The Ingenious Root Cellars

The most ancient forms of food storage are root cellars and they go back to prehistoric days. I guess the cavemen somehow found out (probably by accident) that storing food underground kept it from spoiling. The earth provided a natural form of refrigeration and the deeper underground the colder.

I’m sure almost every homestead (no matter the family’s income) had one.

They needed a way to preserve their food supply. In addition to fruits and vegetables, a cellar also kept cured meats. Some vegetables like potatoes, corn, and things like that would keep for four or five months. So would apples.

On the American frontier, most were dug underneath the kitchen and had a trapdoor that led down. Those were probably the easiest to build, but would’ve been impossible in a dugout or sod house.

Often, the family dug one separate from the house, maybe into the side of hill.

There were certain rules:

  • Don’t store anything on the dirt floor. The humidity would cause spoilage.
  • Has to be kept dark.
  • Don’t let the temperature get below 32 degrees.

Root cellars also provided a place to shelter from tornadoes.

And during settlement of the frontier, they provided a place to hide during an Indian attack.

Snakes, spiders, and all kinds of small varmints were notorious for getting into them. For good reason, kids hated when grownups sent them for something and usually didn’t tarry long. I certainly wouldn’t.

Rancher Charles Goodnight had a spring house where a stream ran through it. There in the water, he kept milk, butter and that kind of thing cool.

I have a root cellar in the book I just finished writing and I also have one in To Catch a Texas Star that comes out in July. But I can’t remember putting one in other books.

I’ve never lived in a place or even visited where there was a root cellar so I know very little about them. My grandparents died before I was born so this part of my education is missing.

Do you have a story involving a root cellar? I’d love to hear it.

Temple Houston: “Patron Saint” of Lawyers

Texas history bulges with larger-than-life men and women. It would take a lot of years just to read about them all. None was more compelling in the Old West than Temple Houston, the youngest child of Sam Houston who was 67 years old when he was born. In 1880, he became the youngest practicing attorney in Texas at age 20.

This picture was him about 20 years old, quite a serious expression


Temple also carried the distinction of being first child born in the governor’s mansion in Austin, Texas. He never knew his father because Sam Houston died when he was only 3 years old. His mother followed four years later when Temple was 7. Upon her death he went to live with one of his sisters.

His main goal in life was to get out from under the huge shadow his father cast over Texas and he set out with a vengeance. Although he admired his father, he wanted to leave his own legacy, be his own man.

Of the eight Houston children, Temple was most like his father in temperament and abilities. But he hated being compared to Sam and especially as being Sam’s boy. Temple was rebellious and had a need for adventure. At age 13 he signed on as a cowboy on a cattle drive going all the way to Dakota territory. To get back home, he hired out as a steamboat captain on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.

He began studying law and at the age of 19, he was admitted to the Texas Bar. He was well-educated and spoke fluent French and Spanish in addition to seven Indian languages. In fact, he was adopted into the Cherokee tribe.


No one was more flamboyant or unorthodox. The 6’2”, long-haired man was fond of wearing black Prince Albert coats, rattle skin neckties, elegant pinstriped trousers stuffed into high, handsome boots, and white sombreros. Folks said Temple was exceedingly handsome, had piercing gray eyes and auburn hair. I’m not sure when this picture below was taken but he was still young. Such a brooding expression.


He was also a crack marksman. He carried a pair of ivory-gripped, nickel-plated Colts. And he didn’t hesitate to use them. After a courtroom argument with another lawyer, he met the man in a saloon. Houston killed the adversary and promptly entered a plea of self-defense. He was acquitted.


Before his 21st birthday, Temple was appointed first district attorney for the new district court in the Panhandle. He went to the wild, lawless town of Mobeetie where there was no jail. Not long after he arrived he insisted that one be built. While it was being constructed, one convicted cowboy was chained to a rock pillar in one of the town’s saloons. They gave him a blanket and left him in the saloon overnight. The following morning they found the man dead drunk, surrounded by whiskey bottles. He’d torn his blanket into strips and made a lariat. He spent the night roping bottles off the backbar and drinking the contents.


The next year at age 22, Temple married Laura Cross, a planter’s daughter. Seven children were born to them, but only four survived infancy. They lived outside of Ft. Elliott and he worked in Mobeetie. I assume it was to keep his family away from the violent town where murder was a common occurrence.

In 1884, he became a Texas senator where he served on a slew of committees—Treasury, Education, Law enforcement, and the Panhandle grass-lease. He also wrote several bills. One to give pensions to the heirs of Texas war dead. And another to give the Alamo to the city of San Antonio for preservation.

Temple Houston was also an excellent defense attorney. At one trial, that of a man accused of murdering a skilled gunfighter, Houston whipped out his pair of Colts, pointed them at the jury, and fired away. Jurors dove out of the box, spectators dove out the window, and the judge ducked down behind the bench. Houston’s attempt to show the lightning speed of the gunfighter in comparison to that of the accused cowboy, even though the cowboy had shot first, was in fact a matter of self-defense. Once courtroom order resumed, Houston apologized for his gunplay, explaining that his own weapons had held blanks. The cowboy was acquitted.

This picture is him older. Same intense expression.

But his most famous case was the one defending accused prostitute Millie Stacey in 1899. He had all of ten minutes to prepare for the trial. Since Millie was well-known in the town as a woman of ill repute, he decided to attack all men for creating women like her. He was so forceful there wasn’t a dry eye in the courtroom. His closing summary is still studied by law students today. It’s considered the perfect defense argument and one of the finest masterpieces of oratory in the English language. In his speech which was spellbinding, he proclaimed Millie innocent, saying man was to blame for her shame and that “Where the star of purity once glittered on her girlish brow, burning shame has left its seal forever.” Millie went free, her guilt expunged.

(As a side note, a copy of the speech was framed and hangs today in the Library of Congress.)

A remark for which he is known is “Your honor, the prosecutor is the first man that I’ve ever seen who can strut while sitting down.”

Another time, a judge persuaded Temple to represent a penniless horse thief. Temple promised, “I’ll provide the unfortunate gentleman the best defense I can.” He asked the judge for a private office where he could talk to his client. A little while later, they found Temple sitting alone in the room with the window open. He smiled and remarked, “I gave him the best advice I could.”

Always a restless soul, Houston left Texas for a new frontier and more adventure. He participated in the Oklahoma Land Rush and raced with thousands of other land-hungry pioneers. He brought his family and moved his practice to the new town of Woodward, Oklahoma. His services were in great demand. Before it was over, he became as big a legend in Oklahoma as he was in Texas.

But he got into some trouble when he killed Judge Jennings for spitting in his little son’s face. Again, the court was lenient and Temple got off with a $300 fine.

The man who lived life large died of a stroke in 1905 at the age of 45 and was buried in Woodward’s Laurel Land Cemetery. Needless to say, Temple Houston left a huge mark on the legal profession. And though he never reached the historical acclaim of his father Sam, he was a man to be revered.

Doesn’t this sound like a hero right from one of our western romances? I’d like to have known him.

In 1963-64, Jeffrey Hunter starred as Temple in a series aptly called “Temple Houston.” I don’t remember watching this. Do you?

Okay, he wasn’t a lily-white saint but I think he was a product of the time. The west was still a rough place, especially here in the Panhandle of Texas where my new series Outlaws Mail Order Brides (2019) is set.

Let’s talk about that climate. Was any killing justified? I think under certain circumstances, it was. A man had to protect himself and his family. But I want your side.

Constance Kopp: Fearless and Determined

I’m so intrigued by strong women at the turn of the century who became sheriffs and deputies. Surprisingly, there were actually quite a few. I just love their unusual stories and this one here will take the cake.

In 1914 in New Jersey, Constance Kopp was with her two sisters Norma and Fleurette. They stopped their buggy and had gotten out to shop when an automobile came roaring down the street and plowed into the buggy, overturning it. The crash broke the shaft and the driver, Henry Kaufman, a wealthy silk factory owner who was drunk refused to pay for the repairs.

Constance was the oldest of the three at 35 years old and a spinster. The family was of Austrian and Czech decent and she handled all the family business. Their father was a drunk and always gone. Their mother worked in the home. English was their second language to German and French.

After the accident, they retreated to their farm outside of town. Constance stood 6 ft tall and towered over most men. Due to her refusal to follow convention, she was considered a social misfit.

