a Protestant school, and many more had more than one with two to six teachers each. Girls were given equal education to boys studying at a level of high grammar school including lectures on Latin, Greek, Rhetoric, Dialects, fundamentals of Philosophy and fine arts as well as religion according to the Lutheran Augustana.

The Catholic churches could not compete with the Moravian schools and soon they began to persecute the Moravians. The Moravian refugees sought shelter in other countries and, eventually, made settlements in America. The first settlement in Georgia failed to thrive, so they moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and the Salem, North Carolina where they grew into thriving communities. 
Old Salem, North Carolina

The Moravians are best known for their beautiful music 
The Moravian Forsyth County Band in North Carolina 1900

and for their Love Feast which is celebrated upon the first gathering after Pentecost by breaking bread with one another. 

Salem, now referred to as Old Salem, has been preserved as it was in 1766 with its buildings intact and is now an historical site where visitors can go to the shops and purchase wares similar to those originally sold when the community began. I just have to add here that the women’s college in Old Salem was the first college for women in America. The Moravian women held the same level of offices as the men and held as equals in the society. 

Salem College and Campus, the Oldest Female College in the U.S., Winston-Salem, NC

Seasonal celebrations are still carried out in Old Salem including Christmas.

And Christmas is why I wanted to post about the Moravians because there are two Moravian Christmas traditions that people continue even to this day: The Moravian Star and Moravian cookies. 

The Moravian Star is a multi-dimensional creation made of glass or paper that are used today with a light inside and displayed at the entrance of homes and on Christmas tree tops. 
Moravian Gingerbread and Molasses Cookies

The famous Moravian cookies are thin, delicate gingerbread or molasses type cookies about the size of a silver dollar and shaped like a flower. 
Old Salem Bakery

They are still sold in the Winkler Bakery in Old Salem. They also make a traditional sugar cake that is mighty tasty. I’ve included recipes.

Moravian Christmas Cookies Recipe

Moravian Sugar Cake Recipe

December has just begun, but I’d like to wish you all who celebrate it, a very Merry Christmas! 


By Sarah J. McNeal

Prairie Rose Publications

Buy Link: A Christmas Visitor



Matilda Barton’s broken heart may never heal. The love of her life, Sterling Thoroughgood, has been gone three years with no word. Is he dead or alive? Why should it matter to her? She’s spent the past three years trying to save her father, her ranch, and her dignity—but her heart has taken the worst battering of all. Now that her father has died, the livestock has been sold off, and the ranch is in disrepair, her life is empty. When Sterling Thoroughgood rides up to her house on Christmas Eve, is it any wonder she greets him with a shotgun instead of a kiss?

Sterling Throughgood has worked hard to build a ranch in Hazard, Wyoming. Admittedly, it took longer than he thought, but he had to have a good start for Matilda, the woman he’s always loved. Arriving at her house on Christmas Eve, he discovers a lot has changed in three years. Her father, his mentor, has passed away—and Matilda has become bitter because of what she felt were empty promises Sterling made in the past. But Sterling is not a quitter, and he will pit his determination against Matilda’s iron-clad will any day of the week—even on Christmas Eve.

He hopes that the puzzle box he made for her with his special gift inside will prove to her his ever-constant love, but is it too late for that? Can Matilda understand his three-year absence amidst all the loss she’s gone through? Is their love lost forever, or does the peculiar puzzle box hold the key to happiness for both of them? Can Sterling be more than just A CHRISTMAS VISITOR…


“Don’t you even think about stepping up on this porch, Sterling Alexander Thoroughgood, or I’ll shoot a hole in you big enough for a team of horses to jump through.” The woman wearing a faded blue calico dress aimed the shotgun straight at his heart…and sometimes his liver since she wasn’t holding the shotgun all that steady.

Sterling raised his hands in the air. His bare hands were practically numb from the cold. He glanced up at the slate gray sky. Snow’s comin’. Then he grinned at the woman holding the shotgun. “Merry Christmas to you, too, Matilda.”

She dipped the shotgun for just a moment, but raised it again as if on a second thought. “What do you want here after being gone for three years? Did you break some hearts up in Wyoming? Maybe you have some fathers and brothers gunning for you and you thought you’d come running back here to hide.”

Well, there it was. He’d hurt her when he left and she wasn’t about to let him forget it. “I came to see Allister. I told him I’d be coming back soon as I got my place up and running. We had an agreement about him selling me some cattle and maybe a bull to get a good, diverse herd started of my own.” He reached out his hand to press down on the barrel of her shotgun pointing it toward the broken down boards of the porch. “So, if you could see yourself clear to let me speak to your daddy, I’d be obliged.”

