Thursday, December 31, 2009
Roberta C.M. DeCaprio
When I was a little girl I’d watch many westerns, from Hop-a-long Cassidy, to Daniel Boone . . . Davy Crockett and Annie Oakley to Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. In fact television viewing in the 1950’s, though only three network channels existed, was jammed packed on Saturday mornings with children’s shows. My all time favorite was The Lone Ranger (1949 to 1957), starring Clayton Moore in the title role and Jay Silverheels as his trusted Indian friend, Tonto.
In 1957 Clayton Moore came to my part of town and my father, knowing my admiration for the man and the show he acted in, took me to see the on-stage performance. However, at the end of the show, when all the children ran to get his autograph, I was unable to participate. Having been born in 1950 with a walking disability, I was unable to make the many stairs between Moore and I, in order to reach him. And with such a maddening crowd, my father was hesitant to carry me.
Disappointed, I rode in the front seat of the old Buick in tears. Then a large, black limo passed by our car and my father recognized the passenger sitting in the back seat. It was none other then Clayton Moore, on his way to the airport. My father beeped the horn, motioned for the driver to pull over, and to both of our surprise, the limo driver did just that. My father then ran to the driver’s side of the limo and explained the disappointment of his handicapped daughter. Clayton Moore then asked for my father to bring me to him.
Sitting next to Moore, my heart pounded with glorious excitement. Through the eye-holes of the black mask he wore, two very blue orbs peered down at me. And he told me to clean my plate, brush my teeth three times a day and obey my parents. Then he handed me a silver bullet with THE LONE RANGER inscribed on the bottom. I have that bullet still today, and the fond memory of such an thrilling time.
In 1987 Clayton Moore returned to my area to promote a local bank, the slogan being: THE LOAN ARRANGER. I, by the Grace of God, somehow was able to get in touch with Moore’s wife, Connie. After explaining my initial meeting with Moore, 30 years prior, Connie said she knew he’d want to see me again. This time our meeting was filmed by Channel 10 (WTEN/ABC) news and anchor-woman Marci Elliott. I showed Moore the silver bullet and he remembered the whole incident.
Down through the years The Lone Ranger and Tonto have remained with me, in fact my first historical, released by TWRP September 11th, 2009, entitled THE GOLDEN LADY, was created because of my love for Native Americans, which Tonto inspired. So this month I thought I’d dedicate my blog to the pioneer lawman, the Texas Ranger (which Moore portrayed in his series).
From my research using Wikipedia and DEA auctions/Police & Government sites this is what I found:
Texas Rangers, mounted fighting force, was organized (1835) during the Texas Revolution. During the republic they became established as the guardians of the Texas frontier, particularly against Native Americans. The Texas Rangers at first consisted of three companies of 25 men each. Said to “ride like Mexicans, shoot like Tennesseans, and fight like the very devil,” the rangers were unique as a police force in that they never drilled, were not required to salute officers, and wore neither uniforms nor any standard gear except the six-shooter. In their first decade of operation, the rangers effectively quelled lawlessness in Texas on frequent occasions, and in the Mexican War (1846–48) they served as scouts and guerrilla fighters, gaining a wide reputation for valor and effectiveness.
In the late 1850s the rangers fought vicious battles with the Comanche, and in the Civil War, Terry's Texas Rangers gained renown. In the Reconstruction era the Texas Rangers were engaged to control outlaws, feuding groups, and Mexican marauders and were responsible for keeping law and order along the Rio Grande. In 1874 the Texas Rangers were organized for the first time on a permanent basis in two battalions; one was assigned to arbitrate range wars on the frontier, and the other was sent to control cattle rustling on the Texas-Mexico border. The heyday of the great cattle business, with its feuds and shootings, its outlaws and rustlers, was also the heyday of the Texas Rangers.
In the 20th century the police responsibilities of the rangers, around whom much lore had built up, decreased, and by 1935 their numbers had diminished considerably. By act (1935) of the Texas legislature, the rangers were merged with the state highway patrol under the jurisdiction of the state department of public safety. The rangers now form an elite investigative squad within the Texas highway patrol. The first women rangers were admitted to the force in 1993.
