“Wild West” Review

A very nice review came in today from “Wild West”–a widely circulated magazine from the Weider History group, that focuses on North American frontier heritage.

Healy’s West: The Life and Times of John J. Healy, by Gordon E. Tolton, Mountain Press Publishing Co., Missoula, Mont., 2014, $20

Reviewed by Jon Guttman

Some Westerners became legends, others led legendary lives but never made it into dime novels or onto the big screen. John Healy was one of the latter, though Canadian author Gordon Tolton aims to redress that with a picaresque biography spanning two nations and two centuries.

Of all the trials and tribulations on which Healy himself commented, the only part of his life on which he said virtually nothing was his childhood in Ireland. The author’s recap of British injustices and the economic ripple effects of the potato famine will at least give the reader an inkling of why. From his family’s arrival in New York, Healy assessed the seemingly boundless possibilities of the New World and set his ambitions westward—traveling on the taxpayer’s dollar as a soldier on the 1857 expedition to Mormon Utah. After leaving the Army and meeting renowned mountain man Jim Bridger, Healy guided wagon trains on the Oregon and Bozeman trails, learned to apply his Irish gift of gab to talking and bluffing his way out of trouble with Shoshones, and then tried panning for gold in what became Montana.

That was just the start of his remarkably diverse career as an entrepreneur, lawman and politician, during which he clashed with the monopolistic Hudson’s Bay Co., hunted down numerous outlaws without ever drawing blood (which may explain why he never made a name for himself in certain circles), mastered the art of “how to win friends and influence people” when trading with Bloods and Piegans, outfitted prospectors in Alaska and the Klondike and in his later years entertained a wild idea (even by present-day standards) of running a 44-mile railroad tunnel beneath the Bering Strait. The tracks he envisioned would cross Canadian and American territory and connect with Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway, to the benefit of all three countries. By 1905 that scheme had collapsed for a variety of financial and political reasons. While recounting the remarkable Western adventures of a man who seized at opportunity with nearly unerring instinct, the author notes: “That same resolve proved useless in the boardroom. Such determination caused him to overreach, when even his temper and ethics could strike no victory against the powerful or the impossible. The door he opened for so many was often slammed on him, and sometimes he walked right into it.”

Still, Healy was an enthusiastic embracer and multifaceted agent of “Manifest Destiny,” and his life runs intriguingly parallel to the history of two developing nations. Although Healy’s attitude toward Indians would be considered racist by present-day standards, he did say, “I admire the Blood Indians, I fought them for years, and when they became my friends, I could trust them absolutely.” For those who have never heard of the man, Healy’s West should prove enlightening. For those already familiar with Healy, the reward is a further introduction to this unsung Westerner.

– See more at: http://www.historynet.com/book-review-healys-west-by-gordon-e-tolton.htm#sthash.sVlfVcJV.dpuf



Welcome to Ranger Gord’s Round-Up

Hello, Good Day, Welcome and Howdy!

Ranger Gord” is Gordon E. Tolton: historian, historical interpreter, author, and general all-around goofball – making the history of western Canada accessible to all.

I am a free lance author living in Coaldale, Alberta, a small town in western Canada, not far from the Montana-US border.

My specialties are the history of settlement: the fur trade, early farming, ranching and the organized farm movement, the North West and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the North West Rebellion of 1885, and the political and military history of Canada and the United States.  Naturally, I’m a bit western in my scope, and somewhat in my lifestyle. Blame genetics. I was born this way.

Religiously, after a long hard think about the role of faith, and a walk in the wilderness, I follow the basic tenets of the United Church of Canada. I believe the world works the way it does for a reason BUT I have a long hard policy of sympathy for those who wish to follow their own path of belief or non-belief. Freedom of worship, or freedom from worship is a freedom that is not only mandated constitutionally, it’s also a right hard won by our ancestors. You don’t make yourself taller by stepping on someone else.

I am noted as the official problem with Alberta. Politically, I am pragmatic. If it works, I’ll be for it, If it doesn’t I’m against it. The building of a civil society depends on consensus, and hitting someone over the head is rarely a good policy in building alliances or good legislation. A good settlement is better than a bad judgement.

I care nothing for the color of one’s political underwear. If you want my vote, or my support, just don’t piss me off, represent me well, and we won’t have a problem.

Represent me badly, make bad policy and I promise you, I will be Very Hard to Get Along With. Emphasis intended. Politicians are temporary servants of the public trust. They can and will be replaced — and I tend to vote for the Least Undesirable candidate.

Always keep yourself in a position to be able to tell any one to go to hell.”
– George Lane, Alberta rancher

I won’t be wronged, I won’t be insulted, and I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I require the same from them.” – John Wayne in “The Shootist”.

Having said all that, I’m really not all that hard to get along with. I might even be likable. That depends on you. Be good to me, I’m your pal. If you treat me wrong – put on your rain slicker. It’s about to get stormy.

My brain grows younger as my feet and knees age, but as it does, I write books, I like hot chili, cold snowy days, loud guns, quiet people, new computers, old trucks, slow horses, and fast tequila. In upcoming blogs, I hope to display the books I’ve written and published, and share some of my experiences and my adventures in documenting history.