Tag Archives: Western history

When you lose a friend

Sad Sky

The sky was sad and dark the day I learned my friend Gwyn Ramsey died. In fact, the sky made me think her time had come, and sent me to check her Facebook. After all, that is how we often learn personal news these days. I wasn’t surprised, since she was struggling during her eighth round of battle with breast cancer. While I mourned when she entered hospice the week before, I wrote down some thoughts to share with our writing group, Women Writing the West. This was a list I created for myself:

  1. Send a message to Gwyn. NOW!
  2. Wear a breast cancer awareness lapel pin in her honor.
  3. Find a way to honor this person with a donation that would make her smile.

I did not sleep well that night. At 3 a.m., I got up and wrote a message to Gwyn on a special card. It was a beautiful western scene of two people on horses in the snow, created by an artist friend. I told Gwyn that I always enjoyed our shared research and adventures, and she would always be a part of my journey. I took it to the mailbox first thing that morning. My heart was gladdened to think that it might be sent in time. The rest of the list was easy to follow. The pin was already on my jacket. Since Gwyn was our Raffle Queen, the donation that would make her smile was an antique book by Willa Cather for our WWW WILLA Literary Fund Raffle.

Joyce & Gwyn 09

Joyce and Gwyn in Denver in 2009

We learn of so much that is important in our lives through social media these days. When I saw the news that my friend passed away, I wasn’t sure whether to believe it. I waited a full day before I passed along the message, wondering if it would be confirmed, and it was. I’ve had trouble finding obituaries from other recent losses, and I wonder if obits will become a less used way to announce the end of a person’s life. This would have a large impact on later researchers who are seeking information about personal data.

When a person leaves this life, their internet presence continues. When I later checked Gwyn’s Facebook page, I learned that her husband followed her when he passed away just a couple of weeks later. In its way, the electronic age makes us less connected, but it also binds us closer to people we care about more than 1,000 miles away. Gwyn will also always be present through her books about western history adventure published by Treble Heart Books.

Joyce B. Lohse


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Indoor Activities

Minnehaha FallsI’ve always enjoyed January for its fresh start after the holidays, and its sunny crisp weather punctuated by occasional sparkling powdery snow swirling around at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. It is also a good time to enjoy indoor diversions and activities. I don’t know what you might be thinking, but here are some of my favorite January activities.

The Post Card Club had a sale and show this month. My pal Christie and I attended and scored big time. While my friend wheeled and dealed for some historic documents, I found a post card that looked suspiciously like an image by pioneer viewist William E. Hook, although it was not identified as such. Sure enough, when I got home, I was able to match it to an identical image by Hook. It will be a perfect addition to my Pikes Peak History Symposium presentation in June, along with some cabinet cards I purchased. Anxious to learn new information. I quickly discovered that Victorian cabinet cards are original photos mounted on stiff cardboard, about 6″x8″ in size. They can be seen from across the room when propped up on a cabinet, thus the name, cabinet cards.

A few days ago, I was a presenter on a panel about organizing research material at the Columbine Genealogical and Historical Society. I serve on the board of directors, which is a great way to return some support for all they’ve done for me. I learn as much as the audience from participating on such a panel.

Another way to enjoy Western History during the winter months is to visit the library. Not only can you pick up a book about your favorite western subject, (biographies by Joyce Lohse are very good,) but don’t forget to check the video section. We recently watched The Searchers, starring John Wayne, sometimes considered The Duke’s best work. It is certainly a fine production by John Ford, in which the scenery becomes an important element of the film. We passed through Monument Valley, Utah on the way to Arizona a few months back, where this, and many other westerns were filmed. The magnificently stunning landscape has lured many Midwesterners such as ourselves to turn our backs on the cornfield landscape of the heartland and adopt the west as our home.

For viewing this movie on a chilly winter evening, may I suggest pairing it with wine and pizza. Any Oregon pinot noir and Big Bill’s pizza works for me!

Joyce B. Lohse, 1/20/11

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Posted by on January 20, 2011 in Western history, Western Travel


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Historic Postcards

One of my favorite tools for research and touching the past is the postcard. Antique stores and postcard shows are a great place to view and purchase images from the past. This past weekend, I attended the Denver Postcard and Paper Show with my research friend, Christie. We did not buy much, but we had a wonderful time looking at images from the past. I purchased 2 post cards to give for a birthday present. Christie bought an old mine document.

When I was a docent for the William Henry Jackson view photo display at the Colorado Historical Society, I learned that Jackson created the first postcards sent through the mail. As a boy, Jackson earned a few coins by painting decorative landscapes on his neighbors’ screen doors. When he was a soldier in the Civil War, Jackson spent his leisure time creating small sketches of scenes around the campfire. The soldiers were so impressed with his sketches that they asked to write messages on them to send in the mail. As the story goes, Jackson’s sketches were the first picture post cards.

I became interested in postcards as a youngster. During the 50’s, my family took long car trips from Chicago to Florida and back. I picked up postcards along the way and kept them in an album. I have continued sending postcards when I travel, and I enjoy receiving them from others.

More recently, at a meeting of the Columbine Genealogical and Historical Society, I renewed my interest after a presentation by a woman who deals in historic postcards. Images on these cards show how places looked back in the day, with buildings and landmarks which might no longer exist. Fashions, trends and modes of transportation are documented as well as locations. Postcards provide a rare glimpse into the historic past.

— Joyce Lohse, 1/19/09

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Posted by on January 19, 2009 in Western history


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