Sunday, September 30, 2012

FRED HARVEY AND THE HARVEY GIRLS

By Ashley Kath-Bilsky

During the 1870s, the American West beckoned hopeful settlers, many of whom traveled on a sparkling new iron horse called the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. But unless you packed a hefty basket of food, chances are you would have been half-starved by journey’s end.

There were some crudely built businesses at various train stops that offered food for purchase, but the selection was mediocre at best. By the time you reached your destination, a constant diet of sinkers (otherwise known as soda biscuits), overcooked beans, and a questionable beverage being passed off as coffee, had most probably wreaked havoc with your digestive system. And as if the poor food selection wasn’t bad enough, travelers were often taken advantage of by unscrupulous business owners who gouged customers with high prices, made them pay for the food upfront, then timed it so the diner had to re-board the train before they could eat it. Disgruntled word of mouth traveled quickly and sorely affected both the Santa Fe’s reputation and profits. Something had to be done, and done quickly.
[Vintage illustration of crowded railroad passenger car - Harpers Magazine, Aug 1885]

And so it was in 1876 that Fred Harvey, an English immigrant who had a popular restaurant in Topeka, Kansas, entered into a deal – on a handshake, mind you – with the Santa Fe Railroad. A formal contract was written up two years later. The deal? The Santa Fe Railroad built ‘eating houses’ at various towns along its route, and Fred Harvey managed each one by hiring cooks, bakers and kitchen staff, ensuring quality, and training personnel to provide what he was known for back in Topeka, namely Good Food, Good Service, and Good Prices.

Fred Harvey was born on 27 June 1835 in London. In 1853 at the age of 17, he immigrated to the United States, where he worked as "pot walloper" or dishwasher in New York City. Yet he possessed great ambition and was not afraid to work hard. He moved from New York City to New Orleans where, after surviving a bout with Yellow Fever, he relocated to St. Louis. Years later, while working in the rail mail transport, he saw that good food and good service was greatly needed by train passengers. So, in 1875, Harvey opened his first restaurant in Topeka, Kansas.

By 1887, the Santa Fe had built 24 Harvey Houses as far west as San Bernadino, California, and anyone traveling aboard the railroad was told they would find superior food along their journey with just these four words, “Meals by Fred Harvey”. However, there were times when civilized behavior in the Wild West was often tested and rules had to be strictly enforced.

One recorded incident occurred when a group of rowdy cowboys actually rode their horses into a Harvey House located in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Fred Harvey stepped forward and announced, “Gentlemen, ladies dine here. No swearing or foul language is permitted. You must leave quietly at once.” Believe it or not, the cowboys, heads bowed with shame, left…along with their horses.

[Pictured - Topeka Harvey House, Courtesy Kansas Historical Society]

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Fred Harvey has often been called the man who “civilized the West”…at least inside a Harvey House. For example, all men in the dining room were required to wear a coat. He strived to bring proper English manners to the American West, and his rules of strict conduct also included his staff. In 1883, when he noticed the male waiters often came to work late, usually with a hangover, and would fight on duty, it was wholly unacceptable. He fired the entire staff at a Harvey House in Raton, New Mexico. Not having much confidence in the reliability of male waiters any more, Mr. Harvey took an unprecedented move and decided to hire only female servers for all the Harvey Houses. Ads were placed in newspapers throughout the Midwest.

“Wanted: Young women 18 to 30 years of age, of good moral character, attractive and intelligent, to waitress in Harvey Eating Houses on the Sante Fe in the West. Wages, $17.50 per month with room and board. Liberal tips customary. Experience not necessary. Write Fred Harvey, Union Depot, Kansas City, Missouri.”

Thousands of ladies sent in their applications. Those contacted for a personal interview were all but cross-examined by Alice Steel at the company’s headquarters in Kansas City. Every step was taken to ensure that any female hired as a Harvey Girl had an exemplary character above anything else. And each applicant was also required to sign an affidavit swearing to that fact.

One must remember that the reputation of a Harvey House was important, and meticulous care was made in the staff they hired. Respectable job opportunities for moral women in the late 1800s were rare. Being a Harvey Girl was quite ‘the thing’, something that instilled a sense of pride in the young women selected. They were not referred to as a ‘waitress’; they were “Harvey Girls”.

The reasons for becoming a Harvey Girl varied. For most, there were no jobs for women in their community and it provided a means for them to be independent and also help their families. The Harvey House and Hotel provided respectable employment and a safe place to live. And let’s be honest. There were some starry-eyed Harvey Girls who were not only fascinated with the notion of seeing the American West, but had hopes of meeting their future husband there. For all of them, the wages and tips they earned enabled them to be truly independent. While the husband-seeking Harvey Girl might be saving for her bridal trousseau, for others that income provided them with a means of helping their families back home, and paid for them to have an education they could never have afforded before.

Harvey Girls underwent a six-week training period before being assigned to a Harvey House, usually a small one at first. This enabled them to become more skilled and able to handle being assigned to a larger house in a busier community. Each Harvey Girl was trained to properly set a table and to ensure that there were no chips or cracks in any of the glassware. Serving technique was taught: food from the left, beverages from the right. They were not allowed to talk with other Harvey Girls in the presence of a customer, and they were never to argue with a guest. Children were to be complimented whenever possible, and every Harvey Girl was reminded that a kind, sincere smile on their face was essential.

In a time when bawdy houses and saloon girls wore provocative clothing to entice patrons, the Harvey Girl uniform was completely opposite. Fred Harvey wanted no misunderstanding that the young ladies who worked at the Harvey House were very respectable.
Their uniform consisted of a black dress, crisp white pinafore apron, polished black shoes, black hose, and white ribbons in their hair. Inspection was held daily before the staff was allowed to serve customers. The uniform had to be spotless or one would be required to change her clothes. [Pictured is a still from The Harvey Girls, a 1946 MGM musical featuring Judy Garland.]

To ensure their high standards of service and food, organization was necessary for the busy daily schedule of every Harvey House, especially those in larger communities. They recognized a need to gauge how many passengers would come to dine when the train stopped. As such, train personnel would ask each passenger if they planned to visit the Harvey House at the next stop, and would then wire that information ahead. In this way, the Harvey House knew what percentage would be dining for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. A train whistle sounded about a mile outside town to give the Harvey House a heads-up on their arrival. Meals were served efficiently, making sure each customer had time to enjoy their meal. House managers would “calmly announce” when patrons had 10 minutes to finish their meal before it was time to board their train again. But they always assured their customers that no one would be left behind.