Now based in Austin, the capital of Texas, the Texas Ranger Division, commonly called the Texas Rangers, is a law enforcement agency with statewide jurisdiction. Over the years, the Texas Rangers have investigated crimes ranging from murder to political corruption, acted as riot police and as detectives, protected the Governor of Texas, tracked down fugitives, and functioned as a paramilitary force at the service of both the Republic (1836–45) and the state of Texas.
The Texas Rangers are believed to have been unofficially created by Stephen F. Austin in 1823 and formally constituted in 1835. The unit was dissolved by the federal authorities during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, but was quickly reformed upon the reinstitution of home government. Since 1935, the organization has been a division of the Texas Department of Public Safety; it fulfills the role of Texas's State Bureau of Investigation. As of 2009, there are 144 commissioned members of the Ranger force.
The unit has been called the oldest state-level law enforcement agency in the United States. The Rangers have taken part in many of the most important events of Texas history and were involved in some of the best-known criminal cases in the history of the Old West, such as those of gunfighter John Wesley Hardin (reputed to be the meanest man alive, an accolade he supposedly earned by killing a man for snoring. In May 1874, Hardin killed Charles Webb, the deputy sheriff of Brown County, for which the outlaw was relentlessly pursued. Officer Webb had been a former Texas Ranger). Also brought to justice was bank robber Sam Bass, and outlaws Bonnie and Clyde. Scores of books have been written about the Rangers, from well researched works of nonfiction to pulp fiction, making them significant participants in the mythology of the Wild West. During their long history, a distinct Ranger tradition has evolved; their cultural significance to Texians and later Texans is such that they are legally protected against disbandment.
Modern-day Rangers (as well as their predecessors) do not have a prescribed uniform, per se, although the State of Texas does provide guidelines as to appropriate Ranger attire, including a requirement that Rangers wear clothing that is western in nature. Historically, according to pictorial evidence, Rangers wore whatever clothes they could afford or muster, which were usually worn out from heavy use. While Rangers still pay for their clothing today, they receive an initial stipend to offset some of the costs of boots, gunbelts and hats.
To carry out their horseback missions, Rangers adapted tack and personal gear to fit their needs. Until the beginning of the 20th century, the greatest influence was from the vaqueros (Mexican cowboys). Saddles, spurs, ropes and vests used by the Rangers were all fashioned after those of the vaqueros. Most Rangers also preferred to wear broader-brimmed sombreros as opposed to cowboy hats, and they favored square-cut, knee-high boots with a high heel and pointed toes, in a more Spanish style. Both groups carried their guns the same way, with the holsters positioned high around their hips instead of low on the thigh. This placement made it easier to draw and shoot while riding a horse.
The wearing of badges became more common in the late 1800s. Historians have put forth several reasons for the lack of the regular use of a badge; among them, some Rangers felt that a shiny badge was a tempting target. Other historians have speculated that there was no real need to show a badge to a hostile Indian or outlaw. Additionally, from a historical viewpoint, a Ranger's pay was so scanty that the money required for such fancy accoutrements was rarely available. Nevertheless, some Rangers did wear badges, and the first of these appeared around 1875. They were locally made and varied considerably from one to another, but they invariably represented a star cut out of a Mexican silver coin (usually a five-peso coin). The design is reminiscent of Texas's Lone Star flag.
Although present-day Rangers wear the familiar "star in a wheel" badge, it was adopted officially only recently. The current design of the Rangers' badge was incorporated in 1962, when Ranger Hardy L. Purvis and his mother donated enough Mexican five-peso coins to the DPS to provide badges for all 62 Rangers who were working at that time as commissioned officers.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Everywhere we look during this season, signs of commercialized Christmas are everywhere. The kids are begging for upgraded electronic gadgets, stores are overflowing with lit-up, cheerful Santas and penguins for the lawn, and the radio plays nothing but Bing and Elvis. If you attend church or have a spiritual life, at least the "true meaning" of the holiday is brought home to you. Folks out West certainly had a different view of Christmas than we do today. I can only imagine what a cowboy Christmas would be like: probably the same stew or beans, but maybe with a special treat later if the ranch owner was kind. Churches were scarce in the early days, so people would meet in homes or even outside. Depending on the environment and weather, snow or blizzards might interfere, so many families went without church of any kind.
