Author Archives: Sundown Trail

About Sundown Trail

Walt Ryan has lived and worked where history happened - frontier ranches, trails, and frontier towns. Follow him as he revisits those places.

The Ferguson Tractor


The tractor above is a 1951 Ferguson built in Detroit, Michigan. My wife’s parents purchased it new in 1951 or 1952. It was made several years before Ferguson sold his Detroit plant to Massey Harris. I restored it the year after I retired from my job. I replaced the tires, radiator, electrical wiring. and manifold. The four cylinder Continental engine purrs like a happy kitten. I still use the tractor to blade the drive way and pull stumps. It is as handy as a pocket in a shirt. I attached a Merry Christmas from the Sundown Trail Blog sign board, and drove the tractor in the local Christmas parade this year.


Categories: Missouri, tractor | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Handmade Turkey Calls and Memories

I sell handmade bookends and turkey calls at the booth when I do a book signing, and people really seem to like them.  My daughter encouraged me to open an Etsy store and make my handmade items available nationwide.  She asked me how I started making turkey calls, and I thought I’d share the story with the readers of the Sundown Trail as well.

To visit my Etsy store, you can click here: Sundown Trail Trading Post on



In 1970, my wife and I moved to Fredericktown, a small town in Southeast Missouri.  I had accepted a job offer with an electric cooperative headquartered there.  We found the town and area people to be friendly and sociable.  We made many friends in Fredericktown and enjoyed our time there.

The Clark National Forest (now called Mark Twain National Forest), interspersed with small farms and towns, made up much of the area.  The tree-covered mountains, lush green valleys, and clear streams surrounded by granite outcroppings are very scenic.  It offered good deer, turkey, and waterfowl hunting.

At church I met a senior citizen named Elmer Wulfert.  I was in my thirties, and an enthusiastic hunter.  Elmer was retired, and having lived there all his life, knew the area well.  We hunted and fished together, when I could find the time.  We mostly hunted ducks on the area lakes and streams.  Elmer introduced me to turkey hunting.  He was a craftsman, and he made a fine turkey call for me.

The call was a well-made cedar paddle box call.  I was very proud of it.  A few days later Elmer and I were hunting some rough terrain on a mountain in Madison County.  We finished the morning’s hunt.  I had stowed the turkey call in my hunting jacket pocket.  Elmer and I started the trek back to the pickup parked on an access road.  We dropped into a hollow, traveled up a ridge, and walked through lots of timber before reaching the truck.  As I took off my coat, I discovered that my box call was missing.  We immediately returned to the woods and backtracked our route out.  The call was nowhere to be found.  I went back the next day and tried again to find the call.  No luck!

Elmer said not to worry, he would give me another one.  And he did.  When I look at my old well-worn calls, I think of Elmer, my friend from long ago.  I remember that a deteriorated old cedar box call lays mouldering in the leaves, and underbrush, somewhere on the west slope of Cedar Mountain in Madison County Missouri.

And I remember Elmer Wulfert as one of the best friends I have made along the Sundown Trail.


Sadly, I do not have any pictures of Elmer and me. I did find this picture taken at church of Elmer and his wife Bertilee.

Turkey calls that Elmer gave me. The two on the left are scratch calls operated with the piece of slate. The right one is the box call he gave me to replace the call I lost on Cedar Mountain.

Categories: hunting, Missouri, times gone by | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Warm Memories

The church and school Christmas programs were over and we had settled in for the holiday.  Eight to ten inches of snow fell a couple days before Christmas.  Windblown drifts crusted by a freezing rain shut everything down.  We were able to feed the livestock and do the chores slipping and sliding around with the old tractor.  In the early 1950’s, four-wheel drive pickups and ATVs were not in existence.

In the late afternoon on Christmas Eve, Mom discovered we were out of coffee.  That was not good.  Coffee was a staple item around our house.  We lived about a mile and a half from a little country store called Portia.  It was always open for business and there was coffee there.  It was too dangerous for us to use the saddle horses.  Dangerous for them and us.  We finished the chores and Dad and I decided to walk to Portia.

The ice-crusted snow held me up, but sometimes Dad broke through and went deeper than his four-buckle overshoes.  We hiked along and soon we were there.  Like most country stores of times gone by, Portia had a fair-sized pot-bellied stove in the middle of the store.  When we opened the door, there sat several of our neighbors with chairs pulled up around the stove.  They too, had made a last minute Christmas Eve walk to shop at Portia store.

After visiting awhile, Dad purchased a pound of coffee and we hiked back home.  I have always remembered how the house looked in the dusk as we made our way back up the driveway.  Mom had just stoked the fires and the smell of oak wood smoke told us that warmth was there.  The sight of the light shining through the frosted kitchen window panes is vivid in my mind.  For my two younger sisters and me, homemade cookies and candy awaited.  And coffee with breakfast on Christmas morning was assured…

May your day be filled with warm mugs, warm kitchens, and warm hearts.  Merry Christmas from our house to yours.

Categories: Missouri, times gone by | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Dewey-Berry Gun Battle In Cheyenne County, Kansas

Sometimes it is hard to understand why men do the things they do.  In the case of the Dewey-Berry feud, I am reminded of an old English proverb: “He that seeks trouble always finds it.”

The violent showdown between Chancy Dewey and the Berry family happened June 3, 1903.  The shootout occurred in the southeast section of Cheyenne County, Kansas.  It is sometimes labeled, “The last wild west shootout between ranchers and settlers.”

These two pictures of the Alpheaus Berry homestead are reenactment pictures taken a few days after the fight, by an entrepreneur. They have value to us in that we can see the harshness of the land and the hard times the Berrys were experiencing. The tip of the wind vane of the wind mill can be seen in the top left corner of the photo, and the water pipe from the windmill can be seen running into a makeshift trough where the former water tank was.

This photo shows men down and a horse depicting Dewey’s dead horse. The horse’s left foot and leg are pulled forward and its head and forelegs tied down to that leg. That is how they got him to lay still.


My parents’ families arrived in Cheyenne County about 1915-1920.  The story of the Dewey-Berry Fight was still being told locally.  I cannot remember when I first heard it.  I have been in that section of the county along Beaver Creek when I was very young.  I don’t remember visiting the exact location of the Alpheaus Berry homestead.  A Google fly-over indicates a modern dry-land farming operation there today.

