Sunday, October 27, 2019

Excerpt Sunday for Christmas at Ruby's Ranch by Rhonda Frankhouser

Come along for the ride as the four stubborn, passionate matriarchs of Ruby's Ranch discover the truth of their family legacy

HERE’S A SNEAK PEEK Christmas at Ruby’s Ranch – Book 4 of the award-winning Ruby’s Ranch Series! Due to release November 1, 2019

Will Ruby’s holiday wishes come true, or will family secrets devastate their happy reunion?

This year the Ruby’s Ranch family will celebrate Christmas together for the first time in two decades. It’s the miracle Ruby MacCallister prayed for since the day her mother inexplicably disappeared, splitting the family apart.

When an anonymous gift arrives on the doorstep a few weeks before the big holiday, a very pregnant Ruby, finds herself enmeshed in the intrigue surrounding Granny Rube’s death again.


Chapter One
Knock, knock, knock, echoed through the quiet house. Ruby jerked awake, wondering if she’d dreamt the sound. 
When the knock came again on the front door, her protective chocolate Labradors, Heidi and Ho, rushed to her bedside. Low menacing growls rumbled from their chests. She cradled her pregnant belly and peered at the clock.
Three a.m.
What the hell?
She pulled back the heavy comforter and shivered when the cold in the room touched her bare legs. Covering her body with one of Billy’s flannel shirts, she waddled up the hall, one faithful dog at each side, to see who dared bang on the door at such a late hour. Out the kitchen window, the fog was so thick, she could barely make out the greenhouse across the yard.
Knock, knock, knock. The rapping sounded again, more insistent this time.
Chills crawled up Ruby’s spine as the dogs rushed toward the door barking, hair high on their necks. She was alone in the house. Momma and Daddy were in their bungalow at the far end of the corrals. Billy and Stan, the ranch foreman, would be away at least another day. The wranglers who’d stayed for Christmas, would all be sound asleep in the bunkhouse. 
Ruby nudged the fireplace room drape aside and peered into the darkness. No strange vehicle or horse was in the drive. The view to the door was obscured by Granny Rube’s rose bushes clinging to the trellis.
Knock, knock, knock, came again, loud and staccato. Ruby gasped and stepped away from the window, her nerves shaken, the dogs steady by her side. Come on, quit being such a girl.
She straightened her shoulders and snugged the flannel tighter against her growing belly. To be safe, she grabbed the trusty squirrel shooter from behind the door. Holding it in her arms, she flipped open the lock.
The glass knob felt cold as it turned in her hand. Slowly, she pulled open the door, met only by a wall of mist. The dogs rushed out to investigate but the porch was empty, and the night was still.
Ruby scanned the yard and up the drive for retreating lights but saw nothing. No one. When she stepped out to look around, her foot thudded against something hard. A square, lightweight, wooden box skidded a few inches, coming to rest against the rusty pot that hid the spare key.
“What on earth?” She squatted and picked up the box, peering cautiously into the darkness. The dogs had disappeared up the path toward the barn. She still didn’t see anyone. Who had delivered this carton?
Ruby backed through the threshold, with the box in hand. She shut the door with her bare foot and locked herself inside. With the 22-rifle stowed back in its hiding place, she walked to the kitchen and set the package down on the table.
She glanced one last time out the window, then blew out a frustrated breath. “Looks like the ghosts of Ruby’s Ranch have come a-callin once again.”

Chapter Two

Ruby drew the kitchen curtains and flipped on the light. She nudged her long, strawberry-blonde hair behind her shoulders and leaned closer to the gift to get a better look. “What could this be?”
Wrapped in expensive foil paper, a red velvet ribbon secured the lid in place. There was no card attached.
“Don’t be an idiot, Ruby. Wait for the boys to get home.”  
She contemplated the gift as she brewed an extra strong cup of decaf and added far too much cream and sugar.
When she sat down and took a hearty sip, she spit the coffee back into the cup and wiped her hand across her mouth. “Oh, that’s disgusting!” The coffee too rich for her hormone ravaged taste buds, she set the cup on the table and pushed it away.
Augie, the house’s protective spirit, surrounded Ruby with his calming presence, which gave her the courage to pull the box in close. Her fingertips glided across the glittery red paper. “Seems too fine a wrapping job to hold anything dangerous, but still, I should wait. That would be the smart thing to do.”
But she couldn’t help herself. The ribbon unfurled with a simple tug and the paper fell open at the seams. The wooden box was fashioned from pieces of pine board, artistically tongue and grooved at the edges, the RR brand burned into the lid.
“Ruby’s Ranch? What the hell?” She whispered, her mind running a hundred miles an hour.
She jumped to her feet and hurried through the front door. “Come back and talk to me! You can’t do this to me now. I’m about to have a baby!” She called out into the foggy darkness for her mystery delivery person to return, but no one answered.
Heidi and Ho barked and returned quickly to her side, panting hard from a long run. The horses whinnied in the barn and cattle mooed in protest of being disturbed in the middle of the night.
Finally, Stan’s grandson Matthew hustled up the path from the bunkhouse, feet halfway into his boots, buttoning his pants. His cheeks flushed bright red, calling attention to the sparse stubble blossoming on his chin.
“Miss Ruby, are you okay? Is it time?” He asked breathlessly, eyeing her bare feet.
He stepped closer and laid a supportive hand on Ruby’s shoulder. She saw concern in the innocent blue eyes. A mess of dark curls framed the handsome face, and a slept in T-shirt twisted around his narrow waist.
Ruby couldn’t help but smile. He was as adorable as his grandfather. Sweet and na├»ve, with a dash of spit and vinegar, especially when he held Ruby’s younger sister, Emma, in his adoring gaze. “I’m sorry, Matthew. I’m fine. Go back to bed.”
When she turned toward the house, he touched her elbow. “Were you looking for someone?”
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
“Cause I thought I heard footsteps heading up the path, and the dogs chasing after, but . . . ”
Before he could finish his sentence, Ruby stopped him, “Please saddle my horse. I’ll be right out.”