One of my favorite Christmas stories of all times is the Christmas scene from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House On The Prairie. I read that chapter to my daughter last Christmas, which was the last time she believed in Santa. I encouraged her to close her eyes and imagine she lived in a little house in the middle of nowhere, whose nearest neighbor was an hour's drive away. Imagine the cold rain, the rising, freezing river, and the desolate, open prairie. Imagine eating only what your father could hunt, and having no entertainment of any kind but each other's company and Pa's fiddle. We talked about Laura and Mary waiting for Santa, going to bed so hopeful, even though they could hear Ma and Pa's worried voices discussing how bad the situation for any presents looks. Ma says, "there's always the white sugar." My eyes always tear up when I get to this part. I put myself in Ma's sturdy workboots and think about how hard their life was in those days that a little bit of sugar, so rare and precious, would have to suffice for a Christmas gift for two good little girls.
When Mr. Edwards sweeps into the house, covered in ice and snow, announcing he met Santa Claus, you know that Christmas has been saved. Laura and Mary are overjoyed and excited. My daughter shared their excitement, too - she knew that Santa was real, just as those two, long-ago girls did. When Laura and Mary discover their gifts (a tin cup, a penny, candy, and a little cake), we both felt their joy. Of course, those simple gifts are almost comical to us now - just try and give even something homemade or secondhand to a child today and see what happens. But, a hundred and more years ago, such gifts were hard to come by.
Christmas trees, even though a major part of the holiday in Victorian America, were scarce or impossible to find in some regions of the west. But if they were available and a family was lucky enough to have one, they were decorated with handmade ornaments such as cookies, dolls made of straw or yarn, or other things. Music would have been important, and caroling was popular. I imagine a group of cowboys sitting around a fire on a cold Christmas Eve, singing to their cows and maybe dreaming of Christmas traditions back home.
Christmas for many in the west was a difficult time. For those on the prairies, they were often barraged with terrible blizzards and savage December winds. For mountain men, forced away from their mining activities long before Christmas, in fear of the blinding winter storms and freezing cold, the holidays were often meager. But, to these strong pioneers, Christmas would not be forgotten, be it ever so humble. More religious folk would observe the holiday as they did every Sunday, with little work except the essential chores, and Bible reading or other quiet activities. Children have been hanging stockings for Santa for a long time, and the western child would have been no different, whether it was hanging on an adobe or peat fire.
As I pondered the celebration of Christmas in days past or in our own time, one thing always seems predominant, and it is the most obvious and precious - spending time with family and loved ones. Forget the glittering lights and piles of presents from Amazon and Ebay. Forget the china that is only rolled out once a year. Family, friends, and good health are still the most important things for anyone.
Merry Christmas to all of the Wild Rose Press authors, editors, artists, and others, as well as our readers, fans, reviewers, and loving families. May the New Year bring happiness and peace to all.
with acknowledgements to www.legendsofamerica.com for the picture and information.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
When I was younger, it was because of the presents, and the anticipation that came with the season. My parents were not wealthy, but we had the necessities and a few of the luxuries. My mom was a great manager. She could make the smallest thing seem of the greatest value. She could transform our house into a marvelous Christmas haven with her decorations, wonderful cooking and a few well-wrapped packages. When I became an adult, the torch was passed, but the anticipation merely shifted. The excitement I felt was not for myself, but for my children–the joy I could bring to them.
Once I had written A Night for Miracles, I began to think about my heroine, Angela Bentley, and how I might have reacted had I been in her place. I would like to think that I would have done what she did–transformed her small cabin into a memorable Christmas castle that none of the children would ever forget, simply through a good meal, a warm fire, and a gift. But it was all of these things that made Angela’s “gift” — the gift of her heart — special. She put herself out on a limb, having been emotionally wounded before.
I thought about the old legend–that Christmas Eve is a “night for miracles” to happen. Angela was not a rich person by any means, but she gave what she had, freely. She took in the stranger and the three children from the cold, gave them warm beds and fed them. But then she went even further. She gave her heart to them, although it was a huge risk. She comes through with physical gifts, but the true giving was in her spirit. And that leads to a miracle.
A Night For Miracles is one of those short stories that I didn’t want to end. I love a happy ending, and this is one of the happiest of all, for everyone in the story.
Blurb for A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES by CHERYL PIERSON
Legend says that miracles happen on Christmas Eve. Can a chance encounter between a gunfighter and a lonely widow herald a new beginning for them both? On this special night, they take a gamble that anything is possible–if they only believe! Available now with THE WILD ROSE PRESS!
EXCERPT FROM A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES:
Angela placed the whiskey-damp cloth against the jagged wound. The man flinched, but held himself hard against the pain. Finally, he opened his eyes. She looked into his sun-bronzed face, his deep blue gaze burning with a startling, compelling intensity as he watched her. He moistened his lips, reminding Angela that she should give him a drink. She laid the cloth in a bowl and turned to pour the water into the cup she’d brought.
He spoke first. “What…what’s your name?” His voice was raspy with pain, but held an underlying tone of gentleness. As if he were apologizing for putting her to this trouble, she thought. The sound of it comforted her. She didn’t know why, and she didn’t want to think about it. He’d be leaving soon.
“Angela.” She lifted his head and gently pressed the metal cup to his lips. “Angela Bentley.”
He took two deep swallows of the water. “Angel,” he said, as she drew the cup away and set it on the nightstand. “It fits.”
She looked down, unsure of the compliment and suddenly nervous. She walked to the low oak chest to retrieve the bandaging and dishpan. “And you are…”
“Nick Dalton, ma’am.” His eyes slid shut as she whirled to face him. A cynical smile touched his lips. “I see…you’ve heard of me.”
A killer. A gunfighter. A ruthless mercenary. What was he doing with these children? She’d heard of him, all right, bits and pieces, whispers at the back fence. Gossip, mainly. And the stories consisted of such variation there was no telling what was true and what wasn’t.
She’d heard. She just hadn’t expected him to be so handsome. Hadn’t expected to see kindness in his eyes. Hadn’t expected to have him show up on her doorstep carrying a piece of lead in him, and with three children in tow. She forced herself to respond through stiff lips. “Heard of you? Who hasn’t?”
He met her challenging stare. “I mean you no harm.”
She remained silent, and he closed his eyes once more. His hands rested on the edge of the sheet, and Angela noticed the traces of blood on his left thumb and index finger. He’d tried to stem the blood flow from his right side as he rode. “I’m only human, it seems, after all,” he muttered huskily. “Not a legend tonight. Just a man.”
He was too badly injured to be a threat, and somehow, looking into his face, shefound herself trusting him despite his fearsome reputation. She kept her expression blank and approached the bed with the dishpan and the bandaging tucked beneath her arm. She fought off the wave of compassion that threatened to engulf her. It was too dangerous. When she spoke, her tone was curt. “A soldier of fortune, from what I hear.”
He gave a faint smile. “Things aren’t always what they seem, Miss Bentley."
A Night For Miracles is available here at The Wild Rose Press.
I also have another Christmas short story, a FREE READ, available here, Until the Last Star Burns Out http://www.thewildrosepress.com/until-the-last-star-burns-out-p-1065.html
To find out more about my other books and short stories, visit my website at http://www.cherylpierson.com
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Mistletoe is one of the traditions of the Christmas Season. But did you know—
Mistletoe is an evergreen. The traditions of displaying evergreens at Christmas came about as a way to bring color and the green hope of spring into the home.
