Saturday, May 14, 2016

Welcome Andrea Downing back to Cowboy Kissees

In the 1880s, Cheyenne, Wyoming, was reputedly the wealthiest city on earth on a per capita basis. Conveniently located on the transcontinental railroad system, it proved an ideal spot to establish a gentleman’s club catering not only to the British aristocrats that were now there, but also to the cattle barons, railroad magnates, industrial giants and political movers and shakers within its reach.  Set up to rival the Corkscrew Club in Denver, which admitted only foreign noblemen, the Cheyenne Club was originally called The Cactus Club, but the name was soon changed.  It was built in 1880 with specifications that would rival any London club.
There were two grand staircases, tennis courts, wine vaults, a grand piano, reading, billiard, dining and smoking rooms.  Rooms were paneled throughout with hardwood floors overlaid with Turkish carpets, and had tiled fireplaces displaying Shakespeare quotations.  Its six bedrooms were completed with walnut dressers and presses, marble topped commodes, and beds of hand-carved walnut.  And the library table provided members with copies of Atlantic Monthly, Harper's and the New York and Boston newspapers, as well as The Drover's Journal so that they could keep abreast of Chicago beef prices.  Needless to say, the club also boasted a telephone, Cheyenne #76.
Limited to 200 members, the Board of Governors appointed a 3 -man committee to oversee its by-laws, which expected, of course, gentlemanly behavior.  The rules were designed to keep this haven a small corner of civilization in an otherwise untamed territory.  Wagers of any kind were prohibited (though it is said some high stakes games went on in the private rooms), and there were no games whatsoever on Sunday. Smoking was not permitted until after 7.30pm in the dining room, and pipe smoking was completely prohibited.  “Loud” and ”boisterous” noise was also prohibited; cheating, drunkenness and profanity were grounds for expulsion.  “Any act so dishonorable in social life as to unfit the guilty person for the society of gentlemen” was proscribed.  But there was, at times, no rhyme or reason to the punishments dealt out—often, perhaps, dependent on the friendships within the committee.   When one member put a shot through an oil painting of a pastoral scene, saying this painting of two bulls was a travesty on purebred stock, he was suspended for three months (the painting now hangs, complete with bullet hole apparently, in the Wyoming State Museum.) When another member—so wealthy as to afford a $4,ooo ‘drag’, the equivalent of a modern day stretch limo-- spoke up on the suspension of his brother for striking a waiter, he was censured for his language.
The club suffered a fire in 1882, sending half-dressed residents out onto the street, and thereby proving a handy excuse to expand the premises.  At a cost of $10K, the new addition included a larger, more elegant dining room, decorated with Japanese papers, a servants’ dining room, and a completely new kitchen with 3 dumb waiters & refrigerator for meats, plus trunk room and laundry. There were now 14 bedrooms, new bathrooms, a post office for the convenience of members and electric lighting. No wonder the great and the good passing through were delighted to be guests; these included Andrew Carnegie, Oscar Wilde, and Owen Wister, who called the club, “the Pearl of the Prairies.” The Wyoming Stock Growers Association had gatherings in the club, as did the legislative council, and the Board of Trade had its headquarters here. Some say that more laws and decisions were made here affecting Wyoming than anywhere else, and it is even rumored that the Johnson County War was planned here.  Furthermore, many of the cattle barons preferred living at the club rather than on their ranches, and why not? With lunch at 25¢ and dinner at 75¢, and plentiful Havana cigars, most likely the club was better than home.  Food was of the highest order with oysters, fruits, and fresh vegetables brought in, olives, cheeses, and chocolates, not to mention fine wines and liquors and endless champagne.
Such profligacy was not to last.  After the disastrous winter of 1886-87, many of the cattle barons were gone, their ranches virtually disappeared.  Never great landowners since most of them had depended on open range, the money was gone. This citadel of comfort and exclusivity in a vast wilderness was unable to repay its debts and closed its doors. It was temporarily re-organized as the Club of Cheyenne with a much larger membership, and this evolved into the Industrial Club, forerunner of the town’s Chamber of Commerce.  In 1936 the building was razed to make room for a new home for that organization. Not forgotten, there is a commemorative plaque on that building and, of course, the Cheyenne Club makes a small appearance in my western historical romance, Loveland, in which you can also learn more about the British cattle companies as well as that horrific winter of 1886-87.

LOVELAND  by Andrea Downing
Genre:  western historical romance
Publisher:  Amazon Encore for the eBook,The Wild Rose Press for print
Award:  Finalist for RONE Best Historical
Blurb:  When Lady Alexandra Calthorpe returns to the Loveland, Colorado, ranch owned by her father, the Duke, she has little idea of how the experience will alter her future. Headstrong and willful, Alex tries to overcome a disastrous marriage in England and be free of the strictures of Victorian society --and become independent of men. That is, until Jesse Makepeace saunters back into her life...
Hot-tempered and hot-blooded cowpuncher Jesse Makepeace can’t seem to accept that the child he once knew is now the ravishing yet determined woman before him. Fighting rustlers proves a whole lot easier than fighting Alex when he’s got to keep more than his temper under control.
Arguments abound as Alex pursues her career as an artist and Jesse faces the prejudice of the English social order. The question is, will Loveland live up to its name?