Service was so efficient, in fact, that it included a Cup Code. When train passengers were seated, the Harvey Girl attending them would take their drink order. They would then turn the cup to indicate which beverage the customer wanted. A cup turned up indicated coffee; a cup turned upside down meant tea. The china itself was made especially for Harvey House by Syracuse China. Pictured above is the Harvey House Normandy hand-painted pattern of a bowl, plate and cup.

Some locations had a pattern more unique to their location. For example, the El Tovar Hotel’s restaurant on the rim of the Grand Canyon was built by Hopi craftsmen. Opened in 1905, this Harvey owned hotel used the Webster pattern.

Made by Syracuse China, the El Tovar pattern (table creamer pictured left) consisted of gold filigree with a black border on ivory china. Note: Syracuse China began operations in 1871 and still produces china today. They are known for their restaurant, hotel, and railroad dining car china. However, they also made fine china.

The food one could expect at a Harvey House and Hotel was a far cry from sinkers and bad coffee. Such dishes as whitefish filet with Madeira sauce, roast beef au jus, sugar-cured ham, and even lobster salad were served on fine china and linen tablecloths. Fresh foods, including seafood, fruit and vegetables arrived daily in ice-filled railroad cars, and homemade pies were carved into four generous slices, not six. Without question, the vision and contribution that Fred Harvey made as a pioneer of the hospitality industry in the American West was extraordinary.

The fact that Fred Harvey offered respectable employment to women was also unprecedented at the time. And as an author, the history of this time period and the courage and independence of the Harvey Girls has inspired me to write a series of novellas about a group of very special young ladies who sought travel and adventure, a means to earn money respectably, and possibly find love in the American West. Will they find it? You will have to stay tuned to this blog for further updates.

As for Fred Harvey, he was a true pioneer in the hospitality industry. At the time of his death in 1901, there were 47 restaurants and 15 hotels bearing his name. Through his vision and leadership, hundreds upon thousands of people were provided a much needed service on their travels. Many communities also attributed the presence of a Harvey House or Harvey Hotel with bringing prosperity and respectability to their frontier towns. His vision continued under the management of his sons and remained in the Harvey family until 1965.

Thank you very much for taking the time to visit Sweethearts of the West today. I hope you enjoyed my post about Fred Harvey and his Harvey Girls. ~ AKB

Sources:
Kansas Historical Society
The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West by
Lesley Poling-Kempes (1994) Da Capo Press
Fred Harvey – Houses of the Southwest by Richard Melzer
(2008) Arcadia Publishing

Friday, September 28, 2012

COME MEET THE AUTHORS OF WOLF CREEK: BOOK 1 BLOODY TRAIL!


Today, I’m proud to introduce five wonderful western writers who I was privileged to work with on a “new concept” western, the kick-off novel of the Western Fictioneers’ Wolf Creek series.

Western Fictioneers is producing a new series of western novels, under the umbrella title Wolf Creek. The series gets its name from its setting, the fictional 1870s town of Wolf Creek, Kansas. The first installment, Bloody Trail, was released on September 1, with a new volume to follow every three or four months. Under the house pen name Ford Fargo, the six authors who collaborated on the first book of the series, Bloody Trail, are Clay More, James Griffin, L.J. Martin, Troy Smith, James Reasoner, and Cheryl Pierson.

Bill Torrance, Spike Sweeney, Derrick McCain, Charley Blackfeather, G.W. Satterlee, and Logan Munro are common citizens, until the day their small town of Wolf Creek, Kansas, comes under a methodically cruel siege. Led by one of the most brutal men of the post Civil War years, Jim Danby, the outlaw gang that invades Wolf Creek figures they got away clean with murder and bank robbery. But the dwellers of Wolf Creek have secrets of their own, and the posse that goes after Danby and his men are anything but the ordinary people they seemed to be before the attack. They'll go to any lengths to keep their town safe, no matter how long they have to follow the BLOODY TRAIL.

I asked three questions of each of the authors about their character, collaboration, and what’s to come in future editions of the Wolf Creek series. For the sake of space, I’ll post the questions once here at the beginning and number the answers to correlate.

Questions:
1. Wolf Creek is a town filled with secrets, and people "with a past." Tell us a little about your character without giving away all his secrets. What kind of man is he and how does he change in this story?

2. The idea of a collaboration with other authors is sometimes daunting. What did you enjoy most about working with your co-authors under the pen name "FORD FARGO"?

3. Are there any plans for your character to reappear in a future edition of the Wolf Creek stories? If so, what edition will it be?


Let’s start with Clay More’s answers, since his character kicks the story off.

CLAY MORE—Dr. Logan Munro

1. Logan Munro is a Scottish doctor, as am I. Shortly after graduating from Edinburgh

University he served with the British Army Hospital in Scutari in Constantinople during the Crimean War. In 1856, at the end of the war he had the opportunity to go to India. While there he married Helen, a young governess. A year later The Indian Mutiny took place and he was involved in the siege. Sadly, Helen died from malaria. Disillusioned with life, and bereft at losing Helen, Logan sailed for America. Along came the Civil War, during which he served as a surgeon in the Union Army. When the guns ceased and the smoke cleared he settled down in Wolf Creek. He has seen a lot of action in the three wars he served in and he has honed his surgical skills on the battlefields. He is tired of all the killing and he just wants to settle down as a family doctor in a sleepy town.

I don’t think that Logan has really changed in the course of the story. Like all of the decent citizens of Wolf Creek he is sickened by the attack by the Danby gang. When a posse is formed he insists on going, since he feels that he may be needed. His training and his experience mean that he keeps a cool head when he is under pressure.

2. This was indeed a very daunting prospect, since I was working with top names in the western genre, five writers whose prose and imagination I greatly admired. When Troy gave me the task of opening the story I was naturally anxious in case I failed to engage the reader in those first two chapters, which would result in the whole project collapsing. Troy had worked out an outline for us all to work to and everyone had the opportunity to chip in until we had the plot mapped out. Then each writer told the story through the viewpoint of their character. I think Troy was inspired to come up with the whole concept. We wrote the book sequentially, so I had to write mine quickly and hand it on to Jim Griffin, who then wrote his story and handed it on to Troy. Then Larry took up the reins and handed it on to James. And of course, Cheryl had to finish it off, which she did beautifully.

It was a lot of fun, but each writer had his or her own pressure to keep the story moving. I really enjoyed working with all of the writers and seeing just how the story panned out. I have to say that Troy, who ramrodded the whole thing, did a fantastic job in taking the whole manuscript and blending it seamlessly together. I think the result is a book that has turned out to be greater than the sum of its parts.

3. Yes, I am happy to say that Logan returns in Book 4 - The Taylor County War. In fact, I am working on it right now.

LARRY MARTIN—Angus “Spike” Sweeney



Angus “Spike” Sweeney is the town blacksmith.

