Wednesday, October 20, 2021

What do Horses, Arguments, and Stonehenge Have in common? (Wild West Sayings We Use Today)

Welcome back for more fun with words. New around here? All you need is to a) enjoy history and b) love words, and you'll fit right in. One of the sayings we'll study today touched on research I did for a blog post. I think you'll enjoy reading about Sam Hill. So pull up a chair and sit a spell as we discover more Wild West sayings we use today. 

Wild West Sayings We Use Today, Part 28

Rode Hard and Put Away Wet

Horses and people have a lot in common.
This quaint expression refers to horseback riding. A horse that works up a sweat after running needs to cool down before resting. If stabled without being walked and brushed, the horse can suffer chills, stiffness, and lameness—resulting in resentment and ill-temper. It’s not hard to imagine how the term, ‘rode hard and put away wet’ broadened to include people who look rough, weary, sickly, and out of sorts, possibly due to abuse or neglect. The phrase might describe a particular incident (a bad night) or a long-term condition (having lived a hard life).

Historical Reference: The exact origins of this phrase are uncertain, but it most likely originated in the American South. Use of the past form of a verb as a past participle (‘been rode’ rather than ‘been ridden’) points to the South’s linguistic connection to Scotland.

Example: After digging ditches all day, Henry looks like he’s been rode hard and put away wet.


A ruckus is a noisy commotion.
Today, as in the Wild West, we consider a noisy uproar or an argument a ‘ruckus.’ 

Historical Reference: The “Cherokee Advocate,” an Oklahoma newspaper, included a variant spelling in the February 24th, 1882 edition: “It is but right that they should know how the matter stands, and have fair warning to avoid a ‘pending’ rucus of some sort.”
Note: Other spellings (rookus, rukus and rucus) may hint at the way this word was pronounced in various parts of America.

Ruckus is an American term with uncertain origins. The word most likely evolved from blending ‘rumpus’ (a playful commotion) and ‘ruction’ (a disorderly tumult), but other theories exist. Ruckus may have derived from ‘rook,’ a Scottish word for a quarrel or uproar that dates from at least 1808. Another idea is that ‘ruck,’ a British rugby play, birthed ‘ruckus.’

What in the Sam Hill…

Sam Hill's Stonehenge Memorial, Image by Janalyn Voigt

Substituting ‘Sam Hill’ for a four-letter word beginning with ‘h,’ this phrase has various endings: "…just happened?”; “…do you think you’re doing?”; and so forth. This idiom was used more in the 1800s than today, but it is still known, and I couldn’t resist including it. 

Historical Reference: According to the Oxford English Dictionary, on Aug. 1, 1839, the Havana, New York, Republican newspaper carried this line: "What in sam hill is that feller ballin' about?" This is the first known print citation for our phrase.

Various stories about the origin of 'What in the Sam Hill' include one Colonel Samuel Hill who consistently ran for office in Connecticut. However, no other records have turned up to confirm his existence. However, other names have been bandied about. Samuel Ewing Hill, an adjutant general from Kentucky investigated the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys in 1887. Mystified reporters wanted to know what in the Sam Hill was going on. H.L. Mencken, an American journalist and scholar, posed that the phrase derived from 'Samiel,' the devil's name in the opera, "Der Freischutz" (1825). A surveyor by the name of Sam Hill who lived between 1819 and 1889 is noted as liberally sprinkling his speech with cuss words. Folks who quoted him in more polite society had to substitute 'sam hill' for his colorful epithets. Another idea is that Sam Hill never existed as a person at all. I have by no means exhausted the possibilities, but you get the picture. 

My own opinion of the origins of our expression came about because of a road trip I took with my husband. Little did I know that it would turned into a voyage of discovery, complete with an epiphany. You can read about my experience in When Dreams Don’t Make Sense at my website. This was when I met Samuel Hill, American lawyer, businessman, and railroad executive. I use 'met' euphemistically, because this Sam Hill lived between 1857 and 1931, which means he left this world before I entered it. We can blame it on my being a historical fiction author, but the historical figures I study often become so real that it seems I know them. But I digress.

