Wednesday, August 30, 2017


By: Ashley Kath-Bilsky

There are times in life when humanity faces an adversary that rises like a mythical whirlwind and soars toward us with unrelenting vengeance.

Scientists and scholars study the imagery; many attempt to analyze and advise the force it will strike upon civilization. We take precautionary measures, evacuate homes and towns as necessary, notify first responders to be at the ready, and even chart the probable course of the frightening development and residual effects.

Yet, as is the case with anything conjured by Mother Nature, the swirling, spiraling dimensions seen on a satellite or radar screen can grow in magnitude beyond predictions. It may obstinately remain focused on one particular spot or abruptly change its course. The reality is that despite our best, most advanced scientific measures, we are dealing with an enigma.

This monster shows no thought process. A mindless entity, it possesses no sense of right or wrong, and definitely has no conception of mercy.

Such was the case when Hurricane Harvey struck Rockport, Texas on August 26, 2017. Even before it hit, predictions were disastrous; a potentially life-threatening force so powerful that Patrick Rios, Mayor Pro Tem, advised residents -- who decided not to evacuate – to “write their name and Social Security numbers on their forearms” – a necessary measure to help first responders identify bodies.

Approximately 60 percent of the 9400 residents of Rockport evacuated before Hurricane Harvey made their coastal town its Ground Zero destination. Those that remained found themselves cut off for days before first responders could reach them. The damage to Rockport has been called “catastrophic”.

Despite valiant measures to prepare for Hurricane Harvey, homes have been damaged or totally destroyed. Businesses and cities resemble waterlogged ghost towns. As water levels continue to rise, many remain marooned in their homes -- cut off by roads and highways now flooded.

Thousands of evacuees are in temporary shelters, displaced from homes whose fate they may not yet know. Hearts are crushed by loss; one's thoughts numb by what has happened and anxious about what tomorrow will bring. Yet most devastating of all is the uncertain knowledge of how many lives will be lost. This is their reality, and the undeniable bonds of humanity that unite us make it our reality, too.

It has now been four days since Hurricane Harvey battered Texas. Although downgraded to a tropical storm, Harvey unleashed an estimated 50 inches of rainfall that has left most of Houston, and coastal cities flooded. News footage has shown America and the world how first responders took immediate action, including the Coast Guard as it airlifted people stranded on rooftops to safety. Concerned citizens ventured south in personal boats to help in the evacuation of those stranded in the aftermath of powerhouse winds and relentless rainfall.

In addition to private citizens, the Federal Government, FEMA, the Red Cross and many other charitable organizations and businesses are working hard to help those in need. Yet it is only the beginning of a mighty challenge. After the flood waters recede, the scars and ruins of what Harvey left in his wake will open a new chapter called recovery. Homes, businesses, and lives will need to be rebuilt. Despite the heartbreaking loss of lives, homes and businesses; no matter how overwhelming it may seems to move forward, the resilience and determination of local residents, communities, and indeed an entire nation will prevail. Storms in life can be tragic and devastating, but with each storm we rise together and become stronger.

Why? Because natural disasters like this have happened before.

Long before first names were given to hurricanes, the Great Galveston Hurricane slammed into Galveston, Texas on 08 September 1900. With maximum wind speeds of 145 miles per hour, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 left an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 dead.

In the Victorian age, forecasting weather with any accuracy was sketchy at best. Using words like tornado or hurricane without definite evidence might result in widespread panic. And so it was the tropical storm that hit the Florida Straits on September 5th was not perceived as a threat to Galveston...not until it was too late.

On the morning of September 8th, the boom town of Galveston -- considered the most prosperous port city in the State of Texas -- was about to be demolished. Ironically, the second most prosperous port city in Texas was Indianola, a town all but destroyed in 1875 by a hurricane. After being rebuilt, it was struck by another hurricane in 1886. This time, Indianola residents decided to move away.

Knowing the fate of Indianola many of Galveston’s 36,000 residents feared the same thing might happen to their island home. With little more than a large sandbar for protection, many Galvestonians proposed a seawall be built. The city’s government and a majority of residents opposed the project. Even the Galveston Weather Bureau’s director argued a seawall was NOT needed. An 1891 article in the Galveston Daily News quoted the director saying it would be “impossible for a hurricane of significant strength to strike the island”.

Not only was the seawall not built, sand dunes were reduced to fill low areas for increased development, a factor that increased Galveston’s vulnerability to storms.

And so it was that on September 8, 1900, unprepared and unprotected, the flat island-city of Galveston (just 8-feet above sea level) was assaulted by an unstoppable siege of wind and water over 15 feet high.

Over 3,600 homes were blown apart. Buildings were ripped off their foundations. Bridges to the mainland were destroyed. Railroad tracks were riddled with debris and flooded. Downed telegraph lines prevented any communication from Galveston as to what they were experiencing.

