Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Help out an author with your feedback ~ Lorraine Nelson


Hello to all who enjoy dropping in and contributing to “Cowboy Kisses”. It’s my turn to post today and I have a request. Below is the first chapter of a book I’m currently working on and I’d like you to read it and give me some honest feedback (even if it hurts!). LOL

Do you like the characters?

Does the story start strong enough?

What do you like or dislike about it?

If it’s not written clearly or is confusing in any way, could you let me know what I could do to make it better?

And, heaven forbid, if you see edits I’ve missed, please let me know. Thank you.

Lorraine Nelson

Chapter One

The Brazos River Cattle Ranch, North of Granbury, Texas

Kaylynne Harper-Brown leaned back on her heels in the mud and dirt, pausing briefly to wipe the sweat from her brow. She’d been filling sandbags for hours and there seemed to be no end in sight. The heavy rains were still falling, threatening the livelihood of her family as well as neighboring properties.

It was a dirty, backbreaking job and they had to work fast to beat the rising floodwaters. The crew she was on had worked tirelessly to secure about a mile of riverbank, thereby saving her parents’ farm. Now they’d moved to another low-lying area in danger of flooding.

She glanced over at her son, leaning on his shovel, a frown creasing his forehead as he looked toward the river. Kaylynne was proud of him and his determination to help. At twelve years old, he’d worked as hard as any man or woman there. He’d been at her side from the start, working tirelessly to save their farm. “How are you holding up, Jamie?”

“I’m good, Mom,” he said as he turned back to her, “but I sure wish the rain would let up.”

“Yeah, me too.” She rose to her feet, stretching out her legs to relieve the cramps. “My turn to shovel.” Jamie held the next bag open while she shoveled it full, then tied it off as he grabbed another bag. Another pair of hands, gloved and much larger, reached to pick it up and place it on the makeshift dam. She looked up into blazing blue eyes and quickly averted her gaze as she felt her stomach plummet alarmingly. Brett Rawlings was back.

“Hi, Kaylynne. Thanks for coming to our rescue.”

He spoke loud enough to be heard over the rushing water and the heavy equipment in use shoring up the bank with large boulders in the hard to access areas. His voice still had the power to make her knees go to jelly.

“No thanks necessary. When did you get home?”

“A few days ago, but I’ve been busy moving ranch stock further inland, away from the worst flooding areas.”

She nodded and began filling another bag, her thoughts in turmoil. He’d been gone a long time, but one heated glance from those penetrating blue eyes and her heart was all a flutter. That way lay danger and heartbreak. Better to keep her mind on the job at hand. But why, oh why, did he have to come back when she resembled a mud wrestler?

“Who’s your helper?” Brett asked as he swung the next bag up over his shoulder.

“My son, Jamie. Jamie, this is Brett Rawlings. His family owns this ranch.”

“Hi, Mr. Rawlings.”

Kaylynne could tell by his suspicious glance at Brett that he wasn’t impressed. His next words confirmed it.

“You just now coming to help?”

Brett glanced down at the boy, his cowboy hat dispersing a rivulet of water. “Yes, I had to secure the ranch and the animals first.”

Jaime just shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Whatever,” and tied off the filled bag he was holding.

Much to Kaylynne’s chagrin, Brett stayed and worked beside them, tossing the heavy bags on the dam as if they weighed nothing. Wherever he’d been, he hadn’t lost any muscle. His blue jeans, rain and mud soaked as hers were, clung to him like a second skin, but his slicker prevented her from ogling his upper body. Just as well, given the circumstances.

It was late in the day when the Fire Chief, Eric, called a halt. They’d saved another spread.

“Where to next?” someone asked.

“Home,” said Eric. “I just got word that the river’s threatening to take out the bridge into town. Anyone needing to cross had better get moving.”

“Thanks, everyone. My family truly appreciates the help you’ve provided us,” Brett called.

A general exodus ensued. Jamie took the shovel from her overworked hands and they walked toward where they’d left the truck parked. Kaylynne was surprised when Brett stepped up beside them.

“Will you make it home all right?”

She glanced his way and noticed the look of concern plastered across his features. “I’ve been taking care of myself for a long time, Brett. We’ll make it home.”

He stopped dead in his tracks, but she continued walking with Jamie until they reached the truck. She felt his heated gaze on her back, watching her as she climbed inside without once looking back…but damn, it was hard.


 Brett stood looking after them until the truck was lost to sight. Frustrated, he reached up a hand to scratch his head, knocking his hat askew. A rivulet of cold rainwater flowed down his back, reminding him that his work here was done, for now. He had to go check on the herd again. The storm had forced him to move the cattle to a higher pasture, but he hadn’t had time to ride the fence line. If a section was down, it could mean disaster for ranch stock if they managed to get entangled in the barbed wire, and for the farmer on the next spread. That is, if the weather hadn’t already destroyed his crops.

He strode to where he’d left his horse tied to a low-hanging branch and, putting one foot in the stirrup, swung his other leg up and over. He’d never wanted to be a rancher, but damn, it felt good to be on a horse again. Starlight whinnied his excitement as Brett gave a flip of the reins. The black stallion reared his head and took off, his sure-footed strides covering the ground as fast as any vehicle could in this downpour, maybe even faster. Brett slowed when they reached the ranch yard, deciding to grab a bite to eat before setting out for the high country again. His mother was in the kitchen when he entered.

“Brett, you’re soaked to the skin. You’ll catch pneumonia if you don’t soon change into some dry clothes.”

“Can’t yet, Ma. Gotta take a run back up to the north pasture and check the fencing.”

“It’ll take hours for you to ride those lines. Better eat first. Go wash up.”

Brett smiled crookedly. To her, he would always be a little boy. “Yes, Ma.”

He washed up and decided to change clothes anyway. Might as well be comfortable for the first leg of his journey. When he returned to the kitchen, she had a steaming mug of coffee waiting for him and had filled a plate with her hearty, homemade beef stew. A basket of biscuits sat in the middle of the table. “Smells good. Thanks, Mama.”

“I’m packing a lunch and a thermos of coffee to take with you, just in case you’re out longer than expected.” Concern was etched on her expression as she turned to him. “You remember where the line shacks are?”

He swallowed a mouthful of food and took a sip of coffee before answering. “Yes, Mama.”

“Why don’t you take one of the ranch hands with you?”

“I thought about it, but they’ve all worked hard moving cattle and securing the riverbank. They need rest.”

“So do you.” She sighed. “But still, it needs to be done. We can’t afford to lose any more cattle.”

“Any more? How many have you lost?” This was the first he’d heard of a loss. “When?”

“Your father was concerned about the drop in the herd. He was working long days and even longer nights, staying out to keep an eye on the herd. Doc thinks that’s what brought on his heart attack.” Miriam sniffed and wiped a tear from her eye with the corner of her apron. “Thank God his horse knew the way home.”

He rose and gathered her into his arms, comforting her as best she could. Normally an effusive, independent woman, she’d been devastated by his father’s death. Barry Rawlings had only been fifty-seven. Always in perfect health and excellent physical condition, his heart attack had hit a devastating blow. “I’m sorry, Mama. I should’ve been here to help out.”

She pushed away from him then, placed a loving hand on his cheek, and spoke. “You had your own path to travel. I understood that, Brett, even though your father didn’t, at least at first. But you are our only son. He never stopped missing you and left you the ranch, hoping you’d come back.”

Her words hit home, filling him with an equal sense of pride and bewilderment that his father would do that. True, he and his father had made their peace over the years, but he’d always made it plain that he regretted Brett’s choice of becoming a lawyer. “No way. Why would he leave it to me? The ranch is yours.”

“No, I have a home here for as long as I live, but the ranch is now yours. That’s the way he wanted it.”

“So that’s why you wouldn’t sell.”

“I couldn’t. I wouldn’t anyway. This is the only life I know. Town isn’t for me. Besides, I have the children to consider.”

“Speaking of which, where are the little rascals?”

She smiled fondly. Brett knew taking care of her grandchildren wasn’t easy for her, but those kids gave her the strength to keep going. She’d said so many times in the past few days.

“They’re in the barn with Mimi’s latest litter. I swear that cat has populated every home in the county with her offspring.”

Brett chuckled as he resumed his seat at the table and finished eating. “That was a terrific meal, Mama. Thanks. I need to pack a change of clothes and head out while there’s still daylight.”

“Don’t forget to grab your lunch and thermos on your way out the door. It’s in that Ziploc bag on the counter.”

He nodded as he headed for the hallway and the steps leading to the second floor. It didn’t take long to pack a change of clothes. They kept the line shacks supplied with bedding, towels, and necessities, so if he had to stay out on the range tonight, he would be comfortable enough. His mother was nowhere in sight when he returned to the kitchen, so he grabbed his lunch and went outside.

Shawnda and Erik, his sister’s kids, came running to escape the downpour.

“Hi, Uncle Brett. Where you going?” asked six-year-old Erik as they reached the covered verandah. The boy had the red hair, freckled features, and rugged build of his father.

“Gotta go ride me some fence line, sport. Mama tells me we have cattle missing and I’m about to find out why.” Erik’s hat tilted back as he looked up. “You two better get inside and into some dry clothes. Your grandma has dinner ready.”

