Saturday, March 28, 2009

What She Did for Love...Bad Girls of the Wild West

We've all seen them on TV and in the movies - the good girl always falls for the bad guy. Happens every time. We like our bad boys, our gunslingers, our mavericks. And in the Old West, bad boys were a dime a dozen! How was a girl to choose?
I was researching some famous outlaws and found plenty of stories about Bad Girls. We don't hear about them too much, and Hollywood likes to show them as half-hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold to vengeance seekers. But what if a lady just wanted to be...well, bad? Rose Dunn fits the bill - although, unlike her male counterparts, she ended up pretty darn ok.

The Rose of Cimarron - The Legend of Rose Dunn

Pretty Rose Dunn or The Rose of Cimarron, met dashing George "Bitter Creek" Newcomb, a member of the notorious Doolin Gang, through her brothers, who were also outlaws and thieves. She grew up among bad boys, who were responsible for a series of bank, train and stage robberies during 1891-1896. The Doolin Gang were ruthless and often murdered innocent bystanders. They sometimes teamed up with the Daltons, made famous by their association with the James Gang.
When Grat and Bob Dalton were killed in a bloody ambush in Coffeeville, Kansas in 1892 while trying to pull off a bank robbery, the remainder of the gang scattered. What was left of the Dalton gang eventually merged with Bill Doolin's gang, which included outlaw George Newcomb. The reassembled gang of ruthless thieves and murderers began a new siege of terror.
It was about this time that the Rose of Cimarron came into the picture. Members of a posse intent upon arresting the gang kept close watch. They concealed themselves in a wagon and rode into the town of Ingalls, Oklahoma. The posse members hid themselves along the street and sent a messenger into the saloon to tell Bill Doolin that he was surrounded and ordered him to surrender. Doolin's response was, "Go to hell".
Gunfire opened up from the saloon upon the posse. A hail of bullets ensued, and the frightened townspeople all ran for cover. It was here that the Rose of Cimarron performed her daunting act of courage. Rose peered down from the second floor of Mrs. Pierce's hotel into the street and saw that her lover had only his six-shooter for protection.
She got his Winchester and cartridge belt from the hotel room, intending to deliver it to him. But the posse had surrounded the hotel and there was no means of escape. Rose tore a bed sheet into strips, tied them together into a rope and lowered both herself and the weaponry to the ground.
Rose took a gamble that the posse wouldn't shoot a woman. Through a hail of gunfire, she ran across the street to deliver the weapon to her lover. She found Newcomb badly wounded, so she gave the rifle to another outlaw. With Dalton and Doolin providing cover, the injured Newcomb was taken to safety. Only one outlaw, who was sick in bed, was the only one captured that day. The rest of the outlaws escaped, with many of them seriously wounded.
George had a price on his head, and unfortunately, some time later, Rose's outlaw brothers shot her lover for the reward money. After her lover's death, Rose retired from crime, and became the wife of an Oklahoma politician and lived the rest of her life as a respected citizen.

Historical information taken from Wild Women of the Old West by Glenda Riley and Richard Etulain.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Roberta C.M. DeCaprio

