The Brave Horse Who Became a Sargeant in the U.S. Marines

The recoilless rifle was six feet long and weighed over a hundred pounds. It often required three or four Marines to carry it across the battlefields during the Korean War.

Lugging it was dangerous, but it was necessary, because that rifle, which the soldiers nicknamed “reckless,” could fire a 75mm shell thousands of yards with surgical-like precision.

It was one of the U.S. Marine Corps’ finest munitions. But the commander of the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Eric Pedersen, knew there had to be a better way to use it on the battlefield in Korea.

That better way came to Lieutenant Pedersen in the form of an offer from a stable boy from the racetrack in Seoul. The boy’s sister had stepped on a land mine and lost her leg, but the family couldn’t afford a prostethic. The boy offered Pedersen a horse he owned and was training to race. He had named it “Ah Chim Hai,” or “Morning Flame.”

Pedersen paid $250 of his own money for the small chestnut mare. He wouldn’t be racing her. He was going to train her to carry that giant gun.

In God We Trust

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History, Texas, Pioneers, Genealogy

From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

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CLICK: PARK LANE by Rebecca Taylor

Quotes From the American Old West

“I think it was the distinguishing trait of Wyatt Earp, the leader of the Earp brothers, that more than any man I have ever known, he was devoid of physical fear. He feared the opinion of no one but himself and his self-respect was his creed.”— W. B. “Bat” Masterson

Earp

“I wish I could find words to express the trueness, the bravery, the hardihood, the sense of honor, the loyalty to their trust and to each other of the old trail hands.”— Charles Goodnight


“My father had seen in a flash that they were all gunmen, so he told me to stand still, although we were right in a possible line of fire. If near a gun-fight and the weapons are wielded by amateurs, run for your life; if professionals are handling the trigger, stand still — they know where they are shooting.”― William S. Hart

Hart

“The past is sufficient to show that bushwhackers have been arrested… charged with bank robbery, and they most all have been mobbed without trials… I have lived as a respectable citizen and obeyed the laws of the United States to the best of my knowledge.” — Jesse James in a letter to a frontier editor

“Wild Bill was a strange character, add to this figure a costume blending the immaculate neatness of the dandy with the extravagant taste and style of a frontiersman, you have Wild Bill, the most famous scout on the Plains.”  – General George Custer

“I am aware that my name has been connected with all the bank robberies in the country; but positively I had nothing to do with any one of them. I look upon my life since the war as a blank, and will never say anything to make it appear otherwise.” – Cole Younger

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History, Texas, Pioneers, Genealogy

From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

‘Lady Lawman’ Movie: The Good, Bad and Ugly

We love and miss Westerns, so we invited friends to watch “Lady Lawman,” a fictitious movie based on the first real female marshal, Francis Miller, of the Indian Territory in the 1890s.

Jake Jecmenek, a friend from high school, was kind enough to give me a DVD of the movie he co-produced and starred in, which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

To provide a fair review, I combined the ratings of all six of us, so as not to skew the results. (Dodie has known Jake since at least the 8th grade and we are both fond of him).

SEE LADY LAWMAN PREVIEW HERE

We had popcorn and tasty beverages for our guests to enjoy as we prepared to project the film outdoors like an old fashioned drive-in theater. The DVD cover and packaging is beautiful, but the first hint something might be amiss was when one of them read the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) movie description:

“A women (yes, plural instead of ‘woman’) is offered a job and because the Shieriff (yes, misspelled, rather than ‘Sheriff’) is short handed to a woman (yes, ‘short handed to a woman‘) whom lost her recent husband (instead of an older spouse?) to the same gang of outlaws as the tracker (so the tracker was in a gang of outlaws?).

Brett William Mauser is the executive producer, writer, director, editor and, among other responsibilities, an actor in the movie.

Here is the good, bad and the ugly with our ratings of Lady Lawman:

THE GOOD

The best acting into this 95 minute movie was by Ryan Jasso (Francis Miller) and Jake Jecmenek (Buck Johnson) who played the prime characters.

Other notable actors included Ernest Martinez (ditch the whiskey bottle in every other scene – you’re better than that), Carlos Leos and Kody Nace.

According to our small six-person audience, among the good features of the movie were:

🔹How a momentous pocket watch was weaved into the story.

🔹Dodie and her girlfriends all “liked the beautiful horses.”

