Category: Texas

Rough and Wooly Hidetown

The West is full of old towns left over from the glory days and each one is filled with interesting stories. An hour and half from where I live is a place once called Hidetown. It was originally a camp on Sweetwater Creek set up by buffalo hunters in 1874. By all accounts, it was a rough and wooly place.

The following year, the U.S. government established Fort Cantonment (later called Fort Elliott) two miles away to keep law and order and make sure the Indians stayed on reservations in Indian Territory. I think they had their job cut out for them. Those buffalo hunters were used to doing things their own way.

Three businessmen came down from Dodge City around that time to open a trading post and the population in Hidetown grew to 150. They soon boasted a laundry, a restaurant, a dance hall, and several saloons. The buildings were crude at best. Some no more than tents.  Hardened outlaws, bullwhackers, buffalo hunters, and gamblers made up the majority.

Of the population, only fifteen were women. Of those only one was a virtuous woman. That was a recipe for disaster right there.

Bat Masterson arrived in 1875 and worked as a faro dealer in one of the saloons. He became embroiled in a fight over dance hall beauty Mollie Brennan with a sergeant from the fort. Guns erupted and the sergeant was killed—only the bullet passed through him and struck Mollie killing her also. The sergeant’s bullet struck Bat in the pelvis and he walked with a limp for the rest of his life. He returned to Dodge City and took a lawman job.

In 1878, Hidetown became the organized, lawless town of Mobeetie and Pat Garrett visited.

This picture on the right was taken in 1900 and it’s interesting to see the windmill and businesses.

Charles Goodnight said, “Mobeetie was patronized by outlaws, thieves, cut-throats, and buffalo hunters, with a large percent of prostitutes. Taking it all, I think it was the hardest place I ever saw on the frontier except Cheyenne, Wyoming.”

Mobeetie was a Comanche word that meant “buffalo dung.” But the town thrived and throughout the 1880s it was a commercial center for much of the Texas Panhandle.

In 1880 the first courthouse of the panhandle was built by Irish stonemasons and Texas Ranger George Arrington became sheriff. Lawyers arrived as well. One was Sam Houston’s son, Temple. He served a term as district attorney before being elected to the Senate. He proved a very able attorney and one of his courtroom arguments is still being taught in law schools today.

When the army closed Fort Elliott, the town boasted a population of 400. That was the most it would ever be. In 1898, it was struck by a tornado that destroyed most of the buildings and took seven lives. People began to move away and left its notoriety and brief glory to crumble in the dust. Today it’s a ghost town.

I always enjoy a trip up there and each time try to imagine the way it once was, to picture Bat Masterson, Pat Garrett, and George Arrington strolling down the dirt street. When I go, I love to visit Mollie Brennan’s grave and try to imagine what her hopes and dreams were.

I mention Mobeetie in Book #3 Men of Legend—To Marry a Texas Outlaw. So I’ll be saying more about this later on when that book releases.

There’s something really sad about ghost towns though, reclaimed by the earth as though they were never there. Have you ever visited one? Or is there one you’d like to visit that you haven’t?

HOME IS WHERE OUR STORY BEGINS & Book Giveaway

Please welcome Lynnette Austin.  Lynnette is filling in for Margaret Brownley, who is attending the Romance  Writers of America conference. Lynnette is giving away a copy of Can’t Stop Lovin’ You.  The winner will be announced on Sunday and can choose either print or eBook.  (Contest guidelines apply). The book is available now both in stores and digitally.

Thanks for having me on Petticoats and Pistols today! I’m thrilled to be here and am celebrating the release of Can’t Stop Lovin’ You, the third in my Maverick Junction series. (BTW, while it’s fun to read the whole series, each book can stand alone.) Entering the drawing is as simple as leaving a comment. So pour yourself a tall, ice-cold glass of sweet tea and let’s chat.

Who doesn’t want to go home? Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey, even Luath, Bodger, and Tao, the three lovable fur-friends in The Incredible Journey fought against heavy odds to make that trip. It’s no different with Brawley O’Dell in Can’t Stop Lovin’ You.

When I started the first book of the Maverick Junction series, Annelise Montjoy, in Somebody Like You, was a sheltered heiress living in Boston. Where did her money come from? Texas oil wells! In a last-ditch effort to save her grandfather’s life, Annelise was forced to return to her Texas roots. She needed to return to the home of her ancestors. Once she did? She fell madly in love with those fields of Texas bluebonnets, the cowboy boots and the men who wore them—especially one very special cowboy.

The characters in our books all have back stories, things that have happened to them and shaped who they are long before we meet them on page one. The same goes for our settings. As I developed the town of Maverick Junction, Texas, I dug deeper into the roots of the oil finds there. Oil and Texas. Inexorably tied together. Yet until January 10, 1901, when the Lucas No. 1 well at Spindletop came in near Beaumont, Texas, the state of Pennsylvania was at the heart of the oil industry. Throughout the second half of the 1800s, it held the title as the leading oil producing state.