On Sunday night I tune into a show called Extreme Makeover, Home Edition. Each week a family down on their luck and struggling with adversity, is selected and built a new home. The home is constructed in seven days by a team of builders and decorated by the show’s designers.
Now, for any of you who has attempted to fix a leaky faucet, install a ceiling fan or re-do a bathroom, you know how hard the task can be without the proper equipment. It’s hard to envision building an entire house with primitive tools, limited building resources and little or no outside assistance. Settlers arriving on the frontier didn’t have Lowe’s or Home Depot to help. And in the latter part of the nineteenth century, building a home was the first crucial step in securing free land by the United States government.
The little house on the prairie wasn’t really as we like to imagine it to be . . . the rustic log cabin nestled in a peaceful mountain valley with homemade patchwork quilts adorning each bed and a cast iron pot filled with stew cooking on a wood burning stove. Much more often a pioneer dwelling was a shack or a hastily dug out hole in the ground, cramped, dirty and drafty. One room served as a kitchen, dining room, and living room, bedroom and work room.
The Homestead Act dictated home design and demanded a dwelling had to be at least ten by twelve feet in size and contain one glass window. Because a homesteader’s first priority was taking care of crucial needs, like obtaining food, planting crops, and filing claims; many were forced to live in their wagons or tents for several weeks or even months after their long journey on the trail.
Frugality was another chief concern when building a home, so settlers constructed homes using the materials most readily and cheaply available to them. The log cabin proved to be the easiest to construct and the strongest against the elements. Its long lasting sturdiness also made it among the most comfortable, and it could often be built in a matter of days.
First a stone or rock foundation was built to keep the logs off the ground and prevent rot. After trees were cut down and squared off, the logs were notched in the top and bottom at each end, and stacked to form walls. The notched logs were then fitted together at the corners of the cabin. This system of interlocking held the walls in place. Then the settlers had to “chink” their cabins. “Chinking” consisted of jamming sticks and wood chips into the gaps, then filling the remaining space with homemade cement made of earth, sand, and water. Fireplaces were built of stone, featuring stick and mud chimneys. Because smooth boards were scarce, most cabins had dirt or gravel floors, which had to be raked daily to keep them even. Regardless of the number of inhabitants, most cabins were only ten by twenty feet in size. To maximize space, settlers built lofts across the cabin roof or lean-tos across the rear.
In treeless areas settlers built their homes out of sod. The long, tough grasses of the plains had tight, intricate root systems and the earth containing them could be cut into flexible, yet strong bricks. A horse drawn sod cutter, similar to a farming plow, produced long, narrow strips of sod, which then could be chopped into bricks with an axe. These two to three-foot square, four inch thick sod bricks were then stacked to form the walls. Soddy roofs were constructed by creating a thin layer of interlacing twigs, thin branches, and hay, covered over with another layer of sod. Many settlers saved time by building their sod houses into the sides of hills and banks. In this way only the front wall and roof had to be constructed. As a result, because of the thick walls, sod homes were cool in summer, warm during the winter, and extremely cheap to build.
But sod houses also had drawbacks. Because the house was literally built of dirt and grass, it was constantly infested with bugs, mice, snakes and other assorted vermin. The very best built sod roof tended to leak and took days to dry out. The weight of the wet earth caused many to collapse. And when the sod roof became extremely dry, dirt and grass fell like rain into the house.
When the railroads reached the frontier, materials such as lumber, tarpaper, and shingles became available. Sod homes were abandoned in favor of the board-and-batten shanty. It was much easier for settlers to build a frame shelter than to cut sod and stack bricks. Shanties were built directly on the ground, with a dirt floor and no foundation. Shanty walls consisted of studs, horizontal boxing and a layer of tarpaper held on with lath. But shanties also had their drawbacks. A strong wind could topple them, and they were hard to heat in winter, stifling in summer.
In time the shanties and log homes improved, but the first settlers lived harder than modern day Americans on a camping trip.
If you would like to read more about domestic life on the frontier, consider reading PIONEER WOMEN, by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith (University of Oaklahoma Press – 1996).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

An Economic Meltdown

It’s a strangely familiar story, almost as if ripped from today’s headlines. Years of a booming economy with wide-spread investment in speculative building projects and bonds is followed by a sudden panic and the crash of the financial markets. Banks begin closing; businesses are forced to declare bankruptcy and rampant unemployment results, eventually hitting 14%.

It happened in 1873, when the post Civil War boom, especially the growth in manufacturing and railroad construction, fueled tremendous speculation in the financial markets.

Financier Jay Gould embarked on a scheme to corner the gold market and drive up the price when it appeared the country would go to a gold standard. Up to this point, both silver and gold were used as currency and to back the paper dollars, (greenbacks) that started to circulate during the war. Unexpectedly - the government released more gold for sale and the speculators who had invested in the scheme were ruined, suffering huge financial losses.

At the same time, the firm of Jay Cooke and Company planned to build the Northern Pacific Railway. Cooke was relying upon a $300 million loan from the US government for construction, but when it was revealed his credit was shaky, the loan was canceled and he was forced to declare bankruptcy. Other bank failures quickly followed and the New York Stock Exchange was temporarily closed for ten days.

In Europe, there was stock market speculation in railways, steamships, and manufacturing much like that in the US. On May 9, 1873, the Vienna Stock Market crashed, and a series of bank failures followed, throwing the world into economic chaos and a depression.

As credit tightened, factories laid off workers, construction declined, wages were cut and real estate values tumbled. Between 1873 and 1875, over 18,000 businesses failed. Known as The Long Depression, the economic instability lasted for 6 years.

The US government monetary policy of the time, to attempt to control inflation by taking money out of circulation, was a primary root cause of the depression. The Fourth Coinage Act of 1873 embraced the gold standard, and de-monetized silver.

