Thursday, October 23, 2008

1850 Pioneer Farm

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

Cowboy Cussin'

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:

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.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008



Imagine, thousands of years ago, nomadic bands of early Native Americans as they wandered hundred of miles across the wide expanse of present day West and Central Texas. During the summer, the dry desert landscape and searing heat parched not only the land, but also the human inhabitants. As they trudged along, weary but uncomplaining, they saw in the distance patches of green, and clumps of small, wide-spreading green trees, and tall, thick grasses. Birds flew up and away from the oasis, and small animals, deer, antelope, and jackrabbits stood and ate, or ran away to hide from the others.
The ancient people had ventured upon a deep pool of clean, cold water, bubbling up between the fissures and cracks in the rocky ledges and escarpments. In their primitive minds, they understood the significance and importance of this life-giving, life-saving wonder—water. The band had been among the first to discover the artesian springs in the Big Bend area of Texas. In the mid-1800’s, white settlers named them Mescalero Springs after the Mescalero Apache who lived in the area.
In 1906, state park officials renamed them San Soloman Springs, and the area became Balmorhea State Park, located on Interstate 10. Today, visitors camp and swim in the huge walled swimming pool fed by the springs. With a 62,000-square-foot surface, the pool is one of the largest man-made pools in the U.S. Today, the springs provide irrigation for surrounding farmers—Americans and Mexicans.
In 1709, Spanish explorers settled on the banks of a crystal clear pool of water in Central Texas. Unknown to them, two hundred springs burst forth from three large fissures and many small openings, formed millions of years ago by an earthquake. The priest built a small stone mission on the hill behind the spring lake. They named the settlement and mission San Marcos de Neve.
The water from the springs have been dammed, creating two spillways from the massive amount of ancient water, forming the headwaters of the San Marcos River in the center of town. Local university archeologists and visiting teams have excavated many artifacts from the bottom of Spring Lake. Among the bubbling sand, which resembles Cream of Wheat boiling in a pan, the scientists discovered and preserved ancient arrowheads, Spanish coins, shards of pottery, and various other invaluable pieces of history.
Other artesian springs dot the Texas West. Comanche Springs provide water in the Davis Mountains. Barton Springs, in Austin, form a huge pool, immensely popular with residents and visitors. Rock Springs, west of San Antonio, served ranchers and Native Americans. Comal Springs in New Braunfels, boasts the largest concentration of naturally occurring fresh water springs in Texas.
In my Western Historical Romance novels, I often use springs as focal points. In TEXAS PROMISE, the hero, Dalton King, lives in isolation for four months on the banks of fresh-water springs in the far reaches of Texas. I envisioned the San Soloman Springs for the story, those earlier named Mescalero Springs. The idea was a natural one, because the Mescalero Apache rescues Dalton and tells him about the healing waters.
In ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS, I named fictional springs Rico Springs, again using artesian water in the western part of the state.
PAINTED ROCK CANYON is merely a novel-in-progress, but again, I used a fresh-water spring area for my hero and heroine’s first kiss.

A routine was set after Dalton built his shelter. Each day at dawn, he shed every piece of clothing and walked naked into the water. He faced east, as Ortiz had taught him. It was a sacred direction where the life-giving sun rose and promised newness to the world and mankind. Then he stretched out on flat rocks and sunbathed for an hour or longer, first his front, then his back. The minerals and the heat healed his broken body and spirit. He rinsed his few clothes and dried them on the rocks. Occasionally, he shaved his face without a mirror because he didn’t have one. He didn’t want to see his scarred face anyway.

“This is Rico Springs,” Ricardo said into the silence, and he swept one arm toward the sound of the water.
“I thought the town had that name.”
“It does, but it’s named for these springs. Actually, there are numerous ones around. It just so happens that these are the biggest and the best. And they’re on our land.”
Cynthia noted the pride in his voice. She turned from him and walked a few steps to peer down at the springs. Water bubbled up from the earth and formed a clear pool, which looked deep and wide. Flat rocks and boulders protruded around the edges, forming a series of places where one might sit and gaze at the water.
“Is it deep?” Cynthia asked as she looked down.
“Not really. Maybe twenty feet or so. Around the edges, the water is shallow, and it’s forever changing just as the deep part is.”
“It looks a little frightening,” she commented and turned to look at him.
“Not if you can swim.”
She crossed her arms around her waist. “Well, I don’t swim,” she said, and looked at him as if she thought he could magically change the situation.

Hellfire, what had he gotten himself into? The first thing he had to do was keep his wits about him, and to do that, it might be a good idea to stop gazing at her luscious body, and pay attention to the surrounding area.
Most of it looked like the desert, with all the scrub brush, broomtail grass, and cactus of every sort. The area was in far West Texas, just over the Pecos River, land good for running cattle, since it had some grass and was near the river.
He saw the watering hole ahead, marked by lush, green grass and a few desert willows. Probably it was a prime spot for riders and wranglers as they made their way across the otherwise barren ground. A cool drink of water would be right nice, but food would be even better. In fact, he thought he might starve to death before they reached her ranch.
Jude reined in behind her and dismounted.
She slid off the saddle in one easy move, and threw her hat off so that it hung by the cord down her back. Dropping to her knees at the edge of the springs, she splashed water on her face, and ran her wet hand around the back of her neck. He did the same, and wet his red bandanna so he could wipe his face, neck, and hands. It was the first clean water he’d seen in four days.

Thank you for reading. Celia Yeary


It was said, "There is no Sunday west of St. Louis--no God west of Ft. Smith."

Indian Territory. A perfect haven for outlaws of every kind. They could run west of Ft. Smith where lawlessness reigned, where there were no consequences for any crime--until Judge Isaac Parker and his U.S. Deputy Marshals took charge.

By 1870, the Indian Territory had become a hellhole not fit for honest citizens. The last civilized gateway into the territory was in Arkansas--Ft. Smith.

The Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole) who had been relocated to Indian Territory, had their own judicial system for the Indians of the Nations. But their courts had no jurisdiction over intruders who found their way into the Territory.

In 1875, President Grant appointed Judge Isaac Parker to what later became the Western Judicial District of Arkansas, including not only several counties in Arkansas and a strip along the Kansas border, but all of Indian Territory as well. The total area of the court's jurisdiciton was nearly 74,000 square miles, with Indian Territory accounting for over 70,000 square miles of that area.

The lawmen, or the "Men Who Rode for Parker," numbered less than 200 at the outset. Only one carried the title, "U.S. Marshal." The rest were deputies. The marshal's salary was $90 per month. the deputies received no salary at all. They could arrest for any crime committed in the 74,000 mile area--with or without a warrant. They earned usually no more than $500 per year. Up until 1898, a fee system was in place that allowed a deputy to collect $2 for each arrest he made. In addition, he could receive 6 cents per mile for going to the location of the arrest, and 10 cents per mile for himself and his prisoner to return to court.

No arrest meant no payment, and if he should happen to kill a suspect in attempting the arrest, the deputy was expected to pay for the suspect's burial.

After all the deputy's expenses were tallied, the U.S. Marshal deducted 25 percent from the total before he paid the deputy the remainder.

During the 21 years of Judge Parker's tenure, over 65 deputy marshals were killed in the line of duty. Some references list the number as high as 100.

Being a U.S. Deputy Marshal was even tougher in real life than Hollywood could ever portray. The lonely existence these men led, riding out in search of desperate criminals over vast areas of land for a $2 arrest fee, is unimaginable today. The turnover rate was high due to the danger, the low pay, and the enormous amount of territory they had to cover. Weeks of separation from their families was also a deterrent.

But the facts show what those deputy marshals did to bring Indian Territory back under the law again. Judge Parker tried over 17,000 cases during his time at the Western Judicial District of Arkansas--and there were never more than 200 men on the payroll to accomplish these arrests. Order could not have been restored without these men, willing to risk their lives to bring justice back to the wild borderlands of Arkansas, Kansas and Indian Territory.

Kaed Turner, the "marshal" in my book Fire Eyes, is just this kind of loner to begin with--until he finds the love of a lifetime in a most unexpected place. In the excerpt below, Kaed is recovering from a brutal beating at the hands of a band of outlaws with Jessica's care. He's making good progress!


The bath could be put off no longer. Kaed lay quietly, watching Jessica’s nervousness.

“Jessi.” When she looked at him, his bones liquefied. She wanted him. All question of how the night would end were answered as their eyes met and held over an achingly sweet moment.

Jessica sank her teeth into her lower lip, her fingers moving to the tiny row of buttons at the front of her day dress. She slowly began to work them open. “Kaed, would you, um, I mean, well, I need to get my bath now.”

“I suppose that means I need to at least turn my head.” His mouth was dry. It was hot in the cabin all of a sudden.

