Monday, July 30, 2018

Overview of California Agriculture in the Nineteenth Century

When I say "overview," in this instance, I mean a very brief overview.

The first half of the the 1800's, California was ruled by Spain, then starting in 1821, by Mexico. The Anglo population was mostly concentrated along the coast, sticking close to the missions. On mission lands, using the indigenous native populations for what amounted to slave labor, the land grew a variety of crops including fruit orchards, vineyards, truck garden vegetables and wheat. 

Mission San Juan Capistrano

While most of the ranchos granted to Californios were located along the coast, a few in the center of California and the Sierra-Nevada foothills were granted to foreign nationals, such as John Sutter. When the Mexican government secularized the mission system, instead of the land going to the indigenous people as originally intended, it was sold to the highest bidders--the Californios. Many of the crops originally grown were mostly discontinued with the exception of the vineyards for wine and wheat. The primary agricultural product was cattle.

As Mexican government officials and explorers moved north into Alta California, they brought the vaqueros who drove herds of cattle. If you think longhorns were only found in Texas, think again. That breed of Mexican cattle also found its way into California. Soon, the hides and tallow became Alta California's biggest export and form of monetary exchange.

 At first, the great central valley in California (drained by the Sacramento River to the north and the San Joaquin River to the south) was considered a desert not fit for agriculture.The first group who tried to grow wheat in the San Joaquin Valley were Mormons who had arrived in San Francisco in 1846 on the Ship Brooklyn at the start of the Mexican-American War. They brought supplies and equipment with them, including plows and a mill. Using the sail launch named The Comet, they sailed up the San Joaquin River to a point called Moss Landing. They grew wheat along the Stanislaus River near today's Caswell Park by Ripon. Unfortunately, malaria had spread down to the region, and that coupled with flooding, doomed the project.

After the United States won the war with Mexico in 1848 and Alta California became first the territory of California, and quickly the state of California after the discovery of gold, the focus of the incoming Anglos was primarily on mining. The Californios struggled to retain control of their land, and the often hostile Anglo influence prevailed. However, once the easy gold from placer mining disappeared, Americans from back east faced the choice of returning home often worse off than when they came, or of settling in California. Those who stayed often turned to the occupations they held back east, primarily farming.

Droughts in the early 1860's ruined the cattle industry. Starting in the 1866-67 years, the weather patterns through the 1870's were such that plentiful rain in the summer allowed for "dry farming," or farming that does not require irrigation. Wheat became the largest crop grown in California, particularly in the great Central Valley. Isolated as it was by vast under-populated territories to the immediate east, wheat found a market in the California, Oregon and, once the Trans-continental Railroad was completed, across the United States. The wheat market collapsed during the national financial panic of 1893. However, even before then, in the mid-1880's, wheat markets began to decline due to competition from the Missouri-Mississippi Valley region and Russia.

As wheat production fell, and irrigation systems developed and spread, the Central Valley developed more orchards, vineyards and fields of row crops. When I moved to Stanislaus County in the San Joaquin Valley several decades ago, I recall driving for miles past orchards full of peach and almond trees. I still live across the street from an almond orchard. And wheat is still grown today, as evidenced by this field about three miles from my home.

Although the method of watering trees has mostly changed from flood irrigation to sprinklers or drip systems, such orchards are among the 80 agricultural products of California's Central Valley that make it one of the most diverse and productive agricultural regions in the world today.

In my latest book, Millwright's Daughter, Eliza' uncle is one who first came to California in the late 1850's in search of gold, but soon turned to the trade he had been raised in at home in Ohio--that of being a millwright. The setting of the story is loosely based on the Tulloch Mill in Knight's Ferry (but not Mr.  Tulloch himself. I would not want the descendants of that family coming after me claiming I defamed their ancestor.)

How's that for a teaser? For a short time, you may find Millwright's Daughter as part of the nine author anthology, Under a Mulberry Moon. To read the book description and find the purchase link, please CLICK HERE.

The Comet-1846-First Sail Launch, State Registered Landmark.
Bean, Walton E.; California-An Interpretive History; McGraw-Hill Inc., USA: 1968, 1973

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Heroes and Heroines That Aren't Perfect--by Cheryl Pierson

How do you feel about a hero or heroine who isn’t physically perfect? As a reader, are you interested in those kinds of characters? What about as a writer—are these the kinds of characters you want to introduce and develop in your storylines?

