Category: Places

Homesteading on the Prairie

 

Homesteading on the Prairie

By Kathryn Albright
Tales of Courage & Hope

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I have scurried down many rabbit holes in my research so that my books set in western Kansas are historically accurate. Rivers, native fish, agriculture, Native Americans, sod houses, native birds and wildlife, cattle drives and cattle breeding are a handful of these “holes.” The internet is a big help in fact-finding, but my-oh-my do I get lost at times and surface just before it is time to prepare supper for my family!

For my next book in the Oak Grove Series, I’ve had to do some research into homesteading on the prairie.

The early inhabitants of Oak Grove, a fictional town set along the Smoky Hill River, lived in tents made from the canvas of their prairie schooners, but with the Kansas-Pacific Railroad now established all the way to Denver (1878), the small town was growing and wooden structures were springing up as the train brought supplies from the east and wood from the Rocky Mountains. The town prospered with the nearby stockyards that shipped cattle (up from the drives in Texas) to the miners in Colorado and to Chicago.

Railroad land grant Kansas

Homestead Act of 1862

However, some who lived out of town on 160 acres of their own, were farmers who’d come west with nothing but a dream to take advantage of the government’s Homestead Act of 1862. Requirements to own a plot of land by this means included:

  1. Must be at least 21 years of age.
  2. Must be a citizen or an immigrant with the intention of becoming a citizen.
  3. Must pay a filing fee (usually at the Land Office in the nearest town where it was also determined that no one else had claimed that particular parcel of land.)
  4. Must farm the land and live on it for five years before gaining the official deed to the property.
  5. Must build a home within six months. (Requirements in some states included the minimum dimensions of the home, one glass window, and also building a well.)

Homesteading on the Prairie

On the open prairie, it seemed that all weather was extreme. On arriving, many of the “sod busters” began by building a small dugout into the side of hill, just to escape the relentless wind, sun, snow and rain. Since there were no trees or large stones for construction material, the settlers would use their mules, oxen, or horses, and a special plow to cut rectangles of sod, 18” x 24” (weight = 50 pounds) to use as “bricks” for their home. These would be set so that the roots could grow and intermingle into the next row of sod, creating a very strong wall.

The base of a soddie was wide and the walls would then taper inward slightly to allow for settling. Most had a dirt floor, but later a puncheon or plank flooring might be used. On the inside, the walls would be plastered with mud to create a smooth appearance. Open windows were covered with oil cloth. A fireplace for cooking would take up one wall of the house.

The roof caused the most concern in the building process. Wooden poles, laid across the rim of the sod house, were then overlaid with bundles of brush. On top of the brush, more sod blocks were placed. Dirt clods dropping form the roof was a problem as well as other insects and an occasional snake. If the sod became too wet after a hard rain it could cave in. Every few years, depending on the severity of the weather, the roof would have to be replaced. Structures had one to three rooms and were surprisingly very snug and warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Homesteading on the Prairie

With all the difficulties they had to face, the years of too much or too little rain for their crops, less than 50 percent of homesteaders achieved the five-year requirement and acquired the deed to their land. Those who did not, went back home or traveled further west. Although most homesteaders consisted of a husband and wife and often children, a single woman or widow could also homestead and work to own the land. Once source reported that single and widowed women made up to 12 percent of the men and women homesteading in the Rocky Mountain area.

From 1862 to 1900 over 600,000 claims to homestead were filed. The Homestead Act ended in 1976 for the contiguous 48 states and in 1986 for Alaska.

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Learning these facts helped me form the basis of my fictional character’s life on the prairie. I was worried that the land would not be hers after her husband died, but was gratified to know she could hold on to it and it would be there for her son, and her son’s son if he chose that same life. That is why she fights for it so fiercely. The Prairie Doctor’s Bride, a western historical romance, won’t be available for a few more months, but it is available for pre-order here ~ [  Amazon  ]

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I doubt that I would have lasted six months living in a sod house! The bugs falling from the roof would have been too much for me! What, for you, would have been the most difficult part of life in a soddie?

Comment to be entered into a drawing to receive my latest release ~ Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove!

Homesteading on the Prairie

 

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Return to Oregon’s Past with Tracie Peterson

We Fillies are thrilled to have author Tracie Peterson with us today to talk about another of her wonderful books and a fascinating slice of Oregon history. Welcome, Tracie!

