Monday, July 28, 2014


Head ‘Em Up, Move ‘Em Out: Texas Trail Drives

As long as cattle have been in America, there have been trail drives to move the animals from Point A to Point B. As settlers moved west, so did their cattle. Great drives ended in Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and anywhere ranching was possible. But those of Western movies and novels were primarily from Texas to the railheads in Kansas.

After the Civil War, the South faced high taxes imposed by the Northerners brought in to rule and many Southerners hadn’t the resources to pay. Other homes had been seized or burned, families had been killed or scattered. Many Southern men were left homeless and drifting. Most went West of the Mississippi looking for a new life.

During the Civil War, ranches were left almost untended while able-bodied men went to fight. Cattle continued to breed, but their progeny went unbranded and scattered. After the war, those cattle belonged to the man who could round them up and brand them. Drives to Kansas began in 1866. According to LONE STAR, T. R. Fehrenbach’s history of Texas, when cattle brought two dollars a head in Texas, they sold for seven dollars a head in Kansas.  Cowboys were paid by the month, so it cost the rancher no more to have his men drive cattle to Kansas than to keep them in Texas. At times many ranchers went together for the drive, or one rancher’s hands would drive several combined herds. It was a dangerous journey with long hours for the men. They faced outlaws, Indians, stampedes, swollen rivers, and inclement weather. At the end of the drive, the trail boss sold the herd on a handshake. His honor depended on final head count being what he told the buyer.

In 1867, Charles Goodnight invented the chuck wagon for use on trail drives. It was a modified Army wagon that could carry substantially more and better food than horseback allowed. Other ranchers soon copied him. Cattle move slowly, so the chuck wagon could go ahead of the herd, find the camping place, and set up for supper. Generally there were only two meals a day, breakfast and supper, although that depended on the trail boss.

The era of the large cattle drive was a short one. By the 1880’s, railroads had begun spiderwebbing across America. Barbed wire had been introduced. The combination meant the end of the massive trail drive across several states. Fort Worth became the Texas destination, and their stockyards were immense. Swift and Armour built packing plants on the hill above the stockyards, which meant the beef was processed immediately and shipped out in refrigerated rail cars. Railroads continued to expand, making it possible to ship cattle to market rather than drive them. That is not to say that cowboys were out of work. There are still large working ranches in Texas—the 6666, King Ranch, Matador, Spur, and others—as well as hundreds of large and small ranches all across the West. But by 1890, the era of the trail drive had ended.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blog Jack From Pat Holt via Jen Black 2009 - #writingtips

For you readers out many of these "faux pas" do you notice in the books you buy?

A fellow author and friend from my historical critique group, Jen Black, posted a very informative blog, making reference to another site where she found the original post. It'd point you to Pat Holt's blog, but I'm not even sure of the date since I'm re-sharing this from my own personal blog in 2009. I'm camping, so I've scheduled this in advance.

Now available as Sarah's Heart and Passion
 The content here still applies and makes for informative reading.  In fact, I've re-released many of my books and in redoing them, strive to avoid the pitfalls I didn't know the first time around.  I've learned so much from my crit group and highly recommend them up into the point where you've been writing long enough to stand on your own. What I'm trying to say is you don't want to be in a group with people who are just starting their writing career.  You've already been there, done that  *smile*

I've borrowed Ms. Holt's "headers" and used ones I can apply to myself. I invite you to do the same if you're an author:

1. Repeats:
We all have favorite phrases we use in our writing, the secret is to avoid over-using them. Word echoes, especially when you use the same word within one paragraph warn of redundancy and are best avoided. Here's a silly example: John placed his glass on the table and gazed at Vanessa. Tipping her glass, Vanessa smiled over the rim and sipped her drink. When finished, she lifted her glass in a toast. John hoisted his glass into the air.
 Are we sick of 'glass?' I think this is one habit I've learned, but still slip into occasionally. Luckily, I have my critique group to help. Ask them and they'll tell you that I drive them crazy in my critiques of their work with highlighting echoes.  It's a pet peeve when I read, but that doesn't mean I don't do it when I write.  

