Marriage In The Old West: Love, Honor And Obey

B1If random Facebook memes are to be believed, everything about years past was good. That’s what makes them the “good old days”, right? Marriages were stronger. Kids were heartier. Parents were wiser. And advice was just plain better. But was it really?

Some of the people posting those memes on Facebook might want to check out this book of advice for men, written by Rev. George W. Hudson in 1883—The Marriage Guide for Young Men: A Manual of Courtship and Marriage. Today, I would like to share some of Hudson’s “wisdom” along with some of my favorite funny quotes on marriage.

Dearly Beloved, We Are Gathered Here, Today

“By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” ~ Socrates”

B3When you’re all gathering together, pay special attention to the folks who are sitting on the bride’s side of the church. Hudson understood that when you married a woman, you married her family. He understood that because his wife’s no account brother once hid from the law in Hudson’s cabin. That unfortunate incident is probably what led Hudson to write:

If they are of such character as to shame you, it will be very unpleasant for you. You might move away from them and have no intercourse with them. You might get so far away from them that the people about you would not know anything of the family into which you had married.

That was way easier before the internet! Now, try as you might, those pesky in-laws can hunt you down!

To Join This Couple In Holy Matrimony

“I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.” ~Rita Rudner

B4Rita Rudner may love annoying her spouse, but Hudson had no desire to be annoyed by some irritating female. He wrote:

Shun as you would shun death the woman who never agrees with anybody, and who never has a good word for anybody. … True, you cannot always tell by appearances, for Satan often “appears as an angel of light”; but with a little care you can usually determine pretty accurately.

Hmm… Methinks the good minister had been burned before.

To Have and To Hold

“Many a man in love with a dimple makes the mistake of marrying the whole girl.” ~Stephen Leacock.

B5Beauty may be only skin deep, but Hudson still believed it was beneficial to select a bride with certain physical characteristics. He wrote:

Choose for your wife a woman with a full bust and good round limbs, as well as a good, large, well-proportioned head—one who can run and walk and lift a good load. …What if her waist be a little large and her hands too? This is a good fault in a woman who is to become a mother.

Does your woman have giant, man hands? No problem! The better for hauling things and pulling a plow, my dear! And, what was that bit about having a large, well-proportioned head? Hudson had a special theory about that.

B5aWhenever you see a woman with a good, full, round back head, combined with a good front, you may be sure that she is capable of giving a good degree of energy and pluck to her children; and better still, that full back head denotes that she is well sexed, capable of loving husband and children devotedly, and capable of giving her children a good sexual endowment.

Well, alrighty then! It’s not like Hudson instructed men that a well-formed body was the only thing to look for in a woman. But he seemed to think it was one of the more important things. Intelligence was important, but it wasn’t a deal breaker! After all, it really didn’t matter if she was incapable of forming a complete sentence, as long as she had a nice bulbous head and she could haul a load with those man-hands of hers!

For Better, For Worse. For Richer, For Poorer

“Marriage has no guarantees. If that’s what you’re looking for, go live with a car battery.” ~Erma Bombeck

B6There are no guarantees in marriage, but, for the love of all that is good and holy, a man should marry a good cook! If Hudson’s words are to be believed, the way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach:

You will find many who say they can learn to cook: you may be inclined to try one of them. But suppose she should not learn! It is running considerable risk. Think of that fearful period of learning, during which your stomach must be made the receptacle for all sorts of messes, and your home remain in a chaotic state! You may die of dyspepsia, or go mad before she succeeds.

Am I the only one who thinks Hudson was a bit of a drama queen? Hey, at least he didn’t die of dyspepsia!

In Sickness and In Health

“Research has shown that married men live longer than single men. But married men are a lot more willing to die.” ~Johnny Carson

B7Hudson had some special thoughts on the subject of health. It’s not like he was an irrational ogre who felt the sickly had no right to marry. He just thought they should marry each other and not gunk up the more superior bloodlines:

Why should men with good mental endowment, good physique, good lungs and sound in every part, marry poor, sickly, weak-minded, consumptive, scrofulous women, and bring into the world families of children either doomed to sink into premature graves or drag out a sickly, whining existence?

