Category: Julie Benson

Book Women—The Depression’s Book Mobile

As a contemporary romance author, my research is different from historical authors. For the third book in my Wishing, Texas Series, To Tame A Texas Cowboy, my research topics included seizure treatment/causes, service dogs and veterinarian office software. As a result, I don’t often come across cool historical tidbits to share with you the way Petticoats and Pistols historical authors often do. But recently, I came across a Facebook post about librarians on horseback. Considering my love of books and horses, I couldn’t resist learning more.

The Pack Horse Library program was part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration during The Depression. In 1930’s Kentucky, the unemployment rate was almost forty percent and around thirty percent of the state’s population was illiterate. The hope was The Pack Horse Library program would decrease both these statistics. In addition to these issues, the ten thousand square foot area of eastern Kentucky this program served lagged behind other areas in the state in terms of electricity and highways. Scarcity of food, education and few economic options compounded the problems.

Getting the program’s employees to these rugged, rural areas of The Appalachian Mountains where people with the greatest need lived proved challenging, too. Because of the terrain, horses were chosen as the mode of transportation. However, the most astounding aspect of the program was that most of the employees of The Pack Horse Library were women! Folks simply referred to them as “Book Women.”

After loading donated books, magazines and newspapers, these librarians set out on their own mules or horses and headed into the mountains. Not an easy task, even when the weather cooperated. But imagine how difficult and treacherous the trip had to be in snowy or rainy conditions. Often the terrain became so rugged or remote, even horses couldn’t travel, forcing the librarians to continue on foot, carrying the books! No matter how cold or bad the weather, these librarians persisted, covering one hundred to one hundred twenty miles a week. One librarian had to complete her eighteen-mile route on foot after her mule died. Now that’s dedication!

By 1936, these devoted librarians serviced over fifty-thousand families and one-hundred-fifty-five schools. But these women did more than provide books. They acted as a connection between these rural Kentucky communities and world. They tried to fill book requests, read to people who couldn’t read themselves, and fostered a sense of local pride. And all for a salary of twenty-eight dollars a month.

All photos from atlasobsura.com

The Pack Horse Library program ended in 1943 along with the WPA. War had pulled the country out of The Depression, but these strong, determined librarians had left their mark. They made a difference.

To be entered for the drawing to win a copy of Colorado Rescue, a looking sharp wine glass and the bracelet pictured, tell me what you love about libraries or share your favorite memory involving a library.

Updated: April 30, 2019 — 7:40 pm

More Real Life Inspiration

I intended today’s blog to be on The Pack Horse Library program, but that will have to wait for next month. As I sat trying to write that piece, life has intruded changing my focus.

My current fosters Noelle, Dash and Charlotte

For those of you who don’t know, rescuing animals has become a large part of my life since my boys left the nest. I foster dogs with Cody’s Friends Rescue, and I handle administration for a primarily cat rescue, A Voice for All Paws. Being involved with these organizations has brought me both incredible joy and reeling sorrow.

As with many authors, my non-writing loves often find their way into stories. Such is the case with the third book in my Wishing, Texas Series, To Tame A Texas Cowboy which I recently turned in. A character playing a major role bringing Cheyenne and Cooper together is a rescued German Shepherd. She is based on and named in memory of Dennis Pisarski’s amazing service dog, Penny Lane, both of whom inspired the seed idea that became this book.

Cooper Abbott is contacted by the local shelter to foster Penny. After her owner dies, Penny is dumped in the shelter. One of my favorite scenes in To Tame A Texas Cowboy is when Cooper receives a call from the shelter. For me, this scene speaks volumes about my hero.

Here’s an excerpt:

“When Penny arrived, we had to carry her outside, and then she cowered and whimpered until we took her back in. Now she’s quit eating. You know what that means.”

With her owner, the anchor in her life gone, unless something changed, Penny’s case would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because of fear or depression, she’d hide in the back of her kennel. People would walk past her to more outgoing dogs. Those would be the lucky ones brought to meeting rooms to turn on the charm and find forever homes. But not Penny. Being withdrawn, she’d remain in her kennel, sinking further into herself, as her time slipped away or her health declined.

 “I need her out now, and since you’re currently without fosters, I started with you. Plus, you and Rowdy would do wonders for Penny,” Kelli said.

“If I weren’t moving, I’d gladly take her.”

“Moving? Where? When? How did I miss that news?”

After Cooper explained about his opportunity to take over the practice in Wishing, Kelli said, “She won’t make it here.” Kelli paused. “I’m making an exception. Because you’re a vet, we won’t worry about medical needs. Plus, Wishing’s only a couple hours away. You and Rowdy can work your magic on Penny, and when she’s ready for adoption you can bring her back. Or, maybe you’ll find an adopter in Wishing.”

“Then sure, I’ll foster her. I’m at the clinic, but I can be there in a few.”

Fifteen minutes later, Cooper knelt inside the kennel and stared at Penny Lane curled into a tight ball in the far corner. His hands tensed around the leash he held, but other than that he remained still, giving her time to adjust to his presence. Most dogs would be all over him by now. Jumping, barking, begging for attention, but not this girl. She’d already given up.

