Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Florida Cracker Culture:

Cracker in Florida
Although the cowboy is an icon of the American West many people don’t realize that the first American cowboys started out in Florida.  In fact, the largest privately-owned cattle ranch in the United States today is located in the heart of this semi-tropic state.
Before the States were even independent the Spanish brought cattle and horses to Florida where they settled. When the Spanish left this sunny state they turned these animals loose to fend for themselves. Not only did they survive they thrived.
As American’s settled the lush green state they collected these free-range animals and Cracker Cowboy Culture was born. 
The cowboys, known as Crackers would drive the brush cattle out of the thick palmetto forests using whips that cracked thus earning them the name “Crackers”. These hearty cow hunters worked long days in the sweltering heat accompanied by their dogs who helped to track down the crafty cows hidden in the undergrowth.

In my latest story, Meg: Book Three of the Cattleman’s Daughters, the hero Clayton Allen explains this to his new boss when he takes up residence on the Broken J ranch where he arrives with his Cracker horse Duke.  Here’s how he explained the cow hunters of Florida: 
           Clayton walked the horse to one of the stalls standing open n
ear the front of the barn slipped the ornate black bridle over the animal’s head and replaced it with a simple rope halter, then he turned and began unbuckling the saddle.
          “He’s a good looking horse, I’ll have to say. A stud I see. What breed is he? He’s got the look of a mustang but is bigger and more rounded.” (Joshua James)
          “He’s a Cracker horse sir.” The young man replied, his voice resonating with pride. “Bred and raised right there back home. He’s a pretty easy soul to work with but he does like the ladies.” He added with a wink.
“Florida Cracker horses descended from the horses the Spanish left behind when they gave up the place. We cow hunters just sorta’ picked ‘em up over time and through some careful breeding some families ended up with really fine stock like Duke here.”
          “Why, where I’m from the Parton’s and the Bronson’s are both well known for their Florida horses.” For a moment the punchers face clouded, but then it passed and he smiled again, swinging the heavy saddle up onto the railing beside the stall. “I sure was glad to be able to keep ol’ Duke when I left.”
          “Son, why do you call them cow hunters down in Florida instead of cowpokes like we use out west here?” Joshua was curious about the strange terminology and wasn't afraid to ask.
          “Most folk actually call us Crackers sir, just like our horses. The name comes from the cracking sound of our whips we use instead of lariats."
          To illustrate he pulled the coil from his belt and gave it a soft crack. The black horse perked its ears and nickered.
"Florida is so full of scrub and thick undergrowth that it’s harder than blue blazes to get a rope on a cow but you can drive ‘em easy enough using this bit of equipment.” He tapped the whip as he recoiled the long strand and fastened it on his saddle.
About Meg, Book Three in The Cattleman’s Daughers:
 Things aren’t always as they appear.

Clayton Allen is a man with a secret, one he clings to making it possible to control his rage. After being cheated out of his ancestral Florida home, he strikes out on his own hoping to find a place to start over and thinks the Broken J might just give him a chance. But how long can he hold his mask of teasing dandy in place before everyone knows him for who he truly is?
Muiread (Meg) James, romantic and dreamy, longs for the excitement of the big city. Her head is so full of thoughts of tall, dark and handsome heroes, that when confronted with the real thing her pride threatens to destroy them both. Her fiery temper and Penny Dreadful dreams of chivalry will toss her straight into a situation that might not only be her undoing but may demolish the trust of the Broken J.
Will two people determined to best the other finally hear the call of a wandering heart and be joined together or be shattered by the impact of their wills?

You can purchase Meg on Amazon by clicking HERE.
About the Author:

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Wild Woman Philanthropist & Angel of the Mining Camps

Historic Angel of the Mining Camps & philanthropist

By Jacqui Nelson

In mining camps—where gold fever and greed ran rampant—an angel appeared. Meet the wild woman philanthropist who used her business sense, her strong work ethic, and her unstoppable determination to earn money for charitable causes and save lives.