Matilda placed a hand on her hip while the other held tight to that shotgun. “Seems you’re a little too late, Mr. Thoroughgood. Pa died last year from pneumonia. He’d been sick a while and I had to sell off all of the livestock except for the mule and a few chickens to pay for the doctor and his medicine. I guess you’ll be leaving here empty handed.”

“Tilly, darlin’, I’m so sorry to hear the news that Allister has passed away. He was a good man and a good friend to me.” He stretched out a hand to touch her arm, but she stepped back just out of reach.

“Don’t you dare call me sweet names or my nickname, you snake. You’ve been gone three years and not a single word from you in all that time. All that sweet talk means nothing to me now.” She opened the door and stepped back to wave him into the house.

“I need to get my horses settled in the barn first, but I’d be obliged if I could come in for some coffee after that. It’s been a long trip from Wyoming.” He tipped his hat and turned to step off the porch. Once he had hold of the reigns of both horses, he glanced back up at Matilda who still stood with her hand on the door wearing a strange expression on her face.

“Don’t be surprised at the condition of the barn. Part of the roof has a hole in it. You might want to put the horses in the stalls on the left to keep ‘em warm and dry. There’s a little hay in the loft still.” Her voice seemed less determined and ornery. Sterling liked it better when she cussed him than when she pretended to be obliging.

“Thank you, Matilda. I brought some feed with me. Do you have some stock you need me to feed or have anything I need to bring in for you?”

Her throat worked for a moment and her eyes took a watery sheen. Please don’t cry, darlin’. His heart hurt for her. Things must have been tough for her over the past year. Finally, she managed to speak and her voice had its defiant edge to it again. “Hector, the mule, could use some hay and there are a few chickens needing to be fed some dried corn, if you don’t mind a little work.”

Sterling chuckled relieved she had regained her starch. “No trouble at all. I’ll see to things in the barn. You best get on in the house out of the cold. You reckon we could have a cup of coffee and talk when I get back from the barn? I’ve been riding for days in the cold to get here and could use something hot to get me percolating again.”

“Ran out of coffee three days ago. Hot water might have to do.”

“I brought provisions with me and some things I thought Allister and you might need. I need to see to my horse first, so I’ll just get on out and get those chores done. You take it easy for a while and I’ll fix us up a fine pot of coffee as soon as I get back from the barn.”

Matilda nodded her head as an answer, took up her shotgun and walked into the house shutting the door with a decided bang behind her.

Diverse stories filled with heart




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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Interview with a Lawyer 

In the spirit of reciprocation to Cate Simon, I've asked her character, 19th century lawyer Anna Harrison Brown, to interview one of mine as it really casts a spotlight on how things were for women at that time. 

I thought one of my characters would be in particular need of advice from a lawyer, and that a female lawyer might be the one to make the spiky and defensive Jessica Neuman open up. After all, she is the unmarried mother of an outlaw's two children, and who then married another man for security. That marriage is deeply unhappy with simmering undertones of disrespect and abuse. Jessica is desperate to avoid becoming pregnant by her new husband as she knows he'd never allow her to leave with his child, and doesn't want to be trapped. Just what were her options back in the late 19th century?  

Thanks to Cate for playing along -- Anna's responses are hers.  

Manuscript found in a file of old documents pertaining to Anna Harrison Brown, in a loft which was being cleared out.

Thank you for seeing me. I feel comfortable talking to a woman lawyer. Men are too judgemental, and don’t expect us to have the same passions as they do.  My name is Jessica and I have a husband and two children. The problem is that my husband isn’t the father of my children. He thinks I’m a widow, and has accepted my family. I wouldn’t have married a man who didn’t.
My problem is that the real father and I never married, and he loves his son and daughter. He visits about twice a year and pretends to be the children’s uncle. The kids dote on him, and don’t really know who he is, but he wants to tell them when they’re grown up. I realize that you are in a different state, but I wanted to ask you a few questions about my rights in Kansas in the 1800s (date hard to read as faded) . An extra complication is that my ex-lover is a wanted outlaw. The reason I didn’t take up with him was to protect my children from any danger. People have been injured when they tried to bring in criminals. They don’t care who they shoot.

