Herbs, Magic and the American Indian

banner 2

Good Morning!  or Afternoon!

I’ll be giving away a free e-book of your choice (except SENECA SURRENDER, which is not released yet) to some lucky blogger.  So come on in and join in the discussion.

With the advent of modern technology (I was just reading an article about vaccines and nanotechnology implants and how microchips — or nanochips can be added to vaccines).  I read both viewpoints (good and bad) and looked at all the things that can go wrong (or right), and I thought it might be prudent as well as a little fun to have a look at herbs, American Indian style.

I guess there’s always been “black magic.”  Many years ago I met someone who had at one time been a witch (not a good one), who had seen the error of her ways and had changed her whole life.   It was the first time I had run head on with the fact that there really is “good magic,” and “bad magic.”  Good magic would of course promote health and the feeling of well-being.  It would aid one in survival and help one’s family and friends.  Black magic would of course be the opposite.  It would promote death and destruction of oneself, one’s family and friends.  Perhaps even of the whole human race.  In some ways I view this nano technology when it is married with vaccines as a bit of black magic.

Getting back to Native American, however, from different studies I’ve done, it’s now pretty apparent to me that there were witches and people (men and women) who engaged in the black arts in most of Native America.  Witches were feared and if one were suspected of being a witch, one might be driven out of the tribe.  Medicine men (or women) often countered the “spells” of those whose intentions were hardly helpful.  Often in order to counter these “spells,” they used herbs.  They also used song, and the power of one’s personality and wit to drive out the evil spirits.

I’ve often thought there was something very different and very special about the American Indian medicine man.  (Medicine in Native America meant originally mystery to do certain things, often having to do with healing or helping others.)  After reading much about them and about many of the cures that they delivered, I’ve begun to think of them in a very special way, indeed.  Often they were called upon to counter an evil spell, to heal the sick, to foresee the future for the tribe or war party.  They were generally very able not only in their physical body and mind, but in spirit.

But getting back to the original subject, which is herbs and “magic,” did you know that these medicine men or women, when going hunting for herbs, would first prepare their baskets (where they place those plants they had picked).  The baskets would be sprinkled with tobacco and would remain this way overnight.

Early the next morning the medicine man or woman would pray — actually all the American Indian tribes I’ve studied prayed first thing in the morning.    Then in the crisp autumn morning, the medicine man or woman would start on his/her journey to hunt for herbs.  The medicine man or woman would bring bundles of tobacco or wampum, beads, silver ornaments, quilled bands — many different things to offer as a sacrifice to the spirit of the plant.

They collected many different things — apple roots, hickory bark, sassafras, mandrake, prickly ash, wintergreen, elder bark, golden seal, ginseng, male fern, mint, sheep sorel, witch hazel, spruce, boneset.  The way in which the plant was picked was also important.  If one wanted its medicine to work and to cure, then one spoke to the plant first.  It was the Seneca prophet, Handsome Lake who is quoted as saying, “Now let this be your ceremony when you wish to employ the medicine in a plant:  First offer tobacco, then tell the plant in gentle words what you desire of it, and then pluck it from the roots.  It is said in the upper world that it is not right to take a plant for medicine without first talking to it.”

Can you imagine Big Industry to do that today?

Often the medicine man or woman would chante a song, singing to the plant to tell it what one intended and to let the plant know that seeds would be planted so that the plant would continue to live.  Then when the plant was at last pulled, its seeds would be planted, as one had promised the plant.  Only in this way would the plant help to remedy the ills that would often befall those in the tribe.

Did you know that prior to the white man coming to this continent, there were no contagious diseases in America, except maybe one or two.  It was also believed that the air, sun, pure water and exercise were remedies for many common ills.  Many thought of sunlight as food, thus, when the white man came, blocking himself off from the sun by wearing so many clothes, the American Indian considered him unintelligent, and was not surprised when he seemed sickly and ill.

