Friday, July 20, 2018

Coyote and the Lizards, A Lesson for Kids

As you may have noticed, I'm very into researching the Navajo people and the heart of their homeland, Canyon de Chelly. Along the way I've also read some of their folklore. Today I'll share one of their teaching stories, the tale of Coyote and the Lizards.

Coyote the trickster is very important in Diné – Navajo – beliefs. In the Diné Bahane’, the Navajo creation story, there are three worlds before the world we live in, which is called the Glittering World. Coyote has existed from the beginning.

His ceremonial name is Áłtsé hashké which means first scolder. He is in many stories used to teach Navajo children. In animal form he is a coyote; in human form he is a man with a mustache.

Coyote can be funny, but he is also greedy, foolish and cunning. Because of this, he often gets into trouble, as he did when he came across a group of lizards who were playing a game. He had never seen this game before and was curious, so he trotted over to watch.

The lizards were on top of a big, flat rock with one sloping side. Taking turns, they slid down the steep slope on a small flat rock, then carried it up the hill on their backs for the next one. They pretended not to see Coyote as they played.

Coyote didn't like being ignored, so he spoke to the lizards. ‘Your game looks like fun. What do you call it?’ he asked. ‘We call it sliding,’ one said. Trying to be friendly, Coyote asked to join them. ‘You are not a lizard,’ another said scornfully. ‘You don’t know how to play our game.’

‘I can learn,’ Coyote said. ‘It looks easy. I'll stand on the rock like you did and slide down. Let me try, just once.’  ‘This game is very dangerous,’ an old lizard told him. ‘You might be okay on the small rock, but the big rock would squash you.’

Coyote didn't believe him. None of the lizards had been squashed. He kept begging to try it. Tired of his pestering, the oldest lizard said, ‘Very well, just once, Cousin. You can ride the small flat rock, but not the big one.’

Coyote really wanted to ride the big one, but he didn't argue. He’d ride the little one, proving he could do it. Then he’d convince them to let him try the big one. Frowning, the lizards positioned the small flat rock for him. ‘I don't know why you want to play our games,’ one of them said. ‘I’ve seen you play your own games, chasing cottontails and kangaroo rats and other animals. You are very fast. Running races is more your style.’

Not saying anything, Coyote stepped onto the small flat rock. It tilled downward and he went flying down the steep slide. Just before he reached the bottom, he jumped off. Picking up the rock, he carried it back up the hill. ‘You see,’ he cried, feeling proud of himself. ‘I can do it. Let me ride the big rock now. Just once.’

The lizards looked at him like he was crazy. The oldest one said, ‘You have been warned not to try the big rock, but if you want to risk your life, it’s your own fault if you get squashed flat.’ He told the young lizards to set up the big rock for Coyote. They placed the big rock on the edge of the slide and got out of the way.

Coyote was sure of himself. He stepped onto the big rock, it tipped and again he went flying down the slide. But the rock caught on a smaller one halfway down. It flipped into the air, taking Coyote with it. Coyote was scared to death. His ears flopped around, and he clawed the air. He hit the ground and saw the big rock coming down on top of him. ‘I should have listened,’ he thought. ‘I'm going to be squashed flat, just like the old lizard said.’ Then the big rock fell and squashed Coyote.

The lizards stood staring at him. ‘Poor foolish Coyote,’ the oldest one said. ‘He's not my friend, but I am sad to see him squashed.’  ‘And right in the middle of our slide,’ a young lizard complained. ‘It’s not right to leave him there,’ said another, ‘but how can we move him? He’s very heavy.’ A third lizard said, ‘Maybe we should bring him back to life. Then we wouldn’t need to move him. He could leave on his own.’

‘That’s a very good idea,’ said the oldest lizard. ‘Let’s do it.’ Sliding down to Coyote, they surrounded him and worked their secret magic. They brought him back to life.

‘Now go on your way, Coyote,’ the oldest lizard told him. ‘And don't try to play any more lizard games. We don't want this to happen to you again.’ Coyote didn’t have to be told twice. Glad to be alive, he got up and ran for home with his tail between his legs.

So, what's the lesson here? Simply that children should listen to their elders and not be so proud of themselves that think they can do anything they please.

NOTE: This story plays a part in A Mighty Chieftain, the conclusion of my Romancing the Guardians series. Coming in autumn 2018.