He wears a butternut wool Confederate Kepi with a Davis Guard Medal pinned above the eye shade and invites comments, which might just be met with an iron bender’s grip on the throat and a pounding left to the proboscis. Considered a hero of the Davis Guards and the defense of Sabine Pass. He is usually unarmed, but is deadly within twenty feet with his hammer, and can split hairs at fifteen with his hatchet or Arkansas toothpick. A decent and deliberate shot with both a sidearm and long gun.

Spike was born in New Orleans and was a sailor (both in trading vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and on the Mississippi) and on-board smithy, where he acquired some skill as a gunsmith as well. He keeps a garden in the rear of the shop with both vegetables and flowers, and is teased about the flowers. He is bashful around women and wouldn’t swear in front of one if a beer wagon ran over his moccasin clad foot, but is on the prod for a woman who can put up with his (in his eyes) questionable looks, and long hours in front of a hot forge.

Spike’s silent partner at the forge is Emory Charleston, an ex-slave -the two men make an incongruous, but mutually loyal, pair. Em’s biggest complaint about Spike is the Confederate cap he insists on wearing.


JIM GRIFFIN—Bill Torrance

1. My character is Bill Torrance, the owner of the Wolf Creek Livery stable. He’s a

man who seems to care only for horses, and little else. He’s never even been known to carry a gun. In modern-day terms, he’d be considered a “wimp”. However, Bill Torrance is not his real name, and his background is far from the picture he presents to the citizens of Wolf Creek. This becomes clear when the town is attacked by the Danby gang.

2. First, it was an honor to be asked to participate in this project, with authors far more well-known than I, all of whom I admire. What I found most amazing and enjoyable was the complete cooperation among all the authors, and the complete lack of egos. Everyone was willing to bend to let the storyline mesh together cleanly. All of the authors were allowed to use the other authors’ characters in their chapters, as long as they didn’t change the character “owner’s” concept of his or her character. Again, everyone was fine with that. By everyone working together and setting aside our natural instincts to not want anyone else using “our” characters, we were able to avoid transition and storyline problems.

3. Yes, Bill Torrance, now using his real name, will be appearing in a future Wolf Creek book. I believe Volume 6. In that book, we’ll learn more about him, plus he’ll be interacting with Edith Pettigrew, widow of one of the founders of Wolf Creek. Bill had a confrontation with her in Bloody Trail, so when they meet again the sparks will once more be flying.

TROY SMITH—Charley Blackfeather

1. Charley Blackfeather’s father was an escaped slave, and his mother was Seminole –he

was raised as a member of that tribe, and as a very young man fought against the U.S. military in the Seminole Wars. Later, during the Civil War, he served in the same blue uniform he had once fought against… now (1871) he serves as a cavalry scout, making use of his vast knowledge of Kansas and Indian Territory.

Charley is an adept tracker and hunter. He bears a lot of pain from the losses he has suffered in the various wars, but carries it stoically. He can be pretty intimidating if you don’t know him well –but if he is comfortable with you he can display a wry sense of humor. In the course of our first episode, Charley is visited by ghosts from his past that re-awaken his grief and rage. He also begins to develop new friendships, with people he would not have expected he would ever trust.

2. As editor of the series, I admit I did have some trepidation about trying to coordinate this kind of complex project, and about dealing with so many different authors. I feared it would end up being an exercise in herding cats, and that I would have a lot of stubborn, narcissistic, recalcitrant people to deal with (in other words, writers.) But I was pleasantly surprised. This book, and the ones that are set to come after, were joys to work on. Everyone cooperated wonderfully- it really did feel like a team from the outset. And the rich, vibrant characters everyone created came alive immediately.

3. Well, that’s kind of a trick question in my case. As editor, I will be writing a section in every book, to help pull the various other parts together. I have two characters –one for stories that take place mostly in town (Marshal Sam Gardner) and one for stories that take place largely outside of town (Charley Blackfeather.)

JAMES REASONER—Sheriff G.W. Satterlee

1. My character, Sheriff G.W. Satterlee, is a former buffalo hunter and army scout who

drifted into packing a badge, and in the process he discovered that he's an instinctive politician who enjoys the power of his position. He's not the morally upright lawman hero so often found in Western fiction, but neither is he the corrupt official out to line his own pockets. Rather, he's somewhere in between . . . which means that he's capable of either inspiring us or disappointing us, depending on the situation in which he finds himself and his reaction to it. In BLOODY TRAIL, he discovers that maybe he has a little more of a conscience than he thought he did. As with most things about G.W. Satterlee, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, we just don't know yet . . . and probably neither does he.

2. I really got a kick out of the passion and enthusiasm the other authors brought to the project. Everyone tried to make this the very best novel it could be.

3. Since G.W. Satterlee is the county sheriff, headquartered in Wolf Creek, he's bound to make plenty of return appearances, ranging from brief cameos to leading roles in some books. I believe he's supposed to be featured again in the fourth book in the series.
My blog can be found at http://jamesreasoner.blogspot.com

CHERYL PIERSON—Derrick McCain

1. I have two characters in this story, Derrick McCain, who has come back to Wolf

Creek after many years of "drifting" after the war. He's uneasy with himself and his past--he did some things that he regrets both during and after the war. But he has a personal stake in joining the posse to go after the gang that attacked Wolf Creek...he's seeking revenge of his own. My other character is Carson Ridge, a member of the Cherokee Lighthorse law enforcement. He makes a brief appearance but will be back in future editions of Wolf Creek.

2. I truly loved working on this project. Getting to read the other parts first really helped me in my decision as to how to end it properly, since I wrote the last two chapters. It was important to "get it right" because the ending has to leave the reader wanting more. But every chapter built on the one that came before it, and Clay, Jim, Troy, Larry and James really made my job a lot easier than it might have been otherwise. This was Troy's idea, and he has been organized and kept the ball rolling all along. So for me, the entire experience was really a good one--and nothing like I'd ever done before.

3. Derrick McCain will appear in book 5, Showdown at Demon's Drop. I also have a couple of short stories planned for his character in future anthologies. Carson Ridge may also appear in book 5--I'm not certain yet, but I know he will turn up again in the future somewhere!

