Oliver Loving: Dean of the Trail Drivers

Many men stood tall and proud on the frontier but none more so than Oliver Loving—a rancher, trading store owner, and freight hauler. He was also a very handsome man.

He was born in Kentucky in 1812 and moved his wife and kids to Texas in 1843. He received a grant of 639 acres in the Dallas area and set to work raising cattle. But it wasn’t long before he picked up and moved to Palo Pinto County and increased the size of his land holdings to 1,000 acres.

No one was a wiser businessman. When his herd became too large, he decided to drive them north out of Texas on the Shawnee Trail to Colorado and made a considerable profit.

The Civil War came and halted his plans. He was commissioned to provide beef to the Confederate Army for which he was never paid thousands of dollars owed him.

In 1866, he hooked up with rancher Charles Goodnight and they plotted a course that became known as the Goodnight/Loving Trail. Their partnership proved to be very profitable for both. The trail held danger though and passed through Comanche and Kiowa land. It required nerves of steel to make the trip but that was something both men had in common.

In the spring of 1867, Loving and Goodnight left on another drive north. A good way into the trip, Oliver Loving left and went ahead to secure a contract for their herd. He only took one man with him—a trusted scout named Bill Wilson.

They moved onto Indian land with jittery nerves. Days after leaving Goodnight, Loving and Wilson were attacked by Indians and Loving was severely injured. By the time he made it Fort Sumner, New Mexico, he had gangrene and doctors were forced to amputate.

The scout hurried back to Charles Goodnight to tell him what happened. Goodnight arrived at Loving’s bedside and before he died, he made Goodnight promise to bury him in Texas.

Goodnight kept his promise and buried Loving in Weatherford, Texas, near his ranch. Here’s Goodnight’s picture.

Author Larry McMurtry wrote Lonesome Dove loosely based on Oliver Loving and Charles Goodnight. In the movie, Robert Duvall played Gus McCrae who, like Loving, was attacked by Indians and had to have a leg amputated. Tommy Lee Jones rode to his bedside and promised to bury him in Texas. I love this movie by the way!

Loving and Goodnight changed the American West forever and they wrote their own history the way they wanted it.

Oliver Loving was inducted into the Oklahoma National Cowboy Hall of Fame when it was first founded in 1958. I think he would’ve loved that recognition as well as the title Dean of Trail Drivers.

He also had the town of Loving, New Mexico named for him.

What do you think drove men like Oliver Loving to take chances? Fame? Glory? Money? Doing something no one else did?

New Summer Releases!

I have two new releases to tell you about. One is mine and the other is a fellow Sourcebooks author’s. I’m happy to say that Gunsmoke and Lace is finally up…at least the ebook version. The print should be along soon. I’m hoping by next week. I just love this cover! Thank you for being patient.

The inspiration for The Telegraph Tree came after I attended a lecture about women who came West and the challenges at West Texas A&M University. The speaker quoted statistics about the number of women who committed suicide, unable to handle the constant hardships and loneliness. The women spent most of their time alone with their children if they had any and not having anyone to talk to broke their spirits until there was nothing left.

It reminded me of a Sam Elliott movie called Conagher that he made with his wife Katherine Ross. To combat her loneliness, she wrote poems and ties them to tumbleweeds.

So The Telegraph Tree was born and I entered it in several writing contests. It placed 3rd in Women Writing the West and also in Wyoming Writers, Inc. I had hoped to do better but I took it.

I wrote The Gunslinger for an anthology for Prairie Rose and was real proud how it turned out. Moon Dog Night and Hard Luck are the newest ones and they sprang from a deep well inside. The children in Moon Dog Night melted my heart. Maybe they’ll melt yours too.

The ebook version of Gunsmoke and Lace is everywhere online. But here are a few links:

AMAZON  |  B&N  |  iBooks  |  KOBO

 

The Second book I want to tell you about is The Gunslinger’s Vow by Amy Sandas. She’s a fellow author at Sourcebooks and I love this story. I can’t say enough about it. This is her first western but she’s written a lot of regencies. Amy has huge talent and she crafted one of the best westerns I think I’ve ever read. The chemistry between Malcolm and Alexandra…WOW! Loved their connection. He’s a gunslinger/bounty hunter and she’s a bride on the run. Neither are looking for love but sometimes the kind that sneaks up on you is better. It’s certainly more interesting.

