Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Caroline Clemmons: Camels in the Old West

Caroline Clemmons, author
 Camels in the West
by Caroline Clemmons
Copyright © 2012 Caroline Clemmons

Since I live in, write about, and love Texas, you won’t be surprised to learn that today’s post involves Texas and Southwest history. If you saw the 1976 family comedy “Hawmps!,” then you already know that the U.S. Government experimented with the effectiveness of camels in the desert West. The movie was hilarious, but loosely based on fact.

Jefferson Davis

In 1855, the U.S. Congress, at the urging of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, authorized the importation of camels and dromedaries to be used for military purposes and earmarked thirty thousand dollars for the experiment. Davis, a veteran of the war with Mexico, had seen considerable service in the Desert Southwest. Keenly aware of the role that camels had played over the centuries in the warfare of other nations, he believed that the strange beasts could be put to use in the United States as well.

Major Henry C. Wayne and Lieutenant David D. Porter departed for North Africa, where they were met by a third American, Gwinn Harris Heap, whose father had been the U.S. consul to Tunis for a number of years. They acquired thirty-three camels before departing for home in February 1856. Native camel drivers accompanied the camels and dromedaries.

Camel Headquarters

The ocean voyage from the Mediterranean, through the Strait of Gibraltar, and across the Atlantic was been uneventful considering the fragile cargo. On May 14, 1856, the camels came ashore at Indianola, Texas. Ten acres of land had been set aside for them and a two-hundred-foot-long shed had been built to house them. Major Wayne decided first to acclimate the camels to the intense humidity of the Gulf Coast by letting them rest in a large corral.

Writing to Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, Navy Lieutenant Porter said, “We have lost on the voyage but one of those we purchased…and she died from no want of care, but because she was unable to produce her young one…We still have more than we started with, some young ones having been born on the passage, and are in fine condition. All the other camels I am happy to say have not received a scratch…They are looking a little shabby just now, most of them shedding their hair…but they are fat and in good health.

Three weeks later, the animals began first leg of the trip that would take them to San Antonio, Texas, on to El Paso, Albuquerque, and across the arid Southwest all the way to Fort Tejon, California. The camels performed extremely well. Capable of carrying loads of up to twelve hundred pounds—larger than a horse or mule could carry—the beasts lumbered along at a slow but steady pace.

A monument in Quartzite, Arizona pays tribute to chief camel driver, Hajid Ali, called Hi Jolly. After the camel experiment failed, he used some of the released camels to conduct a freight business. Later he married and worked in Quartzite. The monument is at his last campsite. At his death, he believed small families of camels still roamed in remote areas of the Southwest.

The great camel experiment eventually failed. With the advent of the Civil War, the personnel at Union garrisons in the Southwest scattered before the advancing Confederates. Some of the imported animals were set free and some were kept in captivity. The last known survivor died in a Los Angeles zoo in 1934. However, even today people occasionally tell tales of seeing lone camels in remote corners of the Southwest.

Note: Most of this info was gleaned from an article in his book It Happened in Texas, by James A. Crutchfield, 1996, Two Dot Press, Helena, Montana.

♥ ♥ ♥

Be My Guest
by Caroline Clemmons

only 99 cents!
Amazon ~ Smashwords

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Caroline Clemmons: Be My Guest

Be My Guest
by Caroline Clemmons
Copyright © 2012 Caroline Clemmons

Jacquie invited me to tell you how I came up with the story idea for one of my books. I write books set in Texas, usually with a rancher as the hero. Since I live in North Central Texas amid cutting horse and cattle ranches and I see cowboys on a daily basis, writing books set in the west appeals to my sense of history as well as my location.

On a trip home to the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex from a visit in our hometown of Lubbock in West Texas, we were in a hard downpour as we drove from Post toward Snyder. I remembered a high school teacher’s story of seeing a watertight Volkswagon swept off the road up onto the high railroad bed. My teacher’s old leaky Renault was safe, so he could help the flood victims.

Every event sends an author’s mind playing “what if” for story ideas. That day, instead of worrying about our car being swept away (my husband is an excellent driver and we were in a heavy car), I started playing around with the flood and what if a woman were swept away and had to walk toward safety on the rails and what if a rancher saw her...You can see how this story emerged to become Be My Guest.

I love the topography just below the Caprock area. My favorite is around Benjamin and Guthrie with the red clay ravines and the 6666 Ranch. But I also love the land between Snyder and Post where the Caprock is visible and the highway passes over little creeks and a fork of the Brazos River.

Since I have trouble controlling my weight (or trying to), I wanted a heroine who could eat all she wanted without gaining. Not all fiction, because my mom could and my brother can. Unfortunately, my body is like my mother’s sister, who battled weight all her adult life. Sigh. I also always wished I had looked like a young Maureen O’Hara with thick auburn hair. My grandmother and uncle had red hair, but I started blonde which turned mousy brown and is now...ahem...enhanced by lovely blonde highlights. ;-) You see how I created my heroine, Aurora O’Shaughnessy.

The hero, Will Harrison, is a rancher. Easy peasy. I know a lot of ranchers and an image popped into my head. But I needed to make helping Aurora more difficult, so I broke his leg. No, not me personally, but I created a fall which left him with his leg in a full cast. And what is it about a cast? You can’t get it wet! Yet he had to get Aurora out of the floodwater and to safety. We have to be so nice in real life, that I have fun being mean to my characters. Writing is cheaper than therapy. Probably.

