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Wednesday, March 10, 2021


The SADDLE shown is known as the Dixie Thompson Saddle from the Dixie W. Thompson Estate; donated to M.H. de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA. The silver saddle, once on display in the Historical Society museum, was a wonder of its age, long before “Hollywood cowboys” began showing off their saddles under preposterous loads of sterling. In June 2015 the saddle was auction through Brian Lebel's Old West Auction, closing bid at $195,500. The proceeds benefit the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s acquisition funds.
Dixie W. Thompson, was one of Santa Barbara’s most colorful pioneers. He arrived in 1858 and became a future owner of the Ontare Ranch which comprised the San Roque-Rutherford Park district of today. Dixie was born in Maine in 1826 and went to sea as a cabin boy, winding up as ship captain of his own vessel by 1848. When he heard of the discovery of gold in California, like many others, Dixie joined the Gold Rush of ’49 heading first down the Atlantic coast to Panama, then crossing by land until reaching the Pacific side where he caught a ship for San Francisco, California. Though with scant success mining for gold, Dixie returned to the sea and made his home port on Santa Rosa Island opposite Santa Barbara. The island belonged to his relative, Captain Alpheous B. Thompson, one of Santa Barbara’s earliest Anglo settlers. After several years of shipping sheep and cattle from Santa Rosa, Dixie had made enough money to purchase two tracts of land, one in Ventura County, the other on the outskirts of Santa Barbara – the Ontare Ranch.
On the ranch, he raised sheep and cattle, but the other land was cultivated for farming. Dixie introduced the crop Lima Beans to the California area and developed a walnut orchard. To the locals of the area, the bean harvest was a spectacular sight with itinerant crews bringing in their steam engine, separator, cookhouse and bedroll wagons. A man of great personal charm, Dixie Thompson was better known as a boniface than a rancher. He managed the original Arlington Hotel and invested into local businesses. At times, Dixie mounted on a prancing Morgan stallion from his Ontare breeding stables, then would ride down State Street backwards, just to the delight of tourists.

By the 1880s, his growing wealth allowed him to live in some comfort and as publications of the period note, he became very famous for the outfit created for riding his horses named Canute and Tecuinseh. Thompson acquired the best gear possible and consciously celebrated the Hispanic traditions of early California.
Thompson commissioned Loomis Saddlery to make him the best of saddles. The making around (circa 1880) and took two years to finish. Sherman Loomis, a native of Pennsylvania, moved to California and established his Santa Barbara saddlery in 1858. His business prospered with a growing well-deserved reputation employing some of the best leather toolers and silver smiths including the renown Jose Alvino Mesa, master saddler and stamper. By 1875 he employed seven saddlers and harness makers though Loomis never lacked competition in Santa Barbara. His firm was the earliest, largest, and longest-lived. Judging from surviving examples, his work was also superior in terms of design, craftsmanship and decoration. Loomis Saddlery was the shop of choice for wealthy rancheros, both Hispanic and Anglo. This reputation was further enhanced in 1883 when Princess Louise stopped to admire a saddle in Loomis’ shop, and asked if the art form used to decorate the saddle could be applied to smaller items. She returned to England with several portfolios and ladies’ belts done in the style that became known as Mexican Art Leather.
In designing the works of the Dixie Saddle, the saddle was built by Al Loomis, working in his brother’s shop, and the tooling is clearly the fine detailed floral work of that shop. The edges of each component are also embroidered in the piteado style with cactus fiber and the loop seat was quilted and padded; adorn with solid engraved silver corners with attached rings; extensive and fine silver mountings in floral designs with lions and other decorations at the front; silver-wrapped, tooled stirrups. Separate bottom third-skirt, combination saddle pad, with tooled edges and silver accents. The bridle features a massive head plate, hand engraved in scroll, “D.W. Thompson. Santa Barbara. 88”; domed conchos and huge silver buckles. The bit was also overlaid, engraved silver by Jose de Jesus Mardueno. The reins were of knitted silver wire with engraved chain connectors, with attached romal with six ball-tipped chain poppers. The martingale was knitted silver wire with a large, heavy silver central heart with repose flowers and leaves. Often remarked by on lookers as the most breathtaking and perhaps finest saddle outfit ever seen. The saddle pad is also tooled on the edges. As evidence that silver was added after initial manufacture, one can see conchos overlaying the delicate tooled leather.
Dixie rode the saddle in numerous parades, and it was exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The saddle is discussed in detail in numerous newspaper articles of the time, including the May 4,

1896 “San Francisco Call”, which referred to the saddle as having “the reputation of being the most gorgeous thing of its kind in the world.”

