||Never Land: Adventures,
Wonder, and One World Record in a Very Small
Plane, by W. Scott Olsen.
Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2010,
hard back, 187pp., $31.50. (Review by Dave Remley,
Glenwood Gazette 10/2010)
This little book is for all the lucky people who
ever flew an aircraft, and, for everyone who ever
dreamed of flying one.
Olsen writes from the deep rooted notion that
flyers are people with an irresistible urge to
reach infinity. And infinity, for what seems like
a perfectly natural reason, is always upward. Everyone
defines Heaven as somewhere above, Hell as somewhere
below. The ocean has a floor, the sky no limit. "Up
has always been a better direction than down," he
writes. "Heaven is always someplace above
where we are now. To look up into a clear [blue]
sky and to ask 'How do I get there?' is one of
[mankind's] ancient questions."
Waiting for tower to clear you to go, you pause
in the left seat of your aircraft with the runway
centerline pointing straight ahead. Cleared for
takeoff, you settle your shoe soles on the rudder
peddles, take the wheel lightly in the fingers
of your left hand, and, with the heel of your right,
you press the throttle firmly to the firewall.
As the engine revs and the aircraft accelerates
down the runway, you wait for the nose to lift
off before you ease back on the wheel ever so little
to lift the main gear from the surface. Always
scanning the instruments, and ever watching out
all directions, you climb a living staircase of
air currents into an open sky. If you have deliberately
taken all these steps in the sequence given, you
have known the infinite pleasure of flight. And
though you must eventually land the aircraft, of
course, in another sense there will never be any
If words can capture this controlled lift into
sky - this safely flying toward the infinite -
Olsen's book does it. He even sets a world's speed
record in his little trainer, an archetypal aircraft
countless pilots have started in - the Cessna 152
- a revised model of the 150, itself a redesigned
Cessna 140 tail dragger, a pre World War II classic.
All you have to do is find a "Recognized Course" over
which no one ever officially registered a Speed
Record - say, from the airstrip at Magdalena, NM
to Turner Airport at Silver City (if Magdalena
and Turner are "Registered," which I
seriously doubt they are). On a ridge top at the
edge of town, Turner is a tiny strip which in itself
may have broken the crash record due to its everlastingly
stiff, unpredictable crosswinds.
Olsen flies the 152 across North Dakota from Williston
to Fargo at an average speed of 77.89 mph to meet
half the town and a TV crew waiting to greet him.
The time of takeoff and landing and the average
speed must be recorded by Federal Air Traffic Control.
The figure is then registered as a "World
Record" for all to see, in America at the
National Aeronautics Association and in Switzerland
at the Aeronautique Internatio-nale. They even
mail you a certificate. Can't beat that for accomplishment.
And Olsen did it on a lark, just for the fun of
Hey! You can do it too. In your Super Cub, your
Taylorcraft, your 150, even your little J-3. But
read this book first.
Pendleton Round-Up at 100: Oregon's
Legendary Rodeo, Michael Bales
and Ann Terry Hill
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010,
pbk., 300pp., $35.00.
(Review by Dave Remley, Glenwood Gazette 09/2010)
Rodeo is truly a New World event,
for no sport like it exists in Europe.
Roping cows from horseback began in Mexico
and California with the Spanish vaqueros. From there, the special
style of handling stock spread to the trans-Mississippi
American West and to Canada with the long trail drives
from Texas to Montana after the Civil War and with
the growth of the open range cattle business on
the Great Plains. William H. Emory on his trip
to California with “Kearney's Army” witnessed
the art of “dally roping” near the junction
of the Gila and the Colorado Rivers as early as 1846. “A
boy of fourteen, a Californian, whose graceful riding
was the constant subject of admiration,” Emory
wrote, roped a wild stallion running at full speed. “It
was the work of a moment to make [the rope] fast
to the pommel of his saddle, and by a short turn
of his own horse, he threw the stallion a complete
somerset, and the game was secure.”