As the storm raged, ten nuns lost their lives trying to save 93 young children at the Orphans Home. Only three little boys survived. Patients and staff at St. Mary's Hospital also did not survive the hurricane. The wind was so strong the Weather Bureau’s anemometer was ripped off the building; its last measurement of the wind was over 100 miles per hour just after 6 PM. The eye of the hurricane passed over Galveston at 8 PM.

The following morning at 11 AM, one of the few ships to survive the hurricane arrived in Texas City. Aboard were six messengers from the city. It was not until 3 AM on September 10th that they reached Houston and were able to send a telegram to Texas Governor Joseph D. Sayers and President William McKinley.

The message read: “I have been deputized by the mayor and Citizens Committee of Galveston to inform you that the City of Galveston is in ruins.”

In less than 24 hours the city of Galveston was obliterated. To this day, the final death toll is not definitively known. The most conservative estimate is 6,000. Most historians cite the loss of life at 8,000; other reports calculate as many as 12,000 died.

On 24 September 1900, Thomas Edison dispatched a film crew to document the storm’s damage. Here is a partial glimpse of that film. There is no audio. If you cannot see the video on this page, here is the link.

After the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, the seawall was built as a protective barrier from future hurricanes. Construction began in September 1902. The initial segment was completed in July 1904. Between 1904 and 1963, the seawall was extended to over 10 miles in length.

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 remains one of the deadliest disasters to strike the United States. The second deadliest storm occurred in 1928. Known as the Okeechobee Hurricane, the death toll reached over 2500. Many of us remember the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, a deadly storm that claimed the lives of 1800 people.

[Photo: Galveston Seawall, US National Archives and Records Administration]

As tragic as these natural disasters have been, the lessons learned from the past enabled the present to take better precautions, and to hopefully save more lives. Although the destruction scarred the loved ones and communities, they resolved to persevere and rebuild.

Each generation faces obstacles and storms. Some may come in the form of a hurricane. Others may wash over us with illness or the daily struggle to care for our families. But in the end, as a people...we continue to face our fears and survive.

Thank you for stopping by today. This wasn't the blog I had intended to write, but in light of all that has happened this week, and the struggles that so many people and families are facing in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I felt compelled to address this issue. I hope you will join me, and so many others, in offering prayers and also support for those who need to know they are not alone as they face the challenge of rebuilding their lives in the days, weeks, and months to follow. It isn't the storms in life that define us, but how we persevere together against the wind. ~ AKB

Monday, August 28, 2017


What a great question! I came upon this one when I was answering a questionnaire for another blog and thought it would be a fantastic question to expand on all by itself. Because who among us—writers, readers, or both—DOESN’T have a favorite fictional character?

And it changes, doesn’t it? When I was a little girl, I remember being enthralled with stories of the Color Kittens, Pippi Longstocking, and finally Nancy Drew. Later, heroines such as Kit Tyler—Elizabeth George Speare’s unforgettable character in THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND held my interest.

But I also loved the heroes, too—Hugh O’Donnell, THE FIGHTING PRINCE OF DONEGAL, and Robin Hood, fighting their way to freedom and justice for the people they served! And of course, I was a western lover even then. I was spellbound by Travis and Arliss, the brothers in Fred Gipson’s OLD YELLER, and the sequel, SAVAGE SAM.

Davy Crockett and Mike Fink were favorites, for a while, with books complete with pictures from the Disney series. I couldn’t find an image of the actual books I had, but I did find this one of the “stamp” book—which I also had!

GONE WITH THE WIND was my first “adult” book and I’d seen that movie, so I was enraptured by Scarlett O’Hara. Even at a young
age, the facets of her personality both on the screen and in the book fascinated me. How could she be “all” bad? She gave up so much to save her family…or did she? I still love to think about what a wonderful character Margaret Mitchell gave us to ponder.

The first romance book I ever read was SWEET SAVAGE LOVE by Rosemary Rogers. I can’t tell you how that book changed my life in so many ways. I had never read a book that made me feel as if I was right there in the main character’s skin like I did with Ginny, the heroine. As soon as I finished that book, I turned around and read it again, and it’s on my keeper shelf to this day.
The hero of that book, Steve Morgan, is as hard as they come. But there is a place in his heart for Ginny that no other can fill, and she feels the same for him. I read this book close to 40 years ago, and those characters are still memorable today.

As far as characters I’ve written…all writers know that is nearly an impossible choice. Of course, the first book you ever wrote probably contains your favorite character(s)—even if that wasn’t the first book you ever published! They are your first loves, the reason you started writing in the first place.

The first book an author publishes holds an unforgettable place in their hearts, as well. Those characters were the ones that people were able to read about, to relate to, and to give the author feedback on.

The current book is one that is full of hopes, dreams, and promise—just like the ones before. Will people love your characters as much as you do, or will it flop?

