Sunday, October 22, 2017


We fiction writers really love making up stuff. And, if we’re clever enough, we can hornswoggle a number of unsuspecting people into reading the stuff we’ve made up. It’s a great system. However, along with all that heady fun, there are a couple of have-tos that no author particularly enjoys doing. One of those is writing your own bio. (Well, I’ve actually met a few authors who LOVE writing about themselves, but we won’t name names here.)
     I count concocting a bio right up there with scrubbing floors and the sound of dentist drills, but I do realize the importance of those back-flap author blurbs. When I finish reading a great book, I want to know all about the person who wrote it. Where did she grow up? Is this his first book…his tenth? How did the author end up writing in this genre?
     If you’ve written and published a book, magazine article, screenplay, or short story, you WILL be asked to provide a word snapshot of who you are and how you came to be an author. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when pouring–or dribbling–out your life story.

HOW LONG? Bios come in three sizes: short, medium, and extended. By short, I mean something in the neighborhood of three typed lines. A medium bio runs from 40 to 250 words, and the extended version will be several paragraphs long (theoretically filling up a page). You should have all three versions on hand: short for end-of-story blurbs, medium for online book listings, and extended for your website or press kit.

WHO IS READING THIS? If you are introducing yourself to a particular audience (romance, western, sci-fi, etc.), then the tone of your bio should suit the genre.
     Depending on how much space you have, you should drop morsels of information that show your interest or qualifications in that genre. Do you dress up as Sleeping Beauty EVERY Halloween? Were you a trick roper child prodigy? Was your life changed when you shook hands with an astronaut? This is also a good opportunity to showcase your writing style, whether pithy or cerebral or colorfully descriptive. In other words, the picture you paint of yourself in your bio should match the writing style of your story.

You want me to write about...ME?
    WHOSE POV? Yeah, it’s weird but you will be writing about yourself in third person. Once you get used to the idea, it actually makes it easier to describe your writing (just pretend you’re not in the room with yourself!) and to lay out the braggity things like awards and accolades.

WHAT TO SAY? This can be tricky. Don’t get so hung up on the who/what/where/how, that you forget to add quirky details. Yes, tell them you grew up in Arkansas/Indiana/etc. However, no one cares that you’ve always loved to write. Of course, you love to write. You wrote this book they hold in their hands! Tell your story, but keep it tight and make every word count.
     Find a way to describe your essence in creative terms. For example, my short bio reveals that I am “descended from horse traders and Southern belles.” It checks off several boxes: I grew up in the South, my family was into horses, and I might sell you a sway-backed short story if you don’t watch me closely. 
     If you’ve won an award that the readers will recognize, then give it a shout-out. If it isn’t a well-known honor, then you can always go with “award-winning author, <your name here>.” It’s all about the creds, baby.

     Above all, take your time when putting together a bio. It could convince a reader browsing through new digital releases to click “Buy Now.” You never know…Billy Bob Thornton or Charles Portis could pick up your book, read your bio, and decide to shoot you an email that says, “Hey, I’m from Arkansas too! Wanna have supper next week?” (One can dream…)
     So go ahead and shake your tail feathers a bit, pop your suspenders, toot your horn, and let the world of readers know what’s unique about you, and why they should be falling over themselves to devour every delicious word you write.
     And remember, my darlings, you’re only as old as your bio says you are!

All the best,


Louisiana-born Vonn McKee, descended from horse traders and southern belles, has worked as everything from country singer to riverboat waitress to construction project manager. Now based in Nashville, she turns her experiences and love of history into stories of the West.

“Writing the Range”
2015 WWA Spur Finalist (Short Fiction)
2015 Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Finalist (Short Fiction)
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Friday, October 20, 2017

The Indian Civil War, Part 3: The Flight of Opothleyahola

by Troy D. Smith

The earlier installments of this series:

Part One

Part Two

Opothleyahola (pronounced Oh-POTH-lay-a-HO-la) was an Upper Creek Muscogee, born in Alabama near the end of the eighteenth century to a Creek mother and a Welch father. As a young man, probably still in his teens, he fought the Americans encroaching on his people’s lands. The Creeks were inspired by the Shawnee leader Tecumseh and his brother, the prophet Tenskwatawa, to ally with the British in the War of 1812. In the course of that conflict the Creeks endured a civil war, with the traditionalist “Red Sticks” of the Upper Towns opposing the pro-American Lower Creek “White Sticks.”

