Duels weren’t always fought with guns, in fact most fights in the Old West weren’t really fought by duel or shootout. Most were actually drunken brawls that ended in a gunfire, but some fights, duels or brawls were fought with knives, and among the most famous knife fighters was a man named Jim Bowie. Many people think that he invented the Bowie knife, but in reality, the Bowie knife was invented by Jim’s equally belligerent brother Rezin Bowie. Resin came up with the design after nearly being killed in a vicious knife fight. Nevertheless, on September 19, 1827, it was Jim Bowie who made the knife famous when he killed a banker in Alexandria, Louisiana, using an early version of the Bowie knife. The Bowie brothers engaged in more fights than the typical frontiersman of the day, but such violent duels were not uncommon events on the untamed margins of American civilization. I guess some people just liked the bloody challenge more than other people. Personally, I don’t think that I would have the stomach for taking a life in such a manner, but then most of us really don’t want to kill someone at all. The Bowie brothers seemed to thrive on killing and fighting.

As time went on, most frontiersmen preferred knives to guns for fighting. I suppose they decided that they had a better chance against a knife than a gun. The Bowie knife quickly became one of the favorites, probably because it was scary all by itself. Often, when the Bowie knife was pulled out, the opponent had to quickly consider whether or not the fight was really worth the risk. The Bowie knife often discouraged many a would-be robber or attacker. The designs varied somewhat, but the typical Bowie knife sported a 9 to 15 inch blade sharpened only on one side for much of its length, though the curved tip was sharpened to a point on both sides. The double-edged tip made the knife an effective stabbing weapon, while the dull-edge combined with a brass hand guard allowed the user to slide a hand down over the blade as needed. It was the perfect knife for close-quarter fighting, and quickly became the weapon of choice for many westerners before the reliable rapid-fire revolver took its place in the post-Civil War era.

One would think that the Bowie brothers were outlaws, but in reality, they weren’t. They were landowners, and like many people in the Old West, sometimes they had to defend themselves. I suppose that as their fame grew, the need to defend themselves became a more common occurrence. While Rezin Bowie invented the Bowie knife, it was Jim Bowie who ultimately brought the knife its fame. After his first fight, men started going to a blacksmith to ask them to make a knife like Jim Bowie’s knife.

My nephew, Steve Spethman is a great husband and dad. I have known Steve since he was twelve, and like most kids, he was carefree and a little mischievous. Nevertheless, he has grown into such a great man. Steve’s top priority is his family. He is very active in the activities of his three boys and his daughter. Steve loves guns. He wants his kids and his wife, Jenny to know how to defend themselves, and he also loves to hunt, so he wants the kids to be able to hunt too, as they come of age, so he has trained them on every aspect of gun use and safety. Of course, they have to take the hunter safety classes too, but the two older boys have passed with ease. I know that his younger two children will do so too. Steve is an excellent marksman and is willing to help anyone with their shooting ability. I have been blessed to have him show me some things to help me shoot better, so I know that he is patient, and qualified. Now, I just need to go with him again to practice, hahaha!!

Steve is a hard working man, and even takes on extra work to help out family and friends, and to earn a little extra money. He does excellent carpentry work, and has helped .y sister, Caryl Reed and her husband, Mike to build the home they have been working on at their ranchette near Casper. The work Steve has done there is beautiful, and I know that Mike has been grateful for his help. He is currently working on so renovations at the family home, and while Jenny is dreading the mess, she is really looking forward to the nice new kitchen she will have when all the renovations are done. I can’t wait to see the results. I know their kitchen will be just beautiful!!

Steve is very active. He loves to ride his motorcycle with his wife, Jenny. They really enjoy the summer months. If they aren’t riding the motorcycle, the might be taking their kids to the lake to swim, or on the mountain for a picnic. Winter finds them on the mountain on their 4 wheelers, but summer is their favorite season. Jenny and Steve love to be outside playing with their kids and enjoying the great weather. This year they had such a great summer, that they all hate to see it end, but fall brings football, and that’s ok too. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

isaac-leeisaac-footballMy grand nephew, Isaac Spethman is the youngest boy in his family, and the youngest big brother to his little sister, Aleesia. Sometimes that is a good thing, but sometimes, they fight like cats and dogs. Nevertheless, they are close, and the little tiffs are few. For the most part, Isaac and his siblings, Xander, Zack, and Aleesia get along great. Isaac and his brothers are doing a great job of turning serious girly girl, Aleesia into a bit of a tomboy too.