Thanks to all my co-authors today for joining me here at SWEETHEARTS OF THE WEST. We will be giving away a copy of WOLF CREEK: BOOK 1 BLOODY TRAIL to one lucky commenter! If you just can’t wait to see if you won it, here’s the link to the page at Amazon!


http://www.amazon.com/WOLF-CREEK-Bloody-Trail-Volume/dp/1475243197/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1348792012&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=wolf+creek+book+1+bloody+trail

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

MIXING FACT AND FICTION




                                            A Real Hero who helped my Fictional Hero

Those of us on this blog write fiction. Several of us write both contemporary and historical fiction, but we each write books set in the West. As my fellow authors have done, I have carefully researched my works. But then, I love reading reference material when it’s about my favorite subject. In researching for, HIGH STAKES BRIDE, which is releasing this week, I came across an historic hero who lived and worked in the area of Texas in which I live. Normally, I only use fictitious names in my works, but in this instance, I had my hero Zach Stone interact with this real-life hero, Brit Johnson.

John Wayne in "The Searchers"

“The Searchers” is the John Ford movie starring John Wayne and based on the novel by Allen LeMay,  whose story in turn was inspired by actual events detailed in Gregory Michno's "The Search for the Captives of Elm Creek." In “The Searchers,” a white man searches for his niece captured by Indians. Western Writers of America voted “The Searchers” the No. 1 Western of all time. In Weider History Group special issue of 100 Greatest Westerns, the movie ranks No. 7. Many people believe the movie is based on the search for Cynthia Ann Parker, but it's about another captured girl, and the movie doesn’t begin to tell the exciting real story.

The actual Elm Creek Raid “searcher” on whom the movie was based is Brit Johnson, a black man who hunted for his wife and children. His quest and recovery of his family as well as other victims kidnapped in that raid is the stuff of legends. As a result, there are at least three or four versions of the story. Here is my compilation of what I consider the most likely way the story happened.

Brit was born about 1840 in Tennessee or Kentucky. He was a slave of Moses Johnson, who came to Texas as part of Stephen F. Austin’s 300. Moses Johnson had intended to free Brit, but both agreed that the hassle incurred by freedmen of color in the south and southwest was too great. Instead, Brit worked as Moses’ ranch foreman and could come and go as he wished. On October 13, 1864, Brit had gone into Weatherford for winter supplies along with Allen Johnson and other ranchers and farmers.



Little Buffalo and seven hundred braves were also riding. Usually waiting for a full moon to raid, this time in broad daylight they swept down both banks of Elm Creek, killing and raping, burning houses and barns full of the summer's crops. They stole most of the horses and some of the cattle, killing or stampeding the rest. Among the first houses surrounded by the Comanche was that of Mrs. Elizabeth Fitzpatrick. She was there with her son, Joseph, 12, and her adult daughter, Susan Durgan, along with Susan's children, 3 year old Charlote "Lottie," and 18 month old Millie Jane. Britt's wife, Mary, and their three children were also there. Susan, who had run outside with a gun, was stripped, raped, and mutilated in the yard. Britt's son was killed and the others kidnapped.

Many wanted to ride after their loved ones, but chasing 700 Comanche was not the wisest option. They spent the winter rebuilding homes and sewing crops. Then, Brit Johnson went after his wife and daughters. He trailed Comanche and found a campsite. Here being a black man helped. On this trip he first traded for horses, recognizing two as those taken from near his home, one from Thomas Hamby and the favorite mare of Elizabeth Fitzpatrick. When he saw Mrs. Fitzpatrick, he pretended disinterest until he could ask the ally he'd made, Chief Milky Way, to trade for her on his behalf. He returned Mrs. Fitzpatrick to her home, with her riding her own mare.

Brit would not rest until he had recovered his wife, Mary, and their two children. In return for being rescued, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick committed part of her wealth to helping recover other kidnap victims from the Indians. She hoped to recover Lottie and Millie Jane. Financed by Elizabeth Fitzpatrick and Allen Johnson, Brit made three more trips into Indian Territory that summer as he slowly tracked down and purchased surviving captives from the Elm Creek Raid of October, 1864.

On his fourth trip, Britt again enlisted the aid of Chief Milky Way aka Chief Asa-Havie. The chief sent with Brit two trusted braves to bargain with the Kiowa, who were rumored to have some black captives. At the time Brit did not know if they were the ones he was seeking, but it turned out they were. Britt Johnson eventually recovered every other captive except Millie Durgan, who was supposedly sold and adopted into the tribe. Though her fate was not learned until over sixty years later, she lived a full and happy life as the adopted daughter of a chief. Poor Elizabeth Fitzpatrick never learned whether her granddaughter lived or died, but went to her grave believing Millie Jane was waiting to be rescued..



The photo above is of the woman many believe to be Millie Jane Durgan. The photo was taken when she was 69. She is the one member of the Elm Creek Raid who was not recovered. According to the researchers, Millie was adopted  by Chief Au-Soat-Sai-Mah and given the name Sain-Toh-Oodie (killed with a blunt arrow) by her godfather and concealed from whites by her foster parents. When asked about her, the tribe replied she had died of starvation the first winter. In reality, she grew up pampered and happy as the only child of her foster parents. She married a brave named Goombi and had nine children. Mrs. Goombi is buried near Mountain View, Oklahoma.

Penateka Comanche Chief Milky Way, also
known as Chief Asa-Havie
In June 1865, Comanche Chief Asa-Havie paid a ransom for the black captives, rescued them, and took them to the Indian agent, who turned them over to Britt Johnson. By the time Johnson returned with his family, the Civil War was over and he truly was a free man. He had become famous for getting his family and others back from the Comanches, and he used his status to buy a wagon team and gain freight contracts. He moved his family to Parker County, where he set up his freight business. Johnson became quite successful, heading up wagon teams to haul freight between Weatherford and Fort Griffin. Government contracts went to his company because it was a government policy to favor business contracts with black freedmen. White businessmen gave him their business because his company was reliable and competitive. Not only that, the name Britt had become a local legend in North Texas. There was no shortage of work for their new company, and no shortage of friends in every community.

In 1867, the Federal government adopted a new so-called peace policy that guaranteed Indians on the Territory that the army would not arrest them if they were on the reservation. It could not punish any Indian for any crime without first obtaining permission from an Indian agent. The Indian agents, mostly Quakers, rarely gave that permission. The reservation had become a sanctuary for raiding that made the raids into Texas worse than ever before.

Britt Johnson died as heroically as he lived. On January 24, 1871, while he led a wagon train through Young County delivering supplies from Weatherford to Fort Griffin, a group of either five or twenty-five Kiowas, depending on the account, attacked the wagon train four miles to the east of Salt Creek. Johnson and the two other teamsters with him tried to defend the wagons, but there was little cover. Outnumbered, the teamsters put up a desperate fight. They killed their own horses and mules to make breastworks, bravely resisting to the end. When his two companions fell dead, Johnson desperately held back the attack using his dead horse for cover. After torturing, killing and scalping the men, and looting the wagons, the Kiowa headed toward their sanctuary in Indian Territory. When others, either soldiers from Fort Griffin or another set of teamsters depending on the account, found the site of this attack, they counted 173 rifle and pistol shells around the area where Johnson made his last stand. The men buried the mutilated bodies of Johnson and his men in a common grave next to the wagon road.

In HIGH STAKES BRIDE, I fictionally have Brit Johnson assist my hero, Zach Stone, rescue a boy kidnapped by the Kiowa. Later,the Paneteka Comanche who assisted Brit and Zach, comes to visit Zach at his home in what I hope is a moving farewell. Instead of Chief Milky Way, I made up the name White Eagle. I hope my taking liberty with the history in this instance translates into an enjoyable read. After all, that’s what authors strive for--entertaining our readers. Here’s the cover of that book:



It’s available in print and e-book. The ebook is at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/238238?ref=CarolineClemmons and soon will be available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble, etc.

In Print at http://www.amazon.com/High-Stakes-Bride-Stone-Mountain/dp/1479253596/ref=sr_1_36?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1348605394&sr=1-36&keywords=caroline+clemmons

For those who might be interested in a more realistic book on Brit Johnson’s life, here’s the trailer of KILLED BY INDIANS 1871:



But that is NOT what HIGH STAKES BRIDE is about. To prove it, here's the blurb:


Mary Alice Price is on the run from dangerous men. She had known that when her stepfather died, she would have to hurriedly escape her stepbrothers. Hadn’t she heard them promise her to the meanest man in Texas as payment for high stakes gambling losses? One misfortune after another devils her until she links up with Zach Stone. He looks sturdy as his last name and invites her to his ranch where his two aunts will chaperone them. She figures life finally dealt her a winning hand.

Zach Stone has the sweetest ranch in all of Texas, at least he thinks he does. All he needs is a wife to build his family of boys and girls to carry on his ranch and name. He’s been jilted and vows he will never even speak to a woman again unless she's a relative. Then he comes across Alice Price and comes up with a crazy plan. He’s figured everything out, and is sure nothing can go wrong with his plan.

But life holds many surprises for Alice and Zach...

Thanks for stopping by!


Sources:
http://www.historynet.com/letter-from-wild-west-april-2009.htm
http://www.abilenetexashistory.com/?p=118
http://www.danielnew.com/nigger-britt.shtml By Daniel D.New
http://celiahayes.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/relatively-unknown-heroes/
Michael E. McClellan, "JOHNSON, BRITTON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fjo07), accessed September 25, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Wikipedia
LONE STAR: A HISTORY OF TEXAS AND THE TEXANS, by T.R. Fehrenback

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ready to Wear by Lauri Robinson


New clothing was not overly accessible to most men and women in the west. When you needed a new set of ‘duds’ you had to go to a tailor or dress maker and have them made. Very few ‘mercantiles’ sold new clothing, however, many did sell ‘ready to wear’ clothes. These were outfits discarded by the higher class, or just those that had ‘out grown’ their clothes and needed a new set.

It wasn’t unusual for cowboys to wear suit pants and a vest (silk not leather) while riding the range, because the ‘fancier’ the clothes, the harder it was for the store to sell them. Therefore, the ‘fancy duds’ sold for cheaper. That also explains while chimney sweeps always wore top hats and tuxedos. Cheap wear for a very dirty job.

There was big business in ‘ready to wear’ clothes for all the people moving west, and entrepreneurs would scavenge the ‘castaways’ discarded by the wealthier set back east and drive wagons of clothing west, peddling their wares as they went.

In my November 1st release from Harlequin, Unclaimed Bride, heroine Constance Jennings had to sell several outfits in order to pay for food and shelter before she left New York for Wyoming as a mail order bride. Hence, upon her arrival, it’s bitterly cold and she has no coat—yes, she sincerely regrets selling it—especially when it means Ellis Clayton, a complete stranger, has to buy her a new one at a very exorbitant price, indebting her to him even more.


Unclaimed Bride
Running from the past…she bumps into her future!

Mail-order bride Constance Jennings steps off the stage in Cottonwood, Wyoming, and waits for her husband-to-be. But he never shows up, and instead several other men are vying to take his place!

Single father Ellis Clayton must be the only man in town not looking for a bride. But his young daughter's habit of rescuing wounded critters means he ends up offering Constance a temporary shelter.

Having a woman around the house again is all too easy—especially seeing her bond with his daughter—but Ellis can't seem to let go of the past. Problem is, neither can Constance. And hers is about to catch up with her….

www.laurirobinson.blogspot.com

Saturday, September 22, 2012

SAM BASS, FAMOUS TEXAS OUTLAW AND FAMILY HISTORY


By Guest author, Carra Copelin

Sam Bass
Through the genealogy research of our family history, I continually search for the validity of stories passed from one generation to the next. So far I'm 0 for 0. A few of these are:
1.  A great grandmother was Cherokee or part Cherokee. No.
2.  A great-great grandfather came to Tennessee from Germany, then to Texas. No, it appears he was possibly an Englishman from Illinois
3.  My Pike ancestors were related to Zebulon Pike, explorer and discoverer of Pike's Peak. No.
4.  We are related by marriage to Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. You guessed it, No.
 Now, in all fairness, it is possible I haven't gone down the right trail or all evidence for the right trail no longer exists. Maybe there's a left turn out there I will find someday.

The biggest story we haven't proven yet is that we are related to Sam Bass, the outlaw. My great-grandmother, on my father's side, was Anna Bass Carr, born 1874 in Clifton, Bosque County, Texas. She told the story of how, when she was a little girl, a man came to their home late one night. Her mother, Sarah Hardison Bass, let him in, gave him food and lodging. The next morning, when she awoke, the man was gone. Granny said, her mother told her that man was her cousin, Sam Bass.

Another story involving, Sam Bass, happened on my mother's side of the family. This tale says the outlaw was headed south from Denton by way of the Garland - Mesquite area, North of Dallas. Sam stopped at the McCommas farm, the home of mother's great-great uncle. Sam bought fresh horses and left his own for the farmer. Once again, there is no proof, but I want to believe.

Young Sam Bass


Sam was born on July 21, 1851on a farm in Mitchell, Indiana. He was orphaned at the age of ten. He and his brother and sisters lived with an abusive uncle and his nine children for the next five years. In 1869, Sam lived on his own in Mississippi at Charles' Mill where he learned how to handle a pistol and sharpened his card playing skills. In 1871, he moved to Denton in North Texas.

He went to work for Sheriff W.F. (Dad) Eagan. Sheriff Eagan employed Sam as a farmhand where he curried horses, milked the cows, and cut firewood, but more importantly, young Sam spent some time as a teamster. It was at this position that he became acquainted with the country and learned all the trails, back roads and thickets he would later use to elude the Texas Rangers.

