Friday, June 29, 2012
As soon as I decided to write this post on another horsey subject, the title phrase started echoing in my head, and I couldn’t remember where I’d heard it or what it meant at the time. At last! As I type, it comes to me that my grandmother used to say that whenever my sister or I had the temerity to use, “Hey,” in her presence. Today it may be a common form of address, but not that long ago, it was slang and unacceptable in nice young ladies.
My actual subject here is misconceptions about hay vs. straw in western romances I’ve read recently. I know several others on the CK schedule come from farming and ranching backgrounds and know the difference, but evidently research doesn’t make it clear to some.
Hay is an actual crop and is raised to feed horses and other livestock. Grasses or legumes are cut at a time to ensure maximum nutrition and palatability. Good hay, even decent hay, retains a green color.
Straw is a by-product of a grain crop such as wheat or oats. After threshing to remove the desired grain, empty, mature stems are used for bedding and other absorbing purposes. Straw is golden. Yes, a bored horse with nothing else to do will eat straw, even though there’s little to no nutrition in it, and it can cause digestive problems. Nowadays, a horse that eats straw gets something else for bedding.
I know that for many romances are escapism, and each of us has to decide where to draw the line between romance and reality, but in case you fall on the reality side....
I’m not going to confess my age, but the man who taught me to ride was with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show as a boy. When the show went to Europe, his parents (who had probably emigrated from there not that long ago) refused to sign permission for him to go, and so he went on to other things, work as a mounted policeman among them. In other words, he was an experienced horseman who knew and liked horses.
The stable that Mr. Landi owned and operated in the mid-Twentieth Century featured, if I remember correctly, twenty-two stalls total. More than half were what we called straight stalls. A straight stall is a three-sided slot six feet wide. A horse is led in and tied there, and that’s where he spends his non-working time. Other barns where I boarded my horse after Mr. Landi’s death had all box stalls for boarding horses, but their livery horses were kept in straight stalls.
I think I’ve mentioned that my mother was Canadian. We used to visit her relatives every summer. When I was very small, they still worked the farm with draft horses and kept eight of them. When kept up for work, they stood in straight stalls. The advantages of the straight stall are use of space (half as much as a box) and labor. In a straight stall, horse manure is all right there in a heap behind the horse. In a box stall it’s spread wherever it falls and wherever it gets kicked as the horse moves around.
Those draft horses never met bedding. The horses in straight stalls in Mr. Landi’s barn got a little straw laid down in the back half of the stall at night that was carefully picked through and put to one side during the day.
What I’m getting at here is that if you’re going to have a scenario where your intrepid heroine is spreading that straw in a nice box stall, and if you want to be realistic, you need to set it up carefully. In those times, your average working stiff horse never saw a box stall and never experienced bedding.
Monday, June 25, 2012
By Caroline Clemmons
How long have you been reading romance novels? If it’s more than ten or fifteen years, you’ve seen heroines change from the damsel who has to be rescued, to the spunky heroine who works with the hero to help save herself, and sometimes to the kick-ass heroine who rescues the hero.
|"Hello? Killer |
is that you
Readers require heroines to be strong and admirable, just as the heroes are. We don’t like whiners, brutality, or stupid characters in either gender. Even if our hero and heroine are a bit over the top, we want to believe they are people we would like to know in person.
I live a few miles from a small Texas town. This is why I write characters who live in or near small Texas towns. Whether historical or contemporary, the characters who reside in my head are people I would enjoy knowing in real life...except the criminals, but I dispose of them one way or another. Even the secondary characters are people I would enjoy finding on the next acreage.
