Texas

Charles Angelo “Charlie” Siringo didn’t set out to be a lawman, a detective, or a bounty hunter, but the circumstances of his life put him in places where things just fell into place to bring his future into being. Born on February 7, 1855, on the Matagorda Peninsula in Matagorda County, Texas. His mother was an Irish immigrant, and his father was an Italian immigrant from Piedmont. His father died when Siringo was a year old. Siringo attended public school until the start of the American Civil War. In 1867, when he was just 12 years old, Siringo took his first cowpuncher lessons, before moving to Saint Louis after his mother remarried.

Siringo attended Fisk public school for a while in New Orleans, but school wasn’t really of interest to him, so he started work as a cowboy for Abel Head “Shanghai” Pierce in April 1871, after returning to Texas. He was just 16 years old, and yet he had done more in his short lifetime that most people would have dreamed of doing. And yet, that was just the beginning. In July 1877, Siringo was in Dodge City, Kansas, where he survived an encounter with Bat Masterson.

Then, Siringo started working for the LX Ranch working as a cattle drive cowboy. This was an unusual kind of cattle drive job, in that it also entailed chasing after LX cattle stolen by Billy the Kid in 1880. By 1884, Siringo was married Mamie and he quit working for LX Ranch. He opened a tobacco store in Caldwell, Kansas. He and Mamie had a daughter named Viola, born on February 28, 1885. At this point, it seemed prudent to find a safer kind of work, so he began writing his autobiography, “A Texas Cow Boy; Or Fifteen Years on the Hurricane Deck of a Spanish Pony.” A year later, it was published and well received. Siringo moved his family to Chicago in the spring of 1886 for publication of a second printing.

In 1886, Siringo witnessed the Chicago Haymarket affair. “The Haymarket affair (also known as the Haymarket massacre, the Haymarket riot, or the Haymarket Square riot) was the aftermath of a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on May 4, 1886, at Haymarket Square in Chicago, Illinois, United States. It began as a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour workday, the day after police killed one and injured several workers. An unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at the police as they acted to disperse the meeting, and the bomb blast and ensuing gunfire caused the deaths of seven police officers and at least four civilians; dozens of others were wounded.”

Seeing all that destruction prompted Siringo to join the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. He used gunman Pat Garrett’s name as a reference to get the job, having met Garrett in 1880, when they were searching for Billy the Kid. Siringo was hired immediately, and assigned to Denver, reporting to James McParland. He moved his family to Denver, where his wife died in 1890, leaving him with his young daughter to raise. Eventually she went to live with his wife’s aunt and her husband, Emma and Will F Read. Siringo was then assigned several cases, which took him as far north as Alaska, for the Treadwell mine, and as far south as Mexico City. Using a relatively new technique at the time, he began operating under cover as Charles L Carter and infiltrated gangs of robbers and rustlers, making more than 100 arrests.

Siringo had a difficult married life, following his first wife’s death. It makes you wonder if he would have stayed married, had she lived. A second marriage in 1893 to Lillie Thomas ended in divorce after three years. They had a son named William Lee Roy. After the divorce, Lillie took their son and moved to Los Angeles. Two other marriages, one in 1907 to a woman named Grace and one in 1913 to a woman named Ellen Partain. Each of these lasted only a few months. Finally, Siringo moved to California to be closer to his children. In the end, it wasn’t his cowboy years or his detective years that really made Siringo famous, but rather his writing. Siringo was the author of seven books. Siringo died on October 28, 1928, in Altadena, California.

Maybe they were just wanting to be home for Christmas, and not knowing exactly how long it would take…while hiding out from the law, that is…the Texas Seven decided to get a jump start on the journey. No, probably not. It wasn’t Christmas with loved ones that was on their minds…it was freedom. On December 13, 2000, seven prisoners dubbed the “Texas Seven” by the media, broke out of maximum-security prison in South Texas, setting off a massive six-week manhunt. The prisoners were Joseph Christopher Garcia, Randy Ethan Halprin, Larry James Harper, Patrick Henry Murphy Jr, Donald Keith Newbury, George Angel Rivas Jr, and Michael Anthony Rodriguez. The escapees overpowered civilian employees and prison guards in the maintenance shop where they worked and stole clothing, guns, and a vehicle. The men left a note saying: “You haven’t heard the last of us yet,” and they were right. These men were convicted of crimes like murder, rape, and robbery. They were set to be executed soon, so they had nothing to lose.

