Monday, September 30, 2013

HOW HISTORY CAN INSPIRE FICTION - A CONVERSATION WITH AUTHORS ASHLEY KATH-BILSKY AND SUSAN MACATEE

By Ashley Kath-Bilsky

Chances are you’ve probably seen one of them at some time or another in your life. By "them", I mean people who love history so much they reenact it for special events. Perhaps you’ve watched a jousting match at a Renaissance Faire, or had someone dressed like Paul Revere take you on a walking tour in Boston. One of my favorite places to go is Colonial Williamsburg, where visitors can not only feel like they’ve stepped back in time, but also visit with historical reenactors dressed in period clothing and who interpret what life was like during the Revolutionary War period. If you go to England and, in particular, Hampton Court Palace, chances are you will see a Henry VIII lookalike reenactor, some period dressed Tudor kitchen staff demonstrating how they cooked back in the 16th century, and perhaps a queen or two.

Well, rather than talk about historical reenactments, I thought it would be interesting to talk with someone who actually did this, and how it inspired her as an author. So, I am delighted to welcome my special guest, SUSAN MACATEE, to Sweethearts of the West. Susan is an multi-published author of historical romance, and someone who spent years as a Civil War civilian reenactor with the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. Quite understandably, her personal involvement with historical reenactment inspired Susan to write American Civil War romance, some with a paranormal twist. From time travels to vampire tales, her stories are always full of love and adventure. In addition to being a busy author, Susan is also a wife, mother of three grown sons, and has recently become a grandmother. She spends her free time inhaling books, watching baseball games and favorite old movies.

So, please join me in welcoming Susan and enjoy our discussion about how she became a writer of historical fiction, and all sorts of insightful information – including what television show inspired her to be a writer.

AKB: Welcome to Sweethearts of the West, Susan.

SM: Thanks so much for having me, Ashley!

AKB: It’s always interesting to learn when or how a person discovered the moment they wanted to become a writer. When was that moment for you?

SM: That would have been way back when I was in grade school. I got hooked on an after school soap called ‘Dark Shadows’. I loved it so much, I’d rush home from school to watch. Eventually, I started writing my own stories using those characters. By high school, I enrolled in a Journalism/Creative Writing course, and decided I liked creative writing because I could live vicariously through the characters.

AKB: Oooh, ‘Dark Shadows’. I will never forget the day the ghost of Sarah showed little David the secret room in the family mausoleum. Loved it, and how great the show inspired you to write.

AKB: What made you decide on the Victorian era and American Civil War period for your writing?

SM: I got interested in the Civil War after watching the Ken Burns programs. After that, our family vacations included a lot of Civil War sites and we joined a Civil War reenacting group.

AKB: I find it fascinating how you became involved with Civil War research. What impact did your participation have on your understanding of the period and your writing?

SM: Living the Civil War through the reenacting group involved a lot of hands on research. What they wore, what they ate, what chores they did and what they did for fun. It just made sense to set stories in the period, since I’d learned so much about it.

AKB: Your Civil War novel Cassidy’s War was a finalist in the Historical category of the 2013 Award of Excellence Contest by the Colorado Romance Writers and also the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Please tell us more about this title.

SM: Cassidy’s War was a spin-off of a young adult historical I’d had published in 2002 titled ‘Under the Guns’. It didn’t do very well in sales and is now out of print, but I loved the characters so much, I wanted to do a new story about their lives after the war. Cassidy’s War is a reunion story between the two love interests in ‘Under the Guns’ now that they’re older and hopefully, a bit wiser. Here's the blurb:

The Civil War is over, but Cassidy’s War is just beginning.

Cassidy Stuart longs to attend medical school. Training beside her physician father and serving as a nurse during the war, have only increased her desire to be a doctor with her own practice. When the man who’d left her at the altar returns, she’s determined not to let him upset the plans she’s set for herself.

Until his mission is accomplished, George Masters must hide his identity as a Pinkerton agent as he investigates a physician living in George’s former hometown, a short distance from Cassidy’s home. When he finds Cassidy hasn’t married, he hopes he can rekindle their love while trying to protect her and townsfolk from the evil Dr. Madison.