Here’s a blurb for Be My Guest:

Caroline Clemmons, author

Aurora Kathleen O’Shaunessy comes by her flaming auburn hair naturally, and this independent city woman has an inner fire to match. Nothing stops Aurora--that is, nothing short of a Texas flash flood. This super-organized businesswoman might be running from the past, but she’s using this journey to stop and smell the roses--rather the spring flowers in bloom across the Texas prairie. A brush with two rough men doesn’t faze her. But a handsome rancher with a precocious daughter makes her rethink her plans.

Rancher Will Harrison rescues her from the raging waters and she’s his guest for the next thirty-six hours. That’s long enough for Will to fall head over heels in major attraction, and he has a hunch she might feel the same. He has a plan to keep her around until he convinces her to move out of the fast land and in to his life forever. He plans to ask her to marry him at his birthday celebration. First, he has to save her from two rough kidnappers who have other plans for Aurora.

An excerpt of Be My Guest:

The clock on the dashboard displayed one o'clock when Aurora found herself free to concentrate on lunch in Snyder. Clouds gathered and rumbled with thunder over the West Texas town. Aurora's empty stomach rumbled with them. After a hazardous morning, fatigue overshadowed her usually cheerful nature. She passed by the fast food places before she spotted the family restaurant recommended to her by the Texas State Trooper a few minutes ago.

Cars and trucks filled the parking lot. What a lucky break, she thought, when she spotted illuminated taillights and a car backed out of the prime parking slot at the entrance. Aurora saw the lone man in the dusty red pickup truck facing her, waiting for the space. He sat in the very same type and color truck used by two ruffians who had terrorized her earlier in the morning. Although she knew this man could not be one of those two men, an unreasonable anger bubbled up in her directed toward all cowboys, especially those in red trucks.

Her normally pleasant nature turned aggressive and she zipped the Mustang into the vacated park before the less maneuverable truck could occupy the space. The man honked the truck horn at her as she got out of her car. She just smiled and blew him a saucy kiss as she hurried into the restaurant. After all, any real gentleman would have let a lady have the only space in the first place, she told her nagging conscience.

Her conscience would not be quieted so easily. She must be in shock from her morning encounter. Never had she acted so rudely. Regretting her impetuous actions already, she thanked goodness the exchange occurred with a stranger and not someone she might meet again.

Seated in the corner booth, Aurora ordered a hamburger, French fries, and a large Dr Pepper. While she waited for her food, she reviewed the items listed under the town of Snyder in her Texas guidebook. Suddenly, she sensed someone standing beside her booth. As she looked up--and up--a huge cowboy with most of his left leg in a cast leaned his crutches against the side of the booth. He slid onto the seat beside her, which pinned her in the booth with him.

Aurora scooted to the right as far as possible. "Hey, who do you think you are? This is my booth, and no one invited you to share it with me!"

"Your car's sitting in my parking space, so I'll sit in your booth," he said calmly as he removed his Stetson and ran his fingers through sandy brown hair. He turned in his seat to hang the hat on the hook at the end of the booth by his crutches.

Aurora blushed when she realized this must be the man whose parking space she mischievously stole. Oh no, how terrible. He must have had to park a long way from the door and hobble in on those crutches. How embarrassing. The one time in her life she acted rudely, her victim turned out to be a man handicapped by a leg cast and crutches. Still, he had his nerve sitting beside her without so much as a "may I."

Her chin came up defensively. "Okay, I apologize. If you used one of those disability placards on your rear view mirror, people would know you have a problem."

"Lady, my problem is that you stole my parking space," Will Harrison said coolly. He lifted his left leg so that the cast-encased foot rested on the seat facing them, then swiveled to gaze at her.

Aurora smelled the cowboy's after-shave mixed with the clean scent of his breath when he turned his face toward her. His stone gray eyes met hers. She saw anger drain from his eyes, replaced by stunned amazement. He leaned toward her.

Her awakened senses rocketed into response. Each thread on the sleeve of his blue chambray shirt seared where it touched her arm. For a moment Aurora had the astonishing thought that this cowboy might lean further forward and kiss her right here in public. Equally astonishing, but fleeting, came the thought that she wouldn't mind a kiss from this man. Her tongue flicked across her lips and she gave herself a mental shake, unable to turn away from his mesmerizing gaze.

What can you be thinking? You have absolutely no business falling for some good-looking cowboy out here in the middle of nowhere. Get a grip on yourself.

Her heart quelled the voice of reason within her mind. Aurora’s her stomach somersaulted from butterflies to flip-flops as she stared into the cowboy's wide gray eyes. She broke his gaze and peered at her folded hands a second before she threw them up in capitulation.

"Okay, Okay. I just don't know what came over me. I know you saw the parking space first, but I'm on Bubba-overload. Look, it's a long story, but it's been a real killer morning. Once again, I apologize and plead temporary insanity" She placed her hands palms down on the table.

His gaze raked over her, and one eyebrow elevated. "Well, well. I'm almost convinced there's remorse here. Almost--but not quite. Would you like to explain to me what 'Bubba-overload' is and what it has to do with me?"

"Listen, I apologized. Let's just drop it. Okay?" Surprised at the petulant tone in her voice, she adjusted the dark green scarf that held the hair back from her face

The man peered at her steadily, his voice polite but firm when he spoke. "No, ma'am, we can't drop it. I think I deserve an explanation after that 'Bubba' line. It sounded very much like an insult to me."

This man obviously had his hackles up and wanted a full explanation. After her morning's adventures, she found herself impatient with this cowboy, even though her mind recognized his request sounded reasonable. Finally, Aurora swiveled at her waist to face him as much as the limited space allowed. "Oh, well, if you insist. You wore that western hat and were in a pickup truck. At a glance, you looked like the typical red-necked Bubba. All you lacked was a big wad of tobacco bulging in your cheek."

