Brad Woodard, A Voice for the Voiceless

Brad WoodardWhen other little girls had crushes on Hollywood heartthrobs, I largely reserved my affection for journalists. I thought Walter Cronkite was the bee’s knees. Yes, I was a peculiar child, but I’ve always loved knowledge and those who share it. And I’ve particularly always loved journalists who were a voice for those who couldn’t speak for themselves. So, when the world loses a fine and caring journalist, I can’t help but feel as if my younger self was just dealt a devastating blow. Such a blow just came when the world lost reporter Brad Woodard, who passed away earlier this month.

Brad Woodard never attained Cronkite-like fame, but that didn’t seem to matter to him. He told the stories that he wanted to tell. He spoke out on behalf of abused and neglected horses, dogs, cats and on behalf of people in need . . . he was the voice for the voiceless.  It’s easy to discount someone who loved doing animal stories as a fluff journalist, but Woodard was far from that.

Breaking News

Brad WoodardBrad Woodard passed away shortly before his 52nd birthday, but he still accomplished a great deal during his professional career. Woodard worked in Savannah, GA, Nashville, TN, Minneapolis, MN, and most recently, in Houston, TX. He spent time anchoring, producing, reporting and scriptwriting.

Brad WoodardHe was the winner of twenty-six Emmy Awards, seven National Genesis Awards, three National Press Club Awards, a Sigma Delta Chi Award, New York Festivals World Medal, a National Epilepsy Foundation Distinguished Journalism Award, numerous regional awards, and a National Edward R. Murrow Award. Two of his National Press Club Awards were for his reporting on animal issues.

Woodard’s segments appeared on NBC’s “Today” show almost 200 times, as well as other national programs. How did a local reporter achieve such acclaim? The answer to that question is simple. He did it one heartfelt story at a time!

Just Say, “Whoa!”

Brad WoodardCoworkers at KHOU-TV in Houston jokingly referred to Woodard as the “Pet Detective.” That nickname was not without justification. Woodard filmed multiple stories about the thousands of U.S. horses being slaughtered for meat. In 2006, he made people aware of the fact that two companies in Texas served as slaughter facilities that provided horsemeat to Japan and European countries. And, in future years, he reported on the fact that U.S. horses continue to be transported to Mexican slaughterhouses, where tens of thousands are slaughtered for meat.

Horse NeglectIn 2009, when horse neglect in Texas skyrocketed, Woodard was there with the stories. A lagging economy and drought in a state where the horse population nears one million created the perfect storm for equine neglect. While some were advocating for horse slaughter, Woodard’s stories brought the attention back to the problems associated with over-breeding.

Brad WoodardNot all of Woodard’s horse stories were tales of horror. He also did uplifting stories like the one about a quarter horse named Indio. Indio was at the Equine Recovery Center in Dickinson, TX. He had a suffered a serious injury that would have normally resulted in him being euthanized. Instead, a portion of a hind leg was amputated and replaced with a prosthetic. One of the co-founders of the Equine Recovery Center, Steve Saltzmann, is a veteran of the Iraq war and suffered from PTSD. He credited Indio with helping to lift his spirits.

In 2012, when ninety horses were rescued from their flooding stables, Woodard was there. Where else would he have been?

Getting the Scoop on Dog Stories

Annaleise KimmellOne of Woodard’s favorite stories was about young Annaleise Kimmell who used her sixth birthday party as a means to help homeless dogs. Instead of birthday gifts, she requested that guests to her superhero-themed party bring donations to help the Melrose Park Neglected Dogs Project in Houston. Two fully loaded SUVs delivered the supplies purchased with Annaleise’s birthday money. And Woodard was wise enough to note that the girl in the superhero costume was a real live hero.

Blog4It was not uncommon for Woodard to spend months investigating a story. Such was the case with a puppy mill in Panola County, TX. Using a hidden camera, he documented the neglect of the dogs in their grim conditions. Needing more evidence, Woodard purchased two of the dogs and had them examined by a veterinarian. Lest you think it was all a part of the job, Woodard named the puppies Polly and Lucy and helped them find their forever homes. It wasn’t enough for Woodard’s findings to provide enough information to have the puppy mill shut down. He also found evidence linking the mill to a Houston pet store.

