Saturday, September 27, 2014

A day late and a dollar short

Time Travelers do it Anachronistically
by Alison Bruce (and friends)

I know a few Western Romance authors who have dabbled in time travel, or even made it the focus of a series. I have also been tempted. So far I've only pulled characters forward in time in order to interview them. My alter-ego, Nighthawk the Avian Interviewer, would pull anyone from anywhere to introduce the character to a new audience.

Nighthawk is retired, but here's a taste of the old crow's show.

Nighthawk: Welcome to Nighthawk Talk Radio. I'm Nighthawk and this is our intern du jour, Cherie du Bois. Joining us tonight is our guest Marly Landers, of Under A Texas Star.

You’ve been traveling with Texas Ranger Jase Strachan and, from all reports, been a significant aid in his investigations. What are your career goals?

Cherie: I want to host a reality series - something that combines my two loves: fashion and extreme skin care.

Nighthawk: I meant our guest, Cherie. Marly, do you see yourself continuing to work with the Texas Rangers?

Marly: I’d like to. Not sure if I’ll get away with it when they find out I’m not a man. One thing I know for sure, I’m not going back to Aunt Adele!

Cherie: I know you're disguised as a boy, but what do you do to keep a healthy glow on the trail, without burning your cheeks, your nose, your forehead?

Marly: I’ve got a hat.

Nighthawk: Cherie, Marly doesn’t exactly have access beauty products, you know. Respectable women didn’t wear makeup - boys certainly didn’t.

Cherie: Not so! A man with a little money to spend might get a facial from his barber. Though maybe he didn't call it that. Women had face creams and tonics to clean the face - or remove freckles.

Marly: I kinda like my freckles but Miss Cherie is right. My aunt didn’t hold with vanity but she washed her face with sour milk once a week to keep her complexion healthy. She always wore a hat to keep the sun off her face and used rose water when she bathed. When I turned sixteen, she gave me a bottle of lavender water because she said that was better for young skin and the stronger smell would keep me fresh.

Cherie: Did she pinch your cheeks or show you how to put lamp black on your eyes?

Marly: I’ve seen how other girls do it, but that would have been too wanton for Aunt Adele.

Nighthawk: Yes, well... How do your skills match against your average Texas Ranger?

Marly: So far the only Texas Ranger I ever met was Jase. I’m a greenhorn compared to him - especially in the saddle. I’m a good shot, though. Aunt Adele taught me to shoot with a rifle and Jase taught me how to shoot a revolver.

Cherie: Tell, me, do you get saddle sore, or do you optimize all those hours on horseback to tighten your glutes and abdominals?

Marly: My what and my what?

Cherie: I can suggest some isometric exercises that will keep you toned and strengthen your pelvic floor. Happy muscles lead to happy skin.

Nighthawk: Cherie!

Marly: Well, ma'am, I'm not sure about happy muscles, but I'm stronger than I look. I've also got excellent hearing. Fact is, I think I hear Jase callin' me now...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

It's Important for Author's To Read by Ginger Simpson #reading #writingtips

I have the benefit of sharing my daily blog with a very smart lady, Rita Karnopp, and her blogs give me fodder to share with you.  I was particularly impressed with her post yesterday in which she emphasized how important it is for us as authors to continue to read, thus learning and honing our craft.  I'm an avid reader, and until she mentioned how we often read something and either consider it an amateur mistake or something crafty we might try in an upcoming work-in-progress, I hadn't considered how often I'm stunned by content.  Since we are constantly under going the "red pencil" phase, I believe most of us read with an editorial eye, and that can be as helpful as it is annoying.

In her post, Rita mentioned that dancers are sure to study the style and movements of their peers, just as artists eye the creations of their competition.  Reading allows us to not only absorb a good story, but learn which pitfalls to avoid. I'm pretty sure if you read page after page of needless tags, that problem is going to stick in your head and remind you to avoid repeating the same error in your writing.  The same with the use of repetitive words in the same paragraph that show a lack of imagination or indicate a lazy writer.

The one thing I often hear from my peers, "I don't have time to read," is a farce.  There is always time to read, whether it be while sitting in the doctor's reception area, waiting for a bus, standing in a long grocery line or just taking a break from writing. How about in the bathroom?  One should always have a book or e-reader in hand because you never know what you will learn, and it sure helps to pass the time in a constructive way.