“Okay, see you Uncle Brett,” said eight-year-old Shawnda as she ushered her brother inside.

Shawnda was tall and willowy for her age. And beautiful, in a fresh, country-girl kind of way. If Robert and Brenda had survived the accident, they would be so proud of those two.

Brett crossed the ranch yard to the barn. One of the ranch hands had curried his horse and he looked ready for another run. “Thanks, Oscar,” he said as the man finished cinching the saddle. Brett tied his waterproof duffle across the horse’s back. His lunch and thermos he placed in the saddlebags.

Oscar watched as he secured his supplies. “Where ya headed, boss?”

“The north pasture. Probably won’t be back until late tomorrow.”

“You want that I should go with you?”

“Not this time, Oscar. If there are a lot of repairs that need doing, I’ll be back to put a crew together.”

“Ride safe then.” He tipped his hat in farewell.

Brett led the horse outside, stepped into the stirrup and threw a leg over, mounting in one fluid motion. “Come on, Starlight. Time’s a wastin’. Giddy up, boy.” Starlight needed no further encouragement, the slightest tug on the reins guiding him in the right direction as he cantered through the muddy yard. When they reached the pasture, Brett let the reins go slack to allow the horse to have his head, and they raced over the acreage, defying the weather and the discordant accompaniment of thunder crashing in the distance.

He slowed Starlight to a walk as they approached the north pasture, swinging to the left to follow the fence. They were already losing daylight and the nearest line shack was a mile away. He’d only traveled a short distance when he spied a sagging stretch of barbed wire. One of the posts had broken off at ground level and would have to be replaced. Brett dismounted, grabbed a roll of red ribbon from the saddlebag, and cut off a strip with his jack knife, tying it to the line as a marker.

The rain had let up some, so he walked with the horse the next little way, finding a section of broken line. He marked it as he had the other one, then mounted up and rode farther down the line. He came to a heavily treed area and dismounted to better see the line where it weaved through the shrubbery. No problems there, but it was getting difficult to see in the fading light.

A swift glance ahead told him he wasn’t far from the line shack. It was positioned among the next stand of trees. He dug a flashlight out of the saddlebag and continued walking. If he could finish scouting this section before full dark, he wouldn’t have to back track in the morning.

Finally, he secured his horse in the lean-to near the cabin and trudged up the steps. He set the saddle and supplies on the floor, found a woolen blanket, and took it back outside with him. He spread it over Starlight to help counter the effects of the storm, then grabbed an armload of wood before returning inside. Someone had stocked the wood box with kindling and birch bark, so it wasn’t long before he had a fire in the fireplace burning brightly. One more trip out to the spring and he had a bucket of fresh drinking water.

He started the wood stove in the kitchen and put a pot of water on to boil. Once heated, he washed up and changed clothes, laying the wet ones over the backs of chairs he’d placed in front of the fire. They’d be dry by morning. Brett picked up the thermos and lunch bag before sitting in the only armchair. High-backed and firm, it had seen better days, but its comfort hadn’t diminished over the years. Now he truly felt as if he was home.

The crackle of the fire made the small cabin feel cozy. It was only one large room, with bunk beds off to one side and a kitchenette at the other end. He bypassed the coffee and settled for a glass of cold spring water to quench his thirst as he ate. His thoughts turned to Kaylynne. She was even more beautiful than he remembered, but that prickly, ‘hands off’ attitude really got to him. Was she still mad at him for leaving? He snorted a laugh. She hadn’t stayed angry for long, not if she could marry his best friend mere weeks after he’d left. Maybe she hadn’t loved him at all.

Tired from the energy expended this day, he started to doze off. He rose to his feet, made the bed, stoked up the fires against the dampness, then stripped and crawled between the sheets. Sleep claimed him almost immediately.

The fire had burned out when Brett was jerked from a sound sleep by the sound of an engine. He slipped on his jeans and crossed to the window, peering out around the corner of the curtain. A semi pulling a stock trailer drove past, not slowing or stopping.

Brett finished dressing, pulled on his boots and outerwear, then grabbed his gun and, opening the door, slipped quietly into the darkness beyond. His heart pumped furiously as adrenalin kicked in. If he was dealing with rustlers, he could be heading for trouble, but he had to know. He wished his cell phone worked out here so he could call for back-up.

The truck slowed to a stop quite a distance from the cabin and a man jumped down from the passenger side. Brett stayed within the shadows, getting as close as he dared, and watched by the meager light of the truck’s tail lights as the man opened the rear door and let down a ramp. He went inside the trailer and reappeared leading two fully saddled horses.

