Weekly Roundup (Western Food Blogs)

I’ve been thinking lately that the real growth industry on the internet is blogs about food and cooking. People post recipes, step-by-step photographs of dishes in the making, and describe in sumptuous detail the results of their cooking experiences.

The most recent sensation in food blogging also has a western connection, the Kansas-City based BBQ Addicts blog. At the request of a group of bacon bloggers (food blogging is highly specialized), they posted what they described as the ultimate barbecue bacon recipe, which they dubbed the Bacon Explosion. I’ll go no further than to say that it involves two pounds of bacon and two pounds of sausage. The New York Times reported last month that nearly 400,000 viewers had visited the recipe, and 16,000 websites and blogs had linked to it. The finished product is certainly a sight to behold. I’m not sure I find it exactly appetizing, but it is astonishing.

Another good western-oriented food blog is The Homesick Texan, on which the most recent post is titled Saved by Red Beans and Rice. The recipes here are generally for much healthier fare than the Bacon Explosion, and the commentary from The Homesick Texan is entertaining.

I’ll end with a few more stops on a trip around the West via food blogs:

From Seattle, The Accidental Hedonist

From San Francisco, In Praise of Sardines

From Salt Lake City, Kalyn’s Kitchen

From Honolulu, One Kine Grindz, which also has a nice list of other Hawaii food blogs.

From Colorado, Culinary Colorado

From Albuquerque, Gil’s Thrilling (And Filling Blog)


Unbridled Cowboy, Part One

The WLA Blog is hosting a stop on the virtual tour of Unbridled Cowboy (Truman State University Press, 2008), written by Joseph B. Fussell, edited by E. R. Fussell.


Joseph Fussell

Unbridled Cowboy

(Truman State University Press, 5/1/08)

The Autobiography


Joseph B. Fussell


Unbridled Cowboy is a riveting firsthand account of a defiant hell-raiser in the wild and tumultuous American Southwest in the late 1800s. At the age of fourteen, Joe Fussell hopped trains to escape from school and the authority he scorned. Joe became a roving cowpuncher across the Texas territory, tilling the land, wrangling cattle, and working in livery stables, moving on whenever his feet began to itch.

In a time and place with no law, the young cowboy exacted revenge on those who trespassed against him or those who abused authority. Joe recounts tales of cowboy adventures, narrow escapes, and undercover work as a Texas Ranger. Even after marriage, a spark of his wild cowboy spirit remained during the rise of the railroads in the Southwest when he worked as a switchman and yardmaster.
Joe’s unadorned prose is as exposed and simple as the wide open Texas plains. His unpretentious and unique voice embodies the spirit of the Wild West.

Author Bio

Joseph B. Fussell was born in Tyler, Texas in 1879, the son of a cowboy and buffalo hunter. At fourteen, Joe quit school and ran away from home after nearly killing the school bully.

Fussell trekked across the Southwest working as a cowboy and livery stable operator. As a ranch hand in northern Mexico, he barely escaped the fate of his American friend who died at the bottom of a well.

At 27, he married and began a family. Ten years later, when Mexico was in the throes of civil war, Fussell took a perilous journey to Vera Cruz to check on the suitability of some land for oil drilling. After a stint as an undercover Texas Ranger, Joe began a new career in Arizona as Yardmaster and Librarian for the Santa Fe Railroad. During this time, he became politically active writing compelling letters to politicians and newspapers. After retiring from the Santa Fe in 1945, Fussell moved to California to be near his daughter and family.

With little formal training, Fussell wrote this riveting memoir about real life in the West at the turn of the century. He died in 1957.

Publisher’s bookpage:


Unbridled Cowboy, Part Two

The WLA Blog is hosting a stop on the virtual tour of Unbridled Cowboy (Truman State University Press, 2008), written by Joseph B. Fussell, edited by E. R. Fussell.

The essay below was contributed by editor (and grandson of author Joseph Fussell) E. R. Fussell as part of the virtual tour:

I remember my grandfather, Joe Fussell, as a rather tall, skinny old man who rolled his own cigarettes, wore Stetsons, never sat with his back to a window, and told exciting stories about the Old West. A riveting speaker and very loving man, he gave me books about the West of his father’s time which I still own. While he and my grandmother lived in Alhambra, California and I lived in Western New York State we visited each other from time to time. Joe died when I was fifteen.

Gramps wrote his autobiography in 1948 when he was 68 years old. My father never told me about the book, but I learned about it when Aunt Helen, my father’s sister, gave me a copy in 1966. At that time I was 23 and making a trip around the United States, stopping to visit she and my uncle Johnny at their home in Idaho. For decades I had hoped to edit and publish the book, but nothing happened with the manuscript until 2002 when my admin entered it onto computer. By this time, I had written a novel and taken classes in writing at Writers & Books in Rochester.

After editing was complete, I met Dr. Gary Ostrower through a mutual friend. The History Professor from New York’s Alfred University was very impressed with the book and urged me to attend the Western History Association’s annual meeting in Saint Louis in October 2006 to meet with publishers. I spent several days in Saint Louis while presenting the manuscript.

Soon after my return to New York, I was contacted by Truman State University Press who distributed copies to advance readers who reviewed the book.

A few months later, Truman State sent me the excellent reviews from their anonymous readers. I subsequently learned that two of the readers were Texas historian & author Mike Cox and US historian Alfred Runte. Based upon their reviews, Truman State offered to publish my grandfather’s memoir.

I believe the story is totally accurate, as do Truman State’s readers, and partly for the same reasons. Dr. Runte said, “There is no reason for this manuscript to be a hoax. The investment in this amount of material would be substantial, and in some cases hard to glean…The point is that all of the factual materials fall effortlessly into place. The nuances are not strained. Perhaps a Larry McMurtry could have ‘faked’ this manuscript, but it would have taken someone of his knowledge and skills to do so.”

Mr. Cox said, “There are plenty of clues in Fussell’s character as he reveals it (like the time he walked off from the locomotive fireman’s job) that demonstrate his having had the potential for doing what he claims.”

I provided a copy of Unbridled Cowboy to a woman I met in Lubbock last September when I attended the Cowboy Symposium. She wrote recently and told me that she, her father and her grandfather had all worked for the Santa Fe Railroad, and that my grandfather’s descriptions of that company were totally accurate. Based upon the veracity of his description of life at the Santa Fe, she assumed the rest of Gramps’ stories were also true.

Before publishing the book I tried to verify the murderous events in Mexico, but got nowhere. A Mexican priest told me that any records that may have existed were almost certainly destroyed during the Mexican revolution. Furthermore, my father and grandfather were both scrupulously honest, very intelligent men with excellent memories.

On the inside cover of his autobiography my grandfather, in a handwritten note to family members, expressed his hope that many of his, “experiences during childhood, adolescence and early manhood will be accepted with all the tolerance they are able to muster.” Those are not the words of a man who made up his stories.

Reviews and Endorsements for Unbridled Cowboy

“This book has charm and vitality due to the integrity and honesty of the voice. Future generations of readers will greatly benefit…”
– Ron Hansen, Author of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

“richly detailed, entertaining memoir…good reading”
Dallas Morning News

“one of the most compelling memoirs I have ever read…portions…read like…a Larry McMurtry novel” -Mike Cox, Texana Reviewer, Austin American-Statesman, Author of The Texas Rangers:Wearing the Cinco Peso 1821-1900

“It’s the language that makes this book memorable…readers [go] back to the tumultuous time at the turn of the 19th century when the cowboy gave way to the railroader…an extraordinary story.”
– Mark Busby, Co-Editor, Texas Books in Review

“…an absorbing personal account of a violent and lawless era”
True West Magazine

“writing…straight from a cowboy’s mouth”
American Cowboy Magazine

Unbridled Cowboy is a real find. Fussell is a terrific storyteller…”

“…one of the finest personal reminiscences of life in the American West”
– Alfred Runte, Author of Allies of the Earth: Railroads and the Soul of Preservation

“…riveting true tales of undercover work, life on the railroads, and rough justice. A captivating true life narrative of the wild west.”
Midwest Book Review

Publisher’s Bookpage:

Atomic West: South Dakota

From David Cremean:

One major aspect of the Nuclear West still needing deeper exploration would include the many small towns and remote areas affected by carnotite, etc., mining.  Here in South Dakota, major areas affected and afflicted include most of the far Western side of the state.

