27 October 2016 - BELLE STARR


G'day folks,

Myra Maybelle Shirley Reed Starr, better known as Belle Starr, was a notorious American outlaw. Belle associated with the James-Younger gang and other outlaws. She was convicted of horse theft in 1883.

 Belle Starr gained notoriety as an outlaw on the western edge of the United States in the mid-1800s. While she did consort with infamous characters, historians suggest her renegade reputation surpasses her actual criminal activity.


Born in 1848, Belle Starr was known as an infamous outlaw in the Wild West—the western edge of the expanding United States in the second half of the 1800s. She associated with famous outlaws, like Frank and Jesse James, and was arrested several times. In recent years, however, historians have gathered data that suggests that she committed far fewer criminal acts than her legend would suggest, with the men in her life being the main purveyors of illicit acts. Belle Starr was killed in 1889, with her murderer having never been brought to justice.

 Early Life and Family History


Myra Maybelle "Belle" Shirley, who later became known as Belle Starr upon her marriage to Sam Starr, was born on Feb. 5, 1848, in Carthage, Missouri. She was the daughter of John Shirley and his third wife, Elizabeth Hatfield Shirley. A pianist, Belle grew up in a household with her parents and their other children, including much older half-siblings from her father’s first marriages. 

Her elder brother John Addison—called Bud—influenced her greatly, as did the fact that she grew up in the years leading up to the Civil War in the contested Missouri territory. Though Belle received her education from a girl's academy, Bud taught her to use guns and ride horses, and it is believed that she joined him—unofficially—as he tried to subvert the Union’s efforts in Missouri. (The Shirley family supported the Confederacy.) 

Bud died in 1864, and the Shirley family moved to the Scyene area of Texas. There, Belle met Jim Reed, marrying him in 1866. In 1868, she gave birth to her first child, whom she called Pearl. A second child, Eddie, was born in 1871.

The Legend of Belle Starr

Throughout her adult life, Belle regularly consorted with criminals. Reed and his family fled from the law numerous times before he was killed in 1874. Legend has it that Belle joined in on her husband’s nefarious activities, but there is little evidence to suggest that she did. Rather, some historians suggest that she wanted to live a life of quiet domesticity. Before Reed's death, Belle had returned to her parent's farm, leaving the marriage. 

In 1880, Belle wed Sam Starr, who was Cherokee and part of the Starr gang. Together, they lived on Cherokee land, harboring criminals like Frank and Jesse James at their home. In 1883, Belle and Sam were convicted of stealing horses. Each spent nine months in jail in Detroit, then returned to Indian Territory. By this time, Belle was known as a felon, with her notoriety growing over suspicion for later crimes. She reputedly carried one or two pistols and wore gold earrings and a man’s hat with feathers, though some have argued that she lived more of a home-based life while Sam engaged in illicit activity.

Belle was arrested twice more, but was never convicted again. Sam Starr was killed in 1886, and Belle went on to live with Bill July on Cherokee land. She allegedly reformed, refusing to shelter criminals in her home. When July (whom she called July Starr) was arrested for horse theft, she did not defend him.

 Death and Ensuing Mystery


Belle Starr was shot to death on February 3, 1889, near Fort Smith, Arkansas just before her 41st birthday. She had cultivated some enemies over the years—including her son Eddie and daughter Pearl, with a farmland tenant being viewed as the murder's primary suspect. 

Edgar Watson, who rented land from Belle, was a fugitive wanted for murder whom she kicked off her land once she discovered his history. Authorities believed that Watson might have ambushed Belle and he was thus arrested on suspicion that he'd committed the act. Yet he was eventually released as there were no witnesses to the crime.    

Clancy's comment:  Belle sounds like a wild woman who collected a few enemies along the way.

I'm ...

26 October 2016 - CHUCK BERRY


G'day folks,

 Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry is an American guitarist, singer and songwriter and is one of the pioneers of rock and roll music.

