Book Review With Kat: The Son

New York Times Bestseller, The Son by author Philipp Meyer.

Based on the McCullough family and it’s heirs in the mid 1800’s to the mid 20th century, The Son ended up being a book I was very taken with.

Recommended and loaned to me by Wild Horse John, I began the intriguing journey Philipp Meyer took me on as I poured through the pages.

It is a story of Indians, frontier survival, early Texas under Spanish rule, Civil Wars, oil magnates, cattle and disjointed families.

The chapters change with family member and time, so during the first quarter of the book I had to keep going back to the family tree to see where I was.

The more I got into it the more I knew and could easily flip between centuries, characters and visual scenery in my head.

I loved the tangled tale of intrigue, misfortune and fortune that went with Eli McCullough and the generations after him.

Thanks John for the recommendation and I would certainly recommend it to any other avid reader or like me, who hasn’t picked up an ‘actual’ book in a long time.

A television series has been made of it starring Pierce Brosnan and although I did catch one episode have not seen others as yet.

Give it a go if you come across it!

Yours in paperback

Kat xo

P.S. just might have to find another good read now. Got any western history, fictional or otherwise, recommendations??

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Bushranger’s

As we headed towards Tamworth this morning, I quietly ponder the differences between bushranger's and outlaws and come to the conclusion that our two worlds were very much the same.

Bushranger's such as Charles Goodnight, Thunderbolt, Ben Hall, Ned Kelly roaming the Australian bush committed similar offences to our distant American outlaw cousins.

I was looking at the landscape as we left Gunnedah and wondered what a god forsaken place it would have been back in the mid 1800's. Dirt, scrub, gumtrees and a whole lot of nothing in between.

Settlers would have made their way west of the coast over escarpments such as Gibraltar Range and the Great Dividing Range after explorers had deemed possible good land on the other side.

Stage coaches did run through areas of Australia just as it was the preferred mode of transport in America. Covered wagons? That I don't know but I'm sure there would have been some type of wagon or drays driven by horses or oxen into lands unknown.

Bushranger's here were just as varied as American outlaws, running on their own, in gangs, robbing stage coaches, horse stealing, cattle rustling and more. Was it out of necessity? Boredom maybe or revenge?

Whatever the case may be they kept Troopers on the run looking for them just as the Pinkertons were doing in America. Wanted posters went up and rewards were also offered.

Let's have a quick look at some of our Australian Bushranger's.

Ben Hall – (1837-1865) Hall and his associates carried out raids across Bathurst to Forbes, south to Gundagai and east to Goulburn. He was probably one of the gentler bushranger's of the time as he was not directly responsible for any deaths unlike several of his associates.

 

Ben turned to bush ranging after his wife and son left him. He was said to be a bushranger after being sighted with notorious Frank Christie (alias Gardiner) during a robbery. Later Gardiner, Hall and others robbed the gold escort coach of banknotes and 2700 ounces of gold.

Ben escaped conviction a couple of times and in the meantime lost his property and wandered the countryside drifting into a life of crime.

Ben and his gangs most notable, or one that I care to write about, was the bailing up of Robinson's Hotel in Canowindra, NSW. Where towns folk were kept hostage but given food and entertainment. The policeman was locked in his own jail cell for humiliation and when the hostages were finally released the gang insisted on paying the hotelier and compensating the townspeople 'expenses'.

Ben Hall was shot at Billabong Creek in 1865 supposedly under the protection of the Felons Apprehension Act 1865 which allowed any bushranger specifically named under the Act to be shot and killed by any person at anytime without warning. Although there was still controversy over Hall's death that the Act had not yet come into force.

Andrew George Scott 'Captain Moonlite' – (1842-1880) an Irish-born Australian bushranger. He was accused of disguising himself and forcing a bank agent he had befriended to open the bank safe. The agent described being robbed by a fantastic black-crepe masked figure who forced him to sign a note absolving him of any role in the crime.

