Saturday, February 28, 2009

Delia Haskett - Wells Fargo Driver

The more I delve into the Old West, the more fascinated I become with the true stories of our pioneering fore-mothers. From 1876-1885, Delia Haskett drove a Wells Fargo stagecoach 45 miles, which (on a good day) took eight hours. Usually, the job was held by men, but Delia's father taught her to drive from an early age. By the time she was 14, she took the smaller "runs" and was trusted to deliver the mail. When a regular driver became ill, her father let her fill the spot.

For nine years, Delia drove the stage whenever she was needed. She became the first woman driver on record to carry the U.S. mail in California and the only woman in the Pioneer Stage Drivers of California Association. She was a crack shot, and could hit a nickle in mid-air. She rode in horse races, performed trick riding exhibitions and won prizes for her shooting skills.

Her performing and driving days came to an end when she married, but she became a successful rancher, part owner in a mine, and a businesswoman. She eventually acquired a fortune. Not bad for a woman in the 1800s!

Other women worked as agents for Wells Fargo, sort of like a postmaster, but none besides Delia were on the record as drivers. The grit and fortitude of women like Delia are what helped tame the west.

Reference: Daughters of the West by Anne Seagraves

Thursday, February 26, 2009


By, Roberta C.M. DeCaprio

Do you think you could eat with unwashed fingers, drink out of the same vessel you shared with a mule, sleep on the ground when it rains, share your blanket with vermin, or have patience with mosquitoes and other insects? What I just described was only a fraction of the enormity of the task faced by covered wagon travelers in the American west.

As they looked out ahead, they saw no sprawling towns, paved roads, restaurants, shopping centers or gas stations . . . just the vast, rolling, empty and untamed landscape. I wonder if our modern day minds can begin to imagine or understand the challenge, the isolation of spending weeks crossing wild land at a rate of two miles per hour with practically nonexistent amenities.

Let’s take a glance at that task:
Before starting out on their journey, many settlers banded together into parties or companies, for safety and assistance while they traveled. These parties were often made up of folks from the same town or extended family. These bands worked together to insure there would be plenty of supplies for any adversity that might arise. This could be anything from crossing a river or making wagon repairs, to Indian attacks.
Travel always began in the spring, when there was sufficient grass for the horses and oxen to graze upon, and ample time to cross the mountainous areas before the snow fell. Once on the road, settlers could expect to travel 12 to 20 miles on a good day. On a bad day, when the ground was muddy, rocky, a river needed to be crossed, or hills to climb, settlers averaged traveling only five miles.

A typical day began long before dawn with a simple breakfast of coffee, bacon and dry bread. After everyone had eaten, supplies were secured, teams hitched and the wagon train was on the road by 7 A.M. Since space was limited in the wagons and riding uncomfortable, many chose to walk.

Travel continued until noon, when the wagons came to a halt for a break, or “nooning” as it was called. Settlers ate a meal of cold meat, coffee, beans and the bacon which had been prepared that morning. During this time men and women talked, children played, and draft animals (like horses and oxen), rested or grazed. By 2 o’clock in the afternoon the wagons would be back on the move again.

Around 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening the wagons would come to another halt, fashioned in a circle or a U-shape for the night. This afforded protection from wild animals and Indians. After a simple supper, settlers might socialize a bit beside the camp fires. But more often they were so exhausted from the day’s travel, that they’d soon go to sleep.

Some slept in the wagons or tents, but most slept on the ground or on rubber mats, wrapped in blankets. These options provided little protection from the elements. If a storm arose, settlers, their clothes and bedding were wet through and through. Aside from the rain, travelers faced being struck by lightening, lethal hailstones, tornadoes, blinding heat, and intense cold. The fluctuation in temperature caused the wooden wagon wheels to shrink. If they weren’t soaked in a stream or river bed, their iron rims would roll off the wagon during the day.

