Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Late Victorian Men's Clothing


As I indicated last month, my current book is set in Galveston, c. 1895. So far, I have researched settings, trolleys (streetcars), a Valentine's Day blizzard, and women's Victorian fashions. No, not cowgirls. Julia, my heroine is a big city gal, the daughter of a wealthy Houston businessman, so she dresses like a lady. Well, most of the time. She might end up riding a horse or sailing the ocean, not sure yet.
Corsario (Privateer) painting and photo by Mauricio GarcĂ­a Vega; wikipedia

Now I'm researching men's clothing in the late Victorian era. My hero, Raphael, is a time traveling privateer (a pirate commissioned by his country) from 200 years earlier. He's used to wearing knee breeches and loose shirts that tied at the throat. Seeing the strange attire worn in 1895 is shock enough; being stuffed into such a monkey suit threatens his masculinity, but he will have to get used to his new duds, like 'em or not.

So, what did Raphael end up wearing? A question I finally found the answer to today on a wonderful site, the Historical Emporium. This is a retail site selling authentic Victorian and Old West apparel, but it also offers terrific descriptions of individual articles of clothing. I would love to copy and paste what I found in the men's Victorian section, but I'd rather not be sued for plagiarism. So I'll summarize.
For more details, go here: https://www.historicalemporium.com/

First, by the late Victorian era, clothing was being manufactured in factories and sold in stores and via mail-order catalogues. Men’s attire no longer had to be expensively tailored or sewn at home, although wealthy gentlemen still preferred custom tailored garments for better fit and exclusivity.
During Queen Victoria’s long reign, her son and heir Prince Edward, nicknamed “Bertie” and known as a playboy, was in modern terms a fashion icon. He traveled the world and popularized new styles. The newly rich middle classes, wishing to climb the social ladder, followed these styles, displaying wealth through clothing and possessions.
Frock coat, Victorian ers; public domain
Coats: Although the old-style frock coat gave way to the sack coat for informal day wear, the cutaway was revived in the 1880s, again becoming the choice for businessmen and gentlemen. For formal events, the tailcoat still dominated. The daring Tuxedo Coat was introduced in 1886, causing a shakeup in high society. (Raphael will likely wear a tailcoat to a formal ball.)
Cutaway coat, waistcoat, trousers & top hat; public domain
Vests: Usually called waistcoats, vests remained a staple for all classes. Shirts were basically considered undergarments and a man should not be seen in "bare shirtsleeves" by anyone other than his wife or close family.
Shirts: Since ready-to-wear clothes had become available to the public, a new shirt was quite affordable, but frequent laundering could be difficult. Detachable white collars and cuffs were vital. A proper gentleman stocked at least six collars and sets of cuffs to last a full year. They were the only part of a shirt that showed, thus hiding a dirty shirt from view. I keep thinking how nasty the man might smell. Eeuw!
Trousers: Black was the basic color for trousers, although other colors did appear. The zipper wasn't yet invented; pants featured button flies and suspender rivets. Belts did not become popular until the 1920s. For activities such as hunting, woolen breeches were worn, and knickers for sporting events. And as you western lovers know, Levi Strauss introduced denim jeans in 1873.
Hats: Tall black hats still prevailed for evening wear, but many different hat styles were available for other occasions. Derby hats remained popular; the stiff Homburg found favor during the 1880s among gentlemen and businessmen. Straw boaters might be worn during warm weather months.
Ties: Bow ties were popular during the late Victorian era, but the four-in-hand and ascot also gained popularity. Other types of ties were also mentioned in the article. Neckwear was a way to express individual style.
The article concludes: “As Victoria's reign ended and Edward ascended to the throne, men's fashion began to reflect his style even more. His preference for tweedy Norfolk jackets and Homburg hats figure prominently in men's fashion at the turn of the century.”

While we love our cowboys, it’s helpful to remember not all westerners lived on ranches, prospected for gold and silver or robbed banks and trains. A number lived in towns and cities, and they enjoyed keeping up with fashions just as we do today.
Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and paranormal romantic suspense novels, all spiced with sensual romance. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and a very spoiled cat. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.