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 pair of very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, genealogy, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.

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Newsletter:  Lyn’s Romance Gazette
Website:  Lyn Horner’s Corner 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

THE LAST POST by Sarah J. McNeal

The late Celia Yeary invited me to join Sweethearts of the West soon after my second western story, For Love of Banjo was published. After that I began to write western stories full-on. I invented the Wildings and then they became like family to me. All of the Wilding stories took place in the fictional town of Hazard, Wyoming. I only saw Wyoming once way back in 1969 on a road trip with my friends from Omaha, Nebraska. I was so impressed by the majesty and wildness of Wyoming that it seeped deep into my heart and I never forgot it.


Every detail of Wyoming had to be researched right down to its native plants and trees. Research to most writers, including me, is an exciting adventure into the unknown. Sometimes research can be time consuming and lead away from the primary goal of writing. I liked adding real history and places in the Wildings series and often I would write a blog about what I had found here in Sweethearts of the West.

I have a huge old Road Atlas that I used to find places in Wyoming. I selected a place near the Wind River and the Wind River Reservation for my fictional town and actually penciled in Hazard on my map. I made a mistake about a train being in that area of Wyoming in Banjo’s story and I never wrote about the interstate because all of my stories took place before they existed.

A few months back I submitted my last Wilding story, this one about the Wilding’s cousin, Kyle Red Sky. At present I am editing, revising, and almost rewriting a paranormal fantasy trilogy, Legends of Winatuke, I had written in the beginning of my career. When I am finished with those three books, I am going to take a new direction for my next projects. I’m going back in time to the pre-Revolutionary War days in a state I am familiar with—North Carolina. I am well acquainted with the beautiful state of North Carolina from the Atlantic coast to the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains. It’s been my home for most of my life. I was raised here. 

Now I will have the joy of researching its fantastic history which I have never done for my own state before. This is going to be so interesting and fun for me. I always wanted to know where Charlotte got its names for streets like Tryon and communities like Myers Park. I want to know all about the Old Salem settlement,  Black Beard the pirate, and the Scot-Irish Mountain folk. These are the places I can easily visit and the history I can relate to. Even the Carolina coast is jam-packed with history and interesting features like the Outer Banks and the old Cotton Exchange in Wilmington, North Carolina. I am so excited to take this new direction.

Moorehead City, NC

Of course, this change in subject and place will lead me away from western writing and from The Sweethearts of the West. Through researching for my posts here I have found a rich history and culture of the west. The Mississippi, the Great Plains, and the Rocky Mountains have all given our country an exciting and wild history that makes America a unique and proud place to live. I am going to feel a little lost for a bit until I get used to my change in story location, but I know I will always be around my delightful and talented friends here at Sweethearts of the West. To the person who takes over my time slot on the 18th and 19th of each month I’d like to say welcome and I wish you all the very best. It has been an honor to have been a part of this esteemed and talented group.

Diverse stories filled with heart 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Palisades Sill, New Mexico and The Gunfighter’s Woman by Kaye Spencer #sweetheartsofthewest #westernromance

Palisades Sill along the Cimarron River
Canyon in northern New Mexico

Every year, I head out on day long road trip that takes me through northern New Mexico or southern Colorado. Both areas are rich with old west history. A few years ago, I took a drive through northern New Mexico to see the spectacular rock cliffs called the Palisades Sill in the Cimarron River Canyon between Cimarron and Taos. It is a lovely, slow drive. If you take an autumnal drive, you will likely see the beautiful colors of the Aspen leaves as they change colors.

I consider Trinidad, Colorado to be the starting point for this drive even though I live two hours to the east. So from Trinidad, head south over Raton Pass then bear to the southwest past the National Rifle Association’s affiliate site, the Wittington Center, and keep going to Cimarron, New Mexico and then head westerly through the mountains to Taos. The narrow, winding, two-lane paved road of 60 miles from Cimarron to Taos roughly follows the Cimarron River through the Cimarron River Canyon, and the drive will take you around an hour and a half.
Kaye at the edge of the Cimarron River
behind her and the Palisades Sill
Cliffs rising out of sight
From Cimarron, you’ll begin the ascent toward Taos through the Cimarron River Canyon. You’ll soon find yourself in Cimarron Canyon State Park and, in just a few miles, you'll come to a breathtaking view of a rough and ragged line of rock cliffs called the Palisades Sill.
Palisades Sill - view from the parking area

