Saturday, November 30, 2013

Writing about Indians When You're Not One: Space and Time

Troy D. Smith

I've talked a lot in this blog series about cultural misunderstandings between settlers and Indians which extend into the present. This time around I'm going to talk about some very fundamental differences- Europeans did not realize that indigenous peoples had ideas about space and time that were radically different from theirs. If they weren't on the same page with those basic things, they were on a trajectory for mutual confusion.

This is demonstrated by the map below. Written on deerskin, it was presented to the governor of South Carolina in 1721 by an Indian (most historians say a Catawba, though a few argue for Cherokee.) It was a map of the Southeast... but probably not like any map of the Southeast you've ever seen.

As you can see, the map is a mixture of geographic and imagined space. The city of Charleston is to the left. A coastal city, any European would have put Charleston on the right, using the European cartographic tradition of right=east.

The most important thing to note, however, is everything to the right of the city, which is meant to illustrate for the governor the various tribes of the Southeast. The native map-maker does not use a geographic representation; instead, as was the Indian custom, his map showed alliances, influence, and other relationships. Each tribe is a circle.

This goes to the fact that Indians, though they could certainly be territorial, did not have clearly defined geographic borders in the same way Europeans did. As we have discussed, neither did they have the idea of the land in a certain region being owned by anyone, though certain tribes might have the right to use it.

Incidentally, some scholars have suggested that the female figure on the right represents the map-maker's home village, while the smaller male figure on the left (who is killing an animal) represents the extent of his people's hunting range.

While we're on the subject of maps, I have another misconception to clear up. In my office I have a copy of this map, showing the location of many North American tribes:

It is a very handy map to have, naturally. And much of it we are aware of- Seminoles are native to Florida, Comanches to West Texas, Sioux to the Great Plains.

Except they're not.

This map shows the location of the tribes when Europeans encountered them. In some cases the tribes had been in that location for centuries, in other cases far less -but we have the tendency to freeze them in amber, and assume where they lived during "American history" is, in every instance, where they had been forever. But tribes moved. In fact, the very arrival of Europeans resulted in waves of migration...then when those Europeans encountered the peoples whose migration they had triggered, in their new location, they assumed those people had always been right there.

Some examples.

The Dutch encountered the Iroquois in their Great Lakes home in the 1600s... in that case, the Iroquois actually had been in that area for centuries. However, the fact that the Dutch traded guns to their Indian allies, whereas the French initially refused to do so for their own Huron allies, resulted in a huge shift in the balance of power (the Dutch were later replaced by the English, who kept all the Dutch trade obligations with the Iroquois.)  The well-armed Iroquois expanded rapidly, chasing away their fur-trade competitors. The Sioux (comprised of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota) were pushed westward, onto the Great Plains (though many Dakota remained in Minnesota.) The Shawnee were pushed south, some of them winding up in Tennessee and South Carolina, which is where the English first met them.

Another example: the Pueblo people. Like the Iroquois, they had been where we picture them being (Arizona and New Mexico) for many centuries, perhaps longer... they are probably the descendants of earlier groups the Anasazi and the Hohokam. (Their traditional enemies the Navajo and Apache, on the other hand, speak a language closely related to tribes in Canada and Alaska, from whence their ancestors had migrated.)

In 1680 the Pueblos revolted against their Spanish overlords- successfully. They drove the Spanish away (though they came back in force years later.) In doing so, they captured the large Spanish horse herd their occupiers had brought with them. They traded many of these horses to their neighbors to the north, the mountainous Shoshone... the Shoshone quickly mastered the use of the animals, venturing out into the Plains as they were now mobile and such a move was feasible. They became the premier horse traders of the plains, introducing selections from their herds to the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and those new arrivals the Sioux. One band of Wyoming Shoshones drifted south with their horse herds, ending up in Texas (perhaps because they knew there were a lot of Spanish in the region -with horses to take.) The local Indians called this Shoshonean group "Comanches."

Over in Florida, there were a lot of native tribes -but none of them were Seminole. Most of the Floridean tribes died out from disease or war with the Spanish... their empty territory was occupied by Creek Indians who moved down from Georgia. Those Florida Creeks were known for welcoming runaway slaves from the English colonies into their midst. Runaway slaves were called cimarrons by the Spanish, from a word meaning mountain peaks -this is because runaway slaves on Caribbean islands often sought refuge in the mountains. The English corrupted this word for runaways (or wild people) from cimarron to "maroon." There were many maroon communities, for example, in Jamaica. In the North American colonies, it was corrupted into "Seminole." So A) cimarron, maroon, and Seminole all come from the same Spanish word, and B) Seminoles did not exist as a separate tribe until the late 1700s, and always held close ties with their Creek cousins.