Amazon Author Page: viewAuthor.at/LynHornerAmazon (universal link)
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Monday, March 18, 2019

Murder on the Sweetwater


Last month, I wrote a little about the early life of Ella Watson and James Averell, and what ultimately put them into the direct sights of the powerful Wyoming Stock Growers Association, namely the Maverick law and the requirement that no one could purchase a “maverick” without a registered brand. Without a registered brand, any homesteader or small rancher who might brand cattle he bought could be accused of rustling. And, the WSGA controlled who was awarded registration of a brand. It was the perfect Catch-22. The Maverick law blocked any competition to the WSGA the small ranchers and homesteaders might mount. It also put the small ranchers and homesteaders own calves at risk if they were to stray because nothing stopped the WSGA from rounding up those straying cattle and selling them as "mavericks."

There was another practice the large cattle owners employed, which was to illegally file land claims under the Homestead Act. How this was done was through both subterfuge and straight out bribery. Once the claims were made, moveable cabins would be placed on the land, so the cattlemen could claim the property had been "improved" which was a requirement of the Homestead Act. Money crossed the palms of the inspectors, so the "homesteaders" would know well in advance when the inspector was coming, and the moveable cabin was pulled up onto logs and rolled from claim to claim. Jim Averell, as a Justice of the Peace, saw this happen over and over. He began to write letters to the newspaper at Casper, Wyoming, bringing to light this duplicity and in turn, he infuriated the large cattlemen.

On March 23, 1888, Ella filed her official homestead claim with the Land Office in Cheyenne. Between both homesteads, James and Ella now owned more than 320 acres of land. Ella continued to improve her property by building corrals for the livestock and fencing much of the property.
looking northwest from atop Independence Rock toward the LU Ranch and Bothwell's ranch
photo circa 1900


In 1888, under heavy pressure from the small cattle and landowners, the Territorial Legislature repealed the Maverick Law. In the fall of that year, Ella bought 28 head of cattle from a man who was driving them from Nebraska to the Salt Lake basin. But by the time the cattle arrived in the Sweetwater Valley, the animals were footsore and in poor condition.  On December 3, 1888 Ella applied for the WT brand through the Carbon County Brand Committee in Rawlings, but they rejected her application. In March of 1889, she bought a brand from a nearby rancher and since it was already registered this application was accepted. Ella now owned the LU brand.

In 1889, Ella had two teen-aged boys working for her, Gene Crowder and John DeCorey. Averell’s nephew, Ralph Coe, was also working for the LU brand. Another friend who helped Ella and Averell was their neighbor, B. Frank Buchanan. Buchanan helped mend fences and assisted with branding the cattle.

Albert John Bothwell, a wealthy cattleman and member of the Stock Association, lived about a mile from Jim and Ella. Prior to Ella homesteading her piece of land, Bothwell had used the property, as well as other large sections of open range, as pastureland for his cattle. In fact, Bothwell was in the habit of running his cattle through the entire Sweetwater Valley, spreading out some twenty miles.

Though he didn’t own all of the land, he acted as though he did. Bothwell’s main focus was to get the homesteaders off of “his” land. He was furious when Jim and Ella homesteaded the property that he considered his best pastureland. Approaching Ella several times, he tried to by her property but she refused him.

Jim Averell had given Bothwell a right of way through his property so that Bothwell could irrigate his pastureland, but on a few occasions, Jim had threatened to cut off his water supply, which further infuriated the cattleman. Bothwell was determined to run Jim and Ella off their property.

When Jim wrote the letters to the Casper Newspaper, Bothwell sent his cowhands to harass the couple. The men would often just watch the couple to make sure they didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. At other times, the cowhands placed skulls and cross bones on their doorways. Bothwell also had the men fence in areas of land that did not belong to him.

On July 20, 1889, a stock detective named George Henderson rode through Ella’s pasture in the early morning, finding the cattle she had purchased the previous December sporting brand new LU brands. Henderson, a member of the Stock Association, quickly suggested that Ella might be illegally branding cattle. Bothwell saw this as his long sought after opportunity to rid himself of Jim Averell and Ella Watson, even though Ella had had possession of the cattle for more than six months.

