Wednesday, October 17, 2018

SPOOKS OF THE WEST


October is a super time to travel in the west.  The Rockies haven’t filled with snow as yet, the southwest has lost its biting heat, and the crowds are gone.  But if, on top of that, you’d like to make western October travel Halloween-related, here are a few ghostly venues for you to visit.
Lobby of The Occidental
1.                    The Occidental Hotel, Buffalo, WY.  I’ve mentioned this place before (see https://cowboykisses.blogspot.com/2016/09/why-visit-buffalo-wy.html ) famous for having played host to several western luminaries:  Buffalo Bill, General Phil Sheridan, Butch Cassidy, Owen Wister and so on. But the Occidental is apparently considered one of the most haunted places in WY.  A former bordello, its main spirit visitor is said to be the daughter of one of the soiled doves.  She died on an upper floor and now moves furniture about.  Be warned!
Sheridan Inn (1)
2.                    Up the road a piece is The Sheridan Inn in, yes, Sheridan, WY.  The ashes of former employee Miss Kate Arnold have been laid to rest in room 306.  Miss Kate worked at the inn from 1901 to 1965 (yes!) doing about every job imaginable from gardening to babysitting, and from housekeeping to greeting guests.  She continues to look after the inn though you may not be too happy with flickering lights, cold spots and eery footsteps.
3.                    The St. James Hotel, originally called Lambert’s Inn, in Cimarron, NM, has witnessed no less than 26 murders. Bullet holes in the main dining room bear witness to visits by Jesse James, Buffalo Bill, Black jack Ketchum, the Earp brothers, Doc Holliday, and, of course, Billy the Kid among others. Psychics have apparently found the spirits of at least three restless souls and Room 18 is kept locked because of one poor man who bled to death.  You have been cautioned!
4.                    Texas certainly has its share of the supernatural.  Ranch Road 32 is known as The Devil’s Backbone.  It runs between Wimberly and Blanco and by day offers scenic views of Texas Hill Country.  Nighttime is another matter.  The foreman of a local ranch spotted twenty Confederate soldiers riding swiftly enough to shake his cabin.  The ghost of a Native American named Drago herds cattle here as well, and a miner’s wife and child wander about.  But drive carefully—it has also been the scene of several car accidents on its twisty roads, possibly leaving more ghosts behind.
Looking at White Rock Lake, Dallas (2)
5.                    The Lady of White Rock Lake near Dallas is possibly an urban myth, possibly a ghost to be reckoned with.  She wears a 1930s white evening dress, is soaked to the skin, and flags down cars asking for a lift home. She’ll even give you her address.  But by the time you get there, of course, she will have disappeared from your car leaving only a puddle.
6.                    And while we’re in Texas, there’re the Marfa Lights.  Near Rte. 67 on Mitchell Flats, these have been reported since the 1800s and no one knows exactly what they are.  Some say ghosts, some UFOs.  The orbs of light bounce around in an area that is basically uninhabited and of rough terrain.  Sometimes they move swiftly, sometimes are red, blue or white.  The official Marfa Lights viewing area is 9 miles east of town on Highway 90. Have fun!

Obviously, with the west known for its ghost towns, there is plenty more where these came from. Near Death Valley National Park is Rhyolite, a full sized town with two electric plants, near the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. Terlingua near Big Bend NP in TX is another semi-deserted mining town, complete with crumbling mine-owner's mansion.  St. Thomas, NV, near Lake Mead, was originally settled by Mormons who believed they were in Utah. When the Hoover Dam was built, the last occupant floated away but with the low water levels some of the structures are now visible and the NP service maintains a trail around it.  
 And if staying at home for Halloween is more your style, why not curl up with a couple of good ghost stories.  Patti Sherry-Crews and I offer you stories From the Files of Nat Tremayne: Two Tales of Hauntings in the Old West available at https://www.amazon.com/Files-Nat-Tremayne-Tales-Hauntings-ebook/dp/B0767HWT6S/

The Wild West gets even wilder when Nat Tremayne sends out his agents from Psychic Specters Investigations offices in St. Louis and Denver. Across country and across time, these agents will stop at nothing to unravel the mysteries that beset poor unsuspecting ranchers and cowboys who have no idea what they’re seeing . . .or not, as the case may be.
In The Ghost and The Bridegroom, P.S.I. Agent Healy Harrison is sent to Tucson to rid a rancher of the ghost in the bedroom interfering in his marriage to a mail-order bride. Healy doesn’t think she’s destined for romance—until she meets Pinkerton detective Aaron Turrell. But when their two cases dovetail, will their newfound love survive the ultimate showdown between mortal and immortal.

In Long A Ghost and Far Away, agent Dudley Worksop aims to unravel the mystery of Colby Gates’ dead wife. Lizzie not only seems to have reappeared as a ghost, but has time traveled from 2016 to the 1800s. Can revenge be had for her murder? And can the couple be reunited across country and across time?

