Friday, July 27, 2018


The Stanislaus River is a tributary of the San Joaquin River in north-central California. It starts as three forks in the Sierra-Nevada Mountains. It generally flows southwest through five counties of the agricultural San Joaquin Valley to join the San Joaquin River south of Manteca. Measured to its furthest headwaters, it is about 150 miles long. 

Stanislaus River watershed - Ctsy Shannon1

It is known for its swift rapids and scenic canyons in the upper reaches. 
Whitewater rafting along the Stanislaus North Fork
It is also heavily used for irrigation, hydroelectricity and domestic water supply.
New Melones Dam Ctsy Renee Viehmann
Now we have the dry textbook introduction out of the way, why blog about the Stanislaus River, one of many rivers in California? My most recent novella, Millwright’s Daughter, is mostly set along the Stanislaus River. Many may not consider the story’s locale, based loosely on Oakdale and Knight’s Ferry, gold rush territory, but the California gold rush does play a role in the development of that region.

Stanislaus River at the Knight's Ferry bridge - Michael Nevins, US Army Corps Engineers
The Stanislaus River was the destination of tens of thousands of gold seekers. Many of them reached California by traveling over the Sonora Pass which is near the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Stanislaus River. 

Donnell's Dam on Middle Fork Stanislaus River - Ctsy Bodey Marcoccia
Early mining companies were formed to channel Stanislaus River water to the gold diggings via elaborate canal and flume systems, which directly preceded the irrigation districts formed by farmers who sought a greater degree of river control.

Stanislaus River at_Big Dog Rapid near head of New Melones Lake ctsy Zachary Collier
Like one of my characters, many miners and their families eventually settled along the lower Stanislaus River. The reason? After the easy placer gold had been found, more complex and expensive mining methods such as hydraulic and dredging developed. Men found they must work as employees. Although the wages were good in comparison to some other types of work, it did not support the dreams of acquiring vast sums of wealth to take back home in the east. 

For many former gold-seekers who decided to stay and make a home in California, they turned to what they knew best—the occupations they learned before they came to California. The farms and ranches they established are now part of the richest agricultural region in the United States. Others, such as my millwright character, Joseph Wells, worked in support trades for the agricultural industry.

Old Melones Dam built 1926, later submerged by the New Melones Dam
Starting in the early 1900s, many dams were built to store and divert water; these were often paired with hydro-power systems, whose revenues covered the high cost of the water projects. In the 1970s the construction of the federal New Melones Dam incited major opposition from recreation and environmental groups, who protested the loss of one of the last free-flowing stretches of the Stanislaus. Although New Melones was eventually built, its completion is considered to have marked the end of large dam building in the United States.
New Melones Dam (It is something driving over that thing)
I used to live in Stanislaus County, so the river that gave the county its name is familiar to me. Many years ago – DECADES ago – I rafted several times on the Stanislaus River. I’ve never done white water rafting. That is a little too much excitement for me. However, I have rafted down the part below all the dams just east of Oakdale as the river continues its course towards the San Joaquin River. One early fall, my last rafting adventure, the dams were letting more water through than normal. With the fast-moving water and eddies, we struggled to keep our rafts going in the right direction and staying upright. I was glad to reach our landing point so I could leave that adventure behind.

Instead, my next adventure on the Stanislaus River is in the form of a novella titled Millwright’s Daughter, with the setting loosely based on the early 1880's history of the region. For the time being, you may find this story as part of the Under a Mulberry Moon anthology. Enjoy!

You may find the book description and purchase links for Under a Mulberry Moon by CLICKING HERE.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Trophy Gopher and The Cowboy

Being a good farmer takes a certain type of personality.
 I don’t have it.
The Cowboy and I have raised cattle and hay for the last forty years usually with seventy or more acres of hay. 
I tend to be rather laid back when it comes to farming. 
The water will eventually get to the bottom of the field, right? Most of the hay will grow. What’s so hard about this?
On the other hand, the cowboy has an elaborate set of farming rules. 
We argued about, uh, discussed our differing opinions for several years until I found a job in town, and he farmed to his heart’s content.
One of the scourges of growing that much alfalfa is a small rodent called a gopher. 
They move into a perfectly nice field and have tons of babies. Each baby then digs holes at an unbelievable rate. As the irrigation water runs down the field and into a hole, it disappears. The area below the hole dries out, and the hay dies.

Now, real gophers aren’t cute like this one from Caddy Shack.
The cowboy wages all-out war on these burrowing invaders, checking his traps daily through the spring, summer and fall. During this time, he’s tried repeatedly to convince me that since my hands are smaller, it would be easier for me to set the traps in the narrow holes.
I’m proud to say I didn’t fall for this old cowboy con.
The county pays two dollars a tail and with three hundred gophers a year, this is a nice little side line. He saves the tails and cashes them in. The bodies are—well, let’s just say our dog, Dottie, is a gopher gourmet.
Three years ago, when he checked his trap line, he found he couldn’t pull the trap out of the hole. When the cowboy finally worked it free there was Humongo-Gopher. It was the biggest gopher he’d ever trapped. Maybe—no probably— the biggest gopher in the world.

