Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Cowboys, Cowboys, Cowboys....

I must admit they are in my thoughts when I go to bed and when I awake. The actual life span of the “Golden Age of the American Cowboy” is listed as the years between 1867 and 1886 when a brutal winter all but destroyed the American cattle herds and the wider use of barbed wire with homesteads.
America in 1867 was still trying to recover from the lasting destruction of the civil war. Families destroyed, homes burned, what was civilization destroyed. America’s youth ventured to the call of the open skies. Their heroism is what we revere today. These are our knights in shining armor – those who wear the badge, gunslingers - our rakes, and cowgirls – our heroic ladies. The heroic efforts of the cowboy were captured on film by the likes of John Wayne, James Steward, Paul Newman, Robert Redford. 
Perhaps the biggest boon in the notion of the heroic cowboy came in the 60’s with the birth of the Television cowboy. I have heard it mentioned that color TV was invented for the Cartwright’s boys so women could see the color of their eyes. I know for years my mother and her cohorts watched only the opening of Gunsmoke. They liked to see Matt Dillon step in front of the camera so they could ogle his backside. For me, it was the likes of Tim Matheson on the Virginian. Yep, I didn’t miss an episode with James Joseph Horne.
I miss a good western.

Who were your western heroes???

Did you have a favorite western movie???? 

This year will see me writing more westerns, both contemporary and historical. Look for something new coming this spring as I join forces with another wonderful writer to bring you a four book series in the old west. 

Monday, February 27, 2017

Train Travel in the 19th Century

Recently, on a popular online site, the question was asked, how would you prefer to travel? Many chose the steam train. Since I hadn't always heard the nicest of things about train travel in the 19th century. I decided to do some research.

The discomfort of rail travel began at the station house or depot, often described as a sort of charming social center. The truth is that these depots were a favorite lounging spot for loafers and the homeless. Spittoons sat everywhere, lying in wait for some unsuspecting traveler to accidentally kick over. As in saloons, "spitters" often missed, so that almost as much spital covered the floors as filled the spittoon. The lack of "no smoking" areas meant the air was thick and gray with smoke from cigarettes and cigars.

There was no such thing as a "check system" for luggage, which had to be identified and retrieved by the passengers themselves. This resulted in frequent arguments and the occasional smashing of trunks and bags, not to mention theft. Not only did baggage handlers (called baggage-smashers) not care who owned which bag, they gave no thought to how they treated the luggage in their care.

Train schedules of the period left much to be desired. Connections were more miss than hit, partly because of competing railroads. A traveler from Woodstock, Vt. in 1888 took two days to get to New York City. The response to his inquiry about when a certain train would leave was "sometime." A journey of twenty-four miles could take two and a half hours.

The bulk of passenger traffic came from the middle class, but the conditions they endured came closer to matching emigrant carriages than private rail cars. The wood-burning locomotives belched cinders that pattered overhead like hail. Smoke and steam engulfed the train until, at journey's end, the traveler appeared as though he had labored in a blacksmith's shop all day.

Travelers could close the windows and instead suffer the stink of whiskey, tobacco, and closely packed bodies. That was if they could open poorly designed windows. Noise added to the discomfort, often drowning out all but the loudest of voices.

European trains offered small compartments to reduce noise and bodily discomfort, but American railroads herded sixty to seventy passengers into each long car. The backs of the seats were too low to act as headrests, and if a passenger managed to nap in spite of the noise, he was soon awakened by the "trainboy," a peddler of books, candy and sundry goods whose visitations were constant and disruptive. Mark Twain on his way West was badgered by what he called their "malignant outrages." He also noted that passengers looked "fearfully unhappy...doubled up in uncomfortable attitudes, on short seats in the dim funereal light...like so many corpses who had died of care and weariness."

Pullman's self-contained sleeping car, introduced in the late 1860s, was considered a milestone in transportation luxury. Getting dressed in one, it was said, could only be accomplished if the person were expert at dressing under a sofa. Bad air trapped behind heavy curtains, the jolting of the train, and the overall cacophony of snores and crying babies made sleep nearly impossible.

Food on board was up to the passengers, who brought with them baskets and containers loaded with whatever suited their fancy. One prominent odor in rail cars came from cabbage cooked over the stoves provided for heat. The Pullman dining car, when it came along, sounded like heaven but received few rave reviews from visitors of the times. Few travels could afford to eat in such cars. Most gobbled down quick, greasy meals at lunchrooms along the line. Stops for such meals lasted all of five or, if you were lucky, ten minutes to order, receive and eat your food.

Add to this the fact that train wrecks due to broken trestles, poor track, exploding boilers, faulty signals, and careless engineers and switchmen were a daily occurrence, producing an accident rate in the US five times that of England. In 1890 railroad-connected accidents caused 10,000 deaths and 80,000 serious injuries.

All in all, it doesn't sound like the most pleasant method of travel, but at least, it was over much sooner than wagon trains or ocean travel. I am very thankful I live today with safety regulations, automobiles, and airplanes.

