Wednesday, August 7, 2013

OLD WEST LEGENDS The Chuck Wagon - Real Queen of the Cattle Trail Outside of the “round-up,” there just might be no more identifiable image for the cowboy and cattle trail of the Old West than that of the Chuck Wagon. Some people may think that a chuck wagon was part of every traveling caravan, however, this was not the case. The chuck wagon was invented specifically for the use of the Texas cowboys who were driving their herds along the trail to the closest rail head or market. While some form of mobile kitchens did exist along the overland trails and had for generations, the invention of the Chuck Wagon is attributed to Charles Goodnight, a Texas rancher and co-founder of the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Before the railroad reached Texas , competition was stiff in recruiting good cowboys willing to spend the long weeks on the cattle trail driving large herds to the Kansas rail heads or markets in other states. In the early days of the great trail drives, each cowboy was responsible for his own meals and had to make do with what he could carry with him. The Cattle Trail, 1905. This image available for photographic prints HERE! Charles Goodnight saw this as not only a problem, but also as an opportunity to hire the best cowboys and soon came up with a solution. In 1866, he created the prototype for the chuck wagon by purchasing a Studebaker wagon, a durable army-surplus wagon, and hiring a good cook. With the help of the cook, the two outfitted the wagon with steel axles that could withstand the hard terrain, and added boxes, shelves, and drawers for the cook. The two developed an efficient layout with a "chuck box" at the back of the wagon, which was a sloping box with a hinged lid that lay down to provide a flat working surface. Inside the chuck box were drawers and shelves to hold cooking tools and supplies. Beneath the chuck box was a “boot” to hold larger items such as the ever present dutch oven. The average chuck wagon was about 10 feet long and 38-40 inches wide. A water barrel and coffee mill were attached to the outside of the wagon and canvas or cowhide, called the "possum belly" was suspended beneath to carry firewood and cow chips. Waterproof tarps held up by bows covered the wagon to keep everything dry. A chuck wagon “fly”, or canvas awning, was often attached to the top of the chuck box that could be rolled out in case of rain. In the front of some of the wagons was a jockey box, which was used for storing tools and heavier equipment needed on the trail. Larger ranches often had a second wagon to carry bedrolls, tents, spare saddles, and extra supplies. However, in smaller outfits, the wagon box of the chuck wagon was used to carry the drover's personal items and bedrolls, as well as any other need items such as bulk food supplies, water, tools, feed for the horses, medicine, needles and thread, etc. The chuck wagon was sometimes drawn by oxen, but, more often by mules. Before long, the chuck wagon was adopted by trail drovers across the west, as well as loggers, prospectors, and others traveling in groups. The term “chuck wagon” is attributed to two different sources, one saying that it was named after “Chuck” Goodnight, and the other saying that it comes from the slang term for food – “chuck.” Food carried in the chuck wagon was generally easy-to-preserve items such as beans, salted meats, coffee, onions, potatoes, lard, and flour to make biscuits. Beef was something that was never in short supply and a good chuck wagon cook knew how to prepare it in many different ways. Fried steak was the most common and also the general favorite; but, pot roasts, short ribs, and stew were often served. A general perception of the chuck wagon was that the cowboys lived on beans; and though the cook sometimes did make them, it was not that common, as they took too long to cook. The cook was not limited to only those items stored in the chuck wagon, but, food was also gathered en route. On these long trail drives, that often were as much as 1,000 miles in length and could last as long as five months, the cook became a very important part of the team – even more so than the trail drovers. Second only to the Trail Boss, the cook not only made the meals along the trail, but also acted at times, as barber, dentist, and banker. As the only real benefit on the long cattle trail, the morale of the men and the smooth functioning of the camp depended largely upon him, so much so, that even the Trail Boss often deferred to him. A trail boss was usually paid about $100 to $125 a month, the cook about $60, and the drovers, from $25-40. The cook became so important to the trail drive, that he was soon dubbed with a number of nicknames including Coosie and Cookie, which were the most common; but also gained a number of others, such as Soggy, Pot Rustler, Lean Skillet, Old Pud, Old lady, Belly Cheater, Biscuit Roller, Dough Boxer, Dough Puncher, Greasy Belly, Grub Worm, Gut Robber, Sourdough, and more. Even though some of these nicknames were not necessarily complimentary and wagon cooks often had the reputation of being ill-tempered, not a soul on the crew ever dared to complain. Breakfast and dinner was the highlight of day. On the other hand, a cook who didn't get the meals ready on time, would be very quickly subject to ridicule. Mess Time! This image available for photographic prints HERE! So why was Cookie so ill-tempered? Especially given the fact that he didn't work as hard as the drovers during the day. While his job may not have required as much effort during daylight hours, he was always operating on less sleep and still had to be awake to drive the chuck wagon, constantly look for and gather fuel, including wood and cow chips, and collect additional food supplies along the way. His job required that he get up earlier than the cowhands, usually before the first light of dawn, in order to have coffee and breakfast ready for the crew. After the men had saddled up and left the cook washed, dried and put away the dishes and cooking utensils, packed the bed rolls and any food supplies in the wagon, and hitched up the team to move on to the next camp. In the evening, he had to move quicker than the crew in order to be at the appointed camp to have a hot meal ready when they arrived. In addition to cooking the meal, if Cookie was feeling kindly toward "the boys," he would make a desert, which usually consisted of a pie or pastry. Dinner around the chuck wagon was the highlight of the day and has been described as pleasantly barbaric, as one might expect with a group of hard working men out in the elements. Though the talk was colorful and often filled with profanity, there were definite “unwritten” rules to be followed around the chuck wagon. Some of these included never tying a horse to the chuck wagon or even close so that dust wouldn't blow into the food. Approaching riders always stayed downwind from the chuck wagon and the cowboys were not allowed to be scuffling about for the same reason. The cowboys also knew not to “mess” with the cook, including never crowding around his fire for warmth, never touching his cooking tools, helping himself to a bite before dinner, or using his work table for any reason. The cowboys sat on the ground to eat and during the meal, there were more unwritten rules including no cowboy was to to take the last piece of anything unless he was sure the rest of the group was through eating. If a man refilled his coffee cup, and someone yelled, "Man at the pot," he was supposed to fill all the cups held out to him as well as his own. After a meal, the cowboys always scraped their plates clean and put them in the "wrecking pan", which was a big dishpan set aside for the cook to wash. After washing the dishes, filling the water barrel and dragging wood the cook could finally relax and enjoy what was left of the evening. The high time of the trail drives lasted only about 20 years, from the end of the Civil War to the mid -1880's. During those two decades, about ten million cows walked the trails from Texas to the rail heads in Kansas and Missouri. Many of these went as far as Wyoming and even into Canada. A number of the markets that the cattle were driven to quickly evolved into lawless cowtowns, especially in Kansas. Some of these included wicked Dodge City; Abilene, dubbed the Queen of the Cowtowns, and Ellsworth, just to name a few. Chuck wagon Etiquette No one eats until Cookie calls When Cookie calls, everyone comes a runnin' Hungry cowboys wait for no man. They fill their plates, fill their bellies, and then move on so stragglers can fill their plates Cowboys eat first, talk later. It's okay to eat with your fingers. The food is clean If you're refilling the coffee cup and someone yells "Man at the pot." You're obliged to serve refills. Don't take the last serving unless your sure you're the last man. Food left on the plate is an insult to the cook. No running or saddling a horse near the wagon. And when you ride off, always ride down wind from the wagon. If you come across any decent firewood, bring it back to the wagon Strangers are always welcome at the wagon. Chuck wagon cook near Spur, Texas, 1939. This image available for photographic prints HERE! Did you know? When Cookie was finished with his work for the day and before hitting the sack, he would always place the tongue of the chuck wagon facing north. When the trail master started in the morning he would look at the tongue and then knew what direction he would be moving the herd.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Feature Article: How to Analyze Your Website Traffic