Can their love be renewed despite the villain’s desire for revenge against them both?

AKB: Sounds wonderful, and you know how much I love Pinkerton heroes. Can’t wait to read it.

AKB: Tell us about your writing process? Day or night owl writer? Any rituals you follow, like a music playlist, lighting a scented candle, perhaps a secret drawer filled with M&Ms?

SM: Afternoon is my time for writing after all the morning chores are out of the way. I don’t have any rituals to get me in the mood, all I have to do is open whatever file I’m working on to get me back into my writing frame of mind. My desk sits in the corner of my dining room by the window, so I’ve learned to work without getting distracted.

AKB: Both readers and writers get attached to characters. Do you have a favorite hero or heroine, and why?

SM: I love them all. But I’d have to say Will Montgomery, the Confederate infantry captain in my Civil War time travel romance, 'Erin’s Rebel', is my favorite hero. I think it’s because while learning the writing craft, that story had been forming in my head for years. And Erin Branigan, the time traveling heroine, was partially formed from my own reactions as a Civil War reenactor. It was so easy to imagine how I would feel if thrust back in time to the Civil War and meeting a hunky Southern officer.

AKB: If you had to describe your writing style in 3-5 words, what would they be?

SM: Adventure, fun and romance.

AKB: I am super excited about your latest American Victorian release. Please tell us about The Physician’s Irish Lady.

SM: The Physician’s Irish Lady is an off-shoot from my award winning Civil War romance, 'Confederate Rose'. This new story was actually formed by a fan asking if my next story would be about the doctor in the story. Having not read 'Confederate Rose' for a long time, myself, I was scratching my head wondering who she was talking about, but remembered a minor character, a Union army surgeon and friend of the hero. I decided I just had to tell the story of Dr. Elliot James after he’d returned from the war and settled in his small Pennsylvania town. Here's the blurb:

After escaping indentured servitude in late nineteenth century Australia, Keara Fagan is now on the run in America. The Irish native was falsely accused of insurrection against the British and abandoned by the man she thought loved her. Now, she must survive on her own in a strange land.

As Dr. Elliot James travels by train from Philadelphia to York, a young woman faints at his feet. He’s sworn, as a physician, to aid the sick and injured, but fears this woman requires more than medical help. Enchanted by her beauty and touched by her dignity, despite appearing to be alone in the world, he buys her a meal and offers to find her a place to stay in his small Pennsylvania town.

A mysterious Irishman pursues her to the idyllic town surrounded by farmland. Is he an abusive husband come to claim his runaway wife, or someone more sinister?

The Physician’s Irish Lady is now available exclusively on Amazon KDP Select, and will have its Worldwide release on January 22, 2014.

AKB: I love the Victorian time period and understand you also have a recent Victorian Time Travel Romance. Can you share an excerpt or tell us a little bit about Thoroughly Modern Amanda.

Thoroughly Modern Amanda is an offshoot of my first time travel romance, 'Erin's Rebel', which was set during the American Civil War. This new story, released last Christmas, is about the young daughter, Amanda Montgomery, of the hero in the original story. Amanda is an adult in this new post war novella, coming to her own as she strives for opportunities as a Victorian woman in America. The hero in this story is from our time and has traveled to the past while visiting an old Victorian house, set for demolition. Here's the blurb:

Believing anything is possible, magazine reporter Amanda Montgomery dreams about being a modern woman in a nineteenth century world, much like her exceptional step-mother. But society expects well-off young ladies to focus on finding a suitable husband and raising a family. And then Jack appears--with no past and unconventional ideas. Does he hold the key to another century as well as her heart, or is she destined to stay in her own time?

Construction worker Jack Lawton wants to preserve an old home that's scheduled for demolition. But when he sneaks inside for a final look, a loose beam falls on the head, and upon waking, he finds himself in the arms of a beautiful woman. His only problem--he's no longer in the twenty-first century. Can he find his way back home? Does he really want to?