Dixey was 77 when he fell victim to a flu attack in April, 1903. His widow, the former Nancy Swett of Maine, resided in the stately white colonial home at 1415 Chapala Street. Today, this address is now the office of the Southern Santa Barbara County Board of Realtors. She had donated Dixie’s saddle and even his sombrero to Historical Society Museum. Thompson’s large barns at the breeding stables stood decades after his death, though caught fire in 1928. By the 1950’s, Thompson’s Ranch remain merely a memory lost through a housing boom of Santa Barbara and while he was prominent in the Ventura area of California, today Thompson Boulevard is named for him, through his legacy best remains through the exquisite works of his Loomis Saddle where time has forgotten the many vaqueros and cowboys who once worked the Santa Barbara range.

Story by: Roger Edison

Friday, January 29, 2021


God created Men, but Samuel Colt made them Equal

An American inventor, Samuel Colt was born 1777 in Hartford, Connecticut.  His father, raised as a farmer moved the family to the city where he became a businessman.  Growing up, young Samuel often worked at his dad's textile mill. Fascinated by all things mechanical, he frequently dismantle items and reassembled them just to understand how they operated. One of his earliest admiration's was for a flintlock pistol that belong to his grandfather, Major John Caldwell who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution.  

At 16, Samuel was at boarding school studying Navigation attending the Amherst Academy in Massachusetts. Often finding his youthful mischief getting him in trouble, Samuel was expelled. Highly disappointed in Samuel being removed from school and completing a greater education, his father sent him off to learn the seamen's trade. While aboard the sailing Brig, "Corvo," Colt saw how the anchor windlass, called a capstan functioned.  The pawl and ratchet mechanism gave him an idea on building a pistol that would have a cylinder rotate much like the capstan improving on the existing design known as the Pepper Box where pistols were designed with three, four to even seven barrels, but each manually turned to fire the next round. Taking his knife, he carved from wood a design that was mechanically turned to fire.  This would allow to simple cock the device and the barrel rotated to the next chamber. Once he arrived back home in the United States the following year, Colt made two working models, one a rifle, the other a pistol financed by his father. However,  while the rifle 
worked perfectly, the first pistol blew up and Colt's father would have nothing else to do with Samuel's desire to build guns.  

Colt did not let the failure of his pistol stop him 
from seeking to improve and better the gun. After
saving some money, he arranged to begin building guns with proper gunsmith tools. Colt consulted with a friend of his father, Henry Leavitt Ellsworth, who loaned him $300 to start his arms business. Ellsworth advice Colt to perfect his prototype before applying for patent. Hiring a gunsmith named John Pearson, Colt continue to improve his pistol. By 1835, his design was perfected. Ellsworth advised Colt to patent the pistol in Europe first. That August, Colt set sail for England to secure his patent. 

English officials were reluctant to issue a patent though no fault could be found with the gun and he was award his first patent (Number 6909). Upon his return to America, he applied for his U.S. patent for a "revolving gun"; which he was granted the patent on February 25, 1836.  Again, improving design, Colt filed another patent, numbered 1304, dated August 29, 1836, protected the basic principles of his revolving-breech loading, folding trigger firearm named the Colt Paterson. 

Colt .36 Caliber Paterson 
The Colt Paterson revolver was the first commercial repeating firearm employing a multiple chambered revolving cylinder aligned with a single, stationary barrel. Its design was patented by Samuel Colt in France, England, and on February 25, 1836 he received patent in the United States. The pistol derived its name from being produced in Paterson, New Jersey.  Originally, the Paterson was a 5-shot revolver produced in .28 caliber model. The following year, Colt introduced the same weapon in the .36 caliber model.  To load, the user had to disassemble the revolver partially to re-load it. Starting in 1839, however, a reloading lever and a capping window were incorporated into the design. This allowed reloading with more ease no longer requiring the partial disassembly of the revolver. Unlike the later revolvers, a folding trigger was incorporated into the Colt Paterson. The trigger only became visible upon cocking the hammer.  

At the time of  Colt's invention, pistols were thought of as dueling weapons.  The rifle was much more accurate and provided longer range shooting while fighting knives such as the Bowie or Arkansas toothpick were more common for up close self defense.  