Sam Bass Gang, Jim Miller on left back
Bass formed a gang and robbed the Union Pacific gold train from San Francisco. He and his men intercepted the train on September 18, 1877 at Big Spring, Nebraska, looting $60,000. To this day it is the largest single robbery of the Union Pacific. Sam and his gang staged a string of robberies after this, never netting over $500 at any one time. In 1878, the gang held up two stagecoaches and four trains within twenty-five miles of Dallas and became the object of a manhunt by Pinkerton agents and a special company of Texas Rangers headed by Captain Junius Peak.

The Bass gang eluded the Rangers until one member of his gang, Jim Murphy, turned informant. Mr. Murphy's father, who was very ill at the time, was taken into custody and held for questioning. He was not allowed to see a doctor, and his condition rapidly worsened. Law officers then sent a message to Murphy informing him that they had his father in custody, and they would continue to withhold medical treatment. Murphy, knowing how sick his father was, agreed to the meeting, which resulted in him reluctantly agreeing to become an informant. That is the tactic that had to be employed to catch the wiley Sam Bass. Major John B. Jones, Texas Ranger, was informed of Bass's movements, and set up an ambush at Round Rock, Texas, where Bass planned to rob the Williamson County Bank.



On July 19, 1878, Bass and his gang were scouting the area before the robbery. When they bought some tobacco at a store, they were noticed by Deputy Sheriff A. W. Grimes. When Grimes approached the men to request that they surrender their side arms, he was shot and killed. As Bass attempted to flee, he was shot by Ranger George Herold and then by Texas Ranger Sergeant Richard Ware. Near Ware, were Soapy Smith and his cousin Edwin who witnessed Ware's shot. Soapy exclaimed, "I think you got him." Bass was found lying in a pasture by a group of railroad workers, who summoned the authorities. He was taken into custody and died the next day on his 27th birthday.

Bass was buried in Round Rock, some fifteen miles north of Austin, Texas's state capitol. Today, his grave is marked with a replacement headstone, the original having suffered at the hands of souvenir collectors over the years. What remains of the original stone is on display at the Round Rock Public Library.

After Sam died his legend grew, helped along by a song.♫ "The Ballad of Sam Bass" ♫, written by John Denton of Gainesville, Texas, was sung by many cowhands in an attempt to sooth the herd on stormy nights. Sam's fame spread to Great Britain in the late 1800s, culminating in a wax statue of him in Madam Tussaud's Waxworks in London (Ibid.).

Today, Sam Bass is not as well-known as he was in the past. However, Round Rock maintains its historical legacy as evidenced by the street markers identifying the events in the celebrated shootout.

My family's connection to Sam, while not yet proven, may still be true. I have traced our Bass ancestors back to Gibson County, Indiana. I'm ever hopeful that one day a distant relative will stand up and say 'Howdy', so to speak, and we'll have our documentation.



Carra Copelin, Author

Carra was born in Dallas, Texas and raised a few miles away in Arlington just a stone's throw from where the Dallas Cowboys now call home. Unlike other authors, she didn't write from childhood or read long into the night, but discovered romance novels as an adult. In addition to relieving stress, she found there were many people residing in her head, all looking for a way onto the printed page, so she decided to give writing a try. From that day she was hooked, and, even though life took over for a while, Carra is busy bringing her characters to life. Now retired from the Medical Technology field, Carra writes contemporary and historical romance and is collaborating on a time travel.

Carra can currently be found:
http://carra-copelin.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Carra-Copelin-Texas-Skies-Author/233861816666958
https://twitter.com/#!/CarraCopelin







Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bosque County & The Chisholm Trail

When people think of cattle ranching and cowboys in Texas, I suspect they think of huge spreads like the King Ranch in South Texas or the XIT Ranch and the JA Ranch in the Texas Panhandle. Once the largest range under fence in the world, the XIT was broken up and sold 100 years ago. The JA, founded by Charles Goodnight and John G. Adair, is still in operation, as is the King Ranch.
 
XIT cowboys
 
However, many smaller ranches dot the state, including Bosque County, where my adventurous Texas Druids put down roots in Darlin’ Druid and Dashing Druid.
 
Located in Central Texas, Bosque (pronounced Boss-kee) County lies about sixty miles south of Dallas-Fort Worth and forty miles northwest of Waco. Early Spanish explorers named the area “Bosque”, meaning “wooded.” As part of the Grand Prairie section of the state, the land is well watered and excellent for farming and animal grazing. That’s what attracted pioneers, even though they had to contend with raiding Comanche and Kiowa Indians, who claimed the territory as part of their ancestral hunting grounds.
 
Settlers began moving into the area in 1849. By 1854, enough permanent residents were making their home there for a county to be created. Many were Anglo-Americans pushing west with the frontier; others were Norwegian and German immigrants. Farms flourished, producing cotton, wheat and other crops.
 
Pioneers also introduced small herds of cattle into the Bosque region. Grass as tall as your head, so high only cowboys on horseback could be seen, provided nutritious pasturage. One woman reported hearing cattle herds being driven along a trail but not being able to see them.  However, as in the rest of the state, Bosque ranchers found it difficult to move their herds to eastern markets until after the Civil War, when cattle trails opened to the railheads in Kansas.
 
One major reason for the growth of the cattle industry in Bosque County was the Chisholm Trail. Actually a group of branching trails that came together from all over South Texas, the Chisholm Trail entered Bosque County east Kimball Bend markerof the Bosque River. It traversed grassy prairies east of Clifton (the county seat) and Meridian, crossed Steele Creek where the town of Morgan now stands, and then crossed the Brazos River at Kimball Bend. At the height of the cattle drive era, the town of Kimball was a lively frontier cowtown. Now it’s a crumbling ruin and part of a state park.

Open range cattle ranching flourished along the Bosque River and its tributaries until the early 1880s. Barbed wire, brought into the area at that time, put an end to free ranging cattle by 1885. However, cattle holdings in Bosque County continued to increase. In 1880, the number of cattle listed in the county was 26,113; a decade later that number had grown to 49,327. Every farmer-stockman of the region owned some cattle, according to Bosque historian William C. Poole.

Today, according to an online article titled Beef Cattle Education in Bosque County, “Beef Cattle Production is the primary agricultural enterprise in Bosque County.”

Sources:   A History of Bosque County, Texas by William C. Pool

http://chambersarchitects.com/bosque-county-ranch.html http://odfiles.tamu.edu/odfiles/CountyAnnualReports_2010/D8/Bosqueannualreport.pdf

Excert from Darlin' Druid: David is bringing Jessie home to the River T Ranch in Bosque County. He has just revealed a painful truth about himself, alarming her.