BE MY GUEST has characters that I admire and with whom I enjoy spending time...once again, except the criminals. ☺ This was my first published novel and released in 1998. I’ve updated it a bit and added back some cut scenes, but the hero and heroine remain the same. I hope you’ll enjoy spending time with Aurora O’Shaughnessy and Will Harrison and their friends and relatives. I certainly have.
|That's model Jimmy Thomas standing in front|
of my photo of Texas wildflowers
Here’s a blurb:
Aurora Kathleen O’Shaughnessy comes by her flaming auburn hair naturally, and this independent city woman has an inner fire to match. Nothing stops Aurora--that is, nothing short of a Texas flash flood. This super-organized businesswoman might be running from the past, but she’s using this journey to stop and smell the roses-- or rather the spring flowers in bloom across the Texas prairie. But beautiful Aurora has attracted the attention of two unsavory characters stalking her.
Rancher Will Harrison rescues her from the raging waters and she’s his guest for the next thirty-six hours. That’s long enough for Will to fall head over heels in major attraction, and he has a hunch she might feel the same. He has a plan to keep her around until he convinces her to move out of the fast land and in to his life forever. But two predators have other plans for Aurora. Can Will save her in time? Can Aurora save herself?
And here’s an excerpt after Aurora’s car is washed away by floodwater. When Will rescued her from a cottonwood tree, she was a bit banged up. As the above blurb indicated, the high water has marooned her at Will’s ranch house:
Will let his eyes memorize every detail of her face before, with resignation, he sat up and picked up the phone again to dial his mother's phone number. Kelly answered the phone and he told her briefly about his houseguest. Once again he laughed and winked at Aurora as he answered Kelly's questions. Finally, he told her they would discuss the situation further when she got home.
While Will talked on the phone, Aurora absentmindedly organized the medical supplies on the bedside table into a neat little group on one corner of the tabletop. She realized what she’d done and found he watched with an amused expression. She blushed and put her hands in her lap. Why, why did she have to be such an organization nut?
When Will finished his call to Kelly and his mother, Aurora crossed her arms and accused, "That's the second time you've done that."
"What?" Will frowned. “What did I do?”
"You know, laughed while you answered questions over the phone. What did you say about me?"
"You heard what I said." Will grinned innocently.
His stone gray eyes came to life when he smiled, and each time it made her even more aware of her attraction to this man.
She tried to fight the spell he cast over her, to concentrate on her goals. "You know very well what I mean. For instance, what did my father ask that you found so amusing, anyway?"
Will's smile became mysterious. "That's my secret for now. Let's just say we had a meeting of the minds. I'm sure I'm going to like him."
Aurora scowled at him, but ignored the implication. "What did your daughter ask that was so funny?"
"She wanted to know if I still wore my wedding ring--that's been such an unbelievably big deal to her lately. Most kids don't want a stepmother, but she's determined to get one. I think it's because the father of her friend Marcie remarried last year, and Marcie has been lording it over her with tales of how great it is to have a stepmother. When I admitted I removed the ring, she wanted to know if it was because of you."
Aurora relaxed her arms and folded her hands primly together in her lap. "Oh, you know very well that I'm on my way to Colorado."
"I know what you told me." Will said as he took her hand. For a moment he sat examining her hand. When he again met her gaze there was a new intensity there. "Yesterday I let you walk out of the restaurant and hated myself for letting you get away without my even knowing how to contact you. It may sound foolish but I determined to find you again if I had to go to Durango to do so." He traced his finger across her palm. "I promise you it won't be so easy to get away from me next time."
He had revealed far more of himself than he had intended at this point. He determined to find out if his attraction to her was because of his three years of celibacy or because she was as special as he suspected. Careful not to scare her off, he had to know the answer. To accomplish that, he had to keep her nearby.
He flashed her a wicked grin, "Although I like my pajama top on you, I suppose you'll be more comfortable in your own things--and definitely a lot safer."
BE MY GUEST is available for only 99 cents from these sources:
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Friday, June 22, 2012
"There is nothing like being left alone again, to walk peacefully with oneself in the woods. To boil one's coffee and fill one's pipe, and to think idly and slowly as one does it." --Knut Hamsun
A Norwegian author who was described as "the soul of Norway" and "the father of modern literature," Knut Hamsun was probably talking of the wild places of his homeland. Yet, his words could have as easily spoken by a cowboy.
