Sunday, September 30, 2018


When considering the history of early California and the coming of the Anglos, because of the discovery of gold at the site of his sawmill, many are familiar with John Sutter. However, another early pioneer to the area was Jared Dixon (Joaquin) Sheldon.
Jared Dixon Sheldon
In 1845, Sheldon built a grist mill to mill wheat for Captain John Sutter on the Consumnes River. He came to the area after receiving a land grant from the Mexican Government. "Omochumnes Rancho" was about 14,000 acres encompassing Sloughhouse & Rancho Murieta.
Map of Rancho Omochumnes Rancho region
Just this past week I drove through this area where Jared Sheldon lived on my way to an American Night Writers Association chapter meeting. It was familiar territory for me since some 14-15 years ago as a union steward for the California Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, I traveled often to Folsom regarding a mail count grievance. Rather than fight the freeway system through Sacramento, I exited off of Highway 99 onto Grant Line Road, one of the borders of the original Omochumnes Rancho, and traveled the many miles through mostly undeveloped land. While Highway 99, I crossed the Consumnes River, and I drove passed Sheldon and Sloughouse—all part of the 1845-1851 world of Jared Sheldon.

The historical marker reads:

Sheldon Grist Mill Site

Site of grist mill built by Jared Dixon (Joaquin) Sheldon 1846-1847 on Omochumnes Rancho, granted to him by the Mexican government in 1843. Sheldon born in Vermont on January 8, 1813, came to California 1832. Sheldon shot July 11, 1851 by miners in a quarrel over dam he built which flooded miners' claims.

Tablet placed by California Centennials Commission. Base furnished by Liberty Parlor No. 213 Native Daughters of the Golden West and Elk Grove Parlor No. 41 Native Sons of the Golden West.

California Registered Historical Landmark No. 439
Plaque replaced by Liberty Parlor No. 213, Native Daughters of the Golden West, September 26, 1997.

There seems to be some question about the millstones used in this mill. One source claims the grinding stones were originally cut from a place called Stony Creek, about 25 miles from Sutter Fort. Archaeologists and geologists suspect they probably came from the area of present day Rocklin.

At the site of the old mill, a marker states the following:

Jared D. Sheldon 1813 – 1851
These millstones were brought from Mexico by water and oxcart in 1846 and were used by Jared D. Sheldon one of the earliest settlers in this valley in his grist mill near here, his Rancho Omochumne was granted him in payment for his work on Customhouse at Monterey and for service under the Mexican government.


My book, Millwright’s Daughter, mostly takes place in a location just west of where Thomas Parrott operated his ferry. It is part of the Under a Mulberry Moon anthology which may be purchased by CLICKING HERE.

I am also finishing up a novel in The Widows of Wildcat Ridge series titled Nissa. It is currently on pre-order and will be released on October 15th. To reach the book description and purchase link, please CLICK HERE.
Here is a little teaser from Nissa:
         “We’ll turn and go back now.” Dallin shifted a drowsy Molly to his other arm, moved to the outside of the boardwalk and told Jamie to walk on the other side of his mother.
         “Why’d we do that? Why didn’t we just turn around where we were?”
         “Because, Jamie, it’s polite for a gentleman to walk on the outside of a walkway so a woman’s skirt doesn’t get splashed by mud or dust if a wagon or horse travels too close to the boardwalk.” Dallin leaned forward and smiled at Jamie. “I’m no expert on how to be a gentleman, but my mother taught me that much.”
         “I think you have done a fine job of being a gentleman, Dallin. I appreciate your example and what you are teaching my son.”
         Nissa looked over to find Dallin’s gaze locked on hers. They walked in that manner for several steps.
         Nissa faced forward, fighting back tears.
         Why, oh why could not James have been a father like this? Why couldn’t Dallin have been Jamie’s father?

Sources for Sheldon Grist Mill:

Friday, September 28, 2018


For some reason, choosing the name of the heroine of a story is hard for me—much harder than naming the hero. I’m wondering if it’s because, as women, we give more thought to what we find attractive in a man (naturally!) Even if he’s “Hunk of the Week,” if his name doesn’t appeal to us, it’s hard to think of him romantically. This is true not only in my writing, but in my reading. If the names don't fit, I have to mentally substitute another one to take the place of what the author has decided on.

I think as we write, we are seeing our heroines from a different perspective. They are…us. So, naming them might not be as important in our minds, since secretly, we are them. (No, we can’t use our own name!)