Of course now we know that Vitamin D3 comes mainly from the sun — and nutritionalists are finding this vitamin (D3) to help in so many of our modern ills.

The medicine man or woman would bring his precious find back to his home and would dry them, being careful not to let any impure person come near them.  Medicine men and women were often very successful.  But whether it was because of their herbs, their personal power or a certain magic that they developed over time, is hard to discern.

But I thought, after reading about this nano-technology and those who would seek to profit from this technology by subjecting another to his whims (against the other person’s will), it might be nice to look at those things that help, those remedies that heal and those things that have been with man probably as long as there has been a man alive.  Hope you’ve enjoyed today’s blog and hope you’ll come on in and leave me a message, maybe quoting things (remedies) that help to bring hope and happiness and well being to those in one’s care.

On October 27th, SENECA SURRENDER, will be released — and so I thought I would leave you with an excerpt concerning a particular herb, from the book.

SENECA SURRENDER by Karen Kay — an excerpt


Her touch was as cold as a blizzard in the dead of winter. He reached out for her, but she giggled and moved out of his grasp.

He followed her. “Wait for me,” he called, but she had the advantage of floating over the grasses and tree trunks.

She stopped suddenly, allowing him to catch up to her. She gazed up at him and smiled, her round and pretty face mirroring her delight. Then she pointed to the plant that grew directly beneath her feet.

He recognized that plant. It was one his grandmother had often collected. Its root was used for…

He awoke from his sleep suddenly. Where was he?

Glancing around him, he realized he had never left the cave. It had been a dream, of course. Looking up, he took note of Little Autumn in the foreground, working over the fire, and he sighed.

Ah, she was beautiful..

She was stoking the flames of the blaze in an effort to cook something, which smelled very much like a stew. The aroma of it was intoxicating and rich with the scents of bone broth, wild spices and fresh herbs, and as he inhaled deeply, his stomach growled.

Narrowing his gaze on her, he studied this woman more closely. Her beauty was, indeed, without comparison, and remembering all she had told him earlier, he found it singularly odd that, indentured servitude or not, she had never married.

Her hair had escaped the knot she’d used to tie it back, and golden-blonde tendrils fell in loose ringlets around her face. Her dress was simple, a casual affair consisting of a tight-laced structure that made her waist look as if he might span it with his hands. Petticoats that were stiff and hooped on the side brought her a measure of dignity, though the front of her gown was dangerously low at her chest, beneath which her nipples played an enticing game of peek-a-boo with him.

A curl bounced around her face while she worked, and he knew a desire to twirl its softness around his finger so he could study the differences in its color, from pale blonde to tawny to daffodil. She was a delicately built woman, small and feminine, and without consciously willing it, his loins stirred to life as he watched her at her task.

To counter the effect she was having on him, he sat up, yawned and stretched. “I believe I know how to keep you from becoming pregnant.”

She clasped her hand to her chest and sent him a surprised look. “You gave me a fright, sir. I didn’t know you were awake.”

“I have roused myself only recently.”

“Yes, you have been asleep for some time. I’m glad you were able to rest easily and long. I have meanwhile made us a soup for our supper. There were many roots and vegetables that you collected, and I have used some of them.”

“It smells like a feast, and I am hungry.”

She picked up one of the shells that he had fashioned into a bowl and using it, scooped out some soup. “Shall I bring the stew to you?”

“I can come there to you.” He struggled to get to his feet. It wasn’t as easy as he’d thought it would be, and he had almost collapsed before she rushed to his side to steady him.

“What are you thinking?” she scolded. “You need rest in order to recover. One would suppose, the way you are acting, that you battle with bears daily.”

He smiled. “Almost.”

She helped him to sit back upon his bed, then straightened the blanket and pine boughs around him. “I’ll bring you the soup.”

“Good.” He shut his eyes. “Good.”

She was gone only a moment. “Careful,” she said as he made to take the shell full of broth and vegetables out of her hands. “It’s hot.”

