Friday, November 28, 2014

The History and Philosophy of Branding

A New York family bought a ranch out West where they intended to raise cattle. Friends visited and asked if the ranch had a name.
  "Well," said the would-be cattleman, "I wanted to name it the Bar-J. My wife favored Suzy-Q, one son liked the Flying-W, and the other wanted the Lazy-Y. So we're calling it the Bar-J-Suzy-Q-Flying-W-Lazy-Y." 
   "But where are all your cattle?" the friends asked. 
  "None survived the branding." 
D.A.C. News

We know from Egyptian hieroglyphics that branding livestock dates back to 2700 BCE. The Romans used symbols that were part of a magic spell to protect the animals... at least until the owner wanted to slaughter them. By the Middle Ages, the custom had spread through Europe. From Europe it emigrated with colonists to North America where, even with our modern technology, it is still one of the most effective means of establishing ownership -- or proving theft.

The term brand may come from "firebrand" or heated stick, which was the oldest way of applying your brand. (Or from the Norse "brandr" meaning burn. Take your pick.)

Obviously, only one end of the stick was brought to a smouldering temperature. That lead to the term being applied to people who were hot-headed. An iron rod, or running iron, eventually took the place of the stick, but don't be caught with one in the Old West. Honest ranchers had their brands made by blacksmiths. Carrying a running iron suggested you might be a rustler, adept at changing one brand to another.

To work, brands must be unique. Like Coca Cola and Pepsi, the marks are registered. Unlike other product brands, however, the blacksmith hammer (and the beeves' hides) can only handle so many flourishes. So a simple hieroglyphic language was developed.

2 Lazy-2 P Ranch - from The Smithsonian site
Letters and numbers can be boxed, walking, winged, rocking or lazy. Bars can be T'ed, doubled or crossed. In Under A Texas Star, I refer to the Rocking-R (whose owner breeds horses) and the Bar-B Ranch.

I promised a little philosophy and for that I'm going to go back to Coca Cola and Pepsi and brand loyalty.

Branding livestock was a practical necessity. Menkahf had to make sure that his goats didn't find themselves in Sebni's herd when it was time to bring them in from the pasture. Branding merchandise started about a thousand years later to identify the product with the maker. Both types of brand engendered brand loyalty.

Product loyalty is pretty easy to recognize. If you doubt it, offer a Coke drinker a Pepsi. (My ex once said, if dying of thirst in the desert, he'd rather eat a lizard than drink a Pepsi.)

The cowboy's loyalty to the brand is an ethical issue. I learned the concept from Louis L'Amour, particularly in his collection Riding for the Brand, but best expressed by Conn Conagher:
"I've covered a lot of country in my time but when I take a man's money I ride for the brand."
Louis L'Amour, Conagher
If you have a problem with your employer, you come out with it. If it can't be solved, you suck it up or ride on. An ally who wasn't loyal might have to be tolerated, but he'd never be respected. An enemy who stood by his villainous employer until the end, would be respected and couldn't be seen as entirely evil. He was redeemed by his loyalty.

The History of Branding, Smithsonian Magazine
Livestock Branding, Wikipedia
The History of Brands, Wikipedia
US Legal Definitions

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Poem and link to more #thanksgiving

Roar from the Bunkhouse
Nary a thing to eat Thanksgivin'
   Only tin can truck!
Gettin' tired of such a livin',
   Blame the orn'ry luck!
Nothin' only beans an' bacon
   Pard, excuse these tears!
Seems jest like we've been fursaken
   Darn this punchin' steers!

Folks back home are jest a-stuffin'
   Turkey-meat an' pie;
At them feed-fests there's no bluffin';
   Gosh, it makes me sigh!
No sich dinner for us fellers
   In this camp appears;
Turkey ain't fer cowboys' smellers
   Darn this punchin' steers!

Weather soggy-like an' murky;
   Makes me mighty blue;
Thinkin' of Thanksgivin' turkey
   Makes me h'umsick, too.
Sour-dough bread an' canned tomaters
   Ain't th' grub that cheers;
Oh fer pie an' mashed pertaters!
   Darn this punchin' steers!

Bunkhouse bunch are sick as blazes
   Bein' fed this way;
Gettin' so th' maynoo raises
  Sam Hill ev'ry day!
ev'ry mother's son a-kickin'
  When th' truck appears!
Never git a sniff o' chicken
   Darn this punchin' steers!