This gave birth to the Free Silver Movement, a political division that pitted the Republicans, who supported the gold standard against the Democrats, who supported a silver standard. The debate raged for years in the late 19th century and created division within the country.

In my book, Promise Me, the hero is a Secret Service agent working for the Treasury Department. He’s in Montana investigating a consortium of miners he suspects are plotting to reduce the supply of silver to drive the price up and benefit when the country adopts the silver standard. He makes a bargain with the mine owners to seduce a rich widow and humiliate her in an effort to gain the confidence of the men.

Pruitt shuffled the cards. “I think we need somebody to court this widder woman, crawl into her bed and then humiliate her in front of the whole entire town. That’d teach the bitch a good lesson— that she ought to be minding her Christian”—he spit the word out as if he were cussing— “concerns back in Helena instead of messing with men’s business. We need to run her out of town with her tail between her legs.”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “And just who could be cold-hearted enough to take advantage of a woman determined to do good for the less fortunate?” His voice dripped with sarcasm.

Pruitt never looked away from Sam as he finished dealing the cards. “Why, I think you’d be the best candidate for the job, Calhoun. You got all that smooth charm that draws the ladies like bees to a rose garden. You got the looks, too, and you sure enough know your way around a petticoat.”

The rest of the men joined Pruitt in laughter before he continued. “Seems you don’t have no trouble getting into a woman’s drawers, if the gossip can be believed.”

Sam slowly sucked in a large gulp of air and then searched his pocket for a cheroot to hold his temper in check. Once, a long time ago, he would have shoved himself from the table and delivered a beating to any man who’d dared to insult his character. Those days were long gone and nearly forgotten. Life had taught Samuel Calhoun some hard and mean lessons; more than anything, he’d learned to survive and to make the most of every opportunity fate threw in his direction.

Deborah Schneider

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wardrobes for the Historic Hero and Heroine

By Celia Yeary

Take a step back in time. Imagine the heroine of a romance novel set somewhere in the past. If she were a woman of means, she wore sweeping dresses of velvet, satin, and faille, trimmed in ribbons, braid, and lace. She adorned herself with clothing of elegance and great variety, and topped her elaborate coiffure with bonnets and hats, decorated with flowers, ribbons, lace, and feathers. To complete her outfit, she added parasols, gloves, handkerchiefs, and jewelry.
The gentleman in the novel, the hero, matched his lady in correct clothing for the era. He donned striped pants, shirt with detachable collar, silk tie, suspenders, a wool frock coat, and a derby or top hat. Of course, the hero might turn out to be a pirate, a captain of a ship, or a renegade. In such an occurrence, the author must still dress him in an authentic costume.
The author of Old West or pioneer romance novels faces the same dilemma. What did a prairie bride wear? A calico dress with a muslin bib apron, or a coarse cotton dress and lace-up shoes? Did she cover her hair and shade her face with a scarf, slat bonnet, or a poke bonnet? Her hero probably wore canvas pants, suspenders, perhaps a vest, banded-neck shirt, and cowboy hat.
The historical romance novel, either Western, Regency, Edwardian, or Victorian, speaks a language all its own. Rich mental images allow the reader personally to experience a story. A chain of events carries the plot, yes, but the characters affect the reader’s perceptions through the senses, especially tactile and visual.
Coupled with the character’s physical attributes is the clothing he or she wore. If the author succeeds with correct description, she allows the reader to become intimate with the characters. Modern clothing rarely illicit such fascination or involvements as historical wardrobes do.
The description of apparel helps move the story. The wise author uses the technique subtly so that it becomes a part of the tale, and not a technique. The reader does not want to stop the action for a description of a character’s mode of dress. This will only bog down the story, and the reader may skip portions, or simply close the book and choose another.
Research can be difficult for the busy author with a goal or deadline. The usual sources are the library, personal books, and the internet. Any one of these may be either restrictive or time-consuming. Listed below are ten excellent companies for quick references. Whether the need is for men’s, ladies’, or children’s clothing, these websites will help describe the exact piece of clothing for the author.
GENTLE WARNING: These websites are beautiful, colorful, and even fascinating. Do not become so involved in the offerings that you forget the purpose of the visit!
The sites were selected for their appearance, ease of navigation, inventory, and graciousness of the owners. Each proprietor granted permission to use the website in this article. The companies are listed in random order.
“Maggie May’s Historic Clothing for Ladies’ and Children”
Specializes in the art of reproductive attire from 1750-1950.
Historic Education Service provided.
On the “Costume Page,” choose a time period you wish to research.
Visit the “Dressing Room.”
Based in Tennessee.