In addition to weather conditions and monotony on the trail, settlers were open to various disasters and calamities. Because the wagons moved so slowly, many of those walking, particularly children, got lost when they straggled behind for any length of time to look for flowers or berries, or attempted to hunt while traveling. Those that never made it back to their party were thought to have fallen prey to wild animals or Indians and left behind.

Contrary to popular belief, Indian attacks were among the least of the settlers’ problems, and should one arise, it was far less a bloodbath than anyone would have thought. The main threats and disasters was sickness such as smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis, diphtheria, typhoid and “mountain fever;” as well as scurvy, caused by a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables for months at a time. With little or no medical expertise, these illnesses often resulted in death. Those who died on the road were buried in hastily dug-out holes. Some graves were marked, but more frequently settlers went out of their way to disguise the resting place to discourage wild animals and Indians from digging up the body.

Rivers were dangerous obstacles to encounter. The only way to cross a river was to ford it, driving right through and hoping for the best. Settlers had to wait for the water to reach an acceptable level; securing their supplies and caulking their wagons before attempting to cross. The process consumed most of the day since each wagon and team had to be taken across one at a time. When crossing a deep or swifter river, settlers had to build a raft to carry the wagons, with varying results. After sickness and accidental gun shot wounds, drowning at a river was another common cause of death . . . as well as accidents with draft animals.

Though oxen moved slowly, they were very large, heavy animals. There was no way to stop them quickly, thus causing many injuries and death, especially to women and children. Many times the women’s long skirts got caught upon the wheels and they were dragged beneath the wagon, or the children sleeping in a wagon would awaken and attempt to climb out, only to end up crushed beneath the wheels.

Despite the dangers on the trail, further challenges lay before settlers when they reached their destination. Once on the frontier they set forth to tame the wilderness and create a new version of civilization that they left behind. From their daring forthrightness, new towns were built and from them our modern day cities evolved.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Captain Jack-Texas Ranger

"Captain Jack" of the Texas Rangers.
Photo: bronze statue of Captain Jack C. Hays on NW corner of the courthouse square in San Marcos, Texas. (Photo by James Yeary)
Young Flacco, the Lippan Apache chief who rode as Hays's closest comrade on his early forays against the Comanche, described him best: "Me and Red Wing aren't afraid to go to hell together. Captain Jack, he's too mucho bravo. He's not afraid to go to hell all by himself."
In the three-way struggle between Anglo colonists, Hispanic settlers, and Indians, Hays proved to be an able leader and fearless fighter (called "Devil Jack"), who gained the respect of the rank and file of the Texas Rangers. Yet his stature—five feet nine inches—his fair complexion, and his mild manners did not match the looks and actions of the legendary ranger in later popular culture.
From 1840 through 1846 Hays, at first a captain, then a major, and his ranger companies, sometimes with Mexican volunteers and such Indian allies as Lipan chief engaged the Comanches and Mexican troops in small skirmishes and major battles. Important military actions took place at Plum Creek, Canon de Ugalde, Bandera Pass, Painted Rock, Enchanted Rock (where Hays made a lone stand that enhanced his reputation as an Indian fighter), Salado (against Mexican soldiers under Adrian Woll), and Walker’s Creek. In these battles Hays and his rangers were usually outnumbered, and their effective use of revolvers revolutionized warfare against Texas Indians.
The Texas Rangers gained a national reputation in the Mexican War. Hays’s rangers rode into Mexico, and out of Mexico came a mounted irregular body of rangers celebrated in song and story throughout the United States. When the First Regiment, Texas Mounted under Colonel Hays, served with the army of Gen. Zachary Taylor, the rangers marched, scouted, and took part in the attack on Monterrey in 1846. The next year Hays formed another regiment that participated in keeping communication and supply lines open between Veracruz and Mexico City for the troops. In doing so, Hays’s rangers fought Mexican guerrillas near Veracruz and at such places as Teotihuacan and Sequalteplan. Controversy between the rangers and the Mexican people still lingers, for they robbed and killed each other off the battlefields.
John Coffee “Jack” Hays died near Piedmont, California on April 25, 1883. Hays County in South Central Texas, was created in 1848 and named in his honor.
Celia Yeary
All My Hopes and Dreams--a Texas Historical romance novel.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Outlaw to Hero

I promised you I would have another Oregon Outlaw story for you. This is one romances are made of.

Bank robbery at Joseph, OR

Thursday, October 1, 1896 five men, two local businessmen, two drifters and one local young man with deep roots in the valley, attempted to rob The First Bank of Joseph. A large wool deal had been transacted in the Wallowa valley that week and it was known the bank had at least $8000.

The two local business men walked into the bank saw there were minimal customers and walked out, crossed the street, and walked back to the bank, signaling the other three. They rode down off the hill to the bank. The two drifters entered the bank and the local boy stayed outside to keep people from entering.

This is the part that kind of fits in the category of most thieves aren’t too bright- They left the local boy wearing a bandanna over his face and holding a gun on the front stoop of the bank to keep people away… Red flag!

Inside- the two business men acted like victims, one robber kept the people under control and the other worked with the teller getting the money.

Outside- people noticed the masked man at the door of the bank and started spreading the word. Now in most movies they run for a sheriff or someone who is a hired gun. When word spread, the town’s men went for their guns.

By the time the robbers finally exited the bank, there were people stationed in buildings all around the bank. The robber with the money was killed instantly. His partner rolled him over and grabbed the money bag. The local young man, who stood at the door, was shot several times and caught. The drifter who ended up with the money, jumped on his horse and headed to the spot beyond Wallowa lake where they had fresh horses waiting and got away. The wounded local robber and the local businessmen ended up in the state penitentiary but the man who got away with the money- was never caught.

Though the one robber made away with the money, it shows the unity and spirit of the people of that town to converge on the bank without having to have a town hall meeting and take care of a problem as soon as it presented itself.

And the local robber, who had long family ties in the community, came back to the valley when he got out of jail and worked his way up to be a large cattleman in the area and a respected, leading citizen who gave out loans and gifts on a regular basis and twenty-seven years after his release from prison, he was elected vice-president of The First Bank of Joseph.

This robbery is re-enacted in Joseph every summer during the Chief Joseph Days Rodeo.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Happy birthday, Mr. President

Writing is the greatest invention in the world.
--Abraham Lincoln

Coming from a man who spent barely a year in a one-room schoolhouse, these are profound words for authors to read. Born poor on this date in 1809 in Hardin County, Kentucky, Abe Lincoln was no slouch at writing despite his minimal education. As a young politician, he wrote speeches in the long, ornate manner popular in the day, but he eventually simplified his style in deference to ordinary people.

The glorious, unforgettable Gettysburg Address, delivered on November 19, 1863 at the dedication of Gettysburg National Cemetery, is less than 300 words in length. But some of his phrases changed America. "...a new nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." "This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom...." "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Throughout his life, he read every single speech to his wife Mary before a public presentation of it. Mary's wealthy parents had strongly opposed the marriage, and it's claimed the union was tumultuous, but she is often considered one of Lincoln's trusted advisers and confidants. Of the four sons born to them, only one survived into adulthood.

Although detractors considered Lincoln coarse and vulgar, referring to him as "the ape baboon of the prairie," his rustic manner, wit and wisdom were highly regarded by the literary greats of his day, including Walt Whitman and Nathaniel Hawthorne. (If you haven't yet read Whitman's "O Captain, My Captain!" or "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," you're in for something wonderful.) Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the ground-breaking novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, claimed Lincoln's writing deserved to be "inscribed in letters of gold"

For those of us readers and writers of Cactus Rose, Abe Lincoln has an important hand in enhancing the climate and culture of the 19th century, in addition to his role as the Great Emancipator. The Homestead Act he signed in 1862 "opened the West" and helped establish America's heartland, even as it tragically displaced native tribes. Settlers could claim 65 hectares, 160 acres or a quarter-mile section, as their own as long as they farmed and improved the land for five years.