The last book in my Heart of the Frontier series, Cherished Mercy, debuts this month, and I found myself revisiting research that I did for this series and in particular for this final installment. Cherished Mercy takes place in the Oregon Territory, as did the other books in the series.

However, most of the area where Cherished Mercy takes place is in the Rogue River and coastal area of Southern Oregon. To research the area, I took a trip to the Rogue River, enjoyed a wonderful river tour and took lots of notes and pictures. I read various books about the Rogue River Indians and the conflicts that took place there during the 1850s. After starting the series with the Cayuse attack on the Whitman Mission near present day Walla Walla, Washington, I thought it interesting to contrast the end of the series with the attacks of the whites on many of the various Native American tribes in the Rogue River area.

The Rogue River is a fertile, lush area that provided not only fishing for the native peoples, but also revealed a bit of gold which caused the white settlers to pursue the area in hopes of finding riches. As is often the case, this didn’t prove as bountiful as the miners had hoped. However, it turned up the heat on the already tense relationship between the native tribes and the whites.

There were multiple tribes who called the Rogue River home, but people tended to lump them together as the “Rogue River Indians.” I chose to deal with the Takelma who lived on the Rogue River near Agness.

You can see from this map, however, that there were many tribes that lived along the Rogue River.

The Takelma were an interesting people, not so unlike many of their neighboring tribes. They lived in houses that were dug about halfway into the ground and made of split sugar-pine wood.  Here’s an illustration showing how the natives in this area lived. Often, we think of Native Americans and teepees come to mind, but there were so many different varieties of housing.

Acorns were of immense importance to the Takelma. They used these as a staple in their eating and made flour from them. Camass root and fish were also staples of their diet, but manzanita berries were an all-time favorite.  I did my best to weave in elements of their life and culture in Cherished Mercy.

Sadly, the Rogue River Indian Wars saw our government make big pushes toward the forced reservation system for the American Indian tribes. The Rogue River tribes were moved from a lush forested area along the river where they had fertile soil and plenty of game and fish to live on to an arid, open area of Oregon that was nothing like what they had known. It was called “The Second Trail of Tears.” Thousands would later die of disease, exposure and malnutrition.  It’s a sad time in our history.

I hope my readers will enjoy the conclusion of the series. I’ve loved this little corner of history and I’ll share a secret. I’m already thinking about a second related series dealing with the next generation from these families. I think it’s important that we learn from our history, but also that we cherish and honor it. Every element is important to who we are today and through stories like this, I hope to keep that history alive.

Tracie is offering a great prize to one of today’s commenters. The gift basket contains not only all three books in her Heart of the Frontier series but also some awesome Montana goodies.

Updated: September 12, 2017 — 3:36 pm

New Kid in Town!

I AM A FILLY!

I’ve always been a girl… And then a woman/sister/mom/wife/daughter/sister-in-law/grandma….

But now I’m officially a Petticoats and Pistols filly and do you know why?

I write Westerns.

It’s not my fault.

IT’S NEVER MY FAULT!  (Just had to get that out of my system.)

But this time it’s true… Love Inspired asked me to be part of a Western continuity a few years ago and I was hooked.

#mustlovecowboys

#cowboysrock

I am over the moon and if that sounds overdone, trust me: it’s not. It’s facts, ma’ams, simply facts.  And huge thanks to the wonderful writers/cowgirls of Petticoats & Pistols for bringing me ’round the campfire. But how is writing a Western novel different from writing my typical novels?

BOOK ONE of the DOUBLE S RANCH SERIES AVAILABLE HERE!

That’s Colt Stafford on the cover. And  that cover is a clue. Western heroes are larger than life, regardless of size… Because it’s not the size of the man. It’s the size of the heart.

Real cowboys are strong enough to be gentle… They’re man enough to put others needs, including the horse, the stock, the wife, the kids… before theirs. They’re tough enough to find faith, even if it’s not for the first time. They practice “Cowboy code” and they’re proud of it.  Whether you’re the oldest brother Colt, pictured above…

Or the middle brother, Nick: (Nick’s book is a finalist in the Maggie Award of Excellence for 2017. It’s available here.)