Ellen “Nellie” Cashman
~ Aka the Angel of the Mining Camps ~

( born 1845 in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland ) 

 Nellie Cashman, San Francisco - 1874
 Nellie Cashman
San Francisco - 1874
Nellie was a businesswoman, boardinghouse owner, restaurateur, nurse, gold prospector, and philanthropist who also became known nationally as a frontierswoman.

In 1850, Nellie’s mother brought her and her sister to the United States to escape the poverty of Ireland’s Great Famine. As an adolescent, Nellie worked as a bellhop in a Boston hotel.

In 1865, her family moved to San Francisco.

In 1874, she struck out on her own and set up a boardinghouse for miners at Telegraph Creek, British Columbia, Canada. She asked for donations for the Sisters of St. Ann’s St. Joseph’s Hospital in return for the services at her boardinghouse.

Sisters of St. Ann, British Columbia, Canada
While delivering a $500 donation to the Sisters of St. Ann (in Victoria, British Columbia), she heard that miners had been stranded by a snowstorm and were starving in the Cassiar Mountains. She led a rescue party that hauled 1,500 pounds of food and supplies. It took 77 days to find the miners but her efforts saved 75 souls.

Cassiar Gold Rush, British Columbia 
In 1880, she moved to Tombstone, Arizona, where she raised money to build the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, did charitable work, and became a nurse. In 1883 when her sister died, she assumed the role of raising her five nieces and nephews.

In the late 1880s, she set up several restaurants and boardinghouses in Arizona. Legend says that a client once complained about Nellie's cooking. Fellow diner Doc Holliday drew his pistol and told the customer to repeat what he'd said. The man replied, "Best I ever ate."

Nellie Cashman
From 1898 to 1905, Nellie took up prospecting in the Yukon’s Klondike Gold Rush. She also opened a store in Dawson Creek. She used her earnings to help fund a new hospital in Fairbanks.

In 1925 when Nellie developed pneumonia, friends took her to the Sisters of St. Ann and the hospital that she’d raised donations to help build half a century earlier. When she died, she was buried in Victoria's Ross Bay Cemetery.

St. Joseph's Hospital, Victoria - past

St. Joseph's Hospital, Victoria - present (June 2019)

Nellie Cashman - 1924, Arizona Historical Society

~ * ~ 

I live only a 5-minute walk from St. Joseph's hospital (which is now an apartment for seniors). On the other side of the street is the Sisters of St. Ann's Academy and Orchard (which still has its apple trees but is also a lovely public park). I walk along this footpath worn into the field every time I go to visit my sister and nephew.

St. Ann's Academy and Orchard, Victoria - June 2019

Only a few weeks ago I sat on the steps of Victoria's Parliament Building alongside Danni Roan (my fellow Cowboy Kisses blogger) and listened to Nellie Cashman and Queen Victoria reenactors talk about their part in British Columbia's history.

Nellie Cashman & Queen Victoria reenactors - June 2019

It often catches me by surprise that I live so close to all this adventurous history. As my mom used to say, it's in our backyard. All I have to do is pause for a moment and look for it. I think I'm going to pause and look more often :)

Do you have an interesting historical tale from your "backyard"? I'd love to hear about it. Leave a comment below. 

~ * ~

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Guest Author Linda Broday

Hello All! I'm a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 24 full length western romance novels and short stories. Watching TV westerns during my youth fed my love of cowboys and the old West and they still do. I reside in the Texas Panhandle on land the Comanche and early cowboys once roamed, and on a still day I can often hear their voices whispering in the breeze. I love research and looking for little known tidbits to add realism to my stories and quite often make a nuisance of myself at museums and libraries. My newest release is Saving the Mail Order Bride.

Back Cover Blurb:
He may be a wanted man, but all outlaw Jack Bowdre ever desired was a second chance. Now he’s on his way to jail, completely unaware that his unexpected—and unexpectedly beautiful—traveling companion is none other than Nora Kane…his mail order bride.