By the 1880’s the Native Americans had been pushed onto reservations, and the buffalo were almost just a memory.  The vast expanse of fertile Western Kansas land first attracted the cattle ranchers and cattle trail drivers. The trail drivers route called The Western Trail entered Cheyenne County from the south. The trail proceeded north through the county and on to Ogallala, Nebraska.

The area was opened to homesteaders in 1885.  Cheyenne County applied for county status in 1886.  The vast flatland plains and rolling hills grew the short, thick, but nutritious, high protein, Buffalo grass.  The river and creek bottoms grew the taller Blue-stem grasses.

The settlers in that area were of a diverse origin: English, Scotch, Irish, French, Swiss, German, and German/Russian.  The large group of German/Russian ethnicity were mostly from the Ukraine.  They no doubt recognized wheat land when they saw it.  The settlers were hard working, devout, and determined to succeed.  They probably did not know how capricious the High Plains weather could be!

The earlier cattlemen took advantage of the vast open range to pasture cattle brought north from Texas.  The inevitable clash between cattle baron and settler was bound to happen in Western Kansas.


The Berry family had migrated from the eastern states to settle in Rawlins, Cheyenne and neighboring counties in the mid 1880’s.  I do not know the year exactly.  I do know that Cheyenne County was established in 1886.  The Alpheaus Berry farm was located in the southeast area of Cheyenne County.  Alpheaus’s farm was surrounded on all sides by land owned by the Dewey’s Oak Ranch.

The Dewey’s Oak Ranch headquarters was located near Atwood in Rawlins County.  The Dewey family roots were in Cadiz, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois.  The father, C.P. Dewey, was a lawyer and wealthy industrialist in Cadiz.  At the time it was a common thing to see rich Easterners dabbling in the ranching business.  The Dewey operation bought up homestead land at every opportunity.  The wealthy brother of John A. Rockefeller was attempting to develop a large ranch in the the same general area as the Deweys.  At the same time C. P. and his son Chauncey Dewey were fighting the homesteaders, they were fighting with the Rockefellers in and out of court.  Dewey sent heavily armed men to cut the Rockefeller fences as soon as they put them up.

In 1899, C. P. Dewey sent his 22-year-old son Chauncey to run the Oak Ranch.  The Chicago and European educated Chauncey immediately proclaimed that they intended to own all the land between Atwood, Kansas and the Colorado line.  That would have been a concern for the residents of Sherman and Cheyenne Counties.

The Berry family had suffered the ravages of drought, winter blizzards, and crop damage by Oak Ranch cattle.  The Berry boys had a reputation of being tough and surly.  They went armed, and were known to have thrown a few rifle shots over the heads of Oak Ranch cowboys that got a little too close to the homestead.

Young Chauncey promptly issued new double-action Colt revolvers to his cowboys.  They were instructed to carry both the revolvers and repeating rifles.

Chauncey Dewey purchased and issued to his cowhands Colt double-action revolvers such as this one. The revolver was made in two calibers. The .41 caliber was called “The Thunderer” and the .38 caliber was called, “The Lightning.” Dewey issued the .41 cal. to his employees and he carried a .38 cal. The revolver pictured here is a .38 cal. Lightening. Dewey was an expert with his Lightning.

The quarreling continued over land rights, cut fences, and damaged crops. Apparently the Berrys planted a crop on some Dewey land and the Oak Ranch won a property rights suit against the Berrys.  The court awarded a settlement to the Oak Ranch.  The Sheriff was instructed to proceed with attachment.  The May 14, 1903 issue of the Cheyenne County Rustler newspaper carried a Sheriff’s Notice announcing that Sheriff McCulloch would hold a public auction at the Alpheaus Berry farm at 2 p.m. on June 2.  One 12 ft. Goodhue windmill and one 15 barrel wood stock tank would be sold to the highest bidder.


I have wondered why the windmill and tank were chosen as the auction items.  They may have been the only thing free of debt.  The windmill and water tank would of course, be critical items to the homestead.  The Berrys were suffering from a drought and crop failure.  The loss of that equipment was probably the last straw.


Chauncey Dewey sent two of his trusted cowboys to purchase the items. When those two men and another Oak Ranch employee showed up early at the Berry farm they were promptly ordered off at gunpoint.  They waited in the road until Sheriff McCulloch arrived.

The Oak Ranch hands bought the water tank for five dollars.  They were authorized to pay up to ten dollars for the windmill, but Alpheaus Berry’s cousin, Roy Berry, bid $10.25 and saved the windmill.  When the cowboys said they would pick up the large 15 barrel capacity tank the next day, they were told they had better “send a big enough man to take care of himself.”

Chauncey Dewey was not about to let anybody intimidate him.  An expert with revolver and rifle himself, Dewey chose to bring Clyde Wilson, William McBride, and seven more men for a total of ten armed men.  The group included two teamsters driving mule teams pulling large lumber wagons.  A 15 barrel wood tank would be a bulky item to load and haul, but it would not have required ten men.  Wilson and McBride were both military veterans.  Wilson had seen extensive action during the Philippine insurrection.  Dewey came prepared for trouble.

When the Dewey crew arrived, Daniel P. Berry, the father, was working in a nearby field.  As the Dewey crew started to load the tank, Daniel went to the location.  The two sons, Alpheaus and Burch, rushed to the farmyard also.  Cousin Roy Berry later testified they all came in to help load the tank.  Gunfire erupted and when it was over D. P. Berry, Alpheaus Berry, and Burch Berry were dead.  Another son, Beach Berry, had a leg wound and the cousin Roy was shot in the face.  Both men later recovered from their wounds.  Not a Dewey man was hit.  Chauncey Dewey’s horse was killed by a stray bullet.  All Dewey men took refuge behind a sod wall near the cattle pens.

A report obtained from the files of the Sherman County Historical Society in Goodland, Kansas notes that McBride ran out from the wall, knocked D. P. Berry down, and shot him twice with his Colt revolver.  The wounded Roy took a bullet to the face, shattering his jaw, and the second bullet knocked off his hat.  Having been caught out in the open, Roy survived the rest of the gunfight by playing dead.  Beach ran from the cover of the corn crib to the farmhouse.  He later claimed that the Dewey crew fired six shots at him as he ran.

Beach Berry went to the town of McDonald and telephoned for the Coroner and Sheriff.  Sheriff McCulloch following the Coroner’s findings charged Chauncey Dewey, William J. McBride, and Clyde Wilson with murder.  He placed them in jail at St. Francis, two days later.