Or the country crooner superstar youngest brother, Trey:

Westerns are different in lots of ways. The obvious distinction is setting, and that’s a big difference because the West prides itself on being The West… Movies and books chronicle the push west, Ken Burns did a whole documentary about Westward expansion, Western movies and television shows abound and there are high school and college courses done on the positives and negatives of that westward push. History books cleaned up some stories, while scholars re-painted those same stories with dark intent that sometimes went to opposite extremes.

In the midst of it all, a region was built, bought, separated, fought for, fought over, divided and maintained. The heartland became the opening segue into the American We. With land spreading west, north and south, new states, cities, towns, villages and ranches were born. People moved west, moved back east, and moved west again, pushing that invisible wall of separation until they hit the Pacific Ocean.

I’ve delved into the history of it to create a fictional town set in South Dakota, one in Idaho and one… romance in a soddy!… in eastern Nebraska.

I’ve written an award-winning, bestselling series about the contemporary west, and loved it.

Whether my stories are set in modern times or historical venues, they have one thing in common: Love. And strong, strong women.

I love strong women.

I love empowering women.

Women are the unsung heroes in so many roles in life, but not in a Ruthy book. A memorable hero is a wonderful thing. But I love a book that celebrates the strong overcomer in a woman. A book that champions HER as much as it does him…

Because I believe women are blessed with an amazing strength that gets overlooked too often. Hey, I’ve been in a labor bed… and at a bedside, holding a dying hand. I’ve been in an emergency room, watching skilled professionals try to save a life… and at a graveside, mourning when life succumbs.

A great Western is a story of strength… of hope… of love.

My joy in writing gets polished in all of my books, but my cowboy books grab a piece of my heart and don’t let go… Maybe it’s the hat.

Maybe it’s the setting.

Or maybe… just maybe… it’s that pioneer-loving side of me that will never take the American West for granted.

Hey, I brought some home-made ice cream and chocolate dipped cones… and strong coffee.  Join me inside and if you leave a comment, I’ll toss your cute name into a hat for the first Double S Ranch book “Back in the Saddle”. Let’s talk why we love romance

Ranches, Horses and Cowboys, Oh My!

Lately I’ve wondered how an Iowa city girl ended up writing romances with cowboy heroes. Or, I’ve wondered about the reasons other than the obvious—that cowboys are incredibly sexy. For my first official blog as a filly at Petticoats and Pistols, I’m sharing what fascinates me about cowboys.

For me, a cowboy isn’t as much about the occupation as the state of mind and attitude. Sure when I think of a cowboy, I see a man in form fitting Levi’s or Wranglers. I see dusty, worn cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, but it’s more than that, too. There’s something about the way he moves in a slow, yet deliberate way, that says he’ll take his time with what matters in life. If you’ve seen Scott Eastwood in The Longest Ride, you know what I mean. If not, watch it now. I’ll wait.

Now that we’re done drooling over Scott, back to the topic at hand. Cowboys have a connection to the land that goes deeper than most people’s. That taps into my love of my grandparents’ farm in Decorah, Iowa. I spent hours wandering over that land spinning stories and imaging my life living on a similar place. Writing about my heroes and heroines strolling over their land or walking along Wishing’s streets fill me with the same warm affection. That intense bond with the ZSAER%^land was a big inspiration behind my Wishing, Texas series. For those heroes, their link Ty Barnett’s ranch, The Bar 7 and each other anchor their lives.

As to a cowboy’s attitude and mind-set—people see him as a loner, and he is, but I also see his strong tie to family. Family, however he defines it, is allowed past his guard. When I wrote my first novel for Harlequin, I wanted my hero so desperate for money he’d model in New York. But I wanted something different. What does a cowboy love more than his ranch and horse? His mama. That one detail told me everything I needed to know about my hero.

A cowboy has a sense of honor that factors into every decision. In my first Wishing, Texas book, To Love A Texas Cowboy, Ty Barnett’s world is turned upside down because of a promise to a friend. One he’ll keep even if it means dealing with Cassie Reynolds. This unwavering honor paired with a good dose of Alpha male, makes writing stories with cowboy heroes fun when I turn the tables on them. In To Catch A Texas Cowboy, AJ Quinn’s sick of hearing “let’s just be friends” from women. Poor cowboy. I had a blast torturing AJ giving him what he asked, but not what he bargained for, in New Yorker Grace Henry.