Woodard’s story on dog fighting aired nationally on CBS News in 2007. The graphic images were difficult to watch. But Woodard understood that people needed to be made aware of the underbelly of society. He seemed to feel that the majority of mankind is good at heart and, if he just told them about the atrocities, people would rise up and demand action. How can we change what we do not know exists?

When owners of a home in an upscale neighborhood in a Houston suburb crossed the line from dog breeding to animal hoarding, Brad Woodard was there to tell story and to the bring attention to the rescued dogs. He knew that media attention was the best way to find them loving families and better living conditions.

Brad WoodardAnother upbeat story of Woodard’s featured an organization called PAWS Houston. Rather than bring in therapy dogs to hospital patients, PAWS brings in the patients’ very own pets. Of course that would have been a story that would have appealed to an animal lover like Brad Woodard.


Brad WoodardIt was two years ago when Woodard filmed the story of “bee wrangler,” Jennifer Scott, who relocates colonies of bees to areas where they are needed. Whether Woodard was bringing viewers stories to spur them into action or stories to make them feel a little better about our world, I would like to go on record as saying that I think Brad Woodard was the bee’s knees! He will be missed.

Here’s a great retrospective on Brad’s career that I think you will enjoy.

Happy Trails,

Anita Lequoia

Tom Mix: Fact or Fiction?

Tom MixWhen I was a kid, summer meant no school—none, nada, zippo, zilch! Today, kids are sent home with packets of work to be completed over summer break and a reading list that doesn’t include comic books. Now, I’m all for preventing young brains from turning to mush, but I also really loved those summers spent riding horses, swimming in lakes, spitting watermelon seeds, catching lightning bugs in empty mayonnaise jars, and licking the paddle from a freezer of homemade ice cream. So, I’m torn. That’s why I decided to come up with a little Campfire Chronicle summertime homework packet for y’all!  It will help to prevent the horrors of mush-brain, but I’ve also included the answers, so you’ll have plenty of time for the joys of summer.

Since I have mixed feelings about homework, I feel the perfect subject for this summer project is none other than cowboy icon and Hollywood movie star Tom Mix! My favorite Tom Mix quote is, “The Old West is not a certain place in a certain time… It’s a state of mind. It’s whatever you want it to be.” If you spend any time investigating the life of Tom Mix, you will find yourself sifting through a heap of fabricated stories. The remarkable thing is that the person responsible for most of those fabrications was none other than Tom Mix himself! He believed his life story was whatever he wanted it to be! Let’s start sifting through those stories, shall we?

Required Reading

Tom MixThomas Hezikiah Mix was born on January 6, 1880 in Mix Run, Pennsylvania.  He grew up a carefree kid, riding horses and was a natural showman. As an adult, Mix had a steady stream of jobs. One of those jobs led from ranch work to performing in a Wild West show. He found that he loved performing as much as he loved being a cowboy. And like many cowboys of his era, he was able to transition from performing in Wild West shows to the Hollywood silver screen.

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Tom Mix appeared in 291 films, 282 of which were silent movies. His horse, Tony, shared the screen with him in thirty-six of those films. Mix became one of the highest paid movie stars of his day, and the highest paid cowboy star of the era. He eventually earned over $17,000 a week. In terms of constant dollars, that is $242,173.65. . .per week!!!   He liked to make money and he also liked to spend money!

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Tom MixMix was killed in a car accident near Florence, Arizona, on October 12, 1940, when he came upon a washed out bridge. Witnesses said that he had been speeding and was unable to stop in time. He was pinned in his car, but it was a suitcase full of cash that did him in. He died when an aluminum suitcase filled with money, traveler’s checks and jewelry flew forward from the backseat and hit him in the head, proving that while you can’t take it with you, it can take you!

There is a Tom Mix memorial near the site of the crash. The larger than life movie star was buried in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California, a few days after the accident.