Having grown up in the Keystone state and later lived in Wyoming, I’m very familiar with the oil industry. In fact, in the mid-1800s Edwin Drake, the inventor of the process used to extract oil from deep in the ground, hit the first Pennsylvania gusher in Titusville, not far from my small hometown of Kane. This photo shows the early oil wells that sprang up in the fields around Kane in the 1800s. I can’t believe how many there were—and they’re taller than the trees. A veritable oil rig forest.

Even before the Beaumont find really kick-started Texas’ oil industry, it was no secret there was plenty of the black gold there. Native Americans in the area sometimes drank it for medicinal purposes, mainly to cure digestive problems. I wonder how that worked for them! The Spaniards, while they didn’t drink it, put it to good use both as waterproofing for their boots and caulking for their ships in the 1500s.

Until Spindletop, the oil finds in Texas were small and low-producing. With the coming of the big oil fields and refineries, cities like Houston grew from small commercial centers to some of the USA’s largest cities. Oil barrons, Annelise’s great-grandfather among them, became some of the wealthiest and most politically influential men in the country.

When the early settlers made the arduous trip out West, they often could never go home again. They literally gave up everything—and everyone—to go West, even as late as the early 1900s when men travelled there to work the oil fields. In my new release, Can’t Stop Lovin’ You, Brawley Odell moved away from small town Maverick Junction to live in Dallas, the big city. In doing so, he gave up the girl he loved. Now? He wants it all back—the small town, the life, and, most importantly, the girl. But has he stayed away too long?

When you think of Texas, what makes you keep

coming back for more stories set there?

Thanks so much for stopping by today! Hope to see you in Maverick Junction. I think you’ll like it there!

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Maggie Sullivan can’t wait to get out of Texas. Luckily, she just got the break she needed to make her big-city dreams a reality. But then Brawley Odell swaggers back into Maverick Junction, looking hotter than ever in his dusty cowboy boots and well-worn jeans. He’s the guy she still dreams of at night. The guy who broke her heart when he left her behind.

Fed up with city life, Brawley jumps at the chance to return home and take over the local vet’s practice—and get back to the smart, sassy woman he’s never been able forget. He couldn’t be prouder of Maggie’s new wedding-dress business . . . until he realizes it may mean losing her all over again. Determined to win her back, Brawley must find a way to convince Maggie that their one true home is with each other.

Excerpt:

Brawley Odell figured his life wouldn’t be worth one plug-nickel the second he stepped foot inside Maggie’s shop. Too damn bad. He hadn’t driven the thirty miles from Maverick Junction to back out now. He was goin’ in.

After all this time, he’d come home…and she was leaving.

He grasped the brass knob and shoulder-butted the oak door. It flew open, the bell overhead jangling. Maggie Sullivan, all that gorgeous red hair scooped into a jumbled mass, stood dead-center in the room. Dressed in a skirt and top the color of a forest at twilight, she held a fuzzy sweater up in front of her like a shield. Those amazing green eyes widened as he stormed in.

“We need to talk.” He ignored the woman at the back of the store who flipped through a rack of tops.

“What the—?”

He held up a hand. “Don’t speak. Not yet.”

Her mouth opened, then closed.

Anger boiled in him, but he needed to find some modicum of control. Taking a deep breath, he held it for the count of ten, then slowly released it. “Did you plan on telling me?”

Her eyes narrowed, but she said nothing.

“You’re invited to New York City for a showing of your new line, and you don’t share that with me? I have to learn about it secondhand?”

“Last I heard this wasn’t about you, Brawley. In fact, my life, my business has absolutely nothing to do with you.”

His jaw clenched. “Anything that affects you is my business, Mags.”

She snorted. “Get real, Odell. You gave up any and all rights years ago.” Her head tilted. “Why are you even interested? You want to attend so you can show off your latest Dallas Cowboy cheerleader? Maybe order her trousseau?”

He shot her a deadly look, one that had made grown men back away.

Not Maggie. She actually took a couple steps toward him. The woman had no survival instincts. Another reason she had no business heading off to New York alone.

She tapped a scarlet-tipped finger on her chin. “Oh, that’s right. There’d be no trousseau for your honey, would there? Maybe a weekend-fling outfit for your date du jour? A one-night-stand set of lacy lingerie.”

“Shut up, Maggie.”

“Make me.” Her eyes flashed.

This time the look in his eyes must have warned her she’d treaded too close to the edge. She stepped back.

“You challenging me, Maggie?”

When she wet her lips, his gaze dropped to her mouth, followed the tip of her pink tongue as it darted out.

“Only one way I could ever get you quiet,” he said.

Her hand shot up. “Don’t even think about it.”

“No thought required. Been wanting to do this a long time now.” He closed the distance between them and dropped his mouth to hers. Fire. Smoke. Hell, a full-out volcanic eruption.

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LYNNETTE AUSTIN, a recovering middle school teacher, loves long rides with the top down and the music cranked up, the Gulf of Mexico when a storm is brewing, chocolate frozen custard, anything by Blake Shelton, Chris Young, and Thomas Rhett, and sitting in her local coffee shop reading and enjoying an iced coffee. She and her husband divide their time between Southwest Florida’s beaches and Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Having grown up in a small town, that’s where her heart takes her—to those quirky small towns where everybody knows everybody…and all their business, for better or worse. Writing for Grand Central and Sourcebooks, she’s published twelve novels and is at work on a new series.