But she was fearless. And she was furious at the utter gall of Henry Kaufman.

She began sending a flurry of invoices to Kaufman for the buggy repair and when he didn’t pay up, she filed a suit against him.

His response was to send someone to kill her. Men fired shots into her bedroom late at night, they tried to burn their house, they resorted to blackmail, then kidnap threats. They threatened to take Fleurette who was a teenager and sell her into white slavery.

Kaufman did everything he could thing of but Constance was not intimidated.

She went to Sheriff Robert Heath and he issued revolvers to all three sisters. Then he enlisted Constance several times in a sting operation where she was supposed to lure them into the open. The culprits never showed.

Finally, Constance got a court date and Kaufman was found guilty. The judge fined him $1,000.

At today’s rate of inflation, that would’ve been around $24,652. More than enough to buy a lot of new buggies. Newspapers had a field day and Constance was talk of the town for her courage and grit in the face of danger.

Shortly after losing to Constance, Kaufman left town and never returned. (HaHaHa!)

Sheriff Heath like her spunk and offered her a job as “under-sheriff”—a job no woman had ever filled. Constance proved to be more than capable. She refused to be put behind a desk and arrested criminals just like her male counterpart.

I read one account where she dove into the river and saved a drowning mental patient. And she tracked down an escaped prisoner. She distinguished herself in the role of sheriff. But she lost her job when a new sheriff was elected in 1916 and disappeared into private life.

Here is a picture of Fleurette Kopp

Here’s an odd twist: Constance was actually the mother of Fleurette. She had a brief affair with a sewing machine salesman. Everything came out at Constance’s funeral and Fleurette got to meet her father. To save her reputation, Constance had gone to live in a different town until she gave birth to Fleurette then returned saying the baby was her adopted sister. As brave as Constance was, she didn’t want to be labeled a tramp.

What a story! This needs to go in a book one day. It’s just unbelievable. Kaufman was such a jerk and thought he was above the law. Glad he got his due.

Have you read any stories where the heroine refused to quit and fought until she won? I think Delta Dandridge of Texas Mail Order Bride was a lot like Constance. She was a fighter. I know Rosanne Bittner writes strong women too.

Claire H. Ferguson: Female Deputy

Determined women in the 1800s carved out a place for themselves despite being unable to vote or have a say in many matters. One of the strongest women to buck the norm I think was Claire Helena Ferguson who served as a female deputy. She wasn’t the first female law enforcer, but she was definitely among the first and distinguished herself.

She went to work for the Salt Lake County, Utah sheriff’s department in 1897 at the age of 21.

Claire was in charge of the female prisoners, the child truants, and vandals. She trained and carried a gun just like the men.

In addition to her law work she wrote articles for newspapers. Here’s one from the Milwaukee Journal in 1899:

“I have served 200 summonses. I have taken a dozen children to reform school. I have escorted six women from jail to court and from court to jail and sat with them through the trials. I prevented the escape of a desperate burglar and saved a woman from suicide. What I did any woman of determination may do. My opportunities, rather than my exploits, were extraordinary.”

Among her duties was being a stenographer in court proceedings and she carried out executions. (Ugh! I hope not many.) That’s a wide stretch from a secretary to a hangman.

Inside Claire’s heart beat a love for upholding the law and she was the only woman to ever visit Robber’s Roost, a Utah outlaw den.

But I found it interesting (and I don’t know why) that she loved clothing and courting. And did “fancy work” which was decorative needlework. Despite working with male counterparts, she was all woman. I don’t know if she ever married.

I wish I had a picture of her but all I found was this sketch the Kansas City Journal ran in 1898. She has sensitive eyes.

The accounts say she was very pretty and didn’t want to be singled out in any way. She was adamant that any woman with determination and pure grit could do what she did.

I wonder what drove her though. What did her father do? I could find no record.

She had quite a role model though in her mother – Dr. Ellen Ferguson – who was a famous surgeon.

I love strong women who followed their dreams. They provide a lot of inspiration for my characters who were never content to sit on the sidelines or walk ten paces behind a man. In Book #1 of my Outlaws Mail Order Bride series (Feb. 2019), Tally Shannon wears a gun and is not afraid to use it.

What are your feelings about a woman deputy in the 1800s? Do you think they had a difficult time being accepted?