Same ol' bread an' beans furever!
   Gosh, we'd like a change!
Reck'n we won't git it never
   While we ride th' range!
Oh, fer some o' mother's cookin;
   That's th' dope that cheers!
Guess my callin' I've mistooken
   DARN this punchin' steers!

by E. A. Brininstool, from Trail Dust of a Maverick, 1914

I'm so sorry that I didn't come across the Thanksgiving poetry page sooner so I could obtain permission to reprint all those pertinent, but the best I can do is share the url and hope you will enjoy the works of some talented poets who capture the essence of Thanksgiving in the Old West.

Here's wishing all my friends the happiest of Thanksgivings!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Australian Women Who Broke The Law - Susan Horsnell


Some of the not-so-innocent faces of convicted criminals who were put behind bars from the 1880s to 1930s.

Among them was the infamous razor gangster and prominent madam of the times - Matilda 'Tilly' Devine.

Many others included backyard abortionists, drug dealers and those convicted of bigamy, drunkenness and theft.

Most of them were sent to the State Reformatory for Women, Long Bay - south of Sydney - which is now known as Long Bay Correctional Complex.

Matilda 'Tilly' Devine pictured on May 27, 1925 before she was sent to the State Reformatory for Women in Long Bay, south of Sydney. She was 25 at the time she was arrested for using a razor to slash a man's face in a barber's shop. She was later sentenced to two years jail.

Tilly Devine became infamous in Sydney, initially as a prostitute, then later as a brothel madam and organised crime entrepreneur. The NSW Vagrancy Act 1905 prohibited men from running brothels; it did nothing to stop women with criminal gangs' support and bribes to the police from running criminal enterprises. Historian Larry Writer has noted that the Devines ran diversified operations. Elite "call girls" were available for politicians, businessmen and overseas guests of significance, while "tenement girls" were young working class women who resorted to casual prostitution to supplement their drug spendings, clothings and meagre earnings during times of Australian criminal and narcotic culture, absence of a comprehensive welfare state and unemployment. Older female prostitutes, "boat girls", catered to itinerant sailors or working class-men. Devine does not seem to have run similar operations for the gay sex market during this time 
Tilly Devine's wealth was legendary, although it was all earned from crime. She owned a large amount of real estate in Sydney, many luxury cars, looted gold and diamond jewelry, and traveled by ship in first class staterooms. Much of her wealth was also used to pay bribes to the police sectors, and fines for her criminal convictions that spanned fifty years. 
Tilly Devine faced numerous court summons and was convicted on 204 occasions during her long criminal career, and served many jail sentences in the New South Wales jail, mainly for prostitution, violent assault, affray and attempted murder. She was known to the police to be of a violent nature and was known to use firearms.

Lillian May Southwell Boland on September 28, 1922 when she was convicted of conspiracy to procure an abortion. 

She was known to be a secretary for an illegal abortionist who worked from a dentist's surgery on Oxford Street, Paddington - Sydney's inner city. 
While she maintained her innocence and said she was unaware of the illegal activity, the court ruled that she must have known about the business and subsequently gave her a suspended sentence of 12 months hard labour.

Lillian Sproule pictured on October 31, 1928. The Tasmanian reportedly had dealings with Sydney's cocaine trade and had multiple drug convictions. Labelled a 'parasite in skirts' by the media, the 50-year-old was sentenced to six months in prison.

May Ethel Foster on March 27, 1928. She had worked with a male associate, Albert Roy Callaway aged 28, to break into some houses and steal the goods inside. She had previous convictions including failing to appear in court, vagrancy and receiving stolen goods. The court sentenced the 27-year-old to six months with hard labor.

I hope you have enjoyed this peek into just some of the infamous women in Australia's history. 


Monday, November 17, 2014

Cowboys and Their Music

Cowboys and Their Music 

I recently attended a Garth Brooks concert. I’d attended his concerts in the past, and knew we were in for a great show. He didn’t disappoint, and our entire group had very hoarse voices the next morning—which is what happens when you sing along with 20,000 other people for three hours. Two of the people in our group had so much fun, they went online early the next morning and snagged tickets to go again that night. They weren’t disappointed. The concert was just as top notch and the night before.

I enjoy music of all kinds, but admit country is my favorite. I love storytelling and set to music, it’s the best.