“Classic Designs of Historic Clothing”
Specializes in Victorian and Edwardian for Women and Victorian to the 1920’s for men.
Includes maid’s uniform.
Based in Ohio.

“Makers of period custom clothing for Historical Reenactors, Buckskinners, and Rendezvouser for the 18th and 19th Centuries.
Specializes in French and Indian War, Revolutionary War, English and French Colonial, War of 1812, Mountain Men, Civil War, Cowboy.
Clothing for the Entire Family.
Based in Minnesota.

“Romantic Clothing for Ladies and Gentlemen”
Features Historical clothing from Renaissance, Pirates, Victoria, Old West, and Civil War.
Includes Accessories, Weapons, Jewelry, Victorian Masks, Wall Decorations, and Dance Videos.

“Creates historic clothing and costumes for adults and children.
Specializes in pioneer dresses, Victorian clothing, Medieval clothes, and Renaissance dresses.
“Dreams Sewn to Order”
Based in Texas.

“Historical Resources and Historical Reproduction”
Offers 19th Century Wardrobe-Mexican War, Civil War (cs, us.), Indian Wars, Span-Am War for Ladies, Men, and Children’s Victorian Clothing.
Includes props, weapons, home and office d├ęcor, and saddles and tack.
Pair-O-Dice Mercantile based in California.

“Specializes in Victorian, Edwardian, Civil War, and Old West Styling for Women”
Romantic feminine clothing reminiscent of centuries past.
Also offers Children’s Clothing, Jewelry, and Accessories.
Based in Michigan.

“Includes a Men’s Store and Ladies’ Store, complete with accessories for each”
Old West Clothes and Victorian Clothing.
Authentic Historical clothing and Calligraphy supplies.
Based in California.

“Historically correct clothing for museums, re-enactors, or anyone needing clothing representative of the 1600’s-1890’s”
Custom garments for any time period.
Special Section: 1880-1890. Clothing for men, ladies, and children.
Based in Colorado.

Celia Yeary-Author for THE WILD ROSE PRESS.
Available in print-Amazon: ALL MY HOPES AND DREAMS, a Cactus Rose novel.
Contracted: TEXAS BLUE, a Cactus Rose novel.
Contracted: SHOWDOWN IN SOUTHFORK—A Wayback, Texas series novel

Photo: Ranks Mercantile

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


By Cheryl Pierson

Only two Native Americans on either side of the States’ War rose to the rank of brigadier general. Standhope Watie (Uwatie), fighting for the Confederacy, was one of those two. Yet, what makes this accomplishment so incredible is the fact that while he was fighting for the Confederate States of America, he was also fighting other Cherokee tribal leaders who held opposing political views and very different visions for the Cherokee nation.

Stand Watie commanded the Confederate Indian Cavalry of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi. While the cavalry unit was comprised mainly of Cherokee, some Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole tribal members also served.

Born in Oothcaloga in the Cherokee Nation, State of Georgia, Uwatie (or Oowatie) was also known as Isaac. He was educated in a Moravian mission school. In his early adulthood, he occasionally wrote articles for the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper. The State of Georgia confiscated Cherokee lands in 1832 when gold was discovered, including the thriving plantation owned by Stand’s father and mother. Stand and his brothers, part of the powerful Ridge-Watie-Boudinot faction of the Cherokee council, stood in favor of the Cherokee Removal. Their signing of the Treaty of New Echota facilitated the removal of the Cherokee people to Indian Territory—what is now Oklahoma.

Another faction of Cherokees following John Ross refused to ratify the treaty signing. This segment was known as The Anti-Removal National Party. Members of this group targeted Stand Watie and his brother, Elias Boudinot, along with their uncle, Major Ridge, and cousin, John Ridge for assassination. Stand was the only one who survived the assassination attempt. Although Watie’s family had left Georgia before the forcible removal of all Cherokees in 1838, another brother, Thomas, was murdered by Ross’s men in 1845.

In October, 1861, Watie was commissioned as colonel in the First Mounted Cherokee Rifles. Besides fighting Federal troops in the States’ War, his men also fought opposing factions of Cherokee, as well as Seminole and Creek (Muscogee) warriors who supported the Union.

In 1862, Stand Watie was elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, through dissension continued among John Ross’s supporters.