The Sam Hill I discovered in my travels
 is only one of the characters recognized (or blamed, as the case may be) for the saying in question. Let me explain why I can’t imagine it originating with anyone else. 

Sam Hill had a knack for creating things that made sense in his own mind but often left others baffled. He envisioned the ‘Promised Land,' a farming utopia in a part of Washington state that was so arid it was almost a desert. Undeterred by criticism that his vision was impractical, he bought 7,000 acres of arid land in the Columbia Gorge. Sam built an expansive mansion overlooking the Columbia River and named it Maryhill after his daughter, Mary. He founded a town by the same name and invited some Quaker farmers to settle it. 

No one came. 

After the town burned in a fire, Sam abandoned the Maryhill mansion. The building stands today, a solid concrete behemoth that appears sturdy enough to withstand a nuclear blast. Go inside for a small fee, like I did, and lose yourself in extensive collections of art. Sam dedicated his abandoned home to artistic endeavors, a fate that strikes me as appropriate for the remnant of a broken dream.

Arguably the oddest of Sam Hill’s projects is the miniature Stonehenge replica he erected a short distance from Maryhill. It still stands. That's right. You can come to Washington state and see Stonehenge, at least in miniature. Visiting the memorial can be a windy prospect but well worth the trouble. I found the experience moving. Sam Hill built his Stonehenge to commemorate the brave souls who lost their lives in World War I. He also meant it to protest war in general. 
But, why Stonehenge? 

I mean, doesn't every war protestor recreate an ancient megalith? Maybe not. This is where we gain a glimpse into Sam Hill's thinking. You see, he traveled to the original Stonehenge in 1915. There he learned that the Britons once used the site for "bloody sacrifices to their heathen gods of war." Struck by this, Sam decided that his replica would be a reminder that "humanity is still being sacrificed to the god of war." His logic is impeccable, if not immediately accessible to most people. I’m sure Sam Hill's Stonehenge came across as another anomaly from a man with too much money.

We can’t speak of the curiosities Sam Hill introduced to a puzzled world without mentioning that he also built the Cascade Highway. This feat of construction benefited farmers in particular. It removed from them the burden of navigating their carts along muddy roads. Not too shabby for a misunderstood man people laughed at. At the Stonehenge Memorial, if you look down the hill to the banks of the Columbia, you'll notice a farm. Modern irrigation practices have made Sam Hill's dream possible. 
Perhaps it is justice that ‘What in the Sam Hill…’ is fading into memory.

View from Sam Hill's Stonehenge Memorial that shows the farm below; image by Janalyn Voigt  

Example: “What in the Sam Hill was that about?”

Question for You

Can you relate to Sam Hill's quirky mindset or does it baffle you? 

What's New With Janalyn Voigt

Like perhaps many of you, I struggle with events in our world today. My reaction doesn't change my deadlines as an author, but being forced to focus on writing has turned into a blessing. I think of what Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastis 2:24: "There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and make his soul enjoy good in his labor. This also I saw, that it is from the hand of God" (World English Bible). I had to recommit myself to work diligently at the tasks to which I am called, refusing to be pulled aside by temporal worries. 
Let us place our unwavering trust in God, who loves us all. 

Learn more about Janalyn Voigt

New Release! 

I'm delighted to announce that Cheyenne Sunrise is now available as an audiobook. Cheyenne Sunrise, book two in the Montana Gold series, joins Hills of Nevermore, book one, which released in audio format last year. 

Cheyenne Sunrise

Can a woman with no faith in men learn to trust the half-Cheyenne trail guide determined to protect her?

Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, Cheyenne Sunrise explores faith, love, and courage in the Wild West.