 

 

 

 

Updated: July 18, 2017 — 6:13 pm

The Flavor of German Texas

Fredericksburg, Texas, one of the towns I used as inspiration for Blue Falls. Fredericksburg was named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. Photo credit: By Photolitherland Chris Litherland (Own work My own photo) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve ever done any traveling in Central Texas, roughly from the coastal plains near Houston over to San Antonio and Austin and up through the Hill Country, chances are you’ve at least seen a sign for a German bakery. Texas might seem an odd place to find so many German bakeries, but there’s a historical reason for their existence.

German migration to Stephen Austin’s colony of Texas began in the 1830s, following in the footsteps of Friedrich Dierks, who became known in Texas as Johanna Friedrich Ernst. He’d come to America planning to settle in Missouri but changed his mind when he heard about large land grants in Texas. He applied for and received a grant of some 4,000 acres in what is now Austin County, west of Houston. This became the heart of the German Belt in the years to come. Ernst wrote back to friends about Texas, and his letters became widely publicized. In the years following Ernst’s arrival, thousands more Germans immigrated to Texas. During the 1850s, the population of German-born Texans reached then passed 20,000. After the Civil War — and thus the Union blockade of Confederate ports — ended, ships loaded with Germans started arriving again.

Apple strudel. Photo credit: By che (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

German culture in Texas took a hit because of anti-German sentiment brought about by the World Wars and continued to decline afterward from its peak in the 1890s. However, the rich history of German immigration can still be seen throughout Central Texas in particular. Towns with names such as Fredericksburg, Gruene (pronounced “Green”), New Braunfels and Weimar; the King William Historic District in San Antonio, named after Wilhelm I, King of Prussia; enthusiastic celebrations of Oktoberfest; and the aforementioned German bakeries all stand as testament to the rich German heritage that has German still identified as the third-largest national-origin group in the state behind Hispanic per the 1990 Census.

It’s because of this German history and the fact that my fictional Hill Country town of Blue Falls, Texas needed a bakery that I created the Mehlerhaus Bakery, operated by Keri Mehler Teague. Characters in every book seem to end up at the bakery for delicious treats such as cookies, cakes and German sweets such as strudel. I even throw in some kolaches, Czech pastries, since Central Texas has a history of immigration from what is now the Czech Republic as well. The Mehlerhaus Bakery is part of the Main Street shopping district that is popular with locals and the growing tourist business as well. Keri and the bakery really came on the scene in The Cowboy Sheriff, the third book in my Teagues of Texas trilogy, which introduced the town of Blue Falls. But her business is so integral to the town that she and her sweet treats have continued to appear in the 12 Blue Falls stories that have come out since then and will continue to appear in the books to come.

Updated: July 2, 2017 — 6:51 pm

Pirates, Vaqueros, and Cowgirls Make My Heart Beat Faster

Please welcome our guest, Jolene Navarro 

Jolene has generously agreed to give away a print copy each of Lone Star Bride and Texas Daddy and one eBook of Sweet Summer Night. So be sure to check back and see if you’re one of the winners.  (Contest guidelines apply)

 

I’m a Texas girl through and through so when I started writing Lone Star Bride I thought I knew plenty about Texas history. I mean come on, my family was here before we were Texas. I knew when I wrote about the history I love, it had to include a cattle drive. When people think of the great Texas cattle drives, they picture the millions of longhorn being pushed north along the Chisholm and Goodnight-Loving Trails.    

But long before a single beeve set hoof on these drives heading north, the Old Spanish Trail (also known as the Opelousas Trail) was being used to move cattle and horses from Texas to New Orleans. It is the oldest and longest used trail, so I’m not sure why it didn’t make it into Texas folklore and campfire songs. http://www.wtblock.com/wtblockjr/opelousa.htm

Many of the tools and skills the American cowboy used were picked up from the experienced vaqueros that had been in Texas for more than a century.

I knew that Spaniards had established the ranching industry and had been moving cattle and horses from Texas to Louisiana (most of the time illegally) for over a century, but it was a pleasant surprise to find that the women of Mexico often times had some of the same horse skills as their Vaqueros. That was some of the inspiration for my heroine in Lone Star Bride.

She was taught at an early age how to braid her own rope and the importance of a good horse, but she is denied the chance to work next to her father after the loss of her mother and brother. So what does any good stubborn daughter do to prove herself? She sneaks off to help on the cattle drive. Along the way, she has to rope the trail boss and teach him to live life without fear and love again. Together they find purpose in a life hope seems in short supply.

Captain Hook from Once Upon a Time on a horse.

In plotting, planning and researching the time and place for this story I came across something else that surprised me. Pirates.

Yes! Pirates. I found that for a brief time in history – in the narrow strip between the new country of Texas and the state of Louisiana was a no man’s land ruled by a few retired pirates. Pirates and cowboys in the same place and time in history?