2. Flat Writing:
I'm not so sure I've fallen into this habit, but Ms. Holt warns "it's a sign you've lost interest." I've seen this in books I've read, and often wonder the purpose of phrases that do nothing to propel the story and really add nothing to the plot. I suspect they may not really indicate a lost interest, rather are the author's attempt to reach a mandadated word count.  *smile*  My problem is not losing interest, it's losing the voices in my head who tell me what to write.  When my characters fall silent, my fingers won't work.  

3.. Empty Adverbs:
Boy, I'm trying to break this habit, and it isn't easy. Examples: actually, totally, absolutely, completely, continually, constantly, literally, really..) The list goes on and on, and for story telling, they seem appropriate, but replacing 'ly' words with stronger verbs is the answer in fiction writing. Of course, 'ly' words have a place. If you eliminate all, your writing will become too stiff. There's a secret here and I'm trying to uncover it. I think I've made progress.

4. Phony Dialogue
What I gleaned from Ms. Holt is the need to make your characters unique. We all have distinct voices and habits, so try to convey those to the reader rather than have everyone sound alike. Speak with a unique voice for each character by not using the same phrasing, and make the dialogue realistic. Stop and think....would my character really say that? 

5. Suffixes:
As with 'ly' and 'ing' words, some 'ness' words sprinkled into the story have a place, but adding so many that a reader has to stop and absorb them or re-read is not a good sign. Examples: mindlessness, courageousness. Another habit we slip into is often adding 'ly' to 'ing' words in our descriptive tags...often described as "Tom Swiftees.: Poor example, but the best I can come up with: "That was a refreshing dip," the boy said, swimingly. If I do this, I'm certainly not aware of it. 

6. To Be Words:
This has been a toughie for me but a common practice for English authors.  In my opinion,'to be' words slow the pace of your writing and often move your tense to passive rather than unveiling the story in the present. 'Was, were, be, being, been...' are common examples of passive, but of course cannot all be eliminated. The secret is finding a happy medium.For me it doesn't make sense to indicate something  might happen as opposed to showing the reader something as it happens. I.e., He moved to open the window.  He opened the window. Of course I've sure you recognize, the window had been opened, as being passive.

7. Lists:
I don't believe I fall into his habit anymore, but I sure have read the work of several authors, especially newbies who have. An example would be trying to 'list' everything on a buffet table. Before you name everything, the reader is yawning and may have tossed the book aside. "Cecile's stomach rumbled as she gazed at the eggs, potatoes, hot rolls, oatmeal, toast, jelly, butter, bananas, apples, pears,plums, and pots of hot coffee and tea on the table." Listing a little to give the reader is a much better idea...maybe her mouth watered at the hot baked bread, and then let the reader smell it by describing the smell of yeast. 

8. Show Don't Tell:
Oh, Lord, have I come a long way on this one. I actually 'get' the concept. When I completed and submitted my first manuscript, my editor said, "You've written a beautiful story. Now we have to make it into a novel." I wondered at her meaning, but until you weave in the smells, emotions, actions by drawing the reader in and allowing them the experience, you really have only TOLD a story. The secret is SHOWING so when your heroine cries, so does the reader. Let the wind caress the reader's face, let them smell the flowers, feel the slap. If you aren't there yet, believe me, some editor will help you along. *big grin*

9. Awkward Phrasing:

I think the best rule of thumb is KISS (keep it simple, stupid.) If you are writing a sentence so long and so strangely worded that it requires more than one reading, you've failed this test. I believe I used to do this, but now I've learned from many editorial whippings to shorten sentences for emphasis and ease of comprehension. No reader likes to get to the end of a long drawn out sentence and scratch their head. Unless of course they have dandruff. *lol*

10. Commas:
Speaking of scratching one's head... this one has me stumped. Just when I think I understand and follow the written rules of good punctuation, a publishing house decides to try to eliminate commas. I guess you have to follow your publishing guidelines, but my belief is: If you have two sentences joined together with 'and or but' you need a comma, and if there is a natural pause, a comma is called for. Commas also clarify things for the reader when one word follows another and doesn't make sense if read together without a pause. My mind is too numb from all these rules to give you an example, but I think you understand.