Beautiful narration melds seamlessly with lyrical writing to produce an immersive listening experience. Lose yourself in the romance. You won't want the story to end.
(No Audible subscription? You can listen to Cheyenne Sunrise with a free Audible trial.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Autumn in the Thousand Islands

It’s the time of the year when Thousand Islands cottage dwellers close up their summer homes and say goodbye to the St. Lawrence River. While there are still the year-rounders who enjoy the crisp air and autumn beauty, they are few. Yet, the autumn colors in the area are simply spectacular and not to be missed!

Historically, people like the Bournes who built Singer Castle (then called The Towers) on Dark Island, the Emerys who built Calumet Castle on Calumet Island, and the Pullmans who built Castle Rest on Pullman Island, would often visit the islands in the fall, often to hunt and fish. The Bournes even had a duck blind on a separate nearby island.

Yet, I suspect, many of the Gilded Age families returned to enjoy the autumn colors on the St. Lawrence River in their beloved Thousand Islands. The grand cities like New York City, Philadelphia, and others simply couldn’t provide the abundance, wide-range, and intensely beautiful autumn scenery the area offered them.

Leaf peeping in the Thousand Islands is a memorable experience. The densely deciduous forests along the river and on the islands turn vibrant, awe-inspiring colors. Leaves fall into the water and paint an unforgettable tapestry. Bright reds, oranges, and yellows dot the landscape, with more subtle hues of pinks, purples, and peach filling in the autumn color wheel. If you haven’t been to New England in the fall, you won’t regret adding it to your bucket list.

But why is it so beautiful here? Cooler temperatures in late summer combined with plenty of sunshine, often leads to brighter colors. But freezing can kill the leaves prematurely. As you’ll recall from your biology classes, photosynthesis breaks down chlorophyll, yellow pigments in the leaves become visible, and the leaves lose their green color. Reds and purples come from the sugars trapped in the leaves.

Ideally, an early moist growing season, a dry late summer, and a sunny, warm fall with cool nights, create the most stunning colors of the autumn season. And here, along the St. Lawrence River, this is often the case.

The St. Lawrence River autumn usually peaks around the first of October, reflecting these colors on its clear water and multiplying the breathtaking scenery. You can take boat cruises around the color-bursting islands until mid-October to see for yourself. Though timing can vary from year to year due to weather and the increasing length of nights, you won’t want to miss it—at least one time in your life.

About Reagan’s Reward:

Reagan Kennedy assumes the position of governess to the Bernheim family’s twin nephews, and her life at Cherry Island’s Casa Blanca becomes frustratingly complicated. Service to a Jewish family and tending to eight-year-old mischievous boys brings trouble galore.

Daniel Lovitz serves as the island’s caretaker and boatman. When he tries to help the alluring Reagan make sense of her new world, her insecurities mount as her confidence is shaken―especially when she crosses the faith divide and when Etta Damsky makes her life miserable. As trouble brews, Daniel sees another side of the woman he’s come to love.

Finalist in the 2020 Selah Awards, Reagan's Reward will touch your heart.

About Susan:

Susan G Mathis is an international award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, her childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. Susan has been published more than twenty times in full-length novels, novellas, and non-fiction books.

Her first two books of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemma, and Katelyn’s Choice have each won multiple awards, and book three, Peyton’s Promise, comes out May 2022 with Rachel’s Reunion in November. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surprise, and Reagan’s Reward, are also award winners.  

Susan is also a published author of two premarital books, two children's picture books, stories in a dozen compilations, and hundreds of published articles. Susan makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys traveling around the world. Visit for more.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Alcatraz Escapes Part 2

 By Nancy J. Farrier

Alcatraz Prison, photo by Frank Schulenburg
Wikimedia Commons


Last month I wrote about some of the escape attempts from Alcatraz. Several of you wanted to hear more, so I’m doing two more of the most interesting attempted escapes from Alcatraz prison.


Escape #7


On April 13, 1943, four men made a daring escape from Alcatraz at 10:00 am--an escape that was well planned, but there are always unexpected hindrances.


James Boarman (24) was serving twenty years for bank robbery. Harold Brest (29) was serving a life sentence for kidnapping and bank robbery. Floyd Hamilton (36), who had been friends with the famous Bonnie and Clyde, was serving thirty years for bank robbery, assault, and car theft. Fred Hunter (43) was serving a sentence of twenty-five years, ten months, and nine days for assault and for harboring a criminal wanted for kidnapping.


Hamilton came up with the plan which took the four men several months to prepare. Two of them stole pieces of guard uniforms from the laundry which they
concealed in fuel canisters and hid among other canisters. They planned to use these canisters as floatation devices in the bay. The others worked to saw through the bars of a window in the mat room, covering up their work with grease and paint. When they were ready they waited for a fog-enshrouded day.


On April 13th, the four prisoners brandished homemade knives and took one of the guards captive. They tied and gagged him. When his superior officer came looking for him, they did the same to him. Then the men stripped to their underwear and covered their bodies in grease to help protect against the chill of the water. They removed the bars and took some of the canisters but not enough since they were hard to get through the window. They slid thirty feet down a cliff face to the water.


The Captain worked his gag loose and yelled for help but the noise of the machinery was too loud. The first guard slid close and the captain was able to blow his whistle, which alerted the other guards. One of the tower guards saw the men going into the water and opened fire. Guards hurried to bring the prison boat around and found Brest hanging on to Boarman. Brest had been shot in the arm, but Boarman was shot in the head. Brest released Boarman, who sank below the waves. Hunter, injured in the slide to the water, hid in a cave and was found by the guards as they circled the island. 


They thought Hamilton had been shot and drowned but he’d gotten away. He returned and hid in the same cave where they found Hunter. After dark, Hamilton tried to swim across the bay but the water was too cold. He stayed hidden in the cave for three days before he scaled the cliff face and climbed back in the prison through the very window they’d used for their escape. The same captain they had tied up revisited the scene and found a bruised and shivering Hamilton curled up next to the radiator. 


Later on, Hamilton embraced Christianity. He ended up serving as vice-president for International Prison Ministry and in his later years he started an organization called ConAid. He was given a full pardon by Lyndon Johnson.


Escape #13


On June 11, 1962, one of the most brilliant escapes happened. Once again, four men worked together to make the plan and figure out the details. 


Frank Morris (35) was known for his escape attempts at every prison where he’d been incarcerated. Brothers, John (32) and Clarence 
(31) Anglin, grew up swimming in the cold waters of Lake Michigan and were also known for their prison escapes, one of which included hiding John among loaves of bread in a truck. Allen West (35), hot tempered and arrogant, was again a noted prison escape artist. The four met in a federal prison in Atlanta before they were incarcerated at Alcatraz.


West discovered a chink in the Alcatraz armor almost by accident. The ventilator cap at the top of the cell house had not been cemented shut. The four men planned to enlarge the air vents in their cells and exit into a service corridor behind the cells. Then they would find a drain pipe to climb to the top, exit through the ventilator, slide down a pipe to the ground, and paddle to freedom on a cobbled together raft.


Once again, it took months of planning and gathering the extensive materials needed. They had to slowly chip away at the air vents in their cells, hiding the evidence, and being quiet to escape notice. Sometimes they played music to cover up the sounds of digging. Every night for four hours and through several months the four of them worked to dig their way out and prepare their escape supplies.


West finagled a job in the top tier of the building, cleaning and painting the space above the cells. Saying he wanted to prevent debris from getting in the cells, he convinced the guards to let him hang blankets around the workspace. The four men, secreted behind the blankets, furthered their plans. They fashioned a raft from some fifty rubber raincoats they’d stolen and using a design found in a popular mechanics magazine. They also made paddles and life preservers.


Loose ventilator cap.
The prisoners were allowed to have musical instruments in their cells, so West ordered a concertina which they planned to use to inflate the raft. Finally, after seven months they had the materials they needed and had broken through the ventilator’s fastening. The escape route was complete.


During this time of preparation, the men stole materials to make dummy heads. They found flesh-colored paint, and stole hair clippings from the barber shop. In the dark and from outside the cell these heads were very convincing.


Heads used to fool guards.
After lights out on June 11th, they deemed the time had come for the escape. They retrieved the heads and put them in their beds with the blankets make to look like a body. They collected everything they’d prepared and headed for the ventilator. West had a problem getting out of his cell. He had cemented a fake grill over the air vent and couldn’t get it out. By the time he reached the ventilator above, the others were gone.


On the morning of June 12th, the guards did their usual rounds. Prisoners were expected to be standing at their cell door but Morris was still asleep, the Anglins were also still sleeping. The guards entered the cell to rouse them and discovered the fake heads. They were very shocked when the prisoner’s heads rolled off the bed onto the floor.


Guard inspecting escape opening.
The alarm went out and more than 500 FBI and soldiers descended on the island, searching the grounds and the waters in the area. Over the course of the next weeks they found several clues: a receipt with one of the prisoners names on it, black polyethylene with knots tied in it, a makeshift lifejacket covered in bloodstains, and planks lashed together with a rope. A month after the escape a Norwegian freighter spotted a body floating twenty miles from the Golden Gate bridge but didn’t report it for three months. The body is suspected to be one of the inmates but there was no proof.


Only West was recaptured since he hadn’t been able to escape with the others. He was questioned extensively and gave great detail about their plans and escape process. Morris and the Anglin brothers were never found. The manhunt lasted for years until in 1979 they were officially marked as missing and presumed drowned. By this time the prison had been closed for sixteen years. 


Tools used in escape.

This event shocked and terrified the country as people speculated what happened to the three inmates. Clint Eastwood played the role of Morris in, Escape from Alcatraz, a 1979 movie of this escape. The escape has also been featured on Mythbusters and  America’s Most Wanted. The truth of what really happened may never be known.


I am fascinated by the ingenuity of these men and their determination to toil for so long in an attempt at freedom. Braving the cold waters of the bay with the threat of being shot had to be terrifying. Yet they persisted. If you are interested in reading more, I highly recommend Alcatraz Escape Files. The accounts are very detailed but easy to read.

Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website:




Sunday, October 17, 2021

Eleanor Roosevelt: Redefined First Lady


I recently saw several Facebook posts asking what outstanding people you know born in October. That’s a fun way to acknowledge family and friends’ birthdays. But that trigger a question: what famous people were born in October? I reviewed the list, and Eleanor Roosevelt reminded me of my heroine, Angelina, in my new Historical Romance, Angelina’s Resolve. She is carrying on the fight for women’s rights in the mid-1800s while Eleanor Roosevelt did that and so much more in the early 20th century.


Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born October 11, 1884, in Manhattan, New York City, to socialite Anna Rebecca Hall and Elliott Bulloch Roosevelt (Theodore Roosevelt’s brother.) From childhood, she preferred to be called Eleanor. Her mother gave her the nickname “Granny” because she was such a serious child.

She lost both her parents and a brother at an early age and went to live with her Maternal Grandmother Mary Livingston Ludlow. She had a private tutor until she was 15. In 1899, Eleanor was sent to a boarding school in Wimbledon, England,  where she gained confidence from the headmistress who encouraged the girls to be independent thinkers.

Her education ended in 1902 when her grandmother called her home to be present at a debutante ball. Her “coming out party” although beautiful, was horrible for the lonely teen. She’d been away from New York so long that she didn’t know any of the girls her age.

In the summer of 1902, she met her father’s sixth cousin, Franklin Roosevelt. They secretly corresponded, and a romance began. They became engaged on November 22, 1903. Franklin’s mother, Sarah Roosevelt, disliked Eleanor and insisted they keep their engagement secret for a year. She even took Franklin to the Caribbean, hoping he would forget her. That was not to be. On March 17, 1905, they married. Her uncle Theodore Roosevelt gave her away.  