The driver left the truck running, turned on overhead floodlights, and jumped down to join his friend. They rode off into the herd, lassoed two of the Brazos Ranch longhorns, and led them to the truck. The men secured the cattle to a nearby tree, grabbed two more ropes, and headed out to repeat the process.

Brett had his answer as to where their cattle were going, and it wasn’t anything to do with the fences. Damn! They were definitely rustling Brazos cattle. Brett wondered if he could get close enough to get the plate number off the truck and trailer. If he got caught, he could end up face down in the mud…dead. He paused to wonder if his father had happened upon them, causing his heart attack. It seemed more than likely.

The men came back with two more head of cattle and rode off again. It’s now or never. Brett kept to the shadows and the density of the surrounding bushes as he made his way to the vehicle, groaning his frustration at not having pen or paper. He pulled up his shirt, picked up a muddy stick and did his best to write the number on his stomach, hoping it wouldn’t smudge. He eased the shirt back over it, then heard the horses returning. Brett hid amongst the trees and waited for them to ride off again.

“It’s too muddy and wet tonight, Callan. I’m shiverin’ in my boots,” said one of the men.

“I’m not sure when I can get the trailer again. You sure you don’t want to grab a couple more while we’re here?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. Let’s load up and be off.”

“Okay, boss.”

Brett watched as they rode their horses into the truck, each hauling a steer behind them. Two more trips and they emerged to close up the trailer and jump in the cab. The truck circled in the field to turn around and Brett almost panicked when the bright floodlights shone in his direction. When it kept going, he breathed a sigh of relief, watching as it turned south onto the county road.

Brett retraced his steps, heading for the cabin. How did they know he’d moved the stock to the north pasture? Who was Callan? Was that his name or a nickname? And who the devil was he working for? How did they even know of the north entrance? The men hadn’t seemed at all familiar, but he’d been gone a long time.

The entire community was hard at work trying to save their homes and livelihood from the massive flooding, and here they were, stealing from them. His angry strides ate up the distance as he advanced on the line shack.

Once inside, he closed the door and lit the oil lamp sitting on the table. He shivered. He’d only brought the one change of clothes and he was soaked. Brett checked the items hanging in front of the fire. Still damp. He stirred the coals to life and added more wood, then found a length of rope and secured a makeshift line from wall to wall. He stripped and draped his wet clothes over the line, hoping they’d dry by morning. Wrapped in a blanket, he laid back down for what was left of the night. His watch…his waterproof Rolex…was no match for the season’s downpour. It had stopped at a quarter to ten and Brett knew it was much later than that.

He didn’t think he’d sleep with his newfound knowledge of the rustling, but his body knew better. When next he opened his eyes, it was morning, and the sun shone bright through the dusty windows. The rain had finally stopped.

Brett yawned and stretched, then rose to gather his clothing and get dressed. A quick check resulted in the thermos of coffee having gone cold, so Brett dumped it in a saucepan and set it on the stove to heat. After stepping outside to answer the call of nature, he returned to finish the packed lunch his mother sent with him and down his coffee. He tidied the cabin and headed out to saddle Starlight. They were going home to report the rustling, and by God, if the rustlers had caused his father’s death, he’d insist on murder charges being laid.




Monday, September 26, 2022

Why the horse?????

 Some things are unique to the American Cowboy. His hat. His weapon. His horse.

Most of these are self explanatory. The hat shielded his eyes from the blinding sun as well as protected his head from the heat and kept it from boiling his brains. A weapon was used for self-protection,  to restore order, and to keep cattle and family safe. But why the horse?

It is often said that a cowboy of foot is worth little. And probably so. Ranches, at the height of the cowboy era, might have encompassed several states and started with as little as 500 acres and grow to 800,000 acres. In order to work these large tracts of land, cowboys needed a good source of transportation. Thus, the horse has become one of the trademarks of the American West and the Cowboy.

On average, a ranch would hire up to a dozen good cowboys for each of these cowboys six horses would be at their beck and call for different ranch duties. A good ranch horse was used to move the cattle, round up the cattle and calves for a yearly count and for market. Some were used just for roping, some for cutting cattle, another might have a good easy gate that didn't shake a man's insides for long distances. Some animals were none as bomb proof meaning they weren't spooked or startled by things going on around them. It would be the right horse on a storm night that wouldn't lose his head if the cattle got startled.

Cowboys rode different breeds of horses. Of course, we've all heard of the Mustang. The American Quarter horse was developed for its maneuverability and stamina on a short distance run. Appaloosas were another distinct American breed as were the Missouri Fox Trotters, American Standard Bred, Morgan, and even Arabians. Back in the heyday of the cowboy a good horse might cost 150.00 to 200.00 dollars. Considering a cowboy often made only a dollar a day, it was a big investment.