On June 15, 1864, Watie’s troops captured the Federal steamboat J. R. Williams on the Arkansas River off the banks of Pleasant Bluff near Tamaha, Indian Territory. The next morning, Colonel John Ritchie’s men, who were stationed at the mouth of the Illinois River near where the two rivers met, engaged Watie’s men as they attempted to confiscate the cargo. The river was rising, and they fought to a standoff. When Watie learned of the advance of Union troops from Fort Smith, Arkansas, (within about 40 miles), he burned the ship and much of the remaining cargo, then sank it.

Watie surrendered a year later in June of 1865, the last Confederate general to lay down his arms.

In my May 2009 release, Fire Eyes, I weave this bit of history into my plot. The villain, Andrew Fallon, and his gang have come upon the site where the J.R. Williams was sunk four years earlier. Fallon speculates there could have been gold aboard, and sets his men to dive for it. As mercurial as his temper is, none of them dare question his order. Here’s what happens:


“Damn! I know where we are.” Dobie Perrin said.
Andrew Fallon turned in the saddle, glaring at Perrin, the afternoon sun dappling them through the leaves of the thick canopy of trees. “So do I, you idiot! So do we all, now.”

The secluded cemetery sat on a bluff, overlooking the Arkansas River. They had been wandering for two days, ever since retracing their steps to the first small creek they’d come to. The one Fallon felt sure would give them their bearings. Now, at last, he recognized where they were. He’d figured it out ten miles back.

“Tamaha,” Denver Rutledge muttered. “I was raised up over yonder.” He inclined his head toward the riverbank. “Over in Vian.”

“Then why didn’t you know where we were?” Fallon’s anger surged. “I am surrounded by idiots!”

“I shore ’nuff shoulda known, General,” Rutledge said apologetically. “Right yonder’s where we sunk the J.R. Williams. Rebs, I mean. Stand Watie’s bunch.”
Fallon jerked his head toward the other man. “Right where, soldier?”

Rutledge kneed his horse, coming abreast of Fallon. “Why, right yonder, General. It was in June of ’64. She was a Union ship, the Williams was.”

“What was she carrying?”

Rutledge shrugged. “Don’t rightly know. Supplies, maybe.”

“Payroll? Gold?” Fallon fingered his curling moustache. “Could be anything, eh, Rutledge? But the Yankees were known to cache their gold profits in casks. Maybe that’s what the J.R. Williams was carrying. Casks that weren’t really supplies, but were filled with gold.”

“Could be, I ‘spect.” Rutledge’s voice was hesitant.

Fallon nodded toward the river. “I think maybe we’ll try to find out.”



“What’s he doing, Tori?” Lily whispered. She moved closer to her sister. The night had turned colder, and the girls’ clothing was becoming threadbare and ragged.

Tori shook her head. “Fallon’s plumb crazy, Lily. Making his men dive for that ship! What’s he think he’s going to do if he finds it? Pull it up with his bare hands?”

“Or a rope, maybe,” Lily said innocently.

Tori didn’t say anything. She reminded herself that Lily was, after all, only eight years old. And she, at eighteen, knew how the world worked much better than little Lily did. At least Lily had stopped crying all the time. Now, Tori wasn’t sure if
that was an improvement.

Lily sometimes scared her, the way her eyes looked hollow. Like there was no feeling left in her. Tori had no mirror, but her little sister looked like she herself felt. Older than she should be. And sad. But Lily didn’t seem to be afraid any longer, and Tori supposed that was a good thing.

Tori knew what Fallon intended to do with her and Lily. But the initial shock and fear of Fallon’s intent was overshadowed by other things that had actually happened. The violent deaths of their parents and younger brother, the endless days of riding with scant food and water, the bone-deep weariness that never let up, not even when she slept on the hard ground at night next to Lily.

She was responsible for Lily, now that her parents were gone. She squared her thin shoulders, her gentle eyes turning hard for a moment. She would protect her sister, no matter what.

Tori watched as Fallon ordered three of his men back into the water yet another time. Even if they could see what they were diving for, it would be too deep to reach. But the scene helped Tori realize just how unstable Andrew Fallon was. Once or twice, she’d caught herself thinking he was almost a nice man. He’d brought her and Lily a blanket one cold night. And he’d given them extra rations another time. But she knew he was not nice, not even sane.

Evil, was what Andrew Fallon was. Evil, and most insane.

