Friday, July 27, 2012

Animal Guides

Animal guides, totems and spirit animals have fascinated me for years. Identifying with animals and looking to them as portents of the future crosses all cultures. You can see this in the western and Chinese zodiacs, our superstitions and our prejudices for and against certain animals.

Many native cultures believe that an animal is assigned to you at birth. This is your totem or spirit animal, not to be confused with your spirit guide which may or may not be an animal. Your spirit animal is a reflection of who you are.*

A spirit guide may be an animal, or a natural object or a person, and you can have more than one. Guides can come as messengers and leave as soon as the message is received. They can lead you to a destination, staying as long as the journey--actual or metaphorical--lasts. A spirit guide can also be akin to a guardian angel, appearing as needed throughout your life.

The Spider may come with a message from your past that you need to remember in order to move forward. She connects past, present and future and weaves the pattern of life. She may guide you in a journey to discover where you came from. If your totem is the Spider, your role may be to act as a bridge between generations or be a storyteller.

The Deer symbolizes grace, speed, protection and fertility. She may appear as a messenger that now's a good time to make babies... or make haste. If the Deer is your totem, you are creative, kind and family oriented.

In British and European traditions, the Raven is a harbinger of death and bad luck. Native peoples sometimes equate the Raven with the Coyote as a trickster, but the Raven is also a messenger from the sky bringing wisdom to the worthy.

The Dragonfly is another message carrier. The Eagle (among other things) carries prayers.The Bear, who was a regular visitor to my dreams in the past, may be encouraging me to be a leader or warning me that my children need protecting. Or telling he could be telling me to wrap up this post and hibernate for the rest of the night.

For a quick reference to the attributes of spirit animals check out:

(*Author Jeri Smith-Ready has come up with a questionnaire to discover your spirit animal... for entertainment purposes only, of course. As she says "Discerning a person's true Animal Spirit is way beyond the abilities of a mere novelist, who, let's face it, makes things up for a living."

Monday, July 23, 2012


When I was younger, I used to rearrange furniture and vacuum to work off anger. Worked for me, but now I have a handle on my temper and don’t get upset very often. Plus, we built our home for the furniture we own. I can replace items, but there simply is no way to rearrange what is here. (Apology: I don't know why some of the type has a white background. Please bear with me.)

When I worked for a behavioral psychologist, he used to say, “If you can’t fight, flee. If you can’t flee, go with the flow.” So instead of getting angry, now usually I flow. ☺ He also said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff. And it’s all small stuff.” Most of the time, the petty things that annoy us are the small stuff, so shrug it off.

But lately I have been angry and extremely frustrated with something important to all authors, and that is sites pirating my books. How awful to steal another’s work and give it away. For heaven’s sake, the stolen books sell for only 99 cents. Why steal them? BE MY GUEST and THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE have each recently appeared on piracy sites. And here I am with no furniture to rearrange! My husband lets me complain to him. I also file the information with the site host. Sometimes that works, sometimes not. Okay, I’ve vented and will now work off my residual anger by telling you about one of the books that’s been pirated, BE MY GUEST.

Copyright pirates rank down with pond scum.
Lower than a snake's belly, as we
say in Texas.

The idea for BE MY GUEST came to me while my family drove home to the Dallas-Fort Worth area from visiting family in West Texas. We were between Post and Snyder when heavy rain struck and quickly swelled creeks and rivers. I remembered a story a high school teacher had told of a car being washed onto the raised railroad bed. The family sought shelter on the rails while their car bobbed out of sight.

Caprock viewed from Highway 84 near Post, Texas

In West Texas, winding through are ravines that are dry creek beds, creeks, and forks of the Brazos River. Most of the time, these are either dry or hold only a trickle of water. In a torrential downpour, however, the watercourses swell with run off from the fairly flat land. To safeguard trains, the railroad is built on a high, artificial bed. Unfortunately, this means the railroad acts as a damn, and water rushes toward bridges to flow south. If you’ve never seen this happen, you can’t imagine the water’s power.

Years ago, Hero and I lived on a pleasant little creek in Richardson, Texas. We could walk across it on a few stones -- most of the time. In a heavy rain, it became so swift that an adult could not stand up in the water. Some teens Hero rescued discovered that.  I could imagine how strong the force of water in West Texas would be.