He told his farmer and rancher friends about Humongo, and they scoffed. He was forced to take the body in for a viewing and was proved right. All agreed it was the biggest gopher they’d seen.
It was a fact.
We had a trophy gopher!
Now how many people can say that?
Since it was a trophy, we couldn’t feed it to the dog, so it went into the freezer to be preserved for posterity. Can you guess what happens next?
See, I don’t have much of a memory. If it isn’t in front of my face, I tend to forget it exists.
Because of that, I’ve spent the last three years calmly going to my big freezer to get meat for dinner only to be confronted each time I opened the door by long yellow teeth and curved claws. Humongo looked like he could leap off the shelf and attack. The only thing that kept me from jumping out of my skin was the fact he was enclosed in a Zip Lock bag.
Humongo finally went to the big gopher heaven in the sky this fall, and I no longer have to fear my freezer.
The Cowboy suggested we have a taxidermist mount Humongo and put him in the trophy room (TV room) with the Elk and Deer antlers and rodeo trophy saddles and buckles.
That’s where I put my foot down.
I guess in The Cowboy’s mind a trophy is a trophy but really, Humongo was just a super-sized rat.

Before I wrap up this blog post, I wanted to show one of Bill Murray’s methods for dealing with his gopher.
The Cowboy hasn’t resorted to this yet with his gophers.
He keeps the water for dealing with our badgers.
If you’re interested in more information on how cowboys deal with all kinds of problems, check out my 

Monday, July 23, 2018

What makes up a ghost town?

What makes up a ghost town?
According to Wikipedia, a ghost town or an abandon town is because the reason for living or settling no longer exists. Maybe there has been a series of natural disasters that make living in the settlement no longer viable, or the basis for the economy has been depleted. Westerns love ghost towns; long ago abandon mines whose ore has been exhausted or railroad towns where the rail line has died.
People need a reason to exist, a reason to put down roots. If businesses don’t produce jobs that give a sustainable living, the populace begins to look for ‘greener pastures’. That golden ring is just beyond the horizon.

Near where I live, there are some interesting examples. We all know about the Lost Colony. They came and settled along Roanoke Island on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. A war in England prevented the supply ships from returning. When they did, they found the fort abandoned, the population gone, even the first child born in the America’s Virginia Dare never to be seen or heard again. Only clue was the word Croatian carved on the gate. 

Later, the English returned to Jamestown. The colony thrived until the capital was moved to Williamsburg through the Revolution. As settlers moved west, the capital of Virginia shifted to Richmond, where it stands today and Williamsburg faded until the remains of the colonial capital was “rediscovered” by Rockefellers.  ( more reading can be found here: › CW Journal › Winter 00-01) 

The lure of ghost towns seems to be trying to imagine how the people lived, what caused their demise, how can we prevent it in the future. Those graying, weathered buildings pull at our souls and peak the worry that this may happen to us once again, for if we fail to learn the history of our past it is our doom to repeat the mistakes.

With that being said, many of our western abandon towns have become tourist attractions. Virginia City brought back by Bonanza. Dodge City no doubt has had a flood of visitors do to Matt Dillon.  Many of these towns are designated on the National Register of Historic Places under the National Park Service. (Check this link for more reading - )

A list of American ghost towns can be found at this site -

This spring, I will be writing with a group of talented ladies about a town that was abandoned in the late 1800’s. We will be breathing life into this little town and creating a community all its own. 

Until next time, 

Nan O'Berry 


Thursday, July 19, 2018

Under A Mulberry Moon by Charlene Raddon

Hi, everyone. Julie has allowed me to blog today about an anthology, Under a Mulberry Moon, which was released today. This is a collection of nine sweet to sensual (no graphic sex) western historical stories to ignite your imagination and feed your passion for reading. I hope you'll give us the chance to sweep you away from your daily cares and entertain you with sigh-worthy novellas set between 1865 and 1900. It's a super line-up. And Under a Mulberry Moon is a bargain at .99. Check it out.
My story, The Lady Lassoes an Outlaw, is set on the Outlaw Trail in southeastern Utah, a fascinating country of red rock cliffs and formations that boggle the eye. The history of the trail is fascinating. This is Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid territory, except they didn't exist yet when my story takes place. Read the blurb below. It's a fun story and I had a blast writing it. I hope you'll like it too.
Here is a little about our stories from our fantastic authors.
From Zina Abbott:
Milwright's Daughter
  Eliza Wells' uncle Joseph Wells, whisks her away for a visit with family while her grandmother recovers, but refuses to arrange her transportation home.
    As startling details from the past come to light, Eliza realizes her grandmother has recovered and her uncle’s true motivations are not in her favor. The only one she can turn to for help is Kit Halsey — who her grandmother sent to bring her home — if he is willing to put his life on the line to save her.

From Patricia PacJac Carroll:

Worth the Wait

   Ruby runs from her parents to be a mail order bride to Yankee, Charlie Ransom. Charlie left the war only to find his parents and family farm gone. Hearing of cattle roaming through Texas, and knowing the need for beef in the north, he bought a Texas ranch and ordered a bride to help him make his dreams come true. Problems arise when Ruby refuses to wed him until he says he loves her.

From Carolyn Clemmons:

A Family for Merry

   Former orphan train child now grown, Merry Murphy Bird believes she can build a successful life operating the boarding house she and her sister purchased. Rescuing three quirky orphans from a current orphan train was irresistible if not quite legal. Merry is determined to give the children a better life than she and her sister endured in Nebraska. Boarder Lawyer Blake Woolf has come to town to take over the practice of his late uncle. Blake was the eldest of ten children and forced to care for them far too often. Now he wants nothing more to do with children.

From Carra Copelin:
Ada and the Texas Cavalryman
   Donal 'Mac' McTiernan is on what he hopes to be his last mission for the U.S. Army. He's tracked the deserters to Brady City, Texas where he decides to operate under cover until ready to make his move and arrest the two men. Mac had planned to go home to Dallas and live out his life. He hadn't planned on encountering the green-eyed, red-headed woman who would completely turn his life upside down.

From Keta Diablo:
Comes a Spectre
   Anya's ten- year-old son, Willie-boy, found his father hanging in the barn six months ago and hasn't spoken a word since. Now the boy is gravely ill and there's only one man who can save him, Sutter Sky, a learned shaman known as Yellow Smoke, a shaman who was deeply in love with Anya at one time. But fate had other plans—Anya was forced to marry a cruel man. Worse, Anya is convinced the ghost terrorizing them is her late husband.
   Will Yellow Smoke put aside his bitterness to save Willie-boy, and how will he dispel the evil, sinister ghost from their lives?

From P. A. Estelle:
The Widow Buys a Groom
    Katherine Parnell, owner of Maggie’s Baked Goods, is alone to run the family business and raise her four-year old son. The Civil War left Meadow Creek, Kansas, with few marrying aged men. The women decide to meet men from other states whose lives have also been ripped apart and are ready to start anew. Katherine's attitude, however, is: “I may need a man, but I don’t ever want another husband!” 
     Jim Sutton, new in Meadow Creek inherited some land and is hoping to make this small town his home. He too has demons and no desire to get close to anybody.
     Can they find happiness together or will ghosts from the past keep their love at arm’s length?

From Cissie Patterson:
Mathew's Freedom
   Matthew is running from a guilty conscience and saving a woman and her son isn’t in his plans. They need a real man, not one who freezes and runs away when a life is at stake. Brenna is determined to do what she needs to survive, for her son's sake. Marriage isn't in her plans, but neither is giving up.
She decides to seek employment. Jobs are scarce, but men are plentiful in Freedom. Marriage may be the only way out of her situation. Matthew & Brenna must come together to save the one person trying to tear them apart.
From Charlene Raddon:
The Lady Lassoes an Outlaw
   Aurora Cavender travels to Utah to complete a secret assignment and to find her twin brother. She never expected to run into the man she once loved. Garret Mosely had abandoned her on their wedding day. Gorgeous as ever, he shocks her by trying to tell her he's not Garret but Nebraska Joe, an outlaw with the Hell's-Gate gang.
   The same gang who supposedly kidnapped and murdered Jason Cavender. Aurora knows her brother still lives. As identical twins, they sense each other's emotions. He's hurt but alive.
   Now, she too, is in the hands of this ruthless outlaw gang. Can Garret — will Garret — help her find Jason and escape Robbers' Roost?

From Jacquie Rogers:
A Family for Polly
   Polly hated the life she and her sister led after they were adopted by a surly Nebraska farm couple who really wanted free drudges. She would never treat the two children she’s adopted so harshly. In fact, she believes the large boarding house she and Merry purchased is an ideal place to raise children, with a large yard, numerous rooms, and a good school nearby. Still, Polly needs a husband, so she convinces Ford (Manford) Daily to marry her and be on his way. The problem is, he won’t go.

I hope you enjoy our stories and please spread the word.
Charlene is a bestselling author of western historical romance and a book cover designer, specializing in western historical covers you won't see on other books.

Tags: Western-historical-romance, anthology, novellas, .99, limited time. Under a Mulberry Moon