Music has always been part of a cowboy’s life, and played a major role in winning the west. 

Shortly before the Santa Fe Railroad arrived, Dodge City, Kansas was incorporated. The booming business was buffalo bones and hides and the town provided a social gathering place for the soldiers from nearby Fort Dodge. In 1875 its cattle days were born and for the next ten years it was known as the “Cowboy Capital” as well as “Queen of Cowtowns”. Well known lawmen and gunfighters took their turn in Dodge- Wyatt Earp; Bat, Ed, and Jim Masterson; Doc Holliday; William Tilghman; Clay Allison; Ben and Billy Thompson; Lake Short; and many others. In fact, it was often hard to tell the good guys from the bad in Dodge City.

A highly attractive event for Dodge City that became extremely popular was the performances of The Dodge City Cowboy Band. Their musical abilities were high quality; however it was said it was their manner of dress that attracted fans by the hundreds. The members wore flannel shirts, gray cowboy hats, leather chaps, spurs and pearl-handled revolvers, and the band leader used a revolver to keep time instead of a baton.

The Cowboy Band also played in Denver, Chicago and Minneapolis, and in Washington, D.C., at the inaugural celebration of President Benjamin Harrison.

Though known as the “Dodge City Cowboy Band” not one of the ‘cowboys’ was from Dodge.

My latest release isn’t set in Dodge, nor does it have music, but it does have a cowboy, just the wrong one. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cowboys, Christmas, and Whittling #history #romance @JacquieRogers

Cowboys, Christmas, and Whittling

Just about every cowpoke had a pocket jack knife, and a good share of those men sat around the campfire and whittled. Judd Shaw, in How the Texan Stole Christmas (in Wild Texas Christmas—to be released the day after Thanksgiving from Prairie Rose Publications), is a cowhand who whittles. While writing him, I got to wondering why so many people whittled in the 19th century. So let’s take a look.

History of Whittling

Wood was one of the first items shaped, if not the first, by modern humans. Whittling could produce a spear or an arrow—although these items were single-use, which is probably why stone tools quickly replaced them. Decorative whittling goes back as far. No one knows when it started, but has been prevalent throughout written history and before.

I was surprised to find out that whittling wasn’t popular until the Civil War. Nearly every soldier, North or South, and a knife, and there was no shortage of wood. They might not have had sufficient food or blankets, but they always had wood. Once the war was over, these soldiers went about making a living—logging, punching cattle, farming, or whatever—and they took their newfound whittling skills with them. Whittling was a popular pastime clear up until the end of World War II.

Whittling vs. Wood carving
This article is about whittling, not woodcarving. The latter requires a variety of tools and generally produces more elaborate artworks. Even with whittling, there’s plain whittling and then there’s chip carving.

Here’s a snippet from How the Texan Stole Christmas, my short story in Wild Texas Christmas.  We meet Judd, and this is what spurred him to take out his frustrations by whittling.

In an instant, her [Winnie's] feet went out from under her and she knocked Judd off balance, too. She landed on her back, the cold hard ice knocking the wind out of her. Judd fell on top of her with his face buried in her bosom. She couldn’t speak for lack of air and she couldn’t move because he pinned her down. 

He lifted his head after a moment. “I’m, uh, sorry.” 

Winnie wasn’t sorry at all. No man had had his face on her bosom for a long time, and if she had to choose one to be there, Judd’s would be it.
♥ ♥ ♥

Sleight of Heart

A gamblin' man with magic hands
A strait-laced spinster
A missing brother
A crazy adventure

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Wickedest Cowtown in Kansas

“Abilene was the first, and Dodge City was the last…but Ellsworth was the wickedest cattle town of them all.”

US Army Troops at Fort Harker - 1867

When we think of “the wild west”, we often think of the geographical regions around Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Texas, and Arizona. Let’s not forget Kansas, though. Located in the center of the continental United States, the state of Kansas was – and is – a major transportation hub for the distribution of goods throughout the country.

Back in the day, of course, that meant cattle, and visitors to the state of Kansas today can still visit the towns that grew up along the railroad lines. Everyone knows of Abilene, and of course, we’ve all heard of Dodge City. But what about Ellsworth, Kansas?

Once the home to several Native American tribes, the area became a dangerous place as the Santa Fe Trail cut through the “Smoky Hills” region. The Cheyenne and other tribes raided wagon trains and stagecoaches, and soon Fort Ellsworth was constructed for the protection of travelers.