Aurora O'Shaughnessy
As you have probably guessed, one of my characters, heroine Aurora O’Shaughnessy, is a flash flood victim. Never fear, our brave hero, cowboy Will Harrison, rushes to her rescue even though his left leg is in a cast.What a guy! 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. She’s mapped out her life and her business strategy for success. 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. Can she evade them?

photo courtesy of my friend
Nelda Liles

Rancher Will Harrison rescues Aurora 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 lane and into his life forever. But two predators have other plans for Aurora. Can Will save her in time? Can Aurora save herself?

Let me set up the following excerpt. Aurora was stranded on the railroad bed and dragged one suitcase and her briefcase with her. When she saw a huge water moccasin, she jumped and tumbled into the floodwater. Though she tried to swim, debris pummeled her and she whammed into a large cottonwood tree. Holding on for her life, she shined around the little mag lite she'd tied to her wrist. Will saw the light and rescued her. Now she and he are marooned for 36 hours alone in his home.

Here’s the excerpt from BE MY GUEST:

Will Harrison, Rancher
    Will memorized every detail of her face before, with resignation, he sat up and picked up the cell  phone again to dial his mother's phone number. Kelly answered the phone and he told her briefly about his house guest. 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.

    Aurora loved the way his voice changed tone as he talked to his daughter. He’d sounded friendly and polite when talking to her father, and professional while he talked to the sheriff's office deputy. His tone with his daughter was entirely different--patient and loving. His pride and love for his little girl showed in every word he said.

    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."

    Will shrugged. "I never lie to her, so I had to tell her yes. Then, she wanted to know if I plan to keep you here. That's when I said I certainly intend to try."

    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 intended 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 from:


Amazon Kindle

Within two weeks, a print version will be available.

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Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Decorating Pioneer Homes by Paty Jager

In the nineteenth century, women, who were uprooted from their families and hauled into primitive conditions, had to make due with the housing structures their husband’s provided.

Their first home once they arrived to their location could be a tent, a one  room log cabin with no doors or windows or floor, mining shacks with dirt floors and canvas ceilings, flimsy tar-paper shacks, dark and desolate dugouts or soddies. The men were busy staking claims, putting in crops, or working jobs and only came home to sleep. The manner of the house didn’t matter to them.

But the woman spent every hour of every day in the home other than the hours her chores took her outside. Reading letters by some of the pioneer women it is easy to see how their dreary conditions would be hard to handle.  Especially if they had several children in a small drafty, leaky home.

One woman used grass and fern mixed with mud to fill the cracks in the walls and floor to keep out the drafts, vermin, lizards, and snakes. Many of the floors had cracks so large the eating utensils would fall through the cracks and the boards would have to be pried up to retrieve the tableware.

Another family decided to move to a larger parcel of land and to save time of building another house, they pulled the 12’ x 12’ chicken coop to the new site. Before she could get her things moved in pack rats dragged in their sundry plunder.  They cleaned out the debris and the rats and lived in the building with five children.  The woman didn’t like the gray walls and smell of chickens so she covered the walls with newspapers.   Later the family moved into a more permanent living quarters. This building had a ceiling made of muslin tacked up to the plaster. When it rained hard the muslin would hang down with mud in it, dripping dirty water on everything. After every rain they would have to take the muslin down and wash it. She whitewashed the walls and as the family became more prosperous she bought calico cloth, sewed it together and tacked it to the walls. The one front room window had a cheese cloth curtain she attached crocheted lace to.  When she desired a nicer place for her babies to play than the rough plank floors, she spent a winter making a carpet from rags. She even went to the dump and dug out flour sacks that she died a dull brown using copper.

One woman sewed sheets together to tacked them up between the joists of the cabin to make the home more cozy and less drafty. A woman married to a civil engineer, used his geological survey maps to line her walls.

In South Dakota there were the “tar paper homesteaders”. These people had the choice of lining their interior walls with red or blue tar paper. The red was thinner and cost three dollars a roll while the blue was thicker and six dollars a roll. Everyone knew the difference in quality and cost so the blue paper on walls became a sign of class on the frontier.

Source: Pioneer Women; The Lives of Women on the Frontier by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We've Come a Long Way, BABY!