Feature Article: How to Analyze Your Website Traffic
For many of us, traffic and website analytics is a very foreign idea. But understanding traffic and reading website analytics reports doesn't have to be a complicated endeavor. First up, let's break down the terminology: Page views: Each time someone lands on your site (when they load one of your pages) it generates a page view. Keep in mind that this tallies regardless of who visits or how many times they've been to the site. It sounds like a bad measurement of traffic and to some degree it is. We all love returning visitors but most of us really care about those valuable first time folks.
Visits: This measure shares how many users have spent time on your website, regardless of the number of pages each user views.
Unique visitors: This is an important stat and as the name implies, this metric counts only the unique users who visit the site. If a particular visitor comes to the site every day, it still only counts as one visit.
Pages/visit: This metric shows you how many pages a visitor perused during each session, the higher this number, the better.
Average visit duration: How much time do users spend on the site during each visit? While you want someone to spend a long time on a site, the average time spent is generally 3-5 minutes and sometimes less. Obviously longer is better, but the only site in the world that gets massive visit duration is currently Facebook, with an average of 20 minutes per visit.
Bounce rate: This number indicated people who "bounce" off of the page. So, someone visits and then decides they are either in the wrong place or you've sent them into "surf shock" and they leave. Generally the lower the number the better, but the average bounce rate is around 50-59%.
% new visits: This measure is the percentage of your traffic from first-time users who have never been to the site before. If you're eager to get repeat people to your site (and this will often depend on the nature of your business) you'll want this number lower than your repeating visitor number.
Understanding Google Analytics

