Once Upon A Time

The readers of this website know I write historical fiction. Continuing with that tradition, here is some personal history from over a half century ago. Truly, “once upon a time.”

We were the senior class officers for Hobbs High School in Hobbs, New Mexico, in 1956. Bill Caudle shared this photo with me as part of his Christmas greetings. He and I recently reestablished communication, but I have lost track of Shirley Maness and James Watts.

How does one know this is historical? First, it’s a black and white photo. Second, we are not wearing masks. Third the hairstyles and clothing provide a great clue.

I grew up in Hobbs and attended all twelve grades in our great public school system. I’m happy to brag that the class of 1956 graduated well-educated students sixty–five years ago.

My wife, Barbara, and I have survived this terrible Corona virus pandemic successfully and look forward to a better year in 2022 for everyone. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Posted in Geography, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Writing | 2 Comments

Book Review of Bound by Steel & Stone

The December 2021 issue of Western Writers of America’s Roundup Magazine contains a book review I wrote about Bound by Steel & Stone: The Colorado-Kansas Railway and the Frontier of Enterprise in Colorado, 1890-1960, by J. Bradford Bowers. The author teaches history at Pueblo Community College in Pueblo, Colorado.

For those of you who not subscribe to Roundup Magazine I reprint my book review here:

“The Colorado-Kansas Railway’s founders conceived the grandiose scheme of running trains and electricity lines from Pueblo, Colorado, eastward down the Arkansas River and into western Kansas. Instead, the shortline ran 23 miles northwest to local quarries in the foothills of the Rockies and survived by hauling sandstone construction blocks and firebrick clay to its interface in Pueblo with the Santa Fe and other mainline railroads. The little outfit struggled along with one secondhand coal-fired locomotive, one passenger car, and 15 assorted freight cars. The Colorado-Kansas stayed in business as long as it did due to the management skills of Irma MacDaniel. She began as secretary for the lawyer who represented the railroad at its founding and ended as the president of the line overseeing its dissolution. Bower’s comprehensive research, well written and supported by pertinent maps and illustrations, makes Bound by Steel & Stone an important addition to the history of America’s railroads.”

Bound by Steel & Stone is a Timberline Book published by the University Press of Colorado in hardcover for $45.00 and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

A subscription to Roundup Magazine may be obtained for $45 per year, payable by personal check or money order made out to Western Writers of America. The payment with your address information should be sent to: Candy Moulton, Executive Director Western Writers of America, 271 CR 219, Encampment, WY 82325.

Posted in Book Review, Geography, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Writing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Bozeman Paymaster Prelude 1

My new frontier historical novel, Bozeman Paymaster: A Tale of the Fetterman Massacre, will be issued by Five Star Publishing in June 2022. Between now and then, I will post a series of preludes providing historical facts that occur before the story in the book begins.

Following the Civil War, increasing pressure from miners and settlers rushing to the new goldfields in Montana Territory put a demand on the Army that ultimately led to the Fetterman disaster. The safest ways to get from the States to the goldfields were by boat up the Missouri and Yellowstone Rivers or by wagon over the Oregon Trail into Utah, then swinging north into western Montana. Both routes were long, and prospectors were anxious to get a claim staked fast. The demand for a short route between the Oregon Trail and Montana led to the development of two paths across central Wyoming (at that time still part of the Dakota Territory). Famed frontiersman Jim Bridger advocated travel up the west side of the Bighorn Mountains because it was safer from Indian attacks, but the scarcity of water made this way undesirable. John Bozeman and his partner, John Jacobs, pioneered a route up the east side of the Bighorn Mountains. Water and timber for firewood were more readily available. The Bozeman Trail became the preferred route. Unfortunately, it passed through the heart of the Plains Indians’ favorite hunting grounds.

Vast herds of buffalo roamed the prairie land east of the Bighorn Mountains. Coupled with other game, fowl, and fish, this Absaroka area provided the perfect subsistence environment for the bands of Indians who fought among themselves to control access. Originally home to the Crows, the lure of plentiful buffalo proved too tempting for the Sioux who had been forced out of their traditional lands by the expansion of the white man. The newcomers pushed the Crows north into Montana, and the Powder River country became home to the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyennes, and Arapahos. When the white man traversed their new homeland more frequently as he rolled up the Bozeman Trail with his wagon trains, these tribes resisted.

The resulting conflicts led to demands by white travelers for Army protection along the route and pressure for additional treaty activity on the part of the Indian Bureau to keep the tribes from blocking the way. The Army responded by directing the 18th Infantry Regiment to move west and construct a series of forts along the Bozeman Trail. The 18th had earned a fine reputation during the recent war serving with General William Tecumseh Sherman, including participating in his march through Georgia. Strangely, the fighting during the war done by the 18th was not under the command of its colonel.

