Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Halloween is nearly here and, having regaled you in the past with haunted hotels and spooky sites, I thought I would just entertain you with a pertinent excerpt from one of my latest books, Always on My Mind.  Since it covers over four years from 1972 and, in more detail, nine months from May, 1972, Halloween was bound to pop up at some stage—and it does.  But first, here’s the blurb:


1972 - Vietnam, the pill, upheaval, hippies.
Wyoming rancher Cooper Byrnes, deeply attached to the land and his way of life, surprises everyone when he falls for vagabond hippie Cassie Halliday. Fascinated and baffled, he cannot comprehend his attraction—or say the words she wants to hear.
Cassie finds Coop intriguingly different. As she keeps house for him and warms his bed at night, she admits to herself she loves him but she misinterprets Coop's inability to express his feelings.
Parted, each continues to think of the other, but how can either of them reach out to say, "You were 'always on my mind'?"


And now, as the housekeeper Mrs. Craven walks in on my heroine, Cassie:


Mrs. Craven found her in the kitchen, carving her third jack o’ lantern.

“If those are for Halloween, you may as well stop right there. Cooper Byrnes will never let a bunch of kids come marching up to his door, never has, never will. Just like his daddy before him.”

“Why not?” She held the knife in mid-air but soon continued to slash out triangle eyes.

“Why not? Why not? Good heavens, girl, you been living with the man these near on six months, pretending you’re sleeping alone in the guest room, and you stand there thinking he celebrates Halloween?”

“He doesn’t have to celebrate Halloween. I do.”

“Well, there ain’t nobody gonna come up your drive to the house, jump out, say trick or treat, grab candies and go off again on their merry way. That much I can tell you.”

“Because it’s too far or because of Coop?” He isn’t that scary!

Mrs. Craven heaved a sigh and leaned back against the worktop watching Cassie push out the nose. “A little of both, I reckon. Some of the parents around here drive the kids about but they all know Coop is single and doesn’t do nothing for them so there’s no real reason to come on up.”

She attempted to think of a way to say Cooper was no longer single, but it appeared as far as anyone else was concerned, she didn’t count. “Well, maybe I’ll make a sign with an arrow on the road by the gate.”

“You’d do better to please him by maybe selling those lanterns. Put one out on a crate by the gate with a sign saying lanterns for sale. That’s what I’d do.”

Cassie looked up and smiled. “Good idea. Maybe it is too much to expect trick-or-treaters to come all this way up to the house.”

“I’d say.” Mrs. Craven put a hand to her hip and watched her for a few moments before grabbing a dishtowel and wiping some plates in the rack. “You are a weird couple, you with your cooking and gardening and college degree, wearing your heart on your sleeve—”

“I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve.”

“No, everything is written all over your face. You’re like some great big puppy wagging its tail and trying to get a morsel from that man, and he’s about as giving as a headstone on a grave.”

She snorted a laugh. “Well. I’m beginning to understand him better after all this time. We have a working relationship.”

“Yeah, but, you at your age, you want a little lovin’, a little more than a ‘working relationship.’ And Cooper being the product of two of the most tight-lipped, harsh, cold-blooded parents there could be, he’s not ever gonna change.”

Cassie held the finished pumpkin out to admire, tried to seem disinterested. “What were—I guess are, as his mother’s still alive, isn’t she?—what are they like? Did you know them well?”

“Well, I guess I knew them about as well as anyone here about; worked for them twenty years or so. His daddy was all right with me and others but one of these hard-bitten men, thought ‘his way or the highway’ all the time, tried to instill in Cooper a sense of the value of the ranch—oh, not in money terms ya know, but as his inheritance, land. Land and cattle, that’s all that man knew. I never saw him once praise the boy, even when he came in with trophies from 4H or FFA. Then Coop won a scholarship to go on to agricultural college and Byrnes nixed that; told him he was learning everything he needed to know right here.”

Cassie placed the pumpkin on the kitchen table where the assorted group had different faces. She stood back and admired her handiwork, one with a huge smile and round eyes, another looking positively evil, the third with a lopsided grin. She took up another, pulled a clean bowl over for the pulp and seeds, and started cutting the lid. “What is his mother like, then?”

“Oh, mean bitch. You haven’t met her yet?”