What a humanitarian!

To Love, Honor, and ObeyB10

“Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution.” ~Mae West

I don’t even want to try to analyze this little gem from Hudson’s book:

It is a fact that woman is largely in your power.

Yeah, I’m going to leave that one alone.

‘Til Death Do Us Part

A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.” ~Paul Sweeney

B9Let’s get real. Marriage isn’t always a bed of roses, even if you find a healthy woman who is good cook with a bulbous head. Hudson allowed for that possibility. Paraphrased, his advice might be summed up as: Suck it up, Buttercup! In his own words, he wrote:

Command your affections steadfastly to their lawful object; you can if you will, no matter how unfortunate your married life may prove. Better that you do so, and live in a perfect purgatory, than that you incur the awful disgrace and ruin resulting from the desertion of your wife.

Who wouldn’t want to live in holy purgatory? To quote one more wise man from the good old days, the great Henny Youngman, “The secret of a happy marriage remains a secret.”

But we’ve come a long way since 1883! Watch this short video with some hilarious advice on how to choose a wife, from sociologist Craig Henley, a the man who developed the Universal Hot-Crazy Matrix.

Happy Trails,

Anita Lequoia

Henry O. Flipper, The First African-American Military Officer

Blog1ARemember back in the 1990s, when we didn’t have cell phones that talked to us and gave us directions? We didn’t have GPS units to direct our paths either. Well, some rental cars had GPS units, but family cars didn’t. If you wanted to arrive at a specific destination, you were forced to rely on your keen sense of direction, if you had one, directions from strangers if you didn’t, or maps if you didn’t have a keen sense of direction and refused to ask for help.

It was during those golden-oldie days of the 1990s when I decided that if rental cars could have GPS units, my car could too! I started calling rental car companies to find out how to get one. One company directed me to a small, private airport that could install a fabulous global positioning system in my decidedly non-fabulous car. So, I scheduled an appointment to drop off my average car and have it equipped with a system that looked like it belonged to NASA. Do you remember how awfully big early cell phones were? I can tell you definitively that they had nothing on early GPS units!

The best part about that wooly mammoth of a GPS was that when I got lost due to unforeseen obstacles, the nice “lady in the box” wouldn’t yell at me. She would sweetly say, “Calculating new route.” Today’s Campfire Chronicle is dedicated to Henry O. Flipper—a man who encountered many unforeseen obstacles in his life. He could have spent the rest of his life feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he just calculated a new route. . .a route that took him from slavery, to a university education, to being the first African American to ever graduate from West Point, to being the first African American commissioned military officer in U.S. history, and beyond!

Ready to Navigate

Blog7Henry O. Flipper was born into slavery in Thomasville, Georgia, on March 21, 1856. The next detail I can find about his life is that he attended the American Missionary Association Schools in Georgia, following the Civil War. The American Missionary Schools educated freedmen, Native Americans, and Asians, but they could only teach a small fraction of those groups. The odds of a young former slave receiving any type of formal education were mighty slim, but, as you’re about to learn, Flipper had a way of defying the odds.

Blog1 Flipper went on to attend Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University) during The Reconstruction. As long as he was there, he figured he might as well defy some more odds. So he did when he was appointed to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. He wasn’t the first black man to attend, but he did round out the handful by becoming the fifth.

Blog8Things were about as difficult for the group of black cadets as you might imagine. It was like a real life, more tragic version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” People laughed and called them names and didn’t let them join in the cadet games. All right, so I don’t know that there were any cadet games, but I do know the rest of the students ostracized the group. It couldn’t have been a warm and fuzzy atmosphere. The black cadets were harassed, isolated, and insulted. Most people wouldn’t have been able to take it. But Henry O. Flipper had a destination in mind. In 1877, he became the first African American to graduate from the West Point, earning a commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. One year later, Flipper published his experiences in his book, The Colored Cadet at West Point.

