Sunday, February 7, 2016

Voices of Frontier Women

 Voices of Frontier Women

Kathleen Ball

Jo Ella Exley complied a collection of incredible writings of frontier Texas through the eyes of Texas Pioneer women. From what she named the Log Cabin: Colonization of 1821--35 to the Texas Sunshine: The Last Frontier, 1865--1905. 

It’s a book of hardships, illness, deprivation and death. These remarkable women persevered and survived. They are an example of the resilience of the human spirit. Their faith and strength of character got them through the immense difficulties. These women built Texas.

One narrative that really struck me was the story of Rachael Parker Plummer. On May 19, 1836 married with a young son, Indians near Fort Parker captured her, which is present day the town of Groesbeck. They soon separated her from her son and she became a slave of the Comanche’s. She gave birth to her husband’s child and it was murdered in front of her.

A Mexican trader eventually bought her. When asked she was told that her husband, mother and father were all still alive. When she mentions her reunion of her family, she talks about her parents and the whole town embracing her. There was no mention of her husband.

She survived and he wasn’t there. Not uncommon, but sad.

I found this book riveting. Each woman’s story is different but they all had a common goal to thrive in the Texas frontier.

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Adeline Johnson sent the dark-haired man sitting across from her on the stagecoach a smile she hoped said sorry as her niece Peg let out a piercing scream yet again.
“Maybe she’s hungry?” the man asked.
“No, she ate at the last stop. She hasn’t slept well, and I think this is the result.”
“What’s her name?”
“Peg and I’m Addy.” She moved the fretful child from one arm to another.
“I’m Shane O’Conner. I’m one of five kids. The oldest to be exact.” He grinned. “Let me try.” He held out his hands, ready to take the child.
Addy hesitated, sighed and nodded. “I’m ready to try anything.” She placed Peg into his arms. Instantly, Peg stopped screaming and smiled at the stranger.
“Hey!” Peg gave him one of her winsome smiles.
“Hey, yourself.”
Peg giggled and rubbed her eyes with her little fists. She gazed at Shane for a bit, and then she slowly her eyes closed and snored little baby snores.
“How on earth?” Addy’s jaw dropped. “She’s always been a fussy baby, and lately it’s gotten worse.”
“Probably the traveling.” Shane leaned back and cuddled Peg against his large chest.
“Going to Asherville or further West?”
“I’m the new sheriff of Asherville. You?”
Gazing at Peg, Addy tried to even her breathing. Her heart pounded so loud she was certain the sheriff could hear it. “Yes. I’m getting married.”
“You’re a widow, then. My condolences.”
Her hands clasped and unclasped. Finally, she folded her hands to keep them still. A widow? She hadn’t thought that far ahead when she grabbed Peg and fled. “Thank you. Yes a widow. I…  I couldn’t make ends meet by myself, so here I am,” she said peering at his face for any sign of suspicion. Seeing none, she leaned back against the wooden bench. “I can take her now.”
“If it’s all the same, I think if we move her, we’ll be pelted with screams again.” His smile was wide showing off his dimples.
She gave him a nod of appreciation and closed her eyes. She couldn’t sleep with Peg in his arms, but she couldn’t make conversation with him either. If they continued to talk he’d see right through her lies. Of all the luck why did she have to ride in the same stagecoach as a sheriff? It was bad enough she hadn’t told her groom she was bringing a child with her. It couldn’t be helped. Normal people would understand. Normal people were not like the Boston elite. Normal people were lucky.
Opening her eyes, she watched Peg. She had the coloring of her father, but the rest of her was all Sondra, her mother. Addy’s  heart hurt thinking about the loss of her sister, and her pride raged at the bargain her parents had made with her brother-in-law. Marrying him was something she would never do. He was a wife beater, and her parents had turned a blind eye to all of Sondra’s bruises.
“She’s sweet. You’re lucky to have such an angel.”
He bought her lie. “Thank you. I do cherish her.”
“Will your intended be there to meet you?”
Her heart sped up again. “That’s what his letter said. He just started building his ranch, and I’m both nervous and excited to be a part of it all.”
“You’ll do fine. We’re slowing down. We must be in town.”
Addy lifted the window shades and nodded. Reaching up she tried to straighten her hat.
“You look fine. He’s one lucky fella. What did you say his name was?”
“Keegan, Keegan Quinn.”
The coach stopped with a jerk and Peg opened her eyes. She eyed Shane for a minute, sighed and went back to sleep.
The door opened and the driver offered his hand to her.
“I’ll carry Peg out,” Shane offered.
“Thanks.” She took the offered hand and stepped out onto the dirt road. She’d made it, and hopefully they would both be safe.