Photo (1):  Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, WYO,17-SHER,1-2, Public Domain 
(2) Public Domain from Free Photos


Friday, October 12, 2018

Wild Women Rodeo Riders of the West


No different than today, most 19th-century city folk only saw the Wild West when a vaudeville show or a rodeo visited their community. Many intrepid souls dedicated their lives to performing the thrilling but dangerous acts. They toured the country and sometimes even the world, entertaining commoners and royalty.

Here are 3 real-life cowgirls who became queens of the rodeo...

Lucille Mulhall, aka the First Cowgirl

( born 1885 in St. Louis, Missouri )


Lucille was called the First Cowgirl by reporters and by Teddy Roosevelt. However, "cowgirl" was a term used years previously in 1891 promotional materials created by Buffalo Bill Cody and his partner Nate Salsbury for their Wild West show (starring Annie Oakley and others).

Lucille was also called Rodeo Queen, Queen of the Western Prairie, and Queen of the Saddle. At age 14, she became one of the first women to compete with men in contests that included trick or fancy riding, saddle bronc riding, and steer riding and roping. She starred in Mulhall's Wild West, the Miller Brothers' 101 Ranch Wild West show, and in vaudeville.

In 1913, Lucille formed her own troupe and in 1916, she became the first woman to produce her own rodeo, Lucille Mulhall's Roundup.

Tad Lucas, aka Rodeo's First Lady

( born 1902 in Cody, Nebraska )


Born Barbara Barnes and the youngest of 24 children, Tad's family gave her the nickname "Tadpole" because of the way she moved. She won her first steer-riding contest at the age of 14. During World War I, she rode bulls along Cody’s main street to raise money for the Red Cross.

In 1922 (at the age of 20), Tad was a full-time performer, riding relays, pony express races, saddle broncs and competing in trick riding contests. That same year, she met her husband, bronc rider Buck Lucas, at a rodeo in Fort Worth. In 1933, she won champion all-around cowgirl at the Chicago World’s Fair. She also crushed her arm while trick riding and was told she’d never ride again. After three years in a cast, she was back performing.

Tad’s daughter, Mitzi Lucas Riley, become a trick rider and performed with Tad for 20 years.

Vera McGinnis, aka Hollywood Stuntwoman

( born 1892 in Missouri )

 
Vera’s family encouraged her to ride but they also moved a lot and lived in towns. At age 17, she went to business school then worked as a stenographer and also with the Salt Lake City Sight Seeing Company—where she could interact with cowboys and cowgirls from the rodeos.

In Salt Lake City, she participated in her first rodeo relay race. She placed third overall and, even though she fell and broke some teeth, she discovered her passion and signed a contract as a relay race rider.

In 1922, she traveled with the Jack Burroughs Wild West Show and broke two ribs in a bronco-busting contest in Honolulu. The following year she tied for second place in trick riding at Ringling's Madison Square Garden Rodeo in New York City. In the summer of 1924, she joined Tex Austin's International Rodeo and performed in London, Dublin, Paris, and Brussels.

Vera was one of the first female riders to appear in trousers rather than a split skirt. She was also a Hollywood stuntwoman and played the double for Estelle Taylor in Cimarron.

Eldora Calhoun, aka Eldorado Jane

( born... in my mind )

Between Home & Heartbreak book cover
Who is Eldorado Jane? 

She's the heroine of my novel, Between Home & Heartbreak (set in 1879 Texas). She's a trick rider at the top of her game. She's the queen of a Wild West show. But more importantly... is she a long-lost friend or scheming superstar?



Here's the book blurb...

Plain Jane Dority vanished while riding in a storm beside her childhood best friend. Eighteen years later, Wild West trick-riding superstar Eldorado Jane returns to claim her birthright: the Dority homestead now owned by the steadfast Texan who never forgot Jane or forgave himself for her disappearance. 



Lewis Adams would give anything to see his friend come home, but he’s certain Eldorado Jane isn’t his Jane. So why does this mesmerizing woman—with the talent and fame to have anything she desires—want the remote patch of land that he loves? There’s only one way to find out: accept a wager with a deceiver who holds the power to bring back his friend or break his heart. The outcome rests in her hands. Or does it?

And here's an excerpt (where Samson is Eldora's horse & Lila is one of my hero, Lewis' horses)…

Led by the blasted Appaloosa Cayuse, Lewis’ horses spilled through the hole Samson had busted in the corral. The volatile stallion crowded him and Lila into a corner, shielding and hemming them in at the same time. Whatever had spooked the horse, he’d gone from needing protection to offering it in a heartbeat.


Either way, he was ensuring Lewis lost everything.


