Friday, August 22, 2014

Flu Season....of a Different Kind

By: Peggy L Henderson

Fall is quickly approaching, the kids are going back to school, and we all know what that means – flu season. But people aren’t the only ones who suffer from influenza. Our dogs, cats, and horses can get the flu, as well.
Equine Influenza outbreaks these days can have economic impacts on the racing and showing industry. But what about in the nineteenth century? Everything was dependent on horse power back then, just as we depend on gasoline today. An outbreak could have devastating consequences. 
treating flu stricken horses 
In 1872, an outbreak of equine influenza crippled the US economy.  It came to be known as the Great Epizootic of 1872. The Long Riders’ Guild Academy, the historical organization that researched the outbreak, has said that "The Great Epizootic was the worst equestrian catastrophe in the history of the United States - and perhaps the world."
When horses became unable to perform their duties in the eastern cities, the economy came to a grinding halt. In fact, the influenza outbreak that year is said to have been a major contributor to the economic crash in 1873.
workers pulling their own wagons
The first cases of the disease were reported in Toronto Canada, and within three days spread to New York. It took less than three days for the street car horses to become infected and unable to perform their jobs. Three weeks later, the New York Times reported that all of the cities public stables had been infected, and more than 95% of the horse population had been rendered useless by its owners. "It is not uncommon along the streets of the city to see horses dragging along with drooping heads and at intervals coughing violently."
 On October 30, 1872, a complete suspension of travel had been noted in New York. Massive backups at ports and with freighting companies occurred, because horses could no longer pull the loads from the docks. They couldn’t pull the coal cars that supplied fuel to the railroads.
Men were forced to pull wagons by hand. Trains and ships full of cargo stood unloaded. Perishable food spoiled.
"Coal cannot be hauled from the mines to run locomotives, farmers cannot market their produce, boats cannot reach their destination on the canals ..."
Fire vehicle without horses
One of the greatest casualties that was directly associated to the equine flu outbreak occurred in the city of Boston. Fire engines back then were drawn by horses, and with the animals sick, could no longer respond to fires. A fire broke out in the city on November 9th, and the firemen were required to pull their own equipment, severely impeding their firefighting abilities. The fire raged and became one of the worst disasters in the city’s history. It killed 13 people, destroyed 776 buildings, and cost over $75 million.
Out west, even the US cavalry was  affected. The flu virus had spread south to Mexico and Cuba, and also to the Pacific coast. The soldiers fought their Indian campaign against the Apache on foot. The Apaches had to do the same, as their animals became infected as well.
The vast majority of affected horses that survived (the mortality rate was said to be 10%) were fully healthy again the next year, but the economic impact of the outbreak was felt by major cities for years to come. 

In my time travel romance, Ain't No Angel, this epidemic plays an important role in the story, as the influenza outbreak reached my hero's  Montana Ranch.

Excerpt from Ain't No Angel  (Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, Book 2)

