Sunday, January 22, 2017

Traveling by Steamboat

By: Peggy Henderson

While doing some research for my current WIP, I came across this article I wrote for an earlier book in that particular series, and thought it would be fun to share here. My characters usually travel by horseback or on foot through the remote mountains of the Rockies, but for my book, Teton Splendor, I needed them to travel part-way via steamboat up the Ohio River. I never thought I'd have to revisit that again, but now that I'm working on another book in the series, I found myself revisiting this method of transportation.

Before the railroads took over as the fastest way to travel west, steamboats were the premier  mode of transportation along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. In the 1820’s and 30’s, steamboats were mainly used to transport furs, lead, and army supplies to forts and encampments along the Mississippi. In the late 1840’s, settlers swarmed into the new Minnesota Territory, and for the first time, entire families could travel together. 

Early settlers, however, usually did not get to travel in luxury. Only the wealthy could afford the luxurious accommodations that were available on the finer steamboats. The average settler had few comforts. The poorer passengers slept on the freight decks, which also housed the boiler, fuel, and cargo. There was little or no protection from the elements for deck passengers, who would sleep on cargo crates or bales. They were allowed to cook their own meals using stoves provided by the captain. However, it was often too crowded to even prepare a simple meal.  Otherwise, they could eat with the crew if they paid the cook. 

Those who could afford the price could travel on the upper deck in private cabins. These passengers ate their meals in the state room, and were entertained in the grand salon. Some of the finer steamboats featured grand salons that ran the entire three hundred foot length of the boat, and were considered floating palaces, with heavy wood furniture, gilded ceilings, and mirrored walls. Dining experiences rivaled the best restaurants in New York at the time. Some boats had bands or musical entertainment, and even theater performances. 


Traveling by steamboat was not without danger, however. Deck passengers were in constant danger of boiler explosions, or being shoved overboard. Boiler explosions were common and often disastrous. Boats were often caught on sandbars or snags, and many times the passengers were asked to get off the boat to lighten the load. Captains didn’t always return for their passengers in those instances. And, of course, the river was teeming with thieves who loved to prey on unsuspecting passengers. 
Overall, steamboat travel was preferred to overland travel for its speed (up to eight miles per hour!) and comparative luxury, until the railroad’s influence in the 1860’s and 70’s.

Peggy L Henderson
Western Historical and Time Travel Romance
“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”

Award-Winning and Best-Selling Author of:
Yellowstone Romance Series
Teton Romance Trilogy
Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series
Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance Series
Wilderness Brides Historical Romance Series

Peggy L Henderson is an award-winning, best-selling western historical and time travel romance author of the Yellowstone Romance Series, Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, Teton Romance Trilogy, and the Blemished Brides and Wilderness Brides Western Historical Romance Series. When she’s not writing about Yellowstone, the Tetons, or the old west, she’s out hiking the trails, spending time with her family and pets, or catching up on much-needed sleep. She is happily married to her high school sweetheart. Along with her husband and two sons, she makes her home in Southern California.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Posse is Coming!

Nowadays, a ‘posse’ usually signifies a group of friends or the followers of a celebrity or group such as a rock band. Of course, the word had a very different meaning in the Old West. Any western movie fan has seen a posse ride after outlaws, probably in many different movies.
Posse that killed outlaw Ned Christie posing with his body; Nov. 1892; public domain

But have you ever wondered where the word ‘posse’ came from and what it means? I looked it up online and learned the word’s first known use was in 1645 as a shortening of the medieval Latin legal term posse comitatus, meaning ‘power or authority of the county.’
Battle of Naseby, English Civil War; 17th century UK painting, artist unknown; public domain

In 17th century England, at the start of the English Civil War, all sides employed written edicts to persuade citizens to assemble. Two documents commonly used by those siding with Parliament were the "Militia Ordinance" and the older "Commissions of Array.” On the Royalist side in Cornwall, Parliament supporters were indicted by a grand jury as disturbers of the peace, and the posse comitatus was called out to expel them from the county.

