Sunday, June 30, 2013

BRET HARTE: FOUNDING FATHER OF WESTERN LITERARY FICTION

By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky

I always find it interesting to learn about authors from history. How did their backgrounds or childhood influence them as adults? Were they self-taught or did they receive a formal education? What inspired them to pursue writing as a career? Did they find success during their lifetime or was survival a daily challenge?

I discovered the answers to these questions vary, but there was one striking similarity they all shared. They were avid readers as children. In many instances, they also tried their hand at writing something while a child. For Bret Harte, considered by many to be the founding father of Western literary fiction, his first piece of creative writing was a poem titled Autumn Musings, penned when he was eleven years old in 1847. Unbeknownst to his family, he sent it to the New York Sunday Atlas, and it was published in their next issue.

Harte’s instinctive desire to be a writer never left him. No matter where he journeyed, the often dire financial circumstances of his life, or the type of employment he attempted simply to survive in the world, his yearning to be a writer remained a constant.

During his lifetime Harte’s stories were published and translated into numerous foreign languages including French, German, Russian, Italian, and Swedish. Still his life, personal and literary, was filled with ups and downs, success and failure, but his vivid, descriptive writing – whether an editorial column for a newspaper, a work of poetry, or literary fiction – provided readers all over the world with a compelling picture of pioneering life in the American West, particularly California and its mining camps during the Gold Rush.

Born on 25 August 1836 in Albany, New York, Francis Brett Harte was the third of four children and the second son born to Henry Harte and Elizabeth Ostrander. Called Frank by his family as a boy, he later went by the name Brett then changed the spelling of his middle name to Bret when he adopted the name of Bret Harte for his writing.

His father had been a teacher and principal who moved the family about a great deal for employment. A true man of letters, Henry Harte spoke French, Spanish, and Italian, and could read Latin and Greek. Although the family often struggled financially, Henry Harte was “a man of warm impulses and deep feeling”. His legacy to his children had been a love of learning and his library of fine books. Mrs. Harte also had a love of literature. Consequently, all of the Harte children were exceptional readers at an early age and would often engage in discussions about books. Unfortunately, Henry Harte died in 1845 when his children were all still young; Bret Harte was just nine years old.

Quiet and studious, fragile health from the ages of six to ten prevented Bret Harte from leading an active life as a little boy. Confined to bed a great deal of time, he became a voracious reader of books from his father’s library. He read Shakespeare at six. At seven years of age, he read Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens, his favorite author. From Don Quixote by Cervantes to works by Fielding, Goldsmith and Washington Irving, a love of literature stirred Harte’s imagination and, no doubt, became his window to the world.

After the death of his father, Harte’s widow and his children lived in New York and Brooklyn, assisted financially by relatives. Bret Harte’s formal education ended in 1849. He was 13 years old at the time and immediately started working as a clerk for a lawyer. He would, however, continue to teach himself and during a two month illness when he was 14 years old, he learned to read Greek so well that his mother was astonished.

In late 1853, Harte’s widowed mother remarried and moved to California with her older son and some other relatives. [Note: Elizabeth Harte’s second husband, Colonel Andrew Williams would become mayor of Oakland in 1857.] Elizabeth Harte Williams’ older daughter was already married and remained in the East. Harte’s mother wanted to bring her younger children with her to California, but they followed two months later. On 20 February 1854, 17-year old Bret and his younger sister, Maggie departed New York. They arrived in San Francisco on March 26th.

He lived with his mother and stepfather, with whom he had a warm relationship, for a year at their home in Oakland. He did some teaching and worked as an assistant at an apothecary shop. He also wrote some stories and poems which were published in magazines back East.

In 1856, Harte left Oakland and worked as a private tutor for the four sons of a rancher in the San Ramon Valley. However, when the rancher could no longer afford his services, Harte walked to Tuolumme County and briefly opened a small settlement school near Sonora. That venture failed when local families moved away. About this time, Harte tried his hand at mining for gold but barely survived. Still, the experience and the characters he met served to greatly influence his future writing including The Luck of Roaring Camp and Tennessee’s Partner, the latter of which the musical Paint Your Wagon was based.

Where am I goin’? I don’t know.
When will I be there? I ain’t certain.
All that I know is I am on my way.


The above words are from lyrics to the title song to the 1969 movie musical Paint Your Wagon which starred Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. As mentioned above, the film was based on one of Harte’s works titled Tennessee’s Partner. In addition, the words seemed to convey the hope, self-doubt, and challenges Harte took as a young man to find his true path in life.

A journal entry on 31 December 1856 documented Harte’s difficulty in earning a living and his desire to try and pursue a career in literature. Apart from the fact publishers were located on the other side of the country in New York and Boston, and mail between the east and west coast was still being routed around Cape Horn by ship, there were no daily newspapers published anywhere but Stockton, Sacramento, and San Francisco, and there was just one literary paper published on a weekly basis in San Francisco.

Much as he wanted to support himself by writing, he had to have other income to survive. As a result, in 1857, a then 21-year old Harte accepted work as an agent and messenger for the Wells Fargo Express Company in Humboldt Bay, approximately 250 miles north of San Francisco. He made trips on stages running east to Trinity County and north to Del Norte. However, working for the Wells Fargo was dangerous. Gold was often transported and “heavily chained to the box of the coach”. Even when armed guards were hired to accompany especially large shipments, the stage was often targeted for robbery. The man who held his job before Harte had been shot during a robbery, and the man who replaced him was killed in the job. In addition, there were other dangers to consider not the least of which were controlling six “half-broken” horses and flash floods while crossing a stream which were a frequent occurrence.

