Saturday, October 22, 2016

Understanding English...even in the Old West - rerun Blog.

Do You Really Understand English?     I'm on a two-month vacation, camping my way across the U.S. so I'm trying to meet my obligations by sharing blasts from the past from Dishin' It Out.  Hope you enjoy.

Everyone who reads my blog knows I love Reader’s Digest.  In their September 2010 issue, they presented an article by Melissa Demeo and Paul Silverman that resonated with me.  Although I like to think I’m literate when it comes to speaking and writing, I honestly had to pause after each example and consider if I’m an offender. 

I’m going to share some of their tips with you today.  I suppose as long as I’ve credited the magazine and authors, I won’t be brought up on plagiarism charges.  I’ve “bolded” the correct examples below, and in some cases, both are appropriate when used in the correct situation:

Could care less versus Couldn’t care less:  Because you care so little already, you couldn’t care less.

Less versus Fewer:  Recommend the use of fewer when you specify a number of countable things (50 words or fewer).  Less is appropriate when speaking of mass amount (less than half.) *Raising hand as guilty on this one.*

Hone in versus Home in: Since hone means to sharpen, Home in comes from “homing pigeons.” which indicates being single-minded.  You either want to home in on something or, if you’re confused, zero in on the topic.

Brother-in-laws versus Brothers-in-law:  Form the plural by adding an s to the thing there is more than one of.  Of course an ‘s would indicate possession by one brother-in-law.  (applies to runners-up and hole in ones, too)

Different than versus Different from: If you can substitute “from: for than, then do it.  Use “than” for comparisons.  Example:  My office is different from any other in the building.  My office is bigger than any other in the building.  *Raising hand as guilty on this one.*

Try versus Try to: If you are planning to do something, then try to do it. Of course, try and try again makes sense, but remember the rule.

Supposably versus Supposedly: Although spell check tells me that supposably is not a word, it is one—meaning “conceivably.”  But, if you’re trying to relay, “it’s assumed” than supposedly is what you want to say and what most people recognize as correct English.

All of versus All:  Drop “of” whenever you can, but not before a pronoun. Examples:  All the children were in their seats.  All of them were in their seats.

Outside of versus Outside: Both are prepositions and weren’t meant to be used together. 

Each other versus One AnotherEach other is appropriate when speaking of two people or things. Example: Ginger and Barbara present each other with a gift for the occasion.  One another is used when more are involved.  Example:  The debaters argued with one another.

Now for some confusing pairs:

Wary = suspicious
Weary = tired
Farther = physical distance
Further = metaphorical distance or time
Principle = rule
Principal = School official
Compliment = saying a nice thing
Complement = match
Continual = ongoing but intermittent
Continuous = without interruption
Stationary = doesn’t move
Stationery = paper
Imply = suggest a meaning
Infer = draw meaning from something
Affect (v) = to act upon. (n) = an emotional response
Effect (n) = something produced, but as a verb) to bring about  

If you’re like me, you’re still confused about affect versus effect, so here are some examples:  His bad behavior affected the entire classroom.  His bad behavior had a negative effect in the classroom.

I believe by emotional response as a noun...the experts are inferring that something you feel, like for example, sadness, would be considered an affect.  Not really sure what they mean since sadness would be something produced.  Maybe you can help me out here.

A few last helpful hints:  Did you know that saying “at this point in time” is redundant?  Point and time have the same meaning in this instance.  At this time, at this point…

Past history?  Isn’t all history past?

Be careful where you place your modifiers…if you even need one.  If you read this sentence with “even” placed after “need”, the meaning of the sentence is changed.  “Only, also, and even can impact your story if you aren’t careful.

And one of my favorites,  I versus me:  When comparing yourself to someone or something, use I.  “Am” is implied so consider that “me am” is not appropriate. Meow is, if you’re a cat.  J

The rules continue to grow the more I write.  Just when I think I have a grasp on something, one house claims the rule inappropriate and I have to change my logic.  What logic, I say….there is none in writing.  But just in case you want to check out my accomplishments, please visit my website at and see if you think I understand English.  Now don’t forget, we’re talking U.S. English, not The Queen’s English.  Shouldn’t English be English?  See, I told you…no logic.