So...I encourage you to go back to the link and read Ms. Holt's full post, and Jen's too. The examples are all helpful and encourage continued learning. I know I benefited from reading them and I'm happy to pass along the wisdom.

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Collection of Old Washing Machines

While at a family reunion this past weekend, we attended pioneer days in a small town along the Canadian border. I was amazed by the collection of old washing machines an elderly couple had on display.  The man and woman were very knowledgeable about all the machines, and enjoyed showing how each one of them worked. 

Here are a few:

This was one of the first washers with an electric motor. 

This one had a hand crank with wooden baffles.

An advertisement taped to another one like the one above.

Here was a washboard with a wringer and tubs. 

And this one had plungers on the lid that when closed and rocked stirred the clothes about. 

The couple also had this great collection of clothes irons. 

My husband and I enjoyed talking with this couple. Almost all of their items had been collected from their parents and grandparents. 


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Just Released - Sarah's Heart and Passion

Look a little familiar?  I've combined two books into one with hopes it will soon be available in print, and Michelle Lee has designed a dynamite cover from the two that captures the essence of the story.  This book was originally a historical western stand alone story about Sarah's Journey, but I actually received a couple of reviews that had readers in tears because they didn't like the way the story I wrote a sequel for those who didn't understand the story and why there was no HEA for a white woman and a half-breed man in the 1800s.  Now, you can read the entire story, and it's a great combination of the old west, time-travel, humor,contemporary, romance, and even a little fantasy.  In fact, I had a hard time trying to decide how to categorize it.  Be the first to leave a review and let me know how much you enjoy Sarah's story.

Here's the blurb:

Sarah Collins set her sights for California and a new beginning, but never imagines a war party's attack on the wagon train she joins. A sole survivor, Sarah must find her way back to civilization, and a man of half-blood happens along at just the right time and becomes her hero...or is the whole scenario only a dream driven by all the romance novels she reads as an editor?

Sarah wakes, her cheeks damp with tears. Like a dust devil in a dying windstorm, all traces of her handsome rescuer vanish with a farewell kiss and the annoying blast of an alarm clock...until he appears at her door as a new neighbor. Will Sarah find a way to win the love she tried so hard to capture in her dream without being declared insane, or will the sexy woman living an apartment away beat Sarah at her own game?

Previously published as Sarah's Heart and Sarah's Passion, this edition combines both stories

You can purchase this book on Amazon.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Colors Bring the Old West to Life

Did you ever notice how color helps set the stage in a novel? It can be used not only to let readers “see” the picture an author creates with words, but can also convey a character’s emotions. Sharla Rae, a good friend of mine, posted an article about this topic on Writers in the Storm back in October 2013:

Sharla used an example from my novella White Witch to illustrate one of her points. The Devlin family flees the Great Chicago Fire:

Bright sheets of fire flapped in the air, frighteningly beautiful in hues of orange, gold and angry red. Flung out by the murderous blaze, burning debris scattered hither and yon, a threat Jessie constantly fought, using a blanket to smother cinders that fell on the wagon.

 Here are a few additional excerpts from my Texas Devlins series showing the use of color:

From Darlin’ Irish – Captain David Taylor's first sight of Jessie Devlin in the Omaha train station:

Finding a gap in the crowd, David caught sight of a red-faced young corporal. The trooper bobbed and weaved, arms raised to fend off blows being rained upon him by a woman in a brown poke bonnet. Her weapon was a heavy looking black reticule.

From Dashing Irish – At a Saturday night social, Lil Crawford’s impression of the man her parents have forced her to accept as her escort:

He was big, with strong, even features and shoulder-length blond hair. In his dark blue shirt with its fancy yellow piping, he was easy on the eyes. He was also vainer than a turkey cock.

Also from Dashing Irish – Tye Devlin’s impression as the northbound cattle drive he's with approaches Fort Worth:

Fort Worth rose against the warm, crystal-blue morning on a bluff overlooking the Trinity River.

From Dearest Irish – Rose Devlin finds Choctaw Jack working in the smithy:

. . . she recognized Choctaw Jack by his long, midnight black hair, tied back with a leather thong at his nape, and by the healed red scar across his left shoulder blade. . . .

Coated with sweat in the heat from the forge, his muscular arms and torso gleamed like molten copper.
Whether you're a reader or an author, try to notice how color enlivens stories . . . and our lives.

Amazon – Kindle & Print

White Witch                             

Darlin’ Irish                            

Dashing Irish                          

Dearest Irish                           

Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fireworks in the Old West by @JacquieRogers

July in the Old West

(This article was first published at Western Fictioneers.)

In the Old West, Independence Day had the honor of being the most celebrated holiday of the year.  Not Christmas, you ask?  First, remember that Christmas wasn’t commercialized to the extent it is today, and second, December 25 is often not good traveling weather.  But July 4th was an ideal time for celebration — good weather, and people needed a break from all their hard work in the fields, mines, or on the range.

All the articles here are taken from The Owyhee Avalanche, which is still publishing newspapers today in Homedale, Idaho.  Most of the articles pertain to Silver City, a boomtown in Owyhee County, that never burned down and is a great place to visit.  So what happened in the Old West this month?  Let’s take a look.

From July 6, 1872, we learn a little about a typical Independence Day celebration:

- National salute from a 12-pounder, at sunrise, for which we may thank Charley Bowen’s patriotic gizzard.
- Music by the Band from the balcony of the Court House, at 9 o’clock, a.m., and from the balcony of the Owyhee Exchange, a 7½ p.m.  The boys toot their horns infinitely better than we had reason to expect.
- Firecrackers, the delight of youth, but the bane of old age—plenty all day long.
- Lots of folks went to Wagontown; our reporter hasn’t come to time.
- Of those who stopped at home, comparatively few got beastly drunk, and few had heads put on them.
- Banners flying, and ladies flitting around all day getting ready for the Ball.
- Ball at night, huge success, both financially and otherwise.
- Fireworks, no good.
- Ball supper, at the Idaho Hotel, magnify.; good grub and well cooked, fault of Gus, chef de cuisine; served up in a style that can’t be beat, owing to the exquisite taste of Charley Umber, dining room captain.
- Fine day; beautiful night.  Finis.

Every year, Owyhee County sported several horse races on Independence Day, and the citizens took it seriously; thus, the reporting was quite detailed.  Here’s the only short article I could find (probably because the race was held in Wagontown instead of Silver).

THE WAGONTOWN RACES.   Our Wagontown reporter furnishes us with the following account of the races, which took place there on the 4th and 5th.
    On the 4th, the saddle purse and 2d class racehorse purse were run for.  Entries for the saddle purse: Muller, Lucy Cook and Springer’s “Molly.”  Molly beat Mullet by 5 feet, and owing to a bad start Lucy Cook whipped both the others all the way through.  Second class  racehorse purse contended for by Gray Jack, Milty or Malheur and Nannie Hunt.  Nannie won by 30 feet, chased by Malheur and Gray Jack bringing up the rear.  A number of scrub races ended the sport on the 4th.
    On the 5th a match race came off between Louis Walker’s horse and Weasel, from Boise City, for $600 — Weasel winning by 22 feet.  First class racehorse purse was then contended for by Billy Cheatham of Boise Valley, and Tom Walls’ Old Ben, of Wagontown.  Betting two to one on Cheatham, but Ben won the race by 18 feet.  Scrub races, to numerous to mention, ended the season’s races, which passed off in a highly satisfactory manner.
    Owing to a painful though not too serious accident to the rider of Charley-Come-Up, he did not run as was expected.

Military forts and camps were built all over the West and most were abandoned within a few years.  Such is the case of Camp Three Forks Owyhee, which I’ve never heard of until I read this article in the July 29, 1871 issue.

