Monday, July 31, 2006

Death Valley Days Radio Show (1930-1944)

Ruth Cornwall Woodman, a Vassar graduate and mother of two children, was hired by the Borax Company and its advertising agents, McCann-Erickson, to write the “audition” script for Death Valley Days. What started as a one-time assignment became a career -- she was asked to stay on to write all of the radio plays.

From the show’s inception, Borax wanted the stories to be authentic tales of the West, founded in the facts of actual, true stories. To gather these stories, Mrs. Woodman would spend part of each year traveling by car, foot and horseback to the remote regions of Death Valley and other western sites and ghost towns under the care and guidance of the Supt. of the Borax-owned Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad, Wash Cahill, and veteran Borax employee, Harry Gower.

Despite her impeccable Easterner manners and dress, Mrs. Woodman could hold her own with the “desert rats,” and other colorful characters who were rapidly disappearing from the scene. Through these efforts, “Death Valley Days™” became not just a medium of entertainment, but one of education -- recording and preserving many of these personal stories about the adventures and settlement of the West.

In 1952, twenty two years, 720 shows, two name changes, and 5+ "Old Rangers" after its debut, “Death Valley Days,” had conquered the medium of radio and the Borax Company was ready to move “Death Valley Days™” to “new” untried creative territory -- the medium of television.

Listen to vintage radio broadcasts of "Death Valley Days" over the web at!

Friday, July 28, 2006

National Day of the American Cowboy

S. RES. 371

Designating July 22, 2006, as ``National Day of the American Cowboy''.

FEBRUARY 14, 2006
Mr. THOMAS (for himself, Mr. BINGAMAN, Mr. DORGAN, Mr. BURNS, Mr. AL- LARD, Mr. JOHNSON, Mr. REID, Mr. MARTINEZ, Mr. INHOFE, Mr. SALAZAR, Mr. BAUCUS, Mr. CRAIG, Mr. ENZI, Mr. STEVENS, Mr. ALLEN, and Mr. ENSIGN) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

Designating July 22, 2006, as ``National Day of the American Cowboy''.

Whereas pioneering men and women, recognized as cowboys, helped establish the American West;

Whereas that cowboy spirit continues to infuse this country with its solid character, sound family values, and good common sense;

Whereas the cowboy embodies honesty, integrity, courage, compassion, respect, a strong work ethic, and patriotism;

Whereas the cowboy loves, lives off of, and depends on the land and its creatures, and is an excellent steward, protecting and enhancing the environment; 2

Whereas the cowboy continues to play a significant role in the culture and economy of the United States;

Whereas approximately 800,000 ranchers are conducting business in all 50 States and are contributing to the economic well being of nearly every county in the Nation;

Whereas rodeo is the sixth most-watched sport in the United States;

Whereas membership in rodeo and other organizations encompassing the livelihood of a cowboy transcends race and sex and spans every generation;

Whereas the cowboy is an American icon;

Whereas to recognize the American cowboy is to acknowledge the ongoing commitment of the United States to an esteemed and enduring code of conduct; and

Whereas the ongoing contributions made by cowboys to their communities should be recognized and encouraged: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate--

(1) designates July 22, 2006, as ``National Day of the American Cowboy''; and

(2) encourages the people of the United States to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Harry Love, Joaquin Murrieta & Three-Finger Jack (1853)

In a macabre instance of rough frontier justice, California Rangers claim a $6,000 award by bringing in the severed head--preserved in whiskey--of outlaw Joaquin Murrieta.

In the early months of 1853, a wild band of desperadoes began terrorizing Calaveras County in central California. Law officers believed a shadowy character named Joaquin Murrieta led the outlaws, although confusion abounded since there were at least four other desperadoes named "Joaquin" in the territory.

Whatever the identity of the leader, the California legislature resolved to stop the outlaws. In the spring of 1853, the government created a special force of California Rangers led by a Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff named Harry Love. The state also offered a $6,000 award to anyone who brought in Murrieta-dead or alive. For several weeks, Love and his team of 20 rangers scoured the Calaveras countryside without success. The rangers got a lucky break, however, when they captured Murrieta's brother-in-law and forced him to lead them to the outlaw's camp on Cantua Creek.

Early on the morning of this day in 1853, Love and his rangers attacked the outlaw camp. Caught by surprise and badly outnumbered, eight of the bandits were killed, including Murrieta and his right hand man, Tres Dedos (also known as Three Fingered Jack). To prove they had indeed killed Murrieta and deserved their award, the rangers cut off the head of the outlaw. They also took the distinctive hand that gave Three Fingered Jack his nickname. The rangers preserved the gory body parts in whiskey-filled vats until they could exhibit them to the authorities in Stockton.

Later, some claimed that the severed head was not Murrieta's. Love, however, gathered 17 affidavits from people who had known the outlaw and were willing to swear it was Murrieta's head. The state agreed and gave the $6,000 award to Love and his rangers. Love further profited from the deal by taking Murrieta's head on a tour of California mining camps, charging $1 to see it. Eventually, the head ended up in San Francisco Museum, where it was destroyed in the great earthquake of 1906.

