Category: Texas History

Rough and Wooly Hidetown

The West is full of old towns left over from the glory days and each one is filled with interesting stories. An hour and half from where I live is a place once called Hidetown. It was originally a camp on Sweetwater Creek set up by buffalo hunters in 1874. By all accounts, it was a rough and wooly place.

The following year, the U.S. government established Fort Cantonment (later called Fort Elliott) two miles away to keep law and order and make sure the Indians stayed on reservations in Indian Territory. I think they had their job cut out for them. Those buffalo hunters were used to doing things their own way.

Three businessmen came down from Dodge City around that time to open a trading post and the population in Hidetown grew to 150. They soon boasted a laundry, a restaurant, a dance hall, and several saloons. The buildings were crude at best. Some no more than tents.  Hardened outlaws, bullwhackers, buffalo hunters, and gamblers made up the majority.

Of the population, only fifteen were women. Of those only one was a virtuous woman. That was a recipe for disaster right there.

Bat Masterson arrived in 1875 and worked as a faro dealer in one of the saloons. He became embroiled in a fight over dance hall beauty Mollie Brennan with a sergeant from the fort. Guns erupted and the sergeant was killed—only the bullet passed through him and struck Mollie killing her also. The sergeant’s bullet struck Bat in the pelvis and he walked with a limp for the rest of his life. He returned to Dodge City and took a lawman job.

In 1878, Hidetown became the organized, lawless town of Mobeetie and Pat Garrett visited.

This picture on the right was taken in 1900 and it’s interesting to see the windmill and businesses.

Charles Goodnight said, “Mobeetie was patronized by outlaws, thieves, cut-throats, and buffalo hunters, with a large percent of prostitutes. Taking it all, I think it was the hardest place I ever saw on the frontier except Cheyenne, Wyoming.”

Mobeetie was a Comanche word that meant “buffalo dung.” But the town thrived and throughout the 1880s it was a commercial center for much of the Texas Panhandle.

In 1880 the first courthouse of the panhandle was built by Irish stonemasons and Texas Ranger George Arrington became sheriff. Lawyers arrived as well. One was Sam Houston’s son, Temple. He served a term as district attorney before being elected to the Senate. He proved a very able attorney and one of his courtroom arguments is still being taught in law schools today.

When the army closed Fort Elliott, the town boasted a population of 400. That was the most it would ever be. In 1898, it was struck by a tornado that destroyed most of the buildings and took seven lives. People began to move away and left its notoriety and brief glory to crumble in the dust. Today it’s a ghost town.

I always enjoy a trip up there and each time try to imagine the way it once was, to picture Bat Masterson, Pat Garrett, and George Arrington strolling down the dirt street. When I go, I love to visit Mollie Brennan’s grave and try to imagine what her hopes and dreams were.

I mention Mobeetie in Book #3 Men of Legend—To Marry a Texas Outlaw. So I’ll be saying more about this later on when that book releases.

There’s something really sad about ghost towns though, reclaimed by the earth as though they were never there. Have you ever visited one? Or is there one you’d like to visit that you haven’t?

HOME IS WHERE OUR STORY BEGINS & Book Giveaway

Please welcome Lynnette Austin.  Lynnette is filling in for Margaret Brownley, who is attending the Romance  Writers of America conference. Lynnette is giving away a copy of Can’t Stop Lovin’ You.  The winner will be announced on Sunday and can choose either print or eBook.  (Contest guidelines apply). The book is available now both in stores and digitally.

Thanks for having me on Petticoats and Pistols today! I’m thrilled to be here and am celebrating the release of Can’t Stop Lovin’ You, the third in my Maverick Junction series. (BTW, while it’s fun to read the whole series, each book can stand alone.) Entering the drawing is as simple as leaving a comment. So pour yourself a tall, ice-cold glass of sweet tea and let’s chat.

Who doesn’t want to go home? Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, Odysseus in Homer’s Odyssey, even Luath, Bodger, and Tao, the three lovable fur-friends in The Incredible Journey fought against heavy odds to make that trip. It’s no different with Brawley O’Dell in Can’t Stop Lovin’ You.

When I started the first book of the Maverick Junction series, Annelise Montjoy, in Somebody Like You, was a sheltered heiress living in Boston. Where did her money come from? Texas oil wells! In a last-ditch effort to save her grandfather’s life, Annelise was forced to return to her Texas roots. She needed to return to the home of her ancestors. Once she did? She fell madly in love with those fields of Texas bluebonnets, the cowboy boots and the men who wore them—especially one very special cowboy.