She raised her hand and shook a finger at the man as if he were a delinquent school boy. "Listen, I've had my fill, and then some, with you guys. You follow me, whistle at me, lean out a truck window to sing to me, shout, or wave to me. I even receive various very rude gestures and get mooned. Believe it or not, I do nothing either to initiate or encourage any of this behavior."

A skeptical smile appeared and he raised his eyebrows. A flush of color heated her face at the memory of her behavior in the parking lot. She held up one hand to stop any comment he might make before she continued.

"Oh, I know, I acted brashly with you outside just now. Let me assure you, that's entirely unlike me. In fact, it's truly a first. I've never, ever done anything like that before."

She shook her head in wonder. "I don't know what came over me. As I said, it must have been temporary insanity due to Bubba-overload."

She pinched the fabric on the leg of the neatly creased blue denim jeans she wore. "Look at me. My jeans aren't skin-tight. They’re not painted on me." With a tug at the hem of her hunter-green knit top, she added, "My shirt isn't too tight, it has three-quarter sleeves, and the neck isn't low or revealing."

Aurora moved her knees and elevated a foot to display canvas shoes. "I'm wearing my little Keds, not flashy pumps with stiletto heels. All in all, I think I'm dressed very sedately and not at all in a provocative way."

The cowboy slid his glance slowly up and down her then back to her face before he smiled a slow, lazy smile that lit up his eyes and brought a dimple to his cheek. He reached over to grasp her untouched water glass and took a drink from it, his eyes returning to her face as he sipped the icy water.

Her own mouth opened as she watched his mouth against the rim of the glass. The tip of her pink tongue slid against her upper lip as the water slid into his mouth. She could almost feel his lips as they received the liquid. To hide the rising turbulence in the pit of her stomach, Aurora glared at him. In vain she tried to avoid thoughts of his stare or the dimple that appeared with his smile.

She forced herself to concentrate on her defense. "Um, I just drive along in my little blue Ford Mustang, enjoying the scenery and minding my own business. I do nothing to call attention to myself. I even try to be a good sport about the immature behavior some guys display."

She took a deep breath. "I try to take it all in stride and just keep on schedule but"--Aurora slammed her hands against the top of the table--"this morning, two very frightening Bubbas tried to run me off the highway and hijack me or my car."

His eyes widened and his mouth gaped, but she continued, "I'm only here because a State Trooper happened by in time to interrupt my abduction. Frankly, that scared the life out of me. The longer I thought about it, though, the angrier I became. By the time I got to this restaurant, I had completely lost my cool."

Aurora took a deep breath and gazed at her hands. She recalled the fright that consumed her when she realized the two men followed her. Only quick thinking on her part prevented the two ruffians from succeeding at their attempt to run her off the road and get her out of her car. She shuddered to think what might have happened if not for the State Trooper. And never, never would she forget the faces of those two men!

She waved her hands in a fluttery motion. "When I saw you in a truck the same color as the one that ran me off the road...well...I guess I just went bananas, berserk, crazy. That's why I'm pleading temporary insanity." Aurora leaned back and crossed her arms in front of her.

At this moment the waitress appeared with their food. Aurora stared in amazement as the waitress set the burger, fries and Dr Pepper in front of her and a duplicate of the order in front of the man beside her.

The waitress flashed what she probably thought of as her most seductive smile at the man. In a low, honeyed voice, she asked, "Anything else today, Will?"

He seemed unaware of the invitation in her voice or the hopeful sparkle in her eyes. "Not right now, Norma Sue, thanks. Go ahead and leave the check now and save yourself time."

When the disappointed waitress left, Aurora appraised Will. How could he fail to notice the waitress’ blatant invitation? Had he any idea how attractive he was? Hold on, this guy might be too good to be true.

Aurora gazed over he shoulder at the departing waitress. "How on earth did she know what to bring you? When did you give her your order?"

"When I came in." He leaned across her to get the salt and pepper. Will paused to flash her a truly breathtaking smile and the bottom fell out of her stomach again. "I also told her you would pick up the check.”
♥ ♥ ♥
If this story tempts you, I’m happy to share that it’s only 99¢! What a deal, right? Here are the buy links: Amazon ~ Smashwords

Thanks to Jacquie for letting me guest on Romancing the West. Thanks to you, readers, for stopping by.
Happy trails.

Caroline Clemmons writes romance and adventures—although her earliest made up adventures featured her saving the West with Roy Rogers. Her career has included stay-at-home mom (her favorite job), newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, and bookkeeper. She and her husband live in rural North Central Texas with a menagerie of rescued pets. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, reading, travel, browsing antique malls and estate sales, and genealogy/family history.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chicken Dinner: Stagecoach, Butch Cassidy, and an Avalanche

We complain about airline conditions—the crowding, the poor or no food, the delays—but we’d really be whining if we had to make a long-distance journey in a stagecoach.  Sometimes there were many more passengers than seats (which were very small) and people rode on top, in the back, and with the driver, besides in the coach.

This week, Laura Robinson wrote an article for Sweethearts of the West about stagecoach travel, and you can get more information right here on Romancing The West from Paty Jager’s article.

Check out some cool old wagons plus some buildings that were frequented by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:

From The Owyhee Avalanche, February 24, 1872 (reprinted February 22, 2012):
A BIG SNOW SLIDE. Last Sunday an immense body of snow slid from the summit of Florida Mountain down Black Rock Gulch, below Ruby City, covering the road to a depth of 30 or 40 feet and filling up the bed of Jordan Creek at that point. Some two or three old cabins along the creek were buried beneath it, but it is not known whether or not anybody was in them, although some Chinese miners were living there a short time ago.
You're not gonna want to miss next week's featured author: Caroline Clemmons!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Meg Mims: Writing a Sequel

Meg Mims, author
by Meg Mims
Copyright © 2012 Meg Mims

NaNoWriMo can be very helpful to some people. For me, it’s agony.