Posted in Animals, Army, Bozeman Paymaster, Geography, Indians, Trails, Wagon Trains, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Bozeman Paymaster Coming Soon

My novel Bozeman Paymaster: A Tale of the Fetterman Massacre, will be released in a  hardcover edition by Five Star Publishing in June 2022. The editing is complete, and the front cover design is finished.Bozeman Paymaster is the story of how in the drive to advance Manifest Destiny the nation blundered into one of its most distressing reverses. Fighting to defend their favorite buffalo hunting grounds, Lakota Chief Red Cloud’s coalition of Sioux, Northern Cheyennes, and Arapahos drove the Army out of the Powder River country of modern-day Wyoming. On a bone-chilling day in December 1866, Captain William Fetterman led eighty men into the army’s worst defeat at the hands of the Indians until Custer’s Last Stand a decade later. Despite the turmoil of virtually ceaseless Indian attacks on Dakota Territory’s Fort Phil Kearny, a youthful paymaster clerk and a beautiful young schoolteacher fall in love. Their future is torn asunder when in the aftermath of the Fetterman Massacre the United States abandons the forts protecting the Bozeman Trail and closes the shortest route used by immigrants to reach Montana’s goldfields. Red Cloud’s War was the only war the American Indians won fighting the United States.

As part of my celebration in preparation for the book’s release, I have redesigned this website to more accurately convey the type of frontier historical fiction that I write.

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Book Signing at Sun City Anthem

On Saturday, October 9, 2021, I participated in a book signing at the Sun City Anthem Arts & Crafts Fair in Henderson, Nevada. This is typically an annual event, but because of the pandemic, the event was cancelled last year. Participating in the fair as a member of Anthem Authors, it was great to be able to once again offer autographed copies of The Iron Horse Chronicles. This was the first event at which I had both hardcopy and paperback versions of the trilogy available for sale. The book signing was a great success, and except for the photo posing, I wore my mask throughout the event.

Photo courtesy of Anthem Sun City.

Posted in Bear Claws - Book Two, Book Signing, Eagle Talons - Book One, Golden Spike - Book Three, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Book Review of From the River to the Sea

The October 2021 issue of Western Writers of America’s Roundup Magazine contains a book review I wrote about From the River to the Sea: The Untold Story of the Railroad War That Made the West by John Sedgwick. The author has written thirteen other books, including literary nonfiction, novels, memoirs, and five collaborations. He has published extensively in numerous magazines.

For those of you who not subscribe to Roundup Magazine I reprint my book review here:

“In the 1870s and 80s, fledgling Santa Fe and Denver & Rio Grande railroads battled each other, sometimes with guns, across the western states and Mexico in their contest to reach the Pacific Ocean. Civil War general William Palmer drove the narrow-gauge Rio Grande through the Rocky Mountains while William Barstow Strong pushed the standard-gauge Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe far beyond its namesake cities. Numerous biographical sketches include Palmer’s eccentric wife, Queenie, who refused to live in his “castle” in Colorado Springs. Among Palmer’s and Strong’s competitors were “robber barons” Jay Gould and Collis Huntington. In 1887, the Santa Fe reached the sleepy pueblo of Los Angeles and stimulated that city’s explosive development. The Rio Grande made it as far as Ogden, Utah, and eventually wound up as part of the Union Pacific. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe is now the largest railroad in the United States. Excellent maps and photographs augment Sedgwick’s thoroughly researched text.”

From the River to the Sea is published by Avid Reader Press, a Simon & Schuster imprint, in paperback for $30.00 and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

A subscription to Roundup Magazine may be obtained for $45 per year, payable by personal check or money order made out to Western Writers of America. The payment with your address information should be sent to: Candy Moulton, Executive Director Western Writers of America, 271 CR 219, Encampment, WY 82325.

Posted in Book Review, Geography, Iron Horse Chronicles' Characters, The Iron Horse Chronicles | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Book Review of Iron Women

The June 2021 issue of Western Writers of America’s Roundup Magazine contains a book review I wrote about Iron Women: The Ladies Who Helped Build the Railroad by Chris Enss. Ms. Enss is the current president of Western Writers of America. She has been writing about women in the Old West for more than 28 years. She has made the New York Times bestseller list three times. She is the recipient of numerous writing awards including WWA’s Spur Award and the Will Rogers Medallion Award.

For those of you who not subscribe to Roundup Magazine I reprint my book review here:

Iron Women provides a valuable addition to the history of the building of America’s railroads. Thoroughly researched and wonderfully illustrated, this book describes many unrecognized contributions by women to successes achieved across the iron horse empires. Not surprisingly, women who worked for the railroads had to overcome the traditional prejudices that plagued their struggles to prove their worth in most professions outside the home. From innovations made in telegraphy and engineering, to accomplishments in hospitality and entertainment, the efforts put forth by the featured females is that of frustration overcome by perseverance. This volume also contains interesting biographical vignettes of women who served as railroad presidents, travel journalists, artists, architects, and more. Chris Enss couples her smooth writing style with historical quotations to make an enjoyable read. I learned fascinating new things about the railroads and the women who worked on them.”