The Spethman family is a sporting family. The boys all play football, and they even have their own little cheerleader. The boys may be very rough and tumble football players, but when it comes to their sister…well don’t mess with her. Isaac and his brothers love to run scrimmages out in the front yard. Of course, they love to play lots of games in the front yard, like war games, wrestling matches, or snowball fights. Isaac and his brothers are definitely boys.

Isaac loves guns too, as do his brothers and his parents, Steve and Jenny. Of course, the kids all are learning about guns, and gun safety, but whenever he has the chance, Isaac likes to play gun slinger. He likes to be the robber who holds up his little sister, of have gun fights with his brothers. Isaac is a busy kid with many interests, most of them the same a his brothers. I suppose that comes from being the youngest boy in the bunch. Most younger siblings look up to their older siblings, whether they like to admit it or not.

Isaac is often a quiet kid, but maybe that is just when he is around people he doesn’t know well. Or maybe it is just when he is around adults. He certainly isn’t quiet on Thursday nights when he gets together with his and-a-cheerleaderfootball-boyscousins, Matthew and Anna. His cousin Raelynn doesn’t play very much, but when Matt, Anna, Xander, Zack, Isaac, and Aleesia get together, things are going to get rowdy. Now their parents and grandma, really don’t always appreciate that, and there is the invariable injury somewhere in the mix, but the kids are usually having a pretty great time…they just don’t do it as quietly as their parents would prefer. Such is life. Today Isaac turn ten years old. Happy 10th birthday Isaac!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

reno-gangThere are people these days who think we should get rid of the police officers, but they are obviously not thinking about the Old West. In the early days of the Old West, there were no law men. People had to take care of themselves. And contrary to what you might think, many people didn’t just carry a gun everywhere then either. That basically left them defenseless in many situations. On this day October 6, 1866, the Reno Gang carried out the first robbery of a moving train in United States history. Prior to that day, trains had been robbed while they were at the stations or in the freight yards, but that was proving to be a little dangerous, as the lawmen that were in the west were mostly in the towns. The Reno Gang changed the way criminals thought about things.

I’m not sure if their plan would have been considered innovative exactly, but as crime goes, I suppose it was. reno-brothersTheir idea was that if they robbed the train in some remote area of the track, the crew of the train, and the people on it would be at their mercy, and they could take what they chose to. That first moving train robbery was on an Ohio and Mississippi train in Jackson County, Indiana, and netted the gang a profit of $10,000. It was a piece of cake, because there was no one to save the people on board. While I don’t believe anyone died, they were all very scared.

The news of this new type of robbery traveled fast, and before long, trains became a moving target. There were gangs, like Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch who found train robbery so easy and profitable, that for a time, it became their specialty. The large stashes of cash and precious minerals on the trains and the sparsely populated landscape, gave the gangs just what they needed for success. Nevertheless, like all crime, eventually first-train-robberyprecautions were taken to prevent continued loss. By the late 1800s, robbing trains became increasingly dangerous. Railroad owners started protecting their trains’ valuables with large safes, armed guards, and fortified boxcars.

The Reno Gang was finally captured in 1868 after a series of robberies. That December saw another type of problem that develops when there is a lack of lawmen…vigilante justice. A mob of the citizens of the town, stormed the jail and hanged the brothers, Frank, Simeon, and William Reno and fellow gang member, Charlie Anderson. Their brother John Reno had been caught earlier and was serving time in a different prison.

SteveimageMy nephew, Steve Spethman, who married my niece, Jenny Masterson, is a man who has done many things, and changed in many ways. I have known Steve since he was twelve years old, but not well. At that time he seemed like any other twelve year old boy, a little too careless, and far to sure that they are bulletproof. Some boys go on to become average guys, who are fortunate enough to grow to adulthood, in spite of themselves, but Steve really went on to become exceptional. Steve grew up with the knowledge that his family had served in the military and also with a dad who liked guns. So it was natural to expect that he would also like guns. I suppose that would really be an understatement in Steve’s case, because he loves guns. Steve and Jenny are both very much into guns, and have taught their boys, Xander, Zack, and Isaac to use them safely too. I know that their daughter, Aleesia will also learn to shoot when she is old enough. What I find particularly interesting is that Steve is also a gun builder and gun repairman. I would have no idea how to go about building or repairing a gun, but for Steve it comes naturally. And he has several guns that he built himself that are very cool guns.