Then there are the books that are “experiments”—maybe shorter, longer, or a different genre. How did others like those characters…but moreover, how did YOU like the characters you created?

My favorite male character I’ve created is one that was the “star” of my first book—the one that has never seen the light of day. I still have hopes and plans to rework it and get it out there, but it’s LONNNNNG. But Johnny Brandon is a man’s man, and he’s going to have his vengeance no matter what. Still…there’s room for love—though he is an unwilling participant in the beginning. As always, things have a way of working out for the best, but he kept me on my toes the entire time I was working on that manuscript, and he’s utterly unforgettable.

Probably the couple that were “the odd couple” for me were U.S. Deputy Marshal Jaxson McCall and runaway debutante, Callie Buchanan in THE HALF-BREED’S WOMAN. Jax is hired “on the side” to go after Callie who has run away from her stepfather, a prominent socialite in Washington, D.C. She is headed west, into his familiar territory. He tracks her easily enough, but when he catches up with her, he realizes that his instincts were right—there’s something terribly wrong with her stepfather’s “worry” about her disappearance. Their relationship becomes something neither of them expected, and when Callie’s stepfather comes after them both, Jax realizes he’s got to pull out all the stops to keep Callie safe from the man who is evil to the core.

But Callie has lost so much in her life, she’s determined she’s not going to lose Jax—or her life. She surprised me several times, and I loved the way she grew as a character and found her own strength and bravery as time went by.
What’s your favorite fictional character you’ve read, or one you’ve created? Be sure to leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for a FREE DIGITAL COPY OF THE HALF-BREED’S WOMAN!

If you can't wait to see if you won, here's the buy link at AMAZON!

Here's an excerpt from THE HALF-BREED'S WOMAN:

The set up: U.S. Deputy Marshal Jaxson McCall has tracked down debutante Callie Buchanan in her flight across the country to get away from her powerful stepfather. Now, because of an overzealous cavalry commander, they have been forced to marry to save Callie’s reputation and Captain Tolbert’s military career from question. It’s their wedding night, but Jax is still uncertain that he’s the best thing for Callie—he wants her to have choices, not something forced on her. But Callie knows what she wants…in her heart, she will forever be THE HALF-BREED’S WOMAN…

Jesus. A king’s ransom in rubies. But more important, the love of the woman kneeling beside him, offering him, truly, the only valuable she had left. The only thing that stood between her and destitution. She was handing him her future, and he held it in his hands, glittering in the lamplight.

“Callie.” His voice was husky, rough, but infinitely tender. “You trust me so much, sweetheart? This is everything you own, isn’t it?”

As Callie lay her head beside him, Jax laced his hands through her hair, thoughtfully fingering the silken mass of burnished copper. She nodded, not answering.

“Think long and hard about what you’re saying, Callie. I’m…not your only choice. Once we’re out of here, we can get this marriage annulled—if you want—”

Her head came up swiftly. “Is that what you want, Jaxson? Truly? To walk away and pretend we never knew each other, never made love together—”

“Shh, no, baby, it’s not what I want.” He put a roughened finger against her lips.

“Then, what? Is it the idea of marriage itself that repels you—or marriage to me?”

“Dammit, Callie, you’re young, you’re beautiful—educated—”

“A fugitive.”

“We’ll get that set straight, sweetheart, and then your whole life will be open to all kinds of possibilities—not just marriage to a—a half-breed U.S. deputy marshal, for God’s sake!”

“I happen to be in love with a half-breed U.S. deputy marshal! One that I want to spend my life with! Remember, Jax? Remember? ‘Laugh with me, love with me, have babies with me—’ Remember?” She moistened her lips, her voice carrying the husky edge of tears, her emotions raw.

Roughly, with a muttered curse, he dropped the case on the bed and pulled her to him. He held her tightly as she scrambled to move herself away from him. He speared his fingers through her soft, tumbling hair, loving the feel of it against his fingertips and across the bare skin of his neck and shoulder.

“Jax! Stop it! I don’t want to hurt—”

“You aren’t going to hurt me, Callie. Not like you mean. Physical pain, I can deal with. Emotional pain, that’s a little harder.” He pulled her back against him, but she resisted, turning her head as he tried to kiss her. He shifted to his left side, throwing a bare leg across her, forcing her head around to look at him.

“Can I trust you, Callie?” His eyes were hot, burning into hers. “If I give you my heart, can I trust you?”

“Jax—” Callie murmured, stopping her thrashing at the hoarse, raw emotion in his voice, the intensity in his eyes. He held her arms tightly in his hands. “I will never, hurt you, Jaxson. Never.” Their lips were only a hairsbreadth apart, her voice a soft whisper, gliding across his skin. “I love you, Jax.” She moistened her lips. “I love y-”

His lips slanted across hers, cutting off the rest of her words. She opened her mouth for him, and his tongue entered her in a promise of what he planned to do to her body in a few short minutes. Boldly, she touched his tongue with hers, and his fingers tensed against her scalp. He had turned until his body almost completely covered hers, pinning her beneath him. Finally, he lifted his head. “I’ll never let you go, girl. That’s one thing you better know. If we make love tonight, you’re mine, Callie. Forever.”