GOVERNMENT SALE.  The subsistence and miscellaneous stores and articles on hand at Camp Three Forks Owyhee are to be sold at public auction to-day.  Quite a number of our citizens have gone out to attend the sale.

It’s always interesting to see a contemporary account of an event that we’ve all read in the history books.  People of the time don’t necessarily see things the way historians do, and this next item, in light of Troy Smith’s series How to Write an Indian When You’re Not One, Part 1 and Part 2, is quite telling.  This is also from the July 29, 1871 issue.

RED CLOUD DEPOSED.  Lieutenant Quinton writes from Fort Shaw, Montana, that Red Cloud has been superseded by Sitting Bull.  It appears that Red Cloud returned to his people with wonderful stories of what he had seen and heard while visiting the Great Father at Washington.  Red Cloud saw too much.  The Indians say that these things cannot be, and that the white people must have put bad medicine over Red Cloud’s eyes to make him see everything and anything that pleased them, and so Red Cloud lost his influence.  Sitting Bull is at war with all Indians who trade or deal with whites, and all those Indians appear to be afraid of him.  He says he never will make peace with the whites.

Accidents happened frequently in the Old West.  This next article reports a minor accident, considering several mine deaths occurred the same week, but it sure made me wince.  This is from the July 18, 1885 issue:

A MAN NAMED JANSEN, in the employ of B. F. Hawes of Bruneau, met with a painful accident on Wednesday at Pole Creek, while hobbling a horse, by which he had the first joint of his thumb pulled off.  He came to town at once in company with Joseph Byers, and on Thursday Dr. peters amputated the thumb immediately above the first joint.


We learn that Frank Hoyt of this place was thrown from the upper deck of a mule at Trout creek, on Thursday, and severely injured, though it is hoped not seriously.  His head was bruised and it is thought that a rib or so were cracked.

Those who immigrated west, especially the miners, were looking for the pot of gold.  Gambling was ubiquitous and not considered vice.  Lotteries were common, and in fact some of our nation’s most prestigious buildings were funded by lotteries.  So it’s not surprise that a little girl winning big would be reported in every paper west of the Mississippi.  From the July 25, 1885 issue:

LITTLE SIX-YEAR-OLD BESSIE’S FORTUNE. Little 6-year-old Bessie Lilienthal, who, orphaned by the death of her father, became a pet of her grandfather,  Abraham Leffler, is the holder of one-tenth of the $150,000 ticket in the Louisiana State Lottery.  Last week her uncle Adolph bought three on-tenth tickets of the Louisiana State Lottery.  Across of No. 51,106 he wrote Bessie’s name...

That was quite a sum in 1885!  I wonder what little Bessie did with her $15,000.

There was little effort put out for what today we call political correctness.  Racial and religious intolerance were the norm rather than the exception.  Such is the case with the article just below little Bessie’s.

IDAHO REPORTER.  We have received the Idaho Reporter, just started at Blackfoot, in this territory, by a publishing company, ex-U. S. District-Attorney White, editor.  The paper presents a net appearance, and will, we judge, be anti-polygamous.  We wish it success.

Men, women, and children all worked hard in the mining camps, but they played hard, too.  I’m sure there was plenty of excitement when the circus came to town!  This must be a hardy circus because the road to Silver City was and still is a mountain dirt road—in places, only one lane.

CUSHING’S CIRCUS visited Silver City on Sunday and remained until Tuesday morning, when it moved on towards Boise City.  It took in a good many dollars here as well as a great number of people.  When we say took in a great number of people, we do not intend to say that it was a humbug, for the trapeze performance by the little boy and girl and the aerialist performances were worth one dollar, to say nothing of the extra twenty-five cents for a reserved seat.  So far as the circus is concerned, it must be seen to be judged.  We make no comments for the reason that we have never seen a circus before, and from the performance we think that the manager of the show imagined that no one else in Idaho ever did.