Harry Love 1809–1868

Love was said to have known Davy Crockett and Sam Houston in his boyhood and had a brother who died at the Alamo. He fought in the Blackhawk Indian War in 1831 with Abraham Lincoln, and later in the Mexican War in 1846. He was also a scout, an army express rider, a Texas Ranger, and an explorer of the Rio Grande in 1850. He then moved onward to California, but after failing to make his fortune in the gold fields, he became a deputy in Santa Barbara, California. On May 11, 1853, California Governor John Bigler signed a legislative act authorizing the organization of a band of California Rangers under the command of Captain Harry Love.

Their purpose was to capture or kill the infamous bandito Joaquin Murrieta, ringleader of a gang of men believed to be responsible for much of the cattle rustling, robberies, and murders taking place in the Mother Lode region. In July of 1853, the Rangers came across the group of bandits near Arroyo Cantúa in San Benito County and in the ultimate gunfight, killed two of them who were allegedly the famous Joaquin Murrieta and his right hand man, Three Fingered Jack. Love was killed in June, 1868 in Santa Clara, California when he was in a wrestling brawl with a man named Christian Ivorson. During the scuffle, Harry's own pistol accidentally discharged into his armpit and Love died the next day.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Rawhide Season 1 (1959) DVD

Rawhide Season 1 (1959)

The "head 'em up, move 'em out" action-drama chronicles a band of drovers, led by trail boss Gil Favor, herding cattle along the 1870s Sedalia Trail. Favor's men include ramrod Rowdy Yates (Clint Eastwood), trail-hand Pete Nolan (Sheb Wooley), Wishbone the cook (Paul Brinegar), and cook's assistant Mushy (James Murdock). At a time when TV westerns were either adapted from radio programs or based upon completely ficticious characters, Rawhide was a rare exception. Week after week, for seven years, Rawhide invited us on a historically accurate 1860's cattle drive from San Antonio, Texas to Sedalia, Kansas. Absolutely everything about Rawhide was first class. The rich, sprawling, hour-long episodes allowed characters to develop and powerful stories to unfold.

The music, which included a hit theme performed by Frankie Laine, was written by Hollywood legend Dimitri Tiomkin. And best of all, the brilliant ensemble cast introduced Clint Eastwood in the role that made him famous-the young ramrod, Rowdy Yates. -Rawhide, considered to be the best written and best directed Western on television. For seven seasons, Fleming portrayed an honest, independent, strong, intelligent, and heroic cowboy in the tradition of the American West. He embodied the mythic hero whose sense of justice and morality overrode all other considerations. Fleming's presence as Favor was so dominant that it centered the entire show and provided the base around which all the other characters revolved. Additionally, the character was provided with a personal history that enhanced his leadership. In four episodes featuring Favor's interactions with children (Incident of the Fish Out of Water, The Boss's Daughters, Incident of the Hostages, and El Hombre Bravo), his warmth, sensitivity, and overt compassion are particularly evident, adding depth, realism, and a gentleness to the character. The series was mostly shot in Nogales, Arizona and the authenticity of the trail drive was staggering - enough to win The Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame four years in a row. The award named Rawhide the outstanding program of its genre for excellence in depicting the West.

Season 1, Episode 1: Incident of the Tumbleweed Wagon
9 January 1959
Season 1, Episode 2: Incident at Alabaster Plain
16 January 1959
Season 1, Episode 3: Incident with an Executioner
23 January 1959
Season 1, Episode 4: Incident of the Widowed Dove
30 January 1959
Season 1, Episode 5: Incident on the Edge of Madness
6 February 1959
Season 1, Episode 6: Incident of the Power and the Plow
13 February 1959
Season 1, Episode 7: Incident at Barker Springs
20 February 1959
Season 1, Episode 8: Incident West of Lano
27 February 1959
Season 1, Episode 9: Incident of the Town in Terror
4 March 1959
Season 1, Episode 10: Incident of the Golden Calf
13 March 1959
Season 1, Episode 11: Incident of the Coyote Weed
20 March 1959
Season 1, Episode 12: Incident at Cubasco
3 April 1959
Season 1, Episode 13: Incident of the Curious Street
10 April 1959
Season 1, Episode 14: Incident of the Dog Days
17 April 1959
Season 1, Episode 15: Incident of the Calico Gun
24 April 1959
Season 1, Episode 16: Incident of the Misplaced Indians
1 May 1959
Season 1, Episode 17: Incident of Fear in the Streets
8 May 1959
Season 1, Episode 18: Incident Below the Brazos
15 May 1959
Season 1, Episode 19: Incident of the Dry Drive
22 May 1959
Season 1, Episode 20: Incident of the Judas Trap
5 June 1959
Season 1, Episode 21: Incident in No Man's Land
12 June 1959
Season 1, Episode 22: Incident of a Burst of Evil
26 June 1959
Season 1, Episode 23: Incident of the Roman Candles
10 July 1959

(Dimitri Tiomkin)

Rollin, rollin, rollin. Keep movin, movin, movin,
Though they’re disapprovin, keep them doggies movin Rawhide!