He grinned at her and caressed her fingers as he accepted the shell. When she didn’t pull away, he stared straight into the depths of her gentle blue eyes, as though by doing so, he might see into her soul.

He murmured, “I was watching you as you worked.”

“Were you, sir?”


“And what did you see?”

“A beautiful woman. A woman I would like to spend the rest of my life with, if only things were different.”

She gazed away from him. “But they are not different.” She pulled her hand away from his. “Do you like the soup?”

He took a sip. It was very good. “You spoke true. You are an excellent cook.”

She smiled at him, and as she did so, it was as if the sun shone upon him, even in this dark and dreary cave. It was the sort of grin that made him feel as if he were seventeen again, complete with all the wild impulses of the very young. So lovely was she, he might likely die a happy man to simply look at her.

Upon that thought, he drank the rest of the soup without once dropping his gaze from hers. Indeed, with his eyes, he caressed her. At last, the stew was gone, and he handed the shell back to her.

“Would you like some more?”

Nyoh, yes, please.” He watched as she came up to her feet and stepped toward the fire, admiring the feminine sway of her hips as she moved. When she returned, he again caught her hand, only this time he didn’t let it go. “I have found a remedy for one of our problems.”


“Yes, I have come to realize there is a root that grows with profusion in these woods, and that, if I prepare it in the correct manner, it might well keep you from becoming pregnant. I used to watch my grandmother make medicine from these roots. Hopefully, it is not too late in the season for me to find this plant and pull it up, roots and all. I will begin a search for it as soon as I’m able.”

As he stared at her, he took note of the rosy color flooding her countenance, even as she glanced away from him. But she didn’t withdraw her hand from his.

In due time, he said, “In my dreams, Wild Mint showed me this root. I had forgotten it. But I was never apt at learning all that my grandmother knew, though she did try to instruct me.”

Sarah frowned at him. “It is a shame your grandmother wasn’t able to teach you all of her skills. I’m certain she knew much more about these things than I will ever know. But, sir, I would like to note an observation.”

He nodded.

“Has it ever come to your attention that you speak of Wild Mint as if she were a living being?”

“Indeed I do. That is because she does live, but no longer in the flesh…”


SENECA SURRENDER — Due for release October 27th, 2016.  The presale is on.  Pick up your copy at:


Seneca Surrender Gen Bailey 3 Web

Karen Kay
KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the author of 17 American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
Please refer to http://petticoatsandpistols.com/sweepstakesrules for all contest rules.

Kathryn Albright has a winner!

Thank you all for participating in my post yesterday!

I’ve drawn a name, and the lucky winner this time is

Mary B!


Mary–if you will contact me at kathryn at kathrynalbright dot com, I’ll get your prize to you.

Kathryn Albright
Kathryn Albright writes sweet western historical romance. Her award-winning stories celebrate courage and hope with a dash of adventure. She loves travel and jigsaw puzzles, believing life as well as a good story share common ground with both. She lives with her family in the rural Midwest where she practices the elusive skill of gardening.

The Heroes of San Diego Series & a Giveaway!


Happy Monday! I am gearing up for the release of Christmas Kiss from the Sheriff in November. This book will wrap up my Heroes of San Diego Series. It will be hard to leave my friends, but new stories are waiting to be written. I thought I’d go back to the beginning and post a bit about the story-lines and how they are connected because at the end of my post I have a question for you…


Book #1

Angel and the OutlawThe Angel and the Outlaw was my debut story, the “book of my heart,” that just begged to be written. When young, I loved the peninsula on Pt. Loma in San Diego where the old 1854 lighthouse stands. At that time, visitors could climb up the narrow circular stairs and walk around the catwalk. Not so anymore. In that story, a young woman from town dares to tutor the light keeper’s daughter who happens to be mute from a traumatic event in her past. Stuart is hiding out from the law and every bit a taciturn hero, but Rachel sees through his gruff exterior in the way he treats his daughter. When the law starts to close in on him, things get heated! (This book is NOT SWEET.)



