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21—Alby was smitten almost at once. Americans in the 1880s were surprisingly tolerant of same-sex relationships, as long as they were conducted discreetly. This was especially true in the West, where there were proportionately fewer women and where men worked and lived together in very close quarters. This article provides some background. But what about the cities of the East? By 1890, New York City had a thriving gay scene with a variety of clubs—including drag clubs—in the Bowery and Greenwich Village. People could and did face persecution, but at least in some social circles, same sex relationships were accepted. And regardless of sexual orientation, men were generally more comfortable showing affection and physical contact with each other than they are today. Here are some lovely photos.
22—a shallow wash between rolling hills. Alby lived on a ranch in Nebraska’s Sandhills, a large area of sand dune prairie. People began cattle ranching there in the 1870s, and even today, cattle are the major contributor to the economy. The Sandhills have always been sparsely populated, and winters can be extremely harsh, but it’s an important ecosystem. I think it has its own unique beauty as well. [Fun fact! I’m in the middle of a series with Dreamspinner, each book featuring a man originally from Peril, Nebraska—the fictional town near Alby’s ranch. The Stars from Peril books are contemporaries, and The Spy’s Love Song is the first. Redesigning Landry Bishop is due out in May, and I’m about to begin the third book.]
22—cattle were driven to the train. During the time Alby was in Nebraska, cattle would have been kept on open rangeland. Every year, ranchers would round up the cattle intended for slaughter and cowboys would move these herds to the rail lines for transport east. In Nebraska, drives would have involved not just local cattle, but also herds driven up from Texas to the Union Pacific line. After the late 1880s, the decline of open range—caused by weather and overgrazing—reduced the number of drives. But a few people are doing it still, mostly to move animals from one pasture to another. This wonderful article includes great photos.
22—or a cattle drive or errands took him to Ogallala or Cheyenne. Suppose you’re a cowboy who’s just finished a long, hard drive. You got the cattle on the train and you have a few dollars in your pocket. Wouldn’t you want a little recreation before getting back on your horse? That’s how cattle towns came to be. As you might imagine, these towns could be pretty wild places. Ogallala was one of the primary Nebraska cattle towns and Cheyenne was a major one in Wyoming. You can see some old photos of Ogallala.
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