Colt visited the U.S. Secretary of War seeking a sales contract to supply the Army with his newly design Colt Revolvers. The Army viewed the percussion cap Colt pistol as too costly, inaccurate and not reliable for military use. Unsuccessful at landing the government contract with mere sales scatter among Florida where the second Seminole War (1835-1842) was on going, and to the newly formed Republic of Texas which outfitted the Texas Navy with his pistols, the revenue was not enough to continue business. In 1842, the company was forced to close and the manufacturing tooling, gun and parts inventory auctioned off.   

It would be Samuel Walker that would bring Colt back to manufacturing pistols several years later, but due to the bankruptcy of Colt's company, he turn his vision towards a new development of underwater mines patenting underwater electrical detonators and waterproof cable. In 1842, Colt demonstrated the underwater detonator device destroying a moving Naval Vessel to the satisfaction of the United States Navy. President John Tyler was highly impressed. However, John Quincy Adams, serving as US Representative from Massachusetts stated the project as "not fair and honest warfare" calling the Colt mine an "unchristian contraption." 

Captain Samuel Walker, Texas Ranger

Samuel Walker would help reshape and revive COLT PISTOLS. Although, one needs to understand Walker and his history, to see how and why Colt was important to him.  Born 1815 in Maryland, Walker had served in the U.S. Army during the Second Seminole Indian wars in Florida. He received a promotion to Corporal for "Exceptional Courage" in the Battle of Hacheeluski.  In 1838, Walker was discharged and found his way to Texas in 1842.  Texas was still a young country winning independence from Mexico in 1836.  Nevertheless, still under constant harassment from Mexico, many settlers of Texas joined militias to assist protecting local areas from Mexican soldiers and Indian raids.  Walker soon became a member of the Bastrop Militia participating in the Battle of Salado Creek.  There, the militia and members of the Texas Rangers defeated a large Mexican Force of nearly 1,200 under the Command of French Mercenary, General Adrian Woll.  Following the victorious battle, Sam's militia joined forces with the Rangers under command of Jack C. Hays. The Texas Rangers pursued the Mexican Army as they retreated toward the Rio Grande, but outnumbered, the Texas Rangers returned to San Antonio after several minor skirmishes. 

The Republic of Texas President, Sam Houston, commissioned General Alexander Somervell to undertake a punitive expedition in retaliation of Mexico's incursions.  Sam Walker was quick to volunteer becoming a private in the Texas Army.  

Somervell lead his group of 750 men too the Rio Grande Valley and on the morning of December 8, his men captured Laredo. However, unlike the Texas Rangers, many of the men under Somervell command lacked discipline.  After a night of looting the town of Laredo, Somervill was able to get his men back into order before moving further south crossing the Rio Grande River into Mexico.  Although days traveling deeper into Mexico, Somervill found his supplies running low and elected to abandon his mission before it might turn disastrous. .Not everyone agreed with Somervill's decision. Nearly 300 men refused to abandon and elected William Fisher to become the new commander. Sam Walker and renown Texas Ranger Big Foot Wallace being among them.   

Fisher marched his men into Mexico where most wanted revenge on the Mexican Army. Some perhaps jut seeking adventure, but nearly all were political opponents of Sam Houston and tired of the constant harassment ordered by General Santa Anna.  The march would become known as the Mier Expedition.   

On December 22, the 308 Texans reached a point on the eastbank of the Rio Grande River with the city of Mier across the river.  Texas Ranger Ben McCulloch was in charge of a company of men that acted as spies who recon the city.  McCulloch advised Fisher to abandon the raid, but Fisher did not heed to the advice. 

The following morning, Fisher marched his men into Mier without any opposition.  A requisition for supplies was levied against the town but Fisher had no means of transporting the supplies back to their camp across the river.  The Alcalde ( magistrate - mayor)  promised to have all the supplies delivered the next day to Fisher's camp, although not trusting the Alcade, Fisher agreed taking the Alcade with him as a guarantee for the delivery.  As the next morning grew into late afternoon, the Texans were becoming restless. No supplies were ever delivered.  

On Christmas morning, Fisher had found out that the Mexican Army under command of General Pedro De Ampudia had arrived in Mier with 3,000 Mexican troops preventing the delivery of supplies. The hostilities among the Texans grew and Fisher decided to go after their needed rations.  Leaving 42 men to guard their camp, Fisher took the remaining Texans across the river an attack Mier disregarding the Mexican Army size being 10 to 1.  By late afternoon on December 26, the Texans had killed over 600 men, wounding another 200 with only 30 Texans lost.  Their powder nearly exhausted, no food or water, the Texans now surrounded, General Ampudia offered the Texans to surrender as prisoners of war.  The Texans consented and laid down their weapons. However, upon doing so, the captured Texans were sentence to be executed.   