“Hello, Penny. I hear you’re having a rough time.”

The dog’s eyes opened, but she remained motionless. The trauma and loss she’d endured shone in her wide brown eyes.

He inched closer, watching for signs of aggression, but she’d pulled so far inward, she barely acknowledged him. She just plain didn’t care. He continued working closer. “Don’t give up, sweetheart. I know you’re missing your human, but there’s someone else out there for you. Someone who’ll love you, and wants, maybe needs you, too.”

Penny lifted her head the tiniest bit to stare at him. The look in her warm brown eyes was different than it had been a minute earlier, more haunted now, but with something else.

She thinks you’re a hypocrite. You talk the talk but aren’t big on walking that walk yourself.

Cooper shut out the mocking voice. “I’ve lost someone, too. I know it hurts like hell, but you can’t give up. She wouldn’t want you to.”

Olivia’s face flashed in his mind. Oval and delicate, framed with long blond hair and big blue eyes. Giving, and sweet as ripe Texas peaches in July, she’d had so much to offer him and the world.

They’d had their lives planned. After a small intimate wedding and a quick honeymoon, they’d return to College Station. She’d get the SeizureReader into production and run the budding company. Then they’d focus on saving the money for his practice where he could offer rescues and those who couldn’t afford it, reasonably priced vet care. They’d both be doing what they loved. They’d have each other, and eventually a family of their own.

But life hadn’t gone as planned. Two years, and yet at times, it felt as if they’d been together yesterday.

“You’ll get through this, Penny.” Cooper hooked the leash to Penny’s collar, slid his arms under her middle, and scooped her up. “Let’s get go home.”

Now it’s your turn. To be entered in the random drawing to win the picture frame and To Catch A Texas Cowboy, leave a comment about an animal who’s changed your life for the better.

 

Please remember, Adopt! Don’t Shop! For more information on Cody’s Friends Rescue or A Voice for All Paws or to see their adoptable pets, click on the organization name. If you’re not in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, you can click Petfinder and enter your zip code to find adoptable animals in your area.

 

 

 

 

Updated: April 2, 2019 — 7:24 pm

Julie Benson’s Winner

 

The winner of the owl scarf and Family Ties giveaway is. . .

Janine

Congratulations!

I will contact you at the email

address you left concerning getting your giveaway.

Again, congratulations Janine, and thank you to everyone who stopped by to chat. I’ll leave you with one final bit of cowboy wisdom. “Never give the devil a ride. He will always want the reins.”

                               Julie

Updated: February 27, 2019 — 8:39 pm

Never Jump a Barbed Wire Fence Naked

Every generation says growing up is harder for the current one, but the issues I see today’s children dealing with makes my heart ache for them. As I pondered how we as a society start dealing with the problems facing our young people something in my Pinterest feed caught my eye: 

The Cowboy Code

If it’s not yours,

Don’t take it.

If it’s not true,

Don’t say it.

If it’s not right,

Don’t do it.

Something so simple, and yet, so profound. The first part—if it’s not yours, don’t take it—is easy for most of us. We know what stealing is and that it’s wrong. But the other two are tougher. If it’s not true, don’t say it—I don’t lie about someone, but I’ve been known to gossip. Because I’ve come to believe gossip can be as dangerous and damaging as lying, I try to avoid listening to or repeating it. As to the last part of The Cowboy Code—if it’s not right, don’t do it—I think it’s the most complicated. How do we tell what’s right with so many gray areas? For me, if I listen to my gut, it becomes clearer. When I feel that little twinge, I know something isn’t a good decision, and I’m learning to trust that. So far, my gut’s served me well.

Inspired by The Cowboy Code, I searched Pinterest and found other western advice. Maybe because cowboys work with cows and steers—animals known for requiring patience—but what I found has encouraged that very trait in me. I’ve always been a “Lord, give me patience right now” gal. I’ve been quick to honk at drivers who don’t move the minute the light turned green. I’ve fumed at someone taking too long leaving a parking space. But now, I try to be the driver I want on the road with me. When someone allows me to pull out in heavy traffic, I give them the “thanks pardner” wave to acknowledge their kindness, and more importantly, I try to be the person who makes room for others.  

Yup, I’m taking The Cowboy Code and philosophy to heart. I did this hoping to brighten someone else’s day and made a profound difference in my own life. Doing so has helped me slow down, be more patient, and live happier. Maybe that’s The Cowboy Code is a possible answer to some of our problems.

I’ll leave you with another cowboy tip that hopefully makes you smile as it did me. You got it. “Never climb a barbed wire fence naked.” Okay, so maybe they aren’t all diamonds, but you got to admit, it’s solid advice!  

Click here to head to the Petticoats and Pistols Pinterest site and check out more cowboy philosophy inspiration I found.

Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment about your favorite cowboy or downhome wisdom to be entered to win the gray and white owl scarf and a copy of Family Ties containing my novel Cowboy in the Making pictured here. 

Updated: February 26, 2019 — 8:22 pm