AKB: You certainly have a prolific imagination, Susan. What is your favorite (or least favorite) thing about being a writer?

SM: My very favorite thing is to live so many exciting lives through my characters. I always had a vivid imagination, even as a child, and writing feels so much like play to me.

AKB: Oh, I agree. It is very much like playing “let’s pretend…” as a child.

AKB: Okay, the main part of our interview is over, but before we part, I’d like to close with a variation of the famous Bernard Pivot questions that host James Lipton asks his guests on Inside Actors Studio. Here we go.

AKB: What is your favorite word?
SM: Cool

AKB: What is your least favorite word?
SM: Hashtag. I think it’s those annoying car commercials.

AKB: What motivates you creatively speaking?
SM: The characters and stories spinning around in my head.

AKB: What sound or noise do you love?
SM: Right now, it’s the sound of my 22 month old granddaughter’s sweet voice. Perks me right up every time Arabella comes to visit.
AKB: Aww, Arabella is a beautiful name.

AKB: What sound or noise do you hate?
SM: Lawnmowers

AKB: What profession other than writer would you like to do?
SM: While in college, the required psychology courses fascinated me and, even now I used what I’ve learned to help me to develop believable characters, so I might have pursued a career in psychology if I hadn’t been distracted by the writing bug.

AKB: What profession would you NEVER want to do?
SM: I have a great deal of respect for teachers, but I could never imagine facing a classroom, especially filled with children and adolescents.

AKB: Now, for my favorite question. If you could have a dream dinner with four of your favorite famous people from the present, past, or any time period, who would they be?
SM: Mary Todd Lincoln, Clara Barton, Dean Koontz and Hilary Clinton.

AKB: That’s an interesting lineup, and one can only imagine the enlightening dinner conversation. Thanks again for visiting Sweethearts of the West, Susan, and best wishes for continued success with your writing.

And to everyone who stopped by today, thank you, too. ~ AKB

For more information about Susan Macatee and her writing, please visit her website at: www.susanmacatee.com where you will find excerpts and buy links. She also has a great blog at http://susanmacatee.wordpress.com.

Buy links for the titles mentioned in this post are:

CASSIDY'S WAR

Wild Rose Press
http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=176_135&products_id=4729

Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/Cassidys-War-ebook/dp/B006VX48FS/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&qid=1326644295&sr=1-1

Barnes and Noble
Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cassidys-war-susan-macatee/1108210226?ean=2940013754980&itm=1&usri=cassidy%27s+war

All Romance E-Books
http://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-cassidy039swar-672840-158.html

THE PHYSICIAN’S IRISH LADY

Available at Amazon Kindle Direct Select beginning September 25, 2013. Worldwide distribution begins in January 2014. For buy links, visit www.susanmacatee.com

THOROUGHLY MODERN AMANDA

The Wild Rose Press http://www.thewildrosepress.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=176_135&products_id=5074

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Thoroughly-Modern-Amanda-ebook/dp/B00AQAIHHW/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1355948640&sr=1-1&keywords=Thoroughy+Modern+Amanda

Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/thoroughly-modern-amanda-susan-macatee/1114008539?ean=2940016112596

All Romance Ebooks https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-thoroughlymodernamanda-1026307-141.html

Saturday, September 28, 2013

NEW WESTERN PUBLISHER--PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS by CHERYL PIERSON



Have you ever had a dream that “just happened” –before you could think about it anymore, or try to decide how to accomplish it—it was just…there?

One of the things I’ve always “thought about” was opening a publishing company of my own. That would be impossible because as everyone who knows me is well aware, I am NOT a “computer guru” at all. So how could I ever do all the things I’d need to do to open a publishing house? The answer is, I couldn’t.

I’d pretty much let those thoughts go until Livia Reasoner and I were talking about a way to be able to get some brand new, very talented authors “out there” for others to read and enjoy, and this topic came up. As it turned out, we both had the same idea—an imprint for women authors, both well-seasoned and fresh talent, to submit historical westerns and historical western romances.

