Author Archives: joyce4books

About joyce4books

As a journalist, genealogist, photographer, and biographer, I have written several award-winning books and articles about Western pioneers. I write for the "Now You Know Bio" series from Filter Press, and I work as administrator for Women Writing the West. When I am not doing admin. chores, writing or presenting stories to groups, you can find me on research jaunts, lurking around cemeteries and archives in Colorado.

Western Summer Reading

Elmer Kelton Cowboys

In 2008, I almost met Elmer Kelton, a highly respected western author and member of the Western Writers Association (WWA). Women Writing the West (WWW) grew from WWA, and many of us long-time members belong to both groups. While attending the 2008 WWW conference in San Antonio, Texas, I drove 30 miles to the small town of Boerne, which I had visited in the past. I stopped by the bookstore and learned that Elmer Kelton would appear there the following day, on Saturday.

Bad luck. My roster was full on Saturday, keeping me busy at the WWW writers’ conference. However, I was able to return to Boerne on Sunday with a couple of author friends. We were thrilled when the bookstore owner invited us to sign a wooden tabletop autographed by Kelton the previous day. It was a near miss.

Ten months later, Elmer Kelton passed away. I regretted that I was unable to shake his hand in admiration that day in Texas. Instead, he would have been pleased if I read a couple of his award-winning westerns, of which there are many. So I have. His books leave the legacy of a great storyteller and writer, doing his part to preserve the history and culture of the American cowboy.

Recently, I read Kelton’s Spur Award Winner, The Day the Cowboy’s Quit, published in 1971. The story is about a strike which erupts from a skirmish over a cow brand, rocking the lives of the cowboys, ranch owners, and community. The lively storyline confronts the ethics of a situation with no easy solution. In addition, it contains fascinating details about cattle drives, branding, and the relationship between large ranches and independent outfits scrambling to exist.

Wherever western writers gather, the topic of identifying the real west is often close to the surface. Consequently, a well-researched western book, written by a knowledgeable author such as Elmer Kelton, not only preserves the history and culture of the American West, but also provides a role model for other authors, and great reading material for western book enthusiasts.

Joyce B. Lohse, 5 July 2018

“A little honest swearin’ wipeth away anger and bringeth peace to the soul.”
— Elmer Kelton, “Lone Star Rising: The Texas Rangers Trilogy”, p. 104, Macmillan 2007.



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Posted by on July 5, 2018 in Uncategorized


Summer Reading – a review by Joyce

Title: Ann Bassett: Colorado’s Cattle Queen
Author: Linda Wommack

Ann Bassett

Letters written by a tough pioneer woman in Northwest Colorado are woven into a riveting biography, Ann Bassett: Colorado’s Cattle Queen, by author Linda Wommack. Bassett’s true-life story describes her struggles to maintain her family’s cattle ranch, occasionally using dubious methods to manage her livestock and property.

Outlaws from the “Hole in the Wall Gang,” as well as others, occasionally sought refuge in the secluded Brown’s Park rangeland that Ann Bassett called home. Her life was enhanced and complicated by encounters and friendships with fugitives.

When Two Bar Ranch cattle baron, Ora Haley, boldly encroached on the area’s rangeland, Bassett was armed and ready to discourage his efforts. Her defiance escalated into personal outrage and revenge when Wyoming shootist Tom Horn, hired by Haley, gunned down Bassett’s fiance’, Matt Rash, and lifelong family friend, Isom Dart.

Author Linda Wommack’s diligent research preserves an important resource about cattle ranching on Colorado’s early open range, the challenges of frontier life for pioneers during Western Expansion, women in the west, and Colorado history. Photographs, public records, and faded images augment textual details and Ann Bassett’s written pieces.

An Epilogue end-piece is dedicated to debunking popular theories and conjecture about Ann Bassett’s encounters with the Sundance Kid. Author and historian Linda Wommack’s solid research preserves an important piece of American Western History while transporting the reader back in time to the Wild West. This biography is a historical gem and should not be missed.

— Joyce B. Lohse


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Posted by on June 5, 2018 in Uncategorized


Colorado Day — August 1, 1876

How did Colorado Territory’s citizens, referred to by eastern politicians as living in a “state of semi-barbarism,” achieve statehood? When John and Eliza Routt stepped off the train in Denver in 1875, Colorado Territory citizens were skeptical and suspicious. Seven governors had rotated in and out of the office over fifteen years. The latest in the string of carpetbaggers and inept politicians was Edwin M. McCook, who had misused his power and position until Coloradans protested his appointment and he was withdrawn.