“No. Coop goes over to his sister’s on his own.”

“Well, then he’s protecting you from her I’d say. How the sister turned out so sweet and good is beyond me. ’Course, she did go and get herself hitched real young, got away from her daddy and mama quick as she could. Then she goes and takes her mother in. Beyond me. But you want to stay well away from that one, his mother. I don’t know if Byrnes changed her with his lack of love or she was always that way, but she was worse than he was. Heartless is what she is.”

“Well.” She struggled to get the knife around, her hand now aching. “I guess I never will—”

The door banged open and Coop marched in, a smile on his face, which vanished when he spotted the pumpkin lanterns. “What are you doing? You said those dang pumpkins were for pies to sell.”

She stood, the knife poised in her hand as she studied him. “Well, I had more than enough pumpkin for pies and there’s no point in wasting the remaining shells. I thought I could sell the jack o’ lanterns as well. Maybe put them on a crate by the road or something?”

“Hmm.” Coop stood there, his mouth puckered in thought. “I guess that’ll be all right.” He sauntered off to a small room by the kitchen he called his office.

She exchanged glances with Mrs. Craven, each getting on with their chores when Cooper reappeared, two rifles in his arms.

She stood back and looked at them. “Where . . .where are you going with those?”

“Hunting, of course. Dusty and I—”

Cassie grimaced. “Who’s Dusty?”

“Oh, Cassie. You know Dusty. The older puncher who works here. Jeez, how long you been livin’ here?”

“So, what are you hunting?”

Mrs. Craven coughed.

“I’m hunting my dinner, of course, just like the cave men,” Coop snarled. “You got a problem with that?”

“You’re going to kill things?”

Coop glanced over at the finished pumpkins and for a terrible moment, she thought he was going to bring the rifles down on them. 

He switched back to her. “Listen to me,” he said in a low, steady voice. “If I don’t hunt, that wildlife eats my cattle’s feed, grazes my cattle’s land, drinks my cattle’s water. I don’t kill anything that don’t need killing here. You have a coyote in the hen house, you think you just let him be? This is the way it is on a ranch: the land and the cattle come first. Always have, always will, and no little city girl is gonna tell me how to live. You got that?”

She blinked back tears and took the knife to her pumpkin with renewed vigor.



Always on My Mind is available in both eBook and paperback from:








FALL CELEBRATIONS By Kathleen Lawless @kathleenlawless


Halloween is just around the corner and I expect it will look different from past years for everyone.  Several of my historical western books are set in the fall, and Halloween figures into the story line—because, of course it does. 

In ANORA’S PRIDE, As part of his plan to properly woo Anora, Jesse stops by her home with a pumpkin they carve together as he regales her with tales of the history of All Hallow’s Eve. 

The lighting of bonfires and donning of costumes as a means to ward off evil spirits are activities the entire town of my SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS characters gets behind in BISHOP’S BRIDE, where the citizens of Bullet gather together for a night of celebration, complete with costumes, a bonfire, taffy pulls and apple bobbing.  The party is interrupted by an intruder being killed—but I digress.

Rose, the heroine, is new to what her missionary father considered a “pagan celebration” and takes to heart the myth that whoever bites their apple first will be the first to marry.  She’s intrigued with the notion that by placing her bitten apple under her pillow, she will see her soulmate in her dreams.  Of course, like any true heroine, much as Rose might try to deny her heart, she already knows the identity of her soul mate.

Historians credit Irish immigrants for the North American tradition of carving pumpkins and placing a light inside, a tribute to “Sting Jack”, a mythical trickster.  Back in Ireland, they carved potatoes or turnips which were in abundant supply, but when they arrived in the new world pumpkins were more readily available and no doubt more fun to carve.

I’m Canadian, so October is a double celebration month with first Thanksgiving, then Halloween, and an excuse to decorate and celebrate all month long, which I love.

Wishing everyone a safe and Happy Halloween,


You can learn more about my books here.  https://www.amazon.com/Kathleen-Lawless/e/B001IXS2SA

The first 3 books in the Seven Brides Series are available in a box set which includes a bonus novella you can’t get anywhere else.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07ZW9SVZK

Sign up here for my VIP Readers Group to receive a free book and be the first to hear about contests, new releases and fan-priced specials.  http://eepurl.com/bV0sb1


Monday, October 19, 2020

Have I Got Specials for You by Paty Jager

I sound like some kind of salesman, don't I? I'm not, I'm just excited. Fall and the coming months are my favorite time of the year. I love the colors, the weather, the family gatherings, and just the feeling life is good. 

