Thursday, December 25, 2008
Roberta C.M. DeCaprio
Recently I survived an ice storm here in upstate New York that blacked out some 230,000 residents; many areas were declared a “state of emergency”. For two days I had no heat or electricity, eating oatmeal, soup and hot chocolate heated over an open flame. The driving conditions were made dangerous because of slick roads, fallen tree branches and downed electrical wires. I was one of the fortunate homesteads….hundreds of others were inconvenienced for a week longer.
While sitting (and sleeping) in my rocking chair before my living room fireplace, I began to think of the pioneer days and what kind of Christmas they experienced without the modern conveniences we enjoy today. With no malls to purchase presents and no lights to adorn their trees and homes, how did they celebrate the holidays?
My research found, at Christmas pioneer homes were decorated with green branches. Because homes were small, there was no room for a large tree. Pine cones, nuts, berries and popcorn chains, as well as figures of dolls made out of straw or yarn, cookie dough ornaments and gingerbread men were hung on the tree.
Food preparations for Christmas dinner began weeks ahead of time. The Christmas goose was fattened up and the plum pudding left to age in a pot.
Gift making began months before. Such presents as corn husk dolls, sachets, carved wooden toys, boxes and footstools, pillows, embroidered hankies, knitted scarves, mittens, hats and socks all took time to make.
If there had been a good harvest that year, stockings hung on the fireplace mantle were filled with cookies and fruit.
On Christmas Eve everyone gathered by the fireplace to sing carols and tell stories. Christmas Day the whole family attended church and returned home to a Christmas meal. Then it was time to visit with friends and neighbors.
The holiday spirit wasn’t much different then what most of us do at Christmas now, just minus the ease in which we do it. After spending two days without that ease, I can tell you I’m happy to be born in the century I was.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
But, on Monday morning I swam in the pool in our "casa" in Playa Flamingo, then flew home to Seattle to one of the worst winter storms in recent memory. The airport was in chaos, as many stranded travelers tried to get out to their holiday destinations.
Yesterday we had a day of reprieve and I managed to get to the library, (I always need more books) and the local Costco. With reading material and food, I feel like a pioneer storing up for the winter storms. And that's exactly what we woke up to this morning. Swirling snow, a cold wind and warnings to stay off the roads will keep us housebound for Christmas.
It seems like "old times" for me, because I grew up in upstate New York, where blizzards were common and we'd often spend days stranded at home. We were in the country, seven miles from town, so we had to prepare for winter by being self-sufficient. My grandparents were farmers, so there was always plenty of canned fruit on the shelves and vegetables in the freezer. The cows still had to be milked everyday, and one of the neighbors made butter. We were all "localvores" but that was long before that concept was popular. Soups were made, bread was baked and the holiday cookies and pies kept us well fed.
The biggest problem we faced was the possibility of developing "cabin fever" from being cooped up together for too long. How did we manage to get through day after day of blizzard conditions without hundreds of cable TV stations, computers or iPods? We learned to enjoy playing games and making things.
I can remember spending days playing an endless game of Monopoly with one of my cousins. The wealth would move back and forth between us, and we'd take breaks to don our snowsuits, boots, mittens and hats to go out sledding or to build a snowman. We had paper, crayons, glue and lots of different household items for creating an endless series of craft projects.
When I grew older, the blizzards became an opportunity to read, study and work on craft projects. A howling wind and snow were a signal to pull out the fabric and notions to create something. One of my favorite memories is of a six day storm that kept us housebound while I created a doll and wardrobe for my younger sister on my Great-Grandmother's pedal sewing machine. "Grandma Lucy" and I were linked by the process of sewing something for loved ones and one of my favorite family heirlooms is the quilt top she created from the fabric scraps she treasured.
I know many residents of the area will be sad to discover they might not make it to the mall to finish their Christmas shopping today. I'm sad for them, but for me, today will be an opportunity. I'm going to get out all my bead supplies and make some earrings and a matching bracelet for my son's girlfriend. I'll bake my special holiday bread to share with our neighbors and I'll make an apple pie for our holiday dinner tomorrow.
And I think I'll dust off our Monolopy game to challenge my family to a marathon! Instead of cursing the storm, I'm going to be grateful for a warm fire, the company of my loved ones and the safety of shelter from the storm. Like the pioneers of old, if you strip away all the glitz and false expectations of the season, you'll discover the important thing about Christmas is that you're with the people you love.
May your holiday be filled with peace, joy and love.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Who was he, really? Even now, historians can’t be completely sure of the facts. Some biographers list his birth date as June of 1829. Others say he was born somewhere between 1823-1825. He was the fourth child in a family of four boys and four girls, but even his birth name is disputed. Some say he was called “The One Who Yawns,” his name being “Goyathlay.” Others spell it differently: “Goyahkla.” But by the time he was in his mid-twenties, he was called by the name we remember: Geronimo
In 1850, because his mother, his young wife, (Alope) and his three children were murdered in a raid on their village by Mexican troops, Geronimo pledged that he would avenge their deaths. He received “the Power”—the life force of the universe that gave him supernatural abilities. These included being able to see into the future, walk without leaving tracks, and hold off the dawn. In a vision, he was told that no bullet would ever bring him down in battle, a prophecy that proved true.
Geronimo fought so savagely, so fiercely, that the Mexican troops began to call to Saint Jerome for deliverance from him. Thus, their cries for help became the name he was known by: Geronimo.
In addition to fighting the Mexicans, Geronimo found himself and his Chiracahua Apache tribe at odds with the U.S. Government. By the early 1870s, the federal government’s newly-instituted policy of placing the traditionally nomadic Apaches on reservations was the cause of regular uprisings. Geronimo fought for his peoples’ hereditary land for years.
In 1885, he led a group of more than 100 men, women and children in an escape from the reservation, to the mountains of Mexico. During this time, his band was pursued by more than 5,000 white soldiers, and over 500 Indian auxiliaries were employed to achieve Geronimo’s capture. It took over five months to track Geronimo to his camp in Mexico’s Sonora Mountains—over 1,645 miles away.
On March 27, 1886, exhausted and hopelessly outnumbered, Geronimo surrendered. His band consisted of only a few warriors, women and children. Also found was a young captive, a white boy, name Jimmy “Santiago” McKinn who had been kidnapped six months earlier. The boy had become so assimilated to the Apache way of life that he cried when he was forced to return to his parents.
As the group began the trek back to Fort Bowie, Arizona, Geronimo and some of the warriors, women and boys escaped once more, making their way back into the Sierra Madre.
On September 4, 1886, Geronimo surrendered for the last time to General Nelson A. Miles at Skeleton Canyon in southern Arizona. He was sent to Florida in a boxcar, a prisoner of war. It was May of 1887 before he was reunited with his family, and they were once again moved; this time, to Mount Vernon Barracks near Mobile, Alabama.
In 1894, Geronimo was again moved with other Apaches to Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He attempted to try and fit in, farming and joining the Dutch Reformed Church. He was expelled from the church for his penchant for gambling.
The federal government made many empty promises to Geronimo and his people, but they allowed him to keep the money he made from selling buttons from his clothing or posing for pictures at numerous fairs and exhibitions such as the Omaha Exposition in Omaha, NE (1898), the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, NY (1901), and the St. Louis World’s Fair in St. Louis, MO (1904).
In 1905, Geronimo rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade. It was also during this year that he told the story of his life to S. M. Barrett, who wrote “Geronimo: His Own Story”, which was published in 1906.
In 1909, Geronimo was riding home after drinking too much. He fell off of his horse and lay, wet and freezing, beside the road until he was discovered several hours later. Never having seen his beloved Arizona homeland again, he died of pneumonia on February 17, 1909.
Geronimo is buried at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in an Apache POW cemetery. There is a simple stone monument at his gravesite where people still bring icons and offerings and leave them. Baggies of sage, seashells, scraps of paper—homage to the greatest warrior who ever lived.
Geronimo was not a chief. He was not a medicine man. He was a leader of men—a fighter whose battle tactics are studied still in military institutions. In the quiet of the cemetery, his children, warriors, relatives and wives buried nearby, he is still a leader, respected and recognized all over the world.
