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More Yellowstone Savages

Squatters in Paradise

James Perry cuts loose in his memoir of twenty-five years as a concession employee in Yellowstone National Park. Although his outlook is often jaded and sometimes sarcastic, his viewpoint is honest as he withholds very little in describing life in the nation’s oldest and largest national park. My outlook in A Yellowstone Savage: Life In Nature’s Wonderland is decidedly more optimistic, as he readily points out with a funny jab about the potential for singing Kumbaya around the campfire in my version. Although our voices and tones differ, we share an honest love and reverent respect for Yellowstone, a place where hardy souls endure sometimes unforgiving working and living conditions for the privilege of calling it home.

I enjoyed noting the differences in lifestyle of new age “Savages,” concession employees that he sometimes refers to as “Parkies.” Mobile satellite dishes?? Technology has intruded. I also noted a plausible theory about the origin of Yellowstone Christmas, considering documentation of the traditional version is vague at best. So much food for thought. James and friends’ invasion of the CUT (Church Universal and Triumphant) compound was brazen and delightful. What an adventure! I tip my Savage hat to James. I was leery that this might be an angst filled tirade, but it came off as more honest and straightforward than diatribe. Bring on more memories, Savages! There’s plenty of room.

My book, A Yellowstone Savage: Life In Nature’s Wonderland, was published in 1988 in trade paperback, and was published as an ebook in 2013.

This was the first Savage memoir of its kind, initiating a cult following, and inspiring others to publish, preserve, and share their own stories and versions of their memories and life in Nature’s Wonderland.

Joyce B. Lohse
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2014 in Western history, Writing Life

 

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2014 Women Writing the West Conference

WWW ConferenceMid-October marked the culmination of a year and a half of planning for Women Writing the West’s 20th Anniversary Annual Conference in Golden, Colorado. The result of work by Colorado’s WWW Conference Planning Committee to plan the event spread among several venues was a huge success. The City of Golden was a perfect fit for our group. A synopsis of highlights will give those with a passion for the craft of writing an idea of the content of a really good writers’ conference, and the priceless value of this particular sold-out conference of 150 attendees.

Thursday, October 16 – provided a bonus day of activities at the Table Mountain Inn, full of panels, critique sessions, an annual board of directors meeting, and networking. In the evening, a reception at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum took place for readings by WILLA literary award winners and LAURA short story winners. A special quilt featuring squares hand-stitched by WWW members was introduced for the conference raffle, which benefits the WILLA Literary Fund.

WWW Raffle Quilt

Friday, October 17 – featured a full schedule at the Golden Hotel of panels and presentation about the business of writing, marketing, and trends in e-publishing. Private appointments with editors, agents and publishers were available. Author Margaret Coel captivated us with her stories about writing 20+ mysteries set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. LAURA short story awards were presented at the lunch banquet. In the evening, a feature film, The Cherokee Word for Water, was presented at the American Mountaineering Center. The film, about the life of first female Cherokee tribal leader, Wilma Mankiller, was followed by a Q&A session with members of the film production and Mankiller’s husband, Charlie Soap, and from the local Cherokee Circle.

Saturday, October 18 – Following the annual WWW business meeting in the morning, participants enjoyed another full day of panels and presentations. A Luncheon honored WWW Founders and spotlighted WILLA Finalists. Later in the afternoon, Joyce Meskis enchanted us with stories from her many years as owner of the famous Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver. A booksigning session hosted by Who Else! Bookstore with networking capped off the afternoon. Evening brought the annual WILLA Awards banquet. Author and founding member Sandra Dallas presented an inspiring keynote speech. When the winner was drawn for the WILLA Fund Raffle, we were happily surprised when she insisted that the quilt stay with WWW.

WWW Conference Booksigning
Sunday, October 19 – Many conference attendees stayed for a Sunday morning gathering at the Briarwood Inn. Some wore historic costumes to the delicious high tea brunch. We were entertained by WWW founding member Corinne Brown, who portrayed five famous women from Colorado’s history. She did amazing costume changes when switching characters. It was a fantastic finale to a successful and memorable 20th Anniversary celebration and conference for attendees and members of Women Writing the West.

Joyce at Golden HotelJoyce B. Lohse
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 
 

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Happy Birthday, Baby Doe Tabor … or is it??