By the way, I gave this book a quote. Look in the red circle. You might have to click on the cover to make it bigger.

* * *

Alexandra Brighton spent the last five years in Boston, erasing all evidence of the wild frontier girl she used to be. When she’s saddled with an arranged marriage to an older man, she bolts. She’s robbed and left far from civilization and has no choice but to trust the tall, dark and decidedly dangerous bounty hunter, Malcolm Kincaid.

Now that Malcolm finally has the location of his brother’s killer, he has no intention of wasting time protecting a pampered runaway bride. But something about Alexandra speaks to the heart he long thought frozen—and her slow transformation from proper miss to wild-eyed beauty leaves him shaken. By the time they reach Montana, Malcolm must decide if seeking justice for past wrongs is worth losing a future with the woman he never expected to need…

AMAZON  |  B&N

Summer is heating up and is the perfect time to sit in front of the A/C or on a beach somewhere with a book in hand. There are tons of good ones so grab your favorite today.

What do you look for when you’re in need of reading material? A certain author, a book someone recommended, or do you simply browse for something that catches your eye?

 

Tradition and Superstition

I recently did some research on this subject for the book I’m working on and was amazed at the strange superstitions and traditions that people had back through the years—and still do in some instances.

We’re all familiar with the bad luck that will come when a black cat crosses one’s path. We’ve heard never to walk under a ladder or step on any cracks. But I wanted some unusual, little heard of superstitions. I want my story to be the best it can so I went looking for things will add depth and a level of emotion. What I found was truly amazing.

Did you know that to give away a book with a red cover will break a friendship? I wonder, but red is the color of anger and misunderstanding so maybe. All I know is that I’ve lost some friendships because a person I loaned a book to never returned it. This is a pet peeve of mine and taught me a valuable lesson.

In the old days, ashes retaining their heat for a great length of time foretell a marriage in the family. But beware of taking ashes out of the house after nightfall or you’ll bring death in. Also, when baking bread cracks across the top it is a sign of death. And in Europe in the old country of Armenia, a baby had to be covered with a quilt when bread was put in the oven or the baby would pine and die.

Nature was believed to be a good predictor of weather and some is still believed today. When ducks migrate early in the fall, a difficult winter can be expected. Rain is coming when wasps, flies, or spiders come into the house. Cattle running about with their tails up in the air mean a storm is coming. But an ax stuck in the ground can “split the cloud” to keep an unwanted storm from forming. Or so they say.

The moon has always been a mysterious force. To Native Americans it held special meaning. The phases of the moon are still important to farmers when it comes to weaning, breeding, planting, and harvesting. And to pregnant women and birthing. Among paramedics and medical personnel today, the nights of a full moon bring increased trouble and number of patients. Some people used to believe that looking at the new moon over the left shoulder was a harbinger of ill fortune.

Animals and birds are sometimes full of ill omen. Take for instance….when a redheaded woodpecker pecks on the roof, a member of the family will die. Don’t let a buzzard cross your path or it’ll bring bad luck. Killing a wren or disturbing its nest will also cause bad luck. And some used to swear on their mama’s grave that if a centipede walks across any part of you, that part will rot to the bone and fall off. Oh this is giving me the heebie-jeebies!

Some people think a dropped dishrag, an itchy nose, or a rooster crowing through a door or window means company is coming. My parents used to say that an itchy palm meant you were going to get some money. We certainly did not and I can attest to that.

And who hasn’t heard the one that if your ears ring it’s a sure bet someone is talking about you? That one is very common. Or if you spill salt, you throw some over your shoulder to ward off bad luck. Or breaking a mirror means you’ll have seven years of bad luck. Or the bad luck associated with the number 13. I’m not overly superstitious but I hate anything associated with the number 13. I can’t help it.

In To Catch a Texas Star coming out next month, Roan Penny was born on Friday the 13th on a waning moon and believed he was cursed.

I’ve always heard that if you shiver for no reason someone is walking over the place where you’ll be buried. Leaving the site of a grave before the coffin is lowered means another death will follow. Bad luck will also befall the deceased’s family if rain falls in the open grave.

When I was writing Forever His Texas Bride, Rayna believed that seeing six crows perched on a wagon meant one of the people riding in it would die. Or to see a white owl flying in the daytime. She was all about superstition.

