Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cover Reveal for Outlaw's Gamble by Kharisma Rhayne

Welcome Kharisma to Cowboy Kisses and learn more about her upcoming release:

Slade is a half Native American man with nothing to lose and wants to sell his ranch. Jess is a stubborn, resourceful woman with everything to lose who is determined to buy it. What neither expected was to face was the biggest gamble of their lives.

Slade Blackclaw was a drifter with no desire to settle down and even less to become a rancher. However, with the death of his father he inherited the ranch that his cherished mother had adored until her death. Being half Native American afforded Slade no luxury in life and he's learned to take what he needs when he has to.
Jess Logan needed to work. Her father, William "Sly Bill" Logan, was growing deeper in gambling debt as each day passed. The last beating left him bedridden for more than a week. Though she hated him for all but selling her off to pay his latest debt, losing her mother at the age of six made Sly Bill her only remaining family and someone she would not turn her back on. She had less than three months to come up with the money owed or she'd have to marry the dirty, foul smelling Otis Grayson in order to settle her father's debt.
After returning to Blueridge, Montana to survey the ranch, Slade decided he wouldn’t stay. Having a permanent home was not in his cards. Taking out an ad at the local saloon, he acquiesces and meets the only person who replied. Little did he know, Jess was nothing like what he expected.

Jess knows she isn't what Slade had hoped for...let alone what he wanted. But with debtors closing in on her father, and very possibly her virginity, Jess will do anything or be anyone for Slade to save her father and, more importantly, herself.

You can enter to win a copy of the book at Rafflecopter.

Release is scheduled for late October with a full book tour beginning in November. To keep up on Slade, Jess, Sly Bill and the release of Outlaw’s Gamble, please visit any or all of the following: WebsiteBlogFacebook - Twitter

Years ago, Kharisma traded in snow, ice and tornadoes for sun, heat, sand and mountains. She now lives in beautiful Arizona with her husband, kids & rescue dogs and goats.

Now, in her eleventh year in Arizona, she is once again braving new terrain and has moved up into the White Mountains.  This will be the first year that she will see freezing temperatures and snow.

Her love for nature and animals is well known and she gets to indulge it in her new home with wolves, coyotes, snakes, and various other creatures as her nearest neighbors. Living in the middle of nowhere is something she wouldn’t change for the world.

Dabbling in writing through Junior High and High School, Kharisma officially got her start writing LGBT, BDSM and erotica. Never one to slow down, she started writing several additional genres including crime, medical, historical and paranormal. Her latest adventure is a dark horror. Her Highlander Mine serial is an unexpected success of which she hopes to have more of.

When you pick up one of her books, she wants you to walk away turned on and inspired! Come take a stroll into Kharisma’s worlds of ecstasy, love, adventure and fear. Her website is here: and you can also find her on Facebook:

Monday, May 27, 2013


Who better to honor this Memorial Weekend than Audie Murphy? Through LIFE magazine's July 16, 1945 issue ("Most Decorated Soldier"/cover photo), Audie Leon Murphy became one the most famous soldiers of World War II and widely regarded as the most decorated American soldier of the war. After the war he became a celebrated movie star for over two decades, appearing in 44 films. He later had success as a country music composer. And how appropriate that we honor him this weekend. In addition to be America’s Most Decorated Soldier, Audie Murphy died in a plane crash on Memorial Day Weekend, May 28, 1971.
Audie Murphy Official Portrait with Medals

Audie Leon Murphy was born to sharecroppers near the community of Kingston in Hunt County, Texas. His parents were of Irish descent, Emmett Berry Murphy (February 20, 1886–September 20, 1976), and his wife, Josie Bell (née Killian (1891–1941). He grew up on farms in Hunt County and has several memorials there. He was the sixth of twelve children, two of whom died before reaching adulthood.

In 1933, Emmett and Josie Murphy with their 5 children June, Audie, Richard, Gene, and Nadine moved to Celeste, Texas with the primary purpose of enrolling the children in school. They lived in an abandoned railroad boxcar on the southern end of the small community for several months before renting a rundown home in Celeste until 1937. The railroad car no longer exists.
Audie Murphy as a boy
While the family lived in Celeste, the two remaining Murphy children, Beatrice and Joseph, were born. It was here that Audie befriended the Cawthon family who played a prominent role in his life. In 1937, the Murphy family moved back into the abandoned railroad car for several weeks and then moved to a farm near Floyd, Texas located just west of Greenville. Audie finally moved out on his own in 1939 at the age of 15 after finding a job with Haney Lee, who had a farm nearby

Audie Murphy spent a lot of time with his grandparents, Jefferson D. and Sarah Elizabeth Killian, at their hope in Farmersville, Texas. In fact, the Killian’s was a place of refuge for the Murphy children when times were difficult during the years of the depression. At the height of the depression, around 1929 or 1930, Audie's oldest sister, Corrine, left the Murphy family and moved in with the grandparents in their Farmersville home to help relieve some of the financial stress burdening the Murphy family.

