Friday, July 10, 2020


It’s been a part of western culture just as much as the cowboy hat. The hat shaded the eyes
from blinding sun and kept the sun off the neck and ears. The bandana was used to cover the mouth and nose and protect it from dust during cattle drives or roping. It also could be wrapped around the neck to protect it from sun and soak up perspiration. It could be wrapped around the forehead to keep sweat out of the wearer’s eyes. And it was a handy hankie or towel and used for dozens of things including bandages.

My father always had cotton bandanas in his pocket when he worked. And in those days, those things had to be ironed. Guess what every little girl learned to iron on? Bandanas. Wouldn’t want to scorch a fancy hankie, but that poor bandana was more forgiving, or at least no seemed to complain if it wasn’t perfect. It was only a bandana.

Over the years it’s been used as head covering, a head band, a sweat band, and ponytail holder. Sometimes it was used to carry things. Drop in the center of a bandana and tie it up. Then it started to symbolize gangs. The average person quit wearing the traditional paisley bandana, especially if someone lived in a city. 

But with Covid-19 pandemic, bandanas have taken on a new life. People are wearing them again as a face mask. Do they work? It’s probably one of the least effective masks. But! For those who have a problem wearing something over their nose and mouth, the bandana is an alternative. It’s better than nothing but not great. It’s less apt to wind up in your mouth when you try to talk. 

I went to a drive-thru and the gentleman inside was wearing a mask. But I couldn’t understand anything he said. I finally gave up and said I was coming to the window because I could not understand him. It was a little easier face to face without a piece of electronic equipment between us. We all need to remember to be extra patient. We’re in this together. There are better and safer masks than the bandana. But maybe it still has a place during this pandemic. It’s better than nothing for those who can’t wear a traditional mask.
We’re not the only ones in history to wear masks. The Black Plague doctors wore the long beak masks. The beak was stuffed with herbal materials with the hopes that it might protect them. That ugly mask is how doctors gained the unwanted reputation for being “quacks.” Apparently, it didn’t work very well for them. They died and their patients died. It might have helped to cover up the stench of death.

Paul F├╝rst, engraving, c. 1721, of a plague doctor of Marseilles

Remember, the mask is protecting others from you. So if you have a cough, fever, or have been exposed to the virus, don’t wear a bandana. Don’t go out unless you must, and then wear a real mask. But a clean bandana, folded and placed a zippered plastic bag, comes in handy when kept in the car or purse. It can protect your hands when that bottle cap refuses to budge or it can help grip the container so it doesn’t slide as you unscrew the cap. It can be used wet to help cool you on a hot day. And it looks really cute on the dog!

 How do you use a bandana?

My newest historical western.

Click the link and you can read a sample.


A new mail order bride, Ellen has now been widowed.


With two young boys to raise, a dead mail-order husband, and no food or money, she is forced to shelter with the neighboring rancher. The same one who found her latest husband’s body.


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Optimism of Louisa May Alcott, Willa Cather and Laura Ingalls Wilder

A few weeks ago, I was checking the Amazon best-seller charts for a niche that interests me, 19th Century US Teen & Young Adult Historical Novels.  I was pleased, but surprised, to see Laura Ingalls Wilder’s These Happy Golden Years.  Pleased, because it was in the local library and I could start reading it in an hour, but surprised because Ms. Wilder’s work reflects an optimistic world that I didn’t think would interest this audience.

I was wrong.   The book has held steady as a best-seller for weeks, and I’ve read it several times. I now feel that its optimism is possibly a touch unrealistic, but we need to read it now.  I’m curious, if the best-seller charts are a true indication of book interests of American teenagers who read with Amazon. If it is, I wonder if they read this book for the hope and optimism Ms. Wilder expresses so vividly. I’ve given this a great deal of thought and I hope you’ll become curious, again, about the books I’ll discuss for you.  Perhaps your reading of these books brought different opinions; I’m glad to bring them to you again. Maybe you'll re-read them and find your opinions right there.

In These Happy Golden Days, the heroine, Laura, has a secure home life, though it’s not very similar to what’s found in the diaries or journals from then.  Nor does it resemble many of the popular short stories about the West and young women. Her parents were rational and steady; her father stayed in the nest. Not a hint of bitterness was in Laura’s tone at any time, though she didn't graduate from high school because of a teacher's mistake, and her married life would be at the financial level she'd just left. (Many people have aspired to 'better themselves.')  I’ll note that her late teen-aged years held a hope well within her scope for imagining married life. She thought most deeply about her husband’s moral strength.

