General Information about Sutter's Fort State Historical Park: LOCATION: 2701 L St.
(between K and L & 26th and 28th) PARKING: Day Parking on the streets surrounding the park. Parking meters take quarters or credit cards. Street parking is free between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. You can also park overnight in the Sutter Hospital Parking structure on 26th between K and H. 24 hour parking there is $8. FORT HOURS AND FEES: Hours are 10 to 5 daily. Adults $5, Youth (6-17) $3 children 5 and under are free. Fort telephone #: (916) 445-4422
In 1839 the Mexican government granted land to a Swiss immigrant named John Sutter in the Sacramento Valley. On his new land John created a flourishing agricultural empire, which he named New Helvetia (New Switzerland.) His fort established Sacramento's earliest first non-Indian settlement in California's Central Valley. Sutter’s land included the majority of the Sacramento Valley. The Donner Party, a group of pioneers trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during the severe winter of 1847, found aid and refuge from Captain Sutter. Word spread and Sutter became known for his hospitality. This generosity made Sutter’s Fort the destination for early pioneers to California. Less than ten years after Sutter began his agricultural enterprise his land was swarmed by gold seekers. The fort is all that remains of New Helvetia. It has been restored to its former state based on an 1847 map and is open daily for tours.
GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL LIVING PROGRAM
Your schools ELP event organizer is Loana Sparrevohn.
Her contact info is:
Web site :livinghistoryevents.net
Phone # (916) 708-6019
Mailing address: P.O. Box 2255 Elk Grove, CA 95759 Students, parents, and teachers will spend 24 hours in the environment and time of Sutter’s Fort -1846. Modern conveniences and technology are left behind to immerse in the life of the past. (Cameras are allowed. Cell phones should be hidden away and used out of sight and only when necessary. Please take this opportunity to enjoy a simpler way of life, without texting and multimedia phones). ELP events are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the school year.
CLOTHING Sutter's Fort expects us to dress as if we were living in 1846, the period we are re-enacting. They call the costumes "period clothing.” Don't panic about the clothing, it really is quite simple to pull something together from a thrift store or even your own closet. Look at pictures from past forts and see the website’s “Pioneer Clothing” page for more info. Wearing period clothing helps us look and feel the part. No tennis shoes or jeans, please. WEATHER If you are not familiar with Sacramento weather, please take note: In light of the fact ELP events run throughout the school winter months it is important to be aware of possible weather conditions. December through February are often the coldest months, while March and April are typically wet. Please take this into consideration when planning your period clothing. If you will be attending during the cold months please layer clothing. Non-period clothing may be worn under dresses and slacks. Long underwear, or fleece pants or shirts are welcome warmth in the chill. A woven blanket or old quilt will give added benefit in the evening. When the park has closed for the night non-period coats and jackets may be worn. In the event the weather is wet efforts will be made to provide dry places for the activities to take place. Clear plastic ponchos are acceptable wet weather coverings. These have been found at Dollar Tree or online. This information is given only to assist you in your preparations. Sacramento weather in reality is mild compared to the rest of the country and that in part is what made it a pioneer destination.
MEALS All meals are provided; water and coffee are available throughout the day. Water is available at lunch and dinner, then hot chocolate in the evening. Do bring snacks. Please bring period appropriate ones or take items like granola bars out of their wrapper and rewrap them in wax paper. SLEEPING The Fort yard is available for sleeping under the stars or in tents. Only tents that do not require stakes may be used. Digging or hammering stakes in the ground is strictly prohibited. The “Distillery” is available for indoor sleeping. This is a large concrete and brick building to the left of the period kitchen. It is recommended that you bring padding of some kind to sleep on in the Distillery. You will need sleeping gear. Sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, cots and air mattresses are welcome. Keep it simple. Place all sleeping items in a black plastic bag with your name on the outside. All bags will be stored together in the locked Distillery during the day. Families sleep together. We sleep in our period clothing. Usually, we do not change into nightclothes because the only place to change would be in the one bathroom at the far end of the fort. Should one need to use the facilities during the night, it is a cold trip in pajamas. The exceptions to this are however, those who choose to bring tents. They then have a place to change. The other option is to wear sweats and another shirt under period clothing. Then removing the outer layer is all that is required. This is convenient when the weather is cold.
Exterior lights within the fort walls remain on all night.
