Category: Wild West Research

Fact-Checking Historical Westerns

 

Fact-Checking Historical Westerns

I imagine that most of us read a historical romance for enjoyment first, and then some learning on the side about what life was like back in the day. It is fiction, after all, not a scholarly history book. However, words, items, and phrases that are untrue to the setting can pull the reader out of the story and possibly make them quit reading the book altogether. As an author, I feel I owe the past and my ancestors, the respect of portraying them as truthfully and authentically as I am able.

I just finished up the rough-draft of my next book and am in the middle of fact-checking to make sure that I have everything correct.To double-check the initial usage of words, I use my ancient Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary on my desk or I pull up Dictionary.com. I must make sure that the things my characters say and the items they use, actually existed in the time and setting of my historical romance. Thank goodness for the internet! It is so much easier today than when I first started my career as a writer. (The internet is always right…Right?) I do find though, that in this part of the writing process, I get sucked into checking out all sorts of strange, fascinating and downright weird tidbits that never make it into any of my stories.

The Rebel and the Lady

The Rebel and the Lady

When I first started writing westerns, I peppered my second book, The Rebel and the Lady (set at the Alamo) with Stetsons and blue jeans, only to find out upon fact-checking that those items didn’t exist in 1836. The John B. Stetson Hat Company started making the Stetson in Philadelphia in 1865, almost thirty years LATER! Arrrgh!

Denim pants were around, but were called “waist overalls” in 1873. They weren’t dubbed “jeans” until 1890.

Stetson Hat used in the Army

 

In the book I am currently writing, I recently made the correction about my hero hitching his thumbs on his belt loops. Although belts have been around for centuries in various forms, the kind we think of today, along with belt loops, began catching on with the general population slowly. They were on some Civil War uniforms, but wearing them really took off in 1922 when they were placed on Levi jeans. Before that, suspenders were the norm. (I kind of like the look of suspenders. How about you?)

Standard Civil War Infantry Waist Belt

I was sucked down the rabbit-hole again when I wondered if a small town like Oak Grove would have water-closets in each of their businesses along the main street. I mean…people lived on the second floor and had their business on the first floor. In a city like Chicago or New York there would be a sewer system. But what about a one-horse town like Oak Grove that is just starting out? Would each business have an outhouse behind it? Would there be any type of communal cistern? What about communal privies?

 

Not only is it items that I need to check the existence of, it is words and phrases. Although “fetch” has existed since before the 12th century, the use of it meaning someone attractive or pleasing to look at (fetching) wasn’t common usage until 1880 (according to some dictionaries.) My story is set in 1879 and my editor caught this one. I still insisted on its use though. It characterized one of my characters perfectly. And my thoughts are that people used it for awhile before the dictionary made it an official word. Just as “google” was used as a verb for searching the internet several years before it was admitted to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006. (My! Has it been around that long already?)

The words, phrases and items that I don’t catch when I fact-check are usually caught by the eagle-eye of my copy editor in London. She is hyper-critical and an amazing editor. It would be great to send in a completed manuscript and have it so “clean” that she can’t find any issues. So far, that day has not happened. ?

 

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The Prairie Doctor’s Bride, is my newest release.

Look for it at:

And visit me anytime on my website or Facebook!

 

Charlene Raddon: Games of Chance in the 19th Century

We’re very happy to have multi-published author Charlene Raddon come to visit. Writing is in her blood and she pens some mighty good stories. Authors, if you’re in need of a cover, check out her Silver Sage link at the bottom. Please make her welcome.

Since the heroine in my latest book, Divine Gamble, dealt faro for a living, I had to do a good deal of research on 19th Century games of chance.

Thanks to TV and old western movies, most people (like me) believed poker to be THE game of the times. Instead, it was faro. An honest faro game is as close as you can get to an “even money” game, meaning your odds of winning are nearly the same as for the house. Before the end of the century, however, card sharks figured out how to cheat even at faro.

Faro (for Pharoah, from an old French playing card design) was played with a standard pack of 52 cards. First played in France and England, faro became particularly popular in the U.S. In the movie Tombstone (1993) Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) plays faro, but the game wasn’t depicted entirely accurate. In Wyatt Earp (1994) Wyatt (Kevin Costner) and his brothers deal faro using the right layout, but still do not play 100% correctly.

The term “bucking the tiger” is said to have come from early card backs that featured a drawing of a Bengal tiger. “Twisting the tiger’s tail” is another euphemism for playing faro. Many gambling parlors were often referred to as “tiger alley” or “tiger town.” Brag, another popular saloon game of the time, which later evolved into 5-card draw poker or “Draw”.