The civil war became a war against the United States and its Indian allies, which ended when the Red Sticks were decisively defeated by forces under Andrew Jackson in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814; as a result of their loss, the Creeks were forced to cede 20 million acres of their Alabama territory to the U.S. Having fought on the losing side, the Red Sticks –including Opothleyahola –pledged an oath of loyalty to the United States as part of their surrender. It was an oath Opothleyahola took very seriously, later aiding U.S. forces against his Seminole kinsmen when called upon to do so.

Gaining renown as an orator, Opothleyahola eventually became the designated speaker for the Creek National Council. In that capacity he traveled to Washington, D.C., in 1826 to protest a treaty signed the previous year by several Lower Creek chiefs, led by William McIntosh, which gave up most of the tribe’s remaining land in Georgia and Alabama. Opothleyahola negotiated a more favorable treaty, and McIntosh was later executed by command of the Creek council for violating their directive not to sell land to the whites. Nevertheless, the handwriting was on the wall –the Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830, and the Creeks were among the many tribes relocated to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma, in an exodus that would be known as the Trail of Tears. In 1837, Opothleyahola led 8,000 of his people to their new home across the Mississippi.

Civil War engulfed the Creeks once again in 1861 –this time in conjunction with a larger conflagration which swept through, not just Indian Territory, but the whole United States. Representatives of the Confederacy met with the leaders of the “Five Civilized Tribes” –Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles –urging an alliance. Those tribes were also “Southern,” after all, and some of their citizens, including Opothleyahola, were heavily invested in cotton agriculture, African slaves, and “Dixie” values.
John Ross

The official governments of all five tribes agreed to ally with the Confederacy –even though many of those tribes’ people favored neutrality, or even supported Union and abolition of slavery. Even Opothleyahola’s longtime ally John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokees, reluctantly committed his people to the Confederate cause –due to a combination of factors, including the withdrawal of Union troops from I.T. and the proximity of the Confederacy, and the fact that Confederate leaders were ready to support Ross’s political enemies if he did not side with them. The Confederacy also offered some benefits which the United States did not: Indian representation in the Confederate Congress and full recognition of Indian sovereignty.

Opothleyahola was deeply saddened at Ross’s decision, and refused to follow suit. He had pledged his loyalty to the United States and wanted no part of a rebellion against it. Soon other people from Indian Territory who did not support their leaders’ alliance with the Confederates poured into Opothleyahola’s camp –including Indians from all Five Tribes, a few from the western tribes, free blacks, and escaped slaves. Opothleyahola’s band, now numbering in the thousands, felt unsafe, surrounded as they were by pro-Confederate Indians. There was some fear that their males would be forcibly conscripted, or that they would be attacked.

Confederate Indian

One of the Confederate Creek officers –son of William McIntosh, whose long-ago execution Opothleyahola had approved –wrote that “It is now certain that he has combined with his party all the surrounding wild tribes and has openly declared himself the enemy of the South. Negroes are fleeing to him from all quarters—not less than 150 have left within the last three days.” Opothleyahola received word that the U.S. government promised his people sanctuary in Fort Row, Kansas, so they began their northward trek through the Cherokee Nation.

They were not allowed to leave peacefully. A large Confederate force followed them on Nov. 15, 1861, comprised of Creek and Cherokee regiments, with some Choctaws, as well as the 9th Texas Cavalry. The force, 1400 men strong, was commanded by a former Indian agent turned Confederate colonel, Douglas H. Cooper, who was determined to force the band to either support the Confederacy or be scattered. The refugees set fire to the prairie behind them to deny forage to their pursuers, and the flight became a running battle.

Some of the Confederate Cherokee soldiers, dismayed at being forced to fight their old comrades, deserted and joined Opothleyahola. The fugitives beat their attackers back at the Battle of Round Mountain, were defeated at Chusto-Talasah (near present-day Tulsa), and, in December, were roundly routed by the Confederates at Chustenahlah. The entire campaign was sometimes referred to later as The Trail of Blood and Ice.