This year, with all that has happened, I feel especially blessed for family, my community, and my readers. While I've missed the conferences and events I'd planned to attend,  I've had more time at home to enjoy the things, that past summers, I've had to let go. My flowers looked good and I had a wee bit better garden than usual. My hubby believes in only watering what can shade or feed you, so if I'm not home, the flowers don't get watered. He doesn't understand they feed my soul.

This month, October, I'm participating in the Cowboy Kisses Annual Facebook Party. See the meme below for date and time. I'm on at noon Mountain time. I'll be visiting with those who are there and giving away free ebooks and some other goodies. 

I'll also talk about my new release- preorder now- Collateral Love, Novella #4 in the Tumbling Creek Ranch series. This book will be $0.99 through the end of the month! Here is the universal buy link but it won't be $0.99 everywhere until the 22nd. https://books2read.com/u/4jLrP2

And November, I'm having a Facebook event "Where in the World is Isabella Mumphrey" to reveal the new covers for my Isabella Mumphrey Adventure/Romantic Suspense/Thriller series. I LOVE the new covers. But you'll have to mark your calendars for November 14th and watch my Facebook and newsletter for info about where and when the event will take place. There will be prizes and a fun challenge to find Isabella Mumphrey. 

Late November, I hope to publish book 6 in the Gabriel Hawke series, Turkey's Fiery Roost.

These are all the book related fun things coming up. As for personal, our oldest granddaughter and I are having a pumpkin carving contest, we'll celebrate our oldest grandson's 16th birthday, enjoy whatever family is around for Thanksgiving, and plan to decorate like mad for Christmas. My hope is to have a good showing of kids and grandkids for that holiday. 

 What do you have planned for the rest of your year? Anything fun? Check the dates for my two Facebook events and come on by! 

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 47 novels, 8 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.

blog / websiteFacebook / Paty's Posse / Goodreads / Twitter / Pinterest / Bookbub

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

When the Universe Says - Keep Writing by Rhonda Frankhouser

Copyright - My Photo

As I've mentioned (a dozen times) before, I'm back in the 'regular' job world again after two blissful years writing full time. I'm not complaining because I'm blessed to work for a great company with some very patient and kind people, but the universe continues to give me signs that I MUST continue to write. 

The day I was offered a position at Fairway Independent Mortgage, I received two signs. A wonderful notebook with 'writer' written all over it AND a fabulous five star review. 

The next day, I found out that my little Christmas novella was a Finalist in the Uncaged Reviews RAVEN AWARDS. I was beside myself, honestly, because I wrote this book as a practice first Novella AND first Christmas story. Book 4, Christmas at Ruby's Ranch, is a fun, emotionally charged transition story that leads us into the next book in the Ruby's Ranch series, but I'll admit something -  IT WAS HARD TO WRITE! Shorter is NOT easier. I'm sure many of you know what I mean.

My next sign came the night the Raven Awards were announced via Facebook Event. I held ZERO hope that I would win against such stiff competition. For heavens sake, Hildie McQueen's book was running against mine, but I was enjoying following along and watching my friends gather their prizes. 

Copyright - Uncaged Magazine

Mind you, my eyes and head were hurting so bad from hours and hours of training for my job, that I wasn't sure I was seeing the recipient right when my category winner was announced. My husband was on the phone with his father when I screamed out loud when my book was announced. My Pug puppies jumped off my lap and ran around barking. My huge black Labrador ran to the door, sure an intruder was trying to get in. 

"Jesus, Rhonda, you scared me to death. Are you alright? What's wrong?" My husband shouted. 

"I WON, I WON....

                                                          Copyright Uncaged Magazine

"Well," he said, "I guess you better keep writing!" 

I'd been a finalist and a 2nd runner up and a bridesmaid a dozen times, but this win gave me the confidence to push on, even though I still hadn't made it!