Draw, also called “bluff poker” or “bluff,” was a rarity on the frontier until the late 1870s.

One person was designated the “banker” and an indeterminate number of players could be admitted. The faro table was typically oval, covered with green baize, and had a cutout for the banker. A board was placed on top of the table with one suit of cards (traditionally the suit of spades) pasted to it in numerical order, representing a standardized betting “layout”. Each player laid his stake on one of the 13 cards on the layout. Players could place multiple bets and could bet on multiple cards simultaneously by placing their bet between cards or on specific card edges. Players also had the choice of betting on the “high card” bar located at the top of the layout.

A deck of cards was shuffled and placed inside a “dealing box”, a mechanical device also known as a “shoe“, which was used to prevent manipulations of the draw by the banker and intended to assure players of a fair game.

The first card in the dealing box was called the “soda” and was “burned off”, leaving 51 cards in play. The dealer then drew two cards: the first was called the “banker’s card” and was placed on the right side of the dealing box. The next card after the banker’s card was called the carte anglaise (English card) or simply the “player’s card”, and it was placed on the left of the shoe.

The banker’s card was the “losing card”; regardless of its suit, all bets placed on the layout’s card that had the same denomination as the banker’s card were lost by the players and won by the bank. The player’s card was the “winning card”. All bets placed on the card that had that denomination were returned to the players with a 1 to 1 (even money) payout by the bank (e.g., a dollar bet won a dollar). A “high card” bet won if the player’s card had a higher value than the banker’s card. The dealer settled all bets after each two cards drawn. This allowed players to bet before drawing the next two cards. Bets that neither won nor lost remained on the table, and could be picked up or changed by the player prior to the next draw.

A player could reverse the intent of his bet by placing a hexagonal (6-sided) token called a “copper” on it. Some histories said a penny was sometimes used in place of a copper. This was known as “coppering” the bet, and reversed the meaning of the win/loss piles for that bet.

When only three cards remained in the dealing box, the dealer would “call the turn”, which was a special type of bet that occurred at the end of each round. The object now was to predict the exact order that the 3 remaining cards, Bankers, Players, and the final card called the Hock, would be drawn. The player’s odds here were 5 to 1, while a successful bet paid off at 4 to 1 (or 1 to 1 if there were a pair among the three, known as a “cat-hop”). This provided one of the dealer’s few advantages in faro. If it happened that the three remaining cards were all the same, there would be no final bet, as the outcome was not in question.

A device, called a “casekeep” was employed to assist the players and prevent dealer cheating by counting cards. The casekeep resembled an abacus, with one spindle for each card denomination, with four counters on each spindle. As a card was played, either winning or losing, one of four counters would be moved to indicate that a card of that denomination had been played. This allowed players to plan their bets by keeping track of what cards remained available in the dealing box. The operator of the casekeep, such as the heroine in my book Divine Gamble, is called the “casekeeper”, or colloquially in the American West, the “coffin driver”.

Certain advantages were reserved to the banker: if he drew a doublet, that is, two equal cards, he won half of the stakes upon the card which equaled the doublet. In a fair game, this provided the only “house edge”. If the banker drew the last card of the pack, he was exempt from doubling the stakes deposited on that card. These and the advantage from the odds on the turn bet provided a slight financial advantage to the dealer or house.

Other popular games of chance in wild west saloons were “Beat the Dealer” or “High Dice”, a quick and simple game. This was often played right on the bar with the barkeep as the dealer.

Chuck-a-Luck

Then there was “Under and Over” (or “High/Low” or “Hi & Lo” or “Lucky Number 7”), a popular party game for three to six players played with a dice tray and 2 dice in a shaker cup.

“Chuck-a-Luck”, aka “Sweat”, Sweat Cloth”, “Birdcage”, “Chucker Luck”, “Chuck” or “Big Six” is an old game originating in England. This was played with a dice cup and 3 dice. Because of cheating, the use of a heavy welded metal birdcage device became the standard for the game.

Grand Hazard (not to be confused with Hazard) was a more advanced for of Chuck-a-Luck, with a more sophisticated layout allowing for the simple 1 through 6 “chuck bets”.

Hazard was played with two dice and was the ancestor of the modern dice game, craps.

Monte Bank was a popular card game of the early 19th Century, particularly in the Southwest and mining camps in Northern California.

 

In Divine Gamble, a mistake made long ago has put Maisy Macoubrie in a killer’s crosshairs. Her only hope is to run. Yet, her chances are slim of surviving alone.