In 1887 Britain, section 8 of the Sheriffs Act formalized the powers of sheriffs to enforce posse comitatus. Anyone who refused to answer the sheriff’s call for help in arresting a felon could be fined and imprisoned for a year. If unable to pay the fine, the person would be imprisoned for two years. Those English didn’t put up with slackers!

The British provisions for posse comitatus were repealed by the Criminal Law Act of 1967, but a  sheriff can still take ‘the power of the county’ if he needs to arrest resisters.
1922 posse captured murderers Manuel Martinaz & Placidio Silvas (back row center)
 after largest manhunt in history of the Southwest; public domain

In the US, while posses helped enforce law and order during frontier days, they could pose a threat, illustrated by the Lattimer Massacre of 1897. Nineteen unarmed striking coal miners at the Lattimer mine near Hazleton, Pennsylvania were shot and killed by a Luzerne County sheriff's posse. Many more were wounded. Such incidents ended the use of posses to contain civil unrest.

What made me investigate the origins and use of posses? Well, it so happens I am part of a posse of authors who have a collection of western historical romance short stories titled The Posse coming out in March. We’re planning a Facebook cover release party with giveaways on February 15. For updates, please like and follow the page:

Fragment of The Posse cover

Here is an excerpt from my story, The Schoolmarm’s Hero.

What’s happening: It’s autumn 1880 in Colorado; Schoolmarm Matilda Schoenbrun has been kidnapped by a pair of outlaws. Marshal Trace Balfour leads a posse to rescue her.

Three days passed without sighting the outlaws. Their trail led into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, climbing over stony ridges, winding through creeks, and following low, rugged canyons. The rougher the route grew, the longer it took Trace to find their tracks. The process slowed the posse, causing his men to grow restless. They’d brought enough grub to last a week or more, but they hadn’t really expected the hunt for the fugitives to last that long. Worse yet, the excitement of the chase had worn off.

Ben Lambert fought for the Yanks in the Civil War. Strong as an ox, Saul Davis could flatten a man with his fist alone. Charlie Putnam wasn’t a big man, but he learned how to fight in his silver mining days. The other two men, Jim Curtis and Joe Wilkes were veterans of the frontier army. All five knew how to handle a gun and defend themselves, but not so their wives and children back in town. This was still a wild country. Trace knew the men wanted to get back home soon to protect their families and property.

The posse members’ discontent boiled over when he lost the outlaws’ trail. He’d followed their tracks down into a steep-sided, dry arroyo that split into a tangle of smaller outlets, barely wide enough in some places for a single man and horse to negotiate. After picking his way through three of these winding defiles without finding a sign of the fugitives’ trail, he backtracked to where the arroyo split. The grumble of muttered curses from the men grew loud.

“Marshal Balfour, this is pointless,” Ben Lambert said. “You’ll never find their trail in this maze. It’s time to face facts and turn back."

“Yeah, we might as well go home,” Charlie Putnam said. “It’s too late, anyhow. The schoolmarm is likely dead or wishing she was by now.”

Fury flared inside Trace. Charging his horse at Putnam, he caused the man’s mount to dance sideways. Charlie’s eyes widened in fear just before Trace landed a hard right on his jaw. The storekeeper cried out and nearly tumbled from his saddle.

“I won’t abide talk like that,” Trace growled.

He backed his horse to face the group, drawing a deep breath to calm down. “Whoever wants to turn around can leave now, but I’m going on. I’ll find Mattie or die trying.” He realized he’d revealed his feelings for her but didn’t care. The other men needed to know where he stood.

He surveyed the group, gazing into each man’s eyes. No one challenged his statement and none made a move to turn back. Putnam hung his head, rubbing his jaw. “I’m right sorry, Marshal. I oughtn’t to have said what I did. It was cold of me.”

Trace acknowledged his apology with a nod. Ordering them to wait where they sat, he set his hat and rode into another of the narrow offshoots of the arroyo. Lucky for Mattie, this one proved to be the right one. He spotted the outlaws’ tracks ascending a rock ledge from the depression. Backtracking once again, he was pleased to see every man sat where he’d left them.

“I picked up their trail,” he announced. “Let’s go.” Getting no argument, he led them out of the troublesome web of false trails onto a dry, rolling plateau, where the wind blew bunch grass nearly flat, threatening to whip off their hats.

The trail they followed angled northwest. He pondered if Mattie’s kidnappers had a destination in mind, or were they wandering where the wind took them.

Late that afternoon, dark clouds billowed in the west, with distant flares of lightning. As a stripling, Trace had punched cattle down along the Rio Grande, where he grew up. He carried vivid memories of another rider who got hit by lightning. It had killed both man and horse. He didn’t want to witness such a thing again.

“We need to find shelter fast,” he said, to which the others readily agreed. Rain pelted them by the time they found an abandoned sod house in the side of a low hill. A pole corral stood nearby which offered no protection for their horses, but at least, they would be there when the storm passed. The men hurried to unsaddle the animals before closing them in the coral. Trace and his men crowded into the dank, pitch-black soddy.

Saul Davis struck a match. It briefly illuminated a small patch of dirt walls and floor. A plank shelf hung crooked on the wall. A broken slat bunk without a mattress stood beneath the shelf. “Hell of a place to call home,” Saul commented in his deep, barrel-chested voice. He blew out his match as the flame neared his fingers and lit another.

“I lived in a hole in the ground like this one when a kid in Kansas,” Charlie Putnam said. “My Dad had set his mind to growing wheat and corn there. He promised to build us a fine big house one day.”

“Did he succeed?” Trace asked.

“Naw, the border troubles started and pretty soon he went off to fight for the Union. He never came back.” Changing the subject, Charlie said, “You know, there might be a lantern in here somewhere.” He lit his own match, poking around in the dark corners. Sure enough, he recovered a dented lantern. Although low on kerosene, it provided steady light until the storm blew away two hours later.

By then, night was upon them. Although Trace begrudged the time lost to the storm, he knew they must wait for daylight. Standing at the corral where the horses stood drowsing after being drenched, he leaned his arms on the top rail, staring into the starlit night, thinking of Mattie. Had her captors sought shelter or had they ridden into the teeth of the storm with her? The thought made him sick with rage and frustration.

Footsteps squished through the mud behind him. Turning, he made out Saul Davis’s bulky form approaching. The big man halted and leaned on the corral next to him.

“Nice night. The rain cooled things off a might,” he observed.

“A might.”

After a moment’s silence, Saul said, “Reckon you’re worryin’ about our pretty schoolmarm, eh?”

“Yeah.” Trace shifted his stance, uncomfortable with putting it into words.

“You think you can find a scrap of those buzzards’ trail after all the rain?”

“I don’t know.” Saul had put his finger on Trace’s worst worry. If the rain washed away the outlaws’ trail, he’d have no choice but to send his men home. As for himself, he would search every acre of Colorado and beyond if necessary, until he found Mattie.

Find all of my books on Amazon:

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

“John of the Mountains”, My Hero by Sarah J. McNeal

 John Muir

Many of you may already be acquainted with John Muir, or “John of the Mountains” as he later became known, the Scottish-American naturalist. As well as being an author of many books about nature and conservation, he also dedicated his life to the preservation of wilderness in the United States, particularly the vast western wildlife. He founded the conservation organization, the Sierra Club, a community of members who fight to preserve our wild lands and the creatures who live there.

John Muir was born in Dunbar, United Kingdom on April 21, 1838. His birthplace is a four-story stone house in Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland. He was the third of eight children by Daniel Muir and Ann Gilrye. His earliest recollections were of taking short walks with his grandfather when he was three. John described his boyhood pursuits in his autobiography, which included fighting, either by re-enacting romantic battles from the Wars of Scottish Independence or just scrapping on the playground, and hunting for birds' nests. He became interested in natural history and the works of Scottish naturalist Alexander Wilson.
Although he spent the majority of his life in America, Muir never forgot his roots in Scotland. He held a strong connection with his birthplace and Scottish identity throughout his life. He greatly admired the works of Thomas Carlyle and poetry of Robert Burns; he was known to carry a collection of poems by Burns during his travels through the American wilderness. He also never lost his strong Scottish accent after many years living in America.

In 1866 Muir settled in Indianapolis to work in a wagon wheel factory. In early March 1867, an accident changed the course of his life: a tool he was using slipped and struck him in the eye. He was confined to a darkened room for six weeks, worried whether he would ever regain his sight. When he did, "he saw the world—and his purpose—in a new light". Muir later wrote, "This affliction has driven me to the sweet fields. God has to nearly kill us sometimes, to teach us lessons." From that point on, he determined to "be true to himself" and follow his dream of exploration and study of plants.

In September 1867, Muir undertook a walk of about 1,000 miles from Kentucky to Florida, which he recounted in his book A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf. When Muir arrived at Cedar Keys, he began working for Richard Hodgson at Hodgson's sawmill. However, three days after accepting to work for Hodgson, Muir almost died of a malarial sickness. (It seems every time he went to work for someone, something bad would happen to him. Just sayin’…) One evening in January 1868, Muir climbed onto the Hodgson house roof to watch the sunset. From the roof he saw a ship, the Island Belle, and learned it would soon be sailing for Cuba. Muir boarded the ship, and while in Havana, he spent his hours studying shells and flowers and visiting the botanical garden in the city. Afterwards, he sailed to New York and booked passage to California. Muir served as an officer in the United States Coast Survey, a uniformed government service agency.

John Muir at home with his wife and two daughters

Beginning in 1874, John wrote a series of articles entitled "Studies in the Sierra" that launched his successful career as a writer. He left the mountains and lived for a while in Oakland, California. From there he took many trips, including his first to Alaska in 1879, where he discovered Glacier Bay. In 1880, he married Louie Wanda Strentzel. They moved to Martinez, California where they raised their two daughters, Wanda and Helen. Settling down to some measure into domestic life, Muir went into partnership with his father-in-law and managed the family fruit ranch with great success.

Because of his activism, he managed to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is a prominent American conservation organization to this present day. Because of his activism, John has been admired and honored by many who have given his name to many natural places and establishments: The 211-mile (340 km) John Muir Trail, a hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada, Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, John Muir College, Mount Muir, Camp Muir and Muir Glacier. In Scotland, the John Muir Way, a 130-mile-long route, was named in honor of him.

John Muir in his later years

In his later life, Muir devoted most of his time to the preservation of the Western forests. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, which established Yosemite National Park. The spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings inspired readers, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large nature areas. He is today referred to as the "Father of the National Parks" and the National Park Service has produced a short documentary about his life.
John Muir has been considered "an inspiration to both Scots and Americans". Muir's biographer, Steven J. Holmes, believes that Muir has become "one of the patron saints of twentieth-century American environmental activity," both political and recreational. His writings are frequently discussed in books and journals, and he is often quoted by nature photographers such as Ansel Adams. Holmes said, "Muir has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans understand and envision their relationships with the natural world."

California's Commemorative Quarter

Muir was noted for being an ecological thinker, political spokesman, and religious prophet, whose writings became a personal guide into nature for countless individuals, making his name almost synonymous with the modern environmental community. 

Commemorative Postage Stamp 

According to author William Anderson, Muir exemplified "the archetype of our oneness with the earth", while biographer Donald Worster says he believed his mission was "...saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism." On April 21, 2013, the first ever John Muir Day was celebrated in Scotland, which marked the 175th anniversary of his birth, paying homage to the conservationist.

I think you can well imagine why I consider John Muir or “John of the Mountains” as a hero. He helped us understand we must take care of our planet and the creatures on it or we lose touch with our spirit.

A few of John Muir's inspirational books:


Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:

Monday, January 16, 2017

Researching Nolan's Vow by Linda Hubalek

I released my latest book, Nolan's Vow, a historical romance set in 1885, in Debra Holland’s Montana Sky Kindle World in December.

Here's the description

Nolan Clancy finished his military career in Fort Ellis, Montana Territory and is traveling home to run his grandparent’s café in Kansas. His train is delayed in Sweetwater Springs, MT because of a snow storm, and he helps a woman feed the waylaid passengers in the café in town.

Holly Brandt grew up on military forts where her father was an interpreter between the soldiers and the Indians. Her mother, a full-blooded Cheyenne, and Holly’s two sisters died in Kansas before she and her father moved to the Montana Territory. Her father’s death leaves Holly orphaned and homeless until she finds work in a café.

When the café owner decides to sell her business and move away, Nolan invites Holly to travel to Kansas with him.

People don’t always treat Holly with respect because of her mother’s Cheyenne heritage, but Nolan sees her as a kind woman always wanting to help others. His pastor has always told him to respect and honor women as it says in the wedding vows, and Nolan realizes he wants to say the real wedding vows to Holly.

But will their differences, along with the townspeople’s interference, let them have their happily ever after?

Researching the book

Being set in someone else's story line took a lot of research for the setting, and the characters who Debra Holland and other authors had already introduced.

What businesses were in Sweetwater Springs, and who ran them? Age, married, any children?

Was there a church, sheriff, undertaker, a railroad...a stage coach which went through town, and on which day? (The list went on and on with every scene.)

I had the couple travel from MT to KS. How long did it take on a train and on which railroad lines?

Then I researched forts both in the Montana Territory and Kansas because I wanted to work in military history. I tend to work fact into my fiction stories, so it takes more work, but I think my readers enjoy it, and have come to expect it.

I started Nolan's Vow in the Montana Sky Kindle World, but the story went on to
 introduce the Grooms with Honor series, the next series after my Brides with Grit series.

What it worth it, working in someone else's "world"?

At first it was hard to think outside my own characters "normal world" but I'm glad I did it. It's always good to learn something new, whether its about life in the 1880s, or working on a new computer program. It's the challenge that keeps us researching and writing.

Thanks for visiting Sweethearts of the West today!

Linda Hubalek

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Mesquite Tree—The Bane of Texas Land Owners—Part 2

Reference: The Ubiquitous Mesquite. Texas Almanac - The Source For All Things Texan Since 1857.
All photos courtesy of Google Images.

Uses by Early Native Americans

Southwestern Indians had many uses for parts of the mesquite tree and "used all of it's parts: beans, bean pods, leaves, roots, trunk, limbs, bark and gum." Cabeza de Vaca and several companions, ship wrecked on the Texas Gulf Coast in 1528, lived a nomadic life, much of the time as an Indian captives. "In his Journal, he recorded the natives pounded mesquite-bean pods with a wooden pestle in a dirt hole, mixed the resulting meal with some of the dirt and added water to make a kind of mush."

They made a drink called atole from ground beans and water. Allowed to ferment, it produced a mildly intoxicating beer.

Trunks and limbs were used for shelter and fencing.

They also used it for medicines, fuel, dye and glue, clothing, recreational equipment and other tools and implements.

Uses by Early Settlers

Used it for fences because it was plentiful and resisted rotting, corrals, picket fences, wagon wheels, and ribs for small boats. Railroad crews used the logs and roots for boiler fuel.

When coffee was scarce during the Civil War, Texans made ersatz coffee from roasted mesquite beans, okra seeds wheat, corn or acorns. Boiled dried mesquite leaves became tea and honey from the flower pollen and was much prized.

Mesquite thorns were used for pins.  

Tannin was extracted from mesquite and worked fast enough that leather wasn't lost to decomposition. Dr. Park received a US patent on Dec. 5, 1985 for his method of using mesquite.

