Thursday, April 26, 2018


Recently on Facebook, I saw a discussion on square dancing. This is something I used to believe was totally Southwestern American. In fact, it's a blend of national dances from Western Europe and the United Kingdom. 

When I was growing up in Lubbock, Texas, dancing in school was not allowed. We could, however, learn “folk games” in physical education class. I loved them and looked forward to that six weeks each year. After high school graduation, I became a student at Texas Tech. First semester there, a guy asked me to the western dance held each Friday, and I accepted. I didn’t think I knew how to dance western style, but I had this great skirt that would be perfect. (Yes, I was pretty shallow, but I was 17, so give me a break.) Imagine my surprise when the dances were the folk games I’d learned in school.

The Traveling Hoedowners
Whirl and Twirl in Orlando, 
Florida. Paul Place, caller

According to the Mid Atlantic Challenge Association, the square dance is an American institution. It began in New England when the first settlers to New England (not counting the Puritans) and the immigrant groups that followed brought with them their various national dances: the schottische, the quadrille, the jigs and reels, and the minuet. I’m including one of my favorite videos below, in which Queen Elizabeth II is show dancing a round dance that greatly resembles a square dance. That’s Prince Charles dancing with his grandmother, the Queen Mother. Thanks to Loretta Chase and Susan Holloway Scott for including the video on their blog, “Two Nerdy History Girls.”

Queen Elizabeth Dancing at Balmoral Castle, Scotland

Lacking the organized recreation of today, hardworking New England pioneers felt a need for activity that provided recreation as well as social contact with neighbors. Settlers gathered in the community center, a barn, or wherever there was room on Saturday evening and enjoyed dancing their old-world favorites. Communities grew and people of different backgrounds intermingled, and so did their dances. As the repertoire increased, it became increasingly difficult for the average person to remember the various movements.

In almost any group, however, there would be at least one extrovert, the hail-fellow-well-met, the life-of-the-party type, with a knack for remembering the dance figures. With typical Yankee ingenuity, the settlers let this person cue or prompt them in case they happened to forget what came next. In due course, the prompter (or figure caller, as he became known) acquired a repertoire of various colorful sayings or patter that he could intersperse with the cues. This is the manner in which square dancing and its director (or caller) developed. Initially, each square consisting of four couples had its own caller. With the introduction of microphones, only one caller was needed.

In the early 1930's, Henry Ford became interested in the revival of square dancing as a part of his early New England restoration project. Mr. Ford used to vacation at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts. There he became interested in the dance program conducted by a dancing master named Benjamin Lovett. (I can’t help but wonder if he was an ancestor of Lyle Lovett.) The program included the gavotte, mazurkas, the schottische, the minuet, the Virginia reel, and other squares and rounds. Mr. Ford tried to hire Mr. Lovett, who declined, pointing out that he had a firm contract with the Inn. This posed no problem for multi-millionaire Ford, who simply bought the Inn and Mr. Lovett's contract and took Mr. Lovett back to Detroit with him. Isn’t money grand?

In the Detroit area, Mr. Ford established a broad program for teaching squares and rounds, including radio broadcasts and programs for schools. He built a beautiful dance hall in Greenfield Village and named it Lovett Hall. It is still in use. His efforts captured the interest of other individuals who then modernized the activity so that it would appeal to contemporary America while retaining its basic flavor. Square dancing groups began to form hither and yon. By 1948, square dancing had reached the level of a fad and there was some concern that interest would be short-lived.

Folk dancing also received a major boost in the 1920's when the New York City public schools, the first major school system to do so, made folk dancing a required activity. But Lloyd "Pappy" Shaw should received primary credit for square dancing's modern revival. Shaw was superintendent of the Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado during the 1930's. Shaw shared his enthusiasm with his students and offered summer classes for dancers, callers, and national folk dance leaders. Returning to their respective homes and communities, the square dance revival began. Shaw's enthusiasm could not be contained in Colorado. In 1938, he organized a student demonstration team that performed exhibition dances in Los Angeles, Boston, New York and New Orleans.