And a dance:

WE ARE REQUESTED by Judge P. A. Tutt, to state that a dance will be given by him at the Boonville house, on Monday night, July the 27th.  The best of music has been engaged for the occasion, and everything that the market affords in the say of edibles will be placed on the supper table.  This will be a rare chance for young gentlemen with downy mustaches and smooth tongues to whisper words of consolation in the ears of the gentle sex as they ride undisturbed, beneath the starry heaven from town to Tutts’ dancing hall at Boonville.  The admission to dance and supper will be only three dollars.

Lots of building was going on in 1871.  Here are a couple items from the July 15th issue:

A COMPANY of Chinese are building quite extensively on Jordan Street, near where Marshall’s blacksmith shop was burned a couple years ago.


SHERIFF Stevens’ residence presents quite an attractive and tidy appearance, with its new green-colored window shutter.

Silver City always had strong women.  They had to be to put up with the conditions and the men on the mountain.  I found this item in the July 15, 1871 issue:

Mrs. Clare Lewis and Miss Emma Cox have made arrangements to lease the Miners’ Hotel and will take charge of it the first of August.

In that same issue, we see their humor when it comes to imbibing in certain beverages.

POST AND GRAHAM.  The Avalanche office acknowledges the receipt of a bottle labeled “Strychnine,” from Jno. A. Post. And one labeled “Blue Lightning,” from Ed. Graham, with appropriate directions.  Ferd took an overdose of the strychnine — which came near knocking him off his pins — so much for not following directions — but we happened to be present at the time and prescribed a dose of Blue Lightning and his equilibrium was immediately restored.  The above gentlemen have each a large assortment of the very best quality of liquors.

Short items from various March issues of The Owyhee Avalanche from 1866 to 1885:

  • A number of tender-hearted chaps have organized a “Female Protection Society” in Silver City.  In order to make a stand-off, the women talk of getting up an institution for the benefit of their male friends, calling it “A Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Owyhee.”
  • Two artificial teeth and a fragment of a broken jaw were found in the parlor of the Miners’ Hotel the next morning after they Hyde-Borman wedding.  The owner can get them by calling at the Avalanche office.
  • Charley Weeks & Co. intend to have a regular coach on between here and Boise City with in a day or two at farthest in opposition to the old line — which, we understand ahs already put the fare down to $5.
  • One Dr. A. Turlock was to have lectured in this city on Wednesday night last on “Human Nature and the Science of Medicine.”  He failed to get an audience; also , to pay his printing bill.
  • Matt Holms is running a branch of his Fairview saloon at the Mahogany mine and doing a lively business.
  • Jerry Philips and Frank Hunt went out to the head of Sucker Creek last Thursday and brought in 25 sage-hens and chickens.
  • There are five faro games running in town, besides monte, poker, &c., on the side.  Quite a number of Boise sports are here and occasionally make it quite lively for the Owyhee boys.

July Events

  • July 25, 1850: Gold was discovered in Rogue River, Oregon Territory.
  • July 5, 1858: William Green Russell, his brothers, and ten other men discover gold in Cherry Creek in what is now Denver, Colorado.
  • July 11, 1861: On the Missouri River near Fort Benton, Montana, the steamboat Chippewa, loaded with gunpowder and whiskey, exploded.
  • July 12, 1861: Rock Creek, Nebraska – James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok killed Dave McCanles, who didn’t care for Hickok romancing his mistress, Sarah Shull.
  • July 1, 1862: The Pacific Railroad Act authorized the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific Railroads to build the transcontinental railroad.  
  • July 1, 1863: Confederate General Stand Watie, in a failed attempt to capture a Union wagon train, fought against the First Kansas Colored, Third Indian Home Guard, Second Colorado Infantry, Third Wisconsin Cavalry, Sixth and Ninth Kansas Cavalry.
  • July 10, 1863: President Abraham Lincoln signed into law the Act of Congress to create the Territory of Idaho
  • July 3, 1865:  Col. Patrick E. Connor, Fort Laramie, receives orders to protect the Overland Mail Company's stagecoaches from Arapaho Indians.
  • July 10, 1866: The 13th Infantry Regiment established Camp Cooke, Montana Territory’s first permanent army post.
  • July 8, 1867: Captain Eugene M. Baker and the 1st Cavalry kill two Indians and capture fourteen women and children, and two horses, near the Malheur River.
  • July 4, 1869: Emilne Gardenshire won the title “champion bronco buster of the plains” in what some claim as the first rodeo in Deer Trail, Colorado Territory.
  • July 26, 1870: Hickman, Kentucky - Charles Goodnight and Molly Dyer were married, then left for Rock Canon, Texas.
  • July 3, 1871: Colorado - The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railway Company introduced Montezuma, the first narrow-gauge locomotive.
  • July 5, 1881: Tombstone – Sheriff John Behan jailed Doc Holliday for the murder of But Philpot and an attempted stage robbery. Wyatt Earp paid the $5,000 bail.
  • July 13, 1882: Strawberry, California - Black Bart (Charles E. Boles) attempted to rob a Wells Fargo stage but instead the driver, George W. Hackett, shot him.  Black Bart got away but was wounded in the scalp, which left a permanent scar on his forehead.
  • July 3, 1884: Montana Territory - Granville Stuart and his outfit hanged a rustler near Fort Maginnis, according to Teddy Blue (E.C. Abbot).
  • July 3, 1887: Pecos, Texas - Rancher Clay Allison, renowned gunman, fell off his buckboard.  The wheel rolled over his head and he was killed.
  • July 1, 1892: The Dalton Gang robbed $11,000 from a train near Red Rock in the Cherokee Strip.
  • July 20, 1889: Sand Creek Gulch, Wyoming – Ella Watson, known as Cattle Kate, and James Avrill were lynched for rustling.
  • July 8, 1897: Skagway, Alaska Territory - Jefferson Randolph “Soapy” Smith and Frank Reid were shot.  Soapy died immediately and Reid died twelve days later. 

May your saddle never slip.

New Release!

Elsie Parry and her eight mules survived the war, but can they escape the wrath of the Danby Gang? She lived alone for five years after the Recent Unpleasantness and was overcome with happiness to be reunited with her father. Now, his fondest desire is to leave all the bad memories behind and see the Pacific Ocean, so she agreed to head west. All’s well until they approach Wolf Creek, where they’re set upon by the notorious gang of ex-Confederate guerrillas… intent on proving the war is not over, after all.

Muleskinners #1: Judge Not

Monday, July 7, 2014

From Dutchland to Texas by Ciara Gold

I took a trip to Europe the end of June and saw all sorts of things that sparked ideas for stories and even blog entries. One of our excursions took us to the Zaanse Schans, an open air museum featuring wooden houses, windmills, warehouses and businesses from the 17th and 18th century Zaan region of the Netherlands. In 1594, Cornelis Corneliszoon van Uitgeest invented a crankshaft that made it possible to turn horizontal wind direction into a vertical sawing movement. In its heyday, the Zaan region sported over 600 windmills capable of sawing wood and powering other ingenious apparatuses, one of which was a washing mechanism for clothing.

Of course, the Dutch and German immigrants to the United States brought with them the technology for building these windmills. But western settlers needed the windmill to do more than saw wood or power machinery. They needed the windmill to pump water and in 1854, Daniel Hallady provided the plans for such a windmill. The first American windmill was built in Ellington, Connecticut and sported a vane or “tail”, the name given it by Texas cowboys.  This “tail” directed the wheel into the wind. By 1888, wooden blades were replaced by galvanized steel and while ranchers debated the use of wooden windmills against the newer backgeared designs, by 1912 only a handful of wooden bladed windmills could be found for purchase.

The windmill was used as a sort of experiment in Texas when barbed wire first came into use. With the land fenced, access to water holes, springs, rivers and creeks became difficult so farmers and ranchers needed a way to dig for water. The first attempts to pump water using a windmill met with little success as few understood the ratio needed for the size of windmill in relation to the depth and width of the well, but Christopher Doty of Schleicher County, Texas had one of the earlier successful windmills.

In 1882, due to a drought, “he ordered a drilling rig from Fort Scott, Arkansas, bored a fifty-two-foot well, and erected a Star windmill, which successfully supplied water for his 4,000 head of stock.” ~ Texas Online. Others followed suit but The King Ranch’s extensive use of the windmill played the most influencial role for the windmill in Texas and by the 1990s, the practice of using windmills to water stock became a common endeavor.

The need for windmills  gave rise to a career in the old west that few really think about. I’m always looking for more unique  careers to bestow upon my characters so maybe these will inspire others. The driller, usually a loner, followed fence crews until he could determine the best location for water. He bore well holes with a horse powered drilling rig. If he met with success and found water, the windmiller took over and set up the windmill. Windmillers were also employed by the larger ranchers to insure the equipment stayed in good working order. The range rider greased the windmills twice a week. The need for this duty lasted until 1912 when a dvancements in the design of the mill offered a self greasing mechanism that only had to be fed oil once a year.  “Though Texas became the largest user of windmills in the United States, there were never more than three active manufacturers of windmills in Texas at one time.” ~ Texas Online.

But, while the windmill did wonders for Texas cattle ranches, I'd like to share with you a short video I took of the power of windmills in The Netherlands. At the Zaanse Schans, they had on display a 18th century laundry. The windmill powered the mechanism that agitated three tubs of wash. I was fascinated.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Yellowstone Through a Teenager's Eyes

 By the time this post goes live, I will be in Yellowstone! I wanted to post some historical tidbits about the park this month, but I came across something even better. I hope you allow me to indulge. 

The following is an essay that my son wrote for school. I happen to get a glimpse of it when he left it laying on the dining room table and, being the nosy mom that I am, had to look at it. I don't generally police my son's homework - he's an honor student and rarely asks for my help, so when I read this, my heart melted. Both my sons have gone to Yellowstone nearly every summer since they were five and six years old, and as they've gotten older, they grumble a lot about going "to Yellowstone again" this year. Last summer, Collin didn't even want to go with us. Understandable for a teenager. But, he went, and he's going again this year, and I got the impression that he actually is looking forward to the trip. All these years, I wasn't sure if all the Junior Ranger badges the boys have earned, all the hikes they've been on, and all the campfire programs they've sat through had made any impact on them. After reading the essay, I know differently now.

 Yellowstone National Park is my happy place.
By Collin Henderson

Relaxing along Yellowstone Lake at Storm Point
The forests of Yellowstone are impregnable to the noises of the outside world. Only the soft chirping of the birds can be heard mixed with the wind. The lake beats the shore ever so gently. Swish. Swish. Swish. Then plop. A fish can be heard jumping in and out of the water. But where? Oh, there it is, to the left. 

Hellroaring Creek Trail
Yellowstone’s tranquility puts me at ease. My muscles loosen and I can just close my eyes and relax. The gray monotony of daily life elsewhere is outshined by Yellowstone’s variety. Every day a new trail awaits. The dirt under my feet is rocky and rough and soft and comforting. Maybe today I will see another white heron on the Madison River. Or perchance a garter snake will cross my path. The trail shall be my guide and lead to wonderful discoveries. Yellowstone’s never ending variety always has me on my toes, wondering what will come next. I can explore to my heart’s content.

Hiking to Shoshone Lake

Yellowstone’s natural forests far outshine any concrete forest. The forests are full of crisp, clean, pine scented air. Every so often one might come across a clearing along a trail, covered in emerald green grass and a wide assortment of flowers. Time feels frozen in Yellowstone, every second lasting an eternity. The landscape takes my breath away.

Black Bear
The animals of Yellowstone are unlike any that can be found in a zoo. I am a guest in their territory. The animals here are wild and will attack if I am not cautious. My personal favorites are the ground squirrels and chipmunks that scurry around looking for food. All sorts of birds live in Yellowstone. Every now and then I’m lucky enough to see a bald eagle in all its grace. The animals of Yellowstone are wild and untamed but cute as well. Rather than watching my dog sleep all day, not that I dislike my dog, I can enjoy watching large beasts majestically roam their habitat.

Yellowstone National Park is my happy place.

The resident Uinta Ground Squirrel in camp. We named him Phil