"In 1880, the first streets to be paved in San Antonio—Alamo Plaza and surrounding streets—were surfaced with hexagonal creote-treated mesquite blocks. When soaked with rain, the blocks swelled enough to push some of them up above the surface of the street, making for a rough ride. Even so, the city council in late 1891 voted to pave streets around Military Plaza—including parts of Market, St. Mary's, Trevino, Flores, Dolorosa and West Commerce—in a similar manner."

To see examples of the original wooden streets, visit


Though ranchers are still trying to get rid of mesquite, 250 Texans can't get enough of the wood. They are artisans and value mesquite for it's beauty and the ability to work it into a high sheen.

"Mesquite has a swirling grain, radial cracks, mineral deposits in the bark, and often many insect holes, which make working it a challenge. Finding a large intact piece is almost impossible. But mesquite is dimensionally stable. As most hardwoods dry, they shrink more in one direction than they do in the other. Mesquite shrinks the same percentage in both directions. It has a surface hardness of 2,336 pounds per square inch, equal to that of hickory and almost twice that of oak and maple, and density of 45 pounds per foot, greater than oak, maple, pecan and hickory."      

Here are some examples of mesquite wood products.

Turnings and Carvings.




To view more examples of mesquite flooring and products, visit

Also, do a Google search as there are many suppliers available.

Thank you for reading today. I hope you'll leave a comment.

Happy Reading and Writing!


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pass the Black-Eyed Peas ... to Someone Else (plus recipes)

Did everyone have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year? Good! I enjoyed both, thank you … except for one thing: I’m a Texan through and through, and no red-blooded Texan can let New Year’s Day pass without complaining about honoring one of its most reviled revered traditions.

I’m speaking, of course, about black-eyed peas.

No one in the American South escapes childhood without becoming painfully aware black-eyed peas are a mandatory part of the New Year’s Day meal. I say “painfully” because I would rather eat dirt than the black-eyed peas grown in it — and I’m not alone in that sentiment. Nevertheless, no matter what else is on the New Year’s Day menu, the cook had better sneak black-eyed peas into the mix somewhere or the whole year will head straight for hell on the handbasket express.

Notice the pure evil in those beady little black eyes.
Native to Africa, black-eyed peas reportedly migrated to Virginia in the late seventeenth century. Not until after the American Revolution did anyone take them seriously, but that didn’t stop the little connivers from worming their way southward and westward with settlers. The scoundrels proved incredibly hardy, darn them, and soon were well entrenched in fields hither and yon, biding their time until the moment was right to spring onto some unsuspecting family’s table.

According to legend, that moment occurred in early 1864 as General William Tecumseh Sherman’s Union troops ran roughshod over every square inch of ground from Atlanta to the sea. As if the situation weren’t dire enough for the Confederacy, the Yankees “confiscated” (read “stole”) every edible scrap they could get their hands on, leaving behind only things they considered livestock feed: black-eyed peas, greens, and corn. For Lord only knows what reason, they also left the salt pork, although they made off with every other kind of meat they could scavenge.

Little did Sherman and his men know that by abandoning the black-eyed peas, they abandoned an excellent source of calcium, folate, protein, fiber, and vitamin A, among other nutrients. (That is the only nice thing I will ever say about the vile vegetable.)

Here — look at the pretty picture of cornbread.
It'll settle your stomach.
Thankful the Yankee locusts left anything in their wake, white southerners learned to consume food slaves and po’ folks had eaten for generations: black-eyed peas, greens, salt pork, and cornbread. Those staples helped southerners of all ethnicities survive the winter. When New Year’s Day 1865 rolled around, they were delighted to find themselves still alive. The same could not be said for their palates, if the black-eyed pea custom is any indication.

Thus, a tradition was born, dangit.