Thanks to my pal, Rita for always being a source of great information, and to her credit, I happily share the cover and blurb of one of her finest my opinion.  If there are problems in this book, I was so engrossed in the story, I didn't even notice.  This is a mixture of history, futuristic, and is a real thriller to boot.

White Berry on the Red Willow 

As predicted in the Ghost Dance Vision, life has come full circle in 2054. The Blackfeet now control Yellowstone National Park, where the buffalo have multiplied, as have the people themselves. 

Outside the Indian lands thousands are dying of Quake Fever every day. Doctor Alcina Hancock struggles to find a cure before her mother dies. Thrust into the world of the Indians, she not only discovers what it will take to save her people, but also herself. 

Ekuskini, son of the Blackfeet chief, revels in the demise of the non-Indian. Then he meets Alcina and finds himself searching the old ones for the answers. Together Alcina and Ekuskini realize they must learn from the past and use it to make things better for the future of all people.

You can find your copy on Amazon.


Monday, September 22, 2014


Until a year ago, I’d lived in Parker County, Texas. You know that as someone who loves history, I searched out facts about the area’s past. One of the stories that fascinated me was the story of three children captured in the county’s last Indian raid in 1872.

At one time I did considerable research on this tale with the thought of turning it into a children’s book. I decided the facts were too gruesome for children. Well, at least for their parents’ approval.

Currently, I’m recovering from ankle reconstruction and can’t search through my notes. I’m stuck in bed with my foot elevated for another couple of weeks. So, my story for you will be based on memory.

Sam Savage and his family farmed on Sanchez Creek. His aunt and uncle farmed across the creek.  A group of raiding Comanche rode through. Sam’s father and oldest brother were killed in the field where they were working. Mrs. Savage got the girls inside. One girl who was fifteen was shot with an arrow as she scooped up her sister. They barely reached the house in time to bar the door. I would have been afraid the house would have been set on fire, but the Comanche were after horses—and small children.

Sam was six and his brother John was eight. The two boys were captured. The Comanche then crossed the creek and killed the boys’ aunt and uncle and captured four-year-old Mary, their cousin. Their captors did not capture other children on this raid.

When they camped for the night, the children were given raw liver and forced to eat. They gagged and vomited but were shown no patience. During the night, John escaped and started home. He was recaptured and the soles of his feet slit so he would be unable to walk or run and no longer be able to sneak out of camp.

The three children lived with the Comanche in Oklahoma Territory for eighteen months. A trader spotted three white children in the camp. He traded everything he had with him, including his saddle and saddlebags, to rescue the three youngsters. The trader took them to Fort Worth in an attempt to identify the kids and reunite them with their families.

By this time, Mary spoke only Comanche and could not even communicate in English. The boys were able to give their names. Eventually, they were reunited with Mrs. Savage and what was left of their family.

I don’t remember (if I knew) what happened to Mary or John, but Sam remained in the area. He married a Pawnee woman and lived near Mineral Wells for the rest of his life. I found this story fascinating and hope you will also.

Caroline Clemmons is the author of MAIL-ORDER PROMISE, the first in the duet set titled MAIL-ORDER TANGLE, a western historical romance. She and her husband and their menagerie of rescued pets live near Fort Worth in cowboy country.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Anna Swan: The Giant of Nova Scotia.

Original door from
Anna & Martins
home in Seville, OH
While vacationing in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia this summer my family and I visited the small museum at the old Creamery in town. There I came across an intriguing room with a large door, four feet taller than my husband and a friendly gentleman, a distant cousin to the lady I’m going to tell you about.

Anna Swan, the 7ft and 5½ inches tall woman known as the giant.

Anna's childhood home. N.S

Born August 6, 1846 in Mill Brook, New Annan near where Tatamagouche resides today in Colchester County, Nova Scotia. 
Anna was the third child of thirteen, to Scottish immigrants of average height and weight.

At birth Anna weighted 18lbs. She grew very fast and by her 4th birthday she was 4’6. On her 6th birthday she was 5’2 just a few inches smaller than her mother. On her 10th birthday, Anna measured 6’1 and by her 15th birthday she was over seven feet tall and weighing 350 pounds.