Baby Doe Tabor: Matchless Silver Queen

When I began my research on Elizabeth Bonduel McCourt Doe Tabor, aka Baby Doe Tabor, I soon discovered that searching for her birthdate might be problematic. The first date I saw tossed around was October 7, 1854. It was hard to pin down, and often overlooked or unmentioned in accounts of her family and childhood. It turns out that was the date of Elizabeth’s, or Lizzie’s as she was known to her family, christening. The search was on for something more concrete for her birthdate. I was happy and relieved when I found Elizabeth Tabor’s death certificate in the archives. There it was, her birthdate filled in by her younger brother, Willard McCourt. Of course, he would know his sister’s birthday. Or would he? It was listed as May 15, 1854.

1900 Denver Census

When dates and data do not agree, it is called negative evidence. I was dismayed to discover Elizabeth was listed as born in September on the 1900 census, which contains a column for birth month. Was this a fluke? The September reference appeared again in Judith Nolte Temple’s biography, Baby Doe Tabor: The Madwoman in the Cabin, page 157. Elizabeth wrote a diary entry that said the following: “Sept. 25, 1914 – My birthday I am all alone in the world now alone my birthday where is my poor unfortunate Silver and how is my Lily and her babies I am alone here in Leadville” This appears to be her perceived birthdate at the time. Her headstone on her grave mentions only the year, 1854.

Her age is a whole conundrum on its own. As a coy Victorian lady, she often altered her age in her favor on public records. However, the 1854 date appears in enough places to make it the accepted year of her birth. Her death date was about February 20, 1935. She collapsed and died in her cabin by the headframe of the Matchless Mine. Her frozen body was found some time later, thus an inconclusive death date as well. As a biographer of Elizabeth Tabor, I feel comfortable celebrating the birth of this interesting, courageous and colorful Colorado pioneer woman on September 25. Happy Birthday, Lizzie. Here’s to you on your birthday!

Joyce at Matchless Mine 6 13

You can learn more about the fabulous lives of the Silver King and Silver Queen of Leadville in my award-winning book, Baby Doe Tabor: Matchless Silver Queen, from Filter Press. Go to: http://www.FilterPressBooks.com, http://www.Amazon.com, http://www.LohseWorks.com, or ask for it from your favorite local book vendor.

Joyce B. Lohse

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Western history

 

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A Yellowstone Christmas

Old Faithful

Old Faithful erupting during 1988 forest fires


An excerpt chapter from
A Yellowstone Savage
by Joyce B. Lohse

Chapter 24: A Christmas Tradition

Many years before our year in Yellowstone, a tradition to celebrate Christmas in August began. A big party was planned, a tree was decorated, and a Christmas feast was cooked and served. According to legend, the people who organized the celebration were snowbound at Old Faithful Inn, but the story was never documented. From about 1950 on, August 25 became Christmas in Yellowstone.

1973 was no different. The General Accounting Office went all out to prepare a big office party. Decorations were made by the computer department. A large banner of a tree included everybody’s name worked into the design. Decorations were made from keypunched cards with Christmas designs on them.

Although it was not snowing on the big day, stormy weather threatened with cloudy skies and cold temperatures. While we hurried to finish work early, refreshments and decorations appeared. Names had been exchanged so that everybody would receive a gift from a “secret friend” in the office. Office workers casually peeked under the festive tree to look for their gift when their curiosity was too much to bear.

When my friends and I could no longer stand it, we snatched our gifts from under the decorated tree and retreated to a corner of the office to open them. Munching on a sugar cookie, I tore the red and green paper and ribbon from my present.

Inside the box was a Yellowstone tea towel decorated with different scenes of the park. Another gift was tucked beneath it. When I held it up, my friends began laughing. It was a baby bib with a picture of a deer on it, and the words, “I’m a little Dear from Yellowstone” across the top. I felt my face turn deep red, and quickly placed it back inside the box. I learned that my secret pal was Sarah. Since I planned to get married, she gave me presents she thought I needed. With that in mind, I thanked her.

Christmas carols were playing on a record player, and people were visiting and laughing while drinking their punch. My friends and I were getting restless, so we adjourned to continue our celebration at the Terrace Rooms. This was the only time we were allowed to leave work early, and we intended to enjoy the unusual taste of freedom.

When it was time to eat, we went to the Staffeteria. A full turkey dinner awaited us on the steam tables. We eagerly loaded our trays with ample portions of turkey and dressing with all the trimmings, and pumpkin pie for dessert. While we ate, we talked about plans to go to Gardiner that evening to top off our Christmas celebration with some liquid refreshments at the Crystal Geyser.