These days, most websites use a service called Google Analytics to measure traffic. It's considered by most web designers to be the gold standard of measurement and it's also free which is great.
Getting Google Analytics is easy, you can just register on the site and it will give you a snippet of code that will go on each page of your website. Your web person can do this if it wasn't installed when your site was built. Most hosting companies come with a C-panel backend that measures traffic, even so I highly recommend getting Google Analytics for accuracy and other reasons you'll see in a minute.
Once you set up Google Analytics, give it a few days to gather data, once you do you'll start to see numbers appear on your dashboard. Google Analytics continues to update their system and recently launched a beta version of real-time traffic. Once you're logged in you can find it on the left hand side of the page.
Real Time Traffic

I tend to watch these real-time traffic numbers pretty closely. It's also a great tool if you're on top of a promotion, you can see what kind of traffic you're driving to your website, in real time!
Getting to Know Your Data

When you first start looking through the numbers, you'll want to get a sense of some of the numbers we described above: Page Views, Bounce Rate, etc. If you're worried that your bounce rate is too high, consult your web person to see if there's anything you can do to lower it.
One of the areas I spend a lot of time on is the Traffic from All Sources so I can gauge what's coming from where. Not only will this help me as I'm creating referring traffic from various channels, but it also helps me know what works and what doesn't. You can find this area here: Click on Traffic Sources and then All Traffic.
Measuring Social Media

One of the most exciting additions to Google Analytics has been their tracking of social media. This is a fantastic tool that lets you see how much of your traffic is coming from social media. So, what's a good mix? I think half of your traffic should come from social media, the rest should come organically from Google. Here's a snapshot of what these two graphs look like. Once you do that, you'll see two sets of bars/graphs indicating traffic patterns.

The top bar shows you the social media referrals, with a comparison chart to all traffic, which is super helpful. You don't need to do anything to set this up. Google tracks social traffic automatically.

Measuring AdWords

Google Analytics can also connect to your AdWords campaign, allowing you to measure how your online ad campaign is performing. This will allow you to track how your ads are doing and whether they are bringing you visitors. If you run ads on your site, click Content > AdSense > Overview to see which pages on your site are earning the most revenue (and how much). You'll need to link them together in the AdSense tool first.

How much traffic you get and how well it's converting will depend on your reach and your website, but knowing these numbers is important. Keep in mind that the importance of each category will depend largely on the industry you're in as I mentioned previously. If you want lots of returning visitors, then the percent of new visits number will need to be lower. If you're looking for lots of new traffic then Unique Visitors is what you need to pay attention to.

Getting to know your traffic is not only important, but mandatory if you're going to know how effective your online marketing is. Also, knowing your Google Analytics numbers will also show you if there's a problem on your site, like low conversion which could be because of a broken page or broken link.

M&B launches campaign building on erotica 'revolution'

17.08.12 | Charlotte Williams

Romance specialists Mills & Boon has launched its first billboard advertising campaign, aiming to capitalise on the "revolution" in female fiction following the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon.
The advertising campaign, which M & B described as "mid to heavyweight", is running in locations across the South Eastern rail network, and highlights two erotica titles, The Siren by Tiffany Reisz and Switch by Megan Hart, with the tagline: "Spice up tomorrow's commute". The publisher is also launching the print versions of e-first titles 12 Shades of Surrender, and two six-in-one volumes of stories, Bound and Undone.
Head of marketing Tara Benson said: "Obviously we've had a bit of a revolution in female fiction in the past four months . . . None of us know where the erotic genre will take us, but there is the demand, and we have got the material."
She added: "The opportunity was to tell people that we were publishing the content they would expect from us. We put big bets on these titles, we are very aware that the type of conversation around erotica has moved on in the last four months. Women are happy to talk and discuss the books, and that's where a brand like Mills & Boon comes into its own, because we are happy to talk and discuss these things too. It's very bold, very bright."
Benson said the Fifty Shades campaign, run by Cornerstone, and the one for Bared to You by Sylvia Day, published by Michael Joseph, were both "quite similar in their look and feel". She said: "They had extraordinary sales, and obviously we want extraordinary sales. But I didn't see any need for the M&B brand to emulate another campaign."
Benson said the campaign was a "test" for the publisher, but that she hoped to run further billboard campaigns in future.

Trackback URL for this post:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Impac Award

Emma Donoghue, Lionel Shriver and China Miéville are among the authors longlisted for the 2012 International Impac Dublin Literary Award, which saw 147 titles nominated by libraries around the world.
With 20 nominations, Donoghue’s Room (Picador) was the most popular title longlisted for the €100,000 annual award, the world’s most valuable literary prize for a single work of fiction.
Also nominated was another Galaxy National Book Award winner, Jennifer Egan, for her novel A Visit from the Goon Squad (Corsair) and last year’s Man Booker winner Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury)
The list also comprises 34 translated works from authors including Isabel Allende, David Grossman, Daniel Kehlmann, Per Petterson and Bernhard Schlink. The full longlist can be viewed here.
Dublinls lord mayor Andrew Montague urged people to borrow the novels from their public library: “You will find books and authors, particularly those novels in translation that you might otherwise never come across and you can pick your own favourites, before I announce the winner on 13th June next year."
The shortlist will be announced on 12th April 2012 and Montague will reveal the winner on 13th June.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