Anna struggled with her day-to-day life living in a small farmhouse, where she could not stand to her full height. She was not permitted to sit in the chairs her family used, for the wooden structures could not hold her weight and she’d broken many pieces of furniture over the years. Upon seeing his daughter's struggles within the family home, Anna's father hand-made her a chair suitable for her height and weight.

Traveling did not come easy for Anna. She had to make sure to place her weight evenly on the rail of the buggy before stepping up into the seat, if she did not, she would tip the carriage over or frighten the horses. Anna did not like to draw more attention to her than what she already received. However, it was more important to her to portray a lady and so she took great care when visiting with friends and family to search out the strongest chair, hold her tea very daintily, and be sure to sit up from the sofa before the others.

She was an accomplished pianist, actor and singer and considered a highly intelligent woman. She went on to perform at the Barnum’s museum.

While visiting a circus in Halifax Anna met Captain Martin Van Buren Bates, a giant as well at almost eight feet and 470lbs. They were placed together as the main attraction with the circus and soon after fell in love. On June 17th, 1871 they married in London, England. Where the Queen gave Anna a handmade pocket watch as a wedding gift.

On May 19, 1872 Anna gave birth to an 18lb baby girl who lived only a few hours.

On their return from England, in June of 1874, Martin moved his wife to Seville, Ohio. They purchased 120 acres of land and had furniture made to their specifications. For the first time in their lives they’d be able to live within a home that was built to suit their sizes. The main part of the house had 14-foot high ceilings; the doors were wider than normal, and 8 and a ½ feet tall. The back of the house was built an average size for servants and guests.

Anna again became pregnant with their second child, but the 24 pound baby only lived 11 hours. To take their mind from the grief of losing another child, Anna and Martin joined the W.W. Cole Tour in the summer of 1879. By 1880 they had retired.

Anna spent the next 8 years quietly on the farm she and her husband owned.  She joined the Baptist church and attended services with her husband every Sunday, sitting in a pew built especially for them. She enjoyed teaching Sunday school and visiting with her friends.

Anna suffered from a thyroid goitre all of her life, which resulted in her size. She died unexpectedly of heart failure in her sleep at her home on August 5th, 1888 just one day before her 42nd birthday. Martin ordered a statue of Anna from Europe for her grave that still stands today. 

When I stood within the museum and stared at Anna’s dresses, her pictures and the door from the old farmhouse, I grew admiration for the woman known as the giant. In a time where different was not accepted, she excelled despite what others thought of her. She made a life for herself within the circus performing all over the world and rubbing elbows with many dignitaries.

She married a man of her size, which was not likely to happen, and they cherished each other. I wish I could’ve met the 7ft tall woman with a quiet voice and reserved disposition. I’d like to think we’d have been friends.


Monday, September 15, 2014

The Infamous - Edward 'Ned' Kelly by Susan Horsnell

In the United States there are a number of infamous outlaws, Billy The Kid, Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, just to name a few. In Britain, John Clavell, Gubbins Band and Friar Tuck.

In Australia, our most infamous and well known outlaw – known as a Bushranger - would have to be Edward 'Ned' Kelly.  This month, I will touch on some of his escapades which led to his eventual capture and hanging.

"SUCH IS LIFE" – Ned Kelly's words when, Mr. Castieau, the governor of the gaol, informed the condemned man that the hour of execution had been fixed at ten o'clock. It is one of the most famous sayings to this day used by thousands of Australians.

Ned Kelly's father, John Kelly (known as "Red"), was born in County Tipperary, Ireland, and was transported in 1841, at the age of 22, from Tipperary to Tasmania for pig stealing. After his release in 1848, Red Kelly moved to Victoria and found work at James Quinn's farm at Wallan Wallan as a bush carpenter. He subsequently turned his attention to gold-digging, at which he was successful and which enabled him to purchase a small freehold in Beveridge, just north of Melbourne.
Kelly was born in the town of Beveridge in the British colony of Victoria to an Irish convict father and an Irish-Australian mother. The exact date of his birth is unknown but thought to be anytime from December 1854 – June 1855. His father died after a six-month stint in prison for unlawful possession of a bullock hide, when Kelly was about 12.
Kelly's first documented brush with the law was on 15 October 1869 at the age of 14 when he was charged with the assault and robbery of Ah Fook, a pig and fowl trader from a Chinese camp near Bright. According to Fook, as he was passing Kelly's house, Kelly approached him with a long bamboo stick, announcing that he was a bushranger and would kill him if he did not hand over his money. Kelly then allegedly took him into the bush, beat him with the stick and stole 10 shillings. 