As the family moved from community to community over the years, they never strayed too far from the Killian home. Around 1933-36 (depending on the account), Emmett Murphy, who was known to disappear for weeks at a time while apparently seeking employment, finally vanished permanently. He had attempted to convince his wife and family to move with him to West Texas where he hoped to find work in the oil fields. Unconvinced that this was a wise move, Mrs. Murphy did not want to leave the area where her parents and lifelong friends lived.

At the time of their mother's death, Audie was approximately 17 years old and was declared by the county to be old enough to take care of himself. The placement of his siblings in the Boles Childrens Home in Quinlan was an event that Audie vowed to correct. On more than one occasion during the war, he told his buddies that he hoped to someday earn enough money to reunite what remained of his family. As it turned out, Audie was able to keep his promise.

Audie attended elementary school in Celeste, Texas until his father abandoned the family. Audie dropped out to help support the family. He worked for one dollar per day, plowing and picking cotton on any farm that would hire him. Murphy became very skilled with a rifle, hunting small game like squirrels, rabbits, and birds to help feed the family.

One of his favorite hunting companions was neighbor Dial Henley. When Henley commented that Murphy never missed what he shot at, Murphy replied, "Well, Dial, if I don't hit what I shoot at, my family won't eat today."

On May 23, 1941, his mother died. He worked at a combination general store, garage and gas station in Greenville. Boarded out, he worked in a radio repair shop. Later that year, with the approval of his older, married sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Corinne Burns (usually referred to as "Corrine"), who was unable to help, Murphy placed his three youngest siblings in an orphanage to ensure their care. He reclaimed them after World War II.

He had long dreamed of joining the military. After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Murphy tried to enlist in the military, but the services rejected him because he was underage. In June 1942, shortly after what he and his sister Corrine believed was his 17th birthday, Corrine adjusted his birth date so he appeared to be 18 and legally able to enlist. His war memoirs, TO HELL AND BACK, maintained this misinformation, leading to later confusion and contradictory statements about his year of birth.

Murphy was small, only 5 ft 5 inch and 110 pounds, but he tried once again to enlist and was declined by both the Marines and Army paratroopers as too short and underweight. The Navy also turned him down for being underweight. The United States Army finally accepted him and he was inducted at (some reports say Dallas) Greenville, Texas and sent to Camp Wolters near Mineral Wells, Texas for basic training. During a session of close order drill, he passed out. His company commander tried to have him transferred to a cook and bakers' school but Murphy insisted on becoming a combat soldier, and after 13 weeks of basic training, he was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland for advanced infantry training.

Murphy was awarded 33 U.S. decorations and medals, five medals from France, and one from Belgium. He received every U.S. decoration for valor available to Army ground personnel at the time. He earned the Silver Star twice in three days, two Bronze Star Medals, three Purple Hearts, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the Medal of Honor.

After seeing the young hero's photo on the cover of the July 16 edition of Life Magazine and sensing star potential, actor James Cagney invited Murphy to Hollywood in September 1945. Despite Cagney's expectations, the next few years in California were difficult for Murphy. He became disillusioned by the lack of work, was frequently broke, and slept on the floor of a gymnasium owned by his friend Terry Hunt. He eventually received token acting parts in the 1948 films “Beyond Glory” and “Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven.” His third movie, “Bad Boy,” gave him his first leading role.

He also starred in the 1951 adaptation of Stephen Crane's Civil War novel, “The Red Badge of Courage,” which earned critical success. Murphy expressed great discomfort in playing himself in “To Hell and Back.” In 1959, he starred in the western “No Name on the Bullet,” in which his performance was well-received despite being cast as the villain, a professional killer who managed to stay within the law.

After returning home from World War II, Murphy bought a house in Farmersville, Texas for his oldest sister Corrine, her husband Poland Burns, and their three children. His three youngest siblings, Nadine, Billie, and Joe, had been living in an orphanage since Murphy's mother's death, He intended that they would be able to live with Corrine and Poland. However, six children under one roof proved difficult for Corrine and Poland to parent, and Murphy took his siblings to live with him.

Despite a lot of post-war publicity, his acting career had not progressed and he had difficulty making a living. Buck, Murphy's oldest brother, and his wife agreed to take Nadine in, but Murphy could not find a home for Joe. He approached James "Skipper" Cherry, a Dallas theater owner who was involved with the Variety Clubs International Boy's Ranch, a 4,800 acres ranch near Copperas Cove, Texas. He arranged for Joe to live at the Boy's Ranch. Reportedly, Joe was very happy there and Murphy was able to frequently visit his brother as well as his friend Cherry. In a 1973 interview, Cherry recalled, "He was discouraged and somewhat despondent concerning his movie career."