WAGON RIDE At this time we are limited to 40 students riding the wagon. Priority is given to the first 40 students with complete registrations and those who have never ridden. At this time first graders are the youngest to ride the wagon. Students riding the wagon will be dropped by parents/guardians outside of the Railroad Museum in Old Town Sacramento at 8:00am. A charter school teacher will be there to greet and check them in. The wagons will pick the students up at about 9:00am. They will be provided with safe supervision while they wait. When the wagons arrive they will ride across town past the State Capitol to arrive at the Fort in the same manner many pioneers did. ACTIVITY STATIONS The day program for the students consists of nine to ten activity stations which they rotate through about every 45mins. Each station gives a sampling of the work done by pioneers and fort employees of 1846. Parents/teachers man and teach these stations. Training for these stations is provided ahead of time (at the Parent Training). Equipment for the stations is supplied by the Fort. Supplies are provided by the event organizer.
DAY OF THE EVENT
THE GENERAL ROUTINE Children riding the wagons are dropped off by their parents/guardians in Old Town Sacramento. Then, those parents and everyone else will arrive at the Fort. Everyone unloads their belongings into the modern kitchen annex for daytime storage. Station set up begins. Fort staff will hold a brief informational and safety meeting. Then all return to station prep. When the bell rings, pioneers are close to arrival. All hurry to greet the “new arrivals” and get to take a series of photos. When photos are finished, students break up into their assigned Wagon Parties (groups) with their Wagon Leader (group leader) and move to their first station. Each station lasts approximately 40 minutes. Bells ring to indicate when the wagon parties should switch stations. At noon there is a cannon demonstration and “dinner.” After “dinner” (lunch) the activities resume until “supper” time. When supper is through the evening program begins with dancing and folk music followed by night watch and a late night snack of cookies and hot chocolate. Everyone heads to bed shortly after their turn at night watch.
DAY 1 8:00 am Drop wagon riders off at the Railroad Museum
8:15am All parents arrive at Sutter’s Fort
8:15-9:30 am Unload Supplies / Start Fires / Setup Stations
8:45 am Safety Meeting
9:00 am Wagons Leave the Railroad Museum
9:45-10:00 Wagons arrive with pioneers
10:00-10:15 Welcome / Pictures / Break into Wagon Parties
10:30-12:00 Station Rotations Begin
12:00 pm Cannon Demonstration
12:15-1:00 Dinner & clean-up
1:00-5:00 Station Rotations Resume
6:00-9:00 Folk Entertainment & Hoe Down in Courtyard
9:00 Guests not spending the night leave and East Gate is locked
8:00 Clean-up all areas, Sweep, Final Ranger inventory
WE LEAVE AFTER THE FORT IS CLEAN
9:00 Doors close behind us. “Fairwell 1846!”
JOBS AT THE FORT Here is a brief overview of jobs to sign up for at the fort. STATION JOBS AND BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS Each station needs a lead and one/three assistants. No experience at these activities is necessary, however it is helpful. Attending the training day will prepare you for the station job you choose. Station Philosophy: One of the thoughts behind the Fort experience is to not just tell the student how to do the activities, but to lead them in discovering how to do them. An example is: in the doll station they will receive the materials needed to make a doll. Let them think about how they could make a doll with the supplies. Show them an example and then give some direction as they go along. Pioneer children had to be inventive, lets help our kids learn that inventiveness too. (Note: The bakery does require a little more leading). PERIOD KITCHEN In the period kitchen students work on making the mid-day and evening meal. The adult job is to portray a cook at the Fort. Explain what foods they are making and how they are made. The more you get into this character the more memorable it is for all. DOLL MAKING Rag dolls are made at this station. The adult jobs are to prep the craft space and assist the children in making a doll. BAKERY INSIDE At this station the pioneers make fresh bread dough, cinnamon rolls, and cookies. Jobs here include prepping the bakery, assisting the children with the baking and cleaning up. BAKERY OUTSIDE & BUTTER CHURNING The jobs here include prepping the outdoor oven, explaining the oven and baking process to the students, assisting the children with butter churning, and clean up. The oven used is an outdoor beehive oven. SPINNING AND WEAVING Children discover the process of turning wool (roving) into yarn and then weaving a wall hanging. Adult tasks will include setting up the loom, demonstrating, and returning all fort supplies to the correct location. PERIOD WAGON Students experience a replica 1800’s covered wagon. Adults portray pioneers who have just come to the Fort across the overland trail. They create a story of the things they experienced during their journey. Help the children move the wagon and answer questions. CANDLE MAKING This is where pioneers learn the art of dipping wicks into hot wax. Careful supervision is needed here. The adult jobs include melting wax and supervising the activity.