Since so many women read westerns and western historical romances, Livia and I thought this might be a great way to reach even more women authors who write those kinds of stories. What we wanted to do was provide a venue for these authors to shine—to get their work “out there” with a publisher who is interested in helping give them a hand navigating the publishing waters and seeing that they get their fair share of profits for their hard work. With that in mind, our imprint, PRAIRIE ROSE PUBLICATIONS, was born!

When we announced our new publishing house, we had several people ask if we accepted children's books, or those for the Young Adult category. Because of the interest, we also created PAINTED PONY BOOKS--an imprint for western and historical books for Middle Grade reader, Young Adult, and New Adult categories. We are open for submissions for this imprint as well!

Livia and I are so excited to be working together. With her bookkeeping, formatting, and other computer skills and her ability to make such fantastic covers for our books I have no worries. It’s my job to edit, promote and do much of the correspondence (cause I DO love to talk about writing!)
Our first venture will be a Christmas anthology called WISHING FOR A COWBOY. We’ve got a wonderful group of authors lined up for this collection, including some of our own Sweethearts: Phyliss Miranda, our Tanya Hanson, our Sarah McNeal, our Jacquie Rogers, Tracy Garrett, our Kathleen Rice Adams, Livia and me. This short story grouping will be western historical romance, in the sweet to sensual category. All the stories have mentioned a certain holiday food, and the story is either built around the food or can just mention it casually. The recipes will be included in the back of the book. We are having a great time with this!

WISHING FOR A COWBOY will be available November 1, 2013, in print and digital formats—it’ll make a great Christmas gift for anyone--including yourself!

So if you know of any ladies who might be looking for an honest publisher of westerns and western romances, please send them our way!

We have a brand new website here: http://prairierosepublications.yolasite.com/

If you have questions, you are welcome to contact me at fabkat_edit@yahoo.com or Livia at livia@flash.net

Please wish us well on our new publishing adventure, and come on over to the website for more information on our submissions procedures.

Thanks for all your support!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

DO YOU BELIEVE IN DOWSING OR WATER WITCHING?


One of the things without which man and animals cannot exist is water. But how do we find it? Have you or anyone in your family used a dowser or water witch?

Speculation for and against water witching and dowsing has gone on for centuries. It was even against the law in some parts of Europe at one time, decreed as superstition and heresy.

My Uncle Ray was able to dowse for water, and he certainly was not a heretic. He might have been a little superstitious, but I’m not sure. We are of Scot-Irish ancestry, so there are a number of people in our family with the “sight.” Perhaps that's why he had the gift of dowsing. My friend Margery’s late husband was a dowser who always found water.


Witch Hazel

By the way, water witching gets its name from the branch of a witch hazel, not from witchcraft. Although Martin Luther proclaimed using the system to search for metals and riches violated the Bible's first commandment.  Some water witches were supposed to be able to locate metals, lost items, etc.That's a whole other subject and  I’m only discussing water, folks. Water witch can be a verb meaning the act of water witching. The two words also can be a noun describing the person who performs the dowsing action.

What brought this on? Reading, of course. You know authors—every time we do research we get sidetracked on one tangent or another. Can’t help ourselves.

While reading through PIONEER WOMEN:VOICES FROM THE KANSAS FRONTIER by Joanna L. Stratton, I came upon the story of Ida Gillette, who sought the help of a water witch to locate water on her Riley County farm. She had found a good sized farm for sale near her brother for what seemed like a reasonable price. After she made her down payment and had a mortgage, she learned the owners sold because they had never been able to find water on the place. She made up her mind not to get discouraged because she would find water on her farm some place.

She had never had faith in water witches and the like. Her brother urged her to get an old man who lived nearby who could water witch. She asked the man and he agreed. She was quite curious to see what he would do and if it would lead to water.

The man took a forked willow stick in each hand and held it out in front of him. He told her the stick would point down when there was water. She watched and, sure enough, the stick pointed down in a bobbing motion, and then down rapidly. The man told her she'd find water in that spot. Her brother had a crew of well drillers at his farm and sent them to drill for her where the water witch indicated. Sure enough, they drilled a 65 foot well with 11 feet of water. She said, “How happy I was when I took my first drink of that cold refreshing water.”