Interestingly enough, it didn't matter how much the various tribes moved around -a Native American map showing them would still look the same. Because it wouldn't show where they were physically, it would show how they were related to one another.

Finally, a few words about time.

For Europeans, time is a "line." It extends from an infinite point in the past and moves straight forward, to an infinite point in the future.

You know, like this:

For Indians, time does not work the same way. Time is a SPIRAL. This is even hard for non-Indians minds to wrap themselves around today, so imagine how incomprehensible it would have been in the colonial era.

What does that even mean?

It means that events that happened in the past are not unimaginably distant. The past, and the future, are VERY CLOSE to the now. So close you could reach out and touch them.



Friday, November 29, 2013

Western Fictioneers Presents West of the Big River: The Bandit By Jerry Guin

Sam Bass was just a farm boy from Indiana, but he wound up in Texas and became one of the most notorious outlaws in the history of the Old West. Texas history has often referred to Bass as "Texas' Beloved Bandit" or "Robin Hood on a Fast Horse"  Jerry Guin's historical novel THE BANDIT takes an unflinching look at the life and times of Sam Bass, from his almost accidental incursion into a life of lawlessness to his ill-fated end, and provides a vivid portrait of this violent era. Western Fictioneers is proud to present the latest entry in the acclaimed West of the Big River series.

Jerry Guin is best known as a short story writer with 28 to his credit. His book, "Trail Dust" captures 12 of those stories.

Jerry has written "Matsutake Mushroom," a nature guide book. He wrote his first western novel, "Drover's Vendetta" in 2011. Followed by "Drover's Bounty," a Black Horse Western released by Robert Hale Ltd. August 2013.

Recently he had stories appear in the following anthologies, "Outlaws and Lawmen" by La Frontera publishing and "Six-Guns and Slay Bells, A Creepy Cowboy Christmas" by Western Fictioneers. Also through Western Fictioneers, Jerry wrote chapter one of "Wolf Creek, Dog Leg City, Book 3."

Jerry lives in the extreme Northern California community of Salyer with his wife Ginny.

Kindle                              Trade

Barnes & Noble Nook Link

Smashwords Link

Thursday, November 28, 2013



- pushing back the frontiers of Medicine

If you are a Gunsmoke fan you will doubtless have been amazed at how many medicines Doc Galen Adams crammed into that old black bag of his. He was prepared for any eventuality and would always have something that he could give to relieve the sick or injured.

Back in Wolf Creek Doc Logan Munro tries his best to stay up to date with modern medicine and surgery. He makes up all of his own medicines, often using herbs or traditional remedies that he has picked up along the way or been alerted to by Charlie Blackfeather.

But the way that the medicines were given is interesting, because in medicine you want to present a drug to the body in the most effective way that you can. 

The invention of the pill
We must go back into the mists of time to look at a great boon to mankind, the development of the pill as a means of delivering medicine. 

The ancient Egyptians seem to have been the first to come up with the idea. There are ten medical and surgical papyri, which detail treatments used in the days of the pharaohs. The Ebers papyrus, written about 1550 BC contains recipes for all manner of enemas, lozenges and pills. These early pills were hard compressed balls of clay or bread. In addition, they sometimes used the faeces of various creatures.

Now I guess you may have turned your nose up in disgust at that last sentence. But consider the times they lived in, with a pantheon of over 400 gods and goddesses. The world was a mystical place organised by the deities, and the priesthoods had rituals that covered just about every activity that could be undertaken. 

The scarab, the dung beetle rolled a ball of dung in order to lay its eggs inside it. This the Egyptians believed was symbolic of the god Khepri, the scarab-headed god, who rolled the sun across the heavens each day. 

The dung beetle rolling the ball was thought to be symbolic of the god Khepri

The scarab was the ancient Egyptian symbol of birth, regeneration and renewal as well as being used as a powerful talisman for health. It has been suggested that priest physicians invoked Khepri when they made their remedies, which they did as these crude pills, like the dung beetle.

Coating the pill
The basic design for the pill lasted almost 2,500 years until the Persian physician Rhazes (865-925 AD) improved upon it by giving it a coating. By using a psyllium-seed mucilage the solved the problem of the nauseating or bitter tasting pill.