GRISTMILL “Nose to the grind stone.” “Back to the grind,” learn where these sayings come from. See and experience how wheat was ground in pioneer days. Adults teach and supervise this activity.
OTHER JOBS : MODERN KITCHEN This is the heart of our Fort. Most of the food is prepared by the children, However, there is prep work that adults need to do. The work here includes washing and peeling veggies, assisting the period kitchen by bringing them supplies, some chopping of veggies for the meals, and washing dishes. There are two shifts to choose from, the day shift and the evening shift. (Please note children will want to visit with you in the kitchen or adjoining room. The Fort requires they stay out). FIRE STARTER An experienced fire starter is needed here. There are 2-3 locations fires are needed for Fort work. BELL RINGER This person keeps us on schedule for the daily events, ringing the bell for each change of activity. GROUP LEADER The Group Leader is assigned 6-10 students to guide around to each station. The leader will keep track of them and assist them in their pioneer experience, also encouraging discussion, questions, and journaling at the stations. PHOTOGRAPHER(S) An individual or two with nice digital cameras and a good eye for photos are needed for this job. The photographers get to roam and snap shots of the pioneers and activities. Photographers are not required to dress in period clothing. After our event, they will upload the pictures to a Shutterfly shared site. The event organizer will provide instructions to do this. PREPARING FOR THE EVENT TO DO LIST • Inform ES and Loana Sparrevohn of your desire to participate in the ELP • • Fill out the registration and school permission slip
• Mail both original copies to Loana
• Give a second permission slip to your ES
• If using Personal Pay, send a $25 deposit to Loana.
• Read the ELP Handbook – very important!
• Attend a parent training day
• CHOOSE A CHARACTER and read upon Sutter's Fort and pioneer history
• Put together costume or"period clothing"
• Learn some Western Slang(optional)
• Make/prepare items for barter at the Trade Store
STUFF SACK Stuff Sacks are what we carry our stuff in. They are homemade bags that resemble a canvas shopping bag with one strap. Sacks are used to carry eating utensils, a journal, weathered water bottle, snacks, tissue, and other items picked up throughout the day. Adults need a stuff sack also.
The idea is to have the students hand sew the sacks to gain the experience of sewing. They may be sewn by machine.
TRAINING DAY There will be parent training dates available on a Saturday at the Fort prior to the event. The purpose of the training day is to equip you to run and teach activities at the station you selected. Most of the stations require only a half day of training, a couple however last until the afternoon. Bakery and the Kitchens take more training time, but are enjoyable because you get to eat the fruit of your labor. Please note the docents doing the training will say you are responsible to bring station supplies. That is the case for most schools. In this case your event planner will supply the needed materials unless otherwise indicated. HEADSHOT This is a chest up photo of each of your students. It needs to be a black and white individual photo. Children need to be wearing something period: a flannel shirt and hat for boys, a shawl and bonnet for girls will do. Students should be in front of a blank wall or outdoors by a tree. Please be sure to exclude any modern objects from the picture.
These pictures need to be e-mailed to Loana no later than ten days before the fort. They will be placed on a large “Welcome” board at the Fort entrance. Please also send Shannon each student’s CHARACTER name. The photos will have the student’s period name printed below their photo on the board. BARTERING This is a pre-Fort project for your student. At the Fort there will be a “Trade Store” station. There the students will have the opportunity to buy or barter for items at the store. The pre-Fort project is to make and bring an item or items to barter with. I highly encourage doing this as past students have fully enjoyed the activity, for some it was the highlight of the day! So much of Pioneer economics was built upon bartering. Capt. Sutter did much of this. He bartered food for labor in his fields, and animal pelts for supplies from a store in San Francisco. The pioneers traded with the Natives for items of necessity like food, clothes and animals. Elsewhere in this handbook you will find a list of suggested items with internet links. Most families really enjoy making things to barter. This activity will give them a great understanding of how the Western economy began.
There will be a host of period appropriate items for sale at the store, including snacks such as pickles, beef jerky and lemonade. Toys: rag doll kits, pick-up-sticks, arrow heads, wooden tops, and special journals. Farm needs: including seeds and horseshoes to name a few. I encourage your students to choose something from the list and bring it with them to the ELP. PERIOD CLOTHING MEN & BOYS Men and boys wear their plaid shirts outside the pants to cover the zipper. Use rope for belting. Pants can be found at thrift stores and should not have pockets that show. Large wool pants washed and shrunk are very good. High-waters and wrinkled is good. They didn’t iron clothes we are told. Poncho’s are good and cover lots of modern dress. Hats are not cowboy hats. An old round top straw or felt hat work well. Shoes should be brown or black leather boot type shoe. Old “UGG” type boots work. WOMEN & GIRLS Women and girls have lots of fun. Patterns are available at most sewing centers for dresses and bonnets. Bonnets are also sold at the fort.
