Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Welcome to my first post for the Cowboy Kisses Blog and thank you Ginger for the invite.
As I’m Australian (although I write American based Westerns) I thought I would start with the Aussie outback.

In Australia a stockman (plural stockmen) is a person who looks after the livestock on a large property known as a station.
Stockmen who work with cattle in the Northern Territory are known as ringers and are often only employed for the dry season which lasts from April to October. A station hand is an employee, who is involved in routine duties on a rural property or station and this may also involve caring for livestock. Young women from the cities are becoming a common sight on outback stations, often attracted by the chance to work with horses. Some stations are now making changes for the employment of women by building female living quarters and installing hydraulic cattle crushes. A station trainee is known as a jackaroo (male) or jillaroo (female), and does much the same work as a stockman while under supervision.

Cattle Station in NT

A drover in Australia is a person, typically an experienced stockman, who moves livestock, usually cattle or sheep, "on the hoof" over long distances. Reasons for droving are usually delivering animals to a new owner's property, taking animals to market, or moving animals during a drought in search of better feed and/or water. Moving a small mob of quiet cattle is relatively easy, but moving several hundred head of wild station cattle over long distances is a completely different matter.


A muster (roundup in the US) is the process of gathering livestock. Musters usually involve cattle, sheep or horses, but may also include other animals. Mustering may be conducted for a variety of reasons including routine livestock health checks and treatments, branding, shearing, lamb marking, sale, feeding and transport or droving to another location. Mustering is a long, difficult and sometimes dangerous job, especially on the vast Australian cattle stations of the Northern Territory and 'The Falls' (gorge) country of the Great Dividing Range. The group of animals gathered in a muster is referred to as a "mob" in Australia.
Mustering can be carried out on horseback, with utes, quad bikes or helicopters. It usually depends on the terrain and the type of animals being mustered as to which method is used.

Mustering by helicopter.

My sister-in-law is an employee at an outback station, Fossil Downs. It is located about 50 kilometres (31 mi) North East of Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. It consists of 800,000 acres. Certainly not huge by our standards, the largest in Australia is Anna Creek in South Australia at 9,140 square miles. Fossil Downs is also renowned for its very talented Performance Horses.

 Fossil Downs Cattle Station

.                                            My husband’s sister is the lady with the dog
                                                      in her arms at the front.
Fitzroy Crossing 31 miles from                                       
              Fossil Downs  Station

I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the Aussie Outback. In coming months I will enlighten you about our peculiar, native animals and plants.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Wood Stoves by Lauri Robinson


Although we have a propane furnace, we primarily heat our Minnesota home with wood. The furnace is usually only used in the spring and fall when we just need to take the ‘chill’ out. During the summer months my husband spends hours upon hours cutting, hauling, splitting and stacking the six to seven cords of wood it will take to heat our home from October to April. A cord is approximately four feet high, by four feet wide, by eight feet long. Most wood takes at least a year to ‘season’ before it’s dry enough to burn efficiently. Ideally it should be stacked off the ground, (on some kind of platform) in rows far enough part to get good airflow and in an area where wind and the sun can dry it out, but out of the rain and/or snow. The wood he is gathering now we won’t use until next year, or the year after—oak takes longer to season than other wood and that is his favorite type to use. He’ll often stack the logs for one year and then split it the next year. That wood is then stacked in cords in the woodshed for use the next year. It’s a lot of work and messy, but we prefer the warmth of wood heat. However, we appreciate the fact we have options. 

Pioneers didn’t—other than coal in some areas, which is a lot of work as well—and having enough wood to heat their homes and cook was a time consuming task.

Wood stoves were much more efficient and used less wood (and coal) than fireplaces, but until the railroad they were not readily available. Pioneers knew this when heading west and the stove was often the first thing loaded, however it was also, because of their weight, the first things tossed aside when the going got rough. Six plate stoves were called such because they were usually made of six heavy cast iron plates that were bolted together.They were also called box stoves, because that’s what they looked like. A box. The design was very popular because they could be used for cooking and heat.

