Santa Fe Trail Bicentennial Year 2021

2021 marks the 200th Anniversary of the Santa Fe Trail. It was an active road between Kansas City and Santa Fe between 1821 and 1877. While it was also one of the trails to the West Coast, along with the famous Oregon and California Trails, it was first and foremost a trade route. 

View of Santa Fe Plaza in the 1850’s, ca. 1930, Artist Gerald Cassidy (1869-1934) from the collection of The New Mexico Art Museum

It began with a man who was hard pressed for cash, William Becknell. In fact, he’d been put in jail for failure to pay his debts. Fortunately, a friend bailed him out and the judge promised to give him until January 1822 to pay up. Bucknell wasn’t the only one facing hard times. The Panic of 1819 left Missouri economically depressed. There was no banking system. Paper money was worthless. Gold and silver were the only acceptable method of payment for goods, if a market could be found for them. Markets were as non-existent as coin. After his jail experience and looking for opportunity, Bucknell decided to organize a trading party and make his way across the plains.

When Mexico gained independence in 1821, Becknell wasn’t the only one with an eye to establishing trade routes. Like Becknell, some were hard pressed by a slow economic recovery.  Looking west promised a way out.

In June 1821, the Missouri Intelligencer carried an advertisement by Beckknell calling for interested parties to sign on for a trip west “for the purpose of trading for Horses & Mules, and catching Wild Animals of every description, that we may think advantageous.”

Seventeen men, signed on, making the trip with Becknell along what became the Santa Fe Trail. His exact route between the Arkansas River and Las Vegas, New Mexico is open to discussion. In fact, we aren’t sure if he intended to go as far as Santa Fe. To me, the notice that he planned to trade for horses and mules suggests that he was headed to New Mexico. He wasn’t likely to find mules wandering through Kansas and Colorado. Whatever his intent, Becknell got to Santa Fe as the first trading party after trading restrictions were lifted. It was November 13, 1821. He returned with $6,000 in silver coin on an investment of $300. The trip was so profitable that he returned two more times, establishing the trail. After him, merchants took goods by the wagon load—sometimes 100 or more wagons, four abreast, made the trip.

Despite Covid 19, Celebrations of the Bicentennial of the Trail are planned. A 200 Anniversary website has been set up. Meanwhile, learn more about the Trail through The Santa Fe Trail Association and its quarterly publication, Wagon Tracks.  

Photograph of Becknell is from Legends of America where you will find an interesting account of Becknell.

When you’re having fun…

The expression is, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” It is one I’ve heard all my life. But where did it come from? That isn’t at all clear.

Its all a part of the The Game of Life–played at our house over the holidays.

For example, I found this at Time passes quickly, as in It’s midnight already? Time flies when you’re having fun, or I guess it’s ten years since I last saw you—how time flies.  This idiom was first recorded about 1800 but Shakespeare used a similar phrase, “the swiftest hours, as they flew,” as did AlexanderPope, “swift fly the years.”

Others sources trace the expression to the Roman poet Virgil (70-19 BCE) and fugit irreparabile tempus. “Time irretrievably is flying. Another version is, ‘We cannot stop time in its tracks.’ The shorter Tempus fugit is taken from the longer Fugit irreparabile tempus itself a slightly shortened form of a line from Virgil’s Georgics.” See

All that is to say that time has been flying past and lots of things happening. Most of them good, some of them challenging, not so great, and others sad. But time keeps moving forward. It was October when I last blogged.

In addition to completing the manuscript for Book 3 of The Last Crystal Trilogy I’ve been promoting The Black Alabaster Box. I’ve asked Esther Suh blogger, Mother, photographer, parent of a “heart child” and educator to write a guest blog about edible plants.

If you’ve read The Black Alabaster box, you know that edible wild plants play an important role in Grace’s survival. Esther’s photographs and knowledge of flowers are one of many features that have made hers a popular blog. Edible wild plants become important in Book 3 as well. I look forward to hearing from Esther soon–you’ll see why she is uniquely prepared to be a guest. .

Can you have a book launch without gingerbread cookies?


Thursday was the book launch for The Black Alabaster Box. I read the SCBWI website  for children’s book authors and illustrators. I talked to authors. I hadn’t done a launch before.  When my academic books were published, I put the title on my vita, and the publisher did the rest. So all this launch and publicity, and marketing business is new territory.

One of the best bits of advice I had was: have fun. It turned out to be more fun than I expected! I suppose I was worried that the program wouldn’t work or I’d stumble over myself when I read from the first two chapters, or people wouldn’t like the gingerbread cookies after I spent a day making them. But once all the balloons were up and it got under way, it was all fun. Sarah VanTiem was a brilliant emcee. She led an interesting conversation with Katie Schmidt, whose class at Rodgers Forge Elementary School piloted the book last year. I didn’t trip over my own tongue and Jack VandenHengel’s “On the Santa Fe Trail,” and “Tumbling’ Tumble Weeds” (with guitar) had everybody so into it that by the time he got to “Red River Valley” people were singing along. It was really fun. And people ate gingerbread cookies much more delicately than either Ruby or Junior in the book–you’ll have to read chapter two for that story.

“Can you have a launch without gingerbread cookies?” Silly question isn’t it? So many people commented on them, though, that I thought I’d share the recipe. They were an important part of my launch! Here it is, my version of an old recipe.

Gingerbread Cookies

1/3 cup shortening (part butter)                    ½ tsp. salt                                                                   1 cup dark brown sugar (packed)                   ½ tsp. allspice                                                        12 oz. jar of dark molasses                              1 tsp. ginger                                                           1/3 cup cold water                                               ¾ tsp. cloves                                                          6 cups sifted flour                                              1 tsp. cinnamon                                                      2 tsp. soda

Cream shortening and brown sugar. Add molasses and mix thoroughly. Stir in water. Sift together dry ingredients and stir in 1 cup at a time. Roll dough to ¼ inch thick. Chill dough at least 1 hour or overnight. Lightly grease cookie sheets. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut with cookie cutters and space about 1 inch apart. Decorate with sprinkles before baking (if you want to use sprinkles). Or, after baking, roll in powdered sugar while they are still hot or frost with powdered sugar icing when they are cool.

Bake 12-15 min. or until cookies are starting to brown on the edges.

GBCscutoutsStacks of GBCs

Mmmmm! Enjoy.



Continue reading “Can you have a book launch without gingerbread cookies?”