All Nora sees is a scoundrel. But when their stagecoach crashes and the truth comes spilling out, they’re suddenly left to fend for themselves—and each other. Handcuffed together by a six-inch chain and a posse behind, Nora has to rely on Jack to save her. The longer they spend racing over rugged terrain, the stronger their feelings grow. Hounded by desperate men bent on doing them harm, Nora and Jack will do whatever it takes to find their happily ever after...but first, they’ll have to shake the devil from their trail.

Excerpt – Saving the Mail Order Bride

The barrel-chested marshal smiled at Lenora. “Sorry that you have to endure this a bit longer, ma’am. He’s little more than a savage animal.” He said that like the outlaw had a case of rabies or something. Dollard continued in a tone full of righteous contempt. “Why, he’s so mean the rattlesnakes won’t even come near him. I heard his own kin disowned him.”

Lenora’s gaze followed the outlaw’s long legs and lean form from which enormous power radiated, felt his deep irritation and anger to be cuffed to the marshal. She’d read about men like this one who lived outside the law in dime novels that were all the rage back East. But reading about one and coming face to face with one in the flesh were two totally different things.

Awareness sizzled between them and when he turned his gaze to her, a rush of heat flooded her cheeks.

His chiseled features appeared hewn from the hardest stone that the good Lord probably reserved for those like him who lived outside the law. The marshal appeared barely able to contain him. In fact, she got the impression the prisoner merely bided his time until an opportunity for escape came.

He glanced toward the window, allowing her to study him better. The outlaw had uncommon good looks with a hard, angled jaw that sported brown stubble. The rise high on his nose indicated it had been broken few times. Ha! She wasn’t surprised at that. But most striking were his gray eyes—gunmetal gray. At times they stormed, and other times, like when the marshal shot warnings and threats, they became icy and hard. But amusement colored his gaze when he turned his attention to her.

Lenora thought about leaning across the space and slapping his brazen face. Except she’d never struck anyone even though she’d been sorely tempted a few times.

The way he glanced at the door then back to the marshal told her he was planning an escape.

Lenora stilled and held her breath, her pulse racing. Would he use her somehow in his escape plan? Maybe take her hostage? Oh dear. She glanced at the marshal, wondering if he’d pull his gun and shoot him if he tried anything.

The handsome outlaw lifted a finely arched brow. “Here in Texas they make you pay to gawk, ma’am. But I reckon this is the first time a gentle woman like yourself has laid eyes on a born and bred killer. Who knows? Maybe you can come to my hanging. Now that’ll be a real treat.”

Beneath his mocking tone, she saw the layer of sorrow, felt his heavy heart, tasted his bitterness. She couldn’t bear the thought of him swinging from a rope.

Purchase Links:

B&N:        http://bit.ly/2IB9Qb6

Author Links:

Website: LindaBroday.com

Facebook Author Page:  http://facebook.com/lindabrodayauthor

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Meet Rube Gautier, the star of Legacy of Ruby's Ranch by Rhonda Frankhouser

Granny Rube wasn't always a granny, y'all. She was once a dreamer...

In Legacy of Ruby's Ranch, Book 3 of the award-winning Ruby's Ranch Series, we go back two generations to interview the original matriarch of Ruby's Ranch, the young and impetuous Rube Gautier. 

After WWII and the devastation of the Dust Bowl, Rube tells us what life had in store for her before she became one of the most formidable ranchers of her time.

Rube Gautier is the only child of Cyrene and Samuel Gautier. She was born into a village of people who believed duty and responsibility reigned above all else, but all she wants is to leave home and start her own ranch in the Kern River Valley.

Rube does her best to accept her fate but dreams both haunt and tantalize her. Will she follow the teachings of the legacy or follow the tall, sexy cowboy who promises to make her dreams come true? Let’s ask Rube.