These were not the kind of people that anyone wanted to have running around the state…or anywhere outside of prison walls. Soon after escaping from the Connally Unit lockup in Kenedy, Texas, the fugitives picked up another getaway vehicle. This one provided by the father of one of the men. They robbed a Radio Shack store in Pearland, Texas, coming out with cash and police scanners. On Christmas Eve, the escapees struck a sporting-goods store in Irving, Texas, where they stole a large amount of cash and weapons. In the process, the men killed police officer Aubrey Hawkins, shooting him multiple times with multiple weapons and running him over. Now they really had nothing to lose. Now, they were cop killers on top of everything else. It looked like it was time to get out of Dodge…or in this case, Texas.

The Texas Seven headed to Colorado, where they purchased a motor home and told people they were Christian missionaries. They rented a spot at a trailer park near Woodland Park, Colorado. They were there about a month before things started to fall apart. On January 22, 2001, after seeing the “Texas Seven” profiled on the TV program America’s Most Wanted, someone tipped off the police to the group of seven “missionaries” near Woodland Park. During the raid, ringleader George Rivas was captured along with three of the other men. Larry James Harper decided that he was not going back to prison, so he committed suicide after being surrounded by police. Two days later, law enforcement officials closed in on the two remaining escapees at a hotel in Colorado Springs. A standoff ensued, during which the fugitives conducted phone interviews with a TV news station and claimed their escape was a protest against Texas’ criminal justice system. Someone always has to add a bit of drama to justify their new crimes. There was no evidence indicating their claim was justified. The men then surrendered to authorities. Their crime spree was over. Of the six remaining, four have since been executed. Randy Ethan Halprin and Patrick Henry Murphy Jr are currently back at Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas on Death Row awaiting execution.

Life isn’t always easy, and it doesn’t always go the way we thought it would go. Even spending many good years together, doesn’t guaranty that we will have many more. For Pearl Hein, who loved her husband Eddie Hein so much, the end came far too soon, but in a loving marriage, the end always comes too soon. No matter how many years you have been together. Then, it is up to the one left behind, to go forward, because their spouse would want them to continue living. Such was the case with Eddie. He wanted Pearl to live on.

Since Eddie’s passing, Pearl has done a little traveling. With her daughter, Kim Arani and her husband, Michael living in Texas, Pearl has become a bit of a traveler…maybe not a world traveler, but a traveler nevertheless. I have been very happy that Pearl is spending time with Kim and Michael in Texas and their place in Florida. She really needed the time away from the cold weather in Forsyth, Montana where she lives, and after losing her son, Kim’s brother, Larry Hein too…just three months after his dad, things have been very sad for Pearl over the past

I know she had a lovely time visiting Kim and Michael, and I am so happy for them all. They needed The time together so they could begin to heal. One of the best ways to heal after a loss is to take the time to share the memories of the past. I’m sure Kim and Pearl did a lot of reminiscing during Pearl’s visit, and I’m sure it was a great healing process. I know that Eddie and Larry would both be very glad Pearl went to Texas. I know it was hard for her to move on alone, but it is what they would want her to do.