I enjoyed reading about her life as a teacher (I was a teacher for years).  This book reads peacefully, like gentle flowing streams, with scarcely a strong ripple to upset the waters.  As a teacher who ‘boarded’ at the expense of the school system, the life Ms. Wilder describes was pretty turbulent.  But overall, this is a magnificently optimistic and accepting book, showing patience, but also curiosity and a willingness to grow.

This optimism in the face of so much hardship and even failure is what fascinates me about this Laura Ingalls Wilder novel.  In Those Happy Golden Years, she builds the episodes with realistic touches, like a sister’s not coming home for summer vacation, which means the family, who works and spends what they earn to survive, can’t see her for a year. 

This reasonable, orderly home life isn’t the same as the complicated lives of the great novelist of the plains, Willa Cather.  Families aren’t always united, as in Ms. Cather’s The Professor’s House. Perhaps because of her great sympathy for all sides, I was never certain that the professor was dedicated to his work or removing himself from the world he hadn’t bargained for and couldn’t control under his roof. A similar theme is found in Ms. Cather’s last novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl.

Another 19th century authoress whose worlds are peopled with deep characterizations is Louisa May Alcott.  Little Women doesn’t take place in the West, but Jo is a good example of quickness, patience and determination.  Take, for example, how Jo unashamedly dances wearing only one glove.  As we know, 19th century women were conservative in their clothes and accessories and in the evenings, women simply wore gloves.  She had only one unsoiled, decent glove, even to wear at a party, and had no money for another pair.  The creative solution she thought of was to hold one glove and wear the other.  Although Ms. Alcott’s works are often described as ‘didactic,’ I feel that Jo is a character who represents the best of us all – through Ms. Alcott’s excellent craft.

A young diarist I enjoy reading from the 19th century, Rolf Johnson, read Dickens and Sir Walter Scott.  This young plainsman was remarkably versatile, breaking mules or reading historical fiction in English, such as Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. Swedish, not English was his first language and school for farm children wasn’t extensive out West.   Nor was Ivanhoe an easy or short book to read.  Unlike other residents of the Great Plains, young Johnson didn’t write.  

Young Mollie Dorsey, before she married, wrote a great deal of prose and verse; but neither was very cheerful, and later her diary showed cynicism about her youthful dreams.  After she left home for Colorado, she devoted herself to her new life with her family, though she wrote some diary entries then.

Other diaries, written by women whose lives held little but cleaning, cooking and sewing in mining towns or the plains vary in how accepting they are about their lives. The diaries I read seemed to notice, but usually didn’t judge their husbands.

 I hope this brief summary reminds you of your favorite topics and authors and you’ll refresh yourselves reading them.  As you remember, many of these books are found at no cost online; others are at your local libraries, often in digital form you can immediately download and read.

*****     *****     *****      *****     *****     *****     ******

Summer Love on the Plains, Book 3 of my Mail Order Bride series, is on sale by pre-order.  Please follow the link.

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Saturday, July 4, 2020


On this, the 244th year of our country’s Independence, I want to wish everyone a 
Safe, Healthy & Happy 4th of July!

            Our first National Flag, the GRAND UNION FLAG, was displayed on January 1, 1776 in Boston by General George Washington, the organizer of the Colonial Army under the directive of the young Continental Congress.

For the colonists, the GRAND UNION FLAG signified their loyalty to the Crown of England and their New Union.

            The progress of the Revolution and the adoption of the Declaration of Independence soon outdated the symbolism of the GRAND UNION FLAG. On June 14,1777 the first congressional legislation creating an American flag was enacted.

“RESOLVED: that the flag of the United States be 13 stripes alternate red and white, that the Union be 13 stars white in a blue field representing a new constellation.”
Thus, was born a new Nation under the STARS AND STRIPES.

            The NEW CONSTELLATION FLAG with its 13 stars and 13 stripes, represented the original thirteen founding states of the Union: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.
            Since the Flag Act of 1777 did not provide for the arrangement of the stars in the flag’s union, over 20-star designs have been documented for the NEW CONSTELLATION FLAG as being used in the eighteen-year period from 1777 through 1795.

This included the popular Betsy Ross design.

            January 13, 1794, President George Washington signed a bill that provided by Act of Congress, alterations in the Flag of the United States. The bill stated that on and after May1,1795, “the flag of the United States be fifteen stripes, alternate red and white and that the union of fifteen stars, white in a blue field.”

This SECOND NATIONAL FLAG recognized two new states that had been admitted into the Union, Vermont and Kentucky.

 This new flag also inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner, and was our national flag for nearly a quarter of a century until the year 1818.

