Thursday, June 30, 2011

LUKE SHORT..."King of the Gamblers" and "The Undertaker's Best Friend"

By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky

Without question the American West had some interesting men, many of whom lived hard and died fast. Some found notoriety and won fortunes in an honest game of chance. Some stacked the deck while others turned to robbery, meeting their fate at the end of a rope. And a handful became so famous they are now viewed as icons of the Old West. Let's face it, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who has never heard of Wyatt Earp or Bat Masterson. But I have always been more curious about someone both Earp and Masterson not only considered a good friend but who was an integral part of their circle...Luke Short.

With striking blue-gray eyes, handsome good looks, meticulous grooming and an obvious sense of Victorian fashion, one can well imagine the impression Luke Short made wherever he went. It would not be a stretch of the imagination to think he'd just arrived from England, or was even an aristocrat with an impressive title.

Well, this Arkansas born, Texas reared young man did earn a couple titles in his young life, namely: “King of the Gamblers” and “The Undertaker’s Best Friend.” But these labels don’t really tell us who Luke Short really was, or why such important men like Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson valued his friendship so much.

Born in 1854, Luke Short was one of ten children born to Josiah W. Short. His parents moved to Texas when he was two years old and settled on a ranch near Fort Worth. His youth, like much of his life, has been shrouded in mystery. In fact, many rumors still exist today. One such rumor is that he killed a Kiowa Indian and wounded another when he was just 8 years old. Whether or not this is true, we know Luke was fearless with a gun and had an adventurous spirit that led him to many new places and a variety of jobs.

In 1870, a 16-year old Luke drove cattle to the Kansas railheads. Admittedly, it’s hard to envision the dashing figure [pictured above] choking on dust and enduring all sorts of brutal weather, let alone driving herds of smelly cattle north to Kansas. It seems more feasible he took the job as a means to get out of Texas and—at trail’s end—used the earnings to seek his fortune at the gaming tables. What we do know is he spent the next six years as a gambler.

In 1876, Luke Short was living in Nebraska and working as a whiskey peddler. Perhaps his finances had bottomed out after a string of bad luck at the tables. Whatever the reason, it appears Luke had been trading or selling whiskey to the Sioux--a federal offense at the time. But rather than be arrested, Luke ended up working with the US Calvary as a Scout under General Crook in the Black Hills. His bravery and skill with firearms was soon put to the test. Alone, carrying dispatches from a distant outpost, Luke was attacked by ten Sioux warriors who raced after him armed with rifles. Riding like the wind, he killed five Sioux shooting over his shoulder. Seeing half their war party killed by the lone rider, the remaining five Sioux pulled back.

Luke remained with General Crook until the capture of Sitting Bull then eventually ended up in Dodge City where he spent time with Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson [Pictured left], both of whom were deputies there.

Like most gamblers, Luke followed the big money and since Tombstone had saloons and gambling galore, he moved there. Smart, handsome, and always impeccably dressed, he soon achieved a level of notoriety and success as a high stakes gambler. He followed the circuit from town to town, and it seemed wherever he went Luke’s reputation with cards and guns preceded his arrival.

In January 1881, Wyatt Earp became manager of the Oriental Saloon, entitling him to receive one-quarter interest in its faro concession. [Pictured below is Wyatt Earp dealing at one of the Oriental's faro table. To his right, Doc Holliday watches.] Needing men he could trust, Earp wired his good friends Bat Masterson and Luke Short, and asked them to help him with the faro games in Tombstone. Living in Leadville, Colorado at the time, Luke accepted Earp's offer and traveled back to Tombstone.

Reputation is one thing; fact is another. While working at the Oriental in February 1881, Luke was forced to prove his reputation with a gun was not exaggerated. A known gunfighter and professional gambler named Charlie Storms started arguing with Luke inside the Oriental Saloon. Bat Masterson tried to diffuse the situation, and Storms left the saloon. Later, when Luke left the saloon with some friends, Storms was waiting. The gunfighter grabbed Luke by the arm, yanked him off the boardwalk into the street then went for his gun.

Despite the fact Storms .45 cleared his holster, Luke’s speed and skill took center stage. Luke fired first and killed Storms with a bullet to the chest. Both men were standing so close to one another that Storms shirt caught fire from the muzzle flash on Luke’s gun.

Among the witnesses were Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, and Virgil Earp. Before being arrested pending an investigation, the ‘dressed to the nines’ Luke turned to Masterson (who had tried to be friendly toward the angry Storms earlier) and said, “You sure pick some of the damnedest friends, Bat.” [Pictured left: Bat Masterson]

The ruling was self-defense and no charges were filed against Luke. However, in April 1881, just two months after the Storms shooting, he decided to return to Leadville, Colorado. At the same time, Masterson returned to Dodge City to help his brother, Jim. Consequently, both men were not in Tombstone on 26 October 1881 at the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Then again, as we know, Wyatt Earp had his brothers in town, as well as another friend named Doc Holliday.

It has often been said that a man can best be judged by the friends he keeps. Men in this era did not trust easily. They were brave yet cautious; that’s how they stayed alive. One has to remember they lived in a time when arguments were settled more often with bullets than words. Friendships were forged with bonds of trust and loyalty. The expression, “I’ve got your back”, might very well have originated in the American West. Most certainly, I think it describes the relationship between Luke Short, Bat Masterson, and Wyatt Earp. They looked out for each other, almost like brothers.

A perfect example of this happened in 1883 during The Dodge City War. Often called the “Wickedest City in America”, a corrupt association known as the Dodge City Gang had a stronghold on politics and law enforcement. Not only did they also control the liquor business, the mayor, Alonzo B. Webster, owned two saloons. To say this gang was out of control is an understatement, and they also had a long-standing animosity toward Bat Masterson and his brother, Jim (the city’s former marshal), whom Webster had fired shortly after taking office.

So, how exactly did the Dodge City War start? Lest you think Miss Kitty of television’s Gunsmoke owned the Long Branch Saloon, think again.

In 1883, Luke Short and a friend named W.H. Harris became 50-50 owners of the Long Branch Saloon. Webster and his gang didn’t like this; after all, Luke Short was very good friends with the Masterson brothers. Determined to get rid of Luke, the Mayor ordered several of the prostitutes working at the Long Branch Saloon arrested. When Luke protested, he was threatened by a policeman named Louis Hartman. Gunfire was exchanged and although no one was injured, Luke was told to "get out of Dodge" right after being labeled an "undesirable".

Let’s say the edict didn’t sit well with Luke. He contacted Earp and Masterson, both of whom not only conveyed their full support but felt a show of force was necessary in order that justice for Luke might prevail. They immediately recruited men to join their ‘Dodge City Peace Commission’.

[Pictured Left: (Seated L-R) Charles E. Bassett, Wyatt Earp, Frank McLain, Neil Brown (Standing L-R) W.H. Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, and W.F. Petillon.]

In addition to Luke Short, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson, the Commission included Luke’s Long Branch partner, W. H. Harris, famous gunman Charlie Bassett, and some very skilled gunfighters. Understandably intimidated, Mayor Webster and his cronies backed down. Luke was allowed to peacefully return to the Long Branch and Webster promised no further action would be taken. Luke remained in Dodge City for a few more months then went home to Texas.