The characters in our books all have back stories, things that have happened to them and shaped who they are long before we meet them on page one. The same goes for our settings. As I developed the town of Maverick Junction, Texas, I dug deeper into the roots of the oil finds there. Oil and Texas. Inexorably tied together. Yet until January 10, 1901, when the Lucas No. 1 well at Spindletop came in near Beaumont, Texas, the state of Pennsylvania was at the heart of the oil industry. Throughout the second half of the 1800s, it held the title as the leading oil producing state.

Having grown up in the Keystone state and later lived in Wyoming, I’m very familiar with the oil industry. In fact, in the mid-1800s Edwin Drake, the inventor of the process used to extract oil from deep in the ground, hit the first Pennsylvania gusher in Titusville, not far from my small hometown of Kane. This photo shows the early oil wells that sprang up in the fields around Kane in the 1800s. I can’t believe how many there were—and they’re taller than the trees. A veritable oil rig forest.

Even before the Beaumont find really kick-started Texas’ oil industry, it was no secret there was plenty of the black gold there. Native Americans in the area sometimes drank it for medicinal purposes, mainly to cure digestive problems. I wonder how that worked for them! The Spaniards, while they didn’t drink it, put it to good use both as waterproofing for their boots and caulking for their ships in the 1500s.

Until Spindletop, the oil finds in Texas were small and low-producing. With the coming of the big oil fields and refineries, cities like Houston grew from small commercial centers to some of the USA’s largest cities. Oil barrons, Annelise’s great-grandfather among them, became some of the wealthiest and most politically influential men in the country.

When the early settlers made the arduous trip out West, they often could never go home again. They literally gave up everything—and everyone—to go West, even as late as the early 1900s when men travelled there to work the oil fields. In my new release, Can’t Stop Lovin’ You, Brawley Odell moved away from small town Maverick Junction to live in Dallas, the big city. In doing so, he gave up the girl he loved. Now? He wants it all back—the small town, the life, and, most importantly, the girl. But has he stayed away too long?

When you think of Texas, what makes you keep

coming back for more stories set there?

Thanks so much for stopping by today! Hope to see you in Maverick Junction. I think you’ll like it there!

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

Maggie Sullivan can’t wait to get out of Texas. Luckily, she just got the break she needed to make her big-city dreams a reality. But then Brawley Odell swaggers back into Maverick Junction, looking hotter than ever in his dusty cowboy boots and well-worn jeans. He’s the guy she still dreams of at night. The guy who broke her heart when he left her behind.

Fed up with city life, Brawley jumps at the chance to return home and take over the local vet’s practice—and get back to the smart, sassy woman he’s never been able forget. He couldn’t be prouder of Maggie’s new wedding-dress business . . . until he realizes it may mean losing her all over again. Determined to win her back, Brawley must find a way to convince Maggie that their one true home is with each other.

Excerpt:

Brawley Odell figured his life wouldn’t be worth one plug-nickel the second he stepped foot inside Maggie’s shop. Too damn bad. He hadn’t driven the thirty miles from Maverick Junction to back out now. He was goin’ in.

After all this time, he’d come home…and she was leaving.

He grasped the brass knob and shoulder-butted the oak door. It flew open, the bell overhead jangling. Maggie Sullivan, all that gorgeous red hair scooped into a jumbled mass, stood dead-center in the room. Dressed in a skirt and top the color of a forest at twilight, she held a fuzzy sweater up in front of her like a shield. Those amazing green eyes widened as he stormed in.

“We need to talk.” He ignored the woman at the back of the store who flipped through a rack of tops.

“What the—?”

He held up a hand. “Don’t speak. Not yet.”

Her mouth opened, then closed.

Anger boiled in him, but he needed to find some modicum of control. Taking a deep breath, he held it for the count of ten, then slowly released it. “Did you plan on telling me?”

Her eyes narrowed, but she said nothing.

“You’re invited to New York City for a showing of your new line, and you don’t share that with me? I have to learn about it secondhand?”

“Last I heard this wasn’t about you, Brawley. In fact, my life, my business has absolutely nothing to do with you.”

His jaw clenched. “Anything that affects you is my business, Mags.”

She snorted. “Get real, Odell. You gave up any and all rights years ago.” Her head tilted. “Why are you even interested? You want to attend so you can show off your latest Dallas Cowboy cheerleader? Maybe order her trousseau?”

He shot her a deadly look, one that had made grown men back away.

Not Maggie. She actually took a couple steps toward him. The woman had no survival instincts. Another reason she had no business heading off to New York alone.

She tapped a scarlet-tipped finger on her chin. “Oh, that’s right. There’d be no trousseau for your honey, would there? Maybe a weekend-fling outfit for your date du jour? A one-night-stand set of lacy lingerie.”

“Shut up, Maggie.”

“Make me.” Her eyes flashed.

This time the look in his eyes must have warned her she’d treaded too close to the edge. She stepped back.

“You challenging me, Maggie?”