And if you've got your characters carving turkey on the last Thursday in November, you owe it to President Lincoln. He ordered government offices closed on November 28, 1861, for a local day of thanks. On that date, prominent magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale wrote him a letter, urging him to make an official "national and fixed union festival" of Thanksgiving.

His proclamation setting the last Thursday of November as a "day of Thanksgiving and praise" was dated October 3, 1863, perhaps an attempt to ease hearts and lift spirits after the horrific battle of Gettysburg a few months before. One year later, the proclamation letter written by Secretary of State William Seward was sold to benefit Union troops.

I found out some fun facts about our 16th president in doing my homework for this blog.

1. He was the tallest president at 6'4"
2. He carried letters, bills, and notes in his signature stove pipe hat.
3. He was the first president to have a beard.
4. He patented a system to alter buoyancy of steamboats in 1849.
5. He created a national banking system in 1863, resulting in a standardized currency.
6.He loved animals and had horses, cats, dogs, and a turkey as pets. His beloved horse, Old Bob, was part of his funeral procession.
7. He was the first president assassinated.

Although President Lincoln suffered from deep depression, usually called melancholia at that time, he often invented jokes and funny sayings for family and friends. I'll leave off with several of my favorites.

1. If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?
2. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
3. Whatever you are, be a good one.

Happy Bicentennial, Mr. President. And thanks for everything.
~Tanya Hanson

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Never Take a Wimp to a Gunfight

When I think about naming the characters in my novels, whether it’s the hero, heroine, antagonist or secondary characters, I want the names to match those characters’ personalities, their physical features, all of the attributes that make them who they are in the story. Sometimes I change a character’s name several times before I settle on what fits. Other times, I astound myself when the name fits perfectly the first time around.

So where am I going with this, you ask? Recently, I attended a conference and like most conferences there was an agent/editor panel. One of the discussion points was about names. All on the panel agreed names that are to difficult to pronounce or have a weird spelling, or simply doesn’t fit the hero or heroine’s personality, or a name that is in the wrong time period is a turn-off and could possibly warrant receiving one of those notorious rejection letters.

This comment got me to thinking about people in the entertainment field—especially male movie stars who’ve taken a stage name because their real name is considered unattractive, dull, unintentionally amusing or difficult to pronounce or spell. In the past, a stage name was often used when a performer’s real name was considered to denote a specific ethnicity that faced potential discrimination. With this in mind, I thought it might be fun, if not interesting, to research the names of movie stars. I think you’ll be amazed when you meet the REAL John Wayne, Cary Grant, and so many others.

Birth Name Stage Name
George Scott - Randolph Scott
Elred Peck - Gregory Peck
Orvon Autry - Gene Autry
Eugene Klass - Gene Barry (Bat Masterson)
Charles Buchinski - Charles Bronson
Francis Timothy Dirgin - Rory Calhoun
Issur Danielovitch - Kirk Douglas
Gwyllyn Samuel Newton - Ford Glenn Ford
James Bumgarner - James Garner
Charles Carter - Charlton Heston
Roy Scherer, Jr. - Rock Hudson
Eugene Orowitz - Michael Landon
Harvey Lee Yeary II - Lee Majors
Carlos Ray - Chuck Norris
Walter Palanuck - Jack Palance
Louis Lendley - Slim Pickins
Lou Tychurch - Lou Diamond Phillips
Leonard Slye - Roy Rogers
Marion Michael Morrison - John Wayne
Norman Eugene Walker - Clint Walker (Cheyenne Bodie)
Curtis Wain Gates - Ken Curtis (Festus on Gun Smoke)
Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors - Chuck Connors (Rifleman)
Maurice Micklewhite - Michael Caine
Archibald Leach - Cary Grant
Thomas Mapother IV - Tom Cruise

Okay, now that you’ve met Marion Michael Morrison, and have a visualization of him as one of your favorite cowboy heroes, can you image him being anyone other than John Wayne? Shut your eyes and imagine Kevin Joseph Aloysius Connors standing in the middle of the street with his rifle and facing down a gang of outlaws—didn’t work did it? Now replace that image with Chuck Connors. Big difference, huh?

