If you’re like me, you’ve already been queueing up the Christmas music. There’s something special about the hymns, carols, and jingles written to celebrate the season. But in the west of the 1800s, music was a precious commodity, at any time. There are tales of families sacrificing to bring a piano on the Oregon Trail, stories of stampedes averted by a cowboy with a calming voice. If you could play an instrument or sing well, you were instantly popular!
Perhaps that’s why music boxes were so prized. First developed in the early nineteenth century in Europe by watchmakers, some early specimens were tiny enough to fit inside a gentleman’s snuff box. The mechanism was much like what you may have seen in a child’s toy—a cylinder with bumps equating to notes and a toothed comb that the cylinder rotated against to “ring” out the song. You cranked the mechanism to tighten a spring, which slowly unwound and stopped the motion of the cylinder.
People were entranced by the sound, and demand grew. Music boxes grew larger, fancier. Some came in tortoiseshell cases, others encased in fine wood. Sizes increased to tabletop and even as large as a grandfather clock. Companies found ways to swap cylinders, so you could play more songs. The number of teeth “playing” across the cylinder grew to over 300, providing a range of octaves. More springs meant the box could play for hours without rewinding.
Catalogs allowed you to pick from a range of music, from popular tunes to classical pieces and hymns. One piece even mimicked the sound of a bird singing. Supposedly Beethoven was particularly enchanted with the devices and composed music with them in mind.
At first the price for these boxes was high enough that only the wealthy could afford them. But after the Civil War, more reasonable boxes became available. These used less durable components, such as wooden or even paper rolls. Coin-operated versions were placed in railway stations for the public’s enjoyment. Pocket watches became musical, playing chimes to mark the hour. And people on the frontier ordered the boxes and gave them to those they loved. My hero Levi Wallin gives one to my heroine Callie Murphy in this month’s His Frontier Christmas Family. Callie loves music, but her family circumstances have prevented her from owning any kind of instrument. The music box becomes her prized possession.
The advent of the phonograph and player piano toward the end of the nineteenth century usurped the popularity of the music box. But examples continued to be created long afterward. The round music boxes in this blog post belonged to my great-grandmother and her sister, both of whom were born in the late 1800s. One was used to hold face powder—the original powder puff is inside.
Perhaps, like Callie, they loved music in any form, even from a magical little box.
Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for an autographed copy of His Frontier Christmas Family, Regina’s new release.
Regina Scott started writing novels in the third grade. Thankfully for literature as we know it, she didn’t actually sell her first novel until she learned a bit more about writing. She now has more than thirty-five published works of warm, witty romance. She and her husband of nearly 30 years reside in the Puget Sound area of Washington State. Regina Scott has dressed as a Regency dandy, driven four-in-hand, learned to fence, and sailed on a tall ship, all in the name of research, of course. Learn more about her at her website or connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, or Goodreads.
His Frontier Family
After taking guardianship of his late friend’s siblings and baby daughter, minister Levi Wallin hopes to atone for his troubled past on the gold fields. But it won’t be easy to convince the children’s wary elder sister to trust him. The more he learns about her, though, the more he believes Callie Murphy’s prickly manner masks a vulnerable heart…one he’s starting to wish he was worthy of.
Every man in Callie’s life chose chasing gold over responsibilities. Levi—and the large, loving Wallin family—might just be different. But she can tell he’s hiding something from her, and she refuses to risk her heart with secrets between them. Even as they grow closer, will their pasts keep them from claiming this unexpected new beginning?
Okay, I know the good-bye is from The Sound of Music, one of my favorite movies, and definitely not a Western, but it so fits. It’s time to let all y’all know I’m riding off into the sunset.
I have decided to step back from the computer and help with family things. My mother-in-law and Hub’s younger sister are facing serious health problems, and I never know when I’m needed next.
But there’s family fun, too.
I child-care Her Royal Highness every Friday. Be still my heart.And I am a very loud cheerleader for my grandsons. My five-year old grand-angel is busy with T-ball.
My ten-year old grand-darling has flag football going on when he’s not helping me at the horse rescue.But this is so hard. I’ve had nine years in this wonderful corral. Oh, how giddy I was, getting invited to be a filly…You all saw my daughter’s wedding–now she has two little ones. You traveled with me on a city-slicker wagon train trip in Wyoming, and peeped at glowing aspen during a Colorado fall…watched me ride a horse on a Bandera TX ranch, and rode up and down a glacier with me in the Canadian Rockies, saw how Hawaii and its cowboys tie into the mainland West.