Settling in Fort Worth, Luke Short was impressed by a prestigious saloon called The White Elephant. Operated by Bill Ward, The White Elephant already had a reputation as a “gentlemen only” establishment and catered to only the best clientele. The biggest saloon in Texas at that time, patrons could enjoy fine dining, drinking, billiards, and even purchase a “Billy Ward Choice Cheroot” for five cents—made exclusively by the saloon’s cigar factory on the first floor. To get an idea of the size, the combined restaurant and bar area (also on the first floor) measured 4,458 square feet.

Luke’s investment in The White Elephant made him owner of the saloon’s gambling concession. As such, he had full rein of the entire second floor. A plush, private faro room was created for so-called Big Games that regularly attracted famous gamblers like Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Charlie Coe. Under Luke’s leadership, The White Elephant became known as the place to go for honest games, first-rate players, excellent food and drink, and an elegant, refined atmosphere.

Rosewood and mahogany fixtures were installed. Thick carpets and heavy curtains were imported. An elegant two-bedroom apartment was custom built for Luke and his wife, Hettie, and included a private entrance. A dumbwaiter even allowed them to order from the restaurant downstairs and dine in the privacy of their residence.

Luke’s flair for style was also responsible for The White Elephant’s famous bar on the first floor. It was enormous—taking up the length of an entire wall. Also custom-made, it had a front counter where customers stood, a liquor case for merchandise, and an elegant mirrored back-bar that stretched the length of the bar’s counter. Hand carved out of rich, dark mahogany, it was also decorated with onyx and crystal lighting fixtures.

But just like Dodge, corrupt politicians and lawmen can be found everywhere, including Fort Worth. Although once a respected former Marshal of Fort Worth, Timothy 'Longhaired Jim' Courtright, had a new occupation that many found corrupt. He ran a protection racket for owners of saloons and gambling establishments in Fort Worth. And he wanted the popular White Elephant Saloon to be his newest, biggest client. But if there was one thing Luke Smart knew how to do, it was protect the White Elephant himself. He rejected the offer, a fact that aggravated and annoyed the former Marshal. What would happen if other clients thought they could do the same for their business?

Things came to a head on 08 February 1887. Luke Short was at the White Elephant with visiting friend, Bat Masterson. While having his shoes blackened, an employee informed Luke that Courtright wanted to speak with him outside the saloon. “Tell him to come inside,” Luke said. After being told Luke's reply, Courtright yelled from the doorway for Luke Short to come out.

A few moments later, Luke calmly walked out into the cold February night air. He listened as Courtright, who’d obviously been drinking, voiced his anger that Luke had refused his service of protection. Courtright also told Luke that as a former lawman everyone would believe him if he killed Luke and claimed it was self defense. After all, everyone knew Luke always had a gun on him.

Was Courtright bluffing or did he intend to kill Luke in cold blood? Not sure of his intent, a deceptively calm Luke Short said he was unarmed and if Courtright wanted to check for himself, he could. Luke took a step toward Courtright while opening his vest.

“Don’t you pull your gun on me!” Courtright shouted as he drew his pistol. Although faster on the draw, Short didn’t shoot to kill. Instead, he shot off Courtright’s right thumb, making it impossible for the man to fire his revolver. Clearly, had Luke Short wanted to kill Courtright he was skilled enough to do so with one bullet. Unfortunately, Courtright wasn’t bluffing. He did want Luke dead, and tried to switch his single-action revolver to his left hand. Before he could do so, Luke shot and killed him. [Pictured right: Timothy 'Longhaired Jim' Courtright]

Luke was taken into custody. Bat Masterson—concerned for his friend’s safety—convinced the sheriff to allow him to remain with Luke in the jailhouse, armed and ready if anyone thought to take justice into their own hands. Masterson’s argument must have been very convincing since the sheriff also allowed Luke to be armed in his cell. Once again, the ruling for Luke Short was self-defense.

Over the next five years, Luke Short invested in other saloons and continued his life as a professional gambler. His friendship with Earp and Masterson remained constant. In August 1893, Luke traveled with his wife, Hettie Beatrice Buck Short [pictured right], to Geuda Springs in Kansas. Luke had Dropsy (now known as Congestive Heart Disease) and the waters in Geuda Springs were said to have health-restoring minerals. Sadly, he died in his sleep on 08 September 1893. He was only 39 years old. His body was returned to Fort Worth, and he is buried in Oakwood Cemetery; ironically, so is Courtright.

One can only wonder what else we might have learned about Luke Short had he lived longer. What other adventures might he have had with Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson?
We do know the lives of Luke's surviving friends ended at opposite ends of the country. Bat Masterson died in 1921 while living in New York City. A columnist for the New York Morning Telegraph, he suffered a fatal heart attack at his desk. Masterson was 67 years old. Wyatt Earp, the eldest of the three friends, outlived them both. Earp died at his Los Angeles home in 1929; he was 80 years old. [Pictured left, one of the last photographs of Wyatt Earp taken a year before his death]

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit the Sweethearts of the West blog and read my post this month about Luke Short. I have always been intrigued by who exactly Luke Short really was, especially since one cannot visit Fort Worth without hearing about his famous shootout with Courtright. But there was much more to the man than that one incident. I hope you will agree. On a side note, Luke Short, Wyatt Earp, and Bat Masterson are all featured in my historical western, Whisper in the Wind. As a historical writer, I love it when research is found that can be incorporated into my work. ~ AKB

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

ONE MAGIC NIGHT from A 2011 SUMMER COLLECTION



Have any of you ever incorporated your family history into your writing? Do you like to read books that are based, however loosely, on factual happenings?

My mom was the oldest of eleven children. She knew everyone in our family and how they were related. Because she and my dad grew up together in a tiny little town in southeast Oklahoma (their high school had a graduating class of twelve), she also knew quite a lot about his side of the family as well.

But when I was younger, I was not interested in the stories she told me. It was only later, when I was grown and had children of my own, that I began to wonder and ask questions, and by that time, her memory had already begun to decline.

If you have ever read the book, The Education of Little Tree, (by Forrest Carter) or seen the HBO movie, this story might sound familiar. When Andrew Jackson decided that the Indians were to be assimilated into the white man’s world, he put lots of plans into action that would take years to snowball and evolve into what they eventually became—a truly shameful period in the US governmental policies and procedures. One of Jackson’s plans, besides Removal, that was carried through into subsequent presidencies, was the idea of assimilating Native American children in white homes to integrate them more completely. The Native American children were taken from their villages and given to willing white families (along with a tidy little government stipend for their troubles) to raise.