The Rocky Mountain News welcomed Routt’s appointment as “a new era of honesty and good government inaugurated.” He quelled concerns that he was not a resident by saying, “I was getting ready to come and make my home in Colorado anyway.” On March 29, 1875, John L. Routt took his oath of office as Colorado’s Territorial Governor. He then went to work to usher Colorado into statehood.

Creating a new state was no easy matter. Colorado’s quest for statehood encountered strong resistance from eastern politicians, who considered Colorado too wild and uncivilized for statehood. The first hurdle was to establish a state constitution under the Colorado Enabling Act. A committee of delegates studied the constitutions of nearby states, using them as models to construct Colorado’s document.

Denver Capitol w gold dome

Under the management of Governor John L. Routt, the cluster of thirty-nine delegates, worked feverishly to construct the new constitution. A half-year later, the document was presented and ratified, and Colorado was accepted as the thirty-eighth state in the union. The event was punctuated with a July 4 celebration in 1876 unlike anything Denver City had experienced. Then the real work began. Politicians clamored to be elected governor by popular vote. Meetings took place in scattered offices on Larimer Street. Plans were soon underway to build a capitol building for a center of government while tending to the welfare of the new state.

When Colorado’s bid for statehood culminated on July 4, 1876, it became known as the Centennial State on America’s one-hundredth birthday. President Ulysses S. Grant signed Colorado’s proclamation for statehood on August 1, 1876. That date became Colorado’s official birthday, and was known and celebrated thereafter as Colorado Day. For Routt, it was a sweet victory, and the beginning of a quarter century of public service to his adopted state.


More information can be found in First Governor, First Lady: John and Eliza Routt of Colorado, by Joyce B. Lohse, Filter Press, 2002, ISBN: 0-86541-063-1, List: $14.95



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My Yellowstone Years

Whenever I learn about a Yellowstone Savage who has written a memoir of their unforgettable experiences living and working in Yellowstone Park, I set aside my cares and responsibilities to acquire and read the book. This was the case when My Yellowstone Years by Donald C. Stewart caught my attention. The book was published in 1989, the year following my memoir, A Yellowstone Savage: Life In Nature’s Wonderland. Stewart was a Savage in 1951, assigned as a dishwasher at Old Faithful. The following season, he became a naturalist Ranger through 1963, while he pursued a PhD in English literature. A career as an English Professor at Kansas State University resulted from his studies.

The preface to this book pulled me in, hand-tied fly hook, line and sinker. He said, “Each year I went out to Yellowstone, physically and mentally tired. Each year I returned, physically and spiritually renewed.” I knew then that this man “got it,” and that his account was bound to be a good read.

Stewart continued. “This, then, is the story of one man’s experience in Yellowstone. But it is also the story of many generations of Americans who had preceded me and who have followed me, either working for the park’s concessionaires or for the National Park Service. No one, to my knowledge, has yet told the story of Yellowstone’s summer ‘savages’ and ninety day wonders. But it is a story worth telling, a slice of Americana that was very special in the lives of all who experienced it.”

In his memoir, Stewart does a splendid job of describing the highs and lows of life in Yellowstone, without overtly gushing about the highs, or whining about the lows. He was fortunate to be assigned to what was then a remote and rustic Madison Campground with his new wife, where they made the best of rough living conditions, developed strong alliances with lasting friends around the evening campfire, and enjoyed fly fishing on the Madison River. He shared enchanting experiences and adventures from the perspective of a freewheeling Savage, then settling into his role as an exemplary ranger and family man.

I hope Professor Stewart became aware of my book, which barely preceded his in publication. Many accounts have succeeded both of ours, each telling a different perspective of Life in Wonderland. Connecting with some of the authors has been a pleasure and especially rewarding. Sadly, Don Stewart has passed on. However, he left us with a valuable piece of history from a time past in Yellowstone Park, which he treasured and shared, including the disastrous earthquake of 1959. I was so engrossed in his story that I could barely stand to put the book down. Stewart nailed it.



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Posted by on February 22, 2017 in Uncategorized


Colorado Treasures

Manitou Incline

Manitou Incline full of tourists

People often ask how I find the treasures of information about people for my biographies, along with nuggets of details about Colorado’s colorful history. I have a system, which boils down to “making the rounds” to various hot spots and collections pertaining to my subject. Whenever possible, I begin at the cemetery. By visiting a family plot, I get a sense of dates and family members during the final days of a character’s life. Then I work backwards, visiting libraries, archives, repositories, museums, houses, statues, and monuments.

Until recently, I often visited archives and repositories to look up files and read microfilm. Now, we have the luxury of studying many of these documents online. Although most of us know better than to believe what we read in the newspaper, articles contemporary to the person’s life give us many details about the times in which they lived. The trick is to follow up these leads and road maps to primary evidence and public records to substantiate what we find. In Colorado, the manuscript collections at Denver Public Library and History Colorado’s library allow access to special documents and collections. The Colorado Archives office in the Department of Revenue’s basement is an especially rich assemblage of information.

