Sandra’s Occasional Newsletter – February 2021

Sandra's Occasional Newsletter, Publicity photo of author Sandra V. McGee


For February 2021, a little bit of news… but not too much. 


My Mantra of the Moment

Sandra's Occasional Newsletter - February 2021This month, a friend gifted me with a little book, Empowering Mantras for Awesome Women. The lipstick mantra spoke to me (surprise, surprise) and is just the nudge I didn’t know I needed to stay on course and aim for productive days during these trying times. The little book is on my desk, opened at random to a new mantra every morning.

Shameless Promotion: Operation Crossroads 75 Years Ago

Award-winning author Bill McGee launching "Operation Crossroads, Lest We Forget!" at the National Atomic Testing Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2016

At the National Atomic Testing Museum, Las Vegas, Nevada, 2016

To mark the 75th anniversary of Operation Crossroads in 2021, I’ve launched a series of posts lifted from the pages of Bill McGee’s memoir Operation Crossroads, Lest We Forget! An Eyewitness Account, Bikini Atomic Bomb Tests 1946. The posts will follow Bill and his USS Fall River shipmates throughout 1946 as they participate in the first postwar atomic bomb tests. The posts are a mix of photos with snippets of text — some humorous, some serious.     Click HERE for all posts.

January and February posts:
Prelude: Aug 1945
Europe Here I Come, Jan 1946
Smuggled Aboard, Feb 1946
Drinkin’ rum & Coca Cola, Feb 1946
Hooray for Hollywood, Feb 1946

As an aside, as I was re-reading Bill’s Crossroads memoir to create a calendar for the posts, I wanted to know more about the development of the atomic bomb and the names and places I associated with it — Oppenheimer, Manhattan Project, Oak Ridge Tennessee, Los Alamos New Mexico — but I didn’t want to read something too technical. Thankfully, Bill’s niece Carol, a teacher/librarian in the New York school system, pointed me to Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steven Sheinkin. Don’t let the “Perfect for middle grade readers” in the Amazon book description put you off. I’m a history buff and the book was perfect for me. It’s factual, yet reads like a spy thriller. The only thing I missed was a cast of characters in the front matter, so I created one as I read. 

Divorce Western-Style: Signed First Editions

Sandra's Occasional Newsletter - February 2021At a recent meeting of the board, it was decided to offer the remaining signed copies of The Divorce Seekers – A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler at half-price, $24.95 (cover price is $49.95) including shipping. This book has become the source book for Nevada divorce ranch researchers, novelists, and screenwriters. The offer is not available on Amazon; only from yours truly.  Ordering is simple:


√ Print it out and fill in a few lines of information

√ Mail the order form with your check to the address on the form. That’s it!

Back When: The “Utah” Bob Story

Bill McGee and “Utah” Bob Hatch, Franktown, Nev., 1949 (Author Collection)

During the winter of 1948/1949, Reno had a record snowfall with freezing temps and an unusual series of earthquakes known as the “Reno Rhumba”.

In January of ’49, Bill McGee, the head dude wrangler on the Flying M.E. dude and divorce ranch, twenty miles south of Reno, was helping neighboring rancher, Ray Raymond, round up his prized purebred Black Angus. The cattle had wandered off the ranch because the fence was covered with snow. Bill’s horse, Zorro, stepped into a deep rut that was hidden by the snow. Bill and Zorro somersaulted “ass over tea kettle” and it was lights out for Bill. When he came to, Zorro was standing over him, his head lowered, looking Bill in the eye as if to say, “I’m sorry”. It was getting dark and a search part went looking for Bill. When he was found, he was rushed to Dr. Ernie Mack, a Reno neurologist. Bill couldn’t feel anything on his right side and Dr. Mack was worried Bill might become paralyzed. Dr. Mack fitted Bill for a body cast from his hips to below his armpits and ordered him to stay in Reno for daily check-ups.

Bill arranged for a cowboy friend, “Utah” Bob, to fill in for him on the Flying M.E. The two had met in 1947 at the Veteran’s Hospital in Reno. Bill was being treated for a flare-up of the malaria he had contracted in the South Pacific during the war. Bob “Utah” Hatch, a former Marine and cowpuncher from Utah, was also being treated for a war-related illness.

Things seemed to be going okay on the Flying M.E. until about mid-February. Bill received a frantic call from Emmy Wood, the proprietor of the ranch. “Bill, dear, late last night, I came home from escorting some guests to Carson for gambling, and I caught Utah with one of the ladies in the living room. All she had on was a little nightie. I’m going to have to let Utah go. Bill, dear, when does Dr. Mack say you can come back to work?” Emmy addressed all her favorite people with a “dear”.

A couple weeks later, Dr. Mack reluctantly okayed Bill’s return to the ranch on the condition that Bill wear a back brace. Of course, “Utah” Bob got the blame for the living room incident and was fired on the spot. But Jimmy Murray, the ol’ retired wrangler who lived on the ranch thanks to the kindness of Emmy Wood, suggested to Bill there were two sides to the story.

“Well,” said Jimmy, “I suppose it was all Utah’s fault. But then, sittin’ here and observin’ the goings on every day as I do, let your elder tell you something, young Bill. You never can tell with some of them fillies. That gal just might of started the whole thing and what was poor Utah to do?”

A few weeks after “Utah” Bob’s dismissal from the Flying M.E., he and another cowboy, Frank Burrows, both down on their luck and no doubt loaded to the gills, shot a steer near Steamboat Springs and butchered it on the spot. They tried to sell the two sides of beef to a Reno meat packer, but the packing house owner called the sheriff as soon as the cowboys left. Under Nevada law, the theft of animals, such as cattle, constitutes grand larceny. “Utah” and Frank were charged by the rancher who owned the steer and the cowboys served two years in the Nevada State Prison in Carson City. Bill visited them with cigarettes — and cookies baked by Edie, the Flying M.E. cook.

(Another true story from The Divorce Seekers – A Photo Memoir of a Nevada Dude Wrangler, Ch. 29, “Cowboyin’ Mishap”, and Ch. 30, “Rustlers Nabbed”.)

Signing Off

Thank you for reading this missive. Take care and be happy…



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