A cowboy needed his horse to work with him, not against him. If he were to do the job given to him. They needed to earn their horses trust. Being thrown in the field might be life or death for the rider. So trust and understanding on both sides must come first. Some of this starts before a saddles is even introduced. Leading  your horse, talking to your horse gains that first level of trust. A cowboy might not have time to say a command. His horse must learn to know the signals of a heel against it's side, the lifting of the reins, the touch of a hand. A trait that ensures the cowboys ability to work.

 Often it is said, that a cowboy and his horse are one.  It is this iconic image that makes the American Cowboy heroic in anyone's eyes.

Cattle Kate - Outlaw or Innocent


Living in Wyoming, I've heard the story of Cattle Kate. Spending time on the family ranch, we played pretend that we were cattle rustlers (grandpa was not pleased when we would take the horses and rustle his cattle) and one of us was always Cattle Kate, Calamity Jane, and Belle Star.

The truth of Cattle Kate is far less fantastic as the legend and far more tragic.

Wyoming between 1875 to 1900 was well known for its range wars. The Johnson County Cattle War happened in my area. But that is a story for another day. Wyoming was open range and cattle ranches dominated. When the homesteaders started moving in, the cattle barons didn't like it and took matters into their own hands....

Ellen Liddy Watson, known as Cattle Kate, was born in Canada. Ellen was taller than average for a women, (between 5'8 and 6'2) she was said to be an intelligent, charming woman with a pretty smile. She and her family moved to Lebanon, Kansas to homestead. She married Bill Pickle then ran away from him because he was an abusive drunk. She escaped to Red Cloud, Nebraska and became a hotel cook. After divorcing her husband, she went to Denver, then Cheyenne, and to Rawlins, Wyoming to cook at the Rollins House.

She met Jim Averill, who was homesteading 60 miles north of the Sweetwater River. They discussed marriage, but if they married, Ellen couldn't homestead her own place. So they married in secret. Ellen's homestead bordered Jim's place and he built her a cabin. Now each owned 160 acer tracts of land.

Wyoming is well known for land disputes and cattle baron hating homesteaders. Ellen was a victim of this. A cattle baron named Albert Bothwell claimed the land that Ellen homesteaded. He had illegally grabbed about 60 miles of land and didn't want Ellen to take his hay pasture. He rode over to buy her out and she refused.

Bothwell's anger was to be the death of her.

When an wagon train passed by, Ellen purchased  26 of their tired starving cattle and fenced her pasture. Bothwell pinned a scull and cross bones to Ellen's and Jim's doors. A warning they ignored. When Ellen's cattle were healthy and strong she branded them. Now Bothwell would proceed with his plan.

On July 2, 1889, during the neighbor's joint round-up, Bothwell sent word that Ellen had rustled his cattle. Five cattle rancher met with Bothwell and rode over to Ellen's place. The men saw the freshly branded cattle and believed Bothwell's story. She denied the accusation but they threw her into a buggy and headed for Jim's place. They forced him into the buggy an the group rode South down the Sweetwater riverbed toward Independence Rock.

They were taken to a pine tree, ropes placed around their necks, and pushed off a drop to hang. The story of the actual hanging is quite unpleasant so I will leave that out. The hanging was done in a rush, because ranch hands from Ellen and Jim's ranches followed the lynch mob and a shoot out ensued. The ranch hands eventually gave up and rode away.

None of the lynchers were ever brought to justice. Witnesses were murdered or disappeared mysteriously or were bought off. Cheyenne newspapers, dominated by wealthy cattle interests, trumped up the stories everybody knowns today about Ellen being a dirty whore and rustler, and Jim her accomplice, pimp and murderous lover. So far from the truth, but even back then people loved a racy story and it stuck.

Though in her life Ellen was never called Cattle Kate. The name most likely came from confusion of Ellen with a possibly fictitious woman named Kate Maxwell. A newspaper story in 1889 depicted Maxwell as a heavy drinker who had allegedly shot a man for calling her Katie. Brandishing a six-shooter, Maxwell supposedly took back several thousand dollars that cowboys she employed had lost to cheating faro dealers.

Cattle Kate is just a name that goes with western mythology.

Ellen was the first woman to be hanged in Wyoming and the third in the history of the frontier history of the American West. The other two women were murderers.