Following an incident at his family's home in 1878, police parties searched for Kelly in the bush. After he, his brother and two colleagues killed three policemen, the colonial government proclaimed Kelly and his gang wanted outlaws.
A final violent confrontation with police took place at Glenrowan on 28 June 1880. Kelly, dressed in homemade plate metal armor and a helmet, was captured and sent to jail. He was convicted of three counts of willful murder and hanged at Old Melbourne Gaol in November 1880. His daring and notoriety made him an iconic figure in Australian history, folklore, literature, art and film.
In August 2011, anthropologists announced that a skeleton found in a mass grave in Pentridge Prison had been confirmed as Kelly's. His skull, however, remains missing.

Bushranging was said to have ended with the shooting of the Kelly Gang in 1880 at Glenrowan, Victoria, made possible by the introduction of the Felons Apprehension Act 1865 (NSW) which allowed outlawed bushrangers to be shot, rather than arrested and sent to trial.

The stories, myths and facts surrounding Ned Kelly are numerous and varied. There is far too much information on the bushranger and his gang to cover it all here but I have touched on some of the more interesting aspects. 
The following is a rough timeline of his life:
1854/1855: Born Edward Kelly in Beveridge, north of Melbourne. 
1869: A 14-year-old Kelly assaults a Chinese pig farmer and spends close to two weeks in police custody. 
October 1870: Arrested again for assault. 1871: Arrested for riding a stolen horse and fighting with police. Sentenced to three years' jail. 
April 1878: Ned Kelly goes into hiding after being accused of assaulting a police officer. 
October 1878: Ned Kelly and his gang kill three police from a group sent to track him down at Stringy Bark Creek in bushland near Mansfield. 
December 1878: Ned Kelly and his gang hold up a bank in Euroa. 
February 1879: Ned Kelly and his gang dress as cops and rob a bank in Jerilderie. 
June 1880: Shootout between police and the Kelly gang at Glenrowan Inn. Ned Kelly is arrested, the three members of his gang die in the shootout. 
October 1880: Ned Kelly faces trial and is sentenced to death. 
11 November 1880: Ned Kelly is hanged. Two Melbourne newspapers report his last words to the Governor of the Goal as, "Such is life". 
1929: The remains of prisoners, including Ned Kelly's remains, transferred from Old Melbourne Gaol to Pentridge Prison. 
November 2009: A skull believed to belong to Ned Kelly is given to the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine for identification. The skull was proven not to be that of Ned Kelly but efforts to identify his remains among those exhumed from Pentridge Prison begin. 
1 September 2011: Victorian government announces the remains are those of Edward 'Ned' Kelly  
18 January 2013: Ned Kelly's remains are buried
Susan Horsnell - Western Romance Author 

Schools in America

September has arrived and along with it, a new school year. Here’s a bit of history on schools in America.

As the New World formed, the act of educating children was the responsibility of the family. From the time children were four or five, girls were to be trained by their mothers to read and perform household tasks, cooking, cleaning, sewing, weaving, animal care, etc. The boys were instructed by their fathers to read and write as well as learning the necessities of hunting, fishing, farming, trapping, woodworking, etc. If the family could afford it, they might have hired a tutor who often lived in their home to educate the children other subjects. It was believed boys needed to learn to read and write, but girls only needed to read and were restricted to religious material only. 

After families began to flourish, in 1647 The Massachusetts Bay Colony General Court decreed any town of fifty or more families should establish a school for children to read and write. This was at the expense of the families and meant mainly for the male children only. 

This model, of those whose family could afford to pay tuition continued for over a hundred years. In 1779 Thomas Jefferson proposed a ‘two track’ system, in which he referred to for the ‘the laboring and the learned’.  This meant scholarships could be provided to a select few in hopes of ‘raking a few geniuses out of the rubbish’. 

In 1790 Pennsylvania called for free public education for the poor, rich people where still expected to pay for their children’s education. By 1805 New York had established a public school system that included a model where one teacher oversaw classrooms of hundreds of students. The teacher would provide rote lessons to the older children who then passed them down to the younger children. It was believed this system would prepare children for their future roles of factory and manufacturing workers. 

