A couple weeks ago, my neighbor discovered a bee swarm on one of our fence posts. (When I first saw it, the swarm was twice the size of the one pictured.) Being a conservationist, I was concerned the swarm was honeybees. Being a paranoid dog owner/foster, I was worried what could happen if dogs and bees met. Thankfully, my ever-calm hubby hopped on the Internet and called Little Giant Beekeepers.
The woman he spoke with said the swarm was probably resting after their hive had been disturbed. They’d send out scouts, find a new home and move in a day or two. But, if we wanted, they could send a beekeeper. With me imagining one or more dogs not having the sense to leave the bees alone, getting stung, and having an allergic reaction, we opted for the beekeeper.
Turned out the bees were honeybees. When Miguel came, he suited up, and with an Amazon box and brush in hand, he swept them into the box! He accomplished the task amazingly fast. (Miguel later told us once the queen is in the box, the remaining bees pretty much follow.) Then he taped the box shut and said the bees would be relocated.
The bee incident made me thinking about Lady Bird Johnson’s legacy. This time of year, wildflowers, particularly Texas’ state flower bluebonnets, bloom along highways and in medians, continuing the conservation efforts she started decades ago. According to http://www.pbs.org/ladybird, on January 27, 1965, Lady Bird wrote in her diary, “Getting on the subject of beautification is like picking up a tangled skein of wool. All the threads are interwoven—recreation and pollution and mental health, and the crime rate, and rapid transit, and highway beautification, and the war on poverty, and parks—national, state and local.”
I’ve always felt passionately about issues. Rarely am I on the fence. These days, two of my soap box issues are conservation and saving honeybees. I keep thinking about planting bee friendly plants–sage, salvia, lavender, clover and native wildflowers. Honeybees are struggling to survive. I believe we all need to do our part to help. After all, as Lady Bird said, everything is interwoven, and honeybees pollinate most plants, including our food. No bees? Life will get tough for other animals. Humans included.
I think the bee swarm was the universe telling me to quit talking about it and improve my garden. This weekend I intend to take a tip from Lady Bird Johnson and plant flowers, because like she believed, “beauty can improve the mental health of a society,” and of course, I’ll choose bee friendly plants. We should be kind to our planet and its inhabitants, honeybees included. We’re in this together, and we should keep the Earth healthy. As French president Macron said, there is no Planet B.
Tonight I’ll select one reader who leaves a comment to receive a Book Club wine glass and a copy of To Catch a Texas Cowboy, where my heroine runs a B&B, The Bluebonnet Inn.
I know the Easter Bunny has come and hopped away, but one day at my favorite shop, Rustic Ranch, I saw the little guy below and couldn’t resist him for a blog giveaway! Since I had an Easter giveaway, I decided to stick with the theme for the post. While researching old-west Easter traditions—or attempting to because my brain and Google’s are on two different wave lengths—I stumbled across an April 21, 2011 article on patch.com. The story by Ryan E. Smith was about Shepherd of the Hills Church and them encouraging people to ride to Easter service on horseback!
The article according to Kathy Alonzo says, “…riding around the area—whether it’s to the store, a service, or a local event can be a wonderful experience.” Then it mentioned that Alonzo is involved in two therapeutic horse programs. Those two things got me thinking how my characters often find the world looks better on horseback. In fact, at least one of my heroes has utter almost exactly those words.
Many animals, particularly horses and dogs, have healing properties we haven’t begun to understand. Equestrian programs help people suffering from traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, and other physical, mental, social or emotional challenges. If horseback riding can help with these major life difficulties, think of what it could do for day-to-day stresses. On their website, Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding, the organization that assisted with my research for Roping the Rancher, says, “To anyone who has been smitten by the calm I’ve-seen-it-all gaze of a horse, or who has stood beside a horse and believed the horse was literally seeing into her soul, the concept of horse-as-healer is not a great stretch.”
In my stories my characters often have a connection with the land around them and have a sense of the Old West heritage. Not only that, but they frequently learn how this connection, along with one to animals changes a person for the better. Technology is wonderful and has improved our lives in countless ways, but there needs to be a better balance between old and new. Maybe we should do more of what Shepherd of the Hills Church did and encourage people to ride a horse to ride to church.
Not all of us have access to a horse, but there are other options that we aren’t using in our society. Families used to live closer together and when Mom and Dad had to work, grandparents were there to help with children. Everyone benefited. No one was alone. That reminded me of an episode of The Middle where Patricia Heaton’s character Frankie wonders why we have separate animal shelters, nursing homes and daycare centers. She talks about how all three groups would benefit from spending time together. I’ve often thought so, too.
My recommendation today is for everyone today to spend time with a young person. Pet a dog or cat. Or, if you’re lucky and have access to a horse, saddle up! Ride to the store, or just around the countryside. No matter what your problems are, I’m betting life will look a lot better after you do.
Now leave me a comment for a chance to win my Easter giveaway!
You’ve probably heard by now that I’ve been bad this year. All those things? I didn’t do them.
For example, I did not snap at my brother, repeatedly. I was showing him what good dental hygiene looks like. And anyway, if he hadn’t tried to usurp my spot in Mom’s lap, somebody who wasn’t me never would’ve snapped.
I also didn’t hop onto the kitchen counter. I climbed up there using a stool. If Mom hadn’t left the stool in such a convenient spot, that wouldn’t have happened, either.
The trash bag incident was the fault of a marauding pack of wild Chihuahuas who broke into the house while I was occupied trying to remove a squirrel from the premises. Have you ever seen the mess marauding Chihuahuas make? It isn’t pretty.
As for the bathroom trashcan… That was my brother. He’s always committing crimes and then pointing the paw at me. Let me tell you, Santa, he’s no angel. I was just trying to clean up the disaster.
When I dragged the roast out of the shopping bag, I was trying to help Mom put away the groceries. Do you realize how flimsy the packaging is on meat? Someone at the grocery store needs to address that.
Likewise, I did not rip open the bag of dog food. “Ripping” is too strong a word. I carefully chewed off a corner—and I only did that so Mom wouldn’t have to wrestle the bag open on her own.
As for peeing in the house… That rule simply isn’t fair. Mom pees in the house. I’ve tried to teach her to go outside, but she’s stubborn. And besides, there’s no DNA evidence to support her claim that she caught me in the act.
I did not drag the clean sheets out of the laundry basket, scruff them into a pile, and lie on them. Everybody knows sheets are much more comfortable on the bed.
Neither did I hide Mom’s shoe. I was redecorating, and Mom left her shoes in a spot that completely destroyed the aesthetic. One shoe created a pleasing avant-garde effect. Two shoes was one too many.
Mom was also to blame when someone bit her nose. She shouldn’t have tried to trim my toenails. I go to great trouble to grow my nails to the precise length required for gardening (which, by the way, isn’t being bad, despite Mom’s insistence she hadn’t planned to put a plant in that spot). It was just a tiny little nip, anyway.
I did not leave teeth marks on the corner of a book. I was checking to make sure Mom’s editor hadn’t missed anything embarrassing. (Mom is notorious for mixing up words like “desert” and “dessert,” you know.) I had to turn the page somehow.
And speaking of her editor… I admit I typed a message into a chatroom where Mom was conversing with the Prairie Rose honchos. I can explain that, though: The minute Mom stepped away from her desk, I could tell gossip was about to erupt. Was I supposed to sit quietly and let them savage Mom while her back was turned?
The accusation that I ate the tamale Mom was going to have for lunch is nothing more than a vicious rumor. There is not the slightest bit of evidence a tamale was ever on that plate.
I also did not find a chicken bone in the yard and attempt to run off and gnaw on it. That was another case of me trying to tidy up the place. Indoors isn’t the only part of the environment around here that could use a good cleaning.
In my defense, I should mention that I try to atone for all the bad things I don’t do by being a fierce watchdog. Nobody gets into my house—not burglars, rapists, ax-murderers, or Mom’s family. (You can’t be too careful, and some of Mom’s relatives look pretty sketchy.)
I hope you will keep all of this in mind when you decide who’s been naughty and nice this year. Just to be sure there’s no mistake, I belong on the “nice” list. If you have to put someone around here on the naughty list, I think it should be pretty clear by now that Mom’s the real troublemaker.
I hope you will bring me my own treats. Otherwise, my brothers and sister will just claim I stole theirs. I would never, ever, contemplate snatching a treat out of someone else’s mouth, no matter what the others say.
If the cookies and milk are gone when you get here, it’s because there’s a marauding cat in the neighborhood, too.
(Ed would like to convince someone to vouch for him to Santa, and he’s willing to stoop to bribery to do so. Leave a comment telling him what you want for Christmas. He’ll pick two commenters and send each an ebook version of the Christmas anthology Wishing for a Cowboy.)
