Saturday, March 15, 2014

A slight lesson in Fort Worth history...and a little BSP

In the late nineteenth century, orphan trains carried youngsters from the East to find homes in the small towns and fields of the Midwest and West. Some were orphans, others were given up by tearful families who could not care for them. Along the way, farmers and townsfolk would come on board, pick out youths who looked like good workers, and take them home--sometimes it was almost like indentured servitude. At any rate, Fort Worth was the last stop, the place were children not chosen got off the train. A minister--all I remember from my research is the name Isaac--used to meet the trains and try to help the children. Belle Burchill, the first woman postmistress of Fort Worth, was also instrumental in establishing child care in Fort Worth--a system that, by twists and turns, ultimately led to the Edna Gladney Home. But still, Fort Worth had a number of street children who lived by their wits and cunning...and not always honestly. But they were a band of brothers.
At the same time, Longhair Jim Courtright was in Fort Worth, though on the downside of his career. He had been a U.S. Marshal, deputy sheriff, jailer, private detective, racketeer, and fugitive from the law. The story I always loved was that when marshals from New Mexico had him under arrest for murder, they escorted him under heavy guard to a local restaurant. Courtright's friends had hung two guns under the table. He reached for his napkin and came up with guns...and made his escape on a waiting horse.
Because I love the history of the West and particularly of Fort Worth, I combined two stories into a novel, A Ballad for Sallie. Neither Courtright nor Lizzie, the orphan girl, fleshed out the novel, so I included an eastern woman come to inherit her cousin's store, and of course, there's a love story--though Sallie never gives Courtright, a married man, the attention he thinks he deserves.
Much of the story is actual history--Hell's Half Acre, the cattle drives for which Fort Worth was the last civilized stop, the shoot-out between Luke Short, gambler, gunman and bar owner, and Courtright. Courtright lost, and his funeral procession was the longest in Fort Worth history at that time.
I tend to forget about A Ballad for Sallie, which I shouldn't because it's one of my favorites of my early novels. Amazon picked it up when the previous publisher went under, and it's still available albeit with a over that makes me wonder. This story about an orphan girl shows a mounted man getting off his horse, gun in hand.  There weren't even horses involved in the Courtright/Luke Short shootout. But that's publishing!
If you're interested in Fort Worth history, check it out at

Told you this was going to be a bit of blatant self promotion!

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