Diane Kalas Has a Winner!

Diane thanks everyone who came to chat this week. I, for one, enjoyed hearing where you would like to go if you could time travel. Very interesting. I know who’s wagon I’m getting in!

Okay, time for the drawing…one ebook copy of Faithful Heart.

And the winner is…………….


I’m doing the Snoopy dance for you, Tonya. I’ll get the book sent right over to you.

Everyone, please come back on Monday to see what this coming’s week post will be about. You never know.

Diane Kalas Comes to Visit

I’m so happy to have historical inspirational romance author Diane Kalas here visiting this week. It’s such a treat. Her Journey Home series is about three broken men who were prisoners at Andersonville during the Civil War. At war’s end, they’re looking to find a place to call home and heal.

But the book we’re talking about today is Faithful Heart.

September 1865. Brice Bruton lost his farm to the Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania, while he served the Union Army. He’s angry with God and guilt-ridden, knowing his family had to flee their home before the Gettysburg Battle. Brice travels to Texas, to reunite with his wife and daughter before heading to Oregon, his lifeline of hope while a POW in Andersonville Prison.
Lainie Colbert, spinster, lives with her father and brother on a cattle ranch outside of Waco, Texas. Lainie’s been a foster aunt to Emily Bruton for two years and loves the child with her whole heart. When Brice Bruton arrives to take his daughter away, Lainie’s desperate to keep the little girl. She prays God will intervene and allow Emily to remain at the ranch.
Grief stricken to learn his wife died, while he served the Union Army, Brice knows he can’t travel with a child on his own, so he accepts a job as cowhand at the Colbert spread. Amid ranch life, Lainie and Brice clash over how to raise Emily. Lainie fears that Brice will leave and take Emily to Oregon. What’s worse, Lainie’s falling in love with Brice and knows he’ll never be attracted to her, a plain range woman.
Lainie’s love and devotion to Emily turns Brice’s opposition to admiration and romantic love. Brice goes up the trail with the Colberts’ herd, and decides he wants his own ranch and Lainie for his wife. Would Lainie accept him after all the arguments over Emily? He’s afraid to ask.
* * * * *

Diane has visited the Andersonville Prison historical site and wants to share these pictures.

Diane collects antique books written by men and women who lived through the American Civil War, and/or who pioneered out West. With a degree in interior design, she enjoys touring historical sites, especially Federal era homes with period furniture. Diane’s biggest challenge is writing Inspirational Historical Romance. Her biggest distraction is her fascination with historical research. Published writers Pamela Griffin, Gina Welborn, and Kathleen Maher have been critique partners and mentors. Diane is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Diane’s novels are available on Amazon in E-book and paperback versions.

HONOR BRIGHT, Officers of the 7th Cavalry 1

HONOR BOUND, Officers of the 7th Cavalry 2


PATRIOT HEART, Journey Home Series 1

FAITHFUL HEART, Journey Home Series 2

HOPEFUL HEART, Journey Home Series 3

Diane Kalas links:

If you could travel back in time, where would it be and why? I’m giving away one ebook copy of FAITHFUL HEART to someone who leaves a comment.

The Business of Time

In case you haven’t noticed, the time changed this past Sunday. For the record, I hate it. It takes my body forever to adapt. This year, there is an idea being tossed around to keep daylight savings time all year round. I hope they do. A few years ago, I wrote a short story for A TEXAS CHRISTMAS and I had to buy a book about early railroad travel for research. In it was a section about the problems that arose with train travel and keeping schedules. I never considered what life was like before a national standard time was implemented.


As a matter of fact, back in the 1800s each community set their own time, usually by the position of the sun. The progression of the day was simply a local matter, marked by some well-known clock such as on a church steeple or in a jeweler’s window. No one knew if the clocks in neighboring towns were either ahead or behind his own. Or even cared until train travel came about.


Not only was time different in every town and state, but in each city there were at least two systems of time in use, the local’s and the railroad’s, and if a number of railroad companies came into a city, there was an additional one for each of them. Gadgets were sold that could quickly calculate the various times. This seemed plenty good enough for most people.

But as you can imagine, it created a nightmare for railroad companies who were trying to maintain an accurate schedule.

