FINDING INSPIRATION IN A MOUND

Encouragement from an unexpected source set Barbara Ankrum’s romance-author’s feet on a new path. Help us welcome Barbara to Wildflower Junction.

By Barbara Ankrum

Barbara Ankrum

Barbara Ankrum

For years, I resisted the temptation to write a romance with a Native American protagonist.  Frankly, I was scared to do it. I might get it wrong. Or, worse, insult someone! So I avoided it even though I longed to write one.

Then my daughter moved to Kansas.

On a visit, I took the grandkids to a cool little farmstead called Deanna Rose, and was surprised to find there a reproduction of a Kanza (tribe) mound lodge. From the outside, the mound looked like a tall, grass-covered hill with two tunnel-like doorways. Inside, it was a circular wood-braced lodge, 14’ high at the center with cottonwood tree trunk poles supporting the arched roof. Beds lined the walls all the way around the forty feet in diameter perimeter. In the center, a fire pit and a hole in the ceiling for smoke to escape.

indian mound 3The earthen walls were fourteen inches thick insulating the interior from the harsh Kansas summer sun. Outside, it was 3,000 degrees, (I jest—but it was Kansas in July!)  But inside that mound it was a cool 70-something and I lingered.

A Native American docent started to chat with me about the structure and I asked a bunch of questions. The mounds are scarce—almost non-existent now, because they were nearly all destroyed by the Army in the Indian Wars, set ablaze and collapsed.

indian mound 5When I admitted I write historical romance and secretly always wanted to write a Native American hero, but didn’t have the nerve, this woman looks at me and says, “Why not?” And I was like, “Well, because I’m not Native American. I might not do their story justice.” This sweet woman laughed. “But you see,” she said, “You’d be telling their story, a story that might not be heard otherwise. A story that might never have a voice. You must write it.”

I was dumbfounded but profoundly affected by her words.  Maybe I just needed a new perspective. If I did my best with it and gave it my heart and told the story that was calling me, then it might be enough. After all, isn’t that what writers do?

indian mound 4This woman’s off-handed encouragement was the jumping off point for THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS. Set Montana, my hero is a half-breed Cheyenne (okay, so I dipped my toe in!) and my heroine is a white schoolteacher he accidentally kidnaps and drags into the wilds of the Montana Mountains. It’s set in the post-Indian War devastation of the far West tribes and the systematic removal of the Native American children to white-run boarding schools.

And it turned out Essie was brave and maybe a little inspired by that docent’s words, too. When I got a really nice review from a Native American reader thanking me for not backing off the true story of the boarding schools, I could only smile and secretly thank that woman from Deana Rose.

Essie SparksYou never know where encouragement will come from. You never know how your words will affect someone else. And you never know what you can do until you try.

I hope you’ll give THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS a read. Maybe it will inspire you to be brave about something in your own life.  I think if we just remember that we bring our own heart to the things we do, we bring something to the table that no one else possibly could. And that’s more than enough.

Find The Ruination of Essie Sparks and Barbara’s other books at Amazon.

 

What is it you’d love to try, but have held back doing? Tell me and I will give away one e-copy of THE RUINATION OF ESSIE SPARKS to one lucky commenter.

Guest Blogger

We Have a Winner for Karen Kay’s free E-Book Give-away

bannerHowdy!

And yes, we have a winner for the free e-book of LONE ARROW’S PRIDE and that winner is :

 

Marilyn Brown

 

Congratulations to Marilyn!  Marilyn, please contact me privately at karenkay(dot)author(at)earthlink(dot)net.  I’ll need to know what e-reader you have in order to get your book to you.

Many, many thanks to all of you who came to the blog on Tuesday.  I loved talking with you all.

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.
Updated: June 23, 2016 — 12:19 pm

More FUN At the Junction!

Filly Fun 2016 Design to useIt’s time for more FUN at the Junction!

Monday, June 27th – July 1

Five more Fillies are going to tell you things you didn’t know about themselves. 

There may even be some prizes!!

This is your chance to learn some info that may prove useful for things such as BLACKMAIL!

So head over all next week and read about these Fillies. You’ll have a good time!

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: June 23, 2016 — 7:32 pm

Tricks of the Trade: Unscrupulous Horse Traders of the Old West

MargaretBrownley-header

We all know to be on our guard when buying a used car. But a clever Old West horse dealer could make even the slickest car dealer look like Honest Abe.