There are many variations of the story, and Ellen's background. Some accounts say she ran a bordello and if a cowboy couldn't pay, she would accept cattle. Some resources say that Ellen Watson was confused with Ella Wilson of Fetterman, Wyoming. A prostitute involved in a widely reported incident at at saloon. But no matter how you look at it, an innocent woman was sent to her death. 

top picture from The Tragedy of Cattle Kate | History| Smithsonian Magazine

Steamy Romance Novels | TK Conklin Author

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Watering Denver by Zina Abbott


Denver began to boom in 1859 when rumors about the discovery of gold around Cherry Creek spread across the United States and beyond. The region—better known as the South Platte River Valley—is dry in nature. It is watered by Cherry Creek and the South Platte River—the same river pioneers traveling the Oregon and California Trails crossed just before it joins the North Platte River in today’s Nebraska.

However, as Denver grew, it found that the problem with relying on Cherry Creek alone was that the water source was just that—a creek. As growth spread, other smaller communities built up around Denver, and farmers moved in to grow crops to feed the burgeoning population, water needed to be brought in from the river. Thus, construction began on the canals – or ditches, as they were called.

1881 Birdseye View map Denver, Colorado

I have often heard of the advice that it is important to get a good education, or else a person could end up being only a ditch digger. There is a difference between digging a small trench and building a complex canal system. Today, we call that sort of work engineering construction, a field my husband made as his lifetime career, both as a laborer and an operating engineer running heavy equipment.

"Digging Ditches" on the High Line Canal

Richard S. Little had worked as an engineer primarily for railroads in the upper Midwest. Drawn by the possibilities in the Colorado gold fields, he left Wisconsin in 1861. Soon after arriving in Denver, he was hired by the Capital Hydraulic Company to supervise construction of a ditch to bring water to Denver from the South Platte River. The inlet for the ditch, engineered by Little’s predecessor, needed to be redesigned. He moved the new inlet four miles upstream. Work began on the ditch in 1865 when John W. Smith contracted to construct it for a sum of $10,000.

1921 map Denver Municipal Water Works, City Ditch highlighted

The City Ditch was one of the first irrigation canals in Colorado and was then given priority #1 to take water from the South Platte River to Denver. To the eventual dismay of many citizens of Denver, much of the water between the river and the city was diverted for agricultural purposes.

Plagued by financial difficulties, construction was postponed, but eventually completed—one source states in 1867, another in 1870. Known by the name “City Ditch,” it became the primary source of water for Denver for a quarter of a century.

However, this canal had its limitations. During dry spells, when the South Platte River did not carry enough water to meet all canal requirements, the available water volume of the City Ditch often proved inadequate for both drinking water and water needed for fire safety. While researching my current book, set in 1882, I found this interesting snippet in the Rocky Mountain News dated July 26, 1882:

Snippet from Rocky Mountain News, 26 Jul 1882, City Canal


Snippet, Rocky Mountain News, 26 July 1882

Other canals were built in the region – many to bring water from the South Platte River to Denver and others to the agricultural areas surrounding the city. These include the Nevada Ditch, which parallels City Ditch on the west bank of the Platte. Construction on this ditch was begun in 1861. It is still in use today. Other canals were Hayland, Selzell, Fairview, Old Time, and Garden Ditches off of Deer Creek, Last Chance Ditch on the Platte and Littleton Heights Ditch in Slaughterhouse Gulch.

High Line Canal

The biggest canal project of the era was the High Line Canal. This waterway, built by the Northern Colorado Irrigation Company, an English-owned company which was a subsidiary of the Colorado Mortgage Company, had its inlet about 1.8 miles (2.9 km) above the mouth of Waterton Canyon.

High Line Canal

The company had acquired leftover land from the Kansas Pacific Railway. It repackaged the property and, along with the water rights, sold this land to farmers. The original construction including seventy-one miles (but, due to all the twists and turns, only about twenty-five miles as the crow flies), took place between 1879 and 1883, the time of my latest novel. It averaged thirty feet in width. It brought many settlers into the Platte River Valley.

1921 map Denver Municipal Water Works-HLC highlighted

However, due to its water rights being deemed junior to the water rights of seventy-four other canals in the South Platte watershed, it was frequently dry. It never reached its potential. It was designed to carry nearly three-quarters of a billion gallons of water per day. It averaged only seventy-one million gallons.


Work on the High Line Canal near Aurora, 1913

By 1883, about 250 ditches were in use. The concern over the amount of water being taken from the Platte resulted in judicial hearings to establish water rights.

Construction upgrades High Line Canal crossing Little Dry Creek- abt. 1913

In spite of all these issues, for many who lived along what was known locally as the “High Line Ditch” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Canal was essential to everyday life and survival.

Today, the High Line Canal is better known to Colorado residents as a source of recreation. The canal itself (and the water flowing through it) is owned by Denver Water. The land adjacent is closed to all unauthorized motor vehicles, but approximately 60 miles (97 km) of the road have been improved for use as a recreational trail. Designated a National Landmark Trail, it is open to non-motorized users.