 

The bank agent said it sounded like Scott but no gold was found in his possession. Moonlite managed to turn it around onto the agent and a local school teacher who became the principal suspects in the minds of police.

Moonlite stayed elusive for a while buying horses, a groom and maintaining a gentleman's life. He was eventually convicted for obtaining money by false pretences. After serving two sentences for that he was arrested for robbing the Egerton Bank and sent to Ballarat.

He succeeded in escaping gaol by cutting a hole through the wall of his cell. With another prisoner they seized the warden, gagged him, got his keys and let out four others before escaping over the prison wall. He was recaptured and after 8 days of self representation he was finally convicted and sentenced to 10 years hard labour of which he only served two thirds the sentence.

Frank Wordsworth 'Captain Thunderbolt' Ward – (1835-1870) renowned for escaping from Cockatoo Island and for his reputation as the “gentleman bushranger”. He is said to be the longest roaming bushranger in Australian history.

 

Thunderbolt robbed the Rutherford toll-bar in 1863. Robbed mailmen, travellers, inns, stores and stations across Northern NSW and some parts of QLD. With 3 others, he then went on a crime spree in 1865 but that was soon disbanded after one was shot and captured near Moree.

Later the same year he got together with two other felons but the second gang also disbanded after one of them shot a policeman.

His next gang he only had younger accomplices that would do as he said. After one of them left, Thunderbolt stayed hidden, surfacing to do the occasional robberies. There is a cave named after him in the region he hid out near Uralla. He was shot and killed by a Constable Walker.

Edward 'Ned' Kelly – (1855-1880) of Irish descent, a bushranger, outlaw, gang leader and convicted police murderer. One of the last bushranger's and by far the most famous. Ned wore bulletproof armour during his final shootout with troopers in Victoria.

 

Ned came from a poor family whose father had died when Ned was only 12. Third of 8 children, eldest male in the family. The family had gripes with authority. Ned was first arrested for associating with another bushranger Harry Power (Ned's bush ranging mentor) and served two prison terms for various offences, the longest being for receiving a stolen horse.

The Victorian Government proclaimed Ned, his brother Dan, Steve Hart and Joe Byrne to be outlaws after shooting three policemen dead. An act of revenge for the imprisonment of Ned's mother.

The Kelly gang crime spree included armed bank robberies, killing a sympathiser turned informer and stealing. The final showdown in 1880 after a failed attempt at derailing a police train, the gang dressed in armour had a gun battle with police. Ned injured was the only one of the gang left and was eventually tried, convicted and sentenced to hanging.

 

Ned Kelly is now a cultural icon in Australian folklore.

 

Bushrangers were those who had abandoned social rights and privileges, taking up 'robbery under arms' as a way of life. All in all, there were some 2000 bushranger's who had thrived during the gold rush years and indeed for almost a full century.

Now we are out of the ranges, trees and rocky outcrops back on the coast and my mind wanders to other things.

So in the final words of Ned Kelly, a famous saying now – “such is life”

Kat xo

Aka 'Ned' Kelli

Credits:

Kathouse Kelli – my wandering mind and random thoughts

Wikipaedia – Ben Hall, Captain Moonlite, Captain Thunderbolt, Ned Kelly, Harry Power, Bushranger's

 

Buffalo Camp 2018

We left the girlies Friday morning and headed West towards Gunnedah, NSW. We wound our way through some small and historic towns.

Singleton – established 1820's by John Howe. The Main Northern Railway line reached Singleton in 1863 and remained the end of the line until 1869. It still has a number of historic buildings including the court house (1841), churches and pubs with some rural mansions dated between 1828-1877.

Muswellbrook – est. 1833 or gazetted. It was explored by John Howe also in 1819 with the first white settlement in 1820's. It too, had a number of heritage listed buildings.

Aberdeen – just north of Muswellbrook, it lies between there and Murrurundi. Aberdeen is named after the Scotland Aberdeen. It's first post office opened on 1st August, 1856. First police station 1862. First school 1864 and by 1866 it also had two churches, 3 inns, a few shops and a steam driven mill.