When two people share the same dog, there’s bound to be trouble
The Twelve Brides of Summer collection has just been released. My story The Dog Days of Summer Bride features a cow dog, which is just another name for a herding dog. I’ve always loved border collies so that was my breed of choice. Since the dog in my story has the annoying habit of disappearing every week for a couple of days, the independent nature of these dogs was a trait that served me well. His herding instincts also made him the perfect matchmaker. I mean, if a dog can herd sheep and cattle, he can bring people together, right? Here’s a short blurb:
Music teacher Marilee Davis and blacksmith Jed Colbert don’t realize they’ve been sharing the same dog until…it digs up a stash of stolen loot. The reward will go to the dog’s owner—if only that can be determined.
Border collies have an interesting history. In the 19th century a Northumberland man created the ideal herding dog by combining several breeds. This particular dog was especially suited to herding sheep along the border dividing Scotland and England, which is how it got its name. Collie is a Scottish dialect word to describe herding dogs.
Scottish sheepherders immigrating to America brought their border collies with them. Some of these same sheepherders were lured west during the California gold rush, dogs by their side. It didn’t take long for cattlemen to note the value of these black and white dogs and this led to a whole new way of herding.
A good cow dog can do the work of seven cowboys. (Today workers are replaced by machines and robots; back then it was dogs.) By the end of the nineteenth century, border collies and Australian cattle dogs were a familiar sight on every working ranch and cattle drive.
The dog in my story has the annoying habit of disappearing each week. Tell us about a habit (annoying or endearing) that your dog or a dog you know has, and you could win a copy of The Twelve Brides of Summer and a dog toy made by yours truly. (Note Giveaway Guidelines apply.)
Why do so many women named Kathleen become romance authors? They’re everywhere.
Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Kathleen Kane, Kathleen O’Brien, Kathleen Baldwin, Kathleen Eagle, Kathleen Kellow, Kathleen Maxwell, Kathleen Bittner Roth, Kathleen M. Rodgers, Kathleen Ball, Kathleen Y’Barbo, Kathleen Winsor… They’re all somewhat celebrated, and some are still writing today.
Then there’s that other Kathleen—the one who finds humor in the most inappropriate places at the worst possible times. The Kathleen whose wardrobe consists primarily of egg on her face and the taste of shoe leather on her tongue. The Kathleen who encourages fictional characters to cuss and steal and murder and commit all manner of other dastardly deeds because they can get away with it and she can’t.
The troublemaking one. The one who reveres sarcasm as high art. The one who should be rich and famous by now if for no other reason than name association.
My current hideout. Forget you saw it.
To tell you the truth, I find it more satisfying to be poor and infamous—which is a good thing, since I’m a pro at both pursuits.
Here are a few more truths:
1) I’m the eldest of four siblings: two girls and two boys. (Yes, four middle-aged hooligans with similar DNA remain at large. Be afraid.) Three of us are overachievers: My sister is a retired judge, the eldest of the boys is literally a rocket scientist, and the baby of the family is a computer systems engineer. And then there’s me.
2) My sister, brothers, and I played cowboys and Indians a lot when we were kids. I was always the outlaw. Why no one saw that as a warning remains a mystery.
3) I retired from the U.S. Air Force at the ripe old age of 22. No, I was not mustered out on a Section 8, although that would’ve surprised no one.
4) I still have my wisdom teeth, my appendix, and my tonsils. My mind, on the other hand, hasn’t been seen in years.
The Hole in the Web Gang, clockwise from top left: Dog, age 12; Underdog, 7; Little Ol’ Biddy, 15; Mr. Ed, 4.
5) As a journalist, I’ve worked the scene of a major airline disaster, covered political scandals, written columns about poltergeist-infested commodes and human kindness, won awards…and found myself staring at the wrong end of a gun—twice. Thankfully, I’ve yet to be ventilated. (A more astute individual might have realized it’s unwise to antagonize crazy people.)
6) My author bio says I come from “a long line of ranchers, preachers, and teachers on one side and horse thieves and moonshiners on the other.” I did not make any of that up. Some of my relatives still ranch, preach, and teach. The horse thieves and moonshiners found other lines of work.
7) My paternal grandmother’s mother was American Indian. Grandma never knew what tribe; consequently, neither do I. In the late 1800s, Kentucky hillbillies considered marrying an Indian shameful, so no one talked about great-grandma’s heritage. My grandmother never met her mother’s relatives. (My dad, who as a child helped his father run moonshine, was the first in his family’s history to earn a college degree. He referred to himself as a “hillwilliam.”)