One child would later recall the fighting:
The Creek Indians and the slaves with them tried to fight off them soldiers like they did before, but they get scattered around and seperated [sic] so they lose the battle. Lost their horses and wagons, and the soldiers killed lots of Creeks and Negroes, and some of the slaves were captured and carried back to their masters.... Dead all over the hills when we get away; some of the Negroes shot and wounded so bad the blood run down the saddle skirts, and some fell off their horses miles from the battle ground, and lay still on the ground.
When the band finally reached Kansas, in the dead of winter, they discovered that the U.S. government was unprepared to provide for so many refugees. They were moved to nearby Fort Belmont, most with only the clothes on their backs and no further shelter available. All told, about two thousand members of Opothleyahola’s band of nine thousand perished, either from the fighting along the way or starvation, sickness, and exposure when they arrived. Opothleyahola and his daughter were among those who died after reaching Kansas.

This was only the beginning of the bloody Civil War in Indian Territory. Many of the surviving males who had taken flight with Opothleyahola, most of them Creek or Seminole, joined all-Indian Union units called the Indian Home Guard -three regiments in all, two formed in Kansas in May and June of 1862, and the third in the Cherokee capitol of Tahlequah a month later. The 1st and 3rd regiments were composed of troops from the Five Tribes, but the 2nd Regiment was diverse: it included one company each of Kickapoo, Quapaw, Seneca, Shawnee, and Delaware, and two companies each of Osage and Cherokee. 

These Union Indian troops soon carried the fight back into their own lands. Indian Territory became a battleground of blue, gray, and red.

Troy D. Smith is a history professor at Tennessee Tech, where he teaches Native American History, Environmental History, and the U.S. West. As an author of western fiction, he is a past winner of the Peacemaker Award and two-time winner of the Spur Award. His award-winning novella Odell's Bones centers on the Civil War in Indian Territory; one Spur judge described it as "reading like a lost chapter of Lonesome Dove."  

Spur Award winner, 2001 (best paperback original, Bound for the Promise-Land)
Spur Award winner, 2017 (best short fiction, "Odell's Bones")
Peacemaker Award winner, 2011 (best short fiction- "Sin of Eli")

Spur Award finalist, 1998 (best short nonfiction, "Bigfoot Wallace- Texas-Sized Legend")
Spur Award finalist, 2001 (best first novel, Bound for the Promise-Land)
Peacemaker Award finalist, 2011 (best short fiction, "Blackwell's Run")
Peacemaker Award finalist, 2013 (best short fiction, "Christmas Comes to Freedom Hill")
Peacemaker Award finalist, 2017 (best short fiction, "Odell's Bones")
C. Vann Woodward Prize, Southern Historical Association finalist, 2012 (best dissertation, Race, Slavery and Nation in Indian Territory, 1840-1866)

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Wild West Show

In the late 1800s, Wild West Shows began traveling the Eastern states (and eventually even reached Europe). They did so for around fifty years, becoming the unofficial national entertainment of the United States from the 1880s to the 1910s. The showmen who created these extravaganzas -- William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Gordon William "Pawnee Bill" Lillie, "Buckskin Joe" Hoyt, The Miller brothers, and Dr. William F. Carver among others -- made Great Plains imagery their stock-in-trade. They paraded figures like the Plains Indian, the cowboy, and of course, the faithful frontier scout before audiences nostalgic for the passing of the frontier.

These shows "blended myth and reality in a simplified and patriotic fashion that reinforced popular notions about the nation's Manifest Destiny, identity, and gender roles." The typical Wild West Show was a scripted dramatization about "The Winning of the West," with the frontier scout held up as the model of proper American manhood. Showmen like Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill dressed in buckskins and portrayed themselves as sure and quick with wit and weapons. Many of the shows avoided the very term for fear that audiences would think their performances fake or exaggerated. Instead, they billed themselves as exhibitions or expositions.
Conquest of the Native American was central to the idea of Westward Expansion idealized in the shows, so Plains Indians were also an integral part of the experience. Buffalo Bill advertised "Come se the horde of war-painted Arapahos, Cheyenne, and Sioux Indians," while Pawnee Bill employed Osages, Pawnees and Kiowas in his shows. These shows depicted the Indians as the antithesis to "civilized" life -- savages from a wild land (but "with a martial spirit that made them worthy adversaries").