Men and women being competitive by nature, roping
soon became the subject of games to see who was
best at it. Thus developed “rodeo” at every
crossroads and in every small town across the West. Over
many years, three annual rodeos became the most famous
of all. These were (and are) the “Calgary
Stampede” in Canada, “Cheyenne Days” in
Wyoming, and Pendleton “Round-Up” in
This new book arrives at the appropriate time, for
Round-Up has been held every September since 1910 without
fail, and this year marks its centennial. The
book (also available in hardback) contains more
than 900 photographs in black and white and color,
beginning with photos of the very first event in
Pendleton exhibits all the traditional arts of
rodeo - saddle bronc and bareback bronc riding,
steer roping, team roping, and bull riding. Here have competed
the most famous names of the sport: New Mexico's own “World's
Champion Cowboy” of the 1920s Bob Crosby is here. And
there are such big league names as Shoat Webster,
Jim Shoulders, Dean Oliver, Larry Mahan, the Etbauer
brothers, Fred Whitfield, and Trevor Brazile.
Round-Up early-on didn't stop with the cowboys. The
cowgirls performed and risked their lives here too. There
were Lucille Mulhall, Fox Hastings, Mabel Strickland,
Kitty Canutt, Vera McGinnis, Lorena Trickey, Bertha
Blancett, Bonnie McCarroll, and Ella Lazinka, all of
them performing near suicidal stunts horseback. Action
packed photos of all of these cowgirls are here.
Round-Up at 100 is a feast of photos and
information for the rodeo participant as well as
for the fan. There
are also photos of the fine Hamley saddles made
in Pendleton. As S. D. Myres of El Paso built
saddles for the men and women of southern New Mexico
and N. Porter of Phoenix saddled the riders of
Arizona for 100 years, Hamley's of Pendleton saddled
If you can't make it to Pendleton this September,
buy a copy of this book and enjoy Round-Up. As they
say in Oregon, “Let 'er buck!”
||The Sundance Kid: The Life
of Harry Alonzo Longabaugh,
by Donna B. Ernst
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,
2009, pbk., 233pp., $19.95.
(Review by Dave Remley, Glenwood Gazette 07/2010)
Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, who used many
an alias, was most famous as "the
Sundance Kid." Robert Leroy
Parker, his pal in robbing banks and trains,
was widely known as "Butch Cassidy." The
thieves from time to time frequented Alma,
New Mexico, where they could always find
work cowboying for William French, manager
of the great English owned WS Ranch in
the open range days. When he learned
that he had indeed been hiring such distinguished
robbers while on the lam, French is supposed
to have commented that at least there was
no trouble about the Ranch while they were
Longabaugh was born and raised near Philadelphia, the
son of a German family. A bright, good looking
boy and man, one might have thought he'd have lived
a normal adult life. He had two brothers and
two sisters. He went to school, learned to read
and write, even owned a library card which cost him
a dollar. He worked for local farmers while school
was out. His father, though apparently not ambitious,
did farm rental properties. The family moved
from home to home as the father changed jobs. They
attended a Baptist church where Harry's uncle was a
well liked deacon.
Perhaps the boy read the dime novels of his time. These
greatly glorified the West. He left home in 1882
at age fourteen to ride the train to Colorado, where
he helped an uncle on a homestead ranch near Cortez. They
worked at proving up on the land, raising horses, and
planting subsistence crops. It was here, however,
that Harry fell in with the wrong crowd. Ernst
speculates that he met the outlaw Madden brothers from
Mancos, a tiny town nearby, and the robber Tom McCarty,
who had a hideout less than a mile from the Longabaugh
All this seems likely since Harry's aunt provided eggs
and other fresh food to McCarty when he was in hiding,
and since Harry would later partner with Bill Madden
in the 1892 train robbery at Malta, Montana, where
the so-called "Outlaw Trail" began its southerly
route through Miles City, Sundance, the Hole in the
Wall, and Robber's Roost to Alma, New Mexico, close
to the Border, and beyond.