Don’t try to understand ‘em, just rope and throw and grab ‘em, soon we’ll be living high and wide.
Boy my heart’s calculatin. My true love will be waitin, be waitin at the end of my ride.

Move ‘em on, head ‘em up, head ‘em up, move ‘em out,
Move ‘em on, head ‘em out Rawhide!
Set ‘em out, ride ‘em in ride ‘em in, let ‘em out, cut ‘em out, ride ‘em in Rawhide.

Rollin, rollin, rollin, Rollin, rollin, rollin.
Rollin, rollin, rollin, Rollin, rollin, rollin Rawhide!

Rollin, rollin, rollin,
Though the streams are swollen. Keep them doggies rollin’ Rawhide!

Rain and wind and weather. Hell-bent for leather. Wishin my gal was by my side.
All the things I’m missin. Good vittles, love, and kissin are waiting at the end of my ride

Move ‘em on, head ‘em up. Head ‘em up, move ‘em on. Move ‘em on, head ‘em up Rawhide
Count ‘em out, ride ‘em in. Ride ‘em in, count ‘em out. Count ‘em out, ride ‘em in Rawhide!

Keep movin, movin, movin. Though they’re disapprovin keep them doggies movin Rawhide!
Don’t try to understand ‘em, just rope, throw, and brand ‘em. Soon we’ll be living high and wide.
My hearts calculatin. My true love will be waitin, Be waitin at the end of my ride.
Rawhide! Rawhide!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Joe Magarac - The Man of Steel

Joe Magarac is a folk hero of the Pittsburgh area steel mills. Historians debate whether he was an authentic folk legend or manufactured by newspapermen to give the Pittsburgh steel industry a much needed folk hero. Many believe the legend originated 100 years ago among Hungarian immigrant steel workers. In any case, by the 1930s, the stories of Joe Magarac were well established. He was a huge steel man who would appear out of nowhere to right a falling 50-ton crucible that threatened the lives of the steelworkers.

One story alleges that he when he melted himself down in a Bessemer Furnace to make steel for a new mill. Others maintain he’s waiting among the rusting ruins of old Pennsylvania steel mills for the day that the furnaces are burning again. In Hungarian, "Magarac" means "jack ass," a fitting name for a folk hero who worked like a donkey 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

I'll tell you about a steel man,
Joe Magarac, that's the man!
I'll tell you about a steel man,
Best steel maker in all the land
Steel-heart Magarac, that's the man.

He was sired in the mountain by red iron ore
Joe Magarac, that's the man!
He was sired in the mountain by red iron ore
Raised in a furnace - soothed by its roar
Steel-heart magarac, that's the man.

His shoulders are as big as the steel-mill door
Hands like buckets, his feet on half the floor

With his hands he can break a half-a-ton dolly
He stirs the boiling steel with his fingers, by golly

He grabs the cooling steel - his hands like wringers
And makes eight rails between his ten fingers

Joe can walk on the furnace rim
From furnace to furnace - just a step for him

Joe never sleeps, but he's got to eat
Hot steel soup, cold ingots for meat

Now, if you think this man's not real
Then, jump in a furnace, see him cook the steel.

Monday, July 24, 2006

My Grandpa (1947)

These pictures were taken in 1947. My Grandpa is "Rocky" Mills. He's the darkhaired guy playing lap steel in the group photo 3rd from the left.

Friday, July 21, 2006

La Llorona - The Weeping Woman

The legend of La Llorona (pronounced "LAH yoh ROH nah"), Spanish for the Weeping Woman, has been a part of Hispanic culture in the Southwest since the days of the conquistadores. The tall, thin spirit is said to be blessed with natural beauty and long flowing black hair. Wearing a white gown, she roams the rivers and creeks, wailing into the night and searching for children to drag, screaming to a watery grave.

No one really knows when the legend of La Llorona began or, from where it originated. Though the tales vary from source to source, the one common thread is that she is the spirit is of a doomed mother who drowned her children and now spends eternity searching for them in rivers and lakes.
La Llorona, christened "Maria", was born to a peasant family in a humble village. Her startling beauty captured the attention of both the rich and the poor men of the area. She was said to have spent her days in her humble peasant surroundings, but in the evenings, she would don her best white gown and thrill the men who admired her in the local fandangos. The young men anxiously waited for her arrival and she reveled in the attention that she received. However, La Llorona had two small sons who made it difficult for her to spend her evenings out, and often, she left them alone while she cavorted with the gentlemen during the evenings. One day the two small boys were found drowned in the river. Some say they drowned through her neglect, but others say that they may have died by her own hand.

Another legend says that La Llorona was a caring woman full of life and love, who married a wealthy man who lavished her with gifts and attention. However, after she bore him two sons, he began to change, returning to a life of womanizing and alcohol, often leaving her for months at a time. He seemingly no longer cared for the beautiful Maria, even talking about leaving her to marry a woman of his own wealthy class. When he did return home, it was only to visit his children and the devastated Maria began to feel resentment toward the boys.
One evening, as Maria was strolling with her two children on a shady pathway near the river, her husband came by in a carriage with an elegant lady beside him. He stopped and spoke to his children, but ignored Maria, and then drove the carriage down the road without looking back.
After seeing this Maria went into a terrible rage, and turning against her children, she seized them and threw them into the river. As they disappeared down stream, she realized what she had done and ran down the bank to save them, but it was too late. Maria broke down into inconsolable grief, running down the streets screaming and wailing.