Bothwell sent for other cattlemen in the immediate area to meet him for an urgent meeting. Who knows what he actually told them, but by the time the meeting was over the cattlemen were convinced that Jim and Ellen had stolen the newly branded cattle. One of the men rode over to Ella’s pasture to verify the new brands, returning to tell the others about it. The men then decided to take matters into their own hands. Several of the cattlemen wanted no part of the vigilante’s plans and left, but six cattlemen remained. These six ranchers included Bothwell, the ringleader, M. Earnest McLean, Robert “Captain” M. Galbraith, John Henry Durbin, Robert Conner, and Tom Sun.

After the meeting they all decided to ride over to Ella’s homestead and see the evidence for themselves. Arriving in the early afternoon, they found the newly branded cattle and their suspicions were confirmed. John Durbin lost his temper and began tearing down the barbed wire fence and driving the cattle out. Gene Crowder, the boy who Ella had unofficially adopted, watched as McLain and Conners detained Ella outside, keeping her from returning to her house.

The men forced Ella into a wagon, claiming they were going to Rawlins. Then they started toward Jim Averell’s place. The young Crowder tried to go around the men to alert Averell, but Bothwell detained him in the wagon with Ella.

Averell, who was on his way to Casper, was just inside the gate when the men approached. Stating they had a warrant for his arrest, Averell demanded to see the document, at which time Durbin and Bothwell drew their guns. Jim was forced to unhitch his team and climb in the wagon along with Ella, and then the group began to travel north. Crowder was allowed to leave and made tracks back to Jim’s house where he explained to the others what was going on. Frank Buchanan quickly got on his horse and began to follow the vigilantes.

Buchanan followed the group for about two miles as they traveled up the east side of Averell Mountain, then headed southwest across the sagebrush toward Sweetwater River and Independence Rock. Finally, the vigilantes stopped at a gulch on the south side of the river. As Buchanan watched, Bothwell tied a rope to a tree, wrapping the other end around Jim’s neck, while McLain was attempting to put a rope around Ella’s dodging neck. At the sight of this, Buchanan opened fire on the vigilantes, but when the group returned fire, he fled for his life. Returning to the ranch, he told Gene Crowder, John L. DeCorey, and Ralph Coe about the hangings.
Independence Rock
The Sun Ranch, formerly owned by Tom Sun, is still in operation here

Though an investigation into the hangings began almost immediately, the bodies were let hang in the July heat for 2 ½ days. A reporter, who was the first to talk to members of the posse, described it as thus:

“Hanging from the limb of a stunted pine growing on the summit of a cliff fronting the Sweetwater River, were the bodies of James Averell and Ella Watson. Side by side they swing, their arms touching each other, their tongues protruding and their faces swollen and discolored almost beyond recognition. Common cowboy lariats had been used, and both had died by strangulation, neither fallen over two feet. Judging from signs too plain to be mistaken a desperate struggle had taken place on the cliff, and both man and woman had fought for their lives until the last.”
rumored hanging tree

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Why I write in the historical romance genre by Kaye Spencer #SweetheartsoftheWest #historicalromance #amwriting


An author interview question I often encounter asks why I write in the historical romance genre.

While I am drawn to the historical time periods of the Old West, Roaring Twenties, and 1950s more than other historical settings, I have written a few contemporary (or near-contemporary) stories. However, I don't spend much time in the here and now with my storytelling, and there are three reasons.

Reason 1—Research

Every historical romance I write allows me to follow rabbits down research rabbit holes. I’ve discovered the most intriguing and amazing tidbits of history in my historical research Wonderland. It’s important to me to have the details in my stories as historically accurate, but I temper the accuracy with the need to tell a good story. I am, after all, writing fiction as entertainment, not creating a historically accurate documentary.


 Reason 2—Living vicariously in the past

While I’m writing a story set in the past, I get to travel to a different place and time and live in someone else’s shoes and view the world through their eyes and perspectives. I’m like Anthony Marston in Quigley Down Under: “…Some men [women] are born in the wrong century.” When I’m researching, I'm on an adventure that can take me anywhere my imagination wants to go.

Reason 3—Challenge of overcoming inconveniences

I like writing stories that lack modern day conveniences. Without the amenities we’re accustomed to nowadays, there are so many juicy complications for the characters to face, deal with, and overcome that otherwise could be written away with a call on the cell phone or by hopping an airplane.

Let's explore Reason 3.