Who chose November anyway? No doubt a man, who doesn’t have to squeeze any Christmas shopping here and there between planning a Thanksgiving Day menu, going grocery shopping, cleaning the house, baking pumpkin pies and preparing the turkey and other dishes, plus getting out Christmas cards and planning other holiday events like parties, cookie baking, the kids’ holiday crafts at school, parent-teacher conferences, etc. etc. etc.

If only they’d chosen July. I could sit in an air-conditioned room for a whole month, even start the writing off with the Fourth of July fireworks and BBQ family picnic, and be perfectly content to miss out on the hottest summer weeks. I’d finish 50,000 words in no time flat. Maybe even a complete book (although I can’t say I’ve ever tried it yet)


I started writing Double or Nothing last November during NaNoWriMo. I had a great beginning hook, an interesting premise, some interesting scenes... until I hit a wall. Uh — now what? I had not taken the time to write an outline, that’s what happened. So I tried. Failed. And then went Christmas shopping instead. After Christmas, the idea of writing a super-quick contemporary romance novella beckoned — and The Key to Love was born. In a month. Whew.

Is it good? I wrote long and hard, and the reviews are supporting my efforts. Another whew. But I still had my brick wall to face, since readers of Double Crossing were clamoring for the sequel. Back to work. The outline, which took some major brainstorming with a long-time friend. Then the blurb. Write. Rewrite. Think. Chew the cud. Rewrite some more.

Double or Nothing has got to be just as good, if not better, than Double Crossing. Did I want a “trilogy” story arc? No. This is just a “double,” which fits. I could not see keeping Lily and Ace apart for two more books. And in the sequel, I knew the romance had to be stronger. It’s still an “adventure” — and Lily remains a fighter — but the stakes had to be much higher.
A mysterious explosion... a man framed for murder... and a strong woman determined to prove his innocence.
Ace Diamond

November, 1869: Lily Granville, now heiress to a considerable fortune, rebels against her uncle’s strict rules in Sacramento, California. Ace Diamond, determined to win Lily, invests in a San Francisco dynamite factory for a quick “killing,” but his status as a successful businessman fails to impress her guardian. An explosion at the factory, mere hours before Lily elopes with Ace to avoid a forced marriage, sets off a chain of unforeseen consequences.
Lily Granville
 Despite Lily’s protests that her new husband has been framed, Ace is dragged off to jail as the culprit. Evidence mounts against him, given alleged ties to anarchists who planned to return California rule to the original Spanish families. Lily must learn who was actually behind the diabolical plan... and save Ace from the hangman's noose. Will she become a widow before a true wife?
Sooo, I’m looking forward to writing that scene of their wedding night — of Lily’s shock and Ace’s total frustration — interrupted before any real hanky panky gets too far. Readers will have to see exactly how Lily manages to rescue Ace and succeed against all odds.

She’s certainly woman enough to do that!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Meg Mims: Oooh, You Caught Me

Oooh, You Caught Me
by Meg Mims
Copyright © 2012 Meg Mims

I just had a Valentine’s Day *contemporary* romance novella, The Key to Love, published by Astraea Press. No cowboy, horse, boots or spur, not even a pot of son-of-a-bee stew.

I had fun writing it, though—ouch! Okay, maybe it was a chore. Maybe I would have enjoyed writing a historical novella instead in two weeks. Yeah, right. Maybe next year.

I actually had to research. Research—for a contemporary! Like how many horsepower did a specific car have, what make/model, would it have heated seats, that kind of thing. Go figure. Even though I live in Michigan, I just put the key in, crank the engine and drive. I also had to “readjust” my brain to think “modern” in several ways while writing, from dialogue to clothing to culture. The characters spoke faster, acted faster—not because the novella has less “room” than a novel—but because people do that now. There’s far more distractions for the characters from computers and cell phones, traffic snarls and job expectations. And far more expectations to get things done, fast. Oy.

Meg Mims, author

Maybe writing a historical is more restful. No computers or telephones, trains that didn’t run faster than thirty miles an hour—a snail’s pace today. Less pollution unless you lived in the city, and few people did. Outhouses instead of indoor plumbing (unless you were a Vanderbilt.)

Hold on there, pardner. In order to hook the reader, and keep them turning pages, any writer worth his/her “salt cellar” must have a strong conflict and plenty of action. Fleshed-out, in-depth characters, accurate research details (since even minor inaccuracies tend to throw a reader out of the story) and a satisfying ending. I wouldn’t call that restful. It’s hard work, whether you write a historical or contemporary.

I’ve delayed writing the sequel to Double Crossing for several reasons. Not just because I spent January writing a contemporary novella, but because I was stuck. I’d started writing Double or Nothing for November’s NaNoWriMo and managed to pour out a good 25,000 words. Once I hit a wall, I stopped. I’ve never been one to force myself. Too futile. I prefer to “chew the cud” and let time work it out for me. Plus brainstorming with my long-time critique partner, who always has great suggestions. After two months, I’m ready to try again.

On Thursday, when I visit again, I hope to drop a few hints about what I’m planning for Double or Nothing. Stay tuned. And if you’re in the mood for a fast, fun read, check out The Key to Love. Romance, in any era, is always satisfying.

Chicken Dinner: Chocolate, Bunco, & Gunfights

Henri Nestlé

Have you recovered from post-Valentine's Day chocolate withdrawal? Chocolate is a late-comer in the world of candy. Milk chocolate is the granddaddy of our modern day candy bars. It was invented in 1875 by Daniel Peter who merged his company with that of Henri Nestlé's company, and voila! We have chocolate! I had great fun with this new candy in Much Ado About Marshals.