One type of single "Canada" stove, also called a "box stove," made in Norfolk County, Ontario, about 1820. (From Jefferys, The Picture Gallery of Canadian History, II, 115.)
Old school in Wyoming with stove in corner
Kitchen in S. Dakota museum
Once the railroad crossed the nation, stoves became much more available. Parlor stoves, used for heat, not cooking, came in many shapes and sizes.  The next evolution was the cook stove, designed for cooking, heating with it was a secondary benefit. If a family was fortunate enough, they built a summer kitchen. A separate building from their home for cooking during the summer months. A very fortunate family would have two cooking stoves—one in the home and one in the summer kitchen. Other families would move the stove to and fro. 

We’ve had several wood stoves over the years. When we purchased our current home, the wood heat was a major selling point for us, however, from the day we moved in the woodstove and I never saw eye to eye. In our old house we had a ‘box’ stove I could build a fire in blindfolded. That soon became a thing of the past. The stove in this house and I fought constantly over getting a fire started and in keeping one going. I honestly have too many stories about that old stove to retell. I’ll suffice by saying I have a scar over one eye from when the door mysteriously swung shut, hitting me on the head. Mysteriously because I was the only one home.  I am glad to say that stove never got the best of me—not  completely—and  that we replaced it years ago with one that has served us very, very well.

In my book, The Wrong Cowboy, which will be released November 1st, I took the opportunity to incorporate an inanimate object that drove the heroine to her wits end. And yes, it’s a stove. Unfortunately, it does get the best of Marie or maybe it doesn’t considering she then had to move into Stafford’s home. 

One mail-order bride in need of rescue! 
All the rigorous training in the world could not have prepared nursemaid Marie Hall for trailing the wilds of Dakota with six orphans. Especially when her ingenious plan—to pose as the mail-order bride of the children's next of kin—leads Marie to the wrong cowboy!

Proud and stubborn, Stafford Burleson is everything Marie's been taught to avoid. But with her fate and that of the children in his capable hands, Marie soon feels there's something incredibly right about this rugged rancher and his brooding charm….

Here’s a snippet: 

“What were you trying to do?” he shouted. “Burn the place down?”

“Of course not,” she yelled in return. The smoke filling her nose and mouth made her cough before she could finish. “I was cooking lunch for the children.”

“You don’t know how to cook,” he yelled, grabbing her arm and pulling her toward the door.

“I’m learning,” she shouted back.

“Well, learn how to build a fire first.”

They were outside now, in fresh air, which got her lungs working again. “Shorty told me to leave the door open so the fire would take off.”

Stafford had a hold of both her upper arms. “You also have to open the damper so the smoke goes up the chimney,” he shouted inches from her face.

Over the noise of his voice she heard the trampling of footsteps on the wooden bridge and turned, a multitude of thoughts vying for space in her mind. Number one being that, even though he was shouting at her, she was rather delighted by the sight of him. It was like seeing the first robin in spring, when it made a person happy, even if there was still snow on the ground. Then again, maybe she was happy because she’d been right. He had come to the rescue.

“Everything all right, boss?”

It was one of the ranch hands asking the question. She hadn’t been introduced to anyone besides Shorty, but the children had, and by the descriptions they’d provided, she assumed this man was the one named Red. The children had asked how that could be when Red had black hair and a rather comical-looking black mustache.

“Yes,” Stafford said. “She just forgot to open the damper.”

“All right, then.” The other man tipped the brim of his hat and gave a little nod. “Ma’am.”

She gave a slight nod in return. Her mind was still racing, and still in one direction. Stafford. It had only been a few days, but she’d forgotten how handsome he was, and how tall. Right now, if she stared straight ahead, her eyes landed on the buttons of his shirt. She had to tip her head to see his face, which she was afraid to do again. A moment ago, while gazing up at him, her heart had started beating so frantically it hurt to breathe.

The hold he had on her arms softened and his hands rubbed the area instead. The action caused a multitude of feelings inside her, and she could no longer keep from glancing up.

His expression was no longer hard and fierce, and she couldn’t find a way to describe how he was looking at her. The tenderness in his gaze, though, made her gulp. It seemed as if time stopped, as they stood simply looking at each other.

He was still rubbing her upper arms and the commotion inside her was growing stronger. She had an undeniable urge to step closer and stretch her neck so—

The realization was startling, and Marie stepped back. Stafford moved at the same instant, separating them further. While she pressed a hand over her racing heart, he took off his hat and glanced around before replacing it.