The various heroines of our stories, while different in some respects, still retain qualities of ourselves that we’ve endowed them with. If you look at the heroines you’ve created, though they come from different places and circumstances and have different views of the world, there are some basic things about them that don’t change--even from different time periods.

There are at least three basic considerations for naming our heroines, apart from the obvious ones.(time period, setting, etc.)

The first one is, understanding the heroine and her motives.

Let’s look a minute at how a part of ourselves creep into our heroines’ lives, no matter what sub-genre we write. I always think of two examples that stand out in my own life experience that are easy to show.

Growing up in the 1960’s, women had three basic career opportunities: teacher, secretary, nurse. Those limitations didn’t matter, because I wanted to be a nurse ever since I could recall. But because my parents discouraged me from that field, I never pursued it—except in my writing.

At some point, in every story I write, that aspect of myself comes through in my heroine. There is always a need for her to use her nursing skills, and it’s usually to take care of the wounded hero. (In a Cheryl Pierson story, the hero will always be hurt somewhere along the way. Much like the guys with the red shirts on Star Trek know they won't be beaming back to the Enterprise from the planet’s surface, my heroes always have to figure they’re going to need some kind of medical care to survive my story.)

Another consideration is, that we must like the heroine.

She is us! Have you ever started writing a story after carefully picking names for your hero and heroine, only to discover you really don’t like the character herself; or maybe, when you write the name of the character, you feel your lip starting to curl? Is it the name itself you don’t like after repetitive use, or is it the character you’ve created? Either way, there’s a problem. Stop and consider exactly what it is about that character/name you have started to dislike. Remember, the heroine is part of you. If you’re hitting a rough spot in real life, it could be you are injecting some of those qualities into your character unwittingly. There may be nothing wrong with the name you’ve selected…it could just be your heroine has taken an unforeseen character turn that you aren’t crazy about.

Being a child of an alcoholic father, I do not like surprises. I want to know that things will be steady, stable and secure. But what can be certain in a tale of romance? Nothing! Just as the hero of my stories is going to be physically in jeopardy at some point, the heroine will always have to make a decision— a very hard decision—as to whether she will give up everything that she’s built her life around for the hero. Will she take a chance on love? In the end, of course, it’s always worth the gamble. But, because I am not a risk-taker in real life, my heroines carry that part of me, for the most part, with them—until they have to make a hard choice as to whether or not to risk everything for the love of the hero.

The third consideration is that we have to give her a name that reflects her inner strengths but shows her softer side.

This is not a dilemma for male characters. We don’t want to see a soft side—at least, not in this naming respect.

I try to find a name for my heroines that can be shortened to a pet name or nickname by the hero. (Very handy when trying to show the closeness between them, especially during those more intimate times.)

I always laugh when I think about having this conversation with another writer friend of mine, Helen Polaski. She and I were talking one day about this naming of characters, and I used the example of one of my favorite romances of all time, “Stormfire” by Christine Monson. The heroine’s name is Catherine, but the hero, at one point, calls her “Kitten.” Later, he calls her “Kit”—which I absolutely love, because I knew, even though “Kit” was short for Catherine, that he and I both were thinking of the time he’d called her “Kitten”—and so was she! Was “Kit” a short version of Catherine for him, or was he always thinking of her now as “Kitten”? Helen, with her dry northern humor, replied, “Well, I guess I’m out of luck with my name. The hero would be saying, ‘Oh, Hel…’”

One final thought to weigh is the way your characters’ names go together; the way they sound and “fit.” Does the heroine’s name work well not only with the hero’s first name, but his last name, too? In most cases, eventually his last name will become hers. Last names are a ‘whole ’nother’ blog!

In 1880, the top ten female names were, in order from 1 (most popular) to 10: Mary, Anna, Emma, Elizabeth, (4), Minnie, Margaret, Ida, Alice, Bertha, and Sarah (10).
(Picture above is of my grandmother, Mary Elizabeth, and sisters Emma and Cora)

By 1980, they’d changed drastically: Jennifer, Amanda, Jessica, Melissa, Sarah (5), Heather, Nicole, Amy, Elizabeth (9) and Michelle.
(My daughter Jessica, taken a few years ago)

Twenty-eight years later, in 2008, there seemed to be a resurgence toward the “older” names: Emma, which was completely out of the top twenty in 1980, had resurfaced and taken the #1 spot, higher than it had been in 1880. The others, in order, are: Isabella, Emily, Madison, Ava, Olivia, Sophia, Abigail, Elizabeth (9), and Chloe. Sarah was #20, being the only other name besides Elizabeth that remained in the top twenty on all three charts.