True and False Questions that Have Nothing to Do with the Required Reading

  1. Tom Mix grew up on a ranch near El Paso, Texas. —False. His family lived in Pennsylvania throughout his childhood. That didn’t keep him from embellishing in his autobiography with anything he felt would enhance his cowboy image!
  2. Tom Mix served at a pallbearer at the funeral of legendary lawman, Wyatt Earp. —True. Yep. That really happened. Mix is on the far right in this photo of the pallbearers.
  3. Tom Mix fought with the Rough Riders in the Battle of San Juan Hill. —False. He did ride in President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1905 inaugural parade, with a group of fifty horsemen. That’s as close as he came to being a Rough Rider.
  4. Tom Mix was an Army deserter. —True. Surprise! Mix joined the Army in 1898. He served for three years and then reenlisted for another three years. Army records indicate that he deserted before the completion of the second three years. He was listed as AWOL, but was never court-martialed.
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  5. Tom Mix served with the Texas Rangers. —False. He was never actually a Texas Ranger, but, in 1935, Texas Governor, James Allred, made Tom Mix an honorary Ranger.
  6. A photo of Tom Mix appears on the sleeve of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. —True. His image appears on the third row of celebrities, sandwiched between the likes of Marlon Brando and Oscar Wilde. Hint: Mix is the one in the cowboy hat!
  7. Tom Mix did all of his own stunts. —True. And False. From 1910 until 1933, he did all of his own stunts. In 1935, at the age of 55, Tom Mix finally had a stunt double. George Marshall, who directed Mix in two films in the 20s, said that Mix did, “all his own stunts—the horse falls, crashing through glass windows on horseback, and so on. There was no imitation glass during this period either and they didn’t dig up the ground to spot a fall. Wherever they were shooting that’s where you fell.”
  8. John Wayne credited Tom Mix with mentoring him. —False. John Wayne frequently told interviewers that Tom Mix had not been kind to him when he was trying to break into the business. However, he didn’t speak about that until after Tom Mix’s death. Mix did help young John Wayne get his first job with Fox studios as a prop man on the film, “Great K & A Train Robbery.”
  9. Tom Mix starred in the Ralston-Purina Tom Mix radio series. —False. Although he gave his permission for the series, Mix did not appear on the broadcasts, which aired from 1933 through the early 1950s. Ralston-Purina also printed a series of twelve Tom Mix comic books.

Multiple Choice Question with a Rambling Explanation Following the Answer

1. Tom Mix was married to:

  • Grace Allin
  • Kitty Perrine
  • Olive Stokes
  • Victoria Forde
  • Mabel Hubbell Ward
  • All of the above

The answer is: f) All of the above.

The rambling explanation is:

Mix married Grace Allin while on furlough from the Army in 1902. It was at that point that he went AWOL. Mix and Grace moved to Indian Territory. While there, he did everything from tending bar in what is now Guthrie, OK, to working in a cement plant, to performing in the 101 Wild West Show. Grace returned to her parents’ home in 1903. Her father had the marriage annulled.

Kitty Perrine became Mrs. Mix in 1905. She became the former Mrs. Mix in 1906.

Olive StokesIn 1909, Mix married Olive Stokes (on the right in this photo.) Olive was part Cherokee. Although she hailed from Oklahoma, Olive and Mix had first met at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. At the time of that first meeting, Olive had been 17-yrs-old. The story goes that Will Rogers first introduced the couple. Is that true? Who knows! Olive, a beautiful cowgirl, seemed like the ideal wife for Tom, the handsome cowboy. The two had one child, Nadine Ruth Jane Mix in 1912. But the match was not to last. They divorced in 1917.

Mix15NEXT! Next up on the bridal roster was Victoria Forde. Mix married actress Victoria Forde, in 1918. The two had met when Mix was still married to Olive. The pair made at least fifty-five shorts together. I say, “at least fifty-five” because I got tired of counting after fifty-five! Victoria retired from acting shortly after she became Mrs. Tom Mix. She became mother to Tom’s second daughter, Thomasina “Tommie” Mix, in 1922. Victoria spent her time promoting Tom’s films and enjoying the Hollywood high life. The two divorced in 1931.