What is your relationship status?
She paused considering the question. “As far as my parents are concerned, I’ve been in a relationship since I was promised to Gabriel, but the thought of arranged marriages is so arcane. I just want to live my own life and fall in love.” She smiled, coyly. “I’d be interested in learning more about that gorgeous cowboy, Mac Adams. The whole, strong, silent, war hero thing he has going, keeps me up at night. If you know what I mean?”

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
“I see a stubborn, passionate woman who looks particularly like her mother when she pulls her hair back into a clip. Someone who knows exactly what she wants but can’t break Papa’s heart to get it.”
Copyright to photographer
What is people’s first impression of you?
She pinched her face into a frown and glanced away, “You know, I’ve never really thought of it, but I guess they might call me cranky and willful, when really I’m curious and hopeful. The few who matter can see my fun, flirty side.”

Name three of your favorite things.
“I have way more than three favorite things, but I have to say, riding my beautiful, Cremello mare, Twilight in the breaking dawn; smelling gingerbread cookies baking in Momma’s oven; and the adorable crooked smile Mac flashes when he’s trying to flirt. Have mercy.”

Name three things that tick you off.
“Being told what to do. I really hate that!  Also, being under the rule of ancient tradition and being forced into a relationship not of my choosing. I think it’s about time all of these things are challenged.”

What is your best memory to date?
A wide smile spread across her lips and her eyes lit. “Riding the high plains with Papa, rounding up our prized herd. Things were so simple when I was younger. More recently, I’d have to say the vision of Mac galloping toward me on the plateau. The commanding way he handled the most stubborn stud on the ranch, made me feel wicked things I’ve never felt before.”

What are you most afraid of?
“I’m afraid something bad will happen if I go against tradition. If I lost someone I loved because of my own selfish needs, it would break me.”

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
“Interesting question. I’m not sure,” she pushed the glass in front of her away and leaned on the table. “Maybe - Here lies the passionate woman who loved hard, never gave up on her dreams, and always made her family proud.”

Now on to something lighter, what is your favorite drink?
“Without question, country sweet tea served in one of Momma’s mason jars. Sweet nectar of life.”

What is your favorite food?
“Fried chicken and biscuits and of course, Gingerbread cookies made from our family recipe.”

What was your first impression of Mac?
“He’s shy, and funny, and full of truth and honor. Wicked sexy. When I first saw him, he seemed so familiar. He’s the most confidant person I know, and he knows exactly what he wants. I admire that about him.” A blush came to her face. “He gives me hope for a different kind of life.”
A little Mac motivation ~ Copyright to photographer
If we could only hear your voice (but not see you) what characteristic would identify you?
“Probably determination. I don’t appreciate unanswered questions and vague explanations. I’ll pursue the truth ‘til the bitter end, even if it hurts me.”

What would you most like to forget?
“I would like to forget the look on Papa’s face when I told him I didn’t want anything to do with the family legacy. Disappointing him will surely be the most devastating thing to ever happen to me. At least I hope things won’t get worse than that.”

What is your most prized possession?
“Well, a horse is definitely not a possession, but Twilight is my most prized gift. She has brought me through many tumultuous times, given me confidence and unconditional love, and she'll be the key to my happily-ever-after. I just have a feeling.”
Gorgeous Cremello  ~ Copyright to photographer

Thank you to Rube Gautier for sharing a few thoughts before her story releases August 21, 2019. Be sure to read her granddaughter's story, 2017 RONE Finalist, Return to Ruby's Ranch, and her daughter's story, Escape from Ruby's Ranch

Follow Rhonda
www.rhondafrankhouserbooks.com, Amazon, Facebook, Bookbub, Goodreads, Twitter, and Instagram.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


Post by Doris McCraw
writing as Angela Raines

As some of you know, Prairie Rose Publications released a collection of stories in the book "Hot Western Nights". I was fortunate to have my story 'Duty' included in the collection along with some great authors. Each story is a wonderful read, yet each one is unique. All take place in the West, but after that, it was up to each author to tell the 'spicy' story that was in their heart.