A shrill whistle whipped Samson around and sent him thundering after the last horse departing the corral. Lewis leapt onto Lila bareback and gave chase.


Samson plowed a path straight through the river of heaving horse flesh. Lewis slipped Lila into his wake. The brute had become Lewis’ best chance to avert disaster. If he could catch the lead horse, the Appaloosa, and turn him, his followers might embrace their herd mentality and turn as well.


Lewis scanned the distance remaining between the stampede and the trail.


Eldora Calhoun stood dead ahead. Disbelief then fear sent Lewis’ heart racing as fast as the herd. Horses usually tried to avoid running over people or anything that made for unstable footing—if they weren’t spooked witless.


Eldora couldn’t stop them. She was going to get herself killed. Unless Lewis reached her before the horses did.


Samson pulled ahead to run even with the Appaloosa. Lewis urged Lila to move up beside the pair but the herd jostled Lila sideways, away from Samson, hemming them in again, leaving him unable to reach Eldora.


Finally, she moved.


Pivoting sideways, she braced one foot behind her and raised her hands as if preparing to grasp something in front of her…where nothing existed but air. Never once had her gaze left Samson.


Understanding made his heart leap with hope. She intended to mount Samson on the run.

Want to read more about Eldora and Lewis? CLICK HERE to read the opening scene of their adventure.

~ * ~ 

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Writing the Ruby's Ranch Series Brings me Home



Home can be many things...

I had a whole different post ready to go for today's blog...and then I came home for a visit. I'm not sure what it is about coming back to the town you were born and raised in, but it's brought a strange sense of happiness and a profound sadness all at the same time. Even though I've only lived in Georgia six months, Bakersfield, is still the place I know by heart. I can drive these streets without GPS, and I know all the best restaurants, even in the scary parts of town. 

It's been a year since my father passed away after a short illness. My mother and brother passed only a few years before him, and since my move, I've lost a cherished aunt and uncle. Thus the sense of sadness at returning to the place I lost them. I see where they lived and worked and where we picnicked every Easter. It's hard to visit, but we do it to remember.  

Grief is an ever evolving haze that can swallow a person whole, if they're not aware enough to recognize the signs. I've been confused and absent many times over this past year. I've preferred to hide and write about a different world, than to deal with the fact that everyone in my immediate family, aside from my amazing sister, is gone from this world. It's these times when I lay softly against the memories of a happy, chaotic childhood. It's in these places I came upon Ruby's Ranch.

I was born on a verrrrry small ranch in Kern County that was named Ruby's Ranch. There were a few horses, dogs, chickens, coyotes in the hills behind the house and a dozen feral cats that kept the critters from our door. Though my characters in my Ruby's Ranch Series endure different troubles than my own family, I feel a hug on my soul every time I write the next book because of the similarities. There's a kinship with these characters, an understanding of their struggles, and of their need to find calmness and love.

The first book in the series, Return to Ruby's Ranch, was meant as a stand alone. Don't make the mistake in thinking this is a sweet love story. I wrote this story to solve some mysteries, and there are some hard truths as well. The main character, Ruby Lattrell is the granddaughter of the original matriarch. Ruby lived on the ranch with her family for the first 15 years of her life. She was especially close to her father, John, who taught her the beauty of 'home' and nature and listening to the horses. Her mother, Katherine, was another story. Though loving with John and her children, she was raised by a very strict mother and had always craved for a life away from the ranch. When Katherine disappeared, Ruby was dragged from the ranch by her broken father, never to see her beloved ranch again, until she inherits the property from her crazy Granny Rube.

Ruby's plight to understand what happened to her mother and grandmother, along with a beautiful love story that blossoms between she and the boy next door (who loved her since they were children), drives the story through many twisted paths. I love the characters, flaws and all, I love the setting, similar to one I lived in and I love the 'ghostly' presence that protects them. (Also from my own experience as a child.)

Book 2 of the Ruby's Ranch series was requested by my editor. She said, "your readers are gonna want to know Katherine's story AND Granny Rube's story and maybe even one more after that to wrap." Writing a prequel is not for the faint of heart. Especially when menopause keeps the brain in a constant state of fog. The character bible was ESSENTIAL, and the story lines, as fun and twisted as I made them in the first book, were like unraveling a bundle of barbed wire. But I'm glad she pushed me to write Escape from Ruby's Ranch because Katherine's story is a beautiful, tragic tale that leaves the reader satisfied and hopeful.

Katherine is a strong, stubborn character in her own right. She was bound and determined to 'escape' the minute she turned eighteen, but alas a boy got involved, as they so often do. John Lattrell, horse-whispering cowboy, is a little older, a lot more experienced, and just what the doctor ordered to keep Katherine at the ranch. They had a beautiful life until a cluster of events led to her disappearance. I'm a 'pantser' writer, as you may have deciphered from this rambling blog, so believe me when I say, I was SHOCKED by what happened to Katherine. She has the heart of a warrior.

I turned in Book 3 - Legacy of Ruby's Ranch, to my editor two days before I made this trip back to my hometown. This tells the story of Rube Adams, the original matriarch of Ruby's Ranch. Another prequel, this time the trick was getting my audience to love a stern, crazy woman. Some trick, ha? Turns out, I get her more than I've gotten either of the first two. She has her reasons for being so protective of her only daughter. She has her reasons for losing it in the end, but man did she live a life. An enviable, bizarre life. The love story between with Mac Adams will make you swoon. He definitely sticks by her, no matter what. Book 3 could be my most favorite so far. It'll be out, hopefully, early 2019! And yes, the reader will be shocked again, if I've done my job.

I started telling a story about going home and how sometimes that can make a person feel sad. Writing this series has really brought my childhood back to life. The way I felt bareback riding in the back pastures. How the smell of my horse calmed me down. The quiet moments reading to the animals. The way a real man treats his woman. Sometimes, and I know I'm guilty of this, we're so busy we forget to listen to the birds chirping and the way the wind sounds through a tree thick with pecans. The way an apricot tasted when you climbed the tree to pick the best one. And the coolness of the grass beneath your feet when you pull off those hot boots. Sometimes, we forget to look deep into our partners eyes, and thank them for supporting our journey and for loving us for who we are, damaged writer or whatever else you may be.

I guess coming home has helped me more than I know. Even though I still feel the sadness of my loved ones passing more profoundly when I'm here, kneeling next to my father's grave, I can feel his arms around me, telling me everything will be okay and that he's proud of the woman I've become. He'll see me again.

Thanks for letting me chatter. Hope you'll check out the series and follow me. My journey has just begun.

Happy Halloween everyone!!!

Email me at rhondafrankhouserbooks@gmail.com 

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Texas Ranger

The Texas Rangers



 Hello everyone! If you’re ever in Waco, Texas be sure to make time to visit the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum. Plan to spend the afternoon…or maybe the day. The Rangers have a storied history and what better place is there to learn about them than in their own Museum and Hall of Fame? If you can’t make the trip, I’ll give you a small taste of the information you can find on their website to wet your appetite:  

  "They were men who could not be stampeded."
 


          Frontier Battalion Co. "B" about 1880, ©2009, TRHFM

That's the way the late Col. Homer Garrison, Jr., long-time director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, once described the men who have worn the silver or gold star of the Texas Rangers, the oldest state law enforcement agency in North America. The Rangers have a heritage that began with the earliest settlements in Texas. They have been compared to other world-famous law enforcement agencies, the FBI, Scotland Yard, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 


Scores of books, from well-researched works of nonfiction to Wild West pulp novels to best-selling works of fiction, have been written about the Rangers. And numerous movies, radio shows and television shows have been inspired by the Rangers over the years.


The Rangers are part of the history of the Old West, and part of its mythology. Over the years, a distinct Ranger tradition has evolved. As former Ranger Capt. Bob Crowder once put it, "A Ranger is an officer who is able to handle any given situation without definite instructions from his commanding officer, or higher authority. This ability must be proven before a man becomes a Ranger."


Early Rangers were required to provide their own horses and equipment. They fought battles in which they were often outnumbered by as much as 50-to-1, so it was common for each man to carry multiple pistols, rifles and knives.


Like Texas, the early Texas Ranger had multicultural roots. Company rolls show that Anglos, Hispanics and American Indians served in all ranks from private to captain. These men freely borrowed from each others' experience and equipment. While most had been born in the American South, many hailed from Ireland, Germany, Scotland and England and spoke with their native accents. Early Rangers shot Spanish pistols, Tennessee and Kentucky rifles, carried Bowie knifes made in Sheffield England and rode swift Mexican ponies. One writer said that a Texas Ranger could "ride like a Mexican, trail like an Indian, shoot like a Tennesseean, and fight like the devil."
 





The force, organized by the governor, was created "for the purpose of protecting the frontier against marauding or thieving parties, and for the suppression of lawlessness and crime throughout the state." Ranger captains picked their own men, who had to furnish their own horses and could dress as they choose. They did not even have a standard badge.

Today, you’re more apt to see Texas Rangers dressed in a more modern look:














A Texan to the core, I learned very early in life to respect and admire the Rangers and to be proud of their history. They are very special people. Well worth taking the time to learn about.

Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum
100 Texas Ranger Trail
Waco, TX 76706
(254) 750-8631
Open 7 Days a Week
info@texasranger.org


   
Continued Happy Reading!

Ginger Chambers


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 https://www.amazon.com/West-Texas-Match-Book-Texans-ebook/dp/B01N28EI8M