When she wet her lips, his gaze dropped to her mouth, followed the tip of her pink tongue as it darted out.

“Only one way I could ever get you quiet,” he said.

Her hand shot up. “Don’t even think about it.”

“No thought required. Been wanting to do this a long time now.” He closed the distance between them and dropped his mouth to hers. Fire. Smoke. Hell, a full-out volcanic eruption.

To purchase: Amazon

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LYNNETTE AUSTIN, a recovering middle school teacher, loves long rides with the top down and the music cranked up, the Gulf of Mexico when a storm is brewing, chocolate frozen custard, anything by Blake Shelton, Chris Young, and Thomas Rhett, and sitting in her local coffee shop reading and enjoying an iced coffee. She and her husband divide their time between Southwest Florida’s beaches and Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Having grown up in a small town, that’s where her heart takes her—to those quirky small towns where everybody knows everybody…and all their business, for better or worse. Writing for Grand Central and Sourcebooks, she’s published twelve novels and is at work on a new series.

 

 

 

 

Updated: July 18, 2017 — 6:13 pm

The Flavor of German Texas

Fredericksburg, Texas, one of the towns I used as inspiration for Blue Falls. Fredericksburg was named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. Photo credit: By Photolitherland Chris Litherland (Own work My own photo) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve ever done any traveling in Central Texas, roughly from the coastal plains near Houston over to San Antonio and Austin and up through the Hill Country, chances are you’ve at least seen a sign for a German bakery. Texas might seem an odd place to find so many German bakeries, but there’s a historical reason for their existence.

German migration to Stephen Austin’s colony of Texas began in the 1830s, following in the footsteps of Friedrich Dierks, who became known in Texas as Johanna Friedrich Ernst. He’d come to America planning to settle in Missouri but changed his mind when he heard about large land grants in Texas. He applied for and received a grant of some 4,000 acres in what is now Austin County, west of Houston. This became the heart of the German Belt in the years to come. Ernst wrote back to friends about Texas, and his letters became widely publicized. In the years following Ernst’s arrival, thousands more Germans immigrated to Texas. During the 1850s, the population of German-born Texans reached then passed 20,000. After the Civil War — and thus the Union blockade of Confederate ports — ended, ships loaded with Germans started arriving again.

Apple strudel. Photo credit: By che (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

German culture in Texas took a hit because of anti-German sentiment brought about by the World Wars and continued to decline afterward from its peak in the 1890s. However, the rich history of German immigration can still be seen throughout Central Texas in particular. Towns with names such as Fredericksburg, Gruene (pronounced “Green”), New Braunfels and Weimar; the King William Historic District in San Antonio, named after Wilhelm I, King of Prussia; enthusiastic celebrations of Oktoberfest; and the aforementioned German bakeries all stand as testament to the rich German heritage that has German still identified as the third-largest national-origin group in the state behind Hispanic per the 1990 Census.

It’s because of this German history and the fact that my fictional Hill Country town of Blue Falls, Texas needed a bakery that I created the Mehlerhaus Bakery, operated by Keri Mehler Teague. Characters in every book seem to end up at the bakery for delicious treats such as cookies, cakes and German sweets such as strudel. I even throw in some kolaches, Czech pastries, since Central Texas has a history of immigration from what is now the Czech Republic as well. The Mehlerhaus Bakery is part of the Main Street shopping district that is popular with locals and the growing tourist business as well. Keri and the bakery really came on the scene in The Cowboy Sheriff, the third book in my Teagues of Texas trilogy, which introduced the town of Blue Falls. But her business is so integral to the town that she and her sweet treats have continued to appear in the 12 Blue Falls stories that have come out since then and will continue to appear in the books to come.

Updated: July 2, 2017 — 6:51 pm

Speaking of History . . .

Last Thursday, I had the honor of being the featured speaker at the annual Author’s Luncheon in Post, TX. Post is small town off Hwy 84 on the route between by hometown of Abilene and the city of Lubbock. I’ve driven through it many times, but this was the first time I actually got off the highway and explored a bit of the town itself.

Post, TX has a fun history. It was founded in 1907 by cereal manufacturer Charles William “C.W.” Post. Anyone eaten a bowl of Grape-Nuts ( first produced in 1897) lately? I usually have a box in my pantry.

C. W.  Post purchased 200,000 acres of ranchland and established the Double U. Company to manage Post City’s construction. The company built trim houses and numerous structures. They planted trees along every street and prohibited alcoholic beverages and brothels. The Double U. Company rented and sold farms and houses to settlers. A post office began in a tent during the year of Post City’s founding. Two years later the town had a school, a bank, and a newspaper, the Post City Post. (Because what else would you call it? Ha!) The railroad reached the town in 1910. The town changed its name to Post when it incorporated in 1914, the year of C. W. Post’s death. (Source: Handbook Of Texas Online)

Well, one the buildings Mr. Post paid to construct was a hospital. This gorgeous brick building with tall, white columns is now the local history museum and the building next door to where I spoke at the author luncheon. The building where I spoke was originally constructed in 1911 as a boarding house for the nurses who worked at the hospital. It has been renovated and turned into a wonderful community center. The perfect place for me to give my talk on the subject of Plotting with History.

Boarding House on left, Hospital on right.

Here is the beautiful entry hall and part of the cute bathroom. I just had to take a picture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I was blessed with a wonderful turnout. We talked history and reading, and I learn wonderful details about the marvelous town of Post that makes me want to come back for another visit when I can stay longer and explore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • What hidden gems have you uncovered in your travels?
  • What are some fascinating historical tidbits or trivia people would be surprised to learn about your own hometown?

 

The Allure of Fort Laramie ~ by Amanda Cabot

When you picture a western fort from the nineteenth century, do you envision small, perhaps even dilapidated wooden buildings surrounded by a wooden stockade?  I did until I visited Fort Laramie.  It was the summer of 2004, only a few months after my husband and I had moved from the East Coast to Cheyenne.  We needed a break from the unpacking, picture hanging, and other tasks associated with moving into a new house, so we headed for the Fort Laramie National Historic Site.

Old Fort Laramie store foundation

Foreground: foundation of barracks; background: part of officer’s row, including the post trader’s store (the one-story building in the center back)

It was not what I expected.  There was no stockade, the buildings were far from primitive, and the way they flanked the central parade ground made it reminiscent of a New England village, not one of the military forts those old Westerns made popular.

Old Fort Laramie dining room

Nothing primitive about this dining room.

Old Fort Laramie birdbath

An in-ground birdbath.

As we entered the Visitor Center, the surprises continued, and I found myself fascinated by the elegant lifestyle the officers and their wives experienced during the last decade of the fort’s existence (the 1880s).Houses were surrounded by picket fences, many yards had flower gardens, and women strolled along the boardwalks carrying parasols.  There were even birdbaths.  Of course, since this was Wyoming with its famous winds, the birdbaths weren’t the typical basin-on-a-pedestal style that you might expect.  Instead, they were circular depressions in the ground. As I said, it was not at all what I had expected, but what I saw started my brain whirling, and I knew this would not be my only visit to the fort.

Old Fort Laramie Officers Row

Partially reconstructed officers’ housing and Old Bedlam (the two-story white frame building)

Old Fort Laramie Burt house

Andrew and Elizabeth Burt’s home. The red SUV in the background was definitely not there when they lived at the fort!

There’s a lot to see.  While many of the buildings have been destroyed, a number have been restored to their former glory to give visitors a sense of what life was like at the fort that was a major landmark on the Oregon Trail.  The most famous of those buildings is Old Bedlam, the oldest military structure in Wyoming.  Curious about the nickname?  It was originally constructed for bachelor officers’ housing, and those officers were a little … shall we say rowdy?  Later in its existence, it was used as post headquarters, and only a few years ago it was the site of a wedding.  I suspect the guests were better behaved than those bachelor officers of 150 years ago.One of the restored houses is the one where Lt. Col. Andrew Burt and his wife Elizabeth lived during their two tours of duty at the fort.  If you’ve never heard of the Burts, their story is told in Indians, Infants and Infantry: Andrew and Elizabeth Burt on the Frontier by Merrill J. Mattes, a book I highly recommend to anyone who wants an authentic view of life at nineteenth century forts.  The author used Elizabeth’s Burt’s diaries and letters to create a story filled with fascinating details of real life.

What does all this have to do with my current release?  Absolutely nothing.  A Stolen Heart is set in a charming town in the Texas Hill Country, not on a military fort.  Its hero is a sheriff, not a soldier.  Its heroine is a schoolteacher who becomes a confectioner, not a woman dealing with tasteless dried potatoes.  But Fort Laramie is such a wonderful place that I couldn’t resist taking this opportunity to tell you more about it.  If you visit Wyoming, I hope you’ll consider spending a day at Fort Laramie.  It’s well worth the detour.

And now to the highlight of the post: the giveaway.  I’m offering a signed copy of either Summer of Promise, which takes place at Fort Laramie during its elegant decade, or my new release, A Stolen Heart, to one commenter.

 

A stolen Heart

The future she dreamed of is gone. But perhaps a better one awaits . . .

From afar, Cimarron Creek seems like an idyllic town tucked in the Texas Hill Country. But when former schoolteacher Lydia Crawford steps onto its dusty streets in 1880, she finds a town with a deep-seated resentment of Northerners—like her. Lydia won’t let that get her down, though. All will be well when she’s reunited with her fiancé.

But when she discovers he has disappeared—and that he left behind a pregnant wife—Lydia is at a loss about what to do next. The handsome sheriff urges her to trust him, but can she trust anyone in this town where secrets are as prevalent as bluebonnets in spring?

The book is available at Barnes & Noble, and Christian Book Distributors.

 

Amanda CabotBestselling author Amanda Cabot invites you into Texas’s storied past to experience adventure, mystery—and love. She more than thirty novels including the Texas Dreams trilogy, the Westward Winds series, the Texas Crossroad trilogy, and Christmas Roses. A former director of Information Technology, she has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  Amanda is delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian romances, living happily ever after with her husband in Wyoming.

Find her online at:
AmandaCabot.com
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Lottie Deno, Lady Gambler

Do you know who Miss Kitty of Gunsmoke was created from? If you said the lady gambler, Lottie Deno, you’d be correct. Born Carlotta Thompkins on April 21, 1844 on a Kentucky plantation, she created quite a stir everywhere she went.

Her parents were very well-to-do and Lottie didn’t want for anything. At her birth, she was assigned a nanny from among the slaves—Mary Poindexter. She was a giant of a woman—7 ft. tall—and she accompanied Lottie everywhere she went. Nobody messed with big Mary.

Lottie’s father taught her to play cards and she became an expert. When he was killed in the Civil War, Lottie played cards to support her mother and younger sister. For a while, Lottie worked on the riverboats and gambling houses along the Mississippi. She was a vivacious redhead with sparkling brown eyes and could charm the pants off any man—and his wallet too. I love this woman!

In 1865 Lottie arrived in San Antonio and a year later was offered a job dealing cards at the University Club. She fell in love several times but stayed single until later meeting a half-Cherokee gambler named Frank Thurmond. He left town very suddenly after killing a man and soon after, Lottie followed.

Lottie rode into the rough town of Fort Griffin, Texas on a stagecoach. She sat out in the open right on the very top where she could see everything. She caused quite a stir. It didn’t take long to get a job at the Bee Hive Saloon. One night she and Doc Holliday played cards all night long and by morning she’d won thousands of dollars of Doc’s money. She also played with legendary Wyatt Earp and many other notables of the old West.

It was in Fort Griffin where Lottie got the Deno part of her name. One of the gamblers who’d lost to her hollered out, “Honey, the way you play your name should be Lotta Dinero.”

Once when a gunfight broke out inside the Bee Hive Saloon all the people fled except Lottie. She got under a table and waited. When they asked her why she stayed, she said she wasn’t about to leave her money and besides, they couldn’t shoot straight.

She separated herself from the violent population of Ft. Griffin by taking a shanty in what they called The Flats on the Clear Fork of the Brazos. She only left it only to visit the local mercantile and to go to work. But Lottie lost her heart to Frank Thurmond and followed him to Silver City, New Mexico where they married and opened two saloons, a restaurant and a hotel.

Lottie got involved in charity work, feeding newly released prisoners and giving them a place to stay.

She and Frank eventually moved on to Deming, New Mexico where they got out of the gambling business and settled down to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Frank became vice president of the Deming National Bank and helped found the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

In 1908, after forty years of marriage, Frank passed away. Lottie outlived him by 26 years until she, too, died and was buried next to Frank. Those who knew her said she maintained her laugh and good cheer to the end. I’d like to have met her. I’ll bet she was a lot of fun.

She and Frank became models for characters in a series of books by Alfred Henry Lewis. Miss Kitty owed everything about her characterization to Lottie Deno.

I think I would’ve been friends with her. She was bold and daring in a time when women were told what to do and how. I like her rebellious spirit, maybe because I’m a little rebellious also.

If you could sit down and talk to one of the larger-than-life characters from the old west, who would it be? I’m giving away a copy of TO LOVE A TEXAS RANGER (#1 Men of Legend series.) 

I’m so excited! I have a new release on February 7th–TEXAS REDEMPTION. This is a reissue of REDEMPTION (2005.)  It’s set in the swamps of East Texas four years following the Civil War. Brodie Yates and Laurel James are searching for redemption for things done in their pasts. Secrets abound–all threatening to come out. It’s a tale of two brothers who love the same woman. I’ll tell lots more about this in my next blog on release day, Feb. 7th. It’s available for preorder everywhere online.

The Mighty Red River

Linda pubpixMen have fought rivers all the way back to Biblical days but none more so than the Red River that creates a natural boundary line between Texas and Oklahoma. It’s very long at 1,360 miles and can get very wide in places and is the southernmost major river system in the Great Plains.

Seasoned cattlemen and drovers of those trail drives feared and cursed the crossing as well as those living in towns along its length. It was a roaring, growling beast. The currents were unpredictable and fast moving and, especially when it flooded, you took your life in your own hands crossing it. Many people (and cattle) died in the attempt. The river demanded respect (and got it) and earned the name The Mighty Red. Quicksand also added to the danger.

It begins not far from where I now live in the Texas Panhandle and winds its way to the Mississippi River. It’s notorious for severe flooding even today, despite that the river usually doesn’t contain but a trickle of water. In an effort to control the flood damage, levees and dams were built along the length.

I always feel very sad whenever I drive across it now and see little or no water. I feel we’ve lost part of our history.

red-river-movieThis waterway has been the subject of many books and movies. Howard Hawks directed and produced the blockbuster Red River in 1948, starring John Wayne. It was filmed in Arizona and the San Pedro stood in for the Red River.

Tidbit: John Wayne gave the producers extensive advice about the possible location and logistical problems associated with making Westerns and insisted Howard Hawks hire real cowhands and trained stunt professionals instead of the amateurs he had lined up. The director ended up signing 70 real cowboys for the job. He also contracted to have dozens of horses represent the hundreds required by the story and about a thousand head of cattle at $10 per day each stand in for Dunson’s herd of 10,000. Wayne said once it was clear Hawks was taking his advice seriously and the budget would be increased, he agreed to do the picture.

Another tidbit: Most of the cattle were actually Herefords because they couldn’t find but about two dozen longhorns. They strategically placed the longhorns during the filming to make it appear the herd was comprised solely of these. And the 10,000 strong herd was actually only about a third of that. Camera angles and other tricks were used.

Joanne Dru was the author of the book Red River that they adapted this movie from.

Often a river, town or other place becomes a character. That’s the case with the Red River. I wrote a scene in Heart of a Texas Cowboy (Book 2 of Men of Legend) of Houston Legend driving 2,000 longhorns across it.

Do you know other rivers that cause big problems, maybe where you live? Comment to enter the drawing for one copy (print or ebook) of To Love a Texas Ranger.

Love a Texas Ranger smaller 

Hittin’ the Road! with Crystal Barnes

clbarnes_avatarHowdy y’all! Crystal Barnes here and it’s such a thrill to visit y’all at Petticoats and Pistols. And speaking of visiting places, how many of y’all like road trips? I know I sure do.

 

Be it to the Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, where you can learn about the daring, brave men who helped bring order to the West. I even learned how to take apart a Colt Peacemaker and put it back together again. Did you know those guns weighed as much as a 5lb bag of sugar?  Crazy!

Perhaps you’d prefer a trip to the Texian Market Days at the George Ranch Historical Park in Richmond, Texas, where you can tour multiple houses from the past, see reenactments, and/or learn how to fire a cannon or spin your own yarn. There are four different homes on this property. The 1830s Jones Stock Farmhouse is a dog-run style cabin with a covered breezeway down the middle. I used this structure as a model for Russell Cahill’s home in book two of my Marriage & Mayhem series, Love, Stock, & Barrel.

txrgrmuseum84

Their 1860s Ryon Prairie Home I’m using as a basis for my heroine’s home in my upcoming story Hook, Line, & Suitor (Marriage & Mayhem, Book 3). (You’ll see some of that Texas Ranger learnin’ pop up in this story too.) This house also has a breezeway, but the wealth of the family is much more easily seen.
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Want another great place to visit in Texas, be it for research or just plain fun? Perhaps you should make a pit stop in Anderson and tour the Fanthorp Inn. The inn was built as a home in in 1834 and later enlarged for hotel purposes. It also served as the area’s first mercantile and post office (1835). You’ll also have the chance to ride a stagecoach while visiting. Why would the inn host stagecoach rides? The inn lay on the stage line crossroads for Houston to Old Springfield and Nacogdoches to Austin.

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Recently, I was blessed to accompany a friend on a research trip to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and boy, did we have a wonderful, memorable time.

 

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To me, that’s what stories are supposed to be too—a wonderful trip with a new friend (or an old one if you like series or reruns, which I do). If the story trail includes some cowboys, desperados, and exciting turn-of-events, even better.

 

How about you? Do you enjoy road trips? What are some of the best places you’ve visited—be it for research or just a fun getaway? Not a road traveler? What are some of your favorite towns/places to visit through stories?

 

I’d love to hear all about them. I love finding new places to visit, plus I’ll be giving away a FREE copy (ebook or paperback) of one of my stories to one of this post’s commentors. (Winner’s choice of title.)

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An award-winning author, bona fide country girl, and former competitive gymnast, Crystal L Barnes tells stories of fun, faith, and friction that allow her to share her love of Texas, old-fashioned things, and the Lord—not necessarily in that order. When she’s not writing, reading, singing, or acting, Crystal enjoys exploring on road-trips, spending time with family, and watching old movies/sitcoms. I Love Lucy is one of her favorites. You can find out more and connect with Crystal at http://www.crystal-barnes.com.

You can also on her blog, the Stitches Thru Time group blog, her Amazon Author page, GoodreadsPinterestGoogle+, or on her Facebook author page.

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Updated: October 17, 2016 — 7:35 pm

El Muerto: The Headless Horseman of Texas

Kathleen Rice Adams header

First published in 1820, Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” has been terrifying children for almost 200 years. Though the tale of a hapless schoolmaster’s midnight gallop through the New York woods made the phrase “headless horseman” a household term in America, by the time Irving’s story appeared headless horsemen had been staples of European folklore for centuries. German, Irish, Scandinavian, and English legends all offered versions of the ghoulish phantoms, who usually were said to appear to proud, arrogant people as a warning.

headless horsemanTexas has its own gruesome headless horseman legend. Unlike Irving’s unforgettable spook, though, Texas’s headless horseman rode among the living once upon a time.

Some say he still does.

In the summer of 1850, a Mexican bandido by the name of Vidal made an egregious error: He and several compadres rustled a sizable herd of horses from several ranches south of San Antonio. One of the ranches belonged to Texas Ranger Creed Taylor, a veteran of the Texas War for Independence and a man not inclined to forgive his enemies. (Taylor later would be one of the participants in the Sutton-Taylor Feud, a bloody, years-long running gun battle that resulted in four times as many deaths as the better-known fracas between the Hatfields and McCoys.)

Rustling cattle already had earned Vidal’s head a dead-or-alive bounty. Stealing a Texas Ranger’s horses was the proverbial last straw. Together with fellow Ranger William A.A. “Big Foot” Wallace and another local rancher, Taylor set out to put a stop to Vidal’s unbearable insolence.

The Headless Horseman: A Strange Tale of Texas, 1865

Capt. Mayne Reid’s version of a Texas Legend, published in 1865, received a mention in Charles Dickens’s final novel, Our Mutual Friend.

As a group, the early Texas Rangers were hard men. Tasked with protecting an enormous patch of land rife with outlaws and Indians, the early Rangers were expert trackers, accomplished gunmen, and not opposed to meting out immediate — and often brutal — “frontier justice.” Vidal was about to discover that in a very personal way.

After tracking the bandidos to their camp, Taylor, Wallace, and the third man mounted a surprise attack while the outlaws were asleep. Killing the desperados was not enough for Taylor and Wallace, though. The entire Ranger force was fed up with the rash of rustling plaguing Texas at the time. Not even leaving bodies hanging from trees or hacking them to pieces and using the bits for predator bait had made a strong enough statement.

So, Wallace got creative. After beheading Vidal, he secured the corpse upright on the back of the wildest of the rustled horses, lashed the bandido’s hands to the saddle horn and his feet to the stirrups, and tied the stirrups beneath the animal’s belly. Just to make sure anyone who saw the ghoulish specter got the message, he looped a rawhide thong through the head’s jaws and around Vidal’s sombrero, and slung the bloody bundle from the saddle’s pommel. Then Wallace and his friends sent the terrified mustang galloping off into the night.

William A.A. "Big Foot" Wallace, ca. 1872

Big Foot Wallace, ca. 1872

Not long thereafter, vaqueros began to report seeing a headless horseman rampaging through the scrub on a dark, wild horse. As sightings spread, some claimed flames shot from the animal’s nostrils and lightning bolts from its hooves. Bullets seemed to have no effect on the grisly marauder. They dubbed the apparition el Muerto — the dead man — and attributed all sorts of evil and misfortune to the mysterious rider.

Eventually, a posse of cowboys brought down the horse at a watering hole near Ben Bolt, Texas. By then the dried-up body had been riddled with bullets and arrows, and the head had shriveled in the sun. The posse laid Vidal’s remains to rest in an unmarked grave on the La Trinidad Ranch. Only then did Wallace and Taylor take public credit for the deed. The episode contributed to Wallace’s reputation and had the intended effect on rustling.

Even the revelation of the truth behind the legend did not end el Muerto’s reign of terror. Until nearby Fort Inge was decommissioned in 1869, soldiers reported seeing a headless rider roaming the countryside around Uvalde, near Taylor’s ranch. Thirty years later, a rise in the ground 250 miles to the southeast, near San Patricio, Texas, was christened Headless Horseman Hill after a wagon train reported an encounter with el Muerto. A sighting occurred in 1917 outside San Diego, Texas, and another near Freer in 1969.

El Muerto reportedly still roams the mesquite-covered range in Duval, Jim Wells, and Live Oak counties — still fearsome, still headless, and still reminding those who see him that Texas Rangers didn’t come by their tough-hombre reputation by accident.