Ever give thought to what our "fore sisters" went through to have children?  Both me, and my son born in 1975, probably would have died during the 1800s because of my need for an emergency c-section. Thank God for modern medicine.

 Because I write mainly historical westerns, I'm quite familiar with the history of the pioneer and Indian woman, and it was fun to research a little deeper to provide today's post.

Prior to the appearance of "physicians," which by the way was considered a male-only profession, women relied on the practical experience of other women to help bring their children into the world.  Midwives of the period relied mainly on knowledge gained from the previous birthing assistance given, and the mortality rate was high.  In fact, many women feared pregnancy, seeing it as a certain death sentence, although the numbers of live births don't support that theory. Disease and accidents claimed many young victims who did survive the process.  Men played no part in the delivery, as it was unseemly for them to witness such a private event. 

Most American Indian woman used a "women's hut" for the birthing process.  The temporary residence was frequented by women during their monthly flow as a bleeding woman was deemed possessed by spirits dangerous enough to threaten a man's power.  Prior to pregnancy, young girls spent their first menses there, being taught customary tribal tasks, however, afterwards, their joy at reaching womanhood was usually a cause for celebration.

In birthing, many a pending mother brought her babe into the world in that same hut by kneeling before a stick driven into the ground and "dropping" her child into a furrow beneath her that held a clean piece of hide for swaddling.

In comparison, the pioneer woman didn't have it much easier.  Many traveled by wagon to far destinations, seeking new homes, and many times, a train was halted so that other women could tend to the birth of a new arrival.  To say that conditions were often not sanitary is an understatement, and it wasn't until much later that any type of "pain control" was introduced into the process.

When doctors finally began practices throughout the country, many women shied away because of impropriety.  Sexuality was a very private matter, and most husbands wouldn't allow another man to view their women unclothed. 

The picture shown here was "borrowed" from a Jane Austen site, demonstrating the modesty of the time.  Boy, have things changed, or what?  Although, I can't imagine living under the guidelines governing the era and having a strange man delve beneath my skirt, at least today, it's a common practice, but skirtless.  I cringe at hearing"scoot to the end of the table and let your knees fall apart."  I always laugh at the request to "relax." Easier said than done.

Yes, indeed, things have definitely changed over the ages...with coffee, with potties, with everything, if you've read the preceding posts.  Eventually home birth gave over to hospital birth with doctors in attendance, but truly not until 1930.  Until then, women still preferred giving birth with other women at their side.  In hospital stays, the use of opiates and delivery tools were standard practice in a process that for centuries had been what we today call "natural childbirth."  The medical institutions didn't provide much safer care because of the risk of infections, opiates that halted labor and required the use of forceps with often injured or killed the child.  Still, men were not allowed to be part of the process, and spent their time in waiting rooms, being guarded from exposure to such a "harsh" event.

Over the years, the process has improved dramatically.  Fathers are now invited and encouraged to participate in the birth of their child. Some even elect to attend "childbirth classes" with their wives.  Rather than keeping the babies and mothers apart, many hospitals choose to house the newborn with the mother and encourage immediate interaction and feeding.  Now if we could just find a way for Daddy to share some of the pain, but many believe that labor is God's way of punishing us for Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit.  Dang her!

Here's a scene from one of my historical novels, Prairie Peace, which ties in nicely:

Cecile's labor intensified, and she pressed her fist against her mouth to stifle the scream rising in her throat. Another cramp wrenched through her, and she bit into her knuckles, praying that God would make the hurt go away.  Her body bore down, trying to expel the baby, as pain after pain wracked her body.

Rain Woman stood ready to receive the child.  "Push with all your might, my daughter.  Your child is almost here."

Cecile wanted to scream--needed to scream.  "Get it out, please, please get it out!  If I push any harder I'm going to turn myself inside out."

While she crouched over the earthen pit in front of the labor stake, Little Dove massaged Cecile's abdomen in an attempt to move the baby.  With each pain, she tightened her grip and strained with all her might.  The hours seemed like an eternity and the pain never ending.  "I can't go on...I'm too tired," she finally declared.

The pushing became involuntary, and groaning and grunting, she used what she thought was her last breath and thrust her baby into the world.  All discomfort was forgotten when she heard its healthy cry.


