Friday, September 28, 2018

PARROTT'S FERRY by Zina Abbott

As mentioned in past posts, the Stanislaus River played a large role in the early California gold rush. Starting with the upper branches of this river high in the Sierra-Nevada Mountains whose water was diverted to towns like Columbia where the placer miners needed water to wash the gold-bearing soil, clear down in the San Joaquin Valley where gold was still found in the river. There miners searched for gold using hydraulic mining and dredge mining.

Meanwhile, people gotta eat. Food and supplies were moved up into the southern Mother Lode region, often called the Southern Mines, by wagon and boat. Stockton, east of San Francisco and south of Sacramento, served as a supply center.

However, the rivers, including the Stanislaus, permitted boat travel only so far. At that point, cargo was shipped by wagon where roads were possible, and by mules, where the terrain only allowed a path.

One of the many Stanislaus River crossings in this region that connected Calaveras and Tuolumne counties was known as Parrott’s Ferry, now Parrott's Ferry Road or E18.

Thomas H. Parrott operated a ferry service beginning in 1860 to connect the mining towns of Tuttletown (Tuolumne County) and Vallecito (Calaveras County). During the lake’s dry periods, sandbags laid in the river created a dam that built up the lake level high enough so the ferry could float across. The ferry had a wooden bottom and propelled across the lake by using heavy cables anchored to a large boulder.

The ferry service lasted more than 40 years, until 1903 when the first bridge over the river was built. After filling New Melones Reservoir, the cables, boulder and sandbag remnants are no longer visible except in drought years when the water of the New Melones Dam dips extremely low.
Old Parrott's Ferry Bridge-Courtesy
The Columbia-Vallecito bridge in use today opened in 1979. The bridge is one of the tallest of its kind in the country. From the bluff next to the bridge it is possible to see the New Melones Dam to the west.

For images of the original Parrott’s Ferry Bridge that came to the surface during our recent drought, please CLICK HERE. To see images of the current bridge that is one of the highest constructed, please CLICK HERE.

No matter how many engineering wonders have been added to crossing the Stanislaus River, now changed in nature from its original course by several dams, this crossing retains the name of the pioneer who originally helped make it possible for supplies and people to travel between the Pacific Ocean and the gold mining regions in the mountains.
Parrott's Ferry (California Historical Landmark No. 438)

Today there is a historical marker to memorialize this location and it’s history. It is part of what is called the Mark Twain- Bret Harte Trail. Both Bret Harte and Mark Twain wrote stories set in this area during the Gold Rush. It reads:

Mark Twain Bret Harte Trail
      Parrott's Ferry

Site of the ferry crossing established 1860 by Thomas H. Parrott connecting mining towns of Tuttletown and Vallecito. Ferry in operation until 1903 when first bridge built. Ferry boat of flat bottom wooden construction propelled on heavy cable. Cables ancherage in large boulder. Calavera side of bridge still visible 1949 at low water, sandbag dam built to form small lake.


My book, Millwright’s Daughter, mostly takes place in a location just west of where Thomas Parrott operated his ferry. It is part of the Under a Mulberry Moon anthology which may be purchased by CLICKING HERE.

I am also finishing up a novel in The Widows of Wildcat Ridge series titled Nissa. It is currently on pre-order and will be released on October 15th. To reach the book description and purchase link, please CLICK HERE.

Here is a snippet, a little teaser from Nissa:
         “We’ll turn and go back now.” Dallin shifted a drowsy Molly to his other arm, moved to the outside of the boardwalk and told Jamie to walk on the other side of his mother.
         “Why’d we do that? Why didn’t we just turn around where we were?”
         “Because, Jamie, it’s polite for a gentleman to walk on the outside of a walkway so a woman’s skirt doesn’t get splashed by mud or dust if a wagon or horse travels too close to the boardwalk.” Dallin leaned forward and smiled at Jamie. “I’m no expert on how to be a gentleman, but my mother taught me that much.”
         “I think you have done a fine job of being a gentleman, Dallin. I appreciate your example and what you are teaching my son.”
         Nissa looked over to find Dallin’s gaze locked on hers. They walked in that manner for several steps.
         Nissa faced forward, fighting back tears.
         Why, oh why could not James have been a father like this? Why couldn’t Dallin have been Jamie’s father?