The Preacher, a bounty hunter known for bringing men in alive, finds his own face on a wanted poster—dead or alive—for a crime he didn’t commit. He knows who the real killer is, but trying to prove it could be the last thing he ever does.

United in battle against a common enemy, can Maisy and The Preacher find love and solace in each other? Can they win the biggest gamble of their lives?

 

Are you a gambler? Have you ever visited a casino? Or have you read a book where they did? Charlene is giving away one digital copy of Divine Gamble to one commenter.

 

Charlene Raddon is an award-winning author of western historical romance novels and a book cover artist. Originally published by Kensington Books, she is now an Indie author. You can find her at:

http://charleneraddon.com

http://silversagebookcovers.com

Buy link for Divine Gamble: http://a.co/2pfqPru

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddx1B1JMKiE

OF BROKEN BONES & BONESETTERS

Welcome to Wildflower Junction and another year of chatting about wonderful books and the Wild West. Looks like we have a great line-up of guest authors coming our way on Fridays this year!

To start the year off right, I am offering a give-away at the bottom of this post, so keep reading!

I am currently writing the OAK GROVE SERIES which is shared with Lauri Robinson. It started last May 2017 with MAIL-ORDER BRIDES OF OAK GROVE. A complete listing of all the books in the series can be found at http://kathrynalbright.com/about-the-books/oak-grove-series/

My newest book in the series, THE PRAIRIE DOCTOR’S BRIDE has just been released. (YAY!) Since the hero is a doctor, I had to portray him doing doctorly things. In books or movies about the Old West, someone with a broken leg or arm will often have their injury splinted with sticks for immobilization. Usually this is “out in the bush,” and although Doctor Nelson Graham could certainly do this method I wanted him showing off his education a bit. Doc Graham was not a lay doctor or a bone-setter (a barber or in a pinch the local blacksmith.) He attended a prestigious school in Boston, and then had several years of experience, employed by the Kansas-Pacific Railroad Company to attend the men building the railroad. He had his own home-office in Oak Grove, Kansas. So, I had to find about a little more about the history and care for fractures.

Hippocrates

HIPPOCRATES

The earliest known care for a broken bone (after resetting) dates back to the early Egyptians of the 5th Dynasty (2400 B.C.) Hippocrates, a physician of the 4th century BC, wrote about immobilizing the bone to let it heal and also having the injured person do specific exercises to prevent atrophy of the muscles. His writings spoke of using cloth soaked in resin and wax. A little later on, starch was added to assist with quicker hardening. Throughout the next 1500 years, different solutions and pastes were used, such as egg whites, clay, and gum mixtures. If a person had a broken bone, they did a LOT of laying around.

Plaster of Paris had been used as a building material for centuries, but in the early 19th century, it became widely used for immobilizing broken bones. The injured limb would be reset and placed inside a wooden box and then the plaster poured over it, encasing the leg or arm in a rigid sleeve. This was heavy and made it impossible for the injured person to move.

Then in the 1830s, Louis Seutin, a doctor in the Belgian army, used strips of linen and carton (or pasteboard) splints that were wet and molded to the limb. The limb was then wrapped in bandages and coated with a starch solution and allowed to dry.

GAUZE COATED WITH PLASTER OF PARIS

Building on Seutin’s work, Antonious Mathijsen, a medical doctor in the Dutch army, found that strips of coarse cotton cloth into which dry plaster of Paris had been rubbed, could be applied and then moistened with a sponge or brush. The cast would harden as it was rubbed and would dry in minutes. Another version of this would be to very carefully dip the dressing or cloth into a bucket of water, so as not to dislodge the plaster of Paris already rubbed into the cloth, and then apply it to the limb. This lighter-weight, smaller cast made it possible for a person to move about while a bone healed.

WALKING CAST

Mathijsent wrote about his method and it was published in 1852 in a medical magazine, Repertorium. This became the standard for setting broken bones until 1950 with only a few minor changes—ie: the use of shellac to make the cast water-resistant. And alterations such as this picture–with a stub to enable walking and yet keeping the cast dry and clean.

So – knowing this – I could finally write the scene where Doc Graham took care of Wally Brown’s arm and actually used a plaster of Paris cast! Since I was a nurse in my past life and the history of medicine has always fascinated me, I had to be careful not to “talk technical” as I wrote the medical passages but to remember to use regular words. Instead of “new, granulation tissue” I described the skin as reddened, a bit puffy, and without any sign of purulence.