My mother wouldn’t let anyone lay a hat on the bed because that was supposed to bring bad luck.

Then, there are some superstitions to bring good luck your way: nail a horseshoe over your door; carrying a rabbit’s foot, or wishing on a falling star before it disappears.

Now, I’d like to hear from you. Are you superstitious? Do you have any superstitions (or traditions) that you’d like to share?

Come With Me to the Texas Gulf Coast!

I’m back from the most amazing vacation of my life! And I have pictures to share. Proof that I took some time away from writing to clear my head. I LOVED every minute of it.

The house was on high poles to hopefully keep it dry during storms so it killed me walking up and down the stairs. The muscles in the back of my legs ached really bad. They didn’t like the exercise. Our house was on a little street called Pirate’s Cove and just the name set my imagination spinning. Here’s a picture of it.

Everyone names their houses and this one is called “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.” Cute name!

In 2008 when Hurricane Ike came ashore, it left total devastation and death across the peninsula so most of the structures are new and painted in various bright colors. It’s pretty.

Here’s a picture of the beach. We had it mostly to ourselves and that was really nice. I was flying my kite.

Another picture of us picking up seashells.

 

My brother and his wife joined us and he fished in the ocean. He caught a little shark and some ocean catfish. I didn’t know catfish liked salt water but this variety seemed to.

Here’s some pictures of the water with us.

One day we rode the ferry over to Galveston and did a little sightseeing. We visited an old sailing ship called the Elissa. It was built in 1877 and was used as a merchant ship. It was so interesting seeing the Captain’s Quarters and where the rest of the crew slept and ate. Everything was compact and not luxurious at all.

While in Galveston, we toured Bishop’s Palace–an old home built in 1887. In the beginning, it was called Gresham’s Castle. The house was one of the grandest in Galveston with almost 20,000 square feet. During the huge, catastrophic hurricane in 1900, it sheltered 300 people. That hurricane killed somewhere around 8,000 people and wiped out most of Galveston.

Here’s a picture of what is left of the pirate Jean LaFitte’s home in Galveston. He brought one thousand of his followers and set up his own town called Campeche until around 1818 when President Madison sent a warship with instructions to take the town. LaFitte set fire to every building and escaped with his followers.

But my best experience of all was standing at the site of the old abandoned fort where Jane Long spent the winter with her young maid and daughter and gave birth to the first known white child of Texas, thus earning here the title: Mother of Texas. I stood there and imagined what that was like. She could’ve seen the distant shoreline of Galveston and maybe that’s why she wasn’t afraid to stay behind when her husband and troops left. I’ll never forget the feeling as I listened to the voices in the wind. You can see oil tankers out in the Gulf. The fort would’ve been a little closer to the water.

I have to say that I have never been to a more peaceful place and it was perfect for a tired writer who needed to clear her head. And now, it’s time to get back to work. I’m almost finished with my Christmas novella and then I’ll start on Book #3 of my outlaws and mail order brides book. But first, I’m going to get my short story collection out — Gunsmoke and Lace — so you can read it.

Are you planning a vacation this summer? If so, where? And can I fit in your suitcase?

Jane Long: The Mother of Texas

When you read this today I’ll be on Bolivar Island, south of Galveston, TX. It’s only accessible by an hour-long ferry ride. There are no stores or anything on Bolivar–just beach houses. I’m going to disconnect and clear out my brain. I really need it.

Now…listen to a story about Bolivar Island.

History is full to the brim with strong courageous women who helped settle this state and none is more colorful or more endearing than Jane Long.

Jane Herbert Wilkinson Long was born in July 1798 in Maryland. She was the tenth child of Capt. William and Anne Wilkinson. Her father died the following year and her mother thirteen years later, leaving Jane an orphan at 14. An older sister who lived near Natchez, Mississippi took her in.

It was in Natchez that Jane met the love of her life, Dr. James Long. He was a physician who had served as a surgeon under Gen. Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. After a whirlwind courtship, they married. Jane was a mere 16 years old. A year later they welcomed a daughter.

James Long purchased a plantation near Vicksburg but he became restless. Talk swirled that Texas was eager to declare its independence from Spain. James was chosen to lead an expedition to Nacogdoches, Texas. Jane was expecting another child so was left behind. Twelve days after giving birth, she set out to join her husband with her two daughters and a young black maid.