Variety Clubs International was financing “Bad Boy,” a film to help promote the organization's work with troubled children. Cherry called Texas theater executive Paul Short, who was producing the film, to suggest that they consider giving Murphy a significant role in the movie. Murphy performed well in the screen test, but the president of Allied Artists did not want to cast someone in a major role with so little acting experience. Cherry, Short, and other Texas theater owners decided that they wanted Murphy to play the lead or would not finance the film. The producers agreed and Murphy's performance was well-received by Hollywood. As a result of the film, Universal Studios signed Murphy to a seven-year studio contract. After a few box-office hits at Universal, the studio bosses gave Murphy increased scope in choosing his roles.

Murphy's 1949 autobiography TO HELL AND BACK became a national bestseller. The book was ghostwritten by his friend, David "Spec" McClure, already a professional writer. Murphy modestly described some of his most heroic actions—without portraying himself as a hero. He did not mention any of the many decorations he received, but praised the skills, bravery, and dedication of the other members of his platoon. Murphy even attributed a song he had written to "Kerrigan".

Murphy portrayed himself in the 1955 film version of his book with the same title, “To Hell and Back.” Murphy was initially reluctant to star in the movie, fearing it would appear he was cashing in on his war experience. He suggested Tony Curtis for the role. Unlike in most Hollywood films, where the same soldiers serve throughout the movie, Murphy's comrades are killed or wounded as they were in real life. At the film's end, Murphy is the only member of his original unit remaining. At the ceremony where Murphy is awarded the Medal of Honor, the ghostly images of his dead friends are depicted. This insistence on reality has been attributed to Murphy and his desire to honor his fallen friends. Audie Murphy's oldest son, Terry, portrayed Audie's younger brother Joseph Preston "Joe" Murphy (at age four).

The film grossed almost $10 million during its initial theatrical release, and at the time became Universal Studios's biggest hit of the studio's 43-year history. The movie is thought to have held the record as the company's highest-grossing motion picture until 1975, when it was surpassed by Steven Spielberg's “Jaws.”

In the 25 years he spent in Hollywood, Murphy made 44 feature films, 33 of them Westerns. He played outlaws Billy the Kid, Jesse James, and Bill Doolin. His films earned him close to $3 million in his 23 years as an actor. He also appeared in several television shows, including the lead in the short-lived 1961 NBC western detective series “Whispering Smith,” set in Denver, Colorado. For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Murphy has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1601 Vine Street.

Audie Murphy in one of his many western roles

In addition to acting, Murphy also became successful as a country music songwriter. He teamed up with musicians and composers including Guy Mitchell, Jimmy Bryant, Scott Turner, Coy Ziegler, Ray and Terri Eddlemon. Murphy's songs were recorded and released by well-known artists including Dean Martin, Eddy Arnold, Charley Pride, Jimmy Bryant, Porter Waggoner, Jerry Wallace, Roy Clark, and Harry Nilsson. His two biggest hits were "Shutters and Boards" and "When the Wind Blows in Chicago".

Murphy was reportedly plagued by insomnia, bouts of depression, and nightmares related to his numerous battles throughout his life. His first wife, Wanda Hendrix, often talked of his struggle with this condition, even claiming that he had held her at gunpoint once. For a time during the mid-1960s, he became dependent on doctor-prescribed sleeping pills called Placidyl. When he recognized that he had become addicted to the drug, he locked himself in a motel room where he took himself off the pills, going through withdrawal for a week.

Always an advocate of the needs of America's military veterans, Murphy eventually broke the taboo about publicly discussing war-related mental conditions. In an effort to draw attention to the problems of returning Korean and Vietnam War veterans, Murphy spoke out candidly about his own problems with PTSD, known then and during World War II as "battle fatigue". He called on the United States government to give increased consideration and study to the emotional impact that combat experiences have on veterans, and to extend health care benefits to address PTSD and other mental-health problems suffered by returning war veterans.

Murphy married actress Wanda Hendrix in 1949; they were divorced in 1951. He then married former airline stewardess Pamela Archer, by whom he had two children: Terrance Michael "Terry" Murphy (born 1952) and James Shannon "Skipper" Murphy (born 1954). They were named for two of his most respected friends, Terry Hunt and James "Skipper" Cherry, respectively. Murphy became a successful actor, rancher, and businessman, breeding and raising Quarter Horses. He owned ranches in Texas, Tucson, Arizona and Menifee, California.

On May 28, 1971, Murphy was killed when the private plane in which he was a passenger crashed into Brush Mountain, near Catawba, Virginia, 20 miles west of Roanoke, Virginia in conditions of rain, clouds/fog and zero visibility. The pilot and four other passengers were also killed. In 1974, a large granite marker was erected near the crash site. On June 7, 1971, Murphy was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. A special flagstone walkway was later constructed to accommodate the large number of people who visit to pay their respects. It is the second most-visited grave site, after that of President John F. Kennedy.