These cliffs were cut by the Cimarron River some 40 million years ago during the era of uplifting in the southern Rocky Mountains. The rock is igneous known as sill. Here is a quote from the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources website -

Cimarron is Spanish for wild and untamed and originally was used in New Mexico to refer to the wild bighorn sheep, and later to the wild horses and cattle that once roamed throughout the north-central mountains. Today, the sparsely populated Cimarron country in western Colfax County can still be described as wild and untamed with its rugged, timbered mountains (the Cimarron Range), towering cliffs, and the previously unpredictable Cimarron River. The Cimarron River has been tamed somewhat by the Eagle Nest Dam, which controls flooding in the canyon.

Many an outlaw and gold-seeker made their way over the this rough and dangerous mountain trail from Cimarron to Taos. In my book, The Gunfighter’s Woman, I sent former gunfighter Matt Caddock over this route when he left the Stirling Ranch near Trinchera, Colorado as his quickest way to reach Taos, New Mexico. He returned to an old church in Taos where he hoped to find clues that would lead him to gold buried near the Spanish Peaks of southern Colorado.

Here is an excerpt from The Gunfighter’s Woman.

Matt Caddock was a man with a simple plan—find the gold and return to Brenna by the first snow at the ranch. He didn’t have much time. No more than a month, if that. Too bad simple plans weren’t necessarily the easiest.

Riding under a promise of a cool evening, his arrival in Taos turned no heads. He was just a stranger going somewhere, but headed nowhere. Skirting the edge of the quiet adobe town, he circled wide around the ruins of the old San Geronimo Church and graveyards until he reached the back of the Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe parish.

Looping the horse’s reins around a short post, he gave him a pat and a promise he’d return soon, then he walked along the adobe wall to the courtyard gate, his gaze scanning the street, buildings, and passersby.At the church door, he paused, glanced around, then stepped into the cool tranquility inside the church and removed his hat. He lingered at the side of the doorway, letting his eyes adjust to the change in light while getting his bearings. The floor fell away in a gentle slope to the front where candles burned and a shadowed cross hung high on the far wall.

Movement, and a barely audible scraping—like a footstep— caught his ear, and he expected a priest or a parishioner to greet him…but no one appeared. Chalking it up to a mouse scurrying about, Matt walked up the narrow aisle to the first pew where he’d sat beside Henry on that long ago day in his seventeen-year-old life. He took the same place on the wooden pew where he’d sat with Henry, and gazed at the serene white figure of the Lady of Guadalupe nestled into her protective alcove carved into the two-foot-thick adobe wall not five feet in front of him.

He had dim recollections of going to church a couple of times a year with his parents, but never again after his ma died. The only other time he’d been in a church was with Henry here.

He was uncomfortable in a church, because he didn’t know what to do. When he’d voiced his misgivings, Henry had explained a church was a place to think. You didn’t have to pray if you didn’t want to. So that’s what he’d done. He’d thought.

He’d wondered about his future as much as he questioned why his parents had died and left him a penniless orphan. There seemed no point to anything in his life with the aimless drifting from job-to-job and town-to-town with Henry. Together, all they owned was a pocket full of nothing. Granted, they had clothes on their backs and food in their bellies, but wasn’t there more out there…somewhere?

Guilt stinging his conscience for those ungrateful thoughts, he’d peeked at Henry. His eyes were closed and his chin rested on his chest.

The Gunfighter's Woman is available on HERE

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

Note: Images are Kaye's personal pictures

My apologies for the weirdness of the different fonts and font sizes in the article. Blogger was not playing nicely when I wrote this. ;-)

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Saturday, July 14, 2018


By Shirleen Davies
Female Spies of the Civil War

I first started researching female spies when writing Sam’s Legacy, book 4 in my MacLarens of Boundary Mountain series. The subject was so fascinating, I decided it deserved a blog post of its own.

During the turbulent, bloody years of the Civil War, 1861 to 1865, hundreds of daring ladies risked their lives as spies. Here are a few of their stories.