Excerpt:  The two men looked over at Jesse who was leading his own horse into the stable, anger etched in every muscle of his face. Joe nodded toward the chuck house and they followed the others in to leave Alex alone when Jesse came out.
     She was starting back to the main house when Jesse grabbed her arm and turned her around. “You ever do that again,” he said in a voice she had never heard, intense in its anger, rage just below its surface, “I swear to God, Alex, I’ll...I’ll take you over my knee and give you a lickin’ once and for all.”
     “How dare you!” She shook him off. “How dare you talk to me like that! How dare you! Who the hell do you think you are?”
     Jesse jabbed his finger at her to emphasize he meant what he was saying. “Who do I think I am?” he snarled back. “Who do I think I am? You ever, ever take a gun off me again and point it at someone, you’ll find out who the hell I think I am. You know that coulda gone off? You know you coulda killed someone? I told you—out there yonder—I told you, you never point that thing at anyone less’n you mean bus’ness.”
     “I did bloody well mean business! They were destroying that horse. Furthermore, I knew, and you knew, and they both knew, there wasn’t a shot under the hammer. You taught me that, didn’t you? So there was no chance of an accident!”
     “That don’t matter none. You coulda pulled the hammer back twice. Way you was, you were nothin’ better’n a loose cannon, Alex. You ever do a thing like that again—”
     “You’ll what?” She shook with her rage as tears pooled against her will. “I apologized to them both and they accepted my apologies. It’s none of your concern—”
     “None of my concern! You pulled my gun! You ever do that again— Don’t you walk away when I’m talkin’ to you!”
     She turned back to him after a few steps. “You’ll what? You’ll what, Jesse? What will you do? I want to hear it! Say it again. What will you do?” And she stood there in the evening darkness, facing him down, wearing him out like she’d faced down the stallion.
Bio:   Andrea Downing likes to say that when she decided to do a Masters Degree, she made the mistake of turning left out of New York, where she was born, instead of right to the west, and ended up in the UK.   She eventually married there, raising a beautiful daughter and staying for longer than she cares to admit.  Teaching, editing a poetry magazine, writing travel articles, and a short stint in Nigeria, as well as extensive travel throughout Europe, Africa and Latin America, filled those years.  She returned to NYC in 2008.  She now divides her time between the city and the shore, and often trades the canyons of New York for the wide open spaces of Wyoming.  Family vacations are frequently out west and, to date, she and her daughter have been to over 25 ranches throughout the west.  Loveland, her first book, was a finalist for Best American Historical at the 2013 RONE Awards and her three further novels and novellas have garnered several awards.

Links to social media/website/etc.:  
Twitter:  @andidowning

Buy Links for LOVELAND
For the eBook, Amazon:

Review snippets:
"Andrea Downing has crafted a masterpiece with Loveland. Her fast-paced romantic western keep readers wondering how the story can ever be resolved...Downing is a strong writer who has written a worthy premiere novel. She handles romantic scenes with flair while showing the nitty-gritty of ranch life in the 1880s. Loveland is packed with action and emotion, leaving the reader wanting more. Loveland is one of those books I hated to have end. A hands-down five-star novel."  Mary E. Trimble,  Captivating Stories from the American West to West Africa

"…Great storytelling! Even though the happy ending is a given, the journey was much more satisfying because of the snappy dialogue, the pivotal plotting, and the realistic progression of Alex and Jesse's emotional connection. I'm happy to give this book Five Stars!
Lynda Coker, Between the Pages
"Andrea Downing does a very good job of depicting the hard life on a ranch in the late 1800´s as well as the struggles of a high-society woman to gain independence. I like the authors descriptive style and the pace throughout the book is very high, with one dramatic event after the other unfolding...The author does a good job in adding a lot of interesting historical detail and a fun group of supporting characters to give this classic romantic story more depth. I would recommend Loveland for lovers of romance and historical fiction enthusiasts."
--Daniella, The TBR Pile

Tags:  western historical romance, cowboys, British aristocracy, Colorado ranches, Andrea Downing


Unknown said...

Fascinating post, Andrea. It reminds me of the classic western movie, Cheyenne Social Club with Jimmy Stewart and Hank Fonda. I love that movie, have watched it over and over. Do you know if the movie took its basis in fact from this club?

Anonymous said...

Hi Hebby, I think it was supposed to be based loosely on the club but I'm not sure not having seen the film--another one of your recommendations for my Netflix list!! The Cheyenne Club was very elite and difficult to get membership--I don't know if that was how it was portrayed in the film?

Anonymous said...

Hello again Ginger and friends, I'm so pleased to be back. At the moment I'm in my beloved Wyoming so feel close to those cattle barons of yesteryear!