Those early cowboys in the market for a horse didn’t have to worry about odometer fraud or hidden accident damage, but there were plenty of other ways they could be duped.

smileyMany an old mare was made to appear young again by a method called bishoping.  The horse traders of yesteryear often filed the teeth of elderly horses and stained them with silver nitrate. This little trick could shave years off a horse’s age. A story in a 1910 newspaper reported that one man paid dearly for a seventeen-year-old horse thinking it was but seven.

Horses with sore muscles were temporarily cured by the gasoline trick. Gasoline was rubbed into a horse’s back and withers.  Supposedly, this allowed horses to move pain-free long enough to allow an unscrupulous horse trainer to pocket his money and leave town.

Another trick involved removing a shoe to disguise a lame horse.  The horse trader would convince a prospective buyer that once the shoe was replaced, the horse would be fine.

It wasn’t just old age and limps that could be concealed. Sponges shoved up a horse’s nostrils would hide the ihorsesound of labored breathing or a runny nose.  Irritants hidden in other parts of the body made a sickly horse hold its tail high and appear active.  This was called gingering.

Droopy ears could be easily fixed by running a thread under the forelock.

A Pennsylvania newspaper dated 1897 reported that when a prospective buyer voiced concern over a horse’s slow speed, the horse trader took him for a ride. Unbeknownst to the buyer, the horse trader had arranged to be arrested for “speeding” and willingly paid the five dollar fine.  The duped buyer was so impressed, he immediately bought the horse.

White horses were often made to look more attractive by the addition of black spots. This was accomplished by a combination of powdered lime and litharge.  A handsome star was often added to a black horse’s forehead by spreading warm pitch to a spot shaved in the shape of a star.  The pitch was left on for three days and then washed away with elixir of vitriol.  The hair grew back white.

One horse trader received a complaint that the horse he sold the day before must be blind as it kept walking into things. “Well, he ain’t blind,” the trader explained.  “He just don’t care.”

Anyone ever come across an unscrupulous dealer or pushy salesman?

 

LeftattheAltarfinalcoverComing in November:  Left at the Altar

Welcome to Two-Time Texas:

Where tempers burn hot

Love runs deep

And a single marriage can unite a feuding town

…or tear it apart for good

Click to preorder

Amazon

B&N

Margaret Brownley
Margaret has published more than 40 books and is a N.Y. Times Bestselling author and past Romance Writers of America Rita Finalist. She writes historical novels set--where else?--in the Old West! Calico Spy, the exciting conclusion to her Undercover Ladies series can be preordered now. Margaret's stories also appear in the 12 Brides of Christmas and Pioneer Christmas collections, available now. Not bad for someone who flunked 8th grade English. Just don't ask her to diagram a sentence.
Updated: June 23, 2016 — 10:29 am

Barbara Ankrum To Visit Friday!

Essie SparksMiss Barbara Ankrum is returning on Friday, June 24, 2016!

She always has something interesting to talk about and this time it’s Indian mound lodges. If you don’t know what those are, you’re about to find out.

Miss Barbara is also toting a book to give away. Yippee!

Come Friday, shake the wrinkles from your bustle and head over.

We’ll be expecting you.

 

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: June 21, 2016 — 11:04 pm

The Art of Hitching Horse Hair

Jeannie Watt 2Hey everyone and happy Wednesday. Today I’m going to toot my own horn and discuss a western craft I love.

I’m a hitcher. Not the kind that marries people, but rather the kind that makes custom cowboy gear out of twisted and woven horsehair.

Hitching is an ancient art and I don’t think anyone has truly nailed down where  or how long ago it started. It has been kept alive, however, in the Montana Penal system, where inmates have been creating hitched horsehair belts and headstalls (bridles) for well over a hundred years. If you visit Deer Lodge, you cabelt detailn see some beautiful hitching in the prison gift store, along with other crafts created by the inmates.

I learned to hitch in 1993, at a time when so few people were hitching, that most knew each other by name or reputation. The art re-surged during the 90s and I was lucky to have been riding that wave. I’ve shown my pieces in western art and museum shows and have been invited twice to show at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko.

So how do yhairou hitch? First you get some decent tail hair. Tail hair is different from mane hair—it’s courser and longer. Mane hair is used for the tassels and also can be twisted into ropes called mecates.