Sources for Parrott’s Ferry:
Images by ©2016 Robyn Echols, All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Guest Author Leslie Scott

Good Morning! I'm author Leslie Scott. Let’s talk about The Cowboy for a minute. He can be a gentleman without suffocating a woman’s independence. A rogue while still retaining his honor. He can be smart, hard-working, and blue collar—or tough, scandalous, and filthy rich. The Cowboy in romance is everything in a hero any of us as readers could want, whenever we decide to open a book.
That means I wrote Two Hearts, One Stone with no limitations on my hero. My cowboy took on a life of his own and while his story isn’t lengthy, it is uniquely his. Just like every other book written about The Cowboy.
Here’s a character interview with my guy, Stone Dempsey. I hope you enjoy!

Where do you see yourself a year from now?
You mean, aside from in your dreams? Probably with Doctor Feel Good, riding off into the sunset or exploring the barn with Maddie. I can’t wait to teach her all about horses and how to ride. Maybe even start working on making a little brother or sister for her.

When in your life were you the most satisfied with your life?
Right now. A good woman does a lot for a man. But stepping into the role of a father, with my dream job, and the dream woman I never know I wanted? Yeah, that’s as close to perfect as my life is every going to get. I’m completely satisfied.

Who is your role model?
You know, there are lots of horse trainers and riders out there that I have learned a ton from. Hell, even Old Man Cole teaches me new things every day. But at the end of it all, I’d have to say Emmy. Or rather, Doctor Emmersyn Cole. She takes everything in stride. Hell, she doesn’t just put up with my ass, but she stepped right into a ready made family and a fumbling father figure with no clue what was going on. She makes me want to be a better man, every day.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Oh hell, I’d want to fly. Riding a green horse can be a thrill, but soaring over the mountains, the ocean, without the fear of crashing or falling would be awesome.

Why should someone read your book?
Because I’m witty, charming, and devilishly handsome. Also, because this story is about love, horses, and a really cute baby. What more could you ask for?

If you’d like to keep in the loop about my writing, upcoming novels and events, as well as a chance to win a signed copy of  Linda Winstead Jone’s Sullivan and a super cool cowboy Novel Nuzzler sign up for my newsletter here:
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Horse trainer Stone Dempsey’s life is all about the ride—with horses and women. He uses his equine talents to impress the country club set and earn money for Smoky Mountain Reining Horses. When his drug-addicted sister deposits her sick baby on his doorstep, he’s suddenly saddled with real responsibility.
Dr. Emmersyn Cole’s goal of starting a practice in her favorite place on earth is finally coming to fruition and she is not going to be sidetracked. Everything is going great until Stone swaggers into her life, half-dressed with a smile that could melt her insides. She's determined to keep her distance…until he rushes into her grandfather’s home, clutching a feverish baby, terrified and vulnerable, and her heart’s hard shell begins to crack.
In only a few short weeks, Stone’s wayward heart suddenly relies on two women—one who needs him—and one that he might not be able to live without.

Delighted whinnies from the occupied stalls greeted her, and she rubbed the nose of each head stuck over a door. At the end of the long corridor, the barn opened to the splendor of northwest Georgia’s piece of the Smokies. The orange glow of the sun had begun its descent behind the pine-covered mountain tops and cast the arena beyond the stable into twilight.
Not much illumination was needed to draw her gaze to the man astride a pretty bay mare. With the well-polished grace of a true horseman, Stone guided the horse in a series of pivots and spins that made Emmy delightfully dizzy.
Once finished with the pattern, his voice echoed through the little valley. “You’ll have to stop looking at me like that, sweetheart, or I’m going to forget you’re the boss’ granddaughter.”