Consequently, by May of 1857, he accepted a position as a printer’s assistant at the Humboldt Times, a weekly paper. There, using the pseudonym of Ichabod, he also wrote six columns during the spring and summer. But by October of that year, he once again worked as a private tutor for two sons of local rancher Charles Liscomb. He lived at their ranchero in Uniontown. His now married sister, Maggie, also lived in Uniontown with her husband.

In many respects it is easy to see why Harte used the name Ichabod for his newspaper articles. Despite his longing to earn his living as a writer, like the fictitious character Ichabod Crane from Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Harte often had to earn his livelihood as a teacher and often had trouble fitting in with settlers. Charles Murdock, a friend of Harte described his friend as follows: “He was fond of whist, genial, witty, but quiet and reserved, something of a ‘tease’, and a practical joker; not especially popular, as he was thought to be fastidious, and to hold himself aloof from ‘the general’, but he was simply a self-respecting, gentlemanly fellow, with quiet tastes, and a keen insight into character. He was no roisterer, and his habits were clean. He was too independent and indifferent to curry favor, or to counterfeit for a liking.”

On Christmas Day in 1857, Harte’s journal reflects his depression over his circumstances as well. “What the d---l am I to do with myself—the simplest pleasures fail to please me—my melancholy and gloomy foreboding stick to me closer than a brother. I cannot enjoy myself rationally like others but am forced to make a gloomy spectacle of myself to gods and men.”

In December 1858, he became a printer’s assistant at the Northern California, a weekly newspaper published in Eureka. Harte also contributed to columns and sometimes subbed for the editor when he was out of town. One such incident occurred on 7 September 1859, when he penned an editorial titled, “Cruelty to Indians”. In the editorial, Harte defended local Indians who were being targeted by acts of violence from white settlers. Four months later, he wrote another editorial about the cold-blooded massacre of up to 200 Wiyot Indians. Though a peaceful tribe who “never fought with white settlers”, they had been wrongly suspected of cattle rustling. Resentment and anger toward the Wiyots had escalated during a two-year period, ending in a sneak attack during the night of February 26, 1860. Using hatchets, knives, clubs, and guns, a group of white settlers crossed Humboldt Bay and attacked the Wiyot village located on Tuluwat, a small island. The victims were old men, women, children and infants. Because the attack took place during the tribe’s World Renewal Ceremony, the majority of Wiyot men capable of defending the village were away. It had been their custom to gather supplies for the ceremony which lasted 7-10 days while the women and children slept.

Harte hated injustice and cruelty, and his very graphic accounting of the bloody brutality inflicted against the Wiyot, and his condemnation of the unprovoked massacre, created such a firestorm of controversy that he received death threats and moved to San Francisco. However, his outrage over the massacre could not be silenced. Not long after his relocation, an anonymous letter published in the local paper reported the massacre at Tuluwat had not only been condoned by the community of Humboldt Bay, but despite the evidence which showed it had been a planned attack by the Humboldt Volunteers (a militia group), no arrests or trial of anyone took place.

On 24 May 1864, The Californian, a weekly literary newspaper began publication in San Francisco. Among the contributors to the first issue were Bret Harte, Mark Twain, Charles Henry Webb, and Stoddard.

It is interesting to note that Harte and Twain both began their literary careers about the same time in San Francisco. In point of fact, it was Harte who, after listening with amusement to Twain (then a reporter for The Morning Call) talk about a recent visit to the mining district for a newspaper assignment, called in someone and asked Twain to tell it again so it could be published in The Californian. The Jumping Frog of Calaveras became the first work of Mark Twain that received national attention from California back to the Eastern states. Years later, Twain later said of his old friend: “Bret Harte trimmed and trained and schooled me patiently until he changed me from an awkward utterer of coarse grotesqueness to a writer of paragraphs and chapters that have found a certain favor in the eyes of even some of the very decentest people in the land…”

It has been said that Harte was a slow and intensely self-critical writer. Gee, can I relate to this. He was fastidious when writing and rarely talked about his works in progress. However, Noah Brooks, a colleague and confidant of Harte recalled a specific incident when Harte asked for advice while writing The Outcasts of Poker Flat. Brooks said: “He asked me to help him in a calculation to ascertain how long a half-sack of flour and six pounds of side-meat would last a given number of people. This was the amount of provisions he had allowed his outcasts of Poker Flat, and he wanted to know just how long snow-bound scapegoats could live on that supply.”

In July, 1868, Harte became editor of a California magazine called The Overland Monthly. Published in its first issue was a short story penned by Harte titled, The Luck of Roaring Camp. The far-reaching success and groundbreaking significance of this particular piece literally triggered western fiction. In many respects, he not only ignited the flame for western fiction, but paved the way for other contemporary authors of his time, including Mark Twain.

In July 1870, after learning Charles Dickens had died, Harte wired the Overland Monthly and had them hold back publishing the issue for 24 hours until he could pen a tribute to his favorite author since childhood. The tribute titled “Dickens in Camp” is considered his poetic masterpiece, noted for its sincerity, depth of feeling, and the “unusual quality of its poetic expression”.