If you are interested in finding out more, here are a few links to check out:

http://hankeringforhistory.com/history-of-the-cast/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5420179
https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/setting-a-broken-bone-19th-century-medical-treatment-was-not-for-sissies

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Now for the Giveaway!

How about telling me what book you are reading this first month of the year!
Those who comment will have their names put into my Stetson for a drawing for my new release!

* * * * * * * *

THE PRAIRIE DOCTOR’S BRIDE

Nelson Graham has had every advantage in life.
Is it possible for this Boston-trained doctor and a woman who “lives off the land”
to find any common ground?

  • * * * * * * * * 

“This book was a pure delight.” San Francisco Review of Books

 

For more information on this book and others, please visit and follow ~

WEBSITE  |  FACEBOOK  |  |  BOOKBUB

 

Christmas on the Frontier

In 1849, California pioneer Catherine Haun wrote, “Although very tired of tent life many of us spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in our canvas houses. I do not remember ever having had happier holiday times. For Christmas we had grizzly bear steak for which we paid $2.50, one cabbage for $1.00 and oh horrors, some more dried apples! And for a Christmas present the Sacramento River rose very high and flooded the whole town!”

Now that’s a holiday to remember!

Celebrating Christmas wasn’t easy for those making their way in new territories, but upholding traditions was an important way of making these places feel like home. Often resources were limited and decorations consisted of whatever was handy—evergreen trimmings, berries, pictures clipped from magazines, popcorn garlands—and presents were often handmade, or ordered from catalogs, if mail service of that kind was available.

In Boise, Idaho, the community shared a tree in the 1860s and residents were invited to “communicate through it with their friends,” according to the Idaho Statesman. People could exchange gifts and there was a Christmas Eve party at the tree.

But what about those people who were truly in the wilderness on Christmas Day? Well, some of them couldn’t take time off from the important business of staying alive as this journal quote from fur trapper David Thompson attests:  “Christmas and News Years day came and passed. We could not honor them, the occupations of every day demanded our attentions; and time passed on, employed in hunting for a livelihood.”

Fort Clatsop

Lewis and Clark and spent several Christmases on the trail during their famous expedition. Christmas of 1804 was spent in Fort Mandan, North Dakota where the men were issued flour, dried apples and pepper to help celebrate the holiday. Clark wrote of this Christmas: “I was awakened before Day by a discharge of 3 platoons from the Party and the french, the men merrily Disposed, I give them all a little Taffia and permited 3 Cannon fired, at raising Our flag, Some men went out to hunt & the Others to Danceing and Continued untill 9 oClock P, M, when the frolick ended.”

In 1806, the expedition was stranded at Fort Clatsop on the Pacific Coast. This was more of a gift giving occasion, according to Clark: “Our Diner to day Consisted of pore Elk boiled, Spoilt fish & Some roots, a bad Christmass diner. I recved a presnt of Capt L. of a fleece hosrie Shirt Draws and Socks—, a pr. mockersons of Whitehouse a Small Indian basket of Gutherich, two Dozen white weazils tails of the Indian woman, & Some black root of the Indians before their departure.”

That “Indian Woman” was Sacagawea.

If you’re interested in learning more about Christmas in the Old West, check out Christmas in the Old West: A Historical Scrapbook, by Sam Travers. The information in this blog was adapted from that book.

Have a Wonderful Holiday Season and a Very Merry Christmas! I’ve loved spending 2017 with you, and look forward to 2018!

Jeannie

The Magical Music Box

by Regina Scott

 

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?

 

 

Texas Rebels Series Grand Finale

By Linda Warren

I’m always happy to post at Petticoats and Pistols. I grew up on a farm/ranch in rural Texas so I love everything Western. Thank you for the invite.

In December the last book of the Texas Rebels series will be released. Texas Rebels: Elias. I’m excited to finish the series. I thought I would share how I came to write seven books about seven brothers. My husband and I watched the TV miniseries the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. I told my husband I would like to write something like that, but more modern day and not so dark and violent. I guess the idea was in my head because that night I dreamed about two feuding ranching families in Texas. When I woke up the next morning, I had these two families, their names and exactly what had happened to keep them feuding for years.

The Rebels and McCray’s were fighting over a fence line and water rights. The McCrays said if a Rebel stepped over the fence line to McCray land they would be shot. One day two of the younger Rebel boys jumped the fence on a horse and Ezra McCray shot them. John Rebel rushed toward the blast to find his two sons lying on the ground. Ezra was on a horse with a rifle in his hand. He raised the rifle to shoot John, but John fired first, killing Ezra McCray. This scene was very vivid. Then there was John and Kate, his wife, talking to five other kids, telling them what had happened and they had to take their two little brothers to the hospital. Kate called each of them by name. I quickly went to my office and wrote down the names and events before they faded from my mind. Seven brothers and I had all their names. That was a true gift. Here’s where I hen-scratched them down. No one can read this, but me.

