Thursday, March 25, 2010



By, Roberta C.M. DeCaprio

The other day my friend’s twelve year old son forgot his homework, and so after school his teacher had him sit in detention. Now, the detention room is one of the class rooms, painted in a clean, neutral color, airy and bright with lots of windows. You are forbidden to talk to the student next to you, but you are allowed to do your homework or read a book for the forty-five minutes you’re serving your sentence.
When my friend’s son came home with the note his teacher sent, my friend explained the importance of him being responsible and then told him if it happened again he wouldn’t be able to play games on his computer for a week.
In my day we were either grounded or had phone and television privileges removed.
Let’s look at the pioneer day discipline:


Misbehaved students were flogged in Pioneer times. It was a totally embarrassing episode whether done in school or at home.
In school, if a child misbehaved the teacher would drag the student struggling up to the front of the class, in full view of other snickering students. The chastised child would then be completely horsed over the teacher’s knee – with an elbow hard upon his neck to keep him securely on. Then, with a thick strap the teacher proceeded to punish the child’s backside with several hard whips. In some schools a whipping post was installed, whereby a child was tied to and whipped in front of his classmates.
“When I’m through, you’ll need a warming pan to sit in tonight,” the teacher would threaten. But it did not end with the comforts of a warming pan once the child got home. Usually more flogging followed and more humiliation.
At home, a parent would make the child go out and find a long, willowy switch from a tree, cut it down and wait in the woodshed. While there, the misbehaved child would have time to ponder his actions. Most times, I’m sure, it was more a worry as to what was to come next that filled his thoughts. After enough time had passed and the child was ripe with fear and regret, the parent would enter the wood shed, sit upon a stool, and take the switch into his own hand. The child would then be ordered over the parent’s knee, breeches or bloomers lowered to the ankles, and a very tender, bared behind reddened by repeated blows using the switch.

Elizabeth Montgomery, in her Reminiscence of 1851, recounts practices in the girls’ school of a Mrs. Elizabeth Way. For permitting her head to fall forward, a girl was forced to wear a necklace of sharp Jamestown weed-burrs, strung on tape. If tasks were slighted, a girl was forced to wear leather spectacles.

The old test of good discipline was, if you can hear a pin drop, then the order in the school is perfect. The implication was that the "wheels in the head" make no noise when in action. The teacher was advised never to smile until Christmas. The youngsters were generally marched into the classroom, marched to classes, and then marched out of the building. The old time teacher, by virtue of his position, was a dictator.

The teacher enforced order and quiet among students except for recitation periods. Pupils spoke only when called upon by the teacher or requested periods. Permission to speak was granted by raising their right arm.They were usually required to stand when speaking to the teacher or to the class. Titles of respect (Miss, Mister, Ma'am, and Sir) were always used in addressing the teacher. Students were required to speak correctly.

Punishment took numerous forms. Corporal punishment was not unheard of nor was other extreme penalties such as detention, suspension and even expulsion. Lesser punishments, more common at that time than now, included such things as a rap on the hands or knuckles with a steel edged ruler; standing in a corner with face to the wall; wearing a dunce cap, facing the room, and sitting upon a high stool beside the teacher's desk; standing for long periods with arms held straight out in front; standing with an arm outstretched, palm up, while holding a heavy book on that hand for a long period; or being banished to the girls' cloakroom (if the culprit were a boy).

“Modern Standards" Appearing in the Later 1800s:

In the period between the Civil War and the middle of the twentieth century, there was increased attention to the individual development of school children. The earlier conceptions of strict discipline and even brutal punishment gave way to more sympathetic views of the child as an individual. Authoritarian discipline and corporal punishment were softened, and greater attention was given to the development of habits of self-discipline.

According to V. H. Culp, author of How to Manage a Rural School, "The discipline of the rural school should be more like that of a well ordered family with the teacher as its head. The children should be able to get a drink or a book or even leave the room, without permission except in occasional cases where such privileges are abused. If the older children are encouraged to help the younger ones upon many occasions a feeling of cooperation will always be in evidence."

When a child could not conduct himself in routine affairs without disturbing the school, or wasted his own time, his liberties must be restricted until the rules were learned. Punishment should always be in proportion to the transgression. The certainty of punishment rather than the severity would deter evil doers. Corporal punishment and suspension should be used only as a last resort. It was taken for granted that the Golden Rule, courtesy, fairness, and good manners were the standard of conduct.

I don’t know what sort of Golden Rule is practiced today. I’ve seen children in markets, malls, and theaters acting out to horrible proportions. They overule the parent's authority, having no fear of the consequences. And the parents are between a rock and a hard place because administering a slap or sending a child to bed without supper today is considered child abuse.