Did you know: “Apache” is a word for “street thug” in France?
Did you know: There is a rumor that some of Geronimo’s warriors “disappeared” mysteriously from the boxcar as they were being transported to Florida?
Did you know: Signers of the Medicine Lodge Treaty were given burial rights in the main post cemetery at Fort Sill? (Quanah Parker and others are buried with white soldiers in the regular base cemetery.)
Did you know: The custom of paratroopers yelling, “Geronimo!” is attributed to Aubrey Ebenhart, a member of the U.S. Army’s test platoon at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He told his friends he would “yell Geronimo loud as hell when I go out that door tomorrow!” Which he did!
In my upcoming release, Fire Eyes, Kaed Turner was abducted by the Apaches as a young boy, just as Jimmy McKinn was kidnapped by Geronimo’s band. Kaed and his younger siblings were traded to the Choctaw, where they were assimilated into the tribe.
This excerpt is a remembrance between Kaed and Chief Standing Bear, the man who raised him. I hope you enjoy it.
EXCERPT FROM FIRE EYES
Standing Bear dismounted and came forward to stand beside Kaed, and Kaed turned his full attention to the warrior, waiting for the older man to speak.
It was as it had been all those years ago, when Kaed had come to live with the Choctaw people. The Apache had killed his mother and father, then taken Kaed and his younger brother and sister into captivity. The Choctaws had bartered with the Apaches for the youngsters, so they’d been raised in the Choctaw way.
The healing bruises Kaed wore today were reminiscent of the ones he’d been marked with when he first met Standing Bear, close to twenty years earlier.
“Seems we’ve stood this way before, Chief.”
“Yes, Wolf. You were marked as you are today. But still strong enough to wear defiance in your eyes. Strong enough to stand, and fight.”
Kaed gave him a fleeting grin, remembering how, as a nine-year-old boy faced with being traded away, he had rammed his head into Standing Bear’s rock-hard belly, catching him off guard, nearly knocking him to the ground in front of the Apaches and Standing Bear’s own warriors.
Standing Bear smiled and put his hand to his stomach. “This recovered before my pride did.” He nodded at Kaed’s arm. “I hope it is not so with you, Wolf. You did all you could, yet I see you still hold some blame in your heart for yourself.”
Kaed had to admit it was true, and he didn’t understand it. When he went over it logically in his mind, as he had done a thousand times, he knew he wasn’t to blame, that he’d done everything he could have. But he’d never expected White Deer to do what she had done, and he understood the parallel Standing Bear was drawing. The chief had never expected the young boy Kaed had been to lower his head and run at him, either.
Standing Bear spoke in his native tongue. “Have you thought upon my words concerning Fire Eyes? Or will she go to one of my warriors?”
“She is my woman now,” Kaed said in the same language, “and will belong to no other man.”
When I came up with the idea of writing about the origin of the Christmas stocking I figured it originated in Europe and was brought over by immigrants, I just didn't realize how close to my family it would fall.
There are two versions of how the Christmas stocking came to be. One is that a kind nobleman had lost his wife and was trying to raise three daughters. He'd lost all his money in bad investments and it was time to marry off his daughters. Only he didn't have money for dowries. On Christmas Eve the three daughters washed out their stockings as usual and hung them by the fire to dry. Saint Nicholas peered through the window and spied the stockings. He placed bags of gold in the garments and in the morning the daughters found enough money in their stockings to marry.
The version I like because it was told to me by my mother-in-law, who is Dutch, is the tradition started in 16th century Holland. The children put straw in their clogs(wooden shoes)for the reindeer. Their shoes sat by the fireplace and treats were left for "Sinterklass" also. When Sinterklass found the treats, he left presents for the children. There is also the tale of Black Piet. He is Sinterklass's helper. He is covered in coal dust and if the children have been bad during the year, he leaves them a chunk of coal. My mother-in-law said a friend or relative dressed every year as Black Piet and scared the children to keep them from being bad.
In Holland the present exchange actually happens on December 5th. If you want to learn more about the Dutch tradition, you can go to this site, and it also states that the Dutch Settlers brought the notion of Saint Nicholas to New Amsterdam, USA.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Oh, I'm not a bit Swedish, but I've long loved these woven paper heart baskets. For being so simple, they are so simply festive during the holidays. I can just picture them adding Christmas cheer on the prairie in Cactus Rose's favorite time period--the 19th century. A homespun craft made from materials close at hand.
Years ago, I helped a seventh grade class make them while I was a substitute teacher, so I know it can be done LOL. One one of my favorite places to visit on California's central coast, a little Danish enclave called Solvang, honors all aspects of Scandinavian culture, and the heart baskets appear frequently about town--especially at Christmastime.
In my first novel, The Outlaw's Woman, the outlaw (who of course is A Good Guy) snowbounds himself at gunpoint with a beautiful widow in her cozy Nebraska farmhouse in 1877. He wiles away the time until it's safe for him to escape and shows her how to weave them.
After he's long gone and she pines for him, she makes them to decorate her house when Christmas comes. I even made a few for a book signing.
They aren't all that hard to make...but it does take a little bit of practice. Called jhartkorgar, they'll be hung on the Christmas tree in Sweden and filled with candy or little gifts. Mini jhartkorgar can be strung together to make garlands for the tree.
Hilltown Families, a grassroots network for families living in Weston, Massachusetts, has kindly let me use their directions for this project. And Hilltown welcomes writers and artists to share their work...so check them out and see if your creativity is a fit!
(The directions uploaded a tad small, so click here as needed.)
Another fine site, Craft Ideas, has a template for making the sides of each heart.
And of course, you can construct them in pink and white for Valentine's Day.
Now, how about making a few woven hearts and hanging one on each of your neighbor's doorknobs on Christmas Eve filled with a tasty treat?
And on December 15, I'd be truly honored if you fellow Cactus Roses were to download my free online read, His Christmas Angel. In this short story, I spun off a character from my June 2009 release, Marrying Minda...and I hope you enjoy meeting him!
Merry Christmas to you all!
History records that since the time of Joan of Arc, women have been disguising themselves as men. These women were not transvestites, nor did they cross-dress out of some demented reasoning to pull ‘the wool’ over men’s eyes.
In an era where women had no rights to own property, no rights to protect themselves from sexual harassment, to escape rape, and with very little job opportunities to support themselves or their families, it is no wonder that these brave women chose to give up their lives as females.
These women quickly learned to cuss, chew, drink, fight, and often became deadly shots with weapon of choice. To them, it was a simple matter of two choices: survival or death.
One-Eyed Charlie was a stagecoach driver, a job that commanded considerable respect back in 19th century Oregon. Hostile Indians, ruthless highwaymen, and inclement weather plagued these frontier thoroughfares. Even without such hazards, bouncing along for days on end on a buckboard seat, minus shock absorbers and air conditioning required considerable fortitude. Of all the drivers on the Oregon-to-California line, One-Eyed Charlie was the driver of choice whenever Wells Fargo needed to send a valuable cargo. Despite a salty vocabulary, and opinionated demeanor, and a rough appearance, all of which might have rankled some passengers, no one was better at handling the horses or dealing with adversity.
When the stage would roll into Portland or Sacramento, Charlie would collect a paycheck and disappear for a few days. It was said Charlie was a heavy drinker and gambler. However, when it came time to make the next trip, Charlie was back at the helm, sober and cantankerous as ever. At Charlie’s death, the coroner made a startling discovery while preparing the body for burial. One-Eyed Charlie was really Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst (1810-1879) (Oregon Handbook, Moon Publications, 1998, p. 396). Orphaned at birth, Parkhurst first donned male clothing to escape an orphanage in Massachusetts. She learned how to drive a six-horse team and began driving stagecoaches. She is reputed to have killed at least one bandit. She died at the age of 67.