*Communication: When the hero and heroine have to depend upon letter writing and telegraph messages, both of which were slow (relatively speaking) and could more easily be intercepted or even lost, the villain has the opportunity to weasel his way into the heroine’s life and console her. Perhaps the heroine thinks the hero jilted her at the altar when he doesn’t show up for their wedding when actually the villain intercepted the telegram, which explains the legitimate reason for the hero’s delay.
 
*Transportation: Transportation wasn’t necessarily convenient or terribly comfortable. Horseback riding was functional, but for long periods of time over great distances is exhausting and full of plot-enhancing dangers and challenges. Stagecoach travel was cramped, dirty/dusty, really hot/really cold, and could be dangerous. It lacked privacy that women need. Obtaining a decent meal could be an on-going problem. Generally, stage travel was a grueling test of endurance.

Just imagine, the heroine might be kidnapped by a drop-dead handsome train robber or find herself stranded on the Texas prairie with nothing but a scoundrel of a gambler as her companion along with the one surviving horse from the stagecoach team after the Comanche attack.


Traveling by train was limited to where the tracks were laid, and it shared many of the same drawbacks as stage travel, plus the additional discomfort of soot and cinders coming into the passenger cars. Little sleeping privacy or comfort. The food wasn't the greatest or even available at times.

 *Contraception: Without our modern-day contraceptives, the possibility of pregnancy looms in historical stories as an ever-present consequence of a romantic dalliance. This is a great plot device for building the emotional tension between the hero and heroine. Fear of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and the real threat of dying in childbirth both add another layer of anxiety to the romantic relationship.
*Medicine: Sophisticated antibiotics as we know them were virtually nonexistent back in the ‘olden days’, which makes the recovery difficult and, sometimes, the character’s very survival tenuous given the physical torture/wounds/injuries we, as authors, inflict upon them. Lack of modern day pain killers and antibiotics makes the situation all that more dire for the hero when the female doctor extracts the arrow from his thigh.


Gladstone doctor's bag
puuikibeach, Gladstone bag made of ox leather, CC BY 2.0

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Until next time,

Kaye Spencer
Writing through history one romance upon a time

NOTE: Images, other than Gladstone bag, are courtesy Fotolia.com - author purchased license to use

Thursday, March 14, 2019

19th Century American Baby Farms by Shirleen Davies


You’ve probably read about orphanages, the orphan train, and the plight of homeless children in the 19th century. For babies, there was another, often more onerous arrangement—baby farms.

Many baby farms took good care of the children and were like a residential version of family daycare. However, thousands of unwanted infants died in baby farms that failed to meet even the most minimal standards.

Not much different than today, there were many women who felt they had no choice but to send their infants to these less than satisfactory farms.

·       Prostitutes
·       The Destitute
·       Deserted Wives who had to work
·       and, Unmarried Middle-And-Upper-Class Girls
 
Depiction of babies at Waters Baby Farm 1870s
Some women turned their infant over to a baby farm soon after the birth. Other women gave birth to their children at baby farms. Either way, they had to pay the owners to take care of the children. In that era, if a girl had an illegitimate child and anyone found out, it carried profound consequences. Baby farms relied on the large sums of money these girls’ families paid to house these unwanted babies as far away from the mother as possible. 

Baby farming was a profitable way for a woman with a house to make a living. She could take in babies for $3 to $7 per week, per baby. Women working in factories and department stores only earned $6 a week. 

One baby farm owner sold an infant for $100. Their business slogan was, “It’s cheaper and easier to buy a baby for $100 than to have one of your own.”

Still, some women went into baby farming because they genuinely liked children. However, some ended up collecting babies like many people collect cats or dogs. At some of these baby farms, there was only one woman to look after eight to ten babies. It just wasn't possible for them to provide adequate care to that many infants.

Bad Conditions
In Dicken's Oliver Twist, Oliver spends part of his childhood on a baby farm. Here, is an excerpt, "contrived to exist upon the smallest possible portion of the weakest possible food."

And in this next excerpt, Dickens writes of what it was like for the children who were farmed out.