8) My short story “Peaches” was based on my maternal grandparents’ courtship. Granny, a young widow who taught in a one-room Texas schoolhouse and had her hands full with three rowdy boys, took a peach pie to a church social. The man who was to become my grandfather, a bachelor rancher in his 50s, won the accidentally over-seasoned pie at auction. He nearly choked to death on the first bite. His response? “I s’pose I ought to marry that little woman ‘fore she kills somebody.”
9) My house celebrated its 100th birthday last year. Compared to some of the other homes on Galveston Island, it’s a youg’un. The Capt. H.H. Hadley House (yes, it has a name) was completed in August 1915…two weeks before a deadly Category 4 hurricane struck. More than three dozen big blows later, it’s still standing.
10)Four Chihuahuas ranging in age from four to fifteen live in this house. Whatever they’ve told you about the intractability of their servant, don’t believe them. If they didn’t want to be deviled by a spoiled-rotten delinquent, they shouldn’t have rescued me.
There. Now you know all of my deep, dark secrets. Before you decide to pursue blackmail, read “The Ransom of Red Chief.”
To compensate for the loss of financial opportunity, I’ll give away a copy of The Dumont Brand, which contains the first two stories in a series about a Texas ranching dynasty with more skeletons in its closets than there are in a graveyard. “The Trouble with Honey,” a new story in the series, will be published this summer.
To enter the drawing, leave a comment revealing something about you. Oh, c’mon. It’ll be fun! Your life can’t be any more embarrassing than mine. 😉
Hello everyone. Winnie Griggs here. I’m very excited about the recent release of The Road Home, the new novella I wrote as part of the Journeys of the Heart collection. This story is one I’ve been wanting to write for some time, but it’s a little bit of a departure for me. For one thing Anisha, my heroine, has a mother who was born in India and a father who is an American merchant sea captain.
For another, I pictured her with a pet that was a bit out of the ordinary, something to match her own exotic appearance. And since her father was a sea captain who sailed all over the world, I wasn’t limited to animals in her native country. After trying out several animals, I finally settled on a parrot. But this in turn spurred me to additional research. I never realized there were so many species! From small to quite large, from colorful to drab-in fact there are more than 350 species that belong to the order parrots are members of. It was quite fun to browse through all the pictures I could find of these colorful, exotic birds.
But I had to narrow my search so I came up with a list of criteria for what characteristics I wanted her feathered companion to have. He needed to be long-lived, intelligent, loyal, imposing and able to talk (not all parrots can). I finally settle on the African Grey parrot. African grey’s, while not the most colorful of the parrot family, have a lot to recommend them. They are long-lived, in fact have been known to live for upwards of 80 years. But more importantly, they are considered the most intelligent of the parrot family and can develop quite an extensive vocabulary. They have been described as having “… the intelligence level of up to a five-year old with the temperament of a two-year old…” Bingo – this was exactly what I was looking for. And thus Anisha’s companion, Sundar (which means ‘beautiful’ in Hindi) came to life for me.
My research into parrots, however, led me down a fun rabbit trail of additional research. During all of my digging into keeping pet parrots, I found some really gorgeous Victorian birdcages. Some of them were unbelievably extravagant. You can get a peak at some of them using this link.
So what about you? Do you have first hand experience with parrots? If not, how do you feel about them as potential pets – can you picture yourself with one? Leave a comment today and be entered into the drawing for a copy of the novella collection that contains my story, The Road Home.
Here’s a short excerpt from the opening of the story:
Where had they gotten off to?
Wyatt Murdoch’s irritation was turning into worry. This was the third time his two young charges had tried to slip away from him on their journey from Indiana to Texas, and they’d only made it as far as Arkansas. Thank goodness they’d arrive at their destination tomorrow. Of course, that assumed he found them before the train left. This was the longest they’d managed to keep out of his sight and the train would be resuming its journey in less than twenty minutes.
Why did they keep running away when they had no place to go? And how could a ten year old girl and eight year old boy have so completely disappeared when he’d only turned his back for a moment?
He supposed he couldn’t really blame them for wanting to get outside and enjoy the fresh air and warm spring sunshine, especially when they’d been cooped up on the train for four very long days. But they could have just asked him.
He scanned the horizon and caught sight of the circus tents off in the distance. Of course. That would have drawn Hallie and Jonah like ants to a picnic.