I have to say it was a romance writer’s dream come true. I love Captain Hook in Once Upon a Time. The idea that he’s not as bad as he appears weakens my knees.  Is there hope that under that scruffy exterior is a heart of gold waiting to be healed?

Cowboy, Pirates and a bold woman seeking adventure, what more can you want in a Texas Historical Romance

Hugh Jackson

 

Do you have a favorite type of hero? A silent cowboy that carries a world of hurt? A dashing pirate that hides a soft heart? A greenhorn from Ireland that is looking for a new start in the wilds of Texas? Or maybe the mild preacher that suddenly finds himself in charge of six orphans?

What kind of hero makes you move a book to the top of your reading pile?

 

 

Blurb for Lone Star Bride: An Unwanted Marriage  

 

Sofia De Zavala wants to help her father run their family’s Texas ranch—but he has other ideas for her future. Faced with an arranged marriage, Sofia dresses as a boy and joins a cattle drive, determined to prove herself to her father. But her plan backfires when she’s forced to save her reputation by marrying trail boss Jackson McCreed.

Jackson thought he was hiring a scrappy young boy—instead, the wary widower has landed his business partner’s feisty, headstrong daughter as his bride. He believes a marriage of convenience is the best they can hope for. But Sofia dares him to look to the future again…and find a love strong enough to lasso a lifetime of happiness.

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About Jolene:  Jolene’s life, much like her stories, is filled with faith, family, laughter, and all of life’s wonderful messiness. A seventh generation Texan and PW bestselling author, Jolene Navarro knows that, as much as the world changes, people stay the same. Good and evil. Vow-keepers and heart breakers. Jolene married a vow-keeper who showed her that dancing in the rain never gets old. She uses her art degree to teach inner city kids about the world, and they teach her about life.

If you’re looking for some sweet summer reads, you can get these six stories for only .99 cents. Leah Atwood, Belle Calhoune, Danica Favorite, Jessica Keller and Kristen Ethridge along with myself have put together six fun contemporaries

To purchase click here:

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If you want to talk more about this find my at Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jolene.g.navarro

For my latest books follow me at https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jolene-navarro

 

 

Updated: June 5, 2017 — 1:50 pm

A Match Made in Texas: Book Giveaway

“Are you’re askin’ if your virtue is safe with me?”
She blushed, but refused to back down. The man didn’t mince words and neither would she. “Well, is it?”
“Safe as you want it to be,” he said finally.
                                –From Margaret’s new book, A Match Made in Texas
My new book will be released June 6th and I wanted to share a little bit about it.  This is Amanda Lockwood’s story.  If you read Left at the Altar, you might remember that she is the sister who was always in trouble.  Well, she’s in really big trouble this time around. 

The book opens with Amanda stuck in the middle of nowhere after been thrown off a stagecoach for criticizing the driver.  This is where Rick Rennick finds hers and he offers to give her a ride.   After assurances that her virtue is safe with him, she accepts.  Here’s what happens next:

No sooner had she seated herself upon the wooden bench than Mr. Rennick took off hell-bent for leather. Glued to the back of the seat, she cried out. “Oh, dear. Oh, my. Ohhh!”

What had looked like a perfectly calm and passive black horse had suddenly turned into a demon. With pounding hooves and flowing mane, the steed flew over potholes and dirt mounds, giving no heed to the cargo behind. The wagon rolled and pitched like a ship in stormy seas. Dust whirled in the air and rocks hit the bottom and sides.

Holding on to her hat with one hand and the seat with the other, Amanda watched in wide-eye horror as the scenery flew by in a blur.

The wagon sailed over a hill as if it was airborne and she held on for dear life. The wheels hit the ground, jolting her hard and rattling her teeth. The hope chest bounced up and down like dice in a gambler’s hand. Her breath whooshed out and it was all she could do to find her voice.

“Mr. R-Rennick!” she stammered, grabbing hold of his arm. She had to shout to be heard.

“What?” he yelled back.

“Y-you sh-should—” She stared straight ahead, her horrified eyes searching for a soft place to land should the need arise. “S-slow down and enjoy the s-scenery.”

Her hat had tilted sideways and he swiped the peacock feather away from his face. “Been my experience that sand and sagebrush look a whole lot better when travelin’ fast,” he shouted in his strong baritone voice.

He made a good point, but at the moment she was more concerned with life and limb.

He urged his horse to go faster before adding, “It’s also been my experience that travelin’ fast is the best way to outrun bandits.”

“W-what do you mean? B-bandits?” It was then that she heard gunfire.

She swung around in her seat and her jaw dropped. Three masked horsemen were giving chase and closing in fast.

Have you ever been stranded? 

Leave a comment and you could win a copy of

Left at the Altar.  (Giveaway guidelines apply)

A Romance Writers of America  RITA finalist

There’s a new sheriff in town, and she almost always gets her man!