She’d never, ever thought of kissing a man before.

“Make sure you open that damper,” he said gruffly.

Her meek reply of, “I will,” caused her cheeks to grow even hotter. What was it about him that left her completely out of sorts? She didn’t have a lot of experience around men, but one hadn’t intimidated her for a very long time. That thought triggered a response.

“I wasn’t trying to burn the cabin down,” she shouted at his back, needing to show him he hadn’t frightened her and never would.

He spun around, frowning. A moment later, he nodded, “Good, see that you don’t.”

“I won’t,” she insisted, marching toward the table and the eggs that still needed to be cooked.

Marie did cook the eggs, and did so several more times, until a week later, when she burned down the cabin.

One final note, I recently created an author page on facebook, if you'd care to stop by, I'd appreciate it!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Modern Day Fall Back to the Old Days by Amber Bentley

This may not be the typical post for Cowboy Kisses, but I hope someone will enjoy it. (Pictures in this post are my personal images, please do not take without permission or claim as your own)

I grew up on a farm, raised by my grandparents. I couldn't wait to get away from the "slow moving" little country town I grew up in during the 80's and early 90's. I was going to model, I was going to become a trauma doctor....

It was too slow. People wore cowboy boots and had cowboy hats. You had to drive 10 minutes to get to a neighbor or call them on your phone. We didn't have internet or cable television. (Cable television was fairly new while I was growing up - showing my age a bit.)

We had cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys. We had geese and duck. We had acres and acres of corn fields and a private garden closer to the farmhouse (yes, actual farmhouse built in the late 1600's that was passed down through my family) that grew a large number of vegetables for our own table.

We had a fireplace that my grandpa chopped wood for. You didn't go buy it at a local store already cut and packaged. You didn't buy it from someone else who chopped it and then delivered it to you. My grandpa worked hard days during spring, summer, and fall to be sure we had what was needed to survive winter of our own accord. He was often out from before sun up to well after sun down.

Meals were family things. Everything was made from scratch. You sat at the table and said a prayer before shoving that first bit into your mouth. No one started before everyone was there and no one left until everyone was done.

True to my word, at 18 I left. I didn't look back. I modeled to put myself through med school. After all, I had plans. I was going to be someone.

My grandparents passed a couple months apart from each other. I missed all of it because of modeling jobs and med school. I couldn't give up what I'd wanted for years. They'd understand why I missed the wake and funeral. They'd understand why I wanted nothing to do with the land, fields, combines, livestock and the old farmhouse that had been in the family for generations. I was living in the city. I had internet and cable. I had friends and weekends at the clubs.

I didn't regret a single moment of it until I had my first child. Reality hit me. If I was going to be a trauma doctor, how would I know my child? How would they know me? What energy would I have left after working 36+ hour shifts and being on call as an intern almost seven days a week?

That's when I threw away the medical degree that was going to get me out of being nothing more than a hillbilly on a farm. The girl that passed high school weekends mudding in huge lifted 4X4 trucks. The girl that worked hard her first year of college to stop saying "y'all" and become that city girl she'd always wanted to be.

Fast forward through mistakes and lessons learned to a few years ago. I was suddenly in that middle age bracket. I had teenagers as children. And I still wasn't happy. I had a house, we had food, clothing, utilities and things to make us comfortable. I should have been pleased. I wasn't.

Then started a year long inner discovery. Why was I not happy? I looked back at notebook after notebook of scribbles of partial books I'd written. All of them had one thing in common. They were full of people that lead simple lives out in the country.

The life I'd hated and walked away from - never looking back.

I moved to a very small town. We have cowboys - real ones, not the ones that put on the hat and boots because it looks cool. Cowboys that break their own horses, move their own cattle (on horses), can rope and ride bulls and steer wrestle.

Where the town is so small there isn't even a high school. Where the PreSchool through 8th grade school has less than 180 kids.

Where you have to stop your truck and wait for cattle to roam through the dirt road because it's all open range. There's no leash law. Most people use the library internet and the library is only open a couple days a week for a few hours a day.