Tom MixLast on the long list of Tom Mix’s wives was Mabel Hubbell Ward. They married in Mexico in February of 1932. Mabel was a famous circus aerialist. Since Tom was a circus owner at that point, it was a match made in Big Top heaven. The two were married until Tom’s death in 1940.


This concludes your Tom Mix homework packet. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. But school is out now, and I’m ready for a freezer full of homemade ice cream!

Here’s a wonderful documentary about Tom Mix with early archival footage… I know you’ll enjoy it!

Happy Trails,
Anita Lequoia

“TEXAS”: A Little Bit About a Big Production

Texas, the musicalEverything’s bigger in Texas—including the entertainment. So, when Texans get together and decide to put on a show, you can bet it will be a humdinger! For forty-nine summers, people have been gathering in Palo Duro Canyon, in the Texas Panhandle, for a musical production that is impressive, even by Texas standards. The production is simply called, “TEXAS.” (Apparently, Texans don’t like to waste time on superfluous words, when using the caps lock can convey appropriate enthusiasm!)

I thought about waiting until next year to write a story about this magnificent production with the simple name. After all, next year will mark the 50th season of “TEXAS.” But, to be perfectly honest, I don’t trust myself to remember. That’s why I’m going to do it a year early!

Reader’s Digest Version of How “TEXAS” Came to Be

Mararet HarperIt was 1960 when Margaret Harper spotted an article in Reader’s Digest about Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Paul Green. Among other things, Green was known for creating what he called, “symphonic drama.” He took historical events, threw in music and a heaping helping of “wow factor” and turned the whole shebang into outdoor productions. Harper wrote to Green and the two began corresponding.

Paul Green

Oh, this wasn’t a romantic correspondence. Margaret Harper had something else up her sleeve. Green lived in North Carolina and many of his plays were about his home state that he so loved. Margaret Harper loved Texas. More specifically, she loved the Palo Duro Canyon area. She told Green all about the nation’s second largest canyon. She told him about the people who lived in the area. Then she went in for the big sell! She wanted an outdoor theater. She wanted a grand production in Texas’ answer to the Grand Canyon! She formed a group of like-minded individuals and they funded Paul Green’s first visit to Palo Duro Canyon.

Palo Duro Canyon

Palo Duro CanyonThe plan worked. The group showed him around the Palo Duro Canyon area and he liked what he saw. What he saw was the sort of scenery that can’t be duplicated by even the most skilled paper mache artist in the world! He saw a natural backdrop that was ideal for a production the size of  “TEXAS.” Paul Green committed himself to penning the project. Things were looking good. There was a location. There was a Pulitzer Prize winner playwright. Now, there just needed an amphitheater!

Margaret Harper’s group expanded. They brought in interested parties from around the Texas Panhandle. The Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation was formed and fundraising efforts went into overdrive. And pretty soon, The Pioneer Amphitheater, was built, tucked at the base of a canyon wall, and in 1962 it opened with the Western musical, “Fandangle.” In the summer of 1966, the long-awaited “TEXAS,” opened, to rave reviews.


A Little Bit about a Big Production

“TEXAS” tells the story of fictional characters woven with threads of real Texas history. The play opens with the spellbinding sight of a lone rider making his way to the edge of the canyon wall, holding the flag of the Lone Star state. This musical drama tells about the struggles and triumphs of settlers to the Texas Panhandle, in the 1800s. There’s plenty of singing and dancing, and although it’s a drama, there’s also a heaping helping of humor.


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As in any good musical, there’s a love story. This one happens to be between a dirt farmer named Calvin and a big city girl named Elsie. I don’t want to give anything away, but Calvin must contend with prosperous cattle ranchers as he pushes for the railroad to come through. It’s a good, old-fashioned, Western nail biter!

Don’t think the show skimps on special effects, just because it is outdoors. Heck, no! Not in the great State of Texas! The lighting and special effects are first-rate. And the show ends with a fireworks display, when conditions allow.