After breakfast, I went to work on what I had. I jotted more notes and then study the names of the brothers. Did I want to write about seven brothers? Would my editor buy a series about seven brothers? Oh, what the heck, I went with it. I could do nothing less with all the scenes in my head. The rest of the day I thought about these two families and how I wanted to write them. It took a long time and several headaches to pull it all together.

Two things had to happen before the stories would work. First, the feud would escalate because of the shooting. Second, John Rebel would pass away. The books would be about how his grown sons would deal with life after his passing. Then I gave each brother a characteristic that would define him and help me write his story. Falcon was the oldest, so he was the strong, responsible one taking over as head of the family, with his mother. Quincy was the peacemaker, trying to keep peace among the brothers. Egan was the loner. Elias the fighter. Jude the quiet one, as he was one of the kids who’d been shot. Paxton was a bull rider and a ladies man. The youngest was Phoenix, the fun-loving jokester. Now I had something to work with.

I did an overview of the stories that would change with each book. All the brothers would work the large Rebel Ranch, but the McCrays would always be there, making life hard. With each book that would slightly change as the McCray women start to notice the Rebel men as someone other than their enemy.

Elias’s story is the last book in the series. He said he was never getting married. He liked his freedom. When Maribel McCray returns to Horseshoe, Texas she shakes up his world. She has a seventeen-year-old son and says that Elias is the father. Kate Rebel insists that Elias is not. Elias and his mother argue and he leaves the ranch he loves. This tears the family apart. The last scenes were hard to write. I won’t tell you what happens because it would spoil the book. But I enjoyed writing Elias and finding his softer side. And finding a way for the families to live in peace.

Now you’ve had a glimpse into the weird workings of an author’s mind. The books are done. Time for cheering. It’s hard to believe they all started with a dream.

I’m giving away an ebook of Texas Rebels: Elias and a Horseshoe Christmas ornament (the stories are set in Horseshoe, Texas.)

Question: Have you had any vivid dreams that stayed with you for a long time? Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for an ebook copy of Elias and a horseshoe ornament.

Thanks again and Happy Holidays, everyone!

 

Elias’s book: http://tinyurl.com/yan96drf

My website: http://www.lindawarren.net/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorlindawarren

 Texas Rebels: Elias

First Love, Second Chance

Maribel McCray knew moving back to Horseshoe, Texas, would mean facing Elias Rebel, the cowboy she was forbidden to love in high school. She just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. With her teenage son, Chase, in trouble, she needs Elias’s help. He may be a Rebel, sworn enemy of every McCray, but he’s also Chase’s father.

For the lone bachelor of the Rebel clan, there’s only one way to make up for lost years with his son—become a family for real. But Maribel’s distance runs deeper than the Rebel-McCray feud. Elias won’t settle for a marriage of convenience with the woman he’s falling for again. How can he convince Maribel some second chances are worth taking?

CATTLE DRIVES — On the Trail


Cattle Drives – On the Trail

(Research for The Oak Grove Series)

By Kathryn Albright

Oak Grove, Kansas, the fictional town and setting of the Oak Grove Series that I am writing with Laurie Robinson, is the end of the trail for the Texas cattle drives. The town grows and prospers with the cattle industry in the 1880s much like Dodge City, Ellsworth, and Abilene. With its stockyards and a train depot, I knew some of the inhabitants would have to have jobs that involved the cattle business.

 

Cattle Drives

The era of cattle drives in American history began at the end of the Civil War and lasted into the 1890s. Demand for beef in the big cities in the east as well as an abundance of cattle in Texas (five million!) created an opportunity for hard-working men. In Texas, a steer was worth about $3, whereas in Chicago, that same steer would fetch an average of $20, although demand would sometimes push its value to $40. Other reasons for moving the cattle north were to feed the miners in Colorado and California, or to stock ranches as far as Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming.

Some herds were as large as 3,000 cattle. Along with the cattle, extra horses were also included on the drive so that when one horse tired and needed to rest, another could be saddled and used. Cattle could stretch out for a mile on the trail and to manage the herd, cowboys had certain positions.