Where the men still open the door for you when they see you walking up. Where they tip their hat and tell you to have a good day and really mean it. Where the men help you carry things and don't cheat on their wives. Where your word is still what you have and it's a good enough commitment for those around you. Where a barter system is still used and your neighbor will help you out without begrudging you because it's the neighborly thing to do.

It's the place where you can walk or jog and everyone waves at you and cheers you on - and means it. Where your kids are safe to roam and be kids. Where there's no street lights but you can still sleep with the windows and doors open because it's safe.

It's the place where this country girl turned city girl realized she'd been living a lie for decades.

There are still good honest people in the world. And there still are those places that you can go back in time and take life at a slow pace. Not everyone here has a lot of money - but they are so much richer than most people I've met - they have family, love, real friends, and kind hearts.

It's a reason that I'm loving writing my cowboy books and has allowed me to actually write contemporary and not just historical - because cowboys do still exist.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Westward Ho! Quiz

by Lyn Horner

Howdy all you western romance lovers. Today I'm going to test your knowledge about overland travel across the plains and mountains in the wagon train era. First, here are a few facts about the covered wagons pioneers called home during their long journey.
The term "covered wagon" applies to any horse, mule or ox-drawn wagon. A Conestoga wagon was a specific type of heavy covered wagon used extensively during the late 18th and 19th centuries in the U.S. and Canada. It was large enough to transport loads up to 6 tons. It was long, big-wheeled and curved in a boat-shaped design, perhaps suggesting the name "Prairie Schooner."

However, the wagons used by most pioneers were smaller and lighter with straight lines. They were shaped like ordinary farm wagons fitted with covers, but were much stronger. About ten feet long, with two-foot high sides, the wagon had to be built of well-seasoned hardwood to withstand the trip's extremes of temperature and moisture, as well as rough terrain. Such a wagon could carry 2,000 to 2,500 pounds of goods. Emigrants were advised not overload their wagons to avoid wearing out and killing their draft animals. Those who didn't heed this advice often paid a heavy price.

Covered wagon at the High Desert Museum Outside Author: B.D.'s world from Monroe, Washington, United State 
A tar bucket hung from the side of each wagon, and the slats were calked with tar for river crossings. Wagons were covered with double layers of linen, muslin or sailcloth, oiled to make them somewhat rainproof. Spare wagon tongues, spokes, axles and wheels were usually slung under the wagon bed. Grease buckets, water barrels and heavy rope were also essential items.
Okay, are you ready? Lets see how much you know about wagon trains. (Answers are at the bottom, but no cheating!)

1.  In the spring of what year did the first large wagon train head west to Oregon?
2.   Approximately how long was the Oregon Trail?
3.   What river did wagon trains follow across Nebraska?

4.   On average, how long did it take a wagon train to reach Oregon or California?

5.   What did geography books call the Great Plains during the westward migration?

6.   Why did the westbound travelers call themselves emigrants?

7.   What were the two most common reasons for emigrants to head west?

8.   Why did most emigrants choose oxen to pull their wagons rather than mules or horses?

9.   What did women gather along the trail to burn when there was no wood?

10.  How did women bake bread and pies on the overland journey?

11.  How many pounds of flour were emigrants advised to take with them on the journey?

12.  How many pounds of bacon were they advised to take with them?

13.  Name some other staple foods they would have taken along.

14.  What is saleratus?

15.  How much did a covered wagon and team of oxen cost circa 1850?


1.    In 1843
2.    2,000 miles or more depending on the starting point
3.    The Platte River
4.    The average travel time was 4 months but could be 6 months or longer.
5.    The Great American Desert
6.    They were traveling into foreign territory.
7.    They were lured by the promise of free land in Oregon, and later by gold in California.
8.    Oxen were stronger and cheaper than mules or horses.
9.    Buffalo chips or cow chips
10.  In a Dutch oven
11.  200 pounds according to an emigrant guide published in 1845
12.  150 pounds
13.  Flour, hard tack or crackers, bacon, sugar, coffee and tea, beans, rice, dried fruit, salt, pepper
14.  A leavening agent made of potassium or sodium bicarbonate; a precursor to baking soda
15.  Around $400, equals close to $11,000 now