Although,  on the morning of December 27th, General Ampudia reversed his decision, deciding to march all able bodies to Matamoros where they were held until ordered to Mexico City.   In February, the prisoners were en route to the capitol, Mexico City where on the 11th, in Salado, the men overthrew the guards and made a successful escape.  Over the next seven days, the Texans worked to make their way back across the Rio Grande, though few succeeded. Most wander across the harsh terrain becoming lost.  In the end, only three men made it back to Texas with the remaining 176 recaptured.  

Upon learning of the escape, Santa Anna ordered that all those who fled to be executed, but Governor Franisco Mexia of Coahuila refused to obey the order while the foreign ministers in Mexico were able to get the decree modified.  Nevertheless, even after modifications, the Mexican government ordered 17 men will be executed.  The execution would become known as the Black Bean Episode. 

Each man would drawn a bean from a pot.  Those who drew a white bean were spared, but those who drew a black bean were shot.  Sam Walker and Big Foot Wallace would reach into the pot, yet both drew upon a white bean and their lives were spared.    Upon the 17th black bean drawn, each man was taken to an outer wall and blindfolded.  As they stood line up side by side at the adobe wall, the Sargent marched his executioner squad towards the sentence prisoners. Then calling them to a halt. The beating of the military drum rapidly pounding as the Sargent ordered, "listo.  Apuntar.  Fuego."  The military men had raised the rifles upon the command, took aim and fired.  The drum beat stop and as the Texans fell to the grown, there was silence.   Sam Wallace would never forgive, nor forget the order of execution as to often, the Texans gave quarter, (mercy) but Santa Anna from the Alamo to the Black Bean Episode gave no quarter.

In 1844, Sam Walker would escape and make his way back to Texas rejoining Jack C. Hays and the Texas Rangers. Soon after, Walker and the Rangers engaged eighty Comanches. Out numbered once again, the dozen Rangers with the Colt Paterson pistols could successful defeat the enemies taking their five shot revolvers and firing. Upon discharging all five rounds, they change out cylinders and fired five more shots. The victory at the Battle of Walker's Creek was truly a credit of the Colt revolver. 

As annexation for Texas seemed imminent, U.S. President James Polk ordered Army regulars into Texas under command of General Zachary Taylor to support the Republic against Mexico. In July of 1845,  General Taylor and his1,300 American troops had encamped on the beach area of Corpus Christi. As word spread like wild fire that General Taylor is looking for well seasoned scouts, many Rangers flocked to sign up.  Samuel Walker was among those who volunteered as he felt he had a score to settle. However, he was not alone as most Texicans desired to avenge their fallen brothers during the Battle of Goliad, The Alamo and the Mier expeditions.  It was not long after Walker volunteering that he was in charge of a 26 man company armed with Colt Paterson's.  At the mouth of the Rio Grande, his company cross into Matamoros soon fighting like the devil. 

The Texans knew the terrain and were skillful horsemen. Soon, it became clear, the Rangers armed with the Colt Patterson Pistols were getting the job done slipping into Mexican camps and engaging in reconnaissance. The skirmishes continued as Walker soon gain fame often delivering valuable information back to General Taylor through dangerous territory.  These critical dispatches and heroic actions from Walker made headlines across the United States. Over the next few months, Walker assisted with victories at the Battle of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma earning a his reputation as the first true hero of the Mexican Army War.  

Jack C. Hays now promoted to Colonel of the Texas Rangers and Walker, his Lieutenant Colonel, lead the hard fought battle of Monterrey. The Rangers soon captured the city with the U.S. Army holding the rear. General Taylor arranged armistice to the Mexican Army allowing them to leave Monterrey which infuriated the Texans. Taylor admitted that the Rangers were superior in combat, yet often insubordinate with unruly behavior. It was not his fellow men who had been executed at Goliad, the Alamo or during the Mier Expedition. He did not share the same hatred that had been pressed upon the Texans through the often force of "No Quarter."  Taylor would release every Texan and order them back across the Rio Grande.

Newspapermen from the eastern United States flocked to Texas writing about the colorful adventures of the Texas Rangers and their stunning fighting style. Walker and the Rangers reputation grew across the Nation being feared and reviled while loved and exalted.  They were the foremost line of defense to early Texas. Walker quickly became known and Army officers petitioned President Polk to award him a commission. When the President did, Walker was first hesitant to accept, but October 1846, he agree and was commissioned Captain.  While Walker was hoping for another chance of vengeance in Mexico, he was ordered to report to Washington to begin recruiting a new Rifle Mounted Company. 

