Monthly Archives: July 2010

Buffalo Bill Days

Buffalo Bill Parade

Local festivals are a great way to enjoy the Old West. Last weekend, I attended Buffalo Bill Days in Golden, Colorado. A terrific parade almost two hours long brought out the best of local bands, horses, and folks in Western attire and costumes for the festival. It was great fun to peel away from writing and editing to enjoy the sunshine and the sites in the Colorado foothills for the celebration of the pioneer scout and Western showman, William Cody, who is buried on Lookout Mountain above Golden.

In his day, Buffalo Bill was like a rock star. People came from far and wide to attend his Wild West shows, a combination of Old West theatrics and circus performance. His critics maintained that he exploited rather than preserved the Old West. Perhaps a deeper look at the story while revisiting primary sources will provide some insight. Uh oh, I think I feel another biography coming on.

A book about Buffalo Bill might loom in my future. For now, my days are full with presentation, articles, and tidying up loose ends with Baby Doe.  I am grateful to live where I can enjoy a glimpse of the old West now and then, with many ways to absorb and enjoy its history. A good dose of inspiration is very useful as well.

Joyce B. Lohse, 7/29/10

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Posted by on July 29, 2010 in Western history


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Estes Park and Stephen King

Stanley Hotel

Stanley Hotel in Estes Park

100 degree weather in Denver sent me scurrying off to the high country. Luckily, the Estes Park Genealogical Society invited me to speak at their conference on Saturday. It was a fine event —  friendly, well-organized, and productive. I spoke about Pioneer History and some of the research methods I’ve used with much success to learn about the characters for my biographies, and to sort out the truth about their lives from legends which surround them.

During my presentation, I gave a nod to some  pioneers who are favorites in Colorado’s Estes Park. They include Victorian author Isabella Bird, naturalist and homesteader Enos Mills, and modern fiction writer Stephen King. Stephen King?? An unlikely addition to my list, the author of the horror fiction story, The Shining, is a local favorite. The setting for his story was inspired by the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, which King had visited. Built in 1909, the 138 room Georgean hotel is a popular destination for Stephen King fans, who especially enjoy their ghost tours. Of course, the story was fiction and there are no ghosts associated with King and his novels. Or are there??

Although I’m not a fan of horror stories, I admire Stephen King for another reason. King is the author of one of my favorite books about writing. The title is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I highly recommend this book to anybody who is a writer, who wishes to become a writer, or who wishes to know more about Stephen King and the writing life. Gotta love Stephen for this one.

It had been many years since my last visit to Estes Park. A daytrip there would not be complete without a drive past the historic Stanley Hotel. It is a fine example of past glory days of Victorian resorts, majestically overlooking the picturesque valley and town of Estes Park at the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park. The bad news is that traffic in the gateway community has increased to a loud and oppressive intensity and volume of people and automobiles. So much for the quiet, sedate mountain village of decades past. Although the scenario did not quite allow me to step back in history, it was a pleasant escape from summer in the city.

Joyce B. Lohse, 7/19/10

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Posted by on July 19, 2010 in Western history, Writing Life


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Heartland Homeland

Joyce in DeKalb

Midway through the summer is a great time to regroup, and to return to Illinois for a visit. When I renew family ties, I enjoy and appreciate the grounded feeling of walking on the soil of my ancestors and the land of my upbringing. Fields of corn look splendid, far beyond the anticipated “knee high by the 4th of July.” Sweet corn newly arrived at the farmer’s market tastes a little like heaven.

Weather was predictably unpredictable during my stay in Illinois. My first evening there, the rain poured down in buckets. The rain gauge read five inches under a canopy of hardwood trees. Next door, the reading was closer to a half foot. Tornadoes touched down a few miles away, leaving a trail of broken and uprooted trees, some collateral building damage, and power outages for several hours.

My family was unruffled. Once the rain let up, we opened a bottle of wine, put steaks and vegetables on the grill, and enjoyed candlelight on the screened porch. The beauty of the situation was far superior to any inconvenience caused by the absence of electricity. In a small way, I felt in touch with my long ago Illinois pioneer ancestors. In spite of the hardships encountered in their newfound homeland, there was beauty in nature and a simpler way of living.

I enjoy my visits back to the Midwest. I relish seeing the rich, black soil, the beauty of the lush greenery, trees, songbirds, and lightning bugs. I enjoy my people, appreciate my family history, and blend with and relate to the hearty souls and grounded characters who live in the heartland. However, the best part is my return trip to the Rocky Mountain West, where the wide open spaces, independent spirit, and cool, dry air envelope me and welcome me back to my chosen home.

Joyce B. Lohse, 7/3/10

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Posted by on July 3, 2010 in Family history


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