I cheat and buy violin bow hair. It’s alretied hairady cleaned and of equal length. I get it in black, brown and white. The white I dye on the stove, using plain old Rit dye, to create the not-so-natural colors.

To make a string, you count out 9 hairs if you’re using black or brown, because the hair shafts in these colors are thicker, 10 if you’re using white. You flip half of the hair around, because one end of a strand is naturally thicker than the other and this gives you a uniform thickness, and knot it. Then you split the hairs over your hand and twist. Unlike human hair, horsehair doesn’t unravel. As long as twistingit has a knot in both ends, it stays put.

After you have enough strings, you can start hitching. To do this, you fasten two long rolls of twine (I use mattress tufting twine) to a dowel, attach to the twine however many horsehair strings you need to cover the dowel, and then start weaving the horsehair over the twine in half-hitch knots—thus the term hitching. It’s essentially weaving in the round, since you turn the dowel and continue to weave around and around it, until you reach the desired length. Once you are done

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All designs are woven in using different colored horsehair strings.

—a zillion weeks after you start sometimes, you pull the work off the do

wel. It comes off as a tube of horsehair and string, which is then dampened and pressed flat in a big steel press. After that you attach leather and…viola…work of usable art. And hitched horsehair is durable. People are still using horsehair gear made in the 1940s or earlier.

It takes a while to complete a project. When hitching a 1 ½ inch belt, I can finish ¾ to 1 inch in an hour, depending on the complexity of the design I’m weaving—and I’m fast.

Here are some of my finished pieces–

These are belts that I designed and made for my family. My belt is the grey and blue one on the end.

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This is a checkbook cover with a hitched insert of a brand.

checkbook

 

This is my master work—an old-style headstall. I’m still working on the reins. This took 240 hours to complete and I displayed it at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The strings for this work were very delicate–only 5 black hairs, and I worked it over a single twine.

big heastall

 

And this is the Michael Martin Murphy headstall—yes, he bought it, while it was on display at Cowboy Poetry and he was performing there! I was so stoked when I found out.

mmm

 

And that’s my craft. I’ve so enjoyed sharing with you today, and if you’re ever at a western event, keep your eyes peeled for people or horses wearing hitched horsehair. They’re out there.

Jeannie Watt
Jeannie Watt lives off the grid in an historic cattle ranching area and loves all things western. When she's not writing, Jeannie enjoys sewing, making mosaic mirrors, riding her horses and buying hay. Lots and lots of hay.

Inspiration and LONE ARROW’S PRIDE

bannerWelcome, welcome to my blog today!

I’ll be giving away a free copy today of the e-book, LONE ARROW’S PRIDE.  This story, LONE ARROW’S PRIDE is a lighthearted book even though the subject matter of the tale is rather serious.

Because recent events bring to mind that the world in which we live can be a place of violence, a world of double-speak and a platform for injustice, I thought I’d throw in a little bit of light-heartedness to perhaps chase away the gloom.  I think that one always hopes to find ethics, honor and truthfulness in one’s environment, but more and more we seem to exist in a place where good is bad and bad is good.  It’s a 180 degree reverse vector world, it seems.

And so I’ve decided to give away my most light-hearted romance book.  Yes, some of the subject material in the book is serious, but it really is a lighthearted approach.  And so I thought I’d say a bit about the book and part of its inspiration (there was more than one inspiration for this book).

One of the best friends that I’ve ever had is the inspiration for the male character.  In real life, I met this man when I was a freshman in college.  The way I met him was unusual, actually.  My boyfriend at the time was playing jazz in the music practice room area in the music hall (I was a music major) — and my friend was there playing jazz sax along with him.  I can’t tell you exactly what happened.  All I know is that my spirit soared as soon as I saw him.  And as it turns out — although we were only friends — he has been one of the most inspirational people in my life.

This cover off to the left here is one of my favorites.  The passion in this cover pulls at my heart.

Getting back to my story.  Much later (years later) when my friend wasn’t spoken for, and neither was I, we were briefly an item.  Little did he know that had he asked me, I probably would have followed him anywhere.  But he never asked and eventually — because life does go on — we drifted apart.

But our friendship never died.  We’d see each other  now and again when I was in LA or more specifically when I visit Florida (he now lives in Florida).  One of the things that I always think of whenever I think of him is a little dance that we’d do as we would be walking — and he always made me laugh — always.