When we finished eating, we slowly climbed the stairs to the Terrace Rooms. The meal was wonderful, and we had overindulged. Somebody suggested that since it was early, we could take a short nap before going to Gardiner. Nobody disagreed with that fine idea.

Back in the room, I could hear the muffled sound of Carrie’s tape player through the wall, and I immediately fell asleep. When I woke up sometime later, it was dark outside and Julia was sound asleep.

I walked quietly into the wide lit hallway, and detected no signs of life except for the music that was still seeping through the walls from the auto-reverse eight-track tape player next door. The faint sounds of the Moody Blues were a sure sign that Carrie and Ann were still asleep in their room.

As I stood in the spacious old hallway, I smiled as I realized there would be no trip to Gardiner that evening. Instead, I took rare advantage of having the vacant community bathroom to myself, had a leisurely shower, and returned to relax in my room.

Back in the room, I crept in softly and tried not to disturb Julia. In the dark, I located my writing supplies. Early in the summer, I developed a peculiar but practical habit of writing letters from inside the closet. It was a walk-in variety with a light bulb on the ceiling. On several occasions, I wrote letters while Julia was sleeping. So into the closet I went.

Letters and phone calls were our connection to home and the outside world. Some of us wrote letters frequently in hopes of receiving a response. With letters came newspaper clippings, forwarded letters from friends, and boxes of cookies. Mail was received with gratitude and sent with enthusiasm.

Inside the closet, I switched on the light, sat on the floor, and wrote a letter to explain Yellowstone Christmas to the man who waited for me back home. Huddled on the floor writing my letter, I thought ironically that this was an anticlimactic end to our Yellowstone Christmas. However, it was not too bad, and I would certainly never forget it.

Christmas in Yellowstone Art

A Yellowstone Savage is available in paperback and ebook on Amazon.com and LohseWorks.com
Coming soon: Newly revised trade paperback edition of A Yellowstone Savage at
Amazon.com and at LohseWorks.com
Joyce B. Lohse, http://www.LohseWorks.com

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Western history, Western Travel

 

Burro Races in Colorado

In 1949, the first burro race took place from Leadville to Fairplay over 13,185 ft. Mosquito Pass. In these races, prospectors or recreational runners lead the burros, which carry a cargo pack on their backs. It takes patience and a genuine rapport for runner and pack animal to maintain a steady pace and avoid stubborn altercations. In the mid-1960s, the race was broken up into two races. During Boom Days, the first weekend in August, burro racers leave from Leadville, race to the summit of Mosquito Pass, and race back to town. The weekend before, racers do the same at Burro Days in Fairplay, racing up Mosquito Pass from the other direction to the summit, then racing back again to Fairplay.The race takes approximately five hours, with the record winning time at three hours and forty-four minutes won by Tom Sobal. A third race in this triple crown series takes place in Buena Vista at Gold Rush Days the second weekend in August.

Burro 2The word “burro” comes from  the Spanish word for donkey, and is also known as a jackass or ass. The name burro is applied to these animals west of the Mississippi River in the continental United States of America. As pack animals, these sure footed creatures are ideal for carrying cargo for miners and for use in the mining districts. Burros have long ears, longer than those on a horse. Whereas a male horse is a stallion and a female horse is a mare, a male burro is a jack and a female burro is a jenny or jennet. Offspring from a jack and mare is a mule, and a stallion and jenny cross is a hinny. Burros might live 30 to 50 years, as opposed to 25 to 30 years as horses do. Legends abound regarding the burro. A religious tale tells that the sign of the cross can be seen on the back of some burros, and is symbolic of the animal bearing peace to its destination.

Burro with crossTo find out more, read, Burros! by Linda Bjorklund, or attend one of the upcoming burro races in Colorado. There is much to see and to learn about these interesting critters who played an important part in the West’s mining traditions and past. I will be selling my western history books with my author pal Christie in Booth 63 at this year’s Fairplay Burro Days festival. Come on by and say Howdy!

LohseWorks.com

 
 

A Biographer On Reading Biographies

As an author of award-winning biographies, I take my craft seriously, and I am fairly critical when I read those written by other people. I recently read three totally different biographies. These particular subjects may or may not appeal to you for summer reading, but you can apply the same principles when choosing subjects of your choice and selecting your biographies this summer. These books all receive my biographer’s nod for excellence.