He started off in that direction at a fast walk. If they missed the train because of this nonsense…
He was some distance from the circus tents when he caught sight of his charges. But they weren’t alone. A woman, small in stature but big in presence, walked between them holding onto a hand of each. There was something faintly exotic-looking about her—it had something to do with the warm golden color of her skin and the shape of her eyes.
There was also the fact that she wore some kind of padded leather affair on her left shoulder, and regally perched upon that shoulder was what looked like a large gray parrot.
Someone associated with the circus, no doubt. Was she an actual performer or just an assistant?
More importantly, had she caught the children trying to sneak into the big top or one of the side shows? Or worse yet, had they gotten too close to her parrot and hurt it in some way?
He hoped she was looking for their caretaker—namely him—and not the sheriff. But from the frown on her face and stiff determination of her posture, she was obviously unhappy about something.
He quickened his pace. “You two have a lot to answer for,” he said as soon as he reached them.
But it was the woman who responded. “You are the person responsible for these children?”
He noticed that she had a faint accent of some sort, but he couldn’t quite place it. “I am. And I apologize for whatever they—”
She cut through his apology. “It appears you are not doing a very good job of watching out for them.”
Her accusation and tone got his back up. “Keeping up with them is not the easiest job in the world.”
“So watching over them is your job? Are you their nanny?”
“Are you their nanny?” The parrot squawked. “Are you their nanny?”
There were muffled giggles from the children at the bird’s echoed words, which Wyatt chose to ignore.
He tugged on his cuff, trying to maintain his dignity. “No, I am not their nanny,” he said. “I am their escort. Now if you will just hand them over, we have a train to catch.”
If anything, the woman clasped their hands tighter. “They tell me they ran away because you have not been treating them well.”
Wyatt glanced from Hallie to Jonah, making his displeasure clear. Another loud squawk from the bird did nothing to smooth his temper. “What you should know about these two runaways is that they are not only slippery, but they also lie.”
Her frown only deepened. “Those are harsh words to use about children, sir.”
How in the world had he gotten into this ridiculous discussion with a circus performer? Before he could respond, she turned to the children.
Her expression was that of a schoolmarm handing a failing grade to a favorite student. “Have you been telling me untruths?”
Both children shook their heads vigorously.
“He doesn’t let us do anything fun and he’s always fussing,” Hallie said.
“Anyone can tell he doesn’t even like us,” Jonah added.
The woman once again turned an accusing look his way.
But it was his turn to cut her off before she could speak. “That is neither here nor there, madam. It is my job to escort these children safely into the keeping of their great-uncle, and I intend to do just that. Now, I don’t have time to stand here and argue with you. We need to be on that train when it pulls out from the station.” He held out his left hand, keeping his right carefully down at his side. “Come along you two.”
The children looked up to their circus-performer friend, obviously ready to ask for her support. Had they formed such a quick bond because of the exciting nature of her life? Or was it just that they thought anyone better than he?
To his surprise, the stranger gave them a shake of her head. “Go on with your escort as he asks. It’s his job to keep you safe. And you should apologize for causing him worry, even if you don’t think he likes you. He may not be the most pleasant of people, but he is trying to look out for you, and you should respect him for that, not make his task more difficult.” She shot him a quick glance, then turned back to the children. “Besides, I’m sure he’s not really a bad man at heart.”
Was that condescension in her tone? His irritation changed to shock when the children came to him without further argument.
“We’re sorry, Mr. Murdoch,” Hallie said. “Aren’t we, Jonah?”
Wyatt was dumbfounded. How had she gotten these two mischief makers to obey her without argument?
Journeys Of The Heart
From merry old England to the wilds of Texas, take a delightful journey into adventure and romance in these novellas written by authors Camille Elliot, Winnie Griggs and Erica Vetsch. In these three stories you’ll travel alongside a feisty spinster, an English lord, a trail boss, a determined widow, and an unusual train companion—a parrot.
The Road Home by Winnie Griggs
Wyatt Murdoch feels his life is over—his career certainly is. In fact, he’s agreed to escort two orphans halfway across the country mainly because he needs a distraction. But when the task proves more than he bargained for, he seeks help from the exotic beauty with the talkative parrot who befriended the children when they slipped away from him.
Anisha Hayes, who’s hiding wounds of her own, has left her uncomfortable home to seek adventure. However, something about this unorthodox trio touches her heart, so when Wyatt asks for her help she agrees to put her plans on hold to accompany them. After all, it’s only a temporary detour.
But when they reach their destination, both Wyatt and Anisha find it’s not as easy to part ways as they’d planned…