1. My first question is, who has the right to my children? Me, my husband, or my outlaw lover?

Did you and the children’s father live together as man and wife, even if you never legally married?  Because Kansas recognizes common law marriage, which means that some of the legal rights of a, if you’ll pardon me, properly married couple will still apply.  The fact that you had two children within the bounds of this relationship – and you say that you lived in a house he paid for, until the time of your marriage to your current husband?  It sounds as though there are grounds to constitute a common law marriage, which means the children’s father would potentially have rights.

2. If both men claimed my children, who would win?

Out of the three of you, it’s actually you are mostly likely to have rights.  That is not the case in most jurisdictions, where the father’s rights outweigh those of the mother.  But you’re fortunate to be from Kansas.  Under the state Constitution, which was enacted in 1861, your rights to the custody of your children – and also to property, by the way – is protected.  That’s not the case elsewhere.
If your husband hasn’t adopted your children, legally, then they’re yours.  As for the children’s father, if he’s an outlaw, it’s unlikely the courts would consider his rights to supercede yours.  Between the two men, that’s trickier – there’s an argument to be made for their real father, but if he’s an outlaw, appearing in court is tantamount to giving himself up – the question might be how eager the jurisdiction or jurisdictions where he’s wanted are to get him back.

3. My lover committed crimes in Wyoming and they tell me that has no statute of limitation. Can you explain what that means and if he’ll really always be a wanted man?

I’m afraid that’s the case, unless there’s some kind of pardon or amnesty.  It’s unfortunate that he chose Wyoming, as every other jurisdiction has a statute of limitations – a time after which it’s no longer possible to prosecute someone for their crimes.  In Colorado, for example, the statute runs on theft in three years.  I’m guessing, from the way you’re presenting this, that your outlaw friend did nothing worse than that.

There are solid reasons for a statute of limitations – evidence and testimony are far less likely to be reliable after a period of time.  That’s why Wyoming’s such an unusual case. 

4. Can I get a divorce and what can I keep? My lover paid for a home and for the upkeep of the children, so I brought money into my marriage.

Yes.  Again, you’re very lucky to be in Kansas – under the state constitution, women keep their own property whether they are married or not.  That’s something which is still very much in dispute elsewhere.

5. How much violence am I supposed to endure before it’s illegal?

This is one of the shames of our society.  A husband is allowed by law to “inflict moderate and reasonable corporal punishment.”  And unfortunately, unless you’re seriously injured or someone intervenes, there is not a lot that can be done.  If it became an obvious public disturbance, for example, or if your family intervened.  Are you close to your parents?  That might help.  No?  That’s unfortunate.

6. Would my husband be legally obliged to care for children who weren’t his if I died?

Only if he has adopted them.  Depending on the situation, there might also be significant social pressure on him, but no legal obligation, I’m afraid.

7. I try to stop myself becoming pregnant by my husband as I don’t want any more children. He doesn’t know. Am I allowed to do this?

If he becomes aware of it, and he disapproves, he does have the legal right to stop you, I’m afraid.  Are you certain he’s unaware, though?  Some of the methods available are, I believe, difficult to conceal – or so I’ve been told.     
19th Century Birth Control Adverts

8. Can I legally keep the children’s real father away from them?

Not if you’ve acknowledged that he’s their father.

9. If I leave my husband (it’s loveless and I hate my life), what can I expect from society and the court?

While you’re fortunate to live in Kansas, in this case, because your right to divorce is right in the state constitution, you should be aware that life will not be easy for you, as a divorced woman.  The courts are obliged to uphold the law, but individual judges may hold more conservative views.  And, of course, you’ll face social discrimination almost across the board, I’m afraid.  You’ll be judged on a regular basis – you need to think about whether that’s something you can live with.

10. Does a blood-relative count more than an outlaw, and unmarried father?

No, I’m afraid not.  A father, married or not, is as close in blood as . . . well, as you are.

11. As a female lawyer, how does your perspective differ to that of male colleagues?

I like to think I’m more attuned to issues that affect women.  Sometimes . . . sometimes clients find me, because they’re able to tell me things that they can’t face telling a man.  My father, who trained me, was an unusual man, a follower of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s philosophies, and it never occurred to him that I shouldn’t be whatever I wanted to be.  And my partner – he was my clerk, originally, and so we’ve worked together always, from his perspective.  And my father was, and Jonathan is, very supportive of my work.  But even they, very unusual men both, always deferred to me on these issues.
I’ve been very much accepted by my community, but outsiders, whether they’re clients or whether I’m off in court somewhere outside of my little town, are usually surprised, sceptical, or simply dismissive.  Until I show them what I can do.  And if I, who’ve been so very fortunate to be able to do what I want to with my life, have to face that, I’m very well aware that other women have even worse to consider.

12. Why should women hope for more in the west than their Eastern sisters?

I’d say there are two reasons for that:  there is a shortage of women, here out West, and a shortage of people, altogether.  I doubt my law practice would get very far in a big Eastern city, for example, even in the states where women have the right to be lawyers.  But with a limited number of people available, and educated people even more so, I think people are quicker to accept women in more unusual roles.
And because more men have come West than women, states and territories have tried to attract women, by giving them rights – rights to property, rights to divorce, and so forth.  Wyoming is even considering giving women the vote; though I realize that’s not a place you’re likely to want to go anytime soon.  

13. What state would be the best place for me to move to if I divorce? Which one allows women the most rights?   

If you’re thinking about going far away, New York is actually leading the way on women’s property rights.  And it’s rumoured to be an easy place to go and reinvent yourself, if that’s what you want.   But if you’d like someplace a little more like home, you might consider moving to Texas.  They’ve a very good record on women’s property rights, even married women.  Women retain the right to enter into contracts, married or not.  And divorce is possible there, too.  And then, of course, there’s Wyoming, but you’ve got reasons to steer clear there.

Thank you for coming to see me -- I hope I’ve been able to answer some of your questions satisfactorily.  And once you know where you’re going, please let me know.  I’m part of a small nationwide group of women lawyers, and I’d be happy to help you find someone a little more local than I am.

The e-book Courting Anna is on sale from December 3-9 – only $0.99.  Read more about the adventures of a pioneering women lawyer in the American West – and the outlaw she falls in love with.

Connect with Cate:
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Buy Courting Anna :

In All Innocence



Almost everyone woke simultaneously, jolted by the sound of the brakes grinding, and the engine puffing and huffing in protest at an unscheduled stop. Jake’s hand reached for his gun even before he was fully conscious.

“No!” The cry came from Jeffrey, the younger steward, who staggered into the aisle in shock.

Nat strode out of the curtained area, fastening his trousers. “What’s wrong?”

“Mrs. Hunter,” Jeffrey stammered. “She’s dead.”

Nat dragged the curtain aside, revealing the tiny-framed woman lying in a pool of blood. He kneeled and scrutinized her. “Bring a lamp.” He reached out and touched her face. “She’s alive. She’s warm. Fetch Philpot. He’s a doctor.”

The Englishman wandered groggily forward. “I’m not a doctor. I’m a—”

“We don’t care what you are, Philpot,” Jake growled. “You’re the nearest thing we’ve got. You’ve got medical training. Get in there.”

Mrs. Hunter’s eyes flickered weakly open. “My moonstone. Miss Davies—she took it.” She fell back into insensibility.

Jake frowned and his keen blue eyes looked up and down the railway car at the passengers crowded in the aisle in various stages of undress. “Where is Miss Davies? Have you seen her, Abi? You’re bunkin’ with her.”

“No, she isn’t here.” Abigail frowned. “I haven’t seen her for ages. She wasn’t even in her bunk when I changed Ava.”

Malachi padded briskly up to the group, pushing various butlers out of his way as they milled around. “Oh, my goodness! The poor woman.”

Jake nodded. “Yeah, Philpot’s seein’ to her. She’s still alive. Why’ve we stopped? We ain’t at a station.”

Malachi quickly fastened a stray button. “I’m sorry, gentlemen. I have been informed that a rock fall has blocked the tracks. We will dig it out and be on our way as soon as possible.”

“A rock fall? So, how far to a station?” Nat asked. “We’re high in the mountains, miles from anywhere.”

There was another ominous rumble somewhere above them and the carriage shook. The roof thundered with the thumps and clattering of stones and gravel pounding the roof. Worried glances rose upward while Abigail hunched protectively over her baby. The noise gradually stopped, but for an occasional patter of settling gravel and stones shifting above them.

The head steward’s brow crinkled into a myriad of furrows. “I’d best go and check that out.”

Nat’s brows knotted into a frown. “We’re miles from anywhere? So where has Maud Davies gone?” “With the moonstone?”

Jake strode over to the door and looked out at the huge feathery flakes drifting down from the heavy skies onto an expansive mountainous vista. “There’s nowhere to go.”

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Lawman History Forgot - Elizabeth Clements

THE LAWMAN HISTORY FORGOT  -  Elizabeth Clements

The horror of fighting in the Civil War had a traumatic effect on many of the men and not just from the loss of a limb or an eye but also left haunting mental images of awful butchery. Some came home to a rundown property or found their land confiscated for unpaid taxes. Many couldn’t find jobs and in desperation some men turned to stealing and raiding to survive. When pursued by the law, the desperadoes often eluded capture by escaping into the Indian Territory. Lawlessness ran rampant, creating a need for law and order.

We’ve heard of some of the more famous lawmen that populated the Wild West, such as Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Sheriff Pat Garett and Wild Bill Hickock. But there is another lawman I had never heard of until I started researching the history of deputy marshals for my book, Beneath A Horse Thief Moon.

I came across the story of one deputy marshal with an amazing career. Bass Reeve was born in January 1838 on a plantation owned by Arkansas state legislator, William Steele Reeves. Bass was named after his grandfather, Bass Washington, but being a slave, he had the surname of his master. After a move to Texas, Bass was owned by George Reeves, who took Bass with him into the Civil War at age 23, probably because Bass was good with horses and guns. It is unclear what exactly transpired between Bass and his new owner that made him run off into the Indian Territory to live with the Cherokee, Creeks and Seminoles. Bass not only learned their language, but he also became very familiar with the land, which was to benefit him immensely in the near future.

The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery at the end of the war in 1865, making Bass a freed man. Bass took his young family to Arkansas where he farmed for a few years until he was hired as a deputy U.S. marshal to serve in the Indian Territory because he could speak several Indian languages and had extensive knowledge of the area.
The Indian Territory had become increasingly dangerous with outlaws who could not—or would not adjust to a normal, honest way of life after having killed and plundered during the war. One court and one judge were insufficient to cover this large area where outlaws had claimed over 225 lives. Isaac Parker, (later known as the Hanging Judge because he’d had 70 men hung for their crimes) was appointed as a federal judge for the Indian Territory. Judge Parker knew needed fearless men with integrity who knew how to shoot.

Bass Reeves had integrity, courage, good instincts and knew the territory well, so despite being black and illiterate, he was hired and became the first black deputy west of the Mississippi. Although Bass couldn’t read nor write, he was blessed with an incredible memory and an uncanny ability to recognize names by the shape of the letters. In the 32 years of his career as a marshal, he never made a single mistake by capturing the wrong outlaw or in his reports. He could flip through a wad of writs and recognize names and go after those outlaws. Due to his incredible memory, his reports were always on time and in perfect order (possibly he dictated them).

Bass Reeve was a tall man, preferred to dress well, sported a big, bushy mustache and rode a white horse. He worked well undercover, too, using a disguise as needed, to fool men who didn’t expect a black man to be a lawman. In one case, he tracked down two brothers who holed up with their mother. Before approaching the cabin, Bass removed his badge, shot a hole through his hat and changed into worn clothing so that he looked more believable as a drifter seeking work. The woman took him in and fed him supper. After everyone was asleep, Bass took out his handcuffs and arrested the brothers. Luckily, he was not shot by the enraged mother of the outlaws when he rode away with her sons.

Over the years as his reputation grew, Bass incurred jealousy from some lawmen who resented that Bass was a famous black man who always managed to bring in his man. Thus, he was framed for a murder which he did not commit. According to tribal law in the Indian Territory, black marshals were always to be accompanied by a Native American. One day when the posse was bringing several fugitives to Fort Smith for trial, Bass was repairing his jammed rifle when it went off and he accidentally shot the cook.
Bass was arrested and was thrown in with other prisoners in the fetid jail beneath the courthouse. The dungeon was a dirt floor and had no bathroom facilities except for a communal bucket. The stench, especially in the summer, was so bad that sawdust was tamped between the floorboards to block the odor leaking into the courtroom above. Bass sold off everything he owned to pay for his bail and a lawyer. The trial was not going well in his favor until the wife of one of the fugitives bravely testified what had actually happened and all charges against Bass were dropped.

Many people assumed that would be the end of his marshal days, but no, Bass went right back to hunting fugitives and outlaws. After all, he had a wife and 11 children to support and there was no cushion, such as life insurance, if one got killed in the line of duty. In the span of his career, Bass Reeves arrested over 3,000 outlaws, killed only 14 men and he himself was never wounded. However, he did play possum in one instance while tracking a vicious, sadistic killer called Bob Dossier.
Bass and his partner were tracking Bob Dossier through some rough, wooded territory. Shots were exchanged. Dossier shot at Bass, who fell and lay still. Feeling victorious that he would now be known for having killed the famous lawman, Bass Reeves, Dossier approached. Bass waited patiently for the outlaw to get closer, then twisted and fired, killing him.