Franklin’s mother set them up in a townhouse in Hyde Park, next to hers. It had a door connecting the two homes. Sarah insisted on running both households and even told the grandchildren, “Your mother bore you, but I am more of a mother to you than her.”

Eleanor and Franklin had six children, but their marriage wasn’t a happy one. Franklin’s first affair would have ended their marriage if not for his mother threatening to disinherit him if he did. The two decided to work things out. Eleanor found her fulfillment in public service and lending her support to organizations that shared her focus on equality for all.

Eleanor's official portrait

If not for Eleanor, Franklin Roosevelt would probably not have been president. He contracted a polio like disease in 1921, leaving him without the use of his legs. His mother advised him to retire from politics, while Eleanor encouraged him to stay the course. She hit the campaign trail on his behalf, propelling Franklin’s career.

Mrs. Roosevelt, always acted on what she felt was right. In 1924, she helped Alfred E. Smith’s reelection campaign for Governor of New York against her cousin Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. He never forgave her.

When her husband became president in 1933, she was depressed at taking on the role of First Lady, which traditionally focused on domesticity and playing hostess. Instead, Eleanor redefined the job of First Lady, making it proactive. She continued her business interests and her speaking engagements in an era when few married women had careers. Eleanor maintained a heavy travel schedule while in the White House. She often made appearances at labor meetings to assure the depression-era workers that the White House was aware of their plight.

She endeared herself to the public when a protest group of World War I veterans marched on Washington for the second time in two years, asking that veterans bonus certificates be awarded early. President Hoover had sent the police with tear gas to disperse the crowd. But the next year, Eleanor met with the protesters at their makeshift camp and listened to their concerns and even sang army songs with them. The meeting defused the tension and a marcher later said, “Hoover sent the Army, but Roosevelt sent his wife.”

During her husband’s time in office, she became an important connection to the African American community. Although Franklin wanted to placate the south, she was very vocal in her support of civil rights. She complained the New Deal programs discriminated against African-Americas who receive a smaller share of relief money. Eleanor spoke against Japanese-American prejudice, and the internment camps during World War II.

Mrs. Roosevelt used the media more than her predecessors, even having her own radio show. She held 348 press conferences and wrote over sixty articles during her tenure as First Lady. In addition, she began a syndicated newspaper column entitled “My Day” that ran six days a week from 1936 until her death in 1962 as well as an advice column, “If You Ask Methat first appeared in The Ladies Home Journal and then McCalls.

 President Truman appointed her as a delegate to the United National General Assembly. In April 1946, she became the first chairperson of the United Nations Committee for Human Rights.

A car struck the former first lady in 1960 and complications from her medical treatment led to her death on November 7, 1962, at 78. President Kennedy ordered all flags at half-mast in her honor. Eleanor Roosevelt did her part to propel the cause of equality for all.

I am giving away one e-book copy of Angelina's Resolve to one lucky commenter.Who is your favorite Historical figure and why?

Cindy Ervin Huff is an Award-winning author of Historical and Contemporary Romance. She loves infusing hope into her stories of broken people. She’s addicted to reading and chocolate. Her idea of a vacation is visiting historical sites and an ideal date with her hubby of almost fifty years would be an evening at the theater.

Visit her website:


Angelina’s Resolve

Architect Angelina DuBois is determined to prove her worth in a male-dominated profession by building a town run by women, where everyone is equal, and temperance is in the by-laws. Contractor Edward Pritchard must guard his heart as he works with the beautiful, strong-willed yet naïve Angelina. He appreciates her ability as an architect, but she frustrates him at every turn with her leadership style. When the project is completed, will it open doors for more work or make him a laughingstock? Can two strong-will people appreciate their differences and embrace their attraction as they work to build the town?