Only one image is more vivid than the lone cowboy with his tin cup. That's the image of a group of cowboys around the campfire with a large pot sitting close by, ready to supply refills. The free-range cafe, where stories are swapped, politics argued and weather discussed.
Americans weren't always big coffee drinkers. The colonists were primarily tea drinkers until the Boston Tea Party. Boycotting tea because of unfair taxes and the monopoly of the East India Company, Americans turned to coffee as their preferred drink.
Not that there hadn't been coffeehouses before that. The intelligentsia of Boston, New York and Philadelphia had been hanging out drinking coffee since 1668. Just like their European and British counterparts, these coffeehouses were hubs where stories are swapped, politics argued, weather discussed and business transacted.*
Until 1773, coffee was considered too expensive to be consumed in most households. After the Boston Tea Party, coffee became the patriotic beverage of choice. It also helped that Central and South American growers were producing enough coffee to bring the price of beans down.
Coffee represented independence, democracy and free thinking. It's no wonder it traveled well with the western expansion. That is, the tradition of coffee traveled well. The beans were another story.
"If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee." --Abraham Lincoln
Until 1865, when Arbuckles introduced their ground coffee in one pound paper bags, consumers bought green coffee beans in cloth sacks. The beans picked up odors in transit and were often stale by the time they were used. Cook, wife, or lone cowboy would then have to roast the beans in a pan, being careful not to burn them. Then the beans had to be ground before you could start to boil the coffee.
Even with Arbuckles', brewing a good cup of coffee was iffy. (How to make Cowboy Coffee - Canadian style.) At it's best it was never "Good to the last drop" because the last drops contained a sludge of coffee grounds.
Of course, a dark, bitter-sweet brew with a smooth finish wasn't in the cowboy phrase book. When you had to wake up before dawn, or stay awake long after dusk, all you needed was something hot, strong and caffeinated. However, if the coffee was weak, instead of swapping stories, arguing politics and discussing weather, the cowboys might be looking for a new camp cook.
International Coffee Organization
Arbuckles Coffee History
* Coffee trivia: Edward Lloyd opened a coffeehouse in London in 1688. It was frequented by shipping merchants and became known as a place for obtaining marine insurance. The business became Lloyd's of London.
Alison Bruce is the author of Under A Texas Star (western romance) and Deadly Legacy (mystery). Find her at:
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
The Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee are rich in history, as is most of this state. A brochure I picked up on a recent trip to Pigeon Forge, explains the territory far better than I can:
Some of the oldest roads and "traces" have been maintained as historical pathways and highways and are clearly marked. Here are a few, along with a little history and link to more information if you are so inclined: The Great Warrior Path, The Avery Trace, and The old Jacksboro Pike.
The Great Warrior Path: (Info and photo gathered from Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail)
The Avery Trace: (Info and picture gathered from Wikipedia and Fort Southwest Point)
Fort Blount, directly to Bledsoe's Fort in Castalian Springs which is where I live. From here, it continues on to what was Mansker's Fort near today's Goodlettsville, and finally to Fort Nashborough. These forts provided protection and shelter for travelers.
I was very interested to discover that until 1805, a large part of the Cumberlands was officially deemed Cherokee Territory, and the majority of early settlers were Scotish-Irish immigrants. The coming of the Civil War and the arrival in 1878 of the first railroad, which ran from Cincinnati to Chattanooga, drastically changed the demographics. Towns, villages, and farms formed by American and European migration took root.
Although the railroad brought passengers to Tennessee, the trains carried out the rich natural resources (coal and virgin timber). In my book, Ellie's Legacy, which is set in the area of Sparta, TN, part of the storyline centers around the coal mines and the abandoned caves. Today, much of the natural resources are depleted, but this state has become rich in federal parks, forests, and wildlife reserves, along with plenty of recreation of visitors. So, as they say here in TN...."Ya'll come!"
|Collage of Pictures taken at the annual Fort Bledsoe celebration|
Oh...and what would a post be without an opportunity for shameless promotion?
