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Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite

Defender of the Texas Frontier is a work of historical fiction set in nineteenth-century America, which was penned by author David R. Gross. As the title suggests, this Texas-based novel focuses on the exploits of the Texas Rangers, who defended the ordinary people from raids by Comanches and bandits from the Mexican badlands. At the center of this group is real-life soldier John Coffey Hays, known as Jack, who joined the Rangers at a very young age and rose amongst the ranks until he became a fearless and admired captain. The novel follows Jack Hays’s exploits and supposes his psychological journey, and why he became such a pivotal figure in Texas history.

Mixing fact with fiction is done in such a skillful way by author David R. Gross that non-fiction fans are still sure to enjoy this retelling of Captain Hays and his rise to fame and reputation. I enjoyed the peppering of the text with authentic and well-researched history, but there are also moments when the author allows himself to play, especially with the younger Jack in his formative days amongst the Rangers. Military buffs are sure to enjoy the many defensive exploits which are recounted, and the camaraderie amongst Hays’s men, who would later go on to be reputable heroes and leaders in their own right. Overall, Gross has produced an immersive and interactive history novel which stays true to life but also heightens the action. Defender of the Texas Frontier is a recommended read for all history and western novel fans.

David R. Gross

Defender of the Texas Frontier: A Historical Novel

iUniverse, 242 pages, (paperback) $13.99, 9781532071560(Reviewed: August, 2019)

Review by Blueink reviews:

John Coffey (“Jack”) Hays was the most famous and charismatic of the Texas Rangersduring his tenure in the mid-1800s. In this meticulously researched novel, David R.Gross brings Hays’s story to life as narrated by his best friend, John Caperton andvarious other friends and enemies of the heroic lawman.

At 19 years old, Jack and John leave their homes in Tennessee and arrive in Nacogdoches, where Jack begins to establish his reputation by killing the town bully in self-defense at the local saloon. The bully is the first of many to meet their maker shortlyafter making Jack’s acquaintance.

This is a violent time in Texas, as settlers advance on lands previously held by the Comanche and/or the Mexican government. After joining a group under the command of respected leader “Deaf” Smith, Jack quickly rises through the ranks to captain, thencolonel, of what became known as the Texas Rangers.

By copying the tactics and violent cruelty of the Indians and Mexican military, Jack and his men are successful in wiping out many threats to the encroaching settlers. One ofthe amazing facts the author discloses is how Jack’s troop kept being disbanded because of insufficient funding; yet, when they were needed, the same men who hadn’tbeen paid before came back repeatedly, just to serve with Hays.

Some of Hays’s and his Texas Rangers’ exploits in this episodic novel are so similar that they border on repetitious. However, such similarities merely emphasize Hays’s remarkable career and make one wonder how he possibly survived. Gross doesn’tmince words when describing the atrocities Jack and his men visited on their enemies,and some will be shocked that the “good guys” were every bit as sadistic and vicious asthe Comanche warriors and Mexican army.

In all, Defender of the Texas Frontier is a fascinating window into a little-understoodperiod in America’s past, as well as an absorbing story about one hero’s westward expansion.

Also available as an ebook.

David R. Gross’s dramatic retelling of a historical legend, Defender of the Texas Frontier, captures an era as it follows a young man’s rise to hero status.

Nineteen-year-old John Coffey Hays missed fighting in the battle for Texas’s independence. Full of vim and vigor, Hays joins up with a ranging patrol to defend the Texas border. So begins his storied career, which spans close to two decades. Along the way, Hays leads a ragtag group of men and forges an elite squad known as Rangers. Hays and his Rangers defend the US while skirmishing with both Mexicans and local native tribes. As his exploits become legend, Hays continues to affect change in Texas that ripples outward.

Hays’s story is entwined with the Texas Rangers’s origins. Known as the toughest and most judicious lawmen in history, the Rangers are shown starting out as a rough group, but becoming a power to be reckoned with. With strong attention to historical detail, the narrative shows how Hays learns and evolves while helping his men do likewise.