Friday, February 24, 2017

1862 in Salina, Kansas

I mentioned in last month’s post I originally intended for my novel, Kizzie’s Kisses, to be a Civil War romance. I even picked out a portrait of an unidentified  man in uniform who had been part of the Eleventh Kansas Cavalry to serve as the model for my hero, Leander Jones. If you wish to refer back to that post, you may do so by CLICKING HERE.

Although the Civil War figures into the story—after all, it was the big event taking place in the United States between 1861 and 1865—I changed my direction once I started my research. As soon as I learned of two big challenges the citizens of Salina, Kansas faced, knew I needed to factor them into my story.
Hotel and Depot in Salina, Kansas, 1867
First, it is important to keep in mind that although what is now the state of Kansas had included the eastern portion of Colorado when it was the Kansas Territory, its boundaries were changed to what they are currently when it became a state in 1861. In 1862, Salina, the county seat of Saline County, was on the edge of the frontier. Between Salina and the gold fields of Denver and Pike’s Peak, Colorado was a whole lot of wilderness, all claimed by the Plains Indian tribes. The land on which Salina was built and immediately to the west was the traditional buffalo hunting grounds of the Kiowa and Southern Cheyenne.

In April of 1862, citizens of Salina received word that settlers who had developed farms west of the town were being massacred by the Indians. Although none of the sources of the day I found identified the tribe, I suspect is was at the hands of the Southern Cheyenne. Men were killed and scalped, women were “outraged” and killed and children were killed and pinned to the earth with arrows. The marauding band was moving towards Salina itself. When the ranchmen came into the town, after several of their number had been butchered, and confirmed the report, a regular panic seized the community. It was suggested that everyone west of Salina flee to the town for protection. Everyone east flee further east towards Junction City and Fort Riley beyond that,

Cheyenne Warriors
Those in Salina immediately set to work and built a stockade 50x150 feet, on the north side of what is now Iron Avenue. They finished it just in time. The hostiles, encountering no opposition as they approached the town, assumed it would be an easy manner to kill the residents and destroy the town. However, once they saw the barricade erected and the people prepared to defend themselves, they stopped. After talking it over, they abandoned their plans to attack Salina and left the area. Salina escaped a massacre.

The second challenge the citizens of that town dealt with that year took place on September 17th. About twenty Confederate bushwackers stormed into town early in the morning while most of the town folk were still in bed, The attack was so swift, it caught the people barely awaking completely unprepared and at the mercy of their attackers. Meeting with no resistance, the guerillas attempted no personal injury. However,  houses were entered, stores ransacked, and wherever any powder, ammunition, arms or tobacco were found, the marauders appropriated it. The firearms they could not carry off with them, they destroyed, as well as everything thought to be of service to the people in case of pursuit.
Quantrill's Guerillas
When the bushwhackers left, they took with them twenty-five horses and six mules, most of which was the property of the Kansas Stage Company. After they had gone, it was discovered that they had overlooked one horse. R. H. Bishop rode this horse to Fort Riley, covering the distance of 50 miles in five hours, to report the incident. A party of soldiers was sent from the fort. By the time they arrived, the bushwhackers were long gone. Though no one was hurt, it was a great loss in a frontier community to lose their means of protection and travel.

You may find the book description and purchase link for Kizzie’s Kisses, the first full novel in the Grandma’s Wedding Quilts series by CLICKING HERE

You may find all of the books in the series by CLICKING HERE.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Guest Author, Michelle Hughes

Please give a warm welcome to Michelle Hughes, as the Cowboy Kisses Team celebrates the release of her new book, Cowboy Sanctuary.


Dana Waterfield’s well-organized life gets tipped upside down when the brutal murder of her twin sister Danielle threatens to unravel everything she’s worked so hard to achieve. Having found herself the sole guardian of her sister’s newborn lovechild, Jeremy, and at the receiving end of her ex-brother-in-law’s unchecked rage, Dana flees to the safety of Dixon Ranch and the strong, muscled arms of Brock Dixon.
In order to protect the baby from the wrath of Danielle’s husband and murderer, Dana must blend into the daily routine of ranch life, and rethink who she really is. When the wrath of a madman threatens the life of her nephew and everything she holds dear, will Dana put her trust in Brock or let the winds of change tear her family apart?
Falling for her sister’s lover was never part of the plan, but there’s something about a cowboy that no woman can resist. After all, the safest place to be is in a cowboy’s arms…