Records show that Sarah Edmonds Seelye was Canadian by birth. She assumed the alias of Franklin Thompson and enlisted as a private in the Second Michigan Infantry in Detroit on May 25, 1861. Her duties while in the Union Army included assisting the regiment’s doctor before becoming a mail and dispatch carrier. Her regiment participated in the Peninsula campaign and battles of First Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Antietam. On April 19, 1863, Edmonds deserted because she acquired malaria, and feared that hospitalization would reveal her gender. In 1867 she married L. H. Seelye, a Canadian mechanic. They raised three children. In 1886 she received a letter from the secretary of war that acknowledged her as “a female soldier who…served as a private…rendering faithful service in the ranks.” Sarah Edmonds Seelye died September 5, 1989, in Texas.
Cathay Williams’ story is as unique as they come. She was born a slave near Independence, Missouri in 1842. Her father was free, but her mother was a slave. Cathay served as a house girl for a wealthy planter until his death. Shortly, thereafter, the Civil War began, and she was liberated by the 13th Union Army Corps. With no home, a freedom that she didn’t know how to cope with, and no way to make a living, Cathay disguised herself as a man and changed her name to William Cathay. She told the recruiting officer that she was a 24-year-old cook. The recruiter described her as 5’9” tall, with black eyes, black hair, and black complexion. Fortunately, no medical examination was required.
Cathay was assigned to the 38th U.S. Infantry, and she learned to perform all the soldierly duties. She could shoot, march, and stand guard with the best of them. Orders were soon given to transfer the new recruits to the west, where they would join the army’s fight against the Indians. They were sent to protect pioneers traveling through one of the most dangerous routes to California, called Cooke’s Canyon.
After two years of service, she was honorably discharged at Fort Bayard, New Mexico, in October 1868, after making her place in history as the first-and only-female Buffalo Soldier. Some say she revealed her gender before she was discharged. Others say no one knew she was a woman until 1891, when she applied to the army for a pension, at the age of 49. Her application was denied. I can only assume that it was refused because women weren’t allowed to serve in the army—and wouldn’t be allowed to until 1948.
I am in awe of these women who pushed the boundaries of the place society had made for them, who created a path where footsteps had never trod, who found the courage to go where no woman had gone before.
We owe them everything!
P.S. Unfortunately there were technical difficulties uploading photographs of these women. I was unable to locate a photograph of Cathay Williams, however, the others can viewed simply by googling them.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Even in towns, church weddings were rare in the early 1800’s. Usually the affair happened in the home of the bride or groom, or a family friend. Attendance was generally small, just a few relatives and friends. (This was true of funerals as well, and it was up to the family to prepare the body for burial. Usually more people attended funerals than weddings because a death meant the entire community had suffered a loss.) If needed small communities would assign one person to reside over weddings and funerals until a preacher traveled through and officiated the already performed ceremony by completing and filing the paperwork.
After their wedding, a newly married couple was expected to stay home for the next few days so others could call. The dress was something the bride could wear again or already had. It wasn’t until 1840 when Queen Victoria wed Prince Albert in an elaborate white, satin gown that the tradition of a white gown started to spread. However, the color and ability to keep it clean held the tradition at bay until the early 1900’s.
Here’s an old poem, published on many internet wedding sites, (I couldn’t find the date of its origin)… “Married in white, you will have chosen all right. Married in grey, you will go far away. Married in black, you will wish yourself back. Married in red, you’ll wish yourself dead. Married in blue, you will always be true. Married in pearl, you’ll live in a whirl. Married in green, ashamed to be seen, Married in yellow, ashamed of the fellow. Married in brown, you’ll live out of town. Married in pink, your spirits will sink.” (Perhaps it wasn’t Queen Victoria, but this poem that encouraged brides to wear white!)
There were a few traditions most weddings tried to uphold. The veil being one of them, it signified maidenhood, and therefore usually skipped by the bride for a second wedding. Often veils were passed down from generation to generation. The tradition of the wedding veil comes from the times of arranged marriages. The bride wore a veil so the groom couldn’t see his bride’s face until after the ceremony, assuring the man couldn’t back out once he saw his bride. Also, a law in 1775 forbid brides to wear any kind of make-up, assuring the groom wasn’t trapped by an ‘illusion’.
The cake was also important, it signified fertility and abundance, and it was generally a fruit cake—that is until baking powder and baking soda were invented, then a white cake became popular and the fruit cake became the groom’s cake, which was usually cut into pieces and sent home with the guest.
And the ring…It signified eternal love. The wedding ring dates back to 2800 B.C., this was the time of ‘ownership’ and the ring signified possession. The tradition the wedding band to be worn on the third finger of the left hand is because it was believed that finger has a vein that runs straight to the heart.
Church weddings grew in popularity throughout the 1800’s and by the turn of the century weddings, which included dances following the ceremony, became more popular, namely because when the couple was married in a church, more people could attend, therefore the event became a social gathering.
In my recent release, Shotgun Bride—The Quinter Brides Book One, Jessie Johnson and Kid Quinter are married, not by choice, in his mother’s kitchen. Here’s an excerpt…
The brothers scrambled out the door in such a flurry they left it wide open. Cool, night air filled the room. Jessie took a deep breath, hoping it would clear her confused mind and calm her jumbled nerves. Was she really married? That’s all it took- a few words from a preacher and a kiss on the cheek? She’d never dreamed of falling in love and living happily ever after, knew that wasn’t a reality in the harsh, vast land of the west, but she’d always held a slight longing of finding someone she could care for, some one who’d care for her as they fought to survive their lot in life.
“There’s no need for you to ride over to my place. It’s out of your way. I assure you, I’m not going to harm them,” Kid Quinter said.
The sheriff let out a low chuckle and walked across the room. “You must be forgetting how well I know you.” He tipped the brim of his wide hat her way then pulled the door shut as he walked out.
Blood pounded in her ears. She’d hoped Kid was the good brother, while Skeeter was the bad. But from what the sheriff implied, it appeared to be the other way around. Her gaze went to Russell. Eyes closed, his head rested on the back of the chair. He didn’t appear to be at all concerned for her welfare. Many times over the past ten years she’d felt alone, but she’d never felt as lonely as she did at this moment. Tears pricked at her eyes again. She tried to buck up, to face this new adversity with courage, but felt her shoulders droop, even valor had deserted her.
The door behind her flew open. Skeeter and Hog, or maybe it was Snake, the two looked a lot a like, walked in. “Ma, we’ll bring your chair back,” Skeeter said as they picked Kid up, chair and all, and carried him through the open door.
Stephanie Quinter walked over to the table. “You don’t have anything to worry about, sweetie, Kid will be good to you. He’s a good man, the best of the bunch.” The woman’s voice sounded soft and sincere.
Jessie didn’t know how to respond. He may be the best of the bunch, but it was a very rough bunch.
Monday, December 1, 2008
We've all received one of those terrible canned fruitcakes as a gift, but here is one you'll be proud to bring out and share with friends or give as a gift. I'm not crazy about fruitcake, especially the dark ones with more fruit than cake, but I love the the ones made from this recipe. It came from a cookbook of Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teacher. I taught Home Economics for 30 years in Texas and we sold these cookbooks back in the 60s and 70s. I've used this recipe since 1970. The first time I made it my daughter was a baby and I've been hooked ever since.
1/2 lb. candied pineapple
1/2 lb. candied cherries
1/2 lb. raisins
1/2 lb. chopped dates
4 to 5 oz. candied orange peel or sliced candied orange slices
2 lbs. shelled pecans
1/2 lb. shelled walnuts
5 C. flour
1 & 1/4 lb. oleo
2 C. white sugar
1 C. brown sugar
3/4 t. soda
1/2 C. molasses
3/4 C. apricot preserves
3/4 t. cloves
3/4 t. allspice
3/4 t. nutmeg
3/4 t. cinnamon
Cut fruit; dredge fruit and nuts in 1/2 C. flour. Cream oleo & sugars; add eggs, and beat. Mix soda and molasses; stir into sugar mixture with preserves. Add flour and spices (sifted together); add nuts and fruit. Grease two tube pans; line with waxed paper. Grease paper. Turn batter into pans; put pan of water on bottom shelf of oven. Bake 4 hours at 250 degrees.
I use my turkey roaster to mix this all together as it's the largest thing I have. Nothing else seems big enough.
I hope you'll give it a try and your family enjoys it as much as mine does.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
All of us grew up with celebrating Thanksgiving on the next-to-last Thursday of November, but the origin of this tradition wasn’t always the case.
December 18th, 1777 marked the first time that all 13 colonies joined in a Thanksgiving celebration. It commemorated the patriotic victory over the British at Saratoga.
President George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving for November 26th, 1789 to honor the formation of the United States government.
It wasn’t until 1830 that the State of New York proclaimed Thanksgiving an official holiday. Other states soon followed its example.
In 1850 Minnesota territory’s Governor, Alexander Ramsey, proclaimed for what is now the State of Minnesota, plus the Dakotas as far west as the Missouri River, (which contained approximately 6,000 settlers at the time), the celebration of Thanksgiving Day to be on December 26th.
Sarah Josepha Hale, an editor for her Boston Ladies’ Magazine, wrote many articles championing the cause to have all nations join together in setting apart a national day of giving thanks. By 1852, Hale succeeded in uniting 29 states in making the last Thursday of November Thanksgiving Day. Finally, after a 40 year campaign of writing editorials and letters to governors and presidents, Hale’s passion became a reality. On October 3rd, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November a national day of Thanksgiving.
In 1939 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared the next-to-last Thursday of the month to be Thanksgiving Day. This break with tradition was prompted by requests from the National Retail Dry Goods Association. To this day that date has remained.
While stuffing and roasting the turkey you’ll dine on this Thanksgiving, keep in mind that in 1868 in Wyoming Thanksgiving wasn’t celebrated with turkey and all the trimmings. Cheyenne printers feasted on oysters.
In 1881 troops at Wyoming’s Fort Washakie dined on ten elk, six black-tailed deer and one buffalo. Apples, almonds, pecans, cherries and codfish were also part of the meal.
A “Calico Hop” in Sheridan, Wyoming on Thanksgiving night featured supper, music, dancing and a taffy pull contest.
The November, 1871 issue of “The Laramie Sentinel” advertised canned corn, nuts and fresh, cultivated cranberries at the Eagle Bakery. But not a single advertisement, however, featured a turkey. Maybe 1871 was a bad year for turkeys all over the State of Wyoming.
If you’re interested in further information on how the pioneers celebrated Thanksgiving, pick up a copy of “The Frontier Holiday”. This book describes Thanksgiving as a spirited celebration.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I’m the new arrival to this blog group. I sold a Western romance to The Wild Rose Press in October and I’ve been trying to play catch-up since then. Not that I didn’t know what selling entails. This is actually my second book, but in the years between sales I’ve been focused on the writing, and not so much on the marketing.
So, I have to re-design my website, update the personal MySpace page, actually start blogging on my blog and now I’m invited to join an awesome group of writers. Did I mention the more than full-time job? I know, poor me, I sold a book. But, I was unprepared.
Which leads me right into the topic of this post, because tomorrow is Thanksgiving, our traditional day to pause, join with loved ones and eat a dinner with about 5000 calories. Of course, we think about the origins of this holiday as we watch parades and football games. After, all we learned everything we’d ever need to know about Thanksgiving in third grade, right? It involves Pilgrims with weird clothes who invited Indians wearing buckskins with feathers in their hair to dinner. The Pilgrims gathered to pray and thank God for getting them through the worst year of their lives. Got it.
Except, if you do a bit of research, you’ll discover that isn’t really the whole story. First of all, it wasn’t even a day for prayers of thanks. Those folks were Puritans, and if you remember your English history, they captured the government and executed the King of England, (Charles I). When the king’s son returned to claim the throne, some of the revolutionaries plotted against him. They were invited to leave. They headed to the New World. If you’re a Puritan, I don’t mean to insult you, but those folks were not noted for their sense of humor. They were pious, and we’d probably call them religious fanatics today.
So off to the New World they sailed, landing on Plymouth Rock. They were heading for the Catskill area of New York, but with stormy weather and not so great navigation, they went a bit off course. It was November and the place they landed looked pretty good after sixty-six days at sea. They found an Indian community that had been decimated by disease, (brought to them by Europeans) and settled in for the winter. Things did not go well. Ah, to the message of the post: They Were Not Prepared.
Without enough food or medicine, nearly a third of the group died. By the spring, they were in bad shape, but a local man, Squanto, who happened to speak English decided to help them. They worked hard through the season. They learned some valuable lessons. (I can relate). By the harvest, things were going better and they decided to host a traditional Harvest Festival, but not a Thanksgiving. For a Pilgrim, that would have involved a long day of prayer and fasting. This was a celebration.
They invited the neighbors, who had been kind to the Pilgrims despite their ignorance of living on land that actually belonged to them. Squanto, his friend Massasoit who was the sachem for the Wampanoag tribe he lived with, and about ninety of their relatives arrived. Once again, the Pilgrims were unprepared. They didn’t have enough food for the celebration and the Indians recognized the situation immediately. The guests went hunting, fishing and back to their wigwams. They returned with enough food for everyone and the three day party began.
They feasted, told stories and played games. Maybe this is where the idea of having football games on Thanksgiving started. I wish I could say it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but most of us know it didn’t turn out all that well for the Indians. Many people of the tribe died from disease, and those left a generation later were attacked by the same Pilgrims they shared the meal with on that first Thanksgiving Day. When it comes to Native people, our history is dark and disturbing. The descendants of the original tribes have a lot to be angry about, and have a different perspective of our national holiday.
Did you know that November is Native American Heritage Month? As part of my job, I create programs for one of the busiest library systems in the US. I decided to give the Indians some equal time, and we offered several programs to educate the community about Native American culture and heritage. By the way, before I wrote this I asked my friends about what to call them, Indians? Native Americans? Aborigines or First Nation? They said all the titles work, if you are speaking with respect. The photo at the top of this post is of two of my favorite Native American performers, Peter Ali playing the flute and Gene Tagaban who is a Raven Dancer.
So, I invite you to think about the other part of Thanksgiving this year and consider the folks who actually pretty much made it happen, but don’t get much credit. We should all thank the Creator that they were there, and as we count our blessings remember to add special thanks for the kindness of strangers.
Happy Harvest Festival,
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
During the Eighteenth Century, Spain ruled Texas, and during the Nineteenth Century, Mexico ruled. Both of these countries issued hundreds, if not thousands, of land grants. Spain granted land to build towns around missions, which were actually forts, and granted thousands of acres for ranching. Mexico followed the same pattern until Texas won its independence.
With this information, I loosely based my first novel, ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS, on a ranch which was an old Spanish land grant owned by the fictional Spanish Romero family.
Ricardo Romero knocked three times on the massive door of the Harrington residence. Maria answered, looked at him, sniffed with her chin up, and asked with one raised eyebrow. “Yes?”
“I need to see Miss Cynthia. Now, please.”
“Yes, sir, follow me,” she answered only somewhat meekly.
While he waited in the parlor, Ricardo thought through his plan once more. Was this the right thing to do? His schedule was to leave in three days. Would that be enough time? He paced back and forth in front of the large front window, hoping Mr. Harrington would not come home. All he needed to do was convince Cynthia, and he believed he could. The biggest problem was his family and other situations waiting at the ranch.
He heard her approach and spun on his heels. There she was, pale but beautiful, sad but strong.
“What are you doing here?” She cocked her head to one side. He thought she’d been crying, at least sometime during the previous hours.
“Will you sit here beside me?” He swept his long arm toward the love seat.
She sat and he sat beside her. “Cynthia, I have news. And I have a proposition. Will you hear me out?”
Turning slightly toward him, she leaned forward in curiosity. “What do you want, Ricardo?”
“I want to ask you to marry me. Three days from now, if you will.”
She gasped and pulled back. “What?”
“I ask for your hand in marriage,” he said as he studied her light blue eyes, so wide with surprise. She had not turned from him yet. “The marriage proposal you received yesterday will be retracted soon, before the afternoon is over, I’m certain. So, I ask you to marry me instead, but not a month from now—in three days.”
“Why three days?” she asked with surprise in her voice. “And how do you know Harris will retract his proposal?”
He almost laughed. She asked why so soon, not “why on earth” would he ask in the first place. Then, she asked about Newton.
“Believe me; Harris Newton does not want to marry you, now. Because you were out on the road with me all night. He will retract his proposal.”
“Well, then, why should I marry you in three days?”
This was a good sign, a good sign, indeed. “Because I’m going home, and I want you to go with me—as my bride. Will you, Cynthia? Will you marry me?”
She was speechless, but she did not reject him out of hand. After some moments of heavy silence, she asked. “Where exactly do you live?”
He breathed a sigh of relief. “West of San Antonio, on a very large ranch.”
“Why are you here in Nacogdoches? I’ve often wondered.”
“To buy blooded mares to add to our herd.”
“Our. Who else?”
“My father. He and I ranch together on property that’s been in his family for generations. He and my mother live there, but it’s a very large house, and an enormous operation. It takes all of us and many vaqueros to keep things going. My father is aging, so I am mostly in charge.”
“A ranch? I know nothing of ranching or the West. I would like to live in a city. But you live…”
“Not far from San Antonio,” he hastened to say. “But it is far enough away that we only go twice a year for a holiday.”
She lowered her head and looked at her hands. “I don’t know. That seems far out of my realm of expertise. I’m not certain I could do that.”
“Answer this, Cynthia. Would you rather live here until your father finds another husband for you, or would you rather make your own decision? I’m giving you a choice.”
At that moment, they heard heavy, hurried footsteps on the porch. Both knew it was the master of the house. Just as he opened the door, stepped in, and turned toward the parlor, Ricardo gathered Cynthia into his arms. He turned her just so, placed his lips on her soft, feminine ones, and kissed her with all the passion he could muster. For good measure, he moved one hand to one breast. Instead of fighting, she responded as though she hadn’t heard her father.
“Cynthia Louise Harrington! What the devil are you up to?”
Ricardo and Cynthia pulled back, but they did not jerk apart. Instead, they gazed into each other’s eyes and parted slowly. Without caring if the man was in the room or not, Ricardo placed his palm on her cheek, and kissed her on the other, ever so sweetly and gently. Before he let her go, he whispered, “Will you marry me?”
She nodded and whispered in return, “Yes, I will marry you.”
TO: Rafaelo Romero. Double R Ranch. Rico Springs, Texas
FROM: Ricardo Romero
Arriving home STOP Twenty mares STOP One stallion STOP One bride STOP
Trailer: All My Hopes and Dreams.
The title of this novel is ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS. The e-Book release is November 21, and the print will be available February 22, 2009.
Thank you for reading,
The Adventures of the Abernathy Brothers
In the summer of 1909, two young brothers under the age of ten set out to make their own “cowboy dreams” come true. They rode across two states on horseback. Alone.
It’s a story that sounds too unbelievable to be true, but it is.
Oklahoma had been a state not quite two years when these young long riders undertook the adventure of a lifetime. The brothers, Bud (Louis), and Temple Abernathy rode from their Tillman County ranch in the southwest corner of the state to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Bud was nine years old, and Temple was five.
They were the sons of a U.S. Marshal, Jack Abernathy, who had the particular talent of catching wolves and coyotes alive, earning him the nickname “Catch ’Em Alive Jack.”
Odd as it seems to us today, Jack Abernathy had unwavering faith in his two young sons’ survival skills. Their mother had died the year before, and, as young boys will, they had developed a wanderlust listening to their father’s stories.
Jack agreed to let them undertake the journey, Bud riding Sam Bass (Jack’s own Arabian that he used chase wolves down with) and Temple riding Geronimo, a half-Shetland pony. There were four rules the boys had to agree to: Never to ride more than fifty miles a day unless seeking food or shelter; never to cross a creek unless they could see the bottom of it or have a guide with them; never to carry more than five dollars at a time; and no riding on Sunday.
The jaunt into New Mexico to visit their father’s friend, governor George Curry, took them six weeks. Along the way, they were escorted by a band of outlaws for many miles to ensure their safe passage. The boys didn’t realize they were outlaws until later, when the men wrote to Abernathy telling him they didn’t respect him because he was a marshal. But, in the letter, they wrote they “liked what those boys were made of.”
One year later, they set out on the trip that made them famous. At ten and six, the boys rode from their Cross Roads Ranch in Frederick, Oklahoma, to New York City to meet their friend, former president Theodore Roosevelt, on his return from an African safari. They set out on April 5, 1910, riding for two months.
Along the way, they were greeted in every major city, being feted at dinners and amusement parks, given automobile rides, and even an aeroplane ride by Wilbur Wright in Dayton, Ohio.
Their trip to New York City went as planned, but they had to buy a new horse to replace Geronimo. While they were there, he had gotten loose in a field of clover and nearly foundered, and had to be shipped home by train.
They traveled on to Washington, D.C., and met with President Taft and other politicians.
It was on this trip that the brothers decided they needed an automobile of their own. They had fallen in love with the new mode of transportation, and they convinced their father to buy a Brush runabout. After practicing for a few hours in New York, they headed for Oklahoma—Bud drove, and Temple was the mechanic.
They arrived safe and sound back in Oklahoma in only 23 days.
But their adventures weren’t over. The next year, they were challenged to ride from New York City to San Francisco. If they could make it in 60 days, they would win $10,000. Due to some bad weather along the 3,619-mile-long trip, they missed the deadline by only two days. Still, they broke a record—and that record of 62 days still stands, nearly one hundred years later.
The boys’ last cross country trip was made in 1913 driving a custom designed, two-seat motorcycle from their Cross Roads Ranch to New York City. They returned to Oklahoma by train.
As adults, Temple became an oilman, and Bud became a lawyer. There is a statue that commemorates the youngest long riders ever in their hometown of Frederick, Oklahoma, on the lawn of the Tillman County Courthouse.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Gunfighters, gunslingers, shooters, gunmen, highway men, outlaws, they had many names, but the thing they had in common was snubbing the law, either by robbing or killing.
Most books allege the shootouts in the streets were invented by Hollywood. That doesn’t mean the men with several notches on their pistol handles didn’t kill. They did, just not in the flourishing style as movies depict. There were shootouts, but they didn’t stand in the middle of the street and usually more innocent victims were claimed than the outlaws. And they have the gunslinger dressed as a cowboy. He would be dressed just like any other person of the area he inhabited. He didn’t come from any one social station. Only when they openly carried a pistol would they catch anyone’s attention. Most gunmen were quiet and blended in. Surprise was their best weapon. To catch their intended victim by surprise and therefore have the upper hand.
A real shooter didn’t get drawn into a shootout. The odds weren’t on his side if the person was ready and willing to shoot. He preferred to shoot when his opposition least expected it. The fast draw is also something that came about in movies.
Some gunmen started as lawmen and others moved from gunmen to lawmen. How they went one way or the other would make for good character traits in a hero or villain. Their best friend was their gun in parts of the country where there was no law and order. Though most movies and novels depict shootouts in the street with several people on each side, most shootouts were typical of the old-time duels-one against one. And where the sword duels were won on skill the gun duels were won by the person who could get the drop on the opponent. If it meant shooting him when he flinched and wasn’t really going for his gun- so be it.
Most stories about famous outlaws are just that- stories. The amount of people they killed have been embellished and for some reason the general public doesn’t care. They like the myth, the legend of the outlaw.
And you'll notice I tend to have outlaws as the villains in my books because they have been so glorified they make great characters. I can see why Hollywood took an otherwise boring and face it unlikable person and made them characters people want to see and boo.
My latest release, Outlaw in Petticoats, has a couple of bad guys that make your skin crawl but if the hero and heroine didn't have the bad guys pulling them apart how will they realize how much they love one another?
Here's an excerpt from OIP and Thank you for stopping by!
A nicker and the click of a hammer being pulled back
on a pistol, snapped Zeke awake. He rolled toward Maeve.
The flat, rough blanket smacked his body. He shot to his
feet, taking in the scene of an angry, frightened Maeve
being passed between several men.
“Let go of her!” he shouted, disregarding the gun
pointed at him and diving into the melee. He grasped
Maeve, pushing her behind him as he backed away from
the group. “Keep your hands off my wife,” he said in a low,
commanding voice and stared at each man, defying them
to take a step toward him. There was only one who
compared to him in size. The rest were average men. But
they all had guns pointed at him except for the man with
long, blonde hair and a sneer.