“This colt has the flu, like I said. Any idiot can see that.” She glared toward Gabe. Tyler no longer held back his smile. His little wife was displaying her feisty side, and she wasn’t backing down. His insides warmed. She defended the horses as a mother would defend a child.
“Flu? What the hell is that? I ain’t never heard of it,” Gabe sniggered.
“You’ve seen this before?” Tyler stepped closer to her. Laney met his stare. She looked ready to do battle with him.
“Yes, and it’s very contagious. I wouldn’t be surprised if more of your horses don’t catch it.”
“What is flu?” Tyler asked, wanting to understand her.
Laney’s forehead wrinkled, a dumbfounded expression on her face. “You know . . . the flu . . . equine influenza. Just like people can get the flu, so do horses.”
“The grippe?” Gabe laughed from outside the stall.  “You’re saying these horses have the grippe?”
Laney glared back at him. “I don’t know what that is, but where I come from, we call it influenza . . . flu for short, and it’s definitely not treated by blistering. Why would you want to make these horses suffer even more than they already are? That’s just the most archaic, stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.”
“How do you treat it?” Tyler asked quickly. The dead colt at Ian’s place popped into his mind again. If his and Ian’s horses suffered from an influenza outbreak, it could have devastating consequences, assuming it was as deadly as it was in people. He’d never heard of the illness in horses, and he was only vaguely familiar with the symptoms of the grippe in people. A neighboring community had suffered an outbreak several years ago, and many of the townsfolk had died.
  “There was a colt at Ian’s place last week that had the same symptoms before it died,” he said slowly. “He’s lost several foals since then.” Tyler frowned. Where had this sick animal come from? Anger surged in him. There would be hell to pay when he found the owner of that dead colt.
“Then I suggest you tell Ian that he’d better keep an eye out for his horses. If any of them drink the same water, or eat from the same feed barrel, they’ll be exposed,” Laney said firmly.
Tyler recalled watering the horse he rode to Ian’s place at the trough in Ian’s yard. Was that how he had brought the illness back to his ranch? He cursed under his breath. The saddle horse wasn’t infected, as near as he could tell. He appeared well when he rode him the day before. He’d ridden Charlie to Ian’s ranch this morning. Damn.
“If you’ve seen this before, how is it treated?” Tyler’s admiration for his wife grew. Where had she learned so much about horses? The women he knew, even the rancher’s wives, simply didn’t pay that much attention to what was always deemed as men’s business.
Laney glanced from him to the wranglers standing outside the stall. “Well, you have to keep the sick horses away from the healthy ones. Don’t share feed or water buckets, bridles, anything. Everything you touch needs to be disinfected. There’s really no treatment. It has to run its course.” She stopped to gape at him. “Where I’m from, it would have been easier to prevent with . . .” She shook her head and her eyes widened as if she’d said too much.
Prevent with what? Tyler didn’t have a chance to ask.
 “Keep them warm and comfortable, and hope for the best. Try and get them to drink and eat, even if you have to force water into them. The best thing to do is make sure it doesn’t spread.” She turned her head to the gray colt. “I’m worried he might have pneumonia, with all that nasal discharge. We’ll have to watch him closely.”
“I still say draw the diseased serum out of him. Blistering is a sure-fire way to rid horses of their ailments,” Gabe said.
Tyler didn’t know what to think. His foreman was a knowledgeable horseman, and he himself would have opted for the treatment Gabe suggested. Laney’s firm conviction in what she said gave him pause even if some of her unfamiliar words were downright perplexing. How she knew all of these things was a question he’d ask later.
“Gabe, I’m gonna ride out to Ian’s place first thing in the morning, and tell him to inspect all his horses, and to separate the sick ones. I want you to do a thorough inspection of our stock. Any horse that so much as sneezes gets separated from the others. For now, hold off on the pine tar.”
“I’ll do whatever you think will get these horses well again, Ty,” Gabe said slowly. His eyes lingered on Laney, his expression unreadable, then he turned to Eddie and Sammy.
“You heard the boss. Let’s go check out the other horses before it gets too dark. Any sick ones, we’ll separate into the south pen.” He nodded toward Tyler, then strode from the barn, the other two wranglers on his heels.
Tyler turned toward Laney. She twisted the rope in her hand into a tight knot. She offered a soft smile, but the worry remained in her eyes. He stepped closer.
“You said this could have been prevented. How?” He reached for her hand. Her eyes widened in panic.
“I . . . I didn’t mean totally prevented. I meant the spread could have been prevented.” Her eyes darted to the colt in an obvious attempt to break eye contact.
There was something she wasn’t saying. What did she know that she didn’t want to divulge? Tyler shrugged it off for now. It was too late for prevention, anyhow.
“I’ve had the strangest feeling that there’s more to you than what you’re letting on. One of these days I’m going to figure it out, but until I do, I want you to know I’m glad that you’re here, Laney,” he said quietly, sincerely. If only her passion for the animals would extend toward him as well. 