Two Hearts, One Stone available digitally


Leslie Scott Biography
Leslie spends most days attempting to wrangle the voices in her head and often wishes she could clone herself so that their stories get told faster. She loves words, romance, and characters that feel like family and spends almost all of her free time with her own family; including a boisterous eleven year old that she homeschools and an assorted cast of rescue pets. She lives her own happily ever after with her soul mate and best friend in the northern part of Alabama and hopes you enjoy reading her stories as much as she enjoys writing them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Old time cowboys are the best!

I was procrastinating on the internet the other day and came across this photo of the 1953 World Champion Cowboys. Included in this crop of champions are some of the best to ever throw a leg over a horse.

Probably the best known is Ben Johnson. This 1953 title for best Team Roper was Johnson's only year end championship, but as you all know, he went on to an illustrious film career. Ben starred in many westerns and won an Oscar in 1971 for his portrayal of an aging cowboy in The Last Picture Show.

Once, when talking about rodeo, he said, "I've won a rodeo world championship, and I'm prouder of that than anything else I've ever done."

Also in this group is Casey Tibbs. He won the World All-Around Championship in 1951 and '55, the Saddle Bronc in 1949, 1951-54, and 1959. He was the Bareback Bronc Champion in 1951. He was even on the cover of Life magazine in 1951.  

Bill Linderman competed in the Rodeo Cowboys Association during the 1940s and 50s. Linderman was the first cowboy to win three Rodeo Cowboy Association world championships in a year in 1950.
He served as the RCA's board of directors, president and secretary-treasurer and was essential in the formation of the National Finals Rodeo. You can see from the photo why he was a champion. 

Rodeo has become a big time sport with some fantastic cowboys, but they are hard pressed to top what these guys did at a time when there wasn't much money to be won. 

Who is your favorite rodeo cowboy? I'd have to say mine is Ben Johnson.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

There's a coach coming in!!!!!!

In early America, travel happened by foot, by boat, or by stage. We all know 'a stage" is a four wheel driven vehicle powered by horses or mules. They run on established routes, following a regular schedule. Early stage routes trans versed the early colonies and later the west shuffling people in a simplified, lighter coach than their English counterparts. These coaches were often referred to as a stage wagon or a mud coach. Navigation was done by a driver or coachman accompanied by a guard called a shot gun messenger.
                       Example of a mud coach from the Wells Fargo History Museum in San Diego.

The role of travel was slow five to seven miles per hour, however over a day, they might cover sixty to seventy miles. Breaks occurred at places called swing stations or home stations. Stages began running regular routes in 1744, between the budding metropolis of New York and Philadelphia. The distance took three days to cover until the year 1766 when a new more trustworthy coach was implemented. These coaches carried not only letters, but packages, merchandise, and in some cases - money. By 1832, Boston alone had over 77 lines.

While these vehicles were great in moving the masses, they were not comfortable. Iron and steel springs did not allow the body of the coach to compensate for the pot holes by moving side to side. They instead bounced up and down jostling the passengers and often tossing them against their co riders. In 1829, a major innovation came through the use of leather straps that allowed the body to be somewhat suspended and move not only up and down, but also side to side. In Twain's book, Ruffing It, he described his travels by stage as "riding a cradle on wheels".

Space meant money. People were often crammed inside on three hard seats. If riding in the middle they held on to straps suspended from the ceiling to keep from pitching back or forward. Others decided it was safer to be perched on top of the stage. If you think about it, you can understand why. Imagine, if you will, nine passengers, layered with dust, boots covered with animal waste, perhaps bodies and/or clothing unwashed for months - yeah, it's a good thing Hollywood made it glamorous.