She watched him, posturing and screaming at his men, who were so terrified of him that they were making fools of themselves trying to dive for an unreachable goal, a ship that may contain treasure, but just as well may not. A vessel that was impossible to get to, all the same. Especially in the pitch-black night. Lily leaned against her, her weight heavy with sleep. They sat beside a tree, their backs propped against the rough bark. The night was cool, and Tori had drawn the blanket close around them. She sagged against the tree trunk, her arm around her little sister, as Lily’s eyelids drooped.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What's in your bag, Doc?

My latest WIP has a woman doctor and while researching to not only find out about women doctor's in the late 1800's I've had to discover a little about medicine at that time.

One good source has been the book "Pioneer Doctor: The Story of a Woman's Work" by Mari Grana. This is a story of the author's grandmother who became a doctor in 1890 and first worked in the Montana mining country. The book describes some of the doctoring practices. The one that caught my attention and I had to look it up was the use of "adhesive bandages" for broken bones. That seemed too modern. Come to find out they were using "adhesive" bandages made of cotton bandages with plaster of Paris rubbed into the weave in 1851. A Dutch doctor first started using that method even though they had been pouring the liquid plaster into wooden boxes built around the legs for a while.

I couldn't find a photo to copy so go here and see a pretty good photo of a bag and some contents.

In some instances the doctor would have two bags. One for regular medical care and one filled with the necessary equipment for birthing. Here is just a brief list of contents that could be in a doctor's bag in the late 1800's.

Obstetrical tools (some of these were pretty horrendous looking)
Tongue depressor
Ear spoon
Catgut sutures
Glass syringe
Antiseptic soap
Peroxide of hydrogen
Drainage tubes
Percussion hammer
Adhesive bandage
Clean rolls of bandage

And the list could go on. The physicians of the 1800's and early 1900's had to carry practically their whole practice with them in order to be ready for whatever they found at the end of their sometimes long ride or late night summons.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chief Joseph and His Journey

by Tanya Hanson

Shortly after my first date with their son, his folks realized I was The One and hauled me to the Pacific Northwest to meet the grandparents. While that motor home trip made its own kind of history (think Clark Griswold,) the haunting history of the Nez Perce was the real highlight. During my subsequent career teaching American Literature, I got to know them, and Chief Joseph, very well.

In September 1805, the Lewis and Clark expedition came down the Shining Mountains –the Rockies—starving, ill from dysentery, and too weak to defend themselves. There at the Clearwater River, they could easily have been captured or killed by the local tribe, their horses stolen, their mission sent into oblivion. However, the Nez Perce welcomed them and fed them, tended their horses for months while the party explored the Pacific shore. For the next seven decades of friendship, the Nez Perce proudly declared they had never shed white blood.

The Nez Perce home turf was the Wallowa Valley, the Valley of Winding Waters. In 1863President Ulysses Grant issued an executive order protecting the Wallowa from white settlement but changed his mind two years later, giving the tribe “reasonable time” to move to a reservation. The peaceable Wallowa became a contentious place of gold seekers, thieves rustling Nez Perce horses and cattle, and settlers wanting land.

General Oliver Otis Howard, who had lost one arm in the Civil War, was ordered to clear out the Nez Perce. Even so, he confessed to trusted friends it was a great mistake to remove the people from the valley. Negotiations failed, and the Nez Perce young chief Heinmot Tooyalaket had plans of his own. Along with his brother Ollokot, and tribal subchiefs Looking Glass and White Bird, he elected to flee the homeland in May 1877 and follow the footsteps of Sitting Bull to seek refuge in the Grandmother Country. This was the nickname for Canada, in reference to Queen Victoria.

The whites called the young chief, Joseph.

The fleeing Nez Perce consisted of 800 people including 125 warriors, and 2,000 horses, most of them their famed Appaloosas. Joseph and his band outsmarted two thousand U.S. Cavalry for 1,700 miles, and the Nez Perce journey has been called the most brilliant retreat in American military history.

Joseph’s triumphs included drawing Howard’s solders into a trap in June at White Bird Canyon, slipping into familiar mountains that stumped the solders, and performing a succession of shrewd military campaigns that saw many American citizens cheering on the tribe. Throughout northern Oregon, east across Idaho, then south across Yellowstone, Joseph eluded the Bluecoats including General Nelson(Bear Coat) Miles, and successfully held off Colonel Samuel Sturgis and his company at Clarks Fork River, Montana. However, the Nez Perce were severely weakened by the capture of many of their horses. They made it to safety but their ability to travel quickly had been severely curtailed.