Prairie Peace was my debut novel and received a four-star review from Romantic Times Magazine, which back in the day was quite shocking for me.  I hope you'll be enticed to check out the story of Cecile Palmer, who in 1860 eventually becomes "Green Eyes" as she married the handsome brave who saves her from pending winter, no supplies, and a husband they both believed dead. 

Thanks for stopping by today, and here's wishing you lots of Cowboy Kisses!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jesse James by Lauri Robinson

Depending on who you talk to, or where you research, Jesse James may be known as a hero or one of America’s first “most wanted” criminals. I’m not saying he was one or the other, but here are a few facts and/or tales as reported by others.

Born in Clay County, Missouri on September 5, 1847, Jesse Woodson James was one of three children born to Robert S. and Zerelda James. He had an older brother, Alexander Franklin (Frank) and a younger sister, Susan Lavenia James.  Jesse was three when his father, a Baptist Minister, died in California while ministering to gold rush miners.  His mother (who’d remained in Missouri when Robert went to California) remarried twice, first to Benjamin Simms who died within a year, and then to Dr. Reuben Samuel. Zerelda and Reuben had four children, all born on the farm in Missouri.  

Jesse’s connection with Quantrill’s Raiders came about when he was 15. Kansas became a state in 1854, and Congress decided to let the residents of the state decide on the slavery issue. This created a border war between the ‘free’ state of Kansas and the ‘slave’ state of Missouri. Cole Younger, the son of a prosperous business owner, was known as a bright student and very well behaved. The border battles caused many problems for the Youngers. At a dance in December of 1861 a Union Captain ‘crashed the dance’ and insisted the girls dance with him. When the young ladies all refused, he grabbed Cole’s younger sister and forced her to accompany him. Cole stepped in and knocked the Captain out. Knowing trouble was sure to follow, Cole fled the area. When his father was brutally murdered and his family home burned, Cole joined the Confederate Army. After a couple of years he became part of Quantrill’s Battalion. Another one of Quantrill’s Raiders was Frank James, who’d joined the Confederacy in 1861. After several successful battles with his Guard, Frank fell ill and was left behind. Upon recuperating he joined the guerrilla band. Both Frank and Cole rode with Quantrill on the raid of Lawrence, Kansas.

Shortly after the massacre on Lawrence, and because of Frank’s involvement, the Samuel (James) farm was attacked by Union soldiers. They repeatedly tortured Samuel, left him hanging in a tree, and then found 14 year-old Jesse plowing the field. After brutally beating the young boy they left him for dead. Jesse, barely alive, crawled back to the house, where he found his mother and younger siblings trying to revive his step-father. Samuel survived, but suffered severe brain injuries and later died. The Union army returned a short time later and Zerelda, pregnant at the time, and her 12 year-old daughter Susan, were arrested for not providing information about Frank’s whereabouts. A year later, at 15, Jesse James joined the Confederate cause and rode beside his older brother Frank.

After the war, the James brothers attempted to live peacefully, but time after the war was tough, and it’s said the brothers (as well as the Youngers) decided if the banks wouldn’t loan them the money they needed to start farming again, they’d take it. Some claim the James/Younger Gang formed in retaliation to the Republican reconstruction after the war that temporarily excluded former Confederates from voting, serving on juries, owning businesses, or preaching from pulpits. It’s also said that Jesse insisted the gang only rob banks whose major shareholders were Unionists, only steal strong boxes off trains and stagecoaches which held federal money, and never steal from passengers, customers, or common businesses.  

Most of what I’ve mentioned here is from two books written by John Koblas, a Minnesota based author known for his knowledge on the outlaw genre. His book, The Jesse James Northfield Raid, Confessions of the Ninth Man, was filmed as a documentary.  I’ve had the pleasure of visiting with John several times, and his knowledge on Jesse is utterly fascinating. We met for lunch one day, and didn’t leave the restaurant until they were posting the evening specials.  

The escapes of the James-Younger Gangs are almost unending. The controversy of Jesse’s bandit/hero lifestyle has been the basis of many novels, movies, and festivals. Whether he was one of America’s worst criminals, or a Robin Hood hero, when the word outlaw is mentioned, most everyone thinks of Jesse James.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Welcome Kristina Knight to Cowboy Kisses

My Favorite Cowboy Moments

Cowboys have been near and dear to my heart since I was a little girl. The only times I was allowed to skip bedtime were Saturday nights when, more often than not, my grandpa (we called him Big Daddy) would find an old spaghetti Western on television. It might start at 10 and not get over until midnight, I might yawn and snooze my way through Sunday School and Church the next morning, but I was always allowed to stay up and watch.

