Saturday, January 30, 2016

COWBOYS - HEROES OF THE AMERICAN WEST

By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky

Without question, there is a certain mystique to the American West -- one that has captured the imagination of men and women for generations. The imagery, language, and culture of the American West has influenced literature, paintings, sculptures, architecture, music, clothing, furniture, jewelry, toys, comic books, old radio shows, as well as television and motion pictures.

There is an instant visualization conjured just thinking about the panorama of the American West. [Pictured: Monument Valley, Utah - and the beautiful sandstone "mittens". Public Domain]

Other images may be rooted in childhood, family history, personal experience, or from reading books about western romance or adventure.

Words like pioneer, frontier, Indian, outlaw, gunslinger, stagecoach, saloon, covered wagon, cattle drive, or box canyon can cause one to picture the American West in a heartbeat.

Yet, no word can quite capture the American West as cowboy. More than a word or job description, cowboys have become the personification of a time and place that has mesmerized people all over the world from the 19th century to the present. For many, cowboy means the American West.

Apart from early western books, which reached a more limited audience (especially worldwide), no other medium has brought cowboys and the American West into our lives as successfully or vividly as television and motion pictures. It all began in 1903 with a 12-minute long silent film called The Great Train Robbery (now preserved and protected in the United States National Film Registry).


Suddenly, what had only been imagined in the mind's eye took shape and form on film. Audiences immediately became enthralled. With the advent of sound, western films continued to gain popularity and resonate with audiences.

Original screenplays, as well as a great many best-selling novels, were adapted to the screen. Matinee screen idols such as Tyrone Power, Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Henry Fonda, Randolph Scott, and James Stewart starred in westerns, which not only increased their fan base but helped make the 'western' a film genre all its own. But cowboy stars came from other walks of life as well. An unknown bit part player named Marion Morrison took a job in a film called The Big Trail to help pay college tuition. Realizing the young man had a great screen presence, his name was changed to John Wayne. In a career that spanned five decades, John Wayne became the most popular western movie star in the world.

With television came westerns, a favorite for the entire family. Films previously available for viewing only at a theatre were now televised into your living room. Popular movie cowboys became stars of their own television show. In 1959 alone, there were 26 western shows on television. [Pictured: Roy Rogers and his trusty steed, Trigger.]

In the 1960s, half-hour programs extended to hour long shows, many of which were now filmed in color. In the decades that followed, innovative westerns offered everything from contemporary set crime dramas like McCloud and the wholesome family drama of Little House of the Prairie to award-winning mini-series formats such as Lonesome Dove and cable shows like Deadwood.

The cowboy has become an icon, the physical embodiment of the American West and (more often than not) the hero who ultimately saved the day before riding off into the sunset. He might be driving a herd of cattle, leading a wagon train of settlers to a new frontier, or the strong patriarch of a ranching family. Perhaps he was a loving single father with a mysterious past and knack for using a rifle at lightning speed. He could be wearing a white hat and badge, risking his life on dusty streets to keep a town safe. Or, he might be more complex and tormented.

One of my personal favorite film cowboys was Ethan Edwards, a Civil War veteran searching for a niece captured by Comanche Indians. I am sure most of you know the name of this classic film. Driven by hatred and prejudice for his enemy, Ethan's arduous quest to save his niece becomes a determined, fatalistic mission to put an end to the misery and humiliation she has suffered once and for all. If you haven't seen John Ford's 1956 classic motion picture, The Searchers starring John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter -- do so immediately.

Ultimately, the complexities of the cowboy character (whether in books or films) has made him remain a constant favorite with audiences.

He isn't perfect and maybe that is what we find so endearing. He may be reluctant, have a dark past that taught him some pretty tough life lessons or caused him to follow a trail that ended badly. But at his core, his heart, his mind and his soul -- he is a good man who will save the day, even if he dies trying. It is the inherent goodness in his spirit, along with the human flaws, strengths and weaknesses, that brands the cowboy in our heart and mind as a hero of the American West.