My great-great-great grandfather was one of these children. We don’t know his real name. It was changed when he was delivered to his new “family”, a Presbyterian minister and his wife. Their last name was Walls. So his name was changed to Walls, and he was given the first name, David. Forbidden to speak his language, he was forced to forget all the ways of his People, and dress in white man’s clothing, go to white school. But he was never going to be white, and his place in the world was divided so drastically that he could not fit in anywhere. Eventually, the Rev. Walls sent David to medical school in Missouri. When he returned to the small town where he’d been raised, he was a doctor who rode to his patients on horseback. Later, he married and had children, but it was not a happy union and his son, my great-great grandfather, became an alcoholic whose own children, in turn, left home as soon as they possibly could. My great grandmother, his daughter, married at 13. Her older sister left home one day and never returned. No one ever knew what became of her.

I’ve often thought of these children that were abducted by our cavalrymen, and taken away to their white “families”, forbidden everything familiar and forced to adopt everything new and different, even their speech and childhood games. Can you imagine it? To never be allowed to see your mother and father again. Siblings separated and “given” to different families, their heritage and connection with one another lost forever. How many tears must they have shed? And how lonely and separate they must have felt, how isolated, even into adulthood…so that most of them, I imagine, never were able to fit in anywhere in the world.

My story in the 2011 SUMMER COLLECTION, available through Victory Tales Press, is based loosely on what happened to my long-ago ancestor.

Dr. Shay Logan has just returned to Talihina, Indian Territory, from medical school in Missouri. Shay hopes to settle down and make a life for himself, but how? He doesn’t belong to either world, Anglo or Indian He's made the acquaintance of Katrina Whitworth at the July 4th town social, and the attraction is mutual from the very beginning. Shay begins to have hopes and dreams that may be out of the question…but Katrina seems to have stars in her eyes for him as well. Will she risk everything to be with him? Katrina makes a social blunder, and Shay follows her into the woods to apologize to her, but when they return, Katrina's drunken father humiliates her. To make matters worse, her former beau shows a side of himself she had not seen before. Can Katrina and Shay have a life together that they so badly want? Here’s an excerpt for you.

FROM ONE MAGIC NIGHT:
As his hand started its descent, Katrina turned away. But Shay’s arm shot out, grasping Whitworth’s hand and holding it immobile.

“You will not.”

Three words, quietly spoken, but with a heat that could have melted iron, a force that could have toppled mountains.

Katrina’s father’s face contorted, his teeth bared, finally, as he tried to jerk away. He didn’t utter a word. He stared up into Shay Logan’s eyes that promised retribution, as the seconds ticked by. Finally, he lunged once more, trying to pull free, but Shay still held him locked in a grip of steel. Only when he released that grip was Whitworth freed.

“You presume too much, Doctor Logan, unless you are assuming the care and responsibility of my daughter.”

“Papa! Oh, please!” Katrina felt herself dissolving into a puddle of less than nothing beneath stares of the townspeople of Talihina. What had started as an exciting, beautiful evening had become an embarrassing nightmare. It was torture to think that she was the cause of it all. How she wished she had stayed home with Jeremy as she’d first planned, before Mrs. Howard had volunteered to keep him company.

Now, Papa was saying these things that she knew he would regret later. It was always this way when he drank too much. These accusations had gone beyond the pale of anything he’d ever said before. But Shay Logan wouldn’t realize that. He wouldn’t know that Papa would be sorry tomorrow.

Evidently, there was one thing Shay did recognize, though. She saw the very slight flare of his nostrils as he drew in the scent of alcohol on her father’s breath, and in that instant, there was a flash of understanding in his eyes.

“You’ve had too much to drink, Mr. Whitworth,” he said in an even tone. “I will overlook your behavior toward me because of that, but not toward your daughter. She has done nothing, yet you would strike her, and cause her shame.”

“She’s my daughter,” Whitworth replied sullenly.

“But not your property, Whitworth. Never that. You owe her an apology.”

“No, Shay, really—” Katrina began, then as her father whirled to look at her, she broke off, realizing her mistake. ‘Shay,’ she had called him. As if she had known him forever. As if she was entitled to use his given name freely. As if she were his betrothed.

“‘Shay’ is it, daughter? Not, ‘Dr. Logan’? Shay.” He spit the words out bitterly. He drew himself up, looking Shay in the face. “I’ll not be apologizing to her—or to you. And I’ll expect nothing less than a wedding before this week’s end. Do you understand me, Doctor?”

Shay had lost any patience he might have harbored. “You understand me, Whitworth. You will not dictate to me, or to your daughter on such matters of the heart. As I say, the alcohol has got you saying things you’re going to regret, and—”

“Threatening me, are you? Threatening me?”

“Truman.” Jack Thompson stepped out of the crowd and smoothly came to stand beside Katrina. “Let’s put this…unfortunate incident…behind us, shall we?” He confidently tucked Katrina’s hand around his arm. “I can see that the church auxiliary ladies have almost got everything set up for this wonderful Independence Day meal—” he frowned at Mrs. Beal, nodding at the picnic tables behind her. She jumped, motioning the other ladies to resume the preparation.

He gave a sweeping glance around the group of onlookers. “I, for one, am ready to eat! How about you all?”

Katrina was swept along at his side as he walked toward the tables, speaking to acquaintances and friends, laughing and…and seething with tense anger the entire time. She could feel it in his body, with every step he took and the tightness of his grip as he covered her hand with his. Katrina glanced back over her shoulder, hoping to catch a glimpse of Shay, but the crowd blocked her view.

“Smile, my dear,” Jack gritted into her ear. “I’m hoping we can still salvage your virtue, no matter what happened, really, between you and the good doctor. If I see him near you again, I’ll kill him.”

BUY LINKS
Smashwords:
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/66862
http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/victorytalespress
http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/VTPanthologies

Lulu:
http://www.lulu.com/product/ebook/2011-summer-collection-anthology-sweetsensual/16048225
http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=55332464

Here's the link at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00564A820
I WILL BE GIVING AWAY COPIES OF A 2011 SUMMER COLLECTION TO TWO LUCKY COMMENTERS! JUST LEAVE ME A COMMENT WITH YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS AND I WILL DRAW WINNERS SOMETIME AFTER 8:00 TONIGHT!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

WHEN A GHOST HELPED SAVE A SCALPING VICTIM

Do you believe in ghosts and spirits? Josiah Wilbarger certainly did! Why wouldn’t he, when a spirit saved his life?

Josiah Pugh Wilbarger
and a son
On a hot August day in 1833, Texas settler Josiah Wilbarger and four other men were scouting territory near present-day Austin when they spotted a lone Comanche and gave chase. The brave escaped the party, and Wilbarger and the others turned back toward neighbor Rueben Hornsby’s cabin six miles away. At mid day, they decided to stop for lunch beside a small stream and give their horses a rest. Wilbarger, Tom Christian and a Mr. Strother unsaddled and hobbled their horses. Haynie and Standifer, wary of the Indian they had seen, decided to leave their mounts saddled and tied them loosely to a nearby tree.

The men started a fire to cook beef, and passed around cold corn pone. They were relaxed by the water when war whoops and rifle fire accompanied by flying arrows shattered their peace. The five men jumped behind trees and began firing, but the spindly scrub oaks offered little protection. Haynie and Standifer ran to their saddled horses. Wilbarger called out to them and they turned to see Wilbarger with arrows in both legs. He took a shot to the back of the neck which exited through the front of his throat, spurting blood, as Comanches surrounded him. Certain their friend was beyond help, Haynie and Standifer rode hard for Hornsby’s cabin.