From John Wayne and Gary Cooper to the cowboy-types played by James Dean, I watched them all. Some I've found on DVD, some live only in my memory but they all hold a special place in my heart. As I got older I realized very few of them actually had a love story – sure, the cowboy would get the girl, but we never saw them falling in love. So when more modern Westerns started to come out, I was once again enthralled. I wanted to see the cowboy beat the bad guys but I always  wanted to see the love story.

Movies like 8 Seconds, My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys and Wyatt Earp have been added to my favorite's list and have lengthened my favorite Cowboy Moments, too. But there are three movies – from the modern era – that take cowboys to a whole new level. At least for me.

Here are my top three cowboy movie moments:

#3: Please don't throw rotten tomatoes because in my top three is John Travolta in city-slicker-cowboy garb. It was the 80s, people! And you have to admit John Travolta was it in much of the early 80s. For me John's Urban Cowboy mode was ohsomuch better than his Saturday Night Fever mode. And I absolutely love when Bud finally tells Sissy he loves her. And I even found a clip for ya:

#2: This one was hard for me to put in number two because Tom Selleck is just so…Tom. Quigley Down Under is probably one of my favorite cowboy movies, even though it takes place in the Australian Outback instead of the American West. But when Quigley finds Cora in town, when he says his name is Roy – not Quigley – I just melt a little. Every. Single. Time. Because he's had a hard road – he isn't Roy and he shouldn't want to be Roy…and yet because it will save both their lives, he accepts the name.

#1: I love the movie Walk The Line, because nothing is sweeter to me than a real life love story – and Johnny and June Cash certainly had that. So, even though Johnny isn't technically a cowboy, I have to give him the top slot. Because he might not rope cattle or ride horses but he certainly had the attitude of a cowboy: he took care of business, he spoke his mind and he stood up for the people and things that he believed in. So, to honor him, here's my favorite clip about John:

In my book What a Texas Girl Wants, Jackson is like these cowboys – although he's never really thought of himself as a cowboy. He stands up for the things he believes in, he is loyal to his friends, and he has a depth of love that only certain people are born with. Here's a little more about him:

Kathleen Witte is a down-to-earth girl. She has to be, with the family ranch on the verge of success. After seven months of keeping it all together by swearing off men, however, Kathleen needs a bit of fun in the sun. Waking up with a husband she can’t remember isn’t how she planned to blow off steam.

The last thing Jackson Taylor wants in his life is a down-to-earth girl. He has four weeks of freedom in which to find his birth mother. He’s done well avoiding commitment until now, so when he wakes up on a Mexican beach with Kathleen his first reaction is curiosity. When he spies the matching wedding rings on their left hands curiosity turns to concern.

Neither Jackson nor Kathleen want to stay married, but when her family shows up, they have no choice. Once back in Texas, however, can they keep this all-business marriage from turning into an all-consuming love?


Kristina's BIO: Once upon a time, Kristina Knight spent her days running from car crash to fire to meetings with local police—no, she wasn't a troublemaker, she was a journalist. When the opportunity to focus a bit of energy on the stories in her head, she jumped at it. And she’s never looked back. Now she writes magazine articles by day and romance novels with spice by night. She lives on Lake Erie with her husband and four-year-old daughter. Happily ever after.  You can find her website here.

Note from Ginger:  I'd like to thank Kristina for being my guest today, and for her very interesting post.  I definitely second the nod toward Tom Selleck.  Whew!  And I must have watched Urban Cowboy a thousand times. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Country Cookin' with Jacquie Rogers