Famous warriors became popular attractions in the Wild West Show. Geronimo joined Pawnee Bill's show and was billed as "The Worst Indian That Ever Lived." Buffalo Bill hired Sitting Bull, which led to the Sioux being the most prized tribe featured in the Wild West Shows. Always, the role of the Native American was to attack whites and to be defeated.
The cowboy hero, "perhaps the most recognized icon of the Great Plains," had his beginnings in the Wild West Shows. The shows made the cowboy a salable figure, and gradually, he elbowed aside the scouts and Native Americans to become the hero of the show. It was on the Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch Show that Bill Pickett introduced audiences to the art of "bulldogging," and easterner Tom Mix learned the skills that later transferred to Western films.

Wild West Shows not only offered entertainment for the "dudes" back East, but offered what was often the best-paying job around for blacks like Bill Pickett, Mexicans, Native Americans and even women. The heyday of the shows ended in 1913 when Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill ended their merged Two Bills Show, though Wild West Shows did continue until the 1930's in combination with circuses and rodeos. Financial problems and the rising popularity of the cinema contributed to the shows' demise.
Here's a list of some of the shows available during the time your character might have encountered one:
§   A Girl of the Plains – Texas Nell – Alkali Pete
§  Allen Bros. Wild West (1929-1934) – Charles and Mert H. Allen
§  Arlington & Beckman’s Oklahoma Ranch Wild West (1913) – Edward Arlington and Fred Beckman
§  A. S. Lewis Big Shows (1910)
§  Austin Bros. 3 Ring Circus and Real Wild West (1945)
§  Barrett Shows and Oklahoma Bill’s Wild West (1920)
§  Bee Ho Gray's Wild West (circa 1919-1932)
§  Booger Red’s Wild West Show (1904-1910)
§  Broncho John, Famous Western Horseman and his Corps of Expert Horsemen (1906) – J. H. Sullivan
§  Bros. Wild West Show (1929-1934) – Charles and Mert H. Allen
§  Buck Jones Wild West Show
§  Buckskin Ben’s Wild West and Dog and Pony Show (1908) Benjamin Stalker
§  Buckskin Bill’s Wild West (1900)
§  Bud Atkinson’s Circus and Wild West (early 1900s) – Toured Australia in 1912
§  California Frank’s All-Star Wild West (1911) – Frank Hafley
§  Cole Younger & Frank James Wild West (1903)
§  Colonel Cummins’ Wild West Indian Congress and Rough Riders of the World – Frederick T. Cummins
§  Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show for Kids
§  Buffalo Bill's Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders
§  Diamond Dick’s Congress of World’s Western Champions
§  Fred Akins Real Wild West and Far East Show (1909-1910)
§  Gene Autry’s Flying A Ranch Stampeed (1942)
§  Hardwick’s “Great Rocky Mountain Wild West Show” (1884)
§  Indian Bill’s Wild West and Mexican Hippodrome (1903)
§  Irwin & Hirsig Wild West (1910)
§  Irwin Brothers Cheyenne Frontier Days Wild West Show (1913-1917)
§  Jones Bros.' Buffalo Ranch Wild West (1910)
§  Kit Carson Buffalo Ranch Wild West Show (1913)
§  L. O. Hillman’s Wild West Aggregation (1900-1920)
§  Luella Forepaugh-Fish Wild West Shows (1903)
§  Miller Bros. 101 Ranch Real Wild West (1907-1916 & 1925-1931)
§  Montana Franks Shows
§  Pate Boone Wild West Show
§  Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show
§  Tex And Mex Wild West
§  Texas Jack's Wild West (1901-1905)
§  Tim’s McCoy’s Real Wild West
§  Wiedemann’s Shows (1906-1911)
§  Wiedemann Bros Shows
§  Wiedemann Bros Big American Show and Custer’s Last Charge
§  Wiedemann’s Kit Carson Show
§  Zach Mulhall’s Congress of Rough Riders and Ropers

J.E.S. Hays

Wild West Shows, S. Matthew DeSpain University of Oklahoma
Rodeos, Wild West Shows, and the Mythic American West, Lumen Learning
Wild West Show List from the International Independent Showmen's Museum

Sunday, October 1, 2017

One-room School House #6
“Spare the Rod, Spoil the Children”  ?????
Letters and Blogs about Disciple in the Old West Schools
By Julie A Hanks, Ph.D  aka Jesse J Elliot

At the end of the article, please sign in and give your opinion on corporal punishment in the classroom!