The beautiful La Llorona mourned them day and night. During this time, she would not eat and walked along the river in her white gown searching for her boys -- hoping they would come back to her. She cried endlessly as she roamed the riverbanks and her gown became soiled and torn. When she continued to refuse to eat, she grew thinner and appeared taller until she looked like a walking skeleton. Still a young woman, she finally died on the banks of the river.

Not long after her death, her restless spirit began to appear, walking the banks of the Santa Fe River when darkness fell. Her weeping and wailing became a curse of the night and people began to be afraid to go out after dark. She was said to have been seen drifting between the trees along the shoreline or floating on the current with her long white gown spread out upon the waters. On many a dark night people would see her walking along the riverbank and crying for her children. And so, they no longer spoke of her as Maria, but rather, La Llorona, the weeping woman. Children are warned not to go out in the dark, for La Llorona might snatch them, throwing them to their deaths in the flowing waters.

Though the legends vary, the apparition is said to act without hesitation or mercy. The tales of her cruelty depends on the version of the legend you hear. Some say that she kills indiscriminately, taking men, women, and children -- whoever is foolish enough to get close enough to her. Others say that she is very barbaric and kills only children, dragging them screaming to a watery grave.

When Patricio Lugan was a boy, he and his family saw her on a creek between Mora and Guadalupita, New Mexico. As the family was sitting outside talking, they saw a tall, thin woman walking along the creek. She then seemed to float over the water, started up the hill, and vanished. However, just moments later she reappeared much closer to them and then disappeared again. The family looked for footprints and finding none, had no doubt that the woman they had seen was La Llorona.

She has been seen along many rivers across the entire Southwest and the legend has become part of Hispanic culture everywhere. Part of the legend is that those who do not treat their families well will see her and she will teach them a lesson.

Another story involved a man by the name of Epifanio Garcia, who was an outspoken boy who often argued with his mother and his father. After a heated argument, Epifanio, along with his brothers, Carlos and Augustine decided to leave their ranch in Ojo de La Vaca to head toward the Villa Real de Santa Fe. However, when they were along their way, they were visited by a tall woman wearing a black tapelo and a black net over her face. Two of the boys were riding in the front of the wagon when the spirit appeared on the seat between them. She was silent and continued to sit there until Epifanio finally turned the horses around and headed back home, at which time she said "I will visit you again someday when you argue with your mother."

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the tall wailing spirit has been seen repeatedly in the PERA Building (Public Employees Retirement Association), which is built on land that was once an old Spanish-Indian graveyard, and is near the Santa Fe River. Many people who have been employed there tell of hearing cries resounding through the halls and feeling unseen hands pushing them while on the stairways.

La Llorona has been heard at night wailing next to rivers by many and her wanderings have grown wider, following Hispanic people wherever they go. Her movements have been traced throughout the Southwest and as far north as Montana on the banks of the Yellowstone River.

The Hispanic people believe that the Weeping Woman will always be with them, following the many rivers looking for her children, and for this reason, many of them fear the dark and pass the legend from generation to generation

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Speaking of Animals "Cow Cow Boogie" (1945)

"Speaking of Animals" was produced by Paramount Pictures throughout the 1940's. Legendary animator Tex Avery was responsible for many. This one, "Cow Cow Boogie" won an Academy Award in 1945.

Out of the plains down near Santa Fe
I met a cowboy ridin' the range one day
And as he rode along I heard him singin'
The most peculiar cowboy song

It was a ditty, he learned in the city
Comma te yi yi yeah
Comma te yippity yi yeah

Now get along, get hip little doggies
Get along, better be on your way now
Get along, Get hip little doggies
He trucked on down that old fairway

Singin' his Cow Cow Boogie in the strangest way
Comma te yi yi yeah
Comma te yippity yi yeah

Now singin' his cowboy songs
He's just too much
He's got a knocked out western accent with a dixie touch

He was raised on locoweed
He's what you call a swing-halfbreed
Singin' his Cow Cow Boggie in the strangest way
Comma te yi yi yeah
Comma te yippity yi yeah

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

True West Magazine (1953 - Present)

True West began publication in 1953. It was published by Joe Small, from Austin, Texas.

True West benefitted from the early television era: as shows such as Bonanza, The Lone Ranger and Have Gun, Will Travel were aired, many fans became interested in finding out about the lives of real cowboys and cowgirls. True West sold, by the 1960s, in approximately 200,000 newsstands.

In the early 1970's Mr. Small felt ill and in 1974, Small sold the magazine. By 1984, the magazine was being produced from Stillwater, Oklahoma. In 1999, the magazine was bought by current owners, Rick Baish, Bob Boze Bell and Bob McCubbin.

Some of the magazine's most popular subjects cowboys and cowgirls include Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Calamity Jane, Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickok and Annie Oakley, among others.