If you write historicals, these charts are great to use for minor and secondary characters as well. If you’ve chosen a name for your heroine that’s a bit unusual, you can surround her with “ordinary” characters to provide the flavor of the time period, while enhancing her uniqueness.

Names can also send “subliminal” messages to your reader. I wrote my short story, “A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES,” about a couple that meet under odd circumstances and experience their own miracle on Christmas Eve. Halfway through the story, I realized what I’d done and the significance of the characters’ names--Nick and Angela (Angel, he calls her).

What do you think? How do you choose your names for your female characters? What are your favorites? I'm giving away a print copy of my single author anthology A HERO FOR CHRISTMAS to one commenter today--be sure to let us know your favorite heroines' names!

Cheryl's Amazon Author Page:

In this excerpt, widow Angela Bentley has taken in a wounded stranger and the three children who are with him on a cold, snowy night. Here’s what happens:


Angela placed the whiskey-damp cloth against the jagged wound. The man flinched, but held himself hard against the pain. Finally, he opened his eyes. She looked into his sun-bronzed face, his deep blue gaze burning with a startling, compelling intensity as he watched her. He moistened his lips, reminding Angela that she should give him a drink. She laid the cloth in a bowl and turned to pour the water into the cup she’d brought.

He spoke first. “What…what’s your name?” His voice was raspy with pain, but held an underlying tone of gentleness. As if he were apologizing for putting her to this trouble, she thought. The sound of it comforted her. She didn’t know why, and she didn’t want to think about it. He’d be leaving soon.

“Angela.” She lifted his head and gently pressed the metal cup to his lips. “Angela Bentley.”
He took two deep swallows of the water. “Angel,” he said, as she drew the cup away and set it on the nightstand. “It fits.”

She looked down, unsure of the compliment and suddenly nervous. She walked to the low oak chest to retrieve the bandaging and dishpan. “And you are…”

“Nick Dalton, ma’am.” His eyes slid shut as she whirled to face him. A cynical smile touched his lips. “I see…you’ve heard of me.”

A killer. A gunfighter. A ruthless mercenary. What was he doing with these children? She’d heard of him, all right, bits and pieces, whispers at the back fence. Gossip, mainly. And the stories consisted of such variation there was no telling what was true and what wasn’t.

She’d heard. She just hadn’t expected him to be so handsome. Hadn’t expected to see kindness in his eyes. Hadn’t expected to have him show up on her doorstep carrying a piece of lead in him, and with three children in tow. She forced herself to respond through stiff lips. “Heard of you? Who hasn’t?”

He met her challenging stare. “I mean you no harm.”

She remained silent, and he closed his eyes once more. His hands rested on the edge of the sheet, and Angela noticed the traces of blood on his left thumb and index finger. He’d tried to stem the blood flow from his right side as he rode. “I’m only human, it seems, after all,” he muttered huskily. “Not a legend tonight. Just a man.”

He was too badly injured to be a threat, and somehow, looking into his face, she found herself trusting him despite his fearsome reputation. She kept her expression blank and approached the bed with the dishpan and the bandaging tucked beneath her arm. She fought off the wave of compassion that threatened to engulf her. It was too dangerous. When she spoke, her tone was curt. “A soldier of fortune, from what I hear.”

He gave a faint smile. “Things aren’t always what they seem, Miss Bentley.”

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to include four of my Christmas novellas in a single author collection, A HERO FOR CHRISTMAS. I will be giving away one print copy of this anthology to a commenter, so be sure to leave a comment about your favorite heroines' names and why you love them! And don't forget to add your contact info!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


By Caroline Clemmons

Most of the stories I write have something to do with ranching. I live in an area of successful Texas ranches but I depended heavily on the book LONE STAR: A history of Texas and the Texans by T. R. Ferhrenbach for my research of nineteenth century facts. Fehrenbach refers to the precise period that interests me, post Civil War through 1885. This short twenty-year period comprises the time most often referred to for westerns—whether novels, television, or movies.

This subject was covered in an excellent documentary series created by Robert Redford and titled “The American West”. My husband and I only recently discovered this series. (Seeing John McCain and Burt Reynolds speak on camera was a shock when they had just passed away that week.)

historic cattle horns could reach eight feet

Of course there were always cattle drives to get animals to a market. That might be to the next town, next state, or several states away from the ranch. Cattle were driven to found new ranches in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and other states. Market destinations included New Orleans, the Army, Indian reserves, even as far as Ohio. However, the massive cattle drives from Texas to Kansas occurred for only a brief period.