                                                                 Rhazes (865-925 AD)

A  century later another Persian polymath, known as Avicenna (980-1037 AD) further improved it by coating his pills in silver or gold leaf. In an age of alchemy, precious metals were thought to enhance the effectiveness of medicines. An interesting boost to the placebo effect.

                                                           Avicenna (980-1037 AD)

The first London Pharmacopoeia
A Pharmacopoeia is a book of drugs with all of their ingredients, actions and side effects. The first London Pharmacopoeia of 1618 contained recipes for 38 pills. Of these, 23 were derived from medical works written in Arabic. Two were from Avicenna and one from Rhazes. 

This photograph shows a sample page detailing a purgative pill devised by Avicenna - Pilule Pestilentiales Ruffi.

The problem of bioavailability
Bioavailability means the readiness with which a drug can be absorbed and allowed to reach its target organs. The pills that had been in use for centuries often had poor bioavailability because the material they were encased in didn't break down in the intestines. In many cases it would be like swallowing and trying to absorb buckshot.

In 1834 the French pharmacist Mothes devised the gelatin capsule, which could be used to contain liquids or powders.These are still used today.

A real breakthrough came in 1884 when Dr William Upjohn (1853-1932) patented a 'friable pill,' which was made by compressing powder into a pill shape. This would then dissolve in the stomach and be absorbed quickly. It had good bioavailability. 

Dr Upjohn lived, qualified and practiced in Michigan. He knew that his invention was a winner, the problem being to persuade other doctors to use his friable pills rather than their own hard pellets. He did it by sending thousands of pine boards along with traditionally made pills and his own friable pills to doctors all over the country, inviting them to  try to hammer the traditional pills into the board. They often did so without breaking, showing how hard it was for the body to absorb. In comparison, one of his friable pills could be turned into powder, ready to be absorbed, merely with the pressure of the thumb. It was a brilliant and persuasive image which became the logo of The Upjohn  Pill and Granule Company that he and his brother formed in Kalamazoo in 1886. It was to become one of the pharmaceutical giants of the 20th Century.

It changed the face of medicine.

The hypodermic syringe
We now come to a relatively recent invention, the hypodermic syringe. Being the sort of man that he is, Dr Logan Munro would certainly grasp its potential and soon be giving the citizens of Wolf Creek the benefits of the latest science.

Hypodermic comes from the Greek hypo, meaning 'under' and derma, meaning 'skin'. It therefore means syringing under the skin into the body.

This is one of the most important inventions in medicine, for it gave doctors a means of delivering drugs into the patient's system, by-passing the gastro-intestinal tract. That is often a good thing to do, especially if the person has an inflamed stomach or if they are vomiting and unable to keep anything down. But it wasn't invented until the mid-nineteenth century.

Syringes had been used in medicine for centuries, but for introducing fluid into bodily orifices, or to suck out fluids or pus. Some attempts to give drugs by injecting them into the body were made in the early seventeenth century, but they were not successful and fatalities did occur. In those days it would be highly likely that infections would have been directly introduced to the tissues.

The first necessity was to produce a hollow needle. This was done by Dr Francis Rynd (1801-1861) an Irish surgeon in 1843. He successfully develop a technique with a hollow needle for injecting opiates to treat neuralgia.

Dr Thomas Wood (1817-1884) a Scottish physician invented the first hypodermic syringe in 1853. Apparently he tried to copy the cation of a bee sting, so he used a hollow needle that could be attached to a metal syringe.  He used t to inject morphine and other opiates in the treatment of neuralgia, which was at that time  an umbrella label for all manner of painful conditions.

                                                      Dr Thomas Wood (1817-1884)

During the Civil War most surgeons simply dusted morphine into wounds or gave opium pills. Dr John Billings (1838-1913), a Lieutenant Colonel in the Union Army was the first doctor to use a hypodermic syringe in the field. Despite his advocacy of it, however, probably less than a dozen were used during the war.

                                                          Dr John Billings (1838-1913)

Dr Billings would go on to become one of the most prominent physicians and librarians in American medicine.

                                                 A mid-19th century hypodermic syringe

Syringes are used to inject subcutaneously (just under the skin), intra-muscularly (into the muscle) and intra-venously (directly into the blood stream through a vein). It is important to expel any air when giving an intra-venous injection, sine an air bubble can travel throughout the circulation as an air embolism. It can have the same effect as  a blood clot and could produce a heart attack, stroke or chest pain. They can be rapidly fatal. It is for this reason that you see doctors invert a syringe, as in the position in the photograph, tap it to get any air to the top of the syringe, below the aperture of the needle, then squirt some fluid out. This is to get rid of air bubbles to prevent an embolism.