With the help of new investors, Bob and Trish Brink and Dave Daiss, the magazine has expanded its format to include travel, books, Western movies and most importantly, preservation.

The launching of The Top Ten True Western Towns (Sheridan, Wyoming was named number one, 2006) has brought national recognition to the magazine.

Executive Editor, Bob Boze Bell is featured on the True West Moments on Encore's lWesterns Channel every day and inquires come in from around the world.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

"The Mexican Revolution" (1910- 1920 & Beyond) Arhoolie CD 7041-44

The Mexican Revolution had a profound effect on every aspect of Mexican life and culture. This four CD set of historic corridos (ballads) provides a comprehensive overview of the events and key figures of the Mexican Revolution during this pivotal time in the Mexican Republic as sung by popular singers who recorded these renditions between 1904 and 1974 in both the United States and Mexico. Included is a 180 page book written by the compiler and editor, Guillermo E. Hernández with full transcriptions and translations of all of the songs. This is a meticulously researched tome of information regarding the history, politics, culture and musical expressions of revolutionary and post-revolutionary Mexico. Each CD is organized by the themes of these ballads, focusing on "Outlaws and Revolutionaries," "The Pancho Villa Cycle", "Local Revolutionary Figures," and "Post Revolutionary Corridos and Narratives.

Disc 1: Outlaws & Revolutionaries
1.Ignacio Parra ‚ Los Alegres De Terán
2.Valentín Mancera ‚ Trío Los Aguilillas
3.Corrido De Macario Romero ‚ Abrego y Picazo
4.Potro Lobo Gateado ‚ Mariachi México Del Norte
5.Jesús Leal ‚ (A Cylinder Recording Made In 1904) Rafael Herrera Robinson
6.Jesús Leal ‚ (I & II) Pedro Rocha y Lupe Martínez
7.Heraclio Bernal ‚ Trío Nava
8.Benito Canales ‚ (I & II) Hernández y Sifuentes
9.Nuevo Corrido De Madero ‚ M. Camacho y Regino Pérez
10.El Cuartelazo ‚ (I & II) Hermanos Chavarría
11.El Cuartelazo ‚ Hermanas Mendoza
12.Benjamín Argumedo ‚ (I & II) Hernández y Sifuentes
13.Fusiliamento De Benjamín Argumedo ‚ (I & II) Andrés Berlanga y Francisco Montalvo
14.Fusiliamento De Felipe Ángeles ‚ (I & II) San Román y Vera

Disc 2: The Francisco Villa Cycle
1.Corrido De Durango ‚ Los Dorados De Durango
2.Gral Francisco Villa ‚ Los Cuatezones
3.La Toma De Torreón ‚ Los Alegres De Terán
4.Toma De Guadalajara ‚ Las Jilguerillas
5.La Toma De Zacatecas ‚ Los Errantes
6.La Toma De Celaya ‚ Conjunto Matamoros
7.Pancho Villa ‚ Hermanos Chavarría
8.La Punitiva ‚ (I & II) Hernández y Sifuentes
9.La Toma De Celaya ‚ (I & II) Hermanos Bañuelos
10.Derrota De Villa En Celaya ‚ (I & II) Pedro Rocha y José Angel Colunga
11.Rendición De Pancho Villa ‚ (I & II) Pedro Rocha y Lupe Martínez
12.Corrido Historia y Muerte Del Gral. Francisco Villa ‚ (I & II) More, Rubí, y Vivo
13.Adelita ‚ Trío González
14.Valentina ‚ Lydia Mendoza & Family

Disc 3: Local Revolutionary Figures
1.Corrido De Juan Vázquez ‚ Juanita y María Mendoza
2.Corrido De Juan Carrasco ‚ Luis Pérez Meza
3.Corrido De Palomón ‚ Los Montañeses Del Alamo
4.Corrido De Juan Villareal ‚ Hermanos Garza
5.La Toma De Matamoros ‚ (I & II) Agustín Lara y A. Novelo
6.Corrido De Almazán ‚ Méndez y González
7.Amador Maldonado ‚ Conjunto Tamaulipas
8.Corrido De Margarito ‚ Dueto América
9.Refugio Solano ‚ Dueto Sandoval
10.Julián Del Real ‚ Hermanos Ayala
11.Corrido De Inez Chávez García ‚ (I & II) Hermanos Bañuelos
12.Quirino Navarro ‚ Trío Los Aguilillas
13.Tragedia De Maximiliano Vigueras ‚ Emilio Medellín y Lupe Posada
14.Corrido De Cedillo ‚ Los Morenos
15.Corrido De Yurécuaro y Tanhuato ‚ (I & II) Hermanos Bañuelos
16.Marijuana La Soldadera ‚ (I & II) Hermanos Bañuelos