Peggy L Henderson is a laboratory technologist by night, and best-selling western historical and time travel romance author of the Yellowstone Romance Series, Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series, and Teton Romance Trilogy. 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.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Character Interview with Choctaw Jack

by Lyn Horner
Partners, do you want to have some fun today? Yeah? Then come on along with me and a special friend to Sunbonnet Sue's Down Home Radio Roost.
Sunbonnet Sue greets us on her front porch. A rather plump woman of indeterminate age, she's sitting in the shade with a microphone and a tall glass of iced tea, the national drink of Texas.

Sue: "Howdy Lyn. Glad you could drop by. I see you’ve brought a guest."

Lyn: "I’m pleased as punch to be with you today, Sue. This tall, good looking gent is Jack Lafarge. Um, you might know him as Choctaw Jack in Dearest Irish. That’s what most people called him until he hooked up with Miss Rose Devlin."

Sue: "How-do, Mr. Lafarge. I’m right happy to meet you."

Jack smiles and flicks back his long black hair. “Howdy Miz Sue. It’s nice meeting you, too. Just call me Jack.”

Sue: “My pleasure, Jack. Take a seat and kick back for a spell. You too, Lyn.” Our hostess points to a pair of rawhide-bottom chairs facing her, and we make ourselves comfortable.
Lyn: “Jack, why don’t you tell Sue a little about yourself?”

Jack: “Be glad to. I’m a cotton planter’s son, Miz Sue, but I’ve done some cowboying since the war. Uh, the War of Secession, I mean.”

Sue: “Young fella, I understand you fought on the Confederate side. Isn’t that a bit odd for a man of Indian blood?”

Jack: “No ma’am. A lot of us from what you white folks call the Five Civilized Tribes fought on one side or the other. The Choctaws mostly sided with the South and my pa was half Choctaw. When he joined up, I tagged along.”

Sue: “You don’t say. As the old saying goes, we learn something new every day. I’ve also heard you’re handy at blacksmithing. How’d you happen to learn that trade?”

Jack shrugs. “Pa was a blacksmith over in Louisiana before he moved us to Texas. I learned from him when I was a boy.”

Sue nods. “I see. So, is your father the person who most influenced you as you grew up?”

Jack frowns, studying the question. “I’ve never given that much thought. It’s true Pa influenced me a lot, but so did my mother. She turned my life around after the war when she convinced me to walk the white man’s road.”

Lyn: “That’s intriguing, but please don’t go into details. We don’t want to give away all your secrets. Instead, can you tell Sue about the scariest moment of your life?”

Jack turns pale beneath his copper coloring. “That has to be the day my P’ayn-nah, I mean Rose, was bitten by a rattler.” In a husky voice, he adds, “I nearly lost her.”

Lyn looks guilty. “Oh dear, I’m so sorry for putting the two of you through that. But the experience did bring you closer together, didn’t it?”

Jack scowls, ebony eyes glaring at the author. “Yeah, it did, but that doesn’t mean I forgive you for nearly killing off the woman I love.”

Lyn squirms uncomfortably. “Yes, well, on a more pleasant topic, is Rose a good cook? And if so, what’s your favorite food that she fixes?”

Jack’s scowl lifts. Crossing his muscular arms, he says. “P’ayn-nah – that mean Sugar, by the way – is a pretty fair cook, even if she burns our supper now and again. Her favorite food is Indian fry bread, and I reckon it’s mine too. Leastways, when I get to watch her make it.” He grins, dark eyes twinkling.

Sue laughs. “On that happy note, Jack, I’ll let you head on back to your Red River home. Thanks for coming to visit me today. Now, Lyn, why don’t you give me and my listeners a little taste of Rose and Jack’s exciting story.”

Lyn winks. “I thought you’d never ask, Sue. Here you go.”

Dearest Irish

Texas Devlins, Book Three


Although the story begins in Bosque County, Texas, where the first two books in this series both end, much of this paranormal Native American romance takes place in the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) ca. 1876.