Keep Right at the Fork in the Road

Blog2The first African American commissioned officer in the regular U.S. Army became an officer over Buffalo Soldiers in the Tenth Cavalry. He was first stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and later at Fort Elliott, For Concho, Fort Quitman, Fort Sill, and Fort Davis in Texas. Flipper fought Apache Indians during the Victorio campaign in 1880. He also served as a signal officer and quartermaster. He installed telegraph lines and supervised the building of roads. While at Fort Sill, he oversaw the construction of a drainage ditch to prevent the spread of malaria. “Flipper’s Ditch” is now a National Historic Landmark.

Flipper proved himself to be a dedicated soldier, but he was about to encounter some gargantuan obstacles.

Make a Legal U-Turn

Capt. Nicholas Nolan

Flipper’s military career wasn’t all glitz and glamour of drainage ditches and telegraph lines. There were still prejudices at play and the road Flipper was traveling was full of dangerous twists and turns. There had been warning signs from early on that trouble was on the horizon. When Captain Nicholas M. Nolan allowed Flipper into his quarters for dinner, while his daughter, Kate, was present, Nolan was censured. At the time, Nolan stated that Flipper was an “officer and a gentleman.”

If this were a movie, that “officer and gentleman” line would appear in a few flashback scenes. When Captain Nolan’s sister-in-law, Mollie, came to live in his household at Fort Elliott, Mollie Dwyer and Flipper became friends. They went riding together and exchanged numerous letters. Flipper had always received high marks from Nolan, but when rumors started swirling about Flipper and Mollie, other officers were outraged.

Blog11By 1881, Flipper was stationed at Fort Davis with Colonel William Shafter as commanding officer.  Shafter didn’t take kindly to seeing a black officer.  Shafter asked Flipper to keep the quartermaster’s safe in his quarters. When money was missing, Shafter accused him of embezzling $3,791.77.  Court-martial proceedings found Flipper not guilty of embezzlement, but get this… The letters he had exchanged with Mollie Dwyer were admitted into evidence and he was convicted of “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.”

Calculating New Route

Blog10The first commissioned black officer in the U.S. Army found himself with a dishonorable discharge. It was not the road he had planned on taking. For the rest of his life, he fought clear his name. He wanted the charges dismissed and his rank restored. In 1898, a bill was introduced to Congress, which would have done just that. It did not pass. Several similar bills were later tabled.  Henry O. Flipper died in 1940, having never been vindicated.

If the best revenge is a life well lived, it’s safe to say Flipper accomplished that when he had to calculate a new route for his life. He worked as a civil engineer. He worked as a special agent for the U.S. government on land claims in the southwest. He worked in Mexico as a mining engineer and translated texts on Mexican tax, mining, and land laws. Later, Flipper worked as an engineer with a Venezuelan petroleum company. He even served as assistant to the Secretary of the Interior.

Blog12The memoirs he wrote in 1916 were finally published in 1963 as Negro Frontiersmen: The Western Memoirs of Henry O. Flipper.

You Have Arrived at Your Final Destination

Blog3The fight to clear Flipper’s name didn’t die with him. His descendants picked up the cause. In 1976, the Department of the Army finally granted Henry O. Flipper an honorable discharge, though they said they didn’t have the authority to overturn his court-martial conviction. That same year, West Point unveiled a bust of Flipper. In 1999, 117 years following Flipper’s dismissal from the Army, President Bill Clinton granted him a full pardon.  West Point now presents an annual Henry O. Flipper Award to graduating cadets who exhibit “leadership, self-disciple, and perseverance in the face of unusual difficulties.” You might say that Henry O. Flipper finally arrived at his final destination!