This plant however is a parasitic shrub. It grows on trees, living off the host plant. They are not full parasites, since the plants are capable of photosynthesis. But these mistletoe plants are parasitic in the sense that they send a special kind of root system down into their hosts, the trees upon which they grow, in order to extract nutrients from the trees.
Mistletoe has long been regarded as an aphrodisiac and fertility herb. It may also possess abortifacient qualities, which would help explain its association with uninhibited sexuality.
The unusual botanical history of mistletoe goes a long way towards explaining the awe in which it was held in the Norse myths. For in spite of not being rooted in the soil, mistletoe remained green throughout the winter, while the trees upon which it grew and upon which it fed did not (the European mistletoe often grows on apple trees; more rarely on oaks). The fascination this must have exerted over pre-scientific peoples is understandable.
Mistletoe was first hung in farmhouses and kitchens so young men could kiss the maidens while standing under it. Only they were to pluck a white berry each time they kissed and when the berries were gone so were the kisses. The berries are poisonous.
The Druids believed it was sacred and held medicinal and supernatural qualities. That is the mistletoe of oak trees. Other types of trees also have their own parasite or mistletoe but it is the Oak that was the most favored.
The Druid priesthood held a ceremony around Christmas time or five days after the New Moon following the winter solstice. They cut the mistletoe from a holy oak with a golden sickle, catching the branches before they hit the ground. The branches were divided into sprigs and given to the people to hang above their doorways for protection against thunder, lightning, and other evils.
The folklore, and the magical powers of this plant, spread through the centuries It was thought placing a sprig in a baby's cradle would protect the child from faeries. Giving a sprig to the first cow calving after New Year would protect the entire herd.
Celts believed that because mistletoe received sustenance from the host tree it also held the soul of the tree.
Ancient Scandinavia and the Norse mythology is where the tale of kissing und the mistletoe started. It was considered a plant of peace in Scandinavian history. If enemies found themselves under mistletoe in the forest they laid down their weapons and called a truce until the next day.
Most say kissing under the mistletoe is an English custom there is a story that dates back to Norse mythology. It is about an overprotective mother.
The Norse god Balder was the best loved of all the gods. His mother was Frigga, goddess of love and beauty. She loved her son so much that she wanted to make sure no harm would come to him. So she went through the world, securing promises from everything that sprang from the four elements--fire, water, air, and earth--that they would not harm her beloved Balder.
Leave it to Loki, a sly, evil spirit, to find the loophole. The loophole was mistletoe. He made an arrow from its wood. To make the prank even nastier, he took the arrow to Hoder, Balder's brother, who was blind. Guiding Holder's hand, Loki directed the arrow at Balder's heart, and he fell dead.
Frigga's tears became the mistletoe's white berries. In the version of the story with a happy ending, Balder is restored to life, and Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the reputation of the offending plant--making it a symbol of love and promising to bestow a kiss upon anyone who passes under it.
Is hanging mistletoe a tradition in your family
Friday, December 11, 2009
All of us authors have experienced The Moment we knew we wanted to write a book. For me, it happened when I read Little Women for the first time the Christmas I was eight years old. Unlike Jo, though, I waited until my kids were in college to take writing seriously, and of course wish I had started sooner.
You may already know that Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women upon the suggestion of a publisher, and based the characters on her own sisters. Indeed, "Meg's" wedding dress is on display at Orchard House, the family home in Concord, Massachusetts. There in Concord, the teenage Louisa May hung out with the Transcendental greats, Emerson and Thoreau.
Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) was born in Pennsylvania and worked as a nurse during the War between the States. Her stories of strong values and American folkways have delighted readers for generations.
Not long ago, I had the almost mystical pleasure of visiting Orchard House and pondering at Louisa May's grave in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery down the road. At Orchard House, I bought a new favorite book, A Louisa May Alcott Christmas and couldn't resist sharing this delightful poem with you today.