Harry's fame was to be assured by the central part
he was to play in the actions of the "Wild Bunch," a
fluid group who robbed banks and held up trains
between periods of hiding out and playing it safe until
the dust settled and the law cooled a bit. Trying
to go straight from time to time, Sundance and Butch
eventually migrated (with the mysterious woman named
Etta Place) to a cattle ranch in South America. But
there too the law followed them, and they took up robbery
again. They died in 1908 in a shootout with police
in a Bolivian village. According to author Ernst,
whose husband is a Longabaugh family member, "Wounded,
not wishing to rot in a Bolivian jail, or just clearly
trapped, Butch ... shot Sundance and then himself." Meanwhile,
Etta Place disappeared from all record and has never
There are still many unanswered questions, and people
will go right on arguing about how or where the robbers
died and were buried (or even if they died at all). Of
all that has been written about these outlaws, however,
this may be the best book yet.
||The Civil War in Arizona: The Story of the California Volunteers, 1861-1865, by Andrew E. Masich.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008, pbk., 368pp., $26.95. (Review by Dave Remley, Glenwood Gazette 05/2010)
In 1862, U. S. Army officer James H. Carleton led the now famous "California Volunteers" or "California Column" east across the Mojave Desert and Arizona to take back New Mexico from the Confederates.
Earlier, in the spring of 1861, 300 men under Confederate Col. John R. Baylor had taken Fort Bliss, then occupied the pro-Southern village of Mesilla on the Rio Grande. Baylor set up the so-called Confederate Territory of Arizona, named Mesilla its capital, and himself the governor. Following these amazing developments, Henry Hopkins Sibley, formerly a U. S. Army officer stationed at Fort Union, but now turned Rebel, left Fort Bliss in February, 1862, with some 3,500 men heading up the Rio Grande. His object was to conquer all New Mexico for the South.
There followed the Union loss at Valverde near Socorro, the capture of Albuquerque and Santa Fe, then the devastating Rebel defeat at Glorieta Pass. On their way to take Fort Union, the Rebels left their wagons, supplies, and livestock behind under light guard while the army went forward to fight the battle. Meantime Colorado volunteers got in behind them, burned their supplies and wagons, and shot their horses and mules. Utterly defeated, the now destitute and starved Southerners straggled southward to Fort Bliss again. The Civil War in New Mexico was over.
By the time Carleton's Volunteers reached New Mexico, the Confederates had been driven out, and the territory was again in Union hands. Thus, while they did not exactly accomplish what they made the grueling trek across Arizona to achieve, these soldiers did much, especially those who were discharged in New Mexico and stayed on. Carleton became the hated commander of the army's Department of New Mexico during the Indian wars and especially the horrible Navajo "Long Walk. But many of the volunteers became responsible citizens, some of them quite distinguished.
Masich's study is not the first time the California Volunteers' story has been told. Earlier historians Ralph Emerson Twitchell and William A. Keleher related it in outline in The Leading Facts of New Mexican History (1963 edition); and in Turmoil in New Mexico, 1846-1868 (1952), Darlis A. Miller's two fine books, The California Column in New Mexico (1982); and Soldiers and Settlers: Military Supply in the Southwest, 1861-1885 (1989) are more thorough than Twitchell and Keleher. Masich's book retells the story, and adds new detail. Its most important contribution I think is the inclusion of 180 some pages of letters, or dispatches, from the volunteers themselves. These are lively and informative. They increase our undertanding of the difficulties and hardships these brave men suffered through.
||Exploring Desert Stone: John N. Macomb’s 1859 Expedition to the Canyonlands of the Colorado , by Steven K. Madsen
Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 2010, cloth, 273pp., $34.95. (Review by Dave Remle, Glenwood Gazette 04/2010)
Capt. John N. Macomb was one of those literate and intellectually curious officers who graced the U. S. Army in the West during the 19 th century. An 1832 graduate of West Point, Macomb served as Chief of the army’s Corps of Topographical Engineers in New Mexico in the late 1850s in charge of locating and improving military roads in the territory. He received a $20,000 appropriation in 1859 to locate a military route from Santa Fe into Utah across the Colorado Plateau to somewhere near the junction of the Green and the Colorado Rivers. His was the first expedition to officially explore and map the wild deserts and canyon lands earlier crossed by the easternmost end of what was called the “Old Spanish Trail,” a trading route from Santa Fe to California. This trail had been in regular use by traders, thieves, and mountain men since at least as early as 1829 when a Santa Fe trader named Antonio Armijo first packed woven woolen blankets and Spanish silver coin to California to trade for horses and mules highly valued back in New Mexico.