Cattle Drives

 

Duties of each Cowboy —

  • Point – Rode out in front and helped guide the herd.
  • Swing – Rode along the flanks of the herd to keep them gathered in.
  • Flank – Rode behind the Swing and performed the same job.
  • Drag – Rode behind the herd and kept stragglers from being lost or falling behind. A dusty job.
  • Wrangler – Took care of the remuda of extra horses. Lowest paid position.
  • Cook – Drove the chuck-wagon, cooked the meals. Next to the boss, he was the highest paid man on the drive.

These were not gentle milking cows! Longhorns were cantankerous and bad-tempered. The horns on a steer spread an average of five feet from tip to tip. Rounding up cattle, branding them to establish ownership, and getting them to head in one direction as a group was not without mishaps and sometimes dire consequences. Then there were the dangers along the trail.

Cattle Drives - Longhorn Steer

Range cattle were not smart. They got lost in gullies. They headed out into snowstorms rather than seeking shelter. They were easily spooked and alarmed. A flash of lightning, the boom of thunder, or even an odd odor could initiate a stampede where the herd would run for miles. The only way to stop a stampede was for the cowboys to get out in front of the herd and fire their pistols, wave their hats and yell in a effort to confuse and frighten the cattle into slowing and circling until they calmed down.  One wrong decision and in an instant a rider could be impaled on a horn or trampled to death under hooves. Stampedes were the chief threat and worry for a cowboy on a trail drive.

Another danger could occur at river crossings. Should a cow or steer panic, they could drown and take a cowboy down with them.

Then there were the predators. Rustlers—men who would steal the cattle and, although much less common, Indians on the reservations who attacked the drive. Animals such as the American Timber wolf, cougars, brown bears, and farther north…grizzly bears where also a threat. Rattlers and scorpions bothered the men. Although their bite or sting was not usually fatal to a healthy young man, it could still cause horrible pain. A smart cowboy checked their bedroll before bedding down at night, and in the morning, checked their shoes or boots before putting them on.

Cattle Drives Weather was also a danger. Freezing temperatures and blazing heat were both enemies to the herd and to the cowboys. Finding water along the trail was a matter of life and death. Traveling this way, a drive from San Antonio to Kansas would take about two months. No matter how careful the cowboys were, there was always a percentage of cattle that did not make it to the stockyards.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

In spite of the danger and the dust, I believe many cowboys enjoyed the camaraderie of driving cattle to the stockyards. Sleeping on the hard earth after a long day’ work, however, is not so appealing. I am thankful for my comfy bed!

What, in this season of Thanksgiving, are you thankful for?

Comment for a chance to win a copy of  Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove!

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

In the book that will be released in December — The Prairie Doctor’s Bride — a character has an accident along the trail, leaving behind unfinished business in Oak Grove. More on this in a future post…For now, Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove, the first book in the Oak Grove Series, is available.

Mail Order Brides of Oak Grove

Kathryn Albright writes sweet historical Americana Romance.
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Those Gutsy Women of the Old West

Never underestimate a woman doing a man’s job!

My passion is writing about the old west and the fabulous women who helped settle it.  Western movies helped establish the male hero, but depicting women mainly as bonnet saints, soiled doves and schoolmarms did them a terrible disservice.

The westward migration freed women in ways never before imagined. Women abandoned Victorian traditions, rigid manners and confining clothes and that’s not all; they brought churches, schools and newspapers to frontier towns and helped build communities.

Female barber wielding “man’s most sacred implement.”

Women today may still be banging against glass ceilings, but those brave souls of yesteryear had to break down doors. One newspaper reporter complained that “Women dared to lay hands on man’s most sacred implements—the razor and strop—and shave him to the very face.”

Ah, yes, women were barbers, doctors, firefighters and saloon keepers. Women even disguised themselves as men to fight in the Civil War. With little more than their faith to guide them, they owned cattle ranches and gold mines and fought for women’s rights.

In 1860 Julia Shannon of San Francisco took the family portrait to new heights when she shockingly advertised herself as a daguerreotypist and midwife.  Cameras were bulky, chemicals dangerous and photo labs blew up with alarming regularity. It was a hard profession for a man let alone a woman.

Kate Warne dressed in Union soldier disguise

Forty years before women were allowed to join a police department, Kate Warne worked for the Pinkerton National Detective agency as an undercover agent from 1856 to her death in 1868. Not only did she run the female detective division, she saved president-elect Abraham Lincoln from a planned assassination by wrapping him in a blanket and pretending he was her invalid brother.    Her story is the inspiration behind my Undercover Ladies series in which the heroines were—you guessed it—Pinkerton detectives working undercover.