And so the story of LONE ARROW’S PRIDE is my most light-hearted story.  It had to be light-hearted because my friend is — and we always laugh when we’re together.  But I never forgot that he never asked — even though I adored him — and so of course that experience is in the book — it had to be.

It was during the writing of this book, however, that I lost my sister, Vicki.  Her passing was such a shock to the family, coming as it did early in life — and it happened while I was writing this book, that it took me a while to finish the book.   But truth is, the writing of the book — finishing it — helped me through that time period in my life.  Now, I’ve been trying and trying to post a picture of Vicki, but so far I’ve not been able to accomplish it.  Forgive me.

But it wasn’t all bad  news.  At that time period in my life, I was also adopted officially into the Blackfeet Tribe — to honor me for work that I had done with them concerning literacy.  There was one other, the head of the project, who was also adopted and the picture off to the right here was taken during the ceremony (we were given Blackfeet names).   (I’m the one to the right in this picture.)  All of this went into this book — all my fears, my loss, my triumphs.  The story itself — a Treasure Hunt — was put to me by my brother-in-law and husband — who were telling me the very true legend of the Superstitious Mountains — But that’s the subject of another blog.

All things told, LONE ARROW’S PRIDE is one of my favorite books — and I hope it becomes one of your favorites, also.  So please come in and leave a comment — again, I’ll be giving away a free book today to some lucky blogger.  Come in and tell me your thoughts about all this — and the cover, which I absolutely adore.  LONE ARROW’S PRIDE can be purchased here for a song at the moment:  https://www.samhainpublishing.com/book/4298/lone-arrows-pride

Hope you’ve enjoyed the post today!  Come on in an leave a comment.

 

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.
Updated: June 20, 2016 — 10:09 pm

Second Chance at Love

KathrynAlbrightBanner

What is it about reunion / second chance at love stories that make them a favorite? There are a few readers here who have mentioned knowing a boy in school, only to then be separated by circumstances, and then to come back together at a class reunion, a wedding, or a chance meeting years later. I’ve read of some couples in the newspaper where they reconnected after sixty years and a marriage in-between, tying the knot again at eighty years of age! I LOVE such stories!

What is their draw? Is it hope? Is it that love truly can conquer all? Or is it that we never forget our first love…and the rush of new emotions and experiences that made up that roller coaster of a time? The romantic in me say it is all these things.

My newest release (April 2016) is a story about second chances. It is a novella in the Western Spring Weddings Anthology ~ His Springtime Bride. I hope you enjoy the excerpt here…

His Springtime Bride 

Blurb ~

Released from prison, Gabe Coulter must work for his enemy to earn back the deed to his own ranch. But when his boss’s daughter, Riley Rawlins, returns home with a rebellious son after years away in the east, nothing will stop him from discovering the truth.

Riley no longer trusts the man she once loved so completely. Years of old hurts and his violent past make it impossible to forgive and allow him back in her life or that of her son.

But one thing Gabe has is pure cowboy grit. Will it be enough to make Riley see that she and his son should be a part of his future?

Western Spring Weddings

Excerpt ~  

The coach rounded a rocky bend in the road and the village of Nuevo came into view. If she remembered correctly, the station and pen with fresh horses stood on the south side of the dusty town. From his seat overhead the driver called out announcing the place. The stagecoach slowed and finally pulled to a stop in front of the change station.

The dirt yard was empty; however, a buckboard sat off under the shade of a juniper tree. Perhaps that was her ride. The caw of a Steller’s jay broke the silence of the afternoon. A lean, broad-shouldered man stepped through the station door and out into the sunlight. She recognized him and froze. Scuffed boots, brown canvas pants, a cotton shirt with rolled-up sleeves, a green bandanna at his neck and the darkest brown eyes Riley had ever seen under a tan felt hat. Gabe Coulter.

Her breath whooshed from her like a deflating balloon. What was he doing here? When had he been released from prison? She stared at him, captivated and at the same time annoyed that after all these years he had grown more handsome. His collar-length black hair framed a face chiseled and sharp with angles, his nose straight as always, his jaw firm and square. The only thing not hard on the man was his lips…and they looked exactly as she remembered…enticing and kissable.

Abruptly, she pulled away from the window, hoping that he would walk away and never know she was there. Her heart raced. He still packed quite a presence. She swallowed, angry with herself for feeling anything at all. No amount of time was sufficient to make her forget what he’d done. She would never forgive him.