Jefferson Randolph
(Soapy) Smith
Speaking of vice, some of the most interesting (and fun) facts you'll find on the internet about the Wild, Wild West are at Soapy Smith's Soap Box, a blog maintained by Jeff Smith, Soapy's great-grandson. You can also find a ton of Old West information on the Soapy Smith website. And even more if you buy Jeff's book.

Soapy wasn't into gambling so much as bunco, but I bet he played a little roulette.  Then again, maybe not.  Jefferson Randolf Smith II may not have been shy about divesting others of their money, but he was a very smart and enterprising man.  He'd have known to stay away from the games with low or no odds for the player to win, and on top of that, roulette wheels were routinely altered to make the house odds even better.  Check out Frontier Gambler's article, Roulette in the Wild Wild West.

Several of you enjoyed the articles from The Owyhee Avalanche. Here are a few more, but this newspaper has a whole column of historical articles every week, so I urge you to subscribe.

The Owyhyee Avalanche
February 17, 1872
SHOOTING SCRAPE. Two miners named Crawford and Dowry, had a row at the Skookum boarding house night before last, resulting in the latter being shot by the former. The bullet passed through the upper portion of the right side of the abdomen, penetrated the right arm on the inside above the elbow and lodged under the skin on the outside. It is a flesh wound and is not considered dangerous. Dowry was brought down to the War Eagle Hotel, where Dr. Beckett extracted the bullet yesterday. Crawford delivered himself up to Shriff Stevens, but up to the time of going to press, no complaint had been made against him, and no examination had.
Other bits of interest:
The heart of John Cable was made glad yesterday by the arrival of his wife and two babies from San Francisco.

"Poor, weak and erring man," says a religious newspaper, "what is he?" In this country he is either a Democrat or a Republican.

A woman writes to a literary weekly that the ladies are doing all they can to bring heaven down to earth. We had thought they would be content with "raising hell."
This week's guest: Meg Mims!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tough Times in the Old West: The Great Die-Up

When we think of the Old West, we think of cowboys, cattle drives, open range, and wild times. And, from 1865 to 1886, this would be an accurate description. Then came the Great Die-Up, which many call the end of the Old West and the beginning of a different way of life. So what happened?

The demand for beef had grown steadily and remained strong through the 1870s and early 1880s. Ranchers bred more cattle, and they bred for more weight and meat rather than hardiness. That meant the herds were larger than ever before. And hungrier.

Farmers moved in by the droves and strung barbed wire around their homesteads, leaving less and less land for grazing. Sheep herders brought their flocks, and sheep rip the grass out by its roots, leaving no food for cattle. And then the drought hit during the summer of 1886.  Hardly a blade of grass was left by mid-August, and many ponds shrank to alkalai water. 
By the fall of 1886, range land in the north (the Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming) was greatly diminished in size by encroachments, the grass had been over-grazed for a couple years, and the drought killed what grass there was left.  Herds suffered even before the cold weather rolled in.

The winters of the previous decade had been uncommonly mild, but the ranchers didn't know that--only the Native Americans and the mountain men had any experience with the frontier. The cattle had wintered well without extra feed, and subsequently the ranchers quit stockpiling feed, which was quite an expensive endeavor.

So when the snows hit, and it snowed nearly every day in November of 1886, the cattle had to use their hooves to dig through the snow to uncover what meager grasses they could find. The already thin animals grew weak from hunger. The cattle that managed to live through the brutal months of November and December were greeted by a warm Chinook in January that melted the top layer of snow. Cattlemen who'd been standing by helplessly, with no feed in reserve, while their cows died by the dozens, thought they'd make it through the rest of the winter with their herds in fairly decent shape, or at least alive.

Then the temperatures dropped to -50 degrees Fahrenheit and lower, causing a layer of ice to freeze solid over the snow beneath.
"It was all so slow, plunging after them through the deep snow that way.....The horses' feet were cut and bleeding from the heavy crust, and the cattle had the hair and hide wore off their legs to the knees and hocks. It was surely hell to see big four-year-old steers just able to stagger along."
~~Teddy Blue Abbott
After the cattle had pawed down to the bare earth, seldom did they find anything to eat. Livestock invaded the outskirts of towns, eating whatever shrubs and bushes they could find. More snow came, more animals died, and despair spread over the land.

When warmer weather finally melted the snow and thawed the earth, rotting carcasses were scattered all over the landscape. Dead animals fouled the air, the creeks, and the streams. Over 50% of all the cattle alive in October, 1886, were dead by April, 1887--probably about a million animals. Many ranchers went bankrupt, and the rest struggled to hang on.

So ended the days of open range and a whole way of life. Ranchers fenced off vast acreages to grow hay and grain for their remaining herds. Itinerant cowboys had to find other work, or settle for being a ranch hand. More farmers moved in, bringing their wives, children, merchants, churches, and schools. Railroads built more tracks and provided service to more outlying areas.

Thus, the modern West was born. And so it is today.

Additional reading:
Woolgathering and Widdershins
PBS: Hell Without Heat
The Fence Post (see some Charles Russell paintings)

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hippie Chicks Valentine's Day Celebration!

by Jacquie Rogers

It's Valentine's Day! and what do we do?  We give a special gift to people who are special to us. 
Which brings up the
 Hippie Chicks

Have you been to their website?  Because they have lots of fun prizes including a $30 gift certificate to Victoria's Secret! Deets at the end of this post.

For now, let's gallop off to the Old West.  For a brief history of the beginning's of Valentine's Day (all three versions), try

Valentine's Day cards are the granddaddy of commercial greeting cards.

In America, Valentine's Day greeting cards gained popularity in the 1840s, and grew in common use during the Civil War.  Expensive cards, $100 and up, were sold in New York City in the late 1860s.  Printed commercial Valentine's Day were usually priced for the average person, though, and Valentine's Day cards were more popular than Christmas cards by far.

Wikipedia Commons:
Valentine Card, 1887
 By the 1870s, people began giving flowers and candy along with cards to their special sweetheart.  My guess is that a farmer on the Nebraska prairie might not have the disposal cash to buy an expensive gift for his lady, but since Valentine's Day was so popular, I'm sure he'd find some way to express his love--whether a homemade card or other little trinket.

In cities, lovers gave flowers to their sweethearts.  And, in the language of love, here's what florists of the late 1880s used as a guide:

Gardenia: I love you secretly
Gladiolus: You pierce my heart
Lily-of-the-Valley: Let us make up
Rose: I love you passionately
Sweet William: You are gallant, suave and perfect
Violet: I return your love
Green leaves: Hope for love

Of course, there's always something special going on in the country.  One of my favorite Valentine's Day surprises was when a cow gave birth to a runt calf and my dad gave the calf to me.  Something like that could very well have happened in the Old West, too.  A special foal, new chicks--there's nothing like new life to celebrate love.

And in that spirit, I'm giving away two copies of Much Ado About Marshals, one to a commenter here at Romancing The West, and one at...

Hippie Chicks!

Check out the
Hippie Chick Valentine Contest

where you can win
$30 gift certificate to Victoria's Secret
20 Free Books!

Visit the blogs of the participating authors and enter to win even more books!

But before you go, please leave a comment here and you can win a free book
Be sure to leave your email address!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tall Tales of the Old West: Nebraska Neil

Nebraska Neil: Superhero
Copyright © 2012 Jacquie Rogers
Tall tales aren't anything new. The structure has been around for millenia, and many follow the same structure as the Greek myths. So from Ancient Greece, let's climb into the time-machine and step into 19th Century America. The wild country and isolation of the North American west where each day brought a new battle with nature, was fertile ground where some pretty entertaining stories sprouted.
Let's sit around the campfire or the family hearth and chew the fat about a few of these tales. 

John Henry

What do Paul Bunyan and John Henry have in common? They're seemingly ordinary men in ordinary jobs, average Joes, really, except these men have extraordinary abilities. 19th Century superheroes, you might say. They run into a problem, something we all relate to, only their problem is escalated. Not to fear, though, because they also have a solution—something a normal person would never have thought of.
  • Seemingly ordinary man in every day circumstances
  • Finds himself in a pickle
  • Uses extraordinary powers as a solution
Most of the stories were (and are) funny because of the imagery, metaphors, and exaggeration. Here's S.E. Schlosser's interpretation of Pecos Bill Rides a Tornado, which explains in just a few short paragraphs how the Grand Canyon and Death Valley came into existence, as well as the creation of rodeo. Quite a tall order, I'd say!

Exaggeration is the key. A tall tale just isn't tall without stretching the truth a bit—sometimes a good bit. Like my grandpa always said, "A little embellishment always makes a good story better." His brother took that to heart when he wrote Can Farm Boys Be Cow Boys (with original, and I mean original spelling: the version below is cleaned up a bit).

Can Farm Boys Be Cow Boys
by Raymond R. Walker
This is a poem written by my great-uncle about three brothers, Ray (who wrote it), Roy, and Neil (the oldest of the brothers and my grandfather). By the sound of things, I’m lucky to be here! ~~Jacquie

When I was thirteen Dad bought a ranch to raise cattle to feed out on the farm,
He wanted to keep three boys busy, and out of harm;
Sand burrs were thick, and so hot in the summer you would nearly bake,
On the ranch we raised turkeys, hogs, cattle, quite a difference I'd say;
Some cow boys and girls rode in wearing high heeled boots, Levis, and cow boy hats,
There I stood wearing work shoes, bib overalls and a socklegging cap;
I rode to town, I couldn't afford boots, so I bought Levis and a cow boy hat,
My billfold was flat. I was going to be a cow boy right off the bat;
Now cow boys gotta rope and ride any thing that bucks, they are sure tough,
Three farm boys starting to be cow boys found out it was kinda rough;
We started out riding cattle, Neil says lets put a saddle on a cow,
Roy, Neil, & Ray Walker
Five years later, Easter Sunday

So we saddled up a big tall cow, we were going to find out right now;
We tied the saddle strings under her tail to keep the saddle from going over her head,
If you get in that saddle you are out of your head (Roy said);
I looked at that saddle, and it was kinda leaning down hill,
I says no way will I put my butt in that saddle, Neil says I will;
When we let the cow loose, she went up like she was goin to jump over the moon,
Come down bucking and boiling, Roy an I thought Neil would jump off soon;
We both stood there with our mouths open like we were catching flies,
The trouncin' Neil was getting we couldn't believe our eyes;
We heard a rip and a tear, Neil flew off landing on his head,
He just layed thar in the manure like he was dead;
Roy wiped Neil's skinned up face and Neil opened one eye,

Cover model:
Kyle Walker
Neil's great-grandson
 All he said was, that saddle horn run thru the buttons in my fly;
When Roy an I found out why he didn't jump off we had to laugh,
Neil wasn't in shape right then, or he would of broke us both in half;
His new Levis were tore half off, we asked him where he hurt,
His shirt was ripped, he says where do you damn fools suppose I hurt?
Neil went over to the tank and washed his hands and skinned up face,
Getting bucked off a cow that bucked like that sure wasn't no disgrace;
Roy an I had a mad cow to unsaddle, she would look at that saddle on her back,
Then look at us, she was ready to fight becouse her eyes were black;
If she wants to take us when we turn her loose, make a run for the gate,
Roy was first, I was almost too late;
I was running but when that cow started rubbing her head on my ass,
Brother that's when I really turned on the gas;
Three Walker boys liked to wrastle and box and fight. We were tough,
We decided we could run a ranch without all that cow boy stuff.
This happened on the ranch [Gibbon, Nebraska] in 1920

Now, if my great-uncle's story had taken place in about 1868, with cowpunchers sitting around the campfire eating sourdough biscuits and beans, you can just imagine how this story could grow with each telling. Pretty soon, Nebraska Neil would be there right beside Pecos Bill, riding a tornado or using a river to rope a lightning bolt.