As early as 1809, an amateur astronomer by the name of William Lambert was the first man in the U.S. to sense a growing need. He tried to get something done but no one would listen to him and pretty much considered him a crackpot.

Professor Charles Dowd came along and published a pamphlet in 1870 entitled, “A System of National Time for the Railroads.” His original idea was to divide the country into four sections on meridian lines with each section to cover fifteen degrees of longitude or one hour in time. The meridian of Washington, D.C. was the primary meridian. The railroads immediately saw the value of the plan, but they were involved in wars over rates and were not in the mood to cooperate. The country as a whole passed on the idea. Each community took pride in its local time. They dug in their heels and resisted all efforts to make even minor adjustments.


So thirteen years passed with nothing being done. Finally, on Nov. 18, 1883 the national railroad companies in Canada and the U.S. adopted Professor Dowd’s plan. They implemented a standard time system with little inconvenience to anyone.

In recognition of his services, Professor Dowd received annual passes on all the railroads in the U.S. Ironically, he was killed by a train on a crossing at Saratoga, New York in 1904. How odd.

The U.S. Congress failed to address the problem. Notice any similarity here? After years of inaction, they finally passed the Standard Time Act on March 19, 1918.

Then along came the Daylight Savings Plan and that upset everyone’s applecart all over again. People just get bent out of shape when someone messes with their time, even if it’s for their own benefit. Me included. Boy, I hate when we either have to fall back an hour or spring forward. I can never remember which. I have to point out that Arizona and Hawaii do not observe daylight savings time. Maybe they’re the smart ones.

I can’t imagine each town having their own time. What a real mess. Do you agree or disagree with time change? Which side of the fence are you on? How does it affect you?

Deadwood’s Mount Moriah

One of the most interesting trips my husband and I went on before he passed was to Deadwood, South Dakota. My oldest sister Jean had told me about the history there and I knew I had to go. I wasn’t disappointed. Deadwood is where Wild Bill Hickok met his end in Nuttal and Mann’s Saloon, shot by Jack McCall. Hickok, as well as Calamity Jane and a whole lot of others is buried in the Mount Moriah cemetery high above the town.

Records show that in Deadwood’s first three years as a town there were 97 murders and suicides. It ballooned from there.

Here are few of Deadwood’s former citizens I think you’ll like reading about:

PATRICK CASEY was an Irish immigrant who went from one gold camp to another. He won, and lost, several fortunes. He arrived in Deadwood in 1876 at the height of the gold rush and opened a saloon on the corner of Main and Lee Streets. One day he invited a friend to have a drink with him and sometime over the course of the glass of whiskey, he reached under the counter, pulled out a gun, and yelled, “Goodbye boys, I’m going to kill myself!” He fired a bullet into his left breast then said, “That didn’t hurt a bit.” The friend tried to grab the pistol from him but couldn’t manage before Casey fired another shot, this time into his heart. He staggered from behind the counter and fell to the floor. His wife appeared and shed some light on the strange occurrence. It seems Patrick had been visiting a whorehouse and they’d argued. Patrick wrote a suicide note then went to his saloon and died there.

MARIE GASTON emigrated from England and arrived in Deadwood in 1879. She was very attractive and married mining and land broker John Gaston. They had a happy marriage until he died in 1895. She was elected president of the town’s first women’s club and established a small library on Main Street where she served as librarian for seven years without pay. She stocked it with 100 volumes of history, fiction and reference. She was also treasurer of the school board. But she wanted a better, more permanent library. Finally, with the help of a congressman, she was awarded a $15,000 grant to build a grand structure. The Deadwood Library Board sponsored dances and flower shows to raise additional money for books. Before the new library could be built, Marie Gaston caught a bad cold which quickly developed into “typhoid pneumonia” and she died in 1902. The library plans continued and the new one was dedicated three years after her death. She would’ve been pleased.

CHAMBERS DAVIS came to Deadwood in 1877 from the Denver Mint. He was an expert at ore testing an opened an assayer office on Main Street. He had a credit of $100,000 with which he was able to buy ore for California companies from eager prospectors. He was young and had a beautiful vivacious wife, Adrienne. They were a popular couple and were mentioned frequently in the social columns of the newspaper. In June 1878, she died very suddenly at the age of 33 of unknown causes. Then a year later in April, Chambers also died very suddenly and was buried next to his wife.