“We didn’t know she was your property,” said the
unarmed man, pushing his way through the five men
smirking like they were ready to take him.
Maeve took offense to being called property. It was
bad enough Zeke kept calling her his wife. The men had
pulled her from the blanket and a deep sleep, but she now
had all her faculties working. She slipped her pistol from
the holster and aimed it at the man who’d called her
“I’m no man’s property.” She stepped from behind
Zeke and heard his exasperated sigh as she pointed the
gun at the man in the front of the pack.
“That so.” The man grinned and stepped closer.
Zeke put out his arm to keep her from moving ahead
of him. She shot him a sideways glance. The twitch in his
jaw proved he was just a tad bit upset with her. She
smiled. He had to learn she didn’t belong to anyone. Not
even him. Her mother taught her a long time ago, she
couldn’t rely on anyone.
“We’re just on our way to Boyd and don’t plan on
causing you boys any trouble,” Zeke said, again pushing
her behind him.
She shook her head, planted her feet, and kept the
pistol aimed at the man, now standing half way between
them and the others.
“I don’t plan no trouble.” The man spread his hands
and smiled a disarming smile. “Fellas, put your guns
away.” The men with the guns aimed at Zeke scowled, but
they dropped the muzzles of their rifles to the ground.
She studied the man edging closer. He was a good ten
years older than Zeke and not nearly as handsome, but
still not hard to look at.
“If you aren’t looking for trouble, why did your
friends handle my wife?” Zeke’s accusing tone did little to
wipe the smile from the man’s face.
“They were just having a little fun.”
“Did that feel like fun to you?” Zeke turned and asked
She narrowed her eyes and glared at the intruder.
“No, I wouldn’t call that fun.” She scanned the group
gathered behind the man. They were all grinning like
they were about to get a gift. She wasn’t it.
“I’m tired of every man who gets within arm’s reach,
grabbing me. The next one is getting a bullet in them.” To
make them see her point, she squeezed the trigger,
shooting at the ground between the closest man’s feet.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Garda, who posted a comment on November 12th for Loretta’s blog, is who won the e-book of Shotgun Bride, The Quinter Brides Book One. Garda please email me at Lauri @ izoom . net so I can email you your book.
Thanks to all who entered the contest! Every time someone posted, I wrote your name on a slip of paper and put them in a jar. This morning, I had my DH draw one out.
Shotgun Bride is being released in e-book today, and will be released in print in February 2009. This was such a fun book to write, and I’m having a great time finding perfect mates for each of Kid’s younger four brothers. I grew up in Western Kansas where these books are set, and it’s been entertaining to dig deeper into all of the landmarks I’ve visited over the years. “Boot Hill” is one of my favorites, but the Dalton Gang Hideout, and the pyramids along with the Kansas Badlands, and Hell’s Half Acre are sights to see as well.
I’ll leave you with another excerpt from the book:
Shoulders back, chest forward, and clutching the hateful bag, Jessie walked down the front steps as Hog and Snake loaded her trunk in the back of the wagon. Sammy, sensing something was wrong, ran around her ankles, almost tripping her. Each step was more painful than the last, but she gritted her teeth and kept moving.
A shiver ran up her spine as she heard Kid's voice. "Bug!" he shouted from his stance near the wagon. "Grab Sammy and tie him to the porch."
Bug looked nervous as he crouched down and tried to coax Sammy to come to his side. The dog wouldn't have anything to do with the brother.
Fighting the breaking of her heart, Jessie patted her thigh then walked over to Bug. She knelt down, and wrapping her arms around Sammy, hugged him close as Bug tied the rope around his neck. Burying her face in the dark, silky hair, she kissed the tops of his wide ears before she stood, and forced her legs to move to the wagon.
Kid stepped forward, meeting her near a back wheel. As he took the bag from her, she placed a hand on the edge of the wagon, balancing her wobbly stance. Sammy, no longer able to reach her, started barking and tugging at the rope. The noise made a new slice in her chest.
Kid took her elbow and led her near the wagon seat where he wrapped her in a hug. After a few moments, his hands framed her face. "Don't be mad at me, Jessie," he said.
The sob in the back of her throat came forward. Pressing her hands over her eyes, she shook her head. She could never be mad at him, she loved him too much.
His lips settled on her forehead, lingering there until she was ready to cry aloud. Then he lifted her into the wagon, his fingers slipping away as his normally rough voice, softly whispered, "Good-bye, Jessie."
Sammy's barks increased. She pressed her fingers against her eyelids, forcing the tears to stay put. Hog took a hold of the reins and the bench seat sagged as Snake crawled up on her other side. The wagon jolted forward and the wheels began to turn. Unimaginable pain formed tight knots in her body.
"Bye, Jessie!" Bug's voice rang out above the barking.
She gasped for air and turned around, blinking and trying to focus. Bug waved a hand high in the air. Kid stood beside him, hands behind his back. Sammy, stretching the rope as far as he could, yipped and howled at the departing wagon. He pawed at the air, then backed up and leaped forward. The rope went tight, slamming him back onto the ground with a loud yelp. Tears and sobs burst from their holds at the same time.
Snake reached out, one arm meant to wrap around her in comfort. She pushed it away. Nothing could ease the pain ripping across her chest.
Kid witnessed her refusal to be calmed as the wagon roll away, pain searing his heart like a hot branding iron. The rattle of the wheels could barely be heard over Sammy's barking and howling. The dog jumped, twisted, and bit at the rope, doing his damnedest to follow his mistress. Kid knew just how he felt. Sending Jessie away was by far the hardest thing he'd ever done. It just might break him. Sweat popped out on his forehead.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
If you’re like most folks, you likely think the Old West stopped at America’s Pacific Coastline. Which it does if you travel three thousand miles farther. Yes indeed, Hawaii has a cowboy history all its own. It even involves vaqueros!
Those first cowboys, Mexican vaqueros, taught Texan buckaroos how to lasso, make lariats and herd cattle. But much earlier in the 1800’s, those guys traveled across the Pacific and roped longhorns in Hawaii.
What? Longhorns in Hawaii?
Captain George Vancouver brought Hawaii’s first longhorn cattle as a gift to King Kamehameha I in 1793. Vancouver believed he’d delivered a new resource to the islands, but His Majesty imposed a ten-year kapu (restriction), making them a protected species. The animals were allowed to roam wild and breed freely.
Consequently, the herds became a nuisance, harming native vegetation and forests. Upon descending the uplands, the cows knocked down fences, trampled village gardens, and destroyed taro fields.
So vaqueros from Mexico and Portugal were imported to control the cows and teach native ranchers how to oversee the herds. The islanders called these guys paniolo. Ranchers constructed stone walls and cactus barriers to stop the foraging beasts. Tourists today sometimes view old rock walls in Hawaii and assume they’re ancient heiau (temples) or home sites. But more often than not, these rock piles are just leftover cattle walls!
Like cowboys everywhere, a paniolo relied on his horse to round up the wild pipi (cattle) from the places they shouldn’t be in a particular method called Po'o Waiu, which is now a rodeo event.
In 1908, a paniolo and rodeo champ named Ikua Purdy set the rodeo world on fire with his roping and riding skills at the Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming. A year ago, Purdy was inducted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame. This year, the Paniolo Preservation Society sent a large Hawaiian delegation to Cheyenne’s Frontier Days, and an exhibit featuring the Hawaiian cowboy will be on display at the Old West Museum there throughout May 2010.
In turn, Wyoming sent a reciprocal delegation to The Waiomina Centennial Celebration in August. Waiomina means Wyoming in the Hawaiian language. It’s a year’s worth of rodeos, trail rides, concerts and festivities honoring Hawaii’s cowboy and ranching culture.
2008 is designated The Year of the Hawaiian Cowboy by Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle and Harry Kim, mayor of Hawaii (the Big Island) County.
Today about 75 percent of the state’s cattle roam the Big Island of Hawaii. Fifth and sixth generation Hawaiian cowboys continue to raise, herd, brand, and market cattle. Parker Ranch is among the largest ranches in the United States, spanning some 150,000 acres across the Big Island. Established nearly 160 years ago, it is also one of the country’s oldest ranches.