Here's a brief peek at my Tennessee story where Ellie is alone, looking for a place to practice shooting. She's already been threatened by one of the greedy neighbors looking to take over her Pa's Ranch, and she's determined she's going to prove she can do anything as good as the new ranch foreman, Tyler Bishop. Enjoy!
The road didn’t improve as she traveled back into the forest. Ellie maneuvered Chessie through the trees. She strained to see the trail and watched for familiar landmarks. The air wasn’t terribly warm but the humidity was unbearable.
Damp from perspiration, her shirtfront clung to her bosom. She wiped wetness from her brow and surveyed the area. If only she could remember the exact location of the old mine shaft.
The last time she visited, she was only a child. Back then, tents, wagons, mining equipment and men hungry to find a vein of gold ore crowded the area. Instead of gold, they found coal. In comparison to the hustle and bustle of those days, the silence was almost eerie.
When the trees fanned into a clearing, the area looked familiar. Ellie dismounted and led Chessie toward a small outcropping of rocks. She dropped the mare’s reins and left her to graze on what remained of summer’s greenery.
The area, although somewhat overgrown, was just as she remembered. Ellie shielded her eyes and scanned the area. Her lips curved into a smile. There, almost concealed by fallen branches, was the entrance to the old mine. As she pushed debris aside, she grimaced. Stringy cobwebs hung in masses and changed her decision to venture inside. She shivered. Perhaps this wasn’t the best place after all. Something might live here she didn’t care to meet. It was too early for bears to seek places to hibernate, but not for wolves or coyotes. She expected to see glowing eyes peering back from the darkness.
“C’mon Ellie. Stop being such a baby."
Visions of Jeb Bryant’s face played in her mind. “You’ve already encountered one dangerous varmint today,” she muttered. She swatted her way through the sticky mesh and stepped inside.
Just an end note...she does come to her sense and realizes that shooting inside an old abandoned mine isn't such a good idea. *smile*
I hope you've enjoyed your brief foray into Tennessee. As a transplanted Californian, I've already forgotten my previous roots, and I'm proud to say I'm definitely a southerner at heart.
Monday, June 18, 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012
Check out Double Crossing at Amazon - click here
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
|Back side of Batwing Chaps|
How the West Was Worn by Chris Enss
Wishing you a lovely day, wherever on Mother Earth you may be.
Monday, June 11, 2012
|Replicas of UP No. 119 & CPRR No. 60 (the Jupiter) meet at the|
Gloden Spike National Historic Site.
|Railroad construction workers in northern Utah|
|CPRR Groundbreaking Ceremony, Scramento, CA, Jan. 8, 1863 -- G.J. "Chris" Graves Collection|
(Sorry, I couldn't find a picture of a Utah railroad groundbreaking. Darn!)
All of the above mentioned shortline railroads came under the control of the Union Pacific by the late 1870s to early 80s. However, another line, the Denver & Rio Grande Western, entered Utah Territory in 1881. The D&RGW rails approached from Denver via the Price River Canyon, reaching Salt Lake City in June, 1882. By purchasing several shortlines, the company swiftly began collecting revenue, giving the Union Pacific competition.
That's it for now. Next month I'll delve into mining in Utah, and how the railroads influenced the mining industry. Now here are two brief excerpts from Darlin' Druid, showing how I imagine an Old West train depot, c. 1872:
Thursday, June 7, 2012
- Riders always stayed downwind of the chuck wagon so as not to kick up dirt in the food.
- Horses were not to be tied to the chuck wagon.
- There was no using the worktable as the dining table.
- Cowboys were very careful not to let the pot lid touch the dirt while serving themselves from the pot.
- Never take the last of anything unless everyone had been served.
- Always scrape your plate clean and stack it in the wreck pan to be cleaned (when water was scarce, they were cleaned with sand.)
Lone Hand Western: Reliving History
Muller's Lane Farm
My Wooden Spoon
May your saddle never slip!