“Brock Dixon?” Her angelic face didn’t fool me for a second. Had the bitch slept with so many men she couldn’t remember the face of a lover? I felt fire seep through my blood. There were three things I held sacred above all others. You never hit a woman. You protected children. You kept your promises. I’d never broken any of those but the first was sure tempting after the way she’d screwed me over.
“What the hell are you doing here, Danielle?” Frank, my foreman, coughed without subtlety, reminding me of my manners. Most times I didn’t mind his fatherly ways, but he’d do well to stay out of this one.
“I’m not who you think I am, but I need to talk to you. Is there someplace private we might go?” she asked.
Was the girl out of her damn mind? Unlike her, I knew exactly who I’d had relations with, and I wasn’t likely to forget this little spitfire in my bed. She’d ridden me like I was one of her horses, and, pissed as I was, it was some of the best sex of my life!
“This is about as private as I plan on getting with the likes of you. Tell me what you got to say, and get the hell off my land.” I didn’t have time for her nonsense, and I sure wasn’t letting her rip me off again. It had taken weeks for my brothers to talk to me after I’d lost the money we’d planned on using to rebuild the barn.
There was something off about her compared to the last time we’d met. She seemed skittish, nothing like the confident whore who’d been turned on by watching the horses breed and demanded a ride for herself. Probably some new trick she’d worked up to screw my life over. When she opened the door to the backseat and came back with a little boy who had my eyes, I felt the world spin out of control. No damn way that bitch had had my baby and kept it hidden all this time. I was so blooming mad I had to turn away. My fists clenched, and I muttered under my breath for Frank to take them into the house. Control was something I needed to find before I talked to this heartless skank again.
“You best come with me, little lady, and let him calm down a bit.” Frank was very courteous. Normally I was too, with a lady in my presence, but Danielle was no lady. There were more than a few choice words I’d call her, lady being the last of them. If that was my kid, though, there was no damn way she was driving off this ranch with him. I knew enough to know he’d be about the right age based on the last time we’d been together. What kind of woman kept a baby away from his daddy? None that I wanted a part of!
When I finally had enough common sense to not strangle her ass, I walked through the front door and saw her sitting at the table with the little boy cradled in her lap. Frank had fixed her a glass of lemonade, and she was cooing to the little critter in her lap like he was the most important thing in the world. Obviously, a ploy, because she’d proved the only thing she cared about was deception. Maybe to her, a hundred grand was like pissing in the wind, but it was more than just the money. The way I saw it, she screwed me to get what she wanted, and I didn’t appreciate being used that way.
I’d found out she was married a few months after she’d left when I’d broken down under my brothers’ demand that I get some form of payment for the breeding service we provided. That was almost a bigger kick in the nuts than being used for a horse! A lot of men didn’t mind adultery, but I’d never considered myself one of them. I’d had my share of women in my bed, so I wasn’t a saint. I’d never knowingly slept with a married woman because it went against what I believed.
What a piece of work! She was the picture of innocence with that little angel bouncing on her leg.
“Is he my kid?” I spoke through gritted teeth and knew the answer before she spoke. He looked just like me, even boasted the same dimple I had in my chin.
“Yes.” Her voice trembled as she spoke, and she was right to be afraid. Not because I’d hurt her, even though I wanted to, but because that kid was never going to be raised by a slut like her.
“Let me hold him.” I wanted to snatch him from her arms and send her out of here as fast as she’d come in, but I wasn’t heartless. The little guy didn’t know me and probably loved his piece of shit momma. She seemed hesitant at first, like I’d hurt such an innocent creature. I wasn’t the monster in this scenario!
Finally she stood, and I took the little chubby guy in my arms. He looked at me curiously, thankfully not screaming at being held by a stranger, then he smiled and my heart was lost. I’d always wanted kids. Hoped one day to find the perfect woman and settle down. “Hey there, little man. You sure are cute.” He was blowing spit bubbles, and I chuckled, which seemed to make him happy.
“Tell me what you want.” My smile disappeared as I looked over at her, and I could feel the distress in the little guy as my body tensed. Making myself relax, I forced a smile and kept my focus on him. He was what mattered now, not this woman who’d stolen almost a year of his life from me.
“I need you to do a paternity test and prove he’s yours.” She spoke softly, and again I was shocked at her humility. Something had happened to this woman since we’d last met, and for a moment I felt my protective instincts kick in. Women were to be cherished, and no matter how horrible a person she was, I couldn’t help but remember my upbringing.
“That’s a given.” I forced my tone to remain calm as I bounced the little guy on my hip. “What’s his name?” I didn’t even know my own kid’s name! I felt the anger building up inside me again and fought to tamper it down.
“Jeremy Collin Stallings.” Of course she’d given him her husband’s last name. That shit would be changing as soon as I proved he was mine. There was no doubt in my mind.
“When is his birthday?” I clenched my teeth as I asked that question. He was my baby boy, and I knew nothing. Nothing!
“January 9, 2015.” In her defense, she’d just told me what I’d asked, but my anger was brimming over to the point that I had to hand him back to her. Going over the dates in my head, it was perfect timing. He was nine months old. I’d missed nine months of my boy’s life!
“You know I’m not letting you take him off this land?” What the hell that meant I was going to do with her, I wasn’t sure of yet. Mothers, even horrible ones, had a right to be around their kid. I knew the court system wasn’t going to be in favor of letting a single man raise him, even in this day and age.

Michelle Hughes

Kindle Scout Winner – Cowboy Sanctuary

Michelle was chosen as a Kindle Scout Winner, for her book, Cowboy Sanctuary.  Prior to being awarded a publishing contract with Kindle Press, she self-published 20+ books. She writes romances with the virgin/alpha male theme in all her works, from paranormal, new adult, erotic, and now contemporary western romance. Prior to a fulltime writing career, she was a country singer/songwriter and a respiratory therapist.  To find out even more about Michelle visit some of her social media links.

Blog:        www.tearsofcrimson.com

Cowboy Sanctuary Links: