Researching Historical Fiction

Brisco County and His Horse Comet

While we’re on the subject of horses, I have to confess to a deep affection for “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.,” a short-lived (one season) TV series from the early 1990s. It is a strange and charming combination of western, comedy, action and sci-fi starring Bruce Campbell.

Bruce Campbell as Brisco County Jr. with one of the horses that played his faithful sidekick Comet in "The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr."
Bruce Campbell with one of the horses that played his faithful sidekick Comet in “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.”

His horse Comet was a character in his own right: independent yet always there to help Brisco out of a jam and smarter than most of the humans, judging by Brisco’s on-screen conversations with him.

The DVD collection comes with a disc of extras, and one chapter is about horses. In it, Campbell explains that there were actually four or five horses for the one “hero” horse. I figured there had to be more than one Comet, but I didn’t realize how much TV horses specialize.

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Famous People of the Old West, Researching Historical Fiction

Annie Oakley: Little Sure Shot in action

Annie Oakley_Buffalo Bill posterWhile we’re on the subject of Annie Oakley and her shooting prowess, PBS’ American Experience did an excellent show on her a few years back. Here’s the transcript.

Sitting Bull nicknamed her Little Sure Shot (Watanya Cicilla), and she was incredibly accurate, only missing when it was part of her act. She would shoot glass balls thrown in the air, the thin edge of playing cards, dimes, the flame from a candle and the ashes off the cigarette in the mouth of her husband, Frank Butler.

According to HistoryNet: “On November 3, 1926, she died of pernicious anemia at the age of 66. Frank mourned so deeply he stopped eating and died 18 days later on November 21.”

You can watch footage of Oakley shooting online. The film was taken by Thomas Edison’s studio in 1894 and is the same film people would have paid a nickel to see at one of those new-fangled Kinetoscope parlors.

Creativity and Productivity

The ultimate chatterbox

If you’re wondering why I’m commenting on a TV show from 2005, it’s because I haven’t subscribed to cable TV in years. Just to watch a major network in my area requires a complex antenna arrangement, so I have gotten out of the habit of watching TV “live.” Instead, I rely on Netflix and the occasional DVD from the library, which means I’m a fairly targeted (and impatient) viewer.

On the rare occasions when I watch regular TV (the final season of “Lost” and, these days, “Fringe”), I am amazed at the frenetic mix of visuals and noise that passes for advertising and the lack of truly thoughtful shows.

I’m one of those people who can’t concentrate in the midst of mayhem, and I say why make it harder for yourself. If you want to boost your creativity, one of the best things you can do is break the TV habit.

If you want to be more creative, seek out silence. Make the time to turn inward and follow your own imagination rather than filling your head with mindless chatter. It’s amazing what you will discover.

Plus, think of all the free time you’ll have to write your book when you’re not watching “American Idol” (is that still a thing?) or a show about Kardashians (whatever those are).