It should be noted that not all western films are serious dramas; neither are they historical period films. Although known for some mighty serious western roles, one of my favorite Clint Eastwood westerns is Bronco Billy (1980). IMDb tagline: "An idealistic, modern-day cowboy struggles to keep his Wild West show afloat in the face of hard luck and waning interest."

Even The Sundance Kid aka Robert Redford [pictured] starred in a comedy western romance as a contemporary (rather disgruntled) cowboy in The Electric Horseman (1979). Another one of my personal favorites.

IMDb Tagline: "Sonny Steele used to be a rodeo star, but his next appearance is to be on a Las Vegas stage, wearing a suit covered in lights, advertising a breakfast cereal. When he finds out they are going to drug the horse in case its too frisky, he rides off into the desert."

For many of us, there remains a soft spot in our heart or a sentimental smile on our lips remembering a favorite western film or television show. A writer's fond affection for the cowboy hero of their youth may often influence the appearance or qualities of a hero they create. A reader may visualize a certain actor when reading about a hero in a book. I know I do, usually with recurring favorites like Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, Sam Elliot, Tom Selleck, or Lee Majors. (Confession: I loved The Big Valley and all the Barkley brothers, but Heath was my favorite.)

And so, I think it's time we all take a moment to reflect and remember the cowboys who first captured our attention on television and film. For many of us, they will never grow old or die, and continue to inspire future generations. Several years ago, I made a short video tribute to the actors who brought many cowboy heroes to life on film. I hope you like it. Note: The song "Cowboys and Clowns" sung by Ronny Milsap is from the film Bronco Billy that I mentioned above. Oh, and if you have a favorite western film or cowboy hero, please share the memory with us.



Happy Trails! ~ AKB

www.ashleykathbilsky.com

Friday, January 29, 2016

THE NAME GAME by CHERYL PIERSON

I am a collector of names. Have been, ever since I was a kid. Probably because I always wished for a different one, myself. Mine wasn’t really exotic, but it was…different. Cheryl. My parents decided on the pronunciation of “Chair-yl” rather than the more common way of saying it. The way a million other people sad it…with a “SH” sound, “Sheryl,” rather than the hard “CH” sound.

So when I began writing, I knew my characters had to have ‘good’ names—names that fit. Names that weren’t too strange, but not too common. Names that were appropriate for the time period, the setting, and the culture.

The hero, of course, had to have a name that was also something that could be whispered by the heroine in the throes of passion, yet something that would be tough enough on the villain’s lips to strike a modicum of fear in his heart, just by uttering it.

Because I was writing historical western romance, I decided to pull up a chart that would give me an accurate “slice of life”—possible names for my heroes. According to US Social Security records, the top ten names for men in 1880 were: John, William, James, Charles, George, Frank, Joseph, Thomas, Henry, and Robert.

Okay, I could maybe work with the top four. In fact, the first book I ever wrote was about a gunslinger of this time period called ‘Johnny Starr.’

And William could be shortened to ‘Will’—still masculine; but never ‘Willie.’ James—very masculine, and unwittingly, calls up the rest of the line—‘Bond. James Bond.’ At least, it does for me. I could even go with Jamie. Charles is pushing it. George, Frank, and Joe are names I have and would use for a minor character, but I’d never use those for my hero. They’re somehow just too ordinary. Thomas? Again, a great secondary character name, but not a show-stopper. Henry…eh. And Robert is just ‘okay.’

I fast-forwarded a hundred years to 1980. Here are the top 10: Michael, Christopher, Jason, David, James, Matthew, Joshua, John, Robert, and Joseph. Four of the same names were there, though not in the same poll position. By 2008, only William remained in the top 10. John had fallen to #20, James to #17, Joseph to #13. The others had been replaced, not all by modern names, but most in the top 10 were surprisingly “old fashioned.”

2008: Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, Alexander, Anthony, William, Christopher, Matthew.