The headstones of Medal of Honor recipients buried at Arlington National Cemetery are normally decorated in gold leaf. Murphy previously requested that his stone remain plain and inconspicuous, like that of an ordinary soldier. An unknown person maintains a small American flag next to his engraved Government-issue headstone, which reads as follows:

Audie L. Murphy, Texas. Major, Infantry, World War II. June 20, 1924 to May 28, 1971. Medal of Honor, DSC, SS & OLC, LM, BSM & OLC, PH & 2 OLC.

Murphy’s diverse honors are far too numerous to list here so I’ll mention only those in the county of his birth, Hunt County, Texas. From the mid-1990s through the present, an annual celebration of Murphy and other veterans in all branches of service has been held on the weekend closest to Murphy's birthday at the American Cotton Museum, renamed The Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum (in Greenville, Texas), which houses a large collection of Murphy memorabilia and personal items. His statue stands in front of the museum. 

A monument in his honor stands in Celeste, the small town where he attended school for five years. Farmersville also claims Audie Murphy, since that is where his sister Corinne lived and the address on his draft information. 

Highway 69 from Greenville to Fannin County is the Audie Murphy Memorial Highway, and Highway 34 crosses the railroad tracks in Greenville on the Audie Murphy Memorial Overpass. 

Mark your calendar for the annual Audie Murphy Day celebration in Farmersville, Texas with a Military flyover at 10 am followed by parade downtown and program under the Onion Shed.

Audie Murphy statue at Greenville, Texas Museum
As we remember those who have gone before us this weekend, let’s remember soldiers like Audie Leon Murphy and his comrades.

Thanks to Wikipedia,, and the Chambers of Commerce of Greenville, Celeste, and Farmersville, Texas.

Friday, May 24, 2013

140 Year Old Icon of the Canadian West

In 1873, Canada's first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald, saw the need to wave the flag in our western territories lest they be taken over by the United States. His first thought was to create a cavalry regiment, but there was some concern that our neighbour might take that too personally. Instead he created the North West Mounted Police.

This could well have been one of the defining moments in Canadian history since we are probably the only country whose most famous national symbol is a police force.

The "new" red serge uniform with Stetson.
A small force of 300 men went west to bring peace, order and good government to the territory that would become the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Later, Sam Steele and his contingent of the NWMP would do the same in the Yukon during the gold rush.

As respected as the NWMP were in the Prairies and Klondike, in Ottawa there was a push to disband the force as the west became more settled. This movement ended in 1897, at Queen Victoria's Jubillee parade in London.
"A contingent from the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) was rear guard to the Canadian section. This sparked a number of unfavourable comments from the London press. Placing them at the rear must have been a blunder, reported one paper, as they were a star attraction, resplendent in their red serge uniforms and western-style Stetson hats. The British and Canadian press praised their physical appearance, their riding, and their general demeanour. The NWMP, by their mere presence, had captured the imagination of Londoners."
  ("A Glorious Moment" The Popular Hero, Collections Canada)

What London discovered in 1897 had already been gleened by novelist Gilbert Parker in 1893. His The Patrol of the Cypress Hills, set the standard for descriptions of the NWMP in literary and movie fiction

Hollywood loved the Mounties, from Tom Mix in the silent films, to Rose-Marie and it's famous "Indian Love Call" duet. However, as film critic Don Miller observed:
"Hollywood never did right by the mounties. The challenge was there, with unlimited opportunities for adventure with fresh, picturesque locales; a group of law enforcers with a noble, proud and inspiring tradition, not to mention their distinctive redcoats; and the potential of blending rugged, Western-type action with, to non-Canadians, a tinge of the exotic allure of a foreign country. With everything at their disposal, the movies generally blew it."
("Trails North" Hollywood Corrals, 1976)

Flawed as they were, those movies are as much a part of the "Mountie" mystique as the more accurate, albeit tongue in cheek portrayals in Due South and Gunless. The fictional stories - whether in print or film -  are as much part of the heritage of the RCMP as Sam Steele and almost as iconic as the Musical Ride.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Butch Cassidy's Gun and Auctions
Butch Cassidy’s gun, the Colt .45 he’d surrendered to the governor of Utah while seeking amnesty sold last fall at auction for $175,000. 

Robert Leroy Parker, better known as Butch Cassidy was born in April 1866 and robbed his first bank in his early twenties. I took this picture of a plaque on the door a very old building in Telluride, Colorado. It says: “Mahr Building 1892 Site of the San Miguel Valley Bank Butch Cassidy’s first bank robbery. June 24, 1889”

Butch’s gun, a .45 caliber Colt Single Action Army Revolver, known as the ‘amnesty colt’ intrigued collectors. Along with a strong paper trail proving it was the famous outlaw’s gun, numbers scratched inside the gun’s grip are said to have been the combination for a safe in a bank in Denver.

It’s said Butch was getting tired of living on the run and in 1899 or 1900 turned his gun over to Sheriff Parley P. Christison. Huber Wells, the Governor of Utah, considered granting Butch amnesty until he discovered one of Butch’s crimes had been murder. When all else failed, Butch and his side kick, The Sundance Kid, escaped to South America. The gun however, remained with the local sheriff and along with receipts of authenticity, was passed along to associates over the years. Butch had also surrendered a Winchester rifle and his holster.   