Book #2

The Gunslinger and the HeiressThe Gunslinger and the Heiress takes place fifteen years later and is the story of Caleb and Hannah ~ the two children from my first book. I had many readers write in and ask if Hannah ever got over her muteness. I loved writing this story which has a dash of adventure and piracy in the mix. Who knew there were pirates off the coast of California? I learned that fact while researching and just had to include it in my story. The story takes place as the Hotel Del Coronado is being finished. Caleb is a scrapper and a reluctant bodyguard for Hannah. He’s always loved her…but she is as far removed from him as the moon now that they’ve grown up.



Book #3

fs-250-smFamiliar Stranger in Clear Springs starts out in La Playa ~ a town on the harbor that is closest to the lighthouse (and where Rachel of Book #1 taught school.) Elizabeth is Rachel’s good friend and heading into spinsterhood. She runs the family mercantile and has all but given up on love since a soldier from the nearby Fort Rosecrans left her without a word. Four years later, he suddenly shows up again and twists her heart into a tangle. Of course, she does the same to him! This story follows them into the back country where Tom has been sent to make sure the gold shipment from the mines gets through to the bank safely. Only trouble is, Elizabeth is smack dab in the middle of the fray!



Book #4 

Christmas Kiss from the SheriffChristmas Kiss from the Sheriff will be released on November 22nd! Gemma is Elizabeth’s good friend from La Playa who is the new school teacher in Clear Springs. Unbeknownst to the people of the mining town, Gemma is running from her past and has never taught a class in her life. When she skirts around a few questions and gets herself into a muddle at school, Sheriff Craig Parker becomes suspicious—so many things don’t add up about the beautiful new teacher. But she’s smart and independent and he is drawn to her!


As I write my stories, it always amazes me how the characters become “real” to me. I think of all these heroes and heroines as friends and wish I could meet them face to face. Weird, isn’t it? I guess it’s a writer’s mind…

My publisher, Harlequin, is having a big ebook sale (ending tomorrow the 25th of Oct.)
This is only the second time I have ever heard of Harlequin doing this, so it is a

My entire back-list is on sale for $1.99! I’ll leave you with a few links…

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Harlequin

For a chance to win one of my back-list books just let me know which one sounds like the story you would most like to read!
Feel free to go to my website’s Books Page and read the summaries and excerpts.

Kathryn Albright
Kathryn Albright writes sweet western historical romance. Her award-winning stories celebrate courage and hope with a dash of adventure. She loves travel and jigsaw puzzles, believing life as well as a good story share common ground with both. She lives with her family in the rural Midwest where she practices the elusive skill of gardening.

Linda Broday Has a Winner!

Love a Texas Ranger smallerHuge thanks to each one who left a comment on my blog last Tuesday. I enjoyed talking about tattoos with you.

The winner of print or e-book TO LOVE A TEXAS RANGER is……..


Congratulations, Elaine! I’ll contact you for your choice of format.

Linda Broday
I live in the Texas Panhandle where we love our cowboys.There's just something about a man in a Stetson that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!
Updated: October 23, 2016 — 5:20 pm

Crystal Barnes Has a Winner!

Boy, was that fun road trip. Thank you, Miss Crystal! We hope you come back.

Winner of either a print or ebook from one of Miss Crystal’s three is……..


Woo-Hoo! So happy for you. Miss Crystal will contact you so be watching.



Felicia Filly
When I'm not keepin' all these Fillies in line, I'm practicing my roping so I can catch me a cowboy. Me and Jasper (my mule) are two peas in a pod. Both of us are as crotchety as all get-out.
Updated: October 23, 2016 — 5:07 pm

WE HAVE A WINNER!!!!!!!!!!!








Mary Connealy
Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series
Updated: October 21, 2016 — 9:36 pm

Hittin’ the Road! with Crystal Barnes

clbarnes_avatarHowdy y’all! Crystal Barnes here and it’s such a thrill to visit y’all at Petticoats and Pistols. And speaking of visiting places, how many of y’all like road trips? I know I sure do.