The downside to shorter works is the limited word count. There is not always room to include background information. To remedy that, I thought it might be fun to interview one of the characters from my story. The one who popped up in my head first was the hero, Dan Loomis. So without further ado here is a short interview I had with this dashing man.

First off, what is your name and where are you from?

My name is Daniel James Loomis, but I go by Dan. As to where I'm from, I consider myself a man of the West but was born on the East Coast.

Do you have a favorite childhood memory?

When my real father was alive, we used to take rides into the country. I especially loved the fall with all the leaves turning different colors and the picnics we would have.

Back to your answer to the first question, why do you consider yourself a man of the West?

In the West, you can be whoever you chose to be. There is a freedom to create, to learn, to be. The key is, you can't just live there and expect everything to work out. You learn your actions have consequences, which aren't good or bad, they just are. That means you can be your own person, your choices and actions make you. I like that kind of freedom.

What kind of woman is your ideal woman?

You should know that you've met her. Haven't you read your own story?

My, you have a sense of humor, don't you?

Of course, it isn't always on show, but it's there.

I have a question from an author friend, are you willing to answer that one?

I think I can handle that.

What on earth did you do to end up in her book? (She means my story)

I understand what she means. Let's just say when I realized what story you were going to tell, and who my heroine would be, I just had to pop into your head. As you know, the story Miranda and I tell is exactly the perfect story for us. (And I love the ending, thank you.)

Thank you Dan, and speaking of your story, I'm adding a link so others can read it too.

Great idea. Enjoy my story, folks.

Purchase ebook from Amazon here

I hope all of you enjoyed my interview with Dan Loomis, hero of the story, 'Duty' in the above collection of spicy stories.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Monday, July 8, 2019

Favorite Western Novels

Laura Drake

I had a book release last week!  More on that, below. But it made me start thinking. What are my favorite books with a Western setting?

Here are a few:

1,000 White Women - Here's the blurb:

The story of May Dodd and a colorful assembly of pioneer women who, under the auspices of the U.S. government, travel to the western prairies in 1875 to intermarry among the Cheyenne Indians. The covert and controversial "Brides for Indians" program, launched by the administration of Ulysses S. Grant, is intended to help assimilate the Indians into the white man's world. Toward that end May and her friends embark upon the adventure of their lifetime. Jim Fergus has so vividly depicted the American West that it is as if these diaries are a capsule in time.

Someone recommended it to me, and the back blurb and cover sold me - so I didn't even pay attention to details. The author wrote women so well, and got the historical facts so dead-on, I was shocked at the end to find that, though the idea that sparked the story is real, the rest is fiction! This book grabbed me at page 1, and still hasn't let me go.

Last Woman Standing - Here's the blurb:

Two decades after the Civil War, Josephine Marcus, the teenage daughter of Jewish immigrants, is lured west with the promise of marriage to Johnny Behan, one of Arizona’s famous lawmen. She leaves her San Francisco home to join Behan in Tombstone, Arizona, a magnet for miners (and outlaws) attracted by the silver boom. Though united by the glint of metal, Tombstone is plagued by divided loyalties: between Confederates and Unionists, Lincoln Republicans and Democrats.
But when the silver-tongued Behan proves unreliable, it is legendary frontiersman Wyatt Earp who emerges as Josephine’s match. As the couple’s romance sparks, Behan’s jealousy ignites a rivalry destined for the history books…
At once an epic account of an improbable romance and a retelling of an iconic American tale, The Last Woman Standing recalls the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral through the eyes of a spunky heroine who sought her happy ending in a lawless outpost—with a fierce will and an unflagging spirit.

A actually got this book at a conference. I didn't know what it was about, but the cover looked great... Oh my gosh, what a wonderful book!  Again, the facts are impeccable, but the author used fiction to make Josephine Earp come alive on the page. I highly recommend it - the story of a feisty woman, ahead of her time. Very inspiring.

Tougher in Texas - 5 book series - Here's the blurb from book 1: 

Violet Jacobs is fearless. At least, that's what the cowboys she snatches from under the hooves of bucking horses think. Outside the ring, she's got plenty of worries rattling her bones: her young son, her mess of a love life, and lately, her family's struggling rodeo. When she takes business into her own hands and hires on a hotshot bullfighter, she expects to start a ruckus.
She never expected Joe Cassidy.
Joe came to Texas to escape a life spiraling out of control. He never planned on sticking around, and he certainly never expected to call this dry and dusty backwater home. But Violet is everything he never knew he was missing, and the deeper he's pulled into her beautiful mess of a family, the more he realizes this fierce rodeo girl may be offering him the one thing he never could find on his own.
You cannot go wrong with any Dell book, but I love these best. She knows whereof she speaks - she lives on a family ranch near Glacier National Park, and is a roper and rodeo bum. Her books are real, and factually impeccable. Prepare to fall in love!

Coyote Dream - Here's the blurb:

For Sarah Friedman - smart, sophisticated, urban woman - the chance to journey to the Southwest to buy American Indian art for her family's successful New York store comes at a time of personal transition. Determined to put aside romantic disappointments, she seeks new perspectives in the serenity of the vast desert landscape. Then her car breaks down on a remote part of the Navajo reservation and fast-paced Sarah finds herself stranded in a slow brown world. 

After years of turmoil, Ben Lonefeather has finally gained control of his life. Aloof and tightly wound, he devotes his time to work and caring for the coyotes he rescued as pups. When Sarah Friedman shows up stranded he wants to get rid of her as quickly as possible, and only grudgingly offers help.

The intersection of two lives that would not ordinarily have crossed for more than a moment deepens into a connection that leaves both of them passionately alive and profoundly changed. Within a layered collision of social spheres, Coyote Dream explores the tension between society’s surface and nature’s undercurrent.

I read this years ago, and it's still hanging with me. The characters are true, the facts perfect, and the romance is a slow-burn. You'll thank me.

Okay, your turn.  Share your favorite western-set books in the comments!

The second (stand-alone) book in Laura's Chestnut Creek series, Home at Chestnut Creek, released July 2. 

Here's the blurb: 

First rule of life on the run: never get attached. Nevada Sweet knows that better than anyone-it's just too dangerous to stay put. And until now, she's never wanted to. But she gets more than she bargained for when she walks into the Chestnut Creek Café looking for a job. Despite the protective wall she's built, her coworker Joseph has her imagining a life she isn't yet convinced she deserves...

While Unforgiven, New Mexico has always been home, Joseph "Fishing Eagle" King still feels like an outsider-no matter how much he tries to give back to his Navajo community. Beneath Nevada's biting wit, he glimpses a similar vulnerability. Against all odds, Joseph finds himself falling for her, and it's clear she's not as unaffected as she pretends. When her past finally catches up with her, she'll have to decide whether to keep running, or fight for what's hers.

Friday, July 5, 2019

90 SECONDS OF TERROR by Elizabeth Clements

Have you ever had that moment when you’ve been so captivated by something that time seems to stop? I’ve experienced it a few times, but I’ll share one here as it inspired me to write a love story.
I don’t remember the exact year, but it was back in the 90’s. We were returning from our annual vacation in the mountains and decided to take a side trip to visit the Frank Slide. The Crowsnest Pass of the Rocky Mountains is famous not only for the coal mining town of Frank, Alberta, but also many mining sites, and even a famous ancient tree. Nearby Blairmore had its fair share of excitement during the rum smuggling days of a century ago, keeping the Mounties busy with smugglers, murder and mayhem. The Frank Slide Interpretive Centre is located in Blairmore, 200 km southwest of Calgary and a short jaunt from Frank.
In 1900, the Canadian American Coal and Coke opened a coal mine at the base of Turtle Mountain, “a 7,251-foot-tall limestone peak”. News of work for miners spread across Europe and in no time, immigrants flocked to Frank, seeking a better life from what they’d left behind. Thus, in 1901 the town of Frank was incorporated. The First Nations, Blackfoot and K’tunaxa tribes believed “the mountain that moves” was bad luck and avoided camping near its base. Warnings of the mountain’s instability went unheeded.

Nick Clements Photography - size of boulder in ratio to car
As we approached Frank, we saw huge boulders strewn across the land on both sides of the highway. After looking around and taking pictures, we decided to skip walking the scenic 1.5-km Frank Slide Trail and went inside the visitor center and gift shop. I remember strolling among the many exhibits and displays of mining equipment.

Luckily, my husband kept a watchful eye on the boys because as I stopped before one life-size cardboard cutout of a group of four immigrants, I was drawn to one particular woman’s face. I gazed into her dull eyes, level with mine, and a stillness crept over me. I sensed her sadness, imagined the drudgery and pain she had endured.
Time and place slipped away and there was just her and me in silent communication. I felt her pain, her loneliness upon leaving her homeland behind in search of a better life—and not finding it in the black choking dust of a coal mining town. Someone must have jostled me, or perhaps one of my boys asking a question, and the moment  burst like a bubble. But I’ve never forgotten her face to this very day.
Eventually, we went into the theater and watched an excellent documentary of the Frank Slide—another unforgettable experience undiluted  by time. The screen was dark and silent. Then I heard it—the light clatter of a single rock rolling through the darkness. Then another rock. Then three…a dozen more, building into a roaring crescendo of falling rocks that shook the screen. Shook me.

Nick Clements Photography - view of  mountain slide
In 90 seconds in the still, charcoal pre-dawn of April 29, 1903, at 4:10 a.m., the summit on the east side of Turtle Mountain collapsed and “a section of rock 1,400 feet tall — the height of the Empire State Building — 3,280 feet wide, and 500 feet deep” roared down the mountain. The southeastern part of Frank, home to 100 people, two miles of railroad, and the coal mine, instantly disappeared beneath 50 to 150 feet of rock, An 
estimated 82-90 million tons of limestone rocks and huge boulders spewed for 4 kilometres into the Crowsnest River valley.
Most of the approximately 600 residents of Frank were asleep while the night shift worked deep in the coal mine. It’s estimated 70 or 90 people were killed but only 12 or 18 bodies were recovered (the numbers vary, depending on which research article one reads).
There are many accounts of heroism and people pulling together to help each other. A toddler was thrown from her bed and was found dust-covered but otherwise unhurt on a boulder. Another is of a man who flagged down a train before it would have crashed into the pile of huge boulders strewn across the track. A house was pushed off its foundation but no one inside was killed. 17 miners inside the mine managed to crawl to safety by following a coal seam.

Modern-day satellite coverage of the mountain proves there could be another slide, but not for a long time unless there’s an earthquake. Turtle Mountain moves 1 cm a year. “The primary cause of the Frank Slide was the unstable geological structure of Turtle Mountain. The mountain's once horizontal layers of sedimentary rock had been folded during the mountain building process until almost vertical— the ultimate in mountain instability.
Multiple factors led to the rockslide, but Turtle Mountain's unstable geology was a primary cause. Tectonic shift during the creation of the Rocky Mountains caused structurally stronger rock layers to sit on top of weaker ones. Water seeped into the mountain through surface cracks, eroding the limestone. When it froze and thawed, the cracks widened, breaking apart the rock from the inside. Mining operations may have contributed to the mountain's instability, but they were not the main cause of the slide.”

Nick Clements Photography - close-up view of rock slide
To put this vast rock slide into a visual perspective, a program officer at the interpretive center calculated the enormity of rocks strewn on both sides of the highway:“If you took all the rocks from the slide and made a one-metre wide by six-metre high wall, you could build a wall across Canada from Victoria to Nova Scotia.” Now that boggles my mind as much as some of the house-sized boulders still resting where they’d fallen over a century ago.

A visit to the Frank Slide wouldn’t be complete without looking for Alberta’s most photographed tree—the 700-year Burmis tree. This hardy limber pine is believed to have stood here for centuries, battered by wind and rain and blizzards. The famous landmark died in the late 1970’s, yet remained erect on the rocky mountainside, its branches poking like gnarled fingers into the sky.

Nick Clements Photography - 700-year-old Burmis tree

When a fierce storm finally knocked the tree over, the residents of the area couldn’t bear losing their beloved landmark, banded together and propped the tree up with rods and wires. Thus, the Burmis tree continues to greet visitors passing by on the highway and serenely poses for their cameras. My son took this picture (and all the photos) through the truck windshield. The dark, sullen clouds simply add to the lonely feeling of sadness, devastation and loss that haunt this area.

Soon after we arrived home, I started writing a new historical romance, inspired by what I’d seen and felt at the town of Frank. I finished writing it, then like I had with so many of my other books, put it aside and started a new book. Procrastination has always been my worst vice.
About a dozen years later, on a beautiful Thanksgiving Monday, I took my mom for a little road trip back to Frank. I came prepared with notebook and camera, using both. And I searched for that sad-eyed woman, but in vain. She was gone. But she was far more than just a figment of my imagination.
Thus, this past winter when Cheryl Pearson sent out a call for submissions for a Hot Western Nights anthology set in the western states, I wanted to submit a story. I stalled with two new story ideas…then that dear little sad-eyed woman came to me in the wee, dream-filled hours of the morning and whispered in my ear….
Writing from memory, I condensed that earlier full-length historical into a  novella, changed some of the action and moved the setting to a fictional town in the beautiful Colorado mountains. In some ways it’s different from that earlier book yet retains its essence. I mean, with a hero nicknamed Diamond Jack, how could I possibly change him or his Angel? They’ve lived in my mind for years.

Here is a teaser and an excerpt from my story:

Angela Summers has cared for her grandfather in the mining camp for many years. But when danger strikes, saloon owner Jack Williams must try to protect the woman he loves in DIAMOND JACK’S ANGEL.

Brookstown, Colorado, 1888

“I tell ya, Boss, that crazy old coot’s trouble. Every time it thunders, he says the mountain’s talkin’ to him. And it’s gittin’ worse.”
Sam Brooks sighed and set down his whiskey before looking up at his burly foreman. “All right, Bart, what’s he saying now?”
“He says there’s a fault in the mountain and it’s gonna come down. I tell ya, Boss, that kinda talk’s gonna spook the miners. They’re grumblin’ and talkin’ about goin’ on strike.”
Sam gritted his teeth, fed up with this constant trouble at the mine. Staring into his glass, he sighed like a tired old man and tossed back the rest of the whiskey. “Then take care of it. Make it look like an accident. There’s a bonus in it when the job’s done.”
Bart nodded. “You betcha, Boss. You can count on me.”
“I sure hope so,” Sam muttered, nodding dismissively toward the door.

I hope my little blog has whetted…intrigued you to check out my story, Diamond Jack’s Angel, and the novellas of five other authors in the Hot Western Nights anthology.

Available on Amazon: HOT WESTERN NIGHTS

Some special moments I’ve had is the first time I saw my future husband and he smiled at me…his first unforgettable kiss…walking down the aisle to say I Do…my first airplane ride…the wonder of holding my first child…and last year, holding my first published book. Hmmm, all firsts. I guess that’s why I cherish them to this day.
I would love to hear what moment in time –or moment out of time you have experienced that you’ve never been able to forget. Thank you for stopping by and leaving your comments of your unforgettable first.

Beneath a Horse-Thief Moon
Available on Amazon: Digital | KindleUnlimited | Print