In October, the weary Joseph and his band stopped to rest near today's Laurel, Montana, only 30 miles from their destination. By now, One-Armed-Soldier-Chief Howard had arrived to reinforce General Miles. After four days of skirmishes, a sharpshooter’s bullet killed Joseph’s friend Looking Glass (Joseph had already lost his brother Ollokot), and on the fifth day in the snowy cold, Joseph surrendered his gun to Nelson Miles.

Then he delivered the most quoted of all the great chiefs’ speeches, of which I include a few lines.

Tell General Howard I know his heart…I am tired of fighting… it is cold and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. ..I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I will find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs. I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.

Honored as a dignitary but forever exiled, he later visited Washington D.C. and met with the great white “chiefs.” He said, “They all say they are my friends, and that I shall have justice. .but while their mouths all talk right, I do not understand why nothing is done for my people..General Miles promised that we might return to our own country. I believed him…or I would never have surrendered.”

General “One-Armed-Soldier- Chief” Oliver Otis Howard, who knew Joseph well and admired him greatly, claimed that Joseph and Robert E. Lee were America’s two greatest generals…although both had fought for the “wrong side.” Lieutenant Charles Erskine Scott Wood, who translated Joseph’s heart-rending speech, resigned his commission not long after and became a powerful attorney, fighting for the rights of the dispossessed.

Joseph died September 21, 1905, at the Colville Reservation in Washington State, according to the physician, of a broken heart.

His name, Heinmot Tooyalaket, translates as Thunder Rolling in the Mountains.

Listen for him.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Will the Real Ms ?? Please Stand Up

Without a doubt one of the most difficult tasks a writer has to do, other than plot a book, is aptly name the characters.

Last month’s blog-Don’t Take a Wimp to a Gunfight-featured the birth names and stage names of male movie stars. Perhaps it’s the times, but I was surprised to find that many past and present female movie heroine’s do not have stage names, rather are billed under their given name. Nonetheless, I can understand why Hollywood insisted upon name changes for these actresses.

Real Name Stage Name

Judy Garland - Francis Gumm
Whoopie Goldberg - Caryn Johnson
Cheryl Ladd - Cheryl Stoppelmoor
Demi Moore -Demetria Guynes
Donna Reed - Belle Mullenger
Joan Rivers - Sandra Molinsky
Meg Ryan - Emily Anne Hyra
Jane Seymour - Joyce Frankenberg
Tina Turner - Annie Mae Bullock
Twiggy - Leslie Hornby
Cher - Cherilyn Sarkisian
Lauren Bacall - Betty Joan Perske
Marilyn Monroe - Norma Jean Mortensen
Doris Day- Doris Von Kappellof
Joan Crawford - Lucille LeSueur
Queen Latifah - Dana Elain Owens
Morgan Fairchild - Patsy Ann McClenny

Imagine the movie marquee reading: Now starring Doris Von Kappellof with Roy Scherer in Pillow Talk? Loses something, doesn’t it? But, Doris Day and Rock Hudson is more appealing. I can’t imagine Annie Mae Bullock, rocking away on stage and belting out the song Proud Mary, but Tina Turner—oh yeah! Some of you may remember that Lauren Bacall was the real-life wife of Humphrey Bogart. So, hmmm, I wonder—did Bogie refer to her as Lauren or Betty Joan?

A few points to remember when naming the heroines in your stories, it’s important to consider: does the name reflect the heroine’s personality, the time period of the story, and her ethnic background, social status and does her name coincide with the book’s genre? Some excellent resources for researching names is:;;

A general search using search engines such as: Google, Yahoo, Alta Vista, Lycos and HotBot are useful for researching names. U.S. Social Security has a list of most popular names. One particularly helpful online encyclopedia is Wikipedia at Wikipedia happens to have quite a bit of information on naming practices.

One of my favorite resource books that I keep next to my computer is: Character Naming Source Book (Second Edition) by Sherrilyn Kenyon.

I love it when I’m searching for a character’s name and have that ‘aha’ moment and the person in my head suddenly comes alive when I find the perfect name.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Romantic Footwear

No, I don’t mean high heels, or pumps, or even strapless, fur-topped slippers. I’m referring to the one type of footwear that screams romance and makes your heart pitter-patter—The Cowboy Boot!

No matter when you grew up, you probably had a pair, and in many cases they were your favorite article of clothing—ever! I still remember a pair of red ones with white stitching and I couldn’t have been more than four or five.