Steve is a patriot in every aspect of the word. He is very loyal to this country, and the values it was founded on. The natural thing for Steve to do after high school was to join the National Guard. Like most military men, Steve doesn’t talk much about his military service. I know that sometimes, doing what you have to do, isn’t always pretty, and often no something the men and women can’t or don’t want to talk about, or even think about ever again, so they bottle it up inside. I don’t know if Steve saw any combat or not, so if not, maybe he just doesn’t think anyone would be interested, but I think we would. Steve loves war history, of any war, but has a special interest in World War II, as do I. He has countless movies and documentaries on the subject of wars, and especially the great battles of wars. I know the weapons of warfare are of great interest to him too.
Steve’s number one priority is God, and following that, his family. He is very different from the boy I met when he was twelve. He is very different from the carefree kid who was quite sure he was bulletproof. Steve may not be bulletproof these days, but he is very protective of his family. And that says it all to me. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

CCI06282012_00038_editedfWar is never pretty, and yet somehow, I had a picture in my head of the time my grandfather, George Byer spent in World War I that made it seem very benign. I never pictured him being in any danger. You see, my grandfather was a cook in the Army during the war, and somehow I pictured him working in a safe place where the war was a very distant reality, and not something to be faced or dealt with. The cooks in World War I didn’t even get a gun, so they must not be in danger…right? Wrong…very wrong!! The men on the front couldn’t drive home to the safety zone every night after work, like I had pictured in my head. The kitchen was very close to the front. In Grandpa’s case, that kitchen was a commandeered kitchen in the lowest floor of a French castle. As far as anyone knows, the residents of the castle still lived there, although I’m not sure how their meals were handled. Perhaps, their own cooks were allowed a little time in the kitchen, or maybe their meals were served along with the men in the Army. I don’t suppose we will know the full answer to that question in this lifetime.

For a very long time…until just a few months ago, in fact, I carried the impression in my head that Grandpa’s job was really uneventful, other than the pressure of getting the meals to a large group of hungry men on time. Then, I came across a picture that I had seen several times over the past five years, but this time I was also Grandpa Byer's Military Photolooking at the list my aunts had made about what the pictures were about. In that moment, my idea of my grandfather’s service was changed forever. On the list they had written, that the man on the right, or the man in uniform, was Grandpa. The second picture was tagged with, “Castle in France. Owner of castle died in Daddy’s kitchen” and “cooks, who worked under Daddy.” I was instantly intrigued. I spoke to my aunt, Sandy Pattan about it, and found out that indeed, the kitchen was commandeered for the Army’s use, and the owner had been wounded and ran into the kitchen for help. Grandpa tried to save him, but the wounds were too bad, and the owner died right there. The man’s injuries told me that the front was not far from the castle. I suppose you might think I was reaching a little on that thought, but you would be wrong, because as I talked with Aunt Sandy, she told me something else that really clarified the danger my grandfather lived with every day of his time in the service.

It was another day in the castle kitchen, the men were working on the next meal. Suddenly an American soldier ran in and told the cooks to run for the woods. It seemed strange to me that running would be the order they would receive, but remember that Aunt Sandy told me that the cooks had no guns. If they stayed in the castle, they would be sitting ducks, because cooks or not, they were in the American Army, and that made them enemies of the Germans. The reason the men were told to run for the woods…the Germans were coming CCI06282012_00038_editedgand they couldn’t stop them. The soldier didn’t have to tell the cooks twice. They dropped everything and ran. One of the cooks, while running into the woods, stepped on a dead man. The man had been dead a few days, because the cook’s foot went right into the man’s chest. Aunt Sandy told me that the smell was so bad and so permanent that when they couldn’t get the smell out of the man’s clothes, they had to be burned. I had no idea of the things Grandpa saw, nor of the danger he faced. It gave me a whole new picture of Grandpa Byer’s time in World War I. And I came to clearly realize that no job in the service is less dangerous than another…and least not on the front. It’s no wonder that most men don’t want to talk about the war.

scan0043scan0041For as long as I can remember, my Uncle Bill Spencer was a gun dealer. He went to gun shows, had every kind of gun imaginable, and every accessory for them. Uncle Bill is a patriot, and he hated anything that remotely resembled an infringement on our Constitutional rights…especially the 2nd Amendment. Not only did he sell guns, but he talked to people about the importance of fighting for our Constitutional rights. That’s not surprising really, my dad, aunts, and uncles on both sides of my family, grew up in a time when America was strong and people understood what it took to keep it that way. Of course, there are still patriots today, but there are also far too many Americans who have forgotten the reason behind our freedoms. And that government should not be allowed to infringe upon those rights.