🔹Everyone agreed the background music helped the movie.

🔹”My favorite were the gag shots in the Bonus Features” of the DVD, one said. “Especially when it showed someone actually wearing stiched-in red letters– ‘FLASH’–on black jockey underwear, the obvious rage in 1890s fashion I suppose.”

🔹”The acting and horses saved the movie,” Dodie exclaimed.

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THE BAD

Mauser may be an improved movie maker since his western, Bass Reeves. It was the only movie I reviewed of his, way back in 2010.

In Bass Reeves, a film about the first Black U.S. deputy marshal, there were some good performances by actors James A. House and Craig Rainey, but audience members were distracted by things like 1970s style paneling and plastic light switches on interior walls during the times of the Old West.

In his latest offering, Mauser releases what could have been a more pleasing movie without two primary familiar disturbances:

1. lack of authenticity.

2. long drawn out dialogue that was sometimes difficult to understand.

🔹Practically every actor sported brand new cowboy hats, bejeweled with Route 66 type trading post or Buckee’s style ornaments and headbands. 1890s? No way.

🔹It’s significant enough as major diversions–as are the shiny new saddles on every horse; pristine and more modern day style shirts, jackets and attire–or replicas–on some of them.

Online ratings: 3 out of 5 stars, Amazon and 4.5 out of 10 on IMDb.

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🔹An asphalt road in front of a seamless metal-roofed house with a concrete sidewalk during the 1890s was way out of the time period. People notice that Brett!

(Asphalt first appeared in North America in the 1870s in Virginia and was used for the centennial of 1876 on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. It took years for cars and buggies to be driven on asphalt roads in Oklahoma or Texas.)

He could work his way towards something more exceptional if he would not still be making the same mistakes. You can’t blame it on budget restraints. Used and authentic can cost less! At the very least, change the camera angles to hide these errors.

Everyone in our small focus group agreed and used descriptives like “annoying,” “obvious,” “blaring” and–

🔹”I couldn’t concentrate, especially when the shine from Wal-Mart stainless bowls were laid out on the table.”

🔹”I couldn’t concentrate on the acting because the clothes looked like they came from Sears, K-Mart or Wal-Mart,” a husband and wife team explained as I took their notes.

🔹”This is a cowboy movie,” she said. “One guy looked like a Low Rider who should be driving a jumping ’65 Chevy.”

🔹”And what about so many of them wearing new outfitter clothes, complete with matching bandanas?” another asked. “I’m sorry, this would have been a fairly decent movie for theater release if they would get help with the dialogue writing, costuming and location help.”

🔹”Look, I enjoy westerns and watch the Western Channel all the time,” said a veteran cowboy western fan. “After awhile, I just tried to ignore all this, and tell myself ‘hey, give them a break, it’s independent greenhorn tenderfoot hour,’ and then was able to enjoy it better. It’s not High Noon or The Searchers after all. It’s some good people making a movie with what they’ve got. I’d give them at least a B for effort. For dialogue, not so much.”

🔹”I did the same,” the second man said. “Maybe it’s because we live around and raise horses, livestock, and goats, that I was being hard on them, but a movie shouldn’t have to make me give excuses for it. I did enjoy it alright, but it took some effort.”

Amazon ratings

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🔹”The rain scenes at night on the closeups looked like the drops were coming down superimposed on the screen,” he continued. “I wanted to concentrate on the struggle, but by this late in the movie I was trained to look at mistakes.”

THE UGLY

🔹”It seems like they went overboard with all the shooting and killing,” our first lady friend said. “The pocket watch part was good, but I kept wondering if they even had musical watches that played Fleur-de-lis in the 1800s. It’s not hard to think that way with so many other noticeable such instances.”

“Since it is in Bonus Feature we can laugh and be forgiving, but those red stiched lettering “FLASH” in the black underwear band was bad, but funny as hell,” her husband noted.

REVIEW RATINGS

By Jack Dennis

In a quirky sort of way, after the movie was over, guests had left and with alone time to reflect, I actually enjoyed Lady Lawman in a campy, nonsensical sort of fashion.

It reminded me of the same illogical, but fun emotions I experienced when my neighborhood pals and I would take the bus downtown to the (now defunct) Texas Theater in San Antonio to watch old 1950s Ed Wood horror and sci-fi movies. The props were ludicrous and the actors (an old Bela Lugosi, Doris Fuller, Vampirella and Tor Johnson) were baffling strange–only Lady Lawman had far, far better acting.