Hell on the Prairie, the sixth Wolf Creek book features Keith (Clay More's) character Dr Logan Munro, the town doctor in THE OATH, a story about a spectre from his past. 

Logan has been in Books 1, 4 and 6, and 8 and appears in the second Christmas anthology O DEADLY NIGHT in the story THE SPIRIT OF HOGMANAY 

And his other new character, Doc Marcus Quigley, dentist, gambler and occasional bounty hunter continues in his quest to bring a murderer to justice, in RATTLER'S NEST in his  ebook short stories THE ADVENTURES OF DOCTOR MARCUS QUIGLEY published by High Noon Press.

DOUBLE-DEALING AT DIRTVILLE was originally published by Hale as a Black Horse Western, but is now available as an ebook from Western Fictioneers Library.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Civil War Reenacting: Music of the 1860s

By Matthew Pizzolato

Amid all of the death and destruction that took place during the Late Unpleasantness that occurred from 1861- 1865, a much overlooked aspect of that War is the role that music played during army life.

Robert E. Lee once remarked, "I don't believe we can have an army without music."

Music was played while on the march, as a way to pass time during boredom of camp life, and even during battle.  Oftentimes during a siege, nightly concerts took place.  Soldiers from both sides of the lines would shout out requests.  Some bands accompanied troops onto the field and played during the fighting.

A lot of the music of the time period was folk music or religious hymns that both sides sang along with other popular music of the day such as "Home Sweet Home", "Lorena", "Aura Lee", "Buffalo Gals", "Oh! Susanna", "Old Rosin the Beau", "Sweet Evelina" and "Camptown Races."  Other songs were specific to one side or the other.

Union Songs

Battle Hymn of the Republic
May God Save the Union
John Brown's Body
Battle Cry of Freedom
Marching Through Georgia

Confederate Songs

Dixie's Land
God Save the South
The Rebel Soldier
Bonnie Blue Flag
Eating Goober Peas

Different Versions

It was not uncommon for either side to borrow songs from the other and change the lyrics.  There was a Southern version of "Battle Cry of Freedom" and there was a Union version of "Dixie's Land" that was called "Union Dixie." 


The song "Taps" was composed during the War and there are a couple of different "legends" as to how it originated, but neither of those are true.

Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield, Commander of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, V Army Corps, Army of the Potomac is credited with composing it.  It is believed he rearranged an earlier French bugle call known as "Tattoo," which was used to signal the end of the day.

Taps was adopted by both Union and Confederate to honor military dead and is still in use today.

It is believed that more than 10,000 pieces of music were composed by the end of the War.  Printing presses that published sheet music ran around the clock.

For a more comprehensive list of music of the era, try the
Public Domain Music Website -

Music in Reenacting

Music still has a large place during the reenactments. Music of the era is played at the dances held and period dances are performed.

A lot of reenactors bring guitars and fiddles and often times we sit around the campfire playing and singing long into the night.

Matthew Pizzolato's short stories have been published online and in print. He is a member of Western Fictioneers and his work can be found in the Wolf Creek series as well as his own publications, THE WANTED MAN, OUTLAW and TWO OF A KIND. 

He is the Editor-in-Chief of The Western Online, a magazine dedicated to everything Western. He can be contacted through Twitter @mattpizzolato or via his website:

I'm going to be giving away a Kindle copy of Outlaw to whomever can answer the question below correctly. Just leave your email in a comment along with the correct answer. If more than one correct answer is given, there will be a drawing to determine the winner.

Contest Question:  Which very popular John Wayne movie used the song "Lorena"?  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Western Comics Focus: Steve Englehart

This month our focus is on Steve Englehart, a name very familiar to comics fans. In the 1970s he had a four-year run as scripter of The Avengers, creating some of their most memorable storylines, and several other Marvel titles as well, including a very well-regarded run on Doctor Strange and co-creating (with Jim Starlin) the character of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. Later in that decade, teamed with artist Marshall Rogers, he had an acclaimed run on DC's Batman in Detective Comics, returning the title to some of the sensibilities of the 1930s/early 1940s: a darker, more brooding hero, and a Joker who was once more the homicidal maniac he was introduced to be before descending into camp. In the 1980s Englehart introduced Coyote, a Native American-themed hero. In more recent years he has worked as a novelist, writing the Max August Magikal Thrillers (The Long Man, The Point Man, The Plain Man, and The Arena Man.)

Along the way he has penned his share of western heroes.

Steve Englehart has graciously agreed to answer some questions for us:

Were you a fan of westerns when you were growing up? What about western comics?