You’ve “visited” Parker Ranch on the Big Island with me, and suspected my crush on Doc Holliday…
I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting just about all of the fillies despite the miles between. And Charlene Sands (a founding filly who just left the corral last month) will always be my dearest friend, muse, mentor, and shining star. Kinda fitting, her and me heading down new trails together at just about the same time.
Here’s us shopping for our grandbabies at the last Romance Writers of America convention.
In closing, I must thank each and every one of you for your comments and support. I wish you all the greatest blessings our generous Lord can bestow. I’ll possibly be back as a guest in Winter 2018, touting a future Christmas story.
And today, I’m giving away three PDF copies of my latest, the HEARTS CROSSING RANCH anthology, containing all eight of the contemporary inspirational novellas about a Colorado ranching family and their city-slicker wagon trains. Oh, and of course their love stories and happy endings. The antho includes the never-before published finale, Cross Your Heart.
So don’t forget to leave a comment and check back tomorrow to see which three names get pulled from the Stetson. Please and thank you.
My eight-novella inspirational series is now compiled in one big anthology, at Pelican Book Group, including the never-published finale,Cross Your Heart. Each of the eight Martin siblings of Hearts Crossing Ranch in Mountain Cove Colorado, has a story of heartbreak and triumph, success or lost faith, sickness or health, and finds a western-style happily-ever after. (Even their widowed matriarch Elaine finds love again!)
My May post showed how a real-life wagon train trip inspired the entire series, but it was my husband’s 2008 cancer battle that led me down the inspirational road. (God be praised, he is now cured.)
Below is a nutshell synopsis about each of the stories.
Hearts Crossing Ranch~Losing her father to a drunk driver has shattered Christy Forrest’s faith and hope. Going solo on the city slicker wagon trip her dad had planned before his death gets her alongside a handsome wagon master. But the last thing she needs is a faith-filled cowboy…
Kenn Martin, himself jaded by a woman’s betrayal, realizes he could heal his heart with the lovely landscape architect—if Christy gives them the chance.
Redeeming Daisy~The ranch’s large-animal vet Pike Martin should steer clear from bad-girl Daisy Densmore, the woman who broke his brother Kenn’s heart, but something about her wounded soul can’t be ignored.
Broken and humiliated by bad decisions, Daisy has no choice but to fall back to Mountain Cove…and literally into Pike’s arms when he saves her from herself.
Sanctuary~Cancer survivor and ranch foreman Hooper Martin doesn’t dare fall in love again. The single dad has been through loss and a horrific physical struggle. But meeting Mallie Cameron at Kenn and Christy’s wedding lets him know love can bloom again
But Mallie is battling an incurable brain tumor and won’t get involved…
(My husband battled the same horrific cancer as Hooper’s, and Mallie is based on my daughter’s beloved sorority sister who left us in 2012 and tore out my heart. Even when you know it’s going to happen, nothing prepares you for when it does.)
Right to Bragg~Nanny and paralegal Tiffany Vickers has been disowned by her own family, and the guilt wants to drown her. Coming to work for attorney Rachel Martin is starting to give her a sense of family again.
Accountant and cowboy Bragg Martin, himself bearing guilt for faking tests during his star-athlete turn, knows in his heart that he and Tiffany could be a perfect couple in spite of everything. And then Daisy’s ex-husband puts the move on…
It’s Christmas, though, the time of hope and love.
Soul Food~Kelley Martin has no qualms about being a vegetarian in cattle country, but her failed restaurant brings her back home. She realizes the value of roots and family. Chuck cook on a Hearts Crossing wagon train gets her up close with geneticist Jason Easterday, a self-acclaimed vagabond. How can she get him to stick around?
Angel Child~Graphic artist and cowboy Scott Martin holds himself back from falling for his high school art teacher. Of course they’re adults now and it’s perfectly acceptable. But Mary Grace holds herself back. Not many men, not even a committed Christian like Scott, will accept her severely disabled little son…
Seeing Daylight~ When her Army husband returns safely from his long deployment in the Middle East, attorney Rachel Martin knows they’ll make it. Until he dies in a foolish mishap. Meeting Brayton Metcalf doesn’t make life any better. He keeps secrets, too, and bears the burden of causing his wife’s death.
The Finale, not available as a singleton: Cross Your Heart~ The youngest Martin, Chelsea has grown up, but nobody takes her seriously despite her college degree and travels abroad. Will her older siblings always consider her a baby? Or will they accept her commitment as an environmental scientist? Saving a wounded horse to prove her maturity is a start. Until she runs into her college love. Once a spoiled surfer with tons of money, Dutton Morse’s new heritage threatens to derail their reunion from the start: he’s an oil man…
I enjoyed writing my “ride” through the trails of Hearts Crossing Ranch and hope you do, too.
Huge thank yous to Karen Witemeyer for hosting me here at Petticoats and Pistols, and to Mary Connealy for suggesting me as a guest today. It’s always an absolute pleasure to talk Westerns! #mustlovecowboys
I kind of stumbled into writing Westerns when asked to join a Love Inspired continuity… I was book 2 “His Montana Sweetheart” and as I chatted with the other authors about the town set-up and the events, I was smitten…
But I got firmly hooked while writing the book.
I love Westerns. I love the feel of the West, the broad, broken land, the distant horizon, the hills, mountains, the far-reaching spreads of ranches. There is something alluring about the whole thing. Something different. And when it comes to heroes, something definably masculine. Manly…
But beyond the look, there’s the unwritten code of the West… put others first.
I don’t know if that seeded itself in faith-filled beginnings or just the prairie common sense that if your horse died, you’d be next… either way, it’s a great code to live by no matter where you hang your hat.
That book became my stepping stone into Westerns and the bestselling “Double S Ranch” series from Waterbrook Press. Even the concept sounded fun— and a little tragic, but from the very worst can spring the very best, so that was the concept I worked with. An egocentric father, mad at the world over the loss of his beloved wife, and three sons, two from different mothers and the third a nephew he rescued and adopted. If you throw together Bonanza, Dynasty, The Big Valley and a splash of My Three Sons, you’re on target… but how do you write three cowboy brothers, all raised on the same huge Central Washington spread, and keep their stories interlocked but distinct?
That’s where life comes in.
And these days life offers a lot of drama! It surrounds us, and if it doesn’t, cable news will make you feel like it does. Based on the Biblical story of the prodigal, Colt Stafford left the Double S to prove himself in Manhattan. Ivy League educated, he amassed his own fortune while working hedge funds but it all ground to a stop when one of his major investments turned out to be an epic Ponzi scheme. With his assets tied up by the courts, Colt has nothing to show for years of hard work. When he realizes his father is gravely ill, Colt returns to the Western ranch, ready to help. Mind you, I didn’t say he was happy to help. But as Colt glimpses his father’s somewhat lame attempts at reconciliation, and his brother’s unhappiness, he begins to re-acclimate himself to the land he could have loved if only things had been different.
It was so much fun to compare the rigors of Wall Street financials and the cut-throat policies that prevail there and the depth of “cowboy code” and Western lore. It’s about coming home… and then being home. It’s about a woman with a past, searching for her future… and it’s about a man’s lament, a man who put his land, his ranch, his state-of-the-art beef enterprise ahead of his children… and isn’t sure how much time he has left to fix things.
It’s about life.
Creating the Stafford men was fun, but I had to be careful to keep them lovable even though they mostly needed Gibbs-smacks upside the head. Colt, the prodigal who stalked away angry and came back, somewhat humbled… but not too humble, because Colt isn’t exactly the humble sort. Nick, the brother who stayed home on the ranch, but not for altruistic reasons. Mostly because he wanted to show up his father on how a real man gets married and has a family and stays devoted while working the land… but when his happy-ever-after walked out with a rodeo cowboy, Nick’s carefully laid plans went up in smoke. Despite his efforts, here he was, working night and day and raising two kids— two troubled kids— as a single parent. Oops.
And then, this week, just released, is Trey’s story. The third brother, a country music superstar, rescued twenty-five years ago when his country singer parents overdosed on a bad batch of heroin. Trey’s the catalyst. He’s the wound-binder. He’s the son who sees beyond Sam’s nature because he wasn’t just born to the ranch: he was chosen. Saved by an uncle who made him his own, Trey’s strong but gentle nature will never forget that blessing even though Sam hasn’t exactly supported him for pursuing country music after seeing what happened to Trey’s parents.
Three stories of forgiveness and moving on. Three Western men. Four, actually, because without Sam Stafford setting the Western stage with his newfangled ideas, there wouldn’t be a story at all… And the four women set in their paths to complete the circle.
Old posters used to proclaim “Go West!” with pictures of a covered wagon and endless grassland.
I went “West” with some of my stories, and it’s been love of the highest order ever since.
Buy Ruth’s newest release, PEACE IN THE VALLEY, on Amazon!
Take a moment to chat with Ruth and be eligible to win a print copy of her opening book, BACK IN THE SADDLE!
BIO: With well over a million books in print, multi-published, bestselling inspirational author Ruthy Logan Herne is living her dream of writing great stories with unforgettable characters, the kind of books that make you regret the last page because you simply don’t want the story to end. A mom and grandmother, Ruthy lives on a small farm in upstate New York. She’s no stranger to power tools, livestock or an oven. She loves her dishwasher and she’s not afraid to discharge errant critters that might find their way into her old farmhouse. And we’re not talking “catch-and-release” here. She loves chatting with readers and writers on Facebook so send her a friend request, or follow her on Twitter @RuthLoganHerne. Keep up with her scheduled releases and maybe some farm life at her website http://www.ruthloganherne.com, or her blogs http://www.ruthysplace.com, http://www.seekerville.blogspot.com (with 12 other authors!) or the fun café she operates with friends http://www.yankeebellecafe.blogspot.com.
A while back, I and my hubby T.L., brother-in-law Timmy and sis Roberta (l-r in the pic above) had the experience of a lifetime, taking a wagon train around the Tetons with an amazing group, Teton Wagon Train and Horse Adventures headed by wagonmaster Jeff Warburton out of Jackson, Wyoming. He’s a true cowboy and a gentleman and guested here in Wildflower Junction not long after we got back.
Anyway, this fantastic trip helped inspire my eight-novella series Hearts Crossing Ranch, about the lives and loves of eight siblings of a Colorado working ranch that also runs city slicker wagon trains. The entire series–including the never-before-published finale about the baby sister Chelsea–has been compiled in one big anthology, available next month, and available for pre-order.
Anyway….We spent four days circling the Tetons through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest bordering Yellowstone bear country. We didn’t see any bear– likely the thundering horses skeered ’em away.
We got our start in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
First stop on the bus taking us to the wagons were photo-ops of the Grand lady herself..followed by her neighbor Mount Moran reflected perfectly in a oxbow lake.
These scenes were practically perfection in itself..but all breath stopped when we reached The Wagons.
There was nothing quite like chuck wagon cooking in the open mountain air.
Pulling our wagons were magnificent draft horses, Percherons and Belgians. They are named in teams, such as Lady and Tramp, Gun and Smoke, Sandy and Sage, Jack and Jill. The first name is always the horse on the left. These glorious beasts are capable of pulling up to 4,000 pounds as a team, and they love to work. In winter, they lead sleighs to the elk refuge outside Jackson.
While the wagons do have rubber tires and padded benches, the gravel roads are nothing like a modern freeway. Most times our route was called the “cowboy rollercoaster.”
Most of our hard-working, helpful cowpokes were college students working for the summer. I promise you they remembered everybody’s name from the get-go. No question was too dumb.
I think everybody’s favorite “crew member” was Buddy, probably the cutest dog ever. He accompanied every trail ride after following the draft horses from camp to camp…he romped in every stream and lake, caught mice, and totally stole everybody’s heart. Jeff says, Buddy’s pretty disgusted to become a backyard dog after the summertime.
Our tents were comfy—all sleeping essentials are provided–, and there was nothing so fine as a cup of Arbuckle’s to warm us up on a chilly evening. After supper—cowboy potatoes, Indian frybread, and raspberry butter are among our favorites—we gathered around the campfire for Jeff’s tall tales, historical accounts of the Old West, legends, guitar strumming, cowboy poetry and songs, S’mores, and delicious Dutch oven desserts such as peach cobbler and cherry chocolate cake always served to the ladies first.
One of the nicest parts of the meals was Jeff leading us in a blessing first. Nobody had to join in…but seems like everybody did.
Days were full of Wyoming wildflowers, lakes and pine trees reaching for the clouds. Nights after the camp quieted down were almost beyond description: the stars are endless, multi-layered, sparkling on forever and ever amen. What a sight.
But the most fun of all was riding horses! Folks either rode, hiked, or wagonned it to the next camp each day. My favorite mount was Copper. You can see her ears in the photo below–I’m astride and taking a pic of my hubby, ahead in the red ball cap.
Our last day, the Pony Express rode through camp and brought us all mail.
Me and mine, well, we had the time of our life.
As Jeff said when we left, “There’s always be a campfire burnin’ for ya here in Wyomin.”
My current release is HONOR BRIGHT, An Inspirational Historical Romance Set in the West, Officers of the 7th Cavalry Series 1.
George and Libbie Custer are secondary characters and hometown neighbors of my heroine in book 1. The story takes place two years before Custer’s last campaign, a time when tensions were escalating on both sides of the issues. Each book in Officers of the 7th Cavalry Series, takes the reader closer to the final event in the Little Bighorn Valley.
How did I become interested in the Custer story? I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and knew that Custer spent some of his childhood in my home state. A job transfer moved us to Ohio for several years where we traveled the I-75 north through Monroe, Michigan to visit family. Alongside the highway in Monroe is a huge billboard with Custer in uniform stating: Monroe, Michigan – boyhood home of the boy-general. A few years later, a temporary job transfer brought us back to Michigan for a year. My husband rented a house on Lake Erie in Monroe County.
At that time, I had no plans about Custer being in one of my future books. Out of curiosity, however, I visited the small Custer museum in Monroe, and a neighborhood bookstore where I purchased several books about George and Libbie Custer written by a local Custer historian. Next, I stopped by the Monroe County Library that has a fantastic Custer Collection.
The librarian informed me that next to Presidents Washington and Lincoln, no other historical figure in our country has as many books written about him as George A. Custer. She also mentioned that people living in Japan and Italy have made inquiries about Custer’s career. After all this time, people want to learn more details about the controversial boy-general!
At a county flea market, I found an original edition of Libbie Custer’s BOOTS AND SADDLES or Life in Dakota with General Custer, Harper & Brothers, New York, 1885. That was the first book Libbie wrote, years after George died. Cost: $6.00. I do not really believe in coincidences. I finished four other stories, before starting my current release: HONOR BRIGHT, An Inspirational Historical Romance Set in the West, Officers of the 7th Cavalry Series 1.
George Armstrong Custer’s prankish career at the United States Military Academy put him last in his 1861 graduating class. Afterward, his flamboyant cavalry escapes during the Civil War brought a continual interest from the press of the day. Old men admired his courage and women saw him as a dashing figure. Today, however, mention Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and his 7th Regiment of Cavalry, given to Custer as a reward for his Civil War record, and images of war against the Plains Indians come to mind. Current authors and historians write more books about Custer as villain, because of the post-Civil War years, than as hero.
When people react negatively to Custer’s name, it is because as a military officer he represented our government and its policies at that time. Our point of view today, concerning the western expansion after the Civil War, is sympathetic toward the Indians and highly critical of our actions against Native Americans.
The list of officers mentioned here guided and/or ordered Custer’s military career. General Alfred Terry, Custer’s immediate superior; Major-General Phil Sheridan, his close friend and mentor; Major-General William Tecumseh Sherman; President Ulysses S. Grant, commander in chief (all Civil War generals). In other words, Custer did not act alone.
My bibliography for Officers of the 7th Cavalry Series has exceeded my budget. Last month, I purchased two additional books on Custer. I’m hooked on research.
Some called the Little Bighorn Battle “a clash of cultures and Custer, a man of his time.” My hope is that the reader will enjoy the fictional story with interesting characters, set against the backdrop of an isolated fort in the Dakota Territory in 1874.
About the house on the cover of Honor Bright
The cover of HONOR BRIGHT, Officers of the 7th Cavalry Series 1, features the 1989, rebuilt home and command headquarters for the famous 7th Cavalry. This was George and Libbie Custer’s first home built for them by the U. S. government, and the reassembled 7th Cavalry Regiment since it was formed after the Civil War. Location is Fort Abraham Lincoln, across the Missouri River from Bismarck, Dakota Territory (ND today).
The Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation raised funds and constructed the home after years of research and planning. The estimated total cost to develop Cavalry Square was $6 million, with $2 million appropriated by the U. S. Congress. The Custer House cost almost $400,000. The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department now operates the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park.
As the centerpiece of Fort Abraham Lincoln, the Custer house is the third built on the exact same lot as the original Custer residence. The first was built in 1873, one of seven buildings that formed Officers’ Row on the fort’s western perimeter. In the center of three duplexes for bachelor or married officers, is the Custer home.
Fire destroyed the original house in the middle of the night in February 1874. George and Libbie barely escaped with their lives. Donations quickly replaced just about everything they lost. Libbie called their frontier home elegant, especially after she requested the installation of the bay window in her parlor, and George provided funds for the railing to the second story (balustrade) made of butternut, a difficult wood that required 80 hours of labor to construct.
HONOR BRIGHT, Officers of the 7th Cavalry Series 1
Spring 1874. Rebecca Brewster arrives at Fort Abraham Lincoln to preview life on the far western frontier, before her marriage to an officer in Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s famous 7th Cavalry Regiment. Becca is soon disillusioned with her childhood love who is critical of her tomboyish ways. He insists she behave as a lady in the footsteps of Libbie Custer.
Major Randall Steelman, second in command under Custer, finds Becca’s fun-loving spirit and open affectionate ways charming. As an officer, however, Rand’s strict code of conduct forbids him to act on his interest in a woman when it involves a brother officer. How can he stand by and watch Becca marry an arrogant hothead with unbridled ambition, when he finds Becca more irresistible each day?
Amid increasing tension between the hostile Sioux Indians and the government that Custer represents, Rand walks a tightrope balancing professional duties and a friendship with his commander. Custer’s reputation is two-fold: Capable cavalry officer and fearless leader; arrogant and petty tyrant.
With one-year left to serve his country, Rand is determined to retire with a blemish-free record and with his rank intact. Becca must make a life-changing decision, before it’s too late and she marries the wrong man.
Diane Kalas collects antique books written by men and women who lived through the American Civil War, and/or who pioneered out West. With a degree in interior design, she enjoys touring historical sites, especially Federal era homes with period furniture. Published writers Pamela Griffin, Gina Welborn, and Kathleen Maher have been critique partners and mentors. Diane’s biggest challenge is writing Inspirational Historical Romance. Her biggest distraction is her fascination with historical research. Diane is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.
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.
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.
Nothing primitive about this dining room.
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.
Partially reconstructed officers’ housing and Old Bedlam (the two-story white frame building)
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?
Bestselling 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.
This month I’m debuting a new series titled Heart of the Frontier. Book one is titled Treasured Grace and is the story of three sisters in 1847. The focal setting of the story is the Whitman Mission in the area of present day Walla Walla, Washington.
This is a model of the mission layout with the main mission house to the right, the blacksmith shop in the center and the Emigrant’s House on the left. The mill pond (upper left) was where they also had a grist mill.
This location was the site of the Whitman Mission Massacre that took place November 29, 1847. It was this massacre that truly changed the course of westward expansion and brought on the setting up of military forts along the Oregon Trail.
Marcus and Narcissa Whitman (she was one of the first two white women who crossed the Rocky Mountains) had tried for over ten years to win the hearts and minds of the Cayuse Indians in their area. However, a measles epidemic struck and killed a great many Cayuse, as well as whites. The Cayuse were convinced that Whitman (who was a doctor as well as a preacher) was trying to kill them and so on November 29th, they attacked and killed the doctor and Narcissa, along with most of the other men who were living at the mission. The remaining fifty-four women and children were taken hostage and held for nearly a month by the Cayuse.
On my many visits there to glean information for my series, I found the park rangers to be some of the best I’ve encountered while doing research. It was fascinating to learn about the Cayuse people. They were a nomadic people who were known for their horses and horsemanship. They were also considered to have some of the fiercest warriors.
They lived in tulle mat lodges and traveled with the seasons to harvest various roots and vegetation, as well as take advantage of the salmon fishing.
In the 1840’s this area of America was called Oregon Country. It was mostly inhabited by Native Americans and the British. The latter ran a string of Hudson’s Bay Company forts and traded with both the Native Americas and whites who came west. I mention this because another fascinating aspect of this massacre and the aftermath was the part the Hudson’s Bay Company played.
When it was learned that 54 white women and children were being held captive, Peter Skene Ogden (one of the factors at Fort Vancouver – now present day Vancouver, Washington) went to work to secure their release. He and Chief Factor James Douglas put together a ransom hoping they could convinced the Cayuse to let the women and children go without harm. The ransom included 62 blankets, 63 cotton shirts, 12 Hudson Bay rifles, 600 loads of ammunition, 7 pounds of tobacco and 12 flints. Eventually the Cayuse did agree to this and the women and children were set free. I thought it quite interesting, if not touching that The Hudson’s Bay Company never billed the American settlers for the ransom. I thought it equally interesting that reimbursement by the American government was never offered.
Tracie Peterson is giving away a print copy of A Love Transformed to one lucky commenter. Don’t forget to check back tomorrow to see if…her winner is you!
After writing 110 books, most of which are historical in setting, I’m often called The Queen of Christian Historicals. Anybody who knows me, knows that historical research for my stories is important to me. I work hard for accuracy and sometimes that means getting my hands dirty to learn something I want my historical characters to do. In keeping with that I’ve learned to drive a stage coach, tat, make soap and candles, handle firearms, skin a deer, studied and use centuries old patterns for clothing and the list goes on. I once had a wanna-be writer say to me, “Why bother – it’s just fiction?” My response? Because it matters!
Nothing ruins a story faster for me than an author who hasn’t bothered to do their research. For example, one book I read had characters on a railroad line that didn’t exist. It might have been okay to create a fictional rail line, but the author had a railroad in the west before railroads had been established. I read a story once where the hero and heroine were eating at a famous hotel restaurant – only the restaurant wouldn’t be a part of the hotel for another twenty years. It’s things like that that make me throw books against the wall. Of course, I realize many readers will never know the difference, but to me it’s a sacred trust we the author have with the reader to make the books as accurate as possible. It doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes. I make plenty, but we owe it to our readers to give our very best.
Recently, I decided to have a character who finds healing and consolation in working with sheep. She enjoys herding the sheep and then learns to card and spin wool into yarn and so I thought I should do the same. I found someone with sheep who also worked with the raw wool. The smelly stuff had to be washed, dyed and carded and so I learned all about that. Next, I found a wonderful woman who is a historical weaver and spinner. She taught me to spindle spin. My yarn wasn’t very even, but it was good enough to use in crocheting a hat.
Once I had spindle spinning under my belt, I found a friend who taught me to spin on a wheel. What fun! I found I really took to the process. I loved the feel of the wool in my hands and the methodic, relaxing process of sitting at and operating the wheel. I found it to be great time for prayer. Better still, it allowed me to be able to share the process in my story. Sure, I could have just plunked my character down at the spinning wheel and said “she spun” but I felt that knowing more allowed me to really bring that action alive.
To me learning new things for the sake of the story is important, whether it’s new writing techniques or old day-to-day processes that kept a family alive and well. I love to talk to people who know their history and craft. To me one of the most important aspects of our job as writers is to weave history seamlessly into the story so that the reader finds themselves swept up in the time-period and lives of the characters. My favorite authors are those who can draw me into the story so completely that I feel like I’m there—right alongside the characters. Those are the very best stories of all. So if you ever wonder if the extra research is worth the effort—it is.
Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. First of all, I want to wish everyone a very Happy Labor Day. I hope you all are able to take some time to kick back and enjoy this holiday that’s set aside to celebrate the working man and woman.
The other thing I’m celebrating today is the release of my newest book in the Texas Grooms series, Texas Cinderella. The heroine of this book, Cassie Lynn Vickers, has a dream to one day open a bakery. Her specialty is pies (strange because I love to bake but am no good at pies). So I thought I’d have fun today and give you some Trivia and Fun Facts on the subject of pies.
Pies have been around for a very long time. There is evidence that the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks all made pies of one sort or another.
The first pies were mostly of the meat pie variety. The earliest published pie recipe came from the 14th century Romans and was a rye-crusted honey and goat-cheese pie.
The thick crusts on medieval pies were known as coffyns, which at the time simply meant basket or box.
In A Winter’s Tale, Shakespeare includes a recipe for pies that includes ginger, mace, prunes, nutmeg, raisins and, for a hint of color, saffron.
Pumpkin pie wasn’t present at the pilgrim’s first Thanksgiving, but it was at the second in 1623
The most popular flavors of pies purchased in America are, in this order: apple, pumpkin, cherry, blueberry and Dutch apple.
A 2008 survey by the American Pie found Americans consider pie more than just a dessert. 35% have had pie for breakfast, 66% have eaten it as their lunch and 59% have eaten pie as a midnight snack.
At one time Kansas had a law on the books that made it illegal to serve ice cream on cherry pie.
So, what is your favorite pie? And do you have any fun facts to add to the list?
Leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of Texas Cinderella.
Here’s an excerpt from Texas Cinderella:
Making up her mind, she decided to share her plan. “I do have an idea about how I might get around this.”
Mrs. Flanagan straightened. “Well, bless my soul, you do have some gumption, after all.” She leaned back with a satisfied nod. “Let’s hear it.”
Cassie Lynn took a deep breath. “It appears the only excuse my father will accept is if I was spoken for. So that’s what I intend to do—find a man to marry.”
The widow’s brow went up. “Just like that, you’re going to go out and find yourself a suitor?”
“I didn’t say it would be easy.” Cassie Lynn tried to keep the defensiveness from her tone. “And it’s not as if I expect anything romantic.” She didn’t have any notions of finding a fairy-tale prince who would look at her, fall instantly in love and whisk her away.
After all, she’d already contemplated a businesslike marriage once upon a time, so she’d already come to terms with that kind of arrangement.
But Mrs. Flanagan was frowning at her. “You’re much too young to be giving up on love. Don’t you want at least a touch of romance in your life?”
“Romance is no guarantee of happiness. And even if that was something I wanted, in this case there’s no time for such schoolgirl notions. So a more practical approach is called for.”
“I see.” Mrs. Flanagan crossed her arms, clearly not in agreement with Cassie Lynn’s argument, but willing to move on. “Is there a particular bachelor you’ve set your sights on?”
“I’ve been pondering on that and I have a couple of ideas. The main thing, though, is I’ve decided what requirements the gents need to meet.” She’d given that a lot of thought on her walk home.
“And those are?”
“Well, for one, since I want to continue pursuing my goal of opening a bakery, the candidate will need to be okay with having a wife who does more than just keep his house. And it would also require that he live here in town so I can be close to my customers, for delivery purposes.”
“Surely you also want to consider his character.”
“Of course. He should be honest, kind and God-fearing.” She didn’t expect affection?after all, this would be a businesslike arrangement?but she did hope for mutual respect.
“And his appearance?”
Cassie Lynn shrugged. “That’s of less importance. Though naturally, I wouldn’t mind if he’s pleasant to look at.” Like Mr. Walker, for example.
She shook off that thought and returned to the discussion at hand. “But none of that matters unless I can find someone who’s also open to my proposal.”
“And you’ve thought of someone who meets this list of qualifications?”
“Two. But I don’t really know the men here very well, so I was hoping that perhaps you could give me some suggestions.”
“Humph! I’ve always thought of matchmakers as busybodies, so I never aspired to become one.”
“Oh, I don’t want a matchmaker—I intend to make up my own mind on who I marry. I’d just like to have the benefit of advice from someone who knows the townsfolk better than I do. And who has experienced what a marriage involves.”
“Well then, much as I’m not sure I approve of this plan of yours, I don’t suppose I can just let you go through it without guidance of some sort.”
“Thank you so much. I can’t tell you what a relief that is.”
“Now don’t go getting all emotional on me. I said I’d help and I will. Tell me who these two gents are that you’re considering.”
“The first name that occurred to me was Morris Hilburn.”
Cassie Lynn nodded. “From what I can tell, he meets most of my criteria. Of course, I won’t know how he feels about having a wife who runs a bakery until I talk to him.”
“Morris Hilburn is a God-fearing man with a good heart, all right. But he is not the smartest of men and he’s not much of a talker.”
“Book learning and good conversation are not requirements.”
“Think about that before you rule them out. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life with a man whose idea of conversation is single syllable responses?”
Cassie Lynn paused. Then she remembered the fate her father had in mind for her. “There are worse things.” She moved on before her employer could comment. “The other gentleman I thought of was Mr. Gilbert Drummond.”
“The undertaker? Well, I suppose he might be someone to look at. Then again, he strikes me as being a bit finicky.”
“There are worse qualities one could find in a man. Besides, a woman in my position doesn’t have the luxury of being choosy.” More’s the pity. “But I’m open to other suggestions if you have any.”
“I’ll need to ponder on this awhile.”
“Unfortunately, my time is short.” She hesitated a heartbeat, then spoke up again, keeping her voice oh-so-casual. “There’s actually a third candidate I’m considering.”
“And who might that be?”
“I met a newcomer to town while I was at the livery. He just arrived on today’s train.”
“A newcomer? And you’re just now telling me about this? You know good and well part of the reason I hired you is to have someone to bring me the latest bits of news.”
Cassie Lynn laughed. “And here I thought it was for my cooking.”
“Don’t be impertinent. I want to hear everything. How did you meet him? Is he a young man or more mature? Is he handsome? Is he traveling alone.” She waved impatiently. “Come on, girl, answer me.”
She decided to respond to the last question first. “He’s traveling with two children, a niece and nephew. I met the little boy first. Noah is about seven and such an endearing child—intelligent, curious, outgoing. The little girl, Pru, seems shy and quiet.”
“Enough of the kids,” Mrs. Flanagan said with a grumpy frown. “Tell me about the uncle.”
Cassie Lynn paused a moment to pull up Mr. Walker’s image in her mind. “He has hair the color of coffee with a dash of cream stirred in, and his eyes are a piercing green.” A glorious shamrock-green that she could still picture quite vividly. “He’s lean but muscular, if you know what I mean, like he’s used to doing hard work.”
“And his age?”
“I didn’t ask.”
Mrs. Flanagan made a disapproving noise. “Don’t be coy with me, Cassie Lynn. Take a guess.”
She hid her grin. “I suppose I’d put him around twenty-four or twenty-five.” Though there was something about the look in his eyes that spoke of experience beyond his years.
“How did you come to meet him?”
Cassie Lynn explained the circumstances as she crossed the room to retrieve an apron that hung on a peg near the stove.
“So what was it about him that made you decide after only ten minutes in his company that he might be the husband you’re looking for?”
“I only said he might be worth considering.” Then, under Mrs. Flanagan’s steady gaze, she shrugged. “I suppose it was the fact that he had two young children in his care—it made me think he might be a man in need of a woman’s help.”
“I agree with you there,” Mrs. Flanagan said. “A single man in charge of two young’uns sounds like a gentleman in need of a wife if there ever was one.”