My Uncle Bill, and my dad, Allen Spencer, who was two years younger than his brother, were around guns and dynamite most of their lives. The dynamite shocked me when I first heard about it, but after they finished their story, it all made sense. For anyone who has ever tried to get rid of a tree stump, dynamite makes sense at some point. However, these boys were just a little bit crazy with their dynamite antics, from sinking the gate post while their mom was in town and then fixing it before she got home, to blowing up dynamite to celebrate the fourth of July, I don’t think their mom ever knew what to expect from them. Nevertheless, they were both safety conscious too…even as kids. They knew what could happen if you weren’t safe.

One time my dad heard that Uncle Bill was going to be in Rapid City for a gun show. Dad had been growing a beard for a centennial, and so didn’t look exactly like himself. We showed up at the gun show without telling him we were coming. Mom and Dad sent us girls ahead to just look around Uncle Bill’s table. Dad’s plan scan0067scan0066worked. When Uncle Bill finally realized who we were, he was both pleased and stunned. It was such a great prank to pull on him, and he was totally fooled. Then we had a wonderful visit with him afterward. Uncle Bill has always been so special to me, and I missed him a lot. I think we had a lot in common. Our interests run along the same lines, and that made our visits special, and our partings tough. I’m thankful that we still have Uncle Bill in our lives, but I wish we could see him more often. Today is Uncle Bill’s 94th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

scan0040aAs kids growing up, my sisters and I were subjected to many stories, view, songs, and events that centered around the Old West. When I say subjected, I don’t mean that we hated every minute of I, because we didn’t. We lived in Wyoming, and therefore we embraced the Old West. I can’t say that my sisters and I always liked all things western, because that would be false too. We all went through our Rock and Roll era, and during that time, we pretty much hated Country music, although shows like Bonanza, the Rifleman, Wagon Train, and The Virginian…just to name a few, were among our favorites, and we each had our favorite actors, and we were going to “marry” them. I know, silly…right?

Back then, the Old West was still considered something that people were proud to know about, or even to know people who lived those times. It was the times that our grandparents grew up in, and that scan0037amade it even more cool. I don’t suppose that the kids of today look back on the Old West or even the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s, as being cool, because those times were before personal computers and cell phones, so I’m sure it seemed like the dark ages to the kids of today. Those years were probably best known for protests…unless you compare that era to today’s, when everyone is so offended by everything. Even when I look back on my childhood years, I can’t say that I think we as a generation did anything so amazing…at least not until we grew up, because of course, it is our generation that invented the computer and cell phone. Nevertheless, it was a vastly different era that the Old West…or maybe that’s just my opinion.

While we were little, many of the cities and states were celebrating their centennial years, and it was a big deal!! Contests were held to see who could grow the best beard, and I’m sure who had the best Old Western costume. My Dad, Allen Spencer, decided to grow a beard for the competition. I don’t know if he won or not, or even if he entered any contest at all, but he got in on the festivities…as did Dad’s girls. We each had a long dress, much like the women of the Old West wore, and our parents took pictures to document the events. It was a great time, and they made sure that they had plenty of pictures of it.