Jane was the first white woman to brave the Texas frontier. But two months after arriving in Nacogdoches, she was forced to flee when Spanish troops from San Antonio marched for the frontier outpost. She, her children and her maid returned to Natchez until it was safe again to rejoin her husband. While there, her baby daughter died.

When she again returned to Texas, it was to Fort Las Casas on Bolivar Island, a peninsula opposite Galveston Island. The year was 1821. It’s said she and James dined with the pirate, Jean Laffite, and in later years she talked much about it.

James Long left on an excursion that was to have only taken a month. Pregnant again, Jane stubbornly waited for her husband even when all the men in the fort left. She resisted all pleas to leave with the last of the fort’s occupants saying that her husband left her there and there she’d stay until he returned. She had no way of knowing that the Spanish had captured James and taken him to Mexico where he was killed.

 So all alone in an ice-covered tent with only her five year old daughter and young maid, Jane gave birth to her third daughter. This child was the first Anglo-American known to have been born on Texas soil. Folks from all over the country referred to Jane as the Mother of Texas and the title stuck.

That winter was extremely bitter. The food supply dwindled. Jane and her small band survived by chopping fish and ducks out of Galveston Bay. To keep away the cannibalistic Karankawa Indian’s in the area, she fired an old cannon daily and flew her red petticoat on the flagpole to make it appear that troops still occupied the fort. The ruse worked.

It was mid-summer before Jane learned of her husband’s fate. The long wait was over. Jane was a widow at 24 years old. She finally abandoned the fort when a friend of James’ came to deliver the news. Desperate for more information and seek justice for his death, she rode a horse alone to San Antonio to speak with Governor Jose Felix Trespalacios. But after ten months with no satisfaction, she gave up the quest. Eight months later, the baby who had earned Jane the title of Mother of Texas died.

Jane received land as one of Stephen F. Austin’s colonists and settled down to farming. Finding it difficult to make a living on the farm, she opened a boardinghouse near the town of Brazoria in 1832 and ran it for several years.

In 1837, the widow was 39 years old and bought a tract of land two miles from Richmond, Texas. With one black man to work the farm until it began to pay, she operated a hotel in town. Jane bought and sold land, raised cattle, and grew tobacco and cotton. Before the outbreak of the Civil War, Jane had one of the most valuable plantations in Texas. She was intensely loyal to the Southern cause and refused to wear any clothing not made in the South. Her own dresses were made of cotton that had been grown, spun, woven, and dyed on her own plantation. And in her spare time, she made garments for the Confederate soldiers.

Jane Long was fiercely independent. Throughout her long and active life, she was courted by some of Texas’ leading men such as Ben Milam, William Travis, Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston, and Mirabeau Lamar. She turned them all down. She’d had but one love and everyone else paled in comparison.

On December 30, 1880, Jane passed away at the age of 82 at her plantation. She lies buried in a little cemetery in Richmond, Texas. On her tombstone is the inscription “Mrs. Jane H. Long, The Mother of Texas.”

While I’m on Bolivar, I’m going to listen for her voice in the ocean breeze and the faint cry of a newborn. Part of the time I’m going to hunt for pirate treasure. Jean LaFitte once lived on the island and used it for a base of operation so I just know he left some coins behind–or a button. Doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Doesn’t Jane sound like a heroine in one of today’s romance novels? She’s certainly an embodiment of the frontier spirit. Pack your bags and come along. We’ll walk the beach and visit the old fort, listen to the waves roll in, and count our blessings. Heavenly!

 

Amanda Burks: Cattle Queen of Cotulla

Texas cattlewomen were some of the grittiest and toughest to ever ride a horse and none more so than Estelle Amanda Nite Burks.

Amanda married William Franklin Burks October 14, 1858 when she was seventeen and he was nineteen. They fell in love at first sight and remained that way up to the grave.

The newlyweds made their first home on Shawnee Prairie in Nueces County where they ranched and raised horses. They had a son who only lived nine months and a daughter who lived four years. The Civil War broke out and he served as a member of the Texas Calvary. While he was away, Amanda ran things and the ranch flourished.