Texas had a law that unbranded cattle belonged to the finder. After the Civil War, thousands of unbranded cattle roamed the state. Many ranchers got their start by rounding up these cattle.
Cowboys received the same salary whether they were on the ranch or driving herds to market. At that time in Texas, a steer brought four dollars. In Kansas, that four-dollar steer could bring thirty or forty dollars. You can see how many ranchers became wealthy from these drives.

These were tough, stringy longhorns well-equipped to walk to market. Cowboys drove them across Indian Territory—hoping to avoid Indians and rustlers—to the rail head in Dodge City. Once barbed wire became prevalent, the drives were over. By that time, rails had reached more cities and long drives were no longer necessary.

Fort Worth Stockyards Stock Exchange Building

Fort Worth had two meat packing houses, Swift and Armor. The Fort Worth Stockyards are no longer for cattle drives, but the Exchange is a hotbed of cattle sales online. Yes, technology has taken over the Old West.

LONE STAR: A History of Texas and the Texans, T. R. Fehrenbach, American Legacy Press, 1983.

Caroline Clemmons has a release October 1, BLESSING, The Widows of Wildcat Ridge Series western historical romance. Right now, it’s on preorder. Get your copy at

Monday, September 24, 2018

Survival in the West by Paty Jager

She was shunned by society.
He must fit in to survive.
Will their love be enough to battle both their demons?

Anyone who reads my books has learned that I don't sugar coat anything. Life is harsh. But no matter how harsh if we have hope, find love, and live life to our fullest, we have won.

My Silver Dollar Saloon books have heroines who have found themselves wishing they were dead, that the man who beat them had killed them, or that they could hole up somewhere and not deal with humanity anymore. They all have had a past that most would have given up over, but they all have been found by the owner of the Silver Dollar Saloon and given a reason to get up every morning and have been shown that they are still a valued person who should have friends, love, and a feeling of community. 

Back in the late 1870's when my stories take place, most saloons consisted of a bar, a few tables for drinking, and a few for gambling. The whiskey was watered down and the quality of beer might be not as good as they touted. Women with questionable reputations delivered the drinks and gave favors upstairs. Many of these women were kept like slaves or prisoners to keep the thirsty men coming back to the establishments. Many saloon owners  were the equivalent of today's pimps. They didn't care for the women other than to make sure they were selling whiskey and selling their bodies to whoever asked. 

My character, Beau Gentry, is different. His background makes him very conscious of how badly woman can be treated and what lengths they will go to keep their children and themselves alive. He finds women who have been cast aside by their families, their churches, their husbands, and gives them a job at his saloon. A saloon where the men are not allowed to touch the women or make lewd remarks. The best whiskey and beer are sold and the woman sing and dance as well as deliver drinks. But because of Beau's strict rules and the steely presence of Mrs. Dearling in the boarding house where the women stay, the community doesn't reject or look down on the Ladies of the Silver Dollar Saloon as they do the other saloon girls in town. 

Here is my latest release in the Silver Dollar Saloon series.

Lottie Mae
Book 2 Silver Dollar Saloon series

Lottie Mae Peck believes she isn’t worthy of anything more than being a saloon girl after a brutal attack. However, the school needs another teacher and her heart has taken a liking to a soft-spoken man.

Manfred Albrecht suffered a loss shortly after arriving in America. The voluptuous Lottie Mae catches his eye the first time he walks into the Silver Dollar Saloon. Her intelligence and good humor as she teaches him to read and write English, stirs feelings he thought he’d never have again.

But her happiness may be fleeting. The man who sent her life into a downward spiral years ago arrives in town, destroying her hard-fought battle to believe she deserves more.

Universal link:

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 34 novels, 8 novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. 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 Silver Dollar Saloon series: “Paty Jager brings her characters to life, right off the pages of her book. You will laugh, cry, be sad and get angry right along with the characters.

blog / websiteFacebook / Paty's Posse / Goodreads / Twitter / Pinterest / Bookbub

photo source: Canstock

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Helena Modjeska - Shakespearian Actor #SweetheartsoftheWest

Another post in an ongoing look at early women performers that traveled or lived in the Old West.

Related image
Image from Wilipedia of Helena Modjeska
In Colorado, the Delta Independent of July 16, 1889 states "the great Modjeska is playing Denver this week."