Be it to the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, where you can learn about the daring, brave men who helped bring order to the West. I even learned how to take apart a Colt Peacemaker and put it back together again. Did you know those guns weighed as much as a 5lb bag of sugar?  Crazy!

Perhaps you’d prefer a trip to the Texian Market Days at the George Ranch Historical Park in Richmond, Texas, where you can tour multiple houses from the past, see reenactments, and/or learn how to fire a cannon or spin your own yarn. There are four different homes on this property. The 1830s Jones Stock Farmhouse is a dog-run style cabin with a covered breezeway down the middle. I used this structure as a model for Russell Cahill’s home in book two of my Marriage & Mayhem series, Love, Stock, & Barrel.


Their 1860s Ryon Prairie Home I’m using as a basis for my heroine’s home in my upcoming story Hook, Line, & Suitor (Marriage & Mayhem, Book 3). (You’ll see some of that Texas Ranger learnin’ pop up in this story too.) This house also has a breezeway, but the wealth of the family is much more easily seen.


Want another great place to visit in Texas, be it for research or just plain fun? Perhaps you should make a pit stop in Anderson and tour the Fanthorp Inn. The inn was built as a home in in 1834 and later enlarged for hotel purposes. It also served as the area’s first mercantile and post office (1835). You’ll also have the chance to ride a stagecoach while visiting. Why would the inn host stagecoach rides? The inn lay on the stage line crossroads for Houston to Old Springfield and Nacogdoches to Austin.


Recently, I was blessed to accompany a friend on a research trip to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and boy, did we have a wonderful, memorable time.



To me, that’s what stories are supposed to be too—a wonderful trip with a new friend (or an old one if you like series or reruns, which I do). If the story trail includes some cowboys, desperados, and exciting turn-of-events, even better.


How about you? Do you enjoy road trips? What are some of the best places you’ve visited—be it for research or just a fun getaway? Not a road traveler? What are some of your favorite towns/places to visit through stories?


I’d love to hear all about them. I love finding new places to visit, plus I’ll be giving away a FREE copy (ebook or paperback) of one of my stories to one of this post’s commentors. (Winner’s choice of title.)


An award-winning author, bona fide country girl, and former competitive gymnast, Crystal L Barnes tells stories of fun, faith, and friction that allow her to share her love of Texas, old-fashioned things, and the Lord—not necessarily in that order. When she’s not writing, reading, singing, or acting, Crystal enjoys exploring on road-trips, spending time with family, and watching old movies/sitcoms. I Love Lucy is one of her favorites. You can find out more and connect with Crystal at http://www.crystal-barnes.com.

You can also on her blog, the Stitches Thru Time group blog, her Amazon Author page, GoodreadsPinterestGoogle+, or on her Facebook author page.

Want to be notified of her latest releases and other fun tidbits? Subscribe to her newsletter.

Guest Blogger
Updated: October 17, 2016 — 7:35 pm

Christmas Novella Time…and a giveaway!

Mary Connealy Header

I’ve got a novella coming out in about a WEEK!

Today I’m posting an excerpt and giving away one copy. This is ebook only and…drumroll….it’s CONTEMPORARY.

That’s right. Shocking I know!

Room at the Inn for Christmas

Cart came and sat across from Amanda. He reached for a warm roll, tore it open and began buttering. “What we need to talk about tonight is this garbage about you selling the Star.”

Not garbage, just simple truth.

“That’s right, I’m closing it.”

“Closing it?” Cart’s butter knife froze as he shouted the words.

Angel gasped and turned from where she’d just set a tea kettle on the stove to heat.

“Selling it is bad enough,” Cart said. “But you can’t close it.”

Forging on despite how upset they were, Amanda said, “It will be a good thing for both of you. Angel, you can move back into your own home.”

