Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Let's talk about branding.

 We've all seen pictures, paintings, and scenes in the movies where cowboys are out with the herds, rounding up heifers and calves and warming irons in the fire. It is an iconic part of the mystic of the cowboy. To be truly honest, it's an important part of life on a ranch.

Land is important for cattle grazing. Often several ranches put their herds together. In order to identify cattle belonging to each ranch, marks were developed. The brand on a hind end is often visible from a distance making the cowboy's job of identification easier. Ear tags, which is another mark ( mainly used here in the east where cattle tend to stand on specific grazing land for each farm) can be torn off if the cattle rub against trees or brush. Electronic markings have been tried but they can be removed like ear tags.

A brand is registered to a specific ranch. It allows information to be to follow cattle as they are shipped for the meat market or purchased by another rancher. Without this information, cattle fraud or theft could bankrupt ranches.

So who takes care of all these brands?

Western states have Brand Departments. Each state will hold copies of the distinct brand, what ranch it comes from, and description of the animal. The Agri Brand goes on the right hip of the animal and is done so with as little pain as possible to the animal. These officials also use the brands to insure quality of the cattle. When a ranch registers it's brand, it must follow rules to safe guard the beef that comes to our tables and allows for a regulated industry with high quality beef.

Brands in the U. S. use capital letters, numbers, combined with slashes, boxes or other symbols.

A bar: horizontal  line over or under the letter.

A Box : a square around the letter or symbol

A Circle: a circle around the letter 

A Crazy: would be an upside down letter

A Lazy: would have the letter or number tilted 90 degrees


Because branding is such an iconic western image, many towns out west show off their distinct brands in restaurants, businesses and walls of buildings. Here is an example of brands known in Mitchell County West Texas on a building in Colorado City, Texas. This picture was taken by Billy Hathorn.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

American Civil War and PTSD by Zina Abbott

I received much of initial understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from my husband, a veteran of the Vietnam War. We met while we were both in our mid-forties, and he had been discharged from duty almost twenty-two years prior. Yet, he still suffered some of the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – PTSD – as a result of his service in the U.S. Army. The issues he personally dealt with were nightmares, flashbacks, and temper flare-ups prompted by reminders and old prejudices. Although his nightmares had become few and far between, he warmed me never to wake him if I thought he was having one. Instead, I should leave the bed, turn on the light, and call to him from across the room. (Fortunately, I never had to do that.)

First, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was not correctly identified as a legitimate, psychological disease until 1980. 

Yes, you read it right: 


That was years after the Vietnam War ended.

Yet, the condition has afflicted humans ever since we started walking the face of the earth. It was known by different names throughout time including “soldier's heart,” “shell shock,” and “war neurosis.” It has been around for forever, but was thought to be fright, cowardice, malingering, and/or insanity. Many military officers, unwilling to release soldiers from the battlefield, refused to accept PTSD as an affliction and tried to either force or shame a soldier into returning to the fight, whether the soldier was psychologically capable or not. Then, as now, PTSD that did not receive adequate treatment often led to alcoholism, drug dependency, or suicide.

There is much detailed information available on the internet, which I am not going to get into. The simplistic explanation of the method currently in use involves a combination of medication and psychological therapy. The therapy is considered the most beneficial in the long term.

My husband said he never sought medical treatment for his symptoms. However, he did follow advice he was given to “talk it out.” He spoke about what happened and what he saw as much as he could. He claims by doing so, he has been able to rid himself of most of the nightmares and flashbacks. On the other hand, he knows veterans who claim they cannot talk about it and refuse to do so, even with him. He knows they had more difficulty dealing with their PTSD. I know he told me of many of his experiences in Vietnam more than once during the first several years of our marriage. I also know, over the course of our marriage, his symptoms seemed to stop.

In 2014, I added some research to this insight and used it in one of my first published books, Family Secrets (no longer in print). In 2014, I also began writing my Gamble on Judgment series, set in 1871 with backstory to the final year of the Civil War. Back then, I wrote my first book, Abilene Gamble, and the first part of my second book, Indianapolis Justice. Neither were published at the time. (Thank goodness! My writing skills have developed in the years since then, and the two books published this year ended up being much better stories than if I had published them in 2014 or 2015.) However, I did include the element of PTSD, which plagued my hero, Harry, throughout his and Stella's story.

Civil War collage

Unlike my first book that dealt with a Vietnam War veteran, these latest two books deal with a Civil War veteran. How does PTSD compare then to what it is in modern times?


Battle of Gettysburg - Currier & Ives

By the 1800s, PTSD was characterized as “battle exhaustion,” soldier’s fatigue,” or the “thousand-yard stare,” the last which referred to the blank look and dissociated behavior of traumatized soldiers. Civil War conditions that added to the likelihood of soldiers suffering PTSD were the following:

 Battle of Cold Harbor - a very bloody battle for the Union

  * Seeing themselves or fellow soldiers blown apart (Horses, too.), both by cannonball fire and bullets.

  * Waiting and listening to the explosions, whine of bullets, and screams of death while anticipating receiving orders it was time to enter the battle.

  * Unlike prior bullets used, the Minié ball was designed so it did not break a bone when struck, but it shattered and tore up the surrounding flesh, almost always resulting in amputation.

Dead soldiers on battlefield waiting for burial

  * Primitive and unsanitary surgical practices, often without anesthesia, which led to pain and infection.

  * Mud, long marches, freezing cold with improper clothing, and inadequate and often unhealthful food.

  * The horrors of life in a prison camp where starvation, exposure to the elements, poor health, and brutality by both the guards and fellow prisoners were common.

  * Most soldiers came from occupations that were physical in nature. If they were injured so they could no longer perform their former occupations, their inability to adapt contributed to their symptoms.

By the late 1800s and early 1900s, Sigmund Freud had made the “talking cure” popular. Increasingly it began to be used as a method to treat symptoms. These early therapeutic interventions were the first step toward helping people who had survived traumatic events. However, for many Civil War veterans, there was no help for them. They were discharged and sent home for their families to deal with the consequences. Many ended up in insane asylums, old soldiers’ homes, poorhouses, or on the streets.

 From Harper's Magazine, Civil War Nurses

Much good information about PTSD past and present can be read in the articles I put under my sources. For the most informative one that relates to the American Civil War – including the example of how PTSD led to the downfall and early death of a very capable U.S. Army officer, Randal S. MacKenzie, who served in both the Civil War and the Indian Wars that followed, you might wish to read “The Shock of War” from the History Net website. Please CLICK HERE.

PTSD was also observed in those who either witnessed or experienced horrific accidents, such as railroad derailments. The explosion of the S.S, Sultana, an event that occurred toward the end of the Civil War and referenced in my book, Abilene Gamble, would have fallen in this category. To read my earlier post about this catastrophic event, please CLICK HERE.

My first two books in the Gamble on Judgment series are now available. These two books are about the same characters. I strongly suggest you read the first book first.


For the book description and purchase links for Abilene Gamble, the first book in this series, please CLICK HERE.






For the book description and purchase links for IndianapolisJustice, the second book in this series, please CLICK HERE.











Tuesday, April 19, 2022

JOURNEY OR DESTINATION? By Kathleen Lawless @kathleenlawless

 I recently returned from a vacation, the first time on a plane in almost 3 years.  And while flying isn’t what it used to be—no meals or movies—it’s still a lot easier than the way my characters moved around in the 19th century. 

 It’s not the destination but the journey is possibly one of the most cliquéd cliqués ever.  And I agree when it pertains to our own lives.  It’s easy to be so focused on the end result we miss things that happen along the way.  But when it comes to my Western characters, I would have to say it’s about the destination.  Travel from A to B was slow by today’s standards.  Sea voyage.  Wagon trains or steam trains to cross a huge, vast, mostly uninhabited country. Then horseback, wagon or foot from town to town or town to farm.

 Unless something significant happens on the journey, I tend to gloss over it, moving my characters to where the action is to further the plot.  Like in my upcoming release, Chelsea’s Choice. Chelsea travels a great distance from South America to the small town of Bullet on the Western Frontier.  I want her there, embroiled in the action. 

          Reece stopped his wagon outside the hotel, his eyes narrowed as he stared at the bicycle propped there, looking totally out of place.  Before he landed here, he’d seen a few of the two-wheeled contraptions in other parts of the country but this was the first one he’d seen in these parts.

          As he sat there, his friend Henrietta came through the front door, followed by a dark-haired woman who could have been her sister. The second woman, who hung back, stared his way in curiosity.

          Reece hated folks staring at him, and pulled the brim of his hat down lower.  “G’day, Henrietta,” he said as she reached his side.  He inclined his head toward the other woman.  “Kin of yours?”

          “Yes, Chelsea just arrived.  I came out to see the latest invention, her bicycle.”

          Reece made a face.  “Don’t see it taking the place of horseback, myself.”

          Henrietta raised her brow in a way he took to mean Chelsea was somewhat of a handful. “Reece, would you mind doing me a favor?  When you get back from Yuma, could you swing by the stagecoach depot?  Chelsea left her things there and I don’t have anyone here right now that I can send for them.”

          Reece grunted his assent.  He’d do anything for Henrietta and the other Masons, who had pretty much saved his life when he first got here.  Shame it also meant helping out that woman who even now was watching him with a calculating look in her eye.  Worse yet, she appeared to be planning to join them.  He picked up the reins, anxious to be on his way without appearing rude, but before he could signal the horses, Henrietta had started introductions.

          “Reece, this is my cousin Chelsea. Chelsea, Reece has graciously agreed to fetch your things from the depot on his way back.”

          “That’s so kind of you, Mr.—”

          “Rawlings,” he said gruffly.

          “Look at the flowers,” she squealed, raising up on tip toes and peering past him into the back of the wagon.  “I’ve not seen anything like it since I arrived in the Americas.”  Her English diction was perfect, underscored with a husky South American accent that stirred the hair on the back of his neck.

          “Reece is a talented horticulturist,” Henrietta said. 

          “I can see that.” Chelsea subjected him to another penetrating look before he drove away, conscious of those dancing dark eyes boring into his back. What was the world coming to?  A woman speaking so freely to a stranger.  Showing up here with a bicycle.  A woman like that meant sure-fire trouble.  Good thing he kept to himself. 

 Chelsea’s Choice releases in June as part of The Reclusive Man Series.  You can pre-order here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09Q9BG2FV 

and check out the books already released in the series here:   https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09K7FP3SJ

Monday, April 18, 2022

Cambria ghost town

     Wyoming has many ghost towns. South Pass City, Atlantic City, and Kirwin are probably the most well known.  Many towns in Wyoming during the late 1800’s popped up because of a mining boom. Gold, silver, and coal mining towns were established and later abandoned when the supply ran out. 

   The coal mining town of Cambria, Wyoming was such a town.  Established in 1889 in Weston County.

  I grew up just over the hill from the town and have been there several times. The best was when we rode the horses there. Not much is left of the town but it was always fun to go check it out. As well as the cemetery there.  One of the old coal shafts was on the hill above our house. We would play in the mine (though we were not supposed to) when we were kids until it fully caved in. Thankfully we weren’t in it at the time. 

Cambria, Wyoming

  After the Civil War, coal demand increased as railroads expanded west.   Kilpatrick Brothers & Collins searched the Black Hills and found a coal deposit in 1887. A rail line was built from Newcastle to the new Cambria mine in 1889.

  Cambria was a booming little town with a school, hotels, churches, an opera house, bank, courthouse, a variety of stores, and many houses.  Dance halls and saloons were banned. But a beer wagon came from Newcastle to supply the miners with beer.

  By 1928 the coal seam was too thin and not worth going after and the mine was closed. The town was quickly abandoned as miners and merchants moved on. The town stood empty and in 1929 the rail line was removed. Over the years the town was scavenged and during World War 2 the town was salvaged for wood and iron to help with the war effort.

  Today very little is left of Cambria. It is mostly building foundations and scattered lumber. The abandoned cemetery has been vandalized over the years. The town is on private property and has been closed to the public because of the vandalizing. 

  When I first started writing I was going to set my books in the town of Cambria. I haven’t done it yet, but I will get it done someday. Descendents of my current books might just live there one day.  

There is so much history surrounding this town and so many other abandoned town in Wyoming.

Thursday, April 14, 2022



 *Spoiler Alert. Mateo and Jesse aren't your mamma and daddy's typical cowboys...But I'm hoping you'll like them anyway.



Behind the amicable facade is a man who's tough and determined, and he's Mateo's Blood Brother.

They were friends, close as brothers. Then they weren’t.

Mateo and Jesse are cautiously working their way back to friendship when Jesse discovers the unthinkable. Delilah, the sultry shifter who’d had affairs with both men, is still alive. The tumble she took over a mountain ridge—a fall that nearly killed Mateo—should have finished her.

Now, there’s no choice but for the two men to work together to take down a she-devil straight from hell.  As the stakes escalate and the hunt becomes more intense, another wolf appears on the scene. Always where Jesse’s at. Always when he’s in trouble.  Jesse is divided between ending Delilah, a new love interest, discovering the identity of a certain brown wolf and staying alive.


Available for preorder at Amazon

 Release date: 4/22/22