Chapter Three
She hurried into the house and changed into the only riding clothes that still fit. Her well-worn Ariats, thankfully, slipped on her feet without her having to bend. After catching her breath from the exertion of dressing, she tugged on her warmest coat, tied a scarf around her neck, then slipped her hands into deerskin gloves and pushed her cowboy hat down tight.
Matthew watched her nervously when she approached.
“Ready?” Ruby took Sadie’s reins from his shaking hand.
“Can I help you up, Miss Ruby?”
 “I think I can handle it.” She winked, then prayed to herself that she was right.
Ruby awkwardly crawled on to Sadie’s back and headed up the path, her keen eyes focused on the ground. Smallish boot prints turned to hoof prints when the person rode a horse toward Haley’s Peak. Dawn had broken, but the sun was yet below the mountain. The subtle breeze felt like ice sliding against her bare face.
Beside her on his sturdy palomino stud, Matthew said, “I mean no disrespect, but should you be riding in your condition, Miss Ruby? ‘Specially out in this cold.”
Ruby glanced over her shoulder and smiled at the flustered young man mumbling to himself, obviously wondering how he’d become an unwitting accomplice. She patted the gentle Appaloosa mare on her white spotted rump. “Don’t fret. Sadie rides as smooth as a rocking chair. She’ll take good care of me. Won’t you, girl?”
Even Sadie seemed extra watchful and cautious, as they traveled higher into the mountains at the break of winter’s dawn. The dirt trail was swallowed by frosty, wet grass. When Ruby dismounted to investigate, a sharp pain shot through her groin causing her back to spasm. 
“Ouch! Calm down, little missy. We’re almost done. Don’t be so impatient.” She cradled her heavy belly.
“Ma’am?” Matthew asked, thinking she’d spoken to him.
“I’ve lost the trail. The hoof prints disappeared. So much for our mystery rider.” Sadie’s head popped up at the sound of a coyote call in the distance and the screech of a hoot owl over the open field.
Matthew hopped down next to her and peered around. “Whoever it was must-a sprouted wings and flown off from here.”
Ruby massaged the cramp from her low back, glancing around one last time before gingerly mounting on Sadie again. “Let’s get to the house. I need to lie down. And I don’t want anyone missing us. It’s not worth their worry.”
“Yes ma’am,” Matthew’s voice hitched with relief.
During the long ride home, the baby kicked and fussed for space, making Ruby realize the foolishness of riding two weeks before her due date. Matthew stayed by her side, ever watchful for unwanted predators who might leap out from the thick fog.
“Ah, damn it.” Ruby slumped in the saddle, spotting Billy’s truck in the drive. She’d have some explaining to do.
She slid down off the horse, careful not to jostle the baby too much, and handed Matthew the reins. “Our little secret, right?”
He tipped his hat. “Yes ma’am, my lips are sealed.”
Billy was halfway up the path before she took another step. His concerned, green eyes assessed her. He pulled Ruby into his arms and trailed his hands down her back. “Ruby Marie, what the hell are you doing riding this close to givin’ birth?”
She nuzzled into the warmth of his unshaven neck. His familiar musky scent filtered through her. “You mind us going inside? I’m freezing.” She slid her arm beneath his wool-lined denim jacket and matched his slow steps back to the house.
Stan stood on the porch, shoulders hunched, hat in hands. His expressive eyes creased from years of riding in the sun. What hair he had left was pressed tight against his head where his old Stetson rode. “Young lady, what were you thinkin’?”
“Oh relax, I’m fine. Why are y’all back from the auction already, anyhow?”
The old man’s funny scowl made her laugh. It was still hard for Ruby to believe this loyal friend, who stayed by Granny Rube’s side even after Grandpa Mac was killed, once had a wife and two little girls of his own. If not for Matthew, she’d probably never have known about them at all.
Stan tugged off his dirty boots, then pushed open the door for them to pass. “Billy popped up outta bed and said we needed ta get home. Damned if he wasn’t right. Look at you, riding in the ice cold like a fool.”
Appreciating the fatherly advice, Ruby kissed Stan’s weathered cheek as she passed him in the doorway. “I said, I’m fine. Now, stop fussing at me and let’s have some coffee.”
Billy helped Ruby off with her coat and removed his boots before entering the kitchen. He was gorgeous, even exhausted and irritated. Snug jeans couldn’t hide his strong legs, and a wrinkled riding shirt showed a tuft of sexy hair over the top button. He tossed his hat on the counter and ran his hand through his chestnut waves.
Ruby let out a long, thankful breath, admiring him. “I’m really glad you’re home.”
“You wanna tell me what’s going on?” Billy looked at her, his unrelenting gaze demanded answers.
Stan stood dead still, focusing on the mysterious pine box sitting on Granny Rube’s fine oak table. “You mind tellin’ me what the hell that thing is doing here?”
Releasing November 1st....Pre-order BUYLINK

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About the Author
After fourteen years in hospice care management in central California, Rhonda Frankhouser now writes full time from her lovely Atlanta, Georgia home. Rhonda's award-winning Ruby's Ranch Series, earned a finalist honor in the Uncaged Review Raven Awards; a second runner up in the prestigious InD'Tale Magazine RONE awards and a Book and Benches, Reviewers Top Pic ~ Books of Distinction award. Her follow up Shadowing Souls Series and Let Yourself Believe Series, have captured the attention of both romance and mainstream readers alike. Rhonda is a happily married stepmom to three beautiful daughters; two adorable pugs and a lazy Labrador named Dutch.

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Friday, October 25, 2019

UP Through Nebraska and Wyoming by Zina Abbott


On September 6, 1862, the board commissioned Peter A. Dey to survey possible routes from the Western end of the Platte River Valley to the Eastern base of the Rocky Mountains. There were many factors to consider. Wherever possible, the road needed to be near streams or wells, since the steam engines, as well as the workers and livestock, needed a reliable source of water. Because a nineteenth-century train could not run up or down an incline of more than 2% or go around a sharp curve, they looked for a route that would require the fewest cuts, fills, and bridges.