The ranch’s story begins in 1809 when nineteen-year-old John Parker jumped the ship that brought him to Hawaii. He quickly came to the attention of King Kamehameha I for his new, state-of-the-art American musket. The gun got John the “privilege” of being the first man allowed to shoot some of the thousands of maverick cattle wandering the island’s remote plains and valleys. Due mostly to John’s efforts, salted beef replaced sandalwood as the island’s chief export.
A recent trip to the Islands took me to Koloatown on the sleepy island of Kauai. Established in 1835, it's often still called Homestead and looks like someplace you'd find in Wyoming, full of charm and history.
I hope you enjoyed this little bit of aloha yee-haw! And I'm thrilled to announce the release date of my Nebraska-set Western romance, Marrying Minda. Look for it June 5! But before I sign off, which is your favorite of these United States for a Western romance to be set?
Monday, November 10, 2008
Big Nose Kate
Whether she was addressed as Madam or Ma’am, Señorita or Squaw, a woman needed guts to live out West. The “weaker sex” encountered savage, brutal and obnoxious obstacles (and these were just the men!) not to mention Mother Nature and a plague or two, or three. In spite of these barriers, or maybe because of them, the American frontier attracted legions of non-conforming women—mavericks, loners, eccentrics, and adventurers.
Some of these women we’ve learned about through history, others remain nameless to us. Those listed are just a few of many women rebels.
Belle Starr became one of the first famous women criminals. Once married to Cole Younger, she was friends with Jesse James. She was a felon, to the end, and horse thieving was her game. At the age of forty, she was shot and killed in 1889 while making her way back to an outlaw stronghold in the Choctaw Nation. Records state that no one was ever accused or convicted of the killing her and that her death went unresolved.
Cattle Kate was born Ella Watson. She was a prostitute who was hung by vigilantes after being accused of stealing cattle in Wyoming; an act which spurred the Johnson County War. She probably wasn’t a thief, but most likely took some cattle for payment for her services. Even though married in 1886, she continued her trade. She claimed a homestead right next to her husband’s (James Averell). Both homesteads were located right in the middle of land belonging to a big cattleman named Albert J. Bothwell. There were many disputes between Cattle Kate, her husband and Bothwell that led to Bothwell pulling Cattle Kate and her husband out of their homes and lynching them.
Mary Catherine Haroney later became known as Big Nose Kate. Hungarian by birth, her father was a prominent doctor. At the age of 14 she was orphaned and placed in a series of foster homes. By 1875, she’d changed her name to Kate Elder. She worked in Dodge City as a dance hall girl and prostitute. She was tough, stubborn, and with a temper to match. Although she spent several years with Doc Holliday, she said she worked the “business,” because she liked it, belonging to no man and no house.
In 1744, Catherine Gouger Goodman was captured as a child by Shawnee Indians and remained in their captivity for five years until some French-Canadians bargained for her release. She lived in Canada for two years and worked to pay off the ransom the French-Canadian trappers paid to the Indians. Later she was recognized as the first white woman settler in Ross County, Ohio.
Elizabeth Simpson Bradshaw, a widow with five children, the youngest only six years old, walked across the American Prairie pushing all her family possessions in a handmade, wooden handcart. Enduring many tribulations, Elizabeth, with all of her children still alive, arrived at her destination, Salt Lake Valley. There in the West, she made her home, reared her children and was eventually honored by her posterity.
These women reached out and took their freedom to the extreme, going places and doing things that even their mothers would probably thought disgraceful. Yet, in their lifetimes these women became legend reinforced through press dime-novels and the Hollywood motion picture industry.
Loretta C. Rogers
Thursday, November 6, 2008
“Didn’t plan on leaving the house?” I asked.
“Nope,” she answered.
We each purchased our items and left, agreeing to call each other next weekend if we found ourselves short on something. I drove home, finished the soup, and returned to writing. I’m typing away, and realize while I’m sitting in my comfy weekend clothes, my heroine just gained a good twenty-five pounds. Not from scrumptious meals cooked over a wood stove, but from the mere fact of dressing.
It started with the tight corset which, by the way, was claimed to ‘provide even the stoutest of women a healthy option to control the shape of her body’. (Yeah, right!). Along with the corset, add at least two petticoats, drawers, a chemise, crinoline, and bustle with cover, a corset cover, the ever fashionable hoop skirt, which was made with thick, heavy wire so it wouldn’t lose it’s shape, and then over all of this came the dress, (these were often made of heavy cottons, brocades, and wools). A women’s ensemble of 1800’s easily weighed over twenty-five pounds—without shoes, overcoat/cape, hat, gloves, etc. etc.
In the 1860’s the popular, huge hoop skirts limited movement and sitting to the point at some social events, woman stood for the entire evening. No wonder the ‘vapors’ set in!
With the popularity of the home sewing machine, patented in the U.S. in 1848, and then the invention of paper patterns in the 1860’s, came infinite changes in apparel, both for men and women. The ability to mass produce clothing provided accessibility to a much larger array. Synthetic dyes were also becoming more popular, which provided bold, vibrant colors. The Civil War and the western land runs also changed fashion. During this time the simpler clothing worn by the ‘working’ class became more popular, especially in the south and west. Laboring in the plantation fields and/or walking for up to forty miles a day beside a covered wagon, women quickly discarded layers and the more constricting garments. Until then most of the fashions came from overseas, and filtered through the U.S. by way of New York, but the gold rush in California quickly increased the population of the western U.S. shore and the women there, being outnumbered by men two to one, had the power to instill new fashion trends.
We often think of split skirts for horseback riding, but it wasn’t until the bicycle increased in popularity that split skirts and bloomers became popular. The trend started in San Francisco where women started to ‘shorten’ their skirts to ride bike. This is also where the ‘General Association for the Simplification of Women's Clothing’ was founded in 1896. I’m assuming it’s this association we have to thank for the much simpler bras and underwear of today.
I love researching and writing historicals and often have said I’d like to time travel into one of the settings of my stories, but wearing a corset everyday would be about as convenient as the outhouse, so I’m glad I live in the twenty-first century.
The next time you plan on staying home all day, relaxing in your p.j.’s and writing or reading about heroines wearing the ‘latest styles’, here’s a wonderful soup recipe to try…just make sure you have all the ingredients on hand!
Chicken Wild Rice Soup
6 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon chopped onions
½ cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup flour
2 cups cooked wild rice
2-3 tablespoons chicken flavored stock granules in 2-3 cups water
½ teaspoon salt
2-3 cups heavy whipping cream
2-3 cups cooked and cubed chicken breasts seasoned with Cavender’s Greek seasoning
Pepper, salt, and Thyme to taste
Cook wild rice per instructions on package, drain. Cook (either fry or microwave chicken sprinkled with Greek seasoning), cube. Heat the 2-3 cups water and add granules as directed on the package. In large soup pot, melt butter and, sauté onion, celery and carrots until tender. Blend flour with butter and veggies until thick and lumpy. Pour in hot chicken broth, stirring constantly until creamy. Boil for one minute, while stirring turn down heat and add chicken, pepper, salt and Thyme. Simmer for 5-10 min, and then stir in rice and cream. Let simmer for 5-10 min or transfer to a crock pot.
Disclaimer: I’m a ‘pinch’ and ‘dump’ type of cook, so I’ve estimated the measurements.
I’ll leave you with a reminder that I am giving away an E-Book of Shotgun Bride-The Quinter Brides Book One on its release date, November 14th, to someone who leaves a comment on this blog before November 13th. Here’s an excerpt from the book—where Jessie discovers she was taken captive at gun point to marry one of the Quinter boys, namely, Kid:
Jessie glanced to the loft, wondering how a child could sleep through the ruckus of the house. A tinge of sorrow softened her fear, imagining how the kid they spoke of was probably hiding beneath the covers, frightened to death.
“He’ll like it just fine once he finds out we got her for him.” Stephanie scooped ground coffee into the pot then set it on the stove.
“For Kid? What does Kid want with her? Does he know about Miss Molly?” The skinny frame rising from the chair was that of a teenager, not quite a kid, not quite a man. Lamp light bounced off dark eyes wide with shock, or was it fear?