I'm telling this story in hopes that it will inspire someone else, who like me, have found themselves pulled away from the things they love. Don't give up! I know I won't.

After winning, I sat down and worked on Revenge at Ruby's Ranch. This is Emma's story. Emma is the sister Ruby never knew she had until the perky eighteen-year-old showed up, arm in arm, with their mother who had disappeared some twenty years before. Will Emma be the one who fulfills the family legacy? Will she fall for Matthew, the faithful cowboy or Shona, the mystical visitor?


Here's a short excerpt. It's still in first draft shape, but I'm sharing it anyway! I hope y'all enjoy.


Revenge at Ruby’s Ranch – Book 5 of the Ruby’s Ranch Series

by Rhonda Frankhouser 

Emma looked up at Matthew, sitting tall in the saddle. The muscles of his stomach flexed against the thin white cotton. “You ready?”

“Not quite yet,” he said, watching her. “You can’t get up here with that mask covering your face.”

She squinted in question. “I need to wear it.”

He shook his head. “Not while you’re on my horse. He might think you’re a bandit with that thing on.”

She couldn’t help but laugh.

“And those gloves.” He pointed.

“What’s wrong with my gloves?”

“Well, if you’re gonna wrap your arms around me for the first time, I don’t want latex between us.”

“What the-.” Her face burned with embarrassment. She stalled, looking around and kicking at the dirt, hoping her cheeks weren’t as red as they felt.

“That’s better,” he said, when she finally removed the gloves and mask and stuffed them back into her purse.

“You’re kinda full of yourself, aren’t you?” She worked hard to keep a straight face.

“I’m not sure what you’re thinking Miss Lattrell, but I’m talking about latex gloves here.” His sparkling blue eyes teased her. When he stacked his hands one atop the other on the saddle horn, strong biceps flexed against his sleeves, causing her stomach to flutter. She could swear he was doing it on purpose, but the sweet look on his face was as innocent as a day old calf.

“Whatever, you little shit. We need to get to Momma.”

“Let’s go then.” He offered a hand, then moved his foot from the stirrup. “Grab on, I’ll pull you up.”

“Umm, you know I’m not much of a cowgirl. What if he takes off when I’m halfway up?”

His smile was disarming. “Trust me.” He curled his finger in invitation. “Just grab ahold, put your foot in that stirrup and pull yourself up behind me.”

“Can’t we just take the ATV?” She reasoned.

“Too noisy. I want to be able to hear you.” He waved again.

Emma pushed her crossbody purse behind her and grabbed his hand. She wedged her sensible gray Sketcher into the stirrup, kicked her other leg over the back of the horse and settled behind Matthew on the saddle. Her face landed square in the middle of his back. Her long legs wrapped easily around his hips.

“See, there you go.” He placed his hand on her knee. “Now, put your arms around my waist and let me have the stirrup. You just let those pretty little feet of yours dangle down. Careful not to nudge ‘im or we’ll be running before you know it.”

She stiffened her legs out straight to keep her feet from touching the horse’s sides.

Matthew patted her rigid hands. “As much as I love having your arms around me, you can relax. He’s not gonna hurt you. I promise.” Then he reached back and touched her legs until they relaxed by the horse’s sides.

She let out an embarrassed giggle. His body was so strong and sure, his scent so calming. Within a few breaths, they were heading toward Momma and John’s cabin at the far end of the corrals. Her heart beat with the gentle saunter. Matthew’s hand warm and comforting on hers.

On Haley’s Peak, a good stone’s throw above Momma and John’s cabin, Emma spotted a single rider atop a handsome buckskin horse. An older man, tall and broad in the shoulders, watched as they approached.

“Who’s that?” She whispered into Matthew’s ear, feeling danger emanating from the ominous presence.

“That would be Ray MacCallister, I assume,” he replied. “He hasn’t moved since your Momma got sick. He watches the cabin all the time.”

Emma shrunk behind Matthew. “What does he want? Has John seen him up there? Why doesn’t Billy get rid of him.”

“We’re all just waiting for him to make a mistake.”

She squeezed in closer. “Well, if that asshole plans on hurting Momma, I’ll be the first to fire a shot.”

“I have no doubt, but I don’t think he wants to hurt her.”