At war’s end, William moved the family to a ranch in Banquete, Texas where he raised cows and horses. Again, he was gone a lot driving his beeves to market and Amanda ran the ranch. She accompanied him on one of the drives and encountered bad river crossings, wildfires, outlaws, and rustlers.

Always in search of prime land, they moved again, this time to La Salle County where they established the La Motta Ranch.

Six weeks after they arrived, William took ill and died of tuberculosis at the age of 37. She rode to get a neighbor to help bury him.

Widowed and alone, she dealt with a gang of Mexican banditos where were murdering and plundering the area and managed to save the ranch.

Amanda turned to raising sheep and expanded her ranch to 33,000 acres. It was the largest in La Salle County.

A neighbor and good friend of hers was the novelist J. Frank Dobie. He began incorporating some of her life into his stories. Once when she read what he’d written, she got mad that he’d taken liberty with the account of events and told him that if he didn’t change it back to the truth she would never tell him anything else.

So you guessed it—he changed it back. Here’s his picture, courtesy Frontier Times Museum.

Then Emerson Hough immortalized Amanda in his 1923 novel called “North of 36” and it didn’t take long for Hollywood to come calling. They made a movie of the book, part of which was filmed on the La Motta Ranch.

But through it all, Amanda never stopped mourning the death of William. Until the day she died, she only wore black and white with sometimes a sprig of lavender. Even after she lost her eyesight and had to be dressed, she always asked about the color of her dress.

She recognized the importance of education and, as a tribute, Cotulla’s two-story brick school was renamed the Amanda Burks School shortly before her death.

During the last years of her life, she was basically bedridden after breaking a hip. Even so, she continued to run the ranch and make all the decisions. The La Motta thrived and surpassed every expectation due to her astute management and sharp mind.

On September 15, 1931 at the age of ninety, Estelle Amanda Nite Burks rejoined her two babies. She lived 54 years longer than her beloved William.

In the book, Texas Women on the Cattle Trails by Sara R. Massey, an admirer said: “In her there was tenderness with strength; refinement with courage; contempt for a coward, but pity for the weak; intolerance for the indolent, but charity for the poor. She dared, but with charming modesty that disarmed her foes. She was truly a gentle-woman.”

What do you think made these larger-than-life cattle women so tough? Was it the times? The harsh land? How they were raised? 

 

It Costs How Much?

Okay, how many of you moan and groan when you check out at the grocery store? My topic today is prices. I swear, my latest shopping venture ended with two little sacks. I thought there must be some mistake when the bill came to $109.60. Bread was $3.49 and a gallon of milk was $3.10. That started me comparing prices of things in the 1800’s. Besides, I needed to know the price of coffee for the story I’m working on.

I can’t imagine paying just this small amount for staples. Blows my mind. And remember that the prices varied by location and quality. Prices in mining towns were a whole lot higher than most anywhere else. These prices were from about 1880 to the turn of the century.

A Pound of Tea —  12 cents to $1.00

A Pound of Coffee —  15 cents to 35 cents

5 Pounds of Flour —  14 cents

A Pound of Preserved Meat — 12 cents to 25 cents

5 Pounds of Sugar — 34 cents

A Dozen Eggs — 20 cents

A Pound of Butter — 25 cents

A Pound of Bacon — 12 cents

A Gallon of Syrup or Molasses — 40 cents to $1.15

One can of peaches — 20 cents

I didn’t find any prices for bread since everyone baked their own or milk because most had a cow or a goat. Totally different from today, huh?

Spices were outrageous — $12.00 to $75.00 a pound so not too many could afford that. But most of the spices were imported so they had to figure in the cost of shipping. If you think about it, spices are just as expensive today. I paid around $2.99 the other day for 4 oz. of cinnamon. I think that computes to something like $48 a pound. Yikes!

The pioneer learned to be very frugal with their foodstuffs. If weevils got in the flour, they sifted out the little bugs and used it anyway. They didn’t throw much away. And as you can imagine, losing their staples to some kind of disaster meant doing without, so they protected their food supply with vigilance. They also planted gardens and raised animals for their meat. They lived off the land and scratched out an existence. It might not’ve been luxurious, but they survived. Life was far from easy.

