Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Virginian

I think I’ve seen every episode of the long running TV show, The Virginian, but that doesn’t stop me from watching them again when my husband clicks in on. Even if I’m deep into a book, either reading or writing, that show has the ability to pull me out and engage me in what’s happening in Medicine Bow. 

The TV series is but one adaptation to the original book written in 1902 by Owen Wister. Several movies were also created based on this book that has been credited as being the first true western ever written and the one that created the genre made famous by Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. In my office, I have boxes of Louis L’Amour and few Zane Grey novels that had been my grandfather’s and then my mother’s. I’ve read many of them, but in truth, they are getting too fragile, but I’m not ready to be parted from them yet. 

I’ve also read The Virginian. I found the concept of the 1st person narrator who details the story of a man who is only referred to as the Virginian interesting and unique. No real name is ever mentioned. One of my favorite characters in the TV series is Trampas. (I appreciated the cameo of Doug McClure in the popular 1994 Maverick movie starring Mel Gibson. McClure died just a year later.) In the book, Trampas is the Virginian’s foe. The book also has the Virginian ‘getting the girl’, a young school teacher named Molly Stark Wood, and has an happily ever after ending. 

The Virginian TV series was unique in the fact it was filmed to be ninety minutes long, (seventy-five with commercial breaks). Running for nine years, it became the third longest running western series behind Bonanza and Gunsmoke. The show had many changes throughout it’s run, including the changes in the owner’s of Shiloh Ranch, but the main character, the Virginian, played by James Drury, remained the same. Drury starred in many TV shows and films, including a cameo appearance in the 2000 movie, The Virginian starring Bill Pullman.

If you enjoyed the show, this is a fun website full of information--

If you have the time and interest, I’d recommend reading the original novel, just because. A free download can be found here

Friday, July 22, 2016

The National Park Service turns 100!

By Peggy L Henderson

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the National Parks system. And it all started in Yellowstone… with the US Army.

In 1872, President U.S. Grant signed into law the Yellowstone National Park Protection Law, making Yellowstone the nation’s first national park. Protecting a large area of land was a big deal, because during that era, it was all about expansion. The new law states “…the headwaters of the Yellowstone River…is hereby reserved and withdrawn from settlement, occupancy, or sale … and dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” 
However, there were problems. Lawmakers didn’t think that maintaining the park would cost the government anything. The first superintendent, Nathaniel Langford, was unpaid in his position.  He did what he could to protect wildlife and the natural features. Without money, he couldn’t hire anyone to enforce the laws within the park.
When the second superintendent, Philetus Norris,  took over in 1877, Congress appropriated money to “protect, preserve, and improve the Park.”
Roads were constructed and a “gamekeeper” was hired to get rid of vandals and poachers. He was succeeded by three superintendents who were ineffective at protecting the park. Even with ten assistants, they could not properly police the park and couldn’t stop the destruction of wildlife.

The army posing in front of the Liberty Cap at Mammoth Hot Springs where Ft Yellowstone was built

In 1886, Congress refused to appropriate money for Yellowstone. The Secretary of the Interior therefore called on the help from the Department of War. So on August 20, 1886, the US Army took control of Yellowstone. They didn’t expect to stay long, but they were so effective in keeping law and order in the park, that they remained for 30 years.
On May 11, 1891, the army received approval for a permanent base, and began constructing Fort Yellowstone inside the park. Prior to this date, the Army had operated out of Camp Sheridan, located at the base of the Mammoth Terraces.

Mounted cavalry at Ft Yellowstone

The army, comprised of Company M of the US cavalry, enforced regulations inside the Yellowstone Park boundaries, guarded the major attractions, patrolled the interior, and got rid of troublemakers. Their main role turned out to be apprehending poachers. Poachers slaughtered deer, elk, and bison, threatening their extermination. The maximum punishment at the time for poachers was eviction and banishment from the park.

In 1894, the cavalry arrested one persistent poacher, Ed Howell for killing bison when there were only several dozen left in the park. A journalist was present at the arrest, and sent a report and photographs to his newspaper in the east. His story created a national outcry, and within two months, Congress passed the Lacey Act, giving the army greater authority for protecting animals and features in the park.

The image that spurred the Lacey Act (soldiers with confiscated bison heads from poacher Ed Howell)

While the army was great at protecting the park, they couldn’t do much when it came to answering visitor questions about the area. Furthermore, 12 other national parks had since been established in the US, all under different administration.
Finally, on August 25, 1916, Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Organic Act, creating an agency that would manage all national parks. The first national park rangers, many of whom were veterans of the army, took over in Yellowstone in 1918.

early NPS image, ca 1929

Peggy L Henderson
Western Historical and Time Travel Romance
“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”

Award-Winning Author of:
Yellowstone Romance Series
Teton Romance Trilogy
Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series
Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance Series
Wilderness Brides Historical Romance Series

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ghosts of the Winchester Mystery House

Last month when I talked about séances in the Old West, I told y'all I would blog about the Winchester Mansion this month. Well, I have since been reminded that fellow Sweetheart Paisley Kirkpatrick wrote about the history of the famous haunted mansion back in 2011.

After reading Paisley's post, I decided there was no point in trying to match her splendid work. Instead, I'll share a few anecdotes about the mansion and its eccentric owner gleaned from Earl Murray's book, Ghosts Of The Old West. Available on Amazon, new in paperback or used in hard cover, this gem is a fun read you might want to pick up if you are intrigued by "Desert Spirits, Haunted Cabins, Lost Trail, and Other Strange Encounters" -- quoting the subtitle.

Winchestery Mystery House; photo by Jim Heaphy; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

In his chapter "The Legacy of Winchester Mansion," Mr. Murray mentions Sarah Winchester's quirky home included many up-to-the-minute features such as modern heating and sewer systems, button-operated gas lights, three working elevators, fireplaces with hinged drops for ashes and concealed firewood boxes. Wool was used for insulation, a pioneering development, and Sarah fashioned a window catch based on the Winchester rifle trigger and trip-hammer design.

Sarah Winchester ca. 1865; public domain

The inventive lady even had a tiltable floor installed to get rid of water dumped on the floor (why it was dumped, Murray doesn't say). The water sluiced out a trap door onto her garden below. Sounds like she was quite an architect!

In the garden stood a statue of an Indian who Sarah named Chief Little Fawn. He could fire arrows at supposed enemies -- ghosts -- hiding in the shrubbery, and she hoped he might help her atone for all the Indians killed by the famous Winchester repeating rifle.

Chief Little Fawn; photo by Jesse Means;
Sarah spent much of her time in the Grand Ballroom, where she often played her rosewood grand piano through the night, or switched to a huge organ on the opposite side of the room. Why? Because she wanted to entertain the spirits who she believed were ever present. Since she suffered from severe arthritis in her later years, it was rumored someone else must be playing through her fingers.

Earl Murray offers other tidbits about Sarah's life in the mansion, but I'll skip ahead now to more recent times and relate some eerie happenings in the Winchester Mansion.

On Halloween night in 1975, Jeanne Borgan, a psychic from northern California, and a group of other people held a séance in the bedroom where Sarah Winchester died. Borgan, who had reportedly seen ghostly apparitions in the house before, said on that night the air grew cold and clammy in the death room and everyone present began to visibly age. Like all of them, Borgan's hair turned gray and deep lines creased her face. She fell to the floor, unable to move. The others carried her outside, where she quickly recovered.

Quoting from Murray's book, "The other people who were there with me saw it all," she said. "I didn't remember anything, just the sudden buildup of energy within myself and then feeling some kind of strange takeover. Mrs. Winchester was a powerful person."

Psychic Sylvia Brown and four other people once spent a night in the mansion. Brown recorded organ music only she could hear. Walking through the house, the group saw lights with no source and felt many cold spots. Exploding red balls of light were witnessed in the death bedroom.

Another woman lost her sight while touring the mansion. When her husband tried to lead her out, he couldn't find an exit. Finally, a tour guide led them outside, where the woman was soon able to see again.

There have been many more strange occurrences witnessed by tour guides and employees who spend a lot of time in the mansion. One stands out. An office manager named Sue guided a tour group through one of the kitchens. Seated at the kitchen table, a small woman in a long dress and bonnet nodded to the group. They nodded back and smiled.

Later, Sue asked her supervisor who the woman was that they'd hired to look like Sarah Winchester. The supervisor didn't know what she was talking about. They hadn't hired anyone to impersonate the dead woman. When the two checked the kitchen, they found only a chair pulled out from the table.

Such is the ghostly legacy of Sarah and her peculiar, sometimes spine-chilling home.