erhaps you noticed that I've been absent for a while? Trust me, it is not for the lack of new and exciting information, but rather an extended vacation. In the last 30-years I notice that this happens annually, right after the July 8 Soapy Smith wake. Before that date I slowly climb, much like a roller coaster, to a short and exciting summit, followed by a quick and sharp assent. My brain works on overload before each July 8, and then crashes. Normally, I bounce right back after a day or two but this year took a little more out of me. But I have returned, with a lot of exciting news to talk about ... one day at a time.
While on "vacation," I received a couple of really nice emails from readers of Alias Soapy Smith. The first comes from Vince Grindstaff of Georgia, who writes,
Dear Jeff,I finished reading your book, Alias Soapy Smith, about two weeks ago and have taken the time since to allow my thoughts to settle in before writing you. Let me congratulate you on your masterful work. I started reading the book last fall when it arrived and have taken my time, not out of disinterest, but instead, reading it at a gratifying pace, content that the book was there to entertain me, like good conversation with a friend, always with more to look forward to each time I put it down. Having so enjoyed the process, I was a little sad to reach the conclusion of the book.The wealth of information with which you detail the life of your great grandfather is unsurpassed by any biography I have read previously. From the personal descriptions given by those who were there at the time, to the newspaper articles describing the events, this gold mine of detail in your book helps paint a clear picture of the life and times of Soapy Smith. I have a deep love for Colorado and your descriptions of life there during the late 1800s fleshed out what those times were like more vividly than anything I've read previously.Your examination of Soapy Smith's world shed light on a complex and fascinating multidimensional human being, not simply a flat portrayal of a character from the old west. Astounding depictions of his criminal activity were counterbalanced by descriptions of his love for family and dedication to friends. Your depiction of his ability to cheat and steal from some while also generously giving to others in need shows a person living within a complex structure of sense of duty and loyalty, surviving within his own code for living.Each chapter in the book read like a roller coaster ride, portraying a sense of the adventure possible in those times. Like your great grandfather, I was born in Georgia and was fascinated to learn of his origins here before he headed to Texas and Colorado. Like your great grandfather, I also lived for a time in Colorado, developing a love for the state that I still consider my second home. I look forward to going back and will definitely include the town Creede as a stop to visit Soapy's old stomping grounds.Congratulations again on your superior effort. Reading Alias Soapy Smith was a joy. It is evident that you have put your heart and soul into its writing. I really wish Hollywood would take notice. I feel your great grandfather's life adventure would translate exceptionally well onto the big screen. Best of luck and continued success.Regards,Vince GrindstaffAtlanta, GA
After reading that wonderful endorsement my downward ascent after the wake, shot right back up to the summit! To top that off, I also received a nice endorsement from Jesse James historian, Bob James, who writes,
Hello Jeff,I finish reading Alias Soapy Smith that was a loan from the University of Idaho Library back in June. I was allowed until July 20, 2013 to return it. It took me much longer than most books that I read.BUT--BUT--BUT, it was worth every minute of my time to read SO MUCH, not only about your great grandfather, Jefferson Randolph Smith, but so much about what went on here in COLORADO back when Creede and so many other towns got started. It is a well put together book and you should be given all due thanks for putting down in book form.I THANK YOU JEFF!!!!Bob James.
Thank you very much Vince and Bob, for taking time out to tell me what you thought of my work. You have no idea how good it makes me feel to hear from readers, like yourselves, who appreciate and enjoy what I publish.
"... historians are forever chasing shadows, painfully aware of their inability ever to reconstruct a dead world in its completeness, however thorough or revealing their documentation. Of course they make do with other work: the business of formulating problems, of supplying explanations about cause and effect. But the certainty of such answers always remains contingent on their unavoidable remoteness from their subjects. We are doomed to be forever hailing someone who has just gone around the corner and out of earshot."
— Simon Schama, Dead Certainties [Unwarranted Speculations]
1620: Pilgrims leave England on the Mayflower from Plymouth, to settle in the New World.
1819: Thomas Blanchard patents the lathe.
1860: The 4th Infantry battles with Indians on Deep Creek (Utah).
1864: Fort Zarah is established on the banks of Walnut Creek near the crossroads of the Santa Fe Trail, Kansas. This is an Indian trail, as well as the army supply route from Fort Riley. In 1867 the fort is relocated in stone buildings two miles away. The fort is abandoned on December 4, 1869 when the Indians in the area move their home southwestward.
1873: David Roberts shoots and kills Peter Welsh and George Summer in front of Cy Goddard's saloon in Hays City, Kansas.
1875: Charles Evans is hung in Fort Smith, Arkansas by order of Judge Isaac Parker for the killing of a 19-year-old youth. During the murder trial, Evans wore his victim’s shoes, which were recognized by the boy’s father.
1876: The Southern Pacific railroad from Los Angeles to San Francisco, California is completed.
1878: John Selman's “Wrestlers” stage a raid during the Lincoln County War in New Mexico Territory, killing one man.
1887: The University of Wyoming in Laramie opens.
1895: Law man, Bill Tilghman shoots and captures Doolin Gang member, Bill Raider. The wound is too severe to transport Raider and Tilghman has to nurse his prisoner back to health in order to take him to the nearest jail.
1899: The company, Carnation, processes its first can of evaporated milk.
1901: President William McKinley is shot and mortally wounded (he) by Leon Czolgosz. McKinley dies of his wound eight days later. Czolgosz, an American, is executed on October 29, 1901. The execution is filmed and can be viewed online.
1909: Five months after the fact, word reaches the outside world that American explorer, Robert Peary, had reached the North Pole.