At Hornsby’s, they sent a rider on to Wilbarger’s home some miles away to relay the sad news to Josiah Wilbarger’s wife, Margaret, and to rouse other neighbors. By the time men arrived from the surrounding area, it was too dark to retrieve the remains for burial.

As everyone slept that night, Sarah Horsby suddenly awakened from a dream that left her trembling. She woke her husband and told him of the vision of Josiah Wilbarger, naked and leaning against a tree. Her dream convinced her he was alive and waiting to be rescued. Reuben scolded his wife for waking him because he and the others had to rise early the next morning. He reminded her Comanches never left their victims alive, cutting throats to be certain they were dead. Sarah was unconvinced but went back to sleep.

Within a short time, the dream returned exactly as before. She awakened her husband and the other men. As she served them breakfast, she told them the dream was an omen and that they would find Josiah exactly as she had envisioned. She told the men to wrap Josiah in a sheet and bring him back for her to tend his wounds. The men scoffed at her vision. Reuben knew his wife was not given to irrational thinking, so he was less skeptical than the men with whom he rode. The mother of ten, Sarah had survived the rigors of frontier life and had more than her share of experiences with Comanches.

When the men arrived at the site, they immediately found the bodies of Christian and Strother. They buried the two while looking for Wilbarger. As they were about to give up their search for him, a rider spied what looked like an Indian leaning against a tree, naked, and covered with red war paint. The rider called to the others then raised his rifle to shoot. The naked man stumbled toward them and said, "Don’t shoot. It’s Wilbarger."

Though scalped, wounded in several places, and near death, Wilbarger was just as Sarah Hornsby said he would be. The rescuers gently wrapped him in the sheet Sarah had provided. Reuben held Josiah as they rode slowly back to the Hornsby cabin. Confident he would be found alive, Sarah waited with hot water, bear’s oil, and poultices ready. She nursed him for several days until he was able to be transported home on a makeshift sled.

Wilbrager described his ordeal. The bullet that passed through his neck temporarily paralyzed him, and he couldn’t resist the Comanches who attacked him. Not only did his injury convince the Indians there was no need to slit his throat, it also prevented him from feeling pain. However, he was alert as the Indians roughly stripped him and scalped him. He reported that it sounded like distant claps of thunder as they jerked the scalp from his head.

He fell unconscious until late afternoon. When he awakened, the paralysis had left his body and he experienced terrible pain. He crawled the few feet to the creek and remained in the cold water until he was numb. Before he fell into what was probably a comatose state, he crawled out to a sunny spot. When he awoke, he became aware of swarming blowflies feasting on his exposed wound. In hastily stripping him, the Comanche left him with one sock. He shooed the flies away and covered his head with the sock. He tried to move toward Hornsby’s, but managed only about six hundred yards. Believing his death was inevitable, he leaned against a tree and hoped for rescue.

A vision of his sister, Margaret Collins, who lived in Missouri, appeared to him. She spoke softly, "You’re too weak to go on, brother dear. You lie here and rest and help will come to you before another day is over." She turned and headed toward Hornsby’s cabin.

When Sarah described the woman in her vision, Wilbarger told her that was his sister. Weeks later, Wilbarger received a letter from Missouri. His sister Margaret had died the day before the Comanche attack. He firmly believed he saw his sister’s spirit that night, and that she not only gave him courage to hold on, but also alerted others through Sarah Hornsby’s dreams. People who knew both Josiah Wilbarger and Sarah Hornsby attested to their honesty and mental soundness, and believed their stories.

Josiah after being scalped
Wilbarger recovered from his wounds and lived another eleven years. From her silk wedding dress, his wife, Margaret Barker Wilbarger, 
made caps for him that he wore constantly.

After coming to Texas when it was a part of Mexico, the Wilbargers and Hornsbys joined Stephen F. Austin's 300 as Texas pioneers.

Wilbarger eventually operated a cotton gin near Bastrop. One day while walking through the building, he hit his head on a low ceiling beam. For most people, the event would have merely raised a bump. For Wilbarger, with no hair or scalp to pad the skull, the injury was fatal. He died on April 11, 1844.

Wilbarger's tombstone in
the Texas State Cemetery
A monument at Fifty-first and Berkman Streets in Austin marks the estimated site of the scalping. Josiah Wilbarger and his wife have been reinterred in the state cemetery in Austin. Sarah and Reuben Hornsby are buried in the Hornsby Cemetery at Hornsby Bend near Austin. (Baseball Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby is a descendent of this pioneer family and is also buried in this cemetery.) Margaret Wilbarger Clifton, the spirit who saved her brother, is buried in Florissant, Missouri.

Now do you believe in ghosts?

Thanks to FROM ANGELS TO HELLCATS: LEGENDARY TEXAS WOMEN, by Don Blevins. Thanks also to other sources including THE HANDBOOK OF TEXAS ONLINE and Wikipedia.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tin Cup, Colorado - Mining Gold on Several Levels


It’s been several years since my husband and I have been up to Tin Cup. The old mining town in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain lies above Gunnison at 10,157 feet elevation. Some of the poor pictures I took way back in October of 1991 are shown here. If we manage the excursion later this summer, I’ll compose better shots--a repost would be worthwhile, at least in my unbiased opinion. LOL

Big Horn Sheep above Gunnison near Taylor Park Resevoir
I learned about the town through my husband, who hunted the area with his brother, father, and friends from the 1950s through the 1990s. The first time my husband took me, I fell in love with the town, its history, and its unique cemetery.

The last time we visited, Tin Cup sported a couple businesses. The most notable was Frenchy’s which is a restaurant housed in an old log cabin I’m sure boasts of a colorful, if not dramatic past as the most famous of the town’s early saloons. Today’s Frenchy’s is said to serve up a delicious burger. I wish I could verify that. Unfortunately, a closed sign has always been prominently displayed whenever we drove past.

Research sources often claim Tin Cup is a ghost town. However, the real truth is that those few hardy year round residents and the additional summer occupants who desire the peace and quiet that blanket the high country have cleverly refurbished original log cabins so it appears nothing has changed in 150 years.
 
Capt. Zebulon Pike
Captain Zebulon Pike reached the general area in late December 1806 during an exploration of territory acquired by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. (Christmas In The Old West - Sweetheart post December 18, 2010) But, it wasn’t until the late 1850’s that this picturesque valley was settled by white men, disheartened prospectors who hadn’t realized their dreams of riches in California’s gold fields and who paused for rest on their long trips back east. The story goes that in October 1859, one such young man, James Taylor, an 18 year old from Georgia, took a sip of water from Willow Creek and discovered gold in the bottom of his tin cup. He promptly dubbed the area Tin Cup Gulch. Obviously, Jim was neither creative nor romantic. Other versions of this story time the incident in 1861 and/or add two friends with Jim. I also found reports that attributed the town’s name, not to a profitable sip from a tin cup, but to the tin cup being used as a storage vessel for a lucky prospector’s poke of gold dust while he headed out of the valley to parts unknown.