Rose O'Neal Greenhow
Confederate spy, Rose O'Neal Greenhow, nicknamed Wild Rose, was a darling of Washington, D.C. society. As a charming hostess to politicians and diplomats, she made a great spy and became the ringleader of a network of anti-Union spies, who forwarded coded messages. Rose even hid one message in her courier’s hair. This intel enabled Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard to gather enough forces to win the First Battle of Bull Run.
Rose O'Neal Greenhow

In 1861, Allan Pinkerton, who was head of the secret service, raided Rose’s home and held her and her eight-year-old daughter, little Rose, under house arrest. Later, Rose went to prison, but after her release in 1862, Jefferson Davis sent her on a diplomatic mission to Europe. While there, Rose not only charmed Napoleon III and Queen Victoria, she became engaged to a British aristocrat, and also published her memoirs.

As she sailed back to America in 1864, Rose's ship encountered Union forces and her boat went down off the coast of North Carolina. She tried to escape in a rowboat but it was weighed down by gold for the Confederate treasury. Rose drowned when her lifeboat capsized.

Harriet Tubman
Union spy, Harriet Tubman started an espionage ring of former slaves, who sneaked behind Confederate lines, posing as servants or slaves to gather military intelligence. Tubman was also the first woman in US history to lead a military expedition.  In 1863 Tubman and several hundred black soldiers traveled upriver in gunboats, destroyed a Confederate supply depot, and freed over 750 slaves.
Harriet Tubman
Later, Tubman was a key figure in the suffrage movement. Tubman tried to collect $1,800 for her spy services but the government only paid her $20 a month.

Pauline Cushman
Pauline Cushman was the stage name of actress Harriot Wood, who became a Union spy. In 1863, while she was on tour in Kentucky, some Confederate officers dared her to interrupt her show to toast Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy. Pauline contacted the Union’s local provost marshal and offered to perform the toast as a type of initiation for spying for the Union. The marshal agreed.

Pauline gathered intel on enemy operations, identified Confederate spies and served as a federal courier before she was caught with General Braxton Bragg’s battle plans tucked in her shoe. Pauline was sentenced to hang but was saved by the arrival of Union forces at Shelbyville. She received commendations and the rank of Brevet-Major from President Lincoln and James Garfield, a Union general at the time.

After the war, Pauline returned to her acting career, performing monologues on her exploits during the war.

Belle Boyd
Belle Boyd

Confederate spy, Belle Boyd was born to a prominent Virginia family in 1843. At the age of 17, she was arrested for shooting a drunken Union soldier who broke into her family home and insulted her mother, but she was cleared of all charges. Belle used her beauty and charm to beguile union officers into divulging information she then passed on to the Confederacy. To put a stop to her covert activities, Union officials sent Belle to live with relatives in Front Royal, Virginia in a hotel taken over by Union officers. She eavesdropped on the officer’s meetings through a hole in a door. The intel she provided enabled Stonewall Jackson to win battles in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862.

Belle was arrested by Union forces and sent to Old Capitol Prison, but she was released a month later and was deported to Richmond. Soon, she was caught behind federal lines and imprisoned for three more months. Belle then tried to sail for England in 1864 to serve as a Confederate courier, but she was intercepted by Union naval officer, Samuel Hardinge, who fell in love with the alluring spy. He helped her escape to London, where they wed, but he died shortly afterward. Belle remained in England to compose her memoirs and launch a successful acting career. She later returned to America, where she continued acting, married twice more, and delivered lectures across the country on her clandestine experiences.

Elizabeth Van Lew
Union spy, Elizabeth Van Lew, was raised in a wealthy slave-holding family in Richmond, Virginia. She developed strong abolitionist sympathies after attending a Quaker school in Philadelphia. When her father died in 1843, Elizabeth convinced her brother to free their slaves. When war broke out, Elizabeth and her mother visited Union prisoners of war in Richmond’s Libby Prison. She helped men escape, smuggled letters for them, and gathered valuable information about Confederate strategy from both prisoners and guards.

Elizabeth Van Lew
In late 1863, Union General Benjamin Butler recruited Elizabeth as a spy. She ran an entire espionage network based in Richmond. With the help of her servants, Elizabeth sent coded messages using invisible ink and hid the dispatches in hollowed-out eggs and vegetables. When the war ended, General Ulysses S. Grant appointed Elizabeth postmaster of Richmond. She had spent her family’s entire wealth on espionage activities, so the family of a Union officer she’d assisted during the war, the grandson of Paul Revere, provided for her until her death.