As the Berry family prepared to bury their dead at nearby Bird City, public sentiment against Dewey and his two employees grew to a fever pitch.  Fearing for the lives of the prisoners, the Governor of Kansas activated a Guard Unit and sent them to St. Francis.

Dewey, McBride, and Wilson were bound over to District Court.  Sheriff McCulloch delivered the three men to Goodland to be placed on the train to Topeka.  The Guard Unit escort marched the thirty some miles while the Sheriff rode his horse.  The three prisoners rode in a wagon.  It took the procession two days to reach Goodland.  The prisoners were then taken by train to Topeka and housed at the Shawnee County Jail.

The prisoners made bail and went into seclusion.  After much legal wrangling, the trial for murder was held at Norton in Norton County in early 1904.  The main question was, “Who started shooting first?”  The Dewey defense was, “Shoot or be shot.”  The legal wrangling went on for weeks.  Finally after a long deliberation the jury came back with a “Not Guilty” verdict.

A civil suit brought against Chauncey Dewey by Roy Berry and the widow of Daniel Berry went on for fifteen years.  The Berrys were awarded a small sum.  Dewey promptly contested and legal wrangling went on for many more years.  No one seems to know if the Berrys ever collected.

In their waning years, Roy and Beach Berry admitted that the Berrys had started the shootout that fateful day.  Chauncey Dewey heard of the admission and contacted Roy.  He asked if they would sign a statement to the fact that the Berrys had shot first.  Berry agreed and Dewey traveled to Berry’s Colorado home. The statement of admission was signed and affirmed.  Berry and Dewey shook hands and the Dewey-Berry feud was finally over.  Dewey is quoted as saying later that it might  not have ever happened if they all had been a little older and more mature.

Chauncey Dewey lived long enough to see the large concrete grain silos rise above the prairie. I took this picture of a large truck emptying a load of grain at the St. Francis, Kansas grain facility in 1958 – one year before Dewey passed away.

More facts about the Dewey-Berry Gunfight:

  1. The remaining seven Dewey participants in the gunfight were also charged with murder.  The charges were dropped when the “not guilty” verdict came down for the other three.  Those seven cowboys were: Thomas O’Neil, Charles Wilson, Ben Slater, Edward Tucker, Albert Winchip, James Armentrout, and Fred Dye.
  2. When the United States entered World War  I, Chauncey Dewey enlisted in the army.  He served three years, including sixteen months overseas.  He served on the staffs of Major General Baliou and General Leonard Wood.  Dewey achieved the rank of Major.
  3. Chauncey Dewey died in November, 1959 outliving the Berry battle survivors.  Dewey was married twice. The second marriage was to his secretary.  She was twenty years younger and passed in 1994.  On August 25, 1994, the St. Francis Herald newspaper advertised the auction of Lavon’s and Chauncey’s estate.
Categories: American History, antique guns, guns, History, Kansas | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

A California Adventure

We were young. We had worked for a year. It was time for a vacation and we had planned it for months. We were going west to sightsee and scuba dive in the Pacific Ocean. My brother-in-law Russell Spoor had introduced me to diving with the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus the previous fall. We had weekend dived in the clear waters of the southern Missouri lakes Bull Shoals and Table Rock many times and felt we were ready for bigger things.

Me (on the left) and Russell after a scuba dive in Table Rock Lake. Table Rock Dam is in the background.


It was 1962, and for several years the popular underwater diving adventure television program, Sea Hunt, starring Lloyd Bridges, had captivated viewers. For you youngsters, he is the father of movie stars Jeff and Beau Bridges.

Russ had taken a scuba training class in Kansas City. He had shown me the basics and I had researched all the current publications I could find and bought some gear. We had talked about diving in the ocean and perhaps exploring the American River in California.  The discovery of a gold nugget in the American River started the gold rush of 1849.  That fact was not lost on us.


Closeup of map from American River & Natomas Water & Mining Company – 1910.
Full map of area here: 1910 American River Canal Map



We scheduled our vacations to start in mid-July. Joined by our wives, we loaded scuba gear and luggage in Russ’s convertible and headed west. The first stop was Pikes Peak. That red Chevy took us all the way to the top. Royal Gorge, the Painted Desert, and the Grand Canyon were next. We visited Boulder Dam and took time for a swim in Lake Mead. We zoomed right on through Las Vegas. After a drive through the desert we stopped to stay overnight in a quaint little town named Yermo, California. I don’t remember many of the places we stayed at. My wife remembers staying in Yermo because the older lady that checked us in gave us some cookies, but told us we could not eat them in the motel rooms.

The next day we went through Los Angeles and on to Fillmore, California. There, we were guests of our aunt and uncle who lived on the Spalding Ranch. The ranch was a part of the historical Rancho Sespe. The aunt was my mother’s twin sister (see The Battle of Beecher’s Island). Her husband managed the citrus packing plant on the ranch just west of Fillmore.

We had a busy agenda visiting Hollywood, Pacific Ocean Park, Knotts Berry Farm, and of course we spent some time on the beach. We spent a long day at Disney Land.

Finally the time came to go fishing and scuba diving in the ocean. Our uncle and his brother took us out in their boat. Russ owned two wet suits that we had used winter diving in fresh water. We knew because of the extra buoyancy of the wet suits in saltwater we needed weighted belts. We bought weight belts and special abalone prying tools. With my uncle and his brother, we started for the ocean before daylight, stopping for a big breakfast at a truck stop restaurant.

We put the boat in at a boat lift on a pier at Redondo Beach. Then we started for an area where we could dive for abalone. Along the way, we fished for bonito fish.

Left to right, me and Uncle Louie Yett in the driveway of the Spalding house showing some bonito fish caught in the ocean near Redondo Beach, California.

Left to right, me and Uncle Louie Yett in the driveway of the Spalding house showing some bonito fish caught in the ocean near Redondo Beach, California.


Pretty soon the sea swells began to work on us landlubbers. Russ and I were sharing a deep sea rod. I sat down waiting my turn. I was munching on soda crackers, having read that was a help in combating seasickness. Russ was making fun of me saying, “Look, look, Walt is getting seasick.” I knew Russ well enough to know that he was striving to cover his own nausea. The boat was riding the swells up and down, up and down. Suddenly, Russ threw the rod at me, rushed to the transom, and started upchucking that truck stop breakfast. Luckily, he had already caught a number of good sized bonito.