My next book to be published is Loving Lila, a Thanksgiving romance. Lila meets David, who works as a surveyor and grading supervisor on the High Line Canal project. 

To find the book description and pre-order link, please CLICK HERE.





Wednesday, September 21, 2022

New Cowboy (Excerpt) by Rhonda Lee Carver

Hi, all! Friends and I went to a Luke Bryan concert over the weekend. We had a blast. Who's your favorite country music artist?

 New Cowboy--Available Now!

Buy here

Chapter One

“Yes. Yes. Yes! That’s it. That’s the move. Doesn’t that feel right? Move those hips. Make a circle.”

“No, it still feels off. Too tight. I told you I wouldn’t be any good at this.”

“Stop complaining and relax. Let the feeling take you. You have an amazing body, lots of core strength and perfect rhythm, that is if you allow yourself to dig deep. You’re a natural, but you just have to let go of all your inhibitions.

Blue Dawson shook his head at the petite brunette who was staring up at him in complete instructor mode. Her eyes were wide, surrounded by long, thick eyelashes, and her plump, cherry-tinted-shiny bottom lip was tucked between her teeth while she gyrated her hips as an example.

God help him. He’d never have enough rhythm to move his hips like she could.

“Is it too late for you to find someone else?” he groaned. “It’s the smartest idea for both of us.”

With a dismissive sigh, Maggie March sashayed across the dance studio. Her firm bottom in the cute little shorts drew his attention. He practically salivated and his jeans felt tighter. There were some benefits to dancing with her. He’d been sweating buckets for the last hour trying to stay focused on all the moves and their names. To him, they were all the same—awkward.

 She switched off the music and turned back to face him with a narrowed gaze as if she worked up a lecture. Maggie had always been a confident spitfire, but the closer to the competition they got the more stressed she became, and the more she kicked his ass in the studio. When did she forget that he was doing this as a favor to her?

For a good ten seconds they had a staring contest, neither saying the obvious. Things just weren’t working. She tapped the toe of one cowgirl boot in annoyance. “How many times have we been through this, Blue?  It’s too late for me to find another dance partner. You’re locked in. You agreed we would perform in the Texas Amateur Country Dance competition and share the money. This is big. If we win, we’ll be the faces for the Master Dancing League which includes a paying contract. We’re lucky that the video we sent in earned us a place in the dance-off. Not every couple even makes it this far. But we have to practice. Competition will be stiff and you can’t win this by your good looks alone.” She reached for a towel from the stack and patted her forehead.

“That’s unfair, especially when you said my looks would be a shoe in,he groaned, half teasing.

She lowered the towel and some of the severity left her expression. “ Your complaining and disappearing acta are two-stepping on my last nerve. Not to mention, renting this studio is by the hour. This is serious, Blue.”

“And you think I don’t get that, drill sergeant?”

There it was…the frustration returned on her soft features. 

While she unscrewed the lid to her water canister and took a long drink, he tracked his gaze down her damp white tank and got caught up for a second in the visible shadows of her nipples under the thin material. He moved his attention past her waist to the tight black shorts that landed high on her toned thighs. Her skin glistened with sweat and her cheeks were flushed, making her eyes look more lavender than usual. He deserved an award for maintaining control over his body.

He'd agreed to this lunatic dance idea for two reasons. He wanted to spend time with the woman he’d had a crush on for years and thought she might finally see him as something more than Coop’s kid brother. For the last three weeks their hands had been all over each other, skin-to-skin, their hips moving in tandem, but not exactly in the way he wanted. Although she was dressed in the least amount of clothing she could be without being naked, he still had a hankering to strip those tiny shorts off her amazing hips and do some waltzing with his tongue. He’d put a new spin on the meaning “blue balls”. Her outfits drove him wild. Hell, she could be wearing a potato sack and he’d have every intention to want to explore her.

The second reason, Jack March had asked Blue to watch over his family and the March Farm. He had no idea how long Jack would be away, but a promise was a promise and Blue intended to keep it. Even if that included dancing, which he hated. Passionately.

Real funny.” She rolled her eyes.

“Just thought you needed reminded that this is a dance competition, not boot camp.” He strolled over to his water bottle, uncapped it and poured half of the contents over his head and bare torso. “Why does this mean so much to you? Is it the money? You never cared about those things before.”

She lowered her gaze then dragged it back up. “It just does.” She picked up a second towel and tossed it to him.

Swinging the towel over his shoulder, he recapped his bottle. “It’s getting harder and harder to sneak around.”

“Why are we sneaking? You’re a grown man. You’re not allowed to dance?”