I’m glad my children are adults and I don’t have to deal with such things. And when they call me concerned over problems they’re having with their own offspring, I remember something my grandmother once told to my mother. “Grandchildren are a parent’s revenge.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

First Oregon Female Physician

This being Women in History Month I'd like to introduce you to one of the women in Oregon history who has been an influence on my historical stories.

Bethenia Owens-Adair- 1840-1926

In 1859 Bethienia divorced her husband LeGrande Hill—She was nineteen and had a three-year-old child. She married Hill at the age of fourteen. The stigma of the divorce followed her through her whole life.

She was a strong woman who refused to be a victim. She left the abusive marriage and raised her son as well as earned two medical degrees. One of the first women to practice medicine in Oregon she was also friends with Abigail Scott Duniway and became a subscription agent and regular contributor to Duniway's woman's right newspaper in Portland, OR.

This woman's story is what inspired my heroine in my June release, Doctor in Petticoats. She wasn't married before or divorced but she is strong of character and fights against society to be the best doctor she can be.

Here is the blurb
Clay Halsey not only loses his sight in an accident but his self-confidence as well. His brothers enroll him in a blind school. Feeling worthless and unwanted, it takes the courage of a young man and the trust of a woman to help him see he has future.

Doctor Rachel Tarkiel has settled for a life healing others and ignored her emotional wounds. When Clay shows her friendship and affection, she wonders if there is a chance she can have a life like others, or are her scars too deep to heal?

“I’m going to look in your other eye now.” She, again, placed a hand on his face and opened the eyelids, stilling her fluttering heart as she pressed close. His clean-shaven face had a couple small nicks on the edges of his angular cheeks. The spice of his shave soap lingered on his skin.
She resisted the urge to run her cheek against his. The heat of his face under her palm and his breath moving wisps of wayward hair caused her to close her eyes and pretend for a few seconds he could be her husband. A man who loved her and wouldn’t be threatened by her occupation or sickened by her hideous scar.
His breathing quickened. A hand settled on her waist, slid around to her back, and drew her forward. Her hand, holding the lens, dropped to his shoulder, and she opened her eyes. This behavior on both their parts was unconscionable, but her constricted throat wouldn’t allow her to utter the rebuke.
Clay sensed the moment the doctor slid from professional to aroused woman. The hand on his cheek caressed rather than held, her breathing quickened, and her scent invaded his senses like a warm summer rain.

Paty Jager

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kansas-The Breadbasket of the Nation

If you drive along the highways in Kansas you’ll see signs proudly proclaiming Kansas as the number one wheat producer—which is accurate. Since the 1870’s stats have been kept on wheat production, and the only state closely rivaling Kansas over all the years has been North Dakota.

Wheat is one of the oldest known foods, and is believed to have been derived from wild grasses thousands of years ago. It wasn’t brought to the U.S. until the seventeenth century and not to Kansas until the mid 1800’s. Some early settlers grew wheat, but most grew corn. It wasn’t until a class known as winter wheat proved to thrive in the dry land that the crop really took off. Russian-German immigrants, used to dry land cultivation, started dedicating large portions of their recently acquired Kansas acreage to the plants.

Machinery to harvest the wheat quickly transformed from the hand scythe to horse drawn and steam powered thrashing machines. The railroads criss-crossing the state from the cattle days provided the farmers access to markets and mills. Grain storage also grew rapidly and most every town boasted a grain elevator and mill.

A longtime Kansas farmer was quoted as saying, “Wheat is the crop of first importance. It’s the backbone of our economy, and made Kansas famous around the world.”

Bread was a mainstay, and baked regularly. In some households daily.

From a very old family cookbook, here is a basic bread recipe. (My mother still uses this recipe. I cheat and buy the frozen loaves.)

• 1 tea cup milk
• 2 scoops butter
• 1/2 teacup warm water
• 2 spoons active dry yeast
• 2 big spoons sugar
• 1 palm of salt (teaspoon)
• 1 teacup of warm water
• 6-7 teacups flour
Heat milk and butter until butter melts. Set aside. Mix yeast with the ½ teacup of warm water and stir until well dissolved. Set aside. Put sugar, salt, and 1 teacup of warm water in a large bowl. Mix. Add milk and butter. Add yeast. Add flour one cup at a time until it’s too difficult to mix with spoon. Turn onto floured board and knead in the remaining flour until the dough is smooth, not sticky. (Add flour if needed.) Grease a large bowl with butter. Put the bread dough into the bowl and roll until well coated. Cover the bowl. Let rise. Punch down and knead into loafs. Place in buttered loaf pans. Butter the tops and let rise again. Bake for 45 min at 350.