“Uh-huh.” She kept right on unbuttoning the buttons, caught in his gaze. “And close your eyes.”

Yeah, well it wouldn’t matter if he did, he thought. He’d still see the picture she burned in his mind as she stood there opening those buttonholes.

Her fingers hesitated at the button just above the rich swell of her breasts. Kaed wet his lips, not turning his head or closing his eyes.

“Kaed?” Her voice was a husky whisper. That made him close his eyes. The sound of his name on her lips had him imagining doing all the things that a man did with a woman. All the things that were soon to come.

God. The heat was unbearable.

“Huh?” He slitted his still-swollen eyes open and saw she had released that button and moved down to the next one. He gritted his teeth.

“Turn…your…head.” A teasing smile played about her mouth, as if she knew exactly what he was thinking, what he was imagining.

Turning away would be a good thing right about now. If he could only persuade his neck to cooperate.

“Yeah. Okay.” He turned his face toward the window. Sort of.
“I’m trusting you.”

Kaed sighed, frustrated. “I know.” It was the one thing she might’ve said that would have kept him true to his word, that part about trusting. He couldn’t betray that. “I’ve gotta move slow. Hurts.”

“Don’t—” The dress whispered to the floor.

“I won’t,” he gritted, the words bitter in his mouth. Then, he thought of something. “It’s hardly fair, though.” He heard the delicate splash as Jessica slipped into the water.

“What do you mean?”

He heard her trailing water across her shoulders and neck with the washrag, blissfully unaware of the effect she was having on him, and on a certain part of his male anatomy. He was aching for her. But he managed to make his voice casual.

“I mean, you’re going to help me bathe.”

The dribbling water stopped, and he heard her breathing quicken.
“Yes, I know. But I don’t need any help.”

After a moment the splashing began again. He imagined she was washing her hair. “Jessi?”

She didn’t answer, but he knew she was listening. He grew tired of the game. He wanted her to know what to expect. What was going to happen. To anticipate it as much as he did.“Jessi, I want you.”

It took everything in him not to turn and look at her as he said it, to see the expression on her delicate features. “I’m going to make love to you tonight.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pioneer Women

Pioneer Women

We are the granddaughters and even great-granddaughters of pioneer women who found themselves suddenly obliged to drive an unruly team of oxen across a sun-baked prairie or to plow new ground or herd cattle or do any of the thousand other chores that would under other circumstances, have fallen to their husbands, fathers, and brothers.

Authors along with American moviemakers tend to glamorize the life of the pioneer woman. In reality the lives of these women was anything but glamorous. By the year 1869 when the first transcontinental railroad was finished, over 350,000 pioneers had taken the Oregon Trail to start a new life. Many of these were women and most were accompanied by children. From the very first wagon train on, women would see and experience hardship like none they had ever imagined. They would also find out how strong a woman could truly be. Husbands often made the decision to start life over in the west without ever asking whether the wives thought this was a good decision or how it might affect them.

Before a family could head west, first the wagon was packed. This task fell normally to the woman of the house. A list would be prepared, household items that was no longer need or deemed unable to be carried along, would be sold off first, to help pay for the trip. This would be the first of many heartbreaking hardships. Many women gave up their most prized possessions for the more basic necessities such as clothing, and food staples like beans, coffee, flour, salt, dried meat, and a cow to be milked. Often a favorite rocker, bed or chiffonier would be discarded along the way. The extra weight could not be risked when fording rivers or traversing steep inclines.

More than furniture was left behind along the trail. Many women would bury not only one child, but several. A child could fall out of a wagon and quickly be run over before anyone could react. Typhoid and cholera spread quickly from wagon to wagon, killing at random. Indian skirmishes did occur, but not as many as one might think. Most Indian attacks came after the settlers had reached their destinations. Babies were born in the roughest conditions. Many died and the women would not only have the heartbreak of the infants’ deaths, but also of having to leave behind the body in a place that they knew they would never again see.

Pioneer women were not always ‘women.’ Girls learned to grow up fast, and if not, were force to. Marriage as young as 14 and 15 was very common. Once a family had reached their destination, hired hands that had accompanied these families west often married into the family. The idea of a familiar face for a neighbor in a strange land was often enough for a father to give permission for his daughters to wed, even at such a young age. Mothers also would welcome their daughters as neighbors over some stranger.

Those women who survived the perils of the prairie that found once they reached their destination, the work was far from over.