I remember watching the newer version of “Titanic” and when Rose survives the sinking, she goes on to live a full life, because Jack told her to live on. Life after loss is never easy, but it can be rewarding. People are meant to survive and to thrive. We are wired to grieve and to move forward with our lives. That doesn’t mean that it is an easy thing to do, but it is a necessary thing to do. I’m glad to see that Pearl is making that transition. Today is Aunt Pearl’s birthday. Happy birthday Pearl!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Since man had power on the earth, man has also had power outages. Power outages are one thing, but rolling blackouts are another thing altogether. “A rolling blackout, also known as rotational load shedding, feeder rotation, or a rotating outage is an intentionally-engineered electrical power shutdown in which electricity delivery is stopped for non-overlapping periods of time over different parts of the distribution region.” This type of shutdown…rolling blackouts…are a supposed to be a last-resort measure used by an electric utility company to avoid a total blackout of the power system. I can understand that in a serious heat wave, even though it is a dangerous maneuver, and I can even understand it in an overload caused by an unexpected cold snap, even thought that is also seriously dangerous.

I don’t know a lot about the energy industry, but I do know that some of the recent cuts in types of energy resources are very dangerous when it comes to making sure that we have enough energy for our country. It seems that these states who don’t regularly need large amounts of energy for heating and cooling, don’t have a way to “stockpile” any either. Rolling blackouts are used as a response strategy to cope with reduced output beyond reserve capacity from power stations taken offline unexpectedly, such as an extreme weather event. So, when an emergency occurs, their solution is to have these rolling blackouts. California has done this for years.

The theory behind the rolling blackouts is a “measure of demand” response. If the demand for electricity exceeds the power supply capability of the network, it’s time to have a planned blackout. Rolling blackouts might be limited to a single city or state, or they can be district or nationwide. The whole thing depends on the network and the stockpile of energy resources. Rolling blackouts generally result from two causes. These are insufficient generation capacity or inadequate transmission infrastructure to deliver power to where it is needed.

For California the rolling blackouts had began on June 14th, 2000 due to a heatwave. Other dates for rolling blackouts in those first couple of years were January 17-18, 2001, March 19-20, 2001, and May 7-8, 2001. These were the beginning dates of the California electricity crisis which included extremely high prices and rolling blackouts. In reality, the “crisis” was a direct result from the manipulation of energy of a partially deregulated California energy system by companies like Enron and Reliant Energy. I wonder too, if the mismanagement wasn’t also on the part of the state’s mismanagement. The recent power outages in Texas from the freezing weather were also rolling blackouts, and the problems they caused were far worse than the California rolling blackouts, because of all the things that froze up from the severe cold. The reality is that one way or the other, our government has to stop limiting the production of our energy resources. That is my opinion, and I’m sure some would disagree, but these rolling blackouts are ridiculous.

As the United States is in the grip of a fierce snow storm, I am reminded of another snow storm that happened February 21 – 23, 1971. The storm is considered Oklahoma’s extreme storm. This blizzard buried northwestern Oklahoma under as much as three feet of snow, and that doesn’t include the drifting. The town of Buffalo was the hardest hit. They reported 23 inches of snow on the 21st alone, and a state-record snow depth of 36 inches by the morning of the 24th. The northern part of the state was just buried.

Oklahoma tends to be a mild weather state, with temperatures in December, January, and February averaging in the 50s. This week is the anniversary of the 1971 blizzard, which was likely the most intense winter storm ever to hit the Sooner State, although the current storm might rival it now. With the current storm, Oklahoma is seeing temperatures averaging -6°. The prior record was in 1909 at 7°. The power company had had to implement rolling blackouts to assure that the power grids don’t fail. I don’t think they have received the amount of snow with the current storm, but the severity is very similar, when you think about it. Anytime a storm is is bad enough to shut things down, especially the power, it is severe.

When the blizzard of 1971 finally ended, 36 inches of snow was measured in Buffalo, which was the state’s record for the highest snowfall total, but the snow drifts measured as high as 20 feet tall. While northwestern Oklahoma was hit very hard, just a short distance to the west in the Oklahoma Panhandle, only light snow fell with Boise City receiving only 3 inches and only 2 inches in Kenton. The 1971 storm put ranchers in a precarious position until C-124s from the Oklahoma Air National Guard dropped 150 tons of hay to stranded Oklahoma cattle. Local cattleman flew along with the aircraft to guide the aircrews to the stranded cattle. The massive loss numbers of 15,000 in livestock accounted for much of the $2 million in damages.

