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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

Little burro

 
 

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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Elusive Historical Markers

Meeker
Meeker Massacre Historical Marker

How many times have you passed a historical marker, thinking that you would stop to see it “next time”, only next time never comes? As we were driving through the Rio Blanco, or White River Valley in Colorado last week for the umpteenth time, my hubby surprised me by stopping at the historical marker. I always wondered where the Meeker Massacre took place, and whether this marker might enlighten me. It did.

White River Valley
White River Valley

History lends character to this serene river valley. Although the West was dotted with similar skirmishes, this one is particularly interesting due to the involvement of Chipita, wife of Ute Chief Ouray. When the Utes gathered the surviving women and children from the families of the victims, Chipita went to their aid. Imagine their grief and fear that day. She opened her heart, shared their tears, and gave them comfort and shelter. To her, they were grieving families who needed her help, and nothing more.

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

 
 

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Galvanized Yankees

 

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One of the true pleasures of longtime membership in the Columbine Genealogical and Historical Society in Littleton, or a group like it, is that we learn so much from attending programs and sharing information with other members of the group. This was especially true recently during a presentation about Galvanized Yankees in the Civil War, presented by Karen Hancock. Her message for our group related to genealogy research. If we had such a person in our family tree, it might be a benefit in our search for Civil War records to find information about a Confederate solider in Union Army rosters. Since I had some difficulty understanding the larger questions, and the context of the subject, some additional research led me to some basic information.

What is a Galvanized Yankee? The term emerged when Confederate soldiers joined the Union Army for a variety of reasons, mostly relating to basic survival. Webster’s definition of “galvanlize” is to coat iron or steel with a zinc process to render it rust-resistant. The metaphor meant that although a Confederate soldier might switch from a grey to a blue uniform, the color change is a thin symbolic coating affecting outer appearance, but which does not define the heart-felt loyalties of the individual. A “white-washed reb”, or Galvanized Yankee, might change sides in exchange for release from prison, or might reenlist in Union troops if their home region was taken over by regulation or renegade troops in an effort to avoid execution or to protect property and family.

According to Wikipedia, 5,600 former Confederate soldiers enlisted in the “United States Volunteers”, organized into six regiments between January 1864 and November 1866. 1,600 Union army soldiers enlisted in the Confederate army, and were also referred to as Galvanized Yankees. Confederate Civil War records are often elusive due to their loss and destruction during the conflict. A genealogist may have better luck and find new information by checking Union Army rosters and indices.

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

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Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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In With the New

I enjoy the arrival of the New Year. It is an inspiring time of optimism with an empty calendar waiting to be filled with interesting new adventures and quests for historic tidbits and treasures. To celebrate the arrival of 2014, I ordered a banner to use at upcoming events. During the last weekend of July, I will be promoting books and talking history, along with South Park Perils author Christie Wright, at Burro Days in Fairplay. Come see us! Look for the booth with the big red Colorado History sign!

New book sign

New book sign

Currently, I am moving forward on a biography about Colorado Springs builder and promoter, Spencer Penrose, for the popular “Now You Know Bio” series from Filter Press. The Penrose project is a double-header. I am also hard at work on a presentation piece for the next Pikes Peak Library District history symposium called “Bigwigs and Benefactors of the Pikes Peak Region”, scheduled for June 7, 2014. Working title is “The Penrose Legacy: Ventures, Vogue and Vagary”. During this time of discovery, I cannot wait to see what will happen next or what will appear around the next bend. Penrose was a fascinating character and I embrace the challenge of sharing a fresh viewpoint on his life and times. More details to come.

Looking ahead to fall, my national writers’ group, Women Writing the West, will celebrate its 20th Anniversary with our annual conference taking place in Denver at the Brown Palace Hotel. As hired administrator for WWW since 2002, I will be busier than usual with additional duties as I look forward to participation in and celebration of two decades as a non-profit literary force and presence in the United States. For planning and registration information, go to: http://www.womenwritingthewest.org.

Prospects are excellent for an interesting year, and I anticipate seeing many of my peers and pals along the way. In the meantime, I will be working on the Penrose story, which I look forward to sharing upon completion.

Happy New Year!
Joyce and Don

Events in 2014
Thursday, February 20, 2014 – Porter Place, Denver – “Baby Doe Tabor” –
1 p.m.

Thursday, March 13, 2014 – D.A.R., Aurora – “Eliza Routt: Colorado’s Original First Lady” – Tin Cup at Aurora Hills Golf Course, 6 p.m.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 – Columbine Genealogical Society, Littleton – “A New Age Family History Tour” – 1 p.m.

Saturday, June 7, 2014 – Pikes Peak Library District History Symposium – “Bigwigs and Benefactors” – at East Library, Colorado Springs – will feature Joyce Lohse’s Spencer Penrose presentation – pre-registration is required for this free all-day public program.

July 26-27, 2014 – Burro Days in Fairplay – Author booth with Christie Wright – last weekend in July – come see us and talk Colorado history!

October 17-19, 2014 — Women Writing the West Conference – Denver – 20th Anniversary Celebration – Brown Palace Hotel

Brown Palace Lobby

Ceiling in the Brown Palace Lobby

 

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Million Mile Reflections

When the year 2013 began, I was worried. People often ask about my next project, and I said I did not have one in the works at the moment. Stagnation might be setting in … or was it? A reflection of highlights from the past year tells me that I have little or no reason for concern. It was a very good year.

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Display of Joyce’s books at the Denver Woman’s Press Club.

Event Highlights in 2013

Two “salons”, interactive literary programs – at Denver Woman’s Press Club

TV Interview on Rocky Mountain PBS, Colorado Experience — Dr. Justina Ford documentary

Daughters of the American Revolution in Arvada — Eliza Routt presentation

CCIRA Conference at the Marriott – Filter Press booth, meet and greet the author

Erie Public Library — Women’s History Month presentation

Palmer Lake Historical Society — presentation on Baby Doe Tabor

National Mining Hall of Fame Museum, Leadville – banquet and program on Baby Doe Tabor

Fountain Public Library – presentation on General William Palmer: Railroad Pioneer

Estes Park Genealogical Society – General Palmer presentation

Idaho Springs Public Library – Baby Doe Tabor presentation

Publication of revised e-book edition of A Yellowstone Savage – 40th Anniversary gathering in Montana

Denver Public Schools Book Fair — Filter Press Booth, Denver Merchandise Mart

Women Writing the West Annual Conference – Kansas City, Missouri

CU Anschutz Medical Center – STEM program on Dr. Justina Ford for Skinner Middle School students

Healy House Museum in Leadville – “Meet the Author” Day

Riverside Cemetery History Walk with “Dr. Colorado” Tom Noel – Eliza Routt portrayal

Piecing Partners Quilters Guild program – Mining for the Real Baby Doe Tabor

Broomfield Public Library – Colorado History: Truth and Mystery Program

Monument Hill Kiwanis Club – Mining for the Real Baby Doe Tabor

Sons and Daughters of Pilgrims – Castle Rock – Baby Doe Tabor: Matchless Silver Queen

Watch for new projects and programs in 2014!

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

 
 

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