This reinforces my opinion of dowsing and water witching, so I was happy to read her success story. But I decided to investigate further instead of researching what I needed for my work in progress. Can you say procrastination?

According to Mother Earth News I learned some swear by the ancient Greeks used water witching. But the first written record of finding water with a forked twig is in Georgius Agricola's work, De re metallica, written in 1556.By the way, he discounted the practice.
 
Forked willow witching


No matter what the origin, divining or dowsing or witching for water is practiced all over the world and despite scientific ridicule, water witches still flourish today. Almost every area has a diviner or two; Wake County, North Carolina boasts more than a dozen. A few of the Wake County dowsers refer to their skill as witching (from the witch hazel, a popular divining rod of the early American settlers), but it's usually called finding a well, spotting a well, or—simply—finding water.

Until his death, Arthur Lee Brown had been witching for twenty-five years and found more than a hundred good wells. Arthur Lee claimed it came in spurts: You found a well for one person, and two or three other prospects cropped up.

Brown started divining by accident. A man came through who could witch, and Arthur Lee found out that he could, too. "Not everybody can do it, you know," he declared with conviction. "It just works for some folks." A freshly cut peach tree twig or a length of grapevine were Brown's favorite tools. He held them both palms down, with his thumbs turned in. The grape vine spun in his hands as he walked over the vein, and the forked stick pointed toward the ground.

Arthur Brown with grapevine branch


Like most diviners, Brown wouldn't even guess why the switch worked. He just knew that it did. "There's a streak of water down under the ground," he explained, "and if you take even one step off to the side, the stick won't move. You have to be right on top of the water."

Traditionally, the most common dowsing rod is a forked (Y-shaped) branch from a tree or bush. Some dowsers prefer branches from particular trees, and some prefer the branches to be freshly cut. Hazel twigs in Europe and witch-hazel in the United States are traditionally commonly chosen, as are branches from willow or peach trees. The two ends on the forked side are held one in each hand with the third (the stem of the "Y") pointing straight ahead. Often the branches are grasped palms down. The dowser then walks slowly over the places where he suspects the target (for example, minerals or water) may be, and the dowsing rod supposedly dips, inclines or twitches when a discovery is made. This method is sometimes known as "Willow Witching".

18th Century Dowser
Many dowsers today use a pair of simple L-shaped metal rods. One rod is held in each hand, with the short arm of the L held upright, and the long arm pointing forward. When something is found, the rods cross over one another making an "X" over the found object. If the object is long and straight, such as a water pipe, the rods will point in opposite directions, showing its orientation. The rods are sometimes fashioned from wire coat hangers, and glass or plastic rods have also been accepted. Straight rods are also sometimes used for the same purposes, and were not uncommon in early 19th century New England. In all cases, the device is in a state of unstable equilibrium from which slight movements may be amplified.

Skeptic James Randi in his "ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CLAIMS, FRAUDS, AND HOAXES OF THE OCCULT AND SUPERNATURAL," notes that dowsers often cannot agree on even the basics of their profession: "Some instructions tell learners never to try dowsing with rubber footwear, while others insist that it helps immeasurably. Some practitioners say that when divining rods cross, that specifically indicates water; others say that water makes the rods diverge to 180 degrees."

I suspect that like writing or baking or painting, each dowser has his or her own method. I know my uncle was successful as was my friend's husband. Neither man would ever take money for dowsing because they believed the talent was a gift from God and to accept money would be wrong.  

You will have to make up your own mind as to whether or not you believe in water witches/dowsers.

Are you a skeptic or a believer?


Sources: 
Mother Earth News
Wikipedia
PIONEER WOMEN by Joanna L. Stratton

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Just for fun--The Jackalope


www.laurirobinson.blogspot.com

Since day one, people have told stories of adventures, hard times, frightening experiences, joyous events, and everyday life. Some are true, others, slightly exaggerated, and some complete tall tales. The most interesting ones were remembered and repeated, over and over, until, even if they had been true at one time, alterations may have turned them into unbelievable accounts that then became legends, folklore, or myths. 