In the far southwestern corner, Edgemont is a small city that boomed with the uranium drive.  In fact, the town’s mayor back in the early 60s (I think it was) is almost certainly Abbey’s model for Bishop Love’s carnotite bite.  This old guy was photographed for Life Magazine chawing on a chunk.  The town itself still has folk dying from their work there, as was documented about 2001 in a South Dakota Magazine, “Why not Edgemont?”

Then there’s the Cheyenne River, which allegedly has a high radioactive content according to people I know on the Oglala Lakota (Pine Ridge) Reservation and according to ranchers who are along it, though as far as I know the “evidence” is anecdotal.

The Black Hills themselves were seriously discussed for a time as a “national sacrifice area” for nuclear dumping and the like, much like Yucca Mountain.

Then in the northwestern part of the state, we have high cancer rates and proven contaminations in the Cave Hills and Slim Buttes areas.

And of course on top of it all, a likely rebirth of nuclear productions is on the way.

Finally, there is the real presence of naturally occuring radon here in the Hills, in many basements and the like, necessitating exhaust systems–and almost certainly hidden and ignored by many commercial establishments with basement levels.

Oscar and the Western

The 81st Oscars, which are being announced tonight, seem to be following past practice in ignoring westerns as well as  ignoring films in which a setting in the American West is important to the story. With the exception of Milk (set in San Francisco), western settings are absent from the films nominated for Best Picture (Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, The Reader, Slumdog Millionaire), and based on a quick glance at the films in the major categories, I don’t see anything representing the West (with the exception of Angelina Jolie’s best actress nomination for Changeling, set in LA).

Perhaps the best-known “western” this past year was actually set in Australia (as indicated by its title, Australia), although its plot seems derived in part from Red River, with Hugh Jackman in the John Wayne role, and Nicole Kidman in Montgomery Clift’s role as Wayne’s friend/nemesis. And Australia only received a best Costume Design nomination.

I’m somewhat surprised that Wendy and Lucy, a modestly-budgeted story of a woman and her dog slowly drifting through Oregon and Washington on their way to Alaska, didn’t get a nod, as Oscar does every now and then show favor to low-budget independent films, especially when those films are anchored by a well-received performance (as has been the case with Michelle Williams’ portrayal of Wendy).

Were there other films produced this year which were  rooted in the western genre (such as Australia) or which made important use of western settings (as did Wendy and Lucy) that should have received recognition from the Academy?

If there were to be an Oscars, American West Edition, what films and what performances should be nominated from the past year?

Click on the “Comments” link below to post your response.

Call For Papers: African American West

African American West Panel at MLA

This proposed panel at the Modern Language Association Conference in Philadelphia 2009 asks: What is the role of the American West in African American literature? The session will explore western territories as “homesites” in 19th and 20th century black fiction. The panel will explore the concept of “home” within the context of mobility (upward mobility and migration). Does the West truly become a site of family and community for African American early migrants? In a culture where it matters where one’s “people are from,” (meaning where “home” is in the southern region of the U.S.) what does it mean to be a second-generation westerner, for example? How do the experiences of African Americans with western origins compare to people of color also “from” somewhere else (e.g. immigrants)?

Send 250-word abstracts by 15 March to Kalenda Eaton (kalenda.eaton@armstrong.edu), Assistant Professor of African American Literature, Armstrong Atlantic State University.

Weekly Roundup (Western Music)

For the Roundup this week, I thought I’d share some links related to western music, about songs in western films, songs with western themes, etc.

There’s a good discussion of western movie theme music (including a close look at “Do Not Forsake Me” from High Noon) at Western Americana: History of the American West.

There’s a new entry by songwriter Tom Russell on his blog, about recording his new album (Blood in Candlesmoke)  in Tucson this month.

I also came across a clip from The Bronze Buckaroo (the black-cast western mentioned in an earlier post) of Herb Jeffries and band singing “Payday Blues.” This is a cool scene (watch for the tap-dancing cowboy), a good fun bunkhouse song well performed by Jeffries and his band.

Jeffries had a long and successful singing career through the 1940s and 1950s, including a stint with the Duke Ellington Band, with whom he performed what was probably his most famous song, “Flamingo.”