I think that you’ll enjoy this short video about the many accomplishments of Henry O. Flipper.

Happy Trails,

Anita Lequoia

The Crash at Crush, Texas: End of the Line

Blog4This edition of The Campfire Chronicle is a little difficult to categorize, but basically I am thinking that we need to file it under the general category of “WHAT THE HECK WERE THEY THINKING?” This is one of those topics that reads like it must be satire, but it isn’t. In fact, whoever first said that truth is stranger than fiction must have known about a man named William George Crush who is attributed with one of the most disastrous publicity stunts of all time. This story is proof that people have been coming up with misguided ideas for (at least) 109 years longer than YouTube has been in existence.

Train of Thought

Blog6William George Crush was the General Passage Agent for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad (aka the Katy Railroad), but his own personal brand of twisted genius was wasted in that job. When Crush heard about the crowds of people that were attracted to the scene of a horrific train wreck in the Northeast, this P.T. Barnum wannabe had an idea. To paraphrase from my favorite Christmas stealing Grinch, “Then he got an idea! An awful idea! George Crush got a wonderful, awful idea!” He just needed to get his bosses at the Katy Railroad to go along with it.

Blog7So, Crush set about the business of convincing the big mucky mucks that they should let him stage a train wreck—a real, honest-to-goodness, crash, bang, boom, train wreck! Either the railroad officials had been breathing in too many steam engine fumes or Crush was the most persuasive man on the planet, but either way, they went along with one of the most hare-brained schemes of all time. Crush got the green light to stage the head-on collision of two locomotives running at full speed. They reasoned, what could possibly go wrong?

Gravy Train

Blog8The date was set for September 15, 1896. A location about fifteen miles north of Waco, Texas was selected, and a makeshift town was even set up at the site and given the name of Crush. For months, the town’s namesake and his railroad cronies publicized the heck out of the event.

Admission was free, but Crush still managed to turn the event into a gravy train. For a mere $2.00 – – that’s $50.00 in today’s money – – a person could buy a round-trip ticket on the Katy Railroad from anywhere on the Katy line to see the most exciting spectacle Central Texas had ever produced. He also transformed the open fields of Crush, Texas into a veritable carnival. There were lemonade stands, medicine shows, games, cigar stands, sideshows, and a circus tent with a restaurant. To prevent people from keeling over in the late summer sun, there were eight tank cars filled with drinking water. I’m not sure if Crush charged for the H2O, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn he was the first person ever to market that free commodity.

Full Steam Ahead

Blog5On the big day, thousands of thrill seekers arrived by horse and buggy, but that was nothing compared to the number of people who arrived by train. All told, more than 40,000 spectators crowded into the area near the four-mile train track that had been laid for the main event. More than two hundred specially deputized constables maintained law and order. Drunkards and thieves were thrown in a temporary hoosegow in the newly-formed town of Crush..

When it was time for the orchestrated train wreck, general spectators stood far back on a hill. They weren’t allowed within two hundred yards of the track. Safety first! Journalists were allowed to view from a position a little closer to the action.

Blog1Two locomotives—one green and one red—each pulling six cars met at the collision point for a photo op. The cars were plastered with advertisements because George Crush wasn’t one to let an opportunity to make a penny slip through his fingers. When it was time, the trains were backed up to their starting positions.  Crush rode out on a white horse and threw down a white hat as a signal for the sacrificial lambs, er trains, to start their run. The crews jumped from their trains and ran like the dickens to get to safety. I’m a little bit surprised that Crush hadn’t instructed them to strap pillows to their chests and ride it out! Shoot! He could have sold tickets to ride on the trains!

Each train reached a speed of 50mph before…KAPOW!

Crushing Blow

Blog2The trains collided. Well, that had been the general plan, but no one had anticipated that the boiler on each train would explode on impact.  Debris flew everywhere, proving that two hundred yards was not far enough to ensure the safety of spectators. If only there had been some inkling, a little clue perhaps, that an intentional train wreck attended by 40,000 people in an exposed field in Texas was nothing more than just a half-baked idea! Oh, the best laid plans of mice and morons often go awry!