His guitar riffs may be among the most important and imitated sounds of the late 20th Century. His musical output in the mid-to-late ‘50s made him among the most consequential architects of rock and roll and laid the foundation for the generation of rockers to come. Born to a middle-class St. Louis family, Chuck Berry’s development benefited from the rich musical tapestry around him. Though never formally educated in music, he absorbed the soul of the bluesmen, the showmanship of the R&B shouters, and the crossover appeal of the hillbilly country singers that surrounded him.

By the time he was attending Sumner High School in the early ‘40s, he was performing in public with his own R&B combo. His professional development would be put on hiatus starting in 1944 as he served a three-year prison sentence for armed robbery. This would be Berry’s first major encounter in a life filled with legal scrapes and less-than-savory behavior.

On the bright side, his time in prison gave him a chance to focus on his singing. So excellent was the vocal quartet he fronted that they even booked a few gigs outside the prison walls. This was not exactly his big break, though. That wouldn’t come until 1955, when he signed with Chess Records.

With “Maybellene,” his very first single, Berry had a million-seller, an R&B #1, and a #5 on the mainstream charts. It was also the first in a string of crossover hits. In addition to his silver-tongued wordplay, incendiary fretwork, and flashy stage presence, Berry dealt in themes that were in perfect harmony with a surging youth culture. Songs about girls, cars, and school were omnipresent in his performances. Over the next five years, Berry released “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock and Roll Music,” “Sweet Little Sixteen,” and “Johnny B. Goode.” This is basically the rock and roll equivalent of Prometheus gifting fire to humanity.

His influence may well have achieved an even greater reach beginning in the mid-‘60s, when a new crop of musicians on both sides of the Atlantic began knowingly and proudly stealing his licks. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Beach Boys—arguably the three most consequential rock bands of their time—all explicitly declared their debt to Berry. His songs were an important keystone in each band’s early performing repertoire and his incisive lead-in riffs were unabashedly co-opted in their early (and massively successful) songwriting exploits. Even as rock entered its more experimental phase in the late ‘60s, Berry’s songbook remained a necessary building block for every aspiring guitarist.

In many ways, Berry’s important musical accomplishments were at an end by the early ‘60s—and yet any discussion of the idiom which dominated popular music through the next four decades absolutely must begin with Chuck Berry. Indeed, he was a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s inaugural class of inductees, making him Ty Cobb to Elvis Presley’s Babe Ruth.


Clancy's comment: They don't come much better than this guy. What a legend.

I'm ....

25 October 2016 - AUSTRALIAN SNAKES


G'day folks,

Yes, Australia is well known for some weird and wonderful animals. Our snakes are no  different. Many are highly feared, but beautiful creatures.

When it comes to self-defence, Australia's snakes have things pretty well covered. We share our continent with about 140 species of land snakes, some equipped with venom more toxic than any other snakes in the world.
But bites are actually quite rare in Australia and, since the development of anti-venom, fatalities have been low – between four to six deaths a year.

"This is in contrast to India, for example, where bites may reach one million a year, with over 50,000 deaths," says Associate Professor Bryan Fry, a herpetologist and venom expert at the University of Queensland. "Snake bites are very, very rare [in Australia] and often the fault of the person being bitten. Most bites occur when people are trying to kill a snake or show off."

Most snakes would rather slither away from humans than fight them. "Snakes don't perceive humans as food and they don't aggressively bite things out of malice. Their venom is used to subdue prey that would otherwise be impossible for a snake to eat," says Dion Wedd, curator of the Territory Wildlife Park, NT. "If their only escape route is past a human with a shovel, then they are likely to react in the only way they can."

So if you're standing between a snake and its escape route, prepare for a fearsome display. Although all species are potentially dangerous, here's our top 10 pick of the most dangerous snakes in Australia – some of them highly venomous, some extremely nervous, some you're just more likely to see slithering away in your backyard.

 Here are some beautiful samples:










Clancy's comment:  They look pretty, but they are also pretty mean if confronted.

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