Although it may never be absolutely certain which version inspired the name, Tin Cup Gulch seemed to remain unknown by most until the 1870’s. Strikes of high grade gold and silver in 1878 drew adventurous souls to the area and the town of Virginia City was born in March 1879. The following year, Virginia City census counted 1,495 inhabitants. Maybe the growth spurt started the trouble, maybe something else, but, whatever it was, Virginia City’s citizens found their hometown increasingly confused with Virginia City, Nevada and Virginia City, Montana. I, for one, am glad they officially changed the town’s name in July 1882 to simply Tin Cup, minus James Taylor’s descriptive “Gulch” attached.

Tin Cup boasted of a population of 6000 in 1882, a number that easily supported the 20+ saloons in town and made it lucrative for some entrepreneurs to ski or snowshoe out for supplies and then unload their bounty to the highest bidders upon return. Declared one of the top three of Colorado’s wildest, unruliest mining towns, Tin Cup quickly found itself taken over by an underworld of cutthroat gamblers. The gang hired and controlled local law enforcement to their benefit, for unsuspecting visitors and settlers were lured by the fa├žade of law and order. It was only after being fleeced of their money and/or valuables that the victims wised up and left--if they were alive to do so. This dismal history wore on the upstanding men hired as fronts. Colorado’s Historical Society states the first one quit, the second was fired, the third was gunned down, the fourth was shot by a gambler, the fifth quit and became a preacher, the sixth went insane, and the seventh was shot.

Which brings us to my favorite part: Tin Cup’s cemetery. It’s divided into four parts.







Protestant Knoll lies to the north. Jewish Knoll sleeps to the east.

















Catholic Knoll occupies the center. Boot Hill Knoll to the west still sports a few intriguing markers.












The epitaph on Black Jack Cameron’s grave, located in the southeast corner, reads “He drew 5 aces.” Another is marked Pass Out/Dance Hall Girl. How can you not wonder, “What if...?”

Tin Cup’s eighth marshall miraculously finished his term. I’m unaware of the exact timing of the town’s string of men of the law. However, I suspect the eighth’s luck held because of Tin Cup’s decline to around 400 citizens as mines played out about 1884. The shrinking town clung to life though, installing fire hydrants in 1891, a few of which remain. The local post office closed in 1918.

Sandra Crowley

CAUGHT BY A CLOWN, a spicy romantic suspense about a spontaneous freelance journalist on a mission of mercy who finds herself entangled with a methodical undercover agent out to settle a score.
BUY paperback at The Wild Rose Press or Amazon


www.sandracrowley.com     

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Talkin' the Talk

I don’t normally appreciate the vast collection of books and magazines my husband stores in the powder room (commonly referred to in our house as “the library”). But every once in a while I stumble across something of note while decluttering the stacks.

Here’s a gem I discovered recently. I have books on Old West slang and have several websites bookmarked devoted to the topic, but finding these in an old Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader was a surprise; many of these were new to me. Hope you find a smile or two among them, I know I did!

He's crooked enough to sleep on a corkscrew (dishonest)

Raised on prunes and proverbs (a religious person)

Coffee varnish (whiskey)

Fat as a well-fed needle (poor)

Deceitful beans (meaning they'll talk behind your back,or give you gas)

Got a pill in his stomach that he can't digest (shot dead)

Like a turkey gobbler in a hen pen (proud)

Like a breedin' jackass in a tin barn (noisy)

Fryin' size but plumb salty (an old person)

Quicker'n you can spit and holler howdy (fast)

Studyin' to be a half wit (stupid)

Built like a snake on stilts (tall)

Right on melody but strong on noise (a bad singer)

Weasel smart (crafty)

Scarce as bird dung in a cuckoo clock (hard to find)

Dry as the dust in a mummy's pocket (very dry)

In the lead when tongues was handed out (talks too much)

If he closed one eye, he'd look like a needle (very skinny)

Lives in a house so small he can't cuss his cat without gettin' fur in his mouth (a tightwad)

Died of throat trouble (hung)


Happy Trails!

Nic

www.nicolemccaffrey.com

Monday, June 20, 2011

GUEST AUTHOR CAROLINE FYFFE AND WOMEN OF THE WEST

Author, Caroline Fyffe
Hello, Sweethearts of the West.  It’s my pleasure and honor to be here today talking with you about one of my favorite things—the West.  And of course, the women who helped make it into the splendid place it is today.  You know, it’s quite interesting, and remarkable, that every time we make the effort to dig into the history of some famous thing, be it a man, place or event, there’s usually a woman somewhere there giving it wings to fly.  Using ingenuity, fortitude and love, women have made their mark in so many places.  Today I salute two of them. 
And so it is in my post….   
A few years back I found myself at the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum, in Amarillo, Texas.  I was standing in the gigantic grand hall name for Anne B. Windfohr Marion, the 6666 Ranch, and the Burnett Foundation, and my imagination took off.  I’d noticed that the hall was dedicated to a woman—that’s all it took.  At that time, I knew little of AQHA’s history.   Most horse people have heard of the renowned 6666 Ranch, also called the The Four Sixes Ranch, founded in 1870 and located in Guthrie Texas, as a leader in all disciplines of exceptional Quarter Horses. 
Anne Burnett Tandy
But, digging deeper--ahhh yes, you say--as I mentioned in my introduction, I discovered it was ranch founder, Caption Samuel “Burk” Burnett’s daughter, Anne Burnett Tandy, affectionately called Miss Anne, who had inherited the ranch (can you even imagine!) that was instrumental in the creation of the American Quarter Horse registry.   
Four Sixes Ranch
Guthrie, Texas
In 1940, the current owner of the 6666 Ranch and her husband, James Goodwin Hall, had a dinner party in their Fort Worth home to talk with other breeders of ranch type horses, the same animals that were bread in Texas, Colorado, California and such, after the great westward migration.  The American Quarter Horse Association, the world’s largest breed registry, was born the very next day.
Anne Windfohr Marion
Then, her only child, Anne B. Windfohr Marion, and current head of the ranch, (a beautiful woman in Stetson and chaps—a true heroine, in my way of thinking ) re-introduced quarter horse racing back into the ranch breeding program in 1993.   
Available Now!
Just as Penny Tweedy Chenery was the driving force behind Secretariat, believing in him, giving him the opportunity to be the best that he could be, and seeing his true heart, so too the Burnett women had the desire to see where the horses of the West, the true athletes that built so many outstanding cattle and horse breeding operations west of the Mississippi, could go, if given the chance. 
Today, we salute all the hard-working, dedicated women, sometimes hidden in the shadows, sometimes not, who forged ahead in history, to greatness.   Do you know one of these such hero’s?  Maybe someone in your family history?  And, has anyone one else besides me had the tremendous opportunity of visiting the Hall of Fame in Amarillo?

American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum
Amarillo, Texas


Saturday, June 18, 2011

HEADING WEST - LOAD THE WAGONS!

Jeanmarie Hamilton is overwhelmed today, so I’m filling in for her. Actually, Linda Hubalek has graciously allowed me to quote from her book TRAIL OF THREAD, in which Dorothy Pieratt describes preparing for the trip West from Kentucky to Kansas.


Dorothy Pieratt's words:

We debated, but finally packed two wagons for each family. We felt it was better for the animals’ sake to limit the weight on each wagon to around 2000 pounds instead of overloading one wagon....Since we need six oxen per wagon, we bought extra animals a few weeks ago. John decided to use oxen instead of mules because the oxen are easily managed, patient, and gentle--even with the children--and not easily driven off or prone to stampeding like mules and horses...After much discussion, John agreed to hitch a cage of chickens on the back of the wagon.

Yesterday we sold everything that wouldn’t fit in the wagons at a public auction on our farm. The strain of the day is still on my mind. This morning I’ve been ready to fetch something and then I stop in midstep, wondering if it’s tucked in the wagon or was sold yesterday. It was hard to see most of the animals and all but a few chickens leave the place. But we can’t take everything along, and we need the money.

New wagon beds were built using seasoned oak boards. Sides were jointed together. No nails were used that could work out along the bumpy road and spell disaster. Along the inside of the three-foot-high sides, John built long boxes running the length of the wagon for storage. These boxes will serve as seats during the day if the children want to ride inside. We just add boards cut to fit across the storage boxes, put bedding on top, and the wagon is outfitted for sleeping. The boards fit in a wooden holder that runs along the outside of the wagon. They can also be used to make a bench or table when laid across stumps, or, heaven forbid, as lumber for a coffin.

I had a big hand in preparing the wagons, too. The wagon beds were fitted with a framework of hickory bows high enough to give head clearance, and I hand-sewed long pieces of cloth together for coverings. It was quite an undertaking. It had to be tight, strong enough to withstand heavy winds, and rainproof so things inside don’t get soaked. Even though it was extra work, I ended up making them a double thickness to keep out the cold. A dark muslin went over the framework first, then a heavy white linen. The dark cloth cuts down on the brightness of the reflection as we walk beside the wagon. I coated the outside material with a mixture of hot beeswax and linseed oil for waterproofing. It turned the material a sand color, which should help the reflection, too.

The covering is drawn together on the ends by a strong cord to form tight circles. End flaps an be buttoned on to completely seal the wagon top. My stitches and buttonholes will be tested by the first storm we run into. I even stitched pockets on the inside covering to hold little things like our comb, sunbonnets, and other personal things I didn’t want out of reach.

John borrowed a guidebook to Oregon and California from a neighbor, which suggested that for each adult going to California, a party should carry 200 pounds of flour, 30 of hardtack, 75 of bacon, 10 of rice, 5 of coffee, 2 of tea, 25 of sugar, 2 of saleratus, 10 of salt, a half-bushel each of cornmeal, parched, and ground corn, and a small keg of vinegar. We’re not going to California (unless the men change their minds), so we shouldn’t need that much per person, but we’ll need supplies until we get crops and garden planted and harvested. Who knows how long it will be until towns with stores get established in the new territory?

I’ll take one barrel of pickled cucumbers along to prevent scurvy...the decision of what kind and quality of item to trade for had to be made...The mill sells different grades of flour. I wish I could have bought the superfine flour, sifted several times...I bought the next grade, middlings, for our cooking. It’s much more coarse and granular, but it serves the purpose...The mill’s shorts, a cross between wheat bran and coarse whole wheat flour, looked clean, so I also bought 125-pound sack of it...

We can’t afford to carry the flour in heavy barrels, so it is mostly stacked in fifty-pound cotton cloth to cut down on weight. Because the flour is not kiln-dried, we double-sacked it in a leather bag. If the flower absorbs too much moisture, I’ll end up with a heavy loaf and will have to add more flour to my baking.

Sorghum molasses, our main sweetener, will make the trip in small wooden kegs...For special occasions, I bought three cones of white sugar. The New Orleans sugar we buy reasonably in the stores her may fo for top dollar on the frontier. The cones resemble pointed hats. They are molded at the factory, and wrapped in blue paper. Usually I leave the cones whole and use sugar snippers, a cross between scissors and pliers, to break off lumps as I need them. To save space on the trip, I ground up the cones and divided the two types of sugar (the white sugar on the top gradually changes to brown sugar on the bottom), then sifted to remove the impurities. The storekeeper said I should pack it in India rubber sacks to keep it dry, but I decided not to add that extra expense. I tucked the cone papers in the wagon because I can extract the indigo dye from it to color yarn and material blue.

I also bought a small quantity of low grade brown sugar since it is ten cents cheaper than the cones. It’s dark, smelly, sticky, and sometimes dirty, but it still gives sweet taste to cooking.
Parched corn is another sacked commodity in the wagon. The kernels were sun dried last fall and I’ll grind them into meal with the mortar when I need it.

Smoked bacon was double-wrapped in cloth, put in wooden boxes, and covered with bran to prevent the fat from melting during the trip. I cooked the crocks of cut meat I had left into a thick jelly. After it set up in pans and dried, we broke it into pieces and packed it in tins. If I add boiling water to some, we’ll have portable soup on the trail.

Smaller sacks of beans, rice, salt, saleratus, and coffee are wedged around the whiskey jugs underneath the wagon seat. The medicine box, filled with tiny cloth sachets holding dried medicinal herbs and little medicine bottles, is wedged on top, ready for an emergency.

I put the sacks of yeast cakes, dried bead, and hardtack inside one of the long boxes, along with the box of homemade soap bars. I’ll have small sacks of each staple in the back box and refill them from the bigger sacks when I need to.

The back end of the wagon drops down partway on chains and will serve as a preparation table for food or for other jobs. The provision box faces the back so it can be opened up without hauling the box out of the wagon every time. It has my tinware, cooking utensils and small sacks of necessities for cooking everyday.

Wish I could have brought all my kitchen utensils, but I settled for two spider skillets, three Dutch ovens of various sizes, the reflector for baking, the coffee pot, the coffee mill, the mortar and pestle, a few baking pans, knives, and my rolling pin.

Walking out to the wagons for the umpteenth time, it struck me that they are starting to look like a peddler’s caravan. They are overflowing with items attached to the sides. The wooden washtubs and zinc washboard are fastened to one side of the wagon. The walking plow is lashed to the other side. Small kegs of water, vinegar, and molasses fit in where needed to balance the wagon. Everybody can see what we own because it’s hanging in plain sight.

The second wagon is packed even tighter than the first with household and farming tools we’ll need after we get to our new land. All the boxes are packed tight so they won’t slide around, rattle, or spill. I hope we won’t have to unpack it until we reach our destination.

You can learn more about preparing for a wagon train trip and pioneering in a new land from Linda Hubalek’s TRAIL OF THREAD, the series of the same name, and at http://www.lindahubalek.com/
 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Old Fashioned Relationship Advice

I write contemporary western romances for Harlequin American but even modern day heroes and heroines need some good ol' fashioned advice on love and relationships. And who better to consult than a a rough-n-tumble cowboy and cowgirl. When the couple in my book hits a snag, I turn to my favorite resource for a little cowfolk advice. Thought it would be fun to share some snippets on Happy-Ever-Afters from…

Just One Fool Thing after Another.
A Cowfolks' Guide to Romance by Gladiola Montana and Texas Bix Bender.


Attention without intention is flirtation.
To bring somebody into your life, take a step into theirs.
The ranch is work from sun to sun, but loves work is never done.
If your mind's set to ride a buckin' bronc, you'd better be prepared for the bruises.
When you fall into somebody's arms, you're fallin' into their hands as well.
A heart that ain't been broke thinks it's okay to go round breakin' others.
There's no cure for lovesickness, and nobody really wants one.

A man can build a house but it takes a woman to make it a home.


If you wanta stay single look for a perfect mate.
It may be more romantic to be the first love, but it's better to be the last.
When a woman makes up her mind you can always be sure she's gonna do exactly what she says—or not.

Women flirt to be appreciated; men mean it.


A woman wanted by men but disliked by women is nothin' but trouble.


The only time a woman can change a man is when he's a baby.


Try not to make a ring around a finger feel akin to a rope around the neck.


Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight it out.


When you're pickin' fklowers everybody gets along. When it's time to muck the stalls is when you find out how true your love is.

Stolen kisses require an accomplice.


When you can't keep anything from 'em, you love 'em.

Big problems will pull you together. It's the little things that tear you apart.


Okay, time to fess up! Share the advice friends or family members have given you on personal relationships and marriage—was it good advice or poppycock?


Marin Thomas
The Bull Rider's Secret July 2011
A Rodeo Man's Promise (Dec 2011)
Arizona Cowboy (Feb 2012)
www.marinthomas.com

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The American Frugal Housewife by Mrs. Child

by Anna Kathryn Lanier


During my trip to New Iberia, Louisiana in April, I picked up several books, two of them by Lydia Child and written in the early 1800’s. The American Frugal Housewife “was an extremely popular nineteenth-century manual for homemakers. Interesting recipes and remedies, advice on parenting and the myriad responsibilities of housekeeping are all put forth in straightforward, no-nonsense, Yankee prose.”


Here are a few of Mrs. Child’s tips for the Frugal Housewife (direct quotes):


When ivory-handled knives turn yellow, rub them with nice sand paper, or emery; it will take off the spots, and restore their whiteness.


Tortoise shell and horn combs last much longer for having oil rubbed into them once in a while.


Indian meal and rye meal are in danger of fermenting in summer; particularly Indian. They should be kept in a cool place, stirred open to the air, once in a while. A large stone, put in the middle of the barrel of meal, is a good thing to keep it cool.


Those who make candles will find it a great improvement to steep the wicks in lime-water and saltpeter, and dry them. The flame is clearer, and the tallow will not ‘run.’


Eggs will keep almost any length of time in lime-water properly prepared. One pint of coarse salt, and one pint of unslacked lime, to a pailful of water. If there be too much lime, it will eat the shells from the eggs; and if there be a single egg cracked, it will spoil the whole. They should be covered with lime-water, and kept in a cold place. The yolk becomes slightly red; but I have seen eggs, thus kept, perfectly sweet and fresh at the end of three years. (AKL note – I’m not sure I want to eat an egg thus kept after three years!)


A new iron should be very gradually heated at first. After it has become inured to the heat, it is not as likely to crack.


Clean a brass kettle, before using it for cooking, with salt and vinegar.


The oftener carpets are shaken, the longer they wear; the dirt that collects under them, grinds out the threads.


Do not wrap knives and forks in woollens. Wrap them in good, strong paper. Steel is injured by lying in woollens. (AKL note – I have no idea if this is true or not).


Suet and lard keep better in tin than in earthen.


It is poor economy to buy vinegar by the gallon. Buy a barrel, or half a barrel, of really strong vinegar, when you begin house-keeping. As you use it, fill the barrel with old cider, sour beer, or wine-settlings, etc., left in pitchers, decanters or tumblers; weak tea is likewise said to be good; nothing is hurtful, which has a tolerable portion of spirit, or acidity. Care must be taken not to add these things in too large quantities or too often; if the vinegar once gets weak, it is difficult to restore it. If possible, it is well to keep such slops as I have mentioned in a different keg, and draw them off once in three or four weeks, in such a quantity as you think the vinegar will bear. If by any carelessness you do weaken it, a few white beans dropped in, or white paper dipped in molasses, is said to be useful. If beer grows sour, it may be used to advantage for pancakes and fritters. If very sour indeed, put a pint of molasses and water to it, and, two or three days after, put a half pint of vinegar; and in ten days it will be first rate vinegar.


Never leave out your clothes-line over night; and see that your clothes-pins are all gathered into a basket.


Have plenty of crash towels in the kitchen; never let your white napkins be used there.

*****Have you come across any unusual housekeeping tip while doing research?


For anyone writing in the 1800’s I would recommend Mrs. Child’s books for your research shelf. They can be found at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.  Lydia Child, by the way, also penned the classic Thanksgiving poem, Over the River and Through the Wood. 

Click HERE to read a previous post I did on Mrs. Child's  - "Education of Daughters."

I will be teaching an online class at Heart Through History's  campus in August "Pioneering Women of the West."  Cost is $10 for HHRW members and $20 for non-members.

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Where Tumbleweeds Hand Their Hats.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Using what I know in a story

I’d hoped to have a cover and URL to my contemporary western Perfectly Good Nanny, but my cover designer, aka my daughter, started some college classes and my covers come after her school work. So though the book is formatted and ready to upload I’m waiting for the cover.

This story came to me after I was bemoaning the fact historical westerns were on a downward trend and a friend told me to write a contemporary western. I didn’t think I could, but on the way home form a writing meeting I was listening to a radio talk show and they were discussing the fact a child had ordered a bunch of things via the internet using their parent’s credit card and the parent’s didn't know about it until the items arrived at the house.

And click! A light went on. What if a twelve year-old girl tired of taking care of her little brother and the house work hired a nanny pretending to be her father.
That’s how Perfectly Good Nanny starts. With the nanny arriving at the ranch and Brock not having a clue why the woman is there. The ranch is two hours from the nearest town and isolated.

Brock Hughes is a typical Oregon high desert rancher. His livelihood depends on the weather and predators both four legged and two legged. At the start of the book he has loans coming due from his first wife’s medical bills and his ex-father-in-law is trying to get custody of his twelve-year-old daughter. The nanny is actually what he needs to keep his daughter and give him more time to devote to his ranch. But even if he could afford to keep her he knows she’s a city girl and just like his second wife who gave him a son and his mother, the isolation of the ranch was too much for someone not born and raised in this god forsaken country.

To show Carina’s citified attitudes and her stubbornness, I have a scene in the book where a cow is down and they have to use a pickup to pull it out of a ditch. This scene was written about three days after my husband and I used a tractor to pull a pregnant cow out of a small irrigation ditch(no water) where it had rolled onto its back and couldn’t get up.

Perfectly Good Nanny was a fun book to write where I could use my own experiences and the feelings of people I know to show the exhilaration and heartache of ranching.