            On April 4th, 1818, President James Monroe signed a bill into law as “An Act To Establish The Flag Of The United States” which provided for “a return to a flag of thirteen horizontal stripes, alternate red and white; and a Union to have twenty stars, white in a blue field.” This updated the flag to show the admission of additional five more states.

The Act also provided “That on the admission of every new State into the Union, one star be added to the union of the flag; and that such addition shall take effect on the fourth of July succeeding such admission.”

            All succeeding design changes were due to the addition of stars to the flag’s union, upon admission of a new state to the Union.

The forty-eight star flag WAS THE LONGEST LIVED OF ALL THE Stars and Stripes with official status of 47 years, from 1912 to 1959. Eight American Presidents served in office under this flag and three wars were fought under its banner.

50-Star Flag
1960 — PRESENT

The design of the Stars and Stripes as the National Flag of the United States of America is one of the longest in the history of any country in the world.

Thanks for visiting Sweethearts of the West. I hope you'll check out my new release, 
Yesteryear's Destiny, an adventure-filled time-travel,
Book 3, Wheels of Destiny Trilogy
available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, iTunes, Apple and many other distributors.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Author’s Notes: Stagecoach Lines on the Smoky Hill Trail in 1866 by Zina Abbott

Two months ago, due to time constraints, I shared part of my Author's Notes from my novel, Mail Order Roslyn. You may read them by clicking HERE. Today I am sharing part of my author's notes from my next book in the series,  

1866 was a very busy year when it came to ownership of the stagecoach and freight line that ran along the Smoky Hill Trail. David Butterfield built the Butterfield Overland Despatch stagecoach and freight line in 1865. It soon ran into financial trouble due to the losses of livestock, stagecoaches, stations, and employees as a result of conflict with the Native Americans, primarily the Cheyenne, who struggled to prevent any white men from crossing their lands and disrupting the migration of the buffalo herds.

The Overland Stage Line Way-Bill 1865

Another large stagecoach and freight company that served the western United States at that time was Ben Holladay’s U.S. Overland Mail and Express Company along the Overland Trail. He held the cross-country mail contract awarded by the Post Office Department from Omaha, Nebraska to Salt Lake City, Utah. 
Overland, Republican River, and Smoky Hill Routes

Wells, Fargo and Company held the mail contract between Salt Lake City and San Francisco, California. Fearing encroachment by Wells, Fargo and Company in the form of them attempting to acquire the Butterfield line—thus putting them in position to capture the mail contract for the entire distance between the Missouri River and Pacific Coast—he moved to protect his mail contract and guard his hold over the stagecoach and wagon freighting ventures as long as there was money to be made in them.

Ben Holladay

Holladay sent out two inspectors (corporate espionage) to discover the financial condition of the Butterfield Overland Despatch. He knew the company had obtained a thirty year charter from the Kansas legislature for building and operating lines. Upon learning that the company was nearing bankruptcy, he pressured the then-president of the company, Edward P. Bray, to sell the line to him. In all, Holladay bought eight small stagecoach lines around that time. 

In March, 1866, the Butterfield Overland Despatch became the U.S. Overland Mail and Express, Smoky Hill Division. Who knows when the changes were implemented, but the company’s records showed several stations with name changes, and there were changes made to which stations served as home stations and which were stock, or relay, stations. For the purposes of my book, I put that change effective the end of June, 1866.

Holladay Overland Mail & Express Company building.
Holladay had effectively blocked Wells, Fargo and Company from building a competing mail and wagon freight market between Denver and to the Missouri River using the B.O.D. line, but he knew the future was in railroads. He intended to hold onto his stage and freight lines only as long as he deemed them profitable. 

During 1866, he realized the railroad construction across the plains was progressing faster than he originally anticipated. On July 3, 1866, Congress authorized the Union Pacific, eastern division, to extend their route across Kansas to Denver, which would ultimately make the Smoky Hill Division line obsolete. On July 30, the postmaster-general ordered Holladay to cut back mail service on his Overland line to thrice weekly. Shortly after, he was ready to sell. 
Greybull, Wyoming office

Fortunately for him, Wells, Fargo and Company believed they had at least six more years in which to make significant profits in this market. On November 1, 1866, Holladay sold out to them. By December 10, 1866, the name of the vast former Holladay holdings was officially changed to Wells, Fargo and Company. 

Mail Order Lorena is the second of three of my books in the Widows, Brides & Secret Babies multi-author series. It is available on preorder and will be released on July 3, 2020.
The first book in this trio, Mail Order Roslyn, is currently available for sale and at no additional cost with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.
The third book in this trio, Mail Order Penelope, is also on preorder and scheduled for release on August 14, 2020.