Disc 4: Post Revolutionary Corridos & Narratives
1.Revolución De Adolfo De La Huerta ‚ Alcides Briceño y Jorge Añez
2.La Pura Pelada ‚ Trío Luna
3.El Arreglo Religioso ‚ (I & II) Dúo Coahuila
4.La Nueva Revolución ‚ (I & II) San Román y Vera
5.Ortiz Rubio ‚ (I & II) La Bella Netty y Jesús Rodríguez
6.El Corrido Del Agrarista ‚ (I & II) Trovadores Tamaulipecos
7.General Obregón ‚ Trío Luna
8.El Radiograma ‚ (I & II) Guzmán y Rosales
9.Corrido De Toral ‚ (I & II) Trovadores Tapatíos
10.General Emiliano Zapata ‚ Trío Luna
11.Corrido Del General Cárdenas ‚ (I & II) Del Valle y Rivas
12.El Corrido Del Petróleo ‚ Ray y Laurita
13.La Rielera ‚ Lydia Mendoza & Family
14.Gral Porfirio Díaz ‚ Dueto Acosta
15.Tiempos Amargos ‚ Dueto América

Monday, July 17, 2006

Smoked Pork - Colonial Style (1700s)

Summertime, in the eighteenth century, was no time for eating fresh pork. The oppressive heat that made quick work of humans in the Middle Atlantic colonies also turned the choicest cuts of meat into Petrie dishes of corruption. The day a pig was slaughtered, it was cooked and eaten, often as part of a family celebration or for the arrival of important visitors. Leftover meat was quickly shared with neighbors or slaves.

A frosty month, especially December, was the proper time for pig butchering, salting, and smoking. It's a tradition documented to medieval times. The illuminated manuscripts known as books of hours, prestige prayer books, often depict pig slaughtering on their calendar page for December, in the same way that they show planting in March and harvesting in August. Killing the winter pigs was just another part of the annual agricultural round.

If you expected to have pork all year long, you needed a smokehouse. From earliest times, a smokehouse was a small enclosed shelter, a place in which a fire could be kept smoldering for a few weeks, which would only slowly release its smoke, and in which the smoked meat could hang safe from vermin and thieves.

Just about any sort of vernacular shed could serve. But an elegant Gothic one appears in a book of hours painted in France by the so-called Rohan Master about 1420. On the page for December, a pig is being slaughtered, a wooden tub sits ready for the salted meats, and a fire has been kindled in the little smokehouse. Not that all those necessary tasks are meant to happen on the same day.

In essence, you cure meat in two steps. The fresh cuts are packed in tubs of coarse salt for about six weeks while the salt draws most of the water from the flesh. Then the salted meats are hung in a tightly constructed wooden shed, usually without windows or a flue, in which a fire smolders for one to two weeks. The result is dried, long-lasting, smoke-flavored meat that will age in the same smokehouse for two years before it's eaten.

Smokehouses don't show up in the documentary or archaeological record of seventeenth-century Tidewater. If they're smoking meat at Jamestown, they're doing it in ephemeral sheds or barns, not in purpose-built structures. Or the task may have been done as it often was in England, in smoking closets tucked away inside chimney flues. But since so very little remains of Jamestown above foundation level, it's impossible to know for sure.

By the first half of the eighteenth century, a new class of building is regularly appearing in the backyard landscape: the smokehouse, alternatively spelled "smoak" house. Typically, these are cubical structures of wood, eight to fourteen feet square, with steep pyramidal roofs for holding in the smoke among the hanging cuts of meat. It's at this time that the word first shows up in written records, according to the Oxford English Dictionary and Carl R. Lounsbury's Illustrated Glossary of Early Southern Architecture and Landscape.

In 1716, there's a mention of a smoak house on a plantation in York County, Virginia, the earliest known use of the term. A Hanover County plantation listed for sale in the Virginia Gazette on January 7, 1742, points to its "new fram'd Smoak-house, 8 Feet Square." In 1732, "a Smoak house eight foot square" with a "planked Dore," is ordered for the glebe of Newport Parish, Isle of Wight County, Virginia. The sturdy door is to do with security. After the fires went out, the meat was stored in there. Poachers had to be kept at bay.

Everyone needed a smokehouse. At Colonial Williamsburg, of the eighty-eight original structures that survive, twelve are smokehouses. And an additional fifty reconstructed smokehouses dot the backyards of the Historic Area, many built atop the foundation footprints of likely smokehouses. At the Governor's Palace, the Wythe House, and the Peyton Randolph House, reconstructed smokehouses are still used to cure and flavor pork.

Sometimes a smokehouse is also called a meat house, which makes sense because the building spends much more of its time as a storage locker than it does as a smoking house. In 1778, a house on Custis Square in Williamsburg is said to come with a meat house. In Maryland, the phrase "meat house" seems to be preferred over smokehouse. In Sussex County, Delaware, however, there was a farm with a meat house and a smokehouse, according to an Orphans Court valuation of 1812.

In Virginia, meat house is the exception. In the List of White Persons and Houses taken in the County of Halifax, 1785, there are fifteen "smoak" houses and one meat house. This record is useful for looking at smokehouse sizes: Of the fourteen Halifax structures the dimensions of which are listed, five are twelve-by-twelve feet, five are twelve-by-ten feet, and the rest are twelve-by-eight, ten-by-ten, eight- by-eight, and sixteen-by- sixteen. They must have seemed like near-perfect little cubes, part of an impressive parade of useful and well-made outbuildings in the colonial backyards, the hallmark of a society that wanted to be seen as tasteful, well managed, civilized.