Cooking on the cattle trail, cooking at a round-up, and cooking at home were three entirely different disciplines. Camp cooks might not necessarily be great bunkhouse cooks, and round-up cooks might not cut it on the trail. For this article, I'm going to talk about round-up cooking.
First, a confession: I don't measure or use recipes as defined by those things called cookbooks. My mama didn't measure and neither did her mama, so that's just the way it goes in our family. But it's a real advantage when you read old-time recipes that call for a pinch of salt and two handfuls of flour. We know just what to do. But telling someone else how to make a dish is a wee bit more difficult because of it.
Tonight, after the cattle are all bedded down and the horses put back in the remuda, the cowhands are in for a real treat. We're having beans and cornbread. As my husband is the bean cook around this outfit, I had him write this up for us. Warning: he can be...well, indelicate at times.
Mr. Rogers' Ham and Beans Recipe
(simple and very tasty)
One or two hambones, hamhocks, or better yet ham shanks, smoked.
1 lb dry navy beans
3 bay leaves
3 or more cloves garlic, crushed.
4-6 shakes of Tabasco Original or a few dried cayenne flakes.
One large white onion, or medium yellow. White is best.
Pinch of dry mustard.
One small squirt of catsup (modern addition).
  • Soak beans overnight (at least 4-6 hours), be sure to use lotsa water, drain and rinse in collander.
  • DO NOT COOK IN SOAKWATER, unless you live alone and enjoy your own farts.
  • Put ham in pot, dump drained beans on top, add new water to cover plus 1 inch.
  • Cover and bring to simmer. DO NOT BOIL HARD.
  • Chop onion and add to pot. Reserve some chopped onion for topping.
  • Add bay leaves, garlic, mustard.
  • Simmer another hour and half or so. DO NOT BOIL. Add more water as needed to keep beans covered. (Note: What Mr. R actually means is a gentle boil.)
  • Remove ham bones to chopping block. Remove meat and separate from fat, skin and gristle. Chop meat and return to pot. May also return bones, if desired, and marrow can be extracted and added to chopped meat. Discard fat, skin, and other crapola. Continue to simmer slowly, covered, while doing this. DO NOT BOIL.
  • When beans are tender, add Tabasco and catsup (if desired) and stir carefully. This will break a few beans, but not too many, and will thicken the sauce.
  • Did I mention the beans must not boil?
  • Serve immediately, topped with more chopped onions, fresh pepper to taste, and hot corn bread.
  • Some people also add salt to taste, but you should not need any as the ham will have imparted more salt than you should be eating anyhow. Unless you can find salt-free ham, good luck with that.
  • If you are Jacquie, put your cornbread in bottom of bowl, ladle beans and ham over, top with onions and dot with catsup. If you are not Jacquie, do not do this as it ruins the beans and makes the cornbread soggy.
Now for the cornbread. These days, most cornbread os more like yellow cake. Also, people get fancy and put kernal corn, jalapenos, cheese, and every other thing in their cornbread. That's fine, but first it's good to know the basics. I make the cornbread, so here goes.
Mrs. Rogers' Cornbread
Oven: 425 degrees
Grease a 9"x9" pan and dust with cornmeal
Mix dry ingredients together:
2 cups Cornmeal (we prefer blue but yellow or white are fine)
3/4 cup Flour (I use spelt)
1/4 cup Sugar or Honey (to taste)
1 1/2 Tbs Baking powder
1/2 tsp Salt
In the dry ingredients, put:
2 Eggs
1 cube soft Butter (or 1/2 cup oil)
1 to 1 3/4 cup Milk (depends on the type of cornmeal and flour--should be a nice batter, like pancake batter)
Mix (not too much!) and pour into the greased pan and bake for um, well, that depends on the kind of flour and cornmeal you use. If you use yellow cornmeal and white wheat flour, then 25 minutes ought to do it. If you use blue cornmeal and spelt flour, baking time will be closer to 35 minutes. Depending your oven, of course.