Rose Devlin, like her older siblings, possesses a rare psychic power. Rose has the extraordinary ability to heal with her mind, a secret gift which has caused her great pain in the past. She also keeps another, far more terrible secret that may prevent her from ever knowing love.

Choctaw Jack, a half-breed cowboy introduced in Dashing Irish, book two of the trilogy, hides secrets of his own. If they ever come to light, he stands to lose his job, possibly even his life. Yet, he will risk everything to save someone he loves, even if it means kidnapping Rose. The greatest risk of all may be to his heart if he allows himself to care too much for his lovely paleface captive.


Rose stretched and yawned. Something hard supported her head, and another something lay half across her face. This object felt like cloth and gave off a vaguely familiar scent. Swatting whatever it was away, she opened her eyes and had to squint at the bright sun glaring down at her from on high. In the time it took to blink and shield her eyes with her hand, everything that had befallen her during the night burst upon her like a waking nightmare.

Realizing she lay on the hard ground – she had the aches and pains to prove it – she turned her head to the right and saw Choctaw Jack lying a hand’s breadth away. He lay on his back, head pillowed on his saddle and one arm thrown over his eyes. Where was his hat, she wondered absurdly. Recalling the object she’d pushed off her face, she rose on one elbow and twisted to look behind her. First, she saw that she’d also been sleeping with a saddle under her head; then she spotted the hat she’d knocked into the high grass surrounding them. Jack must have placed it over her face to protect her from the sun’s burning rays. In view of his threat to beat her if she tried to run away again, she was surprised by this small kindness.

A throaty snore sounded from her left. Looking in that direction, she saw Jack’s Indian friend sprawled on his stomach, with his face turned away from her. He was naked from the waist up, his lower half covered by hide leggings and what she guessed was a breechcloth, never having seen one before. His long black hair lay in disarray over his dark copper shoulders.

He snored again, louder this time. Rose’s lips twitched; then she scolded herself for finding anything remotely amusing in her situation. Glancing around, she wondered how far they were from the Double C. Jack had been right to chide her last night. She’d had no idea where they were or in which direction to run for help. Even more true now, she conceded with a disheartened sigh.

She heard a horse snuffle. Sitting upright, she craned her neck to see over the grass and spotted three horses tethered among a stand of nearby trees. She caught her breath. Was one of them Brownie? Aye, she was certain of it. Excited and anxious to greet him, she folded aside the blanket cocooning her and started to rise, but a sharp tug on her ankle made her fall back with an astonished gasp. Only then did she notice the rope tied loosely around her ankle. To her dismay, the other end of the rope was wrapped around Jack’s hand.

“Going somewhere?” he asked, startling her.

“You’re awake!” she blurted, meeting his frowning, half-lidded gaze.

“Thanks to you, I am. You didn’t answer my question. Where were you going?”

“I saw Brownie over there.” She pointed to the trees. “I was only wishing to let him know I’m here, nothing more.” She swallowed hard, fearing he would think she’d meant to climb on the stallion and make a run for freedom – though without a saddle on his back and no one to boost her up¸ ’twould be well nigh impossible.

Staring at her a moment longer, Jack evidently came to the same conclusion. “I reckon he’ll be glad to see you,” he said, sitting up and freeing her ankle. “Go ahead. Say howdy to him.”

She again started to rise, but he forestalled her, saying, “Hold on. You’d best put your boots back on.” Reaching behind his saddle, he retrieved her footgear.

“Aye, I suppose there could be cactuses about,” she said tartly, recalling what he’d said last night. She forced a tight smile.

“Yeah, or snakes.”