I think when you can blend your knowledge with the make believe characters in a story it rings true in your writing.

Keep an eye on my blog and you’ll learn when Perfectly Good Nanny is available.
www.patyjager.blogspot.com

Friday, June 10, 2011

Guest Barbara Scott--author of Western Historical Romance


Barbara Scott credits her strong Irish heritage for her story-telling abilities—and she says it doesn't hurt to believe in the Blarney Stone, either. She's written textbooks, has done educational consulting, and taught special education for twenty-five years. She shares a home with her sister and three rambunctious terriers.

She is the author of five published novels including four historicals:  Tug of War, A Golden Heart Winner; Haunts of the Heart, winner of a Write Touch Reader’s award; and Listen With Your Heart. Her other work, a psychological suspense titled Cast a Pale Shadow, won the EPIC Award for Romantic Suspense. She recently completed a contemporary, Talk of the Town, due out in October 2011
.
Barbara, what was the inspiration for your latest work of fiction, West of Heaven? 

"The idea for West of Heaven came from reading Lonesome Dove, viewing Red River, and learning about cattle trails. So many Westerns involve women in minor roles. I wanted to feature them and show them as capable of doing the work of any cowboy as they do on ranches all over the West today."

 Is West of Heaven connected to other novels you have published?

"West of Heaven is a standalone novel."

What type of hero do you usually write about? Is the hero in West of Heaven this type? If not, how would you describe him?

"Most of my heroes are Alpha with Beta tendencies. They are strong in the image they present to the world but softer in their relationships with women. They often have significant personal demons to overcome. Jean Luc "Lucky" Desloge, the hero of West of Heaven, fits this description."

Describe the type of heroine in this story. 

"Marcella is a heroine with a strong moral compass and a deep belief in the integrity of other people."

What was your journey to publication like? Can you look back and pinpoint your mistakes? Or did you make any serious ones?

"I made many mistakes in my early writing career including signing with a bad agent and staying with her too long just to be able to say "I have an agent." For a while, I was called the Queen of Writer's Market since I sold my work to several obscure, small publishers. I have still not been published with a traditional NY publisher, but that seems less important these days."

How have your friends and family received your career as an author?  Are they supportive?

"I was raised by a mother who appreciated my writing talent but encouraged me to have a career to "fall back on." She was why I was a special education teacher until I retired. She died before my first book was published. My dad was never a reader and that first book of mine, Tug of War, was the first fiction he'd read since high school. My sister is very supportive. My first book signing was at her hair salon. I still hold the record for most books sold there."

What’s the most challenging aspect of writing for you?  

"My writing challenge is my preference for descriptive writing which is not the style today. I'm not a fan of books that read like movie scripts, all dialog and no meat. However, I know most people are book vegans these days when so many other things besides reading make demands on their time. So, I try to write leaner."

Where can we find West of Heaven?

"On the Desert Breeze Publishing website:
Also available at Amazon.com for Kindle, Barnes and Noble for Nook, Kobo, All Romance eBooks and Apple's iBookstore."

Do you have a blurb for us so we'll know the premise of the story?

"Marcella McGovern arrives in Onion Creek, Texas for the reading of the will of her unknown benefactress. Accompanied by the attorney who managed her education but kept the secret of her parenthood, she soon discovers more shocks than her prim upbringing has prepared her to face. The late proprietress of the local house of ill repute, Miss Sophie Castleman, and Clint Harte, wealthy cattle baron of the Heart O' Gold Ranch, were murdered in each other's arms.  The will names Marcella as their secret daughter and the inheritor of Sophie's bawdy house and all Harte’s marketable cattle. Complicating the inheritance is Lucky Desloge, Sophie’s disreputable but all too-tempting majordomo, a prime suspect in the murders, and all Sophie’s working girls who are in hiding in her boarded-up house. Then Clint Harte's angry widow issues Marcella an ultimatum, get the cattle off the Heart O' Gold or pay the price."

I must say, this novel sounds very exciting! I assume our heroine will change from that prim and proper young lady to a force to be reckoned with! How about an excerpt?"

Excerpt:
         Crane’s bellow of disbelief was drowned out by a piercing shriek and a wall-shaking clatter that seemed to come from heaven. Or so Marcella imagined.
         Jean Luc scowled at the ceiling where the scuffling continued, mingled with muffled whispers and stifled giggling. “Excuse me, Miss McGovern. We’ve been troubled with squirrels in the attic.”
         Sheriff White almost choked on his own laughter. “Squirrels? Ain’t never heard them called that before.”
         Jean Luc clapped on his hat and stalked out. Marcella heard the ring of his boots and spurs as he took the stairs two at a time. And then the authoritative clang of them as he arrived on the floor above. The low rumble of his voice silenced all else from that quarter.
         “Ain’t nothin’ like a will-readin’ to get folks riled up,” Sheriff White said. “How are you holding up, Miss McGovern? You must be shook clear to the roots with all this. It ain’t everyday a little gal like you gets handed an unlikely set o’parents, a herd of Texas longhorns, and a hog farm all at once.”
         “A hog farm, Sheriff?” Mr. Peeper said. ”I hardly think that’s the appropriate phrase to use. Despite her parentage, Miss McGovern has been raised in a genteel—”
         “Please, Mr. Peeper, could I leave you gentlemen to your discussion for a moment? I need—”
         “Of course, Marcella, dear, after all this you must need a breath of fresh air. Allow me to accompany you to the shade of the porch.”
         “No, thank you, I can take myself where I need to go.” In truth, she’d never felt stronger. For all her years, she’d dreamed of a mother who would wrap her in her arms and kiss away her hurts. Of a father who would shower her with gifts and beg her forgiveness for leaving her so alone while he was off fighting wars and righting wrongs. But she had never dreamed this dream. The daughter of a Texas cattle baron and his light o’life. She could almost feel their blood coursing through her veins. And it was driving her to a decision she would never dare on her own.
         “You did say, Mr. Peeper, that this was my house?”
         “Most certainly.”
         “Then I should be the one to see to the squirrels in my attic.” She smiled at the way Mr. Peeper’s mouth popped open and no words came out. She was glad she’d shocked him. Sheriff White had plenty to say, most of it “no, you’d best not” and other such that she had no intention of listening to. They followed her to the stairs but she ignored them.
         She did not knock at the closed door at the top of the stair. It was her house. No door should be closed to her. She grasped the latch and pushed the door open. “Mr. Desloge, I must insist you—”
         Four women in various stages of shock, befuddlement, and undress stared at her. Jean Luc Desloge, his back to the door, slowly turned, a look of pure chagrin on his face. He took a deep breath and shrugged. Caught again, the devil in his eyes seemed to say. And no hope for it.
         “Miss McGovern, may I present Miss Sophie’s ladies.” He stepped aside so she could see them all. “From left to right, Mary Lynn McQueen, June Bug, Glory B, and Polly. Ladies, Miss Marcella McGovern, the new owner of Miss Sophie’s Baths and Gentlemen’s Parlors.”

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You can learn more about Barbara at her website: http://www.barbarascottink.com