Antonia Ford
Confederate spy, Antonia Ford, was born to a wealthy Virginia family. At 23, Antonia gathered information from Union soldiers occupying her hometown. She provided intel to Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart, who rewarded Antonia with an honorary commission as aide-de-camp. 

In 1863, Antonia was accused of spying for John Singleton Mosby, whose rangers captured Union General Edwin H. Stoughton in his headquarters. The Secret Service suspected that Antonia was involved in planning the attack because she and Stoughton had spent time together. The Secret Service sent a female operative, pretending to be a Confederate sympathizer, to meet with Antonia, who showed her Stuart’s commission. Antonia was arrested and they found smuggled papers on her.

After several months in prison, Antonia was released due to the petition of Union Major Joseph C. Willard—one of her captors. Willard resigned from the Union Army and married Antonia, who took an oath of allegiance to the United States. The couple’s son, Joseph Edward Willard, later became lieutenant governor of Virginia and the US ambassador to Spain.

Sam’s Legacy, book 4 in the MacLarens of Boundary Mountain series is available at these online retailers.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

a loss

by Rain Trueax

I learned today that Celia Yeary, one of the co-founders of this blog, Sweethearts of the West, has died. 

It seemed like this would be a good place for us to post about our memories of her and what she meant to us. 

When I first began bringing out books, I went to Amazon forums for authors. In one for western romance, I met Celia among other writers of the west. She was always kind, shared and helped where she could. Although I only knew her through the books she wrote and the internet, I thought of her as a friend.  

When many of us from that first group later became friends on Facebook, Celia was always an encourager, quick to comment with a kind word. She is the one who suggested I join this group blog. 

In February, Celia stopped posting at Facebook and many of us worried about how she was doing. She had shared little of her problems, which was her gentle way. We kept hoping she'd be back and are sad to learn she won't. She will be missed. 

It's funny how you know someone only online and yet they become part of your circle of friends. Her passing is a loss, but she was a woman of faith, which I am sure gives consolation to those who loved her.

Chinese in the American West

by Rain Trueax

When I wrote my historicals, although I'd heard a lot of stories, I needed to learn more about the Chinese in the western United States. Their history is part of our story. What happened to them illustrates both the positive and negative side to our nature as we grew this country-- not always honorably. 

In my Oregon and Arizona historical romances, Chinese characters played secondary roles. One of them, Han Jei, was someone I intended for an Oregon romance, but it has yet to happen-- partly because I knew more about him than with whom he might become romantically involved. Most Chinese men in that time period were forced to leave their families behind. I thought his family history, where he and his brothers had first landed in San Francisco, would make for an interesting hero-- with the right heroine. It still might happen when the right story comes along for him.

In Eastern Oregon, many Chinese had settled in Canyon City for the mining. Until February 1885, it was the largest Chinese settlement in Eastern Oregon. That was until the night when its Chinatown was burned down, probably by arsonists. Local authorities refused to let the Chinese rebuild; thus, many moved down the creek to John Day, where they added to the town’s established Chinese community. During its peak, John Day had a Chinese population numbering between five and six hundred residents. In 1870, there had been 3,300 Chinese in Oregon-- by the 1900s, there would be 10,370. 

With many small hate crimes, there was one more heinous than the rest-- the murder of 34 Chinese miners in May 1887 at Deep Creek on the Oregon side of the Snake River in Hell's Canyon. It is claimed the killers murdered the men, may have tortured some, and also took the gold they had mined. The crime was not discovered until some of the bodies were spotted downstream near Lewiston in Idaho Territory.

Because the victims had worked for the Sam Yup Company of San Francisco, the company directed a local, Lee Loi to find out more and make someone accountable. As happened so often in the American West, this wasn't an easy thing to accomplish as some lives were regarded as more important than others. 

Lee hired Judge Joseph Vincent to investigate. He reported his findings to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. Help in getting justice was requested of the U.S. State Department without much result-- see above. It might have ended there; but in March of 1888, one of the men, with the gang that day, confessed and turned state's evidence against the rest. 

Six men and boys were indicted for murder. Three, including the presumed leader (who escaped from jail), fled and were never caught. Some local Wallowa County residents believed they took the gold with them, burying some, leading to possibly a different sort of treasure hunt. 

September 1, 1988, after a two-day trial, the defendants were found innocent by a local jury. Considering the widespread resentment against the Chinese, again, the verdict was not a surprise. 