If you have a novel in progress or plotting out your next story, give specific thought the moniker you hang on your characters. They’ll love you and so will the people who read your story. What about the female stars? I haven’t forgotten about them. Tune in the second Tuesday of March. You’re in for an even bigger surprise.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cattle Drives

The American Cowboy came about after the Civil War, when the shortage of beef in the northern states gave some enterprising southerners, mainly Texans, the idea of driving their cattle north. Their goal was to drive their cattle to the closest railroads—Kansas—and then ship the beef to markets across the nation. (Texas cattle drives had started before the war, but on a smaller scale and stopped completely during the war since there was no profit to be made.)

The cattle drives flourished for about twenty years, 1866-1885, and a cowboy was considered to be anyone with ‘guts and a gun’. Most of the men on the cattle drives were young, late teens or early twenties, and for driving 1,000-5,000 cows over 250-400 miles of rough, untamed territory for 3-6 months, the cowboy was paid about $25 plus food, per month for their labor. Once the cows were delivered the ‘boys’ were allowed a few days to wind down, before the shipping started, and the town folks were happy to relieve the cowboys of their hard earned money.

On the trail, each cowboy had 5-10 horses to ride on a rotating basis, sometimes they were the cowboys, but most often they belonged to the ‘outfit’. The second highest paid man on the trial was the cook. It was well known that a good cook would attract the best cowboys. The cook was also the doctor, and carried all the bed rolls in the chuck wagon. (Cowboys didn’t carry them on their saddles while on the drive.) Bed rolls consisted of a canvas tarp and a blanket or quilt. The boys kept all their valuables in their rolls, i.e. money, extra clothes, personal possessions, and they put a lot of faith in the cook to guard their treasures. The standard fare for all meals was beans, rice, and coffee. Canned goods were added in the later years.

In the 1880’s the cowboys started to show off their daily skills at informal fairs and celebrations at the end of the drives, often demonstrating calf roping, steer wrestling, and bronc riding, thus the sport of rodeo developed.

Texas cattle often carried ticks that spread Texas fever to other cattle, and in 1885 an epidemic of splenic fever in longhorns forced many a drive to turn around at the Kansas border and head back south. The stricter quarantine laws along with the low beef prices and the lack of available rangeland to drive through (barbed wire had been invented), as well as the fact rail lines had finally reached Texas, all played a role in bringing the cattle drives to a halt.
Kansas is dotted with 'cow towns'-- those cities that for a length of time had been the end of the line for the cattle drives-- Abeliene, Wichita, and of course the most famous, Dodge City.
When the drives first started to arrive in Dodge, the city didn't have a jail, and used an old dried up well to hold the wrong-doers captive. Usually it was for disorderly conduct, and once the men sobered up, they could climb out of the well on be on there way. I use this piece of history in Shotgun Bride-The Quinter Brides book 1 (which is now available in print) when Kid Quinter is arrested for murdering the man stalking Jessie, the young gal he was forced to marry. The book spent several weeks on the best selling list at Fictionwise, and reviews for Shotgun Bride can be found on my blog.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Comstock Law of 1873