In 1817 Boston called for a tax system that would provide education for all. Many opposed it because they didn’t want to pay taxes to aid poorer families, however it eventually passed. By 1827 this law spread through the larger cities—fast growing industries were looking at schools to provide them with a disciplined workforce. Major industrialists offered up their own money to create state boards of education to assure they received the workers needed for their growing business. In 1847 the first ‘reform’ school opens in Massachusetts—for children who had refused to attend public schools, and in 1851 Massachusetts passed an educational law that insisted all children of immigrants attend school to assure they become civilized and learn obedience so they could become good workers. 

New Orleans was ahead of many others, especially pertaining to girls. They opened their first girl only school in 1727 and accepted girls of all races, included freed slaves and Native Americans. Educating women didn’t become more popular in the New England states until the 1840’s. 

The school ‘systems’ of the New England spread west with the pioneers—the south was more prone to private tutors and a hodgepodge of publically funded schools in the larger towns and remained so until after the Civil War. While opening the west with land grants, the government withheld small parcels dedicated to schools with the mandate that upon formation, local communities would financially support the school.  

Schools in the west also brought another issue that the government chose to address. In 1864 Congress made it illegal for Native American children to be taught their native language. Children as young as four were gathered up and sent to BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) boarding schools. 

By 1880 all states were required to have free public schools—paid for by local taxes and for elementary ages—usually up to age 12. This was extended to 14 by 1900, and by 1918 every state had a law that required all children (6-14) to attend school. By then most schools, even one room schools, had adopted an age/grade system that separated children and their lessons based on their age or ability. 

Before 1920 most secondary education was private and only for those bound for college. In 1910 only 9% of Americans had a high school diploma. Women were far more likely to attend high school where available. Educators across the nation insisted schooling at higher levels would improve citizenship (child labor laws had changed since the first school laws had been enacted). As more high schools began being built, educators discovered by adding vocational classes needed for industry jobs and sports, such as baseball and basket ball, high schools attracted more males. Within thirty years, the number of American’s with a high school diploma grew to 50%.   


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Release Day! MAIL-ORDER TANGLE #western @carolineclemmons @JacquieRogers

The Birth of 
by Jacquie Rogers

What would you do if you had a chance to work with one of your most favorite authors? Jump at the chance, that’s what! And I even got to talk to her on the phone.

Caroline Clemmons
I’m talking about Caroline Clemmons, who wrote the first book of Mail-Order Tangle, about Ellie and Kage, Mail-Order Promise. I wrote Laura and Matt’s story in the second book, Mail-Order Ruckus. I’m going to let you in on some of our early notes.

We already knew that whatever idea we had, Caroline would set her story in Texas and I’d set mine in Owyhee County, Idaho Territory. But that’s pretty much all we knew. Neither of us had characters or any sort of plot in mind. We had several ideas, none of which hit us as the right one. Truth is, I’m not sure who came up with the two cousins and two sisters idea, but I think it was a result of our conversations about how to connect the stories. We’d thought about twin heroes, or stories connected by the heroes’ jobs. Several ideas were batted back and forth.

But in the end, cousins Kage and Matt marrying sisters, Ellie and Laura, won the race. Once those characters showed up, we knew they were the ones. Writers have to fall in love with their characters—Caroline and I were both in love with Kage and Matt immediately. Ellie and Laura took a little longer to form but we love them no less.

First, we had to decide when the stories would be set. Here’s what Caroline said: “What year are we talking about? I was thinking around 1870 – 1873, but I write 1870 – 1890s, I’ll to defer to you there. I’m happy with any date in the above time frame of 1870 - 1890.” I split the difference and chose 1880. We had to have a year when ranching was relatively well established in Owyhee County. Most of the ranches were started in the 1870s to feed the miners in Silver City, and since the Johanssens had been there three years before Caroline’s story started, 1880 was just about right. Texas, of course, was no problem in that regard, since ranching had been established by the Spaniards in the 1700s, so Texas has a long history in the cattle business.