Despite his career as a lawman, Bass was known to be a deeply religious man and only killed in self-defense. He also proved his integrity when he arrested his son, Benjamin. With Bass away for weeks at a time, his children perhaps didn’t have the fatherly guidance a son needed. Ben had been jailed for beating his cheating wife. When Bass gave his son fatherly advice, Ben took matters into his own hands upon release and ended up killing his wife—not quite what Bass had suggested with his advice. None of the marshals wanted to bring in Ben, but when Bass recognized the name “Reeves” on the warrant, he said he would bring him in, and he did. Ben was sentenced to 11 years in the penitentiary; he was pardoned after 8 years and led a straight life after that as a barber.

Reeves served as a deputy U.S. marshal until 1893 in the Western District of Arkansas, which included responsibility for the Indian Territory. He was then transferred to Paris, Texas for a few years, then transferred again in 1897 to serve at the Muskogee Federal Court in the Indian Territory. His career as a deputy marshal came to an end when Oklahoma became a state in 1907 and an act was passed that banned black men from being deputy marshals. Thus, for a short time, at the age of 68, Bass became an officer of the Muskogee Police Department. He retired in 1907 and died in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1910 at the age of 71.

But the story doesn’t end there about the man that history kinda forgot. Years later, in Detroit in 1933, there was a radio station next to a correction facility—the Detroit House of Correction, where prisoners were brought from Fort Smith. Stories were told to the prison guards about a black lawman of the old west. Is it just coincidence that there were several parallels between Bass Reeves and the Lone Ranger? Bass rode a white horse; had worn disguises at times; had a Native American as a sidekick (by tribal law a black deputy marshal had to be accompanied); Bass had integrity and fought for justice and always got his man. Bass was known to give silver dollars to people, not silver bullets. Legend also had it that if Bass Reeves were to spit on a brick, the brick would break—which indicates Bass was a tough lawman. Bass never set out to be a legend— he just defended the law because he felt where there’s law, there’s freedom.
So the next time you catch a rerun of the Lone Ranger tv series or an old classic movie, perhaps you’ll smile and think of Bass Reeves.

In my western trilogy that began with Beneath A Horse Thief Moon, I wanted to know more about deputy U.S. marshals. Thus, when I came across the tidbit about a marshal who could neither read nor write yet kept excellent records, I was so relieved that this was believable for my secondary character, Mike Sutton, who got his own story in Beneath A Fugitive Moon. Here is an excerpt:

 Jolene gazed at him, struck suddenly by his manner. He wasn’t defiant, or angry. His red face was of embarrassment. There was more to this. The teacher in her had to find out. “Mike, if you had trouble with the form, why didn’t you say so? I’d have helped you.”
            He jerked around and went to the window, shoulders slumped, staring out into the darkness.
            What’s wrong with him? Something’s not right here. “If you’re afraid of your penmanship, I’ll fill it out for you.”
            “I’m not interested in goin’ to university, let alone bein’ a doctor.”
            His voice didn’t have the ring of truth to it. Yet, she was convinced he was hiding something. But what? Her gaze fell back on the paper and she stared at the words as if they could supply the answer. And then they did.
            Stunned, she replayed the scene in her mind. He’d picked up the paper, barely glanced at it and handed it to her. He hadn’t turned the page around, so he had to have been reading it upside down before handing it to her.
            Suddenly another image popped into her mind. Back at the house in town, when he’d been recuperating. She’d brought him the newspaper. He’d held it upside down. She’d even teased him about it and he’d blushed to the roots of his hair. After that he’d told her not to bother bringing him any newspapers. He didn’t like to read.
            Didn’t...or couldn’t? And then it hit her and all the jigsaw pieces fell into place. Mike was illiterate. Land sakes, that was nothing to be ashamed of. The majority of the population couldn’t read or write. That’s why she took her teaching so seriously.
            She glanced at Mike’s stiff, proud back and was swamped with emotions so powerful it made her stomach ache. Tears burned her eyes. She had to swallow hard past the lump forming in her throat. She walked to him. Tentatively, she touched him on his arm. He didn’t respond.
            “Mike, please turn around and look at me.” His shoulder muscles bunched. Slowly, he turned toward her, glanced at her eyes and quickly away. She was devastated by the anguish on his face. “Mike, I’m your friend. I never meant to hurt you or embarrass you.”

Beneath A Horse Thief Moon
Beneath A Fugitive Moon
Hot Western Nights Anthology