Friday, October 21, 2016


Have you ever wondered about the actors and actresses who portrayed the characters on the western shows that we and/or our parents grew up with on our TV screens? After watching re-runs of several westerns from my past, I decided I wanted to find out about these people who entertained me. After looking them up, I thought you might be interested, too. Today I’m concentrating on one of my favorites, GUNSMOKE which ran for 20 years.


                                                              GUNSMOKE ACTORS


Matt Dillon was played by 6’7” James Arness, who was born in Minneapolis, MN on May 26, 1923. His given name was, ‎James King Aurness.

When he accepted the role of Matt Dillion, he had to dye his naturally blond hair for the role, since dark hair was considered more masculine at the time. Because of his unusual height, many people guesting on the show had to stand on boxes or in ditches to look good in the pictures. He retired from acting at age 71.

He held the record for the longest continuous role (Matt Dillon) portrayed by a single actor (20 years) on prime-time television, until Kelsey Grammer (Dr. Frasier Crane on Cheers (1982) and Frasier (1993) tied the 20 year record in 2004.

James Arness was a veteran and during his service in World War II, he received the Bronze Star; the Purple Heart; the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze campaign stars; the World War II Victory Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Married twice James Arness was the father of 4 children, including his first wife’s son who he adopted.

Many stars were friends with James Arness, including John Wayne who had suggested he be given the role of Matt Dillon, but he considered his younger brother, Peter Graves (Mission Impossible) his best friend.

James Arness died of natural causes in 2011 in Los Angeles.



Miss Kitty Russell, the red-haired owner of Gunsmoke’s Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas was played by Amanda Blake an American actress. Ms. Blake was born on February 20, 1929 in Buffalo, NY. Her given name was Beverly Louise Neill. She was married four times, but had no children.

Before making it in show business, she worked as a telephone operator.

An animal lover, in 1971 she joined with others in Phoenix, Arizona, to form the Arizona Animal Welfare League. The AAWL is now the oldest and largest "no-kill" animal shelter in Arizona. (Ms. Blake’s 2nd husband was an Arizona cattleman.)

Amanda Blake smoked 2-3 packs of cigarettes a day until being diagnosed with oral cancer in 1980. After enduring oral cancer surgery in 1984, the American Cancer Society awarded her with its Courage Award which was presented to her in Washington, DC by President Reagan.

In 1961 she sold her residual rights to Gunsmoke for $100,000.

Ms. Blake was believed to have contracted the AIDS virus from her last husband who was openly bisexual.

Amanda Blake died of AIDS-related hepatitis in 1989 in Sacramento, California.



Chester Goode: Dennis Weaver. Weaver was born June 4, 1924 in Joplin, Mo. His birth name was William Dennis Weaver. A part-American Indian, he was a registered Cherokee, as well as Osage.

He was a struggling actor in Hollywood in 1955, earning $60 a week delivering flowers when he was offered $300 a week for a role in Gunsmoke. After nine years as Chester, who he played with a stiff-legged gait, he was earning $9,000 a week.

Weaver was a veteran and served as a pilot in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

A vegetarian, he served as the president of "Love Is Feeding Everyone" (LIFE), which fed 150,000 needy people a week in Los Angeles County.

Dennis Weaver died, February 24, 2006, in Ridgway, Colorado from complications of cancer.                                                                                     ~*~


Doc Galen Adams was the character played by Milburn Stone. His full name was Hugh Milburn Stone, sometimes known as Milly Stone. He was born July 5, 1904 in Burrton, Kansas. He was married twice and had one daughter.

At one time he sang with Harry James and His Orchestra.

Stone’s uncle was the famous Broadway comedian, Fred Stone. Milburn moved to Los Angeles in 1935 to try his luck in films. He toiled for years and became an "overnight" star in Gunsmoke. He remained a citizen of Dodge City throughout its entire 20-year run (500 episodes), although he was temporarily sidelined by a heart attack in 1971. The ever-durable Stone missed only seven episodes. Milburn won a well-deserved Emmy award in 1968 for his crusty role.

In 1961, he sold his residual rights of Gunsmoke to CBS for $100,000.

Milburn Stone died from a heart attack on June 12, 1980, La Jolla, California.




Festus Haggen, played by Ken Curtis, who was born July 2, 1916, in Lamar, Colorado. His birth name was Curtis Wain Gates.

Curtis began his show business career as a singer in the big-band era, and was a vocalist in the legendary Tommy Dorsey orchestra.

As the son-in-law of director, John Ford, he appeared in many of Ford’s singing westerns. He also appeared in Carnegie Hall with the Sons of the Pioneers.

Curtis was married twice and was the father of two children.

He died on April 28, 1991 in Fresno, California from a heart attack in his sleep.



Quint Asper was played by Burt Reynolds.  Burton Leon Reynolds was born February 11, 1936 in Lansing, Michigan.  

He was married twice and has one son.

In 1962, Burt Reynolds was added to Gunsmoke, as the half-Comanche blacksmith, Quint Asper. He performed that role in the years just before the departure of Chester Goode and just after the appearance of Festus Haggen.

Reynolds’s latest project is to film a movie with Modern Family’s, Ariel Winter to be filmed in Knoxville, Tennessee in June/July 2016.



           Newly O’Brien, gunsmith-turned-deputy in 174 episodes during the last eight seasons of Gunsmoke is played by Buck Taylor. Walter Clarence "Buck" Taylor, III was born on May 13, 1938 in Los Angeles, California.
Taylor was married twice and is the father of 3 children.

He studied art on a scholarship while in college and later was seen sketching during film and TV breaks. An accomplished and well-known western artist who enjoys exploring America's "Old West" and delving into typical everyday cowboy scenes of hitching horses or setting up camp, he specializes in watercolor. His art is now sought after by collectors.

He and current wife live on a ranch north of Fort Worth, Texas.



Sam Noonan, the bartender at the Long Branch Saloon in Dodge City, Kansas was played by Glenn Strange. Strange was born George Glenn Strange in Weed, New Mexico, on August 16, 1899, but grew up a real-life cowboy in Cross Cut, Texas. He was of Indian descent.

Strange was married three times and had four children.

He taught himself the fiddle and guitar at a young age and started performing at local functions as a teen. At various times in his life, this huge, towering 6' 5” beast of a man worked as a rancher, deputy sheriff and rodeo performer.

He played several monsters in movies including Frankenstein’s monster. Though Boris Karloff was famous for the role, the studio often used Strange’s picture to promote the show. Ironically when Boris Karloff's obituary was run in newspapers in 1969 it was with Strange's picture as Frankenstein's monster.

He capped off his career with a steady 12 years by playing the role of Sam the bartender on Gunsmoke.

Glenn Strange died on September 20, 1973 of lung cancer.