Amazon: Dearest Irish                 Barnes & Noble: Dearest Irish

Visit Lyn on these sites: 

This article is adapted from a 2013 post on Ruby On Tuesday. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Making Soap on the Homestead

Sarah McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER 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 Publishing by Rebecca Vickery, Victory Tales Press, Prairie Rose Publications and Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press, imprints of Prairie Rose Publications. She welcomes you to her website at
My Amazon Author’s Page

Making Soap on the Homestead

In my present WIP, Penelope Thoroughgood takes in laundry from the Iron Slipper Saloon and Bordello as well as from the bachelors in the town of Hazard, Wyoming. This is the only way for her to eek out a living after her husband was shot dead cheating at cards. Washing laundry in 1912 was a far cry from the convenience we have today.

I remember my grandmother washing clothes and linens on the back porch of her Victorian farm house in Pennsylvania. She had an old wringer washing machine. At least she had electricity. She talked about the lye soap she used and how it made her hands raw. Having never used lye soap myself, I had no idea what the soap was made of or why it made her hands raw, so I dug into some research about the history of soap.

I found some very complicated chemical analysis of how soap works that made my eyes cross and my brain numb. Suffice it to say, it basically lifts the dirt and oils away from the fibers in the cloth, emulsifies the fat (makes it water soluble), and allows the whole mess to be rinsed away. Soap has been around a very long time in its various forms. The earliest on record is around 2800 BC in ancient Babylon. A formula for soap consisting of water, alkali, and cassia oil was written on a Babylonian clay tablet around 2200 BC.

The Ebers papyrus (Egypt, 1550 BC) indicates the ancient Egyptians bathed regularly and combined animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to create a soap-like substance.
In the reign of Nabonidus (556–539 BC), a recipe for soap consisted of ashes, cypress oil and sesame seed oil.

The ancient Romans used oils messaged into their body which they then scraped off along with the dirt with a special instrument called a strigil. In Pliny the Elder's Historia Naturalis, he mentions the manufacture of soap from tallow and ashes, but he only sites its use as a pomade for hair. Aretaeus of Cappadocia, in the first century AD, noted that among Celts, men called Gauls, used alkaline substances that are made into balls called “soap.”

Galen describes soap-making using lye and prescribed washing with it to carry away impurities from the body and clothes. According to Galen, the best soaps were Germanic, and soaps from Gaul were second best.

In the Middle East, a 12th-century Islamic document describes the process of soap production. It mentions the key ingredient, alkali, which later becomes crucial to modern chemistry, derived from al-qaly or “ashes.”

In Medieval Europe, soap-makers in Naples were members of a guild in the late sixth century. By the eighth century, soap-making was well known in Italy and Spain. The royal will of Charlemagne, mentions soap as one of the products the stewards of royal estates were to keep an account of. Can you imagine being given soap via a will?

By the second half of the 15th century, France began the semi-industrialized, professional manufacture of soap concentrated in a few centers of Provence— Toulon, Hyères, and Marseille which supplied the rest of France. By 1525, in Marseilles, production was concentrated in at least two factories, and soap production at Marseille tended to produce more than the other Provençal centers. English manufacture of soap was concentrated in London.

Finer soaps were later produced in Europe from the 16th century, using vegetable oils (such as olive oil) as opposed to animal fats. Many of these soaps are still produced, both industrially and by small-scale artisans. Castile soap is a popular example of the vegetable-only soaps derived from the oldest “white soap” of Italy.

Until the Industrial Revolution, soap-making was conducted on a small scale and the product was rough. Andrew Pears started making a high-quality, transparent soap in 1807 in London. His son-in-law, Thomas J. Barratt, opened a factory in Isleworth in 1862.

Robert Spear Hudson began manufacturing a soap powder in 1837, initially by grinding the soap with a mortar and pestle. American manufacturer Benjamin T. Babbitt introduced marketing innovations that included sale of bar soap and distribution of product samples. William Hesketh Lever and his brother, James, bought a small soap works in Warrington in 1886 and founded what is still one of the largest soap businesses, formerly called Lever Brothers and now called Unilever. These soap businesses were among the first to employ large-scale advertising campaigns.