When I was growing up, Westerns were a staple on TV and in movies, so they were part of everyday life. I liked them fine, watched a lot of them, but I was not fixated on them, so I didn't search out Western comics.

One of your first scripts at Marvel was uncredited, in an issue of Two-Gun Kid. Can you tell us about that?

Not much. I haven't thought about in a very long time. As I recall, Ogden Whitney both drew and wrote the issue, but editor-in-chief Roy Thomas wasn't satisfied with the writing and asked me to massage it.

You’ve said that the Ringo Kid was your favorite of Marvel’s “true cowboy” heroes –why is that?

He had one of the most interesting back stories, along with the Black Rider. The others were all pretty generic. And Ringo's story was told in the 50s, at a high point for Western comics, with art by Joe Maneely. He hadn't been revived in the 60s, when Marvel's emphasis was on superheroes. So getting to revive him sent me straight to the 50s stuff.

In the Avengers story “Go West, Young Gods,” you merged superheroes and cowboys into one tale, doing it again years later in a West Coast Avengers arc that included some controversial elements. How do you think that genre-blending worked? [side note: as a young reader, Avengers 142 blew my mind.]

I think it worked great. I brought the Two-Gun Kid back from the original meet-up because he was the most superhero of the cowboys, and really wanted to explore a man from a simpler time in the modern realm with supervillains - i.e., I would have continued to blend the genres. But I was just too busy right then and couldn’t get to it before I left Marvel the first time. (In 1999, I reworked the idea into a proposal called "Guns of the Y2K" for DC, but they didn't want it.)  

The Avenger Hawkeye was central in both those story arcs- was that a coincidence, or was there something inherent in the character that made him suited to a western setting as well as a modern one?

It was some of both. He just happened to be there, but his arrow thing was the closest to a Western hero so his presence helped shape what I did. 

You collaborated frequently with the late Marshall Rogers. What can you tell us about him?

Marshall was a combination of laid back and obsessive. He was never in any hurry to finish a job, but he wanted everything he did to be the best he could make it. Our last published job together, after doing the unpublished dark detective iii, was BLACK RIDER, an update of the old character. Putting the hero in New York when horses were still on the streets was something we were looking to play with a lot. I do love taking the Westerns out of their established environment. 

Your Native American-themed Coyote has been very influential. Why do you think that is? How did you get the idea for the character? [interesting side note: though their personalities are very different, Coyote and your version of the early Shang-Chi are similar in a lot of ways- I had never noticed that before. The naïve youth, sheltered throughout his life, entering a world he does not understand, etc.]

Well, the Coyote legend obviously predates my take on it, so a lot of credit goes to Paiute spirituality. But the character that came out of that was (a) an actual Native American, and (b) fun. I see where you're going with Shang-Chi, but he was never "fun." He was very composed and committed, while Coyote was always loose, and sometimes too loose. Also, since Coyote is owned by me, he gets to wander through other things I write, but Shang-Chi, most unfortunately, is trapped by the fact that Marvel no longer has the rights to Fu Manchu and so can't be reprinted. 

Is there a western character you haven’t written for that you could see yourself doing, if the opportunity arose?

Not necessarily. But I'll take the opportunity to toss in my Western stories story: one night at a party, I had a long talk with Gil Kane about his many years on Western comics, and he allowed as how his favorite Western writer was Ernest Haycox. I was unfamiliar with Haycox, but I started searching for the old paperbacks. One day, on one of those collector's dream days, I went into a bookstore in Glendale, California, and found that Haycox's agent had just sold them his entire office reference collection of Haycox of paperbacks, which I then bought for myself. Haycox's most famous story became the move Stagecoach, and the interesting thing is, the character (Ringo) that John Wayne played in the film sounded exactly like John Wayne, only the story obviously predated the movie. In my opinion, Wayne based a lot of his persona on Haycox's writing - which went on to inspire Gil Kane - which went on to entertain me. (This was after I had done my Westerns.) So if I did a Western, it'd probably be strongly influenced by Haycox, because that's a pedigree I can believe in.

Finally, are there any new or upcoming projects you’d like to direct our readers’ attention to?

Just my series of novels - Long Man, Plain Man, Arena Man - which have no pictures but still have what I hope are decent stories - and guest appearances by Coyote and Scorpio Rose.

 Many thanks to Steve for his time... go check out his Max August novels!

Also, the Black Rider story he did with Marshall Rogers is reprinted in the very nice hardcover book MARVEL WESTERNS.