“It did perversely happen in eight and a half cases out of ten, either that it sickened from want and cold, or fell into the fire from neglect, or got half-smothered by accident; in any one of which cases, the miserable little being was usually summoned into another world, and there gathered to the fathers it had never known in this.”
Chicago Baby Farm, Library of Congress


The conditions at baby farms in 19th century America were pretty much the same. Here is a report taken by Miss Lathrop of the U.S. Children’s Bureau regarding an investigation of the Sunshine Nursery in Kensington Maryland. It documents what a woman, Miss Emery, found when she visited Sunshine Nursery which was run by a lady named Miss Washington. 

There Miss Emery saw one little child tied in bed. Then, she saw a filthy rug on a bed and picked it up. She was shocked to find a baby beneath it. 

The housekeeper said, "We have to cover the baby with the rug because he won't sleep in the light."

Miss Emery saw a child whose nose and mouth were covered with a mass of flies. Furthermore, she noticed that the children had no toys to play with. And, the only bathroom facilities the children had was an uncovered slop jar on the porch.

Miss Emery was at this Baby Farm from one to five o’clock, and in that whole time, the staff only changed one pillow. 

Miss Emery was interested in one of the children, a 15-month-old baby girl, named Catherine. She asked the housekeeper, “Can you get some water for the little girl?”

The housekeeper replied, “We do not give water because it poisons the children.”

When Miss Emery picked up Catherine she saw that her legs were numb as well as chaffed and bruised as though she’d been whipped. Miss Emery told the housekeeper, “Catherine needs a bath.”

The housekeeper said, “No, she doesn’t.” 

Miss Emery said, “Can you bring some water, so I can bathe the child?”  

The housekeeper refused, saying, “All the water has to be heated in a kettle.”

When Catherine was given a cup of milk, Miss Emery noticed it was cold (just off the ice). She asked the Housekeeper, “Can you heat this for her?”
Malnurished baby taken from a baby farm.

The housekeeper put the tin cup on the stove then gave it to Catherine. It burned the child’s lips.

The conditions at some baby farms were even worse than those just described. There was a case in Minnesota of a young single mom, with no one to count on, who paid a baby farm $2.50 a week—a lot of money in 1906—to care for the infant.

She visited her son as often as she could until she got sick and had to stay away. When she grew well enough to go back and see her baby, he was in a severe state of starvation. She immediately took him to the hospital. The doctors and nurses were fairly confident that the baby could be saved.

An investigation was initiated, and the conditions of the baby farm were found to be horrendous: the bedding was soiled, the infants were neglected, and the owner had been feeding the babies sour milk.

Where did the baby's go once born? 
Many of the babies who were sold were taken out of state. The people who bought the children wouldn’t have been approved by certified child placement agencies because they purchased the babies for immoral or fraudulent reasons.

In Philadelphia, some young women would buy an infant, so they could trick a man they’d slept with into marriage by saying it was their baby and he was the father. This scam was uncovered when one of the babies used for it died.
Maragaret Waters disposing of a deceased baby c1870

In 1911, a couple wanted to marry, but the man’s parents were against it. So, he and his girlfriend bought a baby at a baby farm for $5. to pretend it was their own, so his parents would let them get married. 

The baby got sick and the young woman didn’t know how to take care of the infant. She found the baby dead in the morning and dumped the body in an alley. The dead baby was discovered half-dressed and soaked by the rain.






Check out my latest book, Bay’s Desire, book 9 in the MacLarens of Boundary Mountain Historical Western Romance series. Available now!


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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Kannally Ranch

by Rain Trueax

Fire and water from the well
Simple gifts but freely given
In the house where good men dwell
 words etched  in wood in the Kannally home

Because of the popularity of historical romances and westerns, we have an idea of what Old West ranching was like. The reality was often quite different. An example is Arizona's Kannally Ranch.

Like other westward seekers, in 1902, 23-year old Neil Kannally (probably a nickname as there is a Cornelius M. Kannally listed in the cemetery with the rest of his family) left his home in Illinois, with the hope that sunshine and a drier climate would heal his damaged lungs. Because of a lack of definitive records, it's difficult to know for sure (a reason for that will be revealed later), but his father might've been Michael Kannally, who since 1857, had built up a prosperous grocery business in Sterling.  

If so, it could explain how Neil could afford to go west and stay at a health resort in Oracle, 38 miles north of Tucson, at about 4000 feet in elevation, which specialized in healing those with tuberculosis. The sunshine, higher elevation, and treatment helped, and a year later he urged his brother Lee to join him.
 