 Notice in this picture from 1868, Buffalo soldiers guard the stage. Their posts on top depict where passengers might sit. Photo from the American West 1861-1912 National Archives

So how much did this 'luxury' travel cost. Remember, no coke and peanuts. Nope. Meals were extra and cost $1.00 for each meal consumed. Our passengers could chose their travel. First class, cost $7.00 and they rode for the whole trip. Second class passengers were required to walk when the road was bad. And those economy seats in third class, they  not only had to walk, but if the coach was going up hill, they were required to push. Something to write home about for sure.

Most stage routes followed the Pony Express examples. Stages stopped in intervals of twelve and fifty miles at two types of stations, a swing station or a home station. Home stations would be at the fifty mile route marker. These would be run by families and served hot meals and allowing their 'guests' to sleep over night on the hard floors. Home stations would also be where drivers changes occurred. A swing station came at the twelve mile markers and would be run by bachelor stock men. Their accommodations would be a cabin or barnc. The stage would stay long enough to change teams and allow passengers to stretch their legs. From Kansas to California there were one hundred and fifty of these type stations.

All good things do come to an end. Railroads pushed the stage lines from the most prominent towns. Routes they followed, now took them to towns the trains didn't service. However, the death blow to the stage lines came with the invention of the automobile in the early 1900's.

Famous stage lines were:
Buutterfield's Overland Mail Company
Wells Fargo and Company
Holladay Overland Mail and Express Company.

              The more iconic stage. Again from the Wells Fargo History Museum in San Diego.

Until next time,
Happy Trails

Nan O'Berry


Friday, September 21, 2018

A Western Icon: The Frontier Saloon

Courage Canyon, book eight in my Redemption Mountain series, takes place in the fictional town of Splendor, Montana. The town has all the required businesses: general store, blacksmith, livery, boardinghouse, bank, millinery, and of course, at least one saloon. Splendor two prominent saloons, the Dixie and the Wild Rose. As with all of my historical books, I do quite a bit of research and thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned about frontier saloons in a blog post.
Arcade Saloon, Colorado
In the mid-1800s the term “saloon” replaced what most people called a tavern or bar. Saloons were popular in areas with soldiers, cowboys, miners, and railroad workers. Life was rough, and after a hard day’s work, men liked to drink and chat at the local saloon.
Early western saloons were tents where a man could sit and have a drink of whiskey. However, as more people traveled west, saloons became grander.  In wealthy towns, fancy establishments with mahogany wood, oil paintings, chandeliers, and posh carpets were built. Most important of all, many supplied a boundless supply of first-rate whiskey, champagne, cordials, rum, wine, and more.
In small towns, women could go into saloons without ruining their reputation, but that wasn't the norm. Large saloons often had a small cigar concession near the entrance, so ladies and gentlemen could make purchases without entering the actual saloon’s bar and gambling area.
Tent Saloon
Every saloon had card table and many added the popular game of Far. Brag, three-card-monte, and dice games were also popular in old west saloons. Many towns like Deadwood, Leadville, and Tombstone were known for gunfights over card games. Professional gamblers sharpened their six-shooter skills as much as their gambling skills. Shoot first and ask questions later became part of a gambler’s code.  
Bar Room Saloon, Arizona

