This ride actually was research for a history article I’m writing about early days in what’s now the BLM’s Little Book Cliffs Wild Horse Range. It’s just the sort of sacrifice I’m willing to make for my writing.
It was a beautiful spring day, and Lila, Moose and I had a great ride of several hours up Main Canyon and Spring Canyon. We saw several bands of wild horses and this group of desert bighorn sheep. Moose is always interested in the wild horses, but he was positively fascinated by the sheep. He wanted to go charging up the hillside to get closer.
Monday night was a great night, for me and for a number of other people who were recognized by the Museum of Western Colorado for our work related to the museum and its mission. I received the 2016 Historian Award. It was both gratifying and humbling, and I deeply appreciate the museum even considering me for this. In this photo, I’m standing with John Lindstrom of Palisade, who was the recipient of the 2016 Archaeologist Award.
The Awards themselves are aspen-wood vases, made by a volunteer at the museum, so they’re pretty special, as well.
As I said when I received the award, I couldn’t write my columns, or produce the books I have written, without the assistance of the folks at the Museum of Western Colorado, especially the staff and volunteers with the Lloyd Files Research Library. Members of the Mesa County Historical Society and the Palisade Historical Society have also helped me a great deal. And The Daily Sentinel has been great in allowing me a free hand to write about whatever historical event strikes my fancy.
Special thanks to all of the wonderful readers who frequently tell me how much they enjoy my history columns.
Most people know that Pat Garrett, the sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico and one-time friend of William Bonney, aka, Billy the Kid, shot and killed the kid at Fort Sumner. That occurred on July 14, 1881.
But far fewer people, myself included until recently, realize that Garrett himself was shot and killed 27 years later, on a lonely road outside Las Cruces, N. M. A man named Wayne Brazel, who leased part of Garrett’s ranch and who had a ongoing dispute with Garrett, confessed to the killing, claiming self-defense. He was tried for murder but not convicted.
Garret was essentially broke by then, and was trying desperately to sell his ranch.
There are some historical customs that say Leap Day — the extra day added to the calendar at the end of February every four years — is a lucky day. But that didn’t prove to be the case for Pat garrett.
It still amazes me that this event occurred so close to us in southeastern Utah, a barely over a century ago.
A dispute over a campfire card game, the murder of one of the participants and the search for the accused murderer near Bluff, Utah, sparked one of the last armed Indian conflicts in the United States 101 years ago this month.
It would lead eventually to what became known as Posey’s war, in 1923. But first, it involved posses from Colorado and Utah, a hard-headed lawman from Utah and an aging Army general who was trusted by the Utes and Piutes.
Today is the 190th anniversary of the publication of one of America’s first great adventure novels — “The Last of the Mohicans,” by James Fennimore Cooper. When I was a young man, Cooper also gave me an excuse to dress in “a careless, slovenly manner.”
The book has produced a number of film versions in both English and German. The most recent, and probably the most famous is the 1992 version starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye, aka Natty Bumpo, as shown here in a poster for the movie.
I’m equally fond of another Cooper book featuring Bumpo: “The Deerslayer.” It was published 15 years after “The Last of the Mohicans,” but was actually a prequel. The events described in “The Deerslayer” occurred almost 20 years earlier.
I also freely admit that my approach to men’s fashion comes straight from one of Cooper’s characters in “The Deerslayer”: Hurry Harry. According to the book, Harry’s height “exceeded six-feet four” and he was “unusually well-proportioned.” Since I am 6-feet-4, and when I was young and athletic I could claim to be at least relatively well-proportioned, he seemed like a good role model.
Although his buddy, Natty Bumpo, was a bit of a frontier dandy in “The Deerslayer,” Harry was the opposite. “Hurry Harry, either from constitutional recklessness or from a secret consciousness how little his appearance required artificial aids, wore everything in a careless, slovenly manner,” Cooper wrote, “as if he felt a noble scorn for the trifling accessories of dress and ornaments.”
“A noble scorn” for dressing well. Hurry Harry has always been my role model when it comes to fashion. That’s my excuse for the way I dress and I’m sticking to it.
John Dee (1527 -1609) was an astronomer and astrologist, mathematician and magician, and he communicated with angels. He also is credited with helping to create the British intelligence service and he signed his secret letters to Queen Elizabeth “007.”
The two circles represented eyes and the number 7 was Dee’s lucky number. In the 20th century, author Ian Fleming reportedly read about John Dee and chose the same secret number for James Bond.
When I’m not writing about history, I’m often reading about it, and Smithsonian Magazine has long been a favorite source of history articles. There’s much more to John Dee than his secret letters. You can read more here:
One hundred years ago this month, Colorado became one of the first state’s in the country to legally ban alcohol, four years before national Prohibition was implemented. Although local leaders were initially all for Prohibition, they later came to realize, as people all over the country did, that it caused far more problems than it solved.
Here’s a link to a column I wrote in 2014 about Prohibition.
There will be a lot of folks out celebrating the new year tonight, and some may get more than a little rowdy. But they are unlikely to rival the parties of old in the dance halls that once were popular in the Grand Valley and around the Western Slope.
Consider this description of the old COPECO dance hall northwest of Grand Junction:
“It seemed like the devil had been turned loose,” said one visitor. “Drinking and dancing was the only thing left. Even nearby homes had been broken into because of the rough bunch that came to the place.”
The newspaper ad here is for a spring dance, but COPECO had New Year’s parties as well.
For more history on COPECO, check out the entry under “My Columns” in the menu above.
Happy New Year, and don’t let the devil to be turned loose in your celebration.