For me, these characteristics make cowboys fascinating, and oh so hero-worthy. Now it’s your turn. Tell me what it about cowboys makes you swoon or say that’s a hero?

I’m giving away a copy of To Catch A Texas Cowboy and a wine glass. Post a comment to enter.

 

Updated: August 1, 2017 — 8:54 am

My Southwestern Vacation

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

I’ve just recently returned from a week long family vacation to Arizona where we had an absolute blast.  There were twelve members in our group, though we didn’t all travel together. Me, my husband and two of our kids flew together into Flagstaff.  My oldest daughter and her husband flew into with plans to drive to the Grand Canyon from there.  And my youngest daughter and her extended family (a group of 6) decided to drive and make several stops along the way.  All through the week our groups came together in a very fluid way, different combinations breaking off on different days to do things of particular interest to them. But by mid-week we were all together at Bright Angel Lodge on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon.  For about half the group it was their first time to view this awesome wonder in person and they were blown away by the views.  For the rest of us, revisiting the place had almost as big an impact as seeing it for the first time.

Anyway, I thought I’d give you all a little taste of what we experienced by sharing just some of the many pictures we took.

Flagstaff was our home base for this trip. Our first full day there, we took the scenic drive from Flagstaff to Sedona, stopping at several points along the way to admire the scenery and take pictures.

When we returned to Flagstaff we decided to take a trip out to the nearby Lowell Observatory. We were lucky in that there was a cloudless sky and we were able to get clear views of the sun, moon, Saturn and  Jupiter through the many telescopes they had set out.  Seeing the actual rings of Saturn as well as the pencil dot moons was VERY cool.

The next day we all headed out to the Grand Canyon Notional Park.  Six of us decided to take the two hour train ride out of nearby Williams to get there. Williams is a fun place right on Route 66. They are set up to entertain tourists and there are fun little Wild West shows at the train station you can watch while waiting on departure time.  The train ride itself was fun (it was my first time on a train) and as you can see from the photo below it was quite comfy 🙂

We spent two days at the park itself, staying in cabins at the wonderful Bright Angel Lodge which is located right on the south rim itself.

Our first day there we  just enjoyed the area around the lodge and got the lay of the land. Our second day, we all headed in different directions.  Four of our group decided to hike down into the canyon along the Bright Angel Trail (it goes without saying I wasn’t one of their number!).

The rest of us went on various exploration trips. Hubby and I saw both the Desert View Watchtower and Hermit’s Rest, two structures designed in the early twentieth century by Mary Colter, one of the few females architects of her time.

We also stopped at a lot of the viewing sights along the way. At one particular spot hubby spotted a rock formation that resembled a human profile. I took a photo of it – can you make it out? We also spotted several elk along the roadside and folks in our group managed to get photos of two of them.

After two days at the Grand Canyon, we headed out, again splitting into two groups, those that were driving the whole way started home, the rest of us headed back to Flagstaff. Along the way, though, we visited a wildlife park called Bearizona.  There were lots of different kinds of animals there – mountain goats, buffalo, wolves and more – but my favorites were the bears. And we got photos of two especially enterprising ones that found a way to cool off.

Our last day out we revisited Sedona for a jeep tour of the area.  It was a teeth-rattling bumpy ride but so worth it for the views.  Here is a picture our driver took of the four of us.

When we returned to Flagstaff we decided to cap off our vacation with a trip to the Snowbowl. It’s a ski lift that operates in the off season to take tourists up to the top of the peak. It’s a thirty minute ride that carries you up to an ear-popping elevation of 11,500 feet.

And then it was time to head home.

As I said it was a wonderful vacation, one that will make me smile whenever I remember it.

What about you? Have you ever visited this part of our country? And do you have a favorite vacation you look back on fondly?

 

 

 

I LOVE STORIES ABOUT THE WILD WEST

  We’re delighted to welcome our guest,  Anne Greene.  Anne has graciously offered to give away three autographed copies of SPUR OF THE MOMENT BRIDE. (Sweepstake guidelines apply)

I love stories about the wild west, and horses, feisty women, and best of all cowboys. I live in Texas, and though most of the men I meet in my fast-growing town are regular-type men wearing business suits or jogging outfits or casual wear, on occasion I run into a real cowboy. I gape at him with his tight jeans, fitted shirt, cowboy boots, rodeo trophy belt buckle, and black Stetson.