Emma despised Ray MacCallister. She still couldn’t believe the most hated man in the valley, the man who raped her mother, was her biological father.


He reined the horse to a stop and turned so his ear grazed her lips. “Yes, Emma.”

“Would you do me a favor?”

He let out a hopeful, “ah, hah.”

“Would you teach me to shoot?” She asked, her glare still trained on Ray brazenly eying them.

Matthew dropped his head forward, obviously disappointed with her request. “Sure, I can do that.”

She squeezed her arms tighter around him. “Disappointed with the request?”

He sucked in a breath. “Well, I’d be lying if I hadn’t hoped for something else, but I’ll settle for anything that means I get to spend more time with you.”

She paused to gather her thoughts. “You know, I’ve been gone from here along time now. I’m not that innocent little girl you knew back then. You might not want to spend time with me.”

He leaned back against her. “I don’t care about any of that. I just want you to be you, Em. That’s all I’ll ever ask.”

She pressed her forehead between his shoulder blades and whispered. “I don’t really have time for romance. I’m here to take care of Momma.”

He slid his fingers over hers still at his waist. “You’ll get no pressure from me. I’ve waited two years, I can wait forever if I need to.”

“Mercy, you’re a pretty serious guy, aren’t you?”

“Just not planning on letting you leave here again without knowing how I feel about you.”

“Why didn’t you try to contact me in New York? Why didn’t you tell me all this before now?”

He laughed and shook his head. “I’m not shy anymore, Em, but I’m not a stalker either. I didn’t want to start something when you were three thousand miles away. I needed to see you. I needed you to see me. I needed to be next to you. I needed to be able to smell your hair and touch your hand.”

“You’re too sweet for me,” she said through a smile.

“I wouldn’t count on that, young lady,” he answered with a slight growl, as he nudged his horse forward.

A thousand wicked possibilities ran through Emma’s mind. He did smell good, and her arms did fit perfectly around his narrow waist. He was nothing like the high-strung city boys she’d dated over the past few years. That alone gave him at least a chance. 

When she looked back up at the horizon for the lone rider atop the hill, he was gone. Emma wasn’t sure if she was more worried about knowing where he was or not knowing.

Award-Winning author, Rhonda Frankhouser, writes about beloved ghosts, sexy cowboys, and mystical worlds. Born and raised in central California, she now lives in beautiful Northeast Georgia. Follow Rhonda at www.rhondafrankhouserbooks.com


Dr. Bates, Mary Helen Barker, that is.

A short re-post from an earlier time. I've been busy with an accident last week and it seems to be neverending. (Sigh)

Mary Helen Barker Bates. Sounds like a made-up name. It couldn't be further from the truth.

Mary Helen Barker Bates was born in 1845 in New York. Her father was Dr. Ezra Barker, who also had a practice in there. Her mother was Jane Ruth Freeman and Dr. Barker was her second marriage. The two were married in 1843. The couple had three children, two girls and one boy with Helen the eldest.

Mary Helen Barker Bates (b.1845-d.1934) was the daughter of Dr. Ezra Barker who practiced in New York. She graduated from the Woman’s Medical College in Philadelphia. In her early career, she practiced in Salt Lake City, Utah where some of her patients were the family of Mormon leader Brigham Young. It was there she met and married George Bates in September 1876. 

In 1878. at the age of 33, she moved to the mining town of Leadville, Colorado. Leadville for those who don’t know sits at 10,152 feet above sea level in the Colorado Rockies. While there she founded the Ladies Relief Hospital. In 1881 she moved to Denver for her husband’s health. 

Mary was also one of the early women licensed by the State. (Her license #271). She took a special interest in Woman’s Suffrage, children and education. She introduced the Colorado Law for the Examination and Care of Public School Children which went into effect in 1910.

Her husband died in 1886 and Mary never remarried. Instead, she appears to have devoted her life to the betterment of others. While in Denver and still practicing medicine another Mary Bates, also a doctor, arrived. She was Mary Elizabeth Bates and her story is just as exciting. More on her later.