Such one is the jackalope. This is a statue of one at Wall Drug in South Dakota. 

Hubby and I are planning a trip to Montana and Wyoming, and while researching interesting places we’ll want to stop, he’s come across numerous advertisements for jackalopes. The Jackalope Capital of the World. Jackalope Country. Jackalope Hunting Season—which requires a license. The hunter cannot have an IQ higher than 72 and can only hunt on June 31st between the hours of midnight and 2:00 AM. 

LEGEND has it, John Colter, one of the first white men to enter Wyoming Territory, claimed to have spotted a jackalope. The animal was said to be vicious, and could mimic any sound it heard. Later, as cowboys gathered around campfires at night singing songs, they swore to have heard jackalopes repeating the words to the songs. They also claimed the easiest way to catch a jackalope was to set out a flask of whiskey. The jackalope would drink its fill, and then slow, because of its intoxication, the critters could be caught.

The legend of jackalopes continued into the 20th century. Around 1930 two brothers, having studied taxidermy, went hunting one day. Upon returning home, one brother tossed a jack rabbit on the floor. The carcass came to rest next to a set of deer horns. A short time later, the brothers sold the first stuffed jackalope for $10 to the owner of a Douglas, Wyoming hotel. The jackalope proudly hung there until 1977 when it was stolen. 

The jackalope isn’t unique to America. There are similar critters (rabbits with horns) in Germany—a wolperdinger, and in Sweden—a skvader. (Just a side note, jackalopes have been spotted in many states besides Wyoming.)

Actual illustrations of rabbits with horns go back to the 16th century. Papillomatosis, also known as jackalopism, is a disease which causes parasitic growths, sometimes resembling horns, on the heads of rabbits.

Legend, folklore, or truth, that’s the jackalope tale.




Although there are no jackalopes in my story, my next release (October) is set in Wyoming and part of Harlequin's Christmas Cowboy Kisses anthology. 

Christmas with Her Cowboy blurb: Ranch hand Tanner Maxwell is not pleased that Anna Hagan has returned to the Double Bar for Christmas. But the little girl he once knew is now all grown up…

Snippet: Tanner Maxwell tugged his hat down and flipped the collar of his coat up to protect his ears from the biting wind whipping around the corner of the depot. Planting the sole of one boot against the wooden building behind him, he crossed his arms and leaned back.
The judge must have drawn straws. No one would have volunteered for this job. Tanner sure hadn’t and assuming he was the short straw didn’t help his temperament. Neither did the gray sky or the bits of snow swirling about. Hauling Anna Hagen back to the ranch was going to be unpleasant enough; he sure didn’t need a storm to fight along the way.
Never seeing the judge’s granddaughter again would suit him just fine. Guilt had nothing to do with it either. He hadn’t done anything to be guilty about. She on the other hand—

Sunday, September 22, 2013

OLD WEST SALOONS





In the history of the American West, the saloon is a singular institution. A lot of U. S. history occurred in, or was influenced by, saloon activities. Some of the worst examples of human cruelty and callousness toward others occurred behind the swinging doors or in the alleys of such places. Now and then, great acts of uncommon human kindness also took place within these establishments. Preachers were ordained, weddings and christenings were carried out, church services were performed and medical emergencies were taken care of there, too. The saloon often served as a community center for town meetings, elections, and court trials. 

In 1835, New York City residents could imbibe in any of more than 700 saloons. By 1862, there were 3,000 saloons. Bowery drinking establishments averaged a half dozen per block. Side streets housed some of the roughest and most violent dives.  Labor unions opposed saloons early on, demanding they be closed on Sunday, partly so they could organize bartenders. Towns that did not boast of at least one saloon were few and far between. The nineteenth century in America could almost be called the “alcohol millennium,” for drinking became extremely common. A shortage of alcoholic drinks would have been considered nothing less than a disaster. Even Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607, had a saloon or tavern.