Eventually, we arrived at the intended diving area. Russ was still mighty green and wisely decided not to go down. I had my sea legs and was in good shape. I came to dive in the ocean and I intended to do it. I put my gear on and went down alone. Not knowing how much weight was needed, I found I was having trouble descending. Rather than go back for additional belt weights, I followed the anchor line down and carried the boat anchor around. I was at a depth of 75 feet according to my wrist-mounted depth gauge. Examining some boulders, I found no abalone. I was seeing lots of fish. A giant manta ray swam above and a bit to the side of me. From fin tip to fin tip it appeared to be approximately 20 feet wide. I thought perhaps the water was having a magnifying effect. Seeing the huge ray helped me decide that I had achieved my goal to dive in the ocean. I went back up to the boat, and we finished out our day fishing for bonito. I researched rays later and read that some species could reach a width of 18 to 22 feet.

We said our goodbyes to our aunt and uncle and left early that morning to visit our cousin and family at Sacramento before journeying home. Little did we know, the adventure was not over! We arrived at their home about mid-afternoon. They had their boat and trailer hooked up ready to go. They said they thought we would enjoy finishing the day out diving and boating in the American River and Folsom Lake.

A short drive brought us to the beautiful waters of the lake. We put the boat into the river near the beginning of the lake. The water was cold and very clear. We busied ourselves exploring the bottom, turning over stones, and picking up some colored ones for our cousin’s rock garden. There was a small cove across the river and several hundred yards down. Our cousins had fished there before, and they were interested in the depth of the water in that cove. They called the area Rattlesnake Bar. You can see it listed on the map above. Since I had used up some of my air in the ocean, I ran out before Russ did. Russ agreed to check it out. The area was several hundred yards from us. Russ said if we took the boat closer he would swim the rest of the way.

We crossed over and dropped anchor in the cove. I dried off, put on a jacket, and watched Russ’s air bubbles on the surface as he made his way toward us. I remarked to the group that he was almost out of compressed air. With the equipment used at the time you could see the air bubbles and gauge the status. He was steadily pulling harder on the regulator. All of a sudden there was a big rush of air and Russ popped to the surface. “I am out of air, but there is something down here that you must see!”

“Aw man,” I argued. “I don’t want to get wet and cold again.”

“You’ve got to see this! It is a stump or mannequin on the bottom, that looks just like a man! I am not getting out of here until you look at it.”

I put my frogman flippers on, donned a mask, climbed on top of the boat cabin, and dived deep while Russ waited on the surface. Twenty-five feet down, I found what had gotten my brother-in-law so excited. Swimming in one pass beside the object, I determined it was a man. The figure was trapped on the bottom by gravel covering the lower portion of his legs. I could see red hair, a glass eye, and a pendent around the neck. The man’s arms were floating in front of him, palms upwards. Russ knew what he saw. He just could not believe it. I came up and quietly said, “It is a person. Now what do we do?”

We all talked it over and decided to go to the park headquarters. Darkness set in by the time we had the boat out of the water and found the headquarters office. Luckily, there was someone there and he called the sheriff’s office. Russ and I reported the discovery and location and thought we had finished our part, but the ordeal was not over. The park person put us all in a conference room with a map on the wall and instructed us to wait for sheriff’s officers.

After an hour or more wait, two sheriff’s deputies showed up. One was smaller in stature and very polite and professional. The second was a large brawny tough guy with a pock marked face and a personality to match. He did most of the talking. “Let’s hear the story,” he said. After we explained again what we found and where we found it. Tough guy leaned in, gave Russ and me a look up and down, and then asked gruffly, “You guys been drinking?” We assured him we had not. He grilled us some more and finally said, “Okay, meet us at Rattlesnake Bar with your diving equipment in the morning and show us where it is.”

“We need to get started back to Missouri, we are about out of vacation time. Also, our air tanks are empty,” Russ informed him.

“You can get your tanks filled in Sacramento and meet us and the patrol about mid-morning at Rattlesnake Bar,” the big deputy said. “We had better find a body there or you guys are going to spend some more time in California,” he added.

We arrived back at our cousin’s home in Sacramento late in the night and went to bed. I don’t know about Russ, but I did not sleep a wink. The deputy’s threat had gotten to me.


By morning I had almost convinced myself that it was not a body. We found the divers supply and had our tanks refilled to the standard 2200 psi. The two deputies and the coroner were already at the gravel bar cove waiting when we arrived.

Still wanting to leave as soon as we could, we timidly asked if they would need us to help retrieve the body. The tough guy deputy told us that we could not leave because the sheriff would have papers for us to sign the next day. I knew he still didn’t believe us. He informed us they were experienced divers and certainly did not need our help. That part suited us fine, but staying another day did not.

The coroner gave us a balloon float attached to a long cord. He told us to attach it to the body. I got my gear on. Russ was having trouble with some tangled webbing. I could not wait. I had to know for sure. I grabbed the cord and went over the side. Russ followed, and we easily found the body. I tied the cord to a rock near the body and we went back to the surface. Russ and I withdrew to some boulders near shore and our cousins took their boat back upstream a ways.

The sheriff deputies worked off the patrol boat and the coroner used a small flat jon boat with a transport basket. As we watched from the bank, both boats positioned over the balloon float, and the two deputies dove in.

The retrieval operation assembling at Rattlesnake Bar.

The retrieval operation assembling at Rattlesnake Bar.


Not too far into the task the coroner jumped up, stripped to his undershorts, and dove in after them. He came back up with the big deputy in tow. Seems the tough guy got sick and upchucked into his scuba gear. Even though it was a solemn and serious occasion, Russ and I found just a little bit of satisfaction out of that.


The coroner told us he would have the discovery papers we had to sign at the mortuary early the next day. We spent the rest of the day with relatives and said goodbye the next morning. We stopped at Placerville to sign the papers and started a marathon drive back to Missouri.

Clipping from the Sacramento Bee newspaper July 1962.

Clipping from the Sacramento Bee newspaper, July 1962.


Newspaper accounts later erroneously reported finding the body of Walter Anton Wood in 15 feet of water.  It was actually 25 feet.



Each year about this time, I think of the young drowning victim and his family. He journeyed so far to meet with a fatal accident. We journeyed so far to accidentally find him.






Categories: History, times gone by | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

America’s Lion

Two recent mountain lion reports in Tennessee have made the news lately.  They were verified by trail camera recordings.  The first was in western Tennessee in the Clarksville area. The second was just west of Nashville.


I would not have taken much notice, except for the fact that several years ago my daughter had reported the sighting of a mountain lion east of Nashville in Wilson County.  She almost hit one with her car.  It bounded right in front of her, and she had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting it.  When she reported the incident, she was politely told: “Hun, there hasn’t been a mountain lion in Tennessee for a century.”