In 1903, the two purchased the 1880s McCarius homestead of 160 acres, good land for cattle with room to expand. 

Here's where the romance comes in, right? I mean two bachelors-- they'd have to be handsome and strong if they hoped to operate a ranch. Wouldn't they want wives? It is possible that Lee was on the young side for that as records put his date of birth as 1888, which would've made him 15. Not that unusual for youths to head west-- hardly an age for marriage-- at least of men.

Whatever the case, the brothers set out to work their land. They slept in a small adobe cottage that had come with the property. From a second-generation, Irish Catholic family, the young men eventually asked more siblings to join them. Vincent (possibly 28), 30-year old Mary (sometimes called Molly in articles), and 7-year old Lucille came to the Kannally ranch. Is it possible the parents had died for a child to come that far with her siblings? To accommodate the growing family, the brothers added onto the original adobe and then built cottages for their sisters. They all filed for homesteads and expanded the ranch land.

Surely now there'd be a romance-- well, if there ever was one for any of the five, it never came to fruition. None of the Arizona Kannallys married or had children. The thing is the information on them is sparse and sometimes mixed up for names or dates. This was done deliberately at Lucille's request after her death in 1976. As the sole surviving sibling, she requested all family historical records be destroyed. What mysteries might they have revealed-- we'll never know nor will we know her motivations. Imagination has to do the work now for what the dynamics were for these family members.

When WWI came along, articles said that Lee went to war. I checked service records on Ancestry and there were quite a few Kannallys that served-- including a Captain Vincent Kannally. Was this the Vincent who had come west with his sisters? Was it one of the things family members did; and of course, Neil could not go given his lung damage. In the war, Lee suffered nerve gas damage that afflicted him the rest of his life. He took up painting as a way to find peace. 

The beautiful home on the property was built between 1929-1933 of adobe, designed by a Kentucky architect, H. Newkirk. It was neither planned nor paid for by the ones living on the ranch, but by two other brothers, who had followed different paths. 

Although William and Michael visited the ranch, they never lived there. The home was the dream of William, who was in the lumber business, and partially financed by Michael, a Chicago lawyer. The four-level Mediterranean home with its Moorish influences was Italianate in its inspiration. [Photos of the Historic Kannally Ranch Home]

Here comes another of the mysteries that the family's story is full of, possibly due to Lucille's decision. Some articles claim Lee was a self-taught painter and never thought highly of his work. Others say he studied in Paris with the impressionists... Whatever the case, Lucille valued his impressionistic paintings (with a feel of DeGrazia another Arizona artist). Today, they are hung throughout the home. 

Living on the ranch, the brothers and sisters were not recluses. They held formal dinner parties, entertained the bishop of Tucson, and Magma Copper executives. Lucy also threw lavish luncheons for her lady friends. It is certainly a home well set up to entertain.

Interestingly though, the home had no bedrooms. At night the family went, even when icy, down the path to the original homes where they slept.

There may be mysteries in their relationships or else why destroy the papers, but it appears they won't be revealed now. I read that there was a history put together by locals in 1986 but that the facts didn't agree. 

The one certain fact is they grew that ranch into a major cattle operation, with nearly 50,000 acres, which included what would one day be the mining town of San Manuel. They sold the bulk of the land in the 1950s when possibly ranching became more than the brothers could handle with health and aging issues. 


One might imagine that Lucille was a great outdoors woman, since in her will, she left the remaining property to Defenders of Wildlife. It is said that wasn't the case. The home was her domicile. She and her sister liked to
wear beautiful dresses. Their brother Michael had paid for them to travel to Europe, and it's said they wished to have been fashion designers.

As an interesting tidbit, with no certain place for where to put it, Lucille traveled to Machu Picchu in 1976, became ill, returned home, and died a month later. What led her, a woman who loved being in her home, to want to travel to that distant but fascinating place? It's not the usual thing for someone 78 years old (especially back then) due to high elevation and difficulty of getting there.

For the ranch's final destination, in attempting to find the right use, the Defenders of Wildlife donated the home and land to the Arizona State Parks Board. Today, it is Oracle State Park, a 4,000-acre wildlife refuge, picnic area, historic home for tours, and environmental learning center.