Soon, a small town had sprung up around the fort. Although the fort was re-named Fort Harker, the town became known as Ellsworth, and when the railroad completed a line to the fort in July, 1867, the little community boomed, quickly swelling to a population of two thousand.

The early years were marked with difficulties. In addition to continued raids from Indians, the town faced a cholera epidemic, and severe flooding from the Smoky Hill river. Yet it survived.

From 1871 to 1875, Ellsworth served as a thriving cattle market, dominating the other “cowtowns” in Kansas. Along with the rough frontiersmen and hard-working cowboys who called Ellsworth home, a wild and wicked population of gamblers, outlaws, and prostitutes were drawn to the town.

It wasn’t long before Ellsworth had gained a reputation as a “wild and wooly” place.  In addition to drunken cowboys and occasional shoot-outs, the town was subjected to violence and havoc from a gang led by two men, Craig and Johnson. The set out to take over and to establish a “reign of terror” with their desperado deeds. They robbed, they killed, they bullied.

Finally the good folks of Ellsworth set out to put an end to the terror and rid the town of such “vermin”. A vigilante committee was formed, and it was agreed that the best way to solve the problem was to get rid of the gang’s leaders.

Both Craig and Johnson were captured, taken to the Smoky Hill, and strung up on the limbs of an old cottonwood tree growing along the river’s banks.  Their cohorts took note and figured it might be a wise thing to pack up and move on.

Even with the outlaw gang routed, the town of Ellsworth saw its share of excitement. Tales of gunfights, hangings, and fortunes won and lost at the gambling tables are legendary. Wild Texas longhorns were driven through the streets toward the Kansas Pacific stockyards. Cowboys rode hard and played hard, spending their hard-earned wages at one of the many saloons.

The shipping pens closed in 1875, but the reputation Ellsworth had gained has lived on. Today, the area is home to about three thousand residents who live peaceful lives as ranchers and farmers.
Visitors can learn of the town’s rich history at many museums and other tourist attractions, including the Ellsworth jail, built in 1873. Oh, the stories those walls could tell!

Of course, the walls themselves can’t speak, so fortunately today’s western writers are taking pen in hand to tell the tale of Ellsworth, Kansas. Those of us who write romance can’t resist throwing in a little love along with the lust. 

For more information on Ellsworth, you can also make a virtual visit through Facebook: 

I hope you've enjoyed this trip back in time! 

Until next month... Christina                          

Friday, November 7, 2014

Guest Author - Debra Holland on writing Sweet Historical Westerns

Due to some personal issues, I didn't have time to put a post together for my scheduled posting day. I'm so grateful that NYT best-selling author, Debra Holland, agreed to fill in for me. Thank you so much for helping me out today, Debra!

By Debra Holland

I write sweet (meaning not sexy) historical Western/prairie romance set in the 1880s and 1890s in my fictional town of Sweetwater Springs, Montana. One of the reasons I don’t write sexy books is because I want to remain true to the morality of the time period.

In those days, couples often didn’t indulge in physical gestures of affection until after they were affianced or maybe not until they wed. A woman who engaged in premarital sex risked the loss of her reputation (an important value in those days) as well as becoming pregnant. Any child of an unwed mother was illegitimate. Being born a “bastard” had significant lifelong social and legal stigmas.

Keeping to historical parameters of physical affection with a modern romance novel can be difficult for an author. In order to do so, I’ve often drawn on stories of my great-grandparents, told me by my grandmother as told to her by her grandmother--not necessarily the details, but the pattern of behavior and the essence of their courtship and marriage.

My great-great grandparents didn’t even kiss until they were married. Yet the romantic connection between them must have been strong. During their courtship, he wrote her a love letter that she cherished all her life. When he died, she tucked the letter in his breast pocket, and he was buried with it.

With my latest book, Glorious Montana Sky, I had the dilemma of writing a romance with a hero who was a minister. The constraints of the time period would be even stricter for Reverend Joshua Norton, a missionary returning home to Sweetwater Springs, than for other men.

A minister in 1895 (the time of Glorious Montana Sky) would likely not kiss the woman he was courting. In addition to his own beliefs about physical affection before marriage, the couple would have all the eyes of their community watching them and judging—after all, the minister was supposed to be the moral compass for his community.

