Tombstone’s Strange But True Tale From the Old West

Posted by Rusty LaGrange on March 17, 2016 with No Comments as , , ,

Five different newspapers were historically known to be running as daily or weekly editions in the early days of 1880 Tombstone, Arizona. If you had the leisure time to peruse the variety pages of their old archives, you might have come across this one based on a true account.

Johnny Blair of Double Dobe (short for adobe mud) Ranch was looking forward to riding  into Tombstone to see the sights with a bunch of cowboy comrades when he was taken down with a sudden case of smallpox.

Dragged to the Grave

Saddle Pardner Dies of Smallpox & Goes to the Grave Fast

Smallpox was a frightening disease that was hard to survive or to get rid of. Whole Native Indian tribes had been wiped out due to the lack of any natural tolerance to the affliction. Everyone was afraid of smallpox. His friends quarantined him under care of a Mexican woman, immune from the plague, in a cabin out on the mesa. His friends occupied another cabin a half mile away to lend whatever long-distance assistance they may. They waited patiently and seemed honor-bound to support their trail buddy.

After five days, the Mexican nurse approached within earshot and announced that poor Senor Juanito was ‘very dead.’ To bury the victim, and pal, of this dreaded disease, without endangering the lives of the other cowboys became their immediate problem. Having scooped out a grave, they played ‘seven-up’ card game to determine who would officiate as mortician.

The loser of the game saddled his pony and, riding to the open door of the cabin where the dead man lain on a blanket on the floor, threw a loop of a lasso about his feet. Spurring his pony to a gallop with the corpse dragging and bouncing at the end of the rope, the rider raced at break-neck speed toward the grave, into which the dead man flounced headlong. The other cowboys, anticipating the delivery, rushed up with spades and made the dirt fly as they filled the grave, establishing doubtlessly a world’s record for lightning speed in funerals.

Hold Lightning in Your Hand? Yup.

Posted by Rusty LaGrange on August 4, 2015 with No Comments as , ,

Some tall tales come out of the Old West, and here at Old West Stagecoach and Trading Post, I could fabricate ones that would leave you scratchin’ your head.

Just wanted you to know that what you read here has been carefully researched and I try not to hornswoggle you or flat out lie to you. I want the Old West to be entertaining, as it should be, but also educational.

Here’s a case in point:

Old West Stagecoach and Trading Post with fulgurite

Specimen of large fulgurite with branches

If you come across a strange looking black stick protruding out of the ground, and it looks covered with bumpy, black sand crystals, you may have a fulgurite. Fulgurite (Latin for lightning) is a term for a lightning-formed, fused, rock structure. When lightning hits the ground and the silica content, as in a sand dune, is high enough to be fused by the high heat temperatures of several thousand degrees Fahrenheit, then a tube of fused sand is formed. The walls of the fulgurite might be as thin as one-thirtieth of an inch but can reach as many as 30 feet into the ground. The denser ones found have been as large as three or four inches in circumference. Most are much smaller and brittle.

Old West Stagecoach and Trading Post with sand dune lightning

Raw fulgurite dug from sand dune

Go ahead and ask at your local museum or a rock hound enthusiast to see if they ever found one. Then ask them how they found it.



What makes collecting fulgurites so odd is that as the shifting sands tend to uncover whatever is beneath, you could find yourself walking through a forest of lightning, frozen in time to be found and studied.

Old West Stagecoach and trading Post with fragile glass tube

Fragile tube of glass is fulgurite example

So, next time you play on a sand dune, watch out for gnarly black sticks with weird formations of blackened sand. If the interior is black, smooth glass — you have yourself a fulgurite.

Rusty LaGrange

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Legendary Stagecoach Driver — One-Eyed Charley Parkhurst

Posted by Rusty LaGrange on July 9, 2015 with No Comments as , , ,

Folks love to hear about living legends. Even if they don’t live up to the pedestal folks place them on, well, it still is a place suitable for them.