The driver placed the box step and swung open the door. “All out! Nuevo!”

She didn’t move.

“Aren’t we going, Ma?” Brody watched her.

She took a steadying breath. Perhaps it was silly to be nervous about running into Gabe after all this time. Hadn’t she just been telling herself to leave the past in the past? This was a test of her resolve. That’s all. Nothing more.

She tugged down on the hem of her shirtwaist and then straightened her straw bonnet. Ready. She stepped through the doorway and onto the box the driver had set for disembarking passengers. The bright sunlight blinded her. She wobbled slightly, her legs unused to activity and stiff after riding for four hours.

A strong hand grasped her upper arm, steadying her. The grip hardened to steel. “Riley? Riley Rawlins?”

His voice was richer, deeper, than she remembered, and he sounded astonished. Careful to keep all of her colliding thoughts contained and squashed deep inside, she looked up and met his eyes. “Hello, Gabe,” she said with cool reserve.

Gigi Hadid: Actor inspiration for Riley Rawlins (Photo by Dave Lee)

Then she stepped down to the ground and promptly stumbled.

He grabbed hold with his other hand and steadied her. Both grips were tight bands on her upper arms. He stared at her with unveiled shock in his eyes. “You are the company that Rawlins is expecting?”

She stiffened. “I am.”

He let go immediately. “Then I guess I’m here to fetch you.”

Her pulse raced. Her entire body felt on edge, as though half of her wanted to bolt one way and the
other half run another. “You are working for my father now?”

“Started not too long ago.”

With their exchange of letters, her father had known for over a month that she was coming home and yet he had hired Gabe? It didn’t seem possible. Years ago when he discovered they were involved in something more than friendship, Father had been dead set against them being near each other. He also knew how upset she’d been when Gabe had deserted her. Was this his own brand of retribution he was forcing on her?

She squared her shoulders, resigned that this “new beginning” had taken a decided turn for the worst. “Very well.” It wasn’t the most gracious of responses, but at the moment it mirrored how she felt.

His eyes narrowed as he took a closer look at her.

It was as if he was reaching back through the years and trying to read what had happened to her since then…and perhaps wishing she would return to where she had come from. Heat mounted on her cheeks under his scrutiny.

“Ma.”

She startled at her son’s voice behind her and turned to him. “Brody, this is Mister Coulter…a ranch hand of your grandfather’s.”

Gabe’s brow raised at the last, just the slightest bit, but he turned and watched Brody disembark. If Brody’s size…nearly five feet six inches…surprised him, not a muscle moved on his handsome face. When her son lifted his sullen gaze, all Gabe did was thrust out his hand.

Her son hesitated but then grasped Gabe’s hand in a firm shake.

“Brody,” Gabe said, as if testing his name and committing it to memory. His shake slowed and he glanced at Riley with a question lighting his eyes. Then he let go. “I’ll get your bags transferred to the wagon.”

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Tom Welling: Actor inspiration for Gabe Coulter.

“I can do it,” Brody said, his voice challenging. He scrambled to the top of the coach and tossed down their traveling cases with enough force Riley worried they might break open. It didn’t seem to faze Gabe as he caught them. What was her son trying to prove? When he had climbed back down and Gabe had left them to carry two of the cases to the wagon, she took Brody aside. “What was that all about?”

“I don’t like the way he looked at us—at you.”

It wasn’t the first time her son had acted protective of her, but it had been a long time since he had even cared—more than year.

“I hope you are a bit friendlier upon meeting your grandfather.” She also hoped her father was a bit friendlier than Gabe had been. Then squaring her shoulders, she braced herself for the long ride to the ranch and followed her son to the buckboard.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gabe’s entire body was shaking on the inside when he settled the luggage in the wagon bed. Riley was back—and with a son! Just the thought of her with another man made Gabe knot up inside, stupidly jealous of something that happened years ago. He hadn’t expected her to stay unhitched. She was too beautiful to stay single for long. He darted a look at her as she walked toward the wagon. Still slender, still with that long, wavy, honey-colored hair—although it was up in a knot under her hat. He’d never forgotten her eyes—gray-green with long dark lashes. They’d haunted him for as long as he could remember.

He helped her onto the wagon seat, irritated that his hands tingled when he let loose of her. Brody gave him a penetrating look before climbing up beside her. It wasn’t hard to decipher the stare. Gabe had felt possessive often enough with his own mother whenever Rawlins had come slinking around. The boy didn’t have a thing to worry about. As much as he had once loved Riley, he had learned his lesson there. He was just the hired help in her family’s opinion and nowhere near good enough for her.

His Springtime Bride/Western Spring Weddings Anthology   ©  2016  by Kathryn Albright
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

For more information about Western Spring Weddings or my other books,
please check my website ~  www.kathrynalbright.com

Now ~ I’ve admitted to my favorite kind of stories. I also love coming-of-age stories and the-underdog-wins stories. What about you? What type of story draws your interest over and over. If nothing strikes you ~ just name your favorite book from the past five years…( I always need new recommendations for great reads!)

Comment for a chance in my drawing! I’ll give away one copy of Western Spring Weddings (or another story from my backlist) to one lucky commenter. 

Kathryn Albright
Golden Heart finalist and recipient of the HOLT Medallion Award of Merit, author Kathryn Albright writes American-set historical romance that celebrates courage and hope and love against all odds.

Patti Sherry-Crews Has a Winner!

margarita-coverWow, thank you, Miss Patti! Now I wonder what your outlaw name would be? Hmmmm.

The ebook copy of Margarita and the Hired Gun goes to……..

MELISSA C.

Yippee! Congratulations, Melissa! Miss Patti will contact you about your book 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: June 19, 2016 — 8:45 pm

Great Escapes? by Patti Sherry-Crews

Patti Sherry-Crews is funny, friendly, and a pleasure to know. She lives smack-dab in the middle of the Midwest and took part of her education in Wales, where she studied archaeology, Welsh, and Welsh literature. Nevertheless, she writes western historical romance. Go figure. Welcome to Wildflower Junction, Patti!

Jesse James's Grave in Kearney, Missouri

Jesse James’s Grave in Kearney, Missouri

What do Billy the Kid and the Grand Duchess Anastasia have in common? Like Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, Jesse James, The Lost Dauphin of France, and the Princes in the Tower, years after their “deaths” rumors of their survival persisted.

It’s obvious why certain factions in Europe would want their royals to escape death. But why do we want to believe a group of gunslingers and bank robbers went on to live a quiet life under an assumed name?

I’ve been thinking about this question, and except for a few stray individuals such as D.B. Cooper, I can’t think of a group so rumored to have faked their own deaths as much as the American outlaw of the old west.

Is it because the time and place capture our imagination? Or is it the personalities? Maybe we can’t bear the thought these mythologized, larger than life men were fallible after all? I picture Butch and Sundance always two steps ahead of the posse, Billy the Kid slipping out of handcuffs and escaping from jail, and Jesse James outwitting the Pinkertons. It is hard to then, picture these same men pinned down by gun fire in Bolivia, being taken down in the middle of the night while visiting his sweetheart, or being shot in the back while righting a crooked picture.

Billy_the_Kid

Billy the Kid

It was not uncommon for outlaws to go by an alias. Butch Cassidy was born Robert LeRoy Parker. Billy the Kid was christened Henry McCarty in New York City but was also known as Henry Antrim and William H. Bonney. Butch and Sundance moved around South America under the names James Ryan and Harry E. Place (Etta Place). So it’s a short stretch to see them moving on with a new name after “killing off” their old one.

Rumor has it Butch went on to live in the Pacific Northwest under a name unknown to this day. A few Billy the Kids surfaced, Bushy Bill being the most famous. Of all of them, even though Jesse James isn’t my favorite outlaw, I believe he did successfully fake his own death—but that’s another story.

When I was creating my own bad boy for Margarita and the Hired Gun, I had these men in mind, but especially the resourceful and charming Billy the Kid. Like Billy’s mother, Rafferty is an Irish immigrant who got his American start in New York City. The Kid was only 5’3”, and judging by the few photographs we have of him, it’s hard to see his sex appeal. Despite all that, he was quite the ladies’ man. A picture recently surfaced of him playing croquet and wearing a striped cardigan I’d expect to see on my grandfather. He looks incredibly young. A man loved by ladies and feared by men—my type of hero.

Rafferty had many “adventures” in America, and in true outlaw style, he had to change his name a few times. The excerpt I’ve included is the scene where Rafferty tells Margarita his real name. They’ve endured a hair-rising stretch of the trail and both have let their guard down in their relief. It is the first time since fleeing Ireland he hears his own name being spoken.