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Updated: May 25, 2017 — 7:07 am

Don’t Mess with Texas and Unique Laws

 

Being born and raised in Texas, there’s just so much I take for granted, so I thought I’d share with you all a few Texisums and some laws that you might be interested to know about when you do come to the bigger than life state of Texas.

  • “You all” is both singular and plural.

“Y’all come back, you hear.” A Texan isn’t particularly expecting an answer and we’re inviting you or you and all of your friends back. Thus it can be singular or plural.

“All you all” is definitely plural. It means each and every one of you, while “you all’s” can be singular possessive or plural possessive. But “all you all’s” is definitely plural possessive.

  • Mosey:  Means both “to move quickly” and “to move slowly”.  A 2,000 pound Brahma bull moseys pretty dern slow, while a cowboy moseying toward a honky tonk for a cold beer would mosey rather quickly.
  • Fixin’ is an interesting word, not unlike “you all”.  It can be a verb, adverb or a noun, depending on how it’s being used.  Here’s an interesting quote from the dictionary.  “Regional Note: “Fixin’ to” ranks with y’all as one of the best known markers of Southern dialect, although it seems to be making its way into the informal speech and writing of non-Southerners.”  Here in Texas you’ll hear us say  something like, “I’m fixin’ to leave for the grocery store to get the fixin’s to fix dinner with.”
  • A couple of things only a true Texan would know. The difference between a hissie fit and a conniption fit and the general direction of cattywumpus.

Here are a few Texas laws that are still on the books.

  1. Temple: Cattle thieves may be hanged on the spot. No one may ride a horse and buggy through the town square, but they can ride their horse in the saloon.
  2. Austin: Wire cutters cannot be carried in your pocket. 
  3. San Antonio: It is illegal for both sexes to flirt or respond to flirtation using the eyes and/or hands. It is also illegal to urinate on the Alamo.
  4. Texarkana: Owners of horses may not ride them at night without tail lights.
  5. It is illegal to shoot a buffalo from the second story of a hotel.
  6. It’s illegal to milk another’s cow.
  7. In Kingsville, there is a law against two pigs having sex on the city’s airport property. Why just the city’s airport property? Don’t ask me!
  8. Up here in the Panhandle it’s against the law to throw confetti, rubber balls, feather dusters, whips or quirts and explosive firecrackers of any kind.  Also, it’s illegal to dust any public building with a feather duster.
  9. Lubbock:  It is illegal to drive within an arm’s length of alcohol, including alcohol in someone else’s blood stream.
  10. In El Paso, churches, hotels, halls of assembly, stores, markets, banking rooms, railroad depots, and saloons are required to provide spittoons “of a kind and number to efficiently contain expectoration into them.”
  11. In other parts of Texas you can’t land an airplane on the beach, throw trash from an airplane, or inhale fumes from model glue, not to mention you must obtain permission from the director of parks and recreation before getting drunk in any city park.
  12. Texas is a common law state, so you can be legally married by publicly introducing a person as your husband or wife three times.
  13. Port Arthur:  Obnoxious odors may not be emitted while in an elevator.

Some of these laws have been changed or strengthened, especially involving drinking and driving, while some like having wire cutters in your pocket or shooting buffalo from a second floor window of a hotel remains in full force and effect. So every time I look at the new Marriott being built, I wonder if they’ll add that law to the notice they put on the inside of your hotel room?  I might just have to call them and find out.

But the best law of all, states that you cannot tuck your pants into one boot unless you own ten or more head of cattle.  I have no idea what the purpose of this law might have been. Do you?

Are there any old laws that are unique to your part of the country that you’d like to share with us today?

To two lucky readers who leave a message, I’ll send your an eBook of “The Troubled Texan” or if you wish I’ll send you an autographed copy of any of my anthology and short story collection, which you can find on Amazon.com.

Updated: April 29, 2017 — 1:14 pm

Old West Towns: Real or Myth?

Shops and businesses on the streets away from the center of town were laid out willy-nilly; some with entries facing alleyways. Boarding houses and private homes were seemingly dropped at random, as if tossed like dice from a gambler’s hand. –from my WIP, Stop the Wedding (book #1 Shotgun Brides)

I’m working on a new 3-book series that takes place in the fictional town of Haywire, Texas.   Before I could begin writing, it was necessary to map out my town.  Fans of western movies might think that’s a bit strange.  When a town is only one street wide and a block long, what’s to map out?  Well, for one thing, western movie sets are generally much smaller than a real town ever was, and less spread out.

Gold Hills, Nevada

The town in my book was built prior to the Civil War.  That’s important to know, because towns founded before the war generally sprang-up along wandering cow paths.   If you ever got lost in parts of Boston, as I once did, you’d know how confusing such towns can be.

Fortunately, after the war, town founders hired surveyors to plat grids oriented to railroad specifications. This practice came too late to help the poor residents of Haywire—or my hero who gets lost while chasing a bad guy through town.

Since business taxes in the Old West were calculated on width, shops and saloons were built long and narrow. What was generally called Outhouse Alley ran behind the buildings, parallel to the main thoroughfare.

Some buildings did double-duty. Schools often shared space with the Oddfellows or Masons, and shopkeepers lived over shops.