It took strong and courageous women to bury children along the trail; barter with Indians and make homes out of sticks and mud. It’s estimated that about twelve percent of homesteaders in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, the Dakotas and Utah were single women.  And yep, women even took part in the Oklahoma land runs.

An article in the San Francisco Examiner published in 1896 says it all: “People have stopped wondering what women will do next, for keeping up with what she is doing now takes all the public energies.”

These are the heroines for whom we like to cheer.  It must have been a shock to the male ego to have to deal with such strong and unconventional women—and that’s at the very heart of my stories. The gun may have won the west, but praise the Lord for the gusty and courageous women who tamed it.

Can you name a gutsy woman–either past or present?

 

Speaking of heroines of the Old West,

let’s not forget gusty Sheriff Amanda Lockwood,

who almost always gets  her man.

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Updated: October 26, 2017 — 6:39 am

The Last Golden Girl of the West

The Panhandle was the last area of Texas to be settled and there are a million stories right here. In fact, the railroad takes the credit for taming this last wild part. Along the rails, towns sprang up which pushed out the outlaws and other undesirables thereby bringing law and order.

Amarillo, the largest town in the Panhandle, wasn’t settled until Oct. 1887. Before that, was Tascosa, which is a ghost town now, only 36 miles from here.

Tascosa loosely became a town in 1876. I say that because I don’t think it was ever incorporated. It was a wild and wooly place and occupied mostly by men on the run. Saloons and dancehalls sprang up and gunfights were a regular occurrence. It became known as the Cowboy Capital of the Plains. Temple Houston, son of Sam Houston, served as a district attorney in Tascosa from 1882 to 1884. He was a brilliant attorney by the way.

At the time Frenchy McCormick arrived, there were only three other white women in the whole Panhandle and they had to be as tough as shoe leather. Frenchy would be classified as that. The twenty-four-year-old worked in the saloons dealing Monte at the gaming tables and played cards with many old West legends.

No one really knows her real name. Some say Elizabeth McGraw. She was Irish and well-educated. It’s hard to understand why a well-educated woman chose this life. She could’ve done so many other things, but I suppose her heart led her to Tascosa. A cowboy gave her the name Frenchy because she spoke fluent French and came from Louisiana.

Around 1880, she fell in love with Mickey McCormick, an Irish gambler and livery stable owner. He always claimed as long as she was at his side at the gaming tables he never lost.

They were married in 1881.

When the railroad bypassed Tascosa a few years after, the town began to steadily decline. But Frenchy and Mickey kept living in their small adobe house, their devotion to each other evident by all.

Mickey died suddenly in 1912 at 64 years old, but Frenchy refused to leave Tascosa which had become a ghost town. She occupied their adobe house on Atascosa Creek and visited his grave every day. (The town is now on the property of the Cal Farley’s Boy’s Ranch and they have become diligent caretakers.)

She lived alone in the ghost town for 27 years without electricity or running water, tending Mickey’s grave. She died on January 12, 1941 at the age of 89 and was buried next to Mickey. True to the end. That was true love.

I have plans to go out there to the ghost town and visit their graves soon and I can’t wait. I wonder how many of us would show such devotion.

Do you know of other love stories? Maybe in your family or in books or movies.

The Legend of Lost Blue Bucket Mine by Susan Page Davis

Legend of Lost Blue Bucket Mine

The legend of Lost Blue Bucket Mine has intrigued people for a hundred and seventy years. Is it still out there, waiting to be discovered, or was it real in the first place?

It all started in 1845, when a wagon train got off the beaten track in eastern Oregon. There are several versions of the story, and no one has proof of what actually happened, but it involved at least one kid, a blue bucket, and some strange pebbles.

A large wagon train had reached eastern Oregon and camped for a few days at a hot spring. The travelers were apprehensive about the coming ordeal of rafting down the Columbia River.

A man named Stephen Meek, who was the brother of mountain man Joe Meek, said he knew a shortcut and could lead them overland, via the “Meek Cut-off,” to the Willamette Valley, their final destination. Some of the families decided to go with Meek. Others kept to the trail heading for the Columbia.

As the story goes, the travelers realized after a while that Meek had no idea where he was going. He left them on their own in the wilderness. They had to get through the Cascade Mountains before winter or they might starve to death.

Most versions of the story say children went to the river to get water and returned with a blue bucket full of strange-looking pebbles. One version says three young men went in search of some straying cattle and wandered for hours before returning with the famous rocks.