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Tips to Make Your Trip More Enjoyable

Texas“TEXAS” runs during the summer months, six nights a week, dark only on Mondays.  Reservations are recommended, and tickets are doggone reasonable, ranging from $29.95-$11.95. For just a few dollars more, you can enjoy a behind the scenes tour, prior to the show. Rain checks are offered if the show is cancelled due to inclement weather. Here’s their website, stop by for a visit!

While you’re at it, make a reservation for the pre-show barbecue dinner! Even if you skip the dinner of brisket, sausage, ham and all the trimmings, you’ll want to arrive early enough to enjoy the theater courtyard filled with live music. Wait a minute! I just reread that. Why would anyone want to skip a Texas barbecue dinner? That’s crazy talk!

Texas PromoRemember that the show is in Texas, and it’s summer! For the uninitiated, that means HEAT, and plenty of it! Leave your big city clothes at home and dress for comfort. This is not some stodgy event attended by men dressed like Mr. Monopoly and women in evening gowns! This is a time to skip the cologne and grab the mosquito repellent instead. You’ll want that! Oh, yeah! And maybe a battery operated fan. Did I mention the heat?

Palo Duro CanyonAs long as you’re seeing the show, you might as well spend some time in the area. Texas’ miniature version of the Grand Canyon has roadways that allow you to drive all the way down to the canyon floor. You can spend time hiking, horseback riding or biking. Again, let me just mention that it is Texas. It is summer. It is hot. You’ll want to pace yourself!

Blog13You can round out your visit to Palo Duro Canyon by renting a cabin. The canyon boasts cozy stone cabins built in the 1930s. They’re charming, and, if you ask me, they are downright luxurious compared to sleeping in a tent!

Avoid the Rush!

The Pioneer Amphitheater was named one of the country’s “10 Best Outdoor Concert Venues You Shouldn’t Miss” by USA Today. And, I really agree, you shouldn’t miss it. Go celebrate the 50th season of “TEXAS” a year early and avoid the rush! You’ll be glad you did!

Here’s a great video that will give you a much better idea of what the extravaganza known  as “TEXAS” is really like !

Happy Trails,

Anita Lequoia

Mattie Silks, Frontier Entrepreneur

Mattie SilksI don’t know about you, but when summer rolls around, I find myself wanting to settle down with a fun read. For nine months out of the year, I have a desire to read superb literature. You can quiz me on the great authors. Really, I’m no slouch. But, there’s something about summer that makes me want to toss Tolstoy aside, grab a trashy novel and lose myself in pages that are more likely to speak of heaving bosoms than war and peace. Summer is a time for guilty pleasures. That’s what has inspired this edition of the Campfire Chronicle. Today, we’re going to talk about Mattie Silks.

Mattie Silks was a gal who made a name for herself. Now, I didn’t say she made a good name for herself! She was what you might call an entrepreneur. She was also what you might call a madame. In fact, Mattie Silks was one of the more notable madames of the 19th century. (For the purposes of this post, I will use the spelling “madame” versus “madam,” because that is the spelling Mattie preferred. She said it was “tonier!”)

Young Entrepreneur

It is believed that Mattie Silks was born in the Midwest, in 1846. We don’t know her birth name, and really, it doesn’t matter. As I’ve already said, she made a name for herself!

She was not a youth who floundered around trying to find herself. She required no career counseling. When she was eighteen or nineteen-years-old she was already running a brothel in Springfield, Illinois. She heeded the call to “Go West, young madame!” and took her show on the road!

Mattie SilksWith a tent and several beautiful girls, she made her way through Missouri and Kansas. She operated a brothel in Dodge City, Kansas before ultimately settling in Colorado, but not before trudging as far north as The Yukon. When opportunity knocked, Mattie Silks pitched her tent and was open for business, and opportunity did a quite lot of knocking!

Mattie Silks House of Mirrors

Mattie Silks was a visionary. She could see that Denver was a boomtown and made the most of it by moving her business out of a tent and into a parlor house. She opened her first house on what is now known as Market Street (formerly, Holladay Street,) and her timing couldn’t have been better.