Keegan stopped pacing when he spotted the stagecoach. He’d second guessed his decision to take a mail order bride a hundred times since he’d sent her the proposal letter. Maybe he wasn’t cut out to make a good husband. He had too many secrets to be responsible for another person. What if he had to cut and run?
He stood to one side waiting for the passengers to exit. A lovely blond-haired, blue-eyed woman stepped down first. Her curves were in all the right places. His hopes dimmed a bit as she looked back into the coach. A tall man climbed out with a child in his arms. Then he handed the child to the woman. A married couple.
The stage coach driver took down a few bags and climbed back up ready to go.
“Wait! Isn’t there another passenger? A woman? Her name is Adeline Johnson.”
The driver shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know names, but I think that gal over yonder is supposed to meet her groom here. Ya!” He flicked the reins and was off.
Keegan scanned the wooden walk and noticed the woman stood there without her husband. Perhaps she’d know where his bride was. He admired the way she lovingly gazed at her child. Once again, the pangs of doubt came back. He’d be fine as long as his past never showed up to haunt him.
He walked toward the woman and tipped his hat at her. “Ma’am, I’m looking for a woman named Adeline Johnson. I thought she’d be on the coach with y’all. Did you happen to see her in your travels?
She swallowed hard and nodded. “I’m Addy. You must be, Keegan.” Her smile was wobbly and her eyes reflected fear. He was a sucker for a woman in distress.
“Well now, you have a young one.”
“Yes,” she replied, her voice barely a whisper.
“Let’s get you out of the sun. We can have something to eat over at Eats. Best place in town for a meal.” He smiled and nodded to her.
Tears filled her eyes. “I didn’t know what you’d do when we both showed up.”
“You’re here now. It’ll be fine. Here let me take her.” He eased the baby out of Addy’s arms and held her close. “What’s her name?”
A terrible shriek filled the air as Peg woke up. Startled he almost dropped her. She looked wildly around until she saw the man from the stagecoach. She pointed and yelled, “Daddy!”
The world slowed as Keegan turned toward the man, only to have Peg shriek yet again. Something wasn’t right and he wasn’t about to be fleeced of all his hard earned money. “Hey, Mister, come get your child.” He put Peg back into Addy’s arms and walked away. He hurried best he could to his horse, mounted and headed out of town. He didn’t look back.
The longer he rode, the madder he got. He pulled lightly on the reins and slowed his horse, Strike to a stop. It would be one thing if only the woman was involved in cheating him, but the man with her needed to take a few lumps for his part. Keegan had worked too long and too hard to allow anyone to cheat him. Damn! What was he supposed to do now?
“The hell with it!” he yelled into the hot, dry Texas wind. He didn’t need complications. Right now he had cattle to take care of and it wasn’t easy starting a ranch alone. He’d  been on his own too long.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Hollywood and Hugh Glass