Among his literary accomplishments, in 1871, Harte was the first author to sign an unprecedented (at that time) publishing contract for $10,000.00 for virtually anything he wrote (fiction or poetry) over a 12-month period. He was the highest paid and most famous American author at the time. In the following years, he continued to write and publish his work, sometimes republishing earlier works, as well as make appearances as a lecturer. In 1878, Harte was appointed United States Consul to Krefeld, Germany and later Glasgow, Scotland. He moved to London in 1885, where he continued to write and lecture.

Film adaptations of his work include: The Outcast of Poker Flat (1937), as well as Tennessee’s Partner (1955) and the musical Paint Your Wagon (1969) the latter two of which (as stated earlier) were based on Harte’s short story titled “Tennessee’s Partner”.In 1975, a popular Italian ‘spaghetti western’ ‘Four of the Apocalypse’ was based on two of Harte’s titles: “The Outcasts of Poker Flat” and “The Luck of Roaring Camp”.

It truly is difficult to summarize the life of an individual in a blog post, particularly someone with such a compelling story and contribution to Western literature. His wanderings in California and his keen observations of everything were reflected in his vivid writings, and very much like Jane Austen who provided the world with firsthand knowledge of the Regency period in England, Bret Harte was an eye-witness to the mining camps and the pioneers of California. He saw the victims of an Indian massacre, and lived the danger as an Expressman with Wells Fargo. He shared those visual images in his writing with the world. Although some critics have claimed Harte romanticized California and the pioneers who settled there, or created an unrealistic picture for readers, evidence from diaries, narratives, and letters written firsthand by California pioneers – as well as most of the daily newspapers published in San Francisco – corroborate Harte’s portrayal of the people and the area.

In 1902, Bret Harte died of throat cancer in England and is buried in the St. Peter’s churchyard in Surrey, England. In addition to his legacy as an author and the numerous memorials to him, there are nine schools (including elementary, middle, and high schools) named in his honor.

Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed learning about Bret Harte. ~ AKB

Resources:
Bret Harte: Opening the American Literary West by Gary Scharnhorst (2000) University of Oklahoma Press)
The Life of Bret Harte by Henry Charles Merwin (1911) Houghton Mifflin Co., The Riverside Press Cambridge

Friday, June 28, 2013

SUMMER READS by CHERYL PIERSON

Summer has started off with a bang for me, in a fantastic way. I wanted to share with you all what my year has been like (the good parts of it!)

I always think when summer rolls around I will have more time. I think this started when my kids were little and I looked forward to not having to get up and make the school run every single morning, and then again in the afternoon. Even though it never happened the way I thought it would, for some crazy reason, I believed it would be that way year after year.

The one thing I did get a little more of in the summer was reading time. At least, it seemed that way. This summer I’ve had several new releases of my own I want to tell you about. Some of these are re-releases in a different format, but others are brand new!

KANE’S DESTINY is the third and final book in the Kane trilogy. It was released a few months ago. Each of these books were released separately (KANE’S REDEMPTION, KANE’S PROMISE, and KANE’S DESTINY) but then we decided to release them all under one cover as KANE’S CHANCE. Why? There are a couple of contests I’d like to enter, but there is no category for these shorter works. With a bit of editing and shaping, the stories were made into one continuous novel, and many readers have said that's been a great idea for them, too!

KANE’S CHANCE was released earlier this month and is available in both print and digital formats.

These “KANE” stories are for all ages, young and old alike. And everyone in the middle. They’re a “coming of age” tale about Will Green, a young boy who is kidnapped by a band of renegade Apaches after his family is killed. The first two books deal with that part of his life, and the last one, KANE’S REDEMPTION, deal with one of his biggest fears—his Bostonian grandfather coming west to claim him and trying to force him to leave Texas and go back East with him.

When KANE’S CHANCE begins, Will is ten years old, and by the end of the book, he’s thirteen. The adventures he has, the changes he goes through, and the inner torment he deals with throughout the stories speak not only of the maturing process every young man must go through, but also, his realization that the deaths of his entire family hinged on the poor judgment of his father. This is not a romance, but I hope you’ll find it to your liking all the same. Here’s the blurb for KANE’S CHANCE:




My name is Will Green and I have to share the story of how I met Jacobi Kane or I'll bust from holding it in. Apache renegades murdered my family and took me prisoner when I was ten. I never believed I'd live to see another sunrise, but Kane appeared as if from nowhere and fought to save me. Never saw a man so determined before, but I did have to step in and help a bit.

I didn't know at the time that Kane kept a secret from me, one which might change my high opinion of him. Then he met Laura, and she helped both of us heal in different ways.
Later on, once we settled down on a place of our own, Kane led a band of lawmen in their mission to annihilate the renegades responsible for killing my folks – and Kane's first wife and children. Laura sent me along after them, just to be sure Kane stayed safe. It turned out to be good planning on her part.

Once I turned thirteen, my own doubts crept in as to whether I actually should be with the Kane family. Then my wealthy grandfather showed up from back East, determined to take me to Boston. Took some doing for me to learn the true meaning of family and just where I belonged. In the end, my grandfather and I faced a fight for our lives and, once more, our survival relied on Jacobi Kane and me. Now, I've got a family fortune to deal with – one I never knew about or wanted – one someone else wants bad enough to kill me for.