I watched a TV series about five or six years ago called Kid Nation, where they placed 40 kids in the Nevada desert in an old ghost town with just the basic necessities. They weren’t allowed cell phones or any technology It was really interesting watching how those children coped with cooking over a wood stove, hauling their water, and using outhouses. Kinda funny at times seeing their frustration. But by the end of the season they learned a lot of skills that would help them through life. They sure developed an appreciation for the things they have. And I say that’s a very good thing.

 

What a great concept for troubled kids. Send them back in time and make them cope. Of course, that would be considered abuse today and the facility be shut down.

 

At http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0873707.html you can find prices for selected items for a variety of years, plus at InfoPlease.com you see the population of the U.S. from Colonial to present day. Lots of fascinating information and statistics here.

 

There used to be a site that told the price of bullets and revolvers but they’ve since taken it down. I did learn however that one round of ammunition was around 50 cents so that would’ve made a box of 100 roughly $50. That was extremely expensive so they didn’t waste any.

Then, I found a neat website – www.westegg.com/inflation/  — where you choose a year, put in an amount and it’ll tell you what that price equals to today.

For instance….$500 in 1880 is worth roughly $10,438 today

And we’d pay $3.25 for the pound of coffee that was 15 cents in 1880. That’s about what I pay.

 

Research is a must when writing and especially historicals. Writers want to make their stories as realistic as possible and any tidbit we can learn helps our stories come alive even more. I’m always finding little details about things that can put my reader on the page with the characters. That’s what writers have to do. And, writing has rewarded me with increased knowledge of the world in which my characters lived. History is full of fascinating things just waiting for me to uncover. I’m a sleuth deluxe when it comes to digging for facts.

Anyway, it’s kinda neat to see how prices compare to things as they were back in the 1800’s. I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a look back. Maybe you won’t cringe too much the next you go to the grocery store.

What do you think about the price of groceries? Ever yearn for the pioneer life of gardens and milk cows?

A New Series of Bad Boys

For the record, I’ve never written anything except alpha heroes and I’m quite happy. I guess that’s because I prefer alpha men in real life. Bad boy heroes are all alpha. They’re always going to be in the thick of things, not standing on the sidelines watching. They’re the leaders, the one who forge ahead and pave the way or save the day. They have definite ideas about what is right and fair and just. They’re not afraid to say what they think. And if they say it, you can take it to the bank.

They’re usually slow to anger but when they do, you’d better watch out because he’ll erupt with a fury.

Bad boys are tall and lean with physical abilities that can’t be beat. Their eyes are sharp and they take in their surroundings in a split second, always accessing the danger. He has quick reflexes borne from having to think and act fast.

Standing up to two or twenty makes no difference to him. He’ll handle whatever comes and he believes he will come out victorious.

They lay down a set of rules for themselves and draw lines in the sand that they won’t cross. They stick to these personal guidelines for the rest of their lives.

Strangely, these men are not afraid to show love—but they really don’t feel worthy enough to receive it. Just don’t expect them to wait around on some woman to catch them though. They have places to go and things to see. They’re quite independent because that’s how they roll. But once they do fall in love, there is no other woman for them.

A bad boy hero lives for danger. In fact, you can say he thrives on it. He’s in his element when he’s fighting for someone or something. They’re tough both mentally and physically and they’ll ride to hell and back for a person or a cause they believe in.

In my new series that will begin February 2019—Outlaws Mail Order Brides—I have a whole town comprised of nothing but outlaws. It used to be a hideout in the Texas Panhandle called Devil’s Crossing and these men have been pushed to last bit of untamed land. They’ve all had to kill but they take no pleasure in it. All are wounded heroes, haunted by demons, men who’ve been to hell and back and fighting for the right to live as best they can.

But they’re bone-weary and want to go straight. They want wives and children and to make something worthwhile of their lives before they’re put in the ground.

Book #1 is about Clay Colby (Houston’s head drover in The Heart of a Texas Cowboy) and Tally Shannon. You first met Tally in To Love a Texas Ranger. She and a group of women are living in Deliverance Canyon. Luke Legend hand carries letters back and forth between them and Tally goes to marry him. She has one goal—to destroy the Creedmore Lunatic Asylum and she thinks Clay is the man to help her.

Their story is full of danger at every turn. Bad outlaws burn the town out of fear that it’ll bring the law. Tally’s being hunted by the man who runs Creedmore. And Clay wants to try to get a governor’s pardon. So, there’s no shortage of action. I don’t think you’ll be bored. Plus, it has a little blind girl in it.