Scone – 'Horse Capital of Australia', Scone was named in1831 after Scone, Perth and Kinross, Scotland by Jason Kent Toth. It was gazetted in 1837. The Scone Cup is one of the richest country racing days in New South Wales and Australia.

Blandford – a small village outside of Scone had an 1872 railway station (no trace remains) and horse farms such as Aquis Farm and Emirates Park reside here.

Murrurundi – est 1840 after European settlement began in 1820's. Thomas Haydon, a local landowner established his own township called Haydonton adjacent to this and in 1913 the two merged to be Murrurundi that it is today. It is said to be an aboriginal word meaning “nestling in the valley”. According to Wikipaedia it it in fact means “five fingers” a representation of the rock formation visible at the northern end of the town.

Ben Hall – The infamous bushranger's father Benjamin Hall had a small farm near Murrurundi in 1839. Ben Hall lived in Murrurundi until he was 13.

Quirindi – early spellings 'Cuerindi' and 'Kuwherindi' was gazetted in 1884 with its Post Office opening January 1st 1858.

Breeza – Ben Hall Senior worked on a station here at one time. Another bushranger Frederick Ward, known as Thunderbolt, robbed a man here in 1865.

And finally we reach Gunnedah – Koala Capital of the World – a farming region for cotton, beef, lamb, pork, coal, cereal and oilseed grains. It is home to Australia's largest annual agricultural field day which coincidently just finished this last week on Thursday. Gunnedah was settled by European sheep farmers in 1833-34. Coal was discovered on Black Jack Hill in 1877 and by 1891, 6000 tons of coal had been raised.

So after our brief township history lesson we are ready for this weekends match!

Namoi Pistol Club hosted this year's Buff Camp. Buffalo Camp is a Pat Garrett match that utilises all cowboy guns as well as a large lever action or single shot calibre in the mix.

Each stage had 6 rounds of large cal ammo, 10 rounds rifle, 10 rounds pistol and 2+ shotgun. Ten stages of fun with side matches held on the Friday.

We arrived Friday to warm weather and played with other cowboys and cowgirls doing some side matches before going to check into the motel. The precision pistol and both rifles was a bit of fun with an extremely small buffalo target wayyyyy out there!

 

It is so so dry out here due to the drought and of course the match is on and the area is expecting rain. However, the rain stayed away with just a cool start to Saturday morning. Six stages were completed by mid afternoon and some have faired a little better than others in the fun that was.

 

Saturday night we had some very good showers in town and guessed they had same at the range. They had some steady showers which had definitely settled the dust!

Sunday morning it was cool but few clouds around made it warm quickly. With 4 stages left to do the clouds moved in near lunch time and a few drops started just as the other 2 posse's were finishing their final stage.

 

Fortunately with everyone squared away the rain hit hard with thunder and some hail! It soon cleared again and with everyone under cover (just in case another round comes) the awards got underway.

Jack won the Speed Rifle and I was 2nd, although Jack thought it was the other way around. Congrats man! He placed 2nd in Silver Senior and I was 1st in Lady Wrangler.

 

Congratulations to all 62 competitors – there were no 'clean' matches!

Congratulations to Drop Bear in 1st place overall and I came in 5th overall and 1st lady.

 

Thank you again to all the members of Namoi Pistol Club, the ladies who worked the lunches, morning teas, scoring and to the Match Directors.

We had a blast!

Kat xo

 

West to East

Well that does sound like we are travelling a lot further across the country but no, just a few states.

Wyoming, on through Nebraska, dropping down into Kansas and further down into Oklahoma.

As we came into Kansas yesterday we found the historical marker indicating the geographical centre of the country.

 

We stopped in Belleville, KS for the night and walked from the motel to the BelVilla family dining. A little home style restaurant, licensed, nothing flash about the decor but great food and awesome service. I asked the girl if I could keep the menu, a newspaper style print with a beautiful old courthouse and water tower on the front.