Auctions date back to 500 B.C. and all sorts of unique and historical items come up for auction around the world regularly. 

Right now there is a large online auction happening in the romance writing world. Brenda Novak’s Annual Online Auction for Diabetes Research

I'm part of Sweethearts of the West which has a category that includes several items. If you have a chance, please check it out at:

Friday, May 17, 2013

Going Dancing by C.K. Crigger

Note from Ginger: Today is Meg's usual day, but she's asked C.K. to fill in for her.  I know you'll enjoy her interesting contribution and we hope she'll be back as a regular guest.  

Going Dancing

Dancing has not always been considered respectable, but Westerners loved to cut a rug. Barn dances, elegant parties, the notorious dance hall girls. Ooh la la! And then came the gay 90s. This is the era when Ragtime--you know--JAZZ, began. And while it may have originated in the southeast, it quickly spread across not only this country, but also into Europe. 

With the music, came the dance. The Cakewalk, newly originated, was based on black people poking fun at the way white folks moved. Very soon whites loosened up and adopted the new fad as their own.

Dance tunes had provocative titles like I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby, Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ay, & A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight. Sometimes the lyrics were a little risque. Who knew? This was still the Victorian age, after all. Dance bands might also be playing songs like The Band Played On, The Sidewalks of New York, Daisy Bell, or After the Ball. A country style song going the rounds was The Cat Came Back. Even I remember hearing this one, and believe me, I wasn’t around in 1893, the year the song came out.

The waltz, as it had been since the early 19th century, was still one of the most popular dances, only now it had variations--sometimes named for the place where some inventive person created new steps and they caught on. The two-step, the polka, the schottische, mazurka, galup, and quadrille were others one might see. The two-step, polka and schottische survive; I don’t know about the others. The tango also began in the 1890s. I’m pretty sure it isn’t the Argentine tango you’ll see on So You Think You Can Dance or Dancing With the Stars! Oddly enough, even in the finest ballrooms in New York City, an evening  likely would end with the last dance being an old time reel. Another interesting point is the length of time allotted for a dance. Dance cards of the day show them lasting ten to fifteen minutes. I suspect ladies might have very sore feet after an evenings entertainment. One hopes she chose her partners well.

Informal dances were held in many different venues, including country barns. Furniture might be cleared from a home’s parlor to make space; hotels often held afternoon tea dances. Not far from where I live is a well-preserved, stately four-story home of the 1890 - 1910 era where the entire top floor is given over to a private ballroom. 

High in popularity with the young set, dance pavilions built out over the water at various lakes drew large crowds. Can’t you just imagine the music floating out over the gently lapping water, stars shining overhead, soft night air brushing the lady’s bare arms lifted to embrace her partner? Gentlemen’s cigar smoke would waft in from the darkness to mingle with the women’s perfume. Bliss.

It is at one such pavilion that China Bohannon and Gratton Doyle, the main actors in my historical mystery series, trip the light fantastic. China is in heaven--until one of Grat's cases intrudes.

Excerpt from Three Seconds to Thunder in which China and Grat are attempting to get evidence in a cheating wife case:

The band, made up of horn, strings, and percussion, broke into a lively waltz as Gratton and I entered the pavilion. We walked our own slow promenade around the dance floor perimeter before Grat swept me into the waltz. He was a good dancer. I might have known, having seen his grace in other, more dire circumstances—like fights. And baseball games. 
He smiled down into my eyes, holding me a little closer than is exactly proper, and bent his head so he could speak without shouting. His mouth touched my ear. “Did you see her anywhere?”
I missed a step. “No. Did you?”
“No. She’ll be here though. Her husband said he found a note making the assignation.”
“Then I guess we’ll have to wait until she—or they—arrive.” 
He chuckled, warm against my ear. “I guess we will.”
The next hour was tremendous fun. I enjoyed the froth of my skirt around my ankles, the twirling to the music, the lights, the people’s laughter—all right, and being in Grat’s arms—right up until he stiffened.
“Look. That’s her, isn’t it?” He nodded towards a statuesque blonde hovering at the pavilion entrance and spun me in her direction for a better view. 
“I think so,” I said, breathless. The blonde certainly wore her hair in the same style as the woman in the picture. In person her face was softer, more relaxed, but really, there was no mistaking the slide of her nose and her wide-spaced, light-colored eyes. Ice blue, as it turned out, which I hadn’t been able to tell from the photo. Her head was thrown back, laughing at something the man with her said.
Then I gulped, missed a step, and trod on Grat’s toe. “Oh, no,” I moaned. “No!”
Grat hadn’t yet seen what I had. Or who I had, I should say. As he turned me in order to see the woman, the other couple had also rotated and brought Alice Pemburton’s dance partner into view.  I recognized that partner all too well. 
“Hell and damnation,” I said.
Gratton made a clicking sound with his tongue. Disapproval. As if I hadn’t learned such language from him. On second thought, perhaps I’d learned it from the man dancing with our quarry. His name was Porter Anderson, and he was my good friend. (Notable events of the 1890s, accompanied by music of the day.)