Merry Christmas to you and yours, and may 2010 bring you every good thing.
Cold and wintry is the sky,
Bitter winds go whistling by,
Orchard boughs are bare and dry,
Yet here stands a faithful tree.
Household fairies kind and dear,
With loving magic none need fear,
Bade it rise and blossom here,
Little friends, for you and me.
Come and gather as they fall,
Shining gifts for great and small;
Santa Claus remembers all
When he comes with goodies piled.
Corn and candy, apples red,
Sugar horses, gingerbread,
Babies who are never fed,
Are handing here for every child.
Shake the boughs and down they come,
Better fruit than peach or plum,
'T is our little harvest home;
For though frosts the flowers kill,
Though birds depart and squirrels sleep,
Though snows may gather cold and deep,
Little folks their sunshine keep,
And mother-love makes summer still.
Gathered in a smiling ring,
Lightly dance and gayly sing,
Still at heart remembering
The sweet story all should know,
Of the little Child whose birth
Has made this day throughout the earth
A festival for childish mirth,
Since the first Christmas long ago.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Hundreds of years ago, long before tourists or even cities, there was another Florida. When Ponce de Leon discovered it in 1513, Florida was mostly wide, green spaces. Approximately 1521, when de Leon returned, he brought horses and a few Andalusian cattle, the ancestors of the Texas Longhorns. It was the Spanish explorers who turned Florida into America’s oldest cattle-raising state.
By the 1600s, pioneer families later trickled down to Florida from areas such as Georgia and the Carolinas, taming the land and hunting out the wild Spanish cattle from among the palmetto hammocks and swamplands. Trading the cattle to Cuba for gold, those enterprising families were the early purveyors of America’s cattle industry.
The Florida ‘cowhunter’ or ‘cracker cowboy’ remains distinct from the Spanish vaquero and the Western cowboy. Florida cowboys do no use lassos to herd or capture cattle. Their primary tools are bullwhips and dogs. The use of the whip is how the nickname ‘Cracker’ was derived. I’ve often heard it said that in the early days the women would know to get the food set out on the tables as soon as they heard the cracking of the whips. “Here come the ‘crackers’,” they’d say.
The early cattle-raising days were rough for Spanish settlers. The St. Augustine missionaries who raised beef also fought Indian raids and mosquitoes. Despite the cattle fever ticks, storms, swamps and snakes, before 1700 there were already dozens of ranches along the Florida Panhandle and the St. Johns River.
By the 1800s, the Seminole nation possessed extensive herds of cattle. Most Florida settlers raised beef for food. As Native American and white settlers moved south, so did the cattle. They moved through Alachua County into the Kissimmee valley and on to Lake Okeechobee.
When railroads reached into Florida, trains were used to ship cattle, and Florida’s beef industry grew. New towns sprang up around the ranches, and more people arrived. There was work for blacksmiths, shopkeepers, and cowboys in these settlements. During the Civil War, Florida became a chief supplier of cattle to the Confederacy, both for meat and leather.
Florida’s old-time cowboys had a unique way of herding cattle. They used 10-12-foot-long whips made of braided leather. Snapping these whips in the air made a loud ‘crack.’ That sound brought stray cattle back into line fast and earned cowboys the nickname of ‘crackers.’ These men rode rugged, rather small horses known as ‘cracker’ ponies.
Even today, Cracker cowboys still count on herd dogs to move cattle along the trail. These tough dogs help get a cow out of the marsh (where ATVs can’t go) or work a hundred steers into a tidy group. For those rough riders of Florida’s first ranchers, a good dog, a horse, and a whip were all the tools a true ‘cracker’ cowhunter needed.
Today the term ‘Cracker’ or Florida Cracker is used informally by some Floridians to indicate their family has lived in Florida for many generations; and/or that they were born and raised in the state of Florida. It is considered a source of pride to be descended from ‘frontier people who did not just live but flourished in a time before air conditioning, mosquito repellent, and screens on windows. I, myself, am a fourth-generation Florida ‘Cracker.”