KITTY LEROY was Deadwood’s most famous soiled dove. The magnetic beauty was also a bigamist, married to five men all at the same time. Kitty was always armed to the teeth with two pistols, a couple of Bowie knives, and a dagger she tucked into her long brown curls. She wore huge diamonds in her ears and knew how to show a man a good time. In fact, men fought and killed over her. She was a professional dancer in the saloons and was often found at the card tables where she cheated men out of their hard-earned gold. Sam Curley, her fifth husband, was a faro dealer and very jealous. On Dec. 7, 1877, he caught Kitty in bed with another man and shot her, then shot himself. She was only 28 years old. Their funerals were held in the Lone Star saloon and were buried in a double grave. A month after the tragedy, ghostly apparitions were seen and continued until the saloon was demolished.


These are just a few of the interesting stories that are buried in Mt. Moriah cemetery. I’ll add some more next week.

I’ll end this with a poem someone wrote upon the death of Marie Gaston.

How vainly we struggled to save her,

Around her how deeply we mourned,

When back to her Maker who gave it

Her beautiful spirit returned.

* * * *

I just love visiting old cemeteries. Do you? Maybe you have one you’d like to share.

Some Interesting Trivia

Some years ago I saw an article in a newspaper that caught my attention. I’m always finding something of interest so I scurried off to find the scissors to clip it. This one has lain in my desk drawer until I recently ran across it while looking for something else. It’s amazing what all I can find sometimes that I had forgotten about. But back to the article. and let’s have some fun.


Did You Know………..

Roosters cannot crow if they cannot fully extend their necks.

A full grown bear can run as fast as a horse.

Reindeer milk has more fat than cow’s milk.

It takes forty minutes to hard boil an ostrich egg.

Chickens that lay brown eggs have red ear lobes.

It’s physically impossible for pigs to look up into the sky.

A group of owls is called a parliament.

Female swine will always have an even number of teats or nipples, usually twelve.

It is possible to lead a cow upstairs but not downstairs because their knees cannot bend properly in order to walk to back down. So if you take a cow upstairs you’ll just have to leave him there or lower the unfortunate animal by rope. That would be a funny sight indeed.

A goat’s eyes have rectangular pupils instead of round.

Bees must collect the nectar from two thousand flowers in order to make one tablespoon of honey.

A donkey will sink in quicksand but a mule won’t. I don’t know why.

Beaver teeth are so sharp that Native Americans once used them as knife blades.

Now for some human trivia:

Babies are born with 300 bones, but by adulthood we have only 206 in our bodies.

Every time you lick a stamp, you’re consuming 1/10 of a calorie.

An individual blood cell takes about 60 seconds to make a complete circuit of the body.

Do you know where some of our rituals and sayings originated?

For instance—SAYING GRACE. The nomads actually began this practice but the reason might surprise you. Since their food was often very unsanitary and they had to eat whatever they could find, they said grace in hopes of protection against getting sick or dying.

BRING HOME THE BACON. The saying began in the 12th century with the practice of awarding a “flitch” of bacon to a happily married couple. A “flitch” is a side of bacon and was presented annually to a man and wife married only one year and could prove their harmony.

EAT ONE’S HAT. People say “if they’re wrong they’ll eat their hat” all time to prove they’re serious about a subject. Originally, they weren’t talking about their headwear, instead a dish called “hatte” that was made of eggs, tongue, saffron, dates, salt and a few other ingredients. It tasted horrible so you had to feel very strongly about being right to make this statement.

GIVE THE COLD SHOULDER. This sprang from the Middle Ages for a guest who overstayed their welcome and were given a platter of cold beef shoulder. A few days of this usually did the trick.

PULLING ONE’S LEG. In the 18th century, street thieves would pull a victim down by the leg so he could easily rob him.

SLEEP TIGHT. This dates to a time when mattresses were supported by ropes and the phrase was offered as a reminder at bedtime to tighten the ropes so they’d sleep better.

THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND. Sailors gave this term to a drunken shipmate. The sheets were actually ropes that tied down the sails. So if all three ropes were loose, the sails flopped about in the wind.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this and maybe learned something too. Do you have any old sayings or bits of trivia stored away? Bring it on.