A gown (the blue one) such as China might wear. The one with big sleeves is a little extreme for the occasion as I've described.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Day In The Life of a Squaw by Ginger Simpson

First, I'd like to offer the definition of "squaw" as found on Wikipedia:  "Squaw" is an English language word, used as a noun or adjective  whose present meaning is an indigenous woman of North America.  It is derived from the eastern Algonquian morpheme meaning 'woman' that appears in numerous Algonquian languages variously spelled squa, skwa, esqua, sqeh, skwe, que, kwa, ikwe, exkwew, xkwe, etc. At present, the term is often held to be offensive.

I'd like to note that my use of the term in my title is in no way intended to be offensive, rather to pay tribute to the hard-working Indian women of the 1800s as shown by my research as relates to the plains Indians, more specifically, the Sioux.

Imagine the creature comforts we enjoy today...the chores we hate, like cleaning toilets, dusting, grocery shopping, and then imagine yourself a Lakota Woman living in a lodge for which you are solely responsible.  Yes, the men killed the buffalo, but once the animal carcasses littered the land,  the women were charged with butchering the meat and remains into every salvageable piece. 

The buffalo supplied almost all the necessities of the tribe.  As well as being a main source of food, other parts of the animal were utilized as well.  For example, the bladder served as water containers, the bones were fashioned into eating utensils.  The skins were used for a wide variety of purposes.  When a baby was born into the tribe, they were often swaddled in a soft calf skin, and in death, a hide served as a shroud.  

Women sewed hides together to make tepee covers, while others were scraped and softened and used as blankets and clothing.  Drums heads, shields, and rattles came from the thick pelt from the neck, and rawhide was made into ropes and sinew for bow strings.  Even the thread used to sew came from the buffalo. 

 A difference between summer kills and winter kills determined the usage as the animal's fur was longer and thicker during the colder period of time.  Butchering and salvaging the animal was no easy feat, but the constant wetting, drying, stretching, and smoking of the hides to soften them took days and wore many blisters onto a woman's hands.  Weaving the hair provided stuffing for cradleboards, moccasins, and other apparel.  Virtually, nothing was wasted.  This might explain why when the white men started slaughtering the animals for sport, the Indian way of life didn't last much longer.

The tepee belonged to the woman.  She created it, put it together, dissembled it for moving and re-erected it many times.  The amount of skins necessary to construct the lodge depended upon the size...often somewhere between six and twenty-eight pelts.  That's a lot of scraping and preparation.  My little bit of dusting is starting to look good.

Unless a "chore" was befitting a warrior, women were responsible for most of the work.  She wasn't just the person who created the clothing, she also adorned dresses and shirts with beads and quills.  She watched the children, made the meals, pounded the clothing clean on river rocks, and was subservient to her husband.  Divorce in those days came as easy as beating a drum and declaring a man was throwing away his wife, and it wasn't uncommon for polygamy... usually sisters married to the same man because it was believed they got along better than two women from separate families.  

I think the only break an Indian woman got was during the monthly time when the males believed a bleeding woman could zap their spiritual energies and strength.  For this reason, a wife was sent to what was commonly called the "women's hut" until her menses had passed.  Men didn't share a part in the of the birthing of a child either.  The responsibility usually fell to the medicine woman and female relatives of the mother-to-be.  Think giving birth today is difficult?  Imagine squatting over a trough dug into the ground while you labor to deliver your baby.  Of course, a stake was driven into the ground to help the woman maintain her balance and squeeze when the pain became intolerable.  Boy, that doesn't sound like fun, does it?  Give me drugs!

I'm sure I've omitted a lot of what the Indian women lived through, but I can hardly go a day without my curling brush and eye glasses.  I can only imagine the dimmed vision of the elderly who didn't have the modern improvements we enjoy.  Beauty had to be in the eye of the beholder, because skin creams, mascara, and blush were decades away.  Think we have it rough?  Think again.  The Indians were a hardy breed until the white man invaded their land and life and brought along diseases likes small pox and diphtheria. Harken back to all the lies the government told and the acreage they stole.  Next time you're pondering which ethnic race was truly treated unfairly....think about the American Indian.   

I've written a few books about the Indian life:
Destiny's Bride
White Heart, Lakota Spirit
Sarah's Heart/Sarah's Passion (past and present day story) and I'm currently working on Yellow Moon which will relay the story of a young Lakota woman.

