Monday, December 31, 2012

Secretariat's Author, Kate Tweedy

Photo courtesy: Jean Jacobsen - President, Castle Rock Writers.
Left to right: Elizabeth Wallace and Kate Tweedy.

At the 2012 Castle Rock Writers' Conference, I had the pleasure of meeting the distinguished co author of the fabulous book, Secretariat's Meadow - The Land, The Family, The Legend.
During Kate's presentation (to a packed house I might add,) she had the audience laughing one minute, and clapping and cheering the next, as we watched actual footage of Secretariat's wins on the racecourse. It was a truly uplifting and wonderful story of family life, their dreams, and accomplishments.

Following is a brief description of her book taken from her site.

  This new vibrant coffee-table book illustrates how the great champion Secretariat represented the culmination of two centuries of history, a direct legacy of both the land on which he was born and of the people who bred and raised him.

“Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend" by authors Kate Tweedy and Leeanne Ladin traces the rags to riches to racing saga of Christopher Chenery, who defied the skeptics and transformed the dilapidated farm into a showplace of Thoroughbred champions. It shows how his dutiful daughter, Penny, took over the stable and claimed racing’s most coveted prize. It tells the untold stories of the champion racehorses, such as Hill Prince, Cicada and Riva Ridge, who preceded Secretariat in the limelight. Moreover, the book reveals the inextinguishable spirit of a piece of land, dating back to 1805, that has been and continues to be a wellspring of dreams.

Adding to the richness of the story are the vivid memories of family historian, Kate Chenery Tweedy, daughter of Penny Chenery and granddaughter of Chris Chenery. Kate spent many childhood summers at The Meadow learning to ride and ultimately witnessed her mother’s horse capture the Triple Crown and the nation’s heart. Kate’s personal recollections, along with access to the extensive records of Meadow Stable and the Chenery family private collection of photographs and papers, give this literary accounting unmatched authenticity.

Horse lovers as well as history buffs will appreciate the never-before published photographs in this unique pictorial history. The exclusive interviews with family members and former Meadow grooms who tended to the stable’s champions provide an intimate behind the scenes glimpse of the famous farm not found in print or film.

“Secretariat’s Meadow – The Land, The Family, The Legend” is a story of family allegiance and equine lineage, of overcoming long odds and going the distance. It’s about dreams thwarted and dreams surpassed. But most of all, it’s how this piece of land in Virginia gave rise to an American racing legend.

A Word from the President

Castle Rock Writers, Inc... From the president’s desk
Looking back on 2012, Castle Rock Writers group has undergone some amazing changes. Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, CRW has been reborn. We are now incorporated in the State of Colorado as a non-profit organization. Our Federal 501 (c) 3 application is in process which means we will soon be able to apply for grants, accept large corporate donations and receive discounts on future conference sites.
We have a writer’s critique group which monthly, our yearly one day conference with workshops and agent pitch sessions and we’re looking to add other activities in the coming years. Check out our website on Facebook at Castle Rock Writers.
Warm wishes for this holiday season,
Jean Jacobsen, president

Friday, December 28, 2012

Rare Photo of the North Side Gang Leader and Hit Man

Front row, third left: Dean O'Banion - Leader North Side Gang
Front row, sixth left: Leland Varain (AKA Diamond Jack, Two Gun Louis)
Following is an extract from Hidden History of Denver
For many years, Leland Varain had been a hit man for the North Side Gang in Chicago. When the leader of the gang, Dean O’Banion, was shot to death by rival gang members in his florist shop on November 24, 1924, Varain wanted immediate payback. He was incensed and demanded retribution. The new boss of the North Street Gang, Hymie Weiss, took control of the situation and told Varain to leave town for a while. The next time we hear of Varain, he is living at his ranch at Jarre Canyon, close to Sedalia, just south of Denver.

When Varain fled Illinois, he was wanted in connection with the theft of $50,000 worth of diamonds. When word spread that he was living at his ranch in Sedalia, and was in Castle Rock on business, Sheriff McKissack of Castle Rock went to investigate. The sheriff approached Varain, who brazenly denied being the gang member. McKissack appeared to be satisfied with the answer and went on his way. The following week, when the charges in Chicago were dropped, Varain gave an interview to the Denver Post, and a photograph was taken. When the sheriff saw the newspaper article and photograph, he knew that he had been duped. The Post reported the following:
Alterie, a hijacker, union strong-arm, and killer, was well known in Denver. He owned a ranch in Jarre Canyon near Sedalia, and was often seen strutting around the city when he was in Colorado. He posed a striking figure in his huge white Stetson, diamond-littered cufflinks and belt buckle, and expensive, custom made cowboy boots. His cream colored automobile had a gigantic set of bullhorns attached to the hood. He was fond of saying that although his livelihood was in Chicago, his heart belonged to the West; he was more at home on a bucking bronco than in a touring car, and preferred wrestling unruly steers to fellow gangster.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Colorado's Cannibal

When writing Hidden History of Denver, I simply had to include Alfred Packer, the notorious cannibal. As I researched the man, and read his account (written in his own hand) of that fateful trip, one thing stood out -- his voice! It would be his downfall, lead to his capture, and eventual trial. Following is a short extract from my book.

   On March 11, 1883, by sheer luck, Jean “Frenchy” Cabazon, a peddler by trade, and one of the original twenty-one man group that left Utah eight year earlier, walked into a roadhouse in Wyoming to sell his wares. Despite the noise, his ears pricked up with interest when he heard a familiar voice, and recognized it as belonging to Alfred Packer, the notorious cannibal. The local sheriff was called, and he approached the man they all knew as John Swartze. Packer admitted his real identity, and was arrested without incident. Sheriff Clair Smith of Hinsdale Country, Colorado escorted Packer to Denver, arriving on March 16th.
   The newspapers ran the story calling Packer “the ghoul of the San Juan’s.” That night, in the presence of Sheriffs Campbell and Smith, U.S. Marshall Simon W. Cantril and General Adams, Packer penned what became known as his “second confession.”

 “I Alfred Packer, desire to make a true and voluntary statement in regard to the occurrences in the winter of 1873-1874. I wish to make it to General Adams because I have made one once before about the same matter.”
   In his confession, Packer describes clearly how he returned from the top of the mountain after scouting the area. On his return, he found that Wilson Bell had killed all three of his companions, and that he was in fact devouring a piece of meat he had cut from the leg of Frank Miller. A segment of Packer’s confession follows: 

“I came within a rod of the fire. When the man saw me, he got up with his hatchet towards me when I shot him sideways through the belly. He fell on his face, the hatchet fell forward. I grabbed it and hit him in the top of the head. I camped that night at the fire, sat up all night. The next morning I followed my tracks up the mountain but I could not make it, the snow was too deep and I came back…I tried to get away every day but could not so I lived off the flesh of these men, the bigger part of 60 days. At the last camp just before I reached the agency, I ate the last pieces of human meat. This meat I cooked at the camp before I started out and put it into a bag and carried the bag with me. I could not eat but a little at a time.”
 Other people note that Alfred Packer had a very distinctive voice.  One man said, "Packer's voice was unusual. It was high pitched, with a nasal whine that grated on your ears....."
Hidden History of Denver  -- published by The History Press. ISBN 978-1-60949-350-9.