The vicious storm became known as the 84-hour blizzard. It actually occurred across the eastern half of the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles. The storm his the worst un Oklahoma, but in the region, 8 deaths were reported…7 in Pampa, 1 in the Oklahoma Panhandle. The average drifts were 10 to 20 feet. Storms like these will not likely be soon forgotten, if they are ever forgotten. People are really never prepared for such cold temperatures and so much snow in the southern states. We can try to prepare, but when year after year goes by without such a sever storm, we soon become complacent, until the next one hits us, that is.

Anyone who knows anything about the space program, knows about the disasters that have come out of it…or at least some of them. One of those disasters, the breakup of Space Shuttle Columbia, happened 18 years ago today, February 1, 2003. The breakup upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere took the lives of all seven astronauts on board, in a way that we can only imagine as horrific. The best we can hope for following the tragedy is that the astronauts were killed instantly, so they did not suffer in what followed the breakup. It was a horrible day for the United States, and for NASA, but what followed that terrible disaster was a truly remarkable phenomena.

It is tragedies like the Space Shuttle Columba that bring out the true American spirit. Feelings are set aside, and you suddenly see people hugging each other to comfort them. Columbia broke up in the skies of East Texas on its way back home to Kennedy Space Center. Almost immediately after losing the craft, the NASA world and many others, converged on the small town of Hemphill, Texas. Everyone wanted to help, and many who were not called into service, volunteered. The Space Program had become so commonplace and so routine that such an event came as a horrible shock to this nation and to the world. Suddenly we were glued to our television sets or radios, waiting for news, hoping against hope that there might be survivors, but knowing that it was clearly not possible.

It wasn’t just the NASA teams who showed up for this tragic event. Restaurants gave free meals to the workers. People reported anything they found so it could be documented and processed. The townspeople were there to offer comfort to those in need, because lets face it, these astronauts were members of the NASA family, and NASA (as well as the rest of the nation) was in mourning. As time went on, more and more searchers converged on Hemphill and the surrounding area. The local heroes continued to step up, giving any kind of support needed. This might seem like a small feat to some people, but this search went on for three months. That is a long time to care for so many in such a small town, but it was desperately needed, and gratefully received. After a long, drawn-out search, the teams had found all the seemed to be going to find, and almost as quickly as they had arrived, the teams were gone, and the small town of Hemphill, Texas was quiet again, but it would never be the same again. Three months in 2003 had changed it forever. The people who lived there in that time will never forget what they did back then, and we will never forget what they did. It was an awesome feat of kindness and love for our fellow man.

In the early years of Wyoming’s history, there was contention between cattle ranchers and sheep ranchers. The cattlemen thought the land was theirs, and they thought the sheepmen were invading their domain, and they weren’t going to allow it. Cattlemen were first to arrive in the Big Horn Basin, trailing in huge herds of cattle in 1879. They insisted their early arrival established a prior claim to the grass on the government land where their herds grazed. But the law said otherwise. The Cattle and Sheep Wars sprung from this dispute in the Western United States, but they were most common in Texas, Arizona, and the border region of Wyoming and Colorado. The cattlemen thought the sheep destroyed the public grazing lands, which they had to share on a first-come, first-served basis.

On April 2, 1909, the range war between the cattlemen and sheepmen in the Ten Sleep, Wyoming area came to a head, when a group of cattlemen decided that they were going to settle this battle once and for all. They headed to Spring Creek seven miles south of Ten Sleep, Wyoming where they knew of a camp. This was to be the last of the sheep raids in the Big Horn Basin. That fateful day, seven cattlemen attacked a sheep camp near Spring Creek, just south of Ten Sleep, in the southern Big Horn Basin. When the raiders attacked, they killed three men, two of whom the burned to death in their sheep wagon. Then shooting the third man, the decided to kidnap two others. Then they killed the sheep dogs and dozens of sheep and destroyed thousands of dollars of personal property. It was the deadliest sheep raid in Wyoming history. I understand killing in war, but this was murder, and it was horrific!!

Wyoming was a territory from July 25, 1868 to July 10, 1890. Early on, there were more cattle ranches than sheep ranches, and the cattlemen felt like they had priority to public lands. Sheep raids began to plague Wyoming since the late 1890s, by which time sheep outnumbered cattle on Wyoming ranges. By 1909, at least six men had been killed, thousands of sheep had been slaughtered, and many thousands of dollars of property destroyed. Nevertheless, there had not been a single conviction for a crime committed during a sheep raid.

It’s really no surprise, given the rising numbers of sheep on the range in those years, that cattlemen were feeling pressured. By 1894 there were 1.7 million sheep in Wyoming and only 675,000 cattle. By 1909, the state’s peak year for sheep, there were more than six million sheep, and only 675,000 cattle. It makes sense that there were tensions, but that did not excuse the men on either side committing murder. Yes, Wyoming was a part of the wild west, and the lawmen were not always readily available, but that did not mean that these men should be able to kill the competition. We are ultimately, civilized people after all, even if we do live in the wild west. After the arrests for the Spring Creek Raid, the cattlemen we reluctant to raid the sheep camps, and with that, a horrific event of the old west passed into history.

Most of us learned about Davy Crockett in school, but I don’t think that most of us really knew very much about him. Davy Crockett was an incredibly “macho” man. He was also an incredibly loyal man. During the War of 1812, the Creek Indian tribe split into factions. I suppose they thought to divide and conquer. One group, the Red Sticks, attacked Fort Mims on August 30, 1830, taking the lives of militiamen, civilians, and Creek allies. The Fort Mims massacre brought national outrage. Many men began to volunteer to fight the Creek Indians. Davy Crockett was among them. Crockett recalled, that he “had none of the dread of dying that I expected to feel,” but his wife, Mary “Polly” Finley did not share his optimism. She was terrified of losing her husband, and begged him not to go. Crockett felt obligated, and he did go. While he was off fighting, Polly became ill and passed away shortly after his return home. Crockett had 3 children with Polly…John Wesley, William, and Margaret.

Losing Polly was very hard, but as often happened in those days, marriage after the loss of a wife came out of necessity. Davy needed someone to care for his children. He met a widow woman, Elizabeth Patton, who had children, and who lived nearby. Circumstances being what they were, Crockett began to visit the woman and after discovering his “company wasn’t at all disagreeable to her,” he decided he “could treat her children with so much friendship as to make her a good stepmother.” They married a short time later.

Crockett decided to move his family to Texas, but Elizabeth, while fine with that, asked that he go first to prepare things, and make sure he liked it there before they moved the family. It was probably a good thing in retrospect. Crockett arrived in East Texas in January 1836. He traveled through Nacogdoches and San Augustine before arriving in San Antonio. By the time he got there, the Texas Revolution was in full swing, and included thousands of Mexican troops led by Antonio López de Santa Anna. Their goal was to stop the Texas independence movement. The battle was fierce, and in the end, approximately 200 Texas militiamen were hunkered in at the Alamo when Santa Anna and his men arrived in February 1836. Crockett and the other men inside gathered supplies and did their best to prepare for the coming siege. Crockett was said to have helped with moral by making jokes and telling stories. The siege of the Alamo lasted 13 days, with the severely outnumbered Texans holding out until the walls of the compound were breached on March 6. As we all know, the men and women inside were all killed. Crockett was also killed, and that left Elizabeth widowed for a second time, but with more children this time. Still, by not taking the family, their lives were spared. Davy Crockett died at the age of 50 years.

When flight first began, I seriously doubt that anyone had any idea how far it would go. Many people said, “If God had wanted us to fly, He would have given us wings!” Of course, wings can be added…if you know how to add them. The Wright brothers figured out how to add those wings, and how to make them fly. Nevertheless, any kind of long distance fight was still far in the future, back then.

Then, on July 25, 1909, Louis Blériot took off from a field in France, and flew his flimsy monoplane northward for half an hour, and landed near Dover Castle in England. The flight…at the time, daring beyond belief…caused a sensation in Britain. No one thought it could be done, and much less that a mere 40 years later, a plane would actually make a non-stop around the world trip…successfully. Nevertheless, forty years later, Captain James G. Gallagher and a 13-man crew took off from Carswell AFB, Texas, in a B-50 bomber named Lucky Lady II. Four days later they landed back at Carswell. This achievement, the first nonstop flight around the world, also stirred the public imagination.

Neither event involved a major breakthrough in technology, but each was significant for other reasons. Blériot’s flight lasted a mere 37 minutes. In several demonstration flights in France during the previous year, Wilbur Wright had stayed aloft much longer. Blériot was the first to use a combination of hand/arm-operated joystick and foot-operated rudder control, that is in use to the present day, for the basic format of aerodynamic aircraft control systems. Blériot was also the first to make a working, powered, piloted monoplane. In 1909 he became world-famous for making the first airplane flight across the English Channel.

Lucky Lady II took off from Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. A B-50 Superfortress, Lucky Lady II flew the first nonstop round-the-world flight. The aircraft averaged 249 miles per hour on its 23,452 mile flight. The Lucky Lady II was refueled four times in the air by B-29 tanker planes and on March 2 returned to the United States after 94 hours in the air. It was a record breaking flight. Of course, the record would not last forever. In December 1986, Voyager, a lightweight propeller plane constructed mainly of plastic, landed at Edwards Air Force Base in Muroc, California, having completed the first global flight without refueling. Flight will most likely never stop improving.

While most of the economy in Southeast Texas depended on agriculture, cattle ranching, and the lumber business in the 19th century, things were about to change. The presence of oil was known, but untapped until 1901 when the oil industry would change the landscape of the region. Uses for oil date back many years. In the 1500s, the Spanish used oil from seeps near Sabine Pass for caulking their ships, and to the north, settlers near Nacogdoches used seeping oil for lubricants before 1800. There were numerous discoveries in east and central Texas in the later 1800s, especially at Corsicana in 1896. Attempts were made to drill wells at Spindletop 1893 and 1896 and at Sour Lake in 1896, but they had no successful oil production along the Gulf Coast until the Lucas Gusher came in on Spindletop Hill on January 10, 1901.

Spindletop Hill was a salt dome oil field, that was located in the southern portion of Beaumont, Texas. People had long suspected that oil might be under the hill as the area had been known for its sulfur springs and bubbling gas seepages that would ignite if lit. Then in August, 1892, several men including George W. O’Brien, George W. Carroll, and Pattillo Higgins formed the Gladys City Oil, Gas, and Manufacturing Company to do exploratory drilling on Spindletop Hill.

By September 1901, there were at least six successful wells on Gladys City Company lands. Wild speculation drove land prices around Spindletop to incredible heights. One man who had been trying to sell his tract there for $150 for three years sold his land for $20,000; the buyer promptly sold to another investor within fifteen minutes for $50,000. One well, representing an initial investment of under $10,000, was sold for $1,250,000. Legal entanglements and multimillion-dollar deals became almost commonplace. An estimated $235 million had been invested in oil that year in Texas; while some had made fortunes, others lost everything.

Following the success of the oil industry at Spindletop Hill, many people, including my grandparents, Allen and Anna Spencer would make their way to Texas in search of a better life. They would settle on the oilfields near Ranger, Texas. They didn’t find any oil fields, so their income came from his work for other people in the oilfields. These days people working in the oilfield business make good money, but as near as I can tell oilfield workers averaged about 90 cents an hour in 1919, which would be about $11.74 an hour today. That’s pretty poor wages, especially for the oilfield, but I suppose people didn’t realize how valuable they really were. Needless to say, the oilfield was not the place my grandfather would choose to make his living, and eventually they returned to Wisconsin where he went to work for the railroad.

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