After her children were grown and he husband died, Angel had lived in the back of the Star Inn, but as far as Mandy knew, she still owned a nice house in town. “You can spend more time with that grandson you adore, do some traveling. Cart you can focus on your cattle and horses. I know you’ve made a success of ranching. Dad said you’re just working in here out of habit, you sure don’t need the money. We’ll list the place for sale and see if anyone is interested. They can use it as a bed and breakfast or a private home or remodel and rent out apartments if they want.”

Cart set his butter knife down with a snap. “This place has reservations a year in advance.”

“We’ll have to cancel them. Heaven knows cancelling reservations is common enough in the hotel industry.” And she oughta know since she worked for the Halston at their flagship hotel in Beverly Hills.

“This isn’t one of your posh hotels sitting in a row of other posh hotels, Mandy. If people can’t stay here, they can’t stay at all. It’s the anchor of the town square. What will Heywood do if one whole side of the square is an empty house sitting in darkness? And what about the tourists who stay here? They do a lot of shopping and eating around town.”

“There are other hotels.”

“No, there is one motel, decent but strictly discount and out near the highway, a lot of those folks don’t even come downtown.”

Angel scooted in beside Amanda.

She was well and truly surrounded.

“You can’t just close it, honey. Surely you can see that. If you’re determined to sell, it’ll be much more valuable if it’s kept open.”

“Well, there’s no one to run it, and I refuse to make you do it, Angel. I know how hard you work already, no matter how easy you make it sound.” In fact Angel had been doing everything since Dad had died. It had to be exhausting. “I’m not loading more on your shoulders. And Lorrie is, I’m sure, working much longer days that she planned on when she was hired. And Cart, you don’t have time to—”

Mary 2015 V

Visit Maryconnealy.com for for details

“Mandy,” Cart cut her off, “You’re right we can’t do it. We’re doing what we’ve always done and that’s about all we have time for. We’ve been keeping things going, but it’s too much. It’s your dad that needs to be replaced. Lou Star was the man who made things work. He was the host. He welcomed people and made sure they were comfortable. He joined them for breakfast and hosted the afternoon tea. He was in charge of ordering and billing. I did the repairs, and I’ve been doing my best to keep up with the account books since he died. But Lou’s the one who kept his eyes open for problems. He’s the one who ran this place.”

“I know all of that, Cart. I understand it completely, and that’s why I’m closing up shop.”

Shaking his head, Cart almost looked like he pitied her. “You’ve been away so long you’re forgotten what a vital part of this town your old home is. The town needs you. We need you. We’re not managing the inn, and you’re not closing it You’ve got to run it yourself. Mandy, it’s time to come home.”

Room at the Inn for Christmas

Welcome to Heywood, Oregon where three lost women find healing, hope and love under the bright light of the town’s old Star Inn this Christmas season.

Amanda Star’s father always wanted her to come into the family business, and run the majestic old Star Inn with him but she had bigger plans. She’s a high-powered executive in the multi-national Halston hotel chain. One more promotion—which she expects to get by Christmas—will make her the youngest vice president in Halston history and she’s got her sights set on the CEO job.

Then she inherits the Star Inn. With no time to be away from her job, she impatiently rushes home to list the beautiful old bed and breakfast for sale. Now that she’s here she’s swamped with sweet memories and keen regret. Her father has made the inn a safe haven where weary travelers can get away from their hectic lives, and Amanda, working 10-hour days and living on coffee and antacids, desperately needs that safe haven.

As Amanda struggles against the lure of home, she also is reunited with an old classmate: Anthony Carter, a handyman with a guarded heart. Hurt before by a woman who saw his contentment and pleasure in building and living on his own land as a lack of ambition, Cart reluctantly finds himself drawn to a woman who wants so much more than a man with callused hands and sawdust in his hair. A woman who came home for Christmas and badly needs to stay. With the help of Angel Rafferty, the front desk clerk and a lifelong friend of Amanda’s parents, can Cart help Amanda realize the hospitality industry is far more than spreadsheets and bottom lines in time for Christmas?