The small town in Kansas were I grew up had a ‘Boot Museum’. I haven’t been out to that side of town for a few years, and will have to check to see if they still have it while down there this summer. We had a family reunion there once and my kids had no idea there were THAT many kinds of cowboy boots.

It’s been said that Genghis Khan wore boots similar to the cowboy boot, and a calf-length boot with a low heel was named after the Duke of Wellington in the early 1800’s. These “Wellingtons” were preferred by soldiers in the Civil War, and the simple construction made them easy to mass produce. The ‘boys’ took their boots with them when the war ended, and soon found the boots to be perfect for riding. Hence—The Cowboy Boot. The high tops protected their legs, while the low heel kept them firmly in the saddle. Also the rounded toe slipped easily into the stirrup and the slick bottom made for quick exits when dismounting.

Cowboy boots remained the ultimate work boot, but also became stylish fashion when Hollywood jazzed them up. Along with Cowboy Heroes came their hand tooled, embossed, silver-tipped and rhinestone-studded footwear. An early American Cowboy would probably drop dead at the sight of some of today’s boots made from exotic skins—shark, stingray, alligator, ostrich, snake, etc.—and at the price.

So how many of you have that pair in your closet, or on your feet, that you still love every time you pull them on?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Singer Sewing Machines - The First Home Appliance

Consider the time consuming process of making garments for an entire family by hand, one stitch at a time. And most likely, that sewing took place in the evening when all the chores were done, supper dishes cleaned, and the children in bed. Sitting close to the fire, or possibly a coal oil lamp, she worked away, often into the wee hours.

The first sewing machine was developed by Englishman Thomas Saint in 1791 to work on leather and canvas. It was never built. In 1830 a French Tailor, Barthlemy Thimonnier built a machine and had 80 in his factory where French military uniforms were made. Tailors afraid of losing their livelihood rioted and destroyed the factory.

These early machines used the chain stitch which were not very strong.

In 1833, Walter Hunt developed a lock stitch machine which used an eye-pointed needle, a shuttle, and stitched horizontally. The lock stitch was stronger than the chain stitch. There were problems with the feed. The machine had to be stopped and reset up. Hunt sold the machine without bothering to patent it.

In 1842, John Greenough patented the first sewing machine in America.

Elias Howe patented his machine in 1845. His method was similar to Hunt's. He improved the needle and the material moved vertically. He traveled to England to promote interest in his machine and when he returned he found various people infringing on his patent. In 1854 he won the right to claim royalties from those using his patent ideas. The picture to the right is of Elias Howe's machine. Note the handle used to power the machine.

Isaac Singer, an engineer, thought the rotary sewing machine clumsy and designed the flying shuttle. The needle was mounted vertically and he added a presser foot, a fixed arm to hold the needle, and included a tensioning system. The machine combined elements of previous machines. He patented his machine in 1851. He was unable to patent the treadle as it had been used for some time.

Howe took Singer to court and won. Singer had to pay him a lump sum of $15.00 for each machine produced and Singer took out a license under Howe's patent and paid Howe $15.00 for each additional machine produced.

Before 1990, the idea of women having sewing machines to aid them with their work wasn't well accepted. The feeling was women weren't capable of operating machinery. They were too excitable and not considered to be bright enough.

When it was first suggested Singer design one, his comment was, "You want to do away with the only thing that keeps women quiet - their sewing!" But, ready to make money, he went ahead and designed one that had many features of machines today. The first treadle Singer machine was introduced in 1856. To aid in sales, he used women to demonstrate the machines.

Singer became partners with lawyer, Edward Clark, and thus began the first installment credit plan which made sewing machines available to more women, the ones who couldn't pay cash for them. The year was 1856. They cost $100.00 and for $5.00, a woman could take one home with her that day and start to use it. At that time that amount of money equaled to the price of a car today. Some families went together to buy a machine and shared it.

Women were at last able to make garments much faster than in the past. Ease in piecing quilt squares, mending, and other domestic sewing chores freed women up for other activities. Though men feared they'd spend their free time playing cards, gossiping, or gadding about town, most probably got a little more rest or took part in charitable activities.


Thanks for reading. For you ladies out there that sew, thank goodness for Singer and the other individuals who developed sewing machines.


Linda LaRoque ~Western Romance with a Twist in Time~ A Law of Her Own, Forever Faithful. Desires of the Heart, 3-9, My Heart Will Find Yours, 5-9, Flames on the Sky, Investment of the Heart coming 5-9, When the Ocotillo Bloom 7-9.