These days, you seldom hear of such events. I don’t know if states or cities are scan0038ajust not at the right point, or if many people have just lost interest, or what has happened exactly, but you don’t see these things happening. I find that sad, because our family found it to be very fun and interesting. Of course, there are still reinactments of old western robberies, the pony express, and wagons west trips, and I think those would be fun, but for some reason that centennial just seemed different…more interesting somehow…like we were a real pioneer family.

imageMy nephew, Steve Moore, who married my niece Machelle Cook Moore, is a gun enthusiast…and that is putting it mildly. Steve has a real passion for gun making, and in all reality, wants to make guns for a living. According to Machelle, he has a real knack for it. One of my Spencer ancestors made a rifle that ended up making a huge difference in the Civil War. I have to wonder if someday, we won’t have a well known gun called the Moore Special or something. Now, I can’t say whether the Moore Special would be a rifle or a hand gun, and I can’t tell you what caliber it would be, but I can tell you that it would either come equipped with a silencer, or a silencer would be an add on option, because Steve is a big fan of the silencer. Steve struggles with his hearing because of the noise guns make, and he doesn’t want his boys, Weston and Easton to have the same problems. For that reason, and the fact that both of his boys are becoming total gun enthusiasts too, Steve wants to do everything he can to protect their hearing, while allowing them to enjoy guns as much as he does. So, Steve has made sure that he has enough silencers so that they can practice their shooting without having to change out the silencers all the time. The silencers have also earned him an A+ with his mother-in-law, Debbie Cook, who doesn’t like the loudness of the guns when the guys are shooting, which she feels disturbs the serenity of their camping spot, which is the main reason people go camping, right.

Steve has set a goal for himself to open his own business. He wants to build guns for people, and eventually also repair guns for people. Of course, there is a lot of legal red tape to go through in order to be a gun builder and seller. The first step is FBI approval of Steve’s form 4s, which allows him to sell to people. There will be more forms to fill out in order to repair guns. Of course, Steve will also be making other types of parts for people too. He is very talented when it comes to building parts for just about anything. They recently bought a lathe to start preparing for the business to come. In the meantime, Steve can make just about anything on it. All of his friends know that if they need a part made, Steve is their man. He recently build a part for Machelle’s Uncle Ron’s lift. The request came on one camping trip and the part was ready by the next camping trip.

imageCamping is, of course, Steve’s favorite thing to do whenever he is off work. He and Machelle bought a trailer and pickup from Ron his wife Rachel, because their boys were getting too big for the little camper they had before. Whenever Steve isn’t working on guns, he is thinking about camping and shooting contests, or going camping and to shooting contests. I guess that just stands to reason though. When guns are your passion, guns are what you think about. In the end, I think it will be a good business for Steve to get into, because I think as time goes on, more and more people are going to be buying guns. It is an unfortunate side effect of the world we live in. People need guns to protect themselves and their families. Today is Steve’s birthday. Happy birthday Steve!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

imageMy grand nephew, Matthew Masterson has always tried to be a tough guy, but the biggest problem with that whole idea is that he has a soft heart. Matthew doesn’t like to see anyone get hurt or be sad, because all of his tough guy stuff is for fun. Matthew likes to hang out with his cousins, Xander, Zack, and Isaac Spethman, playing all of the tough guy games that boys play, like war games, super hero games and of course, every sport imaginable. He is after all…a boy. As cousins, Matthew and the Spethman boys get to spend quite a bit of time together, and they are always off playing some war game or something.

My niece, Liz Masterson, who is Matthew’s aunt, told me that Matthew talks like a small adult, using big words and sentences that sound like they were spoken by an adult. It happens sometimes. Little kids who seem to have grown up too soon.

Matthew has something in common with my daughter, Amy Royce, too. Last week Matthew and his sisters got to go to breakfast with their Aunt Liz. Liz took them to IHOP. The girls all ordered a traditional breakfast, but not so Matthew. He on the other hand decided to have a cheeseburger. Liz tried to reason with him, but Matthew would have none of it. So, he ordered a cheeseburger and then proceeded to pour Cholula Sauce all over it. What ten year old wants Cholula Sauce on their food. Most ten year olds hate hot sauce. Not Matthew. When, Matthew’s cousin, Amy went to breakfast on a vacation we were on one time, she decided that she imagewanted Spaghetti for breakfast. We all thought she was half crazy, but she ate every bite…as did Matthew. The only thing was that Amy wouldn’t have ordered a cheeseburger if you paid her. In that one, Matthew was on his own.

Matthew is going into 4th grade this year, and I’m sure he will have a great year, but that is not something he wants to think about right not. I’m sure he is like that little girl on television talking about the back to school sign, who says, “Back off sign people…I’m keeping my summer.” I have to agree with you, Matthew, I’m not ready for fall either. Today is Matthew’s tenth birthday!! Happy birthday Matthew!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

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