I think I was a squaw in another life because of my fascination with the Lakota tribe. You can find my work on Amazon, most available both in print and for your Kindle. Little by little, my offerings are being found on various other sites as well, so if you prefer All Romance eBooks, I'm pretty sure you can find my work there, too.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The When, Where and How of Tipi Building

The word "tipi" comes from the Lakota Sioux language. It consists of two parts: thí, meaning "to dwell," and pi, meaning "they dwell." Combined, thípi means house.
Tipis painted by George Catlin, who visited several tribes
 including the Kiowa in the 1830s

Ever wonder who invented the tipi, (also teepee, tepee)? Was it the Native American tribes of the Great Plains? They’re the people we most often associate with the conical shelter, but no, they were not the first to design and build a portable home that could easily be hauled from place to place.

According to the late James H. Creighton, a tipi lover and historian, “The conical home is as old as man and has multiple origins worldwide.” And, “Today, the nomadic Laplanders still use reindeer-hide lodges very similar to the Plains tipi, as do indigenous tribal groups across Siberia and into Mongolia. In ancient Europe, I am sure that the tipi-style lodge was also used both as temporary hunting lodges as well as permanent homes.”

Creighton’s reference to tipis used in Siberia suggests, to me at least, that the structure was likely brought to North America across the Bering Land Bridge millennia ago by Old Worlders migrating to the New World. It’s not hard to imagine how such ancient tipis could evolve into the classic ones used by the Great Plains tribes.

Lakota Sioux tipi 1891; notice little girl
 and puppy seated out front
 The tipi was remarkably durable and comfortable. It provided warmth in winter, when an inner liner was often added; it kept the dwellers dry during heavy rains, and cool during the heat of summer, when the bottom could be rolled up to allow ventilation. Adjustable flaps at the top let smoke escape, allowing a fire to be built in the center of the lodge. Best of all, the tipi was portable, a necessity for nomadic people. It could be broken down quickly and formed into a travois by lashing the poles to the sides of a horse and spreading the hide cover over the poles, providing a place to pile a family’s belongings. The whole process could be reversed just as quickly when they settled in a new area.
Crow lodge interior 1907; poles & outer skin at top,
inner lining and bedding below; clothing hanging
 on line strung between two tipi poles

Fine, but how on earth did a pair of women (it was women’s work) manage to erect pole supports that might be three times their height, lash them together at the top and spread the semi-circular hide or cloth cover around the poles – without a ladder? Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t for people who used their brains as well as their strength to survive.

In an article titled “Tipi Technology” (at http://tinyurl/cq49bkd) I found a fascinating description of how a tipi was erected by the Blackfoot people:

“In demonstrating the Blackfoot solution, Long Standing Bear Chief used a rope about 40-50 feet long to tie the ends of the original four bundled poles together. He wound the excess rope into a coil. After "walking" the poles upright by hoisting the tied ends over his head and working his way down, he opened the bundle and spread the supports. He added more poles by propping them against the apex of the basic pyramidal structure. He then unwound the rope coil and walked around the tipi, whipping the rope up and tightening it to tie the outside poles into the rest of the tipi. The final touch was lifting the canvas, rolled onto one last pole, and unfurling it around the tipi to yield a round roomy living space.”

Pretty ingenious! Now I’d like to share a short excerpt from Dearest Druid. To set the scene, Jack and Rose are just arriving in his mother’s Kiowa village. Keep in mind this is after the tribe was confined on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation in the Indian Territory. Adjusting to a new way of life was not easy for them.

By then they’d left the mountains behind and the sun hung low in the west, bathing the scene in the golden glow of late afternoon. Rose was surprised to see barely a half dozen tipis situated beside a meandering, tree-lined creek. A short way off, a large, rounded hill jutted from the surrounding plains. “I thought ’twould be bigger. The village, I mean.”

“The Army frowns on large camps. They’re afraid the warriors, what’s left of ’em, might plot trouble.” Jack pointed into the distance. “You can’t see ’em from here, but there are more camps farther along Rainy Mountain Creek.” He crooked his thumb toward the lone hill. “That’s Rainy Mountain. For the Kiowa, it’s kind of a signpost or a guardian, you might say.”

Rose thought the mountain and the peaceful setting quite lovely. Viewed up close, though, the village lost much of its charm. The hide tipis were patched and shabby looking, their painted designs faded. Several women, wearing a variety of animal skin and cloth costumes, worked at campfires, evidently preparing supper, while the men sat cross-legged outside their shelters, talking or simply staring at nothing. A few small children, both boys and girls, ran back and forth, kicking around a beat up cloth ball. Two older boys stood watching the game, while here and there an adolescent girl worked beside the women. All of them, except the youngest, had a dispirited air about them, Rose noted.

As she and Jack rode in, several mangy, underfed dogs set up a racket, barking and circling their horses. Everyone in the camp turned to stare. Jack raised his hand in greeting, drawing stilted nods from some of the men. One of the little boys who’d been playing ball shrieked, “Jack!” and came running as they dismounted. The child hurled himself at Jack’s legs, shrilling something in Kiowa.