But I've found my place in life, with Kane's help, and I don't plan on giving it up anytime soon...


And speaking of romance, I have a brand new western historical romance, GABRIEL’S LAW, which will be available in the next few days! It’s coming out through WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER. Here’s the blurb for it:

When hired gunman Brandon Gabriel is double-crossed, it seems that his luck has run out. But Gabriel has more than luck; he has Allison Taylor, a lost angel from his troubled past who turns up and turns the tables. Old love blooms and new wounds begin to heal as Brandon and Allie tentatively make plans, but danger and self-doubt cast shadows on their hopes. When Allie and her ranch are threatened by an old enemy, long-buried secrets come to light and the stakes have never been higher. Will Brandon discover his chance at happiness in time to fight for it? Can Brandon and Allie confront the past, face down their demons, and forge their dreams into a future?

One thing Brandon doesn’t count on is the fact that Allie has already set a plan in motion that includes bringing orphans to her home—orphans like she and Brandon had been, early in life. Remember Travis Morgan from Fire Eyes? OK, that’s all I’m gonna say!

Christmas in July at PUBLISHING BY REBECCA J. VICKERY will see another of my short stories (Christmas, of course!) released as a “single sell” story for .99. THE WISHING TREE was first released in the VICTORY TALES PRESS A 2012 CHRISTMAS COLLECTON. Now, it’s being offered as a stand alone story, and I’m thrilled.

Pete Cochran, a war veteran with both visible and invisible scars, is mostly a loner, rather than scare children. Then a special woman with a son walks into his life as he works at his father's Christmas tree lot – a woman with problems he can't ignore.

Maria Sanchez and her son Miguel eke out an existence on her part-time earnings, but share an abundance of love, except when terrorized by her drug addict relative. When she meets Pete, she sees him not as a frightening man, but a wounded hero returned from war. Her son seems immediately drawn to the unusual Christmas tree vendor.

Will a special tree – a wishing tree – contain enough magic to fulfill all their Christmas desires?

This is a lovely, heartwarming story that I hope will touch you as it did me.

Now, back to the old west and the WOLF CREEK series with WESTERN FICTIONEERS! One of the characters I created for the post-Civil War Kansas town of Wolf Creek is Derrick McCain. He was introduced in book 1 of the series, Bloody Trail, and with the recent release of WOLF CREEK BOOK 5: SHOWDOWN AT DEMON'S DROP, just a few weeks ago, his past comes back to threaten his sister, Kathleen.

The brutal Danby gang paid dearly for their raid on Wolf Creek. But some of them escaped, and their new leader Clark Davis is hungry for revenge -on the town, and on the man that he believes betrayed the gang, Derrick McCain. Seminole scout Charley Blackfeather, meanwhile, wants his own revenge on Davis for his actions in the war...at the Centralia Massacre. Blood is going to flow… Appearing as Ford Fargo in this volume: Robert J. Randisi, Bill Crider, L. J. Martin, Wayne Dundee. Cheryl Pierson, and Troy D. Smith.

Last but not least, another delicious entrĂ©e from the Wolf Creek writers will be available on July 2. WOLF CREEK BOOK 6: HELL ON THE PRAIRIE, is different than the others. It’s the first Wolf Creek anthology. I loved this idea because each participant is able to write a short story featuring their character(s) and show a depth to their character they might not be able to convey in a collaborative effort such as the other books before this have been. My story is called IT TAKES A MAN, and of course, Derrick is at the center of this one.
When Derrick and his mother are ominously summoned to the Cherokee settlement of Briartown, Derrick is determined to set things straight with the man he’s learned is his real father. But once he arrives, he’s distracted by the beautiful cousin, Leah Martin, of his best friend’s wife. Leah is hiding a secret—one that could be the death of her. Once Derrick discovers it, will he walk away? Or will he save her…and possibly himself? IT TAKES A MAN to do what his heart tells him.

I sure hope this will provide you with some ideas for some stories you might enjoy over the summer! There’s something here for everyone!

I'm giving away an e-copy of KANE'S CHANCE to one lucky commenter today! For a chance to win, just leave a comment and your contact info. I'll draw the winner on the evening of June 29th!

FOR ALL MY WORK, CLICK HERE:
https://www.amazon.com/author/cherylpierson

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

TALES OF TEXAS' HAUNTED LAKE ESPANTOSA


Recently, I read about a place in Texas of which I’d never heard,  Espantosa Lake. The name is Spanish and loosely translates to “haunted by horrors.” According to many sources, this lake is home to monsters, a wolf girl, ghosts, and ghost sounds of wagons and horses. Are you frightened yet?

One of only three natural lakes in Texas, Espantosa Lake was formed as a rasaca—an oxbow lake formed in the bend of the old Nueces River when the river changed its course millennia ago. It’s spring fed, which is what keeps water in it. The lake and legends are mentioned in J. Frank Dobie’s CORONADO’S CHILDREN and C. F. Eckhart’s TALES OF BAD MEN, BAD WOMEN, AND BAD PLACES.

Espantosa Lake lies between Crystal City and Carrizo Springs in the South Texas brush country.  This was on the earliest colonial mission trail between San Antonio and Coahuila, Mexico. When early Spanish explorers came through in 1740s, the lake was reported as “black with alligators.” That would send me speeding far away. I do not like alligators. But by the 1840s, there were no alligators, only water moccasins and an abundance of an ugly fish called alligator gar.  Neither of those is as bad as an alligator, but not welcome.