“My brothers would never let me live this down.” He couldn’t be completely honest with her. They knew he never wanted to dance before and would see straight through him. He’d kept his feelings for Maggie a secret and if he told her now—how he’d felt  for nearly ten years—she might play the friend card and reject him. Then he’d have to face her every day knowing she didn’t want him in the same way. Yep, better to remain silent and let her make a move rather than create an unwanted storm.

“It’s only dancing. Why do they care?” Her shoulders slumped. “Yeah, you’re probably right. They would tease you. But, you have to stand up to them. They’ve always treated you like a kid.” She looked at him down the bottle as she drank thirstily.

“I need to get back to the ranch. Need a ride? I noticed your truck wasn’t outside.” He reached for his shirt off the bench and dragged the faded cotton over his head.

“Yeah, that’d be great.” She dropped down onto the bench and swapped out her boots for flip flops, then stood and swung the straps of her large bag over her shoulder. “I’m ready.”

“Your truck broken down again?” he asked once they walked out of the studio and across the parking lot.

“For the second time in a month. Last time it was the alternator. Now…I have no clue.”

He wondered if she needed the prize money from the competition to buy a new vehicle? He didn’t know her financial situation, yet a couple of years ago her mother, Penelope, had retired from her teaching job when she was diagnosed with cancer. His ma had told him Penelope was in remission.

Jogging ahead of Maggie, he opened the passenger door to his Dodge for her.

She dropped her bag on the floorboard then climbed in. “Thank you, Blue. I swear when God handed out manners he spent a little more time on you than any other man in Dove Grey.”

She was less sergeant and more the sweet Maggie now.

His heartbeat sped up, only to be zapped with her next sentence.

I’ve always been grateful for your friendship.” She clicked the belt in place and turned her attention to her cell phone.

Always stuck in the friend zone.

Closing the door, he circled around, kicking up rocks and dirt with the toes of his dusty boots. By the time he climbed into the driver’s seat, he had his smile back into place. He started the engine, rolled the windows down, then backed out of the parking space. Once they pulled onto the street, he headed toward her farm.

Maggie tucked one leg up underneath her bottom then shifted to lean against the door, facing him. He glanced over at her, noticing her inquisitive smile. “What?”

“Are you dating anyone?”

Nope.” Maybe they were finally making some progress in the right direction.

“My friend Brit is single. She and the deputy called it quits.”

“Too bad for Brit.” He picked up his hat and pressed it down on his head. Damn, he had a good idea where this was heading.

“You’re single too.”

“Last I checked.”

“How about you let me fix you two up on a date? I can text her.” She tapped at her phone.

And there it was…the guillotine beheading all his hopes and dreams. Any idea he had that Mags had even a modicum of feelings for him took a nosedive. All those flirty smiles, catching her subtle stares, and kisses on the cheeks were just his over-active imagination. He’d never been an expert when it came to a woman’s intentions, but he’d thought…


Blue needed to get it through his thick head. She’d always see him as Coop’s little brother. Although only a couple of years younger than her, Blue guessed she preferred her men older.

“Don’t bother,” he said.

“Come on. I see a wedding in the future.” She wagged her brows.

“How about we be realistic, Mags. Blind dates never work out.” He pressed on the brake and came to a stop at the red light. A couple sitting on a bench near the town center waved and he returned the gesture.

“I wouldn’t call it a blind date. You two already know each other.”

“That only makes it weirder. You fixing me up with someone I know. I’m capable of asking a woman out on a date when I see fit.”

I’m only trying to help.” She sighed and turned to look out the window.

“I tell you what, I’ll think about it and let you know.” He had no plans of doing any such thing, but at least his answer seemed to appease her because she let the subject go.

“Has Carter set a date yet?”

This was another subject he didn’t want to discuss. Blue couldn’t figure out if his brother and Gi were faking an engagement or if they’d finally stopped denying the feelings they have for one another. Either way, Blue kept his nose out of the circus and had no intention  of putting his two cents in where Carter’s relationship, or lack of, was concerned. “Nope.

“Gi is amazing. I love her show. She had a sex therapist on recently and she talked about why women can’t reach orgasm—” Her phone beeped.

Saved by the ding.

He had no problem talking about sex and orgasms with her, but he preferred in a different context. Like naked and in bed.

 She checked the screen and one corner of her lips dipped. He wondered who, or what, put a damper on her mood, so he asked, “Is there a problem?”.

“No.” She dropped her phone into the bag and an exhale of breath escaped her. They crossed the old stone bridge and turned onto the country road that didn’t see much traffic. “Anyway, thanks for the ride.”

The truck’s tires bounced over the potholes and he slowed. “No problem. It’d have been a long walk from the studio to the farm.”

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