Dresses were full with petty coats underneath (petty coats not required for the fort), except when working in the kitchen near fire. The length was a bit above the top of the foot. Short enough to be off the ground, but still covered the ankles. Little girls’ dresses were shorter. Long sleeves were the standard, although 3 quarter length sleeves (come half way between elbow and hand) were common for work clothes. Aprons and bonnets were always worn.
Real period clothing was not like the movies. Seldom did a blouse and skirt match. Aprons were worn to keep clothes from needing to be washed. White aprons were worn only on special occasions. Again, the apron was probably different material. Shoes should be comfortable, but not tennis shoes. Moccasins are good; slippers of that type are usually easy to find, boots, closed toe lace up leather, and dark colored. No need to spend lots of money, the more worn out the better. White was for under garments. Please shy away from using white blouses or skirts.
If you choose a Native character, be sure to research their type of dress. What we usually find in stores (colored feathers, etc.) is not the clothing of the Sacramento area Natives. A tour through the Indian museum on the other side of Sutter's Fort would be a great help. Local natives’ attire was very minimal. Maidu is the name of the Native people.
Choosing a character first may help is deciding the type of clothing you will need.
CHARACTER PORTRAYAL We do not collect the Character Portrayal. The Report format is here to assist you with the development of your character and everyone needs to develop a character. A list of names is in the back of this handbook along with the Character Report, which you may choose to do with your students. You do not have to choose one of the names listed. Many, many people passed through the fort and were not recorded. You may make up a name of that time and develop your story and hardship There are several people we do need at the fort. Please let your planner know if you have chosen one of these characters: Capt. Sutter John Marshal Capt. Freemont Though we will focus on the American Pioneer at the fort there were people of all walks of life that came through. List of real characters to portray Capt. Sutter
10 Hawaiians: 2 women 8 men. These were Captain Sutter's servants. "Given" to him by a Hawaiian governor upon Sutter’s visit to the island.
Business men: Russian, American, other foreign
Vaqueros (Mexican Cowboys)
Californios FORT RULES AND POLICIES No set-up is allowed before 8:00 am the morning of your ELP.
All parents assigned to a station must arrive at the Fort by 8:30 am.
No electrical appliances are allowed except those provided by the Fort. Cell phones should only be used when absolutely necessary and then out of site.
Cameras are allowed
Smoking is never allowed within the Fort walls.
Alcohol is not allowed on any part of the Fort grounds.
Non-period items should be concealed. Plastic, cardboard, etc.
Sunscreen and sunglasses are encouraged!
Parents must supervise students during all evening programs.
. Overnight tents are allowed, but no tent stakes.
For the safety of all, running inside the fort walls is not allowed.
Leaving the following morning happens after fort clean up.
Toddlers and preschoolers are required to have a designated adult to tend tothem solely or must be tethered to the parent.
• There are open fires and at times lots of public coming and going from the fort. Everything possible needs to be done to insure the wellbeing of these little ones.
CLEAN UP GUIDELINES Do pick up all pieces of litter that are visible in the rooms.
Sweep the landings and stairs outside of the Central Building onto the ground.
Pick up all visible litter in the Courtyard Grounds.
DO NOT rake the grass, soil, or decomposed granite walkways.
Do sweep the walkways outside the Ranger’s Office, the Bakery and Kitchens.
Empty all trashcans and replace liners.
Return ELP items to the Storage Room – flood lights, wash barrels, etc.
EMERGENCY CONTACT INFORMATION The Fort phones are answered from 10:00 am-4:30 pm. Sutter's Fort (916) 445-4422
Loana Sparrevohn (916) 7080619
Pioneers Code of Conduct
1. I will be respectful and courteous.
2. I will be careful of and not play with Fort
3. I will keep my hands to myself.
4. I will not leave my station without the Group
5. I will listen and follow adult instructions.
6. I will walk at all times on the Fort grounds.
7. I will patiently wait my turn.
8. I will dispose of trash properly.
9. I will whisper after lights out.
10. I will remember that courage, generosity, and an adventurous spirit is what helped me survive the hardships of my journey to this place and I will be thankful.
MY PLEDGE I will abide by this Code of Conduct. _____________________________Date_______
Student Signature Parent Signature
QUESTIONS FOR CHARACTER PORTRAYAL DEVELOPMENT (Character Report)
These are only suggestions to help you get started. Parents, these questions will give you ideas of what type of questions to ask a pioneer.
1. Character’s Name
2. 2. Age in 1846
3. 3. Birthplace
4. 4. Names of family members and family background
5. 5. Arrival date at the Fort
6. How you came west.
7. a. If by ship: Name of ship, Type of ship, Route the ship took.
8. b. If by wagon: What city was the starting point? What trail was taken? What party you traveled with?
7. If any Indians were encountered on the trip. If yes:
a. Were they friendly?
b. Was he/she attacked?
c. Did you trade or barter with them?
d. If you did trade/barter, what items or services were traded or bartered?
8. Did you encounter any unusual hardships? a. If yes, what kind?
9. i. Bad weather?
10. ii. Rain – where?
iii. Snow – where?
iv. Flooded waters – where?
v. Illness? If yes:
what kind – measles, mumps, small pox, chicken pox, colds, pneumonia, malaria, and typhoid?
vi. Death? If yes:
Who and where?
vii. Injuries? If yes:
viii. Severe equipment breakdowns?
ix. Food and/or water supplies running out?
11. How long did the journey take?
12. Would you make this journey again knowing what you know now?
13. What was your job or duty at the fort?
14. Are you going to travel further or is this your final destination?
15. Have you met Captain Sutter yet?
16. Is the Fort what you expected when you started this adventure?
LIST OF HISTORICAL FORT VISITORS
Names of Emigrant Parties that stayed at Sutter's Fort This should help you choose and develop your character. Information on a character may be found doing an internet search or at the library. Bidwell-Bartleson Party 1841
Barnett, Elias Belden, Josiah Bidwell, John Chiles, Joseph Cook, Grove Dawson, Nicholas Flugge,, Charles Green, Talbot (Paul Geddes) Hopper, Charles
Huber, Henry Kelsey, Benjamin Kelsey, Nancy Kelsey, Andrew McMahan, Samuel Green Nye, Michael C. Schwartz, John L
Weber, Charles Workman- Rowland Party 1841
Gordon, William Gordon, Maria Lucero Gordon, Isabel Lucero, Rufina Knight, William Henry Linder, Thomas Moon, William Rowland, John Wilson, Benjamin Workman, William Walker- Chiles Party 1843
Baldridge, William Bradley, William Chiles, Joseph Hensley, Samuel McIntosh, Charles Martin, Julius Martin, Elizabeth McPherso Daughters: Mary, Arzelia, Martha Reading, Pierson
Vines, Frances Yount Vines, William Bartlett Yount, Elizateth Walker, Joseph Rutherford Hastings Party 1843 Coates, James C Coombs, Nathan Daubenbiss, John
Davis, George Hastings, Lansford Shadden, Thomas Kelsey Party 1844 Bird, David
Kelsey, David Kelsey, Mary Frances Buzzell, Joseph Willard Kelsey, Rebecca Fowler, William Cook, Grove Kelsey, America Wyman, George
Kelsey, Samuel Kelsey, Samuel Kelsey, Ben and Nancy Stephens- Murphy Party 1844 Greenwood, Brittain Greenwood, Caleb
Hitchcock, Isaac Hitchcock, Isabelle Martin, Dennis Martin, Patrick Martin, Patrick, Jr. Miller, James Miller, Mary Murphy Montgomery, Allen Montgomery, Sarah Armstrong Murphy, Ann Martin
Murphy, Martin Sr. Murphy, Martin Jr. Murphy, Mary Schallenberger, Elizabeth Schallenberger, Moses Townsend, Dr. John Grigsby-Ide Party 1845 Bonney, Jarvis & family Elliott, William & Elizabeth Gregson, James & Eliza Rogers, James & Elizabeth Griffeth, Nancy
Hudson, William and Sarah Ann Ide, William Brown Haskell, Susan Marshall, Henry
Smith, James & Ann Hughes Tustin, William Isaac York, Lucinda Hudson McMahon, Clyman Party 1845 Clyman, James
McMahon, Samuel Green Marshall, James Northgrave, William Perkey, J.D.
Sanders, Allen Sears, Franklin Donner Party Survivors 1846-7
The George Donner Family The Jacob Donner Family The Reed Family The Reed Family
The Keseberg Family The Graves Family The Murphy-Pike-Foster Family Mrs. Doriss Wolfinger The Party of Forlorn Hope Eddy, William Foster, Sarah Foster, William Fosdick, Sarah Graves, Mary McCutchen, Amanda Pike, Harriet Additional Names at Sutter's Fort Some may be duplicated in the Emigrant Parties list Anashi Anderson, Rhoda Crouch Beeson Arce, Francisco Bennett, Vardamon Buzzel, Joseph Willard Black, Joseph Blue Jacket Castro, Jose Cook, Grove Coombs, Isabella Gordon Coombs, Nathan Daubenbiss, John Daylor, William Elliot, William Bell Fallon, William Flomboy, John Foster, Sarah Gordon, Sarah Griffith, Elizabeth and James Griffith, Frances Griffith, Mary Griffith, Nancy Harlan, George/Duncan, Elizabeth Harris, Moses "Black" Hedding, Elijah Hudson, Sarah Ann Smith Kelsey, Benjamin Kelsey, Mary Frances Knight, Cannel Lucero Knight, William
Lassen, Peter Lucero, Rufma Manuiki Marsh, John Marshall, Henry Martin, Elizabeth McPherson Montgomery, Sarah Armstrong Moultry, Riley Septimus Murphy, Ann Martin Murphy, Ellen Murphy, James
People of African Descent Pio Pio Max Max Reading, Pierson B. Rhodes, Sarah Ritchie, Caroline Rotchev, Alexander Scott, William
Sutter, John Sumner, Lizzie Todd, William Levi Townsend, John Vines, Frances Yount Wimmer, Elizabeth Workman.
Barter Item Suggestions Click on the following Links for instructions. Food Cookies: Ginger bread, ginger snaps, oatmeal raisin Candy
o Lemon drops-easy historic recipe
o caramels Homemade bread hardtack Dried fruit
o Apples Homemade crackers
Moccasins-Try making simple pair out of Chamois instead of expensive suede of leather.
o Another pattern Bandana-machine or hand stitch
Felt Mittens o Easy-just make them child’s hand size o Serious crafter
Knitted o Scarf
Braided “Leather” Belt-this is a link to a pioneer activity book. Directions are on page 128.
On the trail
Water carrier Map-Make an old looking map of the West and trails for other pioneers to
follow. Use tea water to stain white paper and then draw the map
Pioneer feather pen
Small pioneer quilt-sew some squares of fabric together, by hand or machine to make a doll sized quilt.
Home died fabric-this is a link to view a pioneer history book. directions for dyeing fabric with onion skins on page 101.
Pin cushion-Leave out the “candy holder” Honeycomb Beeswax candle
o Link 1
o Link 2
Stenciled item- stencil paper bag, fabric scrap, news print or butcher paper.
Berry jam Block puzzle Cornhusk doll jacob’s ladder Pincushion Thaumatrope- a spinning optical illusion Whimmydiddle-a wooden whittled game Whirligig or buzz saw-a spinning button on a string
WESTERN SLANG & PHRASES
A Writer's Guide to the Old West 1860's ~ 1880's Being a small compilation drawn from period newspapers, books, and memoirs Part of the charm and character of the Old West, as viewed through our modern eyes, has always been the colorful speech of those days. Books have borrowed it, movies have parodied it, and children gallop around on stick horses mimicking it. Yet what DID those people really have to say? If we could listen to Great-great Grandpa, what might come out of his mouth? Of course, Grandma might have gone after him with a broom, for some of it, but for those who write, or those who simply possess inquiring minds, it seems a gathering of a few words or phrases would not be amiss. To that end, I offer this little collection of idioms, which I have gleaned during my reading travels. Ace-high ~ first class, respected. According to Hoyle ~ Correct, by the book. A hog-killin' time ~ a real good time. "We went to the New Year's Eve dance and had us a hog-killin' time." A lick and a promise ~ to do haphazardly. "She just gave it a lick and a promise." All down but nine ~ missed the point, not understood. (Reference to missing all nine
pins at bowling.) Arbuckle's ~ slang for coffee, taken from a popular brand of the time. "I need a cup of Arbuckle's." At sea ~ at a loss, not comprehending. "When it comes to understanding women, boys, I am at sea."
Back down ~ yield, retract. Balled up ~ confused. Bang-up ~ first rate. "They did a bang-up job." Bazoo ~ mouth. "Shut your big bazoo." Bear sign ~ cowboy term for donuts. A cook who could and would make them was highly regarded. Beat the devil around the stump ~ to evade responsibility or a difficult task. "Quit beatin' the devil around the stump and ask that girl to marry you." Beef ~ to kill. (From killing a cow to make beef to eat.) "Curly Bill beefed two men in San Antonio." Bend an elbow ~ have a drink. "He's been known to bend an elbow with the boys." Bender ~ drunk. "He's off on another bender." Between hay and grass ~ neither man nor boy, half-grown. Best bib and tucker ~ your best clothes. "There's a dance Saturday, so put on your best bib and tucker." Big bug ~ important person, official, boss. "He's one of the railroad big bugs." Bilk ~ cheat. Blow ~ boast, brag. "Don't listen to him, that's just a lot of blow." Blowhard ~ braggart, bully. Blow-up ~ fit of anger. "He and the missus had a blow-up, but it's over, now." Bone orchard ~ cemetery. Bosh ~ Nonsense. Boss ~ the best, top. "The Alhambra Saloon sells the boss whiskey in town." Bulldoze ~ to bully, threaten, coerce.
Bully ~ Exceptionally good, outstanding. (Used as an exclamation.) "Bully for you!" Bunko artist ~ con man. Burg ~ town . By hook or crook ~ to do any way possible. Calaboose ~ jail. California widow ~ woman separated from her husband, but not divorced. (From when pioneer men went West, leaving their wives to follow later.) Chisel, chiseler ~ to cheat or swindle, a cheater. Clean his/your plow ~ to get or give a thorough whippin'. Coffee boiler ~ shirker, lazy person. (Would rather sit around the coffee pot than help.) Consumption ~ slang for pulminary tuberculosis. Copper a bet ~ betting to lose, or prepare against loss. "I'm just coppering my bets." Come a cropper ~ come to ruin, fail, or fall heavily. "He had big plans to get rich, but it all come a cropper, when the railroad didn't come through." Croaker ~ pessimist, doomsayer. "Don't be such an old croaker." Crowbait ~ derogatory term for a poor-quality horse. Curly wolf ~ real tough guy, dangerous man. "Ol' Bill is a regular curly wolf, especially when he's drinkin' whiskey." Cut a swell ~ present a fine figure. "He sure is cutting a swell with the ladies." Dicker ~ barter, trade. Difficulty ~ euphamism for trouble, often the shootin' or otherwise violent kind. "He had to leave Texas on account of a difficulty with a gambler in San Antonio." Directly ~ soon. "She'll be down, directly."
Deadbeat ~ bum, layabout, useless person. Dinero ~ from the Spanish, a word for money. Don't care a continental ~ Don't give a damn. Down on ~ opposed to. "His wife is really down on drinking and cigars." Doxology works ~ a church. Dragged out ~ fatigued, worn out. Dreadful ~ very. "Oh, her dress is dreadfully pretty." Dry gulch ~ to ambush. Reference from abandoning a body where it fell. Dude ~ an Easterner, or anyone in up-scale town clothes, rather than plain range- riding or work clothes. Eucher, euchered ~ to out-smart someone, to be outwitted or suckered into something. Fandango ~ from the Spanish, a big party with lots of dancing and excitement. Fetch ~ bring, give. "Fetch me that hammer." / "He fetched him a punch in the nose." Fight like Kilkenny cats ~ fight like hell. Fine as cream gravy ~ very good, top notch. Fish ~ a cowboy's rain slicker, from a rain gear manufacturer whose trademark was a fish logo. "We told him it looked like rain, but left his fish in the wagon anyhow." Flannel mouth ~ an overly smooth or fancy talker, especially politicians or salesmen. "I swear that man is a flannel-mouthed liar." Flush ~ prosperous, rich. Fork over ~ pay out. Four-flusher ~ a cheat, swindler, liar. Full as a tick ~ very drunk.
Fuss ~ disturbance. "They had a little fuss at the saloon." Game ~ to have courage, guts, gumption. "He's game as a banty rooster." Or, "That's a hard way to go, but he died game." Get a wiggle on ~ hurry. Get it in the neck ~ get cheated, misled, bamboozled. Get my/your back up ~ to get angry. "Don't get your back up, he was only
joking." Get the mitten ~ to be rejected by a lover. "Looks like Blossom gave poor Buck the mitten." Give in ~ yield. Goner ~ lost, dead. Gone up the flume ~ same as goner! Gospel mill ~ a church. Gospel sharp ~ a preacher. (Apparent opposite of a card sharp!) Got the bulge ~ have the advantage. "We'll get the bulge on him, and take his gun away." Go through the mill ~ gain experience. (Often the hard way.) Grand ~ excellent, beautiful. "Oh, the Christmas decorations look just grand!" Granger ~ a farmer. Grass widow ~ divorcee. Hang around ~ loiter. Hang fire ~ delay. Half seas over ~ drunk. Hard case ~ worthless person, bad man. Heap ~ a lot, many, a great deal. "He went through a heap of trouble to get her that piano." Heeled ~ to be armed with a gun. "He wanted to fight me, but I told him I was not heeled." Here's how! ~ a toast, such as Here's to your health. Hobble your lip ~ shut up. Hold a candle to ~ measure up, compare to. Hoosegow ~ jail.