Walker traveled to New Orleans where he boarded a ship sailing to Washington. The Army leadership hoped that Walker's extreme popularity would help the recruiting of young men to aid the efforts with the Mexican-American War.  Sending Walker to New York, he searched for the availability of more Colt revolvers. Sadly, Colt's business had gone bankrupted years prior in 1842 and were just not to be found.  It was this moment, that the Colt Pistol would return.    

The New COLT Pistol 

Samuel Colt had never fully given up on his dream of manufacturing revolvers. He made numerous attempts for government contracts. Once learning that the fame Samuel Walker was in New York, the ambitious Colt saw an opportunity. He wrote Walker requesting a list of how his Pistol had been used in combat. Walker replied to Colt's letter praising the Paterson in highest regards. "The Texans confidence in them is unbounded. So much so, that the are willing to engage four times the number," replied Walker. Walker's letter continue giving credit to the Colt pistols for the many victorious battles fought by the Texas Rangers. "With improvements, I think they can rendered the most perfect weapons in the world for light mounted troops," conclude Walker. 

Colt immediately arrange to meet Walker the next day. Colt's admiration towards Walker was much like the obsessions towards his grandfather's pistol. Intrigued with everything Walker had to share. Walker noted several problems with the Paterson Pistol. It was a five shot revolver, Walker wanted to add an additional shot becoming a six shooter.  He desired a larger caliber to ensure man or buffalo, the round would be powerful enough to bring the target down. The barrel needed to be lengthen so it would be more accurate and the trigger had no guard preventing an accidental discharge. Walker also  wanted it to increase the weight of the pistol so it would be sturdier but more importantly, strong enough to swing like a hammer at the enemy if you ran out of ammunition.  

If further meetings, Walker specified other request. Fewer moving parts, faster and a simplify reloading method, along with better quality of metal, desiring the best cast or double roll sheet steel. He also noted the front sight to be made of German silver.  Colt indicated that he could manufacture such a weapon. 

When Colt asked how soon do you need the finished weapon, Walker stated, "Before I leave for Mexico."  Broke, with no manufacturing plant or tools, this would be an impossible feat for Colt. The two agreed 1,000 pistols delivered in three months. Colt wasted no time getting to work and fortunately, he retained the patent to his firearms.  

Eli Whitney Jr, son of the Cotton Gin inventory currently owned a firearms manufacturing business. Colt approach Whitney with his specifications and entered an agreement. At the Whitney Connecticut factory, Colt hired 50 experience men paying them double the standard wages. Nevertheless, the task took six month to fill the order.  


In collaboration between Captain Samuel Walker, former Texas Ranger who was currently serving with the U.S. Army and Samuel Colt, American firearms inventor, the Colt Walker Pistol was created in 1846, even though the final sales contract was not signed until 4 January of 1847.  Colt made the many changes requested by Walker to the previous Peterson 36 pistol.  The Walker would have full trigger guard, 9 inch barrel and be chambered the .44 caliber bullet with 60 grains of black powder. The equivalent of a modern day .44 magnum. COlt manufactured 1,100 of these pistols. 1,000 for the U.S. Army and the remaining sold to private parties and promotional gifts. In gratitude of Samuel Walker, he called the new pistol the Colt Walker named after the name sake with hopes to improve sales.   

Although, Walker and his men did not receive the new pistols, the new design revolver would be carried on the saddle pommel of horse mounted soldiers and widely used through the Mexican-American War and Texas frontier.  No other pistol would be as powerful until the introduction of the .357 magnum in 1934. 

While the new Walker pistol was truly powerful and able to hit targets easily at 100 yards distances, it did have some problems. The cylinders at times ruptured after firing, often caused by excessive black powder grain as the normal load of black powder pistols is 30 grains. At times, soldiers allowed the spilling of powder across the cylinder causing all the chambers to fire at once. Soon, soldiers used lard and rub it across the loaded cylinders to prevent spark from firing the other chambers. As the conical bullets where replacing the lead ball shape bullets, soldiers at times loaded the bullet backwards causing the pistol to explode upon firing. Perhaps the worst problem was an inadequate loading lever that would fall upon recoil locking up the pistol cylinder action. Rangers and soldiers used a rawhide strip looped over the barrel end to prevent to lever from future falling. Nevertheless, fewer than 300 Walker Pistols were ever sent back to Colt for repairs.  Walker stated that this pistol would become the peacemaker of future wars.  A name that would be given to a future design.  