Stories like those of the Kannallys are of great interest to writers-- followed by great frustration, as finding motivation is a writer's stock in trade. Curiosity goes right along with it. Sometimes, with all of that, there is no real way to find the story-- at least historically speaking

Sunday, March 10, 2019

I'M WRITING WESTERNS by E. Ayers



I have Loving Anabelle in edits as I speak.  I wrote it for Debra Holland's Montana Sky Publishing. It will release this summer.  I haven't had a historical western release in quite a long while. And there's another planned for this fall. So there's two coming this year plus a contemporary western.

I have a love/hate relationship with historical westerns when it comes to writing them. As you know I'm very picky about accuracy. And that sends me researching the strangest of things. That also means I fall down rabbit holes and get completely side-tracked gathering info that I will never use. But then again strange tidbits surface in the oddest of places.

Probably everyone knows about the jackrabbits that live in the west. They make our little eastern bunnies look like Toy Poodles next to Rottweilers. But did you know they are endangered? They are. As a child, I remember seeing them in my uncle's backyard in California. The jackrabbits made their homes amongst the orange groves that surrounded his house.

Maybe it's the jackalopes that have fascinated me since those early days of spotting the jackrabbits. We don't see them very often in the east, but taxidermy jackalopes do exist. Now try to explain to a six-year-old that the taxidermy jackalope isn't real. Of course not, just like that deer head is not alive.  At six, I didn't get it. So when a local restaurant that claims western fame for their beef recently added a jackalope to their wall, I had to grab a picture.

Yes, I did it. I couldn't help myself. I wanted a picture. As I went to take the picture with
my cell phone, the hostess seated a family at the table under the jackalope.  I turned to the family and asked if I could, if they didn't mind, but I really wanted to grab a photo of this fantastic creature. The family looked at me as though I was one with antlers.

The child asked, "What is it?"

"Oh, it's a jackalope. They are very rare. Some believe they might be extinct."

"Really?" The mother looked at this strange head that would watch them eat.

I nodded. "Yes, I write historical westerns and preserving our American heritage is important to me."

The wife said, "It looks like a rabbit with horns."

I snapped a few pictures. "Yes. A jackrabbit deer mix."

"Oh. Interesting." The husband was now studying the creature. "And this is a jackalope?"

"Yes. It was probably fairly young. It's rather small and its rack doesn't have many points." I smiled brightly. "Thank you and enjoy your dinner."

I thought my friend was going to die trying to hold his laughter. (I promise, I was merely preserving the folklore of our American West.) My friend and I immediately left the restaurant and had a good laugh.

But my odd bits of trivia come out in the strangest of places in my stories. One of my manuscripts in edits is a modern sort of east meets west romance. And what did I do? I wrote about a jackalope. (Reporters are allowed to have a little fun, too.)

STILL UNTITLED WEDDING VOW SERIES
Part of the 
Montgomery Family Saga


Marty Robinson looked at [Traci] and scowled. That watchdog environmental group constantly tried to make waves over the strangest of things. Of course, it didn't help when a fellow reporter for DSS with a little support from [Traci], convinced Marty that the jackrabbit hole wasn't a jackrabbit hole, but a jackalope burrow. And the fact that the jackalope were thought to be extinct... Therefore, it was a much more important hole than an endangered jackrabbit's. Marty walked into an environmental meeting ready to convince a state agency of the importance of preserving the land and not permitting any further development of that area. Traci and her cohort didn't stick around to watch what would happen.
****
Now back to the old west... 

 Loving Arabelle is a mail order bride story with an unusual twist. (Since when do I do anything normally?) He's a Quaker and she's been raised in a Catholic convent. They have a lot to learn about each other. Especially since she drags trouble to Morgan's Crossing.

Please join me with several fellow authors, including Debra Holland, for this fun, prize-filled party on Facebook.  I'll be there with my other Montana Sky books that are being reissued this spring Loving Matilda and Loving Ellen.  There's lot's more info about Loving Arabelle and all sorts of fun facts about the first two stories.


If you happen to also like contemporary romances. I have new novel, Silent Journey, that is available on Kindle and at all major booksellers in paperback. Click Kindle to read a sample of this book. Or click the book cover.
Kindle
Hope to see you all at the Montana Sky Publishing Facebook party!