I have a short story in a new anthology: Check it out


Doris Gardner-McCraw -

Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Western Writers of America,
Colorado Author League,
Women Writing the West

Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet

Monday, October 12, 2020

A Horse is a Horse, of course, of course


A cowboy is nothing without his horse. In fact, I’m not sure a cowboy can really be a cowboy without his horse. To me, it’s almost blasphemy to see ranches having their cattle herded by helicopters and ATVs. I’m not sure what the advantage is – after all those helicopters sure cost more than horses, their maintenance cost is more, obviously. A helicopter pilot probably has to be paid more an hour than a cowboy. And as far as the romance factor is concerned – well, there’s no contest. Nothing tugs at my heartstrings more than a cowboy on horseback, working his magic as he rides the range.

And the ATV’s – well, that’s just sad. No cowboy worth his salt would rather ride a motorized mule than a living, breathing friend on four hooves.


I have owned horses and cattle and made money off them. However, my ranching enterprise was more for joy and nostalgia than for necessity. This is the way it is for many ‘cowboys’ and ‘cowgirls’ these days. Surprisingly, nationwide, there are fewer than 10,000 ranching jobs for men who consider themselves to be cowboys. Of course, there are those who ride the rodeo circuit, but that’s not a huge number either. The opportunities for a man to have a working relationship with his horse are few and far between. 

Having said all of that – I’ve discovered an avenue whereby those who are itching to have a reason to mount their horse and head off on a trail riding adventure can accomplish their goal and still have a worthwhile, soul-fulfilling reason for doing so.   

Wilderness Search and Rescue.

In the last decade, outdoor recreation has surged. In 2019, there were over 290 million visits to national public lands – including state and national parks, wilderness areas, and BLM land. This increase in activity has resulted in an equal increase of people going missing, getting lost, or sustaining injuries on these public areas. Each one of these folks has to be rescued – by somebody. While the park employees are trained for this task and local law enforcement pitches in to help, having the crews available to devote the time, energy, and money necessary for these massive searches is an overwhelming responsibility. That is why volunteer Search and Rescue teams have sprung up all over the nation.

These SAR people are private citizens who volunteer their skills, money, and time to search for and rescue those who find themselves in an emergency situation – from a fall, from being lost, a bear attack, a skiing accident – and countless other ways a person can get in trouble in the wilderness.

In my Hell Yeah! Series Search and Rescue plays a pretty big role, not in every story, but the theme has been featured in several books. Several of my ‘main’ reoccurring characters are involved in this public service. In fact, they have their own team – HILL COUNTRY SEARCH AND RESCUE. I found the idea intriguing, so I have spent many hours researching the topic.

Like ranching in this age of technology, Search and Rescue has also gravitated away from horses and toward high performance off-highway vehicles (OHV’s), drones, GPS, and other modern conveniences. After all, you don’t have to feed and clean up after an OHV and a horse can’t be stored in a garage until it’s needed. While there are some undeniable benefits from using these machines and some circumstances where they are the logical choice, there remains instances where the use of horses and the men who understand them provide a great advantage.

Motorized transport, while undeniably faster, cuts down on the rescuer’s ability to use his eyes and ears to look for clues. When you’re trying to look for tracks or listen for cries for help, nothing beats being up close and personal with the land. While there are some areas where a searcher can only go on foot, there are many instances where a rider with a well-trained tracking horse has a distinct advantage. Mounted teams can travel at twice the speed of a person on foot, plus their vantage point provides a better view. Gear can be more easily transported via horse than on foot and exhausted or injured victims can be packed out to safety.


Another undeniable and surprising advantage to the horse as part of the SAR team is their innate ability to track. A cowboy familiar with his mount’s abilities can mean the difference between life and death in the right situation. Since horses evolved as prey animals they instinctively use all of their senses to monitor their surroundings. When properly trained, this ability makes them a natural search partner. Horses are able to detect threats downwind, using their eyes, ears, and even from sensing ground vibration. They can be schooled to seek a human, much like a ranch horse learns to monitor a herd of cattle. Also, the horse’s rider will be familiar with the horse’s body language and can watch for specific alerts that something caught the animal’s interest. The cowboy will know to look where the horse looks.

Another skill a horse possesses is their advanced sense of smell. Dogs don’t have a corner on the market when it comes to their ability to track by scent. Since they’re taller, horses can vary their sensing level from the ground to over seven feet. In fact, their olfactory equipment is superior to most canines, thereby essentially creating a search dog you can ride. There have been many cases where those in trouble were saved by the talent and determination of a cowboy and his horse.