Saturday, August 26, 2017


Folk healing is a tradition that goes back as far as even the most primitive civilizations. Every ancient culture has healers and plant-derived medicines. For years, I’ve collected folk remedies and alternative healing methods. I enjoyed taking herbal classes from author Beth Trissel, who is extremely knowledgeable about herbs and their uses.

I also love perusing old advertisements for medical remedies and clues to lifestyles of various eras. I blame—and thank—Jacquie Rogers for getting me started on old newspapers. (I blame Jacquie for a lot of things, unless she's within swatting distance.)  You learn the most amazing things from the historic articles and advertisements.

Through the beginning of the twentieth century, any individual could go to the neighborhood drug store and buy heroin, cocaine, cannabis powder, and laudanum over the counter. Shocking today, but they were routinely used as analgesics. Not until 1907 did the Federal Government regulate the sale of these drugs. At that time, they also decreed that medicines must contain a list of ingredients.

Wizard Oil claims to cure most ills,
but gives no list of ingredients.
While sincere, well-informed healers practiced, there were charlatans popping out from under every rock. No doubt you’re familiar with the idea of a salesman hawking his cure-all formula from a caravan then leaving town quickly. He was often labeled a “snake oil salesman”. What I recently learned is that there actually was a product labeled Snake Oil Liniment on the market. I don’t know if it really contained snake oil and, if so, what kind of snake was used.

Apparently, this
cures everything!

In my opinion, the weirdest of the weird “remedies” was the sale of “sanitized” tapeworms for those who wanted to lose weight but continue to eat all they wanted. Isn't that every overweight person's dream? I don’t understand how this worked—if it did, which I doubt. Obese King Henry VIII supposedly had a 26-foot tapeworm at the time of his death. I wouldn't have liked being the person who measured that. Sure didn’t slim him, did it? I wonder what happened to the people who took the tapeworm tablets.

Every  overweight person's dream,
to eat and always stay thin.

Some of the so-called curatives advertised were criminally detrimental to health. The most chilling are the ads that promise to “cure” all types of cancer without surgery, and there are several. Makes me hope karma got those charlatans tenfold!

I shudder when I think of some of the so-called “cures” I’ve been told were used on my ancestors. One—a diabetic—died of gangrene after her swollen feet were slit and leeches applied to drain off the excess liquid.

In the late 1800s, Coca Cola ® contained a small amount of cocaine and was popular with my family members of the time—and the cocaine-free version continues to be a favorite today. Originally, Coca Cola® was marketed as a patent medicine to aid the nerves and digestion (see ad below). My father started drinking it when he developed digestive problems. The name comes from the secret recipe that includes kola nuts and coca leaves. (Cherry Dr Pepper® for me, thank you.)

Another ancestor took up smoking because he had asthma and sinusitis and was told cigarettes would help. I was told those he used contained menthol so were likely not those in the ad below. The ad doesn't specify type of tobacco, etc., so who knows?

Numerous babies in our family were given Paregoric—camphorated tincture of opium, a patent remedy usually given to infants and children—to calm their colic, diarrhea, or fretful teething. Paregoric was available without a prescription in some states as late as 1970. Now it requires a doctor’s prescription as treatment for diarrhea and other stomach problems that include IBS, cancer, and Crohn's.

Is it just me or
is this ad chilling?

Amazing anyone survived, isn’t it? 

Of course, the healers I use as my characters are the best at their jobs and always conscientious and knowledgeable. Prudence Lynch is the fourth healer I’ve written about in a book: Pearl Parker Kincaid in THE MOST UNSUITABLE WIFE and the Kincaid series, Kathryn McClintock in THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE and the McClintock Series, Deirdre Dougherty in the time travel OUT OF THE BLUE, and PRUDENCE in the Bride Brigade Series.

Here’s the summary of my recent release, PRUDENCE, Bride Brigade Book 7:

Prudence Lynch’s beloved grandmother trained her in midwifery and in folk medicine. Always ostracized because they’re different—until someone needs their help—they live in poverty at the edge of a tiny Virginia village where rumors plague them.

After Granny’s death, Prudence leaves for Richmond. There, Prudence is fortunate to be chosen to accompany Lydia Harrison to Tarnation, Texas. She believes she’s left trouble and gossip behind to establish her healing business and begin a new life. Unfortunately, trouble follows her.

Doctor Riley Gaston wants a wife and children. He’s threatened to move from Tarnation to seek a wife, but he would never actually leave the community he loves. One of the young women Lydia brings home mesmerizes Riley. That is, until he learns her so-called profession is folk healing, which he views as dangerous as it is worthless.

Prudence is as stubborn as Riley. Danger causes them to reconsider their opinions. Is their change of heart too late?

Here’s the Amazon buy link:         

Here’s an excerpt from PRUDENCE:

Riley walked slowly, hoping to read the sign, but it was covered by bunting. Soon enough, he’d be back and by then he could meet his new neighbor. Wait—there was no one new in town except the seven women who’d accompanied Lydia.
He froze in his spot.
No—she wouldn’t—not across the street from him. He turned and hurried across the road. Disregarding the superstition of walking under a ladder causing bad luck, he walked into the office. Sure enough, there was Prudence setting out bottles and packets of this and that.
He walked up to her. “What do you think you’re doing?”
She barely glanced up. “I’m organizing my herbs and tinctures and salves for my grand opening on Saturday.”
He edged closer. “What are you playing at? Are you setting out to deliberately cause trouble with me?”
She continued arranging things on shelves. “Certainly not. Why would you even say that? In your opinion, which you’ve made known to me and probably most of the townspeople, you don’t believe we’re in the same business. Having me here shouldn’t have anything to do with you.”
He fought for calm but it wouldn’t come. “It’s as if you’re. . . you’re saying you’re in the medical profession the same as I am.”
She stopped messing about with the dratted shelves and faced him. “Dr. Gaston, I’ve never said that. I’m interested in helping people in any way I can. If that alarms you, that’s your problem.”
He leaned in so they were nose to nose. “You’re setting yourself up as a medical authority. That’s a big problem. You can do untold harm with your so-called healing.”
Sparks shot from her blue eyes. “So can you. Do I tell you how to run your office and treat your patients? No.” She poked him in the chest. “So, Doctor Gaston. Butt. Out.”
Fuming, Riley turned on his heel and strode from the building. He rushed to Mrs. Eppes’ home. Where did Prudence get off thinking she could do this to him? 
He’d come close to kissing her. Thank heavens he’d resisted. Who was he fooling? If he were being truthful, only her anger stopped him. What was he going to do about Prudence?
More importantly, what was he going to do about what being near her did to him?

I’ve loved writing the Bride Brigade Series. PRUDENCE was emotional for me because it ends the series into which I've immersed myself. In addition to the romance of Prudence Lynch and Dr. Riley Gaston, this book ties up loose ends and settles Lydia Harrison’s conundrum. Although I’ve already eagerly dived into one of the many new projects I have planned, DANIEL in the McClintock Series, saying goodbye to Tarnation, Texas and its citizens is bittersweet.

Caroline Clemmons is an Amazon bestselling and award winning author of contemporary and historical western romance. She lives in North Central Texas cowboy country with her Hero and their several rescued animals. Her latest series are the 7-book Bride Brigade Series and the (to date) 5-book Loving A Rancher Series for Montana Skies Series Kindle World. Check her Amazon Author Page for a complete list of her books. Sign up for her newsletter and receive a FREE historical romance novella, HAPPY IS THE BRIDE, as well as notices of new releases and contests.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Saloon Girls and Soiled Doves by Paty Jager

Purchased Canstock Photo
Some people believe that Saloon Girls and Soiled Doves are one and the same. And they can be. But did you know there were different levels of both profession?

Also known as “sporting women” “painted cat” or “Calico Queen”.  This occupation was divided into groups or caste systems. At the top were the courtesans or mistresses, these women had beauty, intelligence, and sophistication. They used wit and charm to get what they wanted. Which was an attachment to a wealthy, powerful man who not only provided for them handsomely but also gave them acceptance and respectability in society.

The next step down was a lavish parlor house. A madam (usually a former prostitute) ran the parlor houses. These had servants, a bouncer, and a “professor”. This gentleman played music during the evening for tips, drinks, and small wage. These men traveled around never staying at one place too long. Some were musicians, some were not.  Parlor house madams were sophisticated and discreet.  They referred to their “girls” as “boarders”. There were usually 20 elegantly dressed, experienced “boarders” between the age of 18-30 in each house. To attract quality clients, the madams advertised by sending their charges, dressed in their finest clothes, out to stroll through parks or to ride in open carriages.  During these “advertisements” the women carried poodles, the signal they were not a “decent woman”.  The madam also sent out invitations to soirees which allowed the men to view her “boarders” in a social setting. And parlor houses were listed in a directory found in elite saloons, hotels, and restaurants. Parlor house clients were gentlemen of wealth and respected men in their community. The sheets in parlor houses were changed after every client and maids took care of the “girls” needs.

A brothel was the next step down. There were high class brothels and low end brothels. Both brothels and parlor houses reeked because windows were not opened. Stale smoke, perfume, and drinks permeated the establishments.  Brothels tended to be operated by a madam as well, but few had servants. The women were older and dressed less elegant. These establishments usually operated in the “red light” or “Tenderloin” district of a town. “Red Light” originated in Dodge City, Kansas. 

The railroad stopped in Dodge City long enough for the train crews to “visit” women. When they
entered the brothels, they left their red lanterns on the porch, in case of an emergency they could be found. Eventually, this red light in front of a place of prostitution became a law. High- class brothels  in the Red light district were just a step down from the Parlor Houses. These girls wore fancy, though not elaborate clothing and lots of make up to conceal their aging. These women could be anywhere from 16-35 years of age.

It was important for an experienced prostitute to move around. Men became bored with them after awhile, wanting something new, so they would move to another town and be the “new” girl.  These women earned about $10 for their services. The madam received her cut and the rest was spent on clothing and necessities.  Some madams took their girls on “summer vacation”  They’d set up large tents near a mining camp or town and work there for several weeks before returning to their house. There is a large meadow in the Steens Mountains in Oregon where the women would stay during the summer when the sheep herders had their sheep on the mountain grazing.

When a woman lost her youthfulness and charms--and hadn't died from overdosing on drugs and alcohol which the lifetime prostitute used to forget how bad her life had become--she would find a small town to ply her trade and hope to find a husband, which happened more in the smaller rural communities than it did in the cities. Or they moved down the ladder to volume brothels, saloons, hurdy-gurdy houses. This was still a step above the bottom rung on the ladder--the crib . A volume brothel was just that- fast turn around of customers, dirty, shabby conditions. The establishment was set up with an open area to the street where the woman sat dressed in short skirts, low necklines and tried to entice the customers in. These girls worked in shifts and were older, not as attractive, and usually on drugs or an alcoholic.  They used drugs and alcohol to survive. One woman could service 25 men in a busy shift. The sheets in this establishment were rarely changed. A good number of women when they hit this level tried to take their lives. These women were not considered respectable and didn’t go out in public. Some still traveled from place to place. If they were well liked by the men, the brothel would advertise when the woman would be at their establishment.

Pimps were men who took in vulnerable women. They paid for all the woman’s needs making them indebted, then sold their bodies to men, making the woman believe she was paying back her debt.

Prostitutes in rural communities were given some respect and freedom. The brothels in small towns usually had from 2-7 girls. The customers in rural towns were cowboys and laborers. The women didn’t make as much money as in cities. Yet, a prostitute in a rural area had a better chance of getting married.

The crib is nearly the lowest a prostitute can go in the chain. The crib is the most despicable area in the red light district with a row of small, dilapidated  houses.  They had enough room for a small bed, small stove, a chair, and washstand. With a privy in back. The foot of the bed had an oil cloth across it to keep the men’s boots (which they didn’t’ take off)  from staining the bed cover. But they always took off their hats. On pay day there would be lines of men waiting for their turn. The women would work all night. A brisk woman could accommodate 80 men a night. Some women made enough they could afford their own house.

The bottom of the ladder is the streetwalker. This woman battled disease, drugs, and alcohol.  This was a woman so far past her prime a pimp wouldn’t even take her in.

A prostitute’s biggest fear was getting pregnant. When she had a disease she would treat it and be back to work in weeks. A pregnancy put her out of commission. European women used a form of protection made from beeswax that fit over their cervix. The Americans would use an abortionist which usually ended up with her becoming sterile. They also discovered opiates would stop menstruation and that could be why so many prostitutes were addicted. 

purchased at canstock
Saloons and hurdy-gurdy houses were all over the west. Hurdy-gurdy girls were prostitutes and respected women. A dancer received $1 a dance and by the end of the night could have danced with as many as 50 men. Half of that went to the owner of the house, but that was still a good wage back then. Some, who either liked sex or wanted more money would take men to rooms in the back and give sexual favors. 

Some saloons had rooms upstairs where the saloon girls  entertained any man willing to pay the price. The men running saloons could be cruel, using physical force to make the women, even entertainers who were passing through service a man who was willing to pay.  Because the married women were revered, the lowly saloon girl took the brunt of the men's anger, especially when they were drunk.  The "resepectable" people believed having the saloon girls and prostitutes for the cowpuncher and miner to visit, these men would leave the married women and daughters alone. And so,  a blind eye was given to the women of this profession.  

There were some of the higher class saloons who had can-can dancers and women who urged the gamblers to drink more than they should or strung along a man looking for a good time, but they were only allowed to step out with a man on their own time, not while they were working. 

The latter type of saloon is what my character Beau Gentry runs on in my upcoming historical western series, Silver Dollar Saloon. The saloon girls will all find their HEA with men who frequent the saloon, or  they run into in their excursions outside the saloon. 

How do you feel about saloon girls in stories? I like the fact they can be redeemed even though, in the Silver Dollar Saloon, every woman is treated with respect. It comes from Beau's sense of protectiveness and the fact his mother had to be a prostitute to raise him. But you'll learn that in book one of the series, Savannah, when it releases in August. 

Disclaimer: Parts of this post have been posted on other sites and are part of a workshop I give at writing conferences on Characters of the West.. 

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 30+ novels, a dozen novellas, and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure. She has a RomCon Reader’s Choice Award, EPPIE, Lorie, and RONE Award. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. This is what readers have to say about the Letters of Fate series- “...filled with romance, adventure and twists and turns.” “What a refreshing and well written love story of fate and hope!”

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Kiowa Mythology & Mysterious Origins

Dearest Irish (Texas Devlins, Book 4) takes place mainly on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache reservation in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) ca. 1876. A lot of my research for this book focused on the Kiowa Indians, a small part of which I’ll share with you today.

Kiowa myth tells of a creator being who summoned their ancestors into the world from a hollow cottonwood log. They emerged one by one until a pregnant woman got stuck in the log, preventing any others from getting out. Sounds painful! Fanciful perhaps, but this may be the Kiowa way of explaining why their numbers were so few compared to the Comanches and other tribes.

Another myth relates how a divine boy, child of the sun and an earthly mother, gave himself to the tribe as eucaristic offerings. As late as 1896, this tribal medicine was kept in Ten Grandmother bundles. Kiowa children grew up listening to these legends and many others, told by the old men and women of the tribe.

Three Kiowa Men ca, 1898; wikipedia, creative commons 2.0
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Kiowa Indians were one of the preeminent horse tribes of the southern Great Plains. Together with their Comanche and Kiowa-Apache allies, they held off white settlers and the frontier Army for decades. However, they were not always among the world’s greatest mounted warriors. Once, they were hunter-gatherers living in the northern Rockies, who had never laid eyes on a horse. Long before that, they may have dwelled in the desert southwest. Confused yet? Me too!

The Kiowas speak a language called Tanoan or Kiowa-Tanoan. Tanoan is also spoken by many of the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico, proving the two peoples were linked in the distant past. Yet, Kiowas trace their earliest known location to the headwaters of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers in western Montana. In the late 1890s, tribal elders still remembered northern tribes such as the Blackfeet, Arapaho, Gros Ventres and Shoshonis. How the Kiowas came to be in the far north remains a mystery. One theory is that they split off from their Pueblo roots and migrated northward to colder climes, only to reverse direction and return south eventually.

While living in the northern mountains, the Kiowas depended on dogs to pull travois and possibly sleds. They mainly hunted small game. According to legend, the tribe split over a dispute, one faction heading northwest (where to, no one knows) while the others moved southeastward across the Yellowstone. This group, destined to become the Kiowa tribe of recorded history, met and grew friendly with the Crow Indians, settling east of them in the Black Hills. The Crow apparently taught the Kiowa about life on the plains and intermarried with them, passing on cultural traditions.

Around 1765, the Kiowa obtained the “Tai-me,” a powerful fetish incorporated in the annual Sun Dance ceremony. They acquired horses, hunted buffalo and lived in hide tipis like other plains tribes. They carried personal medicine bundles and belonged to societies within the tribe. Elite among the men’s groups was the Koitsenko soldier society.
Chief Setangya (Sitting Bear), Called Satank, wearing sash with Koitsenko badge
Young boys started out as “Rabbits.” Girls and women also had their own special groups. Among them were the Old Women society and the exclusive Bear society, with only ten or eleven members.

The Kiowa were forced from the Black Hills by the Dakota Sioux as that tribe pushed westward. South of the Kiowa lived the Comanches, who were in turn forced southward. They had acquired horses early on and ranged deep into Mexico on their raids. As early as the 1730s, the Kiowa had also become superb horsemen and were raiding Spanish settlements.

The two tribes warred against each other for years, but around 1790 they made peace and became allies. From then on, they and the Kiowa-Apaches, a small band closely connected to the Kiowas, hunted and raided together. The Comanches ruled the Staked Plains and a large portion of Texas, a vast domain known as Comancheria, while the Kiowas roved southward along the Arkansas River.

This fierce confederation drove out other, weaker tribes and raided Spanish, Mexican and American settlements virtually unchallenged until the mid-1800s. They were after horses, goods they could use or trade, scalps and captives – also tradable at forts and towns along the frontier. Their cruelty toward those they captured or killed was notorious.

Texas militia and later the Texas Rangers fought to protect far-flung settlements, but it would take concerted efforts by the Army and tactics that were often as brutal as the Indians’ to finally defeat the Kiowa, Comanche and their allies. The death blow came on September 28, 1874, when troops of the 4th Cavalry, under the command of Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, attacked a string of Indian villages in Palo Duro Canyon, in the Texas panhandle. There was little loss of human life and the Indians escaped up the walls of the canyon, but Col. Mackenzie ordered his men to shoot most of the 1,400 captured Indian ponies. They also destroyed the Indians’ tipis and winter provisions.

Palo Duro Canyon, photo from

Left afoot on the open prairie, without food and shelter, the tribes soon surrendered. They were confined on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache reservation and guarded by the soldiers at Fort Sill, located in the shadow of the Wichita Mountains in southwestern Indian Territory. The Kiowa mainly settled near Rainy Mountain, which has since been made famous by N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain. Today, most Kiowas in Oklahoma still live in the same general vicinity.

There is so much more I’d like to tell you about the Kiowas’ life on the reservation – it wasn’t pleasant – their crafts, especially the beautiful bead work they’re known for, and their adaptation to the white world. However, I think I’ve gone on long enough. If you’d like to learn more about these proud people, here are a few of my favorite sources:

The Kiowa by Mildred P. Mayhall

Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and romantic suspense novels, all spiced with paranormal elements. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and a gaggle of very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.

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Friday, August 18, 2017


Even though it’s not Halloween yet, I came across this legend and found it too fascinating to pass up posting about it now. The most captivating thing about this legend is that it is absolutely true. Yep, all true.

First of all the words, El Muerto, mean “The Dead One.” Well, that’s hair raising enough, but wait until you hear how El Muerto came about. It seems Texas had its own version of The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow, the famous legendary story by Washington Irving. And the Texas legend begins in reality. Get ready because here comes a most grisly tale of Texas justice.

Texas was a pretty wild and lawless place in the 1800’s with countless numbers of thieves and murderers running around playing havoc with the peaceful and law-abiding folk. Needless to say the lawmen had grown tired of this lawless bunch of outlaws behaving in such a way. The Texas Rangers burst on to the scene with a commitment to help the settlers fend off the Indian raids, lawless characters from south of the Rio Grande, and the countless other criminals who harassed and endangered the settlers.

In those days the Rio Grande River had been the declared border between the United States and Mexico, but the Mexican government claimed the border to be the Nueces River, so this land between those two rivers became a sort of “No Man’s Land” in which outlaws felt free to do what they pleased. Of course, we all know it would take a war between Mexico and the United States in 1846 to make the Rio Grande the official border. It would take another thirty years for the Texas Rangers to clean up the riff-raff in this former “No Man’s Land.”
Apparently these miscreants didn’t hear the warning bell that the Texas Rangers were patrolling the area and meant business because they believed they could continue their lawless behavior without consequence. Well, we all know you do not mess with the Texas Rangers. Texas Rangers were expert gunmen who roamed the area living out of their saddles doling out brutal justice.

Texas Rangers
Two of these Rangers were Creed Taylor and William Alexander Anderson “Big Foot” Wallace. “Big Foot” Wallace, by the way, was a folk hero in his own right. With Creed’s blessing, “Big Foot” inadvertently created the legendary El Muerto.
A man known as Vidal was about his lawless business of rustling cattle in 1850 down in South Texas. He had a “dead or alive” price on his head. A Comanche raid pulled the Rangers to the north to fight the Indians which left the settlements to the south temporarily unprotected. Vidal and three of his men took advantage of this temporary loss of protection and gathered up a hefty number of horses along the San Antonio River as they headed toward Mexico.
Apparently Vidal did not realize that among his stolen herd were several prized mustangs belonging to Texas Rangers Creed Taylor, Big Foot Wallace, and a rancher named Flores. Flores, Creed and Wallace didn’t have too difficult a time tracking down Vidal and his three men. What happened next is the stuff of legends.
"Big Foot" Wallace, Texas Ranger
The Rangers found the outlaws asleep in their camp. The thieves were killed including Vidal. But it wasn’t enough to just dole out justice by killing the outlaws. No sir, a warning for outlaws needed to go out and Vidal happened to be the perfect outlaw to use as an example. Big Foot Wallace lopped off Vidal’s head and sat the headless outlaw on a Mustang. He lashed Vidal to the horse to maintain a position sitting up as if riding the horse and lashed his head to the saddle in front of him. He then sent the Mustang out to wander freely with the grisly corpse on its back.
It was reported the following day by some cowboys that a gray horse bearing a headless rider rode through their camp with the headless rider shouting, “It’s mine. It’s all mine!” The sightings of the headless horseman grew in number. Cowboys and Indians were so terrified by the sight of the rider, they shot the corpse full of bullets and arrows. Years later, the Mustang was found and relieved if it gruesome rider who was finally buried, and then the horse was set free.

But even after the corpse of Vidal had been buried, reports were made of the headless horseman. A sighting of the corpse was reported near Freer, Texas in 1969. The legend lives on even today with sightings of a headless rider galloping through the mesquite on clear, moonlit nights in South Texas.

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media: