Category: Texas

True Facts of the Old West

Though it’s hard to imagine the likes of Wyatt Earp or Bat Masterson bowling, this was actually a popular sport in the Old West.  According to True West magazine, one of the strangest bowling alleys was built in California in 1866. After felling a majestic Redwood, miners turned the flat, heavily-waxed surface into a bowling alley.

Speaking of sports, baseball was also a popular sport in the Old West. Even Wild Bill Hickok was a baseball fan and reportedly umpired a game wearing a pair of six-shooters.

We think of the old West as wild, but it pales in comparison to what’s going on in some cities today. From the 1850s to the 1890s, Texas held the title as the most gun-fighting state. But during that forty-year span, the state logged in only 160 shootouts.

The number of Old West bank robberies were also greatly exaggerated. During this same forty-year period, only eight bank robberies were recorded in the entire frontier. Today, yearly bank robberies number in the thousands.  California and Texas have the highest number of bank robberies. At long last, the west lives up to its reputation.

Some cowboys were real swingers. Yep, they even played golf.

It breaks my heart to say this, but some of the phrases associated with the Old West weren’t actually coined until the 1900s, which means I can’t use them in a book.  These include “Stick em up” and “hightail.”

The one thing outlaws feared was dying with their boots on.  To “die with your boots on” was a term that meant “to be hanged.”  Outlaws often pleaded with the sheriff to take their boots off so their mothers would never know the truth of how they died.

Before the days of GPS, it was the chuck wagon cook’s job to keep the cattle drives heading in the right direction. Before retiring, his last chore of the day was to place the tongue of the chuck wagon facing the North Star. This was so the trail master would know which direction to move the herd in the morning.

It might be hard to believe, but most cowboys didn’t carry guns while riding. Carrying a gun was a nuisance to the riders and firing it would scare cattle and horses.

Of the 45000 cowboys working during the heyday of cattle drives, some 5000 were African-American.

The tradition of spreading sawdust on saloon floors supposedly started in Deadwood, South Dakota. The sawdust was used to hide the gold dust that fell out of customer pockets, and was swept up at the end of the night.

So what Old West fact did you find most surprising or interesting?

 

 

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

A Match Made in Texas

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Updated: February 23, 2017 — 6:54 am

For The Love of Candy

 

Save the Earth; it’s the only planet with chocolate

I’ve got candy on my mind this month and it’s not even Valentine’s.  There are two reasons why I’m thinking of all things sweet and it has nothing to do with the empty box of chocolates on my desk; January is national candy month and the heroine of my current work in progress owns a candy shop.  

While doing the research for my book, I turned up some fun and interesting facts.  For example, we can blame our sweet tooth on our cavemen ancestors and their fondness for honey.  But the most surprising thing I discovered was that marshmallows grow on trees—or at least used to.  That was before the French came up with a way to replace the sweet sap from the mallow tree with gelatin.   

I also learned that during the middle ages, the price of sugar was so high that only the rich could afford a sweet treat.  In fact, candy was such a rarity that the most children could expect was an occasional sugar plum at Christmas.  (BTW: there are no plums in sugar plums.  Plum is another word for good).

This changed during the early nineteenth century with the discovery of sugar-beet juice and mechanical candy-making machines.   

Soon jars of colorful penny candy could be found in every trading post and general store in the country. It took almost four hundred candy manufacturing companies to keep up with the demand. 

This changed the market considerably. Children as young as four or five were now able to make purchases independent of their parents. (Had youngsters known that vegetables including spinach was used to color candy, they might not have wasted their money.)

Children weren’t the only ones enjoying the availability of cheap candy. Civil War soldiers favored gumdrops, jelly beans, hard candy and, hub wafers (now known as Necco wafers).     

Never one to miss a trend, John Arbuckle, noted the sugar craze that had swept the country and decided to use it as marketing tool.  He included a peppermint stick in each pound bag of Arbuckle’s coffee to encourage sales. 

 “Who wants the peppermint?” was a familiar cry around chuck wagons. 

This call to grind the coffee beans got a rash of volunteers.  No rough and tumble cowboy worth his salt would turn down a stick of peppermint candy, especially when out on the trail.

Arbuckle wasn’t the only one to see gold in candy. Outlaw Doc Scurlock, friend of Billy the Kid and a Bloody Lincoln County War participant, retired from crime in 1880. Though he was still a wanted man, he moved to Texas and opened up a candy store.

Cadbury, Mars and Hershey rode herd on the chocolate boom of the late 1800s, early 1900s.  Penny candy still made up eighteen percent of candy sales but, by this time, some merchants had refused to sell it.  Profits were thin and selling such small amounts to children was time-consuming. Chocolate was more profitable. The penny candy market vanished altogether during World War II when sugar was rationed.  Fortunately, no war could do away with chocolate.

Okay, so what’s your favorite candy?  Anyone have a candy memory to share?

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Updated: January 23, 2017 — 5:05 pm

How to Speak Texan

Kathleen Rice Adams

Don't mess with TexasTexans speak a language all our own, leading non-Texans to look at us like we don’t have good sense. We’re not illiterate hicks, you know … well, not all of us, anyway. Truth be told, even the most educated, most cosmopolitan Texans converse in Texas-speak when we’re around other Texans.

Honestly, folks who can speak both English and Texan ought to be considered bilingual.

In an attempt to assist the unfortunate souls who’ve not had the pleasure of hearing our lyrical language — and to educate those of y’all who insist on embarrassing yourselves with really bad Texas drawls — I herewith present a few Texas-isms. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Ahmoan: I’m going to. “Need anythin’ else? Ahmoan head on out here in a bit.”

Ahohno: I don’t know.

Ahuz: I was. “You hungry? Ahuz just about to put supper on the table.” (Note: Whether or not Texans are happy to see you, if it’s mealtime they’ll invite you to eat with them.)

Aint: aunt. “Ant” is acceptable. “Awnt” is unforgivable.

All y’all: y’all, but aimed at a bigger group.

Arya: are you.

Awl: oil. Still the lifeblood of Texas’s economy.

Pumpjack in Hockley County, Texas (click image to see it in action)

Awl patch: oilfield; petrochemical industry. Every Texan has at least one relative or ancestor with some connection to the oil business.

Bar ditch: a water-diversion channel running alongside a roadway. Except after a rain, they’re usually dry.

Bidness: business. “That ain’t none of your bidness.”

Bless yore heart: This phrase isn’t exclusive to Texas, but it gets used an awful lot in the Lone Star State. The meaning depends upon the context, and there are too many possibilities to list. Among the most common are “I’m so sorry,” “you are just the sweetest thing,” “you just said the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” and “You’d best get out of my sight before I need bail money.”

Caint: can’t.

C’moanin: come on in. “I’ve been expecting y’all. C’moanin.”

Cocola: Coca Cola. If you want the brown, fizzy beverage that comes in a red can, order this.

Coke: any carbonated beverage, regardless the color, flavor, or name on the bottle.

Coon’s age: a long time. “Where you been? I ain’t seen you in a coon’s age.”

Texas Rangers monument

Monument to the Texas Rangers at the state capitol in Austin

Cotton to: like, accept, or be unoffended by. Usually used in the negative. “We don’t much cotton to folks tellin’ us barbecue from anywhere else is better’n Texas barbecue.”

Daaaaayum: the longest word in the Texas language. Foreigners just say “damn.”

Didden; dudden: didn’t; doesn’t. “My family didden want me to marry Jim Bob. Daddy still dudden like him.”

Do whut now?: Could you repeat that? Used as both an indication the speaker wasn’t paying attention and disbelief. “Somebody paid Jake $5,000 for that old pickup out in the barn.” “Do whut now?”

Fixinta: about to. “I’m fixinta run down to the store. Need anything?”

Flahrs: flowers. “Better take her some flahrs or throw your hat in first.”

Foggiest notion: clue or idea; always used in the negative. “I don’t have the foggiest notion what you’re talking about.”

Furiners: foreigners. Anybody who’s not from Texas.

God love ’im/her/’em: Like “bless your heart,” this phrase can be used in a variety of ways. The most common meaning is he/she/they need looking after, because they’re too stupid to live. “God love ’im. He ain’t never had a lick of sense.”

Growshree, growshrees: grocery, groceries. “I’d better run down to the growshree store and pick up some growshrees, or we’re gonna starve.”

Hun’ert: one hundred.

Idden: isn’t. “That idden broke so bad duck tape caint fix it.”

Isetee: iced tea, the national beverage of Texas. If you don’t want sugar in it, you’d best ask for “unsweet” and be prepared to face a scowl.

Texas longhorn

Texas longhorn with attitude

My cow: an expression of disbelief or concern. “My cow. Doesn’t he know better than to tease a rattlesnake?”

My hind leg: I don’t believe you. “You were working late, my hind leg.”

Nessary: necessary. Texans frequently omit syllables they don’t find absolutely nessary.

Ohnover: on over. “Y’all come ohnover. We’ll play cards or something.”

Pert near: almost. “That boy’s pert near as big as his daddy, idden he?”

Probly: probably. “He’s probly just confused.”

Proud of: typically indicates something is priced way too high. “A hun’ert dollars for a pair of jeans? They sure are proud of those, ain’t they?”

Rainch: ranch; used as both noun and verb. “Yep, I come from rainch stock: My granddaddy was a raincher. Some of my uncles still rainch.”

Ratback, ratnow, ratquick: right back, right now, right quick. “Ahohno what you think you’re doing with that horse, but put him ratback where you found him, ratnow, or I’ll call the law ratquick.”

Ratcheer: right here. “Clara, where’d you get off to?” “I’m ratcheer.”

Rouneer: around here. “Y’all got any duck tape rouneer?”

Spoze: suppose; supposed. “I spoze you expect me to mow the grass.” “You were spoze to mow it yesterday.”

Tuhmahruh: tomorrow. “See you tuhmahruh.”

These parts: the general vicinity, which might be the neighborhood, the state, or the entire southern U.S. “’Round these parts, we don’t cotton to folks who can’t keep their noses in their own bidness.”

Texas anole

Texas anole (NOT a gecko; NOT a chameleon)

Tickled to death: very happy. “I’m just tickled to death y’all stopped by.”

Uh-huh: although used nationwide as a general term of agreement, in Texas “uh-huh” also is an appropriate response to “thank you.”

Urmomanem: your extended family; literally, your mom and them. “How’s urmomanem?” (Warning to the unwary: Never ask a Texan about his or her mother unless you’re prepared to hear an extensive report about everybody in the family. “How’s your momma?” “Oh, she’s fine. Grandma’s rheumatism’s acting up again. Uncle Billy and Aint Leta sold the house in Boerne and moved over to Seguin to be closer to the kids. Mark ran his truck off into the bar ditch again, and Dub had to take the tractor out yonder to pull him out. Cousin Lucille’s getting married in November. Ahohno how that girl can have the nerve to wear white, but…”)

Viztin: having a conversation with; literally, visiting. “Ahuz viztin with Mable just the other day. That woman can talk the bark off a tree.”

Wooden: wouldn’t. “I wooden touch that with somebody’s else’s ten-foot pole.”

Yaint: you aren’t. “Yaint too bright, arya?”

Yawna: you want to. “Yawna go to the football game Friday night?” (Word to the wise: Football is a religion in Texas. Whatever you do, don’t admit to being an Okie — or even once having seen an Okie — during college football season. You’re liable to wind up in a crossfire during the annual Red River Shootout on the gridiron. For the record, the official tally of wins stands at UT Longhorns 61, OU Sooners 45.)

Yole: you old. “Ain’t seen you in a coon’s age, yole hound dog.”

 

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Lady Killers

Kathleen Rice Adams header

The Wild West could be a dangerous place. If outlaws, gunfights, and Indian attacks didn’t do a body in, disease or injury very well might. For an unlucky few, danger emerged from an unexpected source: women with an axe to grind … literally.

Belle Gunness

Belle Gunness and her children

Lizzie Borden may have been the most infamous of America’s female killers, but she certainly wasn’t the only woman to dispose of inconvenient family, friends, or strangers. She wasn’t even the most prolific American murderess. That honor probably goes to Belle Gunness, a Norwegian immigrant suspected of killing more than forty people — including two husbands and several suitors — in Illinois and Indiana at the turn of the 20th Century. When authorities began investigating disappearances, Gunness herself disappeared … after setting up a hired hand to take the fall for arson that burned her farmhouse to the ground with her three young children and the headless body of an unidentifiable woman inside.

The shocking crime of serial murder seems even more chilling when the perpetrator is a woman. Cultural and biological factors encourage women to eschew physical aggression. Most women fight with words or, sometimes, by manipulating male proxies. Consequently, females seldom go on the kind of violent binges that characterize male serial killers. In fact, only about 15 percent of serial murderers in history have been women.

According to Canadian author, filmmaker, and investigative historian Peter Vronsky, who holds a PhD in criminal justice, when men kill, they employ force and weapons. Restraint of the victim often provides part of the thrill: Many male serial killers derive sexual gratification from the act of taking a life. Women, on the other hand, prefer victims who are helpless or unsuspecting: 45 percent of convicted female serial killers used poison to dispose of spouses, children, the elderly, or the infirm. Instead of a sexual high, their primary motivation was money or revenge.

The eight female serial killers below were active during the nineteenth and very early twentieth centuries in the American West. (Another half-dozen cropped up east of the Mississippi during the same period.)

Delphine Lalaurie

Delphine Lalaurie

Delphine LaLaurie

The volatile wife of a wealthy physician, Delphine LaLaurie tortured and killed slaves who displeased her. An 1834 fire at her New Orleans mansion revealed her depravity when a dozen maimed and starving men and women, along with a number of eviscerated corpses, were discovered in cages or chained to the walls in the attic. One woman had been skinned alive; another woman’s lips were sewn shut, and a man’s sexual organs had been removed. LaLaurie fled to avoid prosecution and reportedly died in Paris in December 1842. Years later, during renovations to the estate, contractors discovered even more slaves had been buried alive in the yard.

Mary Jane Jackson

A New Orleans prostitute with a violent temper, Mary Jane Jackson was a relative anomaly among female serial killers. Described as a “husky,” universally feared woman, she physically overpowered her adult-male victims. Nicknamed Bricktop because of her flaming-red hair, between 1856 and 1861 Jackson beat to death one man and stabbed to death three others because they called her names, objected to her foul language, or argued with her. Sentenced to ten years in prison for the 1861 stabbing death of a jailer-cum-live-in-lover who attempted to thrash her, 25-year-old Jackson disappeared nine months later when the newly appointed military governor of New Orleans emptied the prisons by issuing blanket pardons.

Kate Bender

Kate Bender

Kate Bender

A member of the notorious Bloody Benders of Labette County, Kansas, beautiful 22-year-old Kate claimed to be a psychic. In 1872 and1873, she enthralled male guests over dinner at the family’s inn while men posing as her father and brother sneaked up behind the victims and bashed in their skulls with a sledgehammer or slit their throats. Among the four Bender family members, only Kate and her mother were related, though Kate may have been married to the man posing as her brother. When a traveling doctor disappeared after visiting the Benders’ waystation in 1872, his brother began an investigation that turned up 11 bodies buried on the property. The Benders, who robbed their victims, disappeared without a trace. A persistent rumor claims vigilantes dispensed final justice somewhere on the Kansas prairie.

 

Ellen Etheridge

During the first year after her 1912 marriage to a millionaire farmer, 22-year-old Ellen Etheridge poisoned four of his eight children. She attempted to kill a fifth child by forcing him to drink lye, but the 13-year-old boy escaped and ran for help. A minister’s daughter, Etheridge confessed to the killings and the attempted murder, laying the blame on what she saw as her husband’s betrayal: He had married her not for love, but to provide an unpaid servant for his offspring, upon whom he lavished both his affection and his money. In 1913, a Bosque County, Texas, jury sentenced her to life in prison. She died in her sixties at the Goree State Farm for Women in Huntsville, Texas. (Note: Someone who claimed to be Ellen Etheridge’s grand-niece told me Etheridge did not die in prison but instead lived the rest of her life in Oregon with her sister, the speaker’s grandmother. I remain skeptical because the woman offered no proof except her word, but I thought I’d mention the discrepancy.)

Linda Burfield Hazzard

Linda Burfield Hazzard

Linda Burfield Hazzard

The first doctor in the U.S. to earn a medical degree as a “fasting specialist,” Linda Burfield Hazzard was so committed to proving her theories about weight loss and health that she starved at least 15 patients to death. In 1912, she was convicted of manslaughter in the case of an Olalla, Washington, woman whose will she forged in order to steal the victim’s possessions. Hazzard served four years of a two- to twenty-year prison sentence before being paroled in late 1915. She died of self-starvation in 1938.

Della Sorenson

Between 1918 and 1924, Sorenson killed eight family members to satisfy a twisted desire for revenge. Upon her arrest after an attempt to poison her second husband failed, she told authorities her niece and infant nephew, her first husband, her mother-in-law, two toddlers, and her own two daughters “bothered me, so I killed them.” She poisoned all of the children in the presence of their parents by feeding them cookies and candy laced with poison. A Dannebrog, Nebraska, jury declared the 28-year-old insane and committed her to the state mental asylum. She died there in 1941.

Lyda Southard

Lyda Southard

Lyda Southard

A serial “black widow,” Lyda Southard married seven men in five states over the course of eight years. Between 1915 and 1920, four of her husbands, a brother-in-law, and Southard’s three-year-old daughter — all recently covered by life insurance policies at Southard’s suggestion — died only months after the nuptials, apparently of ptomaine poisoning, typhoid fever, influenza, or diphtheria. Southard eventually was convicted of second-degree murder in the poisoning death of her first husband, earning her a ten-years-to-life sentence in the Old Idaho State Penitentiary. She escaped with the warden’s assistance in 1931, only to be recaptured and returned to serve another eleven years before receiving parole. After changing her name and divorcing three times, she died of a heart attack in 1958 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (At least she divorced her final three husbands instead of murdering them.)

 

Bertha Gifford and a six-year-old victim

Bertha Gifford and a six-year-old victim

Bertha Gifford

At the turn of the 20th Century, Bertha Gifford was known as an angel of mercy in Catawissa, Missouri. Not until 1928 did authorities discover her deadly ruse: The twenty to twenty-five sick friends and family members she took into her home and cared for between 1909 and 1928 all died of arsenic poisoning. Gifford was declared insane and committed to the Missouri State Hospital, where she died in 1951.

 

 

 

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Left at the Altar Book Release and Giveaway

MargaretBrownley-header

LeftattheAltarfinalcoverI have a lot to celebrate.  My novella Do You Hear What I Hear? released on the 24th; my book Left at the Altar will hit the stores on November 1st; and my office is clean (no small miracle).

Left at the Altar is the first book in my new series and I’m excited about it.  The second book A Match Made in Texas will release in the summer of 2017 and the third book How The West was Wed will follow soon after.

The idea for Left at the Altar came to me in a rather unexpected way.  We inherited several antique clocks and they all needed servicing.  My husband called a clock repairman to the house and the horologist was a writer’s dream.  He was full of fascinating stories about clock collectors.  But the story that really made an impression was the one about a client who owned so many clocks, the quarter-hour racket was deafening.  The horologist’s job was to turn the clocks off before each holiday so that guests didn’t have to compete with the cacophony of bongs and chimes during dinner.

banjo-clock

This Banjo clock circa 1929 was a wedding gift for my husband’s parents.

Ah, sweet inspiration. Before I knew it, the town of Two-Time, Texas was born and the story of two feuding jewelers fell quickly into place.

The book takes place in 1880 before standard time.  Prior to 1883, the town jeweler usually determined the time. Trouble arose when a town had more than one jeweler and no one could agree on the time.  One town in Kansas reportedly had seven jewelers and therefore seven time zones.  Talk about confusion!

Just think, a person traveling from the East coast to the West would have contended with more than a hundred time zones. That wasn’t a problem when traveling by covered wagon, but it became a huge problem when traveling by train.  I was surprised to learn that some battles were lost during the American Civil War due to time confusion. When an order was issued to attack at a certain time, no one really  knew what it meant. Was that Washington time or local time?  And if it was local time, which one?

clock

This clock has been in the family for a hundred years!

Ah, yes, time.  It affects us in ways we might not even be aware of.  It certainly affected the two feuding families in my story.  A marriage was supposed to unite the families and turn Two-Time into a one-time town, but of course nothing ever goes as planned as this little excerpt shows:

The grandfather clock in the corner groaned and the wall clocks sighed. Seconds later the cacophony of alarms struck the hour of eight a.m. Only today, it wasn’t bongs, gongs, cuckoos and chimes that bombarded Meg’s ears. It was mocking laughter. Jilted bride, jilted bride, jilted bride…

Hope you enjoy the story as much I enjoyed writing it.

Now it’s your turn.  Leave a message and you might win a copy of Left at the Altar.  Giveaway guidelines apply.

How does time affect your life?  Are you always running late, early or on time? Are you looking forward to the November 6th time change?  If you could change one thing about time, what would it be?

Time for a little holiday cheer

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Updated: October 27, 2016 — 7:49 am

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.

txrgrmuseum84

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.
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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.

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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.

 

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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.)

marriage-and-mayhem-collection-fb-banner-with-novella

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.

Updated: October 17, 2016 — 7:35 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.

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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.

 

 

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Lottie Deno, Lady Gambler

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Did you know who Miss Kitty of Gunsmoke was created from? If you said the lady gambler, Lottie Deno, you’d be correct. She was one of the most interesting women on the American frontier. She was born Carlotta Thompkins on April 21, 1844 on a Kentucky plantation.

Her parents were very well-to-do and Lottie didn’t want for anything. At her birth, she was assigned a nanny from among the slaves—Mary Poindexter. She was a giant of a woman—7 ft. tall—and she accompanied Lottie everywhere she went. Nobody messed with big Mary.

lottie_denoLottie’s father taught her to play cards and she became an expert. When he was killed in the Civil War, Lottie played cards to support her mother and younger sister. For a while, Lottie worked on the riverboats and gambling houses along the Mississippi. She was a vivacious redhead with sparkling brown eyes and could charm the pants off any man—and his wallet too. LOL Which she did every chance she got.

In 1865 Lottie arrived in San Antonio and a year later was offered a job dealing cards at the University Club. She fell in love there with a half-Cherokee gambler named Frank Thurmond. He left town suddenly after killing a man and Lottie soon followed. I don’t know about you, but he sure wasn’t anything to look at. She could’ve done far better.

She was a bold woman and rode into the rough, lawless town of Fort Griffin, Texas on the top of a stagecoach like a fairy princess. She sat out in the open right on the very top like a fairy princess where she could see everything. With her flame-colored hair shining in the sun and a wide smile flashing, she caused quite a stir. It didn’t take long to get a job at the Bee Hive Saloon. One night she and Doc Holliday played cards all night long and by morning she’d won thirty thousand dollars of Doc’s money. She also played with legendary Wyatt Earp and many other notables of the old West.

frankthurmondIt was in Fort Griffin where Lottie got the Deno part of her name. One of the gamblers who’d lost to her hollered out, “Honey, the way you play your name should be Lotta Dinero.”

During a gunfight when all the others fled the saloon, she got under a table and stayed. When they asked why, she said she wasn’t about to leave her money and besides they weren’t shooting very straight.

She separated herself from the violent population of Ft. Griffin by taking a shanty in what they called The Flats on the Clear Fork of the Brazos. She only left it only to visit the local mercantile and to go to work. But Lottie lost her heart to Frank Thurmond and followed him to Silver City, New Mexico where they married and opened two saloons, a restaurant and a hotel.

lottie-denoLottie got involved in charity work, feeding newly released prisoners and giving them a place to stay.

She and Frank eventually moved on to Deming, New Mexico where they got out of the gambling business and settled down to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Frank became vice president of the Deming National Bank and helped found the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

In 1908, after forty years of marriage, Frank passed away. Lottie outlived him by 26 years until she, too, died and was buried next to Frank. Those who knew her said she maintained her laugh and good cheer to the end. I’d love to have met her. She was a colorful character.

She and Frank became models for characters in a series of books by Alfred Henry Lewis. Miss Kitty of Gunsmoke fame owed everything about her characterization to Lottie Deno. 

Okay, how many of you watched Gunsmoke? Do you think Matt and Miss Kitty should’ve gotten hitched? If you can remember that far back, did you have a favorite episode? I liked the one where Miss Kitty got kidnapped and Matt searched everywhere for her.

The Devil’s Rope Comes to Texas — and a Giveaway

Kathleen Rice Adams header

young longhorn

Longhorn cattle in the Texas Hill Country

Texas has seen a number of mass migrations since the Mexican government opened the territory to Anglo settlers in the 1820s, but perhaps none were as transformative as the influx that took place immediately following the Civil War. Carpetbaggers, footloose former Union soldiers, and dispossessed former Confederates all found attractive the state’s untamed rangeland brimming with feral cattle called longhorns. Many a man with nothing more than guts and grit built a fortune and a legacy by shagging longhorns from deep scrub and driving the tough, stubborn, nasty-tempered critters north to the railheads in Kansas and Nebraska. Others pushed herds to Montana and Wyoming to begin new lives where the West was even wilder.

Between 1866 and 1890, cowboys drove an estimated twelve million longhorns and one million horses north. A crew of twelve to twenty men could push a herd of 2,000 to 3,000 beeves about ten to fifteen miles a day, reaching Kansas railheads in three to four months.

The development of barbed wire in the mid-1870s — along with an incursion of sheepmen and farmers — put a crimp in the cattle drives by crisscrossing Texas’s wide-open spaces with miles and miles and miles of fence. To protect themselves and their herds from the yahoos who would use Texas range for something besides Texas cattle, wealthy ranchers strung wire around the land they owned or leased, often extending their fences across public land, as well. What once had been open range across which cowboys drove enormous herds of steak on the hoof became parceled off, causing no end of frustration and unfriendly behavior.

Fence-cutting began almost as soon as the first of the wire went up. Small confrontations over “the Devil’s rope” happened frequently, with wire-nipping taking place in more than half of Texas counties.

barbed wireIn 1883, the conflict turned bloody. Instead of merely cutting fences that got in the way during trail drives, bands of armed cowboy vigilantes calling themselves names like Owls, Javelinas, and Blue Devils destroyed fences simply because the fences existed. Fence-cutting raids usually occurred at night, and often the vigilantes left messages warning the fence’s owner not to rebuild. Some went so far as to leave coffins nailed to fenceposts or on ranchers’ porches. During one sortie, vigilantes pulled down nineteen miles of fence, piled the wire on a stack of cedar posts, and lit a $6,000 bonfire.

In response, cattlemen hired armed men to guard their wire…with predictable results. Clashes became more violent, more frequent, and deadlier. In 1883 alone, at least three men were killed in Brown County, a hotspot of fence-cutting activity, during what came to be known as the Texas Fence-Cutter War.

The bloodiest period of the Fence-Cutter War lasted for only about a year, but in that period damages from fence-cutting and range fires totaled an estimated $20 million — $1 million in Brown County alone.

Although politicians stayed well away from the hot-button issue for about a decade, in early 1884 the Texas legislature declared fence-cutting a felony punishable by a prison term of one to five years. The following year, the U.S. Congress outlawed stringing fence across public land. Together, the new laws ended the worst of the clashes, although the occasional fracas broke out in the far western portion of Texas into the early part of the 20th Century.

Texas Ranger Ira Aten

Texas Ranger Ira Aten

The Texas Rangers were assigned to stop several fence-cutting outbreaks, and being the Texas Rangers, they proved remarkably effective…with one notable exception. In February 1885, Texas Ranger Ben Warren was shot and killed outside Sweetwater while trying to serve a warrant for three suspected fence-cutters. Two of the three were convicted of Warren’s murder and sentenced to life in prison.

In 1888, a brief resurgence of fence-cutting violence erupted in Navarro County, prompting famed Texas Ranger Ira Aten to place dynamite charges at intervals along one fence line. Aten’s method was a mite too extreme for the Texas Adjutant General, who ordered the dynamite removed. The mere rumor of the explosive’s presence brought fence-cutting to a rapid halt in the area, though.

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Though Civil War battles left few scars on Texas, the war’s aftermath was devastating — and not just because barbed-wire fence appeared. Texas existed under federal martial law for five long years after the war ended, becoming the final member of the Confederacy to repatriate only under duress. During Reconstruction, lingering animosity led some of the occupation forces to plunder and terrorize their jurisdictions. Bearing their own grudges and determined to become an independent republic again, Texans demanded “the invading foreign army” remove its boots from sovereign soil. A U.S. Supreme Court decision finally ran the rebellious Lone Star State back in with the rest of the herd in 1870, at last reunifying a divided nation.

A Kiss to Remember

 

My newest story, The Trouble with Honey, takes place during Reconstruction in Texas: A marshal’s widow can escape a Union Army manhunt only with the help of an outlaw condemned to hang. The novella is part of the trilogy The Dumont Way, which begins a saga chronicling the lives and loves of a Texas ranching dynasty from before the Civil War to the turn of the 20th Century.

The Dumont Way is available in the five-author boxed set A Kiss to Remember. Three other Petticoats and Pistols fillies also contributed to the collection: Cheryl Pierson, Tanya Hanson, and Tracy Garrett.

 

Excerpt:

Boots meandered across the stone floor. The marshal’s snicker slapped Daniel between the shoulder blades. “Injun Creek hasn’t seen this much excitement in a month of Sundays. We’re planning quite a celebration for you.”

One of life’s great mysteries: Had Halverson been born arrogant, or had the skill required practice? “Always did fancy a crowd of folks looking up to me.”

Whistling, the marshal moved away. Daniel stared at the dingy clapboard across the alley. That wall wouldn’t present much challenge. This wall, on the other hand… A barrel of black powder and a lucifer would come in handy right about now.

He rested his forehead against the bars. Daisy would dig up his body and throw a second hemp party if he didn’t show up for the wedding.

The jailhouse door scraped open, and a swirl of fresh air tapped him on the shoulder. Fingering the tender crease running from his eyebrow to his hairline, he pivoted. If Halverson’s lucky shot hadn’t dropped him—

His fingertips stilled. So did his breath.

The marshal ushered in a voluptuous vision and lifted a tin plate from her hands. An abundance of golden hair, gathered in soft swirls at the crown, framed her head like a halo. Curls fell beside rounded cheeks.

“What’re you doing here?” Judging by the pucker in his tone, Halverson had eaten one too many sour apples. “Where’s that old drunk you insist on keeping around?”

“Henry hasn’t touched a drop in—”

“What? Twenty-four hours?”