Liquid soap was not invented until 1865, when William Shepphard patented a liquid version of soap. In 1898, B.J. Johnson developed a soap made of palm and olive oils. His company, the B.J. Johnson Soap Company, introduced "Palmolive" brand soap. This new kind of soap became popular to such a degree that B.J. Johnson Soap Company changed its name to Palmolive. At the turn of the Twentieth century, Palmolive was the world's best-selling soap.

But, of course, pioneer women had little access to all these wonderful manufactured soap products. They had to make soap themselves and it was a difficult and nasty process. Twice a year, in spring and late fall, probably for the good weather since soap was generally made outside in a huge cauldron.

Making soap was one of the hardest and nastiest of chores, but also one of the most important. Soap was made from ashes, water, and fat. Early spring and late fall were the most popular times for making soap. People saved table scraps and lard all winter for use in spring soap-making. Soap-making required skill in judging correct proportions and temperatures and the process was not always successful. First, water was poured through wood ashes to produce lye. According to the domestic manual, one made soft soap by boiling the lye until it was strong enough to "eat off the soft part of a feather." The grease and lye were then boiled together to produce soap thick enough to form cakes at the bottom of a cup of cold water. This produced a soft, dark yellow paste for washing clothes. To make hard cakes of soap, the lye had to be strong enough "to float an egg." Grease was added to the lye and the mixture boiled until thick, when salt was added. The mixture hardened for a day, then was melted down again before forming hard cakes of soap for bathing. 6 bushels of ashes plus 50 pounds of grease yielded 1 tub of soap.


Of course, modern soap is made with different ingredients such as palm oil and olive oil and the alkali is obtained from a more refined, sodium hydroxide. Essential oils or herbs are added for a delicious scent to make it perfect for a luxurious bath.

Here are some examples of modern soap made in molds of silicone:

If you want to learn how to make soap, here is more information:

Wood Ridge Homestead
Country living in the northern Shenandoah Valley in Virginia
All photographs are free domain from Wikipedia and

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Climbing Up and Down My Family Tree Today~ Tanya Hanson

Once upon a time, a handsome Illinois schoolmaster married a debutante from across the Mississippi River. Paper Japanese lanterns glowed. Years before, the bride’s grandpa had marched with General William Tecumseh Sherman. She is said to have weighed a whole 98 pounds full-term with child. Of their eight kids, one would become a preacherman.


 About this same time, in the heartland, a farmer fell in love with a pretty, feisty neighbor from a nearby homestead. (I’m said to look like her.) He died from a ruptured appendix far too soon in their marriage, leaving behind a brood of their own kids and several adopted orphans.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

 The farmer's daughter married the preacherman, who had been assigned to the nearby country church after seminary.She gave up art school to marry.  Over the next decade, she gave him a half-dozen children.  After a time, the preacher took a congregation on the West Coast.  Mostly he needed sunshine and warm weather for his health.  His kids enjoyed the beach. All were excellent students.  His wife (my brilliant gramma and personal hero) brought the family through the Great Depression with class, grace, and without complaint.

 During the Second World War, their oldest daughter, a schoolteacher too, married her sailor.  (She’d had a crush on him since high school. He signed her yearbook fairly lame: To a nice quiet girl, but admitted later on he’d been interested in her too.)   She longed to wear her mama’s wedding gown, but everything fell to shreds when unwrapped.  In her hair the bride wore the only surviving finery--a little bunch of silk flowers.


Forty years ago TODAY, their daughter, also a schoolteacher, married her fireman on a hot August afternoon.  (Strapless and sleeveless bridal gowns not acceptable then.)   The locket she wore came from her grandfather's grandmother!

 Two kids and two grandkids later...they lived happily-ever-after.

Love from us to you on our special day...

A beautiful attorney widowed by a foolhardy man...a successful builder vanquishing guilt over his wife's death. Can they rebuild faith and find love enough to give each other and their kids a happy home together?