 Search and rescue aren’t the only service skills a horse can be taught. I have read about several seeing-eye horses. In rural environments, this relationship can be a godsend to those who wish to remain active on their land.

Horses are also far more intelligent than most people realize. They have an instinctive curiosity and can be precocious learners. While digging around for information on equine behavior, I came across information on an amazing horse that history has forgotten and that shouldn’t be the case.

The story began with a slave whose name was William Key. No, it actually began with his owner, who was the original William Key, a planter in Shelbyville, Tennessee. In fact, this story will boil down to one factor – and that is kindness. The old William Key chose to treat this young man as his own son. He raised him with his own children and made sure he was educated. In addition to teaching him the basics – like reading, writing, cooking – etc., young William’s greatest talent lay with animals. He was a self-taught veterinarian and animal dentist.

When the Civil War broke out, young William accompanied his Key brothers to Fort Donelson where they would be fighting for the Confederacy. To be near them, he constructed his own shelter, a dugout covered in logs. When the Union attacked, he hid his brothers in the dugout and helped them escape capture when Fort Donelson surrendered.

During his time hiding near Fort Donelson, William had set up a contact with the underground railroad and helped smuggle many slaves to freedom. Even though he was successful at keeping his Key brothers alive, he was caught transporting another slave and was condemned to die, guilty of treason. Luckily for him, his captors discovered he had a magnificent talent for both cooking and playing poker. He was so good at poker that he managed to purchase his release from a Union officer in exchange for forgiving a gambling debt. Thanks to his skill in poker, William managed to squirrel away a tidy sum and would leave the war a fairly wealthy man. This wasn’t his only arrest, however. He was captured and sentence to hang on another occasion but managed to purchase a stay of execution with a thousand dollars he had sewn in the bottom of one of his shoes. The very next day he was liberated by Confederate raiders.

Upon arriving in Shelbyville, he and his brothers discovered their home in ruins. So much of Tennessee was destroyed in the war. Finding old Mr. Key had lost the planation, William bought it back for him and the boys and restored the family to their property. He even paid for the younger Key boys to go to college. To fulfill his own personal dream of owning a racehorse, he used the remainder of his money to set up a fine horse operation, a very unique accomplishment for a former slave.

To the ridicule of others in the business, William – now called Bill – purchased an abused Arabian bay from a circus. He saw something in the mare that others didn’t see. Paying a hefty fee, he bred the bay to a prominent racehorse of the era, Tennessee Volunteer. The colt they produced was so sickly and wobbly that many advised Key to just put it out of its misery with a bullet. This was something Bill couldn’t do, so he decided to keep him, naming the colt Jim, after the town drunk who moved with the same uneven gait.

Moving into the stable, Bill nursed Jim back to health. When the colt was able, it followed him around like a little dog. At first, he didn’t notice but it soon became apparent that the colt wasn’t ordinary. Jim was letting himself through gates and opening drawers to find apples. Lucinda, Bill’s wife, discovered one day that he could respond to questions with an affirmative or negative nod. When she asked him, “Jim, would you like a slice of apple?” he nodded ‘yes’ that he did. Curious as to what else the horse could do if he spent time with it, Bill put Jim through a training regime that lasted seven years. During that time, the horse learned to spell words by putting cardboard letters on a rack in the correct order, to distinguish coins and make change, write the alphabet and his name on a blackboard, play a hand organ, and respond with an answer when asked about his political affiliation.

Seeing he had a unique opportunity Bill began to exhibit Jim to the delight of any who saw him. He performed at fairs and expositions all over the country to growing crowds. He even performed for President William McKinley at the World’s Fair, where his act was the most profitable of the entire event. Jim also became a ‘spokesman’ for the humane society having gained a million signatures to the Jim Key Pledge to be kind to animals.

Bill and Jim worked together for many years, traveling to New York, where Jim became quite the celebrity. They retired in 1906, after performing for over two million people – which was quite a hefty number considering this was before television or the internet. Bill died in 1909 and Jim passed away peacefully in 1912, a testimony to what a little kindness can do.

This is the story of Jim’s life on Amazon if you want to learn more. 