The angel raised her chin. “He isn’t feeling well.”

Daniel drifted to the front of the cell and slouched onto the forearms he draped over a horizontal bar. The familiar voice… Nectar, fresh from a hive.

Gracing Halverson with a shallow smile, the buxom beauty tipped her head toward the plate. “Chicken and dumplings for your prisoner’s supper.”

Steam rising from the lump meant to be his meal carried a whiff of old socks. Daniel’s thoughts churned right along with his stomach. High point of the day: bad vittles. Now, the lady… She was downright mouthwatering.

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A Kiss to Remember is available exclusively on Amazon (free for those who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited). I’ll give an e-copy to one of today’s commenters who answers this question: If you had migrated to Texas after the Civil War, would you have settled in town or on a ranch or farm? Why?

Thanks for stopping by today! I’m looking forward to your comments. 🙂

 

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Jolene Navarro… A Texas Girl

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Hello, Jolene Navarro coming to you from the Hill Country of Texas and I’m so excited to be here.  When I say I’m from Texas, I’m talking seven generations of ranchers, horsemen and framers. I’m a Texas girl through and through. So I think it is safe to say that Texas is one of my strongest characters throughout all my stories. This land shaped who I am and it shapes the people in my books.

I took this picture of the stock tank and windmill on my way home the other day. I have driven past it for nineteen years, and thought I needed to take the time to enjoy the view and share it.

Jolene tank

Growing up, my dad was a commercial pilot, but he couldn’t help himself when it came to his roots of ranching. We had a small twenty-three-acre place in Bergheim Texas, population 12 if you counted the horses. Many days we would ride our horses to the general store to get an ice cold bottle of Dr. Pepper or Big Red. We couldn’t buy a chocolate bar because they melted too fast in the heat.

Many times we’d ride bareback. Tourists driving through Hwy 46 would stop and take pictures of us, which we thought was funny, because riding was just what we did. Now I wish I had at least one of us with the horses at the old limestone store.  The precious moments in life you take for granted because it’s so ordinary to you, that is until you get to look back and realize how blessed you were.

We always had animals. Sometimes rescued baby squirrels or bottle feed angora goats. We had horses, sheep, pigs, dogs and cats along with rabbits, chickens, a few deer and one duck. That duck sat on turkey eggs once. That was great fun.

jolene squirrels

The one thing my father loved more than anything was his angora goat. Here’s one of my favorites with some kids and my little sister, Amanda Warren (who now lives on an exotic game ranch).

jolene dad

 

Even though we live out in the country we don’t have goats or horses now – I leave that to my little sister, who still carries on the family tradition. Her family is on an exotic game ranch on the border and spends as much time at stock shows as anywhere else. But I do find many of my stories not only reflect the Texas I know and love, but they are also full of animals. I didn’t set out to do that, but it comes naturally to each story.

The book that was released September 1, The Soldier’s Surprise Family, has a menagerie of misfit farm animals and two dogs that are strong secondary characters. Dogs that are based on some real life companions I happen to know. Just like the people in my book, the dogs have full personalities all their own. Unlike the fictional people, the dogs are based on my family’s Catahoula Cattle dog and my other sister’s Yorkie. They took on starring roles.

jolene dog 1

jolene dog

Former solider and lone wolf, Garrett Kincaid, had no plans for a family not even a dog, until he discovers he has a son he never knew existed. And his son has a baby sister with nowhere to go and a dog that he’s holding out judgment on until he proves himself. Now his child and his lively nanny he’s hired are quickly capturing his heart. Falling for Anjelica isn’t part of the plan. Yet even Garrett can’t deny that love has begun building a family of four right around him.

Jolene cover                                                                                                                                             AMAZON

 

Did you have unusual pets growing up? Maybe as an adult you finally got the pet you always wanted. I would love to hear about your furry (or not so furry) family members.

Since I’m so excited being here and want to hear from you – I will give one printed book copy of The Soldier’s Surprise Family – One ebook copy of The Soldiers’ Surprise Family and one ebook copy of A Texas Christmas Wish – that features my favorite horse.

Just leave a comment to have your name thrown in the Stetson.

 

Thanks so much for dropping by.

Bio:  A seventh generation Texan and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author, Jolene 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.

She loves creating worlds of strong heroes and powerful heroines who find love in spite of the obstacles they face. She is currently working on her first Historical romance that will be out in June along with her fifth Clear Water Book for Harlequin’s Love Inspired that will arrive in bookstores in July.

Updated: September 7, 2016 — 9:49 am
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