“I’d like to speak to the marshal,” the tall figure stated as he entered the jailhouse. His hat was pulled low, obscuring his face, which was just as well as there was more than likely a bill with that face and a reward printed underneath it hanging somewhere in the building.
“Who’s asking?” the man behind the table asked gruffly.
“A concerned citizen.”
Evan Taylor grunted at hearing this and chewed on his tobacco. He’d had enough of concerned citizens in the two weeks he’d been marshal to last him a lifetime. The job wasn’t proving as enjoyable as he thought it would be. He’d imagined roaming around Baxter Springs, untouchable and unaccountable. The reality was somewhat different. The last thing he wanted that morning, as he nursed a heavy hangover from the night before, was someone coming into his office, asking awkward questions. But, he reasoned to himself, short of shooting this feller dead right there in front of him, he’d have to at the very least listen to what he had to say.
Taylor stood up slowly, giving his head a chance to catch up with his body, hoping that his queasiness eased a little. “Well, citizen,” he asked, “what’re you so concerned about?”
“My name’s Adam Crean,” the stranger said authoritatively as he offered his hand to Taylor. “And I’m a Pinkerton.”
Taylor shook his hand roughly. “A Pinkerton?” he asked, surprised. “What business have you around here?”
“Powers Bank have employed me.”
“Oh,” Taylor muttered. “You’re here about the bank robbery. Well, I don’t know nothing about that.”
This time it was Crean’s turn to show surprise. “What d’you mean, you don’t know nothing about it? You’re the marshal, aren’t you?”
“Sure am.” Taylor paused as he spat out a wedge of chewing tobacco. “But I wasn’t when that happened.”
“But that was only two weeks ago. Did the last feller get shot or something? I hadn’t heard.”
A smile crossed Taylor’s face. “A Pinkerton that don’t know everything? Maybe you’re not such a great detective after all?”
Crean’s face reddened. “My mistake,” he said. “Maybe you’d tell me where I can find someone who does know about the robbery?”
Taylor still wore his stupid grin. “Gee, I’m only a lawman two weeks and already I got a Pinkerton asking for my help,” he said.
There was no one else in the room to hear him. This little performance was purely for his Crean’s benefit.
Crean stared at Taylor. “Afraid so, friend,” he said, seeming to force a smile. “You’ve got the better of me here.”
Taylor chuckled deeply, savoring this small satisfaction. He could feel the pounding in his head returning, however, and decided that it was time to send this feller on his way. “You’re looking for Pete Baker,” he said. “He was marshal when the bank was robbed, killed all the gang except the feller that had the money.” A flash of pain passed through his brain. His hangover was returning fast, and with a vengeance. “You’ll probably find him in the Rancher’s saloon, his wife runs the place.”
“Much obliged,” the detective replied and tipped the brim of his hat, but seemed reluctant to remove it. Taylor never did get a good look at Crean’s face, and then the Pinkerton turned and left him to his hangover.
* * * *
Joe and Pete sat around the kitchen table in the back of the Ranchers’ Saloon, listening to the sound of drunken customers that carried through from the bar
“I thought we’d be able to leave this behind,” Pete said grimly. “Bring Tom up out in the country on a homestead. This isn’t a good place for a child.”
“I don’t know,” Joe said. “Dorothy grew up here and she turned out all right.”
This drew a smile to Pete’s lips. He could always rely on Joe to stay positive, to say something to try and keep his spirits up. But he had had his heart set on a farming life, on leaving the Ranchers’ Saloon behind. Yet that dream seemed to be gradually disappearing. The search for the outlaw wasn’t going well and he’d come to realize that he acted rashly when he pledged to bring him in. In his role as marshal he had spent most of his time locking up drunken cowboys and trying to maintain law and order. Chasing all over the countryside following faint clues wasn’t what he was used to. None of the dead bodies yielded any helpful information, either. They’d been outcasts, known up and down the trails as guns-for-hire; troublemakers who’d do anything for the price of a drink.
Pete and Joe quickly reached a dead end. The bitter truth was that there wasn’t much appetite for helping the law in and around Baxter Springs, particularly when no reward was offered. And since it was known that Pete’s days as a lawman in town were numbered it, it soon became obvious that his authority amongst the townsfolk diminished, making his job that much more difficult, if not almost impossible.
“Maybe working in the saloon won’t be so bad,” Pete mumbled. “I’m sure I’d get used to it, eventually.”
“Sure,” Joe replied.
Pete slipped into a listless silence, absentmindedly listening to the singing and shouting from the saloon. There was nothing more to be said. Even Joe couldn’t fill the void. They both raised their coffees to their lips and the sound of them slurping the drinks drifted into the air.
“Pete,” Dorothy said as she entered the room, “there’s someone here to see you.”
A tall man with his hat low, obscuring his face, came in. He kept his long coat on as he sat in the chair Pete offered. All in all, Pete thought he was a strange looking feller.
“Name’s Pete Baker, and this here’s Joe Flaherty. What can I do for you, stranger?”
“Adam Crean,” the man said. “I’m here to ask you a few questions about the bank robbery.”
Pete and Joe looked at him, hard. “What’s your interest in the matter?” Pete asked.
“I’m a Pinkerton.”
“You employed by the bank?”
“Sure am.”
“Well then, let’s all have some more coffee and then you can ask your questions.”