I am constantly on the lookout for graphic images and photos of the places where my character worked, lived, and played. I have a secret weapon … post cards! My growing collection of vintage post cards contain scenes as they appeared during the lives of my pioneer subjects. Several of these images often appear whenever I give PowerPoint presentations about Colorado history, and also are included in my biographies. They flesh out the scenery as it appeared during Colorado’s early days.

My current work-in-progress is Spencer Penrose: Builder and Benefactor, due for publication from Filter Press later this summer. Penrose built many important buildings and landmarks in the Pikes Peak Region, such as the Broadmoor Hotel, the Pikes Peak Highway, Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the Manitou Incline, and many other attractions. The El Pomar Foundation, established by Penrose and his wife, Julie, is responsible for millions of dollars in grants donated to non-profit organizations in Colorado. The Penroses were colorful characters who worked hard to improve their growing community, and to make it a better place for its citizens.

Joyce B. Lohse

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Posted by on June 23, 2015 in Western history, Writing Life


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Outlaws and Desperados

Outlaws and Desperadoes

Spencer Penrose with pal Harry Leonard, outlaws and desperados, in their twilight.

A writer’s life often requires switching gears and topics while awaiting the next step, another round of edits, a transition in story format, publication. My Work In Progress is a biography about Spencer Penrose, a mover and shaker in the early days of the Colorado Springs community at the foot of Pikes Peak. With fortunes made from mining and land development, he built roads and attractions to accommodate tourists, built the Broadmoor Resort Hotel, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun, Rodeo Arena, and buildings for schools and hospitals. He invested his mining fortune in the El Pomar Foundation, which continues to donate millions of dollars in grants to non-profit groups for good work and causes in the community.

In the late 1800s, Colorado Springs founder, General William Palmer, banned the sale of alcoholic beverages in his new city, in order to discourage bad behavior, outlaws and desperados. When Penrose arrived in the city, he was looking for a job and a cold drink. His prospective business partner, Charles Tutt, accommodated both needs by offering him a job, and taking him to the newly established Cheyenne Mountain Club outside the city limits where they could enjoy their favorite libations in the bar. A few weeks later, Penrose was briefly banned from the club for his involvement in a minor brawl, which disrupted the elite club and resulted in broken furniture. If his reputation as a trouble maker followed him to the freewheeling Cripple Creek mining district, it was no doubt overlooked.

By the time he moved back to Colorado Springs, the scrappy investor’s reputation was overshadowed by his shrewd investment sense and knowledge of mining ventures. He married a widow named Julie Lewis McMillan, which further settled and cultivated his behavior in public and his stature as a solid citizen with an adventurous streak and a flair for fun. The mold was set for his place as a colorful and important character in Pikes Peak area history.

Joyce B. Lohse,


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Important Western Movies

Most western writers and history buffs I know enjoy watching a good Western movie. An article caught my eye in the December 2014 issue of Roundup Magazine from the Western Writers of America. The title was “Twenty Significant Western Movies (1903-1969)” by David Morrell. As usual, the magazine’s list was thoughtful and thought-provoking. I was surprised that I had missed so many of the titles, and promised myself to fill in the gaps. Here is the list:

1. The Great Train Robery (1903)
2. Hell’s Hinges (1916)
3. The Iron Horse (1924)
4. Cimarron (1931)Doc Holliday
5. Stagecoach (1939)
6. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)
7. Red River (1948)
8. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
9. Broken Arrow (1950)
10. The Gunfighter (1950)
11. Winchester ’73 (1950)
12. Westward the Women (1951)
13. High Noon (1952)
14. Shane (1953)
15. Seven Men from Now (1956)
16. The Searchers (1956)
17. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
18. Lonely Are the Brave (1962)
19. A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
20. The Wild Bunch (1969)

As this list ends, so does the Golden Era of Westerns. Many enjoyable Westerns have been made since then, although formed and fashioned for modern audiences and box office success. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, also made in 1969, is a perfect example of combining clever entertainment with a quirky Western drama. Another favorite is Tombstone, in which I discover brilliant new quotations from Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday every time I watch. Then there is Lonesome Dove, which steps away from the movie format for extended, in-depth exploration of character and story. Another movie that won this writer’s heart was True Grit. John Wayne was brilliant throughout his career, but took it to new heights in this story of Marshal Rooster Cogburn’s comeback to combat evil. Great stuff. When it comes to great Westerns, I’m your huckleberry.

Joyce Lohse,

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Posted by on March 21, 2015 in Western history


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