Colt realized the many problems with the Walker design and recommended to use 50 grains over the planned 60 grains of black powder. Improved manufacturing methods began replacing primitive metallurgy. The Colt Walker soon allowed Colt to return manufacturing firearms saving his bankrupted business. The Colt reputation soon became global where he also open a plant in England. 

One Brigadier General stated, "There is no weapon that is equal" referring to the Walker Pistol. Colt began receiving orders - not only from the U.S. Army but from countries around the world. The faster loading six shooter with the stopping power of a rifle was desired and Colt's future pistols would be used in the Crimean War, the California Gold Rush, and escalating Indian wars. Countless settlers wanted Colt pistols.  

Colt would introduced improved pistols from the Walker design with the Dragoon in 1848 correcting problems of the previous Walker. The Dragoon, shorter and lighter was waist holster unlike the heavy Walker's holster on the saddle. Other Models of the Dragoon would followed in addition to the Colt 1851 Navy .36, and 1860 Army.  Colt leaped at nearly every opportunity to improve his pistol except one. In the early 1850, ball and cap action was prevalent though the metallic shell cartridge was being introduced.  In 1852, an employee of Colt's named Rollin White, came up with an idea to improve the Colt pistols.  As metal cartridge bullets were being introduce, White saw that the Colt pistol's could be manufactured to accept the new shell by boring the cylinder completely through and no longer need the cap nipple or be loaded as previously fashioned. Taking this idea to Colt, White found the idea rejected and fired.  White would go forward and patent this idea in December of 1854 and later signed agreements with Smith and Wesson for exclusive use of the patient. Despite Colt's critical error not accepting White's idea, Colt would become the first American manufacturing tycoon. The civil war found Colt with huge contracts with sales in both northern and southern states, although Colt would not see the end of the war dying from Rheumatic Fever in January of 1862.

Walker's final Battle 

Sam Walker returned to Mexico taking charge of his mounted volunteers. Although, with only flintlock pistols in hand. His actions continued to grow with military glory immortalizing his name as his troops distinguished themselves in the unglamorous job of keeping General Winfield Scott's supply lines open on the march to Mexico City.  

Walker with only 50 men repulsed an attack of 600 Mexican lancers. He maintained a calm manner in battle keeping courage and discipline among the ranks. But Santa Anna had begun one final counteroffensive desiring to cut off Scott's Army along the coast. Word had reached Walker in early October 1847, that Santa Ann and his lancers were in the town of Huamantla eleven miles from his mounted company and two other escort companies. Just days before, Walker received two special .44 pistols from Colt who had them both engraved in Walker's honor of him helping redesign the new pistol.  Each massive gun weight 5 pounds loaded that Walker had holster in the pommel. 

Watercolor by Sam Chamberlain, who served in the 
Mexican American War

Walker's 200 horsemen reached the outskirts of Huamantle finding Santa Anna had several hundred lancers waiting for him as Santa Anna's artillery was preparing to leave.  Charging into the enemy ranks, Walker lead his men into battle. The Mexicans retreated with the volunteers on their tail. As the Mexican Calvary scattered, Walker took control of the town's main plaza. The fierce fighting turning into a bloodbath. Another 2,000 of Santa Anna's lancers descended upon the town when Walker was shot in the back.  In his dying moments, Walker said, "I am gone, boys. Never surrender."  Some believe that Walker may have been killed by a lancer on foot, but in the spirited contest that followed, Walker's men took revenge upon the community of Huamantla. Originally buried at the Hacienda Tamaris, Walker's remains were moved to San Antonio in 1848. As part of the Battle of San Jacinto celebration held on April 21, 1856, he was reburied in the Odd Fellows' Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.    

Thursday, October 31, 2019


In the days of the cattle drives, a soap bar was a luxury. Cowboys worked the herds of cattle along dusty trails only to wipe off the dust with the wetting of their bandana. Day to day, the hygiene more often was not so pleasant except when resting the herd along one of the many river banks crossed as they made their way to market.

On those occasion, the cowboy could strip down to his yankee suit and scrub the miles of dust from his body. As well, take the liberty to clean his clothes and gear removing the sweat from saddle blankets and the dinge of his garments.