About an hour later, after much questioning and almost as much coffee, Adam Crean said he’d gotten all the information he sought and left the Ranchers’ Saloon.
* * * *
Pete waited until Crean left and then grabbed his hat from the back of the chair. “Come on, Joe,” he said urgently.
Joe jumped to his feet, clearly surprised by this sudden call to action. “Why?”
“We’ve got to follow him.”
“The Pinkerton?”
“That ain’t no Pinkerton, Joe. That’s Dan Bogue, and if he’s interested in our robbery, then he might know something that could help us.”
They left the building as quickly as possible and from a safe distance followed Dan Bogue down the street.
* * * *
Bogue was preoccupied as he walked. He kept to the wooden boardwalk as much as possible, sticking to the shadows where possible. Baxter Springs was busy, the stores and saloons all doing brisk business. Horses snickered as they stood tied to hitching rails all along the street. He wasn’t sure what to make of his meeting with Pete Baker. He’d learned all the details about the robbery, some of which McGraw had already provided. What Bogue discovered was that Weston escaped somewhere on the plain and almost certainly killed one of his own men in the process. That wasn’t good news. He knew that it meant Weston meant to disappear, maybe even retire and hadn’t intended sharing the money. But then something happened, some event provoked his furious killing spree in the saloon in Lawrence, a piece of information the marshal didn’t mention. Something that led to a price being put on his head and drawn Dan Bogue into his story. A story that must end with Weston’s death.
He’d come across Weston before but it was untrue to say that there was a sense of brotherhood or even empathy between the gunmen. They weren’t soldiers. They weren’t fighting for a greater cause. They were working for their own selfish needs. For material gain, and for power. And, no matter what concerns Bat Maxwell might have about Bogue’s willingness to carry out his task, killing Charlie Weston carried no more significance for him than he might attach to squashing a bug underfoot. He slipped into a saloon; he needed a drink to help him think.
As always, he sat at a corner table to ensure that he held the whole saloon in his field of vision. He ordered a beer and when it arrived he took a thirsty mouthful.
He relaxed a little and began to run through the course of events involving Charlie Weston.
Weston had robbed a bank here in Baxter Springs and gotten away, but then turned up just down the road in Lawrence two weeks later, where he killed two men. There, the trail grew cold. As he considered what to do next, Bogue ordered a whisky.
He felt the liquid easing his aching bones after the long ride to get there. He sat, taking stock, debating what to do next.
* * * *
Pete watched as Bogue emerged from the saloon. Evening was creeping in and twilight was descending on the town. After exiting the building, Bogue turned left and made his way along the busy street. Pete set off after him at a brisk pace, Joe just behind.
Bogue walked determinedly, rarely breaking his stride. He kept to the sides of the street and occasionally looked from left to right, surveying the passers-by.
Pete stayed well back, trying to remain as inconspicuous as possible. After about five minutes, Bogue took a sharp turn to his right, leaving the street abruptly. He entered the Hakluyt Hotel. Pete paused, unsure what to do now. Follow him inside or stay? He lingered outside the hotel, trying to see if Bogue lurked inside the doorway, waiting for him to blunder in. He couldn’t see anything but the dull interior of the entrance hallway, however, so he stepped in off the street.
Bogue was nowhere to be seen.
Pete immediately crossed the lobby.
“What can I do for you?” asked the man behind the reception desk. He paused before adding, “Marshal.”
“I need a little help, Benjamin,” Pete said as Joe now joined him.
“Anything you ask, Pete.”
Benjamin Hakluyt had been running his hotel since before Pete came to town, and Pete had few dealings with him. Any time they met, Hakluyt seemed polite and courteous. He valued peace and quiet, but he also valued his guests’ privacy. That meant that he had always complied with Pete, but he was aware of where the law ended and his rights began. This could be difficult, Pete mused. But he needed Benjamin’s help and he was going to have to get it, one way or another.
“That man who just came in. Is he a guest of yours?”
Benjamin paused before answering, obviously thinking over the implications of anything he would say. “Yes, he is. Why do you ask, Pete? Last I heard, you weren’t doing any more law work around the town. Heard you were trying to catch the bandidos that robbed the bank.”
“That’s right.” He could see where this was going. His authority had been eroded and the uncertainty of his position meant that the local townsfolk no longer felt compelled to cooperate with him, not that they ever really welcomed the law into their lives, anyway. Pete took a deep breath before continuing. “It’s like this, Ben. That feller who just walked up your stairs is a murderer. A gun for hire. His picture’s hanging in the jailhouse.”
The color drained from the hotelier’s face.
“Now, either you’re going to keep an eye on him for me, and tell me personally when he’s about to leave, or I’m going to tell Evan Taylor that Dan Bogue’s hiding out in your hotel. And I can only imagine the kind of damage Evan would do to these fine premises of yours if he should come in here to arrest this man.”
Ben nodded and then spoke very softly: “Yes, Marshal.”
“So, I want to know if he looks like he’s going to leave town. Is that clear?” He didn’t wait for a reply. “You’re a good man Benjamin; I know you’ll do the right thing.”
He gestured to Joe and they exited the premises and returned to the street, leaving a troubled Ben Hakluyt behind.