Yum! Hot cornbread smothered in beans and ham. Life is good.
Might not be so good if that's all you ate, though, which was often the case on a trail drive--only you'd have beans with wild game meat (if any meat at all), and sourdough biscuits. We'll get into sourdough cooking next month.
I don't have any excerpts in Much Ado About Mavericks about round-up cooking that make any sense without going into a lot of detail, so here's a scene where Ben Lawrence comes home to the Bar EL Ranch for the first time in thirteen years. He's greeted by Teddy and Homer, two "strays" Jake picked up. Yes, Jake's the heroine. Her name is Janelle Kathryn, aka J.K., shortened to Jake. She's the foreman, hired by Ben's deceased father. "Skeeter" is the detested nickname foisted on Ben by his father.
This isn't exactly a romantic scene, but it gives you a little insight to Jake, who likes to think of herself as a hardened cowhand, no more, no less.
Much Ado About Mavericks ( Hearts of Owyhee #3)
by Jacquie Rogers
The towering, lone cottonwood was the first thing Ben saw when he turned the team onto the Bar EL lane. The tree had nearly doubled in size since he’d left for Harvard—but then, so had he. Grass had replaced the sagebrush around the house, lending the two-story frame building an air of peacefulness.
The fragrance of the newly mown lawn intermingled with the familiar odor of cow manure. “Smells like money,” his father had always said. Ben didn’t agree—he’d made piles of money in Boston without ever once shoveling shit.
He had known no peace in Henderson Flats, or in that house. His shoulders tensed more the closer he got, relaxing only when he assured himself he’d be stuck here only a short time.
“Jake! Jake!” Two small boys shouted and ran, arms waving, to greet them as Ben pulled the wagon into the yard.
“Who’re these boys?” he asked, wondering if they weren’t his half-brothers. He wouldn’t have put it past the old man—just to spite his mother.
“My strays. Found ‘em, kept ‘em. Good boys.”
The older boy grabbed the harness and the younger one scrambled up to the seat. “Are you Skeeter?” He studied Ben. “You don’t look like no ‘skeeter I ever seen.”
Ben held out his hand. “I’m Ben Lawrence.”
The little boy jumped on his lap. “I’m Theodore Somethin’ Somethin’, but you can call me Teddy.” He pointed at the other boy. “That there’s Homer Franklin Collingwood. I just about can’t say it in one breath.”
Ben chuckled. “Yes, Homer does have quite a sobriquet.”
Teddy frowned, then smiled. “Aw, yer joshing with me. Homer ain’t no drunk.” He scooted off Ben’s lap and onto Jake’s. “So where’s Skeeter? You was supposed to bring him back.”
Jake patted the little fellow, who couldn’t have been more than five or six, on the back. “Folks change sometimes, Teddy. He went away ‘Skeeter’ and come back ‘Ben.’ That’ll happen to you someday, too. You won’t be ‘Teddy’ no more—you’ll be ‘Ted,’ a fine man’s name for the fine man you’ll be.”
Ben hopped down from the seat, smiled, and shook hands with Homer. “You’re a sharp looking boy. Glad to meet you.”
“I ain’t no boy,” Homer retorted, scowling. “I’m a cowhand at the Bar EL and the Circle J. Teddy is, too. Jake’s our boss.”
Teddy ran beside Homer. “Yeah, we gots jobs and make money and sleep in the Circle J bunkhouse. Don’t want no wimmen, though. Them old fellers, well, they’s always talking about wimmen.” He hawked up a wad and spat, seeming mighty pleased with the six or eight feet it traveled. He grinned, showing his baby teeth. “Can you do that?”
Ben swallowed a chuckle, then shook his head and grinned at the boy. “I’ll need some practice, and probably a good teacher. Maybe you can help me later.”
The boy puffed out his chest. “Sure enough. Ain’t nobody can spit farther than me. Not even Jake.”