A house needed to be built, and as settlers arrived in the late summer or fall, this meant the work often would be done in hip-deep snow and freezing weather. Besides the general chores of cooking, cleaning and washing, there were fields to be planted. Many women plowed behind a mule or ox, while husbands felled trees to clear land. Pioneer women also had to deal with rodents, snakes, marauding animals, including bear, coyote and mountain lions. And some did die at the hands of Indians.

Women who headed west learned quickly there was much more to life than tea parties, church picnics and visiting lady friends. Through journals that many left behind, we know that most who survived the rigors of life across the prairie would do it again. This was their life.

Posted by Loretta C. Rogers

Friday, October 10, 2008

What Got Me Started?

Although I never realized this fact at the time, my father created my love of historicals. The summer I was eleven, my family drove from northern California to southern Illinois for a family reunion. Three girls in the back seat of a dome-backed Volvo, Mom as a co-pilot (a non-driver who struggled with maps) and Dad who was determined we made 500 miles a day. He'd chosen the fastest and least scenic route to drive east but on our drive home, we took the time to explore and wandered off of Route 66.

Dad took us through ghost towns and historic places (someplace in Kansas famous for the cattle drives; Virginia City, NV; Pikes Peak, CO; we saw wagon ruts in the prairie; stood on the battlefield where Custer had his last stand). But what I remember most were quiet walks through old, old cemeteries he'd find alongside a rural route. My sisters and Mom lost interest after the first two or three locations, but I liked to listen as he read the gravestones and pointed out several dates grouped close together. The guesses he made about what might have happened to cause the deaths of babies, children and adults wove a bundle of 'what if's' through my head. Had illness struck them down? A storm that cut off their supplies? An attack by Indians? The possibilities were hard to understand when related to my everyday life in the suburbs, but the experience sparked an interest in history and especially the frontier west.

Next time you're driving through an area with a couple small towns and have an hour to spare, visit a cemetery and see if a story doesn't wind around you from what you read on the etched headstones, plaques and monuments.

Linda Carroll-Bradd

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 Eight Hours

One of the few pleasures of cleaning out 50 years worth of trash and treasure from my mom's old house has been discover-ing the plethora of antique photos left behind. Including this tintype of my great grandpa. Now, I don't know about you, but I think he's handsome enough to "star" in his own historical romance novel. It's just one of many old pictures that give me inspiration.

Some of the pictures are ancestors and relatives that I recognize. Others feature unknown people and places that can't help but intrigue me. Some aren't marked at all, giving me full rein. And others offer tantalizing but incomplete clues such as the one depicting a tiny child: "Our Ruthie, a week ago." The one inscribed "A view of the place taken last spring" shows a storybook homestead. And I don't know where it was or who lived there.

In my soon-to-be-released Cactus Rose book, Marrying Minda, a daguerreotype has a part in this story of a mail-order bride. Around town, her groom-to-be loved to show off the tiny brown portrait of her. And when she sees up close and personal the tall handsome cowboy she marries a minute later, he looks younger and far more handsome than the daguerreotype he sent her. As well he should.

He's a different guy!

In this day and age of instant digital photography, I can't imagine how long picture-making took in days gone by. J. N. Niepce produced the first permanent image, a heliograph, in 1826 -an exposure that took 8 hours with a camera obscura! This was an image of an outside scene formed by a simple lens and sunlight shining through a small hole into a darkened room.

In 1837, his partner, Louis Daguerre, began to produce images on silver iodide-coated copper plates that took 30 minutes to develop with warmed mercury. The daguerreotype. Four years later, Fox Talbot patented his calotype negative/positive process with its 5 minute exposure time. He had already introduced the "negative" from which many images could be produced, but these paper negatives did not create the detailed images of the daguerreotype.

London sculptor Frederick Scott Archer never patented his 1851 wet plate collodion process, where he spread a mixture of nitrated cotton dissolved in ether and alcohol on sheets of glass. The result: the 10-second exposure "tintype."

Much cheaper than the daguerreotype, the tintype brought photography to everyday people. The name probably comes from the tin shears or scissors needed to cut the small pictures (about 2" x 3"), rather than the metal plates on which they were reproduced.

When he was 24 in 1880, George Eastman set up his Eastman Dry Plate Company in Rochester NY. By 1888, the general public had access to a simplified camera, thanks both to his "Kodak Number 1" model and his mass developing/processing service. A year later, Eastman produced the first transparent roll film. This was a vast improvement over the 20-foot roll of paper in the Number 1 that produced 100 two-and-a-half inch circular pictures.

