It’s TRULY the bane of a writer’s existence…

I might have gotten a thousand words done today, but I DID spend almost six hours on research…

1870s Colorado

1870s guns/modifications to 1851 Colt Navy for cartridges/Trap door Springfield .45-70

Goodnight-Loving Trail

Wyoming cattle ranches

Fort Laramie

Trinchera Pass

Average cattle drive sizes

Length of average cattle drive to Wyoming

Railroads in the 1870s

Comanche raids

Kiowa raids

Comanche charge per cow to Goodnight-Loving- Huh, they actually charged 0.10 cents per cow. They did better than the indians that were raiding the Chisholm Trail herds. Apparently spent the money on liquor.

Mountain Men 1820-1830

I ‘try’ to have correct bits of history/equipment/guns in my stories, since that is one of my pet peeves with some authors. AND I know I have readers that will ‘check’ the correctness of my stuff… LOL

So, I go do research to make sure that what I’m putting in is at least close to correct, given that it is fiction. Not trying to be Louis L’Amour here, just trying to do what is right.

Here’s part of what I got done today…

Rio turned onto the trail beside the river and said softly, “Don’t look like a river to me, but I think Uncle Ethan brought me this way before, so I guess this is the Cache de Poudre. We’re almost there Red.” He started humming softly and Red, his roan gelding, twitched his ears. “Okay, okay no singing. Maybe an hour Red, then you’ll be home and I’ll get you get a nice bait of grub and a stall, then I get a real bed, not a damn bedroll on the ground!”

Buck and Jack had been taking turns watching the river trail from their vantage point on the ridgeline since early morning. Jack was snoring lightly, laying in the shade of the pines, propped on his saddle. Buck saw the lone cowboy coming up the river trail. “Too far,” he mumbled to himself. After fifteen minutes or so, he eased the new Winchester rifle with its Malcolm scope across the back of his saddle, grumbling a bit as he finally got the rider in the scope, slowly let out his breath, and touched off a round.

The shot echoed down the canyon as Buck watched the rider fall from the saddle and lie still in the middle of the trail. The roan scampered a few yards up the trail and stopped as Jack came awake with a snort.

Buck laughed, “Got ‘im. I tole ya I could hit him from here!”

Jack crawled forward and peered over Buck’s saddle, “Are you sure? The ol’ man don’t want anybody goin up that trail.”

Buck replied, “You see him layin’ there. If ya don’t believe me, go look for yourself!”

Jack got up, “Nah, it ain’t worth the ride, whoever he is ain’t moved. He’s dead.” Jack looked at the sun’s position and continued, “If’n we’re gonna get back to the ranch, we need to mount and ride. We’ll come back tomorrow and get his horse and saddle. It’s too far back to the crossing to make it over there today. And that horse ain’t gonna stray that far.”

In answer, Buck picked up his saddle and started saddling his gruella as Jack threw his saddle over his grey gelding.


As dusk was falling, the roan nudged Rio’s foot again. He moaned and finally rolled over.  Staggering to his feet, his head covered with blood, he stumbled toward his horse. Red shied away at the smell of the fresh blood and Rio grumped, “Dammit Red, stand still!” He grabbed the stirrup mumbling to himself as he climbed into the saddle. Leaning forward he mumbled, “Com’on Red, go home. Go home, fella.”

The roan turned and plodded slowly up the river trail as dusk turned to night, the cowboy swaying in the saddle.

Red stood ground reined in front the old stone cabin and Rio slumped on the steps, too dizzy to even try to make it up the steps. Going in and out of consciousness, he wonders if he’s going to die before his uncle, Ethan came back. Pretty sure I sent him a message I was coming to see him on the way back. He should have gotten the message. Too dizzy… “I’ll get you in the stable Red, you just gotta wait.”

Red pricked his ears, turned and neighed as a man riding a horse came into the clearing. Rio looked up, and saw an old Mountain Man, late 60’s, solidly build, bearded with long gray hair, dressed in buckskins, “Unk Ethan, I’m… I’ve been shot.”

Monte Henderson, the old mountain man, tied his horse to the rudimentary stable, and walked slowly over, his old Colt Navy conversion in his hand. “Damn, I’m getting tired of findin’ bodies up here.” Getting his toe under Rio, he flipped him over, and Rio moaned. Monte leveled his pistol, “Well, you ain’t dead are ya?”

“Help me or shoot me, but you better not kick me again, ol’ man. Pretty bad when you kick your own kin.”

“Hell boy, you ain’t in any shape to tell me anything.” Monte shook his head, and stepped around him, going into the cabin. He found the table and felt the lamp, with the chimney raised and pulled out a Lucifer, lit it, and carried it back out the door. He looked Rio over, then took the lamp back inside, leaving the door open.

Shuffling and grunting he got Rio up and into the cabin, half carrying him to a bunk and rolling him into it. “Damn boy, you a heavy one, lessee where you been shot.” He holds the lamp over Rio, and asks again, “Where you shot boy?”

Rio mumbled, “I dunno, my head hurts real bad. I member falling, nothin’ else.”

“Only thing I see is this scalp wound, don’t look like you’re hit anywhere else.”

“I can’t see real well, ‘m seein two of ya Unk Ethan.”