In 1891, the father of one of the boys quoted his son, who had been fifteen at the time of the massacre, as saying his son confessed to him of the murders of 34 miners. Other accounts from locals at the time claimed from 31 to 34. 

The names of the Chinese victims are not known, but they were claimed to have come from Canton in China. The 1880 U.S. census put the nation's Chinese population at 105,400+. The men had come for work, sometimes fleeing violence in their home districts. They came without their
families and often lived lonely lives working in the US. More than those 34 faced violence. 

In Arizona Moon, my hero was a US Marshal and was told due to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, that he should act to deport certain Chinese-- those who were farming lucratively along the Santa Cruz and had established businesses to sell their produce. He resisted the order, and it was instrumental in his disappointment regarding being a marshal where so much was political. 

The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first such law regarding immigration in the US and blatantly racist. It banned new arrivals but even more would not allow the Chinese already here to return to their families for visits. To do so, they would have to attain certificates for reentry and, given the times, those weren't easy to get. The Act also made Chinese immigrants unable to ever be citizens. After the Act's passage, Chinese men in the U.S. had little chance of ever reuniting with their wives, or of starting families in their new abodes. It was not repealed until 1943.

Where it came to unfairness such as the massacre on the Snake River, there is no making up to those murdered or the gold stolen. Beginning in 1995, there was an attempt to at least acknowledge the atrocity when a Wallowa County clerk uncovered old court documents including a copy of the 1888 grand jury indictment, description of the escape from jail by the gang leader, Bruce Evans, a lengthy deposition by Frank Vaughan regarding details of the crime, and finally transcripts from the trial itself. It revealed the full story of the horror.

In 2005, the name Chinese Massacre Cove was officially recognized by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. In June of 2012, a memorial, at the site, was dedicated to honor the slain miners. It was totally paid for by private donations. The inscription there is in Chinese, Nez Perce, and English. (image from:

Today, we recognize the important contributions of the Chinese to our country's development and to whom we are as a people, with our cultural roots coming from many places. Part of this acknowledgement was the dedication in Portland, Oregon to a downtown city block for a Chinese garden, currently called Lan Su Chinese Garden. Much care was taken to create a 14th century Chinese garden of a wealthy Chinese family, a scholar. 
I thought of using historic photos of the Chinese in the West. Some are quite interesting, but I chose instead to use these from one of our times in Lin Su because it illustrates something of the Chinese culture, some of which Americans appreciated and adopted along with the parts or our cities that are called Chinatowns. 

In the garden, the plants are ones that would be in a Chinese garden. Since they could not be imported due to current laws, they had to be found already here. The unique stones did come from China. The structures are true to Chinese culture. 

This garden is the upside to what sometimes had a very ugly downside. It's how we can learn and grow with our diversity. To me, it is an important
reminder of the beauty that came with the Chinese as they labored and helped build the West.
I began this intending to write about two Chinese men who arrived in John Day in the late 1880s. I quickly realized their experiences would be better understood in the broader context of the Chinese in the American West.  Their story comes August 12 . 

My historical romances where I incorporated some of the Chinese story:


Friday, July 6, 2018


Image result for grace hudson paintingsImage result for grace hudson paintings

My original thoughts about heroines for THE HUACHUCA TRILOGY were to focus on a ranching woman, an artist and a writer. I started with Josephine and used her life story to relate happenings along the Arizona Territory border with Mexico. Before I could finish with Josephine, a friend of hers snuck into the story and ruined my plans, temporarily.

Over the years I’ve enjoyed the work and lives of some late 19th and early 20th century women artists: Canadian Emily Carr, Mexican Frida Kahlo and Americans Georgia O’Keefe and Grace Carpenter Hudson. I wanted my painter to share in what drove these real artists and so Maggie O’Brien depicts women at work, pursuing their daily lives in vivid color and action. She blew my plans for Book #2. My fascination with Louis Comfort Tiffany led to the jewelry work of Grace Elizabeth Pelham, the lead character in BY GRACE.

A copy of one of Grace Carpenter Hudson’s sweet picture of a Pomo Indian Baby and his dog hangs on the wall in my bedroom/office.  In the 1970’s, I lived and worked in Mendocino County about 110 miles north of San Francisco and first encountered the works of the Hudsons.