The book’s tone blends textbook dryness with drama and reads like an embellished historical document. The story unfolds through two primary perspectives: Hays’s, and that of his childhood friend, John. The focus shifts back and forth between the two, with highlights given to other important characters, too. These character transitions round out the narrative, allowing each character to give it their own touch. Hays’s commander and the commander of the tribal army are two of these: Hays’s commander comments on tactics, military prowess, and his personal life, while the tribal army commander highlights the respect between the Texans and the tribe as both defend their lands. It’s an interesting dichotomy that enriches the narrative.

Frequent dialogue tags are almost unnecessary because of the distinctiveness of the characters’ voices, whose subtle vocal tics make their discussions engaging and individualized: one character, despite being able to converse in fluent Spanish, speaks Spanish with a southern drawl, and words like “Mexicans” come out as “mesicans.”

This fictionalized version of Jack Hays uses key events from his life to build up the legend, enjoyably following him from his youth into his established adulthood. It is an artful take on Texas history.

Defender of the Texas Frontier fleshes out a Texas legend with aplomb, setting him in the midst of an engaging historical adventure.

Reviewed by John M. Murray 
July 29, 2019

Just Released!

John Coffey Hays is just nineteen when he arrives in the town of Nacogdoches Republic of Texas in 1836. Moments later when a man is killed, none of the witnesses dispute that Jack acted in self-defense. Despite his young age, Jack is a man who commands perhaps just as much fear as respect.

Although Jack is too late to enlist in the fight for Texas Independence, he soon joins the ranging company of Deaf Smith and begins a thirteen-year history of defending Texans from raids by Comanche bands and Mexican bandits. When he is just twenty-three, he is made a captain of the Texas Rangers. As he becomes known as a fearless fighter, Jack leads a group of men who will follow him anywhere and under any Continue Reading »

The Homestead Act of 1862

When the Southern states seceded and their Representatives and Senators abandoned Washington D. C. in 1861 the Republicans and other former Free-Soil advocates passed the Homestead Act of 1862. The purpose of this law was to expand the homesteading requirements of the Pre-emption Act of 1841 making it easier for loyal citizens of the Union to claim land and thereby expand the concept of the “yeoman farmer”. Andrew Johnson, George Henry Evans and Horace Greeley were the primary advocates and leaders of this effort.

The law provided that any citizen of the Union could claim 160 acres of public land if willing to settle on the property and farm the land for at least five years. A three-step process was required; 1) file an application giving the boundaries of the land and pay the required fee, 2) improve the land and 3) file for a deed of title after five years. The applicant had to be a citizen of the U. S. or have filed an intent to become a citizen, be at least twenty-one years of age or the head of a household. This last stipulation enabled single women and widows to make application. The only other requirement was that the applicant had never taken up arms against the government of the U. S. After the fourteenth amendment freed all slaves, former slaves could also file a claim.

In 1866 the Southern Homestead Act was passed by Congress and signed into law. This law made it possible for poor tenant farmers and sharecroppers living in the Southern states during Reconstruction to become landowners. It proved to be not as successful as anticipated because, despite low fees and other costs associated with taking up a claim, such as the purchase of tools, transportation to the claim, seed, livestock, and other necessities, most potential applicants were unable to move from where they were mired in abject poverty.

Initially immigrants, farmers with no land of their own, single women and all citizens or persons who had filed a declaration of their intention to become a citizen qualified for “free” land. With time the requirements changed. Slaves became qualified after the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868. South Asians and East Asians born in the U. S. were qualified after the Supreme Court ruled on the United States vs. Wong Kim Ark lawsuit in 1898. However, by 1998 almost all high-quality farm lands were claimed. For immigrants entering the country legally during the 1890’s most had to file a declaration of their intent to become a citizen to be admitted. During this time the bulk of the immigrants were from Europe. Immigrants from Asia were largely excluded. Immigrants from Africa were permitted but very few applied.

The research into land acquisition is for an upcoming book.

The Donation Land Claim Act of 1850:

America’s early wealth derived from land, huge amounts of it. The land was, of course, usurped from indigenous peoples who, according to the accepted dogma of the day, could not possibly utilize all the lands they claimed. This attitude was made more palatable because of the decimation of the indigenous population by diseases they had no acquired immunity to, genocide, and serial relocation to remove them from contact with the ever-increasing influx of immigrants who had little hope of owning their own land in the countries from which they came.

Most citizens living in the Northern states believed the future of America depended upon individual farmers who owned and operated their own farms. Southerners, in general, especially the owners of slaves, wanted to be able to purchase large tracts of land and use slave labor. The concept of the “yeoman farmer” derived from Jeffersonian concepts, powerful influences in American politics in the 1840’s and 1850’s. These ideas gave rise to the Free-Soil Party from 1848-1852 and to the “New” Republican party after 1854. Southern Democrats fought against, and managed to prevent the passage, of proposed homestead bills. Their fear was that free land would attract both European immigrants and poor Southern whites to the west. The balance of power would then shift and force the end of slavery.

The availability of huge tracts of apparently empty land provided the government with the ability to populate those lands, collect taxes, and grow the economy. People in financial trouble, or just looking to improve their lifestyle could obtain free, or at minimal cost, large portions of land from which, if they were willing to struggle and work hard, they could support a family and gain the numerous benefits of being property owners.

The Donation Land Claim Act of 1850 enabled settlers to claim lands (320 or 640 acres) in the Oregon Territory consisting of the current states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and parts of Wyoming. During that time period one man, with the help of his family, could realistically plow and put into crop production between 40 and 80 acres. The Oregon Territory land was granted free of charge from 1850-1854 after which it could be purchased from the government for $1.25 per acre until the law expired in 1855.

The Donation Land Claim Act was proceeded by the Pre-emption Act of 1846:

This law was designed to “…appropriate the proceeds of sales of public lands… and to grant “pre-emptive rights” to squatters already occupying federal lands. The law was most used by early settlers in the Kansas and Nebraska territories. The law provided that squatters who were actually living on or had made improvements to lands owned by the federal government could purchase up to 160 acres for no less than $1.25 per acre, at a public auction. If a particular tract of land was not claimed it was auctioned to the highest bidder. The squatter had to be the head of a household, a citizen of the U.S. or an immigrant intending to become naturalized, and a resident on the claimed land for a minimum of 14 months. As usual enterprising people devised a multitude of strategies to circumvent the restrictions, not excepting perjury, to obtain land or otherwise game the system for speculation.

The Pre-emption Act also provided that Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Michigan, or any state admitted to the Union after the Act became law, to be paid 10% of the proceeds from the sale of these public lands. To preserve ownership of the claimed land, and gain title to it, the claimant had to live on it, or consistently work to improve it, for a minimum of 5 years. If the land remained idle for six months the government could reclaim it. This was rare. The Act helped establish the doctrine of Manifest Destiny.

 

There are other special circumstances affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) system that can result in impaction of the small or large colon. The formation of fecaliths (a dehydrating and hardening of feces to the extent that it becomes stone-like), enteroliths (a mineral concretion) and meconium-induced impaction (early accumulation of fetal feces in newborns). Horses that have a recent and significant decrease in exercise, usually from an injury, can develop large colon impactions. Twice-daily feedings of grain can result in a measurable increase (up to 15%) in fluids secreted into the bowl from the cardiovascular system which can result in hypotension (reduction of circulating blood volume). This causes the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone regulatory to be activated resulting in the reabsorption of more fluid from the GI tract. This results in a dehydration of the feces and can also result in an impaction.