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

SPLENDID ISOLATION: The Historic Buildings of Grand Teton National Park

Most people come to Grand Teton National Park to enjoy the great outdoors.  They hike and take float trips, go horseback riding or perhaps hunt and fish.  They drive the loop roads and stop at scenic turnouts to photograph the grandeur that they see.  But for me, living part-year five miles from the park, visiting the historic buildings is part of my fascination with being here.  We take so many modern comforts for granted, it is difficult to put ourselves in the shoes of people who left so much behind to live in a country so vast, their nearest neighbors were often miles away—miles that would have to be crossed on horseback or in wagons in winters that might go to minus sixty.  Purportedly, Jackson Hole was one of the last areas of the lower forty-eight to be settled.  Homesteading here began in the late 1880s and only around 400 claims were filed in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Menor's Homestead
In 1894, William D. Menor squatted on 149 acres on the west bank of the Snake River.  He was alone there for ten years, and his original white-washed homestead cabin still stands. He eventually built a shop (now catering for the tourist trade), blacksmith shop, and ran a ferry, while his brother, Holiday, who lived across the river, quarried lime.  With most of the homesteads on the east side of the Snake River, Menor’s
Menor's Bedroom
ferry became the main crossing after 1894 for folks wanting to gather berries and mushrooms, and cut timber.
Nearby is the Chapel of the Transfiguration, built in 1925 on land donated by Maude Noble, who had bought out Menor. Sometimes more than 100 horses could be seen tied and corralled there on a Sunday.  If you have ever watched the film,  Spencer’s Mountain with Henry Fonda, then you have viewed this chapel.  No one who has visited it and seen its magnificent location can doubt the hand of a Greater Being.  To me, it would be a dream location for a wedding!
Chapel of the Transfiguration

In 1895, a group of Mormons from Idaho crossed the Teton Pass in wagons and settled just southeast of Black Tail Butte, becoming Menor’s closest neighbors. They were able to form a community, called Grovont, but that did not make their lives much easier.  They had  to build log cabins, bringing lodge pole pines from nearby forests, dig wells, down 120 ft., and irrigation ditches, and subsist on elk meat and hogs and their own vegetables, while the cattle they raised went to market.  Houses eventually replaced the cabins, bought from the Sears Roebuck catalog and brought by stage across the Teton Pass from Victor, ID.  Today those houses stand as ‘Mormon Row,' including one that is still privately owned.
Homestead on Mormon Row
Finally, there is my favorite place in the park, Cunningham’s Cabin, which I actually used as the model for the ranch in my book, Dearest Darling.  J. Pierce Cunnigham, from NewYork, arrived in Jackson Hole around 1885, aged about twenty.  A few years later he and his wife claimed land under the Homestead Act, thereby laying the foundation for what would become the Bar Flying U Ranch. While a more substantial home was eventually built, along with numerous outbuildings, it is the original dog-pen cabin that still stands today. To view it in its splendid isolation
is to get a real feel for the seclusion these homesteaders must have felt, especially during the long winter months.

Cunningham's Cabin

I hope if you have the privilege of visiting Grand Teton National Park, you'll keep these historic buildings in mind as part of your itinerary.

To learn more about these places, and my books, please go to or find me at:
                AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE:

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

High Society Goes Home on the Range

by Heather Blanton

It sounds like the plot from a 1930’s slapstick comedy. Wealthy New York socialite abandons money , fame, and furs for the rugged life of a cowgirl.

Only , this story is true.

The daughter of a New York City doctor, Jennie Louise Howard was born in 1875 to opulent wealth and society. Already living well, Jennie was 19 when her mother died. Her inheritance was nice a home and $10,000 a year. In 1890’s money, she was well heeled.

But Jennie didn’t love money near as much as she loved her horses. When she met a young doctor with the same passions, the fire lit and the two married. Dr. William Woodend enjoyed his membership in the high society clubs and parlayed his wife’s money into a seat on the Stock Exchange. Gifted at trading, Woodend made millions. Jennie focused on her horses and shows. She won ribbons and trophies in the US and London. 

The Woodends were living the high life. Then the coin flipped.

The market crashed. Dr. Woodend used up his money, his wife’s inheritance, even the money left to his invalid brother-in-law Watson. Jennie went to work on the stage, landing a small part in a play. But a grueling performance schedule mixed with a horrific case of food poisoning nearly did her in.

Enter Tom Mix. He met Jennie at a wild west show. She asked the cowboy where might be a good place to recover from her ptomaine. With glee, Tom recommended his employer’s place, the 101 Ranch in Oklahoma. Jennie fell in love with the vast ranch, the way of life, and of course, the first rate horses. She would visit the ranch and her simple cabin for several more years over the summers while her husband continued to claw and scratch his way back to the top of the High Society Heap. This allowed him to purchase a cabin for Jennie at the 101 and she began spending even more time there.