But today the modern cowboy, rather than ride a horse, drives an enormous black truck with a rifle slung across the back window of his double-cab. I wrote about such a cowboy, except he rode a black Harley motorcycle, in my soon to be released book, Mystery At Dead Broke Ranch.

When I was single I even dated a real cowboy, and he delighted in showing me his trophy belt buckle and talking about his rodeo exploits. He was handsome too. So much so that I didn’t feel we were a match. But the few dates I allowed with him were fun. He even let me ride his horse.

My newest released book, Firecracker Bride, takes place in Texas, near the historic Alamo. Cat Divine resists stage robbers, her demanding father, gossiping neighbors, and flash floods. But can she resist Travis McGuire, a hero with a heart and bravery as big as his Texas home?

Seems many of my books are set in Wyoming rather than Texas. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know. I love Texas, but I enjoy visiting Wyoming. My book, A Christmas Belle, is set in Wyoming. Amanda is a southern belle who becomes a Mail Order Bride. She expects to marry a Wyoming cowboy, but the Wyoming Sheriff puts duty before love.

Felicity discovers Ben at Fort Laramie in A Groom For Christmas.

When I’m not writing about sheriffs, I’m writing about stagecoach drivers. In today’s give-away book, SPUR OF THE MOMENT BRIDE, heiress Abby Hollister’s Papa demands she stop toying with young men’s hearts and marry within a month or be disinherited. She determines to become a mail-order bride and travel to untamed Laramie, Wyoming. Abby creates a list of characteristics she expects for her prospective husband and sets off to claim the perfect mate and secure her personal fortune.

Stage coach driver, Zach Tyler likes his exciting job where he outsmarts robbers and Indians and keeps the stage running regardless of weather, break-downs, and ornery passengers. But passenger Abby Hollister proves to be an unusual challenge. He protects her on the journey to Laramie, but in that town women are as scarce as a bird’s nest in a cuckoo clock, and men go crazy when the beauty arrives seeking a husband.

My own hero husband isn’t a cowboy, but he looks like one when we go Texas Two-Stepping. He wears his tight jeans, fitted shirt, and cowboy boots. And he’s tall, lanky, and laid-back. But he’s not the strong, silent type. He’s the strong, talkative type. And I love him with all my heart. And he rides a Harley.

But, I am certain I shall write many more western stories because I do so love cowboys!

Be sure to visit me at http://www.AnneGreeneAuthor.com.

So what do you like most about cowboys?

 

 

ABOUT ANNE GREENE: My home is in the quaint antiquing town of McKinney, Texas, just a few miles north of Dallas. My dear husband is a retired Colonel, Army Special Forces. My little brown and white Shih Tzu, Lily Valentine, shares my writing space, curled at my feet. I have four beautiful, talented children, and eight grandchildren who keep me running.

I’ve traveled in every location of each book I’ve written, and each book is a book of my heart. Besides my first love, writing, I enjoy travel, art, sports, reading, sailing, snorkeling, movies, and way too many other things to mention. Life is good. Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life and that you might have it more abundantly.” Whether writing contemporary or historical, my books celebrate the abundant life Jesus gives.

 

Updated: June 23, 2017 — 11:26 am

Welcome Guest Janalyn Voigt

Top 10 Surprising Facts

About the Old West

Like most authors, I have an inquisitive nature. Maybe that’s why I gravitated toward writing western historical fiction. With so much lovely research to do, who could resist? A trove of little-known facts became my reward. I’m here to share some of the jewels I found with you.

Wild camels roamed the plains. The United States Camel Corps formed to help occupy desert tracts following the Mexican-American War. The first camels arrived in spring, 1856. Completion of the railroad ended the program., however The government sold some of the camels, but others escaped into the wild. The last encounter with a feral camel in America was confirmed in 1941, but unofficial sightings continue into modern times.

Credit: Courtesy of annca at pixabay.com

Everyone did not pack a gun. Guns came at a high price some couldn’t afford. Also, individual towns (including Dodge, Deadwood, and Tombstone) banned firearms.

Dance hall girls weren’t necessarily prostitutes. A lonely man would pay for the privilege of dancing with a woman. Some dance hall girls entertained men upstairs, but others simply danced.

Most men didn’t wear Stetsons. The ‘hat that won the West’ was the bowler (or derby). The iconic Stetson wasn’t introduced until 1865 and cost a lot more. The bowler predominated.