“Whoa there,” Jack said. Chuckling, he scooped up the boy and returned his fervent hug. He rattled off what sounded like a question, and the boy gave a high-pitched reply, pointing toward the creek. Turning to Rose, Jack explained, “This is Tsoia’s son, Tsahle-ee. He says his pa is hunting for supper.”

Rose smiled brightly at the little boy. “Hello.” She didn’t try to pronounce his name, fearing she’d mangle it. He gave her a shy grin, revealing two missing baby teeth, and hid his face against Jack’s shoulder.

By now, the adults had gathered around. They began speaking and gesturing at Rose, no doubt asking who she was and what she was doing here, making her uncomfortable and causing her to clutch her cross.

Photos were obtained from Wikipedia Commons and are copyright free.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Packing--Old West Style by @JacquieRogers

We read and write about people on the trail all the time. Bounty hunters, lawmen, cowhands, prospectors -- all of them had to know how to live on the trail. That means choosing the correct gear and using it properly. Most of us know at least a little about camping, but we have supplies that a frontiersman could only dream of, if they conceived of it at all.

One thing we have that they didn't have in the 19th century is YouTube. Lucky for us, we can learn the particulars about packing without leaving the house. Of course, practical experience is nearly always better, but most of us don't have the wherewithal to learn this particular skill set on our own.

Everyone needs to sleep, so first things first--bedrolls. Take a look at the Ezine Article, A Cowboy's Bedroll Was Much More Than a Sleeping Bag. The author talks about the possibles sack (sometimes called a war bag) as incorporated into the bedroll. This sack might contain letters from home, a cleaning kit for his firearms, extra socks, or city clothes -- but if he had to carry it with him rather than sling it on the chuck wagon, then weight and durability were supreme issues.

How to Pack a Bedroll

Now that your character has his bedroll, how's he going to carry it? The nomadic life on horseback presents a few challenges. Here are a few necessities:
  • Rifle or at least a pistol, and scabbard
  • Ammunition
  • Hunting knife
  • Hatchet
  • Canteen
  • Rope
  • Bedroll/Possibles sack
  • Duster
  • Matches (or flint)
  • Pot (same pot can be used for boiling food, heating water, or making coffee)
  • Frying pan
  • Hard tack (can be soaked, stirred up with a little baking soda, and voila! you have pancakes)
  • Dried beans
  • Makin's (tobacco, papers) or chaw
  • Snake bite medicine
Remember, the horse has to carry the rider, the saddle and blanket, and all the gear besides. The heavier the load, the more rest, water, and nutrition the animal requires. Unless your character has a pack animal besides his saddle horse or mule, he won't be bringing items such as flour, sugar, bacon, and all those things they pull out of their possibles sacks on TV westerns.

Mules, horses, and donkeys should always be groomed before they're tacked out and after they're done for the day. Whether they carry a riding saddle or pack saddle, dirt in the hair will cause gall (sores).

How to Pack a Saddle Horse
How do you  attach all the stuff on a saddle horse?  I found a video that'll give you a good idea.  One thing the instructor discusses is the even distribution of weight, but I'd like to emphasize it even more. The load absolutely must be balanced; otherwise, the horse can gall, a lop-sided load can make the horse's muscles sore, and can even do bone damage. Because his body hurts, the animal might favor one side or the other, which would make him walk unevenly, and he could even come up lame.  When your character is out in the wilderness, he sure doesn't need to be afoot.  This is something you could use either way in your stories.

Horse/Mule Packing with Saddle Panniers

Now your character has groomed his animal, tacked it well, and packed it evenly so the balance is exact as he can get it. The first day's journey is complete, and because of the planning, all went well. Now it's time to make camp.

Making Camp
Your character has ridden all day.  He's tired, maybe even a little achy, and so hungry it feels like there's a hole in his stomach.  Ah, but remember animal care?  That comes first.  Always.  So here's what all he has to do (and I'm just sure I'm forgetting something!).
  • Set up a picket line where there's good grazing
  • Unload and water the animals
  • Groom, pick the hooves, and inspect the animals
  • Fetch water, refill canteen
  • Make a fire
  • Unpack the supplies
  • Check the animals
  • Cook the meal (that's a whole 'nother how-to) and eat
  • Check the animals -- make sure they either have access to water or water them before turning in for the night
  • Set up the bed and sleep tight -- but not too tight.
Always keep an ear out for the animals. They're a barometer of what's going on around. If a bear or other predator comes by, horses, mules, and donkeys know it a whole lot sooner than a human. Also, make sure the animals don't get tangled in the picket line. It's a good idea to get up in the middle of the night and make sure all is well, especially if there are rocks and snags that might catch the picket line (rope) and hang up an animal.

Do you know how to set up a picket line? We did it differently than this video shows, but the idea is there.

How to make a picket line for horses

So there you have it -- packing, Old West style.  Oh, and in the morning, his day starts with animal care, and then coffee.  After that, he can start re-packing, and get on his way.

Ride safely and watch your back!

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