 

If you know me then of course I wanted to find this building. Jack and I headed into the downtown district after breakfast. Belleville was established in 1869, some old buildings came into view but alas no old courthouse just the white Art Deco version in the town square. We drove in and around a few streets, asked two old guys (one at a workshop and one driving the USPS truck) and both have only been in the area for a couple of years and couldn't help.

As Jack filled the car with gas, I did a search on the phone and when he returned all I could work out was that it had been burned down and replaced with the current one and also that Belleville was known for the 'world's fastest half mile high bank dirt track!'

A race track for midgets and sprint cars. As we got back on the road there on the left was the Highbanks Hall of Fame and Museum so we stopped in for a quick look.

 

The gentleman was just opening up the doors as we were looking at the display out front. We went in for a short visit.

 

This picture shows a photo of the track at the top and below it a painting of the track. The Belleville High Banks dirt track is 23 ft high on the bank and 80ft wide, you can't walk up it but can certainly run at 140mph in these little cars!

 

There are some great displays, cars and memorabilia for the car enthusiast to stop and have a look. Donation for entry.

Back on the road and we are heading for Marysville and the Pony Express station. This is, as a sign said in a paddock, Pony Express country. From Washington this section of the highway is known as the Pony Express Highway.

 

A quick stop in Hanover, the visitor centre is closed but we saw the Pony Express Station on the Hollenberg Ranch just east of town. It is said to be the only one still on its original site. (Seems contradictory now when you get to the next stop! lol)

 

Next stop Marysville. The Marysville Pony Express Station is the only original station still on its original site. Home Station No.1 has been many other businesses over the course of history but has been lovingly restored and stripped of modern fabrications back to its original limestone walls.

 

The 18″ thick limestone walls, original openings for light and ventilation with a replacement roof – 12 years after the pony express ran through – the original roof had been burnt in a fire.

This station allowed riders to stay in bunks within the barn, often up to 10 days until the next mail came in, or they could stay at the nearby Barrett Hotel.

 

During the 19 months the Pony Express ran for, over 35,000 pieces of mail were delivered via 200 relay stations. The number of rides/mileage made is enough to circumnavigate the world 3 times over.

 

Mary set us up for a short video when we entered and Shirley gave us the rest of the tour through many wonderous antiques, machinery, vehicles, reproduction stagecoach, popcorn machine, dioramas and much more!

 

What a sensational stop, she suggested the Wagon Wheel for lunch near the statue and glass panels. We headed there next and had a great lunch with a quick visit to the statue in the 99F heat. The glass picture panels are great, the picture changes with your movement.

 

We continued our journey south through the great Kansas plains and farming land. Corn……..corn………..and more corn. I'm sure there is more to the crops than that, just seems like that is all you see. 🙂

We made it! We are back in Oklahoma.

Kat xo

 

 

Laramie, WY Part 2

As we left the Ivinson Mansion we headed towards the railroad and found the historic Old Buckhorn Bar.

Established in 1900, it is Laramie's oldest standing and most historic bar. It has the gorgeous, heavy timber carved, mirrored bar back. There are a number of taxidermy heads placed around the walls with antique firearms and signs.

A bullet hole features on one of the glass panels, enquiring minds had to know the story behind this. Alas not from an outlaw's gunfight but a disgruntled ex decided he would take a 30/06 and fire it towards his ex girlfriend in the 70's after they broke up. She survived, the original mirror panel still remains and now it's on a tshirt! A bullet hole glass break pic with 'I survived the Buckhorn Bar'. A beer and we head off to find one with food.

Around the corner is the Crowbar Grill. A neat little place, great food and a nice Belgian White Passionfruit beer. The place was packed on this 4th July considering the rest of the town was very quite.

Next, the Wyoming Territorial Prison, built in 1872 it was restored in 1989.

 

Before entering the Prison building itself we viewed the Warden's house built in 1875 by inmates it was constructed with 4 bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room and basement.

 

This is a self guided tour into the prison and features furnished cells, guards quarters, dining area, laundry room, an infirmary and the women's quarters.

 

The first room in is the processing room where prisoners were fitted with their black and white stripe uniform. Rules and regulations were cited to each prisoner regarding bathing, airing bedding, hygiene etc.

The walls are hung with pictures of prisoners who were here, information regarding the prison conditions, the locking mechanisms for cells, etc.

 

The Wardens office had also been restored back to 1890's glory. Faded patterns on walls were found and subsequent reproduction of exacting color's and patterns for wallpaper were used in the restoration.

 

Before the erection of the stockade and the calling of the mountains to the west 25% of the prisoners in 1875 escaped. The stockade prevented some but there is record of at least a few scaling the stockade wall and escaping.

 

As you move through the additions of the prison there are preserved excavation sections, an exhibit on Butch Cassidy. A very well presented display on the man, the myth, the legend, the Pinkerton Detective Agency, an 1888 blown up safe, and more.

 

In 1882 the first wing on the broom factory was built and later further additions plus steam pipes heating instead of wood and coal were implemented.

The broom factory building and equipment are still original except the flooring was replaced. Brooms are still made here during exhibit displays and are sold within the gift store.

 

Now in Part 1 I had referred to John Hjorth, the Swedish architect/wood carver. Two of his furniture pieces are on display here – a table and a bench. Other pieces made by prisoners such as horsehair woven hatbands, halter's and a very intricate model ship.

 

A great site which has another small town section that we didn't go into. Definitely worth a visit!

What a great way to spend Independence Day in Laramie, finished with dinner, cupcakes and fireworks looking like glitter against a burnt orange sunset.

Thanks to my darling man and a spectacular Wyoming backdrop!

Kat xo

 

Laramie, WY Part 1

On Wednesday, 4th, Jack took me to Laramie for my birthday. We hadn't been out here before so it was another new place for exploration.

As we travelled further North into Wyoming we made a stop at the Ames Monument.

President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 but it was not until a few years later after slow progress of the Union Pacific, commissioning of Oakes Ames to head the railway project took place.

Oakes Ames was known for taking on difficult projects and he and his brother Oliver contributed significant funds for that time period to head the Transcontinental Railroad project.

The Ames Monument is a memorial to the brothers and was built near the highest point of elevation (8247 feet) on the Transcontinental Railroad in 1882.

 

It is known as the pyramid of the plains as its granite construction resembles the rocky outcrops in the background. It has two relief pieces resembling the brothers and is 60ft wide at the base, rising 60ft into the blue sky.

 

Travelling along the Lincoln Highway (US30 and I-80) we made a stop at the rest area and information centre. There is a memorial to Henry Bourne Joy, first president of the Lincoln Highway Association (1913) and president of the Packard Motor Car Company. He was called the father of the nation's modern highway system.

 

Here at the rest area is the memorial stone for Henry B. Joy and a monument commemorating Abraham Lincoln's 150th birthday. The bronze statue of Lincoln's head weighs 4,500 pounds and is 13.5ft tall sitting aloft its hollow granite base. It is situated at the highest point along the I-80 at its highest point of elevation 8640ft.

 

We headed on into Laramie and found the Historic Ivinson Mansion. We were met inside the garden gate by two young girls who directed us to the carriage house to organise tour tickets.

 

Kaydence and Alicia, both Grade 7 honour students (going into Grade 8) are among a number of students up to Grade 10 who through history lessons etc have learned or are learning the history of the Ivinson Mansion and all its wonders, antiques and stories. They then host the tours of the mansion.

So off we set with Kaydence and Alicia for our tour. The Mansion was owned by Edward Ivinson, a banker, he owned the First Interstate Bank and contributed to a hotel in the area. He and his wife Jane and adopted daughter(?) lived and entertained many in this gorgeous home.

 

It was one of the first to have electricity, indoor plumbing and heating.

After his wife died, Edward left the home and gave it up for a girls boarding house. The boarding house was used for girls from outlying ranch's. After the boarding house period it was left abandoned for a period of time and was later saved from being turned into a parking lot and restoration began.

Some pieces were stolen from the house and some have been returned, like the original front door knob fittings. Some window sections were missing or smashed and pieces have been recreated to complete the original appearance.

 

The entrance, floating staircase, rooms are absolutely stunning. The foyer and entry light fixtures are the only two original to the mansion. There is a section in the kitchen that shows the differing layers of wallpapers throughout the time and wallpapers have been recreated to fit to as far back as they could see a legible print on the walls.

 

In the drawing room the fireplace is original but the mantle is not. The fireplace and mantle in the dining room however, are original to the house. A few tiles were missing from the dining room one but spares were actually found in the basement.

 

The front parlour has a beautiful piece of furniture, a liquor cabinet handcrafted by John Hjorth. A Swedish architect and master wood carver he was prisoner #458 at the nearby Territorial Prison. Hjorth was imprisoned for forging a $25 check (cheque) and spent much of his time carving and making beautiful pieces of furniture with mythical creatures and detail. There are 17 pieces of his furniture on this first floor.

In the drawing room is a record player owned by Melville C Brown. Brown was mayor for a short period of time when outlaws ran rampant through the time. A group of vigilantes took over the lawless town with some outlaws joining the vigilantes to avoid being hung.

The library holds an original desk from the bank and was used during the boarding school period.

 

The dining room is exquisitely displayed with Jane Ivinsons dinner setting and original napkin rings that were gifted them with the Ivinson initials. I love the knife rests etc. Inside a special case is a cut crystal punch bowl set, said to be one of 12 owned by the Ivinson's.

 

The butlers pantry windows are original to the home as is the punch bowl and pitcher on top of the cabinet, a replica has been recreated so the others are not damaged.

 

The kitchen although without its original fire stove has original squeaking floorboards, clock work spice rack that locked down of a night time.

 

There is a dumb waiter in the hallway and was actually electric.

Upstairs you find the the dormitory room and maids room. She was very important to Jane and even had her own bathroom however, shared with visiting guests.

The Ivinson Mansion is an exquisite piece of restored history and was an enjoyable tour by two fine young ladies. A quick look inside the small school building and we headed off for lunch and the Territorial Prison.

Kat xo

 

Cheyenne Visit

Thursday was a free day and after some gun cleaning and new stock cover replacement it was time to head out.

After a car wash Jack and I ventured downtown and coming to the historic Plains Hotel we spied some neat old cars parked there doing a run from Paris to New York.

We headed across the square to the Depot where we found Accomplice Beer Company – Agarita Annie and Neuces Slim worded us up on this one!

What a great place, not only for being situated in the original Cheyenne train depot and right next to the railway lines but the ultimate in beer experience’s for sure.

When you enter the craft brewery you hand over a card and name then you are given a beer card.

Inside the main bar and restaurant area is 14 different beer taps, a variety of glass sizes, styles and growlers.

The beer menu board shows the beer appropriate to the tap including your ABV (alcohol by volume), IBU (international bitter units), name and brief description.

Now the fun begins! You place your card in front of the beer tap screen and pour as little or as much as you want. It then tells you how many ounces and how much it cost you for that pour.

As you work your way through them it will give you a total spend also.

We had salads for lunch that were great, although a little light on the chicken inclusion. The salted caramel apple fritter and ice cream was divine and big enough to share.

There are yard games for the back patio area and tables out the front also.

A great place to experience and we will definitely be back before the week is out.

As we headed back to the car the other vintage cars had come to the square with others turning up for a small car show.

The rat rod and its almost 80yr old owner were a hit!

A great quick visit in Cheyenne, as much of it we have seen before with a trip to the range to pick up packs ready for side matches.

Kat xo