In 1880, the first half-tone photo appeared in a newspaper, and ten years later, Eastman introduced the historic Kodak Brownie box camera.

And to think. Today I can take a picture with my cell phone in half a second and e-mail it to my computer within another second. Could any of photography’s pioneers have even dreamed such a thing was possible?

Well, I hope the blurb below tantalizes you. (To read more, visit my website's biography page.) Marrying Minda is truly a book from the heart, set in one of my favorite places on earth, the Nebraska prairie in one of my favorite time periods, the late 1870’s. Marrying Minda has received first place honors in two fiction contests, and I'm honored to have the book become part of the Cactus Rose Line. In fact, my short story, His Christmas Angel, which will be a free online read during the holidays, is also set in fictional Paradise and introduces the fine-looking young schoolmaster who quite literally fights that cowboy for Minda’s hand.

I figured he deserves a happy ending all his own. With Minda's sister.

Here's a quick pic of my darling great-gramma. Hmmmmmm. Maybe that's what Minda's sister looks like.

I hope you'll check out my website and blogspot and become my friend on myspace. I look forward to meeting all the authors and readers in the garden.

# # #

Norman Dale was simply not the charming father he'd presented in his letters. What other surprises did he have in store for her? Did he imagine her so besotted she wouldn't mind?

No matter. She'd signed that register pure and simple. He'd made her his wife, and she'd willingly taken him on as her husband. For better or worse.

"Set yourself down. I'll go get Silly and the rest of the kids," he announced with slitted lips. He raised his brows at the blond woman and she nodded, leaving them in private.

"The rest of what kids?" Minda’s skin prickled nervously. Deciding to obey him for the first and only time, she sat down.

"Our kids. Yours and mine."

"Our kids? What in the world do you mean, Norman Dale? You wrote that you've got one daughter. Fourteen years old." Minda’s voice rose and despite the heat, her shoulders tensed with a sudden chill as if a clump of snow had just fallen from the treetops. "What kids? What on earth are you saying, Norman Dale? Your letters didn't say one single words about kids."

He glared down at her. "You must’ve misread my brother." The last two words slid from his tongue in slow deliberation.

His brother? For a moment, she sat helpless, hopeless, paralyzed against the back of the hard little chair. For a long moment, she had no air to speak.

"Your brother? Your brother? What do you mean?" she managed at last.

He leaned close to her again, like he had during that kiss at the altar, but at her ear he growled, low.
"You promised to wed a Haynes today. Well, I'm the only one left. Your Norman Dale, my brother--" His fingers, calloused and hot, held her chin still so he could glare into her eyes, "--is dead."

Bye for now...please keep in touch.
~Tanya Hanson

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Raise your hand if you wanted to grow up and marry Little Joe Cartwright

I don’t want to burst any one’s bubble, but there were a couple of million other young girls who felt the same way—always will as long as Bonanza reruns are on cable stations. (Check out You-tube is you don’t believe me.)

So what was it about Little Joe that sent your heart somersaulting across your chest? His agile body, flashy smile, curly hair, impeccable dress, graceful stagger, humor, cockiness, romanticism or perhaps it was Cochise, his black and white paint horse.

If we think about it…falling in love with Little Joe wasn’t a wise thing. How many of his girlfriends died by the end of the episode? Not season—episode! And without remorse or guilt, the next week he’d be off flirting with a new conquest.

Maybe it wasn’t Little Joe Cartwright many of us fell in love with, but the image he portrayed. That somewhat worldly, yet down home good ole’ boy, who’d shoot a man for mistreating a gal, and then toss his own coat over a puddle of mud for her to walk across. He was a cowboy filled with fiery, pioneer spirit, but still had the class of a passionate, refined gentleman.

Joe rarely gave a hoot about rules either, but he knew right from wrong, and was always willing to pitch-in to keep the Ponderosa and Virginia City safe and on the right side of the law. In the 1800’s there were many rules that men and women had to follow, but like Little Joe, in order to survive, the men and women of the West didn’t, or more likely, couldn’t follow all of the rules.

Joe portrayed a jolly cavalier, but deep down he had a heart of gold, and wouldn’t permit family, a friend, or even a stranger to be mistreated or hurt. Though the famous six-shooter wasn’t always his choice of weapon, he stood beside his brothers and fought with all the charisma and charm of a sharp-shooter.