Mary Connealy
Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series
Updated: October 20, 2016 — 9:58 am

Crystal Barnes Comes Calling!

Yippee! Miss Crystal Barnes will call on us Friday, October 21, 2016!

This lady loves her research almost as much as she loves her cowboys. She’s going to talk about road trips. Hers sounds very interesting.

And….She’s toting an ebook copy of one of these books to giveaway to one lucky person! That is if outlaws don’t ambush her.

Head over on Friday and join the party! It’ll be fun.


Felicia Filly
When I'm not keepin' all these Fillies in line, I'm practicing my roping so I can catch me a cowboy. Me and Jasper (my mule) are two peas in a pod. Both of us are as crotchety as all get-out.
Updated: October 17, 2016 — 9:36 pm

El Muerto: The Headless Horseman of Texas

Kathleen Rice Adams header

First published in 1820, Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” has been terrifying children for almost 200 years. Though the tale of a hapless schoolmaster’s midnight gallop through the New York woods made the phrase “headless horseman” a household term in America, by the time Irving’s story appeared headless horsemen had been staples of European folklore for centuries. German, Irish, Scandinavian, and English legends all offered versions of the ghoulish phantoms, who usually were said to appear to proud, arrogant people as a warning.

headless horsemanTexas has its own gruesome headless horseman legend. Unlike Irving’s unforgettable spook, though, Texas’s headless horseman rode among the living once upon a time.

Some say he still does.

In the summer of 1850, a Mexican bandido by the name of Vidal made an egregious error: He and several compadres rustled a sizable herd of horses from several ranches south of San Antonio. One of the ranches belonged to Texas Ranger Creed Taylor, a veteran of the Texas War for Independence and a man not inclined to forgive his enemies. (Taylor later would be one of the participants in the Sutton-Taylor Feud, a bloody, years-long running gun battle that resulted in four times as many deaths as the better-known fracas between the Hatfields and McCoys.)

Rustling cattle already had earned Vidal’s head a dead-or-alive bounty. Stealing a Texas Ranger’s horses was the proverbial last straw. Together with fellow Ranger William A.A. “Big Foot” Wallace and another local rancher, Taylor set out to put a stop to Vidal’s unbearable insolence.

The Headless Horseman: A Strange Tale of Texas, 1865

Capt. Mayne Reid’s version of a Texas Legend, published in 1865, received a mention in Charles Dickens’s final novel, Our Mutual Friend.

As a group, the early Texas Rangers were hard men. Tasked with protecting an enormous patch of land rife with outlaws and Indians, the early Rangers were expert trackers, accomplished gunmen, and not opposed to meting out immediate — and often brutal — “frontier justice.” Vidal was about to discover that in a very personal way.

After tracking the bandidos to their camp, Taylor, Wallace, and the third man mounted a surprise attack while the outlaws were asleep. Killing the desperados was not enough for Taylor and Wallace, though. The entire Ranger force was fed up with the rash of rustling plaguing Texas at the time. Not even leaving bodies hanging from trees or hacking them to pieces and using the bits for predator bait had made a strong enough statement.

So, Wallace got creative. After beheading Vidal, he secured the corpse upright on the back of the wildest of the rustled horses, lashed the bandido’s hands to the saddle horn and his feet to the stirrups, and tied the stirrups beneath the animal’s belly. Just to make sure anyone who saw the ghoulish specter got the message, he looped a rawhide thong through the head’s jaws and around Vidal’s sombrero, and slung the bloody bundle from the saddle’s pommel. Then Wallace and his friends sent the terrified mustang galloping off into the night.

William A.A. "Big Foot" Wallace, ca. 1872

Big Foot Wallace, ca. 1872

Not long thereafter, vaqueros began to report seeing a headless horseman rampaging through the scrub on a dark, wild horse. As sightings spread, some claimed flames shot from the animal’s nostrils and lightning bolts from its hooves. Bullets seemed to have no effect on the grisly marauder. They dubbed the apparition el Muerto — the dead man — and attributed all sorts of evil and misfortune to the mysterious rider.