The first book I ever read with an “imperfect” hero was THE TIGER’S WOMAN, by Celeste De Blasis. The story takes place in San Francisco, 1869, and seems to be one of those that people either love or hate. For me, it was an eye-opener—I’d never read a strong, masculine, virile hero who had any kind of infirmity. Jason Drake’s is a limp.

Another one that comes to mind is A ROSE IN WINTER by Kathleen Woodiwiss. The heroine is “sold” by her father to pay his gaming debts to a mysterious man, Lord Saxton, who keeps himself covered to hide disfiguring scars from a terrible fire. I can’t say too much about these books without giving away spoilers, but both of them have many reviews that speak for them and their quality.

Mary Balogh’s book SIMPLY LOVE (one of the “Simply” quartet) is the story of an English aristocrat who has lost his arm and eye, and his face has been disfigured on one side. These are war injuries from “the Peninsula Wars”—and of course, he believes no woman will ever want him. He’s become reclusive. Enter Anne Jewell, mother of a nine-year-old son. UNWED mother, to be exact.

Kathleen Rice Adams has a short story, THE LAST THREE MILES, in the Prairie Rose Publications anthology, WILD TEXAS CHRISTMAS (yep, another Christmas story!) “Can a lumber baron and a railroad heiress save a small Texas town?” With Kathleen writing it, you can bet they’re going to give it their best shot, even though Kathleen’s hero in this one is confined to a wheelchair!

My own foray into writing a hero with a physical impairment is more modern. It’s a Christmas short story called THE WISHING TREE. Our hero, Pete Cochran, has been to the Middle East and suffered a devastating wound—the loss of an eye—shortly before he was to come home. Now, he works at his dad’s Christmas tree lot, just trying to heal his own mind and spirit…and then, a miracle happens. Maria Sanchez and her son, Miguel, stop by the lot one day and everything changes. You all know I believe in happy endings, but I don’t want to give any spoilers!

What about heroines? I’ve read books about heroines who have been lame—I can’t remember the titles right now. How do you feel about “imperfect” heroines? Are those more interesting than the heroes who suffer a permanent wound?

I would love to hear from everyone about this. I’m very curious as to what y’all think. So let’s hear it—and if you have read or written any books to add to this list, please DO!

I know it’s not Christmas, but I will be giving away 2 digital copies of THE WISHING TREE to two lucky commenters today! Thanks so much for coming by!

Thursday, July 26, 2018


The Children’s Aid Society was founded in 1853 by a small group of clergymen and social reformers concerned about the general conditions of homeless, neglected, and delinquent children. One of the principals of this group was a 26-year old Congregational minister, Rev. Charles Loring Brace. He had been working as an assistant minister in the Five Points Mission, located in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods of the city. He also occasionally visited the New York City Almshouse on Blackwell’s Island, further exposing him to the degrading and dehumanizing conditions prevalent in large sections of the city.

Home for destitute children, New York City

Rev. Brace, a Yale College graduate, was selected to become the first Secretary/Director of the Children’s Aid Society. Rev. Brace knew that American pioneers could use help settling the American West and arranged to send orphaned children to them. This became known as the Orphan Train Movement. Many people think of the orphan trains as the beginning of the modern foster care system.

Searching through rubbish for food

Between 1854 and 1929, an estimated 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, and runaway children in the East were sent via trains to Midwestern farming communities. The first group of children went to Dowagiac, Michigan in 1854. The last official train ran to Texas in 1929. 

Lined up to board train
Children were taken in small groups of 10 to 40, under the supervision of at least one western agent, traveled on trains to selected stops along the way, where they were taken by families in that area. Agents would plan a route, send flyers to towns along the way, and arrange for a screening committee in towns where the children might get new homes. The towns where they stopped, naturally, had to be along a railroad line. The screening committee was usually made up of a town doctor, clergyman, newspaper editor, store owner and/or teacher.