When Dr. Woodend decided to jump on the Wild West Show bandwagon and promote the shows, Jennie joined the act from the 101. She performed under the show name Jane Howard. None of New York’s wealthy and elite suspected the pretty little doctor’s wife was actually trick riding, roping, and barreling around the arenas. She stuck with the show for several seasons, but in 1911 her horse stumbled and threw her to the ground. A badly wrenched ankle required a visit to the hospital and the cat launched from the bag. Newspapers screamed headlines like “Ranch Girl Injured Really Mrs. Woodend.”

Jennie performed for a bit longer, but eventually the crowds petered out, and so did her marriage. Divorced in 1920, she and brother Winston moved to Oklahoma and left the big city behind. For a while she lived in the cabin, but eventually bought a modest five-room house for her and her brother. The Millers, the family who owned the 101 Ranch, offered to pay her rent for her. Jennie wouldn’t hear of it. She went to work for the Millers instead, riding fences. Every day. Rain or shine. Hot or cold. Until her death in 1938.

Jennie didn’t die wealthy, but she died happy. All she ever really wanted out of life she had right there on the Oklahoma prairie—a fine horse and room to ride it.

A true cowgirl couldn’t ask for more?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sears and Roebuck

Founded by Richard Warren Sears and Alva Curtis Roebuck in 1886, Sears & Roebuck out of Chicago soon grew into a successful mail order catalog company. It all began in Minnesota a few years before…. 

Richard Sears was a railroad depot agent in North Redwood, Minnesota when he acquired a large shipment of watches from a Chicago jeweler that were unwanted by the local store they’d been shipped to. Sears purchased the lot and started selling them to other depot agents. He soon purchased another lot of watches and continued selling them to railroad personnel, which led him to creating a catalog to sell the watches. Within a short time, he moved to Chicago to continue his mail order catalog business. There he met Alva Roebuck, a watchmaker, and the two went into partnership.

Following the steps of their competitor, Montgomery Ward, Sears and Roebuck soon expanded the products they offered.  In most rural communities, store owners could set the price of merchandise dependent upon who was purchasing. Cash and good credit got cheaper prices. A catalog with set prices was appealing to people living in rural areas across the nation.  Within 10 years, the Sears and Roebuck catalog had grown to over 500 pages and offered a large variety of merchandise besides their original watches. Sewing machines, buggies, bicycles, clothing, dolls, groceries, etc. (even automobiles by 1905), could be purchased via mail order.

As all business have their ups and down, the depression of 1893 affected the catalog business. A large amount of inventory had filled their warehouses, causing the owners to look for alternate options. Eventually, Roebuck turned his half to Sears, who sold it to a new partner, and as the economy picked up, so did the catalog sales, which also led to Sears stores opening across the nation. The company was the largest selling retail store in America until 1989 when it was surpassed by Wal-Mart.

Does anyone else remember receiving the ‘Wish Book’ in the mail? I certainly do. I also think it’s interesting how things cycle around. Ordering (now it’s mainly online) is once again commonplace.

I don’t have an original Sears or Wards catalog, but a friend who does photocopied many of the pages for me to use for research. I use them all the time.

And speaking of ordering online: Harlequin is having a large e-book sale, which includes several of my backlist on sale for $1.99 through October 26th.

I also have a Christmas story being released this week: 

A ghost of Christmas past… 

Heiress Sara Johnson is shocked when the stepbrother she believed was dead returns to Colorado to claim his inheritance! It might be the season of goodwill, but Crofton Parks seems determined to destroy his late father's empire. 

Sparks fly as Crofton and Sara are forced to work together, and soon she begins to uncover the secrets behind his disappearance and need for revenge. But a far more unsettling discovery is the desire he awakens in Sara. This roguish rancher might just claim her heart by Christmas!