Saint George's Day Dancers in Sheffield, England

The English ancestor of our modern square dance was the great Morris dance. There are several variations of this dance, but the one shown above matches the one my husband and I saw when visiting England. Originally, it was an exhibition dance done by trained teams of Morris dancers - six men (women did not participate) in two rows of three. Later on, in the 17th century, country dances became all the rage in England. Many were longways or line dances, and some believe that the contra got its name either from a mispronunciation of "country" or from the fact that the dances were done in two, opposing lines. At the same time, people did "rounds for as many as will", some of which resembled the choral dances often danced in the naves of English churches.

Michael Martin Murphy and the
Schottishe at the Cowboy's 
Christmas Ball, Anson, Texas

The French adopted and modified the English country dance and called in the Contredanse Anglais. They also produced the form of dance known as the Quadrille (a term which originally referred to a card game). It is the Quadrille that most people point to as the grand-daddy of our modern square dance. However, history shows that "Dull Sir John" and "Faine I Would" were square dances popular in England over 300 years ago. The French also developed the Contredanse Francais or Cotilion (later changed to Cotillion), a dance done in a square formation with eight dancers.

The Quadrille as it would
have been danced in 1815

The vital link to this past was the dancing masters that came to this country with our forefathers and brought with them the dances of their homeland. One of the earliest records (and there are not many) of these dances is contained in the works of John Playford, a musician and dancing master. His book, "The English Dancing Master - Plaine and Easy Rules for the Dancing of Country Dances, with Tunes to Each Dance" was published in seventeen editions between 1650 and 1728 and contained 918 dances. Meanwhile, couple dancing was keeping pace. The French had a round dance called the branle, and there was the gavotte and the minuet. It was that most daring of all dances, the waltz, that created quite a stir when it was introduced, for it permitted the gentleman to hold his partner in close embrace as they moved about the floor. That position, which we now call closed dance position, was known for many years as the waltz position.

President Ronald Reagan made square dancing the National Folk Dance 1982-1983.

Wherever you live, nearby square dance lessons are offered. They're a fun way to get exercise. Do you ever go square dancing?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bank Robbers in the Old West

Books, movies, and television have made the west far more wild than it really was. I’d never claim that it wasn’t a hard life! It took courageous people to pack up and move west, knowing they most likely would never see the family and friends they were leaving behind.

However, truth be, there are more bank robberies per year in Ohio than there were in four decades of the old west—which includes 16 states. North and South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas and California. 

Yes, some bank robberies did occur during the frontier period, which is defined as the time frame 1859-1900. A few, such as Butch Cassidy robbing the bank in Telluride, Colorado and Jesse James robbing the bank in Northfield, Minnesota, were made famous. Telluride was Butch’s first bank robbery and Northfield was Jesse’s last. Butch and Jesse, as well as other outlaws, robbed far more trains and stagecoaches than banks, not necessarily because they were ‘easier’. The money on trains and stagecoaches was usually gold, or coins, which was easier to spend elsewhere in the nation than bank notes.

There was more of an epidemic of bank robberies during the 1920’s in the middle section of the old west states than ever before. Bonnie and Clyde and other such career criminals struck like lightening, sometimes hitting the same bank more than once. 

In response to the robberies, rewards soared and bank ‘insurance’ was created. The insurance companies required banks to install security measures. A bank in Arizona installed teller-controlled tear-gas guns over teller cages, but had to have them removed after nervous employees had gassed too many legitimate customers. 

One final number—According to the FBI an average of 4,000 bank robberies/burglaries occurred in the US per year. 

My latest book, In the Sheriff’s Protection, has Sheriff Tom Baniff chasing down a train robber.

He will protect her

But can the sheriff resist his forbidden desire?

Oak Grove sheriff Tom Baniff might be hunting Clara Wilson’s criminal husband, but that doesn’t mean he won’t help protect Clara and her young son from the outlaw’s deadly threats. When he invites Clara to his hometown, Tom is determined to keep her safe. But with her so close, can he resist the allure of the only woman he’s ever wanted?