“Gee, Pete. Weren’t you a bit harsh with him?” Joe asked.
“I didn’t enjoy that. He’s a good man; too good. He’d think the best of all his customers and wouldn’t tell us a thing without a little persuasion. Evan Taylor certainly helped us out there, even if he don’t know it.”
“It’s the only way he’d ever help us,” Joe replied, laughter in his voice.
They headed down the street, back toward the Ranchers’ Saloon with a spring in their steps. Progress, at last, Pete thought. He wasn’t sure what kind of progress, but at least things were moving forward.
* * * *
As the two lawmen walked past an alleyway, they didn’t take any notice of the cowboy lighting a match off of the sole of his boot. But the cowboy noticed them; he’d been waiting for them, and kept a safe distance from them until they had entered the saloon.
Confident that they were more than likely in there for the night, he returned to the alleyway near the Hakluyt Hotel and watched the doorway, waiting for any sign of Dan Bogue.
* * * *
Joe and Pete sat heavily at the kitchen table once more. Dorothy was with them, holding baby Tom in her arms. Pete gestured to her and she passed the baby across and watched as her husband stared lovingly into the eyes of his son. Something was amiss, she could tell. Pete wasn’t much of a one for deception and he could never keep his true feelings from her. She held her tongue, however, and allowed father and son time together. He’d tell her when the time was right.
She bustled about and poured coffee for herself and the two men. They looked weary, she thought. Inwardly, she’d reconciled herself to the fact that Pete would lose his job when the two months were up. He didn’t seem to have made any inroads into the solving of the case, despite an enthusiastic start, and both he and Joe now seemed to spend their whole time sitting at her kitchen table, drinking coffee and staring into space.
But something was different today. A light had returned to Pete’s eyes. Something had happened, but what? She couldn’t hold back any longer, it wasn’t in her nature. She was a woman who called a spade a spade and said things as they were. Time to get everything out in the open. Pete often thought that he was protecting her, she knew, by sparing her details of his work but she always got them out of him. And, she was sure, he was always glad she did.
“Spit it out, you two,” she whispered, trying not to wake the sleeping baby. “Something’s after happening and I won’t be left out.”
Pete looked up at her with a wry smile, while Joe just concentrated on his coffee.
“I was just about to tell you, darling,” he said. His voice was lighter, as if some of the lethargy that smothered him in the previous weeks had dissipated.
“Well then, get on with the telling.”
Pete explained to her about Dan Bogue, a hired gun, not a Pinkerton detective, and told her of their conversation with Benjamin Hakluyt.
“I hope you didn’t scare Ben too bad,” she scolded. “I hear Jane talking about his heart all the time.”
“He knows the right thing to do. That’s all that matters.”
“Well, what are you fixing to do?” She couldn’t keep the worry from her voice. On the one hand, she was happy to see her husband regaining his sense of purpose while, on the other, she was worried where it might lead him. She could already feel that it might take him away from her for a time; she could only pray that it would allow him to return.
* * * *
Pete took a deep breath. He looked down on the sleeping figure of Tom, all swaddled up in his blanket, just his soft face uncovered. Dorothy beckoned for him to pass the baby over but he shook his head and held his son even closer, feeling the warmth of his body. Everything was here in Baxter Springs: Dorothy, Tom, even Cal, his father-in-law, and of course Joe, his friend. All the family he had in the world. Was he foolish, was he being stupid or rash or reckless in what he planned to do?
Then he thought about the man Dorothy married. Thought of what life had been like when he’d been marshal, doing something he loved until the politics of the position interfered. In truth, the last few weeks were a blur of depression, indolence and general dissatisfaction. He hadn’t been himself, something he hadn’t even really realized or acknowledged until Dan Bogue walked into their kitchen and energized him like a bolt of lightning. He must continue; he had to see it through. It wasn’t just for him, it was for all of them. If he was successful, he was sure he could make a better life for his family. He must find the bank robber.
“When Bogue leaves town, Joe and I will be going after him,” Pete said eventually. His voice was steady as he desperately fought back the emotions that welled inside. “He knows something about the robbery and I intend finding out what it is. He might lead us right to the culprit.”
“Or he might kill you,” Dorothy said quickly.
“I’ll be careful. You know that. I can look after myself.”
“I know,” she said softly. “I know.” Tears brimmed her eyes and slid slowly down her cheeks.
Joe pushed his chair back from the table. “I better go home and get my things. I might not have time later.” He left, hurriedly.
After they placed Tom in his crib, Dorothy and Pete headed for their bedroom. When they got there, Dorothy clasped her arms around Pete and kissed him hard on the lips. “I’m sure Dan Bogue won’t leave town tonight,” she whispered softly.
* * * *
The knock on the door came early the next morning. Joe and Pete were ready and waiting.
“He’s checking out,” Benjamin’s son, Amos, said breathlessly.
Pete kissed baby Tom and Dorothy goodbye, his hand lingering on her shoulder as he pulled her to him. “See you soon,” he said and let go of her.
The pair left the saloon.
Dorothy couldn’t muster any words. Tears ran down her face.