Put on view for possible adoption

In the recent anthology UNDER A MULBERRY MOON, the novellas of Jacquie Rogers' A FAMILY FOR POLLY and my A FAMILY FOR MERRY deal with sisters who were adopted from the orphan train and later adopt their own children from an orphan train. Only 99 cents for a limited time! Amazon buy link 

For many years I have been interested in the orphan trains and the children who were taken from the streets of New York by the Children’s Aid Society. Most of the children went to a better life than they had. In spite of the few failures, I admire what the Children’s Aid Society intended.

Homeless children sleeping in an alley

Can you fathom a child being sent to prison because he had no home? Imagine children living on the streets with no way to buy clothes or food and no safe place to sleep. Sadly, there are still such children in many places, especially large cities!

The National Center on Family Homelessness reports that one in every thirty children in the United States is homeless, for a staggering 2.5 million children each year in America. Of course, some of those are with their parents, but many are alone. Nevertheless, this one-in-thirty number shocks me!

An orphan train stopped for photos
Rev. Brace received financial support from New York businessmen and other philanthropists such as the Roosevelt, Astor, and Dodge families to ensure the physical and emotional well-being of children and provide them with the support needed to become successful adults. The only options available to the thousands of abandoned, abused, and orphaned children were begging, prostitution, thievery, and gang membership unless they were committed to jails, almshouses, or orphanages. Rev. Brace believed that institutional care stunted and destroyed children. (I certainly agree that being sent to prison for being homeless is not the right solution!) His opinion was that only work, education, and a strong family life could help them develop into self-reliant citizens.

A "gang" of thieves and their adult leader in New York

The history of the railroads is deeply tied to the history of the Orphan Trains Era in America. Railroads were the most inexpensive way to move children westward from poverty filled homes, orphanages, poor houses, and off the streets. In the West and Mid-west, Rev. Brace believed, solid, God-fearing homes could be found for the children. Food would be plentiful with pure air to breathe and a good work ethnic developed by living on a farm would help them to grow into mature responsible adults able to care for themselves.

One of the things I found upsetting is that siblings were often split up, never to be reunited—something I believe occasionally happens today in foster care. A child’s last name was often changed and that meant the chance of contacting a sibling later was almost impossible.

When it began, the program was quite controversial. Since this was before the Civil War, abolitionists viewed it as a form of slavery, which for some failures it was. Pro-slavery advocates saw it as part of the abolitionist movement because the labor provided by children made slaves unnecessary.

Since a significant percentage of poor children in Manhattan were Irish Catholic and would be raised outside their faith once transported, some Catholics called the program anti-Catholic. In response, the Archdiocese of New York upgraded their  child-welfare programs. They improved their parochial school system and built more Catholic orphanages. In addition, they created a 114-acre training center on farmland in the Bronx which they called the Catholic Protectory.

A joyous arrival from an orphan train
The Children’s Aid Society included in their first annual report: “We have thus far sent off to homes in the country, or to places where they could earn an honest living, 164 boys and 43 girls, of whom some 20 were taken from prison, where they had been placed for being homeless on the streets. The great majority were the children of poor or degraded people, who were leaving them to grow up neglected in the streets. They were found by our visitors at the turning point of their lives, and sent to friendly homes, where they would be removed from the overwhelming temptations which poverty and neglect certainly occasion in a great city. Of these 200 boys and girls, a great proportion are so many vagrants or criminals saved; so much expense lessened to courts and prisons; so much poisonous influence removed from the city; and so many boys and girls, worthy of something better from society than a felon’s fate, placed where they can enter on manhood or womanhood somewhat as God intended that they should.” 
(Source: The Victor Remer Historical Archives of the Children’s Aid Society, Children’s Aid Society of New York City.)

The Orphan Train Heritage Society maintains an archive of riders’ stories. The National Orphan Train Museum in Concordia, Kansas maintains records and also houses a research facility.