“Get off your arse and go get Kid!” Stephanie twisted, grabbed a broom, and whacked the boy with the straw end. He covered the back of his head with both hands as another wallop hit, and scrambled toward the door.
“Ma, we can’t go get Kid. It’s really raining out there,” Skeeter said as the boy skidded to a halt behind him.
“Yeah, and it’s only gonna get worse. Now go get Kid ‘afore the lightning and wind hits.”
“But Ma, Kid ain’t gonna come with us. You know that.” Skeeter reached behind his back and pulled the boy to stand in front of him. Quicker than a fly, the younger boy shot back behind Skeeter, the two of them continued to try and use the other for a shield as their mother stomped across the room.
“Well, if’n you know what’s good for ya, you’ll figure out a way to get him here. And be quick about it!” She went after both of her sons with the broom.
“I still don’t think it’s fair. You said I could have her.” Skeeter scrambled out the door as the whisk of the broom hit the younger one again.
Stephanie Quinter shouted into the rain, “And what would you do with a woman this fine? You ain’t got no idea how she needs to be treated.” She turned to Jessie, a smile softening her haggard face. “But Kid does. You’ll make him a good wife.”
“Wife?” Jessie choked on the word as the door slammed shut.
Monday, November 3, 2008
The image above is of my great-great grandmother, Lavinia Ann, born December 15, 1853. Lavinia's mother, Tennessee Caledonia, was full blood Cherokee. I love the name and plan to use it in a story one day soon. The dress Lavinia is wearing looks to be black serge which was popular and serviceable at the time. I imagine it was very hot. It would have been worn to church, funerals, and on special occasions.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I look out my glass doors to the garden and see the many pumpkins ready to be harvested. My husband got a tad carried away with his planting, and now my yard resembles Linus’s Pumpkin Patch. They will be shared by family members to either create Jack o’ Lanterns for Halloween or used for Thanksgiving pies. Pumpkins weren’t my husband’s only crop planted this year. Throughout the summer we’ve also enjoyed corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans and squash. When the surplus ran out, we were back at the grocers, filling our baskets . . . but that convenience wasn’t something the pioneer farmers of the 1850’s shared.
In my research I discovered Arizona, Texas and California weren’t areas rich in crop farms. These states dealt primarily with cattle. Since herding is something that can only be done amongst the wide open plains, fencing off land to plant was made difficult for farmers to do. So, I set my sites on Iowa.
The majority of people who settled in Iowa in the 1840’s and 1850’s came from the Eastern United States. They were accustomed to multi-room dwellings and only built log homes as temporary structures, living in them while the farm site was in transition between subsistence agriculture (producing enough food for just the family to survive) and becoming a profit-making business.
It took about four years to establish a farm that averaged 160 acres in size, with farmers cultivating anywhere from 25 to 40 acres. Corn, wheat and potatoes were the three major crops. Corn fed the pigs, and the pigs sold for profit. Wheat and hogs were cash crops for the farmers, and potatoes were a staple at every meal that lasted throughout the winter.
Even though wood-burning stoves were available, newly formed farms didn’t earn enough money to purchase 1850 technology and relied on older farming methods. Women prepared food over an open fire. When busy harvest times or severe weather prevented pioneers from getting to the grist mill for cornmeal, the corn was ground in a common household coffee grinder. This was hard work and not ideal, but it served the purpose to make cornmeal, a staple ingredient for making cornbread and many other foods the pioneers ate.
Pioneers families relied on poultry for three major purposes: meat, eggs and money. For those farmers who raised pigs, smokehouses had to be built to preserve the pork. In 1850, barns were used to store tools and some crops, rather than to house animals. The big barns that are associated with modern farms were not built in Iowa until the 1870’s.
In my attempt to learn how Halloween was celebrated in the old west, I wasn’t all that successful. It seems the Puritans classified the event as Satanic. New Mexico and Arizona did celebrate a “day of the dead” festival. Then trick-or-treaters . . . or marauders as they were called, would dismantle the boarded sidewalks and nail them one atop the other. Irate villagers discovered the vandalism in the morning, making their business impossible to accomplish until the boardwalk was set straight again. In view of this, I guess modern day pranksters using eggs and shaving cream aren’t so bad after all.
Posted for:Roberta DeCaprio
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Don’t hide your eyes! It’s not a blog about four letter words. While trying to come up with some different curse words for my heroes to use in sticky situations, I turned to my faithful “Cowboy Lingo” by Ramon F. Adams. Much to my surprise, cowboys rarely used curse words. Anyway that was what the book said, being a non-believer (mainly because I don’t believe a rough, tough, macho cowboy wouldn’t curse with the best of them) I started web browsing and lo and behold- everywhere I looked it said the same thing.
Cowboys didn’t use the usual curse words, except for on occasions where one word would do; they cussed. You’re saying what’s the difference? To curse is to use profane language. To cuss is a term of abuse or a derogatory term.
Cowboys took huge delight in coming up with the best cussin’ they could think of. They spent hours in the saddle chasing obnoxious, flea-ridden, scour-covered, ornery critters. The more colorful and picturesque they could make the cuss the happier they were with getting the problem off their chests.
They were right proud of themselves when “airing their lungs” not only got the cattle movin’ but stopped the person they were cussin’ in their tracks to think about what they’d said. It was felt by many a cow puncher that the only way to get the cattle movin’ was to cuss up a storm. They didn’t limit their string of blasphemy to simple words either. They’d throw in a Spanish word and some sophisticated word they heard at one time or another. Anything to give the rant a good sting to the person or animal they were cussin’.
He used language most people understood and painted a picture that could be seen, heard, and smelled. His cussin’ and story tellin’ was the beginning of today’s cowboy poets.
Below is a poem by Terry Henderson, cowboy poet. It shows the lyrical quality the cowboys strived for and the vastness of their imaginations. You can find more of Terry’s poems at: http://www.cowboypoetry.com/terryhenderson.htm
Cursin' the Yearlin's
We began the trail quite early. We were out before the dawn.
The group saddled up the horses, headed out with several yawns.
We spread around the pasture to encircle that young herd.
It was time to move the yearlin's. Of a run, we were assured.
The yearlin’s are like human teens, more energy than sense.
The smallest noise, the slightest move will make them scared and tense.
We made it through the first run and kept them in control.
We settled into trailin’. I rode forward on patrol.
I was lookin’ for stray cattle that might be in the way.
We didn’t want no mixin’ or we’d not get done today.
A couple miles later, the herd headed up a hill.
Quakies grew on either side. The lead began to mill.
Comin’ up before us was a canyon, long and steep.
Just before we got there, in a fog began to creep.
I was ridin’ up on point when I saw the lead steer go.
He headed into aspens and the canyon down below.
My horse responded quickly to head them back uphill.
But the thickened fog around me made my vision nearly nil.
I began to yell my loudest, to scare them to the trail.
They must be turned around or we will lose them in this vale.
“You chigger-headed flea spit! You ig’norant snake-eyed hog.
Turn your rattle headed rock brains ‘round here in this stiflin’ fog.
Git back you scrawny horn fly hosts. Ya’d better find that trail,
‘cause runnin’ down this canyon will come to no avail.
You wand’rin’ sons of Satan. You nightmare’s blackest dream,”
were only some of things I said, to yearlin’s that I screamed.
“You’ll not live to make the mountain top, you crusty leather hides.”
My threatening spread eerily, echoed in from several sides.
The steers slowed their run, more frightened from the noises all unseen,
and the ghostly shapes a movin’ in that pea-soup foggy sheen.
We finally got them headed back and strung along the trail.
An hour later, sun appeared, though misty and still pale.
When we finally reached the cow camp, an old neighbor said to me:
“I don’t believe I ever heard you cuss so angrily.
I don’t believe I’ve ever heard another cowboy say
quite like you did, the things I heard, while trailin’ cows today.
It must’a worked, those things you said, cause we got here with the herd.
Though I admit I felt right creepy when my eyes, by fog, were blurred.
I hope I never have to hear you curse another cow.
I felt real bad a learnin’ I just thought that I knew how.