This told me something. If you aren’t too wild with the names you choose, you have quite a lot of choices! We know that Jacob, Michael, Joshua, Daniel, and Matthew were Biblical names. Just because they weren’t on the “top 10” list in 1880 doesn’t mean they weren’t being used—a lot!

Another source of names for that time period is family records. If you go back through old family documents, it’s amazing to find some of the odd names that cropped up.

Still maybe not ‘protagonist’ material, but your secondary characters could benefit. And who knows? You may find the perfect ‘hero’ name!

No matter what you choose, remember these rules, too:

1. Sound and compatibility—Say your character’s name aloud. Does the first name go well with the last name you’re using? Be careful about running the name together—“Alan Nickerson” or “Dick Keller” may not be good choices. Avoid rhyming names such as “Wayne Payne”—and try to stay away from cutesy names that might make your hero the focus of ridicule.
2. Uniqueness—I’m sure my parents were only trying to be ‘unique’ by pronouncing my name differently than the other 99.9% of the people in the world would automatically say it, but you don’t want your hero to have such an odd name that readers trip over it every time they come to it. Louis L’Amour was a master at coming up with ‘different’ names that were simple. Hondo Lane, Ring Sackett, Shalako, Conagher…and the list goes on.
3. Genealogy—Does it play into your characters’ storyline? If so, you may want to come up with a neat twist somehow on a common name. In my first manuscript, Brandon’s Gold, the gunfighter, Johnny Starr, is named for his father, but the names are reversed. His father was Thomas Jonathan Brandon. He is known as Thomas in the story. Johnny was named Jonathan Thomas Brandon. He goes by Johnny. This keeps a theme alive in my story of the ‘fathers and sons’ of this family, and their relationships. It weighs heavily, because Thomas is dying, but Johnny doesn’t know it. They’ve been estranged for many years.

When Johnny’s own son is born, his wife, Katie, changes the name they’ve decided on just before the birth. She makes Johnny promise to name him after himself and his father, Thomas Jonathan, bringing the circle around once more, and also completing the forgiveness between Johnny and his dying father.

4. Meaning—This might somehow play into your story and is good to keep track of. What do your characters’ names mean? This is a great tool to have at your disposal when you are writing—it can be a great conversation piece somewhere, or explain why your villain is so evil.
5. Nicknames and initials—this can be more important than you think. You may need to have your hero sign something or initial something. Don’t make him be embarrassed to write his initials and don’t give him a name that might be shortened to an embarrassing nickname.

In my book, FIRE EYES, the protagonist has an odd name—Kaedon Turner. I gave him an unusual first name to go with a common last name. I learned later that Caden, shortened to Cade, though not common for the time was not unheard of. Kaedon, shortened to Kaed, was just a different variation. It sets him apart from the other marshals, and emphasizes his unique past in a subtle way.

In my recent contemporary release, SWEET DANGER, my protagonist is half Choctaw Indian. His name reflects both cultures; his Anglo, (Jesse) and his Choctaw, (Nightwalker).

Below are some excerpts from Fire Eyes, available now through TWRP, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble. I hope you enjoy!

EXCERPTS FROM FIRE EYES:

Marshal Kaed Turner has just been delivered to Jessica’s doorstep, wounded and unconscious by the Choctaw Indians. This is part of their first conversation, Kaed’s introduction.

“Just pull.” Her patient moistened his lips. “Straight up. That’s how it went in.”

She wanted to weep at the steel in his voice, wanted to comfort him, to tell him she’d make it quick. But, of course, quick would never be fast enough to be painless. And how could she offer comfort when she didn’t even know what to call him, other than Turner?

“You waitin’ on a…invitation?” A faint smile touched his battered mouth. “I’m fresh out.”

Jessica reached for the tin star. Her fingers closed around the uneven edges of it. No. She couldn’t wait any longer. “What’s your name?” Her voice came out jagged, like the metal she touched.
His bruised eyes slitted as he studied her a moment. “Turner. Kaedon Turner.”

Jessica sighed. “Well, Kaedon Turner, you’ve probably been a lot better places in your life than this. Take a deep breath and try not to move.”