My town’s main street is T-shaped which runs into the railroad.  On the other end of Main, the town is split in two by a hundred-foot wide cross street.  A street like this was known in many western towns as the Dead Line, the purpose of which was to separate moral businesses from those beyond the pale.

Dead Line streets were wide enough so that anyone who accidentally ventured into the wrong side of town, occupied by saloons, bordellos and in Haywire’s case, the barbershop, could easily turn horse and wagon around.  Thus delicate constitutions were saved and reputations left intact.

Typically, the bank would be built next to the sheriff or marshal’s office, which explains why bank robberies in the Old West were rare. Only the most daring outlaw would attempt a bank robbery. It was much easier to rob stages—and a whole lot healthier.

Movies do get some things right. For example, buildings in many towns were mostly wood with false fronts.  These fake facades were added to make hastily-built buildings look more impressive and provide a place for signage.  Some towns, especially in the south-west where few trees could be found, were built mostly from adobe.

Speaking of movies, what western would be complete without having the hero barge through a saloon’s bat-wing doors? In reality, not every saloon had such doors. In some parts of the country, it was too cold or windy and too much dust would blow inside. Saloons that did have café doors also had standard doors that could be shut and locked when necessary.  A tour guide at Universal Studios explained that movie sets had saloon doors of different sizes: an extra-large one to make the heroine appear small and demure, and an extra-small door to make the hero appear taller and more imposing.

Another thing that frontier towns had that you won’t see in most western movies is a sign telling visitors to check their guns.  Now that’s one area where Hollywood and Haywire can agree.

Have you ever visited a western ghost town or movie lot?

 

Welcome to Two-Time, Texas

There’s a new sheriff in town and she almost always gets her man!

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Updated: April 27, 2017 — 4:50 am

Spring — Texas Wildflowers

By Phyliss Miranda

I am thrilled to kick off the Spring Special Week for Petticoats and Pistols.  Being a born and raised Texan, I couldn’t resist doing a blog on the Spring wildflowers of Texas.

We have an abundance of variations of wildflowers in the state.  Being 1,244 miles wide and 801 miles from north to south, we equal some 268,601 square miles with topography from the Gulf of Mexico to the caprock  of the Panhandle then east to the thickness of East Texas and back west to the Llano Estacado.  The “Lone Star” state has 254 counties spread over this quarter of a million square miles.  Needless to say, we have a record number of wildflowers.

Our state flower is the beautiful bluebonnet; one of more than 5,000 species of flowering plants native to Texas.  Their abundance is the results of an exceptional multitude of plant habitats and weather conditions.  One of the old sayin’ around our parts is: “If you don’t like the weather, just stick around it’ll change by tomorrow.”  I don’t know who coined the phrase, but it’s so very true.

My darling husband retired from the Texas Highway Department (now the Department of Highways and Public Transportation).  Along the roads of the Texas highway system lie more than 700,000 acres of right of way. TexDot cares for every acre and their commitment led to making the landscape more beautiful by transplanting wild flowers.  I’m not going to go into where the 5,000 wildflower species are planted, I’m just going to hit some of my favorite types of wildflowers and a tad about them. One little personal note that might save you a ticket. It’s against the law to pull a wildflower along our highways.

In my town on the corner of two of our busiest streets is a huge Yucca plant that always blooms in the spring.  Native Texans held the Yucca in high regard for its practical uses.  The stalks were roasted or dried for eating. Prehistoric humans reportedly twisted the fibers into twine and rope to make belts and bow strings.  Yucca roots were pounded to a pulp and mixed with water to make shampoo.  It’s still a popular base of many shampoos and body bars today.

The Indian Blanket of bright red-and-yellow-flowers in the height of spring, hold many legends. One came to light around 1928 and really stands out for me.  A young Native American girl was lost in the woods, and as the cold night fell, she asked “The Great Spirit” to cover her with the beautiful blanket she had seen her mother weaving for her warrior father.  When she woke the next morning, she found the fields covered in gaillardia, which her people called the Indian blanket from that day forth.  The original Indian Blanket flower were entirely yellow, per folklore.

Another flower native to Texas is Indian Paintbrush.  They are known as the co-star to the Bluebonnet and are seen together in many fields. There are approximately 200 different species of the flower, and nine are Texas natives.  While Indian Paintbrush is by far the flower’s most common name, it is occasionally called butterfly weed, prairie fire, painted lady, and grandmother’s hair.  The last nickname can be attributed to the Chippewa tribe, who used the flower to make a hair wash and treat women’s ailments including rheumatism.

I want to leave you with one of the least favorite wildflowers of Texas, but one that really sticks in my mind.  The Jimsonweed, also known as the Thorn Apple and Angel Trumpet, is a large, white, trumpet-shaped flower that can be found from one end of the state to the other.  It holds a refreshing surprise.  My first encounter with the Jimsonweed was in San Antonio where my oldest daughter and family once lived.  They built their house in an area where they had land behind the house and in the spring a number of vegetables and flowers would come up, corn for one.  Along the sidewalk there was natural Jimsonweed; therefore, the walk was built to follow the plant  up to the house.  During the day there was nothing but a vine, no flower, really nothing by big green leaves.  This went on for months until I went outside in the middle of the night and there were beautiful trumpet  flowers on the branches.  This wildflower stays dormant until sundown and blooms at night! One of the amazing things is that the plant is poisonous by nature and has a bad odor and taste; therefore, livestock and wild animals stay away from it.  It has to be one of the most interesting wildflowers of Texas.