Members of Macomb’s expedition included distinguished American geologist, John S. Newberry, and a very able civil engineer from Virginia named Charles H. Dimmock. The official report of the expedition, published in 1876, focuses on the geology of the vast area the government party covered.
Here in Madsen’s new book appear for the first time the details of daily life on this fascinating expedition, a life often difficult and dangerous and nearly always adventurous. Madsen divides the book into two parts. In the first of these he relates the story of the organization and the accomplishment of the expedition itself. The second part contains, among other important items, a diary kept by Dimmock and an abridged diary kept by Newberry.
Of these two, the Dimmock diary is the most informative and entertaining for Dimmock focuses on human events, action, and scenery while Newberry, always the scholar, focuses on matters of his areas of study – geology and paleontology. Dimmock’s lively diary includes entries covering his trip westward on the old “Santa Fe Trail” in the spring of 1859. Traveling in a coach pulled by teams, he was always uncomfortable, often wretchedly so, but he took the trip’s hardships with a sense of humor. Of Friday, May 20, 1859, he wrote, “Slept well [in the coach] & woke this morning to find it raining heavily. Coach leaks, so we’ll have a moist time…. Came 15 miles from Diamond Spring this evening, travelling late. Slept in coach, others on the ground. Had no supper. Cold & very windy, passed a wretched night.” Of Wednesday the 25 th, after covering forty-two miles that day, Dimmock wrote of the cursed mules, always troublesome, “Night very cold & heavy mist that wet our blankets. Mules [pulling out their picket stakes] crowded around the wagons for protection from wind. One dropped its manure upon Dorsey’s bed.”
In Santa Fe, Dimmock stayed over at the Exchange Hotel [on the site of the present day La Fonda]. He had the pleasure of meeting Kit Carson, who happened to be in town, and Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, who “came in and chatted quite agreeably, insisted upon our visiting his flower garden & gave us a boquet [sic] of very delicate construction.” Corpus Christie Sunday was, “Observed by the Catholics with much form. [In the] Morning the Host [was] carried from Shrine to Shrine by the Bishop [Father Lamy] & his assistants, followed by the girls from the Convent in white [,] & men in he rear shooting blank cartridges to scare the Devil.”
Madsen also makes a real contribution in reproducing Dimmock’s sketches made along the way – of such now famous landmarks as “Pedernal Peak” near Abiquiu and “Orphan Rock” near Ghost Ranch along the Chama River, of “Camel Rock” between Santa Fe and Espanola, and of “La Parroquia” in Santa Fe. Most impressive is the portfolio of lithographs, many in full color, of scenes in northern New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. These include the “Needles” on what is now the Navajo Reservation, that immense stone formation we all know as “Shiprock.” These printed lithographs were done from sketches of Dr. Newberry as the expedition moved along from Santa Fe toward Utah.
I am tempted to say: But wait. There’s more! Tucked into a folder glued to the inside back cover of Exploring Desert Stone is a folding facsimile map in color of the sweeping area in New Mexico and Utah covered by Macomb’s expedition. This handsome map measures a little more than 37 x 31 inches overall. Besides showing the topography, it traces the route of the expedition and that of the “Old Spanish Trail” as Macomb and Dimmock viewed and sketched them. This expensive facsimile map was funded by the National Park Service.
Every library in New Mexico should buy a copy of this book, and every reader and collector of New Mexico and of Utah books will want to own it. At the price new it is a bargain. Once out of print, probably soon, its value will shoot upward. We all have Steven K. Madsen to thank for this very pleasing and important work.
||Survival of Rural America: Small Victories and Bitter Harvests, by Richard E. Wood
Lawrence, Ks.: University Press of Kansas, 2008, cloth, 223 pp., $34.95. (Review by Dave Remley, Glenwood Gazette 03/2010)
Americans like to remember the days of their grandparents when farms and small towns, rather than big cities and urban sprawls, were America’s way of life. This fact is most evident on Christmas cards which picture the family returning, usually in a sleigh pulled by a team of bays or grays, “to Gramma’s house for Christmas day.”