Using records from Grenville Dodge's previous surveys, they followed the Oregon Trail along the Platte River until they reached its confluence with the South Platte, which is at the present town of North Platte, Nebraska. At that point the route left the Oregon Trail and continued to the present towns of Julesburg, Colorado, and Sidney, Nebraska. From there it ran almost straight west across Wyoming through the present communities of Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins, and Evanston. The surveyors had outlined the most direct route possible. Interstate 80 follows the same route today.

With the finances somewhat improved and the route to Nebraska and Wyoming selected, surveyor day recruited to find Engineers, Samuel B. Reed and James A. Evans, to locate a passage through the Wasatch. Reed and his men headed west in April 1864. The arduous stage ride from Omaha to Salt Lake City took thirteen days

Reed met with Brigham Young who recruited fifteen men, furnished equipment, and paid the expenses of the entire party. The surveyor and the Utahns headed up Weber and Echo Canyon and continue northeast to present-day Evanston. In November, after four months of exploration, Reed returned to Omaha by stage.

In 1865 Reed returned to Utah and surveyed a route south of the Great Salt Lake and westward for 209 miles to the Humboldt River. He was not in favor of it because the alkali flats had neither water nor timber.

By the time the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, the Union Pacific had failed to lay a single mile of track. This was unsettling because the Central Pacific had already completed its first thirty-one miles and was planning to start passenger service. Inflation was a primary deterrent. The cost of living rose 69 percent during the war, and there was no market for railroad bonds. Materials were in short supply and extravagantly priced, and all classes of labor were scarce.

Construction begins:

General Sherman Locomotive
On July 8, 1865 the first locomotive arrived at Omaha. It was the General Sherman, named for the war hero who was a strong friend of the Union Pacific. It had been hauled by rail to St. Joseph, Missouri. From there, it was shipped 175 miles up the Missouri River to the Omaha ferry landing. Rails, locomotives, and supplies also had to be shipped up river during the spring and summer when the water was deep enough for navigation. As required by the UP charter, the rails were of wrought iron and made in America.

By October 18, 1865, the first passenger train took two dozen guests on an excursion to Elkhorn, twenty-nine miles west of Omaha. Forty miles of track were completed by the end of the year. From then on, the race with the Central Pacific would not cease until the two lines met at Promontory Summit in Utah.

By mid-April 1866, supplies began pouring into Omaha, and 3,000 workers were put to work in earnest. By June 4m the tracklayers had reached the hundred-mile post/ In late July 1866, the gangs passed Grand Island, 153 miles west of Omaha.

Good lumber for the cross ties, bridges, locomotive fuel, and other purposes was scarce and costly. About 2,500 ties per mile were needed. One-third were made of oak and walnut, but the rest were of softer cottonwood which bordered many of the streams and was in fair supply. The cottonwood did not hold the spikes well and wore out quickly. The process of decay was slowed somewhat by the patented method of "Burnetizing." After water was drawn from the ties by a vacuum machine, they were impregnated with a pressurized solution of zinc chloride. A year after driving the golden spike, however, 300,000 softwood ties had to be replaced.

Major General Grenville Dodge was mustered out of the Army in May 1866 and resumed his work with the Union Pacific as chief engineer. He contracted with two famed and experienced tracklayers, Jack and Daniel Casement. The labor force consisted of a heterogeneous, largely Irish, group of about one thousand men. Most were Union and Confederate veterans, but there were also immigrants, farmers, disappointed miners, newly freed slaves, muleskinners, herdsman, hunters, cooks, and ex-convicts. While working for the railroad, these men lived a rough, dangerous, dirty, hardworking, free-spending life….They worked long hours under a fiercely burning sun in the summer and in bitter cold in the winter. They were motivated by the relatively high pay of $2.50 to $4.00 per day and the prospect of an exciting life in a new location. Many of the ex-soldiers looked forward to the prospect of battling with the Indian tribes they might meet.


Dignitaries at 100 Meridian

The army of workers pushed west along the Platte River Valley. In August 1866, Dodge laid out the town of Kearney, 191 miles from Omaha. The price of corner lots was set at $150 and inside lots at $100. On October 6, the line reached the 100th meridian with 247 miles of track laid. Jack Casement rewarded the men with pouches of tobacco.