Sunday, April 22, 2018


"Correct measurements are absolutely necessary to insure the best results. Good judgment, with experience, has taught some to measure by sight; but the majority need definite guides." Fannie Farmer
When Hero and I first married, I joined a cookbook-of-the-month club and bought a paperback copy of FANNIE FARMER'S COOKBOOK. I had no idea at the time that she had died decades before. I used many of her recipes. Now I realize how famous she was and continues to be. Although she isn't strictly "west of the Mississippi", certainly her influence helped cooks nationwide.
Fannie Merritt Farmer was born on 23 March 1857 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Mary Watson Merritt and John Franklin Farmer, an editor and printer. Although she was the oldest of four daughters born in a family that highly valued education and expected young Fannie to go to college, she suffered a paralytic stroke at the age of 16 while attending high school. Fannie could not continue her formal academic education. For several years, she was unable to walk and remained in her parents' care at home. During this time, Farmer took up cooking, eventually turning her mother's home into a boarding house that developed a reputation for the quality of the meals it served.

Fannie Farmer circa time she entered cooking school
Eventually she was able to walk again though she still had a limp she never lost. She decided to enroll in the Boston Cooking School at the age of thirty upon recommendation of a friend. Farmer trained at the school until 1889 during the height of the domestic science movement. She learned what were then considered the most critical elements of the science, including nutrition and diet for the well, convalescent cookery, techniques of cleaning and sanitation, chemical analysis of food, techniques of cooking and baking, and household management. 

Cooking School

Farmer was considered one of the school's top students. Two years after she graduated, she was kept on as assistant to the director. In 1891, she took the position of school principal.

In 1896, Fannie approached the publisher Little, Brown & Company with her book, THE BOSTON COOKING-SCHOOL COOKBOOK. They didn’t think it would do very well, so they only agreed to print a limited run of 3,000 books if Fannie would cover the costs. The book was an immediate success, becoming a best-seller across the United States and selling over four million copies during Fannie’s lifetime. Quite an accomplishment for what started as little more than a vanity press publication.

Farmer provided scientific explanations of the chemical processes that occur in food during cooking, and also helped to standardize the system of measurements used in cooking in the United States. Her cookbook introduced the concept of using standardized measuring spoons and cups, as well as level measurement. Before the COOKBOOK’S publication, other American recipes frequently called for amounts such as "a piece of butter the size of an egg" or "a teacup of milk." Hmm, sounds like my grandmother and mother's directions: "season until it tastes right", "stir until it looks right", "cook until done". Farmer's systematic discussion of measurement led to her being named "the mother of level measurements."  

THE BOSTON COOKING-SCHOOL COOKBOOK was a follow-up to an earlier version called MRS. LINCOLN’S BOSTON COOK BOOK by Mary J. Lincoln in 1884. Under Farmer's direction the book eventually contained 1,850 recipes, from simple to elaborate. Farmer also included essays on housekeeping, cleaning, canning and drying fruits and vegetables, and nutritional information. The book was so popular in America, so thorough, and so comprehensive that cooks would refer to later editions simply as the FANNIE FARMER COOKBOOK, and a revised version is still available in print over a hundred years later.
Fannie Farmer with proper
measuring cup
Fannie continued as principal for 11 years at The Boston Cooking School before she left to found her own school, called Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery also in Boston. In addition to teaching, she traveled across the United States giving lectures. She suffered several more strokes and during the last seven years of her life had to speak from a wheelchair.
She began to focus on convalescent diet and nutrition, and was even invited to teach the subject to doctors and nurses at Harvard Medical School. Fannie’s approach to convalescent cooking was innovative in its empathy and compassion. Farmer understood the value of appearance, taste, and presentation of sickroom food to ill and wasted people with poor appetites. She ranked these qualities over cost and nutritional value in importance. 
In 1904, she wrote a book called FOOD AND COOKERY FOR THE SICK AND CONVALESCENT. She felt so strongly about the significance of proper food for the sick that she believed she would be remembered chiefly by her work in that field, as opposed to her work in household and fancy cookery.