He gave a wry chuckle, letting his eyes drift completely closed. “Do it fast. I’ll be okay.”
She nodded, even though she knew he couldn’t see her. “Ready?”

“Go ahead.”

*******

From Kaed’s POV—Finding out his “angel’s” name!

“I need to stop the bleeding. You were lucky.”

“One lucky sonofabitch.”

“I meant, because it went all the way through. So we don’t have to…to dig it out.” There was that hesitation again, but he already knew what it was she didn’t want to have to say to him. He said it instead.

“All we have to do is burn it.”

She let her breath out in a rush, as if she’d been holding it, dreading just how she was going to tell him. “Right. Sounds like the voice of experience.”

“Yeah.”

She touched his good arm and he reached up for her, his warm, bronze hand swallowing her smaller one. Her fingers were cold, and he could tell she was afraid, no matter how indifferent she tried to act.
“You’ve got one on me,” he muttered.

“What’s that?”

“Your name. Or, do I just call you angel?”

He felt the smile again, knew he had embarrassed her a little, but had pleased her as well.

“Jessica Monroe, at your service, Mr. Turner.”

“Don’t go all formal on me.” He paused, collecting his scattering, hard-to-hold thoughts. “I like Kaed better.”

“Better than Mr. Turner?”

He opened his eyes a crack and watched as she gave him a measuring look, her cinnamon gaze holding his probing stare for a moment. “What you’re doin’ for me warrants a little more intimacy, don’t’cha think, Jessica?”

She glanced back down at the seeping wound, worrying her lower lip between even, white teeth. Her auburn hair did its best to escape its bun.

Kaed’s thoughts jumped and swirled as he tried to focus on her, wondering disjointedly how she’d look if she let her hair tumble free and unbound. And her eyes. Beautiful. A man could get lost in the secrets of her eyes.

Maybe he should’ve used a word other than intimacy.

Available at Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Fire-Eyes-Cheryl-Pierson-ebook/dp/B00JTAFTPS/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1454088781&sr=8-1&keywords=Fire+eyes+by+Cheryl+Pierson

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

REVIEW OF JODI THOMAS' RUSTLER'S MOON

By Caroline Clemmons

Jodi Thomas is one of my favorite authors. I loved her western historical romances, her contemporary women’s fiction/mystery, FINDING MARY BLAINE, and her contemporary romances. The contemporary romance RUSTLER’S MOON, released today, carries on in the great tradition of her other works.

If you’re wondering what a rustler’s moon is, here is the explanation straight from the book as told by Wilkes Wagner to Angela Harold:

As they reached the porch, he pointed to the sky. “See that quarter moon? That’s called a rustler’s moon. Enough light for rustlers to slip onto a ranch and steal cattle, but not so much that anyone on guard would see them clearly.”

She leaned back and stared up at the sky. “And what would you do, Wilkes, if you could move unseen beneath the rustler’s moon?”

“I might steal your heart, pretty lady,” he answered, halfway kidding.

She laughed. “Not likely.”

“Then I’d settle for a kiss.” The words were out before they’d passed through his mind.



RUSTLER’S MOON is primarily the story of Angela Harold and Wilkes Wagner.

In Florida, Angela Harold’s father left her a cryptic note written minutes before he died. “Disappear,” he told her. She realized he’d been preparing her to leave for months. Accepting the job as curator of a small North Texas museum on the edge of Palo Duro Canyon, she immediately loads her car and heads for Crossroads, Texas. She can’t outrun trouble, and someone stalks her. She believes she has nothing of value and can’t imagine what the person can want—unless he intends to kill her.

Wilkes Wagner is the last of his family. His elderly great-uncle Vern nags him about marriage, but Wilkes is not certain he wants to marry. Vern is a bachelor who flirts with every woman he meets. Wilkes’ parents have no wish to live on the Devil’s Fork Ranch and have left Wilkes in charge of the ranch—and Uncle Vern. Wilkes loves the ranch and his uncle, but lately he’s feeling restless and as if he’s missing something.