What is your favorite wildflower?  I know I focused on Texas, but every state has their favorite. If you don’t have a favorite then please share with us your state’s flower.

For three lucky winners, I am giving away an eBook of my latest Kasota Springs Romance “The Troubled Texan”.

I just received word that “The Troubled Texan” eBooks is still on sale at all major retailers and they’ve extended both the special pricing of 99 cents to April 12th, as well as additional outlets.

 

 

 

Updated: March 26, 2017 — 6:42 pm

The Allure of Fort Laramie ~ by Amanda Cabot

When you picture a western fort from the nineteenth century, do you envision small, perhaps even dilapidated wooden buildings surrounded by a wooden stockade?  I did until I visited Fort Laramie.  It was the summer of 2004, only a few months after my husband and I had moved from the East Coast to Cheyenne.  We needed a break from the unpacking, picture hanging, and other tasks associated with moving into a new house, so we headed for the Fort Laramie National Historic Site.

Old Fort Laramie store foundation

Foreground: foundation of barracks; background: part of officer’s row, including the post trader’s store (the one-story building in the center back)

It was not what I expected.  There was no stockade, the buildings were far from primitive, and the way they flanked the central parade ground made it reminiscent of a New England village, not one of the military forts those old Westerns made popular.

Old Fort Laramie dining room

Nothing primitive about this dining room.

Old Fort Laramie birdbath

An in-ground birdbath.

As we entered the Visitor Center, the surprises continued, and I found myself fascinated by the elegant lifestyle the officers and their wives experienced during the last decade of the fort’s existence (the 1880s).Houses were surrounded by picket fences, many yards had flower gardens, and women strolled along the boardwalks carrying parasols.  There were even birdbaths.  Of course, since this was Wyoming with its famous winds, the birdbaths weren’t the typical basin-on-a-pedestal style that you might expect.  Instead, they were circular depressions in the ground. As I said, it was not at all what I had expected, but what I saw started my brain whirling, and I knew this would not be my only visit to the fort.

Old Fort Laramie Officers Row

Partially reconstructed officers’ housing and Old Bedlam (the two-story white frame building)

Old Fort Laramie Burt house

Andrew and Elizabeth Burt’s home. The red SUV in the background was definitely not there when they lived at the fort!

There’s a lot to see.  While many of the buildings have been destroyed, a number have been restored to their former glory to give visitors a sense of what life was like at the fort that was a major landmark on the Oregon Trail.  The most famous of those buildings is Old Bedlam, the oldest military structure in Wyoming.  Curious about the nickname?  It was originally constructed for bachelor officers’ housing, and those officers were a little … shall we say rowdy?  Later in its existence, it was used as post headquarters, and only a few years ago it was the site of a wedding.  I suspect the guests were better behaved than those bachelor officers of 150 years ago.One of the restored houses is the one where Lt. Col. Andrew Burt and his wife Elizabeth lived during their two tours of duty at the fort.  If you’ve never heard of the Burts, their story is told in Indians, Infants and Infantry: Andrew and Elizabeth Burt on the Frontier by Merrill J. Mattes, a book I highly recommend to anyone who wants an authentic view of life at nineteenth century forts.  The author used Elizabeth’s Burt’s diaries and letters to create a story filled with fascinating details of real life.

What does all this have to do with my current release?  Absolutely nothing.  A Stolen Heart is set in a charming town in the Texas Hill Country, not on a military fort.  Its hero is a sheriff, not a soldier.  Its heroine is a schoolteacher who becomes a confectioner, not a woman dealing with tasteless dried potatoes.  But Fort Laramie is such a wonderful place that I couldn’t resist taking this opportunity to tell you more about it.  If you visit Wyoming, I hope you’ll consider spending a day at Fort Laramie.  It’s well worth the detour.

And now to the highlight of the post: the giveaway.  I’m offering a signed copy of either Summer of Promise, which takes place at Fort Laramie during its elegant decade, or my new release, A Stolen Heart, to one commenter.

 

A stolen Heart

The future she dreamed of is gone. But perhaps a better one awaits . . .

From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners—like her. Lydia won’t let that get her down, though. All will be well when she’s reunited with her fiancé.

But when she discovers he has disappeared—and that he left behind a pregnant wife—Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring?

The book is available at Barnes & Noble, and Christian Book Distributors.

 

Amanda CabotBestselling author Amanda Cabot invites you into Texas’s storied past to experience adventure, mystery—and love. She more than thirty novels including the Texas Dreams trilogy, the Westward Winds series, the Texas Crossroad trilogy, and Christmas Roses. A former director of Information Technology, she has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  Amanda is delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian romances, living happily ever after with her husband in Wyoming.