The Greeks had Herakles and Perseus, the Spanish had El Cid, we have Superman and the Green Hornet, so it's no wonder that the cowboys came up with Pecos Bill, Bigfoot Wallace, and Sal Fink, the Mississippi Screamer.

And we're not done telling tall tales yet!

Tune in tomorrow for the Hippie Chicks Valentine's Day Party!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Chicken Dinner: Romancing The West Cupid Party Results

Feb 6 to 11 has been the
RTW Cupid Party!
and all this week's commenters were entered in the
Cupid Party Grand Prize Drawing!
for Six Free Books
and a
New Kindle!

Thanks to all of you who visited Romancing The West this week.

Small print:
  • USA mailing only for the Kindle. 
  • Email address must be included in comment to qualify for the drawing.
Brought to you by these talented authors!

And here are the daily winners:

Monday: Heather Hiestand
Captain Fenna’s Dirigible Valentine  goes to:
Calisa Rhose

Tuesday: Jacquie Rogers
Down Home Ever Lovin' Mule Blues goes to:

Wednesday: Beth Trissel
Thursday: Ginger Simpson
Sisters in Time goes to:
Carol G 

Friday: Karen M. Nutt
Mr. O'Grady's Magic Box  goes to:

Saturday: Linda LaRoque
A Marshal of Her Own goes to:
Kat Bryan
And the Grand Prize winner!
Who won...
Six Free Books
and a
New Kindle?


Congratulations, Moriahhh!  Happy Reading!

What's happening this week at Romancing The West?
Monday: Jacquie's Jabbering
Tuesday: Valentine's Day with the Hippie Chicks!
Thursday: Old West article--The Great Die-Up

Friday, February 10, 2012

RTW Cupid Party: Linda LaRoque

The Most Romantic Valentine Gift
by Linda LaRoque
Copyright © 2012 Linda LaRoque

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. With the anticipation comes the question, “What shall I give him/her.” We want to give the perfect gift, one to inspire and leave a lasting impression. To do so requires thought and planning. Or, it might happen by pure luck. I love the Big Bang Theory. Sheldon admits he’s afraid he’s not good boyfriend material, but Penny takes him shopping to buy a “make-up” gift for his girlfriend, Amy Farrah Fowler, who is mad at Sheldon because of his self-centered attitude. We despair during his shopping spree and fear he’s going to make things worse, but Amy is ecstatic with the tiara he gives her. What girl wouldn’t want to be considered a princess, especially by her boyfriend?

Giving the perfect gift can often be pure luck on our part. Other times it comes from knowing the desires of your love’s heart, what would make them happy. It may not be appear to be a romantic gift at all, but a practical one, but it says, “I know you and want to give you something that shows it.” What could be more romantic than that? An example can be found in my western time travel, A Marshal of Her Own, a western time travel set in 1890 Prairie, Texas. Cole Jeffers gives Dessa Wade a typewriter. You’ll have to read the story to learn its significance.

So, give loads of thought to the gift you give this Valentine’s Day. Make it one from the heart, one to be remembered and cherished a long time.

Blurb for A Marshal of Her Own:
Despite rumors of “strange doings” at a cabin in Fredericksburg, investigative reporter Dessa Wade books the cottage from which lawyer, Charity Dawson, disappeared in 2008. Dessa is intent on solving the mystery. Instead, she is caught in the mystery that surrounds the cabin and finds herself in 1890 in a shootout between the Faraday Gang and a US Marshal.

Marshal Cole Jeffers doesn’t believe Miss Wade is a time traveler. He admits she’s innocent of being an outlaw, but thinks she knows more about the gang than she’s telling. When she’s kidnapped by Zeke Faraday, Cole is determined to rescue her. He’s longed for a woman of his own, and Dessa Wade just might be the one—if she’ll commit to the past.


Dessa resisted the urge to scream again. She bit her bottom lip as a reminder to stay silent and not draw attention to herself. Her heart thundered in her chest, threatening to jump from her body. This couldn’t be happening. God, please tell me I’m dreaming. Wake me up. Please...please... Just in case God wasn’t listening, she was getting out of Dodge.

On her hands and knees she crawled toward the safety of the trees and the shadows. Afraid to look up, she continued forward as fast as her limbs would take her. Rocks and debris scratched her hands and gouged into her kneecaps, but she didn’t care.

She bumped into something and shifted to the left but whatever was in her way moved with her. Uh, oh. Dread inched up her spine. She stiffened. She might be caught, but she darn well wouldn’t go peacefully. After all, she was a victim here. Tilting her head up slightly, she eyed a pair of well-worn boots. As her eyes moved upward she noted faded denims, sculpted muscled thighs and...oh my...just below his gun belt. She blushed and pushed herself up to sit on her haunches, putting a little distance between them.

Buy links for A Marshal of Her Own: The Wild Rose Press ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble
Also available: A Law of Her Own and coming May, 2012: A Love of His Own, the third story in the Prairie, Texas series.