Despite her immobility, Farmer continued to lecture, write, and invent recipes. The Boston Evening Transcript published her lectures, which were picked up by newspapers nationwide. She gave her last lecture only ten days before her death. Fannie Farmer died in 1915, aged 57, and was interred in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The school she founded, Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery, stayed open until 1944. To many chefs and home cooks in America, her name remains synonymous with precision, organization, and good food.

Caroline Clemmons writes western historical and contemporary romances. Her latest is a western time travel set in Texas. The first two are TEXAS LIGHTNING and TEXAS RAINBOW. On May 25, book three will be released, TEXAS STORM.  Purchase link for TEXAS LIGHTNING is and for TEXAS RAINBOW is (hint, hint!) 

Follow her on Amazon here. Follow her on BookBub here. Subscribe to her newsletter here for updates on releases, contests, and giveaways.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Grand Island, Nebraska

When plotting my first book, Darlin' Irish, I planned for my characters to meet at the Union Pacific Railroad Station in Omaha, Nebraska, and travel west on the U.P. I wanted them to stop somewhere along the route and spend several days there, giving romance a chance to bloom. Having the hero get wounded protecting the heroine provided a reason for their stopover, but where to stage the incident?

After hunting up a train schedule from the period, 1872, I chose Grand Island, Nebraska, as the setting. The town was a dinner stop, allowing passengers about 30 minutes to purchase and wolf down a rushed meal in the nearby eating house. It was also located far enough along the route to make it dark out when my characters arrived, uh-hum, after a conveniently staged delay back in Omaha.

While preparing to write the section about Jessie and David's stay in Grand Island, I researched the town's history. My favorite source was and is a book titled The Town Builders by Robert N. Manley. I ordered it from the Sturh Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, located in Grand Island.

In 1857, 35 German settlers traveled into central Nebraska from Iowa. They settled on an island called La Grande Isle, meaning large or great island - likely named by French traders. It lay between the Platte River and a narrow channel that branched off the main river. They arrived there on July 4 and by September had built log houses out native ash, elm and cottonwood timber. Over the next nine years, the settlers faced hardships including blizzards, conflicts with Native Americans, and among the Germans themselves, some of whom scattered, staking squatters' claims in the Platte River valley .

During this period, advocates for a transcontinental railroad agreed that the most practical route should follow that same valley, the path so many covered wagons had rolled along. There would also need to be feeder lines connecting major cities to the main trunk line, and it was thought a good place for these lines to meet the U.P. would be in central Nebraska, where Grand Island lay.
Grand Island, 1867; wikipedia public domain

Eventually, Union Pacific surveyors laid out a town called Grand Island Station slightly inland from the island. Many settlers on Grand Island moved to the new town site. In 1868 the railroad arrived, bringing more business and settlers. By 1870, 1,057 people lived in the "new" town and in 1872 Grand Island was incorporated.

Grand Island never became quite the railroad hub envisioned by some or the nation's capital as other starry-eyed dreamers predicted. However, it did serve as an important stopping point for weary, hungry U.P. passengers, a fact I took advantage of in Darlin' Irish.


A sickle moon hung low in the blue-purple sky over Grand Island, Nebraska, as Jessie ambled along the tracks. This was their first meal stop, and they were late due to the delay back in Omaha. Soon it would be pitch dark. And thank goodness for that! With the onset of evening, the heat had finally begun to let up.
The aroma of fried meat carried on the ever-present wind, coming from the nearby eating house, which was crammed to overflowing with ravenous passengers. They only had thirty minutes to wolf down their supper. It must be a regular bedlam in there.
She and Tye had already eaten from their store of food, as had others with little funds to spare. Her brother now stood near their coach, deep in conversation with the two would-be miners she had overheard earlier. Tired of listening to talk of silver mining, Jessie had slipped away, needing a few minutes alone, especially after enduring David Taylor’s company.
Aye, and after he’d finally returned to his coach, she’d had to put up with Tye’s maddening prattle. He had teased her, accusing her of being “taken with” the insolent captain and laughing at her adamant denial. Worse still, he’d asked if David Taylor might be the man she searched for, the man in her fateful vision. Naturally she had scoffed at the idea.
“Impossible!” she muttered, swatting a windblown curl out of her eye as her thoughts circled around the captain. She kept seeing that look of pity he’d given her. It still raised her hackles, but it also made her wonder. Might that spark of humanity mean he hid a softer heart beneath his steely exterior? She had told herself over and over again that he couldn’t be the gentle hero from her dreams. Was she wrong? . . 