Find her online at:
AmandaCabot.com
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Give Me a Cowboy and the Rodeo

For Christmas my wonderful son-in-law bought tickets to the PBR in Wichita, Kansas, which will take place in a couple of months.  This isn’t the first bull riding event he’s taken me. They are all a treat and brought to mind the backstory to my $.99 eBook release of the first book in the Kasota Spring Romance series The Troubled Texan. Since this contemporary series takes place several generations later than one of the six Texas anthologies I was fortune enough to be included in with Fellow Filly Linda Broday, Jodi Thomas, and the late DeWanna Pace, Give Me a Cowboy, about a Texas Panhandle rodeo in the late 1800’s, I decided it might be fun to give you all a glimpse into how we developed this book. Without it, there would be no Troubled Texan.

Typically, the publisher matches up authors in a short story collection or an anthology and each author writes their own story based on the house’s criteria. In our case, our editor matched the four of us up and all but this one book had a theme and each of us wrote an individual story.

For our second book, we tried something different. We decided we’d all intertwine our stories around one rodeo.  This was really gonna be fun and challenging, so we got together and went through all of the historical facts. The first date chosen had to go because there was no rodeos in the Texas Panhandle until the summer of 1888. Our story changed dates to the 4th of July 1890. The Pecos, Texas, competition occurred on July 4, 1883. One thing about historical writers, particularly writing about your home town, you must stay as authentic as possible.  So we needed the name of a fictional town.  I was coming back from Dallas, and looked over and low and behold there was a railroad crossing a few miles from Amarillo … West Kasota.  In the 1800’s seemingly everything had a Springs attached, thus Kasota Spring, Texas, came to fruition.

Now for the next problem, since there were only four official events in the rodeo at that time, we all had to select one for our story.  We were sitting around the work table.  Jodi and Linda selected their events, so that left DeWanna and me.  I’ve always loved bull riding. Although it was an unofficial event, taking place somewhere far away from the rodeo grounds, we decided to include it.  I’d really been watching and studying up on bull riding because I had a fantastic story in mind or at least that was how I saw it.  Well, guess what?  DeWanna was the next in line to select; and, of course, what did she choose but bull riding and the reason, her brother was a bullrider!

I tried not to act disappointed when the only choice left was wild-cow milking!  Yes, just like today in our rodeos. The reason was simple, the ranches had to bring in the mama cow to take care of her youngster who was participating in calf roping.  Eventually, someone came up with the idea that if they hauled both mama and calf in why not make an event out of it … so I got wild cow milking.

To tell you the truth, I think my scene in the rodeo was so much fun to write.  It rains, so my hero and heroine who were undesirably teamed up, really got to know one another by the end of the scene!

In The Troubled Texan I borrowed, with her permission, several of Linda’s character’s families as founders of Kasota Springs.  Two pioneers out of my stories I truly loved were Teg Tegler and Edwinna Dewey (from the Christmas anthology). Here is a picture I took at the Cowboy Symposium in Lubbock, Texas, a few years ago. This couple is exactly how I envisioned Teg and Edwinna.  I know it’s okay to use their photo, since I got their permission and they asked me to autograph my stories to them as Teg and Edwinna!

The fictional Teg’s great-grandson works on the Jack’s Bluff ranch in The Troubled Texan and Edwinna’s great-great granddaughter lives in Kasota Springs still and has a book of her own as heroine that’s under contract.  It’s so much fun for me to write about these folks and their dreams.

How about a few fun facts about the rodeos of the 1800’s.

  • Before the 20th century, rodeos were called “Cowboy Competitions.”
  • Bragging rights for an entire year were at stake.
  • Cowboys tuned up their horses, shook the kink out of their ropes and made final decisions on who mugs and who milks.  That was my story. My hero did the mugging and my heroine did the milking in the rain.
  • Today, the cowboy winning events earn huge purses; however, in the original rodeos, they won a small purse and blue ribbons from the trim of a girl’s dress or bonnet.
  • Jail cells were used as boarding house rooms, since even prisoners were let out of the hoosegow for the rodeo.
  • The opening was full of “speechifying”, but the crowd never let it last very long.
  • They had chuck wagon competitions, just like today.  Fares included beef, potatoes, biscuits and bread pudding.
  • There was a lot of music competition.  Singers and pickers: guitars, fiddles, and poetry.
  • The oldest cowboy in the area always had the honor of shooting the pistol to begin competitions.
  • There were no rules that governed the rodeo, like there is today. The grounds were typically near the railroad and/or stock yards, because the main street was needed for parades and competitions.

When the evening was over, usually after a dance, everyone climbed aboard creaking buckboards, dusty buggies, and faithful horses and scattered to resume the tasks of their normal lives and to work on their skills for next year’s competition.

My question to you all, do you like rodeos and what is your favorite event?

 

To five lucky winners who leave comments,

I am giving away copies of the eBook

The Troubled Texas!

 

Updated: February 27, 2017 — 8:03 pm
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