Much Ado About Mavericks available at the Kindle Store 

Hearts of Owyhee
#2 Much Ado About Madams  (FREE July 13!)
A short story: Willow, Wish For Me (Merlin’s Destiny #1)






Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Day The Cowboys Quit

The Day the Cowboys Quit is the title of a western novel by the late Elmer Kelton. The story, which I read many years ago and enjoyed very much, is set against the backdrop of the Great Canadian River Cowboy Strike of 1883. Despite its name, the Canadian River is a tributary of the Arkansas River. At 906 miles long, it originates in Colorado and continues through New Mexico, across the Texas Panhandle and most of Oklahoma. The cowboy strike mainly took place in the Texas Panhandle.

For twenty years after the Civil War, open-range cattle ranching thrived on the Great Plains. The ranches were mostly family owned and operated, and everyone was on a first name basis. Then, with the inroads of progress, things began to change. Railroads made cattle more profitable and there was a never-ending demand for beef in the big cities back east. Corporations and syndicates were formed with an eye on the profits to be made from cattle ranching. They began buying up the one-horse operations and combining them into massive holdings. But when the corporations moved in, the human touch went out the window, and therein began the problem.

The cowboy’s job was hard and the small owner recognized this, so the hands were often treated as family and given extra privileges. Usually, they were allotted a whole string of horses to work with. And the longer they stayed with a particular outfit, the better the horses they received. As an extra bonus of the job, it was common practice for a cowboy to claim a few mavericks for himself and slap his brand on them. If he worked long and hard enough, he could accumulate a herd and start his own outfit. In other words, the old ways gave the cowboy plenty of room for advancement, if he was ambitious enough.

When the syndicates moved in, everything changed. In most cases, the cowhands never met their new bosses, who remained some faceless entities in an office back east. The new owners decided it was better for their bottom line to claim all unbranded cattle for themselves. They also put restrictions on the use of ranch horses and each cowhand was limited to the use of two horses, and those had to be left in the corral when the day’s work was done. To makes matters worse, the corporate owners decided that their men couldn’t carry firearms or weapons of any kind, play cards or gamble on anything, nor were they allowed to drink alcohol during the terms of their employment. Wow. Wonder what they expected the hired hands to do in their leisure time.

In the spring of 1883, the cowboys had had enough and decided to go on strike. Men from the biggest ranches along the Canadian called a meeting and put together the following proclamation:

We, the undersigned cowboys of Canadian River, do by these presents agree to bind ourselves into the following obligations, viz:

First: that we will not work for less than $50 per mo. And we furthermore agree no one shall work for less than $50 per mo. after 31st of Mch.

Second: Good cooks shall also receive $50 per month.

Third: Any one running an outfit shall not work for less than $75 per mo.

Any one violating the above obligations shall suffer the consequences. Those not having funds to pay board after March 31 will be provided for for 30 days at Tascosa.

The twenty-four who signed the proclamation were: Thos. Harris, Roy Griffin, J.W. Peacock, J.L. Howard, W.D. Gaton, B.G. Brown, W.B. Boring, D.W. Peepler, Jas. Jones, C.M. Hullett, A.F. Martin, Harry Ingerton, J.A. Marrs, Jim Miller, Henry Stoffard, Wm. T. Kerr, Bud Davis, T.D. Holliday, C.F. Goddard, E.E. Watkins, C.B. Thompson, G.F. Nickell, Juan A Gomes, J.L. Grissom.

Five copies of this declaration were made, signed, and delivered to the LIT, the LX, the LS, the LE, and the T Anchor, which were the large ranches along the river. And so the strike began. The original organizers, led by Tom Harris of the LS, established a small strike fund and attempted, with limited success, to persuade all the cowboys in the area of the five ranches to honor the strike. Reports on the number of cowhands involved at any given time ranged from thirty to three hundred and thirty-five. The number changed as men joined and deserted the walkout.

The out-of-work cowboys spent much of their time in the aforementioned Tascosa, northwest of Amarillo. At the time, it was a mecca for cowboys where any sin could be indulged. In the daytime, Tascosa was a thriving center for trade and supply. But at night, Frenchy McCormick and her husband Mickey ruled the gambling parlors and saloons. Consequently, the "fund" the cowboys had set aside to tide them over during the strike soon ran out of money. An interesting side note: during all of this, Pat Garrett was the sheriff of Tascosa.

Ranchers found an effective means of dealing with the strikers without using force. Officials at the T-Anchor and the LE fired striking employees on the spot. The LS and the LIT offered a slight increase in wages and fired workers if they refused the offer. Owners and managers continued with roundup plans by hiring replacement workers at temporarily increased wages. Many of the replacement workers were in fact strikers who asked to return to work. After two and a half months the strike was so weakened that the May roundup occurred without incident. The last press mention of the strike was in the Dodge City Times on May 10.

After the strike began, the Panhandle was plagued with an outbreak of rustling that many blamed on frustrated strikers. Other types of mischief, such as random burning of personal property, went on the rise, too.

For whatever the reasons, poor organization or lack of enthusiasm, the strike finally fizzled out of its own accord. Many of the strikers went back to their old outfits, but others drifted and found work at the less regulated outfits that still existed farther to the south. Some historians claim that the strike reflected the international labor movement. But most look on it as nothing more than an interesting incident that happened in our history. Whichever way you choose to look at it, The Great Canadian River Cowboy Strike of 1883 barely left a scratch on either the cowboys’ image or the cattle industry.

Happy reading and writing, everyone!