More frightening to me than any ghost--Alligators!
When English speaking explorers moved into the area, there were no alligators, but there were hair-raising screams of a woman. This is more easily explained than some of the other legends. Those who are familiar with the scream of a panther (also called cougar, puma, catamount, mountain lion) know that sound mimics a woman’s scream.  Was that what they heard?


Cougar - common in Texas
One of the earliest recorded fatal instances occurred in the early 1800's, when several Mexican families, en route to San Antonio, made camp there. As the group prepared to retire for the night, one woman went down to the murky water's edge to wash a few clothes. Soon afterward, the others were awakened by her screams of "Por Dios!" (My God!).

Though her companions rushed immediately toward the water's edge, they arrived only to see the swishing tail of a huge alligator disappearing beneath the lake's surface. Unable to recover the woman's body, the other settlers erected a cross at the site in her memory. 

Shocked and mournful, the group finally bedded down for what was agreed upon to be the final night there. But their slumber was disturbed again by the same scream, ringing out again and again: "Por Dios!" It was unmistakably her voice. At that, the campers packed up and left, but not before imparting the name  "Espantosa."

While true that Espantosa Lake is no longer black with alligators, I venture to say that all waterways in Texas are home to a few alligators. Flood years allow them further up in rivers, then strand them there during dry years. They are not always easily seen, but they're there. Take heed.

Talk of the Mexican woman's death and haunting return combined with a scattering of similar incidents over the next few years, soon created a place of myths. Legend held that a strange species of mermen supposedly inhabited the lake, emerging only to seize young women who dared approach the water's edge after the sun fell from the sky. Um, refer back to the tail of the alligator in the above tale.

Every bit as long-lived is the legend of the treasure-laden wagon. How many tales of lost Spanish treasure do you think there are? In this tale, a Spanish wagon from San Saba was filled with money, gold, silver, and jewels, and found its way to the banks of the Espantosa. The wagoneers decided to camp there for the night, and after watering and hobbling their horses, they bunked down. No sooner had they drifted off to sleep, however, than the ground suddenly began to tremble and shift beneath them. In a flash, the entire party --- men, wagon, and horses --- was swallowed with the collapsing earth. There were no survivors--so who knows what happened? Cave in, sink hole?

Perhaps the strangest tale of the Espantosa, though, is that of George Dent, who had camped near the lake with his pregnant wife while traveling in close proximity to the Beale colony. Possibly out of a wish for privacy, the Dents pitched camp a half-mile from the Beale group and thus were spared from becoming victims of the Indian massacre that obliterated most of the Beale group.

After hiding out from human predators for the second time, Dent maintained the campsite near the Espantosa. His wife was near the end of her pregnancy and was hesitant to travel. A severe thunderstorm occurred one night, during which Dent's wife went into labor. Alarmed, Dent mounted and rode off for help.

He came at length upon a small band of Mexican goat herders. Dent frantically told them of his wife's condition and begged some of the women to come and assist in the child's delivery. Upon learning of Dent's camp location, however, the superstitious Mexicans informed him that they wanted no part of Espantosa's ghostly environs, particularly at night, when the spirits were said to roam the lake and its shores.

Desperately, Dent pleaded with them, and eventually he prevailed upon one old woman to accompany him back to his camp. No sooner had the pair mounted up, though, than the already fierce storm resounded with renewed fury. Thunder crashed, and lightning illuminated the sky. Just such a bolt of lightning struck Dent, in fact, dropping him from atop his mount and killing him instantly.

After waiting out the violent storm, the goat herders mounted up and, following Dent's vague directions, tried to find his camp. At daybreak, they found Dent's campsite with Mrs. Dent dead.  She had obviously delivered her child, but the baby was nowhere to be found. After surveying the surrounding wreckage, the fang marks on the woman's body, and the numerous wolf tracks everywhere, the goat herders naturally surmised that the baby had been carried off by a pack of wolves.

Wolves also frighten me - I'm not a fan
even of werewolf tales
And that's where the story ended --- until about 15 years later. At that time, four cowboys were herding cattle near the Espantosa. A pack of wolves approached, and the herders chased the potential predators off. But as the wolves fled, the men were stunned at an unbelievable sight. Running with the wolves was what appeared to be a young, naked girl.

Spurring their horses onward, the cowboys managed to separate the creature from her lupine companions and chased her into a steep draw, where they cornered her and used their lassos to immobilize the strange being. They examined her and noted her human appearance, in spite of her wild mannerisms and non-human characteristics. She was nude, but covered with hair, and lacked the capacity for speech, save for her low growling sounds. She was quite agile on all fours, but moved very awkwardly when forced to stand erect.

After some speculation, the men took the wolf-girl to an abandoned farmhouse, where she was locked in a back room. The cowboys took turns standing guard. After darkness fell, the creature began howling in a loud, shrill voice that not only unnerved her captors but pierced through the night and aroused the pack. Before long, the wolves crept toward the house and charged the cottage, clawing and scratching at the doors and windows. Finally, they began attacking the horses and other domestic animals outside, forcing the men to run outside to fight them off.

As the battle between men and beasts continued outside, there arose a din from within the house. Glass shattered and wood splintered. Afterwards, the cowboys examined the locked back room, only to find that its floorboards had been pried open, allowing the "lobo-girl" to escape. The strange creature was gone forever --- or so it appeared.