Caught up in her thoughts, Jessie was nearing the caboose when she suddenly became aware of footsteps behind her. Turning, she saw a large male form approaching her. “Tye, is that you?” she called, unable to make out more than the man’s silhouette in the deepening gloom.
When he gave no answer, her skin prickled with fear and her heart began to race. She spun around and attempted to flee, but she’d taken barely two steps when a rough hand clamped over her mouth, smothering her terrified cry. She was hauled against a foul-smelling, buckskin-clad body.
            “Surprise, sweetheart,” her captor rasped. “You lookin’ to meet that uppity bluecoat back here? Seems like he ain’t comin’. But Wolf’s here, and we’re gonna have us some fun, girlie.”
            Oh God! Not Gerard! Flooded with fear, Jessie kicked and twisted and attempted to bite his filthy hand, but he merely laughed as he dragged her around the caboose. Her puny strength was no match for him. She couldn’t even reach up to claw his face with his arm fastened around her like a vice, pinning her own arms to her sides.
Help me, someone! she screamed silently.
*  * *
            As he left the eating house David heard Tye Devlin shout his sister’s name. Jessie did not reply. Standing by the train, the Irishman peered back and forth in the growing darkness.
            “What’s wrong?” David asked, striding up to him.
            Devlin pivoted, his face grim. “I can’t find Jessie. She was here a few minutes ago. Then she was gone. I was talking to two other gents and I didn’t see her leave.”
            David clasped his shoulder. “Take it easy. Did you check your coach?”
            “Aye, but she’s not there. And I’ve a terrible feeling she’s in trouble. I know she is!” Devlin glanced wildly toward the tender, where coal was still being loaded. “I was about to look up front. Will ye check the back end?”
            “Be glad to.”
            With a quick nod, Devlin trotted off toward the engine, while David headed in the opposite direction, hoping the Irishman’s bad feeling was wrong.
“Miss Devlin,” he called, but got no response. Didn’t the little greenhorn even have sense enough not to wander off by herself in the dark? And she thought she could take care of herself. “Fool girl!”
Damn, what if Gerard and his pals had gotten hold of her? At the thought, he broke into a run.
            “Jessie!” he shouted. Still no reply.
Then a woman screamed. The sound was cut off, but it clearly came from the other side of the train. Cursing, he drew his gun and vaulted over the coupling between the last two cars.
            “Bitch! Quit your bitin’!” a familiar ugly voice snarled, followed by the crack of a slap and a pained cry.
            “Gerard, you bastard! Leave her alone!” Seeing the struggling figures in the deep shadows by the caboose, David charged forward.
            The buffalo skinner roared a curse and shoved Jessie aside. She cried out as Gerard rushed at David. Recalling the man’s knife, David raised his gun but hesitated to fire, fearing he might hit the girl in the dark. His hesitation cost him. Spotting the glint of moonlight on metal, he started to twist aside, but Gerard’s blade caught him in the chest and slashed upward across his right shoulder.
The impact sent his gun flying, and he cried out as pain lanced through him. Instinctively, he knocked Gerard off balance and spun away. Sucking air between his teeth, he clutched his shoulder, feeling blood ooze between his fingers. Gerard regained his footing, growled, and rushed at him again. David dodged aside, forcing himself to ignore the pain.
“Want the next one in your belly, blue-leg?” the buffalo skinner taunted, circling him. “Or should I mark up your pretty-boy mug first? Think that little Mick would take to yuh with a few scars?”
“You won’t get away with this,” David ground out.
“Hell, I’ll be long gone on this here train before they find yuh. Or the girl.” Gerard gave a guttural laugh. “I watched yuh jawin’ with her and that buck she’s with. When I seen her sneak off from him, I hoped you’d come after her so’s I could even the score. Only I figured on havin’ a might more time with her first.”
David wanted to throttle him. “You need muzzling, cabrĂ³n, and that’s what I aim to do.”
            “Why, you meddlin’ yahoo! Think you’re gonna wup me, do yuh?” Gerard lunged, knife slashing wildly.
Evading him, David grabbed the man’s knife arm and tried to wrench the blade from his grasp. He failed but hung on tight.