Four types of displacement colic are described in horses. Displacement occurs because most of the bowel is not anchored to the body wall but suspended from the dorsal abdominal wall in the mesentery. It is therefore relatively easy for a portion to move out of its normal position. Left dorsal displacementoccurs when the pelvic flexure moves toward the space found between the spleen, the left kidney and the nephrosplenic ligament the structure that attaches the spleen and kidneys to the body wall. Right dorsal displacement occurs when the colon lodges between the cecum and the body wall. The pelvic flexure can move to a position closer to the diaphragm resulting in a volvulus, a 180-degree twist along the longitudinal axis. Torsion (a twist along the axis of the mesentery) can also occur. The mesentery is the diaphanous tissue supporting the bowel through which veins, arteries and nerves are carried from the dorsal abdominal wall to the intestine.

Any type of displacement can result in an occlusion of the blood supply (partial or complete) to the involved portion of the GI tract.

Left dorsal displacement will often resolve itself following conservative medical treatment. In recalcitrant cases your veterinarian may elect to anesthetize the horse, put it on its left side, then quickly roll it to its right side while repeatedly pushing on the abdomen. Obviously, this is not a maneuver to be attempted by only one person.

An intussusception of the bowel occurs when a section of intestine “telescopes” into an adjacent section. This most often occurs at the ileocecal junction. When this happens, surgical correction is the only effective treatment. This condition is most common in horses about one year old and is almost always associated with tapeworms, other parasites, small masses and foreign bodies or severe diarrhea.

Epiploic foramen entrapment occurs when a portion of the small intestine (rarely the colon) becomes lodged in the epiploic foramen, also known at the foramen of Winslow. This opening is the communication between the abdominal cavity and the omental bursa. Entrapment of a loop of bowel can also occur through a rent (tear) in the mesentery.

Proximal enteritis (inflammation of the gut lining) is usually the result of infectious organisms, particularly Salmonella and/orClostridium species. Fusarium(a large genus of filamentous fungi) can also be the cause of enteritis. Fusariuminfections occur most commonly in the Southeastern U.S. Overfeeding a high concentrate diet can also result in enteritis. Horses suffering from enteritis have an increased risk of laminitis and thrombophlebitis. Colitis (inflammation of the lining of the colon) is most often associated with infectious caused by Salmonella species, Clostridium difficileand/or Neorickettsia risticii. This last organism is the cause of Potomac Horse Fever. Ingestion of toxic agents such as arsenic or cantharidin, as well as several plant toxins can result in colitis as well.

Gastric ulceration is associated with confinement (lack of adequate exercise), infrequent feeding, a high concentrate diet, over-use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs, and from the stress associated with shipping and/or performing.

Tumors that can affect the GI tract and result in colic include lipomas (fatty tumors) that form on the mesentery and stretch the connective tissue into a stalk as it enlarges. The stalk can wrap around a section of bowel, usually the small intestine. Neoplastic growths of the GI tract can also include lymphosarcoma, leiomyomas, adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. The last of these usually involves the stomach.

Ileus is characterized by no, or very low, movement of the intestines. Between ten and fifty percent of horses will develop ileus following abdominal surgery, with over 80% of those animals having been operated on for correction of a strangulating obstruction. Diagnosis is made using ultrasound when more than three loops of intestine lack peristaltic waves.

Hernias can result in incorporation of a loop of bowel and signs of colic. Standardbred and Tennessee Walker stallions are prone to a large inguinal ring and inguinal hernias. Umbilical and diaphragmatic hernias are rare but can occur in any breed of horses.

Non-bowel related colic include the ingestion of toxins, uterine tears and torsions, disease of the liver, ovaries, spleen, urinary system, or testicular torsion. Inflammatory conditions of the pleura (lining of the lungs and thorax), uterine contractions, laminitis and rhabdomyolysis can all present with signs resembling colic.

Parasitic infestations with Parascaris equorum(roundworms), Anoplocephala perfoliate(tapeworms), cyathostomes(Strongylus-type roundworms) and Strongylus vulgariscan all result in colic. The larvae of Strongylusspecies migrate out of the GI system and find their way into the arterial system. They are sometimes found in the cranial mesenteric artery where they can cause vasospasm as well as blockage. The regular use of modern anthelminthics has reduced the incidence of this problem.