Mauser seems to be sticking to his formula, making independent low budget movies the best he can with what resources he has. Personally, I think he’s better than this. If he would accept writing, continuity and professional costuming help, rather than attempt to tackle as much of it as he can by himself, he could churn out some better products. He has some of the talent and much experience around him, but perhaps this is his comfortable niche.

Effort, B+

Acting, B overall.

Acting, Ryan Jasso and Jecmenek, A-

Production, C+

Writing, C+

Music, B+

Authenticity, C

Total Movie: B-

(Low) 1 to 10 (High) Scale, Five Person Composite

Effort = 8.2

Acting = 6.6

Production = 6.9

Music = 8.6

Authenticity = 5.2

Total Movie = 6.7

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VISIT BANDERA, TEXAS

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Wisdom of the Real American Cowgirl

Being a cowgirl goes beyond riding a horse and working with cattle.

Growing up in Texas, we know that a cowgirl is a woman who is strong, confident, and not afraid of a hard day’s work. She is polite, sharing kindness with all the folks around her, and she doesn’t shy away from getting dirt under her fingernails. Each cowgirl is an inspiration to us all.

Over the years, many cowgirls and cowboys have passed down their wisdom and have provided encouragement to others. Dodie and I graduated from McCollum High School where the mascot is the Cowboys.

Today, we live near Bandera, the Cowboy Capitol of the World, and see the true Texas Hill Country spirit of the hearts and souls here. These photos and quotes are here to support and empower all of us and help build confidence and strength in these times of reassurance.

Sometimes we just need to think about our attitude and try approaching a situation differently rather than let something or someone ruin a whole day.

A gentle reminder that though it may be really hard, being kind to everyone is the right thing to do, even if they are not kind to you.

There are always going to be difficult times and being able to weather the storms are only going to make you a stronger person.

Sometimes you must take life by the reins if you want to chase your dreams and ambitions. A reminder: we have to get outside of our comfort zone to get what we truly want.

The values associated with cowgirls are ones of kindness, respect, and love. People can often lose sight of those values when it comes to personal gain and it is important to never lose sight of those beliefs.

Take each day with a good attitude and appreciate what you have, but don’t let that stop you from working towards your goals.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Palo Duro Canyon is a True Texas Natural Wonder

Travel deep into the heart of the Texas Panhandle and you’ll find a true natural wonder. Canyon walls gleaming orange in bright sunshine, otherworldly rock formations, and scenic trails lined with mesquite and juniper trees await at Palo Duro Canyon.

About 120 miles long and 20 miles wide, and with a depth of roughly 800 feet, Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the country. Formed over millions of years, the canyon is a majestic showcase of nature’s power. Descend into its depths and you’ll see vibrant layers of rock in the canyon walls that tell a story 250 million years in the making.

I first traveled to Palo Duro while RVing with two sons, ages 8 and 9, in 2005. They were enchanted and loved the remoteness. Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs was their favorite on this particular trip, but Palo Duro Canyon was a highly rated second place.

I suppose some people naturally compare it to the Grand Canyon. If you’ve been there, how can you measure any place against the Grand Canyon? To do so may disappoint. For their young eyes–who had never been to Arizona–Palo Duro was spectacular and offered a spirit of adventure.

We only stayed two nights, but could have easily stayed more. My journalism professor at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State), Jeff Henderson, told me about a show there back in the late 1970s. It remained on my bucket list for 30 years before I was able to experience it.

We enjoyed a great Chuck Wagon meal prior to the event just outside the entry of the Pioneer Ampitheater.

It’s beautifully carved out of and nestled into a natural basin in the state park. Summer 2021 the spectacular TEXAS OUTDOOR MUSICAL Palo Duro Canyon comes alive once again for the 55th season  of the Official Play of the State of Texas.

It reminded me of a Seven Brides For Seven Brothers Broadway musical type play but set against an authentic tapestry of history. The show’s fictional characters bring to life the stories, struggles and triumphs of the settlers of the Texas Panhandle in the 1800’s. Song and dance abound – and a generous helping of good ol’ Texas humor too – with spellbinding lighting, special effects and fireworks.

For a dad with his two sons, one of the best ways we experienced the canyon was by tying on hiking shoes and exploring the CCC Trail, one of more than 30 miles of trails.

If a strenuous, yet rewarding, hike is what you’re after, traverse either the Upper Comanche or the Lower Comanche trails. The former takes you across a river and deep through Comanche territory to an overlook halfway up the canyon wall. The latter meanders beneath Fortress Cliff and past spring-fed streams and Rocky Mountain junipers. Meanwhile, the Juniper/Cliffside trail offers a more easygoing stroll past percolation caves carved by moving water over time.

The Lighthouse

A favorite for many visitors (it was the middle of June, hot, so we elected not to try it–almost 6 mile round trip) to Palo Duro Canyon hike to the Lighthouse, the park’s iconic rock formation. If you decide to trek to Lighthouse trail to see it for yourself, make sure to bring plenty of water.

Of course, there are other ways to uncover Palo Duro Canyon’s many wonders. Ride horseback on the canyon floor on a guided tour with Old West Stables or find your way along many of the trails on your mountain bike.

The canyon’s lush landscapes and variety of terrain makes it a veritable hotspot for birdwatching. Golden-fronted woodpeckers are among the many birds you can see throughout the year, while summer welcomes such colorful species as painted buntings and Bullock’s orioles.

Keep a keen eye and you may even see bobcats, coyotes, and wild turkeys, as well as members of the official State Longhorn Herd (descendants of cattle brought by the Spanish in the 1500s).

Chisholm Trail: South of San Antonio to Kansas

After the Civil War, millions of cattle running wild in Texas were worth only $2 or less per head, but worth $15 to $25 per head in Kansas. The money from the sale of cattle was responsible for bringing Texas out of the economic depression caused by the war.
 

From the start of the trail drives in 1867 to 1871, millions of longhorns were taken to the Kansas Railhead. It is estimated that 10 million longhorns went up the Chisholm Trail and the Western Trail before new rail lines to Texas made the long trail drives no longer necessary.
 

The typical herd going up the trail included approximately 2,500 cattle, 10 to 12 cowboys, a remuda of extra horses, and a chuck wagon for food and gear.

The cattle taken along the Chisholm Trail came from south Texas toward San Antonio. A large ditch, just west of modern day Commercial Avenue, was dug in concert with nearby creeks feeding into the San Antonio River. The ditch and creeks were used to keep cattle contained and watered.

Today this is known as Six Mile Creek.

Photo of John W. Gonzalez

By 1889, railroads were making their way into more southern routes through Texas and 34 acres just southwest of downtown San Antonio became the site of the Stockyards.

J.W. Kothmann, went into the cattle business in 1893 and became the stockyard’s first tenant. The first cattle sold by Kothmann’s new company came from H.B. Zachry’s ranch in Webb County.

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Note: When the San Antonio Union Stockyards closed down after 112 years–due to urban sprawl and changing times–it was in August 2011 that a final tribute occurred.

The last cattle auctioned were brought to sale by the Kothmann company for the U-Bar Ranch, which was owned by H.B. Zachry Co.


From San Antonio, cattle were herded straight north past Belton, Waco, Fort Worth and crossed the Red River.

Many of the trail drives came through downtown Fort Worth along what is referred to today as Commerce Street before bedding down the cattle north of downtown. The drover (cowboy) would purchase supplies in Fort Worth before heading on.

The Fort Worth Herd

Sixteen longhorns and six drovers walk in the Fort Worth Herd cattle drive that can be seen daily in the Stockyards. 
 

Jesse Chisholm (1805 – 1868) was an important trader and plainsman of Scots and Cherokee background. He was fluent in 14 Native American languages and played an important role in many treaties between tribes and the American government. The cattle drives were adapted from his trading routes hence where the name comes from.

Joseph McCoy (1837 – 1915), was a cattle trader and largely responsible for creating the Chisholm Trail. He conceived the idea for a railroad extension to Abilene, Kansas, where he then developed cattle pens needed to house the cattle on rail cars. He then promoted the appropriate route for cattle drovers to take.

Kristin - Fort Worth Herd

According to the Texas Historical Commission, the Chisholm Trail had various other names, including the McCoy Trail, the Great Texas Trail, the Cattle Trail, the Eastern Trail, and the Kansas Trail.

Fort Worth Herd

Some people assert that the Chisholm Trail was not in Texas and that it instead began in Oklahoma. However, according to the Texas Historical Commission, in common usage, the name Chisholm Trail was applied to extensions of the original Jesse Chisholm Trail covering the length of Texas. The major books on the Chisholm Trail by Wayne Gard and Don Worcester as well as the federal legislation directing the study of the Chisholm Trail and Western Trail also take this view.
 

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Kentucky Rain, Bomb Bunker, Bates Motel


Seconds before we left West Virginia on IH64 to enter Kentucky today, it began to drizzle.

Why is that mentioned?

I can guess the first thing my friends Ray and Leland Hammonds think of when the subject of Kentucky is brought up is horse racing. Our parents and grandparents actually raced horses together for decades. (The Hammonds cousins continue to own race horses to this day).

Lydia Dennis, Shirley Hammonds, Annie Dennis, Jack L. Dennis Jr., Kenneth Hammonds, ?, Odell Dennis (jockey).

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind with Kentucky? Whiskey? Bourbon? Bluegrass? Fried chicken?

Being the Elvis Presley fan that I am, of course, my first thought as we entered the state with a drizzle, was his first 1970s hit “Kentucky Rain.” In fact, it was his 50th Gold Record.

Recorded at American Sound Studio, the hit was written by Eddie Rabbitt and Dick Heard. One of the backing musicians was pianist Ronnie Milsap.

Before he was recording hits such as “I Love a Rainy Night” and “Drivin’ My Life Away,” Rabbitt also penned Milsap’s “Pure Love.” 

Both were ecstatic about being associated with Elvis.

Elvis even hired Milsap to be the entertainment at his private New Years Eve Party.

“He was the voice of my generation,” Milsap explained. “I had a million questions to ask him, but he wanted to talk about that session of ‘Kentucky Rain,’ so we talked about that.”

Milsap asked Elvis if he’d like to sing at that party.

“No, I want to sit here with my friends and not have to worry about singing,” Elvis replied.

“Well, we know all your songs,” Milsap said.

But that was fine, Milsap reminisced, “He knew we did, but he didn’t want to get up and sing, and that was fine. It was his party.”

Kentucky Horse Park

So we drive in to Lexington and go northward towards The Kentucky Horse Park. It’s the only kind of it’s venue in the world. Set on 1,200 acres, it has four museums, show barns, the Show Jumping Hall of Fame and more.

Unfortunately the drizzle became a full fledged storm. A real Kentucky Rain!

Earlier I had thought about staying in The Greenbrier Resort, but room prices ranging from $250 to $25,000 (plus $250 for Mr. Beefy) quickly changed my mind.

The Greenbrier Resort

Baby Boomers may have heard of
“Project Greek Island.” It was the codename for a super secret, giant underground bunker under a portion of the Greenbrier.

During the Eisenhower and Kennedy era it was built to house all 535 members of Congress during an atomic bomb attack.

The Greenbrier has been welcoming guests from around the world since 1778. Construction began in 1958 on the 112,544-square-foot bunker, which was built 720 feet into the hillside under The Greenbrier’s West Virginia Wing. 

Once complete in 1961, the facility was maintained in a constant state of readiness by a small group of government employees working undercover as Forsythe Associates, a company hired by the resort for audio/visual support services.

It features a 25-ton blast door that opens with only 50 lbs. of pressure, decontamination chambers, 18 dormitories designed to accommodate over 1,100 people and a power plant with purification equipment and three 25,000-gallon water storage tanks.

Over the 30 years that it was an active facility, communications and other equipment were updated, keeping The Bunker at full-operation status. The location of the facility, critical to its effectiveness, remained a secret until 1992.

So, the Greenbrier was out of our price range and the storm forced us to drive about 20 mph on the 70 mph IH 75.

The storm was so intense, 18-wheelers and passenger cars were forced to pull over and wait it out. We finally reached the safety of where we’re staying tonight.

Although in the hard rain it looks so much like the Bates Motel from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho movie, we were just happy to be off the highway.

It’s actually turning out to be one of our favorite places to stay on the trip. The North Star Inn, in Corinth, Kentucky, is a very quaint and comfortable inn owned by Dawn and David Henson. They also have a nice cafe next door (check-in is there) that people say offers delicious home made plates. Unfortunately their hours and days are limited during the pandemic.

Kentucky rain keeps pouring down
And up ahead’s another town that I’ll go walking through
With the rain in my shoes (Rain in my shoes)
Searching for you
In the cold Kentucky rain
In the cold Kentucky rain