A sense of how the smokehouse was made and used is plain in Thomas Cooper's report of what life was like on the ground in North America, in a book published in London in 1795. He's describing the large plantation of one Archibald M'Allister in Paxtang, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania:

His smokery for bacon, hams, etc. is a room about twelve feet square, built of dry wood a fireplace in the middle, the roof conical, with nails in the rafters to hang meat intended to be smoaked. In this case a fire is made on the floor in the middle of the building in the morning, which it is not necessary to renew during the day. This is done for four or five days successively. The vent for the smoke is through the crevasses of the boards. The meat is never taken out 'till it is used. If the walls are of stone, or greenwood, the meat is apt to mould.

All this rings true and speaks to several design commonplaces in historic smokehouses. Carl R. Lounsbury, an architectural historian at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, thinks the centrality of the heat source, a firebox in the middle of the floor, drives the building's square shape. And the sharply pitched roof is essential for containing heat and smoke.

Water inside the meat is a problem. It spoils everything. Dried meat lasts longer. And so the heat and smoke are meant to drive off the water. "Some smokehouses have a small square fire pit; some have bricks covering the floors; some have plain dirt floors," Lounsbury says. The more intricate the roofing timbers, the more places to hang meat. "Sometimes," he says, "you find extra collar beams up there. And we've seen all manner of pegs, nails, hooks, and chains for hanging meat."

Another way of removing water is with salt. The job starts by working a mixture of twenty-five pounds of salt and two pounds of brown sugar deeply into every inch of the fresh meat. Two ounces of saltpeter are added so the meat will retain its pinkish color. It's a tough job that can only be done by hand.

At Colonial Williamsburg, the second Saturday of December is the traditional day for salting pork. "After the hand salting," says food historian Frank Clark, "we dry pack the pork in tubs, forcing the meat and coarse salt in as tightly as we can. Each tub has several large holes in the bottom for the 'liquor' to drain out into the dirt floor." That liquor is the unusable and faintly-not-nice water drawn off by the salt. It's dehydrating the meat, replacing water with salt. The tubs appear to be truncated half-barrels, resembling the wooden tub in the Rohan book of hours, a scene nearly six hundred years old.

The colder the weather, the slower the liquid flows out of the meat. Still, after about six weeks in the salting tubs, the cuts are ready for hanging over the smokehouse fire. At Colonial Williamsburg, the fire is usually kindled in February. Because the whole point is smoke, not flame, green wood is used, though historically corncobs or fruitwood smoked well enough. At Shirley Plantation, whose smokehouse was last used in about 1953, apple wood was burned, according to proprietor Hill Carter. It added a special sweetness to the meat. Also at Shirley, the fire was allowed to burn untended day and night. It was relit every morning. "It wasn't a disaster if it went out," Carter says.

Typically, smoking would last about two weeks. The reconstructed Wythe smokehouse is so solid, its wallboards so tightly fitted, it's more like a piece of outdoor furniture. It holds in its smoke well and is the most efficient smokehouse in town.

The more vernacular smokehouse behind the Peyton Randolph House leaks profusely. In keeping with that backyard's orientation, the smokehouse uses two types of boarding on its four sides: sawn poplar weatherboards for the sides facing the house and more formal yard but riven oak clapboards for the sides invisible from the house. Wool has been stuffed into the crevices between the irregular clapboards. With more oxygen getting inside this smokehouse, its fire burns brighter and faster, but it loses so much smoke it takes much longer to cure the meat.

More smokehouses were like the Peyton Randolph version than the Wythe's. People who grew up around working smokehouses a half century ago recall the comforting sight of them in the landscape, puffing away at their wintery task like steam engines.

Not that smoke is an unalloyed blessing. Inside an old smokehouse, the studs and walls appear black and shiny, like the oily-feathered back of a grackle, the layer of creosote deposited by years of smoke. And since the hams, shoulders, and bacons age inside the smokehouse for at least two years, they can be exposed to several more rounds of smoke. Creosote begins to coat the meat. This may be why, at Shirley, cured meat was removed from the smokehouse and rehung in the basement of the big house. "Some of it went three to four years," Carter says. "Some of it the rats got."

Since insects, too, have a taste for bacon, the tighter the smokehouse, the better. But some always managed to get inside. For them, the cured meat was coated with pepper, a natural insect repellent. Hickory ashes were another way of discouraging bugs.

A smokehouse that's too tightly constructed can be trouble. Elevated humidity inside can lead to gray and green blooms of mold on the hanging meat. "You have to be careful about bright molds," Clark says. "Bright greens or purples can be nasty. The duller molds and the creosote can just be washed or cut off the meat. No harm done."

Salt, though lovely for meat, is a problem for smokehouses. After a century or more of use, the wood cells of timber get infused with salt, which replaces their water, and the studs go all fuzzy and soft. Deep down the wood can be fairly competent, but the surface is pure Nerfball.