About Patti

patti Sherry-crews in kitchenPatti Sherry-Crews writes romances because she can’t help herself. She is a romantic who turns everything into a romance in the hope that everyone can just work it out and live happily ever after. Patti has published stories in several other genres, including paranormal and narrative nonfiction. Margarita and the Hired Gun is her first historical western but won’t be her last. The old west has always fascinated her, because the time and place are unique: the mix of cultures all coming together at a point in history when so many people were drawn westward in attempts to reinvent themselves after the great shake-up of the Civil War. The old west saw the borders between law and outlaw blurred, and people moved back and forth between the two, a theme reflected in Margarita and the Hired Gun.

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margarita-coverMargarita and the Hired Gun

Beautiful Margarita McIntosh escapes Flagstaff with a hired gun, Rafferty, as her only protection from her father’s powerful enemies who are hot on their trail. Giving up her life of leisure is nothing compared to the passion she finds in Rafferty’s arms. Together, they face a perilous journey that becomes a fight for their very lives—and a dream of the future neither of them could have imagined.

Excerpt

Within minutes, the trail turned onto a flat piece of grassland on top of a plateau. Margarita took in a deep breath. Her hands were shaking. He waited for her to come up alongside him.

“I think we all need a rest,” he said, smiling thinly at her.

He dismounted and led his horse and the mule over to a copse of trees. He tied up his horse and mule to a tree near a patch of grass, which the animals hungrily tore into. Margarita followed his lead.

“Are you hungry?” he asked, reaching into one of the packs.

“No. I don’t trust my stomach right now.”

“Fine, but do get some water into ya,” he said, sitting down with an apple and his canteen on a big boulder in the shade. She sat down on the ground beside him and was met with his look of surprise. She’d never sat near him before.

“What would have happened if the path was too narrow for you to get off your horse?” she asked, shuddering.

He regarded her with a little grin on his face. “You don’t have to think about that now, and I don’t want to. That part of the trail is behind us, never to be repeated on this trip.”

He pulled a large knife out of his boot. Margarita flinched. He gaped at her before cutting a slice out of the apple. He handed her a slice.

“It will do you good. An apple will settle your stomach.”

Her hand brushed against his fingers as she took the slice, sending a shock up her arm. He drew back as if feeling a charge, too.

“Thank you, Raf…I don’t know what to call you. Do you have a first name? Rafferty is a mouthful.”

He looked down and smiled. “I do have a first name.”

After a long pause she added, “But you’re not going to tell me?”

“I’ve got no problem telling you,” he said, but he continued to sit in silence.

“It appears that you do,” she said, laughing. “I didn’t mean to stump you with that question.”

He looked down at her, his deep blue eyes full of mischief. “I’m only trying to work out which name to give you. I’ve had a few.”

“Oh…I see. How about the one your parents gave you?”

He looked down at his hands, focused on carving out another slice of apple. “Michael.”

“That’s a nice name.”

“And Rafferty isn’t my last name. It’s Byrne.”

“Why do you have so many names?”

“Loads of people out here have more than one name. That’s what you do here, which is one reason I like the west. If you stop liking who you are, you become someone different,” he said with a wink, handing her another slice of apple.

She smiled coyly at him. “Mr. Byrne, what have you been up to?”

He chuckled. “Maybe I’ll tell you sometime. We have weeks yet ahead of us. My misdeeds will give us something to talk about. How about you, Margarita? Margarita is quite a mouthful, as well. Do people call you Rita?”

She realized this was the first time he called her by her name. She liked the way her name sounded coming from him. The way he seemed to chew the separate syllables of her name sounded like water roiling gently over pebbles in a creek.

She sat for a moment, relishing the heat radiating in her chest at the sound of her name spoken in his deep, silken voice. He was looking at her with something close to affection in his eyes. Then, she shook herself. “Not if they want to stay on my good side! I hate being called Rita. My father calls me Maggie.”

The smile disappeared, and the blood drained from his face. He stood up. “Time to hit the trail again if we want to reach camp and get these horses watered.”

He was walking away from her, already at his horse.

“All right, Michael,” she said, in a sweet voice, with a smile on her face.

His back was to her, but she saw his shoulders stiffen. Something about the gesture wiped the smile right off her face.

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Patti will give an ebook of Margarita and the Hired Gun to someone who answers this question before 11 p.m. Sunday: What would your outlaw name be? Go comment!

 

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