I have no idea why they signify ‘teacup’, but there truly is nothing like the smell of homemade bread baking!

With my Quinter Brides series set in Kansas, I knew one of the brother’s would have to be a wheat farmer. Shotgun Bride has Kid, the cattle man. Badland Bride has Skeeter, the bone hunter. Boot Hill Bride has Hog, the restaurant owner, and (finally) the forth book, Guardian Bride, has Snake the wheat farmer. (Wildcat Bride has Bug, the oil man.)

I’ve had so much fun with this family. I’m really going to miss them when I type ‘the end’ on the last story. (Which is probably why I still have one chapter to finish on Wildcat Bride.)

Here’s an excerpt from Guardian Bride—The Quinter Brides Book Four.

The jingle of harnesses and the creak and clatter of wagon wheels interrupted the casual tweets of the prairie songbirds. Frowning, Snake moved beyond the end of the long rows of wheat. The small plume of dust had grown closer. He squinted. With the force of a lightning bolt, his heart plummeted into a dark, spooky place.

An old mule, wearing a hat that someone had cut long slits in the brim so the animal’s ears could stick out and full of purple and pink flowers, trotted along the trail. Dust rose into the air in the animal’s wake. Two women sat on the seat of an odd shaped, little wagon. He began to shake. They didn’t need to come closer for him to know who they were. The driver wore a hat to match the mules, minus the ear slots, and the woman beside her, totted a well-used shotgun.

Fear like he’d never known raced over his body, and he scanned the vast ground, erratically trying to figure out which way to run.

Just as he hefted a leg, which felt like it weighed three hundred pounds, a rough voice sliced the air. “Don’t move! I got you in my sights!”

“Aw, shit!” The two women—together—could only mean one thing. Turning back to the wagon, he shouted, “Put the gun away, Ma, you ain’t gonna shoot me.”

“You don’t know that!” she reiterated.

On second thought, a good round of buckshot wouldn’t be as bad as the alternative—marrying the woman who sat beside his mother, glowering at him like he’d just killed her mule, hat and all.

Summer Austin flinched as the gun in the woman’s hands clicked. Out of the corner of her eye she checked if the woman sitting beside her had cocked the trigger.

Stephanie Quinter had. Moreover, one gnarled finger was set to pull the lever back the rest of the way.

Summer swallowed, stirring up the bile that already churned in her stomach. Marrying Snake Quinter wasn’t necessarily what she wanted, but he was her ticket out of Dodge, and she had to take it. Another option wasn’t likely to come along and time had run out.

(The picture is of the stove my husband bought me about twenty years ago for my dining room. I still love it.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Invention of the Toothbrush

I love research. While gathering information on another topic, I ran across this information about the toothbrush and decided it would make an interesting blog topic. I shudder to think what life would be like without a toothbrush but in one of my books a cowboy who forgot his used a frayed stick to clean his teeth so I guess I would make do. As a child I can remember cleaning my teeth with baking soda at my grandmothers as that's what she used. It's not one of my favorite memories but it did the trick.

Here's a little of what I learned.

Before toothbrushes people in Egypt and Babylonia used "chew sticks", a frayed twig usually made from an aromatic tree, to clean their teeth and freshen their breath.

The first tooth brush can be attributed to the Chinese in around 1498. It was described as having a cattle-bone handle embedded with Siberian pig hair bristles.

The picture below is a stickbrush formed from a tree branch. This photo is shown on the American Dental Association website.

The first mass produced toothbrush was invented around 1770 in Newgate Prison by convict William Addis. Bored, William spent his time thinking of ways to make a living when released. Care of teeth at the time consisted of rubbing the teeth with a rag or sponge, sometimes dipped in sulfer oil, or chalk or salt as an abrasive. He decided this wasn't affective. After some thought, he bored tiny holes in a small bone, remains from his previous meal. He obtained some bristles from the jailer, inserted the bristles into the holes, tied a knot, and applied glue to hold them securely in place. The first tooth brush was born.

In America H. N. Wadsworth received the first patent for his toothbrush. Mass production didn't begin in America until 1885.

Boar bristles were used in toothbrushes until 1938 when nylon bristles were introduced by Dupont de Nemours. This toothbrush was called Doctor West's Miracle Toothbrush. The disciplined hygiene habits of WW II soldiers greatly influenced Americans about good oral hygiene.

In 1960 one of the first electric toothbrushes, Broxodent, was sold by the Squibb company.

The above information can be found on

Thanks for reading.