There is a minor error in the first line of the book’s Introduction which is repeated on the back cover blurb. The rails laid at Promontory Summit (not Point, as written) were iron (not steel, as written). Several years after the driving of the golden spike, the Union Pacific replaced the original iron rails with steel rails to provide necessary support for heavier locomotives. The Promontory Summit loop around the north end of the Great Salt Lake was abandoned after the turn of the twentieth century when the UP built a causeway straight across the lake. During World War I, the steel rails on the discontinued 44-mile loop were salvaged as part of a nation-wide scrap metal drive to support the war effort. Since this minor error does not detract from Chris’s excellent book, I did not mention it in the review. It is something only a railroad aficionado would notice.

Iron Women is published by TwoDot Books in paperback for $19.95 and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent bookstores.

A subscription to Roundup Magazine may be obtained for $40 per year, payable by personal check or money order made out to Western Writers of America. The payment with your address information should be sent to: Candy Moulton, Executive Director Western Writers of America, 271 CR 219 Encampment, WY 82325.

Posted in Book Review, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Transcontinental Railroad, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

On Being a Republican

I am the only Republican in my family. Technically, I am currently registered as an Independent. I did that to stop being pestered by political telephone calls. I still favor the Republican Party.

In the late 1950s, while earning a bachelor’s degree in finance at the University of Oklahoma, I learned that Republican policies were more favorable to the success of businesses and the economy. During my decades of working, I personally discovered that to be true.

On January 6, 2021, I watched television in amazement as President Donald Trump addressed a rally of his supporters outside the White House in Washington, D.C. He was espousing the delusional idea that he had won the recent presidential election by a landslide even though his numerous lawsuits and challenges to that effect had been refuted by the courts. I believe numerous illegal votes are cast in every election, but not to the extent he was claiming. Nevada’s voting system is particularly susceptible to large-scale abuse.

At the conclusion of Trump’s lengthy tirade, I heard him incite his supporters to march on the Capitol Building to protest Congress’s actions in certifying the electoral college votes that would make Joe Biden the next President of the United States. I continued to watch the unfolding events escalate into a full-fledged riot. The so-called protestors became a mob of domestic terrorists bent on destroying the sanctity of the great symbol of our democracy. The thugs did not accomplish what Trump had encouraged them to do. They did make fools and criminals of themselves.

Throughout his presidency, I approved of President Trump’s economic policies and his handling of foreign affairs. I disapproved of his tweets. It is an unacceptable way to communicate with the country. I particularly disliked the way he publicly abused individuals who earned his displeasure. Such actions were petty and selfish.

President Donald Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021, have not only soiled the reputation of real Republicans but they have destroyed his own legacy. I voted for Trump twice, not because I particularly liked him, but because I did not trust his opponent in either of the two elections. My choice in both elections was to select the lesser of two evils. Neither primary political party in the United States has recently advanced sterling candidates for the office of President.

I want the record to show where I stand in this matter. The attack on the Capitol Building is not acceptable. The performance of Donald Trump is not presidential. Let us hope that some real leaders will emerge from the chaos that has been created by both political parties in recent years.

Posted in The Iron Horse Chronicles | 1 Comment

Model Locomotive Completed

I have completed the assembly of the model locomotive and tender that I received as a Christmas gift. As I pointed out in my last post, I had not built a model since I was a teenager back in the middle of the last century. There are eighteen separate steps in the assembly process, and it took me an hour or more for each step. In total, I completed the project in about thirty hours. The kit is manufactured in China by Rokr. The parts are cardboard-thin, fine-grained plywood. I broke a couple of the fragile laser-cut pieces in the process, but was able to glue them back together satisfactorily. The instructions are excellent, with detailed illustrations for each step.

Although the packaging claims the model is an 1860s locomotive, it is not. The 2-6-2 wheel configuration (two small leading, six large driving, and two small trailing wheels) identifies the locomotive as a “Prairie” model. Such locomotives did not appear in the United States until 1900. Eventually, more than a thousand “Prairie” locomotives ran on US rails. As I assembled the kit it became obvious  the primary design of the model was European. The addition of a diamond smokestack gives the impression it is a wood-burning locomotive. The “Prairie” had a straight stack because it was a coal-burning engine. Another addition is a cowcatcher. A cowcatcher was seldom used in Europe because they did not have to push free-ranging cattle or roaming buffalo off their tracks.

Great fun! But now I must get back to writing. The locomotive sits on my bookcase right above my computer–a fitting tribute to my trilogy The Iron Horse Chronicles.

Posted in Bear Claws - Book Two, Eagle Talons - Book One, Geography, Golden Spike - Book Three, The Iron Horse Chronicles, Transcontinental Railroad, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Model 1860s Locomotive Project

My daughter Beth gave me a wooden model 1860s locomotive kit for Christmas this year. I haven’t built a model since I was a teenager–back in the early 1950s. The instructions are divided into eighteen steps. Here I am working on step five. Some of the pieces are so tiny I have to handle them with tweezers. It takes me about an hour to complete a step. In the beginning, the pieces fell apart about as fast as I put them together. I’m getting the hang of it now. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

Check back in a couple of weeks, and hopefully I can display the completed project.

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