Most manufactured soaps were sold by the keg until the mid-19th century when soap bars began being marketed. Before the mid-nineteenth century, Americans seldom bathed for personal cleanliness. Many considered bathing to be unhealthy, believing it removed a “protective” layer of oil and dirt and exposed the body to unclean water and dangerous “miasmas,” or diseased air. Although great effort went into washing clothes, Americans associated the bathing of the body with negative stereotypes of European excess, luxury, and moral and physical softness.

After the Civil War, attitudes toward hygiene and bathing began to change. As an understanding of germ theory—the idea that microbes cause illness—came to be increasingly widespread, Americans began to place a greater emphasis on the role of sanitation in preventing disease and infection. By the 1880s, growing numbers of doctors promoted personal cleanliness as one of the most important factors in stopping disease.

In 1840 the J.B. Williams Company in Glastonbury, Connecticut, manufactured soap under the name Ivorine. Williams decided to focus on its shaving soap and sold

Ivorine to Procter & Gamble, . American multinational consumer goods corporation headquartered in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, founded in 1837 by English American William Procter and Irish American James Gamble who would later rename the product to Ivory.

By 1874 Procter & Gamble trademarked "Ivory", as the name of its new soap product. The name was created by Harley Procter, the founder's son, who was inspired by Psalms 45:8 in the Bible: "All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces whereby they have made thee glad."

As Ivory is one of P&G's older products (first sold in 1879), P&G is sometimes called "Ivory Towers" and its factory and research center in St. Bernard, Ohio, is named "Ivorydale".

Ivory's first slogan, "It Floats!", was introduced at the end of the trail drives in 1891. The product's other well-known slogan,"Pure" (was also in use by 1895), was based on the
results of an analysis by an independent laboratory that Harley Procter hired to demonstrate that Ivory was purer than the castile soap then available.

In the P&G company archives, documentation was found that revealed that chemist James N. Gamble, son of the other founder, had discovered how to make the soap float and noted the result in his writings. When mixing the soap, whipping air into the substance allowed for the bonding ingredients to float on water surface. It is believed that this may have been from accident leaving the mixing machine on far too long, but became a normal practice. This allowed to use the soap whether in a wash tub, river or bowl and not losing the bar to sinking.

Yet hygiene in the Americas was in the making. For the Cowboy, the river worked as his tub and running water was decades away. Civic and governmental organizations pushed for access to plumbing and bathing for the poorer classes. In “A Nation that Bathes Together,” Andrea Renner notes that these organizations equated unassimilated immigrants and poverty with a lack of hygiene. For many reformers, “poor working-class hygiene was viewed as a sign of moral failure as well as a threat to public health.” To address this problem, New York City built free public bath houses to encourage bathing. In 1891, New Yorkers were each given a free cake of Colgate soap as they waited their turn to try out the city’s first public bath.

Good personal hygiene now became synonymous with being a good American. By 1890, soap manufacturers, such as Colgate, Proctor and Gamble, Palmolive, Mennen Company, Bristol-Meyers, and Johnson & Johnson, had proliferated. Soap companies used the perceived connection between Americanness and cleanliness to their advantage. Advertisements showed soaps as products of progress, able to wash away foreignness, ignorance, poverty, lawlessness, and general immorality.
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Thursday, August 22, 2019

"Give me a Shot of Whiskey"

The scenes of a Hollywood movie repeated, time and time again of a cowboy that enters a saloon. He walks towards the bar counter as he knocks the dust off his hat and chaps that has collected during the many weeks on the cattle drive. 
The bartender ask, "What will you have?" as the cowboy replies, "Give me a shot of whiskey."

The noun; shot glass is a small, heavy glass for serving a shot of whiskey or liquor. The amount of spirits a person receives in a shot glass varies by country, from as little as 20 mL to 60 mL. (The United States) falls slightly in the middle since our traditional 1.5 US fl oz equals about 44 mL). Although, in the United States there is no actual standard set forth by the government regulating the exact amount of liquid that needs to be a shot, except in Utah where it is defined as 1.5 fl oz. THe modern term is jigger for the exact measurement of 1.5 fluid ounce.

The first mention using the term "shot glass" can be found in the New York Times during the 1940s. Even though shot glasses as we know them today were extensively used across American towns during the 1930s. But, we see these act repeated by movies over and over again. So where did Shot Glass originate?

Forms of shot glasses do date back more than 200 years, and it seems nobody will agree on just when, or where and just how they came about. So here are a few on the lore of shot glasses.

- In the early days following the American Revolution, it was common that dinner tables include a small glass. The glass was used by members and guest seated while eating to place lead shot often remaining in hunted foul being serve, hence the term "Shot Glass."