So what was it about a women born in Krakow, Poland on October 12, 1840 that would warrant the above statement in a paper over one hundred miles away from Denver?

Born Helena Opid, Helena came from a family of performers. She married actor Gustov Modrzejewski , according to some resources his stage name, sometime in the late 1850's or early 1860.

In the 1860's Helena performed in Poland where she was a great success. However, Poland was not an easy country to live in during that time, as it was under Russian Imperial Rule. One incident made an impression on Helena. It seems some school children had come to see one of her performances. They gave her a bouquet tied with the Polish national colors. Allegedly the students were expelled from school and banned from admission to any other school because the were 'conducting a political demonstration'. The story goes, one student shot himself, and Helena attended his funeral.

In 1868 Helena married Karol Bozenta Chlapowski, who was known as Count Bozenta after the couple moved to the United States in 1876. The couple wanted to ranch and bought land in California and Helena retired from the stage. However, ranching proved to be a failure and Helena returned to the stage in 1877.  Helen struggled with English, but studied and overcame that drawback. Nonetheless, her stage presence overcame many obstacles.

This article from the February 24, 1883, The Terre Haute Express, Terra Haute, Indiana, seems to sum up Helena's early career:

Helena continued to enchant the theater goers both here in the United States and abroad. The following ad appeared in the July 11, 1889 issue of the Aspen Evening Chronicle, Aspen, Colorado. You will also note she is supported by the Booth-Barrett Company. Yes, it is Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth. The Booth-Barrett Company was the premier theater company from 1889-1891.

The July 24, 1896 issue of the Denver Evening Post, Denver, Colorado, had this to say of Helena's career, " Madam Helena Modjeska's name will always be associated with the great triumphs of the English speaking stage." She was known as one of the great interpreters of Shakespeare, having performed most of his works. 

Helena died in Newport Beach, California on April 8, 1909.  She was survived by her husband and son Ralph Modjeska who was a well known civil engineer. Her body was returned to Krakow, Poland where she is buried.

The following appeared in the New York Time on July 3, 1909:

For those who would enjoy reading more, Helen's autobiography can be found online.

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

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Yummy Soups from The First Texas Cook Book

Despite today's expected high temp of 96 degrees here in Fort Worth, Texas, autumn is on its way. To usher in cooler weather I thought you might enjoy some nice hot soup recipes from The First Texas Cook Book. Yes, that's how cookbook was spelled back in 1883 when this "thorough treatise on the art of cookery" was first published.

Compiled by the women of the First Presbyterian Church of Houston, the book contains 721 recipes and 80 household aids. There were 72 contributors, 47 of them from Houston and included one man who submitted a recipe for "Yacht Pie." His tongue-in-cheek recipe suggests that "the more ladies you have on board, the more onions should be used." (I'll let you decide on his implication.)

The wording in some recipes is dated, ingredient measurements a bit vague, but it's fun to see how Texans ate back then, at least in towns and cities. At that time Houston had a population of around twenty thousand and boasted its first electricity in one hotel barroom. Ten railroads also entered Houston in 1883. The city had a mile of plank paving, 18 blocks of graveled streets and 2 blocks of stone pavement. The rest, as a rule, was dirt - or mud.

Now for those recipes I promised. These are taken directly from the book, so please make allowances for the format and any possible misspellings. Also keep in mind that these cooks could not dash to a supermarket for their ingredients.

Crab Gumbo

Take one dozen crabs, boil thoroughly and pick out; two and a half quarts okra, chopped, and one large onion, also chopped; fry two-thirds of the ochra with the onion; have a gallon of water in a pot, take two slices of ham, all the okra and two tablespoons of rice, put into the water and boil down to a thick gumbo; this will take two or three hours; season to taste, and about an hour before ready to serve put in the crabs [meat].

To make beef gumbo, use beef instead of crabs, and add a few tomatoes.

For chicken gumbo, fry a chicken brown and pick off from the bones, and  use in place of crabs or beef, adding tomatoes as before.
Mrs. T. C. Armstrong, Galveston

Chicken Soup

Cut up a large chicken, boil gently in three quarts of water, removing all scum; to half a gallon of soup add half a pint of rice, a few sprigs of parsley, pepper and salt to taste; boil till the chicken is done, add half a pint of sweet milk and one tablespoon of corn-starch, stirred into a spoonful of butter. The chicken may be taken out and used for salad, or picked fine and added to the soup. Old fowls are best for soup. If the soup is for a sick person omit the butter. By making this soup without rice, adding milk or cream and oysters seasoned nicely, you have a most delicious soup.
Contributor's name not given