Blog3Three people were killed and many were injured when shards of metal and wood flew through the air like industrial shrapnel. Photojournalist, Jarvis Deane, lost an eye due to a flying bolt. Ever the professional, Deane passed off his camera to a companion and said to keep snapping.

Go Off the Rails

Boy, you make one little mistake…and BAM! Those bigwigs at the Katy Railroad were not patting George Crush on the back and giving him attaboys (at least not publically). You may not believe this, but they had the audacity to fire the great visionary on the evening of the crash. Yes, Crush found himself on the wrong side of the tracks. . .but only for a moment.

Blog10Shockingly, the event received almost no negative press. It’s amazing what people could get away with in the days before social media, late night talk show hosts and 24-hour news channels. Essentially, most of the people who were not killed that day were just happy to have witnessed the fiasco. When the railroad execs saw which way public sentiment was leaning, they rehired George Crush the day after they had fired him. Rumor has it that George Crush may have even received a bonus.

The injured parties and people who had lost a relative that day were not quite so forgiving. Some received cash payments. Some were refunded the $2 they had spent on railway fare to get to Crush, Texas in the first place. Others received lifetime passes on the great Katy Railroad.

End of the Line

George Crush continued to work for the Katy Railroad until his retirement. The “town” of Crush, Texas lasted for less time than George Crush’s unemployment. Crush, Texas no longer exists, but you can visit the spot in what is now West, Texas.

Blog9Scott Joplin, a Texas native and the “King of Ragtime” music, composed “Great Crush Collision March” inspired by the day’s events. It’s a catchy little ditty, but it never gained the notoriety of Joplin’s “The Entertainer” or “Maple Leaf Rag.” It’s fitting that an obscure moment in history has an obscure song to commemorate it.

The next time you find yourself shaking your head at the lunacy in this world, just remember the crash at Crush and know that there is nothing new under the sun. Here’s an interesting video with documentary footage of the actual event. . .I think that you will enjoy it!

Happy Trails,

Anita Lequoia


Marfa, Texas: The Capital of Quirkiness

Blog1How many of you remember watching the TV show Hee Haw? Oh, sure, it was as corny as all get-out, but one of my favorite parts of the show was when they would salute little, out of the way spots. Please tell me you remember when someone on the show would say something like, “Hee Haw salutes my hometown, Podunkville, Alabama, population 1,317!” And then the whole Hee Haw gang would simultaneously rise up out of the cornfield, wave their straw hats in the air and shout, “Sa-Lute!” You see, Hee Haw knew their fan base didn’t live among the skyscrapers and big city lights. Their fan base lived in the small towns and rural communities that make up thousands of little dots on the map.

I love knowing that every one of those little dots on the map has a story to tell. So today, in true Hee Haw fashion, I would like to offer up my own salute to a dot on the map with a tale worth telling. Are ya ready?

The Campfire Chronicle salutes Marfa, Texas, population 1981! Sa-Lute! Grab your straw hats and start waving now! We’re going to find out why a town with a population of under 2,000 people has been featured on 60 Minutes, NPR, and in InStyle magazine. (Now, that’s a claim Podunkville, Alabama can’t make!)

Home on the Range

Blog13Marfa is located about ten miles from the Mexican boarder, in the Chihuahuan Desert. It’s hardly a lush landscape that screams, “Tourist destination!” But it does scream, “1950’s Western movie!” It screamed that so loudly that the exterior scenes of the 1956 movie, Giant, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean were filmed on the outskirts of Marfa. The fact that James Dean’s fatal car crash occurred while Giant was still being filmed, added to its intrigue. Dean fans from around the globe continue to make pilgrimages to this out of the way location.