Eventually, a posse of cowboys brought down the horse at a watering hole near Ben Bolt, Texas. By then the dried-up body had been riddled with bullets and arrows, and the head had shriveled in the sun. The posse laid Vidal’s remains to rest in an unmarked grave on the La Trinidad Ranch. Only then did Wallace and Taylor take public credit for the deed. The episode contributed to Wallace’s reputation and had the intended effect on rustling.

Even the revelation of the truth behind the legend did not end el Muerto’s reign of terror. Until nearby Fort Inge was decommissioned in 1869, soldiers reported seeing a headless rider roaming the countryside around Uvalde, near Taylor’s ranch. Thirty years later, a rise in the ground 250 miles to the southeast, near San Patricio, Texas, was christened Headless Horseman Hill after a wagon train reported an encounter with el Muerto. A sighting occurred in 1917 outside San Diego, Texas, and another near Freer in 1969.

El Muerto reportedly still roams the mesquite-covered range in Duval, Jim Wells, and Live Oak counties — still fearsome, still headless, and still reminding those who see him that Texas Rangers didn’t come by their tough-hombre reputation by accident.

bat flourish

Robbing Banks Stealing HeartsI haven’t written any tales about headless horsemen — yet — but ghosts play a significant role in one of my short novellas. Family Tradition is one of two stories that compose Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts.

Everyone should have career at which they excel. At failing to commit crimes, nobody is better than Laredo and Tombstone Hawkins. Maybe they can bumble their way into love.

Family Tradition
Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. When carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist tries to help, she accidentally summons a pair of dishonest-to-goodness ghosts. Getting into the spirit of a crime is one thing…but how do you get the spirits out?


Here’s a brief excerpt:

Stone blinked at the apparitions. If not for Madame Minerva’s confirmation, he’d have sworn he was seeing things—and he hadn’t touched a drop of whiskey in weeks.

He eased backward a step.

So did she, sidling up next to him until her hipbone collided with his leg.

The two ghosts floated around the table, one on each side, and planted themselves close enough for Stone to poke a hand through either misty shape. Forcing a swallow down his throat, he squinted at the nearest. He’d been on the receiving end of that old man’s irritated glare far too often.

Heart racing fast enough to outrun a mule with a butt full of buckshot, Stone faded back another step.

The fake gypsy stayed with him, as though she were glued to his side.

The gauzy forms kept pace.

“Emile?” Madame Minerva’s voice squeaked like a schoolgirl’s.

Even on a ghost, disappointment was easy to spot. A pained frown gripped one apparition’s face. “I’m not part of the con any longer, Pansy. You can’t call me father just once?”

Stone ducked his head and tossed the woman a sidelong glance. “Pansy?”

“Said Tombstone,” she hissed.

The second ghost spoke up, his voice strangely hollow but recognizable. “Boy, you got nothin’ to say to your ol’ pop?”

“I uh… I…” Stone’s tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.

Thank God, Emile picked up the conversation. “I see my little girl is keeping the family tradition alive.”

“I am.” Pansy’s breathy whisper carried a hint of tears. “Oh, Emile, I wish you had stayed.”

“I’ve been here all along. You just haven’t looked for me before.” Emile’s specter extended a hand to cup his daughter’s cheek. Pansy leaned into the phantom caress.

Stone snatched her before she toppled over. Too late, he discovered she weighed little more than a ghost herself. His grab yanked her off her feet and slammed her into his chest.

He exercised quite a bit more care setting her back on the dirt floor.




Kathleen Rice Adams
A Texan to the bone, award-winning author Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperados. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks. In Kathleen's tales, even the good guys wear black hats.

Visit her at the Hole in the Web Gang's hideout, KathleenRiceAdams.com. Or, connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.
Petticoats & Pistols © 2015