Mushroom Soup

Cut a knuckle of veal in large pieces and break the bones; allow each pound a little less that a quart of water (milk is better), season with salt, half a dozen blades of mace and saltspoonful of cayenne. Boil until the meat falls to pieces, then strain into a clean soup-pot. Have ready a large quart of mushrooms, pealed and divested of their stems, put them into the soup, adding a quarter of a pound of butter divided into bits, each bit rolled in flour; boil until mushrooms are tender, keep closely covered, have toasted bread in small pieces in the tureen and pour the soup over it.
Mrs. T. W. House

Vegetable Soup

Two turnips, two carrots, four Irish potatoes, one large onion, one parsnip, a few stalks celery or parsley. Cut all very fine; add a spoonful of rice; put the whole into three quarts of water; boil three hours. Strain the soup, return to the kettle and place over the fire; add a piece butter the size of a nut; stir the soup until the butter melts; add a little flour, let it boil, and then serve.
Mrs. M. E. Warren

If you have the time and energy to try some of these recipe, enjoy!

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 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Champion in every sense

Johnson County, Wyoming, April 1892 and the Wyoming Stock Growers Association "Regulators" and their hired hit-men from Texas were about to run into a force of nature named Nate Champion.
Nate Champion--by most accounts a good hand, cowboy, and gunman

Champion was the working-class hero in contrast to the cattle barons in Wyoming. He’d been a top hand at several ranches, was good with a gun, said to be a good cowboy, and generally was well respected by most everyone—UNTIL he organized the Northwest Wyoming Farm and Stock Growers Association for the smaller ranches struggling to survive against the cattle barons who composed the WSGA. He helped create a competing spring roundup after the large ranchers wouldn’t allow the small ranchers to join their annual roundup. Champion further incurred the wrath of the WSGA when he grazed his cows on the public range claiming he had as much right as the big ranchers did.

The barons didn’t appreciate his defiance. The newspapers in Cheyenne branded him “King of the Cattle Thieves” and leader of the “Red Sash Gang”, presumably at the behest of the WSGA, as the papers in Cheyenne were controlled/owned/told what to print by the cattle barons. This marked him for death even though WSGA attorney Willis VanDementer told them there was no evidence Champion was a rustler. You can assume VanDementer wasn’t popular for a while with the cattle barons. And there was no Red Sash Gang. Didn’t matter a bit to the cattle barons as they made out their hit list and then recruited more than twenty hired guns out of Paris, Texas to help rid them of their “rustlers.”

The morning of April 9th was cold, with the wind howling down out of the north and bringing snow with it. In the snow, fifty of the most trusted men employed by the barons, as well as the twenty-two Texans, attacked Champion’s ranch. Nick Ray, Champion’s friend, was mortally wounded in the first volley of shots.

Under withering gunfire, Champion pulled his friend to safety, though Ray died shortly afterward. For several hours, Champion held off the hired guns of the WSGA until the gunmen set fire to his cabin. His journal--which miraculously survived the fire--reveals that Champion knew his time was up. He wrote that the gunmen were planning to fire the cabin and they aimed "to see me dead this time." Armed with a knife and his revolver, Champion charged out the door. More than 20 bullets were found in his body when he was finally allowed to be buried several days later. He was only thirty-five years old.

That Champion survived on April 9th as long as he did ranks this gunfight as one of the most amazing fights imaginable. That the cattle barons of the WSGA didn’t realize by killing Champion they’d be creating a hero for the smaller ranchers to rally around was another amazement, or it goes to their arrogance. I never can decide which it is—or if it was both.
Bronze of  Champion outside the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum, Buffalo, WY--in Johnson County

The Johnson County war was the stuff that created larger than life heroes, revealed just how villainous greed, money, and power can make people and has provided fodder for Western writers for generations.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Have Gun-Will Travel by Kaye Spencer #classictelevision #Sweetheartsofthewest #westerns

During my growing-up years, I watched reruns or as-they-aired episodes of what are now classic television westerns: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Lone Ranger, The Big Valley, High Chaparral, Rawhide, Laredo, The Virginian, Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, Maverick, Wagon Trail, Tales of Wells Fargo, Branded, Wyatt Earp, Johnny Yuma, Laramie, Broken Arrow, Guns of Will Sonnet, Zorro, Lancer, Cimarron Strip, Yancy Derringer... The list goes on and, no doubt, you each have your favorites.