The Food
Early saloon food consisted mostly of biscuits, beans, beef, and bacon. Steaks were usually overcooked, and some saloons offered rattlesnake meat. Coffee was often the only non-alcoholic drink served.
Saloons in towns that could ship food in on steamboats, and later the railways, served better fare. Many saloons offered free lunches. The free lunches were epicurean buffets on narrow, twenty-foot-long tables covered in white linen and plates of meatballs, French cheeses, hickory-cured ham, cold cuts, beans, pretzels, rye bread, smoked herring, salted peanuts, peppery sausages, sauerkraut, kippers, potato chips, crisp celery and dill pickles. Some saloons featured daily free lunch specials like franks on Monday, roast beef on Saturday, baked fish on Friday, and so on.
The idea of the free lunch was hungry men were thirsty men, and a few shots increased a customer’s appetite. Food, especially salty food, produced a mighty thirst. So, free lunch customers usually spent a great deal on booze. 
Most saloon regulars drank straight liquor—rye or bourbon. In the early days, the whiskey was 100 proof, though sometimes cut by the barkeep with turpentine, ammonia, gunpowder, or cayenne. They called this whiskey tarantula juice, red eye, coffin varnish, bottled courage, bug juice, coffin varnish, dynamite, joy juice, and snake pizen—the most popular term being firewater.
Blackhawk Saloon
Cactus Wine, was also a popular saloon drink, made with tequila and peyote tea. Another was Mule Skinner, concocted from whiskey and blackberry liquor.
Saloons served beer at room temperature, and though the beer had a head, it wasn’t sudsy like it is today. Customers had to down their beer quickly before it got too warm or flat. But, that changed in the 1880s when Adolphus Busch brought artificial refrigeration and pasteurization to the U.S. brewing process. Some saloonkeepers set up a contract with a brewery to offer beer on tap instead of bottled only.
Famous Saloons
Saloons have become a big part of western lore. Some of the more famous ones are listed below.
·       The Bull’s Head in Abilene, Kansas, opened by Ben Thompson and Phil Coe in 1871.
Coe painted an anatomically correct bull on the outside wall of his saloon. The marshal, Wild Bill Hickok, threatened to burn the saloon to the ground if Coe didn’t paint over the offending image. In a later encounter, Wild Bill killed Phil Coe.

·       The Holy Moses in Creede, Colorado.
Bob Ford, who killed Jesse James, built and ran The Holy Moses Saloon. Ford was shot and killed by a miner in 1892.

·       The What Cheer House and Saloon in Columbia, California.
Considered one of the best saloons in the west, it was founded in 1857 and still serves drinks to this day.

·       The Occidental Saloon opened in 1880 in Buffalo, Wyoming.
The adjoining hotel hosted well-known guests such as Theodore Roosevelt, Calamity Jane, Tom Horn, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Western novelist Owen Wister.

·       The White Elephant in Fort Worth Texas.
It was known as one of the grandest combination of saloons, gambling houses, and restaurants.
·       The Jersey Lilly, was owned Judge Roy Bean who was judge, jury and coroner in Langtry, Texas.
Jersey Lilly's Saloon

Bean once took a revolver and $40 as a fine off of the corpse of a man who had fallen to his death. Apparently, Bean said, “Just because this gentleman got it into his head to get killed, I don’t mean to let him offend the peace and dignity of Texas.”

·       The Long Branch Saloon of “Gunsmoke” fame.
It really did exist in Dodge City, Kansas and served milk, tea, lemonade, sarsaparilla, alcohol, and beer. The original saloon burned down in 1885 but was resurrected as a tourist attraction featuring a reproduction bar with live entertainment.
Long Branch Saloon

·       The Buckhorn Saloon opened in 1881 in San Antonio, Texas.
The owner, Albert Friedrich accepted horns and antlers in place of money from cashless cowhands. It is still open today as a museum.

·       Desert John's Saloon in Deer Lodge, Montana.
The Desert John’s Saloon was converted to a museum with an automated saloon keeper who tells visitors about the bar which was shipped up the Missouri River to Montana from St. Louis, Missouri.  The saloon museum also features the most complete collection of shot glasses, jugs, kegs, flasks, and antique liquor bottles in the US.

·       Tombstone’s Crystal Palace Saloon, which serves whiskey to this day.
It was originally named the Golden Eagle Brewing Company but it was renamed the Crystal Palace Saloon when the building was expanded into a fine dining location that also served cigars, wine, and liquor. It was one of the few saloons with a female faro dealer. The second-floor offices were home to legends of the 1880s, like U.S. Deputy Marshal Virgil Earp.

Courage Canyon, book 8, Redemption Mountain historical western romancer series is available in eBook and paperback.

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