All in all Little Joe Cartwright was your Western Romance Hero…lanky, handsome, rugged, sometimes risky, but always, always, sexy and loveable! He didn’t need the law to make him understand right from wrong, instinct told him. He was what dreams are made of…which is why he holds the hearts of so many who grew up to be western romance readers and writers.

Little Joe and the Western Romance genre are strictly American, no where else in the world can lay a claim to the “Old West”. Oh, sure other countries had their wild and rowdy times, but no one else had the vast open land west of the Mississippi—land of promise, change, beauty, wonder and riches. Of course there was also pain, hardship, broken dreams and death. Men had to be bold, women tough.

Let me ask…If there was this vast unclaimed land somewhere in the world today, with no amenities, no civilization, only the promise of a new life—if you were strong enough, lucky enough—would you do it? Would you leave everything behind to become a pioneer, a frontiersman (or woman)?

In 1890 the U.S. Census director officially proclaimed there was no more ‘frontier’ in America. What a dreadful thought! AND how wrong that director was…120 years later there still is a ‘frontier’. At least it’s there in the mind of a western romance author. Every day, new tales of the brave men and women forging their way through the Wild West hits the market, and I for one say, “Thank goodness for this genre that keeps the frontier alive! We all need a Little Joe in our lives.”

The “Little Joe” in my next book, Shotgun Bride, is Kid Quinter. The story will be released in November. Here’s an excerpt:


The dog hit her in the middle of the chest, knocking her down. Her bottom smacked the ground, making the air swoosh from her lungs. Sucking in a fresh breath, she flipped onto her knees and wrapped her arms around the head sniffing her up and down. “Sammy, oh, Sammy, I missed you so much.”

He snuggled close, his body trembling as she laid her head against his soft, silky hide. For several minutes she relished his unexpected arrival before thoughts formed. Sammy? If Sammy was here, it meant one thing…Kid wasn’t far behind.

Trembles started in her toes and rose to encompass every inch of her frame. Caused by fear or excitement, she didn’t know. Wiping at the wetness under her eyes, she gave Sammy one more solid hug before she stood, turning to the eyes boring holes in her back.

The morning sun haloed the tall frame. One foot was settled on a fallen log, making a lean leg bend at the knee. A gun belt hung low on his hips, the holster strapped to his thigh with a leather lace. Narrow hips grew into a wide, solid chest, which was partially covered by the brawny arms folded across it. As usual the top button of his shirt was undone, allowing dark, curly hair to peek out. She bypassed the face, not wanting to see the anger in those dark, obsessive eyes. His head, tilted sideways a touch, was covered with the wide hat that sat cockeyed across his dark hair. All in all, it was the vision she saw every night in her dreams.

Lack of air made her considerably dizzy. She’d forgotten how to breathe. Opening her mouth, she hoped the air would flow in on its own. It did, making her cough.

The foot stepped off the log, straightening his stance as he moved forward. Jessie held up a hand. He couldn’t come any closer, if he did, she might lose her mind and run to his arms, begging for forgiveness.

Sammy nudged her knee. She placed a hand on his head, letting it run along his back, over his lean side, between his ribs. Ribs! Her eyes snapped at the man. “Kid Quinter haven’t you been feeding this dog?”

Kid stopped, a slow smile lifted the corners of his mouth.

Her heart somersaulted.

“He wouldn’t eat.”

She frowned, rubbed Sammy’s ears. “Why not?”

“I suspect because he was missing you.”

Her fingers once again felt the stiff bones and sunken stomach. “Well you should have thought about that before you sent me away.” Shocked at her outburst, Jessie slapped her other hand over her mouth.

Kid moved forward, a chuckle floating on the breeze. “Yes, I should have.” He stopped in front of her. “I should have thought of a lot of things before I sent you away, Jessie.”

Mere inches separated them. Heat from his body hovered, teasing her with his undeniable warmth. His heavenly, musky scent filled her nose. Un-sticking her tongue from the roof of her mouth, she swallowed.


In honor of the ‘official start up’ of the Cactus Rose Blog, I will give away an e-book of Shotgun Bride on its release date, November 14, to a reader of this blog. Any person who posts a comment between now and November 13 will be entered into the drawing. I will draw a name at random and post the winner on November 14. (Your comment can be on any of the posts between now and then. The more you post, the more times your name will be entered into the drawing.)

Thanks, and I hope you have found your “Little Joe”!

Lauri Robinson