Brick smokehouses are especially threatened by salt intrusion. Lavishing the investment of bricks on a utilitarian building devoted to a smoky, almost industrial use was pure ostentation. Still, stunning examples of brick smokehouses exist at Shirley, at His Lordship's Kindness near Clinton, Maryland, at Reynolds' Tavern in Annapolis, and at the Benjamin Powell House at Williamsburg, to name a few.

They're unusual, if not quite rare, often plagued by salt intrusion that leaves the bricks and mortar friable. Decades of degradation have given the bricks the rounded and insubstantial appearance of damp sugar cubes. The Powell smokehouse had gone so granular that hundreds of finches were pecking it away, either for the salt or for the tiny stone grains they use in digestion. The solution was to blot the building with seven applications of a shredded-toilet-paper poultice, which drew out thirty-eight pounds of the offending salt.

At Shirley, the solution was to render the walls with a covering of cement stucco, a fix that was tried at the Powell House in the 1820s but was removed in the restoration of the building in 1956. The Shirley stucco is still in place, still doing its job.

So what is it all about, this quest to understand smokehouses and to reconstruct them in believable ways that reflect eighteenth-century life? For Edward A. Chappell, director of architectural research at Colonial Williamsburg, God is no longer just in the details.

"We won't copy bits of a historic smokehouse for a reconstruction," Chappell says. "We try instead to understand the system: how and why and where this building was built, how it fit into a complex zone of backyard activities. Building details are helpful, but the relationship between buildings is what's most interesting. So we record the whole plan of the farmyard during fieldwork, not just louvres and hooks and hinges."

The reconstructed Peyton Randolph smokehouse is an example of an older building that got a facelift when the family began to transform its property in the 1750s. Its clapboard sides, facing away from the house, were refitted with more finished and expensive weatherboards.

"In time, we came to understand," Chappell says, "that in the Peyton Randolph backyard there was a palpable division of activity. Zone A was for clean work; the dairy was there. Zone B was for more unsavory and industrial work. And although the smokehouse is more or less balanced by the dairy, its door shouldn't open into Zone A. There's even a fence between the two zones."

And so the door will be moved from the south to the north side of the smokehouse, opening into zone B, not into the cleaner zone, near the slaves working in the laundry and kitchen and the Randolph women making butter and cheese in their spotless dairy. It's a change driven by new archaeology and a clearer understanding of this particular backyard.

There was once a time when these zones, these interdependencies, defined people's lives. There were always distinctions between the field and the house, of course. But these new fences, these mute zones centered on the smokehouse and the other backyard outbuildings, they were there too, a real part of the circle of common knowledge we are only now uncovering. It was a world built on boundaries.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

My Mother and Uncles in Lame Deer, Montana

This is my mother, her brother and cousins in Lame Deer, Montana in the late 40's or early 50's...

I love that my Uncle has a rifle in this shot!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Anti-Catholic Political Cartoon from "Harper's Weekly" (1872)

Rattlesnake Roundups

Rattlesnake roundups take place from January through July in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Georgia. Roundups started in the mid-1930's as an attempt to rid areas of rattlesnakes, but they have evolved into commercial events. The rattler is a deadly poisonous snake that can be found throughout North America, but nowhere is it more abundant than in the deserts and plains of the American West. In the small west Texas town of Sweetwater, townsfolk have turned the potentially deadly pest into an annual event that attracts more than 30,000 visitors.

The roundup was started back in 1958 by a group of ranchers who were just having a problem with the rattlesnake population biting their animals and really causing a lot of havoc with their livestock.

Attend the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup and you can watch a snake-handling demonstration, go out into the countryside on your own snake roundup, and even eat rattlesnake meat cooked in everything from barbecue to Texas chili.

"We have deep-fried rattlesnake meat which you cook kind of like you would a fish. We also have a very large cook-off which includes rattlesnake meat as one of the meat options cooked that we have over 150 teams come in and do each year."

Tom Wideman, a former chairman of the World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup held every March in the West Texas town of Sweetwater, participated in the first Roundup in 1958 as a ticket-taker, and then became an avid hunter, contributing his share of the 125 tons of rattlesnakes turned in at the Sweetwater Jaycees event over the years.

Wideman developed a great interest in and healthy respect for the species, leading media tours, appearing on National Geographic Television, and serving as a model for Gokey Boots. His own boots, he estimates, have been struck no less than three hundred times by rattlesnakes.

"If you're going to adopt rattlesnake hunting as a hobby," he writes, "the two most important hunting accessories you'll need are a cool head and a deep respect for the critters.”

"If you see a rattlesnake or hear one 'rattle' a warning," he advises, "freeze in your tracks. I know that's a difficult assignment when your natural inclination is to run, but you should remain absolutely motionless until you determine the rattlesnake's location. Chances are that if you hear a snake rattle and don't move, the snake will retreat first."

Wideman said his wife, June, made her own deal with rattlesnakes years ago. "She won't hunt them," he says, "if they won't hunt her." The fascination with rattlesnakes draws thousands of visitors to Sweetwater each spring for the Roundup, where they can sample fried rattlesnake and watch snake handlers demonstrate their techniques. The event helps control the rattlesnake population on nearby ranches and educates the public about snakes and their environment. Proceeds benefit a variety of community charities.