Credit: Courtesy of skeeze at pixabay.com

Buffalo never existed in the West. Settlers incorrectly referred to bison as ‘buffalo’ because they resembled the African cape buffalo and Asian water buffalo. American bison are a different species.

Indians were civilized. Native Americans engaged in agriculture, developed irrigation systems, traded with one another, and built cities. They were a far cry from ‘savages.’

A disaster few remember took more lives than the Titanic’s sinking. The steamboat Sultana went down in 1865 while overloaded with prisoners freed from a Confederate prison. More than 1,800 people died, a greater number than the 1,517 lost in the Titanic disaster. News related to the assassination of President Lincoln overshadowed the worst maritime disaster in U.S history. Few remember the ‘Titanic of the Mississippi’ today.

Men wore denim. Jacob W. Davis and Levi Strauss patented the first rivet-strengthened denim pants in 1871. Work clothes made from denim cloth had existed before that date.

 

Whiskey contained poisons. Called such things as tanglelegs, forty rod, coffin varnish, and strychnine, rotgut whiskey sold in the Wild West might include turpentine, ammonia, gunpowder, or other toxic ingredients.

Montana had a gold rush. Lesser known than the 49ers of California and sourdoughs of Alaska, Montana miners started stampeding for gold in 1862. I wrote the Montana Gold series to highlight this dramatic era in Montana history.

 

Hills of Nevermore

(Montana Gold, book 1)

Can a young widow hide her secret shame from the Irish circuit preacher bent on helping her survive?

In an Idaho Territory boom town, America Liberty Reed overhears circuit preacher Shane Hayes try to persuade a hotel owner to close his saloon on Sunday. Shane lands face-down in the mud for his trouble, and there’s talk of shooting him. America intervenes and finds herself in an unexpectedly personal conversation with the blue-eyed preacher. Certain she has angered God in the past, she shies away from Shane.

Addie Martin, another widow, invites America to help in her cook tent in Virginia City, the new mining town. Even with Addie’s teenage son helping with America’s baby, life is hard. Shane urges America to depart for a more civilized location. Neither Shane’s persuasions nor road agents, murder, sickness, or vigilante violence can sway America. Loyalty and ambition hold her fast until dire circumstances force her to confront everything she believes about herself, Shane, and God.

Based on actual historical events during a time of unrest in America, Hills of Nevermore explores faith, love, and courage in the wild west.

Purchase Hills of Nevermore

Amazon

Click to preview chapters

About Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt’s lifelong love of storytelling began in childhood when she dreamed up her own bedtime stories. She grew into a precocious reader, a pastime she credits with teaching her to write. Janalyn trained formally with Christian Writers Guild. Today she is a multi-genre author and literary judge. Janalyn is represented by Wordserve Literary.

Updated: May 27, 2017 — 11:32 am

Southwest Style

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, built 1869

I’m not sure what it is in a person’s makeup that draws them to certain things, but I’ve always loved the art and architecture of the Southwest. Adobe homes, Spanish tiles, turquoise doors, Native American art and jewelry and pottery. I used to flip through the pages of home magazines to appreciate the various layouts and decor. I’d imagine having an adobe home with an interior courtyard complete with cobalt blue tiles as accents and a fountain. I think part of this may have come from some long-ago historical romance I read that had something to do with Pancho Villa and had a hacienda with such a courtyard described. Alas, I don’t remember the book or the author.

Palace of the Governors, built 1610

Back in the 1990s, I went to a conference in Santa Fe, New Mexico for my day job. I had one afternoon where I could just wander around the city and loved every minute of it. I visited the old churches such as the Loretto Chapel and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi; took a trolley tour around the area; admired the bright and beautiful art at the city’s many, many art galleries; appreciated the public art that was seemingly everywhere; and perused the wonderful works of craftsmanship by residents of the nearby pueblos — art, jewelry and pottery that they offered for sale outside the Palace of the Governors. The Palace sits on the city’s plaza in the middle of town. It was built in 1610 and is the oldest continuously occupied building in the United States.

It really is amazing how incredibly different even sections of the West can be from each other. Texas is different from New Mexico is different from Montana. They are all beautiful in their own ways and have their own distinctive styles and cultures. But the Southwest is perhaps the most distinctive because of its Native American and Spanish/Mexican influences. It takes on the brown and red earthy hues of the rugged Southwestern landscape and adds in incredibly eye-popping colors — blues, reds, oranges and purples. Adobes pots and trellises overflow with tons of vibrant pink bougainvillea.