Wolf Girl? I'm skeptical.
Within two years of her capture and escape, sightings of the wolf girl were reported by area residents. Without fail, these claims told of a young, naked, hair-covered girl running with a wolf pack. One Espantosa visitor gave a graphic account of seeing the wolf-girl drinking at the banks of the lake as newborn cubs tugged at her breasts. Subsequent reports followed of wolves with human faces. In 1974, a hunter in this area claimed to have seen her again, in the form of a ghost which vanished before his eyes. 

There are more instances which space precludes me sharing. In spite of these claims, the Espantosa remains a popular camping and recreational spot. Regardless of whether its mysteries tantalize or terrify, one thing is certain: the Espantosa's lore and allure will endure. For me, I think I'll vacation elsewhere.

Sources:
TALES OF BAD MEN, BAD WOMEN, AND BAD PLACES, but C. F. Eckhardt, Texas Tech Universtity Press, 1997.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ladies Home Journal



It’s amazing to me how fast things change, sometimes without us really realizing it until we see an old picture or something else triggers a memory. Recently I came across an old copy of the Ladies Home Journal (from the 1970’s, so in reality it wasn’t that old) and I had to laugh out loud at some of the articles in it…which got me doing an online search…

Louisa Knapp Curtis married Cyrus Curtis in 1875. He was the publisher of The People’s Lodge in Boston. When that business was destroyed by a fire, they moved to Pennsylvania. He then founded the Tribune and Farmer magazine and a few years later, Louisa started writing one page supplements to be included with the magazine titled, Women at Home. The additions became so popular they became a standalone magazine in February of 1883.

Originally titled Ladies Home Journal and Practical Housekeeper, a year’s subscription cost fifty cents.

By 1903 the magazine had over 1 million subscribers.

A transition from the ‘newspaper’ look to the magazine image took place and this 1885 edition was their first color cover.

The magazine was said to offer practical instructions of duties, share experiences, anecdotes, hints and recipes in housekeeping as well as domestic management, all which were sure to increase the comforts of house and home. The magazine also hosted several pages of advertisements where women or men could order everything from the latest oil lamps and flour shifters to embroidery stamps and self-adjusting toasters and everything in between!  

Here is a one page section:




In my imagination I can see a young pioneer woman anxiously awaiting her next edition of the magazine and completely devouring it upon arrival.

There isn’t a magazine in my next release, The Cowboy who Caught her Eye, but there is a heroine who’s anxiously awaiting an arrival. That of her baby—however that is also what she’s hiding. Her pregnancy.





The Shopkeeper's Shame

Pregnant and unmarried, Molly Thorson knows her livelihood is under threat. The last thing she needs is a distracting cowboy swaggering into view. Especially one who knows she has a secret and still looks at her with desire in his eyes.

The Cowboy's Secret

Carter Buchanan knows all about secrets. It's his job to know. And Molly sure has something to hide. But the fear in her eyes touches a place he thought long-ago dead—and now this cowboy can't help but consider exchanging his pistol for a band of gold.…

 

Posted by Lauri Robinson

www.laurirobinson.blogspot.com

 


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Guest: Delores Beggs and her newest release: Perfect Tenderfoot


The Secret Life Of My Mother After Her Cowgirl Daughters Left The Nest

By Delores Goodrick Beggs

 As a family we had always been into horses with my Dad, my mother reigning over the house and trying hard to coax my sister and me into regular fashions instead of boots and jeans. She always dressed in skirts and blouses or housedresses herself, never in slacks. She never stepped outdoors near the stable area and horses. 

Some years after my sister and I had left home and my parents had changed locations, I returned for a visit. When I walked into their new place the first thing I saw was a very large poster of John Wayne hung prominently on the living room wall.

"The poster?" I turned wide eyes upon my father standing behind me.

"That's your Mom's," he grinned and nodded. Then he proceeded to show me more of my mother's John Wayne collection, small items arranged upon a dresser top.  She'd kept her collection hidden while we were growing up, knowing my younger sister and I were Roy Rogers and Gene Autry fans.

           
Fingering one by one the items of her small collection, a new and warm connection to my mother coursed through me. The cool modern lady she always presented to us had not been as impervious to her cowgirl daughters' way of life as she'd seemed while we were living at home. She'd enjoyed John Wayne movies, and had her own little collection.

            John Wayne was sometimes known as "Duke," a nickname that stuck with him from his boyhood when he had a dog named "Little Duke" and he was called "Big Duke," according to the official John Wayne website. He attended USC, the University of Southern California, in the fall of 1925 on a football scholarship. Two years later an injury lost him his scholarship, and college, and he turned to the film industry, working as an extra and a prop man.

           Marion Robert Morrison, Marion Michael Morrison, and Marion Mitchell Morrison, as his name changed at different times, finally came together as one name, John Wayne, going forth with his first leading film role.

            John Wayne was not an overnight sensation. Throughout his movie career he had some great successes and also some failures. His first leading film role was The Big Trail in 1930, a box office failure.  Almost ten years later, after appearing in a number of B westerns, his popularity rose with the release of Stagecoach in 1939, and then another ten years, another leap, with Red River in 1948, after which he continued to work, his popularity growing steadily, and received his first Academy Award in 1969 for Best Actor in the Western film True Grit, based upon a 1968 novel by Charles Portis. John Wayne, born 26 May 1907, defeated lung cancer once in 1964, then died 11 June 1979 from stomach cancer. In his many films, John Wayne left an image of good men Americans can identify with.