It just so happens that one of my favorite classic western television shows is celebrates its premiere date this month.

 Have Gun-Will Travel
The adventures of a gentlemanly gunfighter for hire.
 IMDb website:
Sixty-one years ago (September 14, 1957), the television-watching population enjoyed the premiere of the thirty-minute, Saturday night western show, Have Gun - Will Travel, starring Richard Boone as the somewhat mysterious soldier of fortune, but always a gentleman, Paladin. The premise of the show was Paladin worked as a gunfighter-for-hire who traveled the west c. 1875 offering his special kind of problem-solving skills. He was a high-dollar gunman—$1000 per job wasn’t unusual—but he also provided his services for free to those with a worthy cause who couldn’t afford him otherwise. However, violence by gunplay wasn’t his only weapon. He was a pugilist and dueling champion of some renown in his former life.

General Trivia

  • The word ‘paladin’ derives from the knights in Charlemagne’s Court, who were champions of worthy causes.
  • Paladin was a Union cavalry officer and graduate of West Point.
  • His residence is the luxury Carlton Hotel in San Francisco.
  • When not riding about the countryside doing good deeds—dressed as the original “Man in Black”—he lives the life of a cultured businessman who wears custom-made suits, consumes fine wine, plays the piano, and attends the opera. He also has a weakness for women.
  • With just a sip, he can determine a particular bourbon’s distillery.
  • Paladin is an expert chess and poker player, an accomplished swordsman, and possesses skill in Chinese martial arts having studied under a Kung Fu master.
  • His level of education is such that he quotes classical literature, philosophy, case law, and he speaks several languages.
Richard Boone as Paladin
Link to source: HERE
  • Paladin’s weapons: 1) custom-made, single action .45 Colt (Army cavalry model) that he carries in a black leather holster adorned with a platinum chess knight symbol, 2) lever action Marlin rifle, and 3) concealed derringer.
  • He has a signature calling card/business card. In Paladin’s words:  “It's a chess piece, the most versatile on the board. It can move in eight different directions, over obstacles, and it's always unexpected.”
CBS Publicity image
Link to source HERE

The show’s four note opening motif was done purposely to create a musical memory akin to other popular television shows at the time: Highway Patrol, Dragnet, Twilight Zone, and Perry Mason.

The show closes with the song, “The Ballad of Paladin”, which was written by Johnny Western, Richard Boone, and Sam Rolfe. Johnny Western sings the ballad.

The show ran from September 14, 1957 to April 20, 1963 with 225 episodes.

From 1974 to 1991, a trademark lawsuit against the concept of the show moved in and out of court culminating with a substantial settlement. You can read the details here: HGWT Website

A radio version began on November 23, 1958 and ended November 22, 1960 with actor John Dehner portraying Paladin. John Dehner is one of those Hollywood character actors whose name rings a bell, but you can't put a face to the name until you see him.

John Dehner
image credit below**

Hollywood Trivia

Notable Episode Writers:
  • Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)
  • Bruce Geller (Mission Impossible)
  • Harry Julian Fink (Dirty Harry)
  • Sam Peckinpah (directed a plethora of western movies)
  • Unusual for the era, many episodes were filmed outdoors and not on the Old West film lots – Bishop and Lone Pine, California – Paladin Estates between Bend and Sisters, Oregon – the Abbott Ranch near Prineville, Oregon
Notable Guest Stars:
  • Angie Dickinson
  • Ben Johnson
  • Buddy Ebsen
  • Charles Bronson
  • Dan Blocker
  • DeForest Kelley
  • Denver Pyle
  • Dyan Cannon
  • George Kennedy
  • Jack Elam
  • Jack Lord
  • James Coburn
  • Johnny Crawford 
  • June Lockhart (Lassie)
  • Ken Curtis 
  • Lee Van Cleef
  • Lon Chaney, Jr.
  • Pernell Roberts 
  • Robert Blake
  • Suzanne Pleshette
  • Vincent Price
  • Werner Klemperer
Who was Paladin?

Paladin was a West Point graduate, a Civil War cavalry officer, and his base of operations was the Hotel Carlton in San Francisco, California. While it's been too many years since I've watched these episodes, I've read that in the episode entitled "Fandango", Paladin encounters a sheriff who knew him from their Civil War days. The sheriff calls Paladin 'Bobby' and goes on to say, "It's been a long time since Bull Run." Maybe Paladin's real first name was Robert.