I just finished Book #2 and it’s the love story of Jack Bowdre (pronounced “Bow” like a bow you tie—“dree”) and Nora Kane. It opens with the U.S. Marshal arresting Jack. He’s just sent for Nora and they plan to marry in two days. She’s coming all the way from where she lives in Buffalo, New York. So, they’re in a pickle right away.

I think you’ll like both of these. I’m currently writing a Christmas novella for an anthology that will come out in 2019. Then after that, I’ll move on to Book #3 of the series.

Back to bad boys. You’re going to get your fill of them in this series. With luck, this will end up being four books. Crossing my fingers on that. And if so, Book #4 will be Ridge Steele’s. He’s a very good friend of Clay’s and Jack’s.

So put your feet in the stirrups and get ready to ride! Hang on tight though. If you fall off, they’ll be too busy to come back and get you.

What is your idea of an alpha hero?

 

The Defiant Amelia Jenks Bloomer

In western romance one of the garments often referred to is bloomers. While they eventually became synonymous with underwear and pantaloons they were originally a type of loose trousers in Amelia Bloomer’s day. She designed them as baggy pants gathered tightly and buttoned at the ankle. They were worn under a short skirt that allowed the lacy bloomers to show.

 

At a time when men kept women under their thumb with all manner of rules for dress and decorum, these bloomers showed defiance and definitely shocked proper society.

Bloomers released women from their tightly laced corsets, layers upon layers of petticoats that could weigh over ten pounds, and long dresses that dragged the ground. Bloomers allowed freedom of movement. Women could at last ride bicycles and indulge in sporting activities in addition to swimming. And it was all because of Amelia Bloomer who made the garment fashionable in the 1850’s.

Amelia Bloomer was quite woman and a visionary.

Amelia Jenks (1818-1894) came from modest means and despite receiving only a few years of schooling, she became a schoolteacher at 17 years old. Back then, it took nothing to become a teacher. When she turned 22, she married an attorney by the name of Dexter Bloomer. He was also a newspaper editor. She began writing a articles for his paper pertaining to women’s issues. After attending the Women’s Rights Convention in Senaca Falls in 1848 she founded her own bi-weekly newspaper called “The Lily” and became a voice for many women reformers such as Elizabeth Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

Initially, the newspaper focused on temperance and the women’s suffrage movement. But as the times progressed the articles became more about marriage law reform, higher education for women, the right to vote, and women’s right to employment without having to ask for her husband’s permission. The health and well-being of women was also a primary focus and that’s when Amelia advocated clothing for women’s comfort and the bloomers in particular.

She fashioned them after the Turkish women’s trousers with a short skirt worn over them. They were intended to preserve Victorian decency while being less of a hindrance.

I quote her, “The costume of women should be suited to her wants and necessities. It should conduce at once her health, comfort, and usefulness; and while it should not fail also to conduce to her personal adornment, it should make that end of secondary importance.”

As you can imagine, she was met with overwhelming ridicule. The garment was deemed unfeminine and a moral outrage. Gradually, the bloomers faded away. Amelia herself gave up the fight after eight years and stopped wearing them, citing that it shifted the focus away from more important women’s issues.

But women still wore them only underneath their dresses as underwear.

   

I imagine these bloomers were a forerunner of today’s jeans. I love the comfort, freedom, and casual look of jeans. And they’re form-fitting and feminine.

Here’s a true story that might make you laugh. My daddy had thirteen brothers and sisters so flour sack clothes were all they got to wear. One of his older sisters (Ila Lea) was so uppity, always flouncing around like she was better than most. During the Depression in the 1930s, her mother made her a pair of short bloomers from flour sack and it just turned out exactly right that the words, “America’s Finest” were emblazoned across her fanny. She was about 18 years old and prissing down the street one day when a big gust of wind blew her skirt up. Every passersby in the vicinity got an eyeful of her America’s Finest bloomers. My mom said she was talked about for quite a while. But, who knows? Ila Lea probably saw an uptick in her social calendar for that was quite an advertisement.

Did you ever have to wear flour sack or feed sack clothes? Do you think you would’ve worn bloomers if you lived back in Amelia’s day? How many of you are a jeans and sneakers kind of gal?

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.