         As a recently retired educator, I can assure you that corporal punishment was never my way of disciplining, but it was a regular method in the Old West and, unfortunately in some schools today.  I’ve gathered some anecdotes, blogs, and letters about school discipline in the Old West. This collection is interesting on its own, but add in the actual photographs, and well, let’s say, a picture’s worth a thousand words.      

         According to the Pioneer Sholes school blog: Punishment took numerous forms.  Corporal punishment was not unheard of nor was detention, suspension and even expulsion.  Lesser punishments “included such things as a rap on the hands or knuckles with a steel edged ruler; standing in a corner with face to the wall; wearing a dunce cap, facing the room, and sitting upon a high stool beside the teacher's desk; standing for long periods with arms held straight out in front; standing with an arm outstretched, palm up, while holding a heavy book on that hand for a long period; or being banished to the girls' cloakroom (if the culprit were a boy).” Some of these punishments were obviously physically painful while others, like wearing the dunce cap, were humiliating. 
Some teachers were actually provided with a prescribed number of lashes for each offense.  Common schoolhouse crimes and punishments
·       3 lashes - for disrupting the class
·       4 lashes - for being late
·       4 lashes - for boys & girls playing together
·       6 lashes - for "sassing the teacher"
·       7 lashes - for telling lies
·       8 lashes - for swearing
·       10 lashes - for "misbehaving to girls"
·       10 lashes - for playing cards during recess
Kids-n-Cowboys blog       

    The lashes were hard and cruel, strong enough to tear skin and clothing. The punishment of students in public schools didn’t end with the frontier. In 1983 in North Carolina, an honor student decided to skip school for the first time in her educational career. She was caught and had a choice of in-school (away from her classes) suspension or lashes.  She was afraid of missing her calculus class and chose the lashes.  She was beaten so badly that she required medical attention and visits to a psychologist.  When the parents took this to court, they lost.
            Was the administration of the lash ever justified?  Who can answer, but in 1955, Capper’s Farmer sent out a request for letters and information about the topic of discipline in the classroom. One former teacher’s letter was very interesting, though the level of compassion and the degree of pain were obviously different from the 1983 experience the girl suffered.
       Fifty years ago I taught in a one-room country schoolhouse called Diamond. With twenty-four pupils and all eight grades, a teacher needed to be in control. One particular day two of my older boys, Luther and Kermit, tried my patience to the limit. I am not even sure now what the incident was, but I judged I needed respect as well as obedience.
     The boys were instructed to stoop down, put hands on ankles and lean forward. I proceeded to paddle them and when I was through, I sat down and cried with them.
Several years later Kermit enlisted in the Army and wrote me a letter thanking me for my influence on his life. Later he was killed and I felt sad of his death but glad he served his country and I'd been a part of his life.
      The other student is now retired, and at one time we were backyard neighbors. There had been no mention of the paddling until one day I heard him tell his two grandsons, "You'd better be good because that lady was my teacher and she can paddle."
         Recently I met "one of my boys" and gave him a big hug. He, too, knew that discipline was and is necessary. Memories like these make teachers proud.

Euna Vaye Ukena Brant
Hiawatha, Kansas  1905

            When women entered the field of teaching en masse during and after the Civil War, many felt that women were incapable of discipline in their classrooms. Some probably used it as a last resort while others, less competent, may have relied on it—although as a retired teacher, discipline is an art, and many male teachers lack the skills to control their classes as well.

When I think about the variety of learning styles, parental support, and learning disabilities that we have finally identified and recognized, my heart goes out to those children who had to endure some of these horrific experiences because they were unable to grasp concepts, stay still in their seats, or pay attention.  I hope we have come a long way.
So, who is to say?  What do you think?