Friday, December 9, 2016

Owning Freedom


Owning a freedom as big and wide as the Mexican sky was the most important thing to Rosa Grey. It was all she’d ever known. Born into a family of escaped slaves who’d claimed their freedom at the Texas Mexico Border, she dreamed of nothing more than insuring that all men owned the same freedoms she did. Many of the children born in these border colonies had no idea what it meant to be a slave. They lived free and proud on the ranches and in the villages their parents raised for them.
In 1823 slaves in the Americas learned that salvation might lie just across the border. Vicente Guerrero, half Black half Spanish himself, abolished the institution of slavery in Mexico upon becoming president. Instead of going north, a long grueling trek through hostile territory, escaped slaves could simply head south. Guerrero did not make any other promises other than any man who came across the border would be free to pursue his own livelihood. This meant that the colonists would have to learn to defend themselves and their homes.


Though the children born to the colonies had no idea the struggles their parents went through to get them their, they lived the daily struggle that was making a living on the land.  Having been forced out of their own lands and retreating into Mexico, renegade Apache, Comanches, and other tribes took pleasure in raiding the farms and Ranches. Believed to be as much an obstacle as the inclement weather, the new colonists came to despise the Natives as much as the Mexicans did. When possible, the raiding Natives would take a strong man or woman to replace lost family members in their tribe.
Rosa Grey had no reason to doubt her safety on her Ranch. Though they'd heard of Bounty Hunters raiding nearby colonies and they’d had a few sneak attacks in the night from the Natives, she’d never had a reason to doubt that she could hold her own in the light of day. It felt some days as if she were born in the saddle, and she worked as hard as any of their ranch hands. Even her brothers did not possess the prowess she demonstrated with the horses and cattle. No, her focus was set on the north and finding a way to set the captives free.
It was an afternoon when she was not paying attention that she was taken off guard. Alone, tending to her family's cattle, she fought the Apache warriors who’d come only intending to take a cow. Impressed with her strength and gumption, however, it was decided that she would be taken with them. Through a twist of fate, she is given to a brave who helps her understand that the fear her people have of the Natives, may be unwarranted. Most wanted to coexist with the Ranchers, but every year, with more Ranchers building more villages, free game and free land start to fade away.


Though Mexico found a way to abolish slavery, they felt the encroachment of the Apache and Comanche Natives was a major inconvenience to the development of Mexican lands. This conflict was never higher than the years 1831 to 1850. During this time, the government began to offer bounty hunters a price if they brought in Native Scalps. The older the warrior, the more money the bounty hunter could receive. This meant, not only could Rosa fetch a price at market as a slave, but she might also be scalped, and still the bounty hunters would receive a pay day for her.
When Rosa is finally able to return home, she has a new respect for the concept of freedom. Against all odds, she strikes a fire within the people. No longer willing to hide and wait for the bounty hunters to burn her town down, Rosa builds the printing press that will begin to spread the word. Why go north to freedom, when the south is so much closer? All men and women arriving are given arms, food, shelter, real work, and the opportunity to truly own their own freedom.

To read Rosa Grey's story, please visit my book, Destiny's Hope, at:

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Christmas Music

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Growing up with two brothers and one sister, Christmas was always a fun time of year. We’d go to the mall and see Santa Claus, drive to the tree farm and cut down our tree (usually in the snow), bring it home and decorate it with the paper chains we had made. Mom would set out the Nativity, and Christmas music would play on the stereo. We sang along with Gene Autry and Mitch Miller, hemmed and hawed and turned our noses at Grandpa’s collection of hymns sung in German by the German choir. I have no clue where those records are today, but one thing I know for sure is when I listen to Christmas music, I’m easily transported back to the days of old, to the timeless music I loved as a child.

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Silent Night is my overall favorite. The lyrics to the hymn were penned by Joseph Mohr in 1816. Joseph was a young priest in Mariapfarr, Austria when he drafted the poem, ‘Stille, Nacht! Heilige Nacht!’ On December 24, 1818, Joseph visited Franz Gruber, his musician-schoolteacher friend who lived in Arnsdorf, and asked him to create music for his poem so that it could be sung at midnight mass. Joseph’s reason for asking Franz to put music to the words is unknown and often speculated, but that night ‘Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!’ was heard for the first time, with Joseph strumming the notes on his guitar. 
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White Christmas is my second favorite Christmas song. Written by Irving Berlin, many believe White Christmas was written for and first sung in the movie by the same name, which starred Bing Crosby, but that is untrue. White Christmas was first sung by Bing Crosby on his NBC show, the Kraft Music Hall, on December 25, 1941. In 1940, Irving Berlin had been hired to write a song for each holiday, to include a Christmas song for the movie, Holiday Inn. Being Jewish, he found it difficult to write Christmas music and used his own New York and Los Angeles experiences concerning the holiday to write the song. When finished, Berlin believed the song wasn’t that good. Crosby felt differently and sang it on his show. Since there were no recordings to be found after the war of Crosby’s initial singing, Crosby recorded the song for Decca in May of 1942. White Christmas made its movie debut in Holiday Inn’s August 1942 release. The film, White Christmas, was released in 1954. 
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All I Want for Christmas Is You by Vince Vance and the Valiants comes in at number three. I first heard this song back in the 90’s and instantly liked it. It took a few years, but I finally found the album and enjoy most of the songs on there. Vince Vance (aka Andy Stone)is the leader of the group. Andy and Troy Powers wrote the tune and Lisa Layne provided the lead vocals. Layne was hired by Vance as a Valiantette when Vance happened upon her performing with her own band. Though the song was recorded and released in 1989, it didn’t do very well on the charts. Eventually, the tune crossed over to the country music genre and gained in popularity. No doubt, country music is where I initially heard it. A few country artists have recorded their own versions, but I like Layne’s the best. Her vocals lend much more power and emotion to the song than anyone else’s. 

Like most people, there are other Christmas songs that I like. However, the list is too long to do them justice as far as research and getting the facts right. Whatever your favorite(s), I wish you and yours a Very Merry Christmas and blessed holiday season.