I’d really like to visit Santa Fe again sometime when I have more than an afternoon to explore. There are things I missed and even more that have been added in the years since I visited.

Are you a fan of Southwestern architecture and art? What are your favorite styles? Let me know what you think for a chance to win an autographed copy of my book, The Rancher’s Surprise Baby, which releases next week. It’s the latest in my Blue Falls, Texas series from Harlequin Western Romance and the second book featuring the five siblings of the Hartley family. Yes, it’s my birthday today, but I’m giving away a present instead. 🙂

Updated: May 28, 2017 — 12:39 pm

Wagon-training around the Tetons~Tanya Hanson

 

                                                            

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.

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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.”

 

Yep. I’m feeling the warmth right now.

Sigh.

 

Updated: April 6, 2017 — 11:40 pm

The First American West

Today when we think of the American West, images of vast, empty expanses under huge skies come to mind. Prairies and cattle drives and covered wagons carrying settlers toward hopes of a better life. But before the land west of the Mississippi River became known as the West, America’s western frontier was considerably further east.

Daniel Boone escorting settlers, including his wife Rebecca, through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky, 1851-52 (oil on canvas) by George Caleb Bingham (1811-79); Washington University, St. Louis, USA; American, out of copyright.

I was born, raised and spent the first nearly 25 years of my life in Kentucky. If you’re a Kentucky native, there are several things that just say “home” to you — the Kentucky Derby, basketball, the words to “My Old Kentucky Home” and Daniel Boone. There is probably not another single person throughout history who signifies Kentucky more than Boone. He was among the founders of the state who led settlers along the Wilderness Road through Cumberland Gap into Kentucky.

Today you can learn about this famous gateway to the frontier at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, which is located where Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee come together. You can even walk in Boone’s footsteps along portions of the old Wilderness Road here. Prior to 1996, you could drive the route via Highway 25E, but in that year a tunnel through the mountain was completed, connecting the towns of Cumberland Gap, Tenn., and Middlesboro, Ky. Since 2001, work has been underway to restore the Gap to as close to its historic appearance as possible, including removal of the asphalt road and all modern structures, adding vegetation and even adding several feet of lost elevation.

Fort Boonesborough, photo via Wikipedia

Another of my favorite historic sites in Kentucky is Fort Boonesborough State Park on the site of the fort built by Boone and other settlers on the banks of the Kentucky River in 1775, 17 years before Kentucky became a state. The park contains a reconstructed fort with cabins and bunkhouses. During part of the year, costumed artisans and craftsmen showcase how a variety of goods were made in the 1700s to ensure survival on a dangerous frontier.

Even though this period began the settlement of Kentucky in earnest, Boone and his fellow settlers weren’t the first Europeans to set foot in what became Kentucky. You’ll probably recognize the names of famous explorers who walked this land as far back as Hernando de Soto of Spain in 1543, followed by French explorers such as Marquette and Joliet in 1673. It’s important to remember, however, that this land was not unoccupied when Europeans began to explore there or even when tens of thousands of settlers came flooding in via the Wilderness Road. Many Native American tribes called Kentucky home or used it as hunting grounds. Among these were the Shawnee, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Yuchi and Mosopelea.

Bison in Land Between the Lakes, Photo by Spongylumps (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

There is a lot more pioneer history to explore across the Bluegrass State, the western part of which once was prairie and home to elk and bison — herds of which can be seen at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area near where I grew up. LBL’s 170,000 acres includes one of the largest undeveloped forests in the Eastern U.S., wetlands, and more than 300 miles of shoreline since it sits on a peninsula between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. One of my favorite parts of LBL is The Homeplace 1850s, a living history farm which features costumed interpreters, breeds of farm animals that would have been raised during the mid 1800s in Kentucky, and crops that also fit the time period. Several special events throughout the year showcase an even bigger slice of 1850s daily life with crafters showing visitors how to hand dip candles, make cornshuck dolls and homemade soap, as well as many other tasks. It’s a great way to get a glimpse into what life on this early frontier was like.

Updated: April 30, 2017 — 7:06 pm
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