But why would Kage and Matt have a ranch in Idaho in the first place? And then, why would they leave their Idaho ranch to visit their Texas home? These are mostly final notes, a compilation of suggestions and ideas from each of us. “The Johanssens are cousins. Kage’s father ran the ranch (brand could be Bar AJ), he passed on several years before book one starts. {Note: we hadn't come up with titles yet.}  Kage’s older brother Erik Jr took over the ranch operation—their grandfather Adalbert is still alive so still owns it, and Kage’s mom, Inga, is still alive and keeps house for her father-in-law. Kage and Matt had driven cattle to Silver City and decided to settle in Owyhee County where land was cheap and the need for beef was high. They’ve worked hard to build the ranch and endured four snowy winters, varmints, and Indians. They’re just starting to break even when an especially hard winter hurts their herd.”

And why would Kage stay? Well, that’s when we decided to kill off his beloved older brother. It’s a sad thing, but writers have to do these things. That was Caroline’s job.

Once we fiddled around with the Dickerson sisters’ backstory and a few details about peripheral characters, we were set to go. We shared characters, backgrounds, and some setting, but we didn’t have much input in the plot of each other’s story. One reason for that is we wanted to leave room for both of us to write what we write best and not be too hog-tied by a story bible.

And that’s how Mail-Order Tangle was born. It’s up on Amazon now (soon available in print and all major online stores) and we’re really excited about this book. I hope you enjoy our co-writing adventure. I’m still tickled to have my name on a cover with the fabulous Caroline Clemmons. Wow!

You could win a freed copy of Mail-Order Tangle and other great prizes at the Kickin' up a Ruckus with Caroline and Jacquie doin's on Facebook, September 13, 11am to 7pm Central Time.  See you there!
We'll have more information soon at the Mail-Order Tangle website.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

War Bonnets

Last July, singer Pharell Williams appeared on the cover of Elle UK – a fashion magazine – wearing a regal Native American headdress. Williams, however, is not Native American, and the incident set off a stream of virulent social media protests which ultimately led to his apology: 
“I respect and honor every kind of race, background and culture. I am genuinely sorry.”

The incident caught my attention, as well, and aroused my curiosity about the meaning and significance of Native American headdresses. They have deep spiritual meaning.

For most of us, what we think of when we imagine a headdress is the “war bonnet”. Many of us first encountered the image on “Big Chief” tablets when we set off for school. We’ve probably seen them, too, in western movies. The war bonnet is also seen many times as part of Halloween costumes.

War bonnets were worn mostly by the Plains tribes.  These were hand-crafted and eagle feathers were used, based on the belief that the eagle was the greatest bird in the skies and that feathers could protect a wearer from harm. To gather the feathers, young birds were captured and taken from their nests. When the birds were older, the feathers would be plucked from their tails. Feathers were sometimes dyed with red or blue coloring. In addition, the headdresses were often adorned with pieces of fur and fancy bead work.

Now, of course, eagles are a protected species. The U. S. Government has set up the National Eagle Repository in order to provide today’s Native Americans with the golden eagle and bald eagle feathers required for religious and ceremonial use.

Eagle feathers were symbols of leadership among a tribe, and each individual feather was earned through a deed. They were typically worn only on special occasions. Although these elaborate headdresses are often referred to as “war bonnets”, they weren’t worn into battle. Rather, their purpose was to commemorate the valor of the men who had fought.  Today, Native Americans who have served in the U. S. military are often presented eagle feathers or war bonnets upon their return to show their bravery.

Although we all have the “war bonnet” image in our heads when we think of Native Americans, the reality is that the traditional war bonnet was worn by only a few Plains tribes such as the Sioux, Crow, Blackfeet, Cheyenne, and Plains Cree. Later, as tribes were relocated by the government, the war bonnet was adopted by other native people, but without the same spiritual meaning and significance.

Another interesting note I learned is that although women of the Plains tribes sometimes went into battle, and in fact, sometimes became tribal chieftains, they were not allowed to wear the feathered war bonnet headdress. This was reserved for men only.

There are three primary types of war bonnet.

·         Trailer War Bonnet
·         Halo Bonnet
·         Straight-Up Bonnet

Trailer War Bonnet

As its name suggests, this headdress is long and flowing, trailing over the back of the wearer like a cascade. In most tribes, only few special leaders were allowed to wear this style of headdress. To earn so many feathers would truly be an incredible feat.

Halo Bonnet

The halo bonnet, like the one shown on the “Big Chief” illustration, has feathers fanning out in a circle, forming a halo-effect around the wearer’s head.