Blog16Gone With the Wind had Tara. Giant had Reata, a mansion façade standing in the middle of Ryan Ranch, seventeen miles west of Marfa. The house was based on the Victorian era Waggoner Mansion, which still stands in the north Texas town of Decatur. When you compare the photos of Reata when it was a bustling movie set with the ruins of today, there are virtually no similarities. The structure itself is now nothing more than a few boards held together with rusty nails. Yet people still travel to see it.

Blog18The stage play and 1982 film, Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean portrays a group of Dean’s hardcore fans that collect bits of the set from Giant. And, in the 1985 film, Fandango, Kevin Costner and his onscreen buddies take a road trip to Mexico and end up sleeping at the site of Reata’s ruins.

See the Light

Blog4Hollywood stars aren’t the only things that have shined a spotlight on Marfa. For more than one hundred years, mysterious lights have appeared in the West Texas sky above Marfa. The lights were first documented in 1883, when Robert Reed Ellison, a cowhand, saw a light flickering in the sky while he was driving cattle. Fearing it was an Apache campfire he asked if others had seen the light. He learned that local settlers knew about the lights. They had been seeing them since the town was founded, a couple of years earlier. The settlers, too, had assumed the lights were coming from distant campfires. Yet, when they explored the area, there were no ashes or signs of a campsite. And, while settlers thought the lights were Native American campfires, the Native Americans believed the lights were fallen stars. Hmm…

Blog5The lights, which are known as the Marfa lights, the Marfa mystery lights, and the Marfa ghost lights, are described as basketball-sized orbs, which either float above the ground or high in the sky. They are seen as white or in shades of yellow, orange, red, blue, or green. People report that the balls of light hover at shoulder height, move at low speeds or shoot rapidly in any direction. Normally, they’re in pairs or groups. They are said to divide, merge, disappear, reappear, move randomly, or move in patterns. They can last for an instant or for hours on end. Well, that seems to cover just about any option!

Pilots, during World War II, were unsuccessful in their attempts to find the source of the lights. There are many theories about them. They are said to be everything from UFOs, to the ghosts of Spanish conquistadors—everything from a mirage, to glowing gasses, to the distant lights of cars. I don’t know what to think, but I’m pretty sure there were no cars zipping around Marfa in the 1880s.

There doesn’t seem to be a pattern to the sightings, but the Marfa Chamber of Commerce has an annual Marfa Lights Festival, one weekend a year. The city has erected a permanent viewing platform for the curious, even though the lights only appear on average of about a dozen nights each year. It is a popular spot with scientists, photographers, and paranormal seekers alike.

Oh Marfa, Where Art Thou?

Blog6If you’re thinking Marfa is merely a place to go stare at a few old boards or some dancing lights in the sky, think again. Marfa is a cultural hub for contemporary art. Say what? It’s true!

In 1971 minimalist artist, Donald Judd, moved from New York City to Marfa. He left SoHo in search of space. He found space for as far as the eye can see. Judd purchased two large hangars, as well as some smaller buildings and set about permanently installing his art. He continued expanding, snatching up space as opportunities arose. He displayed large collections of art by various artists, allowing people to experience it outside of a museum setting. Judd passed away in 1994, but not without leaving behind rules on how the public can interact with his work. The Chinati Foundation and the Judd Foundation control his work and uphold his wishes.

Blog2Judd opened the floodgates for artists seeking a different kind of life. Marfa is now a sort of West Texas art mecca. It is home to the notable Prada, Marfa, which is a faux Prada boutique displaying real luxury handbags and shoes. It is also home to more food trucks than you can shake a stick at.


I’ve been trying to find an adequate way to describe what it is like to experience this place, but the best I can think of is that it is sort of like Portlandia and Bonanza had a love child and named it Marfa! Here’s to Marfa! Sa-Lute!

But hey, judge for yourself in this great video from 60 Minutes!

Happy Trails,

Anita Lequoia