In apple pie order ~ in top shape. Is that a bluff, or do you mean it for real play? ~ Are you serious? Jig is up ~ scheme/game is over, exposed. Kick up a row ~ create a disturbance. .Knock galley west ~ beat senseless. Let slide/ let drive/ let fly ~ go ahead, let go. "If you think you want trouble, then let fly." Light (or lighting) a shuck ~ to get the hell out of here in a hurry. "I'm lightin' a shuck for California." Like a thoroughbred ~ like a gentleman. Lunger ~ slang for someone with tuberculosis. Make a mash ~ make a hit, impress someone. (Usually a female.) "Buck's tryin' to make a mash on that new girl." Mudsill ~ low-life, thoroughly disreputable person. Nailed to the counter ~ proven a lie. Namby-pamby ~ sickly, sentimental, saccharin. Odd stick ~ eccentric person. "Ol' Farmer Jones sure is an odd stick." Of the first water ~ first class. "He's a gentleman of the first water." Offish ~ distant, reserved, aloof. Oh-be-joyful ~ Liquor, beer, intoxicating spirits. "Give me another snort of that oh-be- joyful." On the shoot ~ looking for trouble. "Looks like he's on the shoot, tonight." Pass the buck ~ evade responsibility. Pay through the nose ~ to over-pay, or pay consequences. Peter out ~ dwindle away. Play to the gallery ~ to show off. "That's just how he is, always has to play to the gallery." Played out ~ exhausted. Plunder ~ personal belongings. "Pack your plunder, Joe, we're headin' for San Francisco." Pony up ~ hurry up! Powerful ~ very. "He's a powerful rich man." Promiscuous ~ reckless, careless. "He was arrested for a promiscuous display of fire arms." Proud ~ glad. "I'm proud to know you." Pull in your horns ~ back off, quit looking for trouble. Put a spoke in the wheel ~ to foul up or sabotage something. Quirley ~ roll-your-own cigarette. Rich ~ amusing, funny, improbable. "Oh, that's rich!" Ride shank's mare ~ to walk or be set afoot. Right as a trivet ~ right as rain, sound as a nut, stable.
Roostered ~ drunk. "Looks like those cowboys are in there gettin' all roostered up." See the elephant ~ originally meant to see combat for the first time, later came to mean going to town, where all the action was. Scoop in ~ trick, entice, inveigle. "He got scooped into a poker game and lost his shirt." Scuttlebutt ~ rumors. Shave tail ~ a green, inexperienced person. Shin out ~ run away. Shindy ~ uproar, confusion. Shoddy ~ poor quality. Shoot, Luke, or give up the gun ~ poop or get off the pot, do it or quit talking about it. Shoot one's mouth off ~ talk nonsense, untruth. "He was shootin' his mouth off and Bill gave him a black eye." Simon pure ~ the real thing, a genuine fact. "This is the Simon pure." Skedaddle ~ run like hell. Soaked ~ drunk. Soft solder ~ flattery. "All that soft solder won't get you anywhere." Someone to ride the river with ~ a person to be counted on; reliable; got it where it counts. Sound on the goose ~ true, staunch, reliable. Stand the gaff ~ take punishment in good spirit. "He can really stand the gaff." Stop ~ stay. "We stopped at the hotel last night." Stumped ~ confused. Superintend ~ oversee, supervise. "He just likes to superintend everything." Take on ~ grieve. "Don't take on so." Take French leave ~ to desert, sneak off without permission. Take the rag off ~ surpass, beat all. "Well, if that don't take the rag off the bush." The Old States ~ back East. The whole kit and caboodle ~ the entire thing. Throw up the sponge ~ quit, give up, surrender. Tie to ~ rely on. "He's a man you can tie to." To beat the Dutch ~ to beat the band. "It was rainin' to beat the Dutch." To the manner born ~ a natural. "He's a horseman to the manner born." Twig ~ understand. Up the spout ~ gone to waste/ruin. Wake up/Woke up the wrong passenger ~ to trouble or anger the wrong person. Who-hit-John ~ Liquor, beer, intoxicating spirits. "He had a little too much who-hit- John." Wind up ~ settle. "Let's wind up this business and go home."