Buy Wagon Hunt ebook at


Dan Bogue sat quietly in the corner, sipping his whisky, and could see all of the saloon, as well as the comings and goings. It was early evening and beginning to fill with the usual flow of cattle drovers, soiled doves and locals. Bogue finished his drink and was about to rise to leave when a man entered. He wasn’t the usual sort who frequented the saloon: his clothes were too well cut, his bearing superior to that of the average drunken cowboy. Bogue knew immediately that this man had come looking for him.
His hand slipped to the ornately engraved Colt in its holster. The well-dressed man crossed the floor quickly. Bogue glared at him as he approached, all the while searching for any signs of aggression or danger. As the man drew closer, Bogue noticed that the man was older than he first thought, maybe in his sixties. Even though his clothes were well made and refined in appearance, his face bore the signs of a life well lived. He stood directly across the table from Bogue, his broad frame dominating his line of vision. “Dan Bogue?” he asked, his voice a deep bass.
“Maybe,” Bogue replied. “Depends who’s asking.”
This brought a smile to the other man’s lips. “Name’s Maxwell,” he replied. “Bat Maxwell. And I know that you are Dan Bogue.”
Bogue eyed him. There was a spare stool at the other side of the table and he used his boot to shove it out. “I think you’d better sit down, Bat.”
Maxwell lowered himself onto the stool.
A waitress drifted over and Maxwell barked gruffly at her for a whisky. The two men sat in silence until the drink arrived, sizing each other up. Maxwell downed his drink in one swig and beckoned for another. “You want one?” he asked Bogue.
“My throat’s burned enough already,” Bogue replied.
Maxwell smirked. “I hear you’re a feller who can find people,” he said, peering across the table.
“For a price, of course.”
Bogue nodded. “Depends on the person and depends on the price.”
“This feller doesn’t want to be found,” Maxwell said.
“They rarely do. What kind of a feller are we talking about? Anyone I might know?”
Maxwell drained the rest of his whisky. “Charlie Weston.”
Bogue lowered his glass, slowly, trying to hide his surprise. “Charlie Weston?” he asked, just to make sure he had heard correctly.
Maxwell nodded.
“Are you sure?”
Maxwell nodded again.
“It’s going to cost you, that’s all I’m going to say.”
“Do you know him?” Maxwell looked directly at Bogue.
“Know Charlie Weston? Of course I know of him.”
“No,” Maxwell interrupted. “I asked, do you know him?”
This time Bogue paused before replying and met Maxwell’s glare dead on. At last, weighing his words carefully, he said, “Yes, I know him.”
“Can you do it?” Maxwell said. “I need to know now if I’m wasting my time. I know you’re both…”
“…outlaws,” Bogue finished the sentence for him.
“That doesn’t mean we’re brothers,” Bogue said. “How much are we talking about?”
Maxwell held his gaze. “You’re really willing to do this?”
Bogue nodded.
“Without even asking me why I want him killed?”
“You have the money, I’ll pull the trigger.”
“Fine. Two thousand dollars.”
Bogue fought to hide his shock.
“I’ve heard that you’re the best,” Maxwell said, “that’s why I’ve made you such a generous offer. It’s a lot of money, but if you want the best you have to pay for it, that’s what I believe.”
“I get half the money now, and the other half after the job’s done.”
“That’s what I thought you might say.” From inside his coat Maxwell pulled out a leather satchel and passed it across the table.
Bogue opened it and looked inside. The satchel was stuffed full of dollars.
“You can count it, if you want,” Maxwell offered.
“No need. Where can I get you?”
“My ranch is about five miles out of town. Anyone will tell you where it is.” Maxwell rose from the table and extended his hand toward Bogue. “Good doing business with you.”
Bogue rose also and felt his hand almost crushed in Maxwell’s grip.
He watched Maxwell’s back as he walked toward the door, all the while keeping one hand on his gun and the other on the leather satchel of money.
Bogue had one more drink after Maxwell left. The offer was a good one. Two thousand dollars was the most he’d ever been offered to kill a man. He could probably give up his gun if he succeeded in tracking down and killing Charlie Weston. But that was a big “if.” Charlie Weston was a killer, just like him, and if Weston didn’t want to be found, then things could get complicated.