            Another surprise awaited me on that visit home. One of the photos my mother showed me in her album was a revelation. She stood outdoors at the barnyard fence in her open toed sandals feeding green grass she'd pulled from our front yard to Snowball, the mare I grew up riding. She had never once gone to the barnyard to see the horses close up in all my growing years. I looked askance at my mother.

            "Snowball was lonely, she stood at the fence looking for you all," my mother smiled warmly. "So I got in the habit of keeping company with her." 

            I nodded, not in the least surprised my mother had, after all, discovered for herself what a good friend a horse can be.
~~*~~
Blurb:

Laurel Smith senses the cowboy she's met by accident is more of a tenderfoot than she had been when she came to her brother's Wells Double Bar ranch. She's intrigued when she notices he has qualities different from the other cowboys on the ranch. No other cowboy works as hard as Tredway Lorent does. No "lick and a promise" jobs for Lorent. From mucking stalls to breaking broncos, each task he is assigned is finished as a painstakingly complete job.

Cocooned safe in her little cabin on her brother's ranch, or riding her red-gold filly Carolina to her favorite secluded shady spot in company with Tredway Lorent, Laurel sketches the likeness of her tenderfoot cowboy and their New Mexico surrounds until he rides away in the darkness of night after teaching her how to dance in moonlight.

Her tenderfoot cowboy lassoed her heart. Now, will Tredway Lorent return?
~~*~~
Excerpt:

She focused her attention on the tall man confronting her. Her artist's soul took note he didn't appear to be either a range cowboy or a vagabond. To begin with, his steady gaze met her curious one. The long planes of his pale face were just beginning to darken with afternoon beard growth. His curly brown hair crimped close about his head beneath his hat. He wore a crisp, white shirt, which hadn't yet gone limp in the desert heat. His jeans showed no dust spots, and his boots were shined except for a ring of dust around the soles from walking on the sandy ground.

He cut an intriguing figure, standing at ease, tall and spare-framed, unlike any cowboy she knew, and yet she could see he wasn't a dandy. She classified him as one of a kind, and an immediate attraction to him tugged at her senses.

"Should I be dancing on my horse the way you did?" A frown creased his brow, deepening as he studied her in turn.

She heard no hint of teasing in his warm baritone. The idea of him waving his hat and bouncing about on his horse the way she'd just done brought home to her how amusing she must have looked. More, in afterthought, she knew she'd been lucky Carolina hadn't danced along with her, or even worse, been frightened and run away with her. She hadn't thought. She'd reacted. She drew in a deep breath of relief Carolina hadn't responded to her impulsive riding behavior. She reached down to stroke the red-gold filly's long neck. "Good girl."

She looked up again at the waiting man and dampened her dry lips with her tongue.

"What you saw, um, I call my horse fly dance." She spoke with as much quiet dignity as she could muster. Not too much dignity. Laughter at herself bubbled on her lips.

~~*~~
About Delores Goodrick Beggs

Delores Goodrick Beggs is a prolific award-winning author in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, having started in high school when she would often awaken with a dream demanding to be captured on paper.

She turned her notes into her first stories, often writing during short-lived Kansas thunderstorms that barely thinned the sweltering heat of Pony Ring Ranch where her father raised horses and ponies. She wrote her first collection of fiction on a mountaintop in California while watching her part-Appaloosa mare assert mischievous independence in the exercise corral.

Stop by and visit her web site at http://www.goodrickbeggs.wordpress.com
Find Delores's Place in the Heart books:

Place in the Heart Book Three: Perfect Tenderfoot, by Delores Goodrick Beggs is
Now available at Amazon.com, http://goo.gl/qJxUC, publisher Desert Breeze Publishing,
and most other e-book venues

 Also Available:
Place in the Heart Book One: Breaking Point
Place in the Heart Book Two: Substitute Lover

NOTE:
Photo of John Wayne-Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Timeline of Foods Introduced to the U.S.

Cowgirl hat banner

Recently, I discovered a book titled Domestic Technology: A Chronology of Developments on Amazon. Written by Nell Du Vall, It’s a font of data about the beginning of many household and community advancements. Some topics included are Food Origins and Production, Preservation and Processing, Cooking, Clothing,Cleaning, Water and Waste Disposal, to name just a few.

With Nell’s permission, I’m going to share with you some entries from her Table of “Food Origin and Migration.” The listed developments reach back into prehistoric times, but I’ll concentrate on the introduction and growth of foods in the Americas during the 18th and 19th centuries. Be aware, this is not a complete list of that time period. I don’t want to test Nell’s generosity in allowing me to quote her work to much. The author cites her sources at the end of the book, in case you want to dig into her research.