Through a crazy twist of fate, Caroline Clemmons was not born on a Texas ranch. To make up for this tragic error, she writes about handsome cowboys, feisty ranch women, and scheming villains in a small office her family calls her pink cave. She and her Hero live in North Central Texas cowboy country where they ride herd on their rescued cats and dogs. The books she creates there have made her an Amazon bestselling author and won several awards. Check out her website and sign up for her monthly newsletter to receive a FREE western historical novella titled Happy Is The Bride. Find Caroline here:
Twitter (no E in Caroline)

Sign up for her newsletter here and receive a FREE novella, HAPPY IS THE BRIDE. Newsletters are sent only when there is a new release or contest. No salesman will call.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

MAUDE GRANGER & THE COLORADO SPRINGS OPERA HOUSE #theaterhistory #sweetheartsofthewest

Ever heard of Maude (Maud) Granger? Maude was one of the actresses who traveled across the country in the later part of the 1800’s. In the book “New National Theater, Washington DC: A record of Fifty Years” by Alexander Hunter, published in 1885, they had this to say about Maude:

The statuesque Maude made by far the most beautiful Mlle. Gautier that the audience had ever seen, for she had a figure that Rubens would have loved to paint — a Byron describe — large, full, sensuous. On a pose in a tableau Miss Granger was a success, but as an actress in such a character as “Camille" she was an insolvent in the dramatic bank, and more people went to see her out of curiosity than with a desire to be entertained.

Image result for maude granger
Cabinet Card of Maude Granger found on EBay

Yet, as critics go, this from the book “Performing the American Frontier, 1870-1906” by Roger A. Hall,
A review of the play “My Partner” by the Mirror of Sept 20, 1879, they say of Maude, in the part of Mary

We do not know of any actress who could bring more intelligence, labor, and the good looks to the depiction of the poignant woes and heartsore grief of this woman.

Maude, like some of the actors today, had parts of her personal life show up in the papers. From the Sunday October 21, 1877 issue of the Denver, Colorado Rocky Mountain News, the following was found:

Maude Granger, the actress, found a long lost brother the other day at Springfield, Ohio, whom she had not seen for 17 years. He had been a circus clown and various other things in his time, and at present is a whitewasher and a politician of the working man's party.

And in the December 31, 1878 issue of the Chicago, Illinois Inter Ocean they speak of her near death experience.

Miss Maude Granger, the actress who came near dying from the effects of a dose of laughing – gas on Monday last, was found Wednesday by a New York ‘Sun’ reporter. This is the story she told:
"I had a narrow escape, indeed," she said, "although it was not so much the poor dentist fault. He has given me laughing – gas frequently before; but last Monday I was out of sorts, and very nervous, and I suppose I should not have gone to him at all. I had a wisdom tooth which had troubled me greatly, and the doctor told me that I must have it out, so I went. Dr. – (you must excuse my not mentioning his name) gave the usual amount of the gas, but it had the most remarkable effect. They told me afterward that I lay for 15 minutes as though I were dead. I lost all sensation for a time, could see and hear nothing. They told me that I stopped breathing, and that my heart did not beat. When I recovered I lay as one in a dream for more than two hours, while five doctors did everything they could for me. I could see them working around me, and hear every word they uttered, but I couldn't no more move hand or foot that if I were dead. I don't know how I dressed for my part that evening, or how I looked, for that matter. I remember saying a few lines of my part, and coming on and going off the stage, and that is all. I was so weak that they had to carry me into the green – room after the last act, but the audience was very kind, though some of them must have suspected that I was intoxicated."

I do love how dramatic an actor can be.

Image result for colorado springs opera house 1881
Overview of Colorado Springs 1882 
On April 18, 1881, Colorado Springs opened its Opera House with Maude Granger as the star of the show. Her traveling company had been performing in Denver, when she was contacted to play Colorado Springs. (For a more complete description of the Opera House, the book “High Drama: Colorado’s Historic Theatres” by Daniel & Beth R, Barrett).

Suffice it so say, it was a momentous occasion. The town that was billed as ‘Little London’, that advertised the many natural wonders and the clear air for those suffering from consumption, was out to show the world what they could do. Theater patrons received a white satin souvenir program recording the cast and management in gold lettering.

Everything was set, except Miss Granger chose for the performance, “Camille”. The papers made a bit of a to-do about the choice of a consumptive dying in front of an audience of consumptives, but they did applaud the performances. There was only one minor mishap, when the settee, that Maude was to rise into the heavens, was not properly attached and she came crashing down to the stage floor. Reports say she heaped abuse on the stage manager, while the curtain had been raised for her curtain call.

Hope you enjoyed this bit of theater history. There are more stories where that came from. Until next time.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Member of National League of American Pen Women,
Women Writing the West,
Pikes Peak Posse of the Westerners

Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

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.

Amazon Author Page: (universal link)
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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