Yet I needed some kisses in my book. How could I make that happen? I did a whole lot of thinking about possible love scenes, discarding all of them. I also brainstormed with some author friends.

I knew Joshua had to be caught up in the moment—the encounter innocent and unplanned. Finally, I realized he’d have to be moved by emotion instead of passion, and the scene came to me.


No sign of Delia. Anxious to see her, Joshua stepped through the glass door and onto the brick path. He moved toward the fountain, then veered to the right, checking underneath the arbor, and then looked across to the other. The wooden benches under both were empty.
Disappointed and wondering if she’d gone in to check on her father, Joshua continued his stroll around the fountain, choosing the slanting path toward the gazebo. The breeze brought the scent of the roses growing in beds along the wall. From this angle, he could see through the doorway to where Delia sat reading on a cushioned bench that circled the interior. His stomach did a little flip, and his feet rooted to the ground.
Sunlight filtered through the lattice and hanging morning glory vines to gild her gold-and-brown patterned dress and burnish auburn highlights into her dark hair. He could see her profile…the line of her throat, the soft rise and fall of her chest.
Somehow, Joshua knew he’d always remember this image of her. Reluctant to shatter the picture, he watched for another moment before taking off his hat. “Miss Bellaire,” he called softly.
Delia looked up from her book and saw him.
The way she smiled and how her eyes lit up caused Joshua to catch his breath.
“Reverend Joshua.” She placed a bookmark between the leaves and closed the volume. “How good to see you.” She waved him in.
“Mrs. Graves tells me your father is resting.”
“Yes, I insisted. Although Papa does seem much stronger and has started to chafe at staying in bed.”
“I don’t blame him.”
“Your son is a godsend, the way he entertains my father. After their chess game, Micah walks him in the area outside the bedroom. It’s something to see, Papa’s hand on Micah’s shoulder, their painstaking progress, that boy’s patience with a sick man.”
Her words gave Joshua a sense of pride. For so long, he’d only heard complaints and criticism about his son, mostly he reflected with some guilt, from the boy’s own mother. And she’d made him believe their son’s normal boyhood mischief was a more serious behavioral problem. Thank goodness, Micah and I are gradually growing closer.
“Visiting with Andre has helped Micah too,” he said. “My son seems happier lately. I’m hopeful adapting to Montana won’t be as difficult as he and I feared.”
She patted the bench next to her. “Come sit. I imagine my father will awaken soon and will be happy to see you.”
Joshua took a seat next to her, perhaps closer than he would for any other lady, setting down the bowler on his other side. “I’ve been in better spirits, too.”
Delia gazed at him, sympathy in her eyes. “You’ve been in mourning.”
He let out a long breath. “Yes, but I’ve also struggled with a feeling of malaise.”
She touched his hand. “I’ve seen signs of that.”
“Being home…with my family and old friends…” He gazed at her sure she could see his feelings in his eyes. “And new ones…has proven to be a tonic.”
Pink rose in her cheeks, and she glanced away.
He reached inside his coat, pulled out the letter from his vest pocket, and handed it to her. “The stationmaster sent this with me. He says it’s from New Orleans.”
The light left her eyes, and her skin paled. With obvious reluctance, Delia reached to take the letter from him.
Concerned, Joshua leaned toward her.
Delia glanced up at him, her eyes wide and apprehensive. “It’s from my mother.”
“Would you like me to leave so you can read in private?”
Her hand shot out to clasp his. “Oh, no. Please stay.”
Joshua squeezed her fingers and had to prevent an instinctive need to bring her hand to his lips. Reluctantly he released her.
Delia took a deep breath, opened the envelope, pulled out the single sheet of paper, and began to read.
From the glimpse Joshua had of the writing before he turned his face away, her mother had only written a few paragraphs.
Delia made a small gasping sound of distress.
His stomach tightened. What’s wrong?
When she finished reading, Delia kept her head averted. With shaking hands, she clumsily folded the paper and tried to stuff the sheet back into the envelope.

Buy Link (Amazon exclusive)

Debra Holland is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of the Montana Sky Series, sweet, historical Western romance. She’s a three-time Golden Heart finalist and one-time winner. Debra is also the author of The Gods’ Dream Trilogy (fantasy romance) and the nonfiction book, The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving. She’s a contributing author to The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing. Learn more about her at