But everyone knows in fact that that old way of life has passed, or is rapidly passing by. Homesick, I return from time to time to my old home county in the Middle West where, increasingly, I find the county seat town and, especially, the little surrounding township centers with names like New Market, Ladoga, Wingate, Alamo, and Darlington all but withered away. Each of those little towns had a school, a PO, a church or two, and a market, centered at a crossroads surrounded by family owned farms, many of them, like our farm, handed down through generations. So long as the schools remained in the towns or even tinier communities, the families stayed on. Once the schools were “consolidated” in the 1960s and 1970s, the township centers began to die as families moved to larger towns and cities for jobs and to be closer to the giant schools.
As the little towns died, so did family farming as a way of life. In the late 1950s I enrolled in the pre-veterinary program in the Ag School at Purdue University. I took a required course called “Agricultural Economics.” It was taught by Professor Earl Butz, the man who later became, as I remember it, President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Agriculture. Butz was a short, thick little man in a suit and tie. He was an absolute dynamo for what he called “Agribusiness.” It was from Butz I first heard that word, which has since come to characterize I would guess perhaps sixty to seventy-five percent of agricultural life in America.
The driving theory behind Butz’s instruction as he drove himself in great leaps chalk in hand from one end of his twenty-five foot blackboard to the other was that big money must buy up the farms, combine them into great tracts, and operate these immense tracts strictly as BIG business: for BIG profit. For Butz, farms were not a way of life for American families. Farms must be transformed. And soon. Nothing else would do! He was fanatic about it.
I hated the course, and I hated Earl Butz for pushing his theory on us. I had grown up on a family farm myself, as had my father, my grandfathers, my great grandfathers, and all their parents and their wives and children on both sides of the family for at least 150 years back that I knew all about. I had loved that way of life. It centered me down, gave me a home, brought my life a meaning, and it still does. The last thing I wanted to see was the family farm turned into Earl Butz’s dream of a vast industrial enterprise without a heart and a soul.
Now here is a book that takes up the other side of the matter. Richard Wood suggests all sorts of ways to do something about revitalizing American farms and rural communities. People are actually doing it. Wood gives the details of example after example that appear to be working. His book is a practical man’s and woman’s how-to-do-it manual. If you think America is losing something important in losing its farms and small towns, then read this book. Have your local library order it now. Reading it can bring you new hope.
||Victorio: Apache Warrior and Chief, by Kathleen P. Chamberlain
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007, cloth, 242 pp., $24.95. (Review by Dave Remley, Glenwood Gazette 02/2010)
Apache chieftains have drawn as much attention from able biographers as have leaders of any other western tribe. There are Angie Debo's Geronimo (1977); Edwin R. Sweeney's Cochise (1991), and Mangas Coloradas (1998); Dan L. Thrapp's Victorio and the Mimbres Apaches (1974); and Eve Ball's book of recollections of James Kaywaykla's memories of life in Victorio's times, titled In the Days of Victorio (1970).
Of these great Apache leaders, Victorio's life story is perhaps harder to tell than any other because so little is known of him except for what is recorded in government records kept by the army and by officials of the Indian Bureau. And these records tell only of his life from the American viewpoint during his later years, years of conflict with an alien culture. Of his boyhood and his young manhood there is little if anything to document events, except for oral accounts gathered by such people as Eve Ball.
Recognizing this problem, Kathleen P. Chamberlain does an excellent task of imagining just what Victorio's early years might have been like because she understands the Apache culture, how children and younger members of the tribe were handled and what they were taught. Thus, what her book provides is a very believable Victorio as boy and maturing warrior. And this is as close as we can probably ever get to the reality of what his life was like.
Chamberlain's account of the later years of Victorio's life, the years when he took it as his mission to save his people and their lifeways from the soldiers, settlers, traders, and farmers who finally overcame them, is crisply written and actively told. She concieves the grown Victorio as dedicated to a cause, as a superior strategist in warfare, and as a deeply spiritual man. The bibliographical essay which closes her book reveals the depth of her research into the primary and secondary sources. This is a biography that belongs on the shelf beside the works of Dan L. Thrapp and of Eve Ball.