 

       “Merciful God!” she blurted, stomach churning. “What have ye led me into, David Taylor?”
        He sighed heavily and stared ahead once more. “You’ll know soon enough. The homestead’s over the next rise.”
        Within moments, they crested the hill and David halted the wagon again. Jessie gasped at the view that opened up before them. A long valley spread out along a gently curving, tree-lined stream. Colored in dry shades of gold and green, accented by the darker green trees, the valley drifted into the blue-gray haze of distant hills. Here and there clusters of rangy, many-colored long-horned cattle grazed peacefully.
          In the foreground, on a gentle rise maybe thirty yards from the creek, sprawled the ranch house. The front portion was built of logs with a covered porch running across the length of it, but behind that a much larger stonework portion stretched out and back. Located a good distance from the house were a barn and a corral with a few horses dozing in the sun. At the moment, two men appeared to be repairing the rail fence that formed the enclosure. On the other side of the barn stood another log building – quarters for the hired help perhaps?
         “’Tis beautiful,” Jessie breathed in awe.
         “Yeah,” David said quietly. Then he started down the hill, holding the horses and whatever emotions he was feeling in careful check.
         The two men who’d been working on the corral fence now paused to watch the wagon approach. A third stepped out of the barn and stared hard for a few seconds. Then he let out a joyous whoop. David laughed and waved, and the other man broke into a stiff-legged trot toward the house, meeting them there as David pulled to a stop.
         “Sul, you old reprobate!” David exclaimed, jumping down from the wagon to greet the grinning, leathery-faced man, who was half a head shorter than him and at least twice his age.
        “Davey boy, if you ain’t a sight for sore eyes! I about gave up on you,” the older man declared.
        Jessie watched them embrace and laugh and slap each other on the back. The older man sent her a shy glance, and David finally remembered her presence. Turning to meet her peeved look, he grinned in amusement.
        “Jessie, I’d like you to meet Sul Smith, one of the best cowhands in Texas. Sul, this is my wife, Jessie.”
        “You don’t say!” A delighted smile crinkled the cowboy’s sun-baked features. “It’s a pure pleasure, ma’am,” he said, yanking off his broad-brimmed hat to reveal thinning gray hair and warm brown eyes.
        “I’m happy to meet ye, Mister Smith,” she replied, returning his smile.
        He stared at her in fascination for a moment, until he caught David’s grin. Shaking his head, he chuckled at himself. “I’ve got a hunch your pa’s gonna take a shine to this pretty little lady,” he said, giving her a wink.
        Jessie laughed and blushed at his compliment.

For a larger sample, please visit my Amazon product page: Darlin’ Druid  

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Truth About Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotanka)



The Truth About Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotanka)
                                                            By Sarah J. McNeal

When I researched to find something interesting for my article on Sweethearts of the West blog, I ran into some fascinating information about Sitting Bull. I know, like many modern day people, I only know that Sitting Bull was a Lakota chief and that he’s famous for his resistance to white men taking Native American lands.  What I didn’t know was his sense of justice and his undaunted and courageous spirit.
After fighting battle after battle to keep the white men from taking Lakota lands, the government asked Sitting Bull to make a speech when the golden spike would be placed in the Northern Pacific Railroad tying the east coast to the west. Amazingly, Sitting Bull agreed to make the speech. An Indian agent who knew Lakota wrote the speech for Sitting Bull. So, on September 8, 1883, amid applause and a standing ovation, Sitting Bull made his speech. He smiled and bowed throughout allowing time for cheers and applause, but what no one knew except the Indian agent who ghost wrote the speech, was that Sitting Bull gave his own address and it was nothing like the scripted speech he was suppose to have given. In part, this is what Sitting Bull said:
I hate all White people,” he said. “You are thieves and liars. You have taken away our land and made us outcasts.” He went on to describe the terrible attrocities that white men had done to his people, their corruption and dishonesty . All the while, as he delivered his speech, he looked directly at the Secretary of State, Ulysses S. Grant, the governors and the bankers. On that day, with his speech, Sitting Bull made the white men into fools.
The Lakota knew Sitting Bull as a kind, generous and self-sacrificing man for the sake of his family and his people. I found something he said that speaks of his intelligence and his fondness and hope for the next generation of people. "A child is the greatest gift from Wakan Tanka (Great Mystery), in response to many devout prayers, sacrifices and promises". Another quote about the next generation by Sitting Bull is, "Let us put our minds together and see what kind of life we can make for our children.”

It’s hard to believe, but Sitting Bull participated in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show for a few months. He would dress in full Lakota regalia and ride around the ring once to boos and shouts of distain. Although I know it’s true, I still cannot imagine such a proud man would exploit himself in such a way.

In the end, it was a Lakota’s bullet that killed Sitting Bull.
The Ghost Dance movement made the whites anxious and suspicious.  It predicted a messiah would rise up in the Indian nations and defeat the white men. The unrest escalated and authorities felt that Sitting Bull (Lakota name: Tatanka Iyotanka) would join the movement and create a powerful resistance.  Major  James McLaughlin sent 43 Lakota tribal policemen and soldiers to arrest the chief. On December 15, 1890, the policemen surrounded Tatanka Iyotanka’s cabin and dragged him out. As his supporters objected to this treatment, a gunfight broke out in which Tatanka Iyotanka and twelve others were killed including his son, Crowfoot and his Assiniboine adopted brother, Jumping Bull all murdered by the Lakota police. Six policemen were also killed. A Lakota policeman shot Tatanka Iyotanka in the head. 
Sitting Bull was buried at Fort Yates, North Dakota. Another controversy follows his burial. The Lakota refer to sitting Bull as Grandfather Tatanka Iyotanka and the following is a quote:
As a sort of bizarre footnote to Grandfather Tatanka Iyotanka’s momentous life, today the states of South Dakota and North Dakota each claim to have possession of his body! North Dakota claims that Grandfather Tatanka Iyotanka’s remains lie at Fort Yates, where he was shot down and killed!  But South Dakota admits that in 1953, they stole Grandfather’s body, hauled it to South Dakota, to an isolated grave west of Mobridge, South Dakota;  reburied his remains, where a granite shaft marks his grave. This gravesite is controversial since he was originally buried in Fort Yates, ND, exhumed and buried in massive amounts of concrete. Some believe that the body exhumed was not that of Tatanka Iyotanka.
 Tatanka Iyotanka was an extraordinary man. In his epic battle for the rights of his people, he had served them for 59 years. He was, without a doubt, one of the greatest Lakota leaders ever. The Lakota mourned him as well he deserved. He is remembered as an inspirational leader, fearless warrior, loving father, gifted singer; a man always affable and friendly toward others, whose deep religious faith gave him prophetic insight and lent special power to his prayers.
 