“You’re a dead man,” the buffalo skinner growled, hammering at him with his other fist.
David attempted to block the blows, but the pain was almost more than he could stand, and he was losing blood. He could smell it mingled with Gerard’s rank odor, and he was beginning to feel cold, not a good sign.
            Stumbling, the buffalo skinner fell, and David went down with him. He gasped in agony when they hit the ground but maintained his death grip on the other man’s knife arm. They rolled in the dust, ending up with Gerard on top, straddling him.
            “I’m gonna gut you like a downed buffalo, bluebelly,” he threatened, attempting to drive his blade into David’s throat. “Then I’ll have me some fun with your little friend.”
“Like hell!” David snarled. With a cry of pure rage, he heaved the heavier man upward enough so that he could jam his knee into the bastard’s groin.
Gerard shrieked and slumped forward. Gagging, he attempted to clutch himself. Still, he hung onto the knife, forcing it lower with his weight. Staving off pain and weakness, David tightened his grip on Gerard’s forearm and grabbed his wrist. He gave a swift, sharp twist and heard bones snap.
The buffalo skinner let out a bloodcurdling howl and dropped the knife. David shoved him away. Landing on his backside, Gerard cradled his broken arm and rocked back and forth, keening shrilly.
            Slowly, David levered onto his knees. His breath came in labored gulps, and he swayed precariously. Marshalling the last of his strength, he delivered a roundhouse left to Gerard’s jaw that silenced him abruptly. He toppled backward onto the hard earth and lay there like a felled log.
            David slumped over. Gotta tie the bastard up, he told himself, but he was used up. Dizzy and hurting all over, he collapsed near his unconscious enemy.
            Huddled against the caboose, Jessie could barely make out the two men lying still and silent on the ground. Quaking from head to foot, she gathered her courage and forced herself to move. She had to find out if David was alive.
            Dreading the worst as she approached him, she dropped to her knees and hesitantly reached out to touch him. When she felt his chest move under her hand, she released a cry of gladness. His face was a pale blur, but she thought she saw his eyes open.
            “Thank heaven!” she said in a reedy voice. “I feared ye were . . . .” She broke off, unable to say the word.
“Not yet,” he muttered weakly. “He knifed me. Have to stop . . . the bleeding.” He fumbled with a button on his coat.
“Let me,” Jessie said, finding his hand and gently pushing it aside. Her own hands trembled as she worked open his heavy jacket. She longed to weep, but that would do him no good.
“Help!” she cried as loud as she could, praying someone would hear. Why hadn’t she run for help before, instead of cowering like a terrified rabbit while David fought to protect her? And why had she stupidly put herself in danger in the first place? This was all her fault!
            “You shouldn’t have . . . left your brother,” David mumbled, echoing her guilty thoughts.
            She choked down a sob. “I know. I’m so sorry.”
            He grunted and lay silent while she unbuttoned his blood-soaked shirt. When she probed gingerly beneath it, he jerked and inhaled sharply. Jessie bit her lip, hating to cause him more pain, but she could barely see him in the dark, and she had to know the position of his wound.
“Oh God,” she whispered, finding a long, gaping furrow that ran from near his breastbone, diagonally across his right shoulder. With such a wound, how had he managed to best Gerard?
Hastily, she tore a strip of cloth from her petticoat, folded it into a pad, and pressed it over his wound. She tried to be gentle, but still he groaned. Touching his cheek, she found it cold and clammy, and she couldn’t contain a whimper of fear for him.
“Help! Please!” she cried again, still getting no response. What should she do? She had to keep pressure on the gaping wound, but she couldn’t just sit here while he slipped away.
Dear God, don’t let him die, she prayed.

Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and romantic suspense novels, all spiced with paranormal elements. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and a pair of very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.

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