Generally, though, the consensus is his real name is never revealed. However, Paladin’s backstory is shown in flashback sequence in the first episode of the last (6th) season, “Genesis”, which aired September 15, 1962. This episode explains how Paladin came by his pseudonym and his subsequent mission to champion the causes of the less fortunate. It isn't his shining moment. Through his actions, another man dies, and Paladin takes on the dead man's identity and mission as a type of penitence to atone for his own actions.

Read the episode details at the HGWT Website.

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

Writing through history one romance upon a time

Other Sources:
  • HWWT (Have Gun, Will Travel) website:
  • Have Gun-Will Travel. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.–_Will_Travel. Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution License.
  • Image: Paladin - By Source, Fair use,
  • Radio Show episodes:
  • **Image: John Dehner -

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Modern West

by Rain Trueax
There are those who think the Old West ceased existing with modern living. They think cowboys are a thing of the past or maybe only in movies or rodeos. I suspect not many of them read Sweethearts of the West where it's more likely known that the cowboy way of life still exists. 

Today, cowboy grit is how it gets done on big and small ranches, wherever people raise herds and live on the land, facing the elements, often not working for much material gain, struggling with economics, and against an encroaching modern world. It still exists in both fiction and non-fiction.

Monday, September 10, 2018

WHAT IF? E. Ayers

I'm sitting here on the computer and watching weather reports. Nothing much has changed in the last few hours. We've got a CAT 4 hurricane barreling down on us. I've ridden out plenty of storms over the years, but this one bears watching closely. I'm trying to decide if I should evacuate or stay put.

That's made me wonder about years ago when there was no early warning system for these storms. Today we figure if we've lost power for a few hours that it's terrible. The last hurricane through here took my power out for 13+ days. UGH!

But we know it's coming. We can watch the radar and get constant updates. What happened a hundred years ago?  We know what happened to Galveston, Texas in 1900. Way back in time,
Galveston TX 1900
there was the Great Hurricane of 1780. They didn't name them back then as they do now. And there were no storm trackers, but we do know that as many as 27,000 people lost their lives. It destroyed many of the islands before wandering up the east coast to Canada.

Yes, Florence worries me. I'm a chicken. I don't care if I don't have electricity, well actually I do care, but I know I can manage. I've done it before and I can do it again. I'm a pretty good camper. But I'm not fond of real damage. I don't want my roof ripped off or that tree in my neighbor's yard to fall on my house. But in a way, I'm lucky. I know what is coming and what I must do.

Can you imagine Texans being hit with a hurricane that they weren't expecting? Or living on the Plains and seeing a funnel cloud bearing down on your barn? Or even living in what is now California and having the earth move under your feet? What about those folks who crossed the ocean in tall-masted sailing ships. Did those captains have any idea what was on the horizon and headed to them? It must have been very scary.

Can you imagine not knowing what was happening? It's not that we have learned to control nature, but in so many cases, we have warnings. We know and we understand. I have a friend who has a son and daughter-in-law living in the Caribbean. Their island got hit hard last year. They are still cleaning up! Maybe it doesn't look like it to the average visitor but repairs are still being made. Houston and New Orleans didn't return to normal a week later.

I wonder what our local Indians once thought when a hurricane descended on them. What did those first settlers at Jamestown, Virginia think? It must have been scary. Did they think that the world was ending?  They weren't worried about losing electricity because it didn't exist. 

Knowing what is coming helps, but it won't stop the destruction. Mother Nature is not very nice. She never was nor will she ever be. I doubt we'll ever learn to tame her. But as I begin to prepare for this storm, I wonder what the people who lived in my house, so very long ago, did when the high winds and rain pounded down on the small town built by the river.

I'm not going to take unnecessary chances. I'm a super-sized chicken with a big yellow stripe down my back.  When it comes to fight or flight, I'm flight. This house has withstood so very many storms in its 170 or more years. A Cat 3 or a Cat 4? This old house might be facing this storm without me.    

Maybe the weirdest thing about this storm is that I just finished writing a contemporary romance that deals with a beach home and a Category 3 hurricane that is upgraded to a 4. In the story, the hero loses his house. Maybe that's why I'm a bit freaked this time. Not really. I've lived in the area for years and never have I seen a really bad hit, other than Floyd, and that was flooding. Isabel sent a tree down on my car and totaled it. Aside from that, all damage has been minor. But I've not seen a Cat 4 or Cat 3 rumble over my house. I don't think I want to see it.

What if we didn't know? What if we weren't prepared? What if the family had to climb on the buckboard in the pouring rain with hopes of reaching higher ground?  What if...?