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Robbing Banks Stealing HeartsI haven’t written any tales about headless horsemen — yet — but ghosts play a significant role in one of my short novellas. Family Tradition is one of two stories that compose Robbing Banks, Stealing Hearts.

Everyone should have career at which they excel. At failing to commit crimes, nobody is better than Laredo and Tombstone Hawkins. Maybe they can bumble their way into love.

Family Tradition
Haunted by his kin’s tradition of spectacular failure, bank robber Tombstone Hawkins is honor-bound to prove his family tree produced at least one bad apple. When carnival fortuneteller Pansy Gilchrist tries to help, she accidentally summons a pair of dishonest-to-goodness ghosts. Getting into the spirit of a crime is one thing…but how do you get the spirits out?

 

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Stone blinked at the apparitions. If not for Madame Minerva’s confirmation, he’d have sworn he was seeing things—and he hadn’t touched a drop of whiskey in weeks.

He eased backward a step.

So did she, sidling up next to him until her hipbone collided with his leg.

The two ghosts floated around the table, one on each side, and planted themselves close enough for Stone to poke a hand through either misty shape. Forcing a swallow down his throat, he squinted at the nearest. He’d been on the receiving end of that old man’s irritated glare far too often.

Heart racing fast enough to outrun a mule with a butt full of buckshot, Stone faded back another step.

The fake gypsy stayed with him, as though she were glued to his side.

The gauzy forms kept pace.

“Emile?” Madame Minerva’s voice squeaked like a schoolgirl’s.

Even on a ghost, disappointment was easy to spot. A pained frown gripped one apparition’s face. “I’m not part of the con any longer, Pansy. You can’t call me father just once?”

Stone ducked his head and tossed the woman a sidelong glance. “Pansy?”

“Said Tombstone,” she hissed.

The second ghost spoke up, his voice strangely hollow but recognizable. “Boy, you got nothin’ to say to your ol’ pop?”

“I uh… I…” Stone’s tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth.

Thank God, Emile picked up the conversation. “I see my little girl is keeping the family tradition alive.”

“I am.” Pansy’s breathy whisper carried a hint of tears. “Oh, Emile, I wish you had stayed.”

“I’ve been here all along. You just haven’t looked for me before.” Emile’s specter extended a hand to cup his daughter’s cheek. Pansy leaned into the phantom caress.

Stone snatched her before she toppled over. Too late, he discovered she weighed little more than a ghost herself. His grab yanked her off her feet and slammed her into his chest.

He exercised quite a bit more care setting her back on the dirt floor.

 

 

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Tattoos in the American West

 

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I don’t think anyone will disagree that often research takes us to some very interesting places. When I wrote my new release To Love a Texas Ranger, I needed to know just how prevalent tattoos were among the people who lived in 1877 and I found out some surprising things.

The earliest recorded tattoos were in 12,000 BC in Egypt. The workers building the pyramids wore them. Later the Romans adopted tattooing to mark criminals and slaves.

Interestingly enough, the Greeks used tattoos as a form of communication among spies. Bet you didn’t know that. And other nationalities utilized tattoos in ceremonies.

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OLIVE OATMAN

Borneo had a rather odd practice of tattooing. And maybe they still do. It was customary for a young woman to get a tattoo to advertise a particular skill and that increased her marriageability status. I just wonder what kind of tattoo indicated being a good housekeeper? A broom? A mop?

The American Indians also were big on tattooing. One of their most famous captives—Olive Oatman—was captured in 1851 and then sold to the Mojave tribe where they tattooed her chin with blue dye of some sort. There’s conflicting stories about what the tattoo meant. Some say it marked Olive as a captive and others claim it was a mark of esteem. The western TV series, Hell on Wheels, portrayed her in the show only they named her character Eva.

Love a Texas Ranger smallerIn my new book, a horrible bad guy wears a black widow spider tattoo on his hand. Sam Legend keeps his eyes peeled throughout the book for a man with that spider tattoo. The scene where he finally finds him is pretty gripping.

In Texas, some Legends are born, some are made, and some are created by destiny.

This Legend family has carved their name in blood on the raw Texas land. Sam is tested in ways he couldn’t have expected as secrets are exposed and he finds the love of a lifetime. Only the path is a rocky one. He can’t bear the thought of waking up in the same place every morning for the rest of his life so feels he can’t ask her to marry him. Sierra Hunt has never had a home and dreams of owning one where she can plunk down deep, lasting roots and she won’t give that up—not even for Sam.

I’m giving away one copy of my new book (if you already have it, I can do something else) to one person who can tell me either about their tattoo or one they saw on someone else. This is going to be fun!

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