Straight-Up Bonnet

Rather that fanning out around the wearer’s head, the feathers in a “straight-up” bonnet did precisely that. They were placed to appear as though they were standing on end.

* * * *

In addition to the controversy caused by Pharrell Williams, other incidents have sparked outrage among Native American people. For more information about the misappropriation of the culture, you might want to visit the following website:

Many western romance writers make use of Native people in their stories, and it is important that we present them not as stereotypes, but as individual human beings. I believe it is is also important for each of us to learn about the native culture, to know their ways and traditions and to understand the spiritual meaning in their arts, crafts, and religious practices.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Handcarts to the Promised Land

The Mormon handcart pioneers were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who migrated to Utah using handcarts to carry their belongings. The handcart journeys began in 1856 and continued until 1860.

From 1849 to 1855, about 16,000 European Latter-day Saints took ship to America, traveled by rail to points in Iowa and Nebraska, and on to Utah by wagon trains. Most of these emigrants paid their own way, but the Church established the Perpetual Emigration Fund to assist poor emigrants with expenses, which they were to repay over time. Contributions were also encouraged.

Photo from Library of Congress

However, when contributions and loan repayments dwindled after a poor harvest in 1855, LDS President Brigham Young decided to begin using handcarts to help the European Saints, who were mostly poor. Young also believed it would speed up their journey. Nearly 3,000 Mormon converts from the British Isles and Scandinavia trekked to Utah pulling and pushing their heavy carts.

The pioneers were outfitted with handcarts and supplies in Iowa City, Iowa, the western railroad terminus at that time. Designed by Brigham Young, the handcarts resembled large wheelbarrows, with two 5-foot high wheels and a single 4 ½-foot wide axle. They weighed 60 pounds. On each side of the bed were 7-foot long pull shafts, with a 3-foot crossbar at the front, allowing the carts to be pushed or pulled. Cargo was carried in a 3’ by 4’ box with 8 inch walls. The handcarts usually carried about 250 pounds of supplies and baggage, but could haul loads up to 500 pounds. Carts were built entirely of wood at first; later, metal parts strengthened them.

Mormon handcart train in Iowa, 1903 illustration; Wikipedia Commons
Handcart companies (think wagon train) were organized in units. Five persons were assigned per handcart, with each individual limited to 17 pounds of clothing and bedding. Each round tent, supported by a center pole, housed 20 people and was supervised by a tent captain. Five tents were supervised by the “captain of a hundred” (sub-captain). Provisions for each group of one hundred emigrants were carried in an ox-drawn wagon, and were distributed by the tent captains.

One journal keeper wrote this: ”People made fun of us as we walked, pulling our handcarts, but the weather was fine and the roads were excellent and although I was sick and we were very tired at night, still we thought it was a glorious way to go to Zion.” This immigrant was among the lucky.

There were ten handcart companies in all. Most reached Salt Lake City with relatively few deaths along the trail. However, two groups, the Willie and Martin companies (named for their leaders) began their journey too late in 1856. They should have started out in May or June, but didn’t leave their Iowa base until August. One church official berated those who wanted to wait until the following spring to leave. He promised they would not run into snow.

On the contrary, the immigrants faced brutal cold and were almost buried by snow in central Wyoming. The few wagons accompanying them couldn't handle the sick and feeble, so they were piled on top of their handcarts and pushed by exhausted family members. Others crawled on their hands and knees through the snow because their feet were frozen. On some nights, a dozen or more people died. A number of survivors lost limbs to frostbite.
Many deaths were due to starvation because organizers had underestimated the amount of food required for the trip. The head of one company ordered his followers to lighten their loads, dumping blankets and clothing that later might have saved their lives. He even ordered the abandoned articles burned to prevent their owners from returning to retrieve them.

A heroic rescue effort was mounted by the Mormon settlers in Utah, but more than 210 of the 980 pioneers in the Willie and Martin companies died. John Chislett, a survivor, wrote, "Many a father pulled his cart, with his little children on it, until the day preceding his death."

Less than 10 percent of the Latter-day Saints who migrated west from 1846 to 1868 made the journey west using handcarts, but those determined pioneers are revered by modern day LDS members. They symbolize the fervent faith and sacrifice of all who trudged west over plains and mountains to their promised land. They are honored in events such as Pioneer Day and Church pageants.




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