Anyway, the grownups of the party puzzled over the kids’ find. The blacksmith put one pebble on a metal wagon rim and pounded it. It flattened easily. They decided it was copper.

Why copper? No one’s really sure. The standard excuse is that it was 1845, several years before the California Gold Rush, and most people had never seen raw gold. Supposedly most of the rocks were dumped, but one woman, Mrs. Fisher, kept one. A few years later, with the advent of the gold craze in California, she had it assayed. It was a gold nugget.

The people who had been on that wagon train started remembering, and prospectors from all over began trying to find the spot. Many people spent years looking for it. Gold was found in various places in Oregon, but no one was ever sure where the so-called Blue Bucket Mine was.

Grave

Sarah King Chambors Grave

One clue often cited was that the gold was found three days’ ox team journey from the grave of a Mrs. Chambers near the mouth of Crane Creek. You can imagine how many people were out there looking for that grave. Supposedly the grave has been found more than once. And another tale says two Frenchmen moved it to keep people from finding the mine. People living in the area at the time told of 5,000 miners on Canyon Creek in 1863.

The story of Mrs. Fisher, the woman who reportedly saved one nugget from the children’s bucket, was written down by her grandson, but even this version is riddled with errors. For instance, he said the man who led the pioneers astray was Joe Meek, not his brother Stephen.

The wagon train split at a hot spring about a mile below the present town of Vale, near the Malheur River. Dr. Fisher, who was traveling with the Meek contingent, died and was buried August 12, 1845. The man writing Mrs. Fisher’s story knew several survivors of the wagon train. They named other landmarks they had passed.

The wagon train wandered on. Its exact route is a mystery, though many have tried to trace it. Eventually, they rejoined one of the trains they split off earlier. Some settled near Eugene, and some went on to California.

Twenty-five years later, several veterans of that wagon train got together and discussed it. They made a map of the points they knew they had passed and where they thought it most likely the gold had been found. Mrs. Fisher insisted that Mrs. Chambers died three days before the gold was found. Samuel Parker, who was also on the train at the time, said she died three days after. So, within about 100 miles—probably more like 50—in either direction, if anyone knew for certain where that grave was.

The site now believed to be the famous grave of Mrs. Chambers is about six miles east of where Crane Creek flows into the Malheur. If Mrs. Fisher was correct about the timing, that would put the wagon train in the Willow Creek area. Gold has since been found in that area.

My best guess as to the whereabouts of the Blue Bucket Mine? I think it’s been found, in one of the areas where gold strikes were later made, but the people who found it were never sure that was the exact place.  In 1960 a group of people claimed to have found it and filed claims as the Blue Bucket Group. At least three other gold mines over the years have been named “Blue Bucket Mine,” but none of them had anything to do with the legendary east Oregon find.

One amusing point made by a woman who was part of the Blue Bucket Group: In 1845, about 3,000 traveled west over various routes in wagon trains. By 1950, she said, at least a third of them claimed to have been in the party that discovered the Blue Bucket Mine.

Seven Brides for Seven
Mail-Order Husbands

Meet seven of Turtle Springs, Kansas’, finest women who are determined to revive their small town after the War Between the States took most of its men. . .and didn’t return them. The ladies decide to advertise for husbands and devise a plan for weeding out the riff raff. But how can they make the best practical choices when their hearts cry out to be loved? This book includes novellas by seven authors.
In Susan’s novella, The Kidnapped Groom:
Riding through the Flint Hills on his way to Dodge City, cowboy Sam Cayford finds himself the kidnapping victim of two children. When he meets their lovely mother, Maggie Piner—whom the kids insist he should marry—Sam starts to question God’s plans versus his own.
Buy: http://amzn.to/2vcMAYh

 

GIVEAWAY:

To enter a drawing for a copy of one of Susan Page Davis’s western romances, leave a comment and your contact information. The winner can choose from several of her titles, either ebook or paperback: The Lady’s Maid, Lady Anne’s Quest, A Lady in the Making, Captive Trail, Cowgirl Trail, The Sheriff’s Surrender, The Gunsmith’s Gallantry, The Blacksmith’s Bravery, Echo Canyon, Desert Moon (paperback only), or The 12 Brides of Summer collection (paperback only).

                                                         

 

Susan Page Davis is the author of more than seventy published novels. She’s always interested in the unusual happenings of the past. She’s the winner of two Inspirational Readers’ Choice Awards and two Will Rogers Medallions, and also a winner of the Carol Award and a finalist in the WILLA Literary Awards. Visit her website at: http://www.susanpagedavis.com .

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