- Although, others will suggest, it comes from German chemist Friedrich Otto Schott, the co-founder of the glassworks factory Jenaer Glaswerk Schott & Genossen which in 1879, Schott developed a new lithium-based glass that possessed novel optical properties. Though not a glass for serving whiskey from, it was “Americanized” in saloons to serve SHOT vice Schott Glass.

- Less told but known was a glass resting on the writing desk. The small thick walled glass would be filled with lead shot. As you finished writing be it letters or entries into ledgers, it provide a place for the feather ink quill to rest upright when not in use, trust the lead shot filled glass.

- I even recall hearing someone tell me another story as we sat in a lounge ordering a shot of whiskey for everyone at table. They exclaimed, and this is why it is called the shot glass. They then drank the content in one quick gulp and slam the glass to the table echoing the sound of a shot.

- Yet, my favorite remains the claim
which comes from the old west
when cowboys flanked the counter of saloon bars. At the end of the cattle drive, still waiting to be paid, the cowboys had not money, but since the cost of a shot of whiskey happen to be about the same price as one bullet, the patrons toss their pistol or rifle cartridge upon the bar in trade for the small glass of whiskey. One shot for one shot.

-R. Edison

Sunday, May 12, 2019



1 rattlesnake (3 pounds)
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 clove garlic 
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp pepper

FEEDS 4 Servings: 


Step 1. 
Remove the snake head. Merely cut through the snake one inch behind the head and remove. Rattlesnake fangs are still dangerous. Ensure to not allow contact with the fangs. By cutting behind the head, this ensures there is no venom gland. You can also remove the tail rattlers or if desired, leave it with the skin. 

Step 2.
Wash the snake in water. Use mild soap and rinse thoroughly.  

Step 3. 
Run a knife edge along the length of the belly from head to tail. Then peel away the skin from the flesh.  If you desire to dry the skin for taxidermy purposes, roll the skin starting at the head section and roll towards the tail for drying out later. 

Step 4. 
Along the same cut of the belly, remove all the guts.  The snake should now be ready for cleaning. 

Step 5. 
Rinse meat in water and then cut into 3 to 4 inch sections. 

Cooking Directions: 

Beat egg and then add milk.
Mix all dry ingredients together. 
Mince garlic and mix in with dry ingredients. 
Preheat deep cast iron skillet with cooking oil.
Dip snake meat into egg mixture and then into dry mixture. 
Place in hot oil (400 degrees F) and cook until golden brown.  
If you desire a spicy crust, you can add about 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne 
pepper along with 1/2 teaspoon of oregano powder, or chili powder if desired. 

Nearly 8 foot Rattler Snake
Premont, Texas

Saturday, May 4, 2019


Long before soda pop, Gatorade, or can drinks, a common hydrator for field hands, farmers and those working the outdoors during warm summer months was a drink called Switchell. One wrangler rode up upon the chuckwagon to replenish his canteen with water and mumbled at the cook, "What I would give for a cup of switchell" 

The drink mentioned in Laura Ingalls Wilder's book, "The Long Winter" describes the switchel beverage that her mother had sent for Laura and her father to drink while haying: "Ma had sent them ginger-water. She had sweetened the cool well-water

with sugar, flavored it with vinegar, and put in plenty of ginger to warm their stomachs so they could drink till they were not thirsty. Ginger-water would not make them sick, as plain cold water would when they were so hot." Since the drink had become common serving during the haying seasons, often, it was called Haymaker's punch.

From Practical American Cookery and Domestic Economy, Elizabeth Hall (Miller, Orton & Co: New York, 1853) The drink was made using the following recipe: 
5 cups of cold water
½ cup of blackstrap molasses
¼ cup of apple cider vinegar (preferably raw, unfiltered)
3 tablespoons ground ginger

It was not uncommon during the 19th century to find ginger spice dried and grounded. Although, the same drink can be make using fresh ginger root. Nevertheless, switchell would be a luxury that most Cowboys on the trail never enjoyed as outfits supplied minimum needs and coffee or water was the common beverage of the trail-hand drover.
Young boys stacking hay bales in Barn

Another Recipe: 

Here’s a classic Haymaker’s Punch recipe found in the  archives of The Old Farmer’s Almanac:

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 ½ cups molasses
  • ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger   
The electrolyte potassium found in each ingredient other than water makes Switchel a natural health tonic that boosts the immune system.  Apple cider vinegar also helps assist in detoxify your organs!