Denver - 1879By 1879, Denver had a population of almost 36,000. It was filled with saloons, gambling establishments and brothels. It was also filled with miners who had money in their pockets. By 1887, Denver’s population had skyrocketed to 96,000. The trains were running. Land values soared. It was a profitable time and a great place to be a madame!

Mattie SilksShe owned several parlor houses in town, but in 1911, Mattie bought the most la-di-da parlor house in the whole ding-dang town! She bought the “House of Mirrors,” which had been built by Jennie Rogers, another well-known madame. The House of Mirrors was about as different from a tent as you could get. It was a lavish space filled with carvings, fine furnishings and a parlor with mirror-covered walls. She purchased the house for $14,000.

Working Girls

Unlike most madames of the day, Mattie Silks started off in a managerial position. She did not get her start in the brothel equivalent of the mailroom. She said it was because no man could afford her. She prided herself on running high quality establishments in a very businesslike way. Patrons entered her establishment, purchased a token and surrendered it to the lady of choice. It was accounting, Wild West style!

Mattie Silks' tokens

Her girls were said to be the most beautiful and the best dressed. The girls were allowed to “keep” half their pay, but they were required to pay for room and board. Board included two big meals a day. They were also expected to purchase their fancy wardrobes. Overall, though, they were much better off than most prostitutes.

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How to Succeed in Business

When a newspaper heard that Mattie Silks might not be long to this world, they hit her up for an interview. She lived for several more years, but that interview gave a lot of insight into Mattie’s career path.

She said:

“I went into the sporting life for business reasons and for no other. It was a way for a woman in those days to make money, and I made it. I considered myself then, and I do now, as a businesswoman. I operated the best houses in town and I had as my clients the most important men in the West. I kept the names of my regular customers on a list. I never showed that list to anyone—nor will I tell you the names now. If a man did not conduct himself as a gentleman, he was not welcome nor ever permitted to come again. My customers knew I would not talk about them and they respected me for this. My houses were well kept and well furnished. They had better furnishing than any of my competitors.”

In defense of her chosen profession, she added:

“I never took a girl into my house who had not previous experience of life and men. That was a rule of mine. Most of the girls had been married and had left their husbands—or else they had become involved with a man. No innocent young girl was ever hired by me. And they came to me for the same reasons that I hired them. Because there was money in it for all of us.”

Mattie also pointed out that some of her “girls” married customers. She seemed quite proud of the fact that they were good wives.

Go Big or Go Home

Mattie SilksMattie’s personal life was filled with ups and downs. Mattie fell for Cortez D. Thompson, a scoundrel of a gambler, in 1877. There was a love triangle (or a love square if you count Thompson’s wife!) involving Mattie, Katie Fulton, who was another prominent madame, and Thompson. Mattie and Katie were involved in the only known pistol duel between women. Mattie fired a shot, but missed her target and the bullet ended up grazing Cortez Thompson’s neck! He married Mattie anyway—three days after the death of his wife. Thompson died in 1900 and Mattie threw her full focus on her businesses.

In 1915, the federal government closed Mattie Silks’ House of Mirrors. Mattie was in her late 60s at the time. Mattie claimed that she made over $2,000,000 in her lifetime. Besides her brothels, she was also a real estate investor. She enjoyed traveling and lived life on a grand scale. What was the good of having money if she wasn’t going to spend it? Mattie did spend it. She spent a LOT of it! At her time of death, her estate was said to have consisted of $6,500 in cash, $4,000 in property and $2,500 in jewelry.

Mattie married her accountant, Jack Ready, in 1923. They were married for 6 years before Mattie died following a fall. She was 83-years-old. Mattie is buried next to her first husband, Cortez Thompson. Her tombstone reads, “Martha A. Ready.”

Martha A. Ready - aka Mattie Silks

If you’re ever in Denver, you might want to drop into Mattie’s House of Mirrors. It is now a restaurant and banquet hall. The facility’s Red Light Lounge is open to the public on Friday and Saturday nights. It is said that the ghosts of Mattie’s girls still reside in the House of Mirrors. As for Mattie, she has not been spotted. But that name that she made for herself as Mattie Silks, the queen of guilty pleasures, lives on.

Happy Trails,
Anita Lequoia