Like all Jodi Thomas books, there are numerous subplots running through the story. Yancy Grey is inexplicably drawn to the supposedly haunted Gypsy House. Carter Mayes searches the canyon for the cave with prehistoric drawings he saw as a child. Lauren Brigman wants more closeness from Lucas Reyes. All of the threads running through the book are woven into a lovely tapestry that will delight you. You’ll long to move to the small, close-knit town of Crossroads, Texas near the characters you’ve come to love.

Although each of the books of the Ransom Canyon Series stands alone, I hope you’ll do yourself the favor of reading the two previous novels in the series. WINTER CAMP is the historical detailing the founding of the town. RANSOM CANYON is the first contemporary of the series. 

The RUSTLER’S MOON buy link at Amazon is http://amzn.com/0373788622

Jodi Thomas, Author

Jodi Thomas is a fifth generation Texan who chooses to set the majority of her novels in her home state, where her grandmother was born in a covered wagon. A former teacher, Thomas traces the beginning of her storytelling career to the days when her twin sisters were young and impressionable. 

She has won many awards available to romance authors, including receiving the Romance Writers of America RITA award four times and being inducted into the RWA Hall of Fame. (The RITA is the romance industry equivalent of Hollywood’s Oscar.) In addition, she is a USA Today and NY Times bestselling author.

With a degree in Family Studies, Thomas is a marriage and family counselor by education, a background that enables her to write about family dynamics.  Honored in 2002 as a Distinguished Alumni by Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Thomas enjoys interacting with students on the West Texas A & M University campus at Canyon, where she currently serves as Writer In Residence.

Commenting on her contribution to the arts, Thomas said, "When I was teaching classes full time, I thought I was making the world a better place. Now I think of a teacher, or nurse, or mother settling back and relaxing with one of my books. I want to take her away on an adventure that will entertain her. Maybe, in a small way, I’m still making the world a better place."

For more information, please check Jodi’s website at www.jodithomas.com.f

Sunday, January 24, 2016

New Release With A Bit Of Family History


www.laurirobinson.blogspot.com



People often ask me which is of my books is my personal favorite. I usually answer with the one I’m writing now. That is the truth, mainly because that is the story I’m most focused on, however, each book has something special about it. Whether it’s how the story came to be, the research behind it, a character that reminds me of someone, etc. etc. Saving Marina, which will be released February 1st, is no different. This book is special because of my family history. 

I’d heard for years that there were ‘witches’ in our ancestry, but didn’t think much about it. All families have ‘skeletons in the closet’ and tidbits that may have grown into ‘wives’ tales’ over the years. It wasn’t until my son was exploring Ancestry.com and told me that my eight times great grandmother was arrested as a witch during the Salem Witch Trials that I took a deeper note of all those family stories, and the Salem Witch Trials. 

During that tremulous time, which lasted less than a year, fear engulfed many communities, and along with that came self-preservation. People accused others of witchcraft in order to simply protect themselves. There are many theories behind the witch trials. Some I read amazed me, others were staggering, and then there are those that, although incredulous, seem understandable considering the time period and the beliefs and ways of life back then. 

My ancestor’s name was Elizabeth Dicer, and though I dug up as much material on her as I could, there isn’t much. It seems she was arrested after accusing several others of being a witch—which wasn’t uncommon. From my understanding, it was late in the year when she was imprisoned, and cold. Her son-in-law, whose name was Richard Tarr, (my paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Tarr, and Richard would have been her several times great grandfather) petitioned the courts to release not only Elizabeth, but several others because they would never survive the cold winter in the jail which had no heat. Just the previous month, The Court of Oyer and Terminer, which had been specifically created to try accused witches, had been overturned, or dissolved, by the Superior Court of Judicature which specifically outlawed the use of spectral evidence in any of the hearings. Richard obtained Elizabeth’s release by paying her bail and promising to return her to the courts for a set upon hearing date the following spring. Between the date of her release and trail date, additional changes and orders came about which led to the end of the accusations and trails, therefore Elizabeth, as well as several others, never needed to return. A few years later, monetary reparations and public apologies were granted to some families for false proof and wrongful deaths.