Now, my daughter had spent a summer working at the St. Louis Zoo as she attended a nearby college.  She has watched as I called a mountain lion out of his lair at the zoo with a rendition of a rabbit’s death scream.  It stood and watched us through the fence for quite a while.  She had also observed a mountain lion at a large cat refuge in Florida.  I guess my point is, a mountain lion in the wild looks the same as one in captivity, and she knew she saw a mountain lion.

My daughter emailed me this picture as she was proofreading my blog. I quote: "How's this for 'observing' ;-)" she quipped. I suppose "observed and interacted with" would be more appropriate descriptions for her time at the wildlife refuge.

My daughter emailed me this picture as she was proofreading my blog.  “How’s this for ‘observing’ ;-)” she quipped. This is her feeding a mountain lion with supervision from one of the trained experts.  I suppose “observed and interacted with” would be a more appropriate description for her time at the wildlife refuge.


As I noted in my book Tales From Clear Creek, my interest in mountain lions began as a young boy.  I was mesmerized by the stories my grandfather told of hunting them in New Mexico.  Mountain lions are called by many names, including: cougar, puma, mountain lion, and panther.  Granddad’s name for them was panther.


In 1956-57, I was working at a service station in El Dorado Springs, Missouri… A milk hauler pulled his truck up to the gas pump and got out of the truck to talk to me as I fueled it up.  He said, “I saw something this morning that I don’t think many people will believe.  A mountain lion came out in the road in front of me.  It was near Clear Creek, out by Pape.”  I had no reason to not believe him.  I knew him.  I gassed his truck each day.  The gentleman was sober and not a prankster.  He traveled the same road each day picking up cans of milk from farms and delivering the cans to the local cheese plant.  He had no way of knowing of my interest in mountain lions.


Though the years other sightings of mountain lions were reported in that area and other areas of Missouri.  A lady I worked with in recent years told me that in 1968 she and her mother were driving on a road near Pointers Creek in Osage County, Missouri when they saw a mountain lion walk out in front of them and then turn and walk back into the brush.

During the 1980’s I worked and lived in Howard County, Misssouri.  Several times people I knew reported sightings of mountain lions.  Back in my home area the editor of the ElDorado Springs Sun, reported seeing one.

Each time a sighting was claimed, the Missouri Conservation Department would issue a statement saying there were no mountain lions in Missouri.  They always finished the denial with a statement that killing a mountain lion in Missouri was prohibited.  I, as many others, viewed the contradictory statement with a certain degree of mirth.  But, after thinking, it over I realized they about had to approach it that way.  They could not have someone killing one just to prove it existed.  They needed legitimate proof.

In October 2002 they got it, from a most unlikely place.  A car struck and killed a mountain lion on the interstate in Kansas City, Missouri.  It had deer hair in its stomach, as a wild cat should have.  Scarcely a year later a car struck one on US 54 highway near Fulton in Callaway County, Missouri.  It also had deer remains in its stomach.  The conservation department had that mountain lion stuffed, and it is on display at the Runge Nature Center in Jefferson City, Missouri.

Mountain Lion 006


The wide use of trail cameras has proved that the mountain lion is back in Missouri; if it really ever left.  Kentucky, Tennessee, Nebraska and Kansas are seeing an increase of mountain lion reports.


There are primarily three reasons for the increase in lion sightings.

First, the deer population in these areas has increased in recent years.  Deer are the number one food for mountain lions. The varmints, dogs, house cats, and squirrels it catches are just tasty snacks.  After a mountain lion gorges on a fresh deer or elk kill, it will drag the carcass into the brush.  Leaves and trash will be scratched over the carcass to protect it so the mountain lion can return and feed.  Should a person find a suspected mountain lion kill as I have described, it should be left alone and reported to authorities.  The mountain lion could still be near.  It would be dangerous to tamper with its lunch!

Second, as a local mountain lion population increases, young cats are forced out to search for a territory of their own.  It would not be unusual for a young male to travel a hundred or more miles.

Third, humans are getting out into remote areas more.  Hiking, biking, and camping is on the increase.  The reclusive American lion is getting conditioned to seeing, hearing, and smelling humans.


My mother worried that I was taking my grandfathers mountain lion hunting tales too seriously.  But later, she unwittingly told one of her own… About 1910 my maternal grandparents homesteaded 320 acres on a mesa in southern Quay County, New Mexico.  It was south of Plaza Larga Creek Canyon and near the start of Alamosa Creek.  They built a dugout to live in near an existing wagon road.  Native Americans were still using the road occasionally.  Since my grandfather was a carpenter and blacksmith, he built a sturdy roof and wood door.

One day as the children were playing outside near the door, my mother said a “wildcat approached.”  Her mother hurried the children inside and bolted the door.  Mother said the cat made strange sounds like a bird chirping.  I always figured she was talking about a bobcat.  Several years ago my daughter called me as she was visiting the Florida animal refuge.  She said, “Dad!  Listen to the sounds this mountain lion makes as it paces back and forth in its pen.”  She was just a few feet away from the large cat, and held her cellphone up to catch the sound.  It was the sound of a chirping bird!  Mother was not talking about a bobcat.


As mountain lions become more numerous, so have encounters with humans.  Should you encounter one, do not approach it, do not run from it, (they pull their prey down from behind), back away slowly.  Make a lot of noise, make yourself look larger than you are by spreading your coat or sweater out.  Never make direct eye contact.  They seem to consider it a challenge.  If one attacks,… fight.  Use a stick, rock, knife or even your fists.


Yes, I have hunted mountain lions twice but have yet to bag one.  I wanted to hunt mountain lions in Southern New Mexico, where my grandfather hunted.  So, I hired an outfitter in the Gila River headwaters area.  He was more of a trail rider than hunter. Nevertheless, I got over some of the same ground my grandfather hunted.  A year later I traveled to Otero County and had a fun time trying to call one in using a call that mimicked the bleat of a fawn in distress.  Instead, I called up a herd of mule deer that quickly left when they figured me out.  It was a nice experience and I am sort of glad my mountain lion is still roaming the mountains of Southern New Mexico.  I guess you could say he’s still roaming that branch of the Sundown Trail.