So…today, I have rambled all over the place and I apologize for that. The topic was influenced by the contents of my latest book – THE STORM YOU CHASE


 – where Clint and Jensen served as mounted Search and Rescue volunteers, working with their horses to save four people lost in Glacier National Park.

Thank you for listening –

Sable Hunter 

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Romanichal in A BRIDE FOR HEDDWYN by Jacqui Nelson

Welcome to Songbird Junction

My newest book, A Bride for Heddwyn (Songbird Junction, book 2), is finally here! 

And today is the last day to snag this story along with 3 more of mine—A Bride for Brynmor (Songbird Junction, book 1), Robyn: A Christmas Bride, and The Calling Birds—for just $0.99 each. Or you can read them for free with Kindle Unlimited. 

Join the Peregrines, Llewellyns & Songbirds

Heddwyn Llewellyn and Oriole's story was fun to write for many reasons. One was the Rominchal and a wagon they sold to Oriole in exchange for her help cleansing a spiritual link to one of their dead. They are (or at least their headman is) also hoping to secure a union with Oriole (who is a talented musician). 

Two "jumping the broom" marriages happen, but they aren't the ones the Romanichal were suspecting. But wait—who are the Romanichal? 

Romanichal History in Britain and America

  • The Roma or Romani people were often called Gypsies or Gipsies, which can be a derogatory word with connotations of illegality and irregularity.
  • The word Romanichal is derived from Romani chal.
  • Chal is the Anglo-Romani word for fellow.
  • Under anti-Romani laws, many of the Romanichal were harassed or killed or transported to Newfoundland, the West Indies, and European countries—who eventually forced the Romanichal's transport to other places like the United States. 
  • Those deported often did not survive as an ethnic group because their social fabric was destroyed after their separation from their families, their long sea passages, and their resettlements. 
  • Some estimate that there are now more people of Romanichal descent in America than in Britain. 

Romanichal Marriages

  • Marrying a non-Roma was usually taboo but some Romanichal defied this dictate. 
  • Jumping the broom is a phrase and custom relating to a wedding ceremony (often associated with the Romanichal especially in Wales) where the couple jumps over a broom. It was popularized during the introduction of civil marriage in Britain with the Marriage Act 1836.

Romanichal Wagons

  • A vardo or living wagon is a traditional horse-drawn wagon used by Romanichal Travelers as their home. They include a small cast-iron cooking stove and were often intricately carved and brightly painted. Today these carvings and paintings are seen as a cultural highpoint of artistic design and a masterpiece of woodcrafters art. 

Romanichal Superstitions 

  • Some Romanichal believe in ghosts.  
  • To cleanse the link between the living and the dead, property belonging to the deceased (including their wagon homes) might need to be destroyed by burning in a ritual cleansing. 

All of the above led to a lot of complications for Oriole and Heddwyn. But wait—who are Heddwyn and Oriole? 

A Bride for Heddwyn's Book Blurb

Secrets are everywhere…

From the moment she met her sisters in a Qu’Appelle Valley orphanage, Oriole has rewritten her past to protect her present. Now Lark is married, Wren is lost, and Oriole is on a mission to find Wren before their cruel and controlling troupe manager does. In order to succeed, she must cling to her lies and evade the only man she ever let come close, the fast-talking Llewellyn brother who deserted her without a word. 

Second chances are few…

From the moment he first heard Oriole sing with her sisters in a Cheyenne saloon, notoriously scatterbrained Heddwyn Llewellyn’s desire to change gained focus. Until tragedy struck. To protect his brothers and sister, Heddwyn turned his back on love and the only woman who’d ever riveted his attention—all while refusing to talk to him. Now, after two years apart, Oriole’s finally back in his life and so is a shot at redemption.

The Songbird Sisters’ quest for freedom may have reunited Oriole and Heddwyn, but it’s also tearing them apart. Her sadistic troupe manager is more than happy to maim and murder to get his money-making musicians back. Can two hearts always on the run finally stand still long enough to save each other and their love too?

A Bride for Heddwyn's Opening Excerpt

If you haven't read the opening of A Bride for Heddwyn, visit my WEBSITE or head to AMAZON to check out both this book and book 1 in my Songbird Junction series—where Welsh meets West in 1878.  

~ * ~

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