Chief Engineer Dodge explored every option to speed the work along. He heard that Jefferson Davis had imported camels to the West when he was secretary of war, and Dodge hoped to use them as pack animals for the construction. He wrote to Brigham Young in November 1866 asking what had happened to the camels. Young had no idea of their whereabouts (they had gone wild and were living in New Mexico), but he offered to do whatever he could to help the railroad.

On December 3, 1866, the Union Pacific reached North Platte, 305 miles from Omaha. After building a 2,300-foot trestle bridge across the river, they laid track seventeen miles farther and stopped for the winter. North Platte then became the first of the notorious “Hell on Wheels” towns. The population swelled to more than 5,000 in 6 months. Traders, miners, and railroad workers went there to have a good time—gambling, drinking, and shooting each other. Proprietors attended to their customers while holding loaded revolvers.

In January 1867 the Cedar Rapids and Missouri River Railroad completed its line to Council Bluffs from the east. The Union Pacific finally had the long-awaited railroad connection with the east coast, and the price of rails at Omaha dropped from $135 a ton to $97.50.

The railroad established towns along the Platte River across Nebraska Territory, including Fremont, Elkhorn, Grand Island, North Platte, Ogallala, Sidney.


As the Union Pacific moved west in the Dakota Territory, much of which is now the state of Wyoming, it built the new towns of Cheyenne, Laramie, Rawlins and Evanston as well as many more fuel and water stops.

Building across Wyoming
The UP reached Cheyenne in November of 1867. Meanwhile, 100 surveyors and 3,500 graders were working as far as 200 miles in advance of the terminus. In the spring of 1868, the construction army of nearly 10,000 men set out from Cheyenne. On April 5, the track reached the Sherman Summit at an elevation of 8,424 feet, and the nearby town of Laramie was opened a month later.

In spite of scorching sun, cold nights, and skimpy, bad-tasting water, the Irish tracklayers average 2.3 miles a day with a record of eight and a half miles in one day. On July 21, 1868, they were beyond Rawlins, and they reached Bridger Station in mid-November. They arrived in Evanston on December 4; and before year's end, they had dropped down into Echo Canyon in Utah.

During 1868, 446 miles of track and telegraph were laid, complete with sidetracks, bridges, tunnels, station houses, machine shops, and town plots. In comparison, only 536 miles had been completed during the three previous years combined. Ever mindful of the race with the Central Pacific, Union Pacific surveyors were staking out a line across Utah and Nevada to the California border. At the same time, the Central Pacific had its surveyors running lines north of the Great Salt Lake and east of Ogden into Weber and Echo canyons. In many cases the lines were within sight of each other. 

Building bridge across Green River
The Green River was bridged on October 1, 1868. It was the last big river to cross. Evanston became a significant train maintenance shop town equipped to carry out extensive repairs on the cars and steam locomotives.

My new Christmas novel, Two Sisters and the Christmas Groom, is now available.

 Escape from Gold Mountain, which was released last month, is now available on Kindle Unlimited. 
Please CLICK HERE for the book description on Amazon. The print version is also available on Barnes & Noble, which you can reach if you CLICK HERE.

Museum Memories, Volume 1 (Salt Lake City, Utah: International Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 2009), Pgs. 408, 410-414.
Wikipedia- History of the Union Pacific Railroad

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

When Harney County helped the war effort.

This story was published August 7, 1942 Burns Times-Herald

Lamb Barbecue Draws 216 to Fish Lake!

Prior to the enactment of the Taylor Grazing Act in 1934, sheep were a ubiquitous sight on Steens Mountain in Harney County, Oregon. The ensuing years brought a drop-off in numbers, however, sheep continued to remain popular with the local stock-raising community. In 1942, a group of Harney County sheepmen sponsored a community lamb barbecue in support of the county war bonds effort.

The view from the Steens Mountains.

“The sheepman-sponsored lamb barbecue Sunday atop Steens Mountain drew a counted 216 Harney County men, women and children to Fish Lake and sold 67 war bonds to start Harney County toward its monthly quota.

The picnicking guests of the sheepmen devoured four Alex Geokan-barbecued lambs as well as a huge supply of cold slaw, spaghetti, a specialty prepared Geokan bordelaise sauce, and ice cream.
They danced on a newly erected 14 x 24-foot open air dance pavilion to donated music from Warren Watson’s Crane orchestra, aided by a piano moved up the mountain from Frenchglen school house.
They heard brief addresses from Mr. Geokan and Ray Voegtly and the thoroughly enjoyed Ruby Hershey and Beverley Powell, Burns girls who appeared in attractive new uniforms for a baton drill and dancing acts.
Contributing lambs, dinner supplies and effort to the barbecue were Ebar brothers, Bill Griffith, Billy Barry, Dennis Herilhy and Mr. Geokan. Helping in the serving were Mrs. Harry Z. Smith, Mrs. Neil Smith, Burns McGowan and Charles Schroeder.”

Thanks to the Claire McGill Luce Western History Room at the Harney County Museum in Burns, Oregon for some of the pictures and the story.

I you want to hear more about Harney County Cowboys, check out my anthology set n Harney County Oregon.
Harney County Cowboys-Three Book Set

Tied To A Dream

No more cowboys…
Or western knights-in-shining-armor…
Not even the Marlboro Man himself!

Being alone has taught Frannie to be self-sufficient, but being Superwoman is harder than it looks.

She’s pulling an all-night drive to reach her next rodeo. It’s past midnight on a lonely mountain road, and if she doesn’t catch a few winks, there’s a better than average chance she’ll run her rig into the river.

Dreams of winning barrel races are interrupted when a stranger knocks on her truck's window. He’s a cowboy by the looks of his black Stetson and tight Wranglers. But what’s the man doing out here?

His deep blue eyes and sexy smile have her reaching for the door handle when her brain finally takes control. Her mama taught her manners, and her daddy taught her to be tough. But, her brother and her ex pounded home the fact that not everyone is trustworthy.

His offer of aid is tempting.

She knows being safe is better than sorry, but he’d helped her earlier at the rodeo, and sometimes a cowgirl has to go with her gut.

You’ll love this contemporary rodeo romance, because love isn’t always blind.

Dancing Creek Ranch

She couldn’t leave the idiot there to die.
But what was she going to do with a half-frozen cowboy?

Dancing Creek Bar manager, Catherine Silvera, stared at the waterlogged, unconscious man sleeping in the only vehicle left in the parking lot. His Stetson was crushed beneath his head. Did she know him?

At three a.m. the other employees and patrons were gone. Her first inclination was to leave him to sober up. But the temperature was dropping faster than Wiley Coyote’s anvil. Her second thought was to call the sheriff.

Her hand hovered over the cell phone.
Wait! She recognized the cowboy.
This man had helped her years ago, when she couldn’t help herself.

The smell of liquor filled the interior of the truck. Drunks were above her pay grade, but she owed him. It would only take a few minutes to repay his kindness then make tracks like a coyote-shy rabbit with hot breath on her tail.

You’ll love this contemporary rodeo romance because sometimes old dogs do learn new tricks.

Rocky Road Home 

That wasn’t a cowboy!
So why was she still checking him out?

The rumble of the Harley drowned out the radio in her truck. George Straight sang about Amarillo and she just stared. The light seemed to stay red forever, or maybe time had stopped. Why didn’t the pony tail and leather jacket bother her? Maybe it was the cheekbones?

He turned his head. The chiseled chin pointed right at her and paused. Sissy flashed her best smile, wondered if her hair was a mess, and without even knowing why, switched on flirt mode. It was a mindset she stepped into when she wanted to make the cowboys fall in love with her.

He didn’t nod.
He didn’t speak.

She wondered if he winked but couldn’t tell behind his sunglasses.

The light turned green and the thundering horses of his hog took him away. Even though he’d gone, she remained in the moment. She didn’t hit the gas. She just kept thinking to herself, who was that man? And why would she care? She liked cowboys.

He was definitely not her type.
A car honked.
And time started again, but would she ever be the same?
Her story would soon begin in a way she never imagined possible.

You’ll love this contemporary western romance because not everyone is what they seem to be.