Want to learn more about mountain lions in the Southwest? Suggested reading:

Hunting American Lions
By Frank C. Hibben

Ben Lilly’s Tales of Bears, Lions And Hounds
Edited by Neil B. Carmony

Mountain Lions In Missouri
at Missouri Conservation Department Official Website

Cougars In Tennessee

Categories: hunting, outdoors | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m offering personalized copies of my latest book for Christmas!




For the holidays, I’m offering autographed copies of The Shenandoah Sharpshooter.

A great gift for the history buff or bookworm in your life – or a gift to yourself.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00067]

Read the first chapter of The Shenandoah Sharpshooter HERE.




While the Civil War burns around him, a young man fights a battle of his own.

It is strange how a man’s best-made plans can change. Stephen Purcell’s quiet, happy life changed in an instant of violence. Then he found himself on the run. But before he left the war-torn Shenandoah Valley, Purcell vowed to kill the man who changed it all . . . an evil man named Striker.With the best horse in the valley underneath him, Purcell headed west with only a knife and a sack of potatoes. The buckskin jacket he wore was the only reminder of his loved ones that were so horrifically taken from him. Early in his journey, Purcell’s promise to a dying soldier gave him a weapon, a mission and some battle scars.

To save himself and his horse, Purcell hid in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He did not know how he would do it, but he would kill Striker. Along Purcell’s travels, his will would be tested, his life would be challenged, he would learn to trust again, and even find love. His knowledge of the telegraph became a valuable help to new friends and a crucial turning point for the Union army.

A boy becomes a man on a hard road through Confederate lines. Will Purcell’s path lead to destiny or blood? Discover what becomes of the man who finds himself known across the valley as a hardened shootist – a force to be reckoned with – the man they call The Shenandoah Sharpshooter.

Categories: American History, antique guns, Book, Civil War, guns, History | Tags: | Leave a comment

Book Signing This Friday

Book Signing

Recent book signing at the Missouri State Fair


I wanted to let the readers of the Sundown Trail Blog know, I will be holding a book signing this Friday, November 6th, from 5-9pm at Hastings in Jefferson City, Missouri.  Below is a copy of the press release.  Hope to see you there.



Local author Walt Ryan will be holding a book signing this Friday, November 6th, from 5-9pm at Hastings.  Ryan will be signing copies of his Civil War novel The Shenandoah Sharpshooter.

This exciting hero’s journey follows young Stephen Purcell as he takes to the Blue Ridge mountains to avoid the men who took away his entire life. Armed only with a good horse under him and a will to live, Purcell is tried and tested many times as he heads towards the western frontier. Action, mystery, romance, and surprising turns guide him to his final destination.

“When Walt Ryan spins a tale you can bet he’s shared the same campfires, walked the same dusty streets and watched the same sun rise over the mountains as his characters. Walt’s latest effort is set in a time and place little explored by American western writers, the Shenandoah mountains during the Civil War. Upon finishing it, you will be begging him — as I did — for a sequel.”
– Jim McCarty, Editor of Rural Missouri magazine.

Original painting for the cover art done by Missouri artist Ann Shockley Schafer. The Shenandoah Sharpshooter is available for purchase at Hastings, and online at

Walt Ryan is an independent author and blogger based in Mid-Missouri. Ryan grew up with an appreciation for the people of the western frontier, then and now. He enjoys writing about them in fact and fiction. Ryan’s many work experiences include mill hand, long haul truck driver, newsletter editor, photographer, writer, electrician, and over the years he worked through the ranks at several consumer cooperatives.

For more information about the author and his latest book, visit Ryan’s blog at

Categories: Book, Book Signing, Civil War, Missouri | Tags: | Leave a comment

Sod House Memories

Sod House

My sister Mary and I standing on the east side of our sod-walled house probably in the mid 1940’s. Dad and Mom had re-plastered the outside giving it a mottled look. They had re-roofed the house adding dormers.


The above picture is of a sod-walled house formerly located southwest of St. Francis, Kansas, in Benkelman township.  The house and farmstead were located on a rise about a mile or so south of the Republican River.  I have heard the farm referred to as “The Downy Place.”  A longtime friend of my late father thought that the house was constructed by the Downy family in about 1910.


The walls were constructed of Buffalo Grass sod.  The wiry roots were quite evident when the sod was exposed.  A conventional four-sided wood-shingled roof rested on top of the sod walls.  The floor was of regular pine flooring, attached on floor joists resting on stringer supports above the ground.  The walls were twenty-four to twenty-six inches thick.  The inside of the sod walls were plastered with old-fashioned hog hair reinforced lime plaster, and then painted.  The inside partition walls and ceiling were standard frame lumber covered with a fiber wallboard.  Our family stretched poultry netting wire over the outside and pegged it down.  A cement mix was then troweled over the outside.  This is called stucco.  Earlier plaster without wire reinforcement failed to stick for long periods.

The freezing and thawing action during the winter months would cause the cement stucco to crack and break.  My mother was constantly patching the stucco and worrying about mice and the snakes that would follow.  Her worries were justified.   During a visit to the area several years ago, Merle Moberly, a family friend and neighbor from the past, told of being present during a noon meal when a young rattler peeked over at the junction of the ceiling and the top of an outer wall.  He said that there wasn’t much fuss.  My parents quickly dispatched it and carried it from the house and went on with the meal as if it was a normal occurrence.


Mary and I

Close-up from picture above.

I was not born in the sod house, but it is the first home that I can remember. However, my double cousin was born in this sod house.  My next youngest sister Mary and I were born in a frame house on a nearby farm that my parents were renting at the time.  We moved to the sod house farm when she was a baby and I was probably two and one-half years old.  My youngest sister Joan was born near the time this picture was taken.  She too, lived in this sod house as a baby.  She was the first of us born in a hospital.  I remember the emergency run and my mother telling my father he did not have much time to make it.

My sister Mary and I appear in this picture.  I think the picture was taken about 1945 or 1946.  It was taken during the winter.  There are no leaves on the tree near the well and garden, and the cold frame used to start garden plants in the early spring is clearly in disuse.  My sister wears lace-up shoes and warm thick stockings.  I have on an ear-flap cap and overalls.  I quit wearing overalls when I became a self-conscious teenager.  In recent years, I’ve rediscovered the comfort and practicability of bib overalls.


At first glance the old sod house looks like something from a hardscrabble district.  If it was, we did not know it.  There were two other similar sod houses in the area that I know of.  One was about a mile southeast of our farm.  It was owned by the Owens family.  It was in very good repair at the time.  I don’t think it exists anymore.  There were many sod houses in the county in the beginning.  The early ones were very rough.  It was a treeless country and lumber for construction just was not available.  Kansas winters can be severely cold.  A sod house is easy to heat in the winter and cool in the summer.  We heated ours with coal and used corn cobs for fuel in the kitchen range.  The hand-husked and gathered corn ears were ran through a mechanical sheller that stripped the grain from the cob and left the cob whole.  I have eaten many a biscuit that was baked to perfection in the oven of a kitchen range using corn cobs for fuel.

A closer look tells us much about life in rural Western Kansas in 1945. To the far right, one end of a solar dryer, commonly called a clothes line, is visible.  The chicken house was beyond that.  The little house with a path was somewhere back there discretely hidden from easy view.

The ball bat with the taped handle leaning against the house indicated we were probably interrupted at play for the picture.  The erosion around the base of the house was not from water but from the relentless currents of wind.  The vines on the east facing windows kept the sun out and helped keep the house cool in summer.  In winter they lost their leaves and let the warm sun in.

The bushel basket of fruit jars in the cold frame were being collected and stored for reuse.  As many farm families did, we canned and preserved much of our table fare.  The hoop with the slat cross was a screen used by my mother to sift the chaff out of wheat.  She washed, then dried the wheat in the cook-stove oven.  She ground the cleaned and dry wheat with a hand powered grinder to make flour for whole wheat bread and pancakes.  We grew and produced most of our own food.  The fertile soil grew a good garden when irrigated from the windmill.

One or two coal-oil lanterns always hung by the side door.  The pail and string mops have significance.  During a windstorm fine particles of sand and dust would come through the smallest of cracks.  After a big blow there was always the chore of swabbing the place down.


Side of the sod house.

Close-up of side of the sod house.

The pipe protruding from the roof was a support for the radio antenna wire.  The battery-powered radio was a source of news and entertainment.  The resonant voice of Lowell Thomas reported the events of the war.  “Fibber McGee and Molly” and “Amos and Andy” gave us mirth and laughter.  “I Love a Mystery,” led us on thrilling adventures limited only by our own imaginations.  On this radio I first heard Gene Autry’s “Back in the Saddle Again” and Eddy Arnold singing Tex Owen’s “The Cattle Call.”

With an old guitar I tried mightily to imitate Gene.  My harried mother finally banished me to the outdoors.  Taking refuge on the seat of the John Deere tractor, I plunked away for hours.  I never succeeded in making a recognizable sound.  After awhile the old guitar mysteriously disappeared.

Only the lower part of the small tower for the Delco wind-driven charger is visible in the picture.  Anchored on top of the dormer, the wind-powered generator charged wet cell storage batteries located in the attic.  They in turn furnished six volt, direct current electricity to the radio and to one lone light bulb on the ceiling of the kitchen.  The batteries had to be serviced periodically. How do I remember the apparatus was six volt?  Because, when the wind stopped and the storage batteries ran down, my father took the battery from the old Model A Ford and ran the radio from that battery.

The fact that the storage batteries in the attic had to be checked regularly led me into one of several close calls during an active childhood.  My father went up the ladder and into the dormer to check the water level in the storage batteries.  An adventuresome family cat followed him up the ladder and hid in the attic.  My father left, closing the dormer door.  A few hours later the cat put up a howl to be rescued.  My mother told me to go open the dormer door and let the cat out.  As I opened the door, a gust of wind caught the door and it knocked me off the roof.  I fell headfirst onto the step below, breaking a board.  When I regained consciousness, I was stretched out on a bed with my anxious parents hovering over me.  They took me to Dr. Peck’s office in St. Francis, and after an examination he pronounced that he could find nothing wrong.  However, I carried one shoulder down for several years, finally growing out of it.


It was about that time that my grandfather Cole started calling me “Toughie.”  He was already calling my travel-prone older brother “Bigfoot.”  Not long before the fall from the roof, a horse I was riding fell when an embankment caved off.  I threw myself to the side, but the horse rolled on over me.  The old high back saddle kept the horse’s weight off me (a few inches back or forward and I would not be here telling this story).  The horse got up.  I got up, pulled myself back into the saddle, and went about business as usual.

Getting on a horse was a chore for a kid. I could not reach the stirrup with my foot… My brother buckled a harness strap through the fork of the pommel and left it hanging so I could get ahold of it and pull up.  Once up, I could not reach the stirrups from the top side either.  My father finally bought me a youth saddle. Once I had that saddle, life was better.


My brother Wayne “Bigfoot,” was the cowboy among us.  He was an irresponsible, happy-go-lucky teenager.  Wayne started running away from home when he was fifteen.  As he explained, “just to see what was on the other side of the hill.”  Finally the folks just let him come and go as he wanted.  He wanted to be a cowboy, and eventually he did work on several ranches in Nebraska, Colorado, and even in Florida.

The Cowboys

The Cowboys
When my older brother Wayne returned home for a while, the first thing he would do was break any unbroken horses that dad had purchased while he was gone. In a few hours he had the big deep-chested gelding doing anything he asked it to do.
The stupid part-Shetland pony was a different story.
Not many days after this picture was taken, I was riding it along the road and a pheasant flew up out of the road ditch. The pony went crazy and dumped me in the gravel. I had a bad wrist spring as a result.

There was almost a ten year gap between Wayne and me.  The folks had lost an eight-year-old girl ten days after I was born.  She evidently died after a long illness from what we now call polio.  My mother had her hands full with an inquisitive, overactive youngster and a runaway teen.  She often said her worry was that I tried or would try to do every thing my older brother did.  And I did, but I never ran away.  I accepted responsibility early and stayed with it.  Subsequently, my work has let me do many things and taken me to some amazing places.  The adventure stories our Tennessee-born, Texas/New Mexico-homesteader grandfather told us no doubt influenced “Bigfoot” and “Toughie,” but in different ways.


A windmill in the corner of the barn lot pumped water to two large stock tanks. It was my job to switch the pipe from a full tank to the empty one.  One full tank had to be held in reserve at all times.  In my mind’s ear I still hear the kee-lunk, kee-lunk of the pumping wind mill.  That sound is a heritage of the Plains born.

Rattlers were commonly found on the farm.  When on foot I usually went protected by a couple of vigilant stock dogs.  One dog was named Teddy, because he resembled a bear.  Teddy was a dedicated snake killer.  He would tease a rattler until it struck at him.  The moment the rattler was stretched out from the strike, Teddy would grab it behind its head.  After a few powerful shakes of Teddy’s head, blood would fly and the snake would start coming apart.  I learned to always keep some distance.  Teddy got bit once in a while, but developed an immunity.  Perhaps, the snakes just did not get through his heavy black fur.  Teddy had a litter-mate we called Timmy.  He was an even-tempered dog, but he was not as smart as Teddy.  Teddy was a natural heeler and made a good stock dog.  Timmy ran at the cow’s head and never learned to round up or drive cattle very well.

Teddy the Dog

Teddy the stock dog stands in front of the wood frame building being moved in near the sod house.
We named him Teddy because he looked like a bear. Don’t you agree?

Badgers were common on the farm.  They were destructive and left dangerous holes for the horses to step in.  One time Teddy and Timmy cornered a badger over in the rough land we used for pasture.  He backed up against a soap weed (yucca plant) and proceeded to fight them off.  Growing tired of the fight, he decided to dig himself in.  Dirt and sand flew every direction.  I watched in amazement as he dug while facing the dogs and holding them off.  He was soon out of sight.  Try as they might they could not dig him out.  If you ever get a chance to look at a badger’s feet up close you will see they look like, well sort of look like miniature shovels with claws.


Many of my sod house memories are of the different horses we had.  One mare was very gentle.  She would ride me around until she grew tired of it, then she would lie down.  I could kick and holler to no avail.  When I gave up and stomped off toward the house, she would get up and go to the barn.  Another mare learned that when I rode bareback, she could put her head down, give a slight buck, and slide me off over her head.  It seemed to me that she always picked a patch of sand burrs to do it in.  You haven’t experienced pain until you pull imbedded sand burrs out of your hide.  I put a stop to that nonsense when I got tall enough and strong enough to push my saddle on her and jerk the cinch reasonably tight.  We enjoyed many fun rides along the old irrigation ditch to the west of us.  It was constructed by homesteaders in the 1890’s in a failed attempt to irrigate that dry land.

There was a large depression in a field to the southeast of the sod house.  It was thought to be a former buffalo wallow.  After the field had been worked or after a hard rain, my mother would take us arrowhead hunting.  We often found arrowheads at the wallow site.  A young boy didn’t have to stretch his imagination much to picture Roman Nose or Tall Bull hidden in the grass and weeds, bow and arrow in hand, waiting to ambush the varied types of game that frequented a buffalo wallow.  We found large arrowheads and small “bird” sized arrowheads.  That experience and visits to Beecher’s Island whetted my appetite for frontier history.

During the summer our parents would sometimes let Wayne and I sleep outside.  Because of the rattler problem, we were relegated to making our pallets up on the floor of the hay wagon.  We would go to sleep watching the twinkling stars.  In our minds we were cowboys, camping out on a cattle drive.  In my travels I’ve never found skies equal to Kansas skies, night or day.

In later years, I found that the cattle drovers trail called the Western Trail went through our area.  Perhaps trail cowboys “Teddy Blue” and Tom Wray may have driven Texas cattle across those same buffalo grass and sagebrush hills.  Wray Colorado was named for Tom Wray.  He wintered a Texas herd there and became the first settler in the area.


My parents sold the sod house farm in 1947 and moved north into Nebraska.  In 1950 we moved to Missouri.  My brother Wayne was married by that time and stayed out west.  Our mother died an untimely death from cancer in 1956.


Dad and House

Our father John Ryan with the sod-walled house in the background. He remembered the touring car as being a Starr brand. He did not own the property at the time but was visiting some one living there.
Dad told me he believed the picture was taken in the 1920’s.


I drove my father to Cheyenne County, Kansas for a visit in 1958.  The old sod house was gone.  The sod walls had been torn down and returned to the land they were plowed from fifty-some years before.


The old sod house homestead on the horizon viewed from the Highland school site. The sod house was gone by the time this picture was taken in 1958.
For more about Highland School, see the Oct. 24, 2012 post Alma’s Fire Shovel.


Other House

Another well-kept sod-walled house in the same community. It was the home of the Rollie Owens family. I remember visiting there as a child. Although it was in good repair, no one was living there when I took this picture in 1958.

When we lived there, my father had moved a frame house from a neighboring farm.  That is the building on the house-mover’s trailer in the above picture with Teddy, our dog. My father had placed it near the sod house and used it for a bunkhouse and storage.  That house had been added to and remodeled into a small home.


During a summer vacation in the mid-nineties I stopped in Cheyenne County, rented a plane and pilot, and flew over the farmstead on the way to Beecher’s Island.  Sure enough, the outlines of the old buffalo wallow could be seen from the air.  A Google map fly-over today shows a nice modern farmstead. A sprinkler crop irrigation system is used.  I can still make out the outline of the old buffalo wallow.

Photo From Airplane

Photo taken from the airplane flight over the sod house farm. As you can see here, it is now a modern, well-kept farm.
I was pleased that I could plainly see the outline of the old buffalo wallow where we picked up arrowheads. The outline is visible just below the airplane wing strut. The Republican River is in the tree line in the background.


The land of my birth still intrigues me.  In fact, I could say my Sundown Trail started there.


Categories: History, Kansas, times gone by | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Desperado’s Hidden Gun

1869 Smith and Wesson

Pond .32 Caliber Revolver


Manufactured by Lucius W. Pond – Worcester, Massachusetts.  This is a single action belt or pocket revolver made from 1861 to 1870.  It is a .32 caliber, six shot, rim fire cartridge gun.  Pond infringed on a patent owned by Smith and Wesson and lost a lawsuit over it.  He was forced to stamp on the barrels of the remaining inventory of pistols: “Manufactured for Smith and Wesson pat’s April 5, 1855.”  This gun is so marked.


One of the desperadoes in my latest book, The Shenandoah Sharpshooter, carried a hidden gun like this one.  On page 162, the criminal Canter goes for his hidden Pond revolver. In an instant Purcell meets the challenge. To read the exciting action surrounding this incident and others, order your copy today.

Set in the Civil war, this hero’s journey follows young Stephen Purcell as he takes to the Blue Ridge mountains to avoid the men who took away his entire life.  Armed only with a good horse under him and a will to live, Purcell is tried and tested many times as he heads towards the western frontier.  Action, mystery, romance, and surprising turns guide him to his final destination.


Available on Kindle and paperback here: The Shenandoah Sharpshooter

Read the first chapter in its entirety here: The First Chapter of the Shenandoah Sharpshooter.


Categories: American History, antique guns, Civil War, History | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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