According to southern lore, black-eyed peas, greens, pork, and cornbread each symbolize a hope for the future (or a reminder of the “just shut up and eat it” principle):
  • Black-eyed peas are for prosperity, because they swell when cooked. Some also say the peas represent coins. Folks who want to get technical about their prosperity eat one pea for each day of the coming year, although for the life of me I can’t figure out who has the patience to count out 365 black-eyed peas per serving.
  • Greens (collard, turnip, or mustard) bring money, because they’re the color of dollar bills. In addition to eating cooked greens, some folks hang uncooked stalks from the ceiling in order to attract prosperity. To my way of thinking, that habit just means one more thing to dust.
  • Pork symbolizes forward progress, because pigs root forward when they forage.
  • Cornbread symbolizes gold. It also does an excellent job of soaking up pot likker — the liquid left after greens are cooked — which is considered a delicacy and aphrodisiac. In addition, if you crumble enough cornbread into a serving of black-eyed peas, you’ll never know the peas are there.

There’s a trick an art to preparing inedible irresistible black-eyed peas: Disguise their flavor and texture with a whole mess of other ingredients. If you insist on adopting or continuing a tradition passed down to today’s southerners by ancestors who evidently believed suffering is good for the soul, my recipe is below. (A word to the wise: I cook by taste, not necessarily by recipe. The one dish I don’t taste while it cooks? Black-eyed peas. I prefer to save myself for dinner, in the fervent hope the disgusting delicious peas will have been devoured — or mysteriously disappeared — by the time I get to the table.)

A Pot of Good Stuff with a Couple of Black-eyed Peas Thrown in So I’m Not Singlehandedly Responsible for the End of Civilization as We Know it

4 or 5 slices bacon
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh or frozen black-eyed peas
2 lbs. smoked ham hock, large, meaty ham bone, or enormous slab of ham (the more meat, the less chance a black-eyed pea will creep into your portion)
½ tsp. kosher or sea salt (or to taste)
Ground black pepper to taste
¼ tsp. allspice
2 tsp. Tabasco or other hot-pepper sauce (use more or less, to taste—I use about half a bottle)
4 cups chicken stock
Additional chicken stock or water, as necessary

1. In a large stock pot, fry bacon until crisp. Remove and set aside.

2. Sauté onion, celery, and garlic in bacon grease until tender.

3. Add remaining ingredients, plus crumbled bacon, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 30 mins. to 1 hour or until tender. (There’s a fine line between tender and mushy. For me, that line is before the peas are in the pot. You’ll have to determine the texture you prefer on your own.)


No one has to force me to eat collard or turnip greens on New Year’s Day — or any other day. I’ve always enjoyed them. (Psst: The secret to great greens is vinegar, but you didn’t hear that from me.)

Always serve greens with black-eyed peas. Always, because this is where finesse comes into play: If you ladle greens on top of the black-eyed peas, you can eat your fill of greens and then push away from the table, pat your stomach, and announce “I can’t eat another bite!” before you’ve reached the detestable delectable peas hidden underneath.

Collard, Turnip, or Mustard Greens with Salt Pork

2 pounds (about two large bunches) fresh greens
6 strips of bacon
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, chopped
5 cups water
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
½ tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1 piece salt pork, sliced, or 2 meaty ham hocks (or both)
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and ground black pepper to taste

1. Thoroughly wash leaves and remove any woody stalks and center veins. (Small stems and veins are okay.) Tear leaves into large pieces or cut into strips.

2. In a large stock pot, fry bacon until crisp. Remove and set aside.

3. Sauté onion and garlic in bacon grease until tender.

4. Add tomatoes and meat, plus the crumbled bacon. Pour in water and vinegar and bring to a simmer.

5. Add greens, tamping them down so the water covers them.

6. Cover and simmer until tender — about 1½ to 3 hours, depending on type of greens. Turnip and collard greens require 1½ to 2 hours; mustard greens may take as long as 3 hours.

A Texan to the bone, Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperadoes. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks. In Kathleen’s stories, even the good guys wear black hats.

Her short story “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” won the Peacemaker Award for Best Western Short Fiction. Her novel Prodigal Gun won the EPIC Award for Historical Romance and is the only western historical romance ever to final for a Peacemaker in a book-length category.

Visit her hideout on the web at