I posted the story of Hugh Glass about a year ago, but I thought I'd repost it again, because there has been so much hype over the movie, The Revenant that was just released this month, which is based on the famous mountain man. Since mountain men are what I primarily write about, I was looking forward to the movie with great anticipation. It has won numerous awards already, and is up for many Academy Awards. 
From a Hollywood standpoint, the movie was all it promised to be - the story of a man struggling for survival while bent on revenge, and some really wonderful cinematography. Sadly, it fell short on historical accuracy (as is most often the case with Hollywood movies) as well as with survival accuracy. 
It is a rather gory movie - it is hyped as being "realistic", and in that regard, it is very realistic. However, here is where I had some problems with the movie: Hugh Glass did not set out on a journey of revenge for the death of his son (whether he had an Indian wife and son is up for debate). The more I read about him, the more it came to light that he wasn't even seeking revenge against the men who left him for dead (as I have written in this post originally - I decided to leave it and didn't change it). All he wanted was his rifle back from Fitzpatrick, who took it from him when he left him to die. 
For dramatic effect, Hollywood decided to kill off several historical figures long before their time in this movie. 
The survival scenes weren't all that accurate, either. The movie took place mostly in the winter, and I can speak from experience that it's not as easy to start a fire when it's cold and wet out as they make it seem in this movie. 
Hugh Glass in the movie survived the bear attack just like the real Hugh Glass, but for as many times as he found himself in a frigid river, he should have died of hypothermia several times over. I guess the movie makers were trying to stay true to the theme of "revenant." The final straw for me was when he gutted a horse, and slipped inside the animal's cavity in order to stay warm for the night. That scene came right out of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and was very out of place. I didn't see the need for him to strip out of his clothes and seek shelter inside a dead animal (a survival strategy, for sure, but very much out of place in this particular scene - the horse had just gone over a cliff with him on it. How he survived that fall is anyone's guess.) 
I'm glad I went to see the movie, but I left feeling rather disappointed. I was hoping that it wouldn't be based quite so loosely on what really happened. Here's a little of the true story of Hugh Glass:

The story of Hugh Glass has to be one of the most amazing stories of survival in the history of the west. The man practically became a legend in his own time.
    He’d led a life as a pirate before he decided to become a fur trapper in the early 1820’s at the age of 40. He signed on with William Ashley and Andrew Henry, who led an expeditions up the Missouri River in 1823. When they reached the Grand River near today’s Mobridge, South Dakota, they left their boats to head toward the Yellowstone on land. 
During this journey, in which many of Ashley’s men were killed by Arikara Indians, Hugh Glass surprised a grizzly sow and her two cubs. He was away from the rest of his party at the time, and the grizzly attacked him before he was able to shoot his rifle. He fought the bear with his bare hands (no pun intended) and a knife, and nearly killed it, but he was badly mauled during the fight. 
His companions heard his screams and came running. They found a bloody and badly maimed Glass. He was barely alive, with the grizzly lying on top of him. They killed the bear and pulled Hugh’s body from underneath her. 
Everyone knew that there was no hope for their friend. They bandaged him as best as they could, and waited for him to die. The danger of Indians discovering them was a constant fear, and Hugh’s moans and cries of pain would certainly give them away. William Henry decided their group needed to move on. It wasn’t worth risking their lives for one dying man. He asked for a couple of volunteers to stay behind and bury Glass properly once he died.
 John Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger agreed and immediately began digging the grave. They waited. Three days later, Glass was still alive. Fearful of Indians, Fitzgerald persuaded Bridger that they should leave and follow their comrades to the Yellowstone. 
Fitzgerald picked up Glass's rifle, knife and other equipment and dumped him into the open grave. They threw a bearskin over him and shoveled in a thin layer of dirt and leaves, leaving Glass for dead. 
    But Glass did not die. It’s not known how much time passed, but he regained consciousness. He was alone and without weapons in hostile Indian territory. He had a broken leg and his wounds were festering. His scalp was almost torn away and the flesh on his back had been ripped away so that his rib bones were exposed. The nearest help was 200 miles away at Ft. Kiowa. His only protection was the bearskin hide.
    Glass set his own broken leg and began crawling toward the Cheyenne River about 100 miles away. Feverish and fighting infection, he was often unconscious. It is said that he used maggots to eat away his infected flesh. Then, according to legend (or tall tale at this point, take your pick) he woke up to find a grizzly licking his maggot-infested wounds which could very well have saved him from further infection. 
Glass survived mostly on wild berries and roots. On one occasion he was able to drive two wolves from a downed bison calf and eat the raw meat.
    It took Glass two months to crawl to the Cheyenne River, where he built a raft which carried him downstream to Ft. Kiowa on the Missouri.
    After he was nursed back to health over many months, Glass set out to find the two men who had left him for dead. He found Bridger at a fur trading post on the Yellowstone River but didn't kill him because Bridger was only 19 years old, and just following Fitzgerald’s orders. Glass later found Fitzgerald but changed his mind about killing him because Fitzgerald had joined the Army. 
    Glass eventually returned to the Upper Missouri where he died in 1833 in a battle with hostile Arikaras Indians.
    Besides The Revenant, the story of Hugh Glass has been made into a movie before in  "A Man in the Wilderness" in 1971 staring Richard Harris and John Huston.  A novel, "Lord Grizzly" also recounts the story. 