Although I used my family history and Richard Tarr’s name in my story, I did not use Elizabeth’s premise. Marina, my heroine, has her own reason for believing she is a witch. 

I certainly enjoyed writing a story set during the Salem Witch Trials, and had lots of fun writing a series set during the Roaring Twenties, but westerns will always remain my favorites. Both to read and write. I’m excited to share I’ll have three of those released in 2016. April will bring Western Spring Weddings, an anthology including my story, When a Cowboy Says I Do. June will bring Her Cheyenne Warrior. My November title is yet to be determined, but it is a Christmas tale set in Colorado. 

So…is there an old wives tale in your family that has proven true?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Hollywood and Hugh Glass



I posted the story of Hugh Glass about a year ago, but I thought I'd repost it again, because there has been so much hype over the movie, The Revenant that was just released this month, which is based on the famous mountain man. Since mountain men are what I primarily write about, I was looking forward to the movie with great anticipation. It has won numerous awards already, and is up for many Academy Awards. 
From a Hollywood standpoint, the movie was all it promised to be - the story of a man struggling for survival while bent on revenge, and some really wonderful cinematography. Sadly, it fell short on historical accuracy (as is most often the case with Hollywood movies) as well as with survival accuracy. 
It is a rather gory movie - it is hyped as being "realistic", and in that regard, it is very realistic. However, here is where I had some problems with the movie: Hugh Glass did not set out on a journey of revenge for the death of his son (whether he had an Indian wife and son is up for debate). The more I read about him, the more it came to light that he wasn't even seeking revenge against the men who left him for dead (as I have written in this post originally - I decided to leave it and didn't change it). All he wanted was his rifle back from Fitzpatrick, who took it from him when he left him to die. 
For dramatic effect, Hollywood decided to kill off several historical figures long before their time in this movie. 
The survival scenes weren't all that accurate, either. The movie took place mostly in the winter, and I can speak from experience that it's not as easy to start a fire when it's cold and wet out as they make it seem in this movie. 
Hugh Glass in the movie survived the bear attack just like the real Hugh Glass, but for as many times as he found himself in a frigid river, he should have died of hypothermia several times over. I guess the movie makers were trying to stay true to the theme of "revenant." The final straw for me was when he gutted a horse, and slipped inside the animal's cavity in order to stay warm for the night. That scene came right out of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and was very out of place. I didn't see the need for him to strip out of his clothes and seek shelter inside a dead animal (a survival strategy, for sure, but very much out of place in this particular scene - the horse had just gone over a cliff with him on it. How he survived that fall is anyone's guess.) 
I'm glad I went to see the movie, but I left feeling rather disappointed. I was hoping that it wouldn't be based quite so loosely on what really happened. Here's a little of the true story of Hugh Glass:


The story of Hugh Glass has to be one of the most amazing stories of survival in the history of the west. The man practically became a legend in his own time.
    He’d led a life as a pirate before he decided to become a fur trapper in the early 1820’s at the age of 40. He signed on with William Ashley and Andrew Henry, who led an expeditions up the Missouri River in 1823. When they reached the Grand River near today’s Mobridge, South Dakota, they left their boats to head toward the Yellowstone on land. 
During this journey, in which many of Ashley’s men were killed by Arikara Indians, Hugh Glass surprised a grizzly sow and her two cubs. He was away from the rest of his party at the time, and the grizzly attacked him before he was able to shoot his rifle. He fought the bear with his bare hands (no pun intended) and a knife, and nearly killed it, but he was badly mauled during the fight. 
His companions heard his screams and came running. They found a bloody and badly maimed Glass. He was barely alive, with the grizzly lying on top of him. They killed the bear and pulled Hugh’s body from underneath her. 
Everyone knew that there was no hope for their friend. They bandaged him as best as they could, and waited for him to die. The danger of Indians discovering them was a constant fear, and Hugh’s moans and cries of pain would certainly give them away. William Henry decided their group needed to move on. It wasn’t worth risking their lives for one dying man. He asked for a couple of volunteers to stay behind and bury Glass properly once he died.
 John Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger agreed and immediately began digging the grave. They waited. Three days later, Glass was still alive. Fearful of Indians, Fitzgerald persuaded Bridger that they should leave and follow their comrades to the Yellowstone. 
Fitzgerald picked up Glass's rifle, knife and other equipment and dumped him into the open grave. They threw a bearskin over him and shoveled in a thin layer of dirt and leaves, leaving Glass for dead. 
    But Glass did not die. It’s not known how much time passed, but he regained consciousness. He was alone and without weapons in hostile Indian territory. He had a broken leg and his wounds were festering. His scalp was almost torn away and the flesh on his back had been ripped away so that his rib bones were exposed. The nearest help was 200 miles away at Ft. Kiowa. His only protection was the bearskin hide.
    Glass set his own broken leg and began crawling toward the Cheyenne River about 100 miles away. Feverish and fighting infection, he was often unconscious. It is said that he used maggots to eat away his infected flesh. Then, according to legend (or tall tale at this point, take your pick) he woke up to find a grizzly licking his maggot-infested wounds which could very well have saved him from further infection. 
Glass survived mostly on wild berries and roots. On one occasion he was able to drive two wolves from a downed bison calf and eat the raw meat.
    It took Glass two months to crawl to the Cheyenne River, where he built a raft which carried him downstream to Ft. Kiowa on the Missouri.
    After he was nursed back to health over many months, Glass set out to find the two men who had left him for dead. He found Bridger at a fur trading post on the Yellowstone River but didn't kill him because Bridger was only 19 years old, and just following Fitzgerald’s orders. Glass later found Fitzgerald but changed his mind about killing him because Fitzgerald had joined the Army. 
    Glass eventually returned to the Upper Missouri where he died in 1833 in a battle with hostile Arikaras Indians.
    Besides The Revenant, the story of Hugh Glass has been made into a movie before in  "A Man in the Wilderness" in 1971 staring Richard Harris and John Huston.  A novel, "Lord Grizzly" also recounts the story. 



Peggy L Henderson
Western Historical and Time Travel Romance
“Where Adventure Awaits and Love is Timeless”

Award-Winning Author of:
Yellowstone Romance Series
Teton Romance Trilogy
Second Chances Time Travel Romance Series
Blemished Brides Western Historical Romance Series
               






Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Railroad Affectionately Called "Katy"


By Lyn Horner

Look for big news at the end of this post!

I briefly mentioned the Katy Railroad in a post about Denison, Texas, back in November 2013 ( http://tinyurl.com/j2fmufe ), but this Texas icon deserves a closer look.
Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway (Katy) map, circa 1918
First, some back story:

By the end of 1861 nine railroad companies with about 470 miles of track operated within Texas. Five of the railroads centered around Houston. None were long lines and most ran from either a seaport or river port. Although all of the companies operated for relatively short periods of time, they brought about improvements in travel and transport in Texas.

A writer to the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph recalled a 35-mile trip by stagecoach that took a day and a half in December 1854 following days of rain. Less than two years later, a similar trip aboard the Houston and Texas Central was accomplished in one hour and forty minutes.

Previous to 1876, when prohibited by law, individual cities and counties issued about $2.4 million in bonds to aid railroad construction. The state provided major incentives in the form of land grants and loans.

Although three railroads were completed and opened after the outbreak of the Civil War, other operating companies, such as the Houston and Texas Central, were forced to halt construction. Many were unable to resume building until much later. Most existing Texas railroads did not suffer the destruction caused by war as in the rest of the South, but all were in bad physical condition when the conflict ended.