Bogue left the saloon. His first objective was to try and find some information that could help him track down Weston. With his insides warmed by the whisky, he strolled along the boardwalk bordering Main Street. He kept under the awnings of the buildings. Being a hired gunman meant he had his enemies and staying in the shadows was always the safest course of action. It was impossible to tell when a relative of someone he’d killed would try and even up the score and restore some family pride.
He entered another saloon; a run-down, dingy establishment. Up on the raised stage danced two women, trying their best to attract the attention of customers who were steadily getting more and more drunk. Two men on a piano and a fiddle provided music and a feller swayed erratically around the floor, out of time with the tune. That feller was Chris McGraw.
Bogue grabbed McGraw by both shoulders and manouvered him toward a free table. A waitress came over but he waved her away. “Hey, I want a whisky!” McGraw whined as he tried to catch the skirt of the waitress as she flounced off. “In a minute,” Bogue barked. “After you answer a few questions.”
McGraw’s eyes were bloodshot and he smelled of stale sweat and smoke yet, Bogue knew, this drunk was just the man he needed to talk to if he were to have any chance of collecting the second half of his bounty. McGraw spent his whole life drinking his way up and down the trails and knew every saloon and every personality that frequented them. He was generally regarded by all and sundry as a harmless drunkard; to be tolerated like a stray dog. But McGraw heard everything and remembered almost everything, despite his drinking. He was a long time acquaintance of Bogue’s and his pocket provided the money for a lot of McGraw’s liquor. In return for a little information, of course.
“What you doing here, Bogue? You’re a long way from home. Business? This a social call or are you here to kill me?”
“Just some information,” Bogue replied.
“I don’t want your blood money,” McGraw spat. He got up to leave but fell to the floor, too drunk to walk.
Bogue picked him up and placed him back on his stool. “I know,” Bogue said. “But you need money and I need to hear what you know about Charlie Weston.”
McGraw cocked an eyebrow as best he could. “Charlie Weston?” he slurred. “You thinking of asking him to be your partner?” He smiled ruefully at his own joke. “Or you just trying to take out your competition?”
“Something like that,” Bogue muttered. He dropped some notes on the table and this time called the waitress over. “Two whiskies,” he told her and when they arrived he passed them both to McGraw, who drank them eagerly in case Bogue changed his mind and took them off of him.
“You must want this guy badly,” McGraw said, his voice hoarse from the harsh burn of the whisky. He eyed the notes on the table. Bogue still had his hand on them, both to make sure they weren’t snatched and also to make sure that McGraw’s drunken eyes couldn’t miss them.
“All yours if you tell me what I want to know. We both know the routine and, to tell the truth, I don’t have much time so let’s make this quick.”
McGraw knew he was only delaying the inevitable, that he was only barely hanging onto his last sliver of pride before giving up what he knew. “Fine,” he said. “Last I heard he was up in Baxter Springs. Bank job.”
“Same old Weston,” Bogue muttered.
“Nope,” McGraw replied, “not this time. Something happened, I heard. Shortly after the bank job, he shows up in Lawrence and shoots up a couple of men.”
“Where?” Bogue asked.
“In a saloon. The Kansas Belle, something like that.”
“Anything else?”
“Don’t think so. Hadn’t heard about him for a long time before that.”
Bogue nodded. He didn’t know why Weston had suddenly resurfaced. Maybe he was broke? Maybe he liked the taste of stealing and shooting too much to give it up? It was in some people’s blood. A fact he knew from personal experience. He rose to leave but stopped to ask one final question of McGraw. “You know anything about a Bat Maxwell?”
“Bat Maxwell? I know the name. He owns a lot of land around here. And cattle, too. His sons run most of it for him and he just collects the money. I’ve met his two sons, all right. Josiah and Robert. Didn’t like them much, Josiah especially. Sneaky. You’d want to be careful if you’re involved with Bat Maxwell. That much I do know. The only law he believes in is one that you carry in your holster. That’s about it, I’m afraid.”
Baxter Springs, Bogue thought as he left the saloon. I haven’t been there in a long time.

Buy Wagon Hunt ebook at