Peggy L Henderson
Western Historical and Time Travel Romance
“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”

Award-Winning Author of:
Yellowstone Romance Series
Teton Romance Trilogy
Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series
Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance Series

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

New Release--Be Mine, Valentine

I’m happy to announce the release of my first short Valentine’s Day story, Be Mine, Valentine.

Tom Porter moved to Revolving Point, Texas to escape his past. Taking the job as the hotel and eatery’s manager was supposed to ease the pain of his wife’s death, not heap more sorrow onto his injured soul. The eatery’s waitress is vibrant and pretty… and too young for the likes of him. Better he love Jessie in secret than make her a widow before her time. Trouble is, holding her in his arms and tasting her sweet kisses is what he wants most.
Tracking a missing loved one brought Jessie Kane to Revolving Point. Tom Porter was her reason for staying put in the notorious border town along the Rio Grande. Handsome and kind… Tom may have thwarted her love on Christmas Eve, but he won’t do so again on Valentine’s Day. One way or another, she’ll wrangle a profession of love from him, and a lifetime of happiness.

Quietly moving across the floor, he nudged the door open to find Jessie wearing her night clothes and sitting in a chair before the hearth, her blonde hair hanging loose down her back. She cradled a cup in her lap, caressed the rim while staring at the low-burning fire. He filled a cup and joined her.
“Can’t sleep,” he asked.
“Oh,” she startled, and arched her neck toward him. “I didn’t hear you.”
“I didn’t mean to frighten you.” He nodded toward the hearth. “May I join you?”
Her guarded gaze traveled the length of him. “Al-all right.” She shifted her attention back to the crackling wood.
He pulled a chair beside her and sat, took a long drink of the hot brew. “Are you up because you’re worried about the squatter?”
“No. The sheriff and the deputies will find him.” She kept her gaze on the flame. “They won’t allow harm to come to their wives and children.”
“Reckon you’re right about that.” He took another long swallow to settle the unease snaking through his gut. He had plenty to say to her, and hoped the words came out right.
“Why are you awake?” she asked.
“I’ve got a lot on my mind.”
“Most people do.” She leaned forward, pulled a log from a basket beside the hearth and added it to the fire. Sat back in her chair.
“Jessie,” he started, only to pause and take a deep breath. He let it out slow, prayed his gumption wouldn’t desert him. “I apologize for what I said to you earlier. You’re more than a waitress to me. You’re someone I care about very much.”
She sniffled and met his gaze. Except for the moisture clinging to her eyes, her expression was void of feeling. “So you’ve often said.” She cocked her head. “Are you willing to do something about that?”
He swallowed hard. “If you’re referring to marriage, than I’m sorry, but the answer is no. I can’t marry you.” He touched her arm. “But I can be your friend.” And love you with everything I am. “Someone you can depend upon for anything.”
“I have friends, Tom,” she said, stonily. “I want more than that.”

Be Mine, Valentine is available for purchase at Amazon.

Be Mine, Valentine is part of the Revolving Point, Texas Series. Other books in the series include: 

Zanna’s Outlaw
Lydia’s Gunslinger
Debra’s Bandit

and can be purchased at