After the war, railroad building in Texas was slow until the 1870s, although the Houston and Texas Central did resume construction in 1867. Building northward, the H & TC reached Corsicana in 1871, Dallas in 1872, and the Red River in 1873. But it was not the first line to cross the Red and connect Texas with the rest of the nation. That honor went to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway Company (the M-K-T or Katy.)

The M-K-T’s  predecessor, the Union Pacific Railway Company, Southern Branch, was chartered in 1865 by the State of Kansas to build from Fort Riley, Kansas, to the state's southern border. Investors grew highly interested in the road after the federal government pledged that right-of-way through Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and a liberal bonus of land would be given to the railroad that first reached the Territory's northern border.

 

Texas was eager for the road to be built. In 1866 the state’s first legislature after the Civil War passed a resolution recommending that Congress insure the building of the Union Pacific, Southern Branch, through the state, since at that time none of Texas's railroads connected to those in other states. The company had no charter to build in Texas, but the one granted by Kansas was approved by the Texas legislature on August 2, 1870, and the company was given the same rights as if it were incorporated in Texas.

In 1870 the railway's name was changed to the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railway Company, making clear the railway's planned service area. Its purpose was to carry goods and people from Missouri, Kansas, and points north and east across Indian Territory into Texas. The Katy, advertised as the “Gateway to Texas,” bridged the Red River at Colbert’s Ferry, entering Texas near the site of Denison, where the first regular train arrived on Christmas Day, 1872.

Katy Railway bridge across Red River

However, no land in Indian Territory except the right-of-way was given to the company. The courts ruled that Congress had no authority to give land to the railroad that belonged to the Indians. Nevertheless, the MKT prospered, acquiring other small railroads while reaching Dallas in 1886, Waco in 1888, Houston in April 1893 and San Antonio in 1901.

When the Katy reached Houston, its joint ownership of the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad gave it access to the Port of Galveston and shipping via the Gulf of Mexico. This was one of the company’s ultimate goals.

MKT Ad 1881
 
In 1896, as a publicity stunt set up by William Crush, the Katy crashed two locomotives head-on, pulling loaded trains, at a site that came to be known as Crush, Texas. More than 40,000 spectators watched the spectacle. Three were killed and several injured by debris from the exploding boilers. The ragtime composer and pianist Scott Joplin, who was performing in the area at the time, commemorated the event in his song "The Great Crush Collision March," dedicated to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway.

Only in Texas, folks!
 
Over the next few decades the MKT acquired several more railroad lines, allowing the company to service other portions of Texas and Oklahoma. Between 1915 and January 4, 1959, the Katy in combination with the St. Louis – San Francisco Railway (known as the Frisco), operated the Texas Special from St. Louis to Dallas, Ft. Worth, and San Antonio. The rail cars bore names including Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, David Crockett and James Bowie.
The Katy Limited circa 1910
 
Although the road intermittently experienced financial difficulties, it opened a huge territory and aided the development of its service area by supplying economical and reliable freight and passenger service. On August 12, 1988 the Missouri Pacific Railroad (MoPac) and its owner, Union Pacific, purchased the Katy. It merged into the MoPac, becoming part of the Union Pacific system.

Since then much of the Missouri track line has become part of the Katy Trail State Park and the Missouri State Park. In downtown Dallas (location of the Katy’s last headquarters) a 3.5-mile-long section called the Katy Trail is a multi-use trail running from White Rock Lake to the American Airlines Center. In 1997 the segment linking Katy, Texas (named after the railroad) to downtown Houston was abandoned and soon stripped of rails. Another section was purchased by the Texas Department of Transportation in 1998 for the expansion of the Katy Freeway.

Now for my exciting news. Rescuing Lara (Romancing the Guardians, Book One) has been nominated for a Reviewer's Choice Award by the Paranormal Romance Guild. It's in the Paranormal Erotic / Romance Suspense Thriller Novel category. Quite a mouthful, right? By the way, I don't consider my books as erotica but evidently the reviewer does. I don't mind. She gave me 5 stars!
If you would like to help me win, you can vote here:
http://www.paranormalromanceguild.com/prgawards2015.htm