Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Westward, Ho! by @CallieHutton

Callie Hutton, author

Westward, Ho!
by Callie Hutton
author of Emma's Journey

I remember that from a TV show many years ago. I always had a fascination for wagon trains, whether it was a TV show, a movie or a book. It only seemed natural that when I wrote my very first romance book it would be a wagon train story.

Like most first books, this one sat on my computer while I wrote, sold, and saw published several others. But I always wanted to go back and resurrect Emma’s Journey. Emma called to me, to tell the world her story, how she’d made the journey from Indiana to Oregon, from timid wife to strong woman.

During my research, I found some interesting facts.

For one thing, Fort Laramie, a very popular stop for wagon trains heading west, was actually an open fort. The building, of course, had walls, but the fort itself had none. An entire population of Indians lived outside the main building, their teepees scattered around. The men hunted meat they sold to the Army, and in return, their women and children were protected while they were gone.

Most travelers started off with a wagon load of supplies, furniture, and cherished items from home. Most of it was discarded along the way as oxen wore out, and plowing through mud and rivers, and up steep inclines, made the weight impossible.

Since the weight of the wagon and supplies was hard enough on the animals, most emigrants walked the trail. In fact, with the swaying and bumping, it was probably more comfortable to walk.

Despite some movies and TV shows, horses were not used to pull the wagons. Sturdy and strong, oxen and mules were the animals of choice.

Most likely no wagon train made it from Independence, Missouri—the starting point for most travelers—all the way out west without losing some emigrants along the way. Weather, illness, injuries, and drowning all took their toll. There were also Indian raids that in some cases, killed every person on a wagon train.

While writing Emma’s Journey, I kept thinking about the courage it took to uproot your family from a place you lived most, if not all, of your life and forge west in the hopes of making a better life. How many of us today would have the tenacity to do that? But these are the people who made our country grow.

As much as we like to romance the past—especially important in romance novels—life on the trail was dirty, hard, smelly, and frightening. But had there not been brave and willing people to set forth, we would all be crowded on the east and west coasts. A scary thought.

But then, our country is made up of descendants of pioneers. Except for our Native American population, we, or our ancestors, came from somewhere else, and made that tremendous sacrifice for a better life.

My great-grandparents made it from Ireland to New York. My grandparents made it from New York to New Jersey, where the bulk of the family remains today. I, on the other hand, made it west to Oklahoma. My trek took place in a crowded airplane, with my dog howling the entire time in the baggage hold. At least there was no Indian raid.



Win a $25 Gift Card!

One lucky commenter will win a 
$25 gift card 
to either Amazon or Barnes & Noble 
(winner’s choice) 
In addition, if the winner has not yet read 
An Angel in the Mail 
Callie will send an autographed copy as well.

Drawing will be held Saturday, February 23rd at 9pm Pacific Time. Please be sure to include your email address in your comment!

Be sure to read Callie's interview, which includes an excerpt of Emma's Journey.

25 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for having me this week, Jacquie. It's been fun meeting new people.

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  2. Thanks for the history. Some of my family came from Scotland, some England and other parts to end up in Wisconsin, Wyoming and California. I made the trek to Utah by car. We are all pioneers.

    I loved the excerpt. I'm thinking he wants to paddle miss Emma's behind once he snags her. Grins. Best success to you on all your writing.

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    1. Hi Sandy,

      Thanks for coming by. Hmmm. Paddle. There are times...

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  3. LOL I laughed at your last line, Callie. It's an interesting post though. I remember as a child when my family migrated back east (after moving west- and no I'm not THAT old) in the 70s, we would pass wagon trains pulled by mules. It was an odd sight and mostly moving across the lower desert lands of California, Arizona and New Mexico or Nevada (depending on the route my dad took). Somewhere we have pictures my mom took of some of those odd travelers. They really looked out of time and place. I'm sure the biggest difference between those of my youth, and Emma's journey was the ones I saw looked happy.

    Congrats on seeing yet another great book released! I wish you much success.

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    1. HI Calisa,

      Thanks for stopping by. It's kinda like when you travel to Pennsylvania and see the Amish in their horse and buggy.

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    2. Right. I forgot that direction.

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  4. Callie, I belly-laughed when I read your last sentence. Like so many, we share the immigration story. For an impressionable child's mind like mine, the tales of my grandparent’s harrowing journey "across the pond", arriving at Ellis Island, and then to points west were fresh and exciting. I still have my granddad’s 10 and 12 gauge double-barrel Damascus shotguns they used to hunt ducks and geese for survival as they traveled west in a buckboard. My dad's parents eventually settled on the Dakota prairie, and that’s where I was raised. Right there on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. No, I’m not part Indian. At some point, the Tribe sold portions of land to settlers. My grandfather and his brother went in together and purchased a small ranch. Imagine how brave (or desperate!) they must have been to bring their young families right into the heart of Indian Territory and the wild west.
    Thanks, Callie and Jacquie, for a great post!

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    1. Hi Jaye. Thanks for the visit. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and brought back memories for you.

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  5. I know very little about how either side of my family got from Europe to the U.S. Loved the excerpt and can't wait to read Emma's Journey. Best of luck with sales!

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    1. Thanks Ally. I appreciate you stopping by.

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  6. I got interested in the Oregon Trail because one branch of my family tree took it in 1848. Other ancestors took a ship from Ireland to California. And another went from New Orleans up the Mississippi and Missouri to Nebraska. All our family stories are a part of who we are. Thanks for your post.
    Theresa Hupp

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    1. HI Theresa. When it comes down to it, we all have a family story to tell. Thanks for coming by.

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Western historical romance is my favorite genre. Wagon train storylines are my favorite, mail-order bride storylines are my second fav.

      I enjoyed your article and thoroughly enjoyed Emma's Journey. It was wonderful to see Emma grow in maturity. Davis Cooper (love this name!) was the ideal hero. Keep your wonderful stories coming:)

      micheleghao@yahoo.com

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  8. I love reading stories about the west. Good luck with your book.

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    1. Hi Joan, thanks for joining us. I always loved the western stories, too.

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  9. Great post Callie. I've never romantized the suffering of moving west, probably because of the Little House on the Prairie books.

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    1. Watching TV as kids it's hard not to romanticize the west. thanks for stopping by, Ella.

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  10. sounds fun

    suefitz1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  11. I love history. It's amazing to think that we can now just cross a country in such a short space of time in air conditioned comfort. I don't think we should ever lose sight of those who forged the way.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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    1. I agree, Mary. I dedicated Emma's Journey to those courageous souls. Thanks for coming by.

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  12. Sounds like a great story. I did a lot of Oregon Trail research for a book I did. Idaho has a lot of great spots along that route as well as Oregon. I once went on an site visit and the old gentleman who was the guide took us to a spot just outside Huntington, OR, where a family's journey ended terribly. They were first hit by the Indians near Massacre Rock in Southern Idaho. They made it to just outside Huntington when the Indians got the rest of them. The wife was killed in the initial attack but the man got himself and his 8 children, one of them a baby, that far, starving and weak, before they were killed. Fascinating stuff but so sad.

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    1. Wow, that is very sad. We love writing about the old west, but it's always good to remember there was nothing romantic about the journey. Thanks for sharing that and stopping by.

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