Using molasses from the West Indies, rummakers started about 1700. Other processes were discovered much earlier. Beer was made out of molasses and bran, persimmons, potatoes, corn stalks, pumpkins or any other vegetables that allowed for fermentation. New England farmers made sassafras, spruce or birch beer, along with hard cider.
In colonial times, the words tavern and ordinary were the common terms for a drinking house. Also, grog shop, dram shop and “ye olde public house.” In 1644, Connecticut passed a law that every community must open and maintain a tavern. Massachusetts passed a similar ordinance ten years later. Glasses and steins shelved on the backbar were often numbered to indicate their capacities. Still, a glass of beer sold for a nickel regardless of the size of the container. Rye whisky was more popular in Eastern saloons, bourbon in the West and South. Both were recommended cures for effeminacy.

Some generalizations can be made in describing the American saloon. The bar ran along the wall of the room’s longest dimension, usually on the left side as one entered through the swinging doors. Many of the best bars were made of dark hardwood and ornately carved. In the new settlements that cropped up during the gold rush years, rough boards set on top of barrels were not uncommon. Most saloons hung huge mirrors behind the bar, in back of shelves of bottles. A row of slot machines could often be found tucked into a corner. Gambling equipment occupied most of the floor space. At the back of the building, sometimes outside, private card rooms served the cowboys, bullwhackers, miners, drifters and professional gamblers forever to be found in these places.  But note the door marked “wine room” at the left side of photo 2. This was a separate room for the benefit of ladies. Sometimes they were called tea rooms, with a splash of alcohol being served with their tea.
At least one back door and several side doors were provided for hasty escapes. Adjacent to one of the rear exits was an enclosure called the “bull-pen.” Bouncers would throw unconscious drunks and particularly rowdy customers into this enclosure and leave them to sober up. Such customers rarely emerged with money in their pockets.

Saloon floors were mostly puncheon and covered with sawdust to catch the drip of liquids (including spit) and any gold dust a customer might lose. Boys were hired to sweep floors once a week and sort out the gold from the sawdust. Smart boys crawled underneath any saloon with a crawl space and gathered up gold dust that had sifted through the floor boards.

The image of the heavily pomaded bartender is more accurate than one might think. By running his hands through his hair after pinching out gold dust, the barman could recover a tidy sum merely by shampooing and panning the water afterward. On the other hand, the origins of the swinging doors considered a standard saloon fixture is uncertain. Such doors allowed easy entry and exit for unsteady patrons and provided a bit of a screen for the sensibilities of anyone who might be passing by, while at the same time, allowing glimpses inside, smells and sounds to lure in new customers.

The way west could almost be traced by the establishments that grew up along the way as pioneers traveled the Oregon Trail and other routes. The same can be said for the railroad, which set up “hell on wheel towns” along the tracks for the benefit of railroad workers. Often these were abandoned as the work crew moved on, but some remained and towns grew up around them.





Most saloons gave tokens instead of change when patrons paid for their drinks. These tokens would be good for one drink at that saloon, which helped to keep customers coming back. Tokens were often also good for a certain amount of cash, like 6-1/2 cents, five cents, even 12-1/2 cents. Other business followed these saloons’ examples, especially the dance halls and “houses of ill repute.
 
Of course saloons still exist today, though few are called that. Thankfully, alcoholism is less rampant now, though it might not seem that way sometimes. How many old style saloons do you know of that still exist in America?







Charlene Raddon began her fiction career in the third grade when she announced in Show & Tell that a baby sister she never had was killed by a black widow spider. She often penned stories featuring mistreated young girls whose mother accused of crimes her sister had actually committed. Her first serious attempt at writing fiction came in 1980 when she woke up from a vivid dream that compelled her to drag out a portable typewriter and begin writing. She’s been at it ever since. An early love for romance novels and the Wild West led her to choose the historical romance genre. At present, she has five books published in paperback by Kensington Books (one under the pseudonym Rachel Summers), and four eBooks published by Tirgearr Publishing.A fifth, Taming Jenna, will be released by Tirgearr this November. Charlene was an RWA Golden Heart Finalist, and received a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award Nomination.
 
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