Grace Carpenter Hudson was born (1865-1937) into a well-educated and talented family that settled in Potter Valley, east of Ukiah, after coming across country in covered wagons. They were abolitionists, painters, photographers, journalists, and teachers. The area was rich in wildlife and Pomo Indian history, families and culture. Grace, her twin Grant and older sister May thrived in these diversities and challenges.

Grace’s gift as an artist was apparent from an early age and by 15 she was sent off to San Francisco’s California School of Design. It was a long trek from all that nurtured and inspired her back in Mendocino County. With highwaymen like Black Bart raiding and attacking travelers, it was not a trip she could take very often.

Related imageMarked by soft pastels and sharp detail, the portraits often glow with light and life, even as a baby sleeps in his basket cradle with a pup to the side. Others show children fishing, walking the country paths or caught in the moment of discoveryImage result for grace hudson paintingsImage result for grace hudson paintingsRelated image

Grace formed lifelong friendships and fell into an early, unsuccessful first marriage to William T. Davis, fifteen years her senior. They separated after three months and divorced in 1885 after she returned to her family.
Her early activities in San Francisco earned her awards and recognition while still a teenager. She loved fashion and created, at 16, an elaborate dress in lace, embroidery and painted roses. Her portrait in the dress greets visitors to the Grace Hudson Museum in Ukiah.
Image result for grace hudson museum

The foundations for Grace’s work can be found in the culture and lives of Pomo Indians, especially in her portraits of infants and young children. These might be classed as romantic views of native life but they won country-wide attention very quickly.

In 1889, Grace met the young physician John Hudson (1857-1936) fell in love and married him in 1890. Grace’s work exploded in volume and fame in the following years, making her the family breadwinner. John retired from medicine and devoted his life to preserving the language, culture and basketry of the Pomos. The couple traveled throughout Mendocino County as well as sojourns into Lake and Sonoma counties, recording their findings in her art and his ethnographic chronicles and collections. Both relied on photography and detailed written documentation of their work. After one of Grace’s earliest paintings (“Little Mendocino #5”) was forged, she took to copyrighting her work, one of the first artists to do so; she or her father photographed, titled, numbered, dated, named the buyer, and amount paid for each. John kept meticulous notes on his observations and collections, including botanicals. Each wrote articles for national publications, were interviewed and provided illustrations.

Image result for grace hudson paintings

The Hudsons entertained family and visiting friends often, especially in the summer months. Grace and artist friends hosted landscape painting sessions in the countryside. Photos from the era show swimming, hunting and musical gatherings with much laughter and merriment. One of Grace’s best friends over the years was Charmian Kittridge London, Jack’s wife who called her “Huddy.”

By the turn of the century, John was struggling to gain recognition and acceptance of his work; he sold some 300 pieces to the Smithsonian for about $10 each and negotiated a contract with Chicago’s Field Museum to catalog his work. Meanwhile, Grace was near collapsing with exhaustion, insomnia, depression and weight loss. At barely 5’ tall she was fragile.
When John went off to Chicago, Grace went to Hawaii. She didn’t paint for the first months, made friends, rested and recovered eventually. Often referred to as “the painter lady,” she had a following and did 26 paintings of locals of varied backgrounds. Returning to the mainland, she and John reunited. She joined him over the next few years, helping to record and document collections of basketry and artifacts at the Field.

The experience at the Field Museum was not good as John was exploited, received no recognition for his writings demanded by Dr. George Dorsey. The final straw came in 1905 when Dorsey expected John to produce a 
book only to have it attributed to himself.  The Hudsons made plans for a European tour.

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Their last thirty years led to the building of their home, Sun House with its light controlling roofline in Grace’s studio and with John’s inevitable study. They continued to write articles, sell Grace’s canvases which ultimately amounted to 684, and seek recognition for John’s work only to lead to broken promises from the Field and Smithsonian. Childless, they drew close to Grace’s nephew Mark Carpenter and his wife Melissa. The Carpenters continued the mission to get John’s collections acknowledged but also failed; they successfully turned Sun House into a museum and after them, the city of Ukiah founded the Grace Hudson Museum adjacent to their home. The museum contains some 30,000 artifacts and art works.

Grace Hudson Museum

1.    Lanson, MD, Lucienne T and Patricia L. Tetzlaff, “Grace Hudson, Artist of the Pomo Indians, A Biography,” The Donning Company Publishers, 2006
3.,Grace Hudson

Photos: Google Images, Grace Hudson Museum