“I ain’t Ethan, lemme see if’n I can patch you up there boy.” Monte rummaged around, heated some water, and found an old shirt that he tore strips off of for a bandage, and some left over horse liniment. He turned back and saw that Rio has passed out, “Well, this makes it easy. You ain’t gonna complain are you, boy?” Dabbing a corner of the shirt in the hot water, he patiently worked the blood out of the scalp wound, slapped some horse liniment on it, and wrapped a strip of shirt around Rio’s head. He tied it off, grunted and said, “Huh. Dunno if you’re going to make it or not, boy. We’ll see if you’re alive in the morning.

Taking the lamp, he went out, grabbed Red’s reins, then led him over to the stable, unsaddled his horse, put it in a stall, pitched some hay in, then repeated the evolution with Red. He set both saddles over the rail of the empty stall and hung the bridles from the cantles, then picked up his trap door Springfield and Rio’s 73 Winchester and walked slowly back to the cabin.


Research… — 23 Comments

  1. A western!! Cool!!

    Going to work now to make money to be able to contribute to the coffee fund as I am sure research does consume large quantities of both time and coffee. 🙂

  2. You’re killin’ me with all these teasers. I want to sit down and read the entire book in one sitting with a good cup of coffee. Now I have to wait on THREE series! Write faster.
    (grumble grumble)

    I am a huge Lois L’Amour fan as well as just about any good military and/or sci-fi. You’re pushing all my buttons just right.

  3. Your readership is obsessed with the details that can only be found through exhaustive research. And EVEN THEN, you will find that we, your readers, don’t completely agree on the data. ;^)

    Keep going.

  4. I find the old west to be an interesting period and reenact the era. That’s a lot of fun by the way. I just wonder about the use of scope here. They were rather uncommon in the period, and expensive. I’m curious about where the character acquired it. Given its use here, it was likely stolen from someone of means. It’s nice to see someone trying to get detail right in a new western.

  5. I like the snippet l. Good action, proper bad guys, and a Mountain Man with his own ways. Good, sensible horse.

    Three different series, but the character types, motivations, families, and details are unifying features. Anything we pick up is good story, whether we open to drama, tragedy, or family fun. Comfort food for the mind and soul is good.

  6. I bought a new ’51 Navy Colt (IIRC, Umberto made it, but it has Colt markings) some years back. It is the slickest and prettiest revolver I have.

  7. All- thanks for the comments! 🙂 And yes I know I can do all the research in the world and I’m still going to get arguments for my readers…

    Posted from my iPhone.

  8. The reason L’Amour was L’Amour was his auto-didact doctoral-level encyclopedic research, especially primary sources, and wide-ranging knowledge of his subject matter, and a not inconsiderable amount of life experience living it out beforehand.

    {cf.: Thoreau, W.H. Dana, Melville, ad infinitum}

    In the writing world, there are the L’Amours, in whatever genre, and there are the hacks.

    Anyone can get rich being a hack if they compensate with other skills, mainly because the pool of dim lights buying their b.s. has grown by leaps and bounds.
    But the ‘net has cut pretty deeply into the ability of hacks to pretend expertise, leading to an epidemic of butthurt, and no shortage of hacks entering ancillary employment.

    (Which explains Hollywood, for example, since forever.)

    Research for a novel is like planning for an invasion.
    Planning is worthless, but the planning process is invaluable. – Gen. Eisenhower

    No craftsman worthy of the title ever skips sharpening his tools or oiling the machinery because it’s “tedious” or “annoying”.
    That’s why it’s called craft.

    Good on you for doing the work.

  9. Jim, your research pays off. We, who have been on a good horse and have guns appreciate it.
    Yes, the scope needs to be clarified.

  10. This is writing nice to see. As Aesop said, this is craft at work.

    Curious so if you’d indulge a question as to your approach, do you (or someone) proof-read as you go, or return back to the whole to do it? (Not talking an editorial or style review, or artistic muse, but the dreaded cold grammar nazi.)

    Looking forward to this. h/t Aesop at Raconteur Report

  11. One minor quibble; it’s Cache “la” Poudre not “de”. French not Spanish.
    Also came over via Aesop.

  12. Your research encompasses most of my BA in history from Colorado State

  13. TOS/Randy- It’s in the cue…

    Aesop- Good points, and I’ve used that Eisenhower quote before… LOL

    Skip- Will do.

    WSF- It’ll get there. 🙂

    Badger- I put up snippets, get feedback from them, and I have alpha and beta readers who read for everything. Once I’ve made all THOSE corrections, it goes to my editor, then a final roofpread before I go to print. Now, having said that, I STILL miss stuff… sigh…

    Boat Guy- Thanks! I couldn’t remember, and by then my googlefu was hiccuping… sigh…

    Ed- Next year! I promise! 🙂

  14. I appreciate your striving for correctness.
    Nothing makes me want to throw a book across the room quicker than the author going into details and getting it wrong.
    That’s “ground tied” or “ground hitched” not “ground reined”.
    I trained my big two year-old appy mustang to stand ground tied in about thirty minutes.
    He never bucked with me, but we did have a little rodeo during ground work, early on.
    Keep writing. I keep buying.

  15. Oops.
    Looks like I got an extra apostrophe in there.
    Sorry about the sentence fragments.
    I know is colloquial and not good form, but that is he we talk.

  16. If you ever get up this way, NFO, I’d be happy to show you some real “Old West” stuff!