Case in point is the odd story of a “whip” — the nickname for a stagecoach driver — with a lot of history, and plenty of guts and glory earned on the trail. One-Eyed Charley Parkhurst was one of the best stagecoach drivers out West and known to frequent Wolf Creek Tavern up on the Oregon Coast driving for the Butterfield Stage. Once having driven San Jose and Santa Cruz routes in California, and others up in the Gold Country back in the 1849-50s.

As compelling as any hard driven Whip -- Charley was top-notch

As compelling as any hard driven Whip — Charley was top-notch

Folks said for every mile he drove his team hard, spat his tobacco juice harder, and cussed like Sam Clemens; the only time he missed work was the day after payday, when he’d be too hung over to drive. So the drinking and swearing would have been those other attributes he would have been known for. A good whip could earn the highest pay for the most coveted routes. Over time, more than 20 years, that’s what Charley did. For every cantankerous word that flew out of his mouth, he earned the best paying route and others looked up to him for it.

Others added that he was curt and ornery, hell on wheels in a game of cards or dice, and possibly the best handler of horse teams in the West. One source passes on a rumor that he shot and killed at least one bandit who’d hoped to rob the stage. If you rode with Charley you were in good hands.

Monument to the Legend

Monument to the Legend

In 1868 after the Civil War, at the age of 57 or so, he went and got himself registered to vote so he could help Ulysses S. Grant clinch the election. Even though Charley never got into the war, the feelings of those out West were strong. No one wanted to tangle with Charley just to prove a point.

So it was in 1879 that One-Eyed Charley Parkhurst earned his legendary status and died at the age of 67 — his hard life ended in a small cabin near Watsonville, California. But there was another legend to add to Charley’s after his death. Seems that the mortician at the funeral home discovered something that nobody knew — Charley was a woman. Some say her name was Charlotte, some say Mary, either way they found she had been orphaned at an early age. Dressing as a boy helped her to escape the orphanage, and she found the masquerade opened a lot of doors that were closed to girls and women in early 19th-century America. She had a way with horses and her slight build and structure helped her fit in with the males she worked with. It became a way of life for her, from that day forward.

A Stagecoach similar to the type driven on Parkhurst's route

A Stagecoach similar to the type driven on Parkhurst’s route

Legends need to be hardened over time. With Charley it took some doing because most of the male population who worked with her and gambled and drank regularly couldn’t believe she was an actual woman. It was hard to swallow. Not only that, she’d up and voted in a Presidential election in 1868, possibly the first woman in America to do so. That alone could help place her a bit higher on the pedestal.

Over time the stories ran out and all that was left was a true legend of a famous stagecoach driver who truly outlived her scandalous death.

Ladies Handiwork Arrives at Trading Post

Posted by Rusty LaGrange on April 9, 2015 with 2 Comments

The latest in ladies handiwork have just been delivered by stagecoach. We’re hurrying to get them out and displayed. Once completely on the shelves of the Trading Post, you’ll have the top quality doilies, dresser scarves, and demi cloth available.

Prices will be set based on Vintage, Collectible, and New World. First come, first served.

My Momma used to make these dainty little doilies and attach them to the jar tops of preserves and jellies. A narrow ribbon around the lid secured the doily very well. Those gifts were cherished by both ladies and their husbands.

The larger doilies were often placed on arm chair backs and side arms to reduce the oils penetrating the upholstery cloth. Most times they were crocheted using an ecru bone color thread and a fine hook. A few I have in a darker beige tone. Some are made by tatting intricate loops together to form a fancy pattern for either a doily or dresser scarf. Momma showed me how to tat years ago but it’s hard to remember if you don’t do it often enough.

There’s a trend now for ladies planning their wedding gowns and trousseaus to have a vintage purse to match. Some of these are created by taking a round doily and weaving a color-matched velvet ribbon through the edges, and by pulling the ribbon, making the doily come together much like a satchel. Others have gone a step further and lined the purse with matching satin lining.

I do wish I were more of a seamstress than just a purchasing agent for the Trading Post. Either way I have no time to work such magic and create such pretty purses. If you make them, please send me a photo and I can post it here. It always helps to see an idea before actually making it on your own.