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Cecil Smith: Mr. Polo, by Blair Calvert (1990) — This book is a must read for the student and fan of the history of polo in the United States of America. Smith was considered by many to be the best American polo player of all time. He carried a maximum ten goal handicap for a record twenty-five years. The apex of his career was early on during an East-West tournament in 1933, when Smith led the West team to show the East that they were not the only show in town. Humorist Will Rogers reported that polo had moved from the board room to the bunkhouse when the cowboys beat the east coast dudes. Publication of the book was a little rough as were some of the subject transitions, and I would have enjoyed more coverage of the later years in Smith’s career with the progression of the sport’s history. However, this biography serves the supreme purpose of saving an important and impressive life story of a true sports hero.

Eminent Hipsters, by Donal Fagen (2013) — Although this does not qualify as a biography in the true format sense, it contains autobiographical material by Steely Dan (rock band) front man and philosopher, Donald Fagen. The first half of the book shares remembrances from Fagen’s formative years with descriptions of the artists who influenced him and his work, from jazz greats to Tina Turner. The second half of the book is a diary of criss-crossing the country on the road in 2012 in claustrophobic tour buses with the “Dukes of September”, which included Michael McDonald and Bozz Scaggs. This was a decidedly lower budget style of travel than he was accustomed to with Steely Dan, and cause for recurring anxiety, from which he suffers. It was enlightening to learn what feeds the craft of this talented musician, and his viewpoint as he produced his tunes for the entertainment of rooms full of a combination of aging rockers, and those he calls “TV Babies,” who have no clue about good music and quality production. I was drawn in and understood Fagen’s outlook and frustration of dealing with everyday challenges while attempting to maintain the quality and art in his music. I enjoyed it thoroughly because Fagen approached it as a serious think piece rather than a self-indulgent tell-all gossip fest.

Stan Musial – An American Life, by George Vecsey (2011) — I kicked myself for not purchasing this book when I saw it while I was walking through the St. Louis airport, so I ordered a copy from home. I was a steadfast fan of “Stan the Man” while growing up in Illinois. I had read a fairly dry biography of his life in the 1960s. This one was a modern take on Musial’s life and times and brilliant baseball career. It took me back to good times, lurking in the parking lot at Busch Stadium with my dad, waiting for Stanley and his pal Red Schoendienst to appear from the locker room chatting away about the game, yet always ready to stop and sign an autograph. I also enjoyed reading about the struggles of a man as talented as Musial as he worked his way to the top in major league baseball, worked hard to stay there, and to maintain his character as a really good guy. He wasn’t a saint but dealt gracefully with pressure from public expectations. He worked hard and kept his character, and all that was important to him, close to his heart. I came away admiring him more than ever, for his foibles as well as his obvious assets. This is a top-notch biography. I don’t say this often, but I could not have done a better job than Vecsey of writing this important biography about my first true hero, Stan “The Man” Musial.

Biographies not only preserve details of the lives of their subjects, but give us real insights into the history and times in which they lived. Read biographies, read them often, and choose your biographer with care. A good biographer will either peel away the sludge, or else identify it for readers, so they know what is real and what is pure fabrication. You can find plenty of that in fiction.

Happy reading, Joyce B. Lohse
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 

 

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Same Road, Different Day

Greeting CommitteeWriting feels all-consuming at times. When I have been pushing hard on a historical biography, a change of scenery can jolt my brain like a bolt of lightning. Once again, I found myself on the highway near Meeker when we encountered an unlikely greeting committee. Traffic came to a halt as literally hundreds of sheep surrounded the automobiles.

Miles of sheepThe herd extended beyond our vision. I rolled down my window to enjoy the sounds of plantive bleats and the clanging of bells around their necks. Then there was the aroma which was not so pleasant, and the window went back up. The sheep had all recently been sheared, and we marveled that they had been relieved of so much precious wool. How high would it reach if piled all in one place.

Sheep herder on horsebackIt was also refreshing to see that the sheepherder was on horseback, with his sheep herding dog trotting alongside. With so many ATVs roaring through the woods and across the plains, horses can still move at the same pace as their charges and give the job a personal touch. Cowboys are still riding the range near Meeker.

Blue Mountain sheepThe same weekend, more sheep were moving to summer pastures near Blue Mountain. This outfit was much smaller, and getting the job done in the same way, with a herder on horseback. These are the sights we live for in the west, and food for the starving soul of an overly-engrossed author.

Joyce B. Lohse, 5/6/14
http://www.LohseWorks.com

 

 

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