Many whites heaped scorn upon his memory because he had stood in their way for so many years. But Grandfather Tatanka Iyotanka had not lived his life to please “wasichu”. Rather he had lived to serve his people, the Lakota Nation, in whose bosom his memory is sacred. His death is a grim story of false arrest, when there was no one to defend the Native American; his name should never be forgotten. Upon the death of their leaders, the Sioux tribes ceased their struggle against the white man.
Some believe that Sitting Bull was assassinated by the U.S. Government and that the use of Lakota policemen legitimized the assault on the Lakota Chief. All of this contrived to cover up the theft of Indian lands and the riches found there by Indian agents and U.S. officials.  To the Lakota, Tatanka Iyotanka was a chief and spiritual leader worthy of great respect for his fight to save his people much like Marin Luther King. 
If you would like to know more about Sitting Bull/Tatanka Iyotanka, I found much information from the following sites:
Wikipedia
All photographs used are for public use taken from Wikipedia.
CONTEST
I am giving away a digital copy of one of my books (winner's choice) to a commenter. Please be sure to add your email address with your comment.
Here is a list of my books:
Heart Song (contemporary/paranormal/short story)
Gifts From the Afterlife (contemporary/paranormal/short story)
Harmonica Joe's Reluctant Bride (historical western/paranormal/time travel/novel)
For Love of Banjo (historical western, WWI/sequel to Harmonica Joe)
The Violin (historical 1927/paranormal/time travel)







Sunday, September 16, 2012

Introducing Jack Ransom ~Tanya Hanson w/a Miss Prinsella Primm


Miss Prinsella Primm of Culdesac County, California, will be guest-blogging for Miss Tanya Hanson for the foreseeable future. As a lifestyle editor for the Culdesac County Current, (how she does love the alliteration!), Miss Primm will be presenting charming  interviews of heroes and heroines, lawmen and outlaws, ranchers and horsemen, cowpokes and country girls.

Her first subject is outlaw Jack Ransom. (hubba hubba)



September 16, 1880

Miss Primm, primly:  Mr. Ransom, although I do detect a glint of naughtiness in your eyes, I also sense a good heart beneath the bulging muscles of your chest. So how is it you sank so low as to become a notorious outlaw?

Jack, fingering his pocket for his flask:  How is it, Miss Primm, you rose up to become a newspaperwoman?

Miss Primm, more primly:  My dear Mr. Ransom, journalism is not  naughty word. It is a most honorable profession. Unlike yours. And this interview is about you, not me. So for our readers’ sake, how did your career path as an outlaw come about?

Jack, eyes downcast:  When my gram-maw died, I lost my direction. She raised me up, and with her gone, I discovered I was good at something bad: stealing horses.

Miss Primm, shuddering:  Goodness gracious, I believe your grandmother must be looking down in horror at your disgraceful behavior.

Jack, cheeks that bear three days-stubble turning red:   I reckon you’re correct, ma’am. I loved her so. That’s why I decided to mend my evil ways and honor one of her deathbed requests. Jacky, learn to read.

Miss Primm, holding up two fingers.  Would you mind sharing the other?

Jack, forehead wrinkling like a piece of paper:  Share what, ma’am? A book? I got either the Good Book or some Walt Whitman. I find I admire poetry.

Miss Primm, lips pursed No. Not books. The other request.

Jack, redder yet:  Oh, that. To live a righteous life. As you see, that trail never got blazed.  

Miss Primm, glaring with disapproval:  Who coached you in this dreadful life-altering decision?

Jack, with a wicked yet disarming grin:   That would be Ahab Perkins, leader of the pack. We met up at approximately age thirteen. No folks, no home. No nothing. So we picked up a few more hooligans along the way. Truth is, our gang got along so good for a time we might have been a Boy Scout troop.

Miss Primm, peering over her spectacles:  Try again, Mr. Ransom. Boy Scouting won’t originate for twenty years. Besides, horse stealing would be anathema to the Scout slogan Do a Good Turn Daily.

Jack, his whiskey-colored eyes widening:  Mighty big word there, ma’am.

Miss Primm, wearing a schoolmarm frown:  Why, I thought you had honored that deathbed vow and learned to read.

Jack, eyelids lowering like they might do when he slept:  Did so. Hiring a tutor is how I met my Eliza. She’s the schoolteacher in Pleasure Stakes, Texas.

Miss Primm, somewhat jealous:  Your Eliza?

Jack, proud as punch:  Yep. My lady love, Y’all will be reading her interview next month. She’s quite a gal, my Eliza. You see, she had no notion whatsoever it was me who thieved her granny’s horses last Thanksgiving night...  For that matter, neither did I.

Miss Primm, profoundly jealous, disheartened and ready to close out the interview:  Well, I hope you did all your homework for your schoolmarm.

Jack, triumphant:  That I did, ma’am. Eliza and me, we’ll have a good life with me gone all reformed. Miss Primm, I surely do thank you for your time today.

He leans across her battered desk and kisses her soft spinster cheek. Her face flames in pure delight as he saunters out of the Current office, his backside swaying over his boot heels in just the right way
Available November 26, 2012, The Wild Rose Press

Friday, September 14, 2012

Savvy Sayin's


As usual, I’m a doing my post at the last minute.   My life has just been crazy for the past year or so, and the 14th of the month always jumps up at me.  This month, I did try to find a subject, but nothing jumped out at me.  So, I doing a little cheating and going to reference a book I found a few months ago, SAVVY SAIN’S: True Wisdom from the Real West, as collected over a couple of decades by author Ken Alstad, who worked in Arizona as a farm and ranch reporter. Here are a few samplings of the hundreds of sain’s.

v  Don’t point a gun at nobody you ain’t willing to shoot, if necessary.

v  Some men’s wives are angels. The others are still alive.

v  Out West, every prairie dog hole is a gold mine, every hill is a mountain, every creek is a river, and every prospector is a liar.

v  Some cowboys got too much tumbleweed in their blood to settle down.

v  Nobody but the cattle knows why they stampede and they ain’t talkin’.

v  A corkscrew never pulled no one out of a hole.

v  When a cowboy‘s too old to set a bad example, he hands out good advice.

v  An old timer is a man who’s had a lot of interesting experiences, some of them true.

v  Don’t count the teeth in someone else’s mouth.

v  With the Homestead Law, the U.S. is betting you 140 acres that you can’t live on it.

This is a nice little book and is enhanced by the fact it has woodcut illustrations by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell throughout.  They add character to the book and are beautifully done.

Happy Friday!
Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. ~Doug Ivester