Contact Linda:

It's RTW Cupid Party Time!
One commenter on Linda's post will win a free copy of
and all this week's commenters will be entered in the
Cupid Party Grand Prize Drawing!
You could win Six Free Books
and a
New Kindle!

Comment each day for six chances to win the Kindle and all Six Books!
Yes, you can still comment on previous Cupid Day posts!
Daily winners and Grand Prize winner will all be announced February 12, 2012

Small print:
  • USA mailing only for the Kindle. 
  • Email address must be included in comment to qualify for the drawing.
We have a great line-up for you this week!
Monday: Heather Hiestand
Tuesday: Jacquie Rogers
Wednesday: Beth Trissel
Thursday: Ginger Simpson
Friday: Karen M. Nutt
Saturday: Linda LaRoque
Sunday: Chicken Dinner, all winners announced!
Good Luck!

RTW Cupid Party: Karen Michelle Nutt

Flyby Interview with Cupid
by Karen Michelle Nutt
Copyright © 2012 Karen Michelle Nutt

Karen: Good day to you, Cupid or do you prefer Eros?

Cupid: Either is fine with me. I’ll answer to both. (He flashes a heart-stopping smile Psyche must have fallen in love with.)

Karen: I’m thrilled that you took time out of your busy schedule to fly in for this interview. We’ll jump right in if you don’t mind.

Cupid: I’m ready. Shoot.

Karen: There have been rumors how you like to play pranks, making people fall in love with someone they would have never considered. Is this true?

Cupid: I’m so glad you addressed this question. I take Matchmaking seriously and choose my targets with the upmost care. Sometimes lovers need a little push or in my case a quick stab to the heart, to wake them up and see who is front of them. So what some may see as a prank, there is actually a plan involved.

Needless to say, I’m selective on who receives the arrow. I can’t go on a rampage of love and shoot everyone in my sight. Could you imagine what would happen if the wrong people fell in love? (He shakes his head.) The Heavens know, men and women do it all the time on their own.

Karen: (Clears her throat.) Yes, I suppose they do. What makes your arrows so special?

Cupid: My arrows are made of gold and dipped in a potion of love and desire. One hit with such power, the man or woman can’t resist the allure spreading through their veins.

Karen: Are there any lows to the job?

Cupid: Sure there are. Like any job, at times it can really make my wings bristle. Haven’t you heard the term: Love hurts? Well, I do have to shoot people in the heart. You try hitting a bull’s eye every time. It can be nerve-racking. And I have no time to pursue my own love life. Half the time I have to go around looking like a cute little cherub or no one will know who I am. It puts a damper on the love life, if you know what I mean. (Cupid winks.)

Karen: I like this look. Very much… Uh, moving right along.... So, what does it cost for your services?

Cupid: I don’t take cash, Visa or Master card. So don’t ask. What do I need money for? I’m a god. When people spread love and happiness that’s enough payment for me.

Karen: Well readers that concludes our flyby interview. Cupid, thank you so much for telling us about your demanding job. Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers before you go?

Cupid: Yeah, love makes the world go round. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Contest: Just for fun. You have Cupid’s arrows and you can have anyone fall in love with you for the day. Who would it be? What would you do for the perfect Valentine’s Day? (Keep it pg13) It could be anyone in history, a character in a book, or a boy you had a crush on in high school. Time travel is not a problem.

Answer the questions and one lucky winner will receive an e-book copy of Mr. O’Grady’s Magic Box. (More contest info at the end of this post--you could also win a New Kindle!)

About Mr. O’Grady’s Magic Box (Unbelievable Finds Series):
Aubrey Jules, a reporter from Unbelievable Finds is sent to investigate a box, which is reputably older than time and crafted by the wee folks.

Mr. O'Grady, owner of the bed and breakfast in Dana Point, California, convinces Aubrey to wish for a soul mate.

When Ian Quinn, who abandoned Aubrey ten years ago, walks in she's convinced the faeries have a wicked sense of humor.

Karen Michelle Nutt resides in California with her husband, three fascinating children, and houseful of demanding pets. Jack, her Chihuahua/Yorkshire terrier is her writing buddy and sits long hours with her at the computer.

Her Book, Lost in the Mist of Time, was nominated for New Books Review Spotlight Best Fantasy Book of the Year Award 2006. A Twist of Fate was a nominee for Best Time Travel P.E.A.R.L. Award for 2008. Creighton Manor won Honorable Mention P.E.A.R.L. Award 2009.

Her new passion is creating book covers for Western Trail Blazers and Rebecca J. Vickery Publishing. In her spare time, she reviews books for PNR-Paranormal Romance Reviews.

Whether your reading fancy is paranormal, historical or time travel, all her stories capture the rich array of emotions that accompany the most fabulous human phenomena—falling in love.

Visit Karen at her website or stop by her blog for Monday interviews, chats and contests.

It's RTW Cupid Party Time!
One commenter on Karen's post will win a free copy of
and all this week's commenters will be entered in the
Cupid Party Grand Prize Drawing!
You could win Six Free Books
and a
New Kindle!

Comment each day for six chances to win the Kindle and all Six Books!
Yes, until the drawing, you can comment on previous days' Cupid Party posts, too!
Daily winners and Grand Prize winner will all be announced February 12, 2012

Small print:
  • USA mailing only for the Kindle. 
  • Email address must be included in comment to qualify for the drawing.
We have a great line-up for you this week!
Monday: Heather Hiestand
Tuesday: Jacquie Rogers
Wednesday: Beth Trissel
Thursday: Ginger Simpson
Friday: Karen M. Nutt
Saturday: Linda LaRoque
Sunday: Chicken Dinner, all winners announced!
Good Luck!