Foods for blog

  • 18th c.     Spanish missionaries introduced almond trees into California.
  • 1707-10  Oranges planted in Arizona.
  • 1719        Irish migrants began potato cultivation in New Hampshire.
  • 1751        Sugarcane planted in Louisiana.
  • 1765        Chocolate factory established in Massachusetts Bay Colony.using …            cacao beans from the West Indies.
  • 1769        Oranges planted in California.
  • 1769        Spaniards introduced domestic pigs to California.
  • 1781        Thomas Jefferson listed tomatas in his garden journal at Monticcello,
  • 1790        Thomas Jefferson grew peanuts in Virginia.
  • 1791        Antonio Mendez made sugar from Louisiana cane.
  • 1820        Robert Johnson demonstrated the tomato was edible by eating one …            eating one in public and surviving.
  • 1820        Large-scale peach cultivation began in the U.S.
  • 1825        Jefferson Plum developed in Albany, New York.
  • 1836        Scientists discovered how to pollinate vanilla artificially, enabling …             cultivation outside Mexico.
  • 1850        The banana was first brought to the U.S.
  • 1850        Large-scale cultivation of asparagus undertaken in the U.S.
  • 1863        West Indian avocado introduced into Florida.
  • 1869        Joseph Campbell and Abraham Anderson of Camden, New Jersey,…            successfully canned tomatoes.
  • 1870        Dutch farmers in Kalamazoo, Michigan, began growing celery for  …            commercial consumption.
  • 1873        Washington Navel Oranges, originally from Baia, Brazil, planted in     …            California.
  • 1876        Tinfoil wrapped bananas sold for ten cents at the American  … …             Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia.
  • 1890        Thomas Lipton began selling tea.
  • 1893        Thomas Lipton entered his tea in Chicago’s World Fair and received …             first prize.

Foods for blog 2

Perhaps knowing when these foods were introduced in the U.S. might make interesting tidbits for our stories. More importantly, this info can help us avoid having our characters eat foods that weren’t yet available in the old west.

New Cover 2013

I faced a food dilemma (actually a beverage) while writing Dearest Druid. Rose and Jack are visiting a family of sharecroppers who rent land from Jack. I wanted their hostess, Mattie, to offer them a cool drink --  but what? This family is not well off; they couldn’t afford store-bought tea like we take for granted today. (Iced tea is the “national drink” of Texas.)

After discarding several ideas, I decided upon sassafras tea, which is made from the roots of sassafras trees. These trees grow in the sandy loam of east Texas. Taking a leap of faith, I stretched that local to near the Red River, where my sharecroppers live.

Here’s an excerpt from the scene. Warning, it’s a bit of a spoiler because it comes near the end of the book and hints at a happy ending. But there are still a few surprises to come. 

Clearing his corded throat, [Oscar] added, “I reckon yuh already said how-do to my Mattie.” He laid a big paw gently on his wife’s shoulder and they exchanged an affectionate glance.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t have the chance, but I’m most happy to make your acquaintance, Mattie.”

“Same goes for me, Rose. Come and set a spell in the shade.” Pointing to the cabin’s porch, their genial hostess led the way, chattering, “Land o’ Goshen, it shore is warm for a spring day! I brewed us some sassafras tea a while ago. It’s mighty refreshin’. And Oscar has him a jug stashed away, if you wants a taste, Mr. Jack.”

“The tea will do fine, Mattie.”

With a nod, she looked up at her husband, who was a good foot taller than her, and commanded, “Oscar, go fetch some ice from the ice house.”

“Yessum. Be back right quick, folks,” he told Rose and Jack, and he loped off to do Mattie’s bidding.

Mounting the shallow porch steps, she pointed to a pair of rough-hewn chairs padded with calico covered cushions. “Set you down and be comfortable. Where’d y’all ride in from?”

“From the Territory,” Jack replied, refusing a chair in favor of leaning against one of the porch roof supports framing the steps.

“Visited yore mama, I reckon.”

“Yeah, I wanted her to meet Rose,” he said, not mentioning his mother’s illness.

“Uh-huh.” Planting her hands on her ample hips, Mattie eyed them shrewdly. “How’d she take it seein’ the two o’ you together?”

Rose caught her meaning and stiffened while Jack merely crossed his arms and crooked his lips in a half smile. “She wasn’t in favor of us marrying at first, but she came around.”

Mattie opened her mouth as if to question him further, but she evidently thought better of it. “Glad to hear that. I’d best collect the tea and some cups.” With that, she turned and entered the cabin, leaving the door ajar.

Rose searched Jack’s face, looking for his reaction to the woman’s question. Meeting her worried gaze, he moved to crouch beside her and patted her knee. “It’s all right. She wasn’t judging us. She’s afraid for us, the same as Khaw.”

Taking his word, Rose’s trepidation eased. Before she could speak, Oscar returned. Jack rose and stepped back as his tenant – and clearly his friend – took the steps in one giant stride. He carried a bucket filled with chunks of ice, no doubt chipped from a larger block.

“This oughtta do us. We’ll have that tea nice n’ cold. Just yuh wait n’ see.” Grinning, he marched into the cabin to help Mattie prepare the drinks.

Moments later, as promised, Rose enjoyed her first swallow of the iced drink from a cold tin cup. “Oh, that’s delicious! Ye must give me your recipe, Mattie.”

“Glad yuh like it, M . . . er, Rose. Ain’t nothin’ to makin’ it. Just boil some chopped up sassafras root, strain it good and add honey, or sugar if you got it.”

“Think I could have some more?” Jack asked.

“Lawsy me, course yuh can.” Taking his cup, Mattie dashed inside to refill it.

Do you have any historical food facts you’d like to share? Don’t be shy. I’m always eager for more info to tuck away for future books. Winking smile