While conducting research for my time travel romance, My Heart Will Find Yours, that takes place in 1880s Waco, Texas, I learned a lot about birth control in the nineteenth century.
Condoms were available as early as the 1700s, mainly in Europe. Made of pig and sheep intestine, they were expensive and washed for repeated use. Their use increased near the end of the nineteenth century, when cheaper rubber condoms costing six to twelve cents, became widely available.
Though several methods were available to women, they weren't easily obtained or reliable. As early as the 1830s women used douching and a contraceptive sponge with an attached thread for easy removal. Also used was the pessary, or pisser, made of wood, cotton, or sponge. It was sold in drug stores to be used for a prolapsed uterus, but it's real intention was to prevent pregnancy.
In America it wasn't uncommon for a doctor to prescribe the use of condoms for a man to prevent contracting sexually transmitted diseases while engaging in sexual activities outside of marriage, but a man could not get them to keep from getting his wife pregnant.
The Comstock Law of 1873 banned the distribution of any type of lewd or obscene material through the mail and this included information about contraceptives and abortion. Margaret Sanger fought hard to find a way around this law and bring information to women about contraception, in particular the diaphragm.
These facts were of particular interest to me as in 1880s Waco, Texas, prostitution was legal. Business ladies were required to get regular checkups and prove their good health. But, buying condoms was illegal.
The issue of contraception and the dangers of childbirth in the nineteenth century are touched on in my time travel My Heart Will Find Yours.
References for the above are
Everyday Life in the 1880s by Marc McCutcheon.
Here is a blurb and excerpt from My Heart Will Find Yours.

Fated lovers suffer the agony of loss only to be reunited to fulfill a greater plan.

TEXANNA KEITH doesn’t believe an antique locket is the key to time travel, but plays along, and to her horror, is zapped back to 1880 Waco, Texas. Her mission is to prevent Royce Dyson’s death in a shootout. Wounded, she loses what she longs for most — a life with Royce.

Marshall ROYCE DYSON’S wife disappeared in 1876. Now she’s reappeared, claiming she’s a time traveler from 2007. As he seeks the truth, he’s determined to keep Texanna with him, but it’s not destined to be.
“Marshal, you gotta come quick.”
Royce quickened his step and wondered what now?

A large crowd gathered in front of Hans’ Saloon. “Shoot her in the foot.” He recognized the baritone immediately. It was Hans. “If you don’t, she’s going to hurt someone else. I think she’s already broke Jason’s arm.”

She? Royce broke into a run. What the hell was going on? They’d never had a woman cause trouble before.

A female resounded, “Don’t come any closer, leave me alone.” She attempted to sound controlled, but her voice became shriller with each word. But still not at all like what he’d expect of a woman gone wild.

Jason’s voice, filled with pain, broke through the mumbling of the crowd. “Stop...stay back...she’s scared. Royce a minute.” Jason’s statement ended with a groan.

“Yeah, well I’m not going to let the Missus’ hurt anyone else,” said Hans.

Royce shoved his way through the crowd. He glanced quickly at Jason to see if he was breathing, then turned to the woman the crowd had backed up against the boardwalk in front of the saloon. Hans eased behind her and quickly caught her under the arms and locked his hands behind her head. Head pushed forward, the woman fought to break Hans’ hold. She kicked backwards but Hans lifted her off the ground and swung her from side to side so her feet couldn’t make contact.

“Hurry up, Marshal, get some cuffs on her. How else you gonna get her home?”

A quick scan of the woman indicated she didn’t have a weapon strapped to her side or in her hands. His gaze moved from the unusual shoes she wore, up indecently clad legs encased in denim pants. How else could he describe it? When his eyes reached her torso, his body jerked in response. Beautiful breasts were fully outlined by a skintight blouse. Her pebbled nipples showed through the thin, pink fabric. His face burned with anger. It was down right scandalous. No decent woman would dress so provocatively. Then he noticed the flame-colored curls. Hans eased his hold, and her head jerked up. His eyes met hers, and his heart stopped. God, she’s beautiful. He looked at her face again and thought he’d faint from sheer joy. His bliss quickly turned to rage.

